11

This short story is one that I may have encountered in the 90s editions of "Asimov's" magazine. Unfortunately, I am vague about the exact details.

A soldier returns to his own time from a horrendous battle in the distant future (he was on the winning side). He has been altered so that he is able to perceive across multiple dimensions/time lines. He enters a bar/tavern/eatery and witnesses another "veteran" (or being) abusing/threatening a woman he cares (cared) about. He is forced to kill this abuser across every dimension/time line he exists in, to protect this woman. In doing so, he must return to the future and fight in the war all over again.

  • My understanding is we only close story ID questions as duplicated if both have an accepted answer? – Skooba Dec 21 '16 at 19:57
  • @Skooba - That is indeed true. I've used my dupehammer to open it again. – Valorum Dec 21 '16 at 22:44
  • I'd be quite interested to know why Yasskier, Gallifreian, Himarm, Mithrandir and CBredlow voted to close this question given that I know for certain that at least three of those users are very well aware of the agreed policy – Valorum Dec 21 '16 at 22:47
  • @Valorum: Can we have a link to the other questions that it was (not) a duplicate of? – Buzz Dec 22 '16 at 0:30
  • 2
    @Buzz - You can also see the timeline here; scifi.stackexchange.com/posts/148074/timeline – Valorum Dec 22 '16 at 0:47
7

This sounds an awful lot like "A Dry, Quiet War" (1996) by Tony Daniel, which has previously been asked about and answered here (where it was accepted) and here (where it was not, but there are no other answers offered).

The story can be read in its entirety online at InfinityPlus, so it should be easy enough to check. It does indeed feature a soldier of a future war in an altercation with another veteran over a woman, with multi-dimensional combat:

"Colonel Bone," he began. "If I'd knowed it was you­­"

"Too late for that."

"It's never too late, that's what you taught us all when you turned that offensive around out on the Husk and gave the Chaos the what-for. I'll just be going. I'll take the gang with me. It's to no purpose, our staying now."

"You knew enough yesterday ­­ enough to leave." I felt the rage, the old rage that was to be, once again. "Why did you do that to her?" I asked. "Why did you ­­ "

And then I looked into his eyes and saw it there. The quiet desire ­­ beaten down by synthesized emotions, but now triumphant, sadly triumphant. The desire to finally, finally die. Marek was not the unthinking brute I'd taken him for after all. Too bad for him.

I took a step toward Marek. His instincts made him reach down, go for the trunch. But it was a useless weapon on me. I don't have myelin sheaths on my nerves. I don't have nerves anymore; I have wiring. Marek realized this was so almost instantly. He dropped the trunch, then turned and ran. I caught him. He tried to fight, but there was never any question of him beating me. That would be absurd. I'm Colonel Bone of the Skyfalling 8th. I kill so that there might be life. Nobody beats me. It is my fate, and yours, too.

I caught him by the shoulder, and I looped my other arm around his neck and reined him to me ­­ not enough to snap anything. Just enough to calm him down. He was strong, but had no finesse.

Like I said, glims are hard to kill. They're the same as snails in shells in a way, and the trick is to draw them out ­­ way out. Which is what I did with Marek. As I held him physically, I caught hold of him, all of him, over there, in the place I can't tell you about, can't describe. The way you do this is by holding a glim still and causing him great suffering, so that they can't withdraw into the deep places. That's what vampire stakes and Roman crosses are all about.

And like I told Bex, glims are bad ones, all right. Bad, but not the worse. I am the worse.

and, due to this, he must return to fight the war again:

Irrevocably gone from this time line, and that was what mattered. Keeping this possible future uncertain, balanced on the fulcrum of chaos and necessity. Keeping it free, so that I could go back and do my work...

I went to the living room, to the shroud-covered furniture. I sat down in what had been my father's chair. I sipped a cup of my father's best barley malt whisky. I sat, and as the suns of Ferro rose in the hard iron sky, I faded into the distant, dying future.

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