There was a science fiction book I read -- probably in the early 90's -- and one scene has stuck with me.

A young soldier (?) has just joined a team (of some sort of elite military types) on a planet, and immediately after being introduced he thinks he's being attacked by one of the other team members...but soon realizes he is receiving some form of "deep massage", that effect of which is to greatly increase his physical flexibility.

Does that sound familiar to anyone? I realize it's not a lot to go on.

  • I think there was a scene like this in Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets (Warren C. Norwood, pub. Bantam, 1983) when the protagonist was initiated into the Gabriel Ratchets. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the book now so I can't verify this or give more details. Dec 11 '19 at 7:39
  • Hmm, where is my copy?
    – mkennedy
    Dec 12 '19 at 5:23
  • @DavidMoews thanks for the suggestion! Now I just need to find a copy of the book to check...looks like our local library system doesn't even know the book exists.
    – larsks
    Dec 12 '19 at 11:56
  • 1
    @larsks: David found a copy of the book and provided excerpts. If you want to accept, you can click on the checkmark by the voting buttons.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 19 '19 at 17:25

I found a copy of (full title) The Windhover Tapes: Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets. The passage I was thinking of that was similar to the question is soon after the protagonist, Gerard Manley, joins the Gabriel Ratchets (a military group.) To start with, after going for a run, which makes his muscles sore, he's rubbed down with some kind of healing oil (Chapter 6):

As he tried to compose his thoughts, he was distracted by a sweet pungent odor coming from his skin. He was lying naked on his pallet, his skin tacky with smelly oil. Why, he wondered? After pulling himself into a sitting position, it occurred to him that his muscles should be stiff and sore. Instead, they only ached mildly. Was the oil responsible for that? And who had rubbed him down with it?

Then, some days later, his fellow Gabriel Ratchets (his string, in the jargon of the Ratchets) make a mock attack on him, but it soon turns into another massage and rubdown (Chapters 6-7):

Gerard turned and shut the door. While his back was still turned, the rest of the string jumped on him and beat him with rhythmic blows that drove him to the floor.


In the middle of the beating Gerard realized they were pulling their punches just enough so that he wasn't severely injured. It was a strange sensation to be beaten up and know that he wasn't really going to be hurt.

As suddenly as the attack started, it stopped. Brunnel picked Gerard up and carried him gently to a pallet, where he was stripped of his clothes then generously coated with the healing oil and rubbed down by each member of the string, starting with Brunnel. As they massaged the healing liniment into his aching body they chanted softly.

(Although the text doesn't say it was a "tactical massage", the use of the oil must have helped his muscles.)

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