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I am looking for the author of a sci-fi short story. I may have read it in a collection of sci-fi stories about super-soldiers. The story is about how a soldier of the future - who is massive in terms of size and strength - visits his parents after tracking them down. He has not seen them before in his life. At first they are scared but then after he convinces them of his identity, the reception is very cold. The mother tries to have a conversation with him. However, the father gets enraged suddenly because he recalls how she almost died giving birth to him. The implication is that they were forced to participate in the program to give birth to larger than normal babies. He forcefully asks the soldier to leave and never come back. The soldier is shown as aloof, emotion-less and not very affected by this. However, the story ends with the soldier deployed to a distant planet and boards his ship. He drifts off to sleep. And for the first time in his life dreams of lots of people looking at him with an alien feeling (love) and smiling. In his entire life, it's the first time he recalls someone smiling at him.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. It might help us identify the story if you can recall approximately when it was you read this.
    – DavidW
    Oct 24, 2022 at 19:48
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    BTW, I remember this story. His cover story for going to visit his birth mother is that he is bringing home the effects of his half-brother, their actual son. His mother and her husband are farmers in rural northwestern US, like Idaho or Oregon.
    – DavidW
    Oct 24, 2022 at 19:52

1 Answer 1

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The story you're looking for is "Furlough" (1979) by Skip Wall, published in Asimov's, November 1979 and not, as far as I can tell, anthologized.

Assault Sergeant Charles Xavier Dawson goes to visit the Sandersons, who live on a farm near Corvallis in the territory formerly known as Oregon. His visit is ostensibly to deliver the personal effects of their son, Jamie Sanderson, who he met and befriended on a mission.

Dawson is a giant:

He stepped carefully on the steps and porch, knowing his three-hundred-fifty-pound frame could easily damage the old wood. He tapped lightly on the freshly painted white door, and the curtains jiggled ever so slightly with the touch of his knuckles, as if afraid.

And

He ducked under the door and stood, grateful that the ceiling was high enough for him to stand. He did not want to accentuate his size; this business would be difficult enough as it was.

He admits he is their son and it doesn't go down very well:

"You're God-damned right you should never have come. You've got no idea what you're stirring up." Sanderson’s eyes were almost black now. "Oh, sure, they said. Why, there are over a billion fertile wombs out there, just walking around like nobody’s business. Who the hell needs cloning, they said, who needs to spend all that money on research? Why, we'll just look around for a few Supermen with dominant genes and impregnate all those women. Nine months later, there you are, and it hardly cost us a cent. Oh, they were really smart, yes sir." The bitterness in his voice was almost palpable, a thick, dark, angry syrup. "Line 'em up and give 'em a child by some stranger she never even sees. Let's make us a whole race of bastards, everybody. Never mind how she feels about it. Never mind how her husband feels. Never mind that she can never have another one because the... the... damned things are so big she gets ruined!"

Indeed the story ends with him falling asleep and dreaming of people who care for him:

As he fell asleep, that last moment with the Sandersons changed subtly, replayed again and again, blurred a little more each time, the components changing imperceptibly. He saw them standing there at last, adoring eyes shining up at him. Charles, we want you to come home, son.

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    Huh. The early setup of the story reminds me of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guest_(2014_American_film)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 24, 2022 at 20:13
  • @DavidW - Thank you! You have made my childhood a bit more real. Oct 27, 2022 at 2:35
  • @DavidW - Thank you! You have made my childhood a bit more real. I read this exact magazine as a kid growing up in India. I used to haunt the scrap merchant shops to get sci-fi magazines from the US and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazines (not sure of the name). This story stuck with me for decades because I identified (still do) with the character who is hated by his very parents for no fault of his own! His search, his courage to go searching for answers even when he suspects that nothing good will come of it ... It is palpable as heck even now!! Again, thanks from the bottom of my heart! Oct 27, 2022 at 2:44
  • @user1554876 You're most welcome! The story stuck with me too. If you would accept this answer, using the checkmark button under the voting arrows in the upper-left corner of the answer, it might help future searchers looking for the same story.
    – DavidW
    Oct 27, 2022 at 2:49
  • @DavidW - Done. BTW, since you are quoting the text, is it possible to get the back issues in digital format somewhere? I followed your link from the first sentence but other than the details of the issue that it was featured in, I could not find the story itself. Oct 27, 2022 at 2:57

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