C.A.D.S. #3: Tech Commando, by John Sievert
September, 1986 Zebra Books
Take Doomsday Warrior, set it a century earlier, remove the radiation-powered mutant heroes and replace them with soldiers in high-tech battle armor, and remove most of the gory ultraviolence and explicit sex, and you’d have C.A.D.S., yet another post-nuke pulp courtesy Ryder Syvertsen (which has taken me much too long to get back to). I had to go back and read my review of the second volume to catch myself up.
For, as with his (superior) other post-nuke series, Syvertsen picks up immediately where he left off, so that a reader new to C.A.D.S. would be S.O.L. It’s two days after volume 2 and hero Dean Sturgis is still trying to find his wife Robin; his armor is almost out of power and he’s hundreds of miles from his soldiers, back at their new base in Okefenokee swamp. Sturgis is attacked by a group of bikers led by one with a “semidissolved, pus-dripping twisted face” who apparently has returned from the first volume, but I’d forgotten him.
These biker scum get the better of our hero, whose suit is destroyed in the battle. Armed with his issued .45 and an appropriated subgun, Sturgis moves on to the old vacation-spot he shared with Robin, their pre-arranged meeting spot…only to find a note left behind by her the previous day! So all that for nothing; Sturgis has missed his wife by less than twenty-four hours. He basically shrugs and figures he’ll check here for her again next year(!). Meanwhile we eventually learn Robin is in Florida, hanging out with “mountainfolk” who fight the invading Reds. In a subplot seemingly lifted from the early volumes of Jerry Ahern’s The Survivalist, Sturgis and his wife are separated by the war and, while separately battling the Russians, try to figure out how to reconnect.
Sturgis has been given a new epithet courtesy Syversten – he is the “Tech Commando” of the title, often referred to as such, sort of like how Ted Rockson of Doomsday Warrior is often referred to as “The Ultimate American.” He proves himself slightly less than the average men’s advenure protagonist when, finally getting back to the Okefenokee, he almost drowns in quicksand; he’s saved by an old coot in an electric (and armed!) wheelchair who is named Boss Peppercorn, a new character very much in the vein of the oddball one-off characters who populate the Doomsday Warrior books.
Peppercorn also enjoys that other Doomsday Warrior mainstay: the plush, comfy home in the midst of all the destruction. His swamp pad is set up with all the creature comforts, and Sturgis knocks back a few beers with him as they watch the Reverend Jerry Jeff Jeeters, a “turncoat” televangelist in a shiny suit, do his schtick on TV. In realtiy Jeeters is a patriot, and his quotes are really “Biblical code” that, when deciphered, give viewers inside info on what the Reds are really up to. Jeeters is such a goofy character – not to mention a clear spoof of the televangelists who were so in vogue at the time – that one wishes there was more of him, but he has yet to engage with any of the main characters.
Peppercorn helps our hero find his base deep in the swamp, and soon enough Sturgis is on the horn to White Sands, New Mexico, which has become the de facto capital of the new US, given that the President is there. A Cuban force has moved into Orlando – headquartering in Epcot and Disneyworld! – and Sturgis and his C.A.D.S. are to wipe them out before they can act on their plans to further conquer Florida. In the meantime Sturgis is gratified to receive another air drop of armor, weapons, soldiers, and other goods, though he’s pissed that, in the allottment of “nonradioactive cigs,” there’s “Not a Camel in the lot!”
Meanwhile those enslaved women who were freed last volume have moved into camp, lovingly referred to as Swamp Cats. Sturgis begins a casual sex affair with their leader, a statuesque babe named Dieter. In between (off-page!!) boffing the two talk to each other about their missing loved ones. The C.A.D.S. go off to free Orlando, Peppercorn and a legion of “Revengers” (ie American rebels) in tow. Despite the large force, Syversten as ever focuses on just the same few characters, in addition to Sturgis himself: Billy, the slackjawed yokel; Fenton, the bagpipe-playing Scot; and Tranh, the mystic Vietnamese who often flashes back to his days in the war.
The Epcot battle is a lot quicker than one would expect. In fact Sturgis and army make quick work of the Cubans, only getting a bit of a challenge from a swarm of Russian attack helicopters that swoop in. This leads to a memorable moment of Billy flying up in his armor and tearing into the helicopters, breaking the necks of the occupants and tossing out their corpses. Sturgis is a bit wild here, screaming for Commie blood; he too tears into an escaping ‘copter and strangles the commander with his armored hands – even after the dude has surrendered!
Given that this threat is so quickly taken care of, Syvertsen must come up with something else for the C.A.D.S. to do for the next hundred or so pages. So we are quickly informed of another potential invasion threat – the Reds are rebuilding the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Virginia in order to bring over more forces. More soldiers are airdropped in, as is a new doctor to help combat the “swamp fever” which has been killing off the troops (including the old doctor). It turns out to be hotstuff brunette Dr. Sheila de Camp, who as we’ll recall is the “brassy woman” who has a hate-lust thing going with Sturgis, which continues here; she constantly challenges him and scorns him, but secretly lusts for him because he’s “all man.”
In another of those curious, unintentional prefigures of the future I love encountering in these old books, a newly-arrived soldier informs Sturgis that White Sands HQ is “going out of control...because of all the refugees.” He reports that the President is barely able to hold it together, thanks to the influx of refugees who have caused untold crime and violence in White Sands. To say this very subject is a hot topic today would be an understatement. Given that Syvertsen also made September 11th a fateful date in a novel published in 1984, one wonders if the dude had a Carnac the Magnificent-type fluffy hat in his closet.
Syvertsen also has a recurring subplot with the invading Russian force, but these characters too lack the memorable qualities of their analogues in the Doomsday Warrior books. But there’s Supreme Marshall Veloshnikov, parading in front of his mirror in all his bullshit medals, fretting over the inability of veteran warrior General Petrin to take out the C.A.D.S. once and for all. Meanwhile Petrin, who commands his own army of armored soldiers, plays vintage video games with his men, pondering over the hidden meanings of Donkey Kong.
In the finale, which has the C.A.D.S. in desperate battle to destroy the bridge while also fighting Petrin’s armored troops, we see the big difference between Dean Sturgis and Ted Rockson. Whereas “The Ultimate American” proves again and again that he will do anything to free enslaved Americans, Sturgis chalks them off as collateral damage; the bridge is being repaired by American slaves who, we learn, are used as bait by Petrin, who is sure Sturgis will try to save them. But he doesn’t count on Sturgis’s “for the good of all” resolve – nor does he gamble on the joyful willingness of the slaves to die if it means Sturgis et al are victorious!
Tech Commando ends on the usual sort-of cliffhanger; the bridge has been destroyed, a few redshirt soldiers have died, and Petrin has now failed hugely, having sworn his life that he would stop Sturgis’s force this time. Meanwhile Robin’s still in Florida, fighting with those mountainfolk and Chris, the teen kid she found a while back and who has become her de facto son.
All told, while the book is certainly a breeze of a read, Tech Commando isn’t a knockout, and one gets the impression that Syvertsen treated his writing duties on this series more so as a work for hire affair, giving it none of the obvious love he gave Doomsday Warrior.