Review of Brian MacGowan’s Short Story “The Package”


Scene from the 2014 military SciFi movie “Edge of Tomorrow” starring Tom Cruise

Once again, I decided to read and review a short story from the Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four (2019). My story “Joey” is included in the anthology, and on this blog, I’ve previously reviewed three of the other short stories (for obvious reasons, I can’t review them on Amazon).

Today we visit “The Package” by Brian MacGowan. It’s a military SciFi thriller describing the conflict between the fictional Northern Free States (NFS) and the United Alliance (UA), sort of a civil war scenario as far as I can tell.

An elite team of commandos, led by Sgt. Rick Harrington invades a UA stronghold because they have intel stating that previously stolen UA encryption codes are hidden in the facility. The op is to get in, get the codes, and then evac.

The military action and heroism depicted is first-rate, but I may have missed something in the story line. The codes were initially taken by an NFS ambassador over a year ago as the story starts. Harrington’s Hellhounds quickly find two things. The first is that there’s no human resistance at all as they enter, and the second is one nearly impenetrable security door that doesn’t have any right to be there.

The reason for the door becomes apparent when Harrington discovers a bio-hazard lab where it looks as if the UA is cooking up some biological weapon of mass destruction. Like the door, it was totally unexpected. However, things get even stranger when, managing to find a route to their target, instead of the codes, they find a ten-year-old girl and a teddy bear in a cryogenic chamber.

As it turns out, the codes are in the teddy bear, but Harrington and his people are humane enough not to just kill the girl, who is the ambassador’s daughter, and take the codes.

The rest of the story is a continuous firefight to get the child and the codes to the landing zone and evac before they’re overrun by a large number of UA troops who were signaled to attack if the cryo-chamber was accessed.

Harrington and the girl are cut off from the rest of the team, but he manages to get the child to the rescue craft while sacrificing himself. No, he’s not dead by the end of the story, but he’ll have to fight his way out the old fashioned way. A UA soldier said that there was a reward for retrieving the girl, which is why they wanted her so bad, but technically, she has no military value. It’s the bear they should want back.

world war 4

© James Pyles

But then again, if the UA is trying to hide the codes, why leave them, and a human popsicle in such a vulnerable situation? Presumably the ambassador is dead, but if that’s the case, why leave the girl alive and why put her in deep freeze with the codes? Did the UA know the codes were in the bear? Harrington sure did.

Also, why put all this in a bio-hazard lab? If you’re trying to keep the girl alive (for some unknown reason), why potentially expose her to a biological weapon (which is breached as Harrington’s people are trying to escape)? It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, even though otherwise, I enjoyed the story.

Now the anthology had word count limits for the stories therein, so it’s possible that MacGowan had to cut corners to meet the limitation, but even in that case, it does leave quite a mystery.

2 thoughts on “Review of Brian MacGowan’s Short Story “The Package”

  1. What mystery? Isn’t is obvious that the frozen girl *is* the bio-weapon, or at least the carrier of it? Not sure what info the encryption codes in the bear might provide. If they were stolen at one time by the NFS ambassador to the UA, then recaptured by the UA and stored with the ambassador’s frozen daughter in the biohazard vault. presumably they bear some connection to the bio-weapon, though I can’t hazard a guess about where to find the encrypted info that the codes are intended to decrypt — unless, perhaps, there is encrypted info coded into the girl’s DNA or possibly merely secreted within some frozen bodily cavity. I’m guessing, though, that thawing the girl to search for the info will release the bio-weapon. It’s certainly a conceivable security measure. So she would have to be thawed within a secure bio-hazard containment facility, and only bio-hazard-suited personnel would be able to interact with the body (or with the person, presuming the technology exists to revivify her as she thaws). Presumably, the reason for the NFS ambassador’s failed attempt to steal the encryption codes was to alert the NFS to the existence of the bio-weapon and to enable them to seek some means to counter it.

    Now, I didn’t read the story. I’m only drawing inferences about it from your description of it. So tell me, do you think I’m not following the obvious clues?


    • Actually, I had that same thought about the girl, but since the story didn’t mention that she was a carrier (which would explain why she was there and frozen), I disregarded it.


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