The Wolf and the Hare (Part Five)

A tale of The Light Years War.

(c) 2015 Thomas F. Brown, All Rights Reserved.

This material may not be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.

Rennai Government Underground Bunker,
Shijian Southern Continent

Lowe stood behind the glass wall, and watched the Rennai warriors depart the planet for the first and last time. He remembered the legends of Earth. After the colony ships Shizi and Rennai crash-landed on the planet, all the people had were their wits and their memories. At the first opportunity, those memories were put on paper, so that nothing of the past would be lost. Among those memories was the discontent with everything the Sino-Japanese Confederation, the government sponsoring their colony, stood for. They vowed to return to the ways of their distant ancestors. However, as with most things, following the ideal proved harder than expected. Compromise was required. The Shizi believed in one form of compromise, the Rennai another. Now, after two millennia of trying to adjust to reality and to each other, the Shizi and the Rennai were tasting the fruit of their many compromises.

Lowe was certain of one thing: this was not the Shizi warfleet, but the men of Earth, coming to make Shijian part of the spreading empire of mankind. That was what they would do, after all. There was no reason to think Earthmen would be any different. The approaching ships would, of course, be expecting to be welcomed with open arms. They’d hardly expect to be fired upon. Not that it would make a difference. Judging from the ancient wreckage they’d found, two millennia ago, Earth was far more advanced than the Rennai current state-of-the-art. How much farther had they progressed in all the years since?

Lowe turned away from the computer-generated maps that presented the converging armies. He didn’t want to see the friendly earthmen blasted from the sky without warning, just as he didn’t want to contemplate what the survivors would do in retaliation.

“There goes your theory, Ji,” someone said, nudging him. “They’re firing first. Damn. They must be….” The man quieted, staring at the screen with an intensity that was profoundly disturbing. Lowe stole a glance at the multiple screens and boards and readouts that covered every square inch of wall space. What had once been just a large oncoming mass was resolving into individual vessels.

Tiny characters gave approximate size for each of the vessels. They were tiny, not even large enough to hold a pilot, but their number was legion. Lowe uttered the worst obscenity he knew, even though it seemed woefully inadequate to describe the despair inside his heart.. Watching the war-fleet approach Rennai’s tiny fighters, he knew in an instant that he had been both right and wrong in his earlier convictions. The approaching ships were indeed alien to the planet Sjijian, as he had thought, but they weren’t innocent comrades here to visit long-lost brethren. Without so much as a radio greeting, they began destroying the Rennai spaceplanes. Lowe’s worst fears were realized.

A new movement appeared on the board, and his blood went cold. The Shizi fighters, heretofore maintaining a shield-formation above the northern continent, were rising to join the battle. In a matter of moments, the Rennai fighters would be faced with enemies before and behind, without hope of escape or victory. Lowe turned from the scene, his mind whirling. It was clear to him now what had happened. The Shizi, with their new-found gravity-drive had somehow managed to contact this enemy fleet, and forged an alliance.

“Fools,” Lowe said under his breath. “Expecting them to honor such a treacherous agreement!” Both sides were going to lose this battle, handing the planet over to the invaders.

“I don’t believe it,” the man next to him said suddenly, finding the voice he had lost earlier.

“Believe it,” Lowe said, screwing his eyes tight against the flickers of light dancing on the brightly-lit screens, “We’re doomed!”

“I don’t think so. Look, the Shizi are attacking the strangers! They aren’t attacking our pilots after all! “

His mind whirling, Lowe opened his eyes and saw the combined forces of Rennai and Shizi attack in suicide fashion, first launching G-bombs at the enemy, and then using their own G-drives as a third bomb. Confusion became growing wonder as the crazed Shijians proceeded to systematically eradicate the strangers from space.

The battle seemed to rage for hours, although that was an illusion. It was over as swiftly as it began. At last the skies were empty of friend and foe alike ,and Lowe realized he was standing, open-mouthed,at blank screens. The invasion was over, and Shijian was safer than it had been for decades.

The quiet in the room was a palpable thing.

“Who the hell were they ? ” He asked no one in particular, his voice sounding hollow, and pleading.

But no one knew the answer to his plaintive question, then or later. And while they waited for a second strike – a strike they were ill-equipped to defend themselves against – none came.

Ort Cloud,
Star System 360 Lupi

Calm-Assurance-From-Careful-Planning, platen 26 of vessel 2183941, watched as the last holographic indicator winked out. His fighters were gone, destroyed by the enemy spaceplanes.

“They were waiting for us,” he said, broadcasting an anger icon on the side-channel.

“Impossible!” his second-in-command replied, sending his own icon of denial (a “no” icon sent with the high priority bit set).

The Captain didn’t bother berating the man for that. He had more urgent business.

“Launch a Courier,” he commanded. Faster-than-Light electronic communication was impossible between a starship and its base of operations. The quantum-entangled links that allowed the 2183941’s pilots to operate their fighters remotely disconnected permanently when one end of the link travelled FTL. Messages had to be sent in person, via a tiny, unmanned FTL ship. “High Command needs to know what happened here. Send this: ‘The Earth System known as 360 Lepi is well defended, more so than our intelligence led us to believe. More so than the current military situation would indicate. Conclusion: they are hiding something. The system may have more significance than we were told. Recommend a full second-strike with reserve forces. Also advise a review of security procedures. The enemy was waiting for us. They knew we were coming and were well prepared. An informant is likely to blame.’”

The others in the room did their best to hide their eyes, but the ebb and flow of body pigmentation gave them away. An informant? A traitor?

“Get us out of here,” the Captain commanded. “This is someone else’s problem now.”

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