In early October 1936 it looked like a large enemy fleet was forming in a remote star system for a major offensive. At first I wanted to scramble my task force to intercept them. Then I realized that they were going to come to us. So instead of deploying I allowed for the completion of the rearming process of Task Force V with new weapons. The Eutopians would keep tabs on the enemy fleet and once they were two or three transits away we would scramble.
We didn’t have to wait very long. Buchloren was able to move his giant fleet much faster than anyone anticipated. I suspected that this was partly because his ships were much better than they used to be. Many of them had been outfitted with electrogravity drives and a more diverse weapons suite. But mainly because he had taken his time rebuilding to train his crews, getting them up to a standard similar to our crews.
So, Task Force V was scrambled. As quickly as you can scramble a fleet of battleships and support vessels.
We intercepted them three transits away from the Ristavron system. At the completely uninhabited Sawha system. A boring little star orbited by two gas giants and a few rocky planets barely worthy of the name. Even with the lack of reference points the enemy fleet was big. Nine battleships, fourteen heavy cruisers, twenty seven light cruisers. Almost a hundred support ships and four of those goddamn battlecruisers. We weren’t attacking a fleet. We were attacking a goddamned civilization.
Fortunately we had a civilization killer with us. Ever since the Montana’s last engagement the Singers had kept a few ships near our fleet as sentries. Shortly after we sighted the enemy fleet the Photolekos materialized. Once it did I sent out a warning to the rest of the fleet.
“Alright everyone, stand back, weapons hot. Do not fire unless you have to. Let’s let our musical friends do their thing.”
The Photolekos engaged. They fired their main guns right at the lead battleship. Russian near c weapons would bring down an enemy battleships shields with about four shots. Small Singer ships could bring them down with two shots. This thing utterly obliterated the entire enemy battleship and several support ships nearby with one shot. There was simply nothing the enemy had that could stop an armored slug the size of a corvette striking a target at close to the speed of light. Then their smaller ships engaged.
The Singers did not fight the battle as cleanly as I like to think we would have if we had been flying their ships. Their flying experience was far greater than any human. The maneuverability of their ships was of an order of magnitude greater than ours and obviously their weapons were way more powerful. But they were sloppy. There was little to no organization to their attacks. It was only the skill of their flying and the toughness of their ships that kept them from smashing each other to bits. For lack of a better way of saying it, it looked like a disorganized mob of guys with high powered laser guns fighting a supremely well organized Roman era army.
More and more Singer ships came streaking in. They were starting to improvise. They throttled up to faster than light speeds using the resulting relativistic shockwaves to buckle the enemy ships hulls while their lasers recharged. It became utterly impossible to track individual ships in the battle. Hell, it didn’t even look like a battle anymore. The Drankmastarains were firing wildly but they weren’t hitting anything but their own ships. It was like the universe itself had sent a lightning storm to utterly exterminate the hapless enemy fleet.
Buchloren had decided to keep things going, there was no way in hell he could continue with his big bad fleet utterly destroyed. With the Singers flying around there was no way he or anyone else could continue the war. Simply showing a recording of this battle to any holdouts would illustrate the futility of their resistance. If the recording didn’t work then the Singers would make the situation abundantly clear. The game was over.
Suddenly the smaller Singer ships all peeled off. The Photolekos fired its primary weapon again. It struck a Battlecruiser that was trying to make an attack run against the relatively stationary Photolekos. The most formidable warship the enemy had was turned inside out, exploded, then imploded in one shot. The communications stone turned blue. I radioed to the Singers to cease their assault and much to my surprise, they did.
The Aotearoa had discharged one blast from its close in Disintegrators when an enemy bomber somehow managed to find its way to within 2,000 miles of the Aotearoa’s defensive grid. No one else had fired a shot. Enemy casualties were estimated at 78%. In spite of the Singers inexperience and sloppiness they had completely overwhelmed the enemy fleet.
Surviving ships limped out of the debris field. One of the Battlecruisers had survived, just barely. Its hull was scorched by stray laser blasts and buckled by the shockwaves of faster than light travel. Aboard was Admiral Ossirin Buchloren. He had finally seen fit to end this war. Once I was informed of his capture by a marine boarding team they asked what I wanted done with him. I radioed back to them.
“Bring him to the interrogation room on the Montana in shackles. I want to have a word with my opposite number.”
The Rogue Admiral was brought to the Montana’s Laundry-Brig. I had a bottle of Cognac and two glasses in my hands and a big smile on my face. I put the glasses on the table and filled both with a reasonable amount of Cognac. Before I could say anything he asked.
“What is this?”
“Martel VSOP Cognac, that’s Very Superior Old Pale. A fine alcoholic beverage where I come from. I’m drinking to celebrate the end of the war. As for you? after what you have been through, and what you are about to go through I figured you could use a drink. Should I just drink both?”
“No, you have a point.”
He took the glass and downed it in one gulp. Not how I liked to drink, but hey, his glass, his rules. He carefully put the glass back on the table and asked.
“What are they?”
“What are what?”
“Don’t be cute! Those things that killed my fleet! What are they? And how do you control them!?”
“We call them Singers. They are an impossibly old race of silicon based life forms. And we don’t control them. We just ask them favors from time to time. In this case though, they asked us for a favor. They have no experience of space combat as a race and they wanted to get some before the war ended. So we obliged them, by giving them you and your little fleet.”
“That fleet was the greatest Drankmastarian force assembled since the war of unification. How could they destroy it so fast?”
“You tell me, you were closer to the action than I was.”
He slammed his fists and chains down on the table. “That’s not funny! I lost hundreds of thousands of men.”
I slammed my fist onto the table. “Listen asshole, who started this war and who kept it going? We had a peace treaty with your government and you were the one who insisted on keeping the fires lit. Wether your destruction came at the hands of the Singers or my own hand I don’t give a shit. You are the one in shackles not me. The war is over, you lost and now the only thing we have left to talk about is. Are you going to be a gracious loser? Or am I going to have to get nasty?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think that fleet represents everything you have in ships. And I know that you have at least one star system left that is loyal to you as a staging point. Give the order to surrender. Tell me where your remaining assets are and maybe, just maybe they will get to live out their lives in peace.”
“If I don’t comply?”
“You will spend the rest of your life exploring as yet undreamt of galaxies of pain. The Singers would just love to vivisect you to find out how a living being with consciousness and a fear of death could possibly be so stupid as to challenge them. Normally we frown on that sort of thing because of our rules for the conduct of war. But I think in your case we can make an exception. That said you never seemed to me like the kind of person who is intimidated by torture. No you are a soldier to your core. You fight for what’s behind you and beside you. Not what’s in front of you. If you don’t agree to the surrender I will see to it that your men get torn apart while you watch!”
“Then I will inform the Singers of your supporters. They will hunt down every remaining member of the Drankmastarian military caste. They will seek out the very code of their DNA. On planets that my fleet don’t even know about. Then they will burn them down. The whole damn planet. These creatures are about the most peaceful, inoffensive and respectful beings that I have ever heard of in the universe. But if you piss them off they will not stop until they have expunged every trace of your people from the cosmos. You have seen what their weapons can do. And I sincerely hope that you don’t entertain the thought that I am in any way bluffing.”
He sighed, a sigh of deep and profound exhaustion and regret.
“Very well, what do I have to do.”
“Ah, now that’s more like it. First off I have a surrender document here. Written in your language and a few of mine. Read and sign please. After that I have a communication stone upstairs. You can use that to broadcast your thoughts to anyone who is still on that network.”
He took awhile to read the document, then signed it. He stated in a slightly confused tone. “Your terms are very generous.”
“Well, that’s just a surrender document to the IEC, the Eutopian Combat Fleet, Auxiliary Fleet and the governments of Earth that have agreed to have their ships fly under my command. The Russians, Germans, French and whatnot might not be so generous. The Russian Czar is the only other human in the cosmos who has as close a relationship with the Singers as I do. Though I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t agree to these terms. As for the rest, well, there is much to iron out. Heck, we might have another war break out amongst ourselves now that we are done with you. But that’s not very likely.”
“What happens to me now?”
“You will be remanded to the custody of the Eutopian Combat Fleet to be prosecuted by their justice system. You will be charged with space piracy, and possible war crimes. You will face trial in open court. Most likely you will be found guilty and spend the rest of your days doing some very difficult and dangerous labor in an asteroid belt somewhere. If you survive your sentence you will be released. You will probably be dumped on some frontier world to live out the remainder of your life. Strange as this sounds I am giving you to them as a favor. In spite of your moronic actions I do appreciate that you waged this campaign more honorably than your predecessors did, I think that counts for something. If I were to hand you over to the authorities of any Earth government they would probably have you executed.”
With that I saw him taken to a shuttlecraft where he would be taken over to the Intrepid. There would doubtless be quite a few people back on Earth who would be volcanically enraged by my handing them over to the most reasonable people in the Solar System, I didn’t care. There was one thing I had to ask him before he left.
“Ossirin, tell me, was it worth it?”
“Was what worth it?”
“Continuing the war. Was it worth it to see it come to the end it did? Your fleet exterminated, all those people needlessly dead. All for some outrage committed against a pile of stones. Was it worth it?”
He flew into a rage and lunged at me. I let him come. I drew Patrick’s revolver and pointed it right at his temple.
“I have carried this gun since the war started. It is all I have left of a very dear friend. I have not shot it at any living thing. I have rained fire and steel on cities, killed your ships, shot down so many of your fighters with three man crews that I lost count. But I haven’t actually shot anyone in my entire life. You wanna be first?”
He hung his head and backed down. One last gesture of impotent rage among oh so many that fell by the wayside.
With the last remnant of the Drankmastarian empire dealt with there were just two little loose ends to tie up out here in deep space.