|Enemy Mine Series
2nd Book of the Enemy Mine trilogy
by Barry B. Longyear
The preflight literature of every race of which we know posits the existence of otherworld races, and describes the expectations all placed upon their first encounters with other races. The perfection of individual and society all could envision, but none could achieve, each race hoped to find in another.
The encounters happened, each race finding in the other little more than a distorted reflection of itself. Intelligence and stupidity, aggression and suffering, insight and blind allegiance—the universals of life and reality—replaced the hope with cynicism as each race fought for its own advantage by creating rules, tactics, and institutions intended to enclose and defeat the goals of those who were perceived as threats.
Against the stronger powers, the technologically and militarily inferior races formed coalitions, becoming by combination stronger powers themselves. Inside the coalitions, the members intrigued and plotted for control. Outside of the coalitions, the great military and economic powers warred and expanded.
The coalitions rapidly evolved to become the present system of federations known as the United Quadrants. In the area of the Galaxy encompassed by the Ninth Quadrant Federation, only a few of the great powers had not become members of the federation. Of these, the two strongest in numbers, wealth, and military might were the United States of Earth and the Dracon Chamber. Between them, these two powers ruled three-hundred worlds.Late in the Twenty-first Century neither Dracs nor humans speculated in giddy wonder about alien races. They were at war.
She looked at the remains of her command. Soldiers. They sat in holes, leaned against rocks, unmindful of the wet chill of the air and the dark gray of the overcast. She almost smiled as she looked back at the approaching lander.
The Dracs only needed one. The forty-odd scraps of demoralized humanity waiting in the mud for that ship could hardly fill a quarter of the craft's capacity. Forty-odd future prisoners of war; the remainder of a defensive command of twenty thousand.
There was no way of knowing, but millions of civilians must have been slaughtered, as well. The reports that had managed to get through said that Catvishnu's cities on all six continents were but smoking ruins.
A figure splashed to a halt next to her. "Major Nicole; they're coming."
"They're coming." The figure pointed toward the lander.
"I see them."
The figure squatted until Joanne Nicole could see its face. Sergeant Zina Lottner; code clerk.
"We finished the search. There's nothing down there that the Draggers can use." She held out a silver card. There was dried blood on her fingers.
"I found this in your quarters."
the invitation from the sergeant. The lovely little card
sparkled. Amidst the mud, filth, and blood, the card looked
obscenely clean, bright, happy. She opened the card and read the
raised lettering inside.
The Officers and Ranks
Headquarters Company, 181st Force Division, III Corps,
Planet Catvishnu Garrison, USEF
MAJ. JOANNE NICOLE
Sixteenth Annual Celebration
to be held at
1930 hours, 21 February 2072 (2651 hrs. 9/9 Local Time)
Main Auditorium, Storm Mountain
She closed the card. "Lottner, why did you bring me this?"
"I don't know. I thought you might want . . . " Lottner stood, facing the approaching Drac lander. "I saw what was left of your gown. It must have been beautiful."
Joanne Nicole dropped the card into the mud and stepped on it with her boot. Lottner stood silently for a moment, then turned and splashed slowly down the muddy slope.
It had been a beautiful gown; a silly little puff of silver and white.
"How long have soldiers been sitting in mud?"
She turned toward the sound of the rough voice and saw a man sitting cross-legged in the reddish-brown soup. Morio Taiseido, lieutenant, former code officer, present mud soldier, future POW. His companion, infantry sergeant Amos Benbo, kept an enigmatic stare fixed upon the approaching enemy ship.
Hardly moving his lips, the sergeant answered: "How long have there been soldiers?"
The ancient infantry joke seemed oddly profound at that moment. Joanne Nicole looked at her knees, lifted her hand, and scraped some mud from them. She cupped her hand and studied the contents.
Mud. It had the color of blood mixed with excrement.
Mud. It smelled like blood mixed with excrement.
Mud. The universal military cosmetic.
When she raised her head, the Drac ship had grown larger. Does the Drac infantry, the Tsien Denvedah, sit in the mud? Do the Dracs bleed, gripe, or do anything that other soldiers do? Two hours into the battle, Intelligence Chief Colonel Nkruma hadn't thought so.
She closed her eyes, sending her memory deep into the broken mountain behind her; back to so few hours ago.
Nkruma's round, usually impassive face was twisted as though he were in physical pain. And he was. The gleam of sweat upon his dark skin and the shaken voice telegraphed the words no intelligence officer ever wanted to hear.
"Nicole, we must code twenty the command."
Code twenty: destroy all classified documents and pieces of military equipment. Two hours into the battle and the garrison was throwing in the towel—preparing for total defeat.
Two lousy hours into the battle.
She was still wearing her gown. It was indecent. Considering the number of lives, the amount of time, the amount of money and effort invested, it seemed to be against some higher law for all of that to be written off two hours into the fight.
A major battle—the subjugation of an entire planet—should take more time.
Nkruma had looked down at his hands, two brown-black knots upon the chaos of papers covering his desk.
"I have already told General Katsuzo. He . . . he told me that I was lying!"
Nicole had reached out her hand and placed it upon Nkruma's shoulder. "I'll take care of the code twenty, Colonel."
Nkruma clasped his hands, closed his eyes, and spoke in a deathly quiet voice.
"What do the Dracs have up there? What in the hell do they have up there?"
She gently shook his shoulder. "I've sent the performance reports off to sector intelligence. We might catch it, but sector will come up with new tactics. The next time the Dracs hit a base—"
Nkruma shrugged her hand away and looked up at her with terror-filled eyes; he spoke with a voice choked with shame—humiliation.
"They're sweeping the entire defense command aside as though, as though we are nothing!"
He lowered his head until his forehead rested upon his clasped hands. "Nothing!" His head rocked back-and-forth upon his hands.
"Do they read minds? Do the bloody yellow devils read minds?"
Nicole had left the office, issued the orders, then returned to her own section to begin erasing the records. Captain Ted Makai, tactical officer for the Storm Mountain complex, still in his formal whites, sat in the intelligence center, a glass of champagne in his hand. He raised his head as she entered.
"Happy days, Joanne."
"How much have you had to drink?"
"Not nearly enough."
"Aren't you needed someplace? There's a bit of a war going on outside."
"That explains the noise." He inhaled sharply. "No, I'm not needed anymore. All the damage I can do is already done. It's up to the computers, now." She walked around him and began setting up the sequence to dump the memory cores. "Joanne, a century ago this would have been called a complete rout." He finished his champagne in one gulp and let his glass fall to the floor. "But there just isn't anyplace to rout to."
"I'd love to sit and hold your hand, Ted, but I'm busy."
"Busy, busy, busy."
Makai stood, put his hands into his pockets, and began singing "Johnny Zero" as he walked through the door into the corridor:
the old man, "I've come to see
—The deep whine of an enemy assault craft.
Joanne Nicole opened her eyes and looked again at the approaching Drac lander. Erasing the records had been such a waste of time. When the Dracs attacked the Storm Mountain command complex, the memory cores had been destroyed.
Everything had been destroyed.
Almost everyone had been destroyed.
She never did see Ted Makai again.
By unspoken agreement, the survivors decided to meet the Dracs above ground, and had joined the mud soldiers on the surface. Code clerks, cooks, boot-polishers, technicians, programmers, operators, staff officers, and paper wizards moved into the sarcasm of a front line the infantry was trying to establish.
At first there were less weapons than there were hands to fire and serve them. In an hour the numbers had balanced. In another hour they had five times as many weapons as they needed. The line never was established.
Now that the Dracs had withdrawn, there was nothing left but the bodies, the mud, and forty-odd sets of eyes staring blankly at the approach of the enemy ship.
Nicole recognized those eyes from the faces of hundreds of thousands of defeated soldiers—in intelligence training, pictures of forgotten soldiers in forgotten places: Andersonville, the Ardennes, Spain, Stalingrad, Bataan, Okinawa, Bastogne, Korea, Vietnam, the Sinai, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Acadia, Capetown, Planet Dacha, Planet Baalphor, Chadduk Station . . .
The uniforms differed, the faces—human, Shikazu, Drac-differed. It was the eyes. The eyes were always the same: the glazed, stunned, defeated stare of a cornered, confused, exhausted animal that had lost its will to resist, its will to live.
The Drac lander hovered at the foot of the mountain for a moment, then slowly reduced its altitude until it came to a steaming halt upon the mud flats below.
She thought of the tapes she had seen of the interrogations of the seven Dracs captured at the battle of Chadduk Station.
Their uniforms were filth-covered red; Tsien Denvedah, the Drac infantry elite. They did not look so damned elite as they slumped before the interrogation officer.
The hands had only three fingers each; the heads and faces were devoid of hair, the deep yellow skin smooth. The noses were little more than openings in upper lips. Foreheads sloped back, chins receded, yellow eyes stared blankly from beneath prominent brows.
All intelligence officers had learned the rudiments of the Drac language, and the interrogator in the tape had explained to the Drac before him how hopeless its position was. Things could be made easier if the Drac would cooperate.
A three-fingered hand rose and was placed against the Drac soldier's breast. It clutched something hanging beneath its uniform. The human interrogator walked over, slapped the Drac's hand away from its breast, then reached his hand inside the uniform. The human's hand withdrew holding a small golden cube attached to a golden chain that hung around the Drac's neck.
"What is this?"
"It is my line's Talman."
Talman. The bible of the Talmani. The human tightened his hand around the golden cube.
"What would you do if I snapped this chain and threw this luck-charm away, maphrofag? Hey, Dragger?"
The Drac stared for a moment at the human's fist, then it closed its eyes.
"I would have to go to the expense of buying another."
The fist drew quickly away from the Drac, breaking the chain. The human studied the Drac as though he expected the alien to turn into a gibbering column of jelly at the removal of its Talman.
The Drac opened its eyes and stared blankly at the floor. The interrogator dangled the broken chain in front of the Drac's face.
"Here it is, you two-sexed shit! If you do not cooperate, I will throw it away."
Slowly the Drac's gaze lifted from the floor until it was looking into the eyes of the interrogator. The Drac's eyes filled with glitter, then it's mouth formed into a grin, exposing the solid white mandibles that served as teeth.
"So, humans are as stupid as they appear. I am encouraged."
The interrogator stuffed the cube and chain into his pocket.
"Dracs are the prisoners here; not humans."
"It is not the first battle, human, but the last that decides such matters. You have just told me that the Dracon Chamber will win the last battle."
The interrogation had gone on for much longer, but Joanne Nicole's head was filled with the conviction in the Drac's words. That and the look in the creature's eyes.
The will to fight, to live, had returned.
As the lower bay doors on the Drac lander opened, she wondered how she would appear to the Drac intelligence service. How she would appear to herself.
She reached into her sleeve pocket and felt for the tiny pronide capsule. Once her fingers had found it, she pulled the capsule from her pocket and studied it. Half pink, half blue, it carried the colors of innocent childhood.
Nkruma had been in the throes of a hysterical calm. He was issuing the death drops in fistfuls to everyone who would take them. As he handed a capsule to her, she shouted at him.
"Nkruma, what do you think you're doing?"
"All of us know things that the Dracs want to know. Duty will tell you what to do."
Duty? The USE Force knew about Catvishnu falling. Before the battle was over, USEF computers would change codes, tactics, equipment, priorities, and anything else that depended upon the knowledge of any person or group of persons.
The USEF assumed that everyone would be captured alive, and that everyone would talk their heads off. Experience makes pragmatists out of us all. It also removed the need for mass suicide.
Nicole had held the capsule in front of Nkruma's face.
"What are you, Nkruma? Some kind of Jonestown-Masada freak? Die rather than have the courage to face defeat?"
She watched in horror as he stuck the capsule into his mouth, crushed it with his teeth, and swallowed. After a weak cry, he was dead. Many of those with capsules died with him.
She watched a human in strange blue robes emerge from the lander's bay. He paused at the foot of the ramp and looked up at the remains of the Storm Mountain Irregulars. He studied the faces for a moment, turned to speak to someone within the bay, then turned again and began slogging through the mud toward the ragged assembly. . . .
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