At the fringes of my imagination:
FROM THE WALL OF DEFEAT
I was in the little 8 X 8 for a long time. It was one of twenty thousand that made up the “wall of defeat”. That wall faced bow-ward across fifty kilometers of deck-plate. The pitch-over of the forward “command-decks” assembly gave me an inspiring view of the stars ahead. That view mostly inspired my dismay as I had a front row seat to every attack this behemoth had been a part of.
Planets would come into view and one of two things would happen. If launches occurred from the surface, a fleet of various sized ships would launch in seconds and race out in small burst of speed like so much water falling away. A staccato of hisses and thumps, bangs and pings would echo hauntingly thru the dark cathedral, sometimes for hours, as life was being destroyed just ahead. If there were no launches from below, then a dip-nosed orbit would be achieved. Not much longer afterward small needles of blue exhaust would drift out and head ground-ward. Everywhere they touched the atmosphere would move aside and the ground would bulge up into a blinding little ball of light. Shock-waves would race outward and blend together. I watched many atmospheres swell to many times their normal thickness and then simply, evaporate into space.
The Niaro are bi-pedal. They all stand exactly 9 meters, 9 centimeters, and 9 millimeters tall. They were thought to be machines until the first “conversations” with them were translated. Their greetings were always the same. “Our carbon base/liquid/chemical data will live. You will die.” Even when looped and left in the “fuzzy-logic” translators, nothing any clearer than those words has ever came out.
Very few of their fallen have ever been recovered. They are living creatures but not like anything ever encountered. We don’t even know how long they might live. The only things for sure are their 9-spiral-DNA, four extremely good eyes, and four massive arms with four-fingered hands on each. They use high energy slug weapons as well as knives and swords. They also use hyper-yield fusion war-heads, “planet killers”. They are on an inexorable slow march thru the spiral arm, towards Earth.
We still don’t know how many there are or where they come from. They don’t seem to care much about new tech and so have not developed anything like our worm-hole propulsion systems. Below the speed of light, they still advance, however slowly.
Every so often two or three would come in front of my cage and carry on a conversation in that gurgle-click-whale song-moan-scream that they use as language. One always had some type of data device that information seemed to be put into and taken out of. It looked like a 2 meter by 2 meter piece of glass. I have never been able to decipher any of the symbols I have seen in reverse from my side. I have picked a few out though.
The view I had was a triple-edged sword. It was breathtaking, but gut-wrenching as well. To any attackers the utility of my front row seat should have been immediately apparent. The silver bars would have been clearly visible thru a small telescope against the black metal of the hull. I’m only guessing that the “canopy” that was my sky for so long was made of a single huge sheet of a carbon matrix. Who can make space-worthy “diamond-glass” sheets that big? Who could make enough to construct thousands of ships, each 99 kilometers long?
I was with the fourth fleet that was sent out to engage them. We were decimated in a few days. We refrained from frontal attacks quickly after we saw the prisoners of our earliest moves paraded in our faces. We wanted to rescue them of course, but the Niaro had other ideas. They were a constant destabilization tool. Watching them being tortured really did a number on a lot of people. One day the cells would be full, the next, completely empty.
One day they came upon a large patrol-cruiser. The battle was of course short, but spectacular. There was no surrender, but there was a surprise for me. An errant single seat fighter was “tractored” into the cathedral with the canopy slid back. Aside from a few burn marks it was intact. Even the fat tires still had nitrogen in them. The flickering lights in the cockpit told me there was an electrical problem. It sat there for what may have been months. No problem with the energy cells depleting. Small fusion reactors would have kept them fully charged for years. I was beginning to worry about my fate but also thinking of escape.
One day, “Repair!” I was bolted from a daydream by a booming voice from just outside the upper right of my “gate”. And then it rang out in baritone again with a mighty, “fix! Shall! You!” The translation of our language seemed to be easier for them than theirs was for us. I fully understood what they wanted of me. “Yes!” was my reply and the gate swung open. After a half kilometer walk in which I actually had to jog to keep pace with my chaperon, I was allowed to give the little fighter a full inspection. It was an F86-wedge, with a fusion powered drive and full worm-hole capability. The armament consisted of the standard twin lunge-barrel 30mm proton rail cannon, the 60mm hard-beam fusion cannon on each wing-tip, and the 10mm fusion marble launchers on either side of the lower fuselage. Even thru the flicker of lights I could see that all magazines were still at 100%. The tactical helmet was sitting upside down, just behind the headrest with every lead still plugged in.
The malfunction was easy to find by simply looking at the center screen on the main panel. The pilot had forgotten to half-arm the ejection seat in-flight system. It’s one of the things on the rapid launch list that should never be skipped. When he or she did, that left the canopy latch at three-quarters engaged. When the throttle on the left is set to attack speed many get the back of their index finger banged up on the manual latch. The canopy slides back and… I finally noticed the black, almost red slime that had coated the entire micro-habitat. The harness was still buckled tight. Very small pieces of uniform were still in the seat and maybe even a few bits of bone. Right then and there I resolved to seriously plan an escape.
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