It took twenty-five years. Twenty-five years of merciless slaughter.
I rose all the way from second lieutenant to colonel in only seven years. That shows the appalling losses we were taking. The last seven years were the hardest. But little by little we pushed them back from Styx, Charon, and finally back to Proxima. We were closing in to finish off those fuckers and that damn message came through on all channels. I’ll never forget it:
“We are the Partisans. We wish to end hostilities. We wish to negotiate. Please respond.”
The message was relayed back to Allied HQ on Poseidon and we were given the order to halt. I couldn’t believe it. We had the bastards on their knees. But no, the politicians decided to take up their offer.
The Partisans, who had been so vicious in war proved to be remarkably docile in negotiations. All they wanted was a half-billion mile sphere of space around Proxima Centauri. The Allies could have everything else. After four hours it was all over.
And so the Great Partisan War ended.
Almost immediately the defense budget was cut in half. Most of the veterans who had been in the war from the start took the retirement offer and got out of the service. left. Those diehards like me who stayed discovered we weren’t really wanted anymore. I found that my colonel’s rank was only a “brevet commission” and I was reduced back down to a first lieutenant. And I stayed a first looey for fifteen years. Finally there were enough retirements that I was promoted to captain. They offered a new retirement: twenty-five years service and retire at the highest rank. This is my last year. I’m taking it. I know when I’m not wanted. And what about the Partisans?
For eighteen years there was nothing. Nothing but the Partisans’ homeworld racing around Proxima Centauri every twelve days, one side in light, the other in darkness. Blasted with enough X-rays to kill ten thousand human beings with one dose . And nothing was known of them. Like the ancient Japanese, suicide was apparently part of their military tradition.
For eighteen years they lay waiting like a cancer metastasizing. Waiting for memories to fade, for budgets to be cut, for Man’s attention to once again turn to new worlds and away from a feeble red dwarf.
But as the ringing in my ears subsided, I knew today was not going to be like all those other days of the last eighteen years.
For today was the day the Partisans came back.
It started like any other day. Just like any other day of the last eighteen years. I was going out on the flight deck on Neutral Zone 42. That was the outpost I was assigned to which monitored the treaty zone set up with the Partisans. They were allowed outposts too. They never built any. We built ours on asteroids orbiting Proxima. Cheaper than building them in space.
They looked at me with reverence and awe. A real live veteran of THE WAR. So I spun my tales and told them what they wanted to hear. I told them of past battles and past callsigns of fallen friends and how they got them:
Spanky (got caught jerking off in the barracks)
Dweezer (had a fetish over a 20th century musician)
Mr. Moto (Master of the Obvious)
And what was my call sign do you ask?
Ok. Not orginally.
Originally it was Breeder.
Well what do you expect when you’re the only strate in the whole damn squadron?
But after I got 12 kills, after I nuked that Partisan heavy carrier with 40 fighters on it, after I put that 20 KT right down the throat of the refueling station on 3487a927G which, according to the official history, “opened the way for the final invasion”, then they finally let me change my call sign.
But they still wouldn’t promote me.
What the fuck?
It happened only once. I grabbed her tight little ass. I kissed her and then I pulled back.
“I’m sorry” I said.
“It’s Ok. I’m bisex.” She replied.
“Ohmigod. Ididnt know. Youra strate.”
“Wow. Thatz OK. I always wanted to make it witha het.”
WE made love like crazed weasels.
Now for the real story.
We were both drunk off our arses. We went back to my quarters. Made out. Did it. The whole thing was over in fifteen minutes. Two years worth of friendship down the shitter in fifteen minutes.
When I saw her this morning on the flight deck I noticed the sparkle in her eye was gone.
I’m sorry Jess. I’m so so sorry. But it’s the only way. Don’t you understand? It’s the only way. We can’t let that fucker get back alive. Who knows what they’ll do. Will they just send out another ship? Or are they gonna come at us with everything they’ve got? No, that sonofabitch has got to be destroyed. And we both took an oath Jess. We both took an oath that we would give our lives if need be. If you would just stop screaming in my ear. Please stop screaming that doesn’t make it any easier.
Then everything went black.
The flash brought me back to consciousness. I would have been blinded if I hadn’t put my blast visor down before…
Before I ejected.
Then I remembered what I had done.
Back during the war, an old Banshee mechanic had shown me a trick that saved my ass. He showed me how it was possible, by just rewiring a few simple nanoelectric circuit lines located next to the pilot console I could rig an overload in the Banshee’s reactor with a 15 second delay. Enough time to hit the switch and punch out. The 20 kiloton blast would fry or at least seriously fuck up any fighters that were on my tail. I used it once when my gunner had been killed and I was about to get my ass waxed.
I’m sorry Jess.
Then I checked my suit. There was a tear in my right arm. Moving as fast as I could I got the emergency repair kit and sprayed on the sealant. But it was too late. I checked the oxygen gauge. Seven minutes. It would take at least twenty for them to get a rescue ship out here. Guess fifteen seconds isn’t long enough.
I’m an atheist. The idea of God showing up as a burning bush makes me laugh. And if God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the apple, why did he put the fucking tree in Eden in the first place?
But I’ll pray for you Jessica Wu. I’ll pray for your immortal soul. It’ll be the only prayer you’ll get from the only person who knows what really happened.
Because the Partisan ship is destroyed. So they know not to fuck with us. We’re still ready for them. But Earth can’t let it out that the Partisans challenged us. That would cause too many problems. It would disrupt the colonization program, make them put more money into the defense budget, panic people. Bring back all those bad memories of the war. Open a real can of shit.
So they’ll bury it. Put it down to “pilot error” or some other such bullshit. An old guy, past his prime, fucked up, didn’t see an asteroid and boom.
The 2nd Partisan War ended before it began. And don’t worry about the casualties.
* * *
Download the story in Word document format [here](/content/other/1107/WarWithoutSacrifice2_finalCensored.doc).