No Battle Fought

No Glory Sought - Book Two

by Phil Geusz

"Today's mission, Commander, is revenge. And may God have mercy on your soul."

Even the ordinary sort of war is awful enough— people die, resources are wasted, and the survivors are scarred forever. But when unstoppable force comes up against an indomitable will to resist and the nukes begin to fly, well…

Does war have a purpose? Or is it all just a meaningless blood-drenched spasm? When you're outfitted with thermonuclear weapons and you and your squadronmates are giving all you have just to stay alive in the same sky with the enemy, well… Perhaps that's not the best time and place to ask such deep questions.

Yet when you're a seventeen-year-old naval officer who doesn't expect to survive another hour, how can you not ask?


Chapter One

 “War isn’t easy,” I heard my amplified voice say over and over again as it reverberated off of the auditorium walls. “In fact, becoming involved with war is the worst, most profound tragedy that can ever befall a human being. Fighting a real battle isn’t like what you see in the holos. It reminds me more than anything else of stumbling around in the bottom of a dark sewer, up to your waist in filth and trying to murder someone before he can kill you. It’s not glorious, it’s not fulfilling, it’s not something to be proud of. In fact, when it’s over and done with what you yearn for, more than anything else you’ve ever wanted, is to be clean again. But, no matter how hard you try, you never can quite scrub the stink of death away.” I looked out over the crowd I was supposedly selling war bonds to. They were very quiet now, where when I’d first been introduced they were cheering and waving flags.

“Yet war has been thrust upon us,” I continued, voice grim and face hard. “It's up to us to bear the stink, to accept the moral responsibility for the truly terrible things that we now must do. To make the sacrifices that must be made, that we may live on as a free people. To embrace darkness for a time—that our children and our children’s children might know only light.” I sighed and looked down at the notes that the United Systems Board of War Finance had prepared for me; they had nothing whatsoever to do with the speech I was actually giving, and were therefore of only limited help. I’d been ad-libbing for ages now, saying what was in my heart instead of what the professionals judged best. No one else would've been able to get away with it. But I was Thomas Longo, Killer of Battleships. It wasn’t like they had a replacement hero waiting in the wings. Besides, when I spoke my heart, bond sales went up so much that even the professionals had been forced to recognize the fact. Well, Thomas, I whispered to myself. You talked yourself into this corner; now you’ll just have to find a way to talk yourself out of it. “We must sacrifice, that they may be free,” I concluded lamely. “We must bloody our hands that they may live. We must stand and fight, that they might not be burdened with the mark of Cain. We must support this war, because history tells us that strength is the surest foundation of peace. And, above all, we must not shrink away from our duty before history. We must not allow evil to triumph! We must do what it takes to win this war, no matter how hard it is or how much we must suffer along the way. We must win!”

“Arrrrgh!” the crowd replied, a wordless, primeval utterance. Then they made fists and waved them threateningly in the air. Every single one of them was a California millionaire; in order to get in, they’d been required to buy a hundred-thousand credit war bond. Some had bought several. If recent history was any guide, they'd buy even more after hearing what I had to say.

“We must win!” I repeated. “For the sake of everything’s that’s good and decent! We must win!”

“We must win!” the crowd agreed, taking up the chant. “We must win! We must win!”

They were still chanting and fist-waving minutes later; I could tell because the floor of my little anteroom was still bouncing up and down to the tempo of stamping feet. I was sitting in a folding chair, mercifully alone with Father Murton. “I hate speeches,” I observed as my tutor massaged the place where my neck and shoulders came together. It shouldn’t have mattered that he rubbed me; my plastic skin wasn’t nearly as sensitive or flexible as human flesh, and I didn’t even have muscles to get all knotted up. But Father Murton had done it when I’d been frightened or upset as a small boy, and lately he’d taken up the practice again. It seemed to work, at least a little. “Speeches make me feel almost as dirty as fighting does.”

“I know,” the priest replied, shaking his head. “But, if it’s any consolation, you seem to have a real gift for it.”

I closed my eyes and false-sighed, since my mannequin-body wasn’t equipped for the real thing. “So, I have a gift for making war-speeches, and a gift for aerospace combat. But not for much of anything else. Why can’t I be good at something I want to do? Something that doesn’t get people killed?”

Phil Geusz - "No Battle Fought"



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