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An Exchange

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Invasion F-006

Starfighter Command Kelgaron Invasion Archives

Adapted from Peter David Gabriel’s Personal Log

   Escort duty is usually very boring. Nothing very exciting ever really happens. This was no different from hundreds of other missions I had flown except for one thing: I was escorting several freighters filled with bug prisoners of war -- and we were flying to the bugs' home world unannounced. I suppose that I was selected for this mission because I hold the record for number of kills during a single dogfight.

   Three of us jumped a bug battle group. I was credited with 22 fighters and one destroyer killed. I also damaged 17 other ships. By the time help arrived I was the sole survivor of my flight group. It is amazing what a little skill and a lot of dumb luck can do for you. I was going to need all the luck I could get this time. I was the only Starfighter escort that this mission had.

   No one had ever been to the bugs' home world, and Starfighter Command would not tell me how they knew the coordinates to the bugs' home world. I was just supposed to deliver a convoy of five freighters filled with 6,000 bug prisoners of war safely to their home world. One of the Starfighter rules is -- don't ask questions. You are better off not knowing in the long run.

   This was a very one-sided prisoner exchange. The powers-that-be elected to send the bugs home rather than having to keep caring for them in prisoner of war camps. It was an economic decision. It would put a strain on their resources, and free up our resources for other things. It was just another weapon we were using to try and bring an end to a very long, drawn out war.

   So far during this mission I had upped my total kills by 4 to 287 from 283 --. That also was another Starfighter record. I also chased off 8 other bug fighters without killing them. I was under orders not to kill any bugs unless I had to. The bugs had to know we were coming. A recorded message stating the nature of our mission was being broadcast on all known bug radio frequencies. I forget at what point we picked up a bug destroyer as an escort. It and its fighters stayed just out of my missile range, and paced the convoy all the way to the bugs' home world.

   The bugs certainly did not trust us. My convoy was greeted by two full battle groups. I set my ship's self-destruct system before I flipped on the communication system that would isolate the radio frequencies the bugs were using. I waited for the system to lock on before I opened communications with the bugs. "We come in peace," I said.

   "Narrow your bandwidth to 22.7 gigahertz," came the reply.

   "I wish I could, but I am using an old system that will only allow me to broadcast on all the frequencies that the system has locked on to." That was an outright lie. My ship was state-of-the-art, but I had my orders. The whole world below me would know that we were up here. "You may board any or all of the freighters for inspection or we can land at any place you designate where we will turn over all prisoners of war to the proper authorities."

   After a long silence the bugs replied. "We will inspect all ships prior to allowing them to land."

   "As you wish, but you will find that I am the only armed ship up here." Several shuttles slid out of the flight deck of a couple of nearby destroyers and headed for the freighters. One of the shuttles did a quick flyby of my fighter. It was hard just to sit there and do nothing. It was several hours before the bugs were satisfied enough to give us the coordinates where we would be allowed to land.

   The fighter escort down to the surface of the world was heavy. If I had to I don't think that I could have fought myself clear. This was probably the most remote landing site on the planet. I made it very clear to the bugs before I landed that any attempt to tamper with my ship would leave a really big hole in the ground. I finished setting the self-destruct system before I climbed out of my ship and locked it up.

   I felt naked without any of my weapons, but I was under orders. I was having serious doubts about the wisdom of this mission. I was escorted to the flight control tower where I was able to watch the prisoners disembark from the freighters. I was joined by several high ranking officials. "Why are you releasing them?" one of them asked.

   "We're got tired of feeding them," I replied. "There will be one more shipment of prisoners before we will have released all the prisoners of war we have captured so far. It is our hope that this gesture of peace will make you reconsider this whole war you are having with us. We do not like to fight, but we are prepared to fight forever if that is what it will take to preserve our freedom, our homes, and our families.

   At least the officials standing there did not deny they had started the war. I can't count the number of prisoners that I have captured that blamed us for starting the war. "Our war with you has proved to be a costly mistake," one of them said. "We feared your aggressive colonization practices would hamper our own colonization of space. We would stop the war if we could find a way to do so without losing the respect of the people we must lead."

   "So I have to go on killing your people just so you can save face?" I was disgusted that they would let their people keep on dying just so they could maintain their hold on power a little while longer. "Our weapons may be primitive by your standards, but they are very effective. We are well acquainted with the art of war, and we know where your home world is, consider, how did we know where to bring your people? How long do you think it will be before we have exhausted all peaceful means to bring this war to an end, and attack you here? I have no doubt that Starfighter Command has begun to consider doing just that. We have weapons with the power to destroy your world, and we are just crazy enough to use them."

   "Yes, we know of your weapons of mass destruction."

   "Good, then think about a couple of million of them delivered by Starfighters to your home world and to every other world you occupy. Our own people are growing tired of this war, and will one day demand that we put an end to it despite our commitment not to use our weapons of mass destruction."

   "It is something we will have to consider, but I think we could stop such an attack."

   "I don't think so. It only takes one bomb to destroy any major city you have on this planet. We could fire thousands of them at you from the far edge of your solar system. You would never know they were coming until the day our bombs began to rain down on your cities. If this insane war of yours lasts much longer, that is exactly what is going to happen. Is holding on to what little power you have left worth the total destruction of your world?"

   "Are you threatening us?" one of the officials asked.

   "No, I'm begging you to end this war in the name of peace and for the sake of your people. I fear what my species is capable of. We have used the weapons I speak of on ourselves to restore peace to our world. That made us a more peace-loving race after we saw the effects of these weapons, but I fear that we could use them again in the name of restoring peace to the galaxy. I am here with a peace offering to try and get you to stop this war. If you will respond to threats, then yes, I am threatening you. I am here to use whatever dialog is needed to bring about peace between our two species. This war has gone on far too long and has cost many lives on both sides. We are tired of fighting, but we did not start this war, so only you can declare an end to more than fifty years of hostilities between our people."

   "Much to our great regret did we start this war," the oldest official there said. "You were the first species we encountered in space capable of matching our intelligence. We were afraid of you. It was out of fear that we attacked you. An attack that failed, sadly, and now we realized too late that all we managed to do is wake a sleeping monster. You, without a doubt, are better at war than we are. We send a thousand into battle, and you respond by sending only one Starfighter. For the sake of our children I, too, wish that there could be peace between us. We must find a way to put an end to this war. I can see that the monster is getting tired of playing with us, and is about to pounce on us and rend us into tiny pieces. However, you are not the only monsters we must contend with."

   After many hours of talk nothing was decided. They were still afraid of us, but they feared the reaction of their own people more. They feared the collapse of their world government if the truth about the war came out. In the end we agreed to talk more fully at the next prisoner exchange with a proper diplomatic delegation. If all this did was get us to start talking to one another I would consider this mission a success.

   That night I lifted off and docked with one of the freighters for the trip home. I had been assured that we would have a safe passage home. It had been a cloudy day which would help to insure the success of the remainder of my mission. I was to deliver a package to someone whose name was withheld from me for security reasons. It was a little odd that I would become a glorified postman on the bugs' home world.

   I matched ship systems and took control of the freighter. We lifted off and I piloted the freighter into a large bank of clouds, extending the wings of my fighter and disengaging my ship as we entered. Switching to stealth mode, the skin of my ship turned flat black. I was invisible to any kind of radar as I began the long glide through the clouds. Once I was out of visual range I dropped out of the cloud bank and went down to skim silently a few hundred feet above the planet. I set my ship down just outside a small town and made the rest of my way with the package by foot. I was more than a little surprised by the human that opened the door.

   By all accounts the man before me was considered a traitor to his planet and the Starfighter Legion. It made no sense that Starfighter Command would be sending him anything. I was sure he could see the hate in my eyes as he opened the package. It was a secure high speed sub-space communication system and other computer techno stuff. He would both be able to send and receive high speed data piggybacked on the bugs' own frequencies. He would be able to hack in and download the data banks of any computer. I was more than impressed. I had no doubt that Starfighter Command did not consider him a traitor if they were sending him this kind of equipment. It then occurred to me how Starfighter Command had gotten the coordinates to the bug home world. Thomas must have sensed the change in my attitude toward him.

   "It was not that much of a sacrifice," he said. I could agree with him when I got a good look at the bug female that entered the room to see what was going on. "We all want to end this war, and we must each play our part to reach that goal so we can all live in peace. Even though this is my home now, I would still like to visit Earth again and show my wife and children some of the wonders of my home world."

   "You have children?" I asked dumbfounded. "I didn't think that was possible."

   "It was not something that we counted on either," the female said. "But, it was a welcome surprise."

   The man pulled a handful of chocolate bars out of the box. He tore off the wrapper on one of them and took a bite. I could see the look of pure joy as he let the chocolate melt slowly in his mouth. "Tell whoever packed this, ‘thank you very much,’" he said. "I'll drive you back to your ship and spare you the long walk back, if you like." I accepted of course.

   I watched Tom run his hand over the sides of my fighter. I knew he wished he could sit where I was sitting once again. I gave him time to get his vehicle well clear of the area before I lifted off. I wondered if I had the courage to do what he was doing. I arrived just before the freighters finished their check list prior to leaving orbit. The bugs had not noticed when I left, and they did not notice when I returned.

   The bugs' word was good, and we arrived home without incident. Several Starfighter Command admirals were there to greet me on our return. “Did everything go well, and were you able to deliver the package?” was all they asked me.

   "Everything went as expected," I replied. "We should send a more formal diplomatic envoy when we send the next batch of prisoners. They are more than ready to talk with us about finding a way to put an end to the war."

   "What of the package?"

   "Delivered as instructed."

   "You are to forget all that you saw in regard to that aspect of your mission. Do you understand?"

   "Yes, I understand. He said to say “thank you” to whoever included the chocolate bars with the package." One of the admirals smiled. "It is shame that we cannot tell the world of the bravery and courage of some men," I said.

   "When the war is over some names that have been removed from our rolls of honor will find their way back to the top of that list. Until that time they must remain traitors to us all for their own safety." I nodded my head in agreement and understanding.



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