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Interlude by Bill Fawcett

Articles of War


Every Person in or Belonging to ... Navy, and borne on the books of any Ships in Commission, shall be subject to this Act; and all other Persons hereby made liable shall be triable and punishable under the Provisions of this Act.

Article LXXXIX

All other persons ordered to be received or being Passengers on board any ... ships shall be deemed to be persons subject to this Act, under such regulations as the Admiralty may from Time to Time direct.

Eventually the Fleet gathered its strength in the salient tipped by the two major Khalian worlds. Almost a million spacemen and Marines soon swarmed over or hovered above the home worlds of their former foe. Khalia itself proved a surprise to most of the personnel arriving. These new recruits, most unblooded in battle, expected to find a defeated and broken population. In assuming this they had overlooked the unique Khalian sense of warriors’ honor. To be defeated by a capable foe bore no disgrace; dishonor would have been to have not fought well. In every battle, every war, one side had to be the loser. To have fought well and lost had no stigma and affected Khalia’s population much less than it would have a human world.

Many Khalians offered their services to the Fleet. Most were assigned auxiliary posts, ones that didn’t require them to be armed. A few of their most-experienced fighters were posted to ships, though never in command or in key positions. The memory of the Weasels’ savage raids was too fresh to allow that level of trust. Only a very few were allowed to man ships of their own. Even these ships held a Fleet observer, who had a veto over the captain’s decision and control of a large bomb planted inaccessibly inside the ship’s engines.

When Khalia was occupied, hundreds of scientists and sociologists descended upon the planet. Their joint purpose was to determine how far the Fleet could trust the Khalian offer of service. Realizing that nothing except time would convince the Admiralty to trust their former foes, most of these scientists pursued “related” studies. It proved even more important that the Khalia were able to study these civilians. Unlike their tight-lipped military counterparts, the scientists were quite willing to discuss the expanse and strength found in the Alliance. Rather quickly the Khalia realized they had never really had a chance to defeat such a powerful enemy. Most then took the next step and came to the teeth-gnashing realization of how badly three generations of their race had been used.

The Khalian culture, seemingly inscrutable to the experts of the Fleet, was actually very similar to that of the pre-Roman Celts or the early Japanese. Both were heroic, bardic cultures whose members valued honor and reputation over even life itself. What confused the specialists was the high level of technology that had been grafted onto a basically primitive cultural pattern. While they looked for group psychosis and underlying gestalt awareness, the Khalia continued to hold a very straightforward grudge against humans that had set them up and left them in their time of greatest need.

The unrest caused by a baffling lack of trust by their new human allies confused and frustrated most Khalians. Veterans who had raided human colonies with near impunity failed to see why they were being left useless while the Alliance strained to import personnel from bases three months distant. Occasionally this resulted in violence. More often the casual, competitive violence inherent in a heroic culture exploded in the face of boys whose only other experience with physical danger was on the omni. Even after the Goodheart incident, the Fleet was slow to recognize the value of what they were being offered. As time passed some of these spurned warriors were unable to adjust to peace and joined those few remaining holdouts who had chosen piracy rather than surrender.

Occasionally rare individuals from both sides were able to find a degree of mutual understanding.

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