"Wow, that was a nice one."
The general stopped doing "bending at the waist" to see what the major was admiring. In the distance, he could see the expanding line of fireballs across the ridge. Just then, the sound reached them: KWAUMPF!
'Fire is such an ugly tool of war', he thought as he jogged in place. He was halfway through the routine and he hadn't even begun to sweat yet. 'If only command had authorized us to use the Heavy Bomb or something. Shame to waste all that lovely lace architecture the bugs are so fond of.'
But of course all the really dirty hardware was 'confined to non-combative duty' which meant they weren't being used by the military for war anymore. The law didn't say anything, of course, about use by planetary law enforcement units against civilian targets. Riot control had been forever changed.
The major looked back. "Say, are those leggings new, sir?" he asked.
"No," said the general as he stretched his legs with knee flexes. "Had 'em since my first grandson was born. But I hear you just got yourself a new skirt from back home, am I right?"
"After dinner, I want to see it. Come by my quonset, won't you? The usual time."
The major blushed as, behind him, the sky rained death on the natives. It was always this way.
When They finally decided to drop the Bomb, They did it from way way up. The Bomb fell without knowing or caring its destination. On its back was pinned all the hope and hatred of the Secret Masters.
It dwindled from sight, growing ever smaller as They watched from the orbital launch platform.
But was it the fall that made it dwindle? Or was it actually shrinking?
As it turned out, it was both, for I looked up by sheer chance and saw it coming-- but instead of growing, dwarfing me in the shadow of its noon-day plummet, it was growing smaller and smaller.
Its designers had forgotten that perception is reality, and as they watched it shrink, their perception of its size compressed it, for nothing can withstand the pressure of extreme scrutiny powered by inhuman will.
I reached up to catch it. Small as grain of sand and light as a feather, it drifted down, down, down towards my cupped hands.
At an altitude of six inches, it airburst, and for a brief moment, my hands were warm. But then December's chill returned with a vengeance, and I hastened into the warm lobby of the hotel.
The gods were doing battle last night.
The U-Foes probably started it with their snickering again. Deep within their bunkers, down down in the canyon in the bay, they got a bit too uppity and the Archangels heard about it and decided it was time to come a-knockin'. The hills echoed with their battle cries; the depths flashed as the bolts of vengeance dropped from above. Muffled boomings echoed from within the thick mist which concealed their duel.
We sat on the cliff and watched, ants at a demolition derby, astounded by the flash and the fury. All around us, the collateral damage of this war we can never really hope to understand.
A burst of white, and all heads turn to watch as a stray bolt arcs up from the dark, boiling waters, travels up to the clouds and over our heads for long, slow seconds before crashing into the earth somewhere beyond a line of houses. Later, the sirens will go to the striking place, to pick up the pieces and evacuate the survivors.
Retaliation is swift; I hear a sound above me, look up, and for a moment the dark protective shroud is swept aside, and I see stars, and a single feather from a single wing of a single angel-- so white and bright and crystal-sharp, and then there's a flutter and my eyes are blinded. I fall to the ground, so afraid that my face is now ablaze from the perfect light, but I have been spared-- aside from the splitting sound of the Archangel's voice, chastising me for my arrogance, rebuking me for my lack of humility, the deepest shrieking treble I have ever heard. I cannot look up again; I can barely muster the strength to raise my head horizon-ward, where I see another barrage of heaven-revenge lash the water's surface, creating balls of incandescent hell where they land.
But the U-Foes are too deep for these shallow attacks; I know that the real weapons are beyond our sight. This is just the decoy, the distraction, while somewhere else, somewhere deep beneath the waves, Leviathan approaches on his slow, patient flanking maneuver. As impressive as the aerial battle is, I know it's a string of Christmas lights compared to what will be coming later, out there, out in the middle of the Bay.
Another bolt lashes out, and is deflected-- it curls back, and then up, and one of the dark shrouds suddenly flames out in all directions. They've slain one! They've slain an Angel! We all fall back, stunned, as his dying cry rolls over us.
The other angels begin to wail. They retreat, a brief respite, to tend to their wounds and their plans, and to convey the spirit of their slain warrior into the transcendant medium, leaving us soaked to the bone with the knife-icy burn of their tears.
In the few moments of quiet, we scuttle away as quickly and quietly as we can, fleas leaping from a running dog, returning to our mortality, blessed and burned and blinded and befuddled by our momentary glimpse of the sparks which fall from the divine forge.
The gods were doing battle last night. Let us pray that none of them ever achieve victory.
The Brood-Mum looks at me with three of her eyes, glittering like jewels. The other three are rotated down to her cards. She clicks and buzzes. I suppose she is trying to show contempt, but as usual, the translattice misses the emotional content.
"If you think to bluff," the unit drones, "you'd be wise to reconsider. That is one trap you cannot lead me into twice. And I have a hand that is more than adequate."
The game is seven-card poker. Four face up, two in the hole, one Indian, stuck face-up to the player's forehead where only their opponent can see it. Jacks are wild. The Brood-Mum has a ten, nine, eight, and seven showing. I've got two Jacks down, plus a three, a five, and a nine. There is a Queen and an eight in my hand.
Between us sit markers representing very nearly thirty percent of our respective fleets. The grand prize, as usual, is a disputed world, one very rich in water and lighter elements. The ships are just to make it more interesting. The Brood knows as well as we do that another borderwar would devastate both our empires. We're doing it the civilized way now.
It's been a good game.
We each draw our seventh card, the Indian card, the unknown factor. I stick mine to my forehead with saliva. She plants hers atop her exoskull with extruded hivesap. No audience. No distractions. Just me and the Queen Bug, ruler to ruler. Winner goes home with a planet and about fifteen million tons of the enemy's fleet.
Her seventh card is a seven. She's one card away from a straight. All she needs is a six or a Jack in that pincer of hers.
The Bug starts making odd noises. The translattice seems to think it's laughter. She's sure she has me beat. Either she has the straight to beat my three of a kind or she's bluffing. She learned that trick the hard way, the last time we played this game.
Too bad for her. Bluffing is old news to me.
I look into the ornate wall-length mirror that stretches behind my opponent, where I see a ten stuck to the forehead of a human, and a pair of fours in the claw of a very large insect. New trick, baby.
"Have I mentioned yet that humans can read minds?" I ask, as I place a marker for our flagship on the pile.
Got that dumb bug right where I want it.
Scott Dorsey <******@netcom.com> wrote: >Seriously, does anyone know the real etymology of the phrase >"Mongolian clusterfuck?" It's not in the OED, needless to say.
The armies of Ghengis Khan were truly feared in their time, and one of the reasons for this was the Mongolian Clusterfuck. This marvelous military tactic is not widely recognized in books on the history of the Horde, and it's probably because it makes most military historians a bit squeamish.
It was a form of ambush. The Horde would use it against any military formation that was clearly not functioning as it should-- because of COC snafus or other failure in CCC, because of inclement weather, etc. Any military unit that was distracted, inattentive, disorganized, lost, engaging in mutiny, or was otherwise not at the peak of its form was potential prey for the Mongolian Clusterfuck.
The Horde would sweep in from all sides, outnumbering the victims (typically) three to one. If there was any strong resistance, they would create a few high-profile deaths, but generally the prey was not ready to put up any sort of defense, so casualties were light-- because the Horde was not there to slaughter everyone, oh no.
Instead, they would rapidly disarm and cripple their victims. Then they would dismount, disrobe, and begin engaging in gangbang action with all the members of the victimized military unit, going two or three at a time on each victim (hence the need to outnumber the prey). The Horde did not see this activity as remotely sexual; it was a military tactic akin to killing all your enemy's horses or salting what little agricultural land your rivals might possess. They did not call it "buggery" or "ass-fucking" or "rape"... it was referred to as "clustering". Often, the two or three other men you worked with most often while clustering would become your best friends within the Horde-- nothing brings warriors together like friendly banter while you're at opposite ends of some poor bastard who's gettin' the rough trade from both of you.
They would leave most, or even all, the victims alive afterwards, to spread the word and live in shame. And so the term entered common vernacular use, even if it didn't find a legitimate place in military history.