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War. How useless. How puny. How utterly stupid. But yet there must be something to war that interests men, for history has shown so many of them. Is it the thrill of being brave? Is it that gambling feeling that runs rapid throughout men's souls, causing them to put up life for a chance at victory? Is it, perhaps, sort of a last chance to make something of one's self, to do this by taking away the life of someone who is trying to do the same? Richard was now having to answer these questions. And he was doing so by quietly studying the monitor screen in front of him. It seems he was playing klitik with the computer.

One of the navigators aboard the Act turned around and notified him of war news. "All shields up. Laser readied. Squadrons A-E launched. F-H prepared for orders."

The ship communicator also turned to him and reported, "All Susan Smith ships report the same preparation, sir. As for the Pacemakers: The Cambridge Bay's fires are getting more and more out of control. The Uruapan requests further orders. Alarius' fleet appears to be readying for our fighters."

"Fine, fine. Tell Jemason to hold his position. Be quiet now! Can't you see I'm playing klitik?"

Gibbenhide, who was standing by the hall door, walked over to Richard and quietly smashed his computer monitor. "We got a war to fight! What you doing playing games?"

Richard unsurprisingly looked at the big river monster. "Is that not what war is?"

"War is a fight for respect. You not get that by playing klitik."

Richard turned his head to the floor, and then to the sickly Gibbenhide face. "How much do you know about klitik?"

"Enough to know that war is more important."

"Oh, to the contrary. War is much the same. You see, Gibbenhide, in klitik--as well as war--sometimes in order to win, you must begin to lose. For when an opponent believes that he has won a game of klitik, he acts more boldly than one who has been involved in a very even game from the start. Right now Iffley--and the (Ahem!) Enchantress think they've got us beaten. They've destroyed one-fourth of our fleet--including three fifths of our battleships--and have set another one of them on fire. All we've got left, really, are our carriers. And the universe knows that these babies have little defenses against the weapons those ships are toting."

"When you gonna get to the good news?"

"They don't expect huge problems with our fighters."

"That's good news?"

A lieutenant, standing nearby, interrupted. "Why should they? From what I've seen those shields they got could hold up through a black hole."

"A black hole, yes. But you forget. Thanks to John, we have the very information about the shields onboard the Enchantress--and it seems they were built to hold up through a black hole. But a tiny, thin laser shot, at very close distance, will penatrate and keep the shield open for approximately ten seconds."

"Much like the Fwo Cresso movement in klitik." The lieutenant replied.

"Exactly. And once inside: Heck, they don't even have gun turrets. Uh, oh. Better watch out for them shuttles...."

Gibbenhide looked dazed. "If you knew this all the time, it sounds as if you didn't need to make them bold. Why didn't you just send them out like that in the first place?"

"One other thing about klitik. Suppose you were immensely ahead, like I was saying, and you did begin to get bolder against your opponent. But suddenly, for some reason, you lost--maybe you made one dumb move, or perhaps you did not see that plan that the other side had had since the very beginning. How does that make you feel?"

"Much worse than if you would have lost after the first few moves." Said the lieutenant nodding his head.


**T. G. Taft**

"This is Act squadron B leader to Act squadron C leader. Can you see me?"

"This is Squadron C leader. I've got you. We're approaching the blockade and will arrive in four minutes exactly."

The squadrons, thirty of them all, ten fighters in each, watched the immensive Alarian fleet grow bigger in the distance. They could see the big ships in more and more detail: They observed them as the Devonshire, the Paladin, the Yorkshire, the Pegasus, and the Enchantress. The smaller ships, however, the Rapier, the Cavalier, the Sickle, the Panther, the Cutlass, the Spectre, and the Scimitar, were still blurs in the starry sky. The Emerald, of course, was very apparent; but then, not only was she the closest, but she was the biggest, too.

"This is Act leader A. Everyone has been given his specific assignment, and we expect each to carry it out to the word. The more important ships, the Enchantress class ships, will be our primary targets. Secondary targets include all the other ships except the Emerald. That's the biggie out there. We are not sure of its structure; it is newer, and we don't want to risk anything--er, anymore than we have to.

"Now a word of encouragement: As you can see, we are not the more powerful of the ships here. However, those ships out there have not been built to take our little hits. Nor do they have turrets once inside. So don't worry about any fancy flying. Once inside, just take it easy and fire as much as possible. One more thing--good luck everybody, and, keep your chin up!'

**T. G. Taft**


**T. G. Taft**


**T. G. Taft**


**T. G. Taft**


**T. G. Taft**


**T. G. Taft**

"Oh, morbid days!"

**T. G. Taft**

The Act communication's officer nearly jumped out of his seat. "First squadrons now returning home, sir. Completely victorious...All but Enchantress, Cutlass, Spectre, Panther, Emerald, and Scimitar destroyed... have dinner ready... Sir, we won.

Richard stood up for the first time since the shift started. "Hail their flagship--Emerald--Enchantress--Scimitar--whatever. I want to get a formal statement of surrender."

"Hailing on all frequencies sir. All I can get is... wait a moment..."

A picture of Adena appeared on the monitors at each station. Richard appeared over the weapons officer's shoulder, since his own had recently been broken.

"We refuse to surrender. Repeat--you will not take T'mir..."

Richard pushed a button on the console. "T'mir? What the heck is that? All we want is your fleet."

There was silence on the other end for a while, and then a near ghost-like voice came over it. "Richard--is that you!"

Richard looked at the face that permeated the screen below him. He noticed the look of surprise on his ex-master's face. "Yes, ma'am. And I'm about to blow you up."

"I will never surrender to a centurion. Not in a thousand years."

Suddenly a voice broke in on the picture. Iffley's face appeared. "Adena, I'll handle this. We refuse to surrender. Iffley, over and out."

Richard watched menacingly as the picture faded to nothing. "Launch squadrons F-H."

Richard quietly sat back in his big, custom-made command chair. Now it was his turn to play bold. And he didn't like it one bit.

 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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