Tales From Earth:Spay's Invaders
“But why?” asked the cadet. “Why must we attack like this?”
“Because it is the way it always has been done,” replied the Spay’s commander. “My father fought like this, and his father before him. Since we first started invading other worlds we have attacked like this. And that is the way it shall always be!”
The cadet stared down at the planet beneath them, at the four bases below. The shields on the bases shone brightly upwards; clearly visible now as they approached. And somewhere down there, although the evidence pointed against it, he knew there would be the defender. For so it was written: whenever invasion was attempted, a defender was to be found lurking on the planets surface.
This was despite the best efforts at subterfuge. They had tried cloaking the fleets. They had tried projecting reverse noise to block the signals of their approach. Even decoy fleets had been tried, but had been ignored by the potential targets. It was almost as if the attacks were being predicted. Somehow the defensive systems were anticipating the incoming ships. But how was that possible?
This time, the SEAL (System Evaluation Attack Landing) team had studied the southern polar region where the bases were to be found and reported no signs of movement.
Surely this was not to be an easy victory? Invasion without losses? The cadet could only hope so. For it seemed every day brought more bad news back to the Spays’ home world. Fleet losses were increasing; reports brought back by the few survivors were of destruction raining up from the surface; not the glory that had been part of the conscription process.
He thought that maybe the protesters had a point. Why the ceaseless need for more territory?
Sure, in the old days, when the ever increasing population threatened to destroy the very existence of life with its limited space and resources. Then there had been a need to expand. Combined with the additional funding poured into the space program, colonising other planets seemed an ideal solution. After all, in a seemingly infinite universe there must have been more room to live. The first few closest habitable planets the early adventurers had stumbled upon had been no problem. For the large part they were vacant, with plenty of room for resettlement. But after a while these ‘empty planets’ became more and more scarce.
The population crisis by this stage was practically under control. So there should have been no need for further invasions, but somewhere along the line the need for more space and the wish for more space had become confused. Now it seemed that the invasions continued just because they could! The fact that some of these planets now already had life on them was irrelevant! And sure enough gazing out of the observation window this one was no different. Somehow the defender had evaded the SEAL team’s scanners, for there certainly was one there!
The fleet began its final descent towards the surface. The folly of its construction was all too obvious to the cadet. The brightly coloured craft lined up in rows, one colour to a row. The square ships at the bottom, changing shape as the layers progressed upwards, towards the twelve pointed star-shaped craft containing the more important soldiers. The cadet remembered the age-old saying: “The higher up the ship, the more points”. In a purely aesthetic point this was clearly true. But somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered if there was another meaning, one beyond his comprehension.
Flying above the fleet; the communications ships shot by at intermittent frequencies. Not an envious job by any means. For some reason the defender often aimed specifically for them during attacks, as if they were somehow more important. The reason for this was not clear; it was just another example of ‘the way things were’!
Another was the method of attack. In their lines the ships moved from left to right above the bases, firing down as they went. Once reaching the furthermost base, they reversed direction and drew closer to the planet. Although this seemed strange, the cadet had initially accepted this as the best method. Strafing the enemy gave a good way of inflicting maximum damage. But now, with the defenders missiles hurtling upwards to meet them, he was beginning to doubt it.
Instead of creating the masses of destruction that were predicted, all they were doing was providing easy targets; while at the same time the bases provided perfect hiding places for the defender to hide behind.
And hide behind them, this one certainly was. Cowering behind the shielded base, the crude rectangular craft popped out and let off its missiles. Even its decoration was inferior. None of the tentacles or antenna that were the proud symbols of the cadet’s home world. Just a simple rectangle with a gun turret.
Had they no pride in their culture? No imagination?
And now what was this? The defender had chosen to shoot at its own base! A message from the commander, somewhere high above the planet, crackled through on the inter-space communicator. “They are giving up, press on for victory!”
But the cadet saw better, the defender was not giving up. Instead it was providing a safe way to fire its missiles up towards the fleet whilst still remaining shielded from their attacks. Not suicide, but self-sacrifice!
Had the communications been two-way, the cadet would have reported his fears. However the ships were not designed that way. Another failing, he realised, but yet another one that it was too late to worry about now.
The attack continued; blasts rocked his craft. To his left and right, the ships were obliterated. Friends he’d known since joining the academy gone, lost in a second. And so the losses were replicated between the fleet. The defender scored hit after hit with none of their returning fire coming close to stopping it. (Not that it would have mattered! The few detailed reports that had made it back to the Spay’s central base had stated that on destroying the defender there was just a loud electronic beep and another identical defender had replaced it!)
With the increasing losses, and the fleet now in tatters, the cadet longed for a retreat call to be announced. Cowardly as it sounded, he realised the mission was a hopeless one, and just longed to live to see his family again. The radio crackled.
Was this it?
But no, instead it was one of the surviving commanders: “Keep firing”, the voice said, “The fleet will speed up, and if we lose more ships then it will keep speeding up. If we make it to the surface then it will shall be victorious!”
So the fleet did indeed speed up. The changes in direction were more spread out now. The cadet was thankful that he had been in the middle of the fleet’s make-up as the defender seemed to have been picking off the ships on the edge first before concentrating on the rest. This was another tactic that had seemed strange but rather effective nonetheless. As the ships at the periphery were destroyed, it took longer for each pass and therefore longer for the fleet to reach the planets surface.
Explosions continued. The fleet was whittled down slowly but surely. Faster and faster they went. As the ground became closer, individual details of the remaining bases became clear. And still the ships fell, until only the cadets’ remained.
Flying along; lower and lower the ship went. Missiles just missing as the defender tried to track the ever-accelerating craft. By hopeful as he was, the cadet knew that he wasn’t going to make it. It just wasn’t to be.
And then as the missile struck, just before his final shield fell and the cadet experienced total oblivion; his final sight was some letters burnt into the planet’s sky in bold type. They simply said: