The Glory of Treason – Part One
Sci-Fi Short Stories
The Parnassus Class Command Ship Delphi had lost contact with Cygnus High Command. This was not an accident.
The entire Cygnian First Fleet had also lost contact with Cygnus High Command. This was not an accident, either.
Supreme Navarch Alec Kouros was well aware of the concept of a chain of command. Information gets filtered through several layers of idiots while people die waiting for the head idiot to make a decision. This was precisely why the Navarch had ordered the communication shutdown.
It hadn’t been easy. Dozens of comm-techs had to be coerced. Of course, most of those who got a direct order from the Supreme Navarch trusted him implicitly and obeyed without hesitation, or at least obeyed without question. That sort of trust was hard earned, and Alec only hoped that using it here wasn’t a waste. He hadn’t bothered to make it look like sabotage; there were too many links to him. Instead, he mentally crossed his fingers and waited.
High Primarch Wesnos would just now be learning of the dead comms. Although the shriveled old bastard was a short-sighted buffoon, he wasn’t an idiot. He would know what Alec had done, and he would know why. Most likely, he would also steadily be turning a shade of purple only found in nature on one known planet, in the form of a certain species of flesh-eating bacteria.
While the ancient Earth General William Sherman was absolutely correct in saying, “War is hell,” the Cygnian Navarch knew, as General Sherman must have, that some wars are simply worth fighting. Some wars have to be fought. Some wars are even honored as “great.”
This was not one of those wars.
This war was being held for the sole purpose of settling grudges so old that no records could be found regarding them – political records in Cygnus were kept on file for a minimum of five hundred years. Over five centuries of petty, baseless bickering had eventually led to a bitter conflict that had taken millions of lives in the first year, alone. And now, halfway through the fifth, military leaders on both sides were recognizing the futility of it all.
To put it mildly, the war was at a standstill. Casualties were nearly identical for both sides, people and ships included. For every system taken, one had been lost. The all-important imaginary line drawn through the void distinguishing Aquilan space from Cygnian space hadn’t even moved enough for astrocartographers to bother updating the charts.
The worst part, though, was that there was no reason for the war. A man can spill another man’s blood in good conscience if there’s a cause to fight for; causes had likely killed more people than anything else in human history. While death is one of war’s more infamous accessories, Alec considered death without a cause to be the worst sort of arbitrary pointlessness imaginable.
Without a cause, there’s no way to keep up morale. With low morale, orders get questioned. When orders get questioned, people die. And yet, the Supreme Navarch of Cygnus had just disobeyed a direct order. Perhaps it was simply a sign of how low morale had really gotten.
more by KENNY STONEMAN
Photograph by Jim