Hereby a short story, a timeless piece of mythology in prose form. It's about a war in space, it plays in the year 2568 and it has an unheroic war correspondent as main character. -- The author of the piece is Lennart Svensson (1965-), author of "Ernst Jünger -- A Portrait," "Borderline" and "Science Fiction Seen From the Right". His bibliography is to be found here.
Sitting in a house overlooking a city, clad in a red tunic and black trousers as the desk warrior he was, Nakajima Lupp looked out through the lexan glass of the cupola. This was a bubble city, situated on the planet Boney which lacked breathable atmosphere. There were extensive facilities underground but to avoid acute claustrophobia there were some of these lexan cupolas too, allowing for a view of the planetary surface and the spacial abyss above. Beyond the cupola proper was a force field protecting from orbos and such.
It was a house in a cupola city, situated on Boney in the system of M-22. Boney was the uttermost planet of the system; it had been conquered by Space Rangers and a fleet task force to be used as a base for the Federation leap towards Duriko-Da, the homeworld of the Saurians. The Mirotanian Federation was at war with the Saurian Empire, an aggressive confluence of lizard people who had tried to rob man of his interstellar realm. Now man had retaken what he had lost but the Saurian hadn't surrendered, hadn't called it quits, so it was deemed imperative to invade the Saurian homeworld to end the war. It was, in other words, time to go after the Saurian Baddie in his own lair.
For its part, the Saurian homeworld was called Duriko-Da. It was situated in the same system as Boney, only closer to the sun.
War correspondent Nakajima Lupp was on Boney, staying in a room with a view over the bubble city and the blackness of space beyond it. Specifically, he was sitting at a desk in an auditorium, waiting for the pupils to come to his lecture. He was at war with the Federation and the action had made its marks; he had gotten blisters on his fingers from all the writing of reports and communiques... And now, after one year in the combat zone, he had been promoted a teacher of sorts, a correspondent to command other correspondents.
A signal was sounded; it was 1300 hours, Galactic Mean Time, January 6, 2568. The door was opened and the hall started to fill with newbaked correspondents in service dress. When everybody was seated Lupp started his show; in his inimitable way he gave an introduction to military concepts, helping the correspondents to understand the nature of the combat zone communiques they were to read and write themselves. He lectured about words like main effort and surprise, freedom of action and initiative, maneuvre space and reserves, as well as the old concepts of Auftragstaktik and Innere Führung. The latter, for its part, was about how every Mirotanian soldier was trained to become his own leader, trained to take his own initiatives within the framework of the mission. They shouldn’t just sit down and wait for orders; instead, they would anticipate what the order would be and then execute it spontaneously. It also meant occupying yourself with routine tasks like looking after your equipment without being expressly ordered to it. That would save a lot of time, lighten the burden on the leader and somewhat lessen the friction of war, as Clausewitz would say.
The lecture done Lupp went away in the cupola city and met his old comrade Knake. They found themselves standing in a subterranean street, watching some Space Rangers in blue overalls march by, metox guns in their holsters and forage caps on their heads. Lupp said:
”Rangers. In everyday wear.”
”Yes. And when they fight they have space suits.”
”Yeah, some guys eh? They also have a dress uniform in grey and green with a beret, a purple one; sure looks smart.”
”But you’re no Ranger. Do you ever wish you were?”
”No,” Lupp said, ”I’m an army guy and I like that too. The army and their infantry fight on worlds with breathable air, the rangers for their part fight on hostile worlds like these. And they fight in space, boarding enemy ships in space battle and so on.”
”The cutting edge of warfare.”
”Maybe. But you need worlds like Cressida and Duriko-Da to live on, prosper and be free, worlds with an environment more friendly to organic life. You need conquests like those to win the war, to conquer the key areas of habitation to put it formally. And there you need infantry slugging ahead in the mud; not so glamourous as being a space soldier with a jetpack on your back, but necessary.”
The rangers disappeared behind a corner. The two correspondents for their part went to an officer’s mess, situated behind a front of burnished steel and fretted copper. Once inside, sitting in a lavender boot surrounded by pots with bracken and orchids and a small fountain with gurgling water, they ordered tea and looked out over the half-deserted premises. It was the magic hours between lunch and dinner with just a waiter walking round doing easy stuff like placing out ashtrays and salt-cellars. Knake sipped his tea and said, intimating the Duriko Da-campaign:
”So here we go again. Time for action again.”
”Yes,” Lupp said. ”This time it will be really tough, the Saurian fighting for his home, for his dear and beloved ones. They’re fighting for their homeworld and not for some alien conquest like Cressida.”
”But that’s how they want it,” Knake said. ”They didn’t want a settlement after the loss of Cressida, they wanted to continue the struggle. They refused to return to the Federation.”
”But the word 'federation' to me suggests freedom of choice,” Lupp said. ”It’s not an empire, a caesarian state based on the rule-by-command. A federation is an egalitarian congregation, one that it should be volountary to enter and leave. That, to me, is a federation. Right?”
Lupp stirred his tea with a glass rod. Changing the subject he said:
”They say we have taken Jannoka.”
”No kidding, eh? I didn’t even know we had landed there.”
”But we have, and we have conquered the whole world and made its garrison surrender.”
”We’re forging ahead I daresay.”
”Yeah. And so my friend, from one thing to another – are you learning anything about things military? Or is it the same mess as always?”
”Well, I do pick things up,” Knake said. ”And I think I’m gonna start to plough through some army handbooks, something has given me the taste for it. The language in them can be rather funny, rather punctilious and poetic at the same time if you follow me...”
”Well,” Knake said, ”how about, 'retrograde defense in open and close country'? And 'the ground is boiling and smoking from grenade impacts' – and 'if the squad leader falls someone of the soldiers – YOU – must take command'."
”Oh I see,” Lupp said, ”some poesy for fire-eaters, eh...”
”Exactly. Even single words and concepts can be like poetry, poetry in nuce so to speak.”
”And Spaceborne Assault.”
”And Canorma Fabric.”
Lupp agreed with his friend just to go with the flow, to have the conversation going – because earnestly he wondered if Knake hadn’t finally gone mad. Poetry in military concepts? Then you could find poetry in common words too, like sun and moon, flower and leaf, ocean and brook and whatnot...
Science Fiction Seen From the Right (2016)
Infantryman of the Future