The battle against the Noknuxo had been raging for months. The space-faring aliens had clearly superior tech – weapons that were huge and completely incomprehensible that made noises that could not be predicted and left swaths of damage in their wake. Their lasers were precision-targeted and left holes you could throw a baseball through; their bunker-busters were just insane.
They were fighting the Terrans over a system that was smack in between their two most favored colonies and Terra’s first really successful colony system. They were down to fighting on the best planet itself, which had serious disadvantages – they were destroying land both groups wanted to live on – but on the other hand, a single hit didn’t end up destroying huge numbers due to atmosphere loss, the way that several of their space battles had gone.
The Terrans were losing. They were demoralized, and it was making everything that much harder. The Noknuxo tech was just too advanced. There was no way that they could win against things that their scientists couldn’t begin to understand.
Suddenly, over a loudspeaker, the echoing, chittering voice of a Noknuxo sounded – in Terran. “Cut!”
“What?” The Terran general looked at her aide. “Was that right?”
“We’re out of special effects budget,” came the Terran explanation in a Noknuxo clack. While the Terrans had figured out Noknuxo, the aliens had never bothered to talk in English before this. “We’re going to have to go to doing this the boring way. We’re dropping our projections now; you can drop yours and save the budget.”
The general stared across the field as, one by one, half of the incomprehensible machines vanished. The other half suddenly looked much less… impressive.
Carefully, she leaned into the mike and pushed the translation button. “We have no projections,” she called over the field. “What you see is as we are.”
There was a chitter and chatter from the Noknuxo side. “Say again?” came the clicking reply.
“We have no projections. Everything here is exactly as it is.”
Somewhere behind the General, three of her best scientists were staring into viewfinders at the Noknuxo siege devices. “General, can you capture one of those?”
“Not while they’re calling a truce,” the General replied, careful to be sure her mike was off.
“Better hurry,” her aide commented. Looking out at the battlefield, the General could see why.
To a being, the Noknuxo were fleeing. There was no reply, no request for clarification. They were simply loading up their remaining ships.
The General had been given this position because of her quick-thinking – which could have been seen as either a positive or a negative, because it came with a quickness to speak as well. She flipped the mike and the translator on. “Please,” she called, as if the Noknuxo weren’t fleeing, “name the location where you would like to discuss peace terms.”
She wanted to learn more about fighting a war with special effects.
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