Quenjo Wastes (Day 103)
The seven of us slept last night in the ruins of Bastruzo Military Base. We got up very early. Virtuet was well behind the Godaxle. The drakes were mostly getting ready for the battle — their first real battle. Arilash and I prepared them suitably: she gave everyone the Melismatic Tempest, I gave them the Hoplonton. Osoth and Nrararn conjured a lot, cooperating to make a truly ominous cloud that radiated so much magic that I’m sure that even the hovens could tell how dangerous it was. Ythac amused himself by picking out the real weapons scattered among the fakes and marking them with invisible illusionary fireworks for later destruction — the hoven military had filled the Wastes with logs casually disguised as artillery.
Csirnis simply looked graceful and friendly. “Do the rest of you have plans for the day?”
“I’m going to find a likely-looking mountain and carve it into a memorial for Greshthanu,” said Arilash. “And I better not have to do that again for any of you.”
“Except Jyothky, of course,” said Llredh.
“No, not except Jyothky. If any of you die, I’m going to get Osoth to call you back so I can scold you,” said Arilash.
“What if it’s Osoth?” I asked.
“I’m sure Osoth can raise himself from the grave somehow,” she said. “Enough of that. What are you doing, Llredh?”
“Some little errand or other, she will be today’s business,” said Llredh.
“I’m just going to watch the battle and grumble about getting talked out of it,” I said. “Hey, Ythac, where’s the best place to watch from?”
Ythac cast the Draft of Direction. “From the Perspeckle Movie Theatre, in Perspeckle, six miles from edge of the Quenjo Wastes. That’s odd.”
“I’ll go look.”
Movie Theatre of Operations
An hour before dawn, I flew to Perspeckle. The movie theatre was surrounded by military vehicles and military hovens and military nervousness. The top of the building was all spiky with antennae. I shrank to pretty small — the size of three hovens or so — and landed in front of the theatre, and then let the three hovens guarding the theatre’s door see me. “Hello! Ythac said this was the best place to watch the battle.”
They pointed their guns and hatchets at me. “What the fuck? Didn’t you promise not to be here? Don’t you have some kind of treaty?”
“Not me! I’m just a tourist or something. I’m not trying to fight today.” I looked at the guns and hatchets. “But you can attack me if you like.”
They didn’t like. “Tourists aren’t allowed here, this building is off limits,” said the guard. Another guard was talking into some fancy technology phone about how there was a situation at the front door of the command center.
“I’m going to go in in three minutes, one way or another. You can figure out the etiquette, if it’ll make you happier,” I explained.
I spent a few more minutes than that talking them out of bringing up artillery (“You’ll need it in the Wastes. And if you use it here, either you’ll wreck your command post, or I will, and everyhoven will be upset or dead about that.”) After maybe six minutes, a gentleman whose badge said “Darrir Smedris, Social Warfare Specialist” zoomed in in a jeep, and introduced himself.
“Glad to meet you. Are you going to try to engage me in a social battle to determine if I’m going in? I’d switch to claws and teeth pretty fast, I warn you.”
“Well, we don’t normally allow enemy combatants into our command center…”
“I’m not an enemy combatant today. Unless you say I can’t come in,” I pointed out quite reasonably.
“Well, you’re still a hostile alien, and we don’t allow those either,” he said. I started to say something, but he continued, “But under the circumstances, I am authorized to allow you in, if you promise to be well-behaved and non-destructive and peaceful.”
“I so promise!” I approve of his attempt at sneakiness or social warfare. I was going to go in either way, and best for him if he can extract a promise of good behavior out of me. I can be just as sneaky though. He didn’t specify how long the promise was good for. Obviously it couldn’t be unending, and he hadn’t said, so I took it for the traditional twelve minutes.
So I went in. It was the best place to observe the battle, really. They had dozens and dozens of television screens showing various scenes of the waste. The big movie screen had been taken over somehow, so that it showed this and that piece of the waste, changing every few seconds under the command of a rather nervous Second Lieutenant of Communications. Half the seats in the theatre had been ripped out, replaced by folding tables holding all manner of computers and screens and radios and other very fancy and technology sorts of things.
Three dozen hoven officers stared at me. I stared back. “Just here to watch!” I said. That started a few arguments, Darrir Smedris arguing with the other officers about what General Crane had said. The arguments were resolved when General Crane strode into the theatre, apologized to her staff for my presence, and told me how displeased she was that I was there.
“I want to watch my friends kill your soldiers!” I said. I think my twelve minutes were up, but I was still mostly polite.
“Understood. Your presence is disturbing my officers, though,” she said.
“Understood. I’m not trying to help Trest fight my friends.” I said.
“Understood. If I understand our ‘war treaty’ thing, you’re not involved in this fight, right?”
“Understood! I mean, I’m not involved, I’m just watching. I’m not trying to hurt Trest’s attempt to fight my friends, I’m just not going to help either.”
“You’re not welcome here,” she said.
“Of course not!” I said. So obvious! I sprawled out in the center aisle of the theatre, and looked at the main screen. “Are your secret new weapons all ready?”
“We don’t discuss military secrets with the enemy,” said the general.
“How about the experimental new kva-rays? Ythac said that your scientists were afraid that the polyduction coils would break. Or that bomb based on the Zigrelder Effect? Will you be using that today?” Ythac had been enjoying himself.