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‘Don’t you want to be free?’ She asks a little bit later.

This time I try, guys. I really try. For a second, maybe a second and a half. But then I have to give up. I go and check the ’scopes. Nothing, like last time. But that’s the thing with Isis: you never know. The last time we saw some action, she started by saying something about bacon! Don’t ask me, I never even had bacon. I had to go and look it up and now I really want to try some. I will be able to afford it, too, when I come back.

Later on, she explained what she meant. That’s another thing with Isis: she’ll always explain. But at your post you don’t have the time to wait for an explanation. That thing about wanted to be free could refer to a slaver’s ship for all I know. (I mean, bacon?) Hence the ’scopes.

‘ – Don’t you want to be free?’ She repeats.

Now, apart from explaining ( well, explaining and a few other things ), Isis is good at repeating stuff she just said. There is just that little bit of the schoolmistress about her, addressing a slightly slow kid, maybe. But that’s OK, I am slightly slow myself sometimes. You would be too, if you had to look at Isis when you listened to her.

But, I guess what I mean is: she sees through me and all my equivocations. But she doesn’t insist in a way that could make me resent her. She doesn’t nag. She doesn’t even change her intonation. Just a little repetition, like I was distracted the first time or something, and didn’t hear her right. She is all about subtlety, my Isis.

‘ – Everybody wants to be free,’ I answer after a while.

I know, I know it’s a stock answer. A cliché, as Isis calls them. I am just trying to buy some time here, OK? Even if the main battle has already been lost: I can tell Isis is in a philosophical mood today. It’s no use fighting. I might as well go with the flow.

‘ – But not everybody knows what is is they want to be free from.’

And there, all of a sudden, I see where she is going and I think to myself : ‘Oh shit!’

 

Now, the thing about war in space – the thing, that is, that most people don’t realise – is : it’s slow. It is slow and it is entirely a matter of statistics.

But most people think that war in space is a hoot! And, incidentally, that included me until quite recently, so don’t go around thinking I have a grudge against “most people”, thank you! Because I don’t. I mean, not an actual grudge. Not until I meet them anyway.

Anyway! War in space is all about time and an overwhelming superiority in armaments. It’s definitely not about little fighters running around and trying to hit one another with laser beams. ( I mean, laser beams? Nowadays even a commercial, civilian, spacesuit reflects lasers! ) It’s not about keeping the other guy in your sights while whirling at factor Gs that would snap a steel girder, never mind an actual human being!

If you want an analogy – I know you want an analogy: you are that kind of person. Gee, I thought I was dense! – look at old-time naval battles: the Bismarck and all that. Ask yourself the question : were these battles conducted using lots of small canoes and kayaks, crewed by guys with fronds, and maybe the odd handgun, or did they involve hulking big  great ships? And why was that? Because you cannot put a fucking big cannon on a small canoe, that’s why.

So, in space, it is the same thing. Only more so. To have a chance to hit anything, you need a big ship. And I mean big. Humongous. And big ships, you can see them coming from afar; which is one of the reason war in space is so slow.

 

All this, I guess, to make you understand that, while the sirens just sounding off are a welcome distraction, a bit of respite, a chance to absorb what Isis just said and to find something to answer, maybe to dissuade her from her dreadful plan, I am not really off the hook either.

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