The Maiming Fields

by Kevin J. Phyland

sfgenreAbout the middle of World War I somebody decided that poison gas would be a cool thing to use against opponents.

It was. But not in the way originally envisaged. Gas dissipated over distance and left behind a bunch of bodies trying to die — painfully.

The gassed side spent valuable time trying to drag victims from the field and minister to them.

Good, in a way, for the aggressors. Fit combatant soldiers were pressed into moving the victims to bivouaced temporary field hospitals with no guarantee that the gassed could be saved.

A whole new way of warfare.

War that doesn’t necessarily kill your opponents. Although in many personal ways it was much worse than simple slaughter.

It takes a certain type of thinking to realise that. A type of thinking that you'd think a superior species might well have discarded thousands of years ago.

That's why it was rather a surprise when the alien invasion started.

They shattered combatant bodies with a careless precision. Then they targeted aid workers with the same unfeeling random triage. If they could hear sound the way humans did, they certainly showed no effect from the agonised screams.

Perfect asymmetry. There is a symmetry to death. This was not that. It was unequal. It was a war waged with unemotional logic. The sort of war that humans, at least those that ran wars, would have considered both efficient and effective.

Perfect imperfection. The dying are not yet dead. The dead still need to be looked after.

It soaks up resources.

And that is when we realised that the aliens weren't that far advanced. At least not in the ancient art of war.

Sun Tzu was wrong. Wars are obviously won before they are fought....but only if your original assumptions are right.

Theirs weren't. They came from an entirely different theatre of war. One where you needed massive superiority before an attack. An overwhelming, almost hubristic fighting method. One, where if the odds were against you, you'd just wait. Until the Sun Tzu version worked because you couldn't possibly lose. They were a confident, well-rehearsed completely committed war machine.

It became obvious that they'd never encountered a truly violent species. So violent that they actually practiced genocide. A species so insane that they'd rather exterminate themselves than be defeated.

So they met humans. On their own turf.

We were beaten up pretty bad. For about a year.

It's rather incredible what humans can do when they all get focussed.

The aliens, whose name and origin we never knew, deployed logic and decided that to take our little blue planet they'd have to kill every human. Problematic.

Because it meant ruining the biosphere, atmosphere and basic tectonic geology.

A Pyrrhic victory, which incidentally would result in massive losses to their own combatants.

So they left. A rather uninspiring end to a rather uninspiring campaign.

I guess they still monitor us from time to time because they’ll want to know one thing that even we don't yet know.

When will we stop practising suicidal genocide?

And if we don't...then they'll return.

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About The Author

Kevin J. Phyland

Kevin J. Phyland

Finally officially retired. Writing will now take up a bit more of my time. Still working on longer pieces. 33 years spent teaching. Writing since I was 12 on and off. Something had to give. I have a penchant for short, choppy, staccato sentences with too many adjectives.

aus25grn

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 234

Forager
by Christine Gladstone

Ice, Forever
by Col Cort

Psychically Transferred Phantom Pains
by Wesley Parish

Purgatory
by Sue Clennell

Selena Ops
by Tony Steven Williams

The Bucket List
by Jackie Hosking

The Coroner
by Ann Zimmerman

The Half-Life Of Humans
by Kevin J. Phyland

Tsnik
by Max Young

Wanderlust
by Eugen M. Bacon and E. Don Harpe

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The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is pleased to welcome entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2016 and 2017. Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries. The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work.  For more information:  <https://normakhemmingaward.org/2017/11/08/entries-are-now-open-for-the-2018-norma-k-hemming-award/>.

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