Welcome to the Masterclass [Short Sci-Fi Story]

Humans were a new species. Perhaps not new; but new to us.

Their application to join the United Systems had been received shortly after first contact and had been duly approved shortly thereafter.

Humans had appeared, first in small groups, then in a flood as they strove to consume knowledge of the wider galaxy as though they had been starved for millennia, which I suppose was true.

Their traders and merchants were loud and brash and seemingly in awe of the plethora of products that could be bought and sold on the galactic scale. Many a Glaric merchant was forced to stand by, in absolute befuddlement, as a human trader seemingly had a meltdown about something as simple as starsalts.

Human products soon flooded our markets and it was now the Glaric merchants’ turn to stand wailing while a confused Human wondered if they were going to buy the silk cloth or begin worshipping it.

Our lasting surprise came when we called upon the human military to make its contribution to peace-keeping, as all member systems are required to.

As a test of their military capability, we invited them to take part in a war game with several of our leading militant races. We did not expect much of the mercantile Humans. Surely their military might, such as it was, must be for the protection of trading caravans, more used to seeing off the poorly trained and equipped pirates that sometimes raided for riches in the outer sectors. How wrong we were.

Reminiscing about the events of that first war game causes great amusement nowadays, but let me assure you, dear listeners, that, at the time, it was a diplomatic disaster.

The Humans arrived in their ugly, boxlike ships and marched down the boarding ramps in perfect lockstep that would, and did, put the Sekeri infantry to shame. Perhaps it was professional jealousy, but they were widely derided in the staging area for showing up with their newly forged pulse rifles without effective body armour or hovering tanks. They looked, for all the galaxy, like children coming to play soldier in their flak armour with crude rotating wing aircraft and noisy monstrosities that rolled along the ground on tracks.

Befitting their status as both newcomers and merchants, they were assigned as the opposition force. They were to take positions and hold them while the real soldiers had a nice warmup rolling over them in the first stage.

Their grizzled-looking general simply nodded curtly when informed and returned to his troops to begin the day-long preparations before the assault would begin. Our militant races enjoyed a day of R&R, laughing and mocking the Humans who laboured out of sight preparing the objective that they would dismantle in mere hours the following day.

When the suns rose the next day, the United Systems’ military might formed up into an unstoppable hammer of pure, aggressive force and charged the objective en-masse. Each of them eager to haze these ‘little merchants’ into their proper place.

It was a massacre. Luckily, only non-lethal ammunition was supplied. Otherwise, the United Army would have been crippled by the afternoon.

The hammer came upon the objective town to find it a veritable fortress. Miles of trenching, earthen walls and the brutal barbed cabling, that the Humans are so fond of. Undeterred, the army plunged headlong into the defences, being met by a wall of disciplined and accurate pulse and artillery fire.

‘Casualties’ were astronomical. The attack lasted for only an hour before the United Army pulled back to lick its wounds and what wounds they were! Around 30% of the infantry and 65% of the armoured units had been sent from the field, rubbing sore limbs or trying to get their disabled tank restarted.

Surprised, but unbowed, the United Army redoubled their efforts and made a series of lightning assaults all around the Human perimeter.

They didn’t even reach the defences.

Before infantry could finish forming up, Humans would appear and wipe them out before clambering aboard swift-wheeled transports and disappearing before reprisals could descend upon them.

Airfields were attacked from unexpected quarters, deep within friendly territory by small mobile units of elite Human soldiers and the fliers were disabled before they could get off the ground.

Tanks were lured into ravines and forests by fleeing Human armour, only for that same armour to turn on them and tear them apart in vicious melee firefights, picking the United armour apart piecemeal.

The United Army suffered terribly. A further 40% of the infantry and half of what remained of the armour were sent back to the staging area. The air fleet was annihilated, almost completely.

Again, the United Army pulled back. With night falling, they decided to regroup and rethink their strategy before continuing the assault the following at sunrise the following day. They did not get the chance.

Human artillery began the surprise counter-attack with a planet-shaking bombardment. Under the cover of this rain of shells, human armour, supported by infantry, roared into the chaotic mess that was the United Army camp. When the artillery stopped firing, the Human fliers screamed overhead, spewing tides of, happily, non-lethal ammunition, and airborne soldiers. The attack lasted two hours after dark and every commander on our side was captured or ‘killed’ in the first 15 minutes. The rout was total and victory went to the Humans.

The following morning, the victorious Human general addressed his fellows with the first words that he had spoken. As the exhausted and humiliated United Army commanders sat in the briefing chamber of one of their ships, General Hanson made his appearance.

Gone was the spit-polished dress uniform, the man wore the same, simple fatigues and flak-armour as his men, the only deference to his rank being a badge on his hat. He took the podium as his opposite numbers glared at him from the ranks. He stared around the room for a moment, seemingly weighing the quality of those around him.

“How have you all survived this long?” He said as he smiled, “That was amateur hour out there, I have rookie units, green as the sky on this planet, who would have done better than the pride of the Galactic Army.”

There were murmurs of distaste at this point, but no disagreement. How could we disagree? A force, one-fifth of the size of our own, had wiped the deck with us.

“Now, here’s what I propose. You all submit yourselves to some training under a couple of our officers, and we’ll see if we can’t make soldiers out of you yet.”

The following months were difficult for the diplomats. There were threats of mutiny and counter-threats, in somewhat poor taste, truth be told, of ‘sending the Humans to sort you out’. But in the end, the General got what he wanted.

I now congratulate you all on your day of graduation from the General Hanson Military Academy and wish you all the best in your coming careers among the stars. I leave you with the General’s motto to keep in mind as you keep the peace in the wider galaxy.

“NEVER underestimate your enemies.”

Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/dethklok_36. Image created with Stable Diffusion.

Geeks are Sexy needs YOUR help. Learn more about how YOU can support us here.