Wartime Economy – A Short Sci-Fi Story

The Orion Arm Treaty was less of a unified government and more of an agreement to keep being nice to one another. Roughly six parsecs across, a little under twenty species occupied the space, for the most part, were peaceful. Small squabbles would occasionally break out in the treaty, a border skirmish here, a bit of sponsored piracy there, but in the long run, the various nations of the OAT were fairly amicable. Free movement of species to work with one another, and to live on other’s planets meant that over time, cultural exchanges popped up. Military training exercises happened together, trade was for the most part open and free, and the collective agreement to keep this peace held well.

Humans were the odd ones out in the collection, while they were overall fairly aligned, they seemed to be made up of micronations, smaller nations that operated slightly differently from one another. This didn’t really result in any changes to the overall operation and connectivity of humans to the larger whole, but the bureaucracy made them slower to react. This seemed like the humans’ greatest weakness, their inability to make timely and efficient decisions often had them responding late to challenges or simply not being able to deal with trade disputes effectively. For the most part, even with their four stars systems, they were considered fairly backwater and were only ever a minor player in the politics of the OAT.

That was until conflict arose.

And not the minor conflict many were familiar with, no, this was something external. In the grand scheme of things, sixish parsecs is not a lot of territory, and exploration had been slowly expanding it, but with many asteroid belts rich with minerals, the need for rapid expansion had simply never existed. Production always managed to outpace need, so there were no calls for rapid expansion. The Squallar Empire changed that. A chance meeting on a system being surveyed meant a Trillard survey ship came across a Squallar science ship. The two exchanged handshakes, and a brief dialogue was opened, with a report sent back of the discovery of a new species to the Trillard government. Soon after the survey ship went dark.

It was suspected something had happened, so a pair of patrol ships had been dispatched, only to find the wreckage of the survey ship. It’s black-box made it rather apparent what had happened, with the Squallar ship being greatly offended that a collection of species existed outside of their Empire, and destroying the ship. Some light espionage later, the OAT had a fair idea of their nearby neighbors. The Squallar themselves had been an early space-faring race, reaching the stars before most of their solar neighbors. Upon realizing there were other sentient species around them, they decided it was their rightful place to rule, and had begun subjugating any species around them that showed signs of being able to reach space one day. A two-class system was created, and an Empire was born.

The idea repulsed the members of the Orion Arm Treaty, the idea of one species above another seemed terrifying. The Squallar were repulsed for their own reasons, that there were species treating others as equals, and the thought that their Empire could be threatened by this drove them to a natural conclusion: they had to eradicate the Treaty and subjugate them to prove their own strength. The war started with a Trillard world being besieged and bombarded from orbit for days on end until any military resistance fell. This spelled trouble for the Treaty, who had, up until this point, only ever had to fear each other turning. Now, the need for a rapid military movement was needed, and all sections were called on for support. The treaty became a Coalition, and all nations were called on to support how they could.

The Coalition called on humanity and its steady mining operations to simply direct resources to other shipyards, but this request was denied. They feared the humans’ inefficiency would spell doom in the conflict if the face focused on building ships themselves. Something had changed in the humans, and at first, it was feared they had turned coward and were only going to protect themselves. As resources stopped leaving the human borders, there was panic. It was when human ships started to arrive on the front lines that things began to really get confusing.

At first they were little more than refitted and retrofitted ships. The odd patrol craft with bigger weapons and more weapons, paired with freighters and civilian ships turned to combat vessels. These ships would show up in space conflicts, hit their opponents hard, and turn and run. At first, this tactic was majorly effective, breaking Squallar concentration on other, more serious targets, to address the threat. This break would let Coalition forces push back against the Empire and make ground.

The next set of ships to arrive were more confusing, as cruisers, destroyers, and frigates arrived, joining coalition forces in flanking maneuvers, slamming against the side of Imperial fleets, and dishing out far more damage than they were taking. Humans Marines were landing on planets, and joining combat zones hot and hard, with armor and weapons none of the Coalition had seen before. And once the first human Battleships joined the fray, the Coalition began to grow concerned. However, there wasn’t time to dwell, as the conflict raged on, and they needed to push back.

When the first Trillard world taken was reclaimed, the Empire sued for peace, but the humans denied the request. It was like a spark to the underbrush of a forest that had long been quiet and peaceful. A fire had been lit, and now it was out of control. The Coalition fleet became more and more human-dominated by the day, but the humans didn’t have enough soldiers and sailors, so they began to equip their friends. Engineers were sent to allies, their facilities were retrofitted to fit the production needs of the human Goliath so that more ships could be made. Other engineers were taught how to build, schematics and plans were shared, and the crescendo grew as more voices were added.

Soon it felt like the entire Coalition was working at two hundred percent, and their fleet swelled, a massive beast that couldn’t be slowed anymore. Human boots were the first to touch down outside the Empire’s headquarters of the Squallar Homeworld, and human fingers instructed the Empire where to sign, and how they would go about rebuilding and repaying the people they had subjugated all these years. The humans defanged the beast, put its leaders in a cage, and made it a workhorse for its own destruction.

As the war effort wound down, and the humanitarian effort was slowly turned over to other parties, the humans grew quiet. In all their conquest they had been gifted six new star systems, more than doubling the size of their territory. And with that, they turned back to arguing with themselves, the debate over how to populate these systems and how to develop them consuming their little corner of the galaxy. And after five years, it was like it had never happened, and once again the humans faded into the background, a minor player in a larger world. Diplomats were asked once about the whole affair, and they had simply laughed it off, saying no one had to worry about it. It was the phrasing though that many species would write down and remember for many years to come.

“Oh, that? That was just a wartime economy.”

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