The typical Kreblonian fighter—a model of spacecraft called the Ares-Fighter-Killer—was built to look threatening. They were, generally, painted black. (When they were first deployed, the effect was of AFKs flying into each other and blowing up almost immediately after they left Kreblon’s atmosphere. After the first batch was destroyed midway through test flights, the maker of the craft—Kreblon Space Solutions—decided to put large red lights on the fore and aft parts of the ship. The red lights sometimes added to the effect of being threatening, but, sometimes, did nothing more than make the ships look like they were on their way to a space-rave.)
They resembled tridents. The middle spike would be the cockpit—a two-person cockpit, with the front seat reserved for the gunner, and the rear seat reserved for the navigator (this, it should be no surprise, was the reason that the survival rate of anyone flying an AFK was remarkably low). The two flanking spikes were the space-lasers—weapons of such devastating energy that, it was said, the lasers could fire clean through a planet. (This claim was never tested as, generally speaking, the navigator had the ship flying in completely random directions. It was remarkable luck if the gunner ever managed to hit something—even something as large as a planet.) Just below the cockpit was the source for the ultralithium missiles—weapons that, generally, were fired off within the first ten seconds of battle, and thus their potency was never tested.
The typical formation for a Space Division engagement was like the symbol for a WiFi signal. The outermost arc would be made up of novices to the Division, who flew straight for a little bit, then careened off in random directions as the battle took place and the navigators lost their minds. The second arc would be the survivors of the previous engagement, who could fly just a little straighter and whose gunners knew not to fire lasers and missiles into the people directly in front of them. The third arc would be the survivors of the engagement before that—and so on and so on until you arrived at the dot at the bottom—which consisted of only Commander-General Flarf and whoever he convinced to be his navigator.
The Division flew out of the atmosphere and almost immediately saw the Swarm-Horde. The beasts were too horrible to describe, other than to say that they exploded in very squishy fashions. “Commander-General,” Ames said.
“Yeah, Ames?” Flarf said, watching the Division blow each other up and get eaten by the aliens.
“I can’t see to navigate.”
“No problem, Ames. Just keep flying like this and pray that my aim is true.”
Eventually, the first arc got their shit together and split up into squads, tracking down and eliminating enemy targets. The second arc—which had already done that to a certain extent upon leaving the atmosphere—dove underneath the first arc and began spraying fire wildly in front of them. The third arc—which had slightly more sense than the first two, split down the middle and shot off to attempt to flank the front of the Swarm-Horde.
(It should be noted that the flank tactic was not something they learned at Division Academy—the only thing the Academy really taught was two courses: The first was for navigators, and it was called, “Blind Navigation, or Praying to Space-God That You Don’t Run Your Ship Into Something.” The second course was for gunners and was called, “That Little Button On Your Joystick and How To Keep It Held Down.” The flank tactic, rather, was created by Commander-General Deathmann when he was a fighter pilot, and had been employed in every major engagement.)
As the remaining arcs broke into their own formations and chipped away at The Swarm-Horde, Flarf and Ames sped steadily forward, guns blazing. Malformed beast after malformed beast exploded into gooey goo as the most-decorated AFK of them all barrelled through layer after layer of enemies.
After much fighting—and the complete annihiliation of the first two arcs of the Division—which meant that, roughly, forty percent of Kreblon V’s Space Defense Division was now destroyed, Flarf—throat raw from screaming solidly for forty minutes—and his constantly-sweating navigator Ames broke through to the center of The Swarm-Horde. In front of them was the All-Mind, disgusting, leaving a trail of pink goo as it floated through space. Electric flashes dashed across the surface of its bumpy exterior. “Dear Space-God,” Flarf said.
“What is it, sir?” Ames asked, not quite sure what to do, so he tapped the acceleration panel a few times.
“Will you look at that disgusting thing?”
“I can’t, sir. If I did, I’d probably kill us both by ramming into whatever it is you’re firing at out there.”
“A valid point, Ames. You’ve got a mind like a steel space-trap. Never you mind, Corporal, it’s disgusting and, thus, must be destroyed.” Flarf grinned, held his finger over the button in front of him that said Ultralithium Missiles—Only Six, Don’t Waste! “My friends,” he said, “you won’t be wasted now.”
He pressed the button. Six times. In rapid succession. Six flashes of blue light shot out from underneath the cockpit, across the space between the AFK and the All-Mind, and buried themselves in six very sensitive places. One missile—as a result of a midflight navigational hiccup—went around the brain stem and hit the cerebellum dead-on, blowing half of it away and forcing the rest off of the rest of the mass from the explosion. The temporal lobe—a sickly yellow color—exploded in a cloud of goo. The brain stem itself was hit by three missiles and flung off through space. The last missile hit the center of the All-Mind and split it in two.
The AFK shuddered from the six massive shockwaves—for ultralithium missiles contain the destructuve power of eight billion high-yield hydrogen bombs—and Ames, not sure what to do, screamed in mortal terror, turned the spaceship around and back towards Kreblon-V.
A lesser Commander-General would have demanded to see The Swarm-Horde split up, run for its life. But Commander-General Flarf knew that, since the enemy commander had been eliminated, there was no sense in him hanging around. He touched his communication button on the HUD in front of him and addressed the Division. “Men,” it should be noted that the Division was the only place in the sector that did not allow women into its numbers—Flarf felt that they would distract from the military instinct inherent in every Space-God-fearing man, which would in turn make them lose their willingness to fling themselves at the enemy without regard to personal safety. “Men, today we have strickin a powerful blow for Kreblon-V. The All-Mind, the link that held together these bastards, has been obliterated. Good work being meat-shields. What say we drive home the point and fight on for another few hours?”
A half-hearted cheer filled the communications channel. (Half-hearted because, as they had all noticed, after the destruction of the All-Mind, all of the beings in the Swarm-Horde had turned a grey color and stopped moving. It seemed jued a bit unsportsmanlike to keep on destroying creatures that couldn’t move—kind of like kicking a sleeping puppy—but, after all, these things were indescribably ugly, so it was sort of justified.) “A few more hours, sir?” Ames asked.
Flarf laughed. “For them, Ames. Not for us. No, as Commander-General, I get to go back, report back to those spineless cowards back in the capital, and soak up all the glory.”
“But what about them ships up here?”
“Oh, don’t worry, Ames. I’ll paint them as true patriots, willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good of Kreblon-V. A sacrifice that, hell, I wouldn’t be able to make, and neither would you. Would you, Ames?”
Ames thought. Though he felt bad about leaving his fellow IPSDCers out in the lurch like this, there was the very real chance that, flying blind like this, he could crash the AFK straight into a comatose beast. In fact, judging from the exclamation of, “Holy space-shit, look at the explosion from that,” from Flarf, pilots were doing just that. How could he, who had so much hope for a future of subsistence farming/acting like a subsistence farmer while being a planetary leader, how could he jeopardize everything in front of him? “Sir,” he said, “I reckon you’re right.”
“Ha!” said Flarf. “I knew you’d see reason, Ames. Yessir, you’ll go far in the IPSDC, Ames. Might be a Commander-General some day. Hell, you know what? I think this deserves a promotion to an officer’s position. Congratulations, Ames.”
Ames, against his better nature, grinned and thought that Betty-Sue would be right damn proud of him.
After they returned to Kreblon-V, Flarf was promoted to the newly-created position of Über-Commander and was given the newly-created Order of the Crimson Killer and Defender of Kreblon-V. All of this meant that, while his duties did not change as leader of the armed forces of Kreblon-V, he did receive a massive pay raise.
Ames was promoted to Space Lieutenant. He continued to be Flarf’s aide-de-camp, and was thus never in any real danger on the battlefield. (You see, the Kreblon-V Defense Forces couldn’t allow their new Über-Commander to be anywhere near death, and so kept him and his aide-de-camp far away from any place of death.) Along with this, he steadily received promotions, which was the cause for his eventual break-up with Betty-Sue—now happily starving to death back on Georgia. But Ames didn’t care: he was on the rise in the IPSDC and everything was hunkey-dorey.