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Aberrant: The Middle Children of History - War without Bloodshed

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Elspeth paced back and forth in impatience. She had so many things that desperately needed her attention that this current business with the military was more than merely frustrating, it was costing lives. People were starving as a result of the economy that Jarutu had left in the wake of his brutal selfish regime. Every day she spent not resolving those other problems added to the death toll. He Generals did not care, they were concerned with military matters and with their positions of prestige. The irony of course was that she could just enter their minds and alter them to make them compliant, but that went against what she was taught. Man, and by extension the One Race could not flower in soil that was barren. If she took away their free will then they could not transcend their monkey origins, and if they could not transcend then they could not erupt and evolve into worthy equals.

For their part her generals had been eager to pit their military skills against their queen and a mere boy thinking themselves superior. It was to be a war game so it would take some time to arrange enough paintball guns for everyone. That was all that would be allowed. The word had been put out that anyone who used a real weapon or caused the death of a fellow soldier during the exercise would be court marshaled and if found guilty could face life in prison or even execution if it was found to be deliberate. Elspeth was determined to increase the value of life in Sierra Leone and this would be a first small step. If the people saw how highly she valued their lives then perhaps they would come to value them just as highly. In the meantime the war game made enough of an excuse to move the troops further back away from the border and ease tensions with their neighbors which was one of the two real purposes of the event.

The more important reason was to get her General's to obey her and her knight Darres by proving to them that it was skill and intelligence that guided their choice to obey. Elspeth's biggest problem was her biggest asset. She was widely known as one of the most charming and charismatic people in the world and this was a situation where that was working against her. Her group of generals had convinced themselves that it was her 'bewitching' them that always convinced them to do what she wanted and not her skill or knowledge. They had to be taught a lesson in trust for their queen and that was the other reason she didn't just 'make' them comply, but these last three days had been seriously wearing on her patience.

When the door opened and Darres walked in she stopped pacing and looked expectantly. He spoke, "My Queen, the troops have been armed and await your presence." She smiled, Darres was always so formal.

"Good then we can finally get this over with. Three days and we can get back to the things that really need the immediate attention." She had spent a good portion of the last three days memorizing the maps of the terrain and working with Darres to plan their strategy. She had been read Sun Tzu when she was only three years old, of course that may not have been the first time, but that was the first book she remembered. She had sat in her mothers lap leaning comfortably back against her as she had read. She hadn't really understood it that first time so every year after that she asked her mother to read it to her again and each year she asked more questions and by age six she fully understood what it taught. Over the years from then until her parents deaths she put the ancient General's teachings into practice in her daily life. Never attack your opponent from the direction they expect, never attack into their strength, but attack where they are weak using your strength. The principals applied to social situations just as readily as to war and it was one of the reasons she was accounted such a formidable person socially.

When you are a 10 year old girl who has just lost her parents to murder at the hands of a military coup, what do you do? Gather the loyal forces in the army and fight a battle? Certainly not, that would be attacking strength with weakness. You use your strength to attack their weakness. So for three years Elspeth had traveled the world staying one step ahead of the assassins and courted the rich and famous and powerful pitting her strength, her personality and charm, against Jurutu's weakness, his lack of social ability. It had worked too. She had turned many potential businsess partners and allies into his enemies who worked subtly against him always using their influence to see that he never attained the stature he so desired. Even other third world dictators and despots thought of Jarutu as a joke. It was only here at home where these very generals and the military supported him had Jurutu maintained his hold. It had been the one place she had avoided because of the Elite assassins that patrolled the country, otherwise she could have taken back her country sooner. Even though she wouldn't cross the line of altering their minds, she wasn't above reading their minds to make sure they weren't among Jarutu's strongest most violent evil supporters. Those who had committed atrocities during the coup and the three years after were now buried without honors. She'd made sure she had cleaned house of any of the rabid ones.

Reshaping her eufiber from a royal gown into a military style uniform she waited for Darres to attend her. He moved to her side then with a nod of permission from his queen he gestured at the air before them and a hole opened going from here in the palace to where the two army divisions were waiting.

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The gateway closed behind the two novas and they were alone with thousands of troops of the Sierra Leone army. Having been on the run for so long because of a miltitary coup it did give Elspeth a chill to be standing in front of the massed forces of most of the country's soldiers. She didn't let it show, outwardly she smiled and waited as the troops slowly at first then more rapidly came to attention as they realized their Queen had arrived. When all was silent she smiled and floated up into the air to be easily seen.

Enhancing her vocal chords a bit to be heard by all she spoke, "My loyal soldiers. Today we will have a competition. You will be divided up into two groups, one to be commanded by my Generals, and one to be under my personal command and that of Sir Darres, knight of Sierra Leone. In this competition there can be no losers, for you will all be made better soldiers for the exercise and the people will feel safe knowing their valiant protectors are equal to any elite force in the world."

She paused for effect seeing easily the effect her quantum enhanced words had on them. "I would call for volunteers to be under my command, but that would not be fair to my Generals who would end up with no one to fight for them." There were chuckles and smiles and eager nodding from most of the soldiers, a fact that was not lost on the generals standing in a group to Elspeth's left.

"To make things even more fair to my good generals, I will not divide you in half, but rather I will only take one third." She raised one hand pointing outward making a dividing line separating out one third. The soldiers moved apart at her pointing, many along the line of her raised hand slipped to her side though in truth they should have been on the general's side.

When the two uneven groups had moved sufficiently apart she continued, "Let me remind you that this is a war game, not a real conflict. Despite the competition remember that we are all on the same side, all that we do is for Sierra Leone. You have been given paintball guns for use and I value each of your lives, and I will treat any deaths that occur very severely.

Now. The objective is a tent that has been set up 50 miles from here. Neither I, nor my generals know of it's exact location. The army in possession of that tent in three days will be the winner. Anyone hit with a paintball is to be considered "dead" and to cease any movement immediately. There will be trucks picking up the 'dead' and returning them to the rendezvous point. That is all. My troops move to that hill for staging." She pointed to a hill a couple miles away.


An hour later her soldiers gathered around she spoke again. "First let me say how proud I am of you all no matter the outcome of this contest. You all make me proud to be your queen." She smiled as she watched the men all stand straighter unconsciously.

"Now, to business, understand that war, real war is fought to win. Period. There are no rules. You fight dirty, you do anything it takes to ensure survival and victory, anything less would be treason to those who depend on you for their safety." The men looked uncomfortable at her words as she knew they would. "Luckily we are not here to fight a real war, but to engage in a game. Still, we will do what it takes to win. In war there is no such thing as cheating, you either accomplish your objective or you do not. In this contest, the only rule is that you may not cause real harm to your fellow soldiers because we are really on the same side. We have an advantage. We have fewer men than our opponents."

She could see the confusion on the men's faces at her words. "I say advantage because we will be able to move more quickly and react with more speed than the Generals. For the next two days we will harry them making strikes at their flanks, whittling away at their numbers. By the time they make it to the area with the tent they will be exhausted and frustrated and their numbers will be much reduced, and somewhat near even. We will shadow them during the day today to stay within easy striking range, and tonight we will raid their camp several times ensuring they get little sleep. We in turn will be sleeping in shifts sending out only part of our number on each raid. In this way, we will arrive at the tent rested and our opponents will be barely able to keep their eyes open."

There were grins on the faces of the men and they looked eager to get started. "First I need to ask a question. Who here was a kamajoor?" The men looked uncomfortable, but finally a few hands were raised. Elspeth smiled, "Excellent. You men were hunters?" The men nodded seeming a bit more confident at their Queen's reaction.

"I need you men to act as scouts for our army. Our plan requires that we know the movements of our opponents and have good intelligence in order to achieve victory. You men will be our eyes. If anyone else among you is good at moving quietly and unnoticed make yourselves known to Darres and he will organize you and give you your assignments. Now let us get moving. We will stay just within sight of the General's troops all day today."

And so it was as Elspeth had decreed. The General's confident in their overwhelming numbers marched straight for the objective making good time. All day Elspeth's men stayed just at the limit of sight. As night fell the General's halted their march and so did Elspeth, but only until darkness fell then she moved her men around behind her generals and camped on their opposite side. After two hours as the other camp would be eating and getting read for sleep Elspeth's first sortie struck raining paintballs onto the the relaxed men, 'killing' several hundred before they withdrew.

The first group returned to camp and bedded down and the second group moved out to strike forty five minutes later. This group was led by Elspeth herself. They moved to a different side of the General's encampment. This time there were guards posted in the darkness walking their perimeter to give warning. They were easy to spot for Elspeth and she moved up silently and slammed a paint ball into each of their chests silently as she whispered in their ears that they were dead.

When she had five of the guards down and a good opening in the camps defenses made she sent her men in. They walked quietly up to the camp all the way to the edge of the first fires. As a night owl hooted three times they all raised their paintball guns and fired sending more men into the hands of the MPs who would be around soon to collect the 'dead'.


Gamba walked quietly up to the camp wearing one of the white armbands of the General's forces. Elspeth herself had given it to him after putting down one of the sentries on patrol outside of the camp. He had always felt a little awkward. His father had been a kamajoor back in 97 that had taken part in a battle with the Sierra Leone forces and many of his fellows had never really forgiven him his father's sin. He smiled to himself as he walked casually among the resting men in the General's camp. He and three other men had been personally chosen by the queen for this mission. They were to take out the jeeps and vehicles of the General's. Shoot paintballs at their wheels and try to escape.

Gamba suppressed a chuckle. The general's would be furious at having to walk alongside their men in the heat and dust of the plain, but rules were rules. Any equipment struck by the paintballs was considered disabled. This was fun. The most fun he had had since he joined the army last year. He was shocked that no one challenged him walking right through the enemy camp like this, but Elspeth had said, 'Act like you are supposed to be there and no one will question you.' It was working so well he almost thought it must be some nova magic, but no, he had known men who could get away with things and when he thought about it he realized she was right. They got away with stuff because they pretended the were meant to be doing it.

Sure enough he walked right up to the area where the jeeps were parked and not one person challenged him. In the wavering light of campfires he could see his other two infiltrator companions move into place. They waited until the confusion of yelling men at the perimeter of the camp announced Elspeth's attack then causally but quickly took aim and shot out the tires of the five jeeps. One of his companions wasn't stealthy enough, or perhaps he was being too stealthy trying to leave and one of the General's shouted at him then ordered the guards to shoot him. He grinned even as the paintballs stung him.

Gamba just laughed and walked up to General Abeke. All three men had removed their white cloths from their arms to reveal the black that designated Elspeth's team before attacking. No sense in giving away how easily they had snuck through the camp after all. Gamba said the words the Queen had spoken, "Sir, our Queen sends her regards and hopes that this action does not inconvenience you too much." He pointed to the paint splattered Jeeps.

That was when the General really started cursing. He was joined by several other generals and they all argued for a time but in the end agreed that the jeeps must be abandoned in the morning when they moved on. General Abeke, a crumudgeon at the best of times glared at Gamba, "I would shoot you myself, but return to your Queen and inform her that jeeps or no jeeps we will be at the tent before her."

Gamba was tempted to gloat but these men were still his superiors and could make his life miserable after this war game was over so he snapped to attention and saluted smartly. "Yes General." Abeke didn't look mollified as Gamba was escorted to the edge of camp and shoved out into the darkness.

Elspeth laughed as Gamba gave her the message, and he felt good knowing this was his Queen. She was beating the best Generals in the country on the battlefield. It was good to know he served a Queen like this.


Elspeth and Darres needed no sleep so they spent the night directing their troops in attack after attack on the General's camp. By morning the other camp was reduced in numbers by several thousand men and those that remained were very tired and grumpy indeed. In turn Elspeth had only lost just over 300 men in the raids. Thankfully it wasn't real lives being lost today.

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The next day was a repeat of the first with one major exception. The General's forces were reduced by nearly 8 thousand men, they were very tired and very dispirited. Despite that, the generals pushed their troops hard to maintain the previous day's pace. Elspeth's men, despite the hard work of the night before had all at least had a two thirds of the night to sleep and rest and thanks to their victories they were happier than they had been since joining the army. Feeling like a winner was a new experience for them.

Before setting out in the morning Elspeth took the opportunity to speak to her men. Floating unsupported into the air above her people, "Know that last night will not be the last time you feel such pride in being a member of my army. This wargame is to prove something to my generals, but it is just the first step in building you all into first rate soldiers. Under Jarutu the usurper, you were forced to be little more than bullies and enforcers. Most of you were given no choice about joining the army and until now you've had no reason to feel pride in what you do. That all has changed now. Going forward you will be given training until you will be considered among the best soldiers in the world. But I make this promise to you. You will never be used in a war of aggression as long as I am Queen. You will defend your people and your loved ones, you will be feared by those who would attack us, but you will never attack those outside our borders unless they threaten us."

The men all cheered long and loud and Elspeth felt good about it. She hoped she would be able to keep her promise, but some threats had to be answered, luckily most of the threats were not military in nature.

During the day her men again shadowed the general's army. Being more rested they were able to move quickly and get ahead of their opponents. Elspeth sent a group of 100 choice men to lay an ambush for their opponents in a small dip in the ground during the morning. It was too small for many men so the other army had dismissed it as a threat until as one, the 100 men opened fire as fast as they could pull the trigger. Each man had gotten off three rounds before the opposing forces could even begin to react. Instead of staying to fight Elspeth's attack squad turned and ran making their way out of the small depression quickly and with a minimum loss of soldiers. Score 263 to 10 in that encounter.

After that the General's put out scouts ahead of their route of march, but Elspeth and Darres personally saw to it that the scouts were killed almost as quickly as they could be sent. Three more ambushes, and the General's were forced to slow their advance. By night fall they had only made 20 miles and were still a good ten miles from the area that contained the tent.

Elspeth on the other hand had located the tent by sunset with her own scouts. That night saw several thousand more 'deaths' of the General's men. Day two was a repeat of Sun Tzu's principal of attacking an enemy's weakness with your strength.

By the morning of the third day Elspeth's men were encamped around the Tent that was the wargame's objective. They had to be in control of the tent when the day ended to win. There was a marked difference in the two groups of men. The general's men had barely had any sleep in two days and were exhausted and had lost almost 20 thousand of their number leaving them still outnumbering Elspeth's men, but by a much slimmer margin. Elspeth's own men were very tired as well, but they had the benefit of having set up defenses around the Tent and at least a few hours of sleep. They were still outnumbered, but they were in a strong defensive position and they had no where to retreat to. Their only choice was to stand and fight. That too was a principle of Sun Tzu, although it was better known in the west as backing someone into a corner. When men have no option to escape they will fight much harder.

The general's men appeared on the horizon by mid morning and the battle was engaged near noon. They attackers came on pouring towards the goal the only one objective. Take the tent. The defenders had only one objective, stop the attackers. The attackers were more numerous, but rows of simple ditches dug into the ground make surprisingly good cover. The attackers were chewed up at a hellish rate. Had it been a real battle the cost would have left neither side a winner. In the end the attackers had wiped out several rows of the defenders in their trenches, but no attacker made it to the tent and by mid afternoon it was all over. The general's themselves walked up to the line guns lowered.

Elspeth walked out to meet them and as one the Generals saluted their queen. Abeke the lead general spoke for the others, "My queen, you have bested us in a straight contest of arms. I no longer doubt your tactics and we well never again question your orders. I submit myself for punishment."

"General, I do not want you to stop questioning my orders when you believe they are wrong. I don't want "yes" men, but now I hope you will trust my judgment and follow the orders I give when I do override your objections." Elspeth remained stern in her demeanor.

The generals smiled relived that they weren't to be just figureheads. Elspeth called in all the men then and the groups all mingled taking off their armbands. When all were gathered including all the 'dead' from the previous two days she rose up into the air again and spoke.

"This was the first of many wargames you will be participating in. This one was to prove to my Generals' that they could trust my judgment. The future ones will be to hone your skills and make you among the best soldiers in the world." She paused observing the reactions of her men and was please to see that the losers of this contest were not too dispirited.

She continued, "There is however a matter of consequence. My general's disobeyed a direct order and there is the matter of their punishment that must be carried out."

General Abeke lost his smile as did the others, none too pleased that the punishment was to be made public, but Elspeth was nothing if not true to her word. The punishment was carried out quickly and efficiently in full view of the entire army. The lesson was taken to heart by all. No one was above discipline and it would be carried out without regard to rank or privilege.

When it was done Elspeth handed over command of the army to Darres. "My soldiers, know that I am proud of you all. You have learned much in the last three days and you will continue to learn in the days to come. Knight Darres will now take command and lead you on my behalf. Follow his orders as if they were my own."

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