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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Class Time

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"As we all know, there's nothing humanity loves more than a good war. Space was no different. Almost as soon as we'd colonised an extraterrestrial body, we were declaring war on it. Now, the Lunar war was our first space war," The professor droned on, in front of the classroom full of bored cadets. His eyes scanning each pupil, cataloguing each bored, distant, vague look that each was hoping passed for interest. He picked a victim at random

"What were some of the difficulties early strategists had when fighting space battles... Cubbins?"

Cubbins immediately snapped out of the daze he was in moments before.

"Sir, ummm.... space..." the cadet stammered

"Would you please repeat the question for the benefit of Cubbins, Miss Stanmeyer?"

"You were asking about the difficulties primitive man had back when we first started fighting in space, sir." Stanmeyer almost surprised the professor with her quick response. He had often thought she wore the look of disinterest just to fit in, for he had never once caught Stanmeyer napping.

"Very good. Now, Mister Cubbins, would you like to answer the question?"

"Oh... uhh... weapons, sir?" Cubbins finally answered.

"Could you be more specific, Mister Cubbins?"

"They... uh... didn't shoot in space?"

A chuckle went around the room, but died mercifully fast as the professor glanced at each harlequin in turn.

"Crude, but succinct, Mister Cubbins. Conventional weapons didn't work in space, or didn't work as their operators intended. What was the problem with weapons in space, Miss Black?"

Black looked almost as clueless as the unfortunate mister Cubbins as she answered, "Vacuum, sir? There's no air in space?"

"Very good, Miss Black. Vacuum was indeed one of the many problems early man had to contend with in his first space war. Can you please name another, Mister Verrence?"

Awake and almost hyper-alert, Verrence took Cubbins' fate to heart. "Sir, gravity, friction and the coriolis effect, Sir!"

The professor nodded, "Good, good to see you employing that grey matter your parents gave you, Mister Verrence. Indeed, those were the problems. As man was still in early stages of space exploration, none had yet seen a need to create a space military fleet. In fact, there were several very good reasons why this hadn't been so. Who can tell me those reasons?" The professor smiled as a few hands were raised. The class was finally awake. He picked a student at random, one he didn't recognise right away.

"You, start with your name, Cadet."

"Sir, Cadet Thompson, Sir," the young cadet answered, "The Outer Space Treaty, the Space Preservation Treaty and the Stellar Test Ban Treaty, Sir."

"Very good, Miss Thompson. Gold star for you," The professor continued his lecture, "The various space treaties of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries did indeed prevent Mankind from building any form of space military fleet. Though many continue to postulate that our ancestors had nothing but the best intentions for the future and were willing to leave all hostile intentions behind them as they stepped out into the wider universe for the first time, the actual reasoning was twofold." The professor noted a few students had started taking notes. He made a mental note to find out what the previous class was that had sent them all to sleep.

"As any student of the Atomic age can tell you, the driving force behind the creation of the various space treaties was self-preservation. Technology then, as today, was unevenly distributed across Humanity and the nations that lacked the ability to go into space didn't want the more advanced nations obliterating them from orbit, or waiting up there with guns ready, the moment they were ready to enter the space race. Now, as a test of your short-term memory, who can tell me what changed?"

A few more hands were raised. The professor picked another at random. "Mister Singh?"

"The declaration of Lunar Sovereignty, Sir," Cadet Singh answered, "The moon attacked us, Sir"

The professor nodded, slowly. Though time heals all wounds and the various nations of Earth had mostly vanished into history, some cultural grudges remained to this day.

"Thank you, Mister Singh. They turned on Earth"

The professor tapped a few times on his console, bringing up several images and unlocking several documents for each student.

"You have all received a copy of the original Lunar Declaration. I want you to open these and read them. Those of you who have machine interfaces or any other cognitive implant, please refrain from using them and use your Mk. 1 Eyeballs instead."

The professor mentally counted down, watching each student find the document and start scanning through it.

"Ok, stop," He tapped a few more times on his console, locking each student out of the Declaration. "Who managed to ascertain, from that document alone, the reasons for the Moon's sudden declaration of sovereignty, in violation of the various treaties of the day?"

A few of the quicker students raised their hands.

"Now, can anybody tell me why I stopped you when I did?"

A few more hands were raised, including Cadet Singh. The professor called on him again.

"Sir, that's how long the Moon gave us before they attacked."

"Indeed, Mister Singh. On February Fourteenth, at Twenty One Twenty Three Greenwich Mean Time, the self declared People's United Lunar Federation came into existence by firing on Earth using electromagnetic accelerators. The first targets hit were Asia, Australia and the Indian subcontinent. Though most of the shots were random and casualties were considered light, the city of Mumbai was struck dead on, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. At the time, India, who was still recovering from the Sub continental War, did not yet have the infrastructure in place to get relief in fast enough. In the aftermath, an estimated two point three million were dead or displaced by the devastation."

He tapped a few more times on his console, bringing up various news broadcasts and information packages, also unlocking the lunar declaration.

"Now, most of you should have covered this in various Terrestrial History classes, but I do urge you to study further, just to get you into the mindset of the people of the day. This was the first, and only, successful orbital attack carried out on Earth. The reasons don't matter. What matters is, the Earth had just been attacked by its first extra-terrestrial colony. And like a hive of wasps, just hit with a rock, we retaliated. Though the Moon kept firing, their next salvo struck military targets, launch bases, weapons depots, etc. That and the various nations of Earth turning their various terrestrial defences towards space mitigated further damage and avoided any more Mumbais." He watched Singh and a few others of South Asian descent cringe at the term.

"Can somebody tell me what UNE stands for?"

Every hand in the class shot up at this one. The professor smiled.

"I gave you an easy one, it seems. How about this one? Can someone tell me the exact reasoning behind the formation of the United Nations of Earth?"

A few hands went down, so he picked one.

"Miss Tau-Omega,"

Tau-Omega stood to attention before answering, "Sir, the collective space protection treaties forbid the armament of any single nation or sovereign entity at the time. The most expedient path to stellar armament was the creation of a multi-sovereign entity created for the express purpose of taking on one specific extra-terrestrial threat, as outlined in..."

The professor cut her off. "Thank you, Miss Tau-Omega." As one of the few space-born members of the academy, her intelligence and education surpassed most of the members of this academy. Culturally, they were at a disadvantage, but very few Spacemen, as they were colloquially known, ever stayed long enough to integrate.

"Very good. So the nations of Earth found their loophole and started slapping guns and troops on any boat they could find. How well did that work for us, Mister Golding."

Cadet Golding looked up from his screen, "Err... we won?"

Once more, stifled giggles from around the room. The professor shook his head.

"Strategically, we would have won eventually. We still outmatched the Moon in terms of resources and numbers. I was referring to what happened immediately after we put together our space fleet and went up there to show those Lunarians not to mess with Earth?"

Golding looked vaguely around for help. Finding nothing but mirthful grins and looks of scorn from his classmates, he took a guess.

"Oh... uhh... we lost?"

"You disappoint me, Mister Golding. As one of our brightest and most attentive pupils, I would have thought you'd be teaching me. Can anyone help Mister Golding out?"

A hand shot up. "The Battle at Lagrange 1, Sir."

"Very good, Mister Cubbins. Welcome back to the land of the living. Our first taste of space warfare was the defeat at the Lagrange 1 relay station. For some reason, we had it in our heads that a colony of a few hundred thousand people would just roll over when the ire of ten billion was turned their way. Now, earlier I mentioned the problems that our ancestors faced when fighting in space. Mister Cubbins, would you like another shot at what they were?"

Cadet Cubbins, face reddened, answered, "Gravity, friction and the coriolis effect, Sir."

"Gold star for you, Cubbins. Gravity, friction and the Coriolis Effect. How would these three factors have affected Earth's forces, Mister Publick."

"Sir, these forces do not apply in space. Gravity is too weak, friction doesn't exist and you're too far from any planetary body for the Coriolis Effect to matter." The cadet answered swiftly. There was still a stigma attached to being a Lunarian on Earth, more so than from any other extraterrestrial colony.

"That's correct. We took earth weapons and put them on space ships, then wondered why we couldn't hit anything. We outnumbered them, outgunned them, but couldn't hit them, because nobody bothered to tell the targeting computers that they weren't on Earth anymore.

He continued, "As you can imagine, our shots were going wide, while theirs were hitting every time. Though both sides were using re-fitted transport ships, the Lunarians had the advantage from the outset and controlled the battle. What happened next, Miss Fischer?"

"It was a rout, Sir. Most of the Earth forces disabled their targeting computers and retreated, firing blindly at any radar contacts," she answered.

"Correct. With the exception of the troop ship Russian Winter, which managed to slip past enemy forces and land on the moon, the survivors turned tail and ran. Follow-up analysis of the battle actually showed that we had more luck firing blind than we did relying on computers, with a recorded four recorded kills during the retreat, versus zero in the initial assault. Approximately twenty percent of the force survived the assault and returned. Can anybody else give me any other factors that affected the outcome?"

More hands, he picked a few at random.

"Lack of armour. The freighters weren't designed to be shot at, Sir."

"The pilots weren't trained in combat. The simulators at the time didn't account for a battle over such a vast distance."

"The enemy were all robots."

The professor nodded. "Thank you again, Mister Singh. The enemy ships were flown and operated by AIs, only a few possessing human crew. At the time, most people on Earth still had a culturally ingrained distrust of artificial intelligence, so only employed these machines in an advisory or emergency role, in their space crafts, leaving the heavy thinking to humans. The Lunarians, who used AIs extensively in the rapid construction of the lunar infrastructure, had no such qualms. Indeed, it was shown after the fact, that target selection of the initial mass driver assault that had started the war was the result of an AI being given the instruction, 'Target the Earth and fire!'. The AIs, initially created for mining, construction and logistics, had been altered for combat. Though from their point of view, they were still just digging, building and doing what they were programmed for, their various safety parameters had been altered so that they would fire Earth and Earth forces. If I recall correctly, the forces at Lagrange 1 were run by copies of a pest-control system that had its distance and target recognition parameters altered.

"The other big factor, as mentioned, was training. The pilots were volunteer freighter and transport pilots. Though they were teamed up with terrestrial air-force co-pilots, who did have combat experience, they had expected a more conventional war. As their computers failed them offensively thanks to the lack of gravity and friction, those same factors affected them defensively. The pilots just didn't take into account the distances involved. In the minds of those pilots, they still saw themselves as safe, until they were within the hundreds of kilometres, rather than the fifty thousand kilometres they were when the Lunarian forces opened fire on them. A large portion of the losses were from the opening salvo, before the Earth pilots scattered and started firing back.

"I heard somebody mention armour. Can anybody tell me why this wasn't such a large factor?"

Out of the class, only a few hands came up. Once more, he chose the Space-born, Tau-Omega.

"Sir, space weapons are designed to crack through atmospheres and deliver crippling force to ground targets. Even then, the weapons used were converted mass drivers and mining weapons, designed to bore holes in the lunar surface and atomise minerals, aiding in extraction. Anything thick enough to stop a shot from piercing the hull would reduce manoeuvrability down to the point where you would have trouble avoiding the next shot."

"You've been in a space battle, haven't you?"

Tau-Omega paused, the memory still heavy in her mind, "I was very young, Sir. All I remember was huddling in the life pods until we received the all-clear."

The professor nodded solemnly, then resumed his lecture, "The other major factor affecting the casualty rate among the Earth forces was atmosphere. Until that point, space craft all maintained an internal atmosphere. Of course, this meant that one breach of the hull and the air goes racing out into the void, dragging anything not nailed down. Though all troops on board were issued with hastily constructed pressure suits, few had time to seal them before their crafts started taking fire. Now days, standard practice for any ship under fire is to perform an emergency vent of the atmosphere and have all crew in environment suits, to minimise damage from potential hull breaches. The Lunarians did not have this problem. Mister Publick, can you please tell us why not?"

"Air is precious on Lunar. Was precious. Still is. AI doesn't need it and outside of home, people generally carry their own supply. The ships maintained a vacuum at all times; the human crew were always suited up."

"Correct once more. Nowadays, this is considered standard practice for all military vessels and a fair few civilian vessels as well.

"But humans are, if anything, an adaptable species. Our second wave of vessels, which were launched months later, was better prepared for what they would encounter. Crews had been trained on orbital defence batteries and managed to see off the only actual lunar incursion into Earth space. Our forces had an almost flawless interdiction rate when it came to the lunar mass driver bombardments, which dramatically slowed after the initial salvo, eventually halting entirely.

"Now, I'm sure you're all aware of the outcome, having seen the many re-enactments of the war, but who'd like to tell the class how we eventually won?"

A roomful of hands shot up. This was an easy one.

"Mister Golding, you should just have time to redeem yourself."

The cadet spoke, far more confidence in his voice this time, "We won, Sir. The troops of the Russian Winter, aided by local insurgents, took down the lunar defences, leaving the way open for the second invasion to come in and win the day."

"Close, but not quite. The Russian Winter may have been the tipping point, but it was the loyal Lunarians who won the fight for Earth."

His tablet chimed. Time was running out.

"It appears we have run out of time. We will cover the history of ground tactics, including the Lunar Insurgency, at a later date. Course material for this class and relevant linked subjects has now been unlocked for those of you who insist on using enhancements. For the few unenhanced of you, you'll just have to read up the old fashioned way. Next lesson will include the Mimas-Titan confrontation and how that lead to the First Solar War, for those interested in reading ahead. Once more, as this is a mandated course, you won't be specifically tested by me, and there is no additional credit material, so don't stress too hard. Do be aware, however, that other courses may view everything you learn here as assumed knowledge, so any slacking off may bite you in the end."

He watched his students as they gathered their things and began to file out. A few raced to the entrance, a few hung back, wanting to quiz him on how much he knew and how much he was authorised to tell them, as always. Most just meandered, chatting amongst themselves. He couldn't help but spare a thought for them, as most would go on to military prep and basic training within a year or two. These kids were all in their early teens, their minds still fresh enough to be imprinted with the vast sums of knowledge they would need to have a shot at leaving their home and travelling to distant stars.

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I too enjoyed this. I'm amazed at how much context and back-story you were able to present in this teacher/student format, without me "enduring" it. Instead I actually enjoyed it. Often I'm "okay, I know this is needed, but get to the action". Nicely done!

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This was stellar (sorry, couldn't resist)!! I loved it and would love reading more. It definitely felt up to the caliber of some of my favorite science fiction novels.

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