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Orchids Of Annihilation

by Jim Lee

(Biographer’s Note: Now we present selected excerpts from the epic poem “The Orchids of Annihilation” written by Covid Michaels in Alliance Year 330—125 Standard Years after the end of The Great Alliance War.)

In the End, she would stand Resolute:

Alongside Mary-Alice Yamamoto,

Acting Battle-Horde-Leader TangGoo,

Admiral-of-Supply Ta Nie-Sss’,

And those Other Heroes.

She would stand for Victory with Honor:

For Uncommon Forbearance,

For Interspecies Solidarity,

Ultimately For Compassion,

And a More-Peaceful Future.

She would stand against the Maddened Moment:

Against Unthinking Rage,

Against Blind Vengeance,

Against Immoral Orders,

And against Outright Genocide.

ONCE BRUTALLY VENGEFUL, THEN RESTRAINT’S UNLIKELY ACOLYTE!

#

Yet in the Beginning, She was Different:

A Mere Ensign,

Serving aboard Undaunted,

A Simple Gun-Boss,

Managing two Magnetic Cannon.

She seemed typical, of her Time and Place:

A Youngster Indeed,

By Planetary Origin,

And by Chronology,

Carrying out Her Duties.

Still there was Family, Traditions to Uphold:

Her Service Lineage;

Lifetimes of Historiography,

Must be Vindicated,

No matter how Burdensome.

A middling Academy Graduate, this Morrigan O’Ree:

But Smart Enough,

But Strong Enough,

And Brave Enough.

She hoped most Fervently.

Not quite 350 Days, in Active Service:

Her record Adequate

If hardly Exceptional;

Morri’s combat Experience,

Two minor, indecisive Battles.

So much ahead, so many Great Events:

Besieged at D-23,

Defending Icklandic Space,   

Liberating New Cleveland,

The Third Offensive,

Betrayed then Self-Avenged,

Cast Aside, eventually Redeemed.

A HISTORY UNIQUE, BUT NOT YET WRITTEN!

(Biographer’s Note: Critics still divide, strongly pro and con, concerning Michaels’s choice above, breaking his own self-imposed structural pattern by listing so many—yet hardly all—of the significant later events in O’Ree’s long wartime career. In particular, omitting the series of Joint Operations alongside Yamamoto and to a lesser extent Ramirez in the middle period of the war attracts attention. To a lesser degree, glossing over O’Ree’s notorious risk-taking when given a comparatively minor assignment during the Galactic Halo Campaign is also fodder for comment.)    

#

(Further Note: The following stanzas detail the events of Day 23, Month 9, Alliance Standard Year 162. Allegedly the first indication that Planet Tir na nog and the famed O’Ree clan had produced yet another outstanding warrior.)

One Ominous day Undaunted must Fight Again:

Equal in Size,

In Defensive Lasers,

In Offensive Weapons,

And sheer Dire WILL.

Another heavy cruiser, but no Human Enemy:

Not from Republic,

Nor New Cleveland,

But fierce-some Aliens,

Hydrogen-Sulfide-breathers from Naraka Prime.

Two great Warships, fully and evenly Matched:

Neither would Retreat,

Nor imagine Surrender;

Rather each Resolved

To Devastate the Other.

Battle rages on Relentless, for Tortured Hours: 

Neither yet Winning,

Nor quite Losing,

Slugging It Out,

Like two punch-drunk Brawlers.

Magnetic Cannon Discharging, Lasers flashing in Defense:

Incoming warheads Detonated,

Targets as-yet Unblemished,

Doom creeps Ever-Closer,

Inching Progressively, Mindlessly Closer.

War of Numbing Attrition, of Grinding Combat:

Radiation Inching Closer,

Unending silent Outbursts.

On every Viewscreen:

Both sides, Wearing Down.

Success hampers both Sides, Heat-slow Lasers Falter:

Unceasing continued Pounding,

Shrapnel pits Hulls,

Radiation’s Constant Companion, 

Mental War-Fog grows Universal,

(Biographer’s Note: War veterans agree this passage accurately conveys the strange reality of ship-to-ship combat between similar-size vessels of that era. All sides in the Great War employed every weapon available. Point-defense lasers automatically destroyed in-coming ordinance with great efficiency, be it warheads fired by several types of magnetic cannon, torpedoes or full-sized AI-guided anti-ship missiles. But they derived their quickness from superconducting circuitry that needed extreme cold to function properly. The vacuum of space transfers radiant energy imperfectly, but in a long fight the system degrades. Each explosion gradually reinforces the process—increasing heat lengthens reaction time, allows the next and then the next volley to get progressively nearer the target vessel. It is true that the Narakan Empire had a marked preference for beam weapons, particularly plasma cannon, for combat in normal space. But here the Undaunted kept up a steady barrage of conventional artillery that prevented their opponent from closing to use this formidable yet shorter range weapon—until the very end of the encounter. The seemingly perverse blend of raw terror and brain-freezing boredom this sort of marathon battle tends to generate is also confirmed by experts.)

Neither ship crippled, though Both take Damage:

Both inflict Casualties,

Both suffer Casualties,

The End Approaches,

For Which—or BOTH?

Portside of Undaunted Struck, ranking officers Lost:

Dead or Wounded,     

Makes no Difference,

Now O’Ree Commands,

Now Directs Three Batteries.

Two new Opponents, Join the Once-Even Contest:

Small quick Corvettes,

Not-Close Undaunted’s Match,

Though drawing Attention,

Away from More-Urgent Danger.

Enemy Cruiser maneuvers, Closes in on Undaunted:

To Sear Ship

And Crew Alike

With Plasma Hellfire;

To Win and Live!

Only Morri sees, only O’Ree is Aware:

Three Full Batteries,

Six Heavy Guns,

A Hardened-Veteran’s Task,

Coordinating Each Gun’s Fire.

Enemies entering Effective Range, About to Unleash:         

O’Ree barks Orders,

Six Magnetic Cannon,

Spit Atom-Tipped Death,

Shall Undaunted Live On?

Morri’s viewscreen Glares, fills with Beautiful Savagery:

The Enemy Vanishes,

Amid Explosions Terrible,

Exquisitely, Silently Sublime,

Her Victory, She Witnesses.

The smaller ships Retreat, Face no pursuit:

Undaunted is Battered,

Content to Leave,

To Journey Home,

For Repair and Rest.

Morrigan O’Ree wins Promotion, First of Many:

Relief Engulfs Her,

Wonder and Dismay

All These Hers,

Now she’s SEEN IT!

The Dreaded Thing,

The Nightmare’s Source,

A Ship Exploding,

Lives Incinerated BY HER!

The Orchids of Annihilation, she’ll dub Them:

And Accept Them,

Even Treasure Them,

Their Vivid Multi-Colors,

Silently Blooming for Her.

AGAIN AND AGAIN, FOR HER THEY’LL BLOOM!

~

Bio:

Jim Lee has been a published writer since the 1980s. His recent stories have appeared in such anthologies as Smoke In Space (Hawks Barrow Press, 2021), Worth 1,000 Words (Browncoat Publishing, 2020) and Sunshine Superhighway (Jay Henge Books, 2020).

Philosophy Note:

Jim Lee believes Science Fiction should make every effort to extrapolate on known science fact to reveal possible futures, while also commenting indirectly on events or circumstances in our present world. This story is part of a series and in the chronology of my Alliance Universe, it introduces one very important character (Morrigan O’Ree) and, indirectly, the poet (who will eventually have a story of his own). A couple of previously published stories with O’Ree as a character have already seen print, dealing with events which are alluded to in Orchids of Annihilation. I wanted to do something different and thought this fictional nonfiction format would allow me to make passing references to them. I read a fair number of biographies and using such a form in a fictional context struck me as a unique and fresh strategy.