Behind the wire, inside force fields and walls of concrete and steel, lays The Bomb Shelter. The Bomb Shelter is referred to as the warmest place on this side of the galaxy. In the Bomb Shelter, Captain Jaylean Rael tossed back his third Jack and Coke and continued to hold court within the Green Zone on Mahtomedi.

“Trouble with this war is,” he said, one finger upraised to indicate the importance of the pearl he was bestowing upon the bar’s patrons. “That we cannot afford to lose.”

“No shit,” Arnie said. Arnie Boldizsar was not military; no one in The Bomb Shelter was, not even its proprietor, Captian Rael, despite his claims as a former commissioned officer in “Her Majesty’s Royal Space Force.” Not that it mattered, even if anyone believed him; there hadn’t been a RSF ever since Europe united with the rest of the world against the Knesek. But The Bomb Shelter was his bar, and the best place to get a drink in the GZ, so he could call himself whatever he liked.

“Piss off,” Captain Rael said, spitting whiskey and cola across the table at the diminutive bioware technician, staining eight of Arnie’s sixteen security ID tags. “You’re just grumpy because that little tart Simona at the coffee bar still won’t got to Kaliszewski’s with you!”

Kaliszewski’s was the only decent place to eat in the Green Zone that didn’t ask you if you wanted French fries with your meal. Simona was not the only decent girl in the Green Zone, but the selection was certainly limited.

“Ease up on the poor boy, Jaylean,” said Nelson Litsinger, nibbling on Captain Rael’s left earlobe. “Not everyone enjoys the manflesh with your fervor.”

“That is a misfortune that I am keenly aware of,” said Captain Rael. “Now, back to what I was saying, if you lot wouldn’t mind?”

The entire bar encouraged Captain Rael to continue. No one wanted to be kicked out and forced to drink at The Watering Hole.

“Have any of you seen the inside of a Knesek ship? I don’t mean the gutted transport they have in that museum in Pittsburgh. I mean one of their fighters.”

“Of course not!” Shurvo Chose said. Shurvo worked security in the Green Zone, since soliders were needed for actual fighting. This meant he could drink and order people around. “No one’s seen the inside of one! Though I suppose you want us to believe that you have.”

“Only because it is true,” said Captain Rael, stroking his gigantic white mustache. “I was seeing a rather handsome member of the uppity-up at the time—this was before I met you, Nelson, darling—lovely fellow. Young, but driven. You know the type. And he showed me the inside of a Knesek fighter.

“Now, when one of our boys gets into a fighter, he’s all balled up in safety equipment. Helmets, airbags and the like. Safety of the pilot is paramount. You know what the Knesek have?” Here, Captain Rael paused for dramatic emphasis. The entire bar was silent.

“Nothing,” he continued. “Nothing at all. Their carapaces are welded directly to the vessel. They are merely a part of the ship, from the moment they get in until the day they die.

“That is why we cannot lose. Right now, we are within a fortress within a fortress, but that fortress is on an alien planet and the inhabitants of that planet have no problem turning their best and brightest into mere tools for destruction. What do you think they are going to do with us?”

No answer was spoken from the patrons of The Bomb Shelter, though a great many more drinks were ordered. And that particular corner of the galaxy got a great deal colder.