Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I’ve always come second. Not through lack of talent or effort, but because I sympathised. If someone wanted it more than me, I’d let them have it. It started at home before I knew the word compromise. By the end of college I knew it well, had even lost my virginity because someone wanted it so much. There were several similar mistakes before I learned the difference between compromise and pushover.

My parents wanted Gareth, my brother, to join the Space Force. At the time, it was one per family for that elite, so despite better qualifications, I joined the Navy. Eleven years later Gareth was lumps orbiting Jupiter and I was a Captain and a veteran combat pilot with sidelines in command and mixed-environment tactics. My compromising made me a good negotiator but a poor leader.

The Chadda-ho are a typical race of colonising humanoids. Earth was a preferred acquisition, being nicely built up. Unfortunately mankind were still in residence. Their colonisation effort so resembled the pilgrims and the Amerind that we knew what was coming and objected violently. What we didn’t know we reverse engineered and enhanced. We beat them into a bloody stalemate.

The Eflubians ruled the Chadda-ho. So when the war stalled, the pink amoebas from Hell waded in and mankind got a thrashing. A lot of our military died while we learned to fight back. I found myself in a place where compromise cost lives, so I stopped compromising and started leading. Other officers didn’t learn as quick. They died and very soon I found myself to be second in command of Earth’s forces.

Fighting like humans yet described as devils, tigers, terrorists or fools depending on which newsfeed you read, we fought while politicians flailed and people died.

Last night the Diplomat-Commander called me in for a reprimand because my ragged army was doing too well and spoiling negotiations. I knew we were days from new weaponry as my boys and girls had taken the tech and paid in blood. We would have them. But the accountants had decided we should sue for peace. I got another reprimand when I used the word ‘grovel’.

We were fighting for our planet and the Amerind outcome showed us the cost of failure. So I looked that earnest officer in the eye and told him something my grandfather told me: “A long time ago, we let a regime survive after all but defeating them.”

I pointed out and up at the Eflubian motherships, hanging in the night sky like bloody teardrops the size of Bristol: “They won’t make the mistake of stopping in Kuwait.”

He looked at me and shook his head. His voice was patronisingly gentle: “Deputy Commander Trent. You have to accept that compromise is not defeat.”

I saw the look in his eyes and I knew I had looked like that in the past. He hadn’t learned. So I stepped forward and slid eight inches of Sheffield steel under his ribs and up into his heart. As he collapsed, I looked at his aides and said: “No, it’s worse. Defeat is being beaten. Compromise is beating yourself. I will not give this ground.”

The aides looked at me, at their squads. Then back at me. They came rigidly to attention and saluted with their men mere moments behind. The one on the left barked out: “Officer down, suspected heart failure. What are your orders, ma’am?”

“We fight. We don’t stop. We win. Move out!”

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