I’ve been working on my take of Grenade in the Rain for the past few weeks, slowly slugging away until I finally finished it late last night. I had been planning to work on it this weekend, get down and dirty with some proper writing, show the story who’s boss. That plan sort of fell to pieces when I unexpectedly managed to finish it. Not that I’m really complaining mind you. Since there’s still a whole week or so until I plan on posting everyone’s take on the picture I needed something for this week’s post. I was considering rambling on about something for a while but an alternative presented itself on the way to the supermarket this morning. It was one of those dusty grains of an idea that has been floating around in my brain soup for a few weeks, I initially didn’t give it much thought, I hadn’t even made it into my ongoing text files of “ideas to be used at some later date in the future.” As I was walking it began to rapidly crystallise into something I could write about. What had been only a vague concept and a rant became something I could potentially write about. So I got home, had lunch and spent the next four hours teasing it out of its shell and into the cold, harsh, unforgiving light of reality. One thousand, two hundred and forty or so words later and I was done. I’m somewhat shocked that it got finished so quickly, ordinarily I’d have expected something like this to have taken a lot long, but when you’re on a roll you’re on a roll. So without further ado, I give you a tale of all-out interstellar war and boxing.
Fleet Admiral Tass sat in his chair on the bridge of his flagship the Elucidator, a star map of half the known galaxy was spread across the main screen in front of him. Ensigns and lieutenants hurried about the bridge, sending orders, collating reports, doing the little jobs that kept the fleet ticking. Tass sipped his tea and looked up into the bulbous eyes of the willow thin Polari ambassador and sighed.
“The council once again asks the human fleet to reconsider our offer of aid” the Ambassador pleaded. “This war has been rumbling on for five whole years, humanity is yet to win a single major engagement and there is no end in sight.” The Ambassador took a deep sucking breath through his respirator. “The Cygnans vastly outnumber you and continue to push your forces back. The council fails to see the logic behind your continual decision to fight this war alone.”
Tass brushed a speck of dust from his cuffs and glanced at the star map again, watching the myriad of green triangles representing the Earth Fleet drift slowly across a thousand different sectors.
“Tell me Ambassador, do you like boxing?” said Tass.
“I must confess that I am unfamiliar with this ‘boxing’ of which you speak.” replied the Ambassador, once again wheezing through his respirator.
“It’s an old Earth sport.”
“What does it involve?” The Ambassador looked quizzical.
“Two men strap on padded gloves, step into a ring and punch each other until one of them falls over.”
“It’s sounds positively barbaric!”
“I suppose it is. But to the discerning eye? It’s a thing of exquisite beauty and grace. A kind of visceral ballet. A violent waltz.” Tass sighed.
Areas of the star map began to flash and pulse. The sound of chatter in the bridge began to rise. The coms officer turned to Tass.
“All sectors are reporting in sir, they await your orders.”
“Thank you lieutenant, give them the green light. Tell them to initiate stage two of Operation Cassius.” replied Tass.
The coms officers returned to his station and began sending out the blanket go-order.
“If you do not mind my asking Admiral, what does boxing have to do with humanity’s current military situation?”
“Centuries ago there was a boxer called Muhammad Ali, now there was a man! All fire and steel! He knew how to turn a phrase too.” Tass stood up and threw his arms out wide.
“I done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator. I done tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail. Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick! I’m so mean I make medicine sick!”
Tass laughed. The Ambassador’s giant quad-lidded eyes flickered with bemusement. Tass’ feet shuffled on the spot and he made a series a quick, sharp jabs at the air.
“Ali floated like a butterfly and he stung like a bee!”
“I must confess Admiral that I am most perplexed by everything you are saying.”
Tass strode towards the Ambassador and roughly clapped him on both of his crested shoulders, laughing before finally slumping back into his chair.
“I don’t expect you too. That’s the whole point! The Cygnans won’t have the faintest idea either.”
The Ambassador took a long drag on the respirator unit with a deep, pensive look.
“Ali is the man credited with inventing the old rope-a-dope.”
“I will never get used to humans and their dramatic obfuscation.” sighed the Ambassador.
“It was a technique Ali used when boxing to great effect. It’s probably what has cemented his place as the greatest sporting hero of all time. When you box, you let your opponent throw everything at you. You let them lash out at you with punch after thunderous punch. You keep falling back in the face of their onslaught. You make them think they’ve got the upper hand; make them think they’re in charge. But every punch they throw is landing where you just were. They think they’re forcing you back, but in reality you’re dragging them across the ring, they’re following your shadow trying to connect with a jab or a hook. You draw them in inch by inch. You let them force you up against the ropes, let them batter you with a flurry of blows, you send back a few probing attacks just to make it look like you’re trying. You wait until they can smell blood in the water, wait till victory is just within their grasp, that there’s no way out for you, that it’s over, you’ve lost, game over, checkmate, the end. And just when they’re about to swing in for the final blow, BAM!”
The Ambassador jumped.
“That’s when you hit back with the uppercut, piercing straight through their ragged defences and taking them straight of the chin. As they stagger back, reeling from the blow, you swing in with a haymaker, forcing them back into the centre of the ring. You keep punching, you hit them hard and you hit them fast; till they’re the ones on the ropes. They try to get their guard up and stop your blows but all those punches they threw earlier have left them exhausted, they’re spent, empty, exposed. You keep pounding them, a punch to the face, a blow to the gut. You keep hammering them till they drop to the mat and they lie gasping for breath wondering where it all went wrong for them. You keep on hitting them till their eyes swell shut and they can’t see where the next blow’s coming from. You keeping going till their on the brink of complete and utter destruction, till you hold everything they are in the palm of your hand ready to crush. Then you stop, and walk away, offer them just that little piece of mercy and show them you’re the better man, leaving them with the knowledge that if they ever step out of line again you will end them. We didn’t ask for you help Ambassador because we didn’t need it.”
“Are you trying to say that the last five years have all been an elaborate ruse?”
“We knew from the start we could never take the Cygnans in a straight up, toe-to-toe fight. No one could, the combined might of their fleet is almost unstoppable.”
“So you, what was the term? Rope-a-doped them?”
“You’re learning Ambassador. We dragged those bastards every which way but loose. We sent them chasing after ghosts and phantoms in the night sky. They were always just a little too late to hit us where it hurt, but they were hungry for our blood, for victory, so they chased us wherever we ran to. Now the mighty Cygnan fleet is scattered across half the galaxy, stretched thin, stretched to breaking point maybe. With them as a united force we could never hope to win, but spread out like this? All weak and vulnerable? We’ll tear them to shreds.”
Hundreds of Cygnan fleet icons began to flash red and vanished from the star map one by one as humanity swung in with the uppercut. A dozen Cygnan colonies flared and went dark as humanity connected with the haymaker. Six separate groups of triangles converged on one spot of the star map, a star called Deneb, the home of the Cygnans. The Ambassador followed the waves of triangles as they went screaming into the system, he sucked through his respirator again, eyelids fluttering with understanding.
“So the second phase of Operation Cassius? Is that the…?”
“Yes Ambassador, it’s the knockout.”