Eight years of shipbuilding, dogfighting, bombing, and firefights on the ground yielded nothing but death and poverty. No system had surrendered, no ceasefire had been ordered, no spacefleet had stopped attacking and no defenders had stopped repelling them. Against an enemy that had to squeeze its attackers through a 200-meter-wide hole in single file, any system could dig in and hold its own forever.
Any system that had an enormous military when the Pentagon War started out, anyway.
Human-Centauri's defenses had begun to fail over the last two years. Even without the inherent waste of mounting incursions against their neighbors, the attacks against Human-Centauri's forces had been whittling them down faster than Human-Centauri could rebuild them. A year ago, a wide enough crack had emerged in their defensive planes for Sirius to lob antimatter bombs on the New France and New Mars asteroids, along with a few smaller asteroid colonies. While the death tolls on New France and New Mars had been stultifying enough, the smaller, lower-population colonies had been destroyed utterly. Now, another such attack might get through at any time.
The Sirius bombing raid had convinced a frightened Human-Centauri citizenry that it was time to form an alliance with CN Leonis. Yukariah Heap had almost won CN Leonis's approval, except for one cricual detail. The asteroids of the Human-Centauri system most well-equipped to house military bases were, unsurprisingly, on its five biggest and most populous asteroids. Before the Leonians would agree to lend military aid to Human-Centauri, they insisted on being allowed to put their bases of operation on Human-Centauri I, III, and IV. The problem was, these asteroids were all Citizen Areas. Every square meter of their surfaces, and every underground tunnel and centrifuge, was completely off limits to outsiders. It was how Human-Centauri had always kept out the Emotional Plague. Every HCDF analyst was convinced that their only hope for survival lay in securing CN Leonis as an ally, but allowing them to run amok in a plague-free zone? Few Human-Centauri citizens were willing to make such a terrible sacrifice. Surely, there must be another way. Surely, the HCDF could learn from the mistakes of the New France/New Mars assault, and pull off the miracle of an unbreachable defense. Surely, there must be some way for Human-Centauri to survive as a nation without polluting the youngest generation with the CN Leonis version of the Emotional Plague!
Now, though, the need for an alliance was overwhelming. Yukariah Heap met face-to-face with Krammer for the second time since the start of the War, this time in the underground capitol of CN Leonis II.
No other options were left. Perhaps the century-and-a-half of weeding out plague behavior had made the citizens strong enough to repel such an infection. Perhaps the Leonians stationed in Human-Centauri wouldn't interfere with life as much as everyone had feared. Perhaps.
The Pentagon War is continued in chapter 13.
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