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The War With Everything
In a barren backwater somewhere in the universe, two groups of people had been fighting for generations. These two groups fought over anything and everything, as much on principle as for any particularly well-defined purpose.
Periodically, someone on one side or the other would ask exactly what they were attempting to accomplish. The question rather interfered with the process of preparing for war and waging war, so it was made illegal. There wasn't even any record of a time of peace. Peace, therefore, was considered heretical and an insult to traditions. It would also have been highly inconvenient, because the entire economies of both groups were geared specifically for war.
The two sides were so evenly matched that over 1000 years of warfare had barely changed the size of their territories. Technologically, both societies were unique in that they had invented the gun before they invented the hair comb. They also invented the cavalry charge before they invented deodorant.
Both combs and deodorant were, naturally, invented as weapons.
One day, while thoughtfully slaughtering each other, an object fell out of the sky. Fighting stopped, for the first time in history. There was a stunned pause. Then it occurred simultaneously to both sides that whatever it was must be a weapon, and both sides charged towards it.
This would have been a perfect opportunity for yet another mutual massacre, but this was a truly bizarre object. It was round, and had some form of writing on it. In an uncharacteristic display of objectivity, instead of killing each other they simply stood there and looked at the object.
The local leaders on each side agreed to a truce, also previously unheard of, in that they didn't even have a word for a truce and invented "not-kill-time" to define what they were trying to do.
The two leaders didn't like the situation, but it would be quite impossible to deny that the object had fallen from the sky. At more or less the same point, they both came to the conclusion that the object must come from a third civilization.
From there on, the logic was impeccable:
- The object didn't look dangerous.
- Therefore, the civilization that produced it could not be dangerous.
- Therefore, they could conquer the civilization and take its technology.
Armed with this rationale, they agreed to mount a joint expedition to find the third civilization. Partly to impress each other, they took their finest weapons, bravest soldiers and most famous generals.
By now the leaders of both groups had convinced each other and themselves that this was to be a war of conquest against everybody and everything. They were invincible, true warriors in a world of weaklings that produced things like the object which had fallen from the sky.
As their lands were surrounded by a barren grey desert, alternately hot and cold, they needed to plan thoroughly. A relay system to create base camps were set up, and supply trains were created to progressively develop depots along the line of march. Scouts were then sent out to find the best sites for the depots. The army would follow behind them, and when the areas chosen for depots were secure, the scouts would go back and guide the supply trains to them.
The main problem was that nobody knew anything about the desert. As a matter of fact, they'd never even surveyed the areas around their borders. All they really knew about the desert was that it was there. They chose the bravest scouts to make the first explorations.
Interestingly enough, the desert had turned into a jungle sometime in the previous thousand years. The jungle wasn't impenetrable, but it was extremely difficult going even for horses. There were also a large number of mountains everywhere, definitely not in the game plan. For no apparent reason there was also an ocean. It took some time for the scouts to explain the concept of an ocean, because the two homelands didn't even have a lake between them. They had wells and the occasional puddle when it rained.
The leaders of the two groups were stuck with the fact that they now had to go in conquer everything as they said they would, regardless. So the army set out with the supply train and hacked its way through the jungle. When it came to the mountains, the army simply used explosives to blow a way through them. It took several years, but eventually they got through the mountain range.
The first thing they saw was a gigantic golden statue of a man. It was about 12 stories tall, and dazzling. Instead of the normal gravel on the roads, they were lined with millions of gems like opals, sapphires and rubies and emeralds. The area appeared to be well-kept, with large multicolored trees and pristine looking sculptures made of strange materials everywhere.
There was no sign of habitation, which the leaders immediately interpreted to mean that the population had fled at the sight of their army. The next thing they saw was a large flying dragon, at which they opened fire and had no effect whatsoever. The dragon lazily wheeled overhead, apparently sneezed, and wiped out half the army, which simply vanished. The dragon and flew off, with the army warily following in the same direction.
Eventually they came to a house which was approximately the size of one of their towns. A child came out to meet them. This was obviously a young child, a girl, no more than seven years old. She was also twice the size of the biggest soldier in the army. She looked at the troops with obvious concern.
"Oh, you must be sick!" she said.
The child blinked. Weapons, armor and even militaristic thoughts disappeared, to be replaced by comfortable clothes and a vague desire for a nice meal. The two leaders, now wearing what we'd call tracksuits, stared at each other. They bowed graciously to the child, said nothing, and retraced their steps back to their own lands.
Naturally when they came back the people were very curious. They asked about the land outside, the people and the other civilization.
The two leaders explained that the outside world was so primitive and so barbarous that it wasn't worth conquering. They forbade their people to explore such a sickening place, full of strange, unnatural things.
They went back to war, and declared it a war with, for and about everything. But the soldiers kept their comfortable clothes. They explained that the clothes were the remains of an ancient civilization which they'd found in the wasteland.
A thousand years later, a child from the outside wandered into the two ancient homelands. Nobody lived there any more, and the towns were collapsing into ruin. She was surprised to find one of her old toys in what appeared to be a museum.
In a war with everything, it's as well to remember that everything is quite likely to win.