originally appeared in the september-october 1951 issue of savage space stories
editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo
brad wilson lit up a cigar, careful not to blow smoke in the direction of daisy miller, his new secretary who had informed him that she did not approve of smoking.
the first assault had gone with surprising ease.
the pandemonian empire’s navy had fallen back to their previous positions in sector gamma-9 and it seemed that they had not left any troops behind to fight a rear guard action.
they had simply retreated. there was not a flicker of activity showing in the window of brad’s command ship - just the black depths of space. with a few flickering familiar stars.
now that it was done, brad could admit to himself that he had been a little nervous. after all, although he had been involved in dozens of major operations, often in the front formations, it was his first command of a whole assault sector.
sparks had cranked up the phone and general parker was on the line.
“not bad, my boy, not bad,” brad heard the general growl. “not bad for a rookie. you will have to hold up for a bit to let those other country boys come crawling up level with you.” the general paused, no doubt to take a puff of his ever-present black stogie.
brad held his breath.
“damn fine job.” the general’s highest praise.
“thank you, sir - “ brad started to say, but the general had already hung up.
the second assault was mounted as soon as the other fellows had brought their formations up in line with brad’s and it went even faster than the first.
now the assault ships of the human federation began to form a loose circle around the home system of the ancient empire of pandemonia.
brad’s assault force had suffered few casualties, and from the speed with which they advanced, the other fellows forces did not seem to have either.
once again general parker was on the line. this time he sounded like he was almost laughing. “damn son! that was almost too easy! ready to go in and finish those ugly bastards off?”
out of the corner of his eye brad could see miss miller flinch at the general’s uncouth language. well - well, that was just too bad about her. they were winning a war!
“i’m ready, sir,” brad replied into the phone.
“good. good. now here’s what i want you to do. you’ve done such damn fine work this day i want you to personally take the capital. i want you to go right in there and plant the human flag in those blue bastards' headquarters. think you can do that?”
brad knew that the general did not approve of equivocations like “i’ll try” or “i’ll do my best”.
“i’ll do it, sir,” he answered firmly.
“good,” and the general hung up.
it seemed like only a matter of a few hours before the towers of the capital of pandemonia swam into view and the crew of brad’s command ship were outfitting a landing craft.
the pandemonian navy and army had melted away.
the human armada had suffered almost no losses, although a few ships had to be detailed to transport back the large number of pandemonian prisoners.
the landing craft was ready. brad climbed into the front passenger seat. miss miller was at the controls. sparks was in the back seat with the radio, along with ensign bradley with the small human flag that would be planted in front of pandemonian headquarters.
of course a larger flag would be planted with proper ceremony, later.
three other larger landing craft were filled with soldiers and marines with gleaming weapons. one gung ho young fellow had a knife between his teeth. that was the kind of attitude brad liked to see.
the hatch of the ship lifted. miss miller pressed the blue button on the dashboard and the craft sailed out into space.
brad’s heart swelled with pride. if only mom and dad and sis and uncle joe could see him now!
well, there would be time for pictures and medals and parades later.
if there was one tiny thing marring brad’s good mood, it was miss miller. jeez, what a frosty dame!
she had a nice face and a swell figure but couldn’t she smile once in a while? come on, sweetie, we’re winning the war!
the pandemonian headquarters was completely deserted. the soldiers and marines took their weapons off their shoulders but it didn’t seem they really had to.
there was no dirt or grass around the golden steps of the headquarters and ensign bradley looked around uncertainly for a place to plant the flag.
brad just nodded at him. “i am sure you will find a way,” he told him.
“yes, sir.” ensign bradley moved away.
sparks looked up at the clear green pandemonian sky. “i will notify command we are here, sir,” he told brad. “i think i can get a better reception out here.”
“very good,” brad told him. “but come inside and join us when you are through.”
sergeant buxton stepped up. “want a couple of men to accompany you inside, sir?”
brad looked around. he patted the blaster on his hip. “no, sergeant, i think you all would be better employed out here.”
“very good, sir.”
with one more look around, brad and miss miller started up the golden steps, brad with his blaster, miss miller with her little notebook.
the headquarters building was as deserted as expected. they walked down the echoing marble corridors.
to the emperor’s private office. the door was open.
the office contained only a large desk, carved out of some kind of red wood, a chair and a small wastebasket. a large window behind the desk provided a panoramic view of the capital city.
brad broke the silence. “looks like they didn’t leave much behind,”
miss miller looked around. she pointed to the floor beside the desk. “look.”
a crumpled scrap of paper, barely visible, was on the floor between the back leg of the desk and the wastebasket, as if someone had tossed it and missed the basket.
brad picked it up. a few words were written on it.
“you read pandemonian, miss miller. what does it say?” he handed it to her.
miss miller smoothed the note out in her slender fingers. “it says - ‘we have them where we want them now.’”
brad laughed. “yes, that’s what all the losers say.” he took the note back from miss miller, crumpled it again and tossed it into the empty wastebasket.
he looked out the big window. the red sun was rising almost out of sight, and the green sky was turning a pale blue.
“write this down, miss miller.” brad turned to see if miss miller had her pencil ready.