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Generals Help Themselves   By:

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[Illustration: The fleet came in at four o'clock. ]

With no one to help him, it seemed the General was lost. But the enemy was soon to discover that

GENERALS HELP THEMSELVES

By M. C. Pease

"Did it go well?" the aide asked.

The admiral, affectionately known as the Old Man, did not reply until he'd closed the door, crossed the room, and dropped into the chair at his desk. Then he said:

"Go well? It did not go at all. Every blasted one of them, from the President on down, can think of nothing but the way the Combine over ran Venus. When I mention P boats, they shout that the Venusians depended on P boats, too, and got smashed by the Combine's dreadnoughts in one battle. 'You can't argue with it, man,' they tell me. And they won't listen."

"But the Venusians fought their P ships idiotically," the aide complained. "It was just plain silly to let small, light, fast ships slug it out with dreadnoughts. If they had used Plan K "

The Old Man snorted.

"Are you trying to convince me? I've staked my whole reputation on Plan K. They wouldn't give me the money to build a balanced space fleet, even when the fleets of the Combine of Jupiterian Satellite States were staring them in the face. So, I took what I could get and poured it into P boats. I threw all our engineering and scientific staff into making them faster and more maneuverable than anyone ever thought a space ship could be. I got them to build me electronic computers that could direct that speed. And, two years ago, every cent I could lay my hands on went to install the computers on all our ships."

"I remember," the aide said.

"But, now the chips are down, the people have funked out on me. I am one of the most hated men in the Federation. They say I destroyed their Navy. And, we are not going to get a chance to try Plan K. They decided, today, to accept the Combine's offer to send envoys in a month to discuss possible revision of the Treaty of Porran. When I left, they were wondering if there was any chance of getting out for less than Base Q."

"But, good lord, sir, Base Q supplies nine tenths of all our power. The Combine will have a strangle hold on us, if they get that."

"Quite. But the people will give it to them, rather than fight. And the President will sign."

"Surely, sir, the people are not all cowards?"

"No. If they had time to think, they would fight. That's why the Combine is striking now. The people are panicky. Hysterical. The collapse of Venus was so sudden, and the disaster to their P boats so complete. They've just lost hope. Most people would rather live under a dictator than die to no purpose. They've just lost hope."

The pounding of the Old Man's fist measured his words and the depth of his anger.

"If we could only make them hope. Somehow. Anyhow."

Suddenly, his clenched fist stopped in mid air. He frowned. Slowly, his hand opened. The frown relaxed and a smile replaced it.

"Maybe we can, at that. Maybe we can." He leaned back with his eyes half closed. His aide knew better than to interrupt him. Ten minutes later, he opened his eyes.

"Make arrangements to have Commander Morgan take command of Base Q as soon as possible. Within two days at the outside." His manner was curt and clipped. "And bring him here to me before he leaves."

"Yes, sir. But may I say, sir, I do not understand?"

"You're not supposed to."

"Yes, sir."

The aide was a competent man. Orders were written that afternoon, in complete disregard of normal red tape. Base Q was advised of the imminent shift. Commander Stanley Morgan boarded a jet plane on the Australian desert that night. The next morning, he was shown into the Old Man's office.

"Commander," the Old Man said after the preliminaries were taken care of, "as you are well aware, you have been in considerable disgrace, recently, for getting too close to the Venusian Combine war, in defiance of orders. It has been felt, in certain quarters, that you might have caused a serious international crisis... Continue reading book >>




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