Malagor and I crouched in the high grass watching the mile long Zoasian battleship hum along in the sky. The great dreadnought cruised to a point about four miles away from us, and came slowly to a halt. I asked my friend if the Zoasians might have spotted us, as there seemed to be no other reason for the ship to have stopped, but he did not seem to think it likely. I asked him if the ship was equipped with radar or sonar, but he had no knowledge of those devices. I tried to explain them to him, but since I am neither a scientist nor engineer, I didn’t do a very good job. Malagor seemed to get the gist of it, though he said that such technology was unknown in Ecos, or at least the part of it known to him. He assured me that the only detection apparatus aboard the great vessel were powerful telescopes manned by Zoasian observers.
We continued to watch the ship from our location for a very long time. It might have been an hour, or it might have been a week— there was just no way for me to judge. As we waited, I strained my eyes to make out every detail possible on the fantastic vessel. The weapons were massive and futuristic in design, though possessing none of the simple beauty of the light rifles we carried. There were numerous structures and housings along the top and sides of the ship, but it was impossible to determine what the purpose of any individual compartment might be. In the foreword of the vessel was what I assumed to be an airstrip, lined with bizarre looking aircraft. This was somewhat of an assumption on my part, since they did not look at all like earthly planes, but I was later to be proven to be correct. I could see tiny figures moving around on deck but the distance was too great for me to make out what they were like.
I was drawn away from my careful observation when Malagor tapped me on the shoulder. He directed my attention by pointing off into the distance. At first I could see nothing except the green band where the Ecosian landscape reached up to become the Ecosian sky. After a moment though, I saw a dot in the distance, which steadily grew in size. It didn’t take long for me to determine what the object was. It was a ship similar in size and method of locomotion to the great Zoasian battleship, and it was zooming toward the black ship at over one hundred miles per hour. Of course the eternal sun of Ecos makes the measure of miles per hour almost meaningless in terms of long distances covered, but it seems the best way for me to describe the velocities involved.
I glanced at the first ship and saw that it was turning its weaponry toward the interloper. The airstrip on the upper deck began spitting aircraft into the sky. It turned slowly like some great black beast crouching for a spring. It presented all its teeth to the enemy.
The second ship was close enough to observe clearly now. It was roughly the same shape as the Zoasian vessel, and seemed to have a similar array of armament. Instead of being the hollow black of the battleship though, it was painted navy blue with bright silver trim and highlights. From all over the craft were hung colorful banners and bright waving flags. Along the bow was a great golden insignia— two crossed swords above a flaming sun. This ship too began disgorging squadrons of aircraft.
“Amatharians,” said Malagor. “The banners on the ship are the colors of her knights. The insignia means that there is someone important on board.”
“Why would they fly into battle if they were carrying someone important?” I asked.
“If an Amatharian sees a Zoasian, he will attack. If a Zoasian sees an Amatharian, he will attack. These two things are as sure as the sun in the sky.”
The two ships began to fire their weaponry almost simultaneously, as the squadrons of fighter aircraft began to engage in a huge and deadly dogfight. The Zoasian armament consisted of a broad range of weapon types, from missiles to powerful cannon to a particularly ugly black ray. The Amatharian weaponry appeared to be all of one type, based on the same principles as the light rifles, with their churning bubbling liquid sunlight, although the shipboard guns fired light streams anywhere from one inch to one foot in diameter.
The battle went on and on. It seemed incredible that ships of even that size could withstand the punishment that those two did. Each took hit after hit from the enemy ship and its aircraft. Fighters were shot out of the sky right and left, and they dropped to the ground bursting into fireballs. Several of them crashed into the enemy ship, or into their own. Explosions rocked the battle cruisers, and we could see tiny figures on the deck fighting fires and in many cases, losing those fights. After a while it seemed that most of the fighters were gone, victims of the ongoing conflict, but the two great dreadnoughts refused to give up. They kept pouring volley after volley into each other. As they did so, the battle began to slowly drift our way.
“I think that we had better find another vantage point.” I said, as I started to gather our things together.
“Wait, look,” said Malagor, pointing at the conflict.
* * * * * * * * *
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