A Dirty Little War:
Part Two


Richard F. Taflinger


"I come before you, O great Otzriurggle, as an eager acolyte to serve our god and help defeat the blasphemous Others."

Otzriurggle beamed like a picket fence at Obie, who cracked his own less than adorable visage in return.

"Fine, my blurm," Otzriurggle burbled. "Fine. We need all the devout to aid us in our cause." He suddenly became serious and leaned forward. "Uh -- " he confided, "what exactly did you intend doing to aid us in our cause."

"Win, of course," Obie declared, warlike.

Otzriurggle beamed again. "Excellent," he enthused.

"How?" he continued.

"Ah -- " Obie temporized.

"Perhaps something a bit more -- specific?" Otzriurggle suggested.

"Yes -- " Obie complied.

Otzriurggle's smile became somewhat strained. "A bit more substance to your statements would be greatly appreciated."

"Wood, sir."


"Yes, sir. Wood."

"That, I must admit, is substantial, though somewhat unclear. What about wood?"

"Do you have any?"


"Then we're all set."

The reverend paused again in thought. "I'm so pleased to hear that."

"I knew you would be."

"Would you care to go into greater detail?"

"Detail, sir?"

"What about the wood that we have?" the reverend inquired punctiliously.

"With it we shall build unknown weapons to wreak havoc among our enemies," Obie declared blood-thirstily.



"If they are unknown, who knows what they are?"

"Oh. I know. And I will show you how to build them, and operate them, and what to load them with."

"Load them?"

"Yes, reverend tralurgle. They will be great engines of war that will throw upon our enemies that which will make them shrink back in theological torment."

"And what, pray, might that be?"

"Why, what else? That which makes us sublime in the eyes of great Otz and will be the downfall of the blasphemous: that which Otz gave us as a sign of his blessing, the blessed Mud!"

"Oh," opined Otzriurggle.


"The Dust?" outraged Otzriafffh. "You would shower the Sacred Dust of Otz upon the heathen?"

"Of course, reverend traluggghhhuggghhh," Obie coughed. "Just imagine the scene, as the Sacred Dust powders the moldy scales of the accursed across the valley, causing them to shrivel and burn under its Power."

Otzriafffh pondered a moment. "Indeed, a very pretty picture you conjure before these irritated eyes. How would you go about it?"

"I will design and you will build the machines to throw the dust. Simply collect it in baskets and sacks, and when we are ready, to war!"

"Otz' will be done!" agreed Otzriafffh.


Lined up along both opposing lines was the weirdest conglomeration of arbalests, ballistae, mangonels, onagers, and assorted other catapultae, and even a couple of monster trebuchets throwing mudballs and dustbuckets weighing 200 kilograms and more. Obie had insisted that the ammunition be used only to splatter the opponent with the appropriate blessing, not the surrounding area with the opponent's blood. Thus the mud was loose and watery, and the dust in open baskets and flimsy bags.

Obie, of course, was not in evidence. He had a feeling that the battle would not go as planned if both sides knew that he was working for both sides. Informing them that he would place himself in a good observation point and come running back with advice if things seemed to be going awry, he had shuffled away toward the foothills from whence he returned to the ship. What better observation point could there be, he rationalized. Besides, the suit itched from dust and stuck from mud and he wanted out.

As the sun rose over the mountains and the opposing forces got a good look at each other, there was a certain amount of consternation as they simultaneously grasped the fact that they were both armed exactly alike. However, trusting in the fact that they had a general watching out for them in the foothills, they opened fire as instructed.

In seconds the air was filled with mud and dust, splatting and poofing into the opposing ranks with gay abandon and a considerable mess. The drys were getting the first bath (comparatively speaking) of their lives while the wets were powdered and dried. Screams of moral anguish rent the air, well seasoned with curses of incipient drought and imminent downpour. This verbal pollution, however, was not allowed to interfere with the atmospheric type as the bombardments continued, the dust rising higher and higher and thicker and thicker until everyone in sight no longer was.

Yells of "Where are they?", "Can you see anything?", "Who are you?", and "Hey, I don't itch anymore!" and "Hey, I can separate my fingers!" filled the air in place of mud and dust as targets disappeared entirely. A silence fell upon the battle-field as bellows of rage and my-side-is-the-right-side subsided into the sounds of scraping and sighs of relief and satisfaction.

Otzriafffh trundged amongst his fighters, asking why they had ceased fire. In reply came smiles and moans of delight as they rubbed the accursed mud deep into every fold and cranny of their surfaces, relieving the omnipresent itch that had plagued them all their dusty lives. Otzriafffh indignantly shouted imprecations and threats of eternity in hellwater, but his soldiers felt too good to listen. Finally a hoary old sergeant came up and said, "Reverend Traluggghhhuggghhh, try it, you'll like it," and suiting action to catchphrase grabbed a handful of damnation and smeared it liberally over his superior. Otzriafffh screamed and tried to rub it off but succeeded only in rubbing it in deeper. The frantic scrabbling of his claws slowly turned to a luxurious massage and a smile of beatific contentment cracked his face. "Lovely," he opined.

Meanwhile, across the valley, soldiers who, for the first time in their lives, moved without the stickiness and slow-motion precision of the devoutly miserable, were having dustfights to dry and clean the mud from their hides, laughing and cavorting and rolling their erstwhile commander and spiritual leader in a dustbowl. After the initial shock, dismay, and moral outrage Otzriurggle took a roundhouse swing at a corporal and was surprised that his arm moved so easily. The corporal was somewhat taken aback as well when the blow connected, but Otzriurggle was no longer noticing. What he was aware of was a new found freedom of movement, and began splashing dust hither, thither and yon in a spree of immoral delight.


"Unusual meteorlogical indications are manifesting themselves."

"What does that mean?" Obie inquired.

"It means it looks like rain down there," the computer grumped.

"What did I tell you. All that dust and mud was bound to push that high water vapor content in the atmosphere over the breaking point and cause it to coalesce to at least some degree, and even a little rain down there will be good."

"What about the war?"

"You've been monitoring the spyeye, haven't you? I've never seen so many beings so happy in one place in my life. The drys don't itch and the wets don't mold. And with the rain they may end up clean and prefer it to either mud or dust. With luck, we may get both sides together from now on as a single happy society."

"You have a lot of confidence in a little precipitation."

"A modest optimism is not a fault."

"And when the rain stops and conditions return to nominal normal?"

"Oh, I thought of that, too," Obie replied, mentally buffing his fingernails. "You'll see."


"A tidy solution, Mr. McElhaney," enthused Governor Quincy-Morefforde as he looked over Obie's report and the follow up reports by other agents. "And rather ingenious."

"Thank you, sir."

"Once the natives got soaked and washed off by that cloud-burst you conned them into making and came to the realization that cleanliness was next to Otzliness, they made a clean break with the past and embarked on a new future in the galaxy." The governor continued through the report. "But what's this about bringing Otzriar into the Federation as a pleasure planet?"

"Quite simple, sir. If there's anything the Otzrians know, it's bathing in mud and dust. Let's make the planet into a resort/spa with mud and dust baths for the rich and hypochondriacal. I venture that in a few years the catchwords of the cognizanti will be 'Taking the dirts at Otzriar'. And to keep the water supply coming in the inhabitants will hold mock battles here and there every week to keep the dust stirred up, and once a year hold a major battle on the same site to celebrate the successful conclusion of their crisis and entrance into the Federation."

"A celebration?"

"Yes, sir. It's Crisiumas, you know."


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