"Why do you do it? Why do this to yourselves? What is it that drives you to kill and destroy so much?"

Thomas had to think for a moment, and as he thought the voice carried on. Thomas could detect emotion in its voice, if not human emotion then some kind of emotion. "Why do you fight?" It asked.

"I fight for my country; I fight for the United States of America," replied Thomas, briefly fingering the stripped patch on his shoulder without noticing. There was a brief moment of silence which followed that. But the voice could not remain quiet for long. "You do this," it said, highlighting the continuos stream of pictures of death on the wall, tanks rolling through Paris and choppers in Vietnam. "You do this for the United States of America?"

"Yes I do. As do millions of other humans from my country. We serve in the armed forces of the US to protect her and the ideals she stands for. At home we take pride in dying for our country. We revere those who pay that price for the rest of us." For a moment Thomas briefly remembered attending the construction of a statue in his own town, dedicated to the war dead from the battle of Bradbury's Ridge, during the War of Martian Secession, the single bloodiest ground engagement the infantry had been involved in for some fifty years. He remembered the red, white and blue streamers, the marching veterans and the fireworks following the dedication. In a decade they would hoist up another monument in that town, just outside of Cleveland, of all the dead and wounded from this war.

"How can you take honor in this? How can you take pride in killing and destroying, conquering and enslaving?" The voice was accusing and it cut through the room with a power that Thomas had never heard before, off to the side the American flag wavered slightly, as if being buffeted by some unfelt wind. Thomas struggled for words, struggled for something that would explain to this guest from a thousand light years away what it meant to be a soldier.

"We don't fight for that; we don't fight for conquest or slaves, or personal gain." Thomas pointed at the viewscreen. "Can you bring back pictures of the Revolutionary War?" The voice did not respond but within seconds pictures came back, Washington on the Delaware, Cornwallis at Yorktown, the Boston Massacre and so on.

"That was our first war and we fought for our freedom. Our forebear's wanted nothing but personal liberties. You know what those are?" The thought that he might be dealing with a race that thrived on totalitarianism or one that didn't understand the concept of personal freedoms crossed his mind for the first time. For a moment there was nothing but silence and the flickering of various images on the viewscreen.

"Perhaps not your version, but yes, we have civil rights."

"We wanted those rights and we fought to have them and in time and after the deaths of thousands of Americans we won those rights. We fought for freedom; we fought for liberty. Less than a hundred years later we fought again, this time for the freedom of others, the freedom of the enslaved and oppressed within our own country. Again, we won and thousands of Americans died for those freedoms. Eight decades later America was again at war and again sacrificed thousands upon the alter of freedom, but we extended those personal liberties across our own world. Every time we fight we do so for liberty from oppression, freedom from tyranny and a better way of life for all people. And every time we fight thousands of American's die in the process." Thomas struggled for words, hoping that he could some how convey what it was exactly that made the wars of the past four centuries of America's existence so justifiable.

"And it is because you kill and destroy for liberty that legitimizes war?"

"There are some things worth fighting for. Freedom is one of them." Thomas could almost feel the atmosphere in the room change. A cool draft seemed to run through the entire court, gently toying with his hair and flowing across the American flag. Perhaps the voice was not happy with the answer he had given.

"Why do you fight now? For liberty?" The voice was as cold as the room had become. Thomas suddenly wished he had just condemned war. It would have been taking the easy way out, but who wanted to piss of an omnipotent alien entity.

"It's more complicated than that. There are a lot more things involved than just freedom and liberty."

"Previously you stated that your nation state fights only for freedom, therefore wouldn't it stand to reason that you are currently fighting for freedom?"

"The war began a year ago," started Thomas, hoping that he could somehow explain every nuance of the current war to this invisible entity. "The continent of Europe had allied itself with the Asian Prosperity Sphere and began a trading war with my country, the United States."

"Trade war?"

"They would not buy any products or resources of my country, only sell to it. It is an attempt to make one nation completely economically dependent on another country. After that the US placed tariffs on imported goods. About six months before the war officially started the European Union placed a quarantine on the British Islands, the small land mass off of the western coast of Europe, an island nation still allied with the United States. A convoy of ships trying to break the blockade were sunk by nuclear submarines and several hundred Americans drowned. Three weeks later American forces began seizing European Union and Asian Pro-Sphere ships entering territorial waters. The Eurasians retaliated by shelling the US cities on the moon. Can you see how it escalated?"

"Escalation I understand, how this concerns freedom is something I do not."

"A year ago they declared war on the British and an invasion force stormed the islands. The US could not let one of its key allies go undefended and thus entered the war. One year later over a million people are already dead and more are dying right now as the Eurasians have begun the invasion of Mars. It is the freedom and the security of the United States that is threatened by this attempt by the Eurasians to gain more power." Thomas was done, the war had been explained, and there was nothing more he could do except hope that this entity was not some intergalactic police force weighing the scales of justice.

"Captain Rick Thomas, there are a thousand different races out beyond this simple star system. Countless billions of life forms that inhabited just as many worlds out there. Someday you will be a part of that, but until then this war has to be stopped. You cannot expect others to take you as any more than rather skilled barbarians if you continue to kill each other at such a horrific rate."

Thomas shrugged sadly, it would not happen. Man has killed man from the beginning of time and each new frontier, be it scientific or physical, has created new places and new ways for man to die. "We will do our best, but I can promise you nothing. I am only a single soldier in an army of millions, and not an important soldier at that." The courtroom was beginning to shift, ever so slightly but enough that it was noticeable. It was almost as if the very fiber of reality was breaking apart and it pained Thomas to even look at it. Before long he was forced to close his eyes. "What are you doing?" he gasped through clenched teeth.

"Farewell Captain Rick Thomas. Someday we will return and we shall meet again. Until then." The pain reached a breaking point and Thomas fell back into the blackness that had heralded his arrival in the courtroom. The world, no the entire galaxy, became lost to him and somehow that was a relief.

"Black Eight, Black Eight, do you read?" Thomas awoke to the crackling voices on his comm system. Groggily he flipped the switch allowing him to broadcast back. "Black Lead, this is Black Eight. Sorry about that, I must have blanked out for a moment." Thomas shook his head, a vain attempt to clear the cobwebs out of his head.

"Black Eight do you realize that the unknown vessel hit you with some sort of brilliant white beam of light? Do you recall that at all?"

"Negative Black Lead, how long was I out?" Thomas cast a pair of weary eyes out of his cockpit, searching desperately for the alien ship, but there was nothing but the blackness of space and the thousands of ships in the invasion fleet.

"Approximately half an hour Black Eight." It sounded as though Black Lead was going to ask a few more questions but Admiral Delachance broke through on the comm channels. "All forces stand down. I repeat, all forces stand down. The Eurasians are pulling back and a cease fire has been negotiated. All USSF forces stand down."

"You heard the man Black Squadron, return to the carrier," said Black Lead over the comm system. Slowly as he was still in a dream like state, Thomas powered up his matter engine and swung the X-3 around towards the carrier and towards the pristine red planet, still untouched by the ravages of war on this day. Briefly Thomas wondered when the voice would return to this system and if it had anything to do with the temporary cease fire that had been forged before thousands would have died.

"Did you learn anything of value Commander?"

"Only that this turmoil is called 'war' in their language and they have done it for as long as they can remember. They revel in it and consider it a great honor to die in such a fashion."

"Are they a danger to us?"

"No, they are nothing like the Kardovians, they are nothing but a danger to themselves. It will be up to the council to determine what we will do with them though. No doubt some will see these humans as a great danger to the rest of the galaxy. We will return, and a lot sooner than we would have thought before we arrived here today."

"Have you implored them to stop fighting? There has been no more action since we left the fourth planet in the orbit."

"Good, perhaps they have taken our message to heart. Perhaps there will be no more war in this backwater star system. That will put them one more step closer to the rest of the known universe."

The cease fire held for three days as the USSF did its best to reinforce its precarious position on Mars. On the third day long range missiles, the greatest barrage the world had ever seen, hammered the Space Fleet Ships and the glorious invasion of Mars ensued. By the end of the third day only a small foothold had been secured on the planet as scores of Eurasian soldiers died in hand to hand combat on the planet or were shot down from the heavens. Captain Rick Thomas led an assault on a convoy of transport ships trying to reinforce the Eurasians on Mars during the final days of the battle. What appeared to be a lightly armed convoy turned out to be a battle group of space destroyers and Rick Thomas lost his life along with the rest of his squadron in deep space. On earth he was hailed as a hero and a great leader of men who had laid his life down on the alter of freedom. One more brave soul who had given his life for his country.