Author : John Xero


“This is my dad’s tank.”


“It’s red and it has really, really big guns.”

“And it has scanners.”


“The scanners show him where the bad guys are and then he blows the bad guys up.”


— —

In the kitchen Mary nurses her cup of tea and looks out of the window, into the sky. She listens to her son, George, in the other room with Doctor Ramsay. He’s having a good day today.

It will be George’s birthday soon and Jack will call them, like he does every year. The only time he ever calls them on a live feed. Jack will say happy birthday to his son, tell them he loves them both and hang up.

Afterwards she will tell herself all the awkwardness was down to the distance delay on the call.

— —

Some few hundred million kilometres away Jack is recalibrating the big guns.

Outside his tank the Martian wind howls. Red sand scrabbles for entry, trying every nook, every scar in the metal. The whole thing is due for an overhaul, but then what piece of equipment there isn’t. They will never leave this planet.

Jack sighs. He will have to call Mary soon, say happy birthday to George. Tell them there is no end in sight.

No one on Earth knows the truth yet. That what they fight is not a people but a planet. Victory is impossible. Every time they wipe out a nest the planet just extrudes more and they’re buried in little red men again. All they can do is keep things under control, prevent another attack on Earth like the one nineteen years ago.

Nineteen years ago; while Mary was pregnant with George; when the skies turned red and the clouds rained blood.

Jack looks at the photos pinned up in front of him; one of Mary and him on their honeymoon, and one of Mary and their son. It was the last time he saw George in the flesh, when he was three. The age George would always be, mentally. Mary had sent him newer photos, but he couldn’t bring himself to print them and put them up. This was George to him.

This was the George he spoke to once a year.

Jack didn’t know if he could ever go back.

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