Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
A long time ago, there was a war. A really big, planet-smashing war. Sometime during that conflict, they had a knock-down, drag-out battle nearby. It spanned a couple of systems and went on for many years. When they stopped fighting, there was so much scrap wargear floating about they ‘tidied up’ by somehow corralling it all into orbit about Currachus and stacking wreckage so deep on its twin moons they apparently had to make a third moon to calm the tides.
Our scant records continue, saying they didn’t even land. Just stole the sky. ‘Currachus’ means ‘A million eyes in the night’. Our ancestors named our home after the glory of the night skies. Old tales tell of the wondrous sight of the yellow moon ‘Neorthas’ following the green moon, ‘Climia’, against that million-eyed backdrop.
Those skies are gone. My skies are shades of grey with ‘eyes’ that spark briefly as chunks of wreckage grind together. Sunlight is a diffuse, dim illumination broken by beams of brilliant light as reflective fragments align, allowing spears of pure sunlight to reach the ground.
With a roar of chains and the crash of counterweights, the steel-shod tree trunk starts to move along the ancient slipway. Right on the horizon, I can see the sheets of sparks from where the haul chains crash across the skid plates that protect the canyon edge.
“Amazing, isn’t it?”
I peer at Adrianna. She’s got the faraway look she gets when her imagination overtakes her clever.
“It’s certainly the loudest thing I’ve ever encountered.”
She punches me in the shoulder. I grin. She punches me again.
“You’re an idiot. Our forebears built this to let us escape.”
“They built this in the crazed hope that someone would get lucky before this world finished dying.”
“We’ve brought down so much. Some of it we understand.”
That’s the problem. I look to the ground as I reply: “Yet optimists like you insist that eventually we’ll knock an intact starcraft out of orbit and it’ll survive the drop and we’ll be able to use it. We don’t fully understand the principles of what we’re doing anymore! My father certainly doesn’t, yet he’s Overseer of the Winches. We’re becoming primitives with an annual religious ritual that culminates in hurling a metal-clad tree into orbit to bring down the metal we use to clad the next tree. It’s ludicrous!”
She hooks a finger under my chin, lifting my eyes to meet hers, then shakes her head.
“What would you have us do? Things are getting worse. Every year there are fewer crops, weaker livestock, less children surviving. I’m not supporting a gamble, I’m supporting a desperate purpose that gives our folk the will to live. No, it’s not entirely sane. But, it’s all we have.”
Well, now. There’s a viewpoint I hadn’t considered. One that, sadly, makes sense.
Far away, a dark arrow hurtles into the sky as the final thousand drag weights plummet into the canyon with an impact that shakes the ground where we stand.
I stand up, take her hand, and meet her gaze: “Maybe, this time, we’ll get lucky.”
She stares at me, as if probing my change of opinion, then smiles: “Maybe. If not, I’ve got an idea for how we can do this twice a year, but I need someone who works on the haul to check it before I present it to the elders.”
I gently squeeze her fingers: “Time for you to meet my father’s mechanics.”