Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
As natural satellites go, it’s different.
“Amy, that doesn’t look like a moon.”
“No, it’s an asteroid that’s been captured in passing. I think.”
Uh-huh. I punch ‘auto-evade’ and ‘auto-countermeasures’. My eyes are drawn back to that ugly chunk of battered rock. Something nags at me.
“Did I hear you cueing automated defences?”
“I’d rather be over-cautious and harangued by you than under-prepared and dead.”
She blows a raspberry.
“Can’t fault that, much as I want to.”
“Well, while you’re trying to find a way to blame me, give me some other possibilities.”
We continue to swing in-system at a gentle pace, supposedly slow enough to not trigger any leftover autonomous war machines.
“Well, if it’s not a capture, their moon has been subject to some violent times in the past. It looks like someone launched a mountain peak – or tried to carve it into one.”
“I see what you mean.”
Actually, she has a point.
“Amy, hypothetically, if we take that as assault damage, what would you say happened?”
There are advantages to having a pilot who happens to be a war historian.
“Playing to my weaknesses, eh? That sort of damage indicates going for something under the surface. Something substantial. My guess would be an orbital defence fortress, taken out as an opening action.”
I bring up the most recent sensor sweeps.
“How do you explain the lack of bombardment damage to the systemward face? Plus a debris field that’s only half as dense to system side?”
There’s a surprised noise, then silence. I wait.
“Rupel, we’re going to be famous.”
“Why do you say that, Amy?”
“The damage was done from planetside. They aimed at their own moon and opened up with everything they had.”
I’m still missing something.
“A bombardment this big would have made it into military records.”
“Unless no-one was left.”
Sweet Gaia! Everybody learns the sentences from the First Book of The Conflict.
“‘They fired everything they had, uncaring of cost, to strike down the insidious force that had settled so close. There was no way they could win against what approached, but they would take revenge for the innocents lost.’”
“That’s it, Rupel. This is Earth!”
Could it be?
“They spent ten years turning the Moon into an assault base. They worked via clandestine channels, taking advantage of the political state on Earth to get humans to build it. Every human involved was convinced it was a secret base for their own side’s use.
“The Roekuld advance force waited until their fleets came into detection range. In the midst of the chaos caused by the detection of over a hundred thousand warships, the base opened fire. Nuclear warheads rained down in the wake of the craton shakers that rendered most of Earth’s defences ineffective. Thankfully, the vessel they’d arrived in only allowed the Roekuld to bring six of those nightmare devices with them.
“Our surviving command concluded surrender would be futile. They also knew what forces they had couldn’t defeat the massed warships. So they issued the famous ‘Earth is Invaded’ communique to every receiver in the Terran Empire, told all in-system ships to flee, then chose a symbolic end: to kill those who had killed so many innocents without warning.”
The first battle of the Roekuld Conflict was a staggering, horrific defeat. As the near-extinction raged, we lost so much – even our homeworld. It was fifty years before we rose again, then turned their home planet to dust. Twenty years later, we’re still struggling with the aftermath.
Maybe this rediscovery can help us heal a little more.