Warfare

Author : Chris Faulkner

The generals stood in their finest uniforms looking at the war raging on the planet below. Despite being so far above the planet, an occasional bright flash could be seen. A large display showed troop movements and readouts along with live streaming battle footage. The next few hours would decide everything.

They dined on every delicacy and finery that was available as they watched in anticipation. It was a game of inches one side would give the other would gain over and over again; each side losing troops in the process. The footage showing the silent screams of the fallen the tide of battle as it ebbed and flowed.

After dinner each man lit a cigar and sipped brandy while they waited. The casualty numbers hadn’t stopped increasing for at least two weeks; they were nearly identical. The streaming footage showed artillery strikes decimating units, bombing runs taking out production facilities, missile strikes, small arms fire, hand to hand combat. It was night on the planet down below, not that in mattered the sky was so thick with smoke and haze from the fighting that the sun was permanently blocked.

Hours passed and still no clear winner. Perhaps the war would linger on another day, perhaps two, but certainly no more than that. They waited and waited and the hours dragged on. Locked in a stalemate, each side as resolute as the other, it seemed this whole ordeal would never end. And then finally as the wee hours of the morning crept into day their answer had come.

“Well it seems you’ve lost, old boy,” one general said as he extended his hand to the other. “It would seem my droids are quicker on the draw.”

“A mere three to zero hardly seems a cause to celebrate, Bartholomew,” the other man replied, smiling and taking the first mans hand.

“Until the next war I suppose. Perhaps then we can send the droids to that planetoid on the outer reaches. I’m curious to see the low gravity affects the outcome.”

At this a steward entered with a bottle of champagne.

“I’ll be waiting. Shall I see you at the negotiations later?”

“Of course,” he responded, toasting with Bartholomew.

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Reactor Number Two

Author : Dale Anson

It had taken eleven reactors on Earth for the first success, each one larger than the previous, each one providing the power to get the next one going, but fusion power had been achieved. All the safe and endless power that anyone could want. There were forty seven installations in the US alone. The change in the economy was staggering, with the price of power near zero and the virtually unlimited supply, nearly every industry had been affected, and for the good. I remember when the first one came on line, my dad said this would change everything, and he was right.

It made sense to power the moon base with fusion power. Once it was going, there would be no need to refuel for years. On Earth, after the first fusion plant was going, it was a simple matter to direct enough power to subsequent plants to let them power up to the point where they could self-sustain their own magnetic bottle to contain the reaction. On the moon, the plan was to step up with three reactors, each firing in rapid succession. The first would provide just enough power to the second to get it to provide just enough power to the third to be able to sustain the magnetic field to contain the reaction.

The reactor center was located about two hundred kilometers from our main base. Some called it Reactor City, but really, a few domes and a couple of hundred people don’t make much more than a village. I was piloting in a load of supplies and some new recruits when they initiated the firing sequence of the three reactors. I piped the audio through to the new guys so they could hear it as it happened. Start up of the first reactor to final magnetic containment in the third reactor should only take about five minutes.

We listened as the first reactor started up. We heard that its magnetic field had drained nearly all the electrical reserve we had on hand in our tiny community, but that the first fusion reaction had started and was powering up the second reactor. The new guys cheered when it was announced that the second reactor was on line and powering up the third. Then the details get fuzzy. Apparently, the fusion reaction had just started up on the third reactor, when the second suffered a critical malfunction. No power to Reactor Number Three meant the magnetic containment field disappeared, and with the fusion reaction no longer contained, all three reactors went up in an amazing nuclear display.

I wondered along with the recruits just where we were going to set down.

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Why I Hate the Colonists

Author : John Eric Vona

I don’t listen to all that propaganda from Earth Authority. I’m not some mindless rocket rider, I can think for myself. Government announcements about the “barely human filth” living off-world are just filth themselves. They’re no less human; doesn’t matter what gravity you grow up in.

Of course, ten hours in a Gravely MDP-19 will change your mind about a lot of things. The 19s barely have enough room for a rockjock to climb inside, no wings or atmo ability, just a big pod. Engine on the back two feet from where you sit, guns mounted on the flanks and a thick glass dome that curves around the front from your feet to your head. Most new legs never get their wings because they can’t deal with the vertigo-inducing view.

Problem is, you’re only supposed to be in the thing for a few hours tops. Sure, they’ve got all the plumbing set up so you can empty your bladder out, but that’s it. Can’t eat, can’t shit, can’t scratch two thirds of your body. That’s what they get for outsourcing the production to Mars. You’re only supposed to be in there long enough for a close range fight, and I guess that’s what Com was expecting. I’ve got nothing against the Callys, but the EA had been drumming support up at home to put down any signs of rebellion that might stop ore shipments. I don’t think you can blame a person for wanting what they’re due but the authority had everyone on Earth hollering about the greedy, subhuman garbage living off world.

Long story short, we fly half way across the system to Callisto to find a small fleet of ships put together by a new coalition of Jupiter’s moons. Admiral calls all stop and deploys us rockjocks to protect the fleet but the colonists don’t do squat. They sit there in low orbit waiting for us to attack. With no rush to be in another fight, I’m fine with that for the first two hours. After ten, I’m a little pissed that they went through all the trouble to put together a fleet and then don’t attack us. Between being cramped and hungry, my wingman, Max, is worried the MDP-19’s dome doesn’t protect against heavy doses of radiation (Com chucked a few nukes at the rebels but they were so far away they had plenty of time to shoot them down so they detonated some between the fleets to try and scare the cowards).

“It’s just glass, Joe,” Max lamented.

“Bullet proof glass.”

“I can’t do it,” he said. “I can’t sit here any more.”

“Quit acting like a leg.”

“Why are we out here if the Colonists aren’t attacking?”

I didn’t have an answer for him. I didn’t blame the colonists for not wanting to fight over an ugly rock like Callisto, but they made us come all the way out here. “They’ll recall us soon.”

They did too. About forty minutes later Com recalled the MDPs and charged into low orbit. The colonists tore us up good as we tried to get past them, lost more than a few ships, but our gunners were cutting loose too and once we got through Com dropped a nuke on Callisto city and threatened to hit Keplersville (former second most populous city on the moon), if the rebels didn’t surrender immediately. They did. I watched the whole thing from the hanger deck and went to tell Max the good news but found that a missile had ripped into the dining hall where he was eating to settle his nerves.

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She Wore Red

Author : Natalie Metzger

The Company had come for her sooner than she had expected.

It had only been five hours since she had liberated the compound from the Company’s labs. It had been an inside job, planned out months in advance. She knew that they would find out eventually. She only hoped it would be long enough for her to get lost in the world; to disappear from their thousands of eyes and ears.

Always watching.

Always listening.

She was already on a boat when she saw the announcement on one of the ship’s passing news ticker board. There had been an explosion at her apartment building. It said authorities reported that a gas line had violently ruptured, destroying her building and a good chunk of the surrounding buildings in a massive fireball.

She knew that wasn’t an accident or even a strange coincidence. She had seen firsthand the results of anyone who upset the Company. Hell, she had even whipped up a microbial brew or two for use in dealing with enemies of the Company. That last thought made her skin crawl.

If she was lucky, the Company would think that she had been dealt with. That would give her at least a day before their forensic scientists discovered that none of her remains were in the rubble of her former apartment. They would find the charred remnants of the compound’s container though.

24 hours. That would be plenty of time.

She could already feel initial effects of the company serum she had injected into herself twelve hours ago.

As she looked out over the water, waiting for her transformation to begin, she smiled a small bitter smile. Her flesh and blood was the last of the Company’s prize compound. Soon she would disappear from the world completely.

She didn’t down look as her fingers started to fade.

Five minutes later a red dress drifted onto the dark blue surface of the ocean, floating for a moment before slipping into the obsidian depths.

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Beautiful Sky

Author : Sharoda

I’ve been out on the porch watching the sky; I’m out here pretty much all the time since I had to medicate Sharon. The sky is beautiful now, day and night, filled with shooting stars and colors that you just don’t normally see.

Sharon was fretting and praying and frantic and begging and erratic to the point that I had no choice. I was so afraid she was going to hurt herself. Yeah, I know how stupid that sounds but I have to be a little optimistic, if only for her sake.

Grabbing a beer from the cooler I see Lucy next door standing on her porch, looking up at the sky. I clink a fresh bottle on mine and she turns and comes over. She takes the offered beer as she sits on my porch steps, leans back and looks up.

“How’s Sharon?” she asks. Lucy’s a nurse, she gave me the tranquilizers.

“The same.” I answer. “How’s Chet?” She started her husband on the same pills the day before she helped me with Sharon. Chet was, well, he was always a bit high strung.

She looks at her shoes and then over at me. She shrugs and mumbles “Same” and pulls at her beer.

“I was gonna broil some steaks.” I say. I’m so proud of myself for the generator. I got it back just before Y2K. I felt stupid as hell then, now, both our houses have electricity while just about everywhere else doesn’t.

“No thanks,” she says putting her beer down unfinished. “I have some things to do and I have to…take care of Chet”. She sounds tired.

“OK”, I finish my beer. “I’ll see you later”.

“Goodbye”, she says and walks back to her house. She stops to look at the sky and then goes inside.

I go into the house and start dinner, all the while wondering what Lucy meant by “Goodbye”. Was she gonna take Chet and leave like all the others? Where the hell would she go? Everyone else scattered like rats leaving a sinking ship, like it mattered. Maybe she was going to try to be with family; this would be the time.

We didn’t have any kids, neither did Chet and Lucy. It had always grated on Lucy but Sharon never minded; now, I guess it was a blessing. I guess you could say…

There was the sudden thunderclap of a gunshot.

“Oh shit! Oh shit! No!” I hear myself yelling as I run out the door, “CHET! LUCY!”

I hear the sound of the second gunshot before I get half way across their yard. I can’t bring myself to go into the house.

Back in my kitchen I finish dinner.

“Everything OK?” Sharon mumbles.

“Ya honey, everything’s fine.” After dinner I put her back on the couch and turn on her favorite movie again. I go out on the porch and have another beer.

I try to remember exactly what they said on TV. If the mission failed, we’d have an incredible lightshow a few days before the end. The effect of all the crap falling into the atmosphere ahead of the asteroid and the way the sunlight reflects all around and through it; a multi-colored light show day and night.

Well, the mission to blow up the asteroid did fail. Some BS about trajectory and core density and megaton yield and blah, blah, blah…they missed. And now we’re all dead. And there’s no TV or radio or phones to even say when.

Now I just sit on my porch with a beer, looking up and waiting.

The sky is beautiful, I’ll give them that.

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