Castles in the Sky

This is a short piece containing my philosophy on war. I imbedded one or two historical references.

The stars emerged after the wine green sea ravenously devoured the dying sun. Like fine jewels scattered by a careless princess they littered the violet velvet of the evening sky, dabbing the beach with their silver brushes until the sands lost their golden glow. Seagulls ceased their incessant squabbles but the waves continued to drum, their primordial beats occasionally answered by the crooning wind.

A child of eight raced barefoot upon the lukewarm sand. Curiosity drew him to a tidal pool, where he searched for crabs and hermit crabs until his bottle became laden with crustaceans. His arms caked with salt and his knees aching from the abusive brushes against corals, the exhausted boy finally relinquished his catch to the roiling ocean before collapsing on the mattress-soft beach. He shut his eyes but sleep refused to overtake him. Annoyed, he reopened them.

He shuddered as the stars imprinted a million lights upon his eyes. Betelgeuse, the seductive ruby, outshone brilliant Rigel but was in turn outmatched by Canopus- a torch dancing atop the southern horizon. His keen eyes quickly discerned points of light shifting against the backdrop of immobile stars. One almost collided with Aldeberran while another threaded the Belt of Orion, briefly eclipsing Mintaka before disappearing from his view.

Orbital Battle Stations, he thought proudly as a dozen more dots marched across the heavens. The last line of defense the once mighty Terran Federation had against the Martian Republic. Bitter contests over the possession of the Trojan asteroids escalated into a decades-long war that reduced the territorial holdings of the Federation to that of a single planet. Although propaganda claimed that 121 of these "wheels of death" provided complete planetary protection, they still sounded deficient when matched against a fleet of thousands.

"I must be strong," he uttered unknowingly as he recalled Premier Thompson's call for battle. Every child of the Thompson's Youth is a valiant soldier! "I'll be ready when you land!" he viciously added, balling his hand into a fist.

A dot suddenly blazed with the brightness of a supernova before vanishing like a burnt out light bulb. The battle had begun.

Scores of high energy lasers saturated the vacuum like invisible lances hundreds of miles above him. The point-defense variety shielded the vessels from projectile fire while their anti-ship counterparts hammered away at enemy armor…

Two more lights went out. The wind cackled in the boy's ears.

Volleys of guided missiles and strings of rail gun rounds clashed against the ships' titanium shells. Vessels disemboweled by zero-gravity conflagrations became millions of shrapnel themselves in the ensuing explosion…

The sky was alive with psychedelic flashes. A seagull hooted sleepily in the distance.

Particle beams were exchanged with lethal precision. Charged particles accelerated to ninety percent the speed of light demolished ships with the fantastic transfer of kinetic energy…

The boy closed his eyes.

Flesh and bone were fused to metal as enemy weapons slagged away the mighty walls of the battle stations. Chunks flaked tangentially off the rotating wheel until a coup de grace mercifully obliterated the entire station. The hair-raising screams of wounded men were muffled by the silence of space…

Not a moving light remained in the starry heavens. The boy knew that the view would change once the Martians descended to low earth orbit, their ships standing triumphant atop the corpses of Earth's final resistance. Before dawn the sky would be alive with the whistling of Martian drop ships…

He gave the beach one last regretful look before hurrying home to retrieve his recoilless rifle.