by Anders Laughton
forum: Ruins
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..  



part one.

          "Talks are off, then.  Thank you."

          "It's not that-"  The Ambassador from Phobos stopped short at the sight of the gun pointed through his peripheral vision at his right temple.  "Gentlemen, please.  This isn't-"

          He also stopped short at the bang.  He slumped out of his chair and fell to the floor, a red puddle haloing out, the color of the night time skies of his home.

          Jameson Crenna sighed.  "Tell the Office."  An underling jogged to and out the door.  "Every single time-"

          "Don't blame yourself."  Artis Hind leaned back into his chair, wiping one dot of mooner blood from his briefcase top.  "If they don't want to play with the big boys, we'll play with them."

          "Sometimes, Art," Crenna walked to the water cooler, withdrew enough to taunt the paper cone's brim, "I think they want this war."

          "They do...  They do.  Like a bunch of kids.  They want the action.  To say nothing of the associated tax breaks."

          "Taxes."  Crenna let the word hang and drop along with his crushed cone into the recycling bin.  "If I never hear another mention of taxes, I'll die a happy man."

          "What about 'spending'?"


          "'Resource allocation'?"

          "God damn."

          "'Plausible deniability'?"

          Crenna sat back down, shut his glasstic folder.  "If they want a war, we'll give it to them.  No matter what the grubs in Financing say."

          "They might want a war a little more after the bodies get back to them."

          "Good."  Crenna smiled.  He had little teeth, big gums, the kind of oral arrangement that makes a person look dishonest and primordial.  Jameson Crenna was both.  "Let's start this."

* * *

          Phobos, Deimos, Callirrhoe, Themisto, Megaclite, Taygete, Chaldene, Harpalyke, Kalyke, Iocaste, Erinome, Isonoe, Praxidike, Autonoe, Thyone, Hermippe, Aitne, Eurydome, Euanthe, Euporie, Orthosie, Sponde, Kale, Pasithee, Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, Thebe, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Leda, Himalia, Lysithea, Elara, Ananke, Carme, Pasiphae, Sinope, Pan, Atlas, Prometheus, Pandora, Epimetheus, Janus, Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Telesto, Calypso, Dione, Helene, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion, Iapetus, Phoebe, Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Belinda, Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano, Trinculo, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Larissa, Proteus, Triton, Nereid, and Charon.  Let's not forget The Moon.  Et cetera.

          Any port in a storm.

          Not all were inhabited, of course.  Some were nothing more than little lumps of spinning rock, not even stable enough to drill an unmanned listening post into.  Some were bigger than planets, Pluto's twin babies Lethe and Styx, for example.  Most had nomad populations, sad stragglers left behind from the outward wagon trains to nowhere.  Phobos was little more than a refugee center, the millions going out to safer waters, the millions heading back to the homeland.  It was a place of fright and war.  Resources were limited, and the provisional government had collapsed upon the initial breakdown in peace talks between the Worlds and the Moons.  The exponential population increase had been too much.

          Sometimes, parents need to beat their children.  Sometimes, that beating includes explosions.


part two.

          The land war had lasted all of three hours, the air war, seventy-two until the atmosphere was gone.  The greatest evacuation effort in human history had taken just over three hundred hours, an effort complicated by surface temperatures that weren't really temperatures at all, bunker gates frozen shut, residual resistance from insurgents lighting up the rescue boats, the buses in the sky.  Those that made it past the resistance blockade took three minutes to reach the nearest safe harbor, The Moon.  It had once briefly been named Kennedy, but the name hadn't stuck.  The Moon it was.  They'd named the capital city Kennedy instead.

          For all intents and purposes, the Earth, like the God, was dead, save a few pirate broadcasts from the deepest mine shafts, the polar stations.

          You'd think the mooners would have been satisfied with all the rocks between the sun and the outside, all the resources available to them.  The World governments had only imposed a slight usage tax on the asteroid belts, and they'd been generous enough to surrender several hundred smaller moons for commercial consumption.  That wasn't enough.  You see, the people from the Sol system's three hundred major moons tore through most of the available resources voraciously, sweeping away most of the belts, putting a serious dent in the gas planets (whose governments were governments in name only, mostly just puppets governing from orbital platforms, talented businesspeople appointed by the Unified Worlds organization), and eagerly looking inward to the untapped potentials of the inner circle when the outside distances got too cold.  Alpha and Proxima Centauri were too cold a trip.

          The situation reached a boiling point, heated a little beyond, once the mooners got religion.

          It wasn't religion so much as a bastardized manifest destiny, the deification of the human animal, the urgent desire to use every rock and gas and fire available to construct light engines that would propel the species outward.  Sure, it would be another twenty million years before Sol went nova, but the mooners were visionaries, narcissists, children bored with all the available toys in the toybox.  They wanted more, and in a caustic mixture of new age humanism and ambition obfuscating good old-fashioned greed, certain individuals were able to unite the disenfranchised hundred billion across the fifty astronomical units defining the outside edge of the solar system and convince enough people that the Worlds were Bad.

          When it comes down to it, most people are followers, and most people are more turned on by the taste of blood than a boring, peaceful, economically-viable status quo.  Intellectually, most people never blossom beyond a naive, stimulus-driven, childlike innocense.  Innocense isn't a morally-objective concept; far too many times in the five thousand years of organized human culture, the innocents have been just as complicit to war and suffering than those who lead them to evince such action.  People are swayed by the prospect of revolution as easily as trees are convinced to sway by hurricanes.  People are stupid animals.  Once they realized there were no higher powers watching from subjective above or below, no gods or demons, no little green men with heat rays, nary a humble bacterium winking up from a crack in a Martian rock, they turned that stupidity into bloodlust.

          Worlds are at an innate disadvantage in system-wide warfare, bounded by atmospheres, easily blockaded, cut off, resorting to cannibalism of resources and populations.  The moons are the true warriors; their number, their great turnover in populations, their capability of self-sacrifice for the larger good.  Mooners are people bred for tight spaces and sacrifice, never knowing sunrises or breezes or high noon sunburns, living and dying beneath pressure domes, people-sized ant farms filled with resentful populations who would still give everything for their sand, the constricting plastic walls, the food pellets dropped every two or three weeks by the forgetful child in charge of the whole thing.  Ants don't know enough to fight the forgetful child.  People do.

          What I'm trying to say, from the point of a resistant narrator in an uncertain future, is that the population who cared when Earth died was just a fraction of one percentage of the total human population of the galaxy.  Most of that fraction cared for only an instant, an odd collection of hours or days before they died.

          Earth was passé.



copyright 2005 Anders Laughton.

Anders Laughton:
Anderson Laughton is a web developer from Burlington, VT.  His previous work includes a "trilogy" of new media readers, winning industry prizes in 2002 and 2003.  Once a resident of Seattle, WA, he became disenchanted with the west coast and moved east to get his MFA in Writing from Bennington in 2004.  He currently resides with his wife, their three children, two cats, and a mortgage.  Writing is something he does when he can't sleep.  You may contact Anders at: