Written for Picture It & Write. A story about expectations in war begins after the image.
Genre: Science Fiction
The Last War
The great military forces in Earth’s history were traditionally built to win the previous war, the last war fought. In 2042, one event changed all that.
We saw them coming 12 years ago. More than eighty of them cruised along. Their kilometers-long vessels, building-sized ion engines running at full blast, approached our solar system. The scientists who debriefed our unit seemed disappointed with the design of the ships. The vessels had been carved out of asteroids, not constructed. There was no indication of warp or gravitic drive technology. They hadn’t popped into existence, utilizing a worm-hole or hyperspace tunnel. They crossed the gulf of space using gigantic ion rockets. The vessels had to be generation ships, the original crew dead of old age centuries ago.
We sat in a tent as a CH-47 helicopter deposited the control module. It released cables and peeled away, flying low between the Virginia hills. I looked into the sky above the chopper. Somewhere out there, atmospheric craft had exited the aliens ships and were entering the atmosphere at Mach 24, twenty-four times the speed of sound.
We watched a video from a famous science fiction author. He said it might not be as bad as we think. The technology of the aliens was surprisingly crude. Though the aliens have spaceships, not all of their technology would necessarily advance at the same rate. None of us believed it. We expected to get our asses kicked.
Since we had spotted the alien warships, there had been no war on Earth. Just a couple revolutions. Now the Koreas were united and Iran worked hand-in-hand with Israeli scientists. India and Pakistan built nukes, but they made them together. Science Fiction authors and the best scientists in the world teamed up to produce the best weapons the entire world could build. They all agreed we needed forward thinking. We needed to win the next war, not the last one.
I drank the last of excellent Colombian coffee, and threw it in the trash. I entered the controller center, airborne until 10 minutes before. Techs connected air, power, and water within minutes. My squad sat in special chairs and techs connected us. In moments, we were asleep.
850 miles away, our minds awoke in foreign bodies made of exotic carbon composites. The drones we controlled could run on two legs or much faster on four. Our secondary weapons, gatling guns firing hypersonic depleted uranium rounds, spun up. The fast-firing guns could shred an old Abrahams Main Battle Tank in an instant. Our main gun, called Hellbore in remembrance of author Keith Laumer, could gut a battle ship with a single shot. We prayed it would be enough.
Though our armor was superb, we sprinted from cover to cover as we advanced on the enemy lander. The enemy’s advanced weapons might vaporize us despite our magnetic field armor. At last, the alien hatch opened and all of us tensed. No one fired per orders. There might be one last chance at peace, though lord knows the hundreds of ways the scientists tried to communicate should have done something by now.
The alien soldiers were tall, averaging 8-feet tall. Their garb was gaudy, with bright colors, gold braid, and plumes fluttering in the breeze. Each one carried a recognizable gun. And then, they started firing.
I couldn’t believe the energy of their shots. I thought the ballistic computer had to be wrong.
Their rounds were non-explosive, and only barely supersonic, like ordinary rifle shots; far slower than our hypersonic weapons. Members of my squad reported taking hits with no effect. When tanks emerged we knew the real battle would begin. We expected hover tanks like those that author David Drake had theorized. When they rolled out on squeaking tracks, it was another letdown. They were little better than the crude machines that began World War II. A couple of us took hits from their main guns’ 40mm rounds. Our powered shields deflected them easily.
It was no battle at all. We charged into the teeth of their fire and swept them aside like gnats. Alien soldiers’ bodies crunched under our armored feet as we took the landing craft intact. It happened the same all over the world.
Soon after, Space-borne Marines captured many of their ships. It was tough to get in the former asteroids, but once breached, the aliens had little chance against our Marines’ powered armor.
I suppose you could say the war was a disappointment, but I wouldn’t. More people died in accidents building the new weapons than those that fought a world-spanning war. In the end, the aliens did us favor. Almost no one in the world was unemployed and since hungry workers don’t work well, hunger was all but eradicated. The borders of nations had become meaningless. It no longer meant anything to conquer another nation after intermingling and working so closely together. The many clans of humans turned their eyes to the stars as one and saw something better to conquer.
We had fought the last war on Earth. The one against ourselves.
Each week, Picture It & Write presents a new image as a writing prompt. Talented authors from all over the world join in to interpret in their own unique fashion. Here’s this week’s prompt: http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/__picture-it-write-73/