Stars Threw Down
The dead bottle of retsina rolled in the grass, and we stared up at the battling stars. This far from the action, without a telescope, the space-borne battles were little more than pinpricks of light moving across the celestial fundament, to flare and vanish suddenly when killed.
“Who do you think is winning?”
“Doesn’t matter. No skin in that game.”
At that he fetched the screw, and we proceeded to murder another bottle. I wished we had a telescope then, to see the battleships from Mars and Venus and far-out Titan and all those other planets set out on their missions of cosmic murder. The missiles and beam-weapons were too small and dark and fast for most to catch even a glimpse of, but you could see the explosions when they hit, the sudden spurt of gas into the vacuum, the scars left by crashing spacecraft on the face of the moon. The afterimage of a burning streak flaring across an inch of sky echoed in our vision.
“Yeah. Only a million miles away.”
The wine was sticky and warm, with the oily aftertaste that foretold sickness and vomit. We drained it to the dregs. I remembered going through the old books, woodcuts of strange ships across the sky, peeks at awesome battles through primitive telescopes, taken to be the warring of gods, angels and demons, the Ptlomeic Men of outer spheres. Twenty centuries or humans had looked up bleary-eyed at the sky, knowing they were not alone.
“The news says the Reds may build a fuel dump on the moon. We’d be in it then.”
“Why would the Reds do that, when they have the Belt? There’s nothing for them on the moon. Nothing for them on Earth.”
Progress, this last grey century. Radio signals, translations, better optics. We used to think they fought one planet against another, but that was senseless; like all of Asia lining up against all of Europe. Or was it restricted to one race against another? There was some great and stranger tapestry to the millennia-old war, shifting alliances in the conflicts between things somewhere between nation-states and philosophies, groups of alien peoples determined to throw down amid the stars.
We watched the little lights move, the aliens fighting and dying above us. Never once did they come to Earth. No spaceships worthy of a kinetic harpoon or burning maser beam. No resources worth mentioning. Just six or seven billion monkeys staring up at the night sky.
“When do you think it will be our turn?”
“Why are you so eager to find out?”