General Science Fiction posted August 27, 2008


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For the Conundrum of Purple Roses competition.

The Day the Earth Died

by Fleedleflump

The purple roses killed us. We wasted little time in using them, despite the direst of warnings. Consumed by mortal fear, like desperate beggars we looked their way, and they were exactly what we hoped and feared they were; an enigma, far beyond our understanding. This is our eulogy, oh foolish, foolish we.

-

It started, as most wars will, over a misunderstanding. A species, not so different from our own, made itself known to us. Like us, they were curious, and like us they were a passionate race, ruled as much by their emotions as their intellects. Our envoys first met them on safe ground, surrounded by the avid attentions of the 22nd century media. It should have been a day of wonder, but their manner of greeting proved way too physically familiar for humanity's envoy, and that was all it took. Sudden offence became sudden confrontation became sudden violence, and from there it just escalated.

We took pot-shots at their orbiting ships from our military bases, and the ships shot back. In all honesty, the situation might have been saved if some bright spark on Earth hadn't dug up one of the long-banned, long buried nuclear weapons from the previous century. It worked perfectly, utterly obliterating the aliens' mother-ship. It also knocked out every communications satellite above the northern hemisphere, so when the aliens returned in force, we really were in trouble. The first and only of humanity's intergalactic wars was truly joined on the 3rd August 2108.

No potted history exists to tell what happened next. Only the sporadic journals of a frightened soldier as he tried to decide what was best.


-----


Extract from military journal:
Field Commander Fralto, 10th September 2132

We lost the Moon this morning. I tried to evacuate the last 500 souls that held there, but no transport could have gotten there in time. Instead I've pulled everyone within comms range to Mars. This is our strongest military colony, our best chance to survive. We have supplies for several thousand to last us years. Right now, I'm certain we wont need them all. If General Bethesda is dead, and it seems she is, then I find myself with more responsibility than I know what to do with.

I'm 28 years old, for heaven's sake! I don't even remember the start of this war. All the information I have is speculation. Sometimes all I can do is sit in the observatory and gaze at Earth, and wonder if it's all real. Was I really born there? Does it still function? Will they one day come to help us?

We sealed her off when I was still a child, moved all our military might, and enough colonists to support it, to the outlying planets and orbiting stations. It was rushed technology, all of it; a mad race by scientists to implement theoretical space mechanics before we were annihilated. There's nothing like the threat of Armageddon to push technology forward, though. We made a new society, based on hardship and bloodshed, and the new technology, dirty and jerry-rigged as it was, kept us alive. We're steadily failing though. The stations are mostly destroyed, and now Mars is our only colony. It can only be a matter of time before they figure out how to break through and attack Earth.

It's going to be my job to keep the aliens focused on Mars for as long as I possibly can. I can't honestly say I'm working on ways to win this war; I just don't see anything that can do that for us. We win the occasional skirmish, but in all honesty, we're getting our arses handed to us, one day at a time.

Time? Yes; time for me to do some work. I can't have any more riots. The civilians are going to have to fight for their food from now on. That isn't going to be popular. The people need a pep talk, and it looks like it's going to have to come from me.

-

Extract from military journal:
Commander in Chief Fralto, 17th June 2138

I'm too young for this. I've lived lifetimes of fear and horror, but today I had to leave an entire battalion to die in a rearguard holding action while the rest of us escaped. For a penny, I would have stayed with them, but my sub-commanders knew better. I led them into the caves that adorn Mars' surface. They run for miles, all over the place, and here we will be hard to find, but they are strange. Fey winds blow through the caverns, and ghostly noises emanate from the darkness.

I'm sending a few squads deeper into the caverns. I can't spare many, but we need to know if there's any threat, or anything that can help us down there. Mars is a mad place, but it is our only home.

My thoughts go out to humanity, still living on Earth. Do they even know we are out here any more? Are they able to see out, to watch? Have they found a way to stay safe?

I don't think I will ever know. My entire adult life, no message has passed either way through the seal. It is for the best. If our efforts here have helped to keep the Earth safe, then our mission has been a success. I'm bone-weary. It's time to get some sleep.

-

Extract from military journal:
Boss Fralto, 12th February 2140

I'm too old for this. We have become cavemen, our only life the darkness of underground. Most of our technologies are lost to us, and we now rely almost entirely on 20th century side-arms for fighting. The energy weapons are too valuable to waste, and the rail-guns stopped working a few months back. We don't know why; nobody survives who understands how they work. At least we have plenty of bullets; ammunition for a thousand soldiers, and only a hundred left to use it.

The aliens hunt us regularly, and if they can't find anybody, they return to their ships and bombard the planet's surface from orbit for weeks at a time. I've been sending small squads to hold various outlying cave systems, in the hope that they will distract the aliens from finding this, our only real sanctuary. I must keep my people safe, and I must guard our discovery.

-

Extract from military journal:
Boss Fralto, 29th February 2140, 09:00 hours

We finally excavated the purple roses today, and I have no idea whether to use them. We found them over a year ago, ensconced in a deep chamber of very alien design. The whole place was glowing with a violet light that's both beautiful and sinister at the same time. Runes covered the walls from floor to ceiling; we now understand enough, we hope. The roses themselves are difficult to look at; the size of a man's fist and shining constantly. They open and contract regularly in cycles, and the glow is more pronounced when they are in bloom. Energy readings are off the scale, so we have no way to measure their power, but they do not seem to adversely affect us.

My advisors (that is, the two remaining scientists; now more like soldiers, as are we all) believe they have deciphered enough of the runes to use the roses. They tell me that they are a weapon, although I see not how. An ancient weapon at that, and their origins are as mysterious as the language left to guard them. One wall appears to be descriptions of their purpose; a litany of destruction and power, and the vagueness of our translation makes the writing all the more terrifying. Another wall seems to be instructions, and having dug them out of their sealed encasement, my advisors are adamant that they know enough to use them. That leaves two walls to be filled with warnings, and stark ones at that, of how the roses should only be used at the most profound of needs. Even the shapes of the runes are sinister. The scientists say there's nothing of great importance written on those walls. I can't shake the feeling that they are the most important.

These purple roses, they haunt me. They could win us this war; something I haven't believed possible since I was a teenager struggling to hold his assault rifle. Is it hope that I feel, or just another dose of weary dread?

I sit sometimes and think to myself, what great loss if we die? Humanity seems safe in the bubble that is Earth, albeit only for the moment. We ragged few survivors of the war could never be welcomed back into society. We have seen too many things - aye, and done too many things - that have no place in civilised life. Perhaps we should hold up our hands, walk out of our cave homes, and let the aliens do with us what they will. I wonder, do they have regrets? Do they still want this war?

Then I think fuck them! They are no less guilty than we, and they have dominated this war, my entire life, since the beginning. Those of us who fought are virtually gone, our families ripped apart before our eyes, our friends torn to shreds by alien firepower. We have seen the insane become the norm, and death become a way of life. Why should they not feel some of the hopelessness that we have? Why should they not suffer? Maybe then they would understand the gravity and terror of what they have achieved.

It's the 29th of February today; the day that does not exist. Is there a better time to take a gamble?

I will make my decision today.

-

Extract from military journal:
Boss Fralto, 29th February 2140, 21:00 hours

What have I done? We deployed and everything turned to chaos. The threat is gone. Ha. The old threat is gone. These things make no sense. We cannot communicate with them by any means, so reasoning is out of the question. They killed every alien in the solar system in a matter of hours, and they just keep growing! It seems they feed themselves from whatever nearby energy sources they can find. It doesn't matter what it is, or whom it protects. Our generators went out first, leaving us on backup batteries; then our few remaining ships, weapons, and vehicles. That didn't leave them any other sources ... Except for Earth. They've gone now, shot away into space. I think they are heading for the aliens' home world, but I cannot be sure. These cursed purple things are the true aliens.

They don't know feelings; no joy or sadness; no love or hatred. I look at what I have wrought, and I despair. I'm just tired now. There's no triumph, no hint of jubilation. We few remain, and all we can do is watch from our desolate, war-ravaged home on Mars where nothing will ever grow again. It might be next week, or it may take years. All I know is it's going to happen. They will head to Earth. In a cruel twist of fate, the generators are working again now that the Roses are distant. There will be no blissful oblivion for us. We just await the detonation.


-----


That was his last record.

As for me, well, would you like to know about me? It really isn't that interesting. I retired years ago, but I was left with a legacy of memories that give rise inevitably to words. My time now is almost up, but I have been given the chance to leave something behind. One final secured electronic library, cast out into the universe, perhaps for some other culture to one day find, and heed. Nothing I can explain will impart the depths of horror that live within me. Instead, I shall tell of the last memory that my wracked mind has room for. Though my days are short, it has been with me always.

And so, the final words imparted by our culture, upon the now uncaring universe, read thus:

It burned our world to dust, like ashes blown from a redundant fire. Cities blinked from existence, crushed and disseminated like sandcastles in a hurricane. The roar of the invisible fire swept us from our planet, dead leaves turned to gossamer motes in the now glaring sun. Seas fountained into clouds and rainbows covered the sky for mere moments, then clouds became as nothing. Around our planet they hung, blooming marvellous in the black of space, their violet, violent brilliance a soulful visual note that was our death toll.

It was beautiful, the day the Earth died.


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A slightly rushed piece as I only noticed the contest yesterday! Never mind though, I enjoyed writing it and I hope people enjoy reading it.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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