Disappearing Stars

James learned the star patterns his first night in the field. He didn’t have an interest in astrology before, not even during training, but he quickly learned that missing stars were a bad sign. There was no way of knowing whether the ships blocking the stars were friendly or not, but he always assumed they weren’t. They were shadows on the galaxy, swords of Damocles, ready to drop an orbital bomb with the press of a button.

He jumped when Cisco slapped him on the shoulder. “Ease up, brother,” said Cisco, laughing. “Man, you spooked.”

“Course I’m spooked,” said James, readjusting his pack. He checked his rifle, a nervous tick. “This isn’t a job for people anymore.”

“Yet here we are,” said Cisco, nodding.

They marched together, in between the rest of the unit. James noticed a star twinkle out. Another popped into view. He imagined the shape of the spaceship as it passed over the planet. He’d never been to space, had only seen ships on the nets. Allied ships and enemy ships were very different. He tried imagining friendly shapes, manta-like, but the silhouettes of star-patterned destroyers formed in the blackness in his mind.

Human beings marching in the mud, when there are vessels the size of islands, continents, floating above, with firepower to level landmass of equal size or greater. It seemed so surreal.

Some crackles in the air, flashes of muzzle fire, made the soldiers drop so fast James thought they were all hit. Everyone found cover and returned fire. Kids playing cops and robbers, James thought, slamming his shoulder behind a tree. Pop-guns in the park. He did his job and squeezed off a few rounds in the direction of the flashes. Bullets versus bombardments, James thought. He spotted a Southie trying to flank his unit, barreling through the brush. James put him down before he even got close. Laughing madly, James wanted to point out his kill to Cisco, like it was a game. He wanted to show how he saved everyone by stopping the flank attack. But Cisco was focused, rattling off rifle fire into the forest, the whole area a sports stadium of flashing cameras. They were playing games, and James saved them. He saved them with his pop gun. A playground hero.

Above, a new star formed. But the ship wasn’t moving. The star only got bigger. Then closer.

 


 

 

Day 337’s three random writing prompt categories were, “A space marine,” “Death from above,” and, “A forest world.”

Space marines are fun, but if tech was that advanced there would be no way regular humans would be doing the fighting.

– H.

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