In wartime, the difference between a soldier and a worker is that the soldier had the good sense to ask for a gun.
But that’s not entirely fair. There are far more people on Earth than Amalgamated Command could ever throw away senselessly. You have to go where the work is, even if you know it puts a bull’s-eye on your head. Nobody eats for free.
That was most of the problem. Put a different way, Mars was sick of our begging. They had a whole planet and six hundred times fewer people to feed, but apparently it doesn’t make economic sense to ship rice. Starvation is better for the economy, I guess.
Earth managed to get some AC troops over there and organize a command economy for about ten years, and my parents told me those were good years, calorie-wise. But when it broke down and we withdrew, they were even less accommodating than before. Then there were those years of flooding in Europe, and I guess it was obvious that we were scrounging up more parts in orbit to send a second wave of troops. I mean, there really wasn’t anything else we could do.
So, they threw the Ring at us to keep us occupied.
Then, it was known as Deimos, Mars’ smaller moon. At the time, it didn’t make much sense that they would move it at all. Martians are all about efficiency. For what it would cost, they could have built hundreds of perfectly horrible bombs.
They were explicit about it being a warning shot. They had rigged it with explosives, with the idea that it was going to do a tight parabola around Earth, blowing off fragments at intervals. Those chunks were supposed to rain down and cause “sub-critically catastrophic” tsunami and fires. Then we’d have to rebuild, and we’d leave them alone for a while as we tried to recover. And starved. Typically callous. Who attacks with a weapon of mass destruction, as a warning?
The official story is that our brave, suicidal (and probably totally inadequate) scavenged orbital group got moving and set off those explosives early, before being wiped out by a Mars interceptor fleet. I think it’s more likely that they screwed up and triggered a failsafe. Anyway, for the past two years Earth has had the Ring, roughly where our geosynchronous satellites used to be.
We mostly escaped harm, and there was a bonus. We started picking at the fragments for metals. There is olivine in Deimos that you can break down with focused sunlight, which is way easier than digging under topsoil. Earth started building some decent tech again, for the first time in a long time.
That’s what my team was doing — pulling metals out of a gift from Mars — when we heard that Deimos’ bigger brother Phobos was breaking orbit. I mean, we’re all thankful for Martian generosity, but that was just too much.
Within a day of that news, we were press-ganged. Congratulations and welcome to AC, ensign. Here’s your knife. We actually didn’t get guns. Too much risk that we might shoot at something today and hit a friendly next week.
We were critical to the survival of Earth, we were told by our new commanding officer, while she dragged us and our equipment off to the Moon. We were privileged to be the agents of the biggest counter-attack in the history of war.
I had my doubts.
Part II will follow tomorrow.