1.30: Cpl Greening

Date: Wednesday 18 January 2041ce 0900z
Location: North-West Arizona (-0700)

Stars and stars and stars…

“What are you thinking about?”

And behind… Even more stars.

West, curled up next to him, had asked the question.

They had gone about fifty paces from the camp site, away from the unnecessary fire and its chatter.

Above, a brilliant moon minus the first sliver of waning, resting above Cancer while being stalked by Leo.

Bootes fully visible in the east; Taurus and Orion descending in the west.

The troop was scheduled to arrive as DS-3 in three days; Being two days away, Sarge called for a day of rest while the weather promised to be exceedingly warm.

“What a waste this has been,” Greening replied.

“A waste?”

Can’t you just lay back and look at the heavens above?

“I keep getting shuffled from one troop to another,” he said. “First, California Two-Thirty-Eight, then Arizona Two-Seventy-Four and the Three-Sixteen. Each of them headed east but, somehow, I kept getting left behind, transferred again for no reason to make sense of. Now, the Two-Nine-Seven, and we’re heading west, probably out of state and into California.”

“You’re complaining about not going near the war zone?” West asked incredulously.

He shrugged. “It’s a lot of walking in otherwise secured territory.”

“Uncontested,” West said.

“Oh… Right.”

The difference, of course, was that strays were still common enough; And there had been three such instances during his time on rotation despite constant proximity to the border.

None of them comfortable…

“Don’t think it’s just you,” West said. “A few of the folks that have been on Two-Nine-Seven from early on said there was some strange shuffling going around.”

“Huh?”

“Troopers in, troopers out,” she explained.

“I mean, which ones?”

“Lansing… And the one, Carlson I think.”

Have they been on since the beginning?

“Do you think this war will ever end?” he asked. “I mean, it’s not just a case of beating an enemy, like the wars we used to have. This is an enemy we need to eliminate entirely.”

West was silent a moment before reply.

“No,” she said. “But I think we’re reaching a crux. We’re on our way to plugging Panama. After that, all we have a sieges on our continent. Chile broke through to Argentine Resistance… That had to be rough, isolated nearly twenty-five years like that?”

Argentine Resistance hadn’t been that isolated, but the only way in or out was by air. If one of their fronts fell, there had been no direction to evacuate the population.

He decided not to argue over it.

“Hard part’s going to be Europe,” West continued. “They can’t just seal off their continent from Asia or the Middle East. They’ve got an ever-growing front line. Some problem we’ll have if we push into Columbia. My guess would be… Secure North America, then provide air support to Argentina while fighting an Accord offensive through Eastern Siberia. Probably support Malaysia… They just got their asses kicked pretty hard a few months back.”

That reminded him of something he’d just heard a few days back.

Something about Guam re-allocating its ships…

“Isn’t the Guam Navy taking position off Honduras?” he asked.

“Makes sense… And fits the schedule.”

There was no schedule that Greening knew of, but it did correlate with West’s summary of the war effort.

“I thought we were supposed to be colonizing Mars by now?”

Didn’t sound so dumb before I said it.

West laughed. “Probably. But didn’t turn out that way.”

“Nothing turned out that way.”

“Did you sign lifer?” West asked.

“Yep.”

“Sounds like you’re starting to regret it.”

“Not really. I mean, if the war ended tomorrow, they’d probably offer us lifer’s an early out. But I’m prepared to go where I must. The front or a stock room.”

“You’d hate a stock room.”

“Playing with a datapad all day,” he said. “Dinners at home. Growing fat.”

“Doubt that. They still send us out every three years.”

“See? I’d still get plenty of exercise.”

“I hate dry rations,” West said while rolling onto her back, head nuzzled against Greening’s arm.

“Which one?” she asked after a moment.

Her inability to remain silent was starting to annoy him.

“What?”

“Which star do you think the Invaders came from?”

“Are we sure they did?”

“Didn’t take you for a Last Worlder.”

“Not even,” he scoffed. “Even they refer to them as ‘starspawned’. Just never use the word ‘alien’. Ah, yes, ‘starspawned demons’, what it is. Crazy… But they do have a point, which is that no one has seen so much as a single ship. Heck, they don’t have any fliers… Well, heavy stuff like jets. Those creepy floating things are… Well, they just float. Slowly.”

“And creepily.”

“Seriously,” he continued. “If they came from elsewhere, then how? Mistaking Viskirs for a naturally occurring xenovirus carried to Terra on a comet was one thing. But not the Invaders. This is a highly evolved species, which uses organic processes to build complex technologies. That doesn’t happen at the cold edge of solar gravity.”

“So the aliens could be starspawned demons because we haven’t found their space ship?”

“I simply admit we don’t know… The Last Worlders present an origin claim that doesn’t match what we do know about reality. So while finally finding their ‘space ship’ would not surprise me, proving them to be demonic beings would be very surprising indeed.”

“So you’ve never considered which star they came from?”

Back to this…?

“I don’t think it’s a thing to worry about right now. Right now, they’re on our planet and they can get the fuck off.”

“I wonder sometimes if we might have to take the fight there.”

“Invade the Invaders? That’s… Sadly the most probable outcome. If we ever win this bit. Still… If the Invaders left, I wouldn’t be too keen on chasing after them.”

“Probably a long time before we have to make that choice.”

Leave Terra to fight a war… I thought we were born explorers?

“Even the war is routine now.”

“Artillery and charge!” West called out at a half shout.

“Shhh!”

Whistles and cat calls echoed out from the camp.

“Like they didn’t know?” West remarked.

“Doubt we’re the only ones to slink off.”

He hoped that the troop wouldn’t know which couple had produced the outburst.

“Think we should head back soon?”

“No,” he answered, shaking his head. “Eye reported all clear.” Though it had been a few hours since hearing Lancing’s report off the satellites. “Nothing for a couple dozen miles, with as many patrols between here and there.”

“You talk too much.”

She twisted above him, and he returned her embrace, but part of him remained distracted as they partook pleasure in each other.

A fraction of that was concern that the war was not going as planned despite what West had agreed was a steady stream of victories for Terran forces despite an occasional setback like Bangkok.

The balance, however, was focused on the night sky above, causing him to gaze upwards whenever the sexual play allowed him opportunity.

Am I the only one that can hear that?

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