I’ve decided to go ahead and post that Moonian sketch I did a couple of weeks ago. Wait, it was a month ago, wasn’t it? Man, alive.
I don’t feel like it’s strong enough to stand on its own, but I do think it might be useful to base other stories on (though I guess based on some of what I have published, maybe it is, heh). Nobody is really actively doing anything. It feels like this would come in as Chapter 2 of a novel or the first act of a longer short story. I like the setting it creates, at least. Less than a thousand words, and probably a bit rougher than something I would submit somewhere. Enjoy!
Invasion of the Moonians
Viktor sat on the parapets and watched the moon. Occasionally he thought he saw something move up there, but the captain of the watch assured him that nothing had moved on the moon in years.
“We killed all them, uh, Moonians, back in ‘ought three,” said the captain, a large, pot-bellied man whom Viktor had never seen without a slab of mutton or chicken leg in hand. He was, this evening, gnawing on a chicken wrap – evidently concerned for his health, the captain’s wife had forced him to eat something with vegetables. Lettuce spilled from the wrap, leaving a green trail behind the aging soldier as he made his rounds. The captain patted his pistol with his free hand.
“I was just a sergeant back then, in the artillery. Your dad, he weren’t no older than you. He helped us load those old .55s we had back then.” He pointed at the pocked surface of the distant satellite. “See those, eh, darker, bluish spots?”
“That were us,” the captain puffed his chest out, warming to his own tale. “The 101st Longbow. We pounded those Moonian positions for three days before your grandfather led the invasion.”
“Your guns could reach all the way to the moon?” Viktor wasn’t convinced. He tried to figure the math in his head, but wasn’t sure how old the captain was or if he would have been old enough to be in the army in ’03.
“There was nowhere our cannon couldn’t reach!” The captain stretched his mouth, looking hurt. “And we didn’t have none of these fancy systems like today. ‘Twas all figures, and guts, and know-how.” He waved dismissively to the sleek autoballista mounted on the castle towers. “I’d trade any of these new guns for my old .55.”
Viktor hugged his knees and frowned at the moon. “How did grandpa get there? The balloon was only invented a few years ago.”
The captain chewed on his chicken wrap for a moment, his eyes darting across the sky and the sleeping city in the valley below.
“We had different balloons back then,” he said after a few moment’s thought. “They were dangerous, though. They blew up if you weren’t careful. I saw a whole ship of fifty men go down in flames because someone didn’t put out a cigar before launch. Why we don’t use ’em anymore. But your grandpa, he knew the Moonian threat. He had to take the chance! So he loaded up every balloon – uh, we called them ‘zeppelins’ back then – and-”
“Called them what?”
The captain’s eyebrows did a dance across his forehead. “What’s wrong with zeppelins?”
“That’s a ridiculous name.”
“Er, well, look, I didn’t come up with it,” the captain told him. Viktor rolled his eyes. “Anyway, took every zeppelin in the land, loaded them up with five thousand of the best troops in the countryside, and launched, following our shells to the Moonian strongholds.”
Viktor didn’t think the army had five thousand strong men now, much less fifty years ago. But he held his tongue. The captain was clearly enjoying his story. The old soldier struggled to kneel. His voice became hushed, and he gripped Victor’s shoulder.
“Uncanny it was, the battle. We couldn’t hear a thing. But we saw bright lights and fires in the heavens. We saw explosions on that barren surface that rivaled anything our guns had already thrown at it. The astromen, they said they could see better with their telescopes, your grandfather leading the charge off the zeppelins. They said the Moonian defense was awful, their dead air splitting with electrical bursts and red beams that vaporized everything in their path. But our men pushed forward. They crashed against the Moonian bunkers and sundered them, sword and rifle felling the beasts where they stood. The King pushed the assault, leading his men deep into moon canyons, and the astromen could see only the dust stirred up by their boots.”
Viktor found himself holding his breath despite his misgivings about the story’s voracity. The captain bowed his head, as though holding a moment of silence for those who gave their lives in the great and dreadful battle for Aristarchus Crater or some other obscure lunar landmark.
“Your grandfather returned from the moon war with only a handful of ships, ragged men all,” the captain said. “The cost was great, but our freedom from the tyranny of the, um…”
“Moonians,” Viktor offered.
“Yes, the Moonians. We were finally free of their vicious yolk.”
“What had they done?”
The captain groaned as he hauled his considerable bulk up to stand. “Hmm? Oh, I don’t remember. Trade embargo or something.” He stuffed the last of his chicken wrap into his mouth. “Just, you know, freedom never free and all that. Never forget.” He clapped his hands on his pants and turned away to resume his patrol.
Viktor squinted at the moon. He had excellent eyesight, the royal doctors said so. He was sure something up there was moving, but perhaps it was just a wisp of cloud.
He heard something scuff the stone behind him, and the Royal Astronographer, Osgar, rushed past with a perfunctory greeting. Osgar called quietly to the captain. They spoke in low tones that gradually rose in heated debate. Finally, the astronographer thumped a fist against the captain’s breastplate, and the soldier fell silent. His shoulders sagged. As Osgar moved on, toward the tower, the captain looked up at the dark sky. Just barely, Viktor heard him mutter in a stricken voice, “They’re back…by the gods, they’re back…”