Life On Mars

14

14

The red planet had two moons, only one visible from the upper corner of the building. It was dotted with one-way reflective windows, each only a few feet in width. A mechanical drone descended above the glass, its fat chrome body covering his view of the moon. He grumbled at it, watching as it lumbered onwards down the outside wall. Another miner, on its way to deliver iron for the war effort. He looked back down at his desk, lazily eyeing the pre-planned briefing he was to give later that day. Days on the red planet were shorter than he was used to, the sun a disgustingly bright yellow color. "War effort" was the political term for it; it was more an advanced form of mugging. The solar system had less than a dozen planets, only two having any kind of life. While one was microscopic, the other was a particularly warlike species, which his unit had been called to contain. Not invade, only keep to themselves and hope they wiped themselves out before getting too far up in the technological tree as to become a threat.

The commissar found himself wondering if they'd ever tried negotiating. The thought was quickly subdued. They attacked first, remember. A mining base on this same planet had been raided by the warmongering primitives only one "year" prior. Apparently, nobody at the base had known the warmongers were capable of spaceflight until a nuclear missile got rammed up their figurative behinds. Luckily, it got shot down before anything more than robots could be harmed. It was now his job to kick the bastards to the ground and, if all went well, take their lunch money. That is, their planet's moon. He re-read the briefing, only stopping when a secretary entered the room.

"You've prepared a suit, right?"

He groaned. "Yes, of course I have. Though I don't see why I should wear it if I'm to take it off shortly after."

"It's a cultural thing, you know that. You're supposed to be our cultural ambassador, Commissar."

Yeah, right. Cultural ambassador, fancy way to say "ghetto police". The only people who wore suits for briefings were the frontiersmen, who just so inconveniently happened to run this mining base. They'd always been attached to old homeworld farming traditions.

"Well good, because the briefing was supposed to start one minute ago," snarked the secretary.

He got up, wordlessly, and found the suit. Half a minute later he exited a lift, coming out to faced with an empty podium and a room filled with uniformed soldiers. The commissar stepped up to the podium, a glowing prompt appearing on its tilted surface.

"So," he started, already heinously ignoring the prompt. "Standard procedure. Kick the runts, take the moon, try not to get shot so much you give the planet a second one. It'll take around twenty-eight minutes to get off this rock and into orbit over there, so please try not to fuck that up either."

With conforming yet bored nods from the soldiers, he stepped back into the lift. Perhaps blasting their warmongering asses back to the industrial age would cure his omnipresent sense of boredom.

Or the now-blaring sirens.

"Please remain calm. Everything is perfectly normal. Defense personnel please report to your stations."

He kicked the wall. "One order- 'try not to fuck it up'- One order-"

The lift shot upwards through the facility, the doors gliding open to reveal quite possibly the most hastily-constructed strategy room he'd ever laid eyes on. Three people sat before a monitor laid on a stack of boxes, PDA's in their hands. The monitor showed a collection of blinking red dots, slowly moving towards what he assumed to be a representation of the base.

"Fuck is it?" the commissar growled, stepping out of the lift.

"Asteroids."


Coincidentally, this was the same question and answer routine performed by two members of a different species' military, albeit in orbit around the same planet, and the context of the other interaction was much different. Military strategy was not a very defining factor in the occupying force's mindset, which the defending force was now using to some advantage. As it stood, however, all but a few in the interaction suspected that anything other than a meteor shower was occurring.

One of those few was on the occupying force's side, grumbling as a rock audibly slammed into the roof above him. Though his point of view on the subject was wildly different from those a few kilometers above.

"What do you mean asteroids? Satellites didn't detect jack shit-"

One of the strategists turned to him, lowering their PDA.

"There's only one functioning satellite in this system, and it just got hit by a rock."

The commissar literally stomped forward, pointing at the monitor. "The rocks are fucking appearing in orbit, and you're not the least concerned?"

"We're shooting them down," they spat idly.

"No no," he said, taking a step back. "My men are shooting them down."

The strategist blinked, as another rock slammed into the roof. "Doesn't sound like it, Commissar."

"You just contradicted-"

He didn't get to finish, the roof curving inward as a spherical mass of slate fell from above. It smashed into the floor between them with a roar, flinging the two to opposite sides of the room. He sputtered as he landed, quickly pressing a switch on his suit collar. A transparent chrome bubble took shape over his head, his extremities quickly covered in a suit of the same material. The suit had limited oxygen supply, but that wouldn't matter if he could make it in the lift. As it turned out, it did matter, as the asteroid split in two before his eyes. From it hatched a humanoid figure, like a newborn space monkey. It was wearing some sort of clunky ill-fitting white armor, with a disgustingly large rectangular device attached to its back. There were no discernible features on its head, though the presumed helmet was remarkably similar to his own in design. Though unlike the commissar's gear, it had a bright yellow pointed star emblazoned on its chest and some kind of upside-down triangular emblem on its shoulder. That, and it held a harpoon gun.

The alien had to climb from the steaming rubble, its metallic egg having buried itself in a crater made from the lower level. It quickly jumped forward, impaling a fleeing strategist on the end of a harpoon. He climbed along the wall, using the gravity to an advantage. He swung into the lift just as it turned towards him, staring into its lifeless mask as the doors slid shut. He took off his helmet, gasping as he smashed in an emergency glass rectangle attached to the wall of the lift. In it was a disgustingly pointed firearm, which he recognized as a disgustingly advanced form of ballistic pistol. It would have to do, even if he was unsure bullets would penetrate the enemy's suits.

As the doors slid open again, he found himself pointing a pistol down the barrel of another of the same. Though thankfully the one pointing back was held by an ally; one of the frontier miners.

The miner laughed. "So, those are the aliens?"

"It's not funny. They got the drop on us."

"Only one," they said, "The rest were shot down."

He paused. "Well where is it-"

As if it were their only tactic, the roof thrust downward, another harpoon jutting through inches away from his gun. He dived out of the lift, firing at the interior ceiling around the harpoon's forced entrance. The miner kept their gun trained on the roof as well, letting out an unwilling cough.

"We flooded the upstairs with gas- oxygen-" they said, sputtering violently.

He sighed, securing his helmet back on. "Whose shit idea was that?"

"The strategists, sir. Ain't nobody ask the motherworld to send you- you just come."

The commissar paused. "I'm not a strategist, what makes you think that?"

The gas had flooded in already, the miner having silently choked in the duration of the question. He went to move their body, out of minute respect, when another crash came from the lift. When he turned, he saw only the lifeless exterior of the alien soldier. Its bronze dome of a head seemed to glare back at him, with uncaring content. He hated how little it seemed to care. As he raised his gun to fire, his hand was torn away by the force of a harpoon, separating it from the rest of his arm. He collapsed, staring as the now stump of a wrist pulsed various shades of iridescent color. When he looked again, he saw the thing had finally removed its mask.

They were as disgusting as the briefing had implied. Hairless, though without scales. Bipedal, though without any tail to balance. Its face was that of a blind deep-sea fish, barring its possession of a mountainous extrusion in the center. The only hair to be found was a spindly mess at the top of its head, barely managing to stay clear from what he assumed were its eyes. The commissar watched as it pushed another harpoon into its gun, pointing it towards his neck.

He dived to the side, watching its bulky humanoid form desperately try to find him again. The room shrunk to a passage, the labyrinthine chrome halls of the base stretching onward before him as he fled. Not daring to assume he'd lost it, the commissar fired a shot at a nearby porthole. The expulsion of the room's air flung him, the planet's expanse stretching before him as an infinite red desert. The commissar didn't get to appreciate it for very long before he landed upon a debris-encrusted dune.

A thump was heard behind him, the commissar rolling in the dust. Before him laid the alien, its white suit caked in red. Its helmet had returned, along with it came the harpoon gun pointed towards the commissar's own neck. He knew he couldn't win a physical fight- his hand was shot off, and bleeding like a stuck pig. He sat up in the dune, staring into the lifeless chrome mask that hid the disgusting mammalian face.

"Fucking humans."

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