So this week’s Chuck Wendig challenge, is another subgenre mash-up. I chose #10 (military sci-fi) and #16 (alternate history) via random number generator. So…I found this quite challenging this time around. So here’s my attempt at a military sci-fi alternate history story, The Earthling Invasion!
I looked out the window at the familiar rust-red of the land, the valleys and rocks – those places that weren’t taken over by the green patches of grass and trees and plants. I shook my head. “The moon?” I said in awe. “I can’t imagine us landing on the moon. That’s just crazy. It would be all grey. Grey and bland.”
“And not to mention, not big enough for us to live on anyway,” Sophie replied. “I can’t believe they even considered landing on the moon. I’m just glad they changed their minds all those years ago and decided on Mars instead.” She ran her hands across the wall of glass, the hallway we walked along connecting one pod to another.
“They? You mean us,” I said. I liked to think of myself as an earthling, even though I’d never been there. I was first generation Martian. Our parents, they were the ones who came from earth in the late 70’s. The first pioneers. I was born here, shortly after they arrived.
“No, I mean they. They’re not like us. They are angry and bitter, the humans that are still on earth.” Sophie said as she reached Zone F and with a swooshing of doors, stepped inside. The coolness of the walkway disappeared instantly, replaced by noticeably warmer room temperature of Zone F, the shopping district of our colony. My mother says it’s what they called Malls back on Earth. I stood patiently as a bot scanned me for identification purposes. The silvery globe flashed green, and my name Kayla Edwins scrolled across it. “Welcome, to Zone F,” it said. “Enjoy your shopping experience.
My sister, Sophie had already been scanned and was waiting for me a few steps away. The mall rose up vertically. Twelve floors stretched skyward. “I can’t imagine us landing on the moon,” I said again, ignoring Sophie’s shake of her head when I said ‘us’. “I mean, what’s the point, we can’t all fit on Mars as it is. But maybe if we had landed on the moon, maybe things would be different,” I wondered out loud.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sophie said. “You just said so yourself. The moon is smaller than here, and that would just make things worse, not better!”
“But, it’s closer!” I almost whined, causing Sophie to roll her eyes.
“What does that matter? You’ve never been there. I don’t see why you’d even want to anyway…”
“Because we’re from there!” I cried.
Sophie shook her head at me again, exasperated. “No we’re not. We’re from here. Mars. We’re not Earthlings, we’re Martian.” She smiled at that. I knew every time she said the word, she thought back to what our mother told us about what the people on earth thought about Martians seventy or eighty years ago, that there were little green creatures with antennae, that travelled in things called flying saucers. I laughed at the ridiculous image too. We didn’t have UFOs. We had space shuttles, normal looking things.
Sophie was still talking. “Besides, there’s nothing on the moon anyway, that’s why people who lived on earth bypassed it for here – and it’s bigger too.” She glanced upward at the towering floors. “Though not as big as earth, that’s why we have everything going up, to save space.” She talked to me as if I was a child who didn’t know any of this.
“Yes, but-“ my next complaint was cut off by a high-pitched whine, followed by the ground shaking. I dropped to the ground, to save it throwing me down itself. People started screaming. A woman rushed past with a baby carriage, trying to push it and cover her head from falling debris. The ground shook again and a muffled boom tried to break its way into Zone F through the thick safety glass every compound was made from – to shelter and save us from the inhabitable outside atmosphere of our beautiful red planet.
Sophie grabbed my hand and dragged me back past the welcome bots into the hallway between Zone F and Zone E, one of the many Zones where people had their residences. Zones G and H was where the majority of schools were on this side of the planet.
Even as Sophie took charge, dragging me to relative safety, she asked with wide, frightened eyes, “What was that?!”
The ground shook again and Sophie fell down beside me, her eyes still wide as we watched the world outside being lit up like fireworks.
I had thought it was all a rumour, just scare mongering to stop people travelling back to earth. We were doing much better on Mars and Earth was just becoming worse and worse. Even though one-third of Earth’s population had migrated to Mars in the last fifty years, there was still too many people on our pale blue twin planet. That’s why the first generation earthlings moved here in the first place, to give Earth a chance to survive, before they killed it entirely. But things were still going wrong. They were still damaging the environment, with too many people and not enough resources, man-made climate change effecting crops and food supply, and somehow still a population increase that meant sometimes only just enough food to feed everyone that lived there.
A large metal man filled their view, stomping heavily across the barren landscape outside the inhabited complexes.
“I get the other thing,” I said, and now I repeated Sophie’s question, and even though I was the younger of us, added a bit more colour, “but what the hell was that?”
The giant metal monster raised one of it’s arms and a blue jet of energy shot from it.
A calming female voice filtered through the hallway. We knew it was playing throughout the complex. It was the emergency warning system that they tested every so often. Except this time it wasn’t a test. “This is an emergency. Please stay calm and follow these instructions.”
“Do they have instructions for escaping giant metal men with energy guns?” I said as I climbed to my feet and pulled Sophie up with me. The emergency information system was advising everyone to go back to their residences and seal themselves inside their houses, locking their doors until told that the danger had passed.
Over the emergency system a male voice piped in. “Shuttle landing in operation, please stay clear of any landing pads.”
Shuttle landing? There weren’t any shuttles that were out right now. They usually returned from their resource gathering missions once a week, on a Sunday. It was Tuesday. So it wasn’t one of ours, which could only mean one thing.
The Earthlings were attacking. I didn’t blame them. I’d learned about them in school, seen pictures of what it looked like, the cities, dirty and crowded, smothered in pollution. If I was living there, I’d want to get away, too.
There were always the paranoid people ranting about an invasion from Earth, but no one believed it. Since their space program that originally got us here, and those that lived on Mars were able to make it a self-sufficient planet, we didn’t need them anymore, and their funding for space travel had dried up almost as quickly as the majority of their drinkable water. So we never thought they would be a threat. Their space craft were old, not that much changed from what they were twenty years ago. They didn’t have our same technology. We had become more advanced than them. The children had surpassed their parents.
But now it looked like we were at war. Real war. This wasn’t a test. We had to fight back, and protect our home. There was nowhere else in our solar system that was habitable. It was just the two of us, Earth, and Mars.
But I’m pretty sure if I was one of the unlucky people still stuck on Earth that I’d want to come here too. And I’d do whatever it took, for the sake of survival. I knew I was one of the lucky ones. They had a birth limit here, because they didn’t want Mars to become like Earth – overpopulated. So people were only allowed to have a certain number of children per year, to keep the number of people level, monitored.
A man ran past us screaming, ranting. “The aliens have landed! We’re under attack!”
The ground shook again as another metal monstrosity clomped towards the shuttle landing area, and the shaking continued as a large armoured vehicle followed closely behind on rapidly turning wheels that crushed the red rocks underneath it to dust.
Even though we ran along one of the moving walkways to Zone E, moving quicker than just running somehow they had reached us quicker.
They wore large bulky suits and helmets that hid their faces behind dark screens. My pulse raced. A real Earthling! I thought with excitement, any fear being pushed to the back of my mind. I wondered if they really looked like us, or if we looked different to them. They were our ancestors, of sorts.
“Come on!” Sophie yelled at me, pulling my arm. But I was frozen. Curiosity rooted me to the spot. The one Earthling was joined by three others, all identical. I couldn’t tell if they were men, or women, or how old they were. They formed a marching wall. I could hear a raspy muffled sound. Their breathing apparatus, I realized. They weren’t used to our air, even inside. It had a different level of oxygen than what people on Earth were used to. I’d learned that much in History class.
Sophie had given up, and continued on without me, to the safety of the residential Zone. I wondered vaguely if this was how people on Earth felt centuries ago when they met new civilizations.
“Hi,” I said lamely, raising my hand in greeting. Wow, what a great ambassador I am to our planet, I thought, cringing inside.
In answer the spacemen raised and pointed weapons at me. Me. Kayla. Just a normal girl who just happened to live somewhere that these people, these strangers, wanted to take.
“Take us to-“ the middle one began. It was a male voice, strange and breathy through his helmet.
I laughed out loud. “Your leader?” I finished. I can’t believe they used that. Even I had watched the old movies about Martians landing on Earth.
The gun shifted, pointing at my chest and I shut my mouth. I raised my hands in front of me, defensively. “Okay, okay.” I went to move and then stopped. I needed to explain what I was going to do, I didn’t want them to get any wrong ideas. “I’ll take you to the people in charge here,” I said slowly as clearly as I could. “Follow me.” I turned and glanced at their reflections in the glass of the hallway.
I’d never been to Zone A before. It was where the people that ran the planet operated out of.
I stood in front of two large doors. On either side, sentry bots floated, patiently waiting. When I arrived, they moved in front of me. I waited while they scanned me.
“State your purpose,” the bot on the left said in a female voice.
“I need to speak with the President,” I said.
“Give us more information, Kayla Edwin,” the bot on the right said, a male.
“We have…visitors from Earth who have asked to speak to our leaders.”
The bots fell silent, and it looked like they seemed to glance at each other. Which is impossible.
“That is not possible,” they said simultaneously.
I frowned. “Why not?”
Another long pause caused a spike of panic.
The sentinels moved back to their positions at the side of the door. “You will understand.”
The Earthlings gestured for me to open the doors.
I stepped forward into a room covered in dust and occupied by skeletons. No one living had been here for years.