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The Cytherean War #3: Dots of Red

Sam Cameron-McKee lives in Adelaide South Australia with his partner Veronica. He graduated from the University of South Australia with a Bachelor of Creative Writing and Linguistics and is currently completing his honors study in Creative Writing and Cultural studies. He has been writing fantasy and science fiction for many years, and considers his inspirations to be Ursula K. Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson. When Sam isn't writing he spends his time listening to progressive rock or watering his garden.
Every dot of red on the display was a thousand deaths on average.
Morty hated every single one, and worked to make more.
More specifically, each dot, blue and red, was an X-RV42, the standard interplanetary missile of the Earthen pacification force. They were more commonly known as Venus-burners, due to the firestorms they created when they hit. The blue ones were caught in the endless ballet of counter-battery fire, driven off course by solar winds during their day-and-a-half flight, or failed in detonation--fission glitter lancing across space. The red ones, a few in a sea of blue, went through, and killed one thousand Cythereans on average.
Morty called the people of Venus Cythereans, he saw no reason to deny them that respect. He
hoped, that in some futile way it made up for the dots of red that he created.
Another ten blue lights winked into existence. No red this time, Morty breathed a sigh of relief. He had plotted that salvo yesterday, calculated their routes and their dances with gravity. He was glad that his calculations had been insufficient. His eyes blurred looking at the seemingly endless holo-display before him, the scrolling readouts, and the dots that visualized the deaths.
Morty had not wanted to do this. He was a mathematician, not a soldier, but it was mathematicians who were fighting this war. There were still marines, far out in the void of space. They were looting supply vessels, or rooting out rebel cells with gunfire and grit, but it would take a hundred of their raids to equal a single red dot, and Morty made an average of a dot a week. He didn't want to be here, but it was this, or prison, and he sweated thinking of what his higher ups would do if they found out about the few errors he let himself make.
The Cythereans were holding strong, stronger than anyone on Earth had expected. Secretly, Morty could not help but think they were amazing. To muster the courage to stand against their home-world, to fight with cobbled together missile defense systems, their soldiers were aged nineteen on average.
But the war had been going for seven years, the Cythereans were losing, and Morty could not help but blame himself.
Morty was a coward, he knew that, but the part of him that was filled with self-loathing, regret, and rage, was overpowered by that which was composed only of fear. All he could hope for was a swift end to the war.
He crossed his fingers and the next round of data came back.
Three red lights winked on. Above average. He cried.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019
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