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War in Heaven

[ by Charles Cameron — for the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare Project ]

This story is my featured entry from the Art of Future Warfare project’s “space” war-art challenge that called for a fictional account of conflict in space during the 2090s.

It was one of four finalists, but not the winner. David Brin, who was on the final panel of judges, commented when returning my submission:

Fun and entirely poetical. And therefor immune to critique based upon normal fictional narrative standards.

He also added a neat short story of his own at the end of my piece: The Avalon Missions. As he said, it’s a similar piece in some ways.

Here’s the opening of my story:

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War in Heaven

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

— Revelation 12:7


The humans who nano-uploaded their minds — more accurately brains — were aware, as their uploads were not, that whatever their uploads “felt” was not also felt by them, nor was this awareness available to their uploads, once launched into space. The uploads, meanwhile, nano-burrowed deep into their designated asteroid, and continued to experience the unpleasant symptoms of phantom limbs and recursive Beatles songs, which drove them into a state known to their human progenitors, roughly speaking, as madness. Nano-small as they indeed were, they felt themselves masters of their own destiny and thus infinite in significance, and after some made futile attempts to maim others using legs, feet, fists and teeth they did not possess, the time came when, pretty much en masse, they committed Off.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Typo, our Art of Future War theoretician mused as she read the Atlantic Council’s latest Challenge, Space and Interstellar Conflictthey must mean Spice Wars. Sun of Future Tzu is what they’ve asked for, Sun of Future War they’ll get.

She trans-historicized and began to channel…


Holy Russia, having more or less won the Great War of Faith against Unbelief (2025-37 with continuing skirmishes), was in a commanding position to colonize and mine the moon — but a few of the Disbelieving remained, holed out in a substantial cave in the Rocky Mountains impervious to tactical nukes — and plotted revenge. They had many scientists among them, not persuaded by the mumbo jumbo of spirit and sacrament, worshippers at the altars of calculus and calibration, and though their rocketry was primitive in manufacture it was devastating in its impact.

They pitched swarms of tiny projectiles at the great Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines of the Holy Rus Empire, and diligent application of mosquito-like stings brought the great temples of Empire to their knees. Some claim the strategy derived from one Paul (or Jack) van Ripper, some from a treatise on statecraft named The Once and Future King – no matter, it worked beyond belief.

The Rus, under the Tsar Rus Putin IV, finally gave up on the moon and moved their Makers to Mars, thereby gaining the Twenty Years Respite (2054-76) in which they could build their uninhabited civilization unhindered. But how could the sacramental nature of Rus spirituality, Orthodox to the core, flourish in a terraformed world of lively auto-conscious machines?

It was the Great Fool, St Basil II, whose limericks and nudity finally collapsed peasant belief in the Tsar’s omnipotence, dislodged the siloviki in the Second Great Revolution (2077-79) with the battle-cry “the Tsar is naked” (aided by pitchforks, rifles, grenades), and led to the Regular Folks Tribunals which denounced space travel and sent Folks’ Greetings to the embattled Final Americans deep within Cheyenne Mountain.

Meanwhile, the Holy Rus Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines mined on, preparing Mars for habitation that was fated never to occur.


Words are many, worlds are many more, if possible.

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To read the rest of my story, please visit the Art of Future Warfare site: War in Heaven.

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