Title: Ninety-Nine Red Balloons

Author: nostalgia

Rated: PG

Disclaim: Yeah, cos this is gonna bankrupt them... Stole the title too.

Summary: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Etc: "Channel it into your writing" said the People Who Know These things. I did. Beta-credits and undying love to Taryn, lins and downinnewyork, for dragging
me through this hell of a fic with only minor fleshwounds. Apologies to them also for not listening. *guilty/ashamed emoticon*


It was night when they arrived at the dust world. Cold and black and silent. A world, faded into the dead depths of space.

But of course, it's always night somewhere, and some places it's always night. Still...

Usually they pulled the ship around to day side of a world, anchoring in the vacuum above seas and continents lit in glorious starshine. But this time it was night,
and a blackened world turned its scars away from its star as if ashamed of them.

He wanted, suddenly, to see those scars. It was a gesture that would bring nothing to the dust world, would change not a moment of its past. But somehow, like
the cat in the quantum box, it might only be real if someone saw it. In some self-centred, illusary sense, the dust would never be real unless it ran, lifeless, through
his fingers.

They passed a dead satellite on the way down, transmitting white noise to no one. There would have been thousands of these metal moons once, falling and
tumbling once their creators were gone. This one might have been a military satellite. It might have been called "defence" or it might have been called "vengeance".
It might have been a communications satellite, and broadcast cartoon animals to children. It might have been...

He thought of something else instead.

"I wonder who started it?" The whisper was slightly behind him and to the left.

"It's funny," said a different voice, "How these things always seem to matter at the time." A dry comment, dry like the dust and the ash. And quiet again, as if scared
to disturb the air.

If he closed his eyes he could see falling fire and burning tears, red light pressing against his eyelids. He could hear sirens and screaming children. He saw all the
cities crumble and all the cultures fall. He saw the bombs throwing the ground into the air, the sun drowning in dust. Invisible particles ripped through his skin,
burning him to nothing. It stung, but only for an instant. Plants turned to ashes, people turned to dust. The world died with the winds.

He opened his eyes, and saw that there was no port to welcome weary travellers. The wind flowed between sun-bleached ruins, a desecrating breeze. A dead
horizon stared blankly upwards; scorched earth and burnt-out hills. Dust. Endless black, grey and white dust. He breathed it in and coughed it out.

He asked his question to the dead earth beneath his feet: If on the last day of this there were two of you and one of them, did you think that you had won?

Before they left he took a lump of rock from the fallen city walls and scratched shaky graffitti into the dust. An archaic mantra from the history books. He saw
himself as the woman in a photograph he'd seen as a child, spraying green paint onto the side of a government building. Maybe this dust had belonged to
someone's government, once. Maybe this dust had *been* someone's government. The edges of the rock tore into his skin, adding more blood to the planet's

He stood and brushed dust from his clothing. He looked down at his pointless, too-late gesture. He wondered what languages the people of this world would have
written it in, if the letters would have looped and curled.

*Ban The Bomb*

He felt lost, so he went home.