Dark sky. Dark sky and dark streets below, reflecting the dark souls of those who trod them. There were no street lights, not any more. The only light, strange and silvery, came from the moon; it sailed high above the dark streets, serene and graceful and utterly unconcerned. Why should the moon care? The chaos that reigned beneath could not touch her. Her crepuscular rays slunk over the shattered frontages of looted shops, roamed over the burnt-out wrecks that had once been cars, lurked in the bomb-craters that marred the once smooth tarmac. She had seen it all before, and would undoubtedly see it again.
Humans were so warlike.
Tonight, however, the city was quiet. It had been quiet for a while. There was little left here now; most of those who were not dead were fled, and those who hung on mostly scavenged for living and possessed nothing worth fighting over. The war that had ruined their lives had moved on, to more profitable areas, and although it showed no signs of waning it had, at least, left them alone. Free, in the words of the commander of the last army to leave. And they were free, in a way.
Free to starve and struggle to survive, in a city now run by those who were violent enough to come out on top. Some freedom, although it was still preferable to the days when going outside your front door would like as not lead to your death, and even staying in your home was no guarantee of survival. At least they didn't have to pick sides any more.
To one person, the only person out and about that night, all this was pure delight.
Heavy army boots clicked on the shattered pavements with the slow, swinging stride of someone taking a pleasant afternoon stroll. Eyes that shaded from bright crimson to jet black surveyed the ravaged scene with all the satisfaction of someone studying their ultimate masterpiece, while beneath them a pretty little mouth curved into a contented little smile. A slender hand reached up to twirl a strand of feathery orange-red hair around a finger in an idle gesture.
None of this suggested someone walking through a city ruined by war, ruled by violence and completely lawless. Especially not someone who looked like a fourteen-year-old girl.
But Aristomache had decided she deserved a sightseeing tour, and it wasn't like she couldn't take care of herself.
Hitching up her hopelessly baggy black top, which was falling off her shoulder again, she kicked a biggish piece of shrapnel out of her path and gave a gleeful little skipping hop. A whole continent completely devastated by a massive, pointless war-and she'd done it all by herself! Now just wait until Garfield heard about this. He'd never caused an entire continent to crumble, and he'd given up years ago. Sure he'd done World Wars One and Two, but what were they compared to this? They'd only gone on for four or five years; this one had already dragged on for ten, and didn't appear to be anywhere near finished yet.
To think, he'd always laughed at her when she barely managed a minor civil war, and mocked her plans for this one. He'd said they were 'impossible' and 'ridiculous', implied that she wasn't good enough to keep it going. Well, she gone and done it anyway, hadn't she? And look how well it had turned out!
"He said I was a baby," she told the pathetic pile of rubble that had once been a bank. "Said I'd never amount to anything. Wasn't he wrong, though? And now he’s turned into a pacifist-” she said the word with all the affection and love of someone saying ‘dog turds’ “-why, it’ll have to be me who takes on the family reputation, won’t it?”
Adjusting her crown of rusted barbed wire, she paused to admire her reflection in a puddle of filthy water. Sure, she was young yet-only two thousand one hundred next Thursday- and she didn't look all that much like a proper War Spirit, despite the bandolier of machine-gun bullets slung across her chest and the crown, but she was up-and-coming. Oh yes. Definitely.
The world of the War Spirits would soon hear about Aristomache.