Two jets circled back for another pass. Their pilots were dead; rotting corpses within the husks of flight suits, swaying to the music of a never-ending dogfight in the sky.
Self-repair systems kept them airborne and assured that without a direct hit to the engines, there would only be a slight pause to refuel and re-arm before the dance began again.
On the surface, mechanical arms worked through the changing seasons to put together more missiles and bullets for the dancers. More machines mined the materials they needed, and layer upon layer of machines fixed these, and those, and those and those….
Two great powers of the world created a perpetual motion machine of destruction and creation. But there was no one at the wheel anymore.
On the surface, small groups huddled together to await the day when all the metal resources were removed by the pre-programmed collective, and finally end the noise.
Why did they fight? No one knew anymore. The lines that had been drawn on maps disappeared long ago. There were only pockets of humanity left, doing what animals do: surviving.
On the outskirts of Moscow, a small boy sitting on a large rock in a field watched two driverless tanks circle around a small mound to get the upper hand on the other. One had a red star, the other a black X. Other than those markings the tanks looked exactly the same.
Each was escorted by a smaller vehicle that would refuel the tanks. The treads and tires underneath them had eaten away at the earth. A trench had been dug by their locked programming.
“All day,” the boy stared.
His clothes were patchwork of uniforms. Olive drab, camouflage, and steel blue of engineers. Buzzed brown hair sat on his head. Dirt and flashes of vehicle grease dotted his face.
“Yes, Alexei, every day. All day,” another boy at the base of the rock responded, disinterested.
“What happens when one side is wiped out, Yuri?” the boy on the rock looked down to his friend.
“They stop, I guess,” he tossed a small rock in the direction of the spectacle.
“Imagine being here when one of them has a tread malfunction! We could loot it all ourselves!”
“We could be here for decades. I’m not hanging around the tank zones forever. I want to see the jets. I want to hear the scrap-metal rain. It rains from the sky! Constantly! Not like these jokers here. All they make are holes.”
“All one needs is one good shot! And the other one is toast! Just think of all the ammo we could sell!” Alexei said.
“Like I said, it could take decades. If one of them were to trip, maybe it would ramp up the process.”
Both of them froze, realizing the same thing.
“We must get a rock! Something big enough to make them change course!”
“No! You remember what happened to Ivan! He will never walk the same! Just a refueller ran over his foot. Imagine one of those!” he gestured at the tanks.
“Risk reward. I think we can do it,” urged Alexei.
“We will need a vehicle. Something civilian, so as to not anger the tanks,” Yuri said.
“Lets us speak to your sister, her boyfriend has a jeep!” Alexei excitedly jumped to the earth from his perch on the large rock.
“I hope he is in a good mood today,” Yuri said.
The two boys headed back to town with a skip in their step.