by Shawn McDaniel II
“Grandpa tell us a story!” Lexi asked, bouncing up and down.
“Yeah, a story.” her brother Jae echoed.
Hal chuckled. “Alright. One story, but then bedtime. Deal?” They both nodded.
Hal sat in his recliner and beckoned the kids over. He stifled a groan as Jae jumped in his lap a little too enthusiastically and came down on his right hip a little too hard. Damn thing had been sore since he took some shrapnel during the Europa Conflict.
Biting through the pain, Hal embraced both grandchildren and thought about what story to tell them before grinning as one came to mind.
“How about I tell you about the birth of our planet?”
Their faces lit up with excitement. Both nodded with such enthusiasm that he thought they were going to rock themselves off the chair.
“Once, there was a planet called Earth. It was the birthplace of us humans. We lived there for millions of years. It’s where I was born.”
He took a moment and enjoyed the look of wonder on their faces.
“I wasn’t there for long. You see, Earth was dying. Countless wars, both global and civil, along with endless pollution had caused permanent damage.”
“Why didn’t they stop? Pollution is bad. We learned all about it in science class!” Lexi interrupted.
“Few back then actually listened to the warnings. The ones in charge didn’t care that the Earth was dying, so long as they were rich. And most people went along with it because to do something would mean changing their lives in some way and they didn’t want to do that,”
“Those people are stupid,” Jae said matter-of-factly.
“You aren’t supposed to use that word. But yes, they were. Eventually, the earth reached a point where it was beyond saving. So, the leaders of Earth’s surviving countries banded together and created the Bifrost engines and those engines were able to take us to new planets.”
He enjoyed their wonder again before hitting them with the bad news.
“Problem was some people didn’t like that idea. They thought that their way of thinking was the only one that should be allowed. So, they set up a home on Earth’s neighboring planet, Mars, and wouldn’t let anyone they didn’t like land their spaceships on it.”
“Meanies” Jae said.
Hal chuckled. “Yeah, they were. But you know what the best thing about space is?”
Jae shook his head, but Lexi responded. “All the pretty stars?” Hal smiled. “That is one of the best things. But what I was talking about was the vastness of it. Since they didn’t want us on their new planet, we went somewhere else. Here on Callisto.”
“So are there still bad guys on Mars?” Jae asked fearfully.
“No. There’s no more bad guys on Mars. See, when we picked Callisto, we were thinking about the future, unlike them. We knew Callisto would work as a base world. But not just that, we knew we needed water. And Europa is right next door. A whole planetoid full of water. So, we set up settlement cities. Like Ginsburg City.” Hal said, motioning out the window.
“They, however, wanted things to go back to their version of normal as soon as they could. So, they picked Mars because it was close to Earth and they could rebuild instantly. And to their credit, there were plenty of things going for Mars. It even had water at the poles. At least for a bit.”
“What happened?” Jae asked.
“They lived together for about ten years before new prejudices arose.
People like this, they’ll fight their own family for disagreeing with them. They had a civil war again. And the winners left Mars. They came after us here on Callisto.”
At this, Jae hugged himself closer to Hal. Lexi’s eyes were wide and full of fear.
Hal chuckled again. “Relax. We fought them off. See, they thought that just because we valued peace and tolerance, it meant that we would be weak. They thought that they could fly over here, blow up a few settlements and that we would surrender. We didn’t. We fought them back and after three years, we won. The ones that were left had no choice but to head back to Mars.”
“But by that point, the people who had stayed on Mars had grown stronger. And smarter. They locked up the survivors and made a deal with us. They would leave us alone, so long as they could have some of the water from Europa. We agreed.
And now they send ships every now and then to get water.”
“Wow. Did you fight the bad guys grandpa?”
“Yeah, I did. And I got hurt. I thought I was going to lose my leg.”
Hal patted his right leg for emphasis.
“But that was actually the best thing to happen to me.”
Both kids looked at him, shocked. “Why?” Lexi asked.
“Because your grandma was the nurse that patched me up. And after the war, we started dating and…” “EW.” both kids said at once as they jumped out of his lap and ran towards their bedrooms.
Hal chuckled one more time and shook his head before getting up and heading to bed.
Author: Shawn McDaniel II