By David K Scholes
“It wasn’t always like this,” I told my young grandson James as we sat together in one of the above ground secure observation pods looking out at the stars.
“What was it like then,” inquired James, genuinely curious, “back when you were young,” he added. He turned around and looked at me with a cheeky grin on his face. It always seemed to me that he had acquired a sense of humour beyond his years. Or maybe that was now true of many of his age.
“Ah!” I said sort of playing along with him “back when your old grandad was just a boy, eh! Well, for one thing we used to live permanently above the ground and for another there were a lot more stars in the sky.”
I started the long story which had only partly unfolded when his mother was of the same age. Of the interstellar wars, escalating to the Universe War, the Multiverse War then finally, as the losers tried to wrest away the inevitably of their defeat, the totally useless inter-temporal war.
Of course he wanted to know absolutely everything just as his Mum did before him.
At some point in the telling of it, I must have wandered off in my thought processes. Talking of the past I had started to relive a part of it. “Grandad,” James called out concerned, “grandad are you all right?” His little frame was about to start shaking me.
No reasonable grand parent, human or any of the aliens I ever came across, would willingly want to see their children or grandchildren inherit a poorer world than they themselves had known. An inherent desire for things to be better for the next generation. Even with all of the selfishness of man. Yet sometimes this just could not be. Sometimes just to survive was enough.
At one point after I mentioned my time as a star trooper James interrupted me.
“You were very brave, grandad,” he said earnestly. It was more of a question than an assertion. One seeking a favourable response. .I hesitated for just a moment. I’d never lied to either of my grandchildren and I wasn’t about to start now. Yet there were different ways of telling the truth. It could be softened a little without lying.
“We did what we could,” I responded enigmatically. “To survive, to stop our enemies before they reached Earth. You know that no matter how our historians like to interpret it we were very much one of the junior partners in the whole thing.”
“You were there though grandad; you were one of the star troopers that stopped them at Alvaren 4?" He spoke the name of the world synonymous with the greatest battle Earth ever faced with a quiet reverence. Much as my great great grandfather’s generation might have referred to the battle of Stalingrad. “Mum says you don’t like to talk about it,” he added. I nodded. The horrors of it all, only some of which I had managed to keep out of my conscious thoughts, now starting to flood back in. Starting to overwhelm me. There were things we did that none of us were proud of. Things that were best left unsaid. I would never glorify war for my grandson but neither did I want to totally disillusion him.
James could see that his old grandad was struggling to keep it all together. As the tears started to roll down my cheeks he held my hand firmly and patted me and said “it’s all right grandad, its okay to cry.”
It was only then that I realised that which I should have known for some time.
Looking down at James, I realised they were stronger than us. His generation was stronger than mine and stronger than his mother’s generation. With everything that had happened, all that they had been denied; his generation did not hold it against us. My generation or his mothers. He understood, his generation understood, how it was.
Looking down at him again he managed that cheeky grin of his. “It will be all right grandad, everything will be okay.”
There was optimism with the strength. I knew it was a strength and an optimism that this new generation were going to need.
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The author has written six collections of sci-fi short stories and two sci-fi novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to both the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and has also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites. He is currently working on a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and also a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site