The Sixth Jovian War started in the year 2426 and I was only a child then. My parents, too poor for Earth but too weak for Mars, settled on Dione to dig up ice as white as salt, a water factory for the spacers. They loved me, I believe, and I loved them too, but I didn’t understand. They loved the future more.
I was four, five maybe, when a hover transport nearly killed me. But I was spry and bouncy, instead landing in a trash heap with only a few scratches, a broken finger. General Louis Artemis of Earth, on tour of the war zone, drove the transport. With him, his wife Antoinetta, his childless wife, ran screaming from the vehicle and pulled me from the trash. Her screams were not those of horror, but of elation.
“Louie,” she cried, “Do you see how Mother Universe saw fit to grace me with this child?”
My momma, sluggishly lagging behind my childhood sprint, stood confused in the doorway of the factory, looking from me to the wife, then up toward the large dome enclosing our settlement. She seemed like she wanted to run, or hide, or embrace me, yet she did nothing.
Antionetta rushed up to her, all the while dragging me—wet faced and sniffling—along for the ride. “Are you this child’s mother?” she asked and was answered by a quick nod. “Where is the father?”
“Dead,” Momma said, “Fifteen minutes past. Fallen beneath an ice combine.”
I cried anew. The reason I’d run away. My father, crushed before my eyes.
“I’m very sorry,” Antoinetta said, though I don’t think she sounded very sorry at all. “How will you now afford this child?”
Momma shook her head. She looked so fragile with her salt-streaked face and lanky hair. Lost. Desperate. Too desperate for even the Ice Mines of Dione.
“Let me adopt this baby,” Antoinetta said without hesitation, “We have a good life on Earth. The best education. You’ll be compensated.”
It didn’t take Momma long to agree, her features downturned, shoulders sagging as if in relief. She didn’t even hug me as she turned her back to leave. She still loved me, I believe, and I loved her. But she loved the money more.
* * *
The Seventh Jovian War started in the year 2440. I was 18, maybe 19, newly graduated from Earth’s Starfield Academy. I joined the army, following in the footsteps of my adopted father, now retired. It was easy to get in. No one knew I came from Dione. That I was an icer’s child. I hadn’t heard from Momma for some months (or had it been years?) her messages curt two- or three-liners which always ended the same way.
Be good. Never give them a reason to doubt you. Your father loves you.
I never knew if she was referring to my biological father or my adopted father, but I decided I didn’t really care. It was enough to know she still loved me, or at least I think she did. She never said it directly.
I shipped out on my first assignment, a ship battle in the asteroid belt separating my new home from my old one. It didn’t seem real. The war always felt far away; as if it were happening to someone else, in some other dimension. Yet I fought dutifully, rising to the rank of captain in just a few short years. The Interstellar Army, who’d lost many leaders, must have been getting desperate to have given me that promotion.
The Jovian resistance had been gaining ground. Unsatisfied workers, the children of workers, staged one attack after another. But when an attack came on a Belt Station One, the most valuable of the ore-extraction stations, things grew extra bloody. The shuttle of General Artemis, my father, mysteriously exploded while on a diplomatic mission. I didn’t think it was a mystery, and neither did the Earthen High Marshal. The death of an interstellar general, even a retired one, was serious stuff. She sent the fight to the Jovian collective.
Fighting on Ganymede, Dione, Enceladus—through rock, ice, and fire—the combined might of Earth, Mars, and the Belt Battalions quickly neutralized the Jovian Resistance. I accompanied the army on its last mission, to the ice mines of Dione, the home I’d known for only a few short years. What did I hope to find there? My mother? The remains of my dead father, some sixteen years past?
Instead, I found a flattened landscape. Domes shattered. Rubble piled high like Mars’s Olympus Mons. Bodies strewn about the boulevards. A warning to all those who defied the most powerful nation in the own solar system.
Even still, I wandered into my neighborhood, the heavy boots of my space suit making deep prints in the powdery ice. There was no wind to blow them away. Where had my house been? Was I stupid to even try and look? It’s not like Momma would be there.
Then I recognized something: the white bricks of our small courtyard, cracked and pitted from years of neglect, peeking out from a pile of trash. Throwing myself into the pile, reenacting a similar fall those many years ago, I dug for the brick. When I found the inscription, it was just as I remembered it. Three handprints: one large, one slender, and one tiny. The date: 2426.
Three handprints of a family owning their first home, even if the home was on cold, harsh Dione. The prints reminded me of our hope. Our love. After all these years, I realized with a cold shock that I still loved my birth parents. And I believe they loved me too, though they loved themselves more.
About the Author
Lyndsie Clark is a Colorado-based writer, editor, linguist, sword fighter, and all-around sci-fi geek. When she’s not crafting stories that delve into the essence of friendship, love, and the human condition, she can be found cuddling one of her household’s five cats or digging in the dirt of her garden.