JAAD-6 assaulters showed off strike maneuvers, making thunderclaps as they broke the speed of sound five times over. A small girl cringed from the explosions and clung to her father’s knee. “Take me home, Daddy,” she screamed to make herself heard. “Please!”
Against the backdrop of stars and their world’s three moonlets, fireworks burst in a rainbow of colors that eerily resembled the laser cannon discharges of the Rognih warships. He shivered a little, remembering the genocidal battles he’d watched as a helpless boy. “Not just yet, Squirrel. We’re here to celebrate Altruism Day.”
He picked his daughter up and held her tight. She calmed in his arms. Together they watched ISI-47 guardcraft whirl and dip in perfect unison. “Daddy?”
“Why is this called Aldrum … Altrish …”
“Altruism Day?” He couldn’t help smiling at his little girl’s lips curled in a pout. She hated to get anything wrong. But he motioned with his head, prompting her to look at the ISI-47s again. “That’s how we won the war against the Spiders. We humans will give our lives to protect our loved ones.”
He paused, swallowing the lump of sadness that rose in his throat. “Your grandma died protecting our colony. She flew an ISI, just like those up there. We were losing the war. Our railguns and nuclear missiles couldn’t get through the energy shields around the Rognih ships. But your grandma had an idea. A brave and generous idea. She thought maybe a whole ISI could break through the energy shields, so she crashed her ship into a Rognih ship. It worked. Her ISI’s nuclear engine blew the Spiders and their ship to millions of tiny pieces. So the rest of the ISI pilots did the same, crashing into other Rognih ships. And the Spiders didn’t know how to fight warriors who gladly die to save everyone else. Human altruism beat them.”
“And I’m named for Grandma?” Now she sat tall in his arms, her eyes wide and shining as she watched the military display far above them.
“You’re named for a hero.”
“I want to be a hero, too.”
His daughter looked at him again, the serious expression on her small face a perfect echo of his mother’s. He reminded himself to smile at her.
But when she looked away, he blinked back tears. With all his heart, he hoped that his little girl never got a chance to be a hero.