Antiga Prime, 13th December 2540
Official residence of Admiral Jason Davis (retired)
Looking around the room, I smiled at the happy scenes of those close to me. My youngest daughter, Selina, was finally celebrating her 18th birthday and coming of age, so our extended friends and family had turned out in force to celebrate it with us. The old house we had built after the war was practically groaning at the seams, barely containing both the sheer number of people and the cheerful atmosphere produced by everyone inside. Selina herself was flitting around the room, eyes sparkling with a mixture of pleasure and mischief, mixing with the guests and generally enjoying herself. Against the wall, the eldest of my children, 26-year-old Kath, was watching the organised chaos with her own degree of amusement at the antics of her younger sibling. That wasn't surprising, as she had certainly inherited her mother's (and my own) mischievous nature. Like me, however, she preferred to stay out of the spotlight and quietly observe unless she needed to get involved. She saw no need to take the limelight off her younger sister. Her 22-year-old brother, and the middle child of the three, James, generally followed his older sister's example, although he mixed in the party more closely than Kath, staying close enough to keep a protective eye on Selina in case she found herself deeper than she expected. The low hum of conversation filled the room, along with occasional bursts of laughter. Drinking in the pleasant feelings from the entire affair, I smiled as I saw my wife slipping back to my side.
"Hard to believe they're all grown up." She smiled softly.
I snorted. "Seems like yesterday they were all running around, causing chaos, doesn't it?"
She fixed a stern eye on me. "That would be because it was yesterday. And you were no better, you always encouraged that. They definitely all got that from you."
I chuckled. "And I suppose you raised them to be little angels. You're as guilty as I am, milady."
She shrugged. "Did you have a point in there somewhere?"
"No, dear. Just making an observation."
She laughed softly. "Come on, you shouldn't be lurking on the edge." Despite my half-hearted protests, she dragged me into the centre of the maelstrom.
For the next few hours, I allowed myself to be lost in the middle of the party, catching up with old friends and generally enjoying myself. Finally, though, the party ended, and the majority of the guests drifted out, with only our oldest and closest friends and older adult children remaining overnight. With a final good night, we all headed off to bed ourselves, relaxing after a long, but undeniably pleasant day.
Years of habit had me awake early the next morning, but the incentive of having my beautiful wife snuggled close against me and the lack of any reason to get up meant I was disinclined to move anywhere. Finally, however, the morning progressed enough that I couldn't stay put any longer. Giving her a gentle kiss and a whispered good morning, I slipped out of bed, dressing and heading downstairs to start breakfast. I was more than a little surprised to find all three of my children already there, waiting for me with the table set and breakfast slowly heating on the stove. My eyes flicked from one to the other, before staring around the room exaggeratingly.
"Ok, so what traps have you set today?" I jokingly demanded.
All three started back with picture perfect innocent faces. "Dad, we have no idea what you're talking about." Selina said sweetly.
James did a perfect impression of being hurt. "We do something nice for Mum and you, and you accuse us of trying to prank you."
"Yes, because I know all three of you." I replied, eyes narrowed. While there were the somewhat joking impressions that I would normally expect in a situation like this, there was an undertone of seriousness that I hadn't expected to see, particularly in Kath's eyes. Whatever was going on, this wasn't just a prank, or possibly not even a prank at all. "Spill it."
A nervous glance was exchanged between all three. "Can you get Mum, please?" Kath asked. "And probably Auntie Sarah and Uncle Jim as well?"
I nodded slightly, a pit beginning to form in my gut at the possible scenarios that this implied. "I'll be back."
As I left the room, I saw Jim and Sarah's own three kids, 28-year-old Matt, 26-year-old Liddy and 24-year-old Rory looking sheepishly at me. I inclined my head as I looked at them.
"You three in on this as well? I asked quietly.
"More or less." Matt replies, looking me in the eye.
I sighed. "Why doesn't that surprise me. I'll get your parents then."
Cursing under my breath, I headed back upstairs, to see Jim emerging from their guest room. The smile on his face faded as he saw me.
"I was going to say good morning, but I'm not sure if that's going to be appropriate. What's wrong?"
"The kids want to talk to us. All of us." I said shortly. "Made breakfast and everything."
Jim exhaled. "I see why you're concerned. I'll get Sarah up." Without another word, he turned back into their room as I continued back to ours. As I slipped inside, the vision of beauty I was greeted with rewarded me with a soft smile. Like Jim's, however, it vanished as she took in my expression.
"What's going on?"
I swallowed. "Both our kids and the Raynor's children want to talk to all of us. I can't think of many topics that they'd all want to discuss with us."
Her face paled. "Except the war."
I nodded grimly. "We did keep putting them off with 'Tell you when you're older'. Don't really have any more room to hold it off." In an effort to be somewhat more light-hearted, I continued, "On the plus side, they did make breakfast. And it doesn't even seem to be rigged this time."
She snorted. "Well, at least there's some good news." Finishing her preparations, she walked over to me. "Shall we face the music, then?"
"Indeed, milady." I replied, offering my arm.
As we made our way downstairs, Jim and Sarah emerged from their own room, looking about as happy as we felt. None of us spoke as we re-joined our children. Breakfast was a silent affair, and it didn't improve as we adjourned to the living room. All of them looked rather nervous now, and silence filled the room uncomfortably. Finally, I sighed and sat down.
"Come on, spit it out. You've got something you want to say and we're all here."
Everyone else also sat, with the tension continuing to build up, until Selina finally spoke.
"None of you have ever really spoken about the war. We've all been taught about it in school, but it's always felt a little off. Like there was something missing."
"Told you," Sarah said, holding her hand out. Grumbling, Jim handed over a few credit bills. A brief chuckle ran through the room at the actions of the elder Raynors.
I faced Selina. "We've never spoken about it because those aren't times that we're particularly fond of remembering. Those were far from the best days of our lives, sweetheart."
Sarah said softly. "We all have our demons that we still have to face from then. Even now."
"We know." Kath said quietly. "Even with what we do know, it can't have been an easy time for any of you. But we just want to understand."
Matt grimaced. "There's a lot of discussion about what happened. A lot of people think there's a bunch of holes in the official history and, well, given everything..."
Jim groaned. "Of course, everyone's asked you what the 'real' story is. Vultures."
"It's not exactly unexpected." Sarah said softly. "Kids will be like that, you know that."
"I'm surprised you waited so long to ask." My wife commented to the young adults opposite us.
James shrugged. "That was my idea. It wasn't fair for us to ask when we couldn't all get the answers. So, we had to wait for the baby here to grow up." Selina slapped at his arm in annoyance, but it did its job, drawing another chuckle out of everyone.
I closed my eyes in frustration. I had honestly hoped that this day would never come. While the final destination had proven to be a good one, the journey we had endured to get there had been utter torture, for us and the whole sector. It was rare to find a veteran of the wars who would willingly talk at length about what had happened. Given what we had done, and witnessed, we were no exception to that, and all of our children knew that very well.
But all three had also inherited my sheer bloody-minded determination and stubbornness and I knew that the simple dismissal like I wanted to go with was going to go down like a crippled battlecruiser. I sighed and exchanged glances with the others. I saw the same reluctant understanding in them that I felt myself. My wife reached out, grabbing my hand. "You can't shield them forever, Jason. You knew we had to tell them everything at some point."
"I know." I sighed. "Doesn't mean I won't try." I fixed my attention back on them. "You're right in that the "official" history doesn't have the full story. That's because very few actually knew the full story to begin with. It wasn't something we did deliberately, but when it came about, we didn't feel the need to correct the account. At least not enough for us to do anything about actually doing it."
"I think we were more relieved than anything else." Jim agreed. "Not having everyone trying to judge us on what we actually did with the benefit of hindsight was definitely a good thing."
The children looked horrified. "But some of the things people say-" Rory started.
"We know, son. Better than you may think." Sarah replied.
"It's easier and safer for people to judge us on a lie, than the truth." My wife said softly. "We all have blood on our hands from those days and not all of it was from our enemies."
I stared at them in challenge. "You're determined to know the truth? Even though knowing it will change everything?"
Kath stared back unflinchingly. "We are." She answered firmly.
My wife and I exchanged glances, before she pulled out a small memory drive that she had concealed within our room. "We're not going to give you the full story just yet. It's not a small undertaking. What we will give you is the beginning of the story."
I took over from where she had left off. "That contains my account of what happened during the first war. From the fall of the Confederacy and onwards. I started putting it together after the Brood Wars and expanded it ever since."
"Be warned, it is just your father's memories of what happened. We helped him with places, but it's his thoughts and impressions that are within." Sarah warned Kath.
"Given his role in everything, though, you'll find it to be fairly exhaustive. If you want the full story, that's where you'll find it." Jim added.
I held up a hand to forestall any questions. "Read it first. Then we can discuss it. None of us want to relive it more than we have to."
Kath held the drive up and all six children looked at it like it was the Holy Grail. "Thank you." Kath whispered.
I smiled slightly. "Go on, scoot. I'm sure you all want to get into it."
With murmured thanks, the six all stood, hugged us and left us in peace. We watched them leave, then slumped back into our chairs.
"Well, that just happened." Jim commented.
"Yeah." Sarah agreed. "This isn't going to be an easy time afterwards."
Each of us were silent, lost in our memories of times long past. Finally, Jim stirred and looked at me.
"Did you ever decide what to call it all?" He asked. "I know you never really had a name for it when you started?"
"The entire account, no. But I did name what we just gave the kids. Thought of something rather appropriate in the end.
Sarah looked interested. "What did you come up with?" She asked.
I smiled slightly. "When One Domino Falls."
So, I decided to write this as a little intro into the whole story, to help explain a few things. Bit late for it, given how advanced the story is now, but oh well. Hope you all enjoy this!
Until next time.