Tolerance for pain

Bai jumped across the colony’s esplanade with Shadowgrass.

“Mom told me that you’re one of the main reasons I’m here.”

“She did?”

“Something about your grandfather and a war?”

“She remembered!  That’s great.  Yes, my grandfather was a soldier a long time, during the period many on Earth call World War II.  He was a radio operator.”

“Dad told me about those.  Specialists who were responsible for sending signals between groups of people because they didn’t have a love/hate relationship with the ISSA Net yet.”

“Hmm…hahaha.  True.  But my grandfather is famous back home in the Philippines.  He was the man who first contacted General MacArthur, an American soldier in charge of many troops.”

Shadowgrass nodded, mentally scanning the information about World War II as they skipped and hopped.  “So how does that account for me?”

“Oh, yeah, it doesn’t make sense, does it?  Well, you see, my grandfather was a strict soldier which led to my father’s interest in discipline but for a totally different reason.  You’ve probably never heard of ‘Star Trek,’ have you?”  She watched his eyes flicker slightly.  “Well, I guess you know about it now?”

“Yes, Bai.”

“My father fell in love with the TV show.  It was like having his grandfather and all of his grandfather’s friends and uncles live the life of space soldiers.  When I was old enough, he made me watch every episode of the original TV series, all the spinoffs such as ‘Next Generation,’ up to ‘Enterprise,’ and, of course, the films as they were released.  Inside of you is a little bit of Data with a little bit of Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko.”

“Mom said you were able to infuse my genetic material with the propensity for personality traits of fictional characters.  How did you do it?”

Bai ran her gloved hand across her faceplate, intending to but unable to rub her eyes.  “Did Guin tell you I used to date Brannon Braga?”

“Huh-uh.”

“Yes.  He was the one who inspired me.  I hope I inspired him some, too.  His place in Melrose, not far from the film studios, was amazing.  I remember one party he had, it was a food bar from front to back.  You walked from his kitchen to the backyard, which opened onto an English garden, and then the pool…the pool…”  She stopped and looked up at the Martian sky.

“What is it, Bai?”

“He said he put me in one of his scripts.  I never asked him which one.”

Shadowgrass flipped a few times in the air, bounced up and down like a kangaroo and landed in a three-legged stance.  “Did he write about me?”

“No.  You are my creation.  I mean, it was me who gave your parents the idea to call you their son.”

Shadowgrass flipped up in the air and landed in a standard bipedal configuration.  “That’s what Mom said.  But I thought you might know something else.”

Bai heard a note of disappointment in Shadowgrass’ intonation of curiosity.

“Shadowgrass, you are a part of everyone’s life, don’t you know?  You are the culmination of our species’ achievements.  Do you know how many kids on Earth dream of being you, able to change out body parts on a whim, with superstrength and superspeed?”

“Yeah, but…”

Bai nodded.  She knew where Shadowgrass was taking his thoughts.  His mother, Guin, had been a competitive boxer from an early age, trained by her father, a former member of the U.S. Marines, with assistance from his military and boxing buddies.  Growing up on a farm, she had been kicked and stomped on by calves and cows, raising her pain tolerance above normal levels.  She had later become a ballerina before switching to a career in rocket science.

Shadowgrass wished he had his mother’s natural abilities, and didn’t have his enhanced abilities that made him so much more capable than his parents.

At age two, he had completed his space exploration vehicle.  When his parents were two, they were barely walking and talking.

That’s why Bai had asked to spend the afternoon with him.  He needed encouragement to take Martian society to places he couldn’t believe possible when he’ll look back in a few marsyears.

She couldn’t believe she was with him herself, remembering the nights decades earlier, alone with her thoughts when she was at her lowest, torn between her French lover and being near her children on the North American continent.

She wanted to teach Shadowgrass to embrace his emotional side and use the energy he generated to plant seeds in his thoughts that would sprout into giant oaks in no time.

She had done that for so many other people.  She knew she could get Shadowgrass to, too.

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