Playing With Fire

An Earth 2 fan fiction

by

Douglas Neman

"Happy birthday to you!" they sang, in a shrieking cacaphony of discord. "Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Danziger-errrrrrr! Happy birthday to yooooouuuuuuu!"

Danziger buried his face into his pillow and sighed, wondering which one of them he would kill first. Devon, probably, for letting them in.

True sat on the the bed next to him and said, "Poor dad, having to wake up like that. You don't mind do you?" She smiled so sweetly.

She would be next, thought Danziger. No respect for her elder.

"Come on, John," Devon leaned over, whispering into her husband's ear. "Rise and shine." Her voice lowered even further, and she tantalizingly said, "After all, you don't want to be rude by lying in bed when we have guests, do you?"

They were going to pay. They were all going to pay. Just as soon as he got up.

"Oh come on, Danziger!" Morgan said. "It's not every day you get to wake up in your own bedroom to a rousing chorus of beautiful music! It's better than an alarm clock. Just think, we could come here and wake you up like this every morning!"

Morgan, he thought. He would be next.

Realizing that he would have to show something akin to a social greeting, he raised his head from the pillow, stubble and all, and looked blearily at Devon. "You let them in, didn't you?"

"I wanted to do something special for your birthday!" she grinned. "And you've been working so hard on building the colony archive building. So I invited everyone over to wake you up with a song. You know, give you a fresh start to your day!"

"Start running, woman," he mumbled.

"Oh, I like it when you talk to me like that," she said, and kissed him quickly.

"Come on dad," True said, and tossed some clothes at him. They landed with a soft plop on his head, and he made no effort to move them. "Get dressed and come outside. We've got breakfast, and a special present for you."

"It better be the promise of taking singing lessons," he said.

"Better!" she grinned, then moved the clothes aside to kiss him on the cheek. "Come on! We're waiting."

Laughing, the group of people he'd gotten to know while hiking across the planet several years ago left his bedroom.

Two minutes ago, he'd been sound asleep. If there was a God who had any sense of justice, he'd still be asleep. But just because it was the unfortunate anniversary of the day of his birth – and because he'd been stupid enough to marry a woman who was a morning person – they all thought it would be fun to come into his bedroom and make sure his day was utterly and completely ruined before it even began.

"Happy birthday," he mumbled.

 

He stumbled out into the den of the small prefab house he and Devon had called home for the past three years. Although the colony now numbered over a thousand people, and they had made many new friends, there still existed a special bond among the fifteen surviving members of Eden Advance – something forged by sharing hardships others could only imagine.

Morgan and Bess were there, with little Amelia. Julia and Alonzo also had their little one, and so did Cameron and Magus, and Denner and Baines.

Zero stood in one corner of their house, like always. Danziger could have sworn that even the robot was one of the ones who had sung to him earlier. Wasn't the wretched thing programmed not to harm people? He would have to have a talk with Zero. Make sure that his definition of harm included "unnecessary singing" and "waking the man of the household before he's ready to get up."

Sitting on their dining table, by the sunlit window, was a cake Devon had made. Such a thing would have been impossible a couple of years ago, but the sugar cane and other crops which they'd brought with them from Earth had finally taken to the alien soil last year. So things like birthday cakes could be made again.

He wondered what this special present was that they'd gotten for him. It wasn't as if he was in need of anything, and even after three years, some materials were scarce.

They sat and talked for a while, and Devon made John light a single candle (they couldn't find the number of candles they really needed, she said with a wink) and blow it out. He did all of this dutifully, sighing extravagantly like it was all beneath him. But none of them were fooled.

They sat him down in a chair and Ulysses brought him a single gift. It wasn't wrapped, but it was in a box, a little less the size of the cake they'd just devoured.

"This had better make up for the singing," Danziger said.

"Oh, it will," Devon told him, and glanced at Bess with a knowing look. Alonzo could barely keep his grin in check, nodding to Baines that they should get ready. When the moment came, they wouldn't have long to act.

Danziger opened the box and found a thin cotton shirt folded inside. Cotton was one of the crops they were having trouble with, so it must have been difficult to get this together.

"Oh, guys," he said. "You shouldn't have." He pulled it out and held it up, only to discover that there was writing on the front of it.

The shirt read:

 

So many Grendlers.

So little time.

 

Danziger just stared at the shirt for a moment, and the room was deathly silent. Alonzo and Baines were biting their lips to keep from laughing, and Walman was practically doubled over. But no one said a word.

Then Danziger said calmly, "You're all dead."

"Run!" Alonzo yelled, and suddenly cascades of laughter burst out of the Danziger household, followed by the members of Eden Advance themselves, as they scattered for cover.

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