The World Builder

Michael C. Pennington

His teenaged granddaughter, Marina Gale, perched near him at a work bench. She leaned against his large shoulder and watched him assemble the world builder. With each part he connected, she quietly rattled off the name and purpose. When his hands paused after each part, she informed him which was next. Until his right hand lifted a large conductor out of sequence.

“Grandpa, you’re trying to trick me. The DNA transfer node comes next.” The brown ponytail slashed back and forth in front of his nose as she reached across him to pick up a tiny piece and plugged it into the board.

“Well, you’re such a smarty pants why don’t you finish it?” He couldn’t help but tease her.  Let alone spoil her.  All of his other children and grandchildren were off carrying out his good work, and loneliness tended to crowd into his busy schedule.

The Lord had commanded him to populate the great void. Few world builders could be entrusted with such a worthy mission. This particular grandchild promised to be of great help.

In response, her small hands flashed across the remaining parts and in a matter of minutes the apparatus lay before them. Placing a memory key in the slot on top, she leaned back against him once more. Her petite hand waved to cover a fake yawn and she affected a pretense at sleep.

“I see that you have been paying attention after all.” He flashed a smile at her when she turned her face up at him. Those green eyes reminded him of her mother, another fine world builder.

“Of course.” She kissed him on the cheek, jumped up and walked around the work station to stand before a viewing plasma field. “So do we have a deal? I get to populate the next world?”

“Only if you provide a synopsis and a regular report. I’ll not risk a failure. It is a sad thing to exterminate a whole world’s ecosystem due to lack of attention.”

Marina turned, her eyes large, wearing the expression he recognized as sincerity. “Grandpa, I promise to pay attention to my work. And I certainly won’t disappoint you.”


Marina Gale puzzled over the main diet of her latest creation. She couldn’t bring herself to make the mammal entirely a carnivore.  If left alone, it would probably kill all the other species on the planet in no time.  The idea didn’t appeal to her, so she toned down the aggressiveness, leaving just enough for self-survival. Then to make sure, she added a little more self-awareness to its traits.

She wanted to impress her grandfather, to show him how well she could do, so that she would be able to continue world building. Marina knew he started teaching her all those years ago because he wanted a helper. She couldn’t fail him.

She pursed her lips, stared at the plot on the plasma field that stretched several feet in each direction. Focusing on the land masses, they flashed into visual reality. “I’m going to make very sure you prove worthy.”

The tweak on the ecosystems variable tolerances for mild climates briefly satisfied her worries. Until her fear that there wouldn’t be enough food returned. Her dominant species should have a rich agricultural environment to populate their world. She herself liked to run her hands through the soil of the creation labs. She counted the plant groups that could be domesticated to be sure there were plenty of seed varieties.

The fingers of her right hand tapped on the surface of the world builder’s integration control. “There’s something else,” she whispered. Her eyes settled beyond the solar system’s orbital pattern. “Outside interference. Of course. I’ve been so worried about the world, I forgot about an older race finding you.”

Marina stretched the ethereal void from the other systems with which her grandfather had populated the universe. On the system’s outer planets she hid sensors to detect interference from other systems. She rationalized that the extra precaution wasn’t cheating, noting the change in the main index. A little stressed, she searched the profiles on her grandfather’s worlds and finally was forced to deem their populations peaceful enough.

Another aspect of outer interference occurred to her.  She amassed a large planet to protect the home world from asteroids, the immense gravity well would draw the larger rogue objects in. As a second precaution, she added a little more size to her home planet’s moon for a closer shield. To be sure she didn’t create another problem, she pushed the moon out in orbit a little further, concerned the moon’s pull would affect the tidal systems. The remaining planets could pick up the odd stuff, she decided, and adjusted their rotation times and orbits.

Unconvinced, and after tedious meditation, she noticed how much the lone planetary system stuck out from the rest. Believing they would achieve high in science and need the room for expansion. She created new solar systems with worlds for her dominant species to eventually populate as they grew.

Weary, but happy with her preparation, she darkened the plasma field to put her project away. She had worked on the world’s development almost nonstop. Her devotion to her grandfather’s trust fueled her diligence. A rest period would smooth the worries that plagued her.

However, despite her determination to take a break, aspects of her creations ran rampant through her thoughts. Little worries haunted her decisions. One little change could influence so many others.

She lay down on her meditation cloud and her eyes brimmed with tears. Fear that she would fail clung to her thoughts, just out of reach where she couldn’t brush them away. Her inability to put this irrational self-doubt aside overwhelmed her. She had believed building worlds would be fun; she hadn’t considered the serious aspects of failure.

The realization of why her grandfather sometimes cloistered himself when he worked on a special project dawned on her. She sat up, her hand stretched out for the world controller.  The shiny, irregular construct floated within her reach. The bright blue script of her notes popped onto the plasma field. Her eyes narrowed and her thoughts went back to polishing little details.

Her world project took shape. Determined, she studied the intricacy of the species she now considered her first children.

They were fair to look upon. Along with their gentle spirits, she added a tendency for animal husbandry. Dissatisfied yet, she threw in a desire to build, to create art, to make music and a preference to love their children. She made them a curious species, gifting them with a yearning to learn.

What else could she do? Had she forgotten some little detail that would bring her world to disaster? Would the newest adjustment work? Questions concerning her abilities were prominent in her mind.


She felt her grandfather take shape beside her. When she turned and looked up to face him, his kindly eyes searched hers. She finally broke down, drawing the strength from within herself to tell him.

“Grandpa, I need more time.”

“I expected that you would have been done my now.”

Marina burst into tears, though she struggled not to. She wasn’t a child, but the stress of her endeavor crept upon her. “I’m sorry, Grandpa, I really tried. I know how long you have waited for another helper. You’ve given years of your time to my training.”

“My dear, what has happened?” His words of concern enhanced her fear.



She caught her breath, sighed, stiffened her back and prepared herself to admit defeat. “I can’t bring myself to activate the final phase of my project. I’m afraid that I missed something crucial.”

Her grandfather raised an open palm to her plasma field and streamed her computations through his awareness. He turned and smiled at her, grasped her hands and paused for dramatic affect. He raised his index finger, moving the large digit toward her eyes until they crossed. “Let me adjust your attitude concerning irrational fear.”


“What?” he laughed at her.

Her eyes narrowed with added doubt and then sought assurance as his finger traveled back to where her eyes focused. “Am I programmed?” she asked with indignity.

“Only through my genes, dearest one.”

She finally took a gulp of air. “Good. For a moment I thought… I might be worrying over some silly little thing. I mean who should care?”

Her grandfather quickly held his finger back up at just where her eyes crossed again. “Your project?” he prompted.

She shuddered. “I’ve been afraid that I would fail and disappoint you.”

“Marina, sometimes you just have to let them go. The proper test is to see how they fare. You have to trust that your frame of mind during creation brings about true quality.”

“My world looks okay?”

“Beautiful.” He reached his arm around her and pulled her close to his side.

“Thank you, Grandfather.”

“You’re welcome. Um, Marina?”

“Yes, Grandpa?

“Whatever made you choose an earth and water world?”

“Do you remember the story you used to tell me about the little mermaid?”

“You didn’t?”

“Hey, they can walk on land too.”