©2012, Pete Sartucci and email@example.com
This is a work of Fiction. It is based in part on the Alternate History World known as “Dies the Fire,” written and copyrighted by S.M. Stirling in 2004. The author agrees to abide by the Stirling Fan Fiction site disclaimer. This work is copyrighted by Pete Sartucci and firstname.lastname@example.org in 2012, except for those parts derived from “Dies the Fire,” and its sequels, which are copyrighted by S. M. Stirling and used here by permission. All characters in this fiction are, in fact, fictional, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
The major carefully did not address him as ‘General Thurston’ today, Fred noted with approval. This was an occasion to scrupulously observe all the niceties of politics and protocol in the United States of Boise. Especially the ones he’d had to hammer into people’s thick heads by relentless insistence.
“Very good, Major McGuire. Signal commencement.”
McGuire did salute then, turned with a snap and began passing orders. Fred offered his arm, not to Virginia as he ordinarily would, but to his mother, who blinked.
Ginny smiled at her mother-in-law, rocking little Heidi slightly in her arms. “Today’s your day, Mom. Grab it.”
Cecile Thurston, wife of the first President of Boise and mother of the second and third, had spent the last few years gradually effacing herself from Boise politics. Partly because her surviving son’s position was secure and partly, Fred suspected, as an indirect brake on Ginny’s less-thoughtful public face. She hesitated a moment longer.
“He’d like you to,” Fred gently suggested, and a brief smile flicked across his mother’s features. She composed herself again with long practice and graciously took his arm. Ginny firmly grabbed little Carl’s hand and made sure the boy followed more-or-less obediently. Heidi’s nurse and old Jason the riding instructor following close behind helped police the kids. Young Lawrence, Fred’s nephew, walked stolidly with his younger cousins, but his mother had graciously chosen to be absent today taking care of her daughter, who ‘had a cold’.
Just as well, Fred reflected; while he and Mom had found it in their hearts to forgive Juliette, especially after the way she’d dedicated herself to the country’s betterment for the last five years, there were plenty who hadn’t, and maybe never would. Best to let that unhappy dog stay sleeping as much as possible.
Fred held his normally long-legged pace down to a dignified stroll as they went down the front steps. The warm June sunshine bathed the enclosed heart of Boise’s Citadel, from the empty eye-sockets of the old towers built into the walls (they hadn’t finished dismantling all their upper levels even yet – there was always so much to do) to the new young trees he’d had planted in rows along the edges.
The parade ground was jammed, the left side filled with every soldier who could be spared from active duty and also could wrangle assignment as a representative of his unit. The right was crowded with Idaho’s politicos, from the city and the surrounding counties and as many outlying districts as could make the trip — which was nearly all of them. This had been scheduled well in advance.
And only local politicos and local soldiers; the rest of Montival would have another date with history. This day was for Boise and her people and the others who shared a truly special bond, one to which Fred owed his very life.
The middle area, larger than both wings combined, overflowed with ordinary citizens. It looked like nearly everyone from the City and half the surrounding farms as well had jammed themselves into what he’d previously thought was a hell of a big space. There was barely room for any of them to fall down now, other than the carefully-marked-off and scrupulously-policed paths for emergencies. The sun was hot and the air was nearly still, thank the Gods, which also meant there’d probably be a few cases of sunstroke. Boise’s citizens were a lot more accustomed to being out in all weathers now than they had been thirty years ago, but some of these folks had lined up before dawn to get a place, and it was nearly eleven.
Their marked-off pathway led through the military contingent. Grave faces stared at him with a generation’s disciplined seriousness; the war against the CUT wasn’t long past in memory and the peace of the High King not old enough to have become habit yet. If Fred had his way, they’d stay battle-ready for another thirty years at least, even if Montival never fought another war — a land-based war, anyway, since it looked like the Haida were going to require another stern spanking this year. But that wouldn’t be Boise’s fight, thank Odin; the sea powers would deal with it.
Salutes flashed in a long rippling roll as Fred and his mother passed down the long line. Cicely Thurston nodded occasionally to men she knew personally; Fred kept his own face impassive and resisted the temptation to acknowledge any when there were so many — it’d take all day to reach the platform. At last they gained the bottom steps and he handed his mother up the short flight, then led her to the seat of honor. Ginny and the kids were settled in by unobtrusive aides and Fred took the podium.
Speeches had already been offered in plenty by others, partly to keep the inevitable early arrivals’ attention occupied during the long morning. The huge curtain behind him billowed in a stray breeze, then stilled. The white marble pillars in front of it gleamed. One of the old geezers in the political contingent had complained that the stone wasn’t as white as the Lincoln Memorial, whatever that was, and actually wanted Fred to persuade the Coloradoans to reopen some quarry in their mountains just to get the same rock!
Dad would have had a cow, Fred thought, hiding a grin with long discipline. But I don’t think he’d really mind what I did instead, even if he grumbled a little.
“My fellow citizens of the United States of Boise,” Fred began, pitching his voice to carry; he was a lot more practiced at it than he had been five years ago. A couple of the older faces still twitched at his substitution of ‘Boise’ for the formerly-traditional ‘America’, but Fred had won that argument years ago and didn’t intend to yield an inch on it now. “We meet today—“
The words flowed onward; he’d been working on this speech off and on for the last two years, while stonemasons labored and the city’s biggest foundry struggled with its largest-ever order. He had a dozen leather-lunged repeaters positioned about the audience to pass it on to the crowd; the time they’d spent rehearsing was paying off in near perfect unison with his own voice, all the more impressive since they were all facing away from him. He held to his iron schedule and completed the last syllable exactly as rehearsed. The repeaters’ voices died away even as his own did. The crowd was dead silent, all eyes forward.
Mom stepped forward at Fred’s signal and took the waiting rope. Fred laid his hand next to hers and they jerked it in unison. Pins popped loose and weighted cables unreeled, the huge curtain drew back majestically, exposing the fifty slender marble columns that made the front two-thirds of the structure an open porch. The near-noon sun shone down through the glass ceiling (that had been a hugely-expensive gift of the High King and Queen, brought all the way from Portland by barge up the Columbia to Lewiston and then hauled down to Boise on the rail lines rebuilt after the war). The light glowed on the tall bronze form partly-cupped within the curving back wall.
A reverent sigh swept the crowd, with a murmuring undertone. Fred knew what they were repeating, the words carved in three-foot-high letters on the walls left and right of the colossal statue. He repeated them himself, even though he’d had them before his mind for months already.
IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS
OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM
HE SAVED IDAHO,
THE MEMORY OF
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER.
Thank you, Dad.
❀ ❁ ❀ finis ❀ ❁ ❀