©2011, Chris Hunter
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 Chris Hunter in 2011, 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, except where it is intentional and has the knowledge and consent of the named persons, who already know who they are and are mentally ready for the nasty things done to their namesakes.
Monday April 5th, 5:00 AM 2021. CY 23
Colonel’s Row, Fort Courage, Commonwealth of Duluth (Formerly Northern Minnesota/Wisconsin)
Colonel Jeffrey C. Pavalka, commander 1st Pathfinder Group, Commonwealth of Duluth, knew he was having a nightmare. He’d gotten good at it over the years. With what he did before and after the Change it was only to be expected. Over the last ten years or so he’d begun to number them; it made keeping track of them easier. The one that was coming up he liked to refer to as nightmare #3.
It started out the same way it always did, he was sitting at the bar in Waltzing Matilda’s just outside of Clark Air Force base in the Philippines, a cold San Miguel beer (on the rocks the way God intended it to be drunk) in his hand. He and his team had just spent the last six weeks working with the Philippine Scout Rangers at Fort Magsaysay and were enjoy a little R&R. And, like young warrior princes, who had again played and won in the great game, they were enjoying themselves. The beer was cold, the steaks were on the grill in back, and the bar girls as pretty as ever. The only downside for Jeff was that he was feeling a little guilty for eyeing the bar girls. But what the hell, Linda always said she knew he was going to look, he was a man after all, but if he ever did more she would turn him into a frog. So what the hell, the beer was cold, he had a plate of lumipa fresh from the wok, the steaks were almost done, and the scenery was nice. Most of all he was ALIVE!!!! Alive in a way most people who have never faced death ever knew about and right now life was good!
Bobby had just walked through the door and he knew what was coming. As soon as he entered the bar things would go into slow motion, and he would once again have to watch as a NPA terrorist put three bullets into his friend’s back and then escape into the crowded street.
But then things changed, instead of getting shot, Bobby walked up to the bar, ordered a beer, smiled, and said, “We interrupt this nightmare to bring you these important announcements.” Then he started laughing and slapped Jeff on the back and said, “How the hell are you, you fucking bastard! Sorry to interrupt your nightmare, but dude, come on! It’s been over thirty fucking years! You, my friend, have been carrying that old baggage around way too long! And just for the record, going over to Super Heads with me to get an ice job from one of the girls wouldn’t have changed things. All that would have happened is that asshole would have gotten you instead of me. Jesus! You’re the only guy I know who would feel guilty for not cheating on his wife. So climb down off the cross, use the lumber and nails to build a bridge, and get the fuck over it!”
“Fuck you, Bobby!“ Jeff replied, shock and anger in his voice. “Who the fuck are you to be lecturing me, and just what the fuck is going on!? Am I dead? If so, it isn’t what I expected. Or am I just going crazy?”
“No, to the first; it never is to the second; and the crazy part is still up for debate. But seriously, buddy, we have to talk and I only have a short time. So, how about you just shut up and listen, OK?”
“Ok, but I say again, just what in the fuck is going on?”
“Well, if Linda were here she would say I’m here as a representative of the Powers. But it really doesn’t matter, what matters is that you, my friend, are once again involved is someone else’s little civil war.”
“Cut the crap, Bobby; my wife’s the witch, not me. The closest I’ve ever come to religion since leaving the church was knowing there is at least one God and it damn sure ain’t me. So I think I’ll just wake up now. Good seeing you and all but this is just getting too weird, even for me.”
“It would have been easier if you had stayed Catholic; they’re sending some serious players out to visit people. I heard a rumor that The Virgin Mary herself went out and paid a personal visit to some priest. There was some talk about sending Saint Michael to see you, and they had just about decided to send Saint Barbie, but I convinced them that you would have just written them off as a dream.
“You screwed me out of meeting St. Barbie! God damn it Bobby, I would have liked to meet her! Thanks a lot, bro! So just who are you suppose to be? Saint Bobby the oversexed? Patron saint of men seeking blow jobs?”
Bobby snorted beer out his nose and started laughing, “That’s great! I got to remember that one! Sorry about Babs though, she’s way cool, in a geeky gun bunny sapper sort of way. But look, bro, it could have been worse. If you had gone pagan like your wife, you would have gotten Odin, and he’s not exactly happy with the Airborne right now, so this is probably for the best.”
“Why’s he unhappy with us?”
“Ever since the Change, he has first dibs on all warrior types when they die. And ever since you guys arrived in Duluth every Paratrooper who arrives at the gates of Valhalla refuses to enter. Oh they are very polite about it, otherwise he’d be really pissed off, but each and every one of them say they are American Soldiers and won’t serve under any King, Prince or Potentate, but only under a duly elected Commander and Chief.”
“So is this why you’re here? To tell me to tell the kids to be nice to Father Odin when they die? You know that ain’t gonna happen, bro!”
“No! What I’m here for is to be a representation of; for lack of a better term, ‘The Powers that Be’. Taking a form and approaching you in a manner that you would feel comfortable with so I could tell you a few things you need to know. So, shut up and listen kid. I’m not fucking around here. What I said earlier, that you and every one who made it to Duluth is now involved in someone else’s civil war, I’m not kidding. And this puppy is one hell of a lot bigger then the bush wars we fought in the 80’s! The players behind it make the US, Soviets, and Chinese look like ants by comparison. Worse yet, you and your people seriously threw a monkey wrench into someone’s plans just by surviving.”
“OK, assuming I’m not crazy, and this isn’t a dream, and you are some representative of some all powerful force, just how did we manage to screw up their plan?”
“Same way we did back in the Triangle, by surviving. Remember how bat shit crazy the company and State went over that one? Look, you’re going to have to trust me on this because I can’t explain everything, but one of the authors of this little drama you people call the Change decided very early on that except for a chosen few, all you military types were suppose to die early in the story. Oh, it would have been a noble death, sacrificing yourselves to try and save what was left of civilization. But bottom line you’re all suppose to be dead. Some of us tried to explain that even God can’t tell the Airborne something’s impossible, but let’s just say that while he listened to us, he had plans of his own. So what we have right now is a serious fucking anomaly, something not accounted for in the story line. Like a fiction within a fiction for lack of a better term.”
“So just what are we suppose to do? Because I’ll tell you straight up — mass suicide is so not an option.”
“Kind of figured that. No. All you have to do is stay out of the up-coming war.”
“That’s it. Unless and until the Creator of all this decides to let you in, and believe me you’ll know if that happens, just stay a fiction in a fiction.”
“OK. I don’t think staying out of the feudies war will be that tough a sell.”
“Good!” Bobby drained his glass, stood up and headed towards the door. “Take care buddy, it was good talking with you again, I’ll say hi to the old gang for you.”
“Wait! Bobby! Is this really you? Or are you… is this just a dream?“
Bobby laughed as he walked out the door. “Yes.”
“Which one?” But Jeff’s question came too late, his friend had already left and he knew it was time to wake up. There was a lot of work to do, and he should make an early start.
❀ ❁ ❀ finis ❀ ❁ ❀