By Adam Weissbrod
All characters herein ©2002 Adam Weissbrod
Any character resembling in one way or another one that is already © of someone else is strictly coincidental
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It was about eighty-five years ago now.
I was a young and ambitious cadet right out of training. I immediately volunteered for race relations with our new allies the earth. The training alone was enough to drive someone insane. The drop out rate was pretty high but I stuck with it and passed.
The course entailed a fairly detailed history of the earth. The important people, a detailed section on the many different wars, the evolutionary history of mankind itself and living condition wise, evolutionary history of the earth itself, and a few minor details. No matter how many sleepless nights I had to stay up studying, I was intent on being one of the few that had the privilege of joining the exchange program.
Now that I look back I would have to say that I was driven to be the best. I was driven to be one of the ones would find some way these earthlings could be of help. Whether it is resources, manufacturing, or artesian skills. From what I learned in their history they had a lot of these in abundance. But the political situation that plagued their history was a major set back. Much like ancient times for us.
Well the day finally came to learn whether we would be assigned normal duties or be going to earth in the exchange program.
I listened intently for my name.
There where only ten from my training pack that where aloud to go. After eight of the names had been called I started to lose hope.
I got the surprise of my life; I was the tenth name on the list.
The transport to earth was fairly uneventful. I remember a cadet from another training pack got injured in a training exercise. Nothing the autodocs couldn't handle.
I spent most of the time studying things that I might have missed while in class.
Also while in transit Emissary Nicia gathered everyone in the main seating area. She broke us into groups. Each group would be studying a different aspect of human life.
While waiting for her to come to our group I secretly wished that she would set us up studying some of the artists, both past and present on earth. I loved the holos that I had seen of some of there past artists such as Monet, Degas, Michelangelo, and Leonardo.
When she finally came around to assigning our group I was so sure that we get the artistic assignment.
I was let down when the emissary said, "For this assignment your group will broken up and each of you will study a different branch of the earths military. It is extremely important for Synac to know if earth will be able to defend itself if the unthinkable should happen and it is invaded."
She proceeded to have each of a card detailing where, who, and what branch of what government we would be studying.
I got a card that said, "Country: United States; Branch: Marines; Briefing: To determine the fighting strength of this branch and compare to current SDF standards. At the conclusion of this assignment have a written report ready to present to the High Council."
I almost spoke up in protest but I knew it wasn't my place to question an emissary.
My thoughts where interrupted when the Emissary spoke up, "I know that this might not be what you expected but I know you will all do a good job. When we arrive there will be a representative from each of these branches waiting for you. You will go with them and immediately begin your observations. Emissary Sanborn has arranged for each of you to accompany a patrol to see how effective they might or might not be. Your reports will determine whether or not we will provide some alternative suggestions."
The rest of the transit I was in somewhat of a depressed mood.
The arrival of the transport on earth wasn't very important. It wasn't a televised event. Come to think of it I don't even think that any but the government knew about it. I was sure that if the general populace knew about his that it would have been a much larger event.
As I got off the transport I was greeted by two men tall men one about 5'11'' the other about 6'1''. I remembered what the holos looked like that I had studied and knew they where marines. These marines had something extra though, maybe it was there shining buttons and medals that they wore but they seemed to take pride in what they did.
I walked over to introduce myself, "Hello my name is Dimara."
Even though I had my holosuit on they must have been briefed on what to expect. They didn't even finch as I stepped off the transport.
After talking real fast with Emissary Nicia I was rushed away by the two marines.
I visited their training centers, I was granted permission to take some aside and speak with them privately to get the soldiers point of view on a couple of issues that were happening on earth at the time.
The most prominent being a small country, in the region of Western Africa called Gambia was at war with a neighboring country. The major countries were trying there best to compromise but so far proving unsuccessful.
Most of the young marines, and I mean young, some where no more then eighteen years old, said that they would go if told to do so and with optimism said they would do what was necessary.
What I saw most in the young marines was a sense of patriotism for their country. Some if it was just a sense of belonging, other a sense of honor. I couldn't believe some volunteered.
I can remember getting off the transport in Gambia.
No matter where you looked, there was dust, smoke, and ash. The dust blew with the wind since the streets where dirt. The sky, by the mother, was black with smoke. The smoke was coming out of buildings off in the distance. The ash was caked to every surface, inside and out.
I could just imagine the beauty this city once had. I could see where statues had been and where building had once risen in beauty and glory. Now they where toppled brought down by some form of primitive artillery.
I was utterly lost for a second. I had expected it to be bad, but this...
A voice startled me out of my reflection. It sounded gruff and worn, "What the hell are you standing there for?" I saw before me a short meaty man. I produced my orders and he directed me to small group of men resting not far off. "They're the ones you want."
My throat was already dry with the omnipresent smoke. The six men where working as a human chain slinging crates of some unknown content into the back of a beat up old pickup truck. They where all dressed in matt-black fatigues.
"Lieutenant Weissbrod," I ventured?
"Who wants to know," one said as he looked over at me?
"Dimara. Miss Dimara. The... uh... observer."
"Never heard of you," another man said not breaking the continuous feed of the human chain.
"Shut up DeBernardo. Yes I am Weissbrod, what can I do for you Sergeant?"
Somewhat taken aback by the sound of the command to the young man, "My orders are to go on patrol with one of your squads and report back to... headquarters."
"Very well give us a second to finish loading up the supplies." He said as he hefted an overly large crate into the attached trailer.
They finished loading the truck and climbed aboard. I heisted, not sure what to do. Weissbrod looked down from the cab, "well, Miss Dimara," he said, "you'd better come with us, hadn't you?"
The old beat up truck had clearly been hit in the suspension at some point in the fighting. We were all thrown around as we headed down the crater-strewn street.
I rode in the cab with Lt. Weissbrod and a Pt. Young.
After a couple of blocks the Lieutenant sniffed at the air, "Funny smell," he said, "sweet and scenty."
"Yeah," said Young, also sniffing. I didn't know what they where talking about, all I could smell was the rank odor of their unwashed bodies, old sweat, and smoke from the surrounding fires. "Have you bathed recently," Young turned to face me?
"Yes!" I said a little confused and indigent.
"That'd be it," said Weissbrod
"Lucky bastard," said Young under his breath.
As we turned onto one of the main roads through the town we occasionally we had slow down to get around burnt-out vehicles or abnormally large craters. Soon we started passing indigenous personnel. They where lined up alone the street in what seemed a procession of the damned. Some seemed to have no meat on their bones, just walking skeletons. It gave me a chill.
"Did you guys win here?" I asked as I stared at the long line.
In a far off voice I registered what Weissbrod had said, "Yeah, behold what winning looks like."
Young pulled the truck into the loading dock of a building labeled on a sign as Troop barracks 67/ei.
"Young stay here, Miss Dimara you can come with me if you would like," Weissbrod said as he climbed from the cab of the truck.
After climbing out of the cab I looked around and saw the lieutenant in the middle of a mob of small children. They all had at least one hand raised asking, in what I figured was there native language, for a handout. He just held up his hands in a shrugging gesture.
A horn sounded behind me and got the attention of the children. Young was holding up a small package of what appeared to be some type of food. The children immediately started herding toward the truck. With the little ones occupied I caught up with the Lieutenant.
"It is a shame," he said to no one in particular, "with us making contact with those aliens we should be past this kind of poverty. I am not sure humankind is ready for a hole other set of problems."
It had surprised me that his superiors hadn't told him of me or that I was part of the SDF and here for an evaluation. I suppose it is all the better. That way I get an honest and truthful look at the way they handle themselves in different situations, not just in battle.
My thoughts where broken when Weissbrod put a hand on my shoulder and said, "I know you aren't used to this but try not to stare." I thought for a second and realized that I had been staring at a little girl in the crowd and she was now running away from me.
Before I could ask why he started to walk away.
"What exactly are you doing here, Lieutenant?" I asked in a normal voice.
"We are here as a double whammy. Our first objective is to bring relief supplies, i.e.- food, medicine, clothing, and the second is to protect and clear the city of any leftover guerrillas in the city. My men have been patrolling the city and we are sure we got most of them." Weissbrod said all this without turning to look at me. I was a little angered by this but I remembered eye contact isn't that important amongst humans.
While digesting the information I just received Weissbrod stopped a man in the hall and told him gather some men for offloading and then report the loading bay.
As the man walked away to gather more men we continued walking down the almost vacant hall. We came to an unfurnished room that had seven men in it. They looked like they where playing a game that involved a deck of cards and several piles of currency. When Weissbrod entered there was a scramble and they ended up in a straight-line parallel the wall.
Weissbrod walked up to a rather large man, "Sergeant Faulk, you will be taking Miss Dimara here on a patrol of the city with you in a half hour. No fancy stuff just a normal patrol. Ok. I am going to get some shut-eye."
I was afraid of Faulk to begin with. He was just so big and imposing. I quickly discovered he had a gentle heart that quickly put to rest any fear of his ogrish appearance.
They were an odd bunch, though they seemed to work well together. They all seemed to respect a man named Miller, he was a skinny, twitchy wretch liable to snap at any minute. He was the resident marksman of the bunch. I tried to talk to Miller about his job but he radiated nervous energy, which in turn made me nervous. After a while I left him alone.
Payton was a handsome man in his mid-twenties, the perfect subject for a statue. He stood tall, made eye contact with me whenever we talked, and was the friendliest man of them.
MacDonald, stinking of alcohol was a rough-hewn man with a long line of bad inappropriate jokes. Wilkins was a sound type, thoughtful and reserved. He sported a transportable radio in a backpack.
Hann was the youngest of the marines assembled in the room. I would have said eighteen or nineteen at the time, just a boy really. Faulk told me that he had just been deployed here, but was more capable a soldier than some in the room. Before then he had just been a normal civilian.
The young man next to him was Kage. Only a year or two older than Hann. His lean adolescent body was just beginning to fill out with bulk from the continual physical training he was receiving. But there was a look in his eyes that I had noticed that said he had grown up a long time before.
After Faulk gave me a set of desert cammo fatigues to wear whilst on the patrol. He quickly gave me a ballistic proof vest to put over it. "It should be quiet but better safe then sorry Miss Dimara." Faulk said as he helped me put it on.
The patrol was to take only a few hours. Starting in the southern half of the town and working to the western outer rim. The purpose of the patrol, Faulk told me, was to smoke out the last vestiges of the guerrillas. They were lying low in the rubble masses, he said, dug in like an Alabama tick. I didn't want to know.
The whole thing seemed to me alarmingly casual. The men carried M-16A2's but Faulk carried an M-60, so I stuck close to him.
We left the airport via in another beat up old pick-up truck. We past several of, what Faulk and the rest told me, where a few of the major parts of the battle occurred.
The scale of the battle was a little less than what I expected it to be. What they considered small platoon sized squads lead a night raid and penetrated the city. This is what the beginning phase of a plan that took nearly a week, and the guerrillas were still in the city.
The day was bright, sunny day, but most of the sky was masked with smoke that gave the light a greenish tint to it. A light wind from the southern plain lifted dust in little dust devils. Aircraft could be heard constantly overhead as they rushed in supplies and relief aid.
For a while, there was little activity except the continuous thud of boots on the ground. I jumped with fright when a loud explosion roared through the factory block we had just entered. Faulk reassured me it was just an engineering detail blowing up some structure that was too dangerous to leave standing.
Tanks with dozer blades attached where busy plowing the streets clean of most of the debris so as to make it easier for the supplies to be shipped to other parts of the dilapidated city. From what I have heard from the men I am with the tanks played an important roll in the taking of the city and without them they might not have won it.
The outer edge of the city was terribly desolate. They had been pulverized by artillery so hard that barely a building was left standing. The grounds were a tangled mass of shattered concrete and twisted re-bar. The air was thick with oily smoke coming from some buildings near by. There were also fragments of human bone in the litter underfoot. Faulk must have seen by reaction when I realized what I was walking on. He told me that the guerrillas had had such a good hold on this section of the city that they had to use napalm on this section.
I began to feel unwell after this revelation. This was upsetting, overwhelming. The genial Lieutenant Weissbrod had sent me on this trip deliberately. He obviously thought I could do with some sort of wake up call. He probably thought I was a congresswoman that wanted a tour of the ruins and decided to give her the 'grand' tour.
I resented that. I was fully awake to the misery that these people had endured. Damn it I didn't need to be shown it like this.
A while later we crossed a back street that was littered with bodies. The air was noxious with the smell of rotting flesh and the ever-present buzz of the numerous flies. I wasn't looking for this kind of inspiration to put in my report to the high council.
As I looked about, unable to believe my own eyes at what some of these humans could do to their own was... was... unbelievable, I can't even explain it. It is one of those things that you only understand if you have seen it... experienced it.
It was about this time that I looked over to see Miller crying. It shook me to see it. And, though I know what you're thinking, it didn't diminish him in any way. I'd known from the first moment I saw him he was an emotionally unstable man. He didn't falter in his duty for a moment. He kept up the pace, covered all the angles he was asked to. I don't think he even knew that he was crying. But he still wept.
I have seen women weep at some misfortune. I have seen children weep when they scrap a knee or elbow. I have seen weak men sob also at some misfortune.
I have never, in the forty-five odd years since then, seen a marine weep. That is the most aching sadness of all. Miller's tears washed his filthy cheeks clean in long runnels. To see a man trained and ready to kill cry for the fallen is to see true tragedy.
Out of my revere the squad stopped suddenly. I almost walked into the back of Kage. The point man, Hann, had raised his hand. He quickly pointed at two sites in the ruins ahead of us that seemed to be no different from the rest of the place.
Faulk nodded and made a few gestures of his own. At once, Payton, MacDonald, and Kage slid to the left, crawling through the jumbled wasteland, and Wilkins and Hann went to the right.
"Keep low," Faulk mouthed to me but I needed no encouragement. Faulk extended the bipod on the end of the M-60 and charged the weapon. I then noticed that I didn't see Miller go anywhere. I then realized that he was immediately to my left, in a prone position with his rifle raised in a firing position. His concealment was extraordinary, I had to look real hard to see him.
I felt so exposed, and entirely in the wrong place. I tried to huddle closer to the wall, hugging it as tough I were trying to become one with it. I only succeeded in dislodging some stones at the base of it, which earned me a dirty look from Miller.
Time seemed to slow tremendously. So quiet, and peaceful, it reminded me of a slow passage of music in some of Synacian folklore. It was at this point that I realized that I would have a great deal of trouble being a marine or a soldier in any of the earth governments, not that I wanted to be. The waiting would kill me. I know it is ironic in some way, I can spend months in space working on a project, yet I can't stand 10 minutes waiting for something to happen.
Up until this point I had never heard an M-16 discharge. Sure I had seen many of them when I toured the different marine bases, but never seen them fired. Sure I had studied them, I knew how deadly they were. The sound was a thin, dry, snapping sound. If I were to judge it at all it didn't sound all that imposing.
Little did I know I was about to be educated.
All of a sudden Faulk was yelling in his radio. I knew something was happening, and then there was a very loud crack right next to me. After realizing what it was I felt stupid. It was Miller and that huge sniper rifle of his. About this time I remember here hundreds of smaller cracks. The sounds I was hearing was the fire fight already underway.
Dust was kicked up from the half destroyed wall behind us. Small chunks of concrete and stone fell away. We where being fire at... I was being fired at! A chunk of stone was ripped loose by a bullet that whistled by my head.
Wilkins and Hann suddenly reappeared, frantically hurrying back and throwing themselves down into cover with us. As soon as they were in cover they got to a knee and started firing back the way they had come.
"There are about six or seven held up in the lower portion of the buildings up ahead," Wilkins yelled over the din of battle.
"Miller see if ya can get any of the sons of bitchs." Faulk yelled at Miller.
"Can't get a clear shot," Miller hissed after a few seconds.
I sat there in amazement, it was all I could do. I didn't even have my standard issue stunner with me in case I was endangered.
As Faulk started firing again after reloading, Hann, Payton, and Wilkins dropped back into cover and started to fix their bayonets to their weapons.
"Is it going to come to that?" I asked the closest soldier, Wilkins.
"Who knows?" was all he said in response.
MacDonald called out over the radio to crossfire on the left flank. I had no idea how they could read the chaotic situation like that, even with the radios. It was just pure madness. Rocks and dust everywhere. Chips of concrete and rock flying every which way.
"Go!" came a cry over the radio. I didn't know what 'go' meant, but suddenly Payton, Hann, and Wilkins were gone. They leapt up and charged into the smoke and dust. I could hear furious cracking, and the loud crack of rifle fire.
I could make out specific shapes in through the smoke. Payton was the closest to my position, only about 10 spans. I saw him rise from a prone position like he had been jerked up and back by the hair. He twisted and fell over. For a moment, I didn't understand what was happening. It seemed as if Payton was just behaving stupidly, mucking around, kicking with his legs.
But Payton had been shot. Right there in front of me. He fell, I could see his heels drumming the found, his hands clenched to his throat. The blood was starting to pool in the dirt that I could see. He slowly slowed in the rapid movements and became still.
The rest of the firefight seemed to blur. All I could do was stare in shock that the body of Payton.
After the firefight when the rest of the men had cleared the surrounding buildings, I found out that he had been shot in the neck. The jugular vein in his neck had been grazed enough to cause a slow death. It was at this time that I threw up. Once again the rest of the patrol turned into a blur. All I could see was Payton getting shot and not moving.
It was dusk when we started back to the base. MacDonald and Kage were going to carry Payton all the way. Faulk and Hann tried to make me feel better. They were generous souls, these marines. They reasoned, I suppose, I was just a civilian of their world. They felt sorry for me. I'd survived their rite of passage and acquitted myself decently.
I suppose I should have been flattered by the inclusion. Honored to gain the respect of these warriors. But I couldn't help but feel depressed and out of place.
Payton's death had set me on edge. The memory of it had been burned into my brain. I was no soldier, despite what my title and place in the SDF told. The SDF had no basis of experience. What experience we did have wasn't on such a large scale. If we where ever to need help in defending our boarders, I knew we could count on the terrans.
I dragged behind the rest of the way to base. Wilkins lagged back with me.
"How do you do it?" I asked the boy next to me.
"Do what, mama?"
"Shut it out? The trauma? The fear?"
Wilkins didn't look at me. He just continued to scan the surrounding buildings as he answered, "Who says we shut it out?"
"B.. B.. But you can't live like that. The constant fear of dying, of being maimed by a bullet, the stress. Living with that kind of fear I am not sure I would survive."
He stopped, looked me strait in my eyes. This was the first time I can remember one of these humans looking me in the eye. What I saw was fear, pure unbridled fear in his dark brown eyes. "I am scared every second I am out here." With that he started walking again.
"Then how do you do it? Keep your sanity?"
He shrugged, "To be honest with you, I try not think about it. It's just what we do. No one had to beg us to do this. It is simply our job. We're marines."
I don't think I will ever forget those words.
After I can back to Synac from the mission, I had to give a report on my finding to the High Council.
I don't recall the specifics of my report but the basics. Which were the time I spent on patrol, the time, I spent with the men after it, and the de-briefing I gave Emissary Greyson at the embassy. My major point in the report I said, 'if in any time of troubles, whether it be a natural disaster or invasion by neighboring races. We can count on the determination and strength of the United States Marines.'
They are all probably long dead by now. If so, may whatever god or deity they worshipped let them rest in peace. I had a friend that worked in Earth/Synac relations who was kind enough to pass me some copies of Marine deployments and exploits throughout that war. There was also an ever growing list of casualties and KIA's I had also.
I followed there movments and successes for a few months as best I could. Whenever I did read about a success I poured a glass of Safra and toasted there name and remebered each.
But I stopped after those few months. Sooner or later, I knew that the news would be bad. I have my memories of the way they were, and that is enough for me. For if the unfortunate did happen to any of them, as long as I remeber, they will not truly be gone.
The following poem doesn't have anything to do with the story but is a reminder and memorial for all those who died for our freedom. We must never forget.
"Innocence Of Heroes"
Copyright © February 24th, 1991 Del "Abe" Jones
unfortunatly used without permission (sorry)
We see faces of innocence
Upon our nations' youth -
But they've the hearts of heroes
When it comes to Liberty and Truth.
Young men and women of the Service
Standing straight and proud and tall -
Ready to fight for Freedom -
Ready to give their all.
Those faces of innocence
Will return, all, world-wise -
Still looking young in body -
But lifetimes' knowledge in their eyes.
There are some who will come home
To grieving families and friends -
Just a memory to those loved ones
Whose loss never really ends.
Yet those faces of innocence
And those young heroes' hearts
Will come of age once more
With dreams each new life imparts.
Another generation born
To this world of war and strife -
Searching for the elusive answer
To lasting peacetime in their life.
Why must this crazy world
Breed such pain and misery?
When will the human race
Let young innocence be?
'Guess there will always be a madman
Who is filled with hate and greed -
Who will force himself on others
And plant that killing seed.
And there will always be Those young heroes who will fight
Who will leave their innocence behind For what they know is right.
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