Major Richard Blaine
-- he refuses to go by his new rank of Brigadier General since he learned of Roosevelt's complicity in the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby --
is determined to face terrible odds by Cyrano de Bergerac's cry: "Yet I fall fighting, fighting still!"
FOR THE ASHES OF HIS FATHERS
“Be strong, even when you feel you cannot be.”
- Marcus Aurelius
Cloverfield frowned. “I’ve never heard you be so defeatist, Major. Oh, stone the crows! What do I call you now? Major, Colonel, General?”
“How about just friend?”
He almost laughed, “Bloody hell, mate. You’re an officer! You can’t have friends among your enlisted men.”
“What can I say? I’m a lousy officer. I must have lost the handbook somewhere along the way in Sicily.”
Rachel shook her head. “You don’t get it, James. You still don’t get him.”
James? I smiled inwardly. She had forgiven him.
“He was playacting again.”
She nodded to the hissing radio.
“For the German High Command. You don’t think they weren’t listening in? That whole conversation was the biggest Party Line in history.”
Cloverfield’s whole face lit up.
“You were playing the buggers, weren’t you? Giving them the impression that you had given up.”
I nodded. “I have a surprise or two in store for them. I was playing to their vanity and absurdity.”
He nodded. “The two essential prerequisites for being fascists in the first place. Take Mussolini for example.”
I gestured to them.
“But I’ll need the help of you both. I caught on that you two can understand German. Can either of you read it?”
“We both can,” smiled Cloverfield.
“How do you know I can, mister?”
He smiled broader. “MI6 agent, remember?”
I approached the blood-splattered wall of gauges, dials, and glass screens. There was no criticizing the explosion. It had killed the rats and left the cheese intact.
I pressed the glaring black ivory stud in the shape of a glistening swastika.
‘If we arrange matters a’right, that is all that will remain of the Third Reich.’
Three black leather chairs mechanically jerked out from the bottom of the monitors like jeering tongues from a mechanical Cerberus.
“Stone the crows!”
“What he said,” murmured Rachel.
Facing the chairs were rectangular screens and beneath the screens were thick books on a desk-like apparatus.
At Sentient’s bidding, I walked to the books and paged to specific numbered pages, reading them quickly.
I had worried for nothing.
There was no need for my comrades to read German to operate the flying machines that now were the only hope for the Rangers at Point-du-Hoc and the soldiers on Omaha Beach.
I saw buttons depress seemingly of themselves, and a humming filled my ears.
‘Oh, ye of little faith. I have manipulated time, slipping our metal bees three days reverse of now.’
I turned to Rachel.
“You take the chair to my left as Cloverfield will take the one to my right. The small steering wheels on the glistening desks will steer flying machines that 100 years from now will be called Drones.”
Cloverfield grunted, “Like the bees?”
“And like bees, these machines will sting … with the acid light beams I used aboard the Rocinante.”
They had both sat eagerly in the chairs. Now, their hands popped off the wheels.
“Sentient has improved these machines.”
Rachel looked at my hands, then at her own and determinedly placed her hands back on the wheel. Cloverfield followed suit … but slower … much slower.
“I know each of you have flown before.”
Rachel frowned at me. “Damn that blabbermouth Sentient.”
I ignored her, hoping Sentient would do the same. “Like flying, you want to dive, push the wheel down.”
Cloverfield interrupted, “And when we want to climb, we pull up on the steering wheel.”
I nodded. “Shifting the wheel left or right will move your drone accordingly.”
“And when you want to fire the acid lights, you press the studs on the inside of the wheel.
Don’t worry about some “syncronizing" mechanism that will allow your drone to “fire through" the propeller without shooting the propeller to pieces.
The propeller to your drone is on top of it.”
Rachel shook her head firmly. “I will not fire on human targets.”
“You won’t have to. You are to use your acid lights to carve handholds in the trench I will melt up the sheer cliff of Point-du-Hoc with my drone.”
As I sat down in my own chair, I turned to Cloverfield. “You are to take out the snipers along the ridge that will decimate a full half of Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder’s Rangers if you don’t.”
He laughed, “They will be sitting ducks for me.”
I had a sudden sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“I don’t think so. I have to blast that trench ‘très vite’ and fly as fast as I can to the top of the cliff overlooking Omaha Beach to zero in the Nazi shooters or only a bloody remnant of those Rangers will be alive to attempt that suicide climb up this cliff at Point-du-Hoc.”
“Bloody Hell!” screamed Rachel as a giant winged monstrosity flew out of the corner of her screen right at her drone.
Now, I knew what had triggered my premonition.
I should have known that Mr. Morton would step in to counter my move on this chessboard.
‘All of you are in jeopardy, Blaine. These creatures are not of this plane. They damage those drones; they kill their pilots as well.’
I recognized the being. “Merde! A Nephilim!”
“What?” sputtered Cloverfield.
Proving she had indeed been raised in a convent, Rachel growled, “Unholy hybrids between angels and human women.”
She very unladylike spat on the bloody floor. “These abominations I can kill. Those Rangers will have to find their own handholds.”
She blew a stray lock of raven hair from her eyes.
“James, you take out those snipers and see if you can’t splash some molten rock on their replacements waiting behind them. Richard, you burn that trench as fast as you can and streak to Omaha and do what you have to do.”
Sentient marveled inside my head. ‘Roosevelt should have made her general.’
‘Amen to that.’
‘Those Nephilim are inhumanly fast. But since that tunnel so are the three of you. They will not be expecting such furious hand to eye coordination from any of you.’
But typically, Sentient didn’t trust me.
She took control of my body. My screen blurred with the speed of my drone and its searing a wide trench up the smooth thirty meter high cliff.
In a heartbeat, I could see why she had taken over. The steering wheel spun under my/her hands in a whirl. The screen showed I was doing a 180 degree turn, blasting a back-stabbing Nephilim full in the fanged face.
My throat tightened.
That had been too close. I had almost bought that highly unwanted farm.
Again my/her hands spun the wheel madly. My drone did a 90 degree turn, searing a hole in the back of another Nephilim diving to destroy Rachel’s drone.
She cried out, “Richard!”
Sentient spun the drone in a 360 degree arc, taking out three more Nephilim in the process.
“Don’t worry, Luv! The General is drawing all their fire leaving us free to do our duty.”
Yeah, about that.
I was getting airsick from all the lurching, diving, and climbing my screen showed from all of Sentient’s maneuvers.
Sentient cried triumphantly from my throat: “Yet I fall fighting, fighting still!”
“Ow!” I cried as a hot, searing pain stabbed into both my palms.
I wrenched my hands away from the smoking steering wheel.
‘Do not worry, Blaine. It is just a built-in warning that your lasers are about to burn themselves out.’
I yelled, although my comrades were sitting right next to me.
“My Acid Lights are just about to run out of juice, so what you two have done here will have to be enough.”
Cloverfield breathed, ‘I think I just about did in all those snipers and their replacements. How about you, Luv?”
I smiled wearily. Nothing like fighting demonic horrors together to bring hostilities to a halt between humans.
“I burned enough handholds for arthritic grandmothers. They should be sufficient for hardy Rangers, for all their swaggering at the hospital.”
A mocking male voice boomed in our speakers and made all three of us jump in our seats.
“Is that Nurse Reynolds? I have you know that it is not swaggering if it is warranted.”
I didn’t know how or why Sentient had connected us to the colonel. But that was my Dark Passenger for you: driven by her own unknown agendas.
Cloverfield snorted in his speaker.
“Col. Rudder, is it? I have seen your men. It is swaggering. We’ve plowed the field for you, Yank. Don’t mind the beasties. We took care of them for you, too.”
“Now, get your arses up that cliff and find out that the … Major was right. They sent you to blow up mock telephone poles.”
I said, “Don’t worry, Colonel. You can follow the drag marks on the grass and dirt to where the real guns are hidden.”
Cloverfield laughed, “Then, you can destroy them. It always makes me feel better when I blow things up.”