Things nearly come to killing for two of Major Richard Blaine's Spartans
THE PARTY’S OVER LINE
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
- George Bernard Shaw
Cloverfield looked concerned. “Did your Dark Passenger give you a time schedule for their arrival?”
“Sentient’s not in the habit of laying it all out on the table for me.”
‘And make you mentally lax? I think not.’
Rachel shook her head. “This makes no sense. The two of them are across the Atlantic in the States.”
“You know the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger you found on the floor of my hospital room the first time we met?”
“Where that cowardly Major Laska dropped it? Yes.”
“He dropped it when he was startled by ….”
“Yes, my appearance at the door.”
“No, by the appearance of Sister Ameal. He took off running at the sight of her. I didn’t blame him. She was in a mood.”
“She dropped it for you to find when she heard you coming down the hall.”
“Where on Earth did she go? She wasn’t there when I walked in.”
Cloverfield mused, “Maybe she wasn’t on Earth.”
Rachel snapped, “Care to elucidate, Agent?”
I sighed. So, it was going to be that way between them for awhile, was it? Well, at least they both were still alive.
But had Theo overheard through the helmets’ speakers Cloverfield threatening the love of his life?
‘No. I turned off your helmets’ speakers when the three of you entered this laboratory. Your Spartans need to save their violence for your upcoming guests.’
I heard the pounding of hammers against wood outside the building.
My sergeant-major was obviously hastily building steps to replace the ones destroyed by the explosion.
Theo’s voice came through my helmet’s speaker. “Rick. Rick! Can you hear me?”
“Now, I can. Sentient momentarily turned off our helmets’ speakers.”
“Why would she do that?” sputtered Theo.
Rachel spoke up, “Why does she do anything? She obviously had her own reasons. And you know how much she shares.”
Cloverfield looked a question at her, and she mouthed, “Later. Just you and me.”
The radio crackled again. But impossibly, it was the voice of General Bradley.
“Blaine! You there?”
I heard a thump as if a fist hit a desk.
“Damn this newfangled radio. Who made this? Tesla? Is he still alive?”
Another thump that I could feel in my eardrums. “Leave it to the Army to set its course by the light of every passing ship, instead of setting it by the stars.”
I was shocked to hear him use a very uncharacteristic swear word.
“If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may well prove to be our executioner.”
I loped over to the radio, scanning the dials and turned what seemed to be the right one. I spoke into the shimmering mesh in the panel’s center. For once, one of my guesses proved correct.
“When you are right, general, you’re right.”
“Blaine, where the devil are you? And you’re supposed to say ‘Over’ when you finish speaking! Over.”
“I don’t do jargon, General ....”
I caught Rachel eyeing me and smirked, “Over.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Where the hell are you, Blaine? Over.”
The answer so stunned him that he forgot to chastise me for my lack of radio etiquette.
“Where the blazes is that? Hand me that map, Laska. Yes, I know he failed to end the transmission properly. Quit reminding me of the obvious, Major.”
I winked at Rachel. “Oh, I did forget, didn’t I? Over.”
Cloverfield snorted, and Bradley growled, “I heard that, Agent. Don’t think I won’t tell Churchill of your disrespect.”
Churchill’s voice thundered from the speaker.
“You do not have to. McCord has given me one of Tesla’s newfangled radio sets. And can we for the length of this conversation dispense with all this ‘Over’ nonsense?”
I asked Sentient, ‘McCord? I thought he was the owner of a News Service?”
‘And a great many other things as he, himself, is a great many other things.’
Roosevelt’s rejuvenated voice boomed from the speaker.
“I heartily concur, Prime Minister. And young Curtis has just shown me that Oradour-sur-Glan is over 310 miles from Omaha Beach. However, did you manage that miracle, Colonel Blaine?”
Laska gasped through his choking, “Mr. President, you can’t promote an officer over the radio!”
“I am Commander-in-Chief in the time of war, sir! I believe I can, and I have!”
“Sir,” I said, “I do not deserve the rank of Major, much less that of Colonel.”
“Your elixir has made a new man of me. I look, feel, twenty, no, thirty years younger. For that, I am tempted to make you a general. No, forget being tempted. I am promoting you to brigadier-general as of this moment.”
I heard young Spartan Curtis squealing in the background.
I asked Sentient, ‘What is he going on about? I gave him no elixir.’
‘He could hardly say your “spittle,” could he? Besides, his is a coldly canny political mind. Having a da Vinci as one of his officers may prove useful to his future political ambitions … while having a messiah could provide him unwanted future opposition.”
“What do you mean?’
A scene appeared in my mind: a younger Roosevelt sitting behind his presidential desk, facing a group of somber men.
“Gentlemen,” said the president. “Something must be done about this Lindberg situation. America has room for only one messiah. And I am he.”
‘He … he wasn’t behind the kidnapping, was he?’
‘Ah, you have seen so much and yet are still so naïve. The death of the infant was not his intent, of course. But when you proceed with a criminal endeavor, it often leads down unintended paths.’
‘I have no words.’
I observed Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon, believing his own lies that his intent was noble when it was merely self-serving. Beware, my champion, for your own flesh is capable of such self-delusion.’
Roosevelt’s words impacted even General Bradley negatively. “Mr. President, I must protest.”
“General Bradley,” I began.
He snapped me off mid-sentence. “Did I mishear you? I thought you did not want high rank, Blaine?”
Churchill did some snapping of his own, “General, that was unconscionably rude. Would you hear the young man out?”
It was ironic to hear the Prime Minister accusing someone else of being rude. Churchill was brutally rude, capricious, and petulant. Even his wife feared he was being corrupted by power.
“My rank will be of little consequence, sir.”
The President huffed, “Are you throwing my gift in my teeth, Blaine?”
Rachel had had enough. “Men! You do not listen with the intent to understand. You listen with the intent to prove you are right!”
She slapped her arms along her sides as if they could see her over the radio.
“General Blaine is trying to tell you we are soon to be facing over 200 psychopathic SS troops, bolstered by not one but three Tiger Tanks! Promoting him to Emperor will not save our lives, but hearing him out just might.”
General Bradley said low,
“I had no idea, son. But here on Omaha Beach, we’re too pinned down to help you even if we could march 3oo miles in a day.”
I sighed, “Days ago, I promised I would help you and that Ranger unit being picked apart some distance from you. I will do what I can for you and for them.”
Roosevelt whispered, “But what will you do for you?”
Helen Mayfair whispered from my memory, and I repeated aloud with her:
“And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?”
I clicked the radio off.