Vladimir Putin rode in a limousine with darkened windows. His was the third of four such oversized vehicles in a convoy headed for Genève Aéroport. Sylvia Rosewater was bound and gagged, stuffed into the trunk of the car that was second in line. Besides her, their prisoner, the cars were choked with big shots in the KGB. It was like when Cleopatra brought lions and elephants and giraffes as tribute to Caeser.
Sylvia was the tribute. She was the prize. If all went as planned, she would be traded for a high-level Russian spy who had just been arrested in the U.S.A.. The motorcade floated into the airport silent as a shadow. Unmolested, the cars pulled in to a giant hangar. The wide, metal doors of the building slammed shut and then they were locked. Guards were posted at every door. Sylvia was pulled out of the trunk and she was carried onto the waiting airplane. It took two men to handle her writhing, twisting, kicking body. Even with her ankles tied together, she was hard to control. The men threw her down into a seat and strapped the seatbelt around her waist.
She felt the airplane lurch forward as it was prepared to takeoff. She heard the engines whine. She felt the rollercoaster rise as the plane left the ground on its way to East Germany.
I was hunkered down with my back against a pile of broken stone. It was December 28, 1944, and I was in Bastogne, Belgium. All around me, the Ardennes Counteroffensive, the Battle of the Bulge, was taking place. There was so much smoke and so much noise I couldn’t tell what was going on. Hiding next to me, fairly vibrating with adrenaline, was Captain Eliot Rosewater. Using hand grenades and a Thompson Machine Gun, he was about to storm a building that he assumed was filled with German soldiers. In fact, a small team of volunteer firefighters was inside that building. They were trying to put out a fire. It was my job to stop Captain Rosewater from killing them. This was a load of crap. I hadn’t signed on for this. I was supposed to just be recording the action. All of a sudden, I realized I was playing a lead roll.
Have you ever asked God to stop and reconsider things? Have you ever made deals with him? Have you asked for miracles? I have. And I did again, just now. I am hoping He will acknowledge His mistake and let me out of this mess. I am waiting for His answer. You should go somewhere else for excitement. I’m in a holding pattern, here.
In another place and time, Kilgore Trout was leading his fighting men in song. The song was called “Stout Hearted Men”. Nelson Eddy had made a bundle singing this during mankind’s second attempt at suicide. It went like this,
Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight, for the right they adore,
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.
Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder,
They grow as they go to the fore.
Then there’s nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan,
When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man.
Kilgore Trout knew that there was any number of things in the world that could halt or mar his plan; but he wanted these stout-hearted men to stick together, man to man. He kept his thoughts to himself.
Whiskey had been served and the stout-hearted men were getting boisterous.
Trout slipped out of the sweaty madhouse and joined Eliot Rosewater and Rosewater’s clone in a hallway outside the War Room. “Well, fellas,” he smiled, wrapping his hands around the two men’s shoulders, “We’ve got an army. Eliot number one, you will be my direct conduit, my communicator, my envoy. You will give these generals my war plans and you will share their strategies with me.”
Eliot stopped him by pushing Trout’s arm off him. “I want to fight,” he said.
“You’re too old,” said Trout.
“My chair is designed for warfare.”
“You’ll only use it when we are over-run.”
“I want to be on the front lines,” said Eliot.
Kilgore Trout pulled down on his mouth and then he used the same hand to pull the troubled ridges up off his forehead. That felt good, and he gave himself a quick neck massage as he tried to figure out what to tell Rosewater.
In the silence, clone-Eliot asked, “What are my duties, sir?”
“You will control the other assault teams around the globe,” said Trout. He backed away from the two Rosewaters and appealed to the elder, the real Eliot. “We can’t win this war. We can make it challenging for the enemy; but only if we work together. Mr. Rosewater, I’m begging you, take your assignment. You are more important as a leader than as a common soldier.”
“Bullshit,” said Rosewater. “I want to fight.”
Centuries earlier, I got an answer to my desperate prayer: Captain Rosewater, under heavy fire, signaled to me that I was to provide covering fire as he attacked the burning building with the firemen inside.
He made a circle with his thumb and forefinger. He nodded his head at me and stood up.