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An Eternal Soldier. 3 of 3. Adult, War. 2,800 (1 Viewer)

hvysmker

Senior Member
Synopsis: Mike Edwards, former Master Sergeant, now private, has reported to his new unit in Vietnam. An enigma, Mike has saved his new Company Commander during a Vietcong attack. The incident brings back memories of another such attack during the Korean War. The only survivor of a hit on his tank, So far in this flashback, Mike had been regenerated, given a new unburned body. He's now plodding toward American lines, bare-assed naked in the cold, snow, and ice....
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Cresting a small rise in the landscape, I saw fighting ahead. Closer to me, there were a dozen North Korean soldiers firing in that direction. Farther away, I saw flashes as a sprinkling of Americans shot toward us. It looked like four or five of them, at the most. Feeling that familiar rage building, I rushed at the enemy. As my naked form ran and slid at them, they were too busy to look back to see me.

Reaching a gray-clad soldier, I grabbed him from behind, around the neck. A twist and he was down. Disdaining his fallen weapon, I was soon on a second, also twisting his head until it snapped completely off. A third saw me and, aiming a Chinese SKS rifle, fired point blank. It was one of the newer, automatic, rifles. As I ran at him, bullets hit me in the chest, passing through. The force of the rounds almost stopped me in my tracks -- but I kept going. I could feel that itching sensation as the wounds healed. His didn't, as I grabbed an arm, punching his face into pulp. I could see panic and fear in his eyes before they clouded and were forever sightless.

Somewhere during that activity, all firing stopped. I could sense eyes on me as I dropped the third body, looking around for a fourth. As I ran at another enemy soldier, they turned tail and skedaddled.

I walked, slowly, to the American position. Nobody greeted me as I approached, then entered, the perimeter. I could see them standing or lying behind bushes or in depressions, staring in wonder as I passed through their ranks. Most of their eyes were wide with fear, but nobody greeted me. Looking back at it, I must have been a sight. There I was, standing bare-ass naked in sub-zero weather, bloody and with a look of intense rage on my face.

Finally, I could see Colonel Arnold's jeep coming toward me. My good friend, Private Adams was driving. I saw only three more Americans approaching us, their weapons centered shakily on my chest, and no other vehicles. I later learned the one other tank had met the same fate as mine.

The colonel stopped to talk to one of the soldiers. After that, the three returned to foxholes. Then the jeep came over to where I was standing, finally starting to come down from my high.

"Get in," the colonel ordered.

Still in a sort of daze, I obeyed, crawling into the back to sit alongside a VRC-9 radio, taking up more than half of the seat.

"I don't know what the hell's going on, soldier, but you saved our asses," he told me, turning around in his seat. "Adams, stop over by that body, that one over there," he ordered, pointing, "and get the clothes off it."

While Adams stripped the dead American, Colonel Arnold studied me, his brows scrunched up as though deep in thought. Adams returned and I put on the already stiffening uniform while the colonel watched.

As I was bent down, lacing my boots, I heard a pistol shot, then another. Jerking my head up, I saw Colonel Arnold, a pistol in hand. It was smoking in the frigid air. Looking around and seeing no enemy, I noticed private Adams lying in bloody snow. The colonel lifted his ass from the passenger seat, stepping over the gearshift lever to settle behind the wheel.

"Sniper. I think I stopped him. Get in front," he ordered me. As he turned the jeep to head back to Headquarters Company, I again saw Adams lying dead in the snow. We rode silently until well inside our perimeter and were approaching battalion headquarters when Colonel Arnold turned to me.

"Edwards," he told me, "I don't expect you to understand me, no more than I understand you. But I'm giving you a direct order. You will NOT tell anyone anything about what happened today. I'll have your gear sent over here and you will be directly under me. No one, and I mean no one, will give you orders but myself. You will not be on any duty roster, nor answer to any officer except myself. If they argue, tell them to see me and I'll set them straight." He gave me a silly-looking grin. "You ... we ... are going far, Edwards."

I did nothing but lie around in my own tent for the rest of my time in Korea. My time was spent in playing cards in the dayroom. Also, I read a lot of books. I had no military duties. When the colonel left Korea, I went with him and stayed with him up until his death.

After Korea, Arnold and I ended up in Washington, D.C.. We were into top-secret projects. Arnold made general and I rapidly advanced to the rank of master sergeant -- the highest enlisted pay grade in the US army. General Arnold was quickly transferred to Army Intelligence and given an expansive office in the Pentagon, itself. I enjoyed a nice apartment off base, paid for by the general through secret funding. Arnold didn't want me to associate with other soldiers.

My invulnerability was, on occasion, put to the test. Actually, my function wasn't exactly like a spy. I'm not the intelligence or intelligent type. Although having developed many skills over the ages, I'm still not the brightest kid on the block. Rather, I was kept for those special occasions where a spurt of violence and a dash of invulnerability came in handy. When one of our spies was caught, I could be dropped into the equation, causing havoc and rescuing him. If you wanted a man killed in a brutal way and they were well guarded, call on Mike Edwards to burst through walls and electrified fences.

Don't ask me what, or how, he dealt with my records. I only know that he had -- by his official position -- access to my files. I guess he thought he would, like me, live forever. That was how we stood until well into the Vietnam war....


One day we sat in his office in Washington -- drinking and talking. By we, I mean the General, my trainer -- a spook named Stupple -- and myself.

All of us were drunk. Stupple happened to ask the General about how he had found me. While Arnold iterated the story to Stupple, I idly walked around the room, pouring myself a fresh drink from a bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey.

"So," I heard the General say, "when I saw Mike in action in Korea, I ordered Sergeant Nickolaus to hold the line, him and eight other men, while I went to the rear for replacements." The General laughed, then sipped on his drink.

Me, I was sweating as I listened and recalled how the platoon had been decimated, giving their lives for us to get away. As far as I knew, none of them -- all in my company and friends at the time -- had made it back.

"Well," General Arnold continued, "of course I had no intention of sending them help. I wanted to keep Mike and his powers a secret from the army and the world."

I felt that drunken rage building, as though my mind was going out of control. By then I had killed many men, most under the general's orders, but no Americans -- and none I could call friends.

"By then I had it all thought out," the general continued. "Get rid of any witnesses, take him back and use him to step up the ladder. With Mike under my control, making general was a breeze."

"And what about your driver?" Stupple asked with a drunken giggle.

By then we both knew the answer.

"I simply shot him in the head and left his body by the side of the road." Both of them thought the betrayal of my best friend, one that had -- at least apparently -- saved my own life on two occasions, hilarious.

That laugh at killing Tim Adams -- a man I had known since basic training. A man I had shared many experiences with, even met his family -- drove me over the edge.

Almost unconsciously, certainly unplanned in that whiskey-sodden rage, my fist struck General Arnold across the left side of his face, slamming him and his chair over onto the floor.

Stupple, drunkenly, tried to fight back, me ending the effort by grabbing him by the neck in what had come to be my favorite hold. A twist and he was dead -- head rolling under a table. Meanwhile, I took time to kick the general in the balls. After that, my rage took over -- again. By the time I finished the general had separated into several large and small pieces.

Washing up in the bathroom, I changed into spare civvies and, taking my bloody clothing along in a plastic trash bag, went home.

Nobody had seen me and I told investigators I'd been home asleep. The investigation took months. I wasn't the only suspect. It turned out that the General had many irons in the fire, so to speak -- some illegal. He had quite enough enemies. Why suspect his friends?

Eventually, without the protection of the General and with the unwanted aid of the President I was sent to Vietnam....

***

I expect at least a formal thanks from Captain Thompson for saving his ass but only get a handshake and a smile while at work. The new first sergeant tells me that the captain can't put me in for any medal because he should have been on the base -- not outside to get caught by the enemy.

No big thing, I think, returning to work. If I had a dollar for every commendation I've gotten in my life I'd be rich by now.

The months pass. I'm not really unhappy with my lot. I've gained a lot of respect from the other soldiers. After saving the captain, they've gotten friendlier. Eventually, though, all things must pass. My enlistment comes to an end. Before I can leave, the captain calls me into his office.

"Mike," he says, smiling, "I want you to reenlist. I have a cushy job coming up when I return. Someone in Washington wants me there, in Intelligence. It's a dream come true. They'll send me to Command College and I get an automatic promotion to major. I was told that in a few years I might even make general."

"Good for you, sir," I tell him, "but what does it have to do with me?"

"Well, it's on the condition that I bring you with me. For that, you have to reenlist. I know you can retire, but hope you’ll stay in to help me.” He's almost begging.

"Let me think it over, sir. I'll get back to you."

I salute and go back to my tent. Thinking it over, I figure ... why not? I can quit and receive that longed-for retirement pay, but only for maybe another ten or twenty years before I have to find another identity. Before someone in authority notices how young I look at seventy or eighty.

I go back and tell Captain Thompson I'll reenlist to join him in Washington. Hell, some of my friends will still be there.

That makes the captain very happy.

A month later, we both get our orders for duty at the Pentagon.

I find myself sitting in the orderly room, waiting for the captain to finish some final paperwork so we can be driven to Tan Son Nhut airport to catch a plane on our way to DC. As I watch him, sitting at his desk and shuffling paperwork my mind goes back to another, similar, memory....

***

It's one of my oldest -- over 2000 years old. At that time, I'd owned a sandal shop in Jerusalem. I was a Jew but most of my customers were Romans. You can imagine which side I was on, politically.

I'd heard that a maverick preacher named Jesus was raising hell among the populace but, it being none of my business, ignored the talk. I'd even heard the man had been captured and sentenced to be crucified. Still, that meant less than nothing to me.

One fateful day, I heard a commotion outside my shop. My employees rushed for the front of the room.

"Back to work, you lazy bastards," I ordered them, chasing the three back to their cobbling benches.

There were also two Roman soldiers in the front of the shop waiting for repairs. I asked my clerk, "What's going on out there? They stoning someone?"

"Na. There's some sort of a parade," one of the customers told me. "That Jesus guy's coming past on his way to the hill."

"Yeah?" I said, going outside to watch.

There was a crowd along the street, some cheering others booing. Even a few fistfights seemed to be breaking out. Eventually, I saw a guy staggering down the street in my direction accompanied by soldiers, the end of a thick wooden cross apparent on his shoulder.

As he came even with my shop, a stone hit him on the back of the neck and he collapsed in front of me. The two soldiers came running out of my place.

"Get this guy out of here," I yelled at them. My thoughts were of my reputation, the guy collapsing in front of my business. The word would be all over town.

I knelt in front of the fallen man, grabbing a shoulder and arm to help a soldier drag him to his feet. He grinned as though thanking me for aid, which only made me angrier.

"On your feet, you bum. Quickly, quickly. Be on your way. Why do you loiter here?" I asked him. "There is no rest for you here."

I saw the look in his eyes change as he replied, "I am going -- and you shall wait here until I return, if it be the best part of forever."

I laughed at his seriousness and watched as the Jewish soldiers hurried him down the street, whipping at his legs to hurry him. I shook my head and went back in to work. Oddly, I couldn't seem to get those words out of my head -- they echoed in my ears. It wasn’t every day that I was threatened.

Also, it wasn't until much later, when I saw my wife and children age then die while I still seemed to be in my late thirties that I recalled what must have been a curse. More years went by. With the exit of the Romans, my business eventually failed. I still didn't seem to have aged.

Thousands of years went by, still without my ageing.

After a dozen or so wives, I gave up on marriage, preferring a single existence. I became tired of the heartache of watching families die out from under me and pass into the void -- while I lived.

I've tried many occupations. In general, I've found I'm happier in manual labor than in jobs where I have to use my mind. I can tell you, for a fact, that immortality does not bring wisdom. I'm the same dumb-ass I've always been.

Of all the work I've tried, soldiering seems to suit me the best. Armies are basically the same, in every country and every age. A soldier may have different equipment but for your common soldier day-to-day life remains the same. After you kill a certain number of men, it becomes boring labor and most of the time the job is simply the comfortable routine of camp life....

I get into the jeep with Captain Thompson, that same deja vu feeling coming back. Like with General Arnold, I figure I'm due for other special projects. This time it's for Thompson. It makes no real difference to me. I am Malchus, the “Wandering Jew," doomed to walk the earth until He returns.

The End. The first two sections were posted over the last six days.
Charlie
 
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