The time was about 2:30 going on 3:00 PM, to judge from the sun's position in the cloudy mid-November Southern California sky, and the body's rays shone somewhat feebly on the Southern California coastline, and, so it seemed, on a one very small individual making his way across a seemingly endless expanse of grass and weeds in a field on that very coast.
His name was Christopher Triumph, a rather ordinary, brown-haired, brown-eyed, Timeless Collection GI Joe from the very ordinary southern Pacifican town of Averageburg, and, up to about two years ago, his life was that of a very ordinary citizen of that locality.
He'd been the owner-operator of a small auto repair shop there, been married to a perfectly ordinary, but an absolute goddess in his eyes, raven-haired, 82nd Airborne GI Jane named Mary, settled down and, took in and raised three newbie figures, two Classic Collection Joes, and a blonde 82nd Airborne Jane, and it pretty much seemed that all of them would go on living the same sort of ordinary lives that they had been.
All that changed when Pacifica was attacked by its rival collection of Centralia, from which the former had separated in April, 2002, in the early morning hours of 28th April, 2007, only a few hours after the Pacificans finished celebrating the 5th anniversary of their independence.
Like most of the other able-bodied figures in Averageburg, Christopher hurriedly put on his Pacifican National Guard uniform(in his case, a 21st Century Vietnam Platoon Leader olive drab uniform, and M1 steel helmet), put up his webbing, said a hurried farewell to Mary and the kids, shouldered his M-14 rifle, and went away to war.
It never would have occurred to him to even think about declining to go, because of the situation at hand, and also, because everyone else he knew, except those, like Mary, who had either vital jobs or pressing family responsibilities, or who were either physically or mentally unable to go, were going, so off he went.
No need, Christopher thought as he hurried to the local Guard depot, to let everybody else down by not doing his part.
Not his neighbours, friends, family, community and country. No way, no how, was that gonna happen.
And, though he never would have admitted it to anyone, especially himself, no way in Hell was he gonna let himself down by sitting out the biggest show to ever hit town.
Christopher and his unit got to see and act in that very show within a few hours of mobilisation, and played their parts well enough, if not outstandingly so, over the hours and days that made up the 10-day long Centralian-Pacifican War.
They had been, if Christopher remembered correctly, in around half-a-dozen fights and skirmishes of varying sizes and degrees, had lost 3 or 4 soldiers dead, twice that number of wounded, and about half that total missing.
He'd done his duty well enough. Sure, Christopher received no commendations, awards or medals for his performance during the war, but he'd also never shirked an order or failed to hold up his end of whatever needing doing, when it had to be done, and that was good enough for him.
As for killing bozos, being scared and all the rest of that happy horse-shit that folks who've never been in combat ordinarily ask about, and those kind of questions just irritated Christopher to no end, he could maybe, just maybe, remember shooting at and perhaps hitting a couple of customised Dragon figures in Iraq War US Army uniforms during one fight, maybe killing or wounding 2 or 3 more with a hand grenade he chucked in their general direction during another(The reason Christopher wasn't sure about that particular incident was that, after he pulled the grenade's pin and tossed the explosive, he dived flat on his face, as any sensible soldier would, and hugged his little portion of Mother Earth in the shelter of a curve in the ground. As he didn't hear any sounds coming from his targets, and certainly got no more trouble from them, after the grenade's detonation, he paid them no more mind, and quickly moved on from there), and maybe a few others in some of the other actions he was in.
There was only one figure that Christopher knew for sure he'd killed, and that was a customised Blue Box figure in an Iraq War US Marine outfit, whom he'd seen getting the better of Elmer Fiedelbaum, a GI Joe Classic Collection Dwight figure, an assistant manager at the local supermarket back home, who was a casual acquaintance of Christopher's, and a regular enough guy to hang out every now and then.
The soldier had Elmer pinned on his back like an awkward turtle, and had his Ka-Bar combat knife out and ready to plunge into whatever part of the turtle's torso came most handy.
Christopher was about 4 inches away from the struggling pair, which was too close for him to plug Elmer's assailant without possibly hitting Elmer in the bargin. But, with just a little effort, he could get over there and fix the bastard with the bayonet at the end of his M-14.
Quickly running over to where the struggle between Elmer and his opponent was about to end unfavourably for the former, Christopher kicked the Marine hard on his right side, knocking him off of Elmer, and onto his back.
With the barrel of his M-14 not more than an inch or two from the downed Marine's face, Christopher quickly decided to forget about using his bayonet, and simply shot him between the eyes, killing him instantly.
The only thing that he could remember about his victim's face, was the look of absolutely sheer dumb surprise the Marine had on it, like what a luckless dog or cat which had been run over by a car might have.
Christopher stared at that surprised face, now doomed to look like the biggest Pore Dumb Fuck in all the armies, organic or toy, that had ever existed in the history of the world, until his corpse was collected, revived and given a new identity, for what seemed to him to be about a minute or so, but was probably more like 5 or 10 seconds, then turned away from it and helped Elmer to his feet.
"You OK???", Christopher asked the former soldier-turned-temporary turtle, after the latter was on his feet, to which Elmer replied after drawing in a hard breath, "Yeah. Sure. Thanks."
"No problem", Christopher said. Then a corporal from their squad ran up, yelling at them to stop standing around with their thumbs up their asses like a couple of Kansas City faggots(Oddly enough, the only knowledge the corporal, who'd never been outside of Averageburg in his life before the war, had of Kansas City faggots, was as an insult that Slim Pickens' character in "Blazing Saddles" had used on one of his cohorts in that film, which yon corporal had seen on late-night TV sometime ago. Other than that, he knew about as much about Kansas City faggots and their goings-on, as he did the Man in the Moon's), and get moving to another part of the battlefield where the fighting was particularly hot.
Christopher and Elmer looked at each other a second, grunted affirmatively to the corporal, and, after Elmer hurriedly put his helmet back on his head, and picked up his rifle, followed the corporal and 3 or 4 other of their squad-mates in the general direction of the latest skirmishing, leaving the Pore Dumb Fuck of the Universe alone with his eternal surprise and dismay.
Sometimes, Christopher would see the Marine's face in dreams, and, every time he saw it, he didn't know whether to laugh his head off or scream, or both.
After the war and his return home, Mary would occasionally be woken up by the soft mix of chuckling and yelling Christopher made whenever he saw that Marine's face, and would ask him when he woke up afterwards, if he'd had a nightmare, and, if so, what it was about.
Christopher's response, which was generally about the same every time she, or anyone else, really, asked him about something that was bothering him, was, "Nothing I can't handle, honey," and leave it at that.
He didn't really like talking about his feelings, especially hard or unpleasant ones, with other figures.
Christopher wasn't that way, had never been that way, and sure as Hell hadn't been raised that way, either.
If other folks wanted to talk about how they felt, good for them, Christopher thought, but rarely said, but not him.
He'd learned early enough on that life's hard, sometimes it hurts, disappoints, saddens, or does something else bad to you, and that the best remedy for it wasn't to be a whiny little wimp, sniveling and carrying on like a Merrill-damn theatre queen(Christopher had known a couple of those in school), but to suck it up, suck it in, and move on from there, the quicker the better.
Talking about even a little of the bad shit that happened to you simply got in the way of doing that.
So, , that's exactly what Christopher did, just as he was moving on along the seemingly endless great grassy plain on that mid-November's day. Moving on, ideally to someplace better and fast.
-To be continued. End of Part One.