19 October 2008

"The Orphan", Part Three

From there, it'd been a relatively simple matter of driving down to New Pawtucket, signing up at the Outcomes Insurers office, selling off the jeep at a used car lot, and locating a cheap lodging to spend the two days to a week needed before the freighter bound for his eventual destination in Dystopia(which, according to the Outcomes Insurers personnel officer with whom Christopher spoke, couldn't be divulged for security reasons)sailed.

The three days of waiting for the ship's call were long and tedious, as was the voyage itself, during which he shared a cabin with three other figures, none of whom seemed much interested in talking about themselves, nor anything else.

That actually suited Christopher just fine, as he didn't much like the looks of his present company, and he'd enough in the way of anxieties about where they'd end up, what they'd be facing, and how Mary, the newbies and the garage were doing back home, to keep him occupied.

After two days, which seemed like two weeks to Christopher, the ship landed at its port of call, Port Victory in what had once been the People's Socialist Republic of Oceania.

Oceania, like its immediate neighbours, Eurasia and Eastasia, had been settled by figures who patterned themselves after the situations and characters in George Orwell's “1984”, right down to having the omnipresent Party and Big Brother. It had also been at ceaseless war with either one of its two neighbours since independence from Centralia in 2002, and had conquered Eurasia and Eastasia only a few months before joining its former coloniser in attacking Pacifica in late April, 2007.

That went even more disastrously for Oceania than Centralia, as its best military units had been destroyed or captured, and, in the war's closing days, New London, both the capital of Airstrip One and of Oceania as a whole, was heavily bombed, rocketed and pounded by Pacifican aircraft, missiles and naval artillery.

In the war's aftermath, Big Brother and the Party lost a great deal of face, and not even the dreaded People's Security Bureau could keep all sorts of dissidents, especially those in the Armed Forces, from moving against the State, which they did.

By the time, Christopher and his companions arrived in Oceania, its Eurasian and Eastasian possessions had completely broken off from it, and Oceania itself was divided among nearly a dozen or so contending factions, some led by former Party bosses, others by former dissidents, and all of whom desired to gain power and liquidate their opposition.

Christopher knew almost nothing about any of this, nor, if asked, would he have particularly cared. He was there to do his job, stay alive and in one piece, collect his money at job's end, and go home, and that was it.

He'd managed that part well enough, and had even made a few friends among his platoon mates, though Christopher really didn't want to buddy up with anyone in particular, as he'd no intention of
re-upping once his six-week tour ended.

Still, he realised that he needed someone besides himself to watch his back, if he was going to make it through the tour at all.

Its first three weeks had gone well enough for the platoon and Christopher, and they'd pushed hard into the areas held by their foes to the North and North-East of Port Victory.

At the fourth week's beginning, however, the enemy's resistance toughened up considerably, with 12 out of the platoon's 20 members killed, wounded or missing, and the unit ending up cut off from the rest of the army and trapped in a little village some 5 feet due south of O'Brien Mills, the north-western Oceanian city that'd been their objective not long ago.

Christopher and the rest of the platoon had held off their attackers for two days and a night, before being called into the wrecked village Party meeting hall that served as their headquarters on the second day's evening.

There, the platoon's commander, a vintage blond eagle-eye Action Man named Captain McKenzie told his surviving troops that, after finding out from their high command in Port Victory that there was no way any relief units could be sent to get them out of the village, he'd decided to dissolve the unit, and disperse its members in the hopes that at least one or two of them might make it back to Port Victory.

“Gentlemen,”(Christopher always chuckled at the memory of McKenzie's always calling his men that, even if most of them, including himself, could hardly be called that), Captain McKenzie drawled in his fruity upper-class tones, “I see no need for all of us to die in this beastly little place, eh??? So, gentlemen, I am giving you all one last order, and that is to fuck off out of here as quickly as possible. If any of us are lucky enough to make it back home(meaning Port Victory), and I run into you, I'll stand each and every one of you a drink or two. If not, It has been a pleasure serving with you. Good-bye, and Good Luck to each and every one of you.”

Even now, as Christopher was making his way across the plains of another devastated nation some 50 yards west of that little village, there were two memories of that night that amazed him, the first being McKenzie's using “fuck off”, as the Captain never, at least in his ear-shot, ever used profanity of any kind, and the other being the time and trouble McKenzie took, after giving his farewell benediction, to shake the hand of each and every one of his men, including Christopher, and individually wishing them good luck, before departing into the night with Sergeant Cacciatore, a vintage GI Joe Action Soldier.

There might be a lot of figures who could say a lot of bad things about McKenzie, Christopher often reflected to himself, but he wasn't one of them, especially since the Captain had done it all, as he seemed to do practically everything, with grace and style.

Christopher, who left the shattered ex-Party hall a few minutes after McKenzie and most of the others had gone, never saw him, Cacciatore, nor any of the others who'd gone before him and his two squad-mates, Robinson and Tamura, ever again.

He hoped they were still alive, but Christopher somehow doubted it, considering what happened to Robinson and Tamura after the trio left the village.

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