And In The End, story and graphic by rac

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IV.  In Need of Heroes

Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.
--Bertolt Brecht--


Old Calendar: June 19, 2011
New Calendar: Day 364, Year 2 A.E.

I canít help but think that if Sharon could see me now, sheíd be having a hard time containing her laughter. Our last conversation consisted of me standing with my arms crossed as she told me I would never let myself accept help from anybody, not even the woman Iíd been married to for seventeen years. Which is why she was divorcing me, in the long run. I froze her out for too long, and she didnít deserve that. Thatís something I canít correct anymore. I live with that every day.

So here I am, 14 years later, typing into my laptop during the long flight from Okinawa to Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in SoCal. I guess this proves Iím older. God knows, when I was younger, even just seven years ago, Iíd never have wanted to keep a personal journal ďto explore my feelingsĒ. But itís been a hell of a ten years, and thereís things that used to be important to me which no longer seem worth the effort to worry about.

Iíve seen so much death. I used to think Iíd seen a lot of death before, in Nam first, then even in my FBI career. Death visited me when I was young, and seemed to stay in my life: I found my grandfather when I was five, and got indoctrinated in killing when I was a green eighteen in Nam. What little innocence Iíd ever had in life I lost early.

They want me to participate in a big celebration of the third year anniversary of the Expulsion. Going to give me a bunch of medals, turn me into some kind of damned hero to rally around, no doubt. I hate that shit. I may have mellowed, but not that much. But Iíll bite the bullet. I can objectively understand the need for it. Doesnít mean Iíll like it, but I can understand it.

God, I feel old. I used to look at the troops coming in from all around the world, and half of them looked like babies to me. Commander would look at me, Iíd look at him, and weíd just shake our heads. Nils Vilmar, Commander in Chief of the UN International Police force, is a half-Swede, half-German career soldier whoíd been with the force the since the beginning. I liked him, liked working with him a lot. Iím going to miss him. Heís an old war horse. I doubt heíll be packing up and heading back home soon unless itís in a body bag.

I didnít exactly volunteer to leave, either. Things justÖworked out that way. What is it about the middle east and certain other areas of the world where, no matter what else is going on, they manage to produce terrorists and dictators by the dozen? Starving populations, and these jackasses are aiming to make a bid for Emperor of the World. Well, anyway, thereís a couple less madmen loose in the world today, and I can go home feeling good about that. Iíll let the next shift take over the responsibility of vigilance. I guess Iíve earned my rest.

If whoever stumbles across this years from now wonders why I began this journal, well, itís not that great a stretch from the work log I kept for the past six years. Even in the FBI, hell, as far back as Nam, I scribbled stuff down. Iíd learned young, in school, that if I didnít want to forget something, Iíd better write it down. Much later I learned I was a visually-oriented learner; I needed to see something for it to fully imprint itself in my brain. But back then, all I knew was that if I didn't write it down, I didnít remember it.

All through my FBI career, I kept a kind of work log, a journal about the weekís events and happenings. Small details about cases I didnít want to forget, names of people Iíd met. Nothing very personal, unless it was a strong reaction Iíd had to somebody, suspicions I harbored, something like that. I had twenty yearsí worth of those notebooks back at home, all gone now. All those memories, all gone, except for what I personally remember. So much of it blurs now.

As for this journal? Some might call it a conceit: Big man writes his autobiography. No, not that. Dr. Seidelman suggested it as good therapy, since I was already disciplined in keeping a  journal.

Itís the PTSD symptoms and the insomnia, theyíre back. Not something that makes for a good situation in an active operational outfit, soÖ Anyway, Iíll be turning sixty next year. Sixty. Jesus, I am old. Iím older than my dad was when he died.

I didnít really want to come back, I liked what I was doing. I was good at it. Once a Marine, I guess. After Calvert Cliffs, things were in such disarray. The Director, the DD and three other ADís were with me at an emergency conference on international security in Iceland when it happened. We were in shock for the entire day, trying desperately to get back home. It took us three days before we could get a MAT flight from the airbase there to Ft. Bragg.

The entire country was in shock when we arrived back home. I admit, I was having a hard time focusing on much until a list of surviving agents was generated, cobbled together through what communications were still working. I justóIíd needed to know.  Know who was alive, and who wasnít. Names leapt out at me from the list of those still alive, people whoíd checked in through official channels, one name in particular, thank God. My hands trembled from the intensity of what I was feeling as I passed the sheet on to Peter Whitehurst.

Headquarters, like the rest of Washington, was destroyed. All who had been there, or in the Washington-Maryland vicinity, were dead. Not everybody had been in Washington, though. As I thought on that miracle, I sent up a rusty but heart-felt prayer of thanks, incongruous in the middle of so much destruction, butÖI was grateful. I hadnít lost quite everything. Others had lost home, family, friends, it was all gone. Iíd been helping Peter for the past three days; he was incapable of doing much. His wife, three children and parents had been at their homes in St. Charles in Maryland, half-way between Calvert Cliffs and Washington.

So why the PTSD now, years later? Why did I put a on a uniform again? Because they needed experienced men in international combat situations. They needed to replace the now-missing officers and men who were lost in that disaster and later, in others. In July, 2005, they offered me a uniform with a silver eagle on it, a full bird Colonel, because of my experience and position in the FBI. I took it. Once a Marine. And they needed me. I wasnít really needed back home. There were plenty of people who needed to submerse themselves in something, a way to combat the pain. I wasnít needed.

So I went and fought the aliens and the scum who tried to take advantage of the chaos. We beat them, with a little help from Mulder and the rebel aliens. That was another advantage I possessed that the military wanted to exploit: they knew of my relationship with the X-Files, and knew Iíd been exposed to the knowledge of the aliens and the plan long before most. They thought it somehow might give me an advantage. I doubted that, but let it ride. I kept thinking that there were plenty of military personnel whoíd had close encounters of the wild kind as theyíd worked closely with the Consortium over the years. But, any who had were certainly not advertising the fact since the Consortiumís plan had become public anathema.

The whole situation with the friendly aliens still seemed bizarre. Many had a great deal of trouble dealing with them in a normal fashion. After everything Iíd seen and experienced, I must admit it didnít bother me in the least. As long as they didnít bleed their green poison near me, I was fine.

Iím avoiding talking about my problems. Okay. Itís harder writing about it than I would have thought. Dr. Seidelman, the military psychiatrist, said it might help to write it down in a journal, keep reminding myself everything would get better with time. God knows, I donít have a wish to keep worrying about it, soÖ

We were somewhere east of Iran, in southern Afghanistan-northern Pakistan, containing a serious threat that had cropped up in that region. A former associate of the now-deceased Hussein, alíFukkar, had gotten his hands on some of Husseinís horde of chemical weapons and was running rampant through the area, trying to secure a power base for himself. I had a company of men with me where weíd cornered him in a small village in the mountains, and everything seemed to be going well.

Then it turned to shit. He started lobbing explosives and then some kind of gas. It shocked the hell out of us; we werenít expecting such a suicide move. We knew for a fact that his ďtroopsĒ didnít have adequate gear to protect them from the gas. But that just proved how insane he really was. Heíd rather kill everybody, even his own people. They meant nothing to him.

It was horrible. Some of my troops were unprepared. Iíll never forgive myself for that fact; I should have chewed their asses out and made them wear those masks around their necks at all times, despite the heat. They really were supposed to, but over the months, the vigilance had slid back a bit as the fear lessened. Anyway, I went kind of crazy, I think. Grabbed a jeep and started driving around, throwing downed soldiers in the back. I managed to get eight men before I had to turn back, eight men who were down but wearing the masks, so I assumed they had other bodily injuries from the explosions. All the time, the shells were dropping all around us. I was as insane as alíFukkar at that point. I was damned if I was going to let that bastard get my men.

Jesus, it was a miracle, thatís all I can say. In the red haze of anger, I completely ignored the shells exploding around me. We had the latest chem warfare masks, with an increased visual field, so I was able to maneuver quite well. By the time Iíd driven that jeep around the center of the village and back out to where the base camp was, Iíd managed to use an auto-injector on myself and the other guys, reaching whatever body limbs or parts I could while driving.  I was starting to have trouble seeing and was in danger of losing consciousness from a combination of heat exhaustion (the CW suits are semi-impermeable and therefore hot as hell) and whatever CW agent had been used. I barely got us back.

It was a hell of a few days for all of us. Some of the guys were worse off than others. Those whoíd taken bad hits, where their CW combat suits were ripped open and their skin exposed to the dispersing gas cloud, had the largest struggle. Not only did they have traumatic bodily injuries to recover from, but they had to be pumped full of atropine, diazepam and other drugs to combat the CW nerve agent that weíd been exposed to. The doctors said Iíd saved the guysí lives by injecting them so quickly with the auto-injector, but it was still a long haul.

Seidelman told me that the effects I was experiencing were perfectly normal for exposure to low doses of nerve agents. The difficulties in sleeping, difficulties in concentrating, amnesia, anxiety and even muscular weakness were all to be expected for weeks afterward. I know this, Iíve read it all before in briefings on CW agents and defense, but damn, it just feels so much like what Iíd lived through in the past. The insomnia, the anxiety. I keep telling myself itís not in my head this time, itís in my body, but it doesnít always click.

It should. I canít walk for many steps before the muscle weakness from the good drugs gets to me. Theyíve got me in a goddamned wheelchair so I donít fall down and break my leg or some other jackass thing. What a pain in the ass. But like Seidelman said, better to suffer the indignities of that for a short while than the indignities of a handicapping injury for a long while. Whatever. But I know thisóIíll be damned if theyíre going to wheel me in when they give me my medals. Iíll make it to the podium on my own, even if I have to use a cane to lean on. Yes, I am vain. Damn straight!

I talked to George a couple days ago. He and Annie are getting the royal treatment by the government, being flown in on special government flight for the ceremony. I havenít seen my brother and sister-in-law in so long. Itíll be good to see him. He says heís got more hair than meÖweíll see. Mine may be all gray, but I still have a damn good bit of it across the back of my head. It seemed to disappear fast up to this point, and for years now, itís stayed this way without much change.

George told me heís been one of the lucky ones. All his kids survived the Expulsion, and he didnít need to relocate because of nuclear contamination or the weather changes. He said I wouldnít recognize Texas anymore, not west and south Texas, at any rate. What used to be sere, brown landscape is now a sea of green, waving vegetation. In less than five years, the ecological and weather shifts have been so severe, theyíve turned previously fertile land infertile, and made unusable land lush. Iíve seen the pictures from back home; I canít wait to see it for myself. The family homestead, thousands of acres that werenít much good previously for more than running heads of cattle, are now a thriving farm. The government came in and pretty much told the local ranchers this was the way it had to be; too much of the farmland that had supplied our food was unusable. George didnít mind the change, he said he was damn glad he could help out. He took in some of the relocated families, too, and they now work on the farm in one way or another. Gave them a percentage of the gross, made them part-owners. Iím proud of my little brother. Heís a hero, too. All of the people are. Itís been one hell of a decade.

Seidelman said I might have problems coming back home. Because I donít recognize much, Iíll probably feel very alienated. (I did have to laugh at that, and doc shook his head at me.) Iíve seen all the government documents, seen the pictures. Thereís a good chunk of the Mid-Atlantic coastline unusable; another good chunk of the upper mid-west, in the old Illinois-Iowa-Wisconsin region thatís contaminated; and a good deal of California is either contaminated or too unstable to settle on. The faults up and down the entire west coast have been shaking like crazy, but Iíve heard that Oregon and Washington have managed to weather the storm, so far, with no severe disasters. Except I understand that the northwest coast is colder and drier now than it used to be, which has caused its own problems.

Relocation has become a major effort. The Federal Relocation Agency is still over-tasked in trying to coordinate all efforts to help the population settle down in the remaining, viable lands. Industry relocation has been a big part of that, from what Iíve readÖgetting industries of all types up and going again, producing whatever was needed, making jobs, using available resources wiselyÖitís a hell of a coordination effort.

And, smack in the middle of it all sits Mulder, heading up the NPF. Jesus, did I ever think I would see this day? Not 13 years ago. Mulder was busy chasing aliens and his elusive sister, and I was more concerned in simply walking the fine, thin line in those days, trying to do enough to help without causing myself permanent damage. What a sorry game it all was.

I have to admit, I had a good, long laugh the day Iíd heard that the weather patterns had shifted significantly back in the US, and Four Corners, once in the desert, was undergoing the same kinds of changes that George described for the west Texas desert. In one of Mulderís rare emails (not that Iím saying I was any better, hell, I wrote even less) his dry wit came across so clearly, it was as if he was standing right next to me, speaking in my ear, telling me how the political machinations of some people havenít changed, disaster or no disaster. Iíd complained to him about the middle eastern terrorists we were hunting, bitching and moaning about how the land seemed to breed them, and he wrote back to say that the US must breed the political leech, a relative of those damned cockroaches, since theyíd survived the disasters, too. But that it did his heart good to see eagle feathers flying alongside the American Flag. Oh, how I laughed.

I have a hard time imagining Mulder dealing with those politicos on a daily basis. The Mulder I remember couldnít have done it, wouldnít have wanted to do it. Scully says I wouldnít recognize him anymore; only occasionally does his old self surface and come out to play. That through both choice and circumstance, he lives a fairly isolated life, outside of his work. Because, as much as the politically correct government tries to point out that genetically enhanced individuals are just as human as everyone else, thereís a segment of the populace who canít quite see it that way and harbor resentment towards them. She thinks itís a displacement of their sense of helplessness and rage toward the real aliens, and because there is no way to take it out on the real perpetrators of the destruction weíve suffered, those who are now different, who carry traits that are similar in some ways to the aliens, are a handy substitute.

It sounds soÖ.clinical, written like that. So detached. I donít feel detached. I keep imagining him, isolated and hurting. What the hell did he ever do to deserve all the crap thatís happened to him? When all he ever wanted to do was to stop those bastards, stop the atrocities from happening?

|

That damn, stupid cursorís been blinking at me for ten minutes now. The pilot just announced weíre going to be landing at Twentynine Palms soon. I was surprised theyíre still using it, but I was told itís only in service as a relay and refuel point; not much else going on there in southern California anymore. Guess I need to get my head together. Iíll need to put my shiny silver stars on my dress uniform and go and play Maj.Gen. Skinner, a real American Hero, for all the people back home.

And then I think itís time to resign.
 


Love to hear from you, whatever your reaction @ rac@enook.net

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