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What will you trade for iron(y)?

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  • civman2000
    civman's little whim makes him bump up old favorite . I forgot that rotten wrote this, knights of the black cross wasn't his first great story!

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  • Jeremy
    One of the best stories I've seen here. First rate. Makes me wish I hadn't lent out my Patton DVD last week.

    "You magnificent b......!"

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  • Rotten999
    I'm a sucker for a "happy" ending, though, and the second part delivers that.

    The first ending is actually pretty depressing. These poor computer people have gone through a world war, then a nuclear nightmare, and then the recycle bin! On top of that, Eric probably isn't going to do a very good job on that paper, assuming he gets around to it.

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  • civman2000
    Excellent ending...It's not a copy of "Great Big Death Story of MRKoth", good enough for the 1st ending to stand without plagiarism accusations

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  • Rotten999
    This wasn't based on a real game I played, either. Thank goodness! None of my games seem interesting enough to justify dramatizations.

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  • Rotten999
    Note: There are actually two endings, the first was going to "stand alone" originally, but someone else did something very similar in another story already (I had the "idea" first! ) so I added the second ending, which I suppose doesn't really contradict the first.


    Eric James turned on the computer and sighed as the familiar "Walls 2002" Logo appeared on the screen. He'd just finished a long day of classes and still had work ahead. An unfinished research paper was due the next morning, eight hours away. "I better get to work on it," muttered Eric, sipping coffee.

    Minutes later the Civilization Three Expansion Gold menu was up on the computer. "I'll just play for a little while...maybe three hours or so. These papers write themselves, anyway."

    Eric considered starting a new game. He still hadn't won on Deity level as the Canadians...the Laura Secord unit wasn't as strong as he thought it should have been. Maybe start a multiplayer game on the net...but the lag would be unbearable. He opened the "Load game" folder. "GermanyWorldWar1901.SAV. What was that game about? Oh, right. It was the first expansion pack game I played." Eric clicked on the save file.

    "What was I thinking?" Eric laughed. He was still learning the expansion when he played the game, and his Germany was in deep trouble, with American, British, French, Russian, and even Roman forces "closing the ring" on him from all sides. "Yeah, this looks like fun."

    He was moving the cursor towards the "Quit" option, when he noticed a flashing "Great Leader." "Guderian, your new job is to make the end game interesting."

    Eric changed Berlin's project from "The Internet" to "Manhattan Project. He sacrificed Guderian to hurry the project, and ended the turn.

    "Warsaw has fallen. Frankfurt has fallen." The horrified looking military advisor summarized the Allied advance. Eric changed all the remaining cities to nuclear missile production. Rush buys all around. Enter.

    "Lodz has fallen. Kutno has fallen. Stuttgart has fallen." The nuclear weapons were now ready. "I have become death, destroyer of worlds." Eric laughed. Paris went up in a mushroom cloud. Then London. Moscow. Rome. Kiev. Warsaw. End of Turn. Enter.

    The Allies struck back. Every remaining German city was hit with a nuke. Bonn falls. Dresden falls. Hamburg Falls. Munich falls. Eric had no units left, and Allies were close to the three remaining German cities. This game was over.

    Eric leaned back in his chair and took in the devastation. It will take Europe a while to recover from this. Every tile was polluted, and millions of people must have died in the attacks. Nuclear winter would be coming, radiation sickness...thank goodness it was only a game. Imagine inflicting that suffering on real people.

    Eric retired. He suffered a humiliating defeat. Bismarck's battered face stared back at him sadly. "Did someone step in something?"

    Eric dragged the save to the recycle bin. "Maybe I really should start that, that game took less than half an hour. Maybe another try as the Canadians or Irish...I've got all night."


    Bismarck's ruling chamber was a mess. Empty beer bottles, broken furniture, piles of rancid food...either there had been the mother of all parties, or a tactical nuclear strike. Maybe both.

    Bismarck's mouth tasted like gasoline, and his head was hammering out the Fifth symphony. He was in the shower, trying in vain to wash off the smell of cigarette smoke and vomit.

    He stepped out of the shower and put on his robe, which had a pattern of black eagles on it. He walked into the ruined state room and was greeted by Albert Speer. "Good morning Chancellor. The German Republic is calling a meeting to discuss our new plans of peaceful cooperation with Russia and England."

    The Iron Chancellor rubbed his eyes. "What's the date?" He croaked in a 101 proof voice.

    "4th June, 1871. You really did party hard, sir. I don't blame you. Those American dyes will really help our nation, and 3 million marks a year is a bargain."

    "Ah....yes. I had the craziest dream, Speer."

    "Next time you might want to sip, instead of gulp." Both men laughed. "Get dressed, we can't have the leader of the free world walking around like that crazy American scientist.

    Bismarck dressed and hurried to the Reichstag. There was business to conduct, and now that he had the benefit of that bizarre premonition of the future, he would make better choices. It was just so odd how real that dream or vision had seemed.


    Vovchanchyn stared at the jade colored ocean. The Russian Cruiser "Alexsander Nevsky" was three days out of port. They were traveling to Japan, to discuss diplomatic arrangements. Perhaps there was some common ground.

    "Finally seeing the world." Vovchanchyn sighed. He hadn't expected the ocean colors to be so bland. "If only someone would fix the appearance of our world, make it look better." It was just idle talk, no one had that power, of course. Besides, after that horrible Infantry nightmare, this was pretty nice.


    Einstein hadn't left his study for a week. His latest theory, prompted by the bizarre events that had occured, was almost finished. "Vivid dream...what nonsense." There was no way he could accept the popular explanation others were offering. There was more to this.


    Einstein's "Autosave" theory won a nobel prize for physics in 1872, although few outside the scientific community understood it. Japanese monks claimed the theory as proof of reincarnation, but that was an oversimplification. Einstein's theory had its own vision of the hereafter, something he called "The Recycle Bin." There was even evidence for something beyond that.

    The average person did what average people have always done: carried on with working and living. The theories were a bit of a bother, but not a huge bother. Everyone knew the world was a strange place, after all.


    Hopefully everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

    The entire story was me writing in the style of sci-fi, alt-history author Harry Turtledove. He's right, it's a lot of fun pretending to be someone else when writing. I went wild with the puns that he loves, but toned down the unneeded sexual content.

    Most of the Patton scenes were inspired by the movie "Patton." I even lifted whole lines from it (one of the liberties of less "serious" writing). If you haven't seen that movie, I recommend it highly.

    Vovchanchyn is fictional. A few years ago I was considering writing something about Leningrad, and he was one the characters I planned on using. I never wrote that novel, and I wanted him out of my head , so here he is.

    This story wasn't really planned, so I had to force a few things. There really was no where to go with "Firaxis" and "The Player" once they were on the table. These poor guys are trapped in a computer game, what CAN they do? I suppose I was trashing free will a little.

    Eric James is ME! Not my real name, though.

    The Bismarck ending is a rip-off of the season-erasing episode of "Dallas." The Simpsons also did this in the "Who shot Mr. Burns, Part Two episode (Speedway Squad! ).

    Bottom line: I really enjoyed writing this!

    Last edited by Rotten999; April 4, 2002, 15:05.

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  • civman2000
    hmmm...the part I like best is "The Player" and "Firaxis"...will there be some of that in the ending?

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  • Rotten999
    Albert Speer hadn't slept well in over a week. He stared at the ceiling of his Berlin apartment, worrying. He hadn't spoken to Bismarck since he had that shouting match with him...and Germany's policy hadn't changed. Now they were fighting four enemies, and he'd just gotten word that Rome was moving their forces North to possibly pick off some scraps of the German empire.

    A loud knock at the door pulled him from his gloomy thoughts. "Get the door, honey," mumbled his wife. "It's probably an emergency meeting for you, again." Speer frowned. He wasn't meeting with anyone lately.

    Speer opened the door, and was greeted by three SS men. "Albert Speer, you are under arrest for treason."

    Speer's head spun. Was he asleep and dreaming? His eyes fixed on the death's head pin on the SS commander, and then on the sub-machine guns the other two men had leveled at his chest. "You will come with us."

    Being hustled to a car in the middle of the night in a bathrobe and slippers, with guns poking into his ribs, and a serious crime hanging over his head was not Speer's idea of a good time. "Wha...what's going on?" He finally managed as he was pushed into the car's back seat.

    "Bismarck suspects you are a traitor. Your loyalty is in question. We'll get to the bottom of it." The commander looked back from the front seat at Speer and smiled cruelly. "We have ways of getting to the bottom of things."

    Ten minutes later Speer was tied to a chair in the basement of a nondescript buildng perhaps a mile from his house. A dentist's drill was set up next to the chair. The SS men leared at Speer. This was going to be a great show, they were thinking.

    "Tell us, have you been taking payments from the Allies?"

    "No! This is ridiculous!" Speer spat at the SS commander.

    His screams echoed in the basement as the drill bit into a molar, directly into the nerve. Speer was blinded by pain. The torture finally stopped.

    "Now, are you a spy!"


    "Liar!" The Commander again approached Speer, the drill whirring.

    An explosion rocked the building. Allied Bombing. The ceiling seemed to collapse. When Speer recovered from the shock, he was on his side, bleeding from a cut in his forehead. The other men had fared far worse. Two SS men were buried under a collapsed potion of the basement ceiling, and the commander had been knocked out by a large chunk of brick.

    After an agonizing hour of struggling, Speer freed himself from the bonds. He collected the car keys and a Luger pistol from the SS commander's prone form. He hurried toward the stairs. As his foot touched the first step, he realized he forgot something. He turned and put three bullets into the SS commander.

    Minutes later he was driving through the darkened streets of Berlin. He would get his wife, some money, and head west. Perhaps Joan of Arc or Churchhill needed a good advisor. Perhaps they might listen to him better than Bismarck had, he thought bitterly.


    "Hitting that man was what saved the whole campaign." Patton smiled at Bradley, who rolled his eyes. It was true, though. After the incident, Patton was no longer considered a good choice for controlling domestic situations. He'd been given his chance to lead American forces against Germany, and had made the most of it.

    "We're just lucky you didn't cause an international incident." Patton laughed.

    The Americans were now in Brussels, and were pushing toward the Rhine with the British and French. After the victory in England and the unexpected entrance of the French, Guderian was in full retreat. The end of the war, and victory, now seemed assured. How quickly fortune can turn, thought Patton.

    "Magnificent B-----ds, those French. They won't beat anyone face-to-face, but they'll shove that knife in your back everytime. We better watch them, Brad." The generals were seeing the sights in Brussels, but this was still official business as far as Patton was concerned.

    "I hope you're wrong."

    "Have I ever been wrong, Brad? Not d--n likely." Patton laughed.

    "What do you think will happen when Germany is defeated, then?"

    "Squabbles. You know how these Europeans are Brad. Skinny Dogs fighting over scraps. You can keep all this. If it were California it might be worth fighting over."

    "Well, with British, French, Russians, and Romans all wanting a piece of Germany, there may be misunderstandings. Maybe you should stay on after the war and use your diplomatic skills to smooth things over."

    "My idea of an equitable diplomatic solution would be taking all those sons-of-b---hes and kicking the hell out of them."

    "You never do like those details."

    "That's why I keep you around Brad." The men walked in silence. There were still struggles ahead, but they had earned some recreation.


    Next: The ending of the whole story!

    Quick notes: Thanks for the praise!

    Civman: The title should read "What will you trade for Irony." It's just a play on a phrase from the game. The paraentheses confuse things, I should have left them out. I was considering "History Lessens" as a title, for reasons that will be obvious in the ending. Yes, I love puns/twists of phrase.

    Godinex: Smoking? I actually quit years ago.
    Last edited by Rotten999; April 2, 2002, 20:11.

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  • WTE_OzWolf
    Absolutely loving this story....keep it coming.

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  • godinex
    Great story! Rotten keep smoking it!

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  • civman2000
    Amazing story, keeps getting better (thoough the title seems irrelevent). TOo bad it didnt make it to the story constest finals

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  • Rotten999
    Guderian carefully pulled two dark blue pins from the tactical map. That left only four armour and two infantry, retreating east into Germany. Maybe they could make a stand at the Rhine...Guderian shook his head. The defensive advantage was a myth, his own successes had proven that.

    Guderian had made the mistake of underestimating the Americans and British. He hadn't expected them to suddenly get on the same page and he wasn't ready for Patton's aggressive risk-taking. Perhaps the British campaign still could have been won regardless, but news of defeat in the USSR had led to its abandonment. When they landed at Dunkirk, they were immediately attacked by the French, who now seemed to be in bed with the other Allies. Even now, French forces were pushing to the Rhine, with American and British not far behind.

    Guderian glared at the pink pins in the Ardennes region. If only they had overrun France before the British campaign, as he had recommended. Rite of Passage. It had turned into a disaster.

    "Napoleon's envoy wishes to see you." Schultz pulled Guderian from his bitter musings.

    "Send him in."

    Guderian glared at the ceremonial musketeers accompanying the envoy. For some reason they seemed more offensive than other musketmen might have been.

    "Napoleon requests that you talk surrender terms. You are clearly beaten." The French envoy sneered at Guderian.

    "I have just one word for Napoleon." Guderian drew himself up to full height.

    "Nuts." Guderian motioned to two SS men that had entered behind the envoy. A burst of sub-machine gun fire turned the Frenchmen into a grisly heap on the ground.

    "Get this trash out of here." Guderian turned back to the tactical map. If they were going to hell, they would have as much company as possible, he thought.


    Vovchanchyn had joined the Russian Navy to see the world, but he was seeing quite a bit of it in the infantry instead. The Soviet forces had pushed into Poland and now were threatening Warsaw.

    "Maybe I'll see Berlin." Vovchanchyn pressed himself into the trench. German bunkers guarded one the roads into the city.

    "What?" Bolkonov yelled to be heard over machine gun fire.

    "Nothing. It's a navy thing." Bullets whistled past them.

    A T-34 leisurely moved toward the German pillboxes. The infantry hurried out of the trench to follow the Tank forward. The T-34's main gun roared to life, smashing a pillbox like the fist of God. The men cheered, but the cheer quickly died as a concealed 88 anti-tank cannon fired. The T-34 was turned into a flaming coffin.

    Vovchanchyn threw himself to the ground as metal shrapnel spun threw the air. They were caught in the open, too far from the trench to retreat. A Russian soldier fell in front of Vovchanchyn, clutching his face, blood pouring through his fingers.

    The 88 roared again. Retreating Russian soldiers fell like grain before a sychte. "We better go now!" shouted Vovchanchyn to Bolkonov. When no answer came, he looked to his left and saw Bolkonov staring at the sky, his guard's uniform stained red.

    Vovchancyn made a crouching run toward the trench. He felt his hot breath in his dry mouth. He dimly heard screams and explosions behind him. He threw himself toward the trench.

    For a moment he felt nothing, and then he was at the bottom of the trench. Starbursts of pain exploded from his back. With growing horror he realized he couldn't move. A terrifying coldness was spreading from his extremities towards his heart. "I wonder how the war turns out. I guess I won't get to see Chernobyl," He thought madly. He felt the unnatural cold embracing him, and then he felt nothing, ever.


    Next: Speer and Patton.
    Last edited by Rotten999; April 2, 2002, 00:31.

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  • Rotten999
    "The Saint will see you in a moment, as soon as she finishes her morning prayers." The flamboyantly dressed musketeer bowed. Napoleon frowned and nodded, digging his right hand even deeper into his coat.

    Napoleon disliked Joan, for a multitude of reasons. He thought she was a frightening, sanctimonious fanatic. He thought having a teen-age girl as the leader of France hurt their standing with the other nations. Most of all, he hated the fact that she was a head taller than he was. Of course most people were, but that was the final straw.

    Since he'd become General he'd been working to expand his own power. With his only superior lost in her schizophrenic fantasies half the time, it hadn't been difficult. His spy network kept him up to date on the world situation, and he had decided that the perfect time to act was now. He'd tolerate Joan for now, but he'd never be happy until he ruled France himself.

    "The Saint is ready to receive you." Napoleon entered the throne room.

    "What is the meaning of this, general?" Napoleon picked himself up from the floor, annoyed that he was still looking up at Joan when he was back to his full height.

    "I have a proposal that will greatly increase the power of France, and in the process the power of God." He had no qualms about playing the servant when necessary.

    "Speak on."

    "Germany is losing on both fronts now. The time to pounce on them is now."

    "For your own glory, general?"

    "Certainly not, Sainted Ruler. The Germans blaspheme the Creator of the Universe with their so-called "fascism." They are worshipping a man." Napoleon showed heroic restraint in not mentioning the fact that Joan herself was worshipped by commoners throughout France. "It's God's will that we conquer them, and I am the instrument of that will." Napoleon picked his words carefully. She was a sucker for an occassional "holy war," he knew. Napoleon himself scoffed at the idea of a God, but had been troubled by information about "The Player" one of his spies in Berlin had given him. It seemed his atheistic beliefs had been hasty, perhaps.

    "You presume to speak for God?" Napoleon ignored the irony of Joan saying this.

    "It's obvious to all, beloved Saint."

    "You are correct about the German heresy...very well. I will pray for your success."

    And I will be planning your assassination as soon as we defeat Germany, thought Napoleon. "I live to serve you, blessed Saint." Napoleon prostrated himself and exited the throne room.

    His mind was already racing with plans for Germany. He heard they were getting ready to abandon their invasion of England. If that was so they'd be counting on France to provide a safe welcome....

    A shock of pain jolted Napoleon from his scheming. The so-called "elevator shoes" he was wearing were crushing his feet, and they only made him maybe half an inch taller, still well below average. When I take over, he thought, whoever made these shoes is first in line for execution. For now, he was hoping to fill far bigger shoes.


    Zhukov had been called in from the front to meet Stalin. The German counter offensive near Kursk, "Operation Citadel" had ended with near total victory for the Soviets and Zhukov. Even now then T-34s were pushing through the Ukraine toward Poland. This should have been great news, but Zhukov knew that being too successful could land him in as much trouble with Stalin as failure. His purpose in this meeting was to reassure Stalin of his loyalty, and assure him that he was not aspiring to rule the USSR. He gave himself about an 80% chance of surviving the meeting.

    "Good to see you again, Georgi Mikhailovich." Stalin offered him a glass of vodka on ice. Zhukov eagerly took it.

    "You've heard the news from the front, Comrade Leader?" Zhukov took a sip of the vodka, and felt the conforting warmth spreading from his stomach.

    "Very impressive victory near Kursk. Very impressive."

    "I live to serve The Rodina." Zhukov took a bigger sip.

    "You're being reassigned." Stalin placed his already empty glass back on his desk.

    "Yes, Comrade Leader." Hopefully the new assignment isn't to serve as fertilizer at a collective farm or target practice for a rifle squad, thought Zhukov.

    "I'm putting you in charge of governing reconquered territory in the Ukraine. There are an alarming number of citizens there who think they're German." Stalin glowered.

    "I will reeducate them in the dialectic, Comrade Leader."

    "Do what you want, but if this situation persists, we can always have you rush a Palace, I suppose." Zhukov gulped at the suggestion.

    "Also, we need to reconnect roads to our fur supplies. We think this may be causing unhappiness." Stalin sat behind his desk. Who would be thinking about buying a fur coat in times of war anyway, especially with food short, wondered Zhukov. Still, there was no denying the effect of the luxury.

    "As you wish." Zhukov left Stalin to plan his next purge, probably. He regretted leaving half a glass of vodka behind, but he supposed he could use his influence to get some more, if needed. The reassignment was a disappointment, but Zhukov could accept the lesser evil, especially knowing Stalin. If the Germans threatened again, he'd be needed, and would be back in charge of an army. It was small comfort.


    Next: Guderian and Vovchanchyn.
    Last edited by Rotten999; April 2, 2002, 00:49.

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  • Rotten999
    "At ease, Lieutenant Bowman. Take a seat." General Conway of the RAF motioned to a chair. Bowman's file rested on Conway's desk.

    " sounds very familiar. Are you Babylonian?"

    "No. Zulu-American."

    "Of course you are. Very Good." Conway glanced through Bowman's file again.

    "With your squad, ahem, disbanded, you're being reassigned to the American forces." Bowman sighed. He knew this day was coming. The 18th RAF had been reduced in an air batte near Manchester. Wallace, Baker, and five new guys had been shot down. Parker had been transferred, and now...the 18th was no more.

    "Is there anything I can say that will make you change your mind, sir?"

    Conway laughed. "No, I'm afraid not. With our relations with the Americans as they are we're returning all the American volunteers, not just you."

    "Yes sir."

    "You've done a lot for us. Eleven kills, six months of combat experience...we're going to miss you, and I really mean that. I'm sure the Americans will be happy to have a quality flier like yourself."

    "Yes sir." Bowman sighed. He imagined presenting his credentials to the American commander, and then being handed a mop or a frying pan.

    "Again, the British Empire thanks you." Conway dug in his desk. "Attention!"

    Bowman sprung to his feet. Conway walked over to him, carefully pinned an RAF medal to Bowman's chest, and saluted. Bowman returned the salute. "Good luck, Bowman."

    "Thank you, sir." Bowman saluted, turned sharpely, and exited. He was sure his adventures were over and that he'd spend the remainder of the war peeling off old paint or hauling heavy objects.


    Abraham Lincoln rubbed his temples. He was getting quite a headache listening to Einstein. He hadn't expected his presidential role to include having highly theoretical conversations with arguably the world's most intelligent man. The world's most intelligent people did not gravitate to politics, after all.

    Einstein himself was rather uncomfortable in a tuxedo and dress shoes. His hair had been neatly slicked back. He had wanted to visit the president in his bathrobe and slippers, but that request had been refused.

    "Our research points to the existence of both The Player and a larger more powerful force I call Firaxis. Firaxis can make sweeping changes to our reality, but they seem to do so only very rarely. We also the believe that The Player is not always pleased with this involvement. In fact, The Player's relation to Firaxis seems to be almost adversarial. It's hard to believe, but we've checked the numbers a thousand times."

    Lincoln's sad features twitched somewhat as he tried to comprehend the situation. "Could there be more than one Player, Mr. Einstein?"

    "We have looked into that possiblity. So far it looks like there is only one Player. In fact, this may be one of the reasons for the Player's hostility to Firaxis."

    "He wants others to play with him." Lincoln shook his head. What little he did understand scared him to death. "Are we making any headway toward contacting these entities."

    Einstein matched Lincoln's frown. "Our research seems to indicate that this is impossible. At least with the technology we have. Worse, we think The Player might even be guiding Germany behind the scenes. If that's true...we're in deep trouble."

    Lincoln nodded grimly. He then allowed himself a small smile. "It seems the only benefit of this research is being able to see more problems."

    "We haven't given up. One never knows when a discovery could occur."

    Lincoln considered the whole of the message. "Let's talk something I can understand. How much money do you think we can get for these discoveries?"

    "What?" Lincoln smiled at Einstein's surprise. He'd forgotten the scientist wasn't a 5900 year-old head of state.

    "When a nation obtains new knowledge," Lincoln explained, enjoying the idea of educating Einstein, "it's customary to immediately sell that knowledge to everyone. We made quite a pretty penny on our "Radar" research ten years ago."

    It was Einstein's turn to fail to understand. "Don't you think scientific advances would do us more good if we hoarded the actual knowledge and just sold the material fruits of it?"

    Lincoln looked at Einstein with even more respect. "That's...brilliant. But it's not how the world community does business. Everyone sells their knowledge. It helps move us all forward."

    "You may be right," Einstein allowed, but it still sounded ridiculous to him that every new discovery was immediately given a dollar value and freely sold to everyone. On the other hand, he thought of the original goal of The Manhattan Project. If they had completed the research, everyone would have gained the knowledge, somehow. It didn't make sense, but now that he knew about Firaxis and The Player, at least he knew why it didn't make sense.

    "I would advise you not to, ah, sell, as you say, this knowledge. If this became common knowledge imagine what would happen to the average person. Think of how the religions would take this. We have to keep this secret, at least until we understand it better."

    "You're the genuis." Lincoln smiled at Einstein. "I'll defer to you...for now."

    Einstein left the oval office relieved that the president had understood. He'd be even more relieved when he could "fix" his hair and put on something more comfortable, of course.


    Next: New character (hint: France), Zhukov.
    Last edited by Rotten999; March 27, 2002, 17:41.

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  • Rotten999
    Vovchanchyn thought his new Red Guard uniform was uncomfortable, and pretty poorly designed on top of that. He missed his naval whites, and even the tasseled cap. The only good thing about the new uniform was a second stripe was now on his arm.

    He had been one of the few survivors of the lengthy seige of Leningrad. The seige had finally been lifted by a massive counter-offensive of T-34s from Siberia. Stalin himself had made an appearance, declaring Leningrad the "Soviet Hero City" prior to purging some more of the leadership, of course. Vovchanchyn's experience in the city led to a promotion and an appointment to a Guards unit. "One step closer to general," he thought bitterly as he helped to push an armoured car that had become bogged down in the muddy road outside of Riga.

    "I bet you'd do as well as the ones we've had, Igor Aronovich." Fellow Guard corporal Mikhail Bolkonov laughed at his wit as the car escaped the rut in the road, covering both men in mud.

    Igor looked at his soaked uniform, pleased. "Now it's broken in. I couldn't stand being clean." It was true. He'd grown so used to filth during the battles in and around Leningrad, that being clean seemed unhealthy and wrong.

    "We're Guards, Igor. Looking good is our main job now." Bolkonov wiped mud from his eyes.

    "You're in deep trouble, then." Both men laughed. They'd fought together in the city-fighting in Leningrad, and had an understanding.

    The Guard corporals returned to their men. The last few days of marching was almost a vacation, after weeks of combat. Just a pleasant little walk.

    "Look alive, men!" The Captain in charge of the division, being the division's highest ranking man on the right side of the topsoil, was going from group to group with an announcement. "We've got word that the Germans are defending a hill position a few miles ahead. It is our job to help fulfill the dialetic by defeating the reactionairy fascist forces." Like many Russian Officers, he was mainly skilled in party rhetoric and fairly clueless about the horrors of war. His uniform was still spotless.

    Vovchanchyn and Bolkonov gave each other a "here we go again" look. "So many times I've tried to commit suicide," said Vovchanchyn in a whisper. "And I just never got the job done. Maybe this time I finally get it right." Bolkonov looked back sympathetically. It just never seemed to end.


    Patton had spent maybe ten non-angry minutes since he arrived in Britain. "That d--n fool. That crazy b-----d! I knew it."

    Omar Bradley listened sympathetically. He didn't share Patton's colorful verbiage, but he agreed with his points. In an ill-conceived decision to mollify Patton, Montgomery had allowed a small detachment of Americans to act as a "Recon in Force." The result was disaster. Guderian had encircled the out-numbered AEF forces, and basically slaughtered them. Only remnants of the divisions remained when the British finally arrived.

    "The greatest war, a once in a lifetime chance for glory, and they won't let me fight!"

    "Do you want to hear the reports I've gathered from the survivors?"

    "Go ahead, Brad." Patton took a seat.

    "The men report that our tanks were badly outclassed by German armour, both in mobility and firepower. The men are calling our tanks 'rolling coffins.' Our recon wasn't there, and the promised air support failed to materialize. I've been told the men panicked." Bradley stared sadly out the window. "What a waste, George. What a waste."

    "That d--n Montgomery is going to have to listen to me now. We have the numbers, all we need is aggression to win! But no, he has us protecting tactically meaningless sites while Guderian beats us like a government mule. And were's Montgomery? Running like a scalded dog, the sorry b-----d. He actually falls back, when he's supposed to rescue our forces. I still can't believe it."

    "We have another job, George. We have to deal with some unhappiness here in London."

    "Unhappiness? What the h-ll are you talking about?"

    "Some of the people have been rioting becuase they're, how should I say it, weary of war. Our army has tried to act as police, but it doesn't seem to be helping. For some reason a democratic government seems to embolden the people against law enforcement. We're not sure why."

    "D--n it. What else?"

    "We have one of the leaders of the dissidents. Would you like to talk with him?" Patton nodded.

    Two MPs hustled a dirty-looking man into the office. Patton stood next to the man. A smile slowly came to his lips as the man cowered. "What's your story?"

    "We just can't take this war anymore." The man spoke in a pitiful whining voice. "The city has too many people, and we're at war, and the dyes and furs stopped coming in...I just can't take it anymore." Patton's smile turned cruel.

    "You're nothing but a d--n coward! I won't suffer a coward!" Patton began striking the man in the face with his open right hand, over and over. The man was crying.

    "George, stop!" The MPs and Bradley had been standing in shocked immobility for several seconds. The MPs hurried the rioter out of the room. Patton was screaming at him. "Get that man a uniform! Send him to the front! Send him to the front!"

    It was at least a minute before Patton got control of his emotions. Bradley looked on with sad disappproval. "I just get so mad at these cowards, Brad." Patton leaned against the wall, drained. "This is no time for cowards." Bradley sighed. This incident was not going to improve the popularity of the Americans.


    Next: Bowman and Einstein.

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