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: Chapter Two - The Trip To Arrakis

…On the television mounted on the ceiling was another movie. I had watched the first, but quickly lost interest in the selections that followed. I simply stared out of the window now, looking at the evening stars, wondering what was in store for me. What would I remember of my adventures in the desert again? What would I write about? Would the Hero and Heroine of my novel ever get to their happily ever after? Would I?

Would I even live that long?…

Here is James P Citizen, a young man willing to put his life on the line for his country, aboard a military aircraft heading for a combat zone, pondering on honor, dignity, integrity, and the dangers that lie in wait in Iraq.

James brings us the tough truth of what it is to be a Twentyfirst Century Soldier. Read his vivid words, and be thankful that there are brave men willing to stand watch for us while we sleep in our comfortable beds.

For the earlier chapters of James’s story click on Which Way The Front? in the menu on this page.

* *

Traveling, without moving . . .

Somewhere over the North Atlantic – D-Day + 1

The Crossing.

The buffeting from the modest turbulence outside had made several people aboard the aircraft uncomfortable. It was night and the irritation they were causing had finally quieted down. As for myself, I was used to it, enjoyed it even. I loved flying. Feeling the buffeting meant I was moving forward. There were times I had stood on a corner in midtown Manhattan, watching the throngs of people passing by: progress in action, movement with purpose, force of will, traveling without moving. It was in another age, in another life, on another world where I was an artist and trained violence held no place in my life.

Now that was the only thing in my life.

What cost Honor?

I looked out at the stars and clouds far below, realizing I was no longer part of that world. And I had no way of knowing if I could ever go back. Could I ever again sit still in the quiet and tell the sad stories of fallen kings? I had given up so much to become a Soldier. I had no idea how much this years long adventure would ultimately cost me in the end. That thought never entered my mind when it started. And where would it leave me? Would I be welcomed home a hero, or would I be shunned, an exile? Would anyone even notice I had been gone?

What cost Liberty?

I had kept my skills sharp at least, continuing my work over the years in my spare time. I still drew comic pages to keep the edge honed. Nothing specific usually, they were drills if anything. I played with ideas still in development, visualizing material for the stories of my friends back home, personal flights of whimsy . . . girls doing naughty things. I had even done several pages of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a book I had loved since I was a boy, obsessed with cyberpunk dystopias and Max Headroom wonders. It was a story I wanted to draw professionally someday, I had no clue how I could acquire the rights to it, but I knew when I did, I would get it right.

If I could even go back.

What cost Integrity?

I had even designed the art for my former Battalion’s website as well, but I had recently discovered it no longer worked. Broken. By the people it was made for. That discovery was frustrating. The Army had no appreciation for what its Soldiers do in this age, and neither did the country anymore . . . and I knew this. All too well, yet still, even years later, I had not absorbed this fact. That had made it a continuing source of pain, why most of what I had felt over the years was pain in one form or another. At least this made the sparse moments of bliss all the more intense, disproportionate to the true measurement.

Idealism face first with reality at over a thousand knots.
On the television mounted on the ceiling was another movie. I had watched the first, but quickly lost interest in the selections that followed. I simply stared out of the window now, looking at the evening stars, wondering what was in store for me. What would I remember of my adventures in the desert again? What would I write about? Would the Hero and Heroine of my novel ever get to their happily ever after? Would I?

Would I even live that long?

I read about how some established writers put whole works together in the span of months. Yet here I was, years after finishing college and still at work. Then again, I had also read how J.R.R Tolkien had taken some eleven years to complete The Lord of the Rings. Then again, he had to invent an entire world and mythology that changed the world of storytelling forever. He had worked with pen and paper and he had been in The Great War. Depressing, it had been The War to end all Wars until they had a second one scarcely a generation later.

And here I was, also in a war, one also of a global scale. Yet it was neither great, nor was it believed necessary. Not anymore, it had become a nuisance, more of a Bughunt, like what Juan Johnny Rico had to deal with in the Mobile Infantry. Of course, if we had that hardware and firepower, mechanized suits of armor that could punch down to a world and wreak havoc . . . What was even more depressing was no one back home believed the fight was worth it anymore. Everyone was too preoccupied with the price of gasoline for their SUV that could flatten an Abrams tank, the new flavors of café latte cappa-frapa-mochachinos at the local Starbucks, and the latest Brittney did what . . .?! trivialities. Who cared that men, young and old were actively fighting an enemy that was a coward, who hid in the shadows, spouting pseudo religious poison, claiming their faith as license to destroy and spill innocent blood. It was clear.

They had forgotten what happened on the Eleventh of September.

I was very bitter about the blatant lack of support. If it was 1944, no one would have questioned the necessity of this struggle. It was 2005 . . . and no one cared.

This was what the demons of my psyche antagonized me with during The Hour of the Wolf. I was a tortured enough soul, even though I was not Russian.

Why keep doing this? They demanded.

I have a duty to fulfill, a mission I still believe in.

Idealistic fool! They scoffed. You’re lying to yourself! Think anyone back home gives a damn about men like you anymore? They only give lipservice on how much they support you! They don’t care! I looked out the window, trying to ignore them. You’re a fool to them, a sucker! Fighting new age Banana War for someone else’s percentage and market share!

I shrugged, what cost Sanity . . .?

He who controls The Spice controls the Universe . . .!

The Trip to Arrakis by Toto from the film Dune (1984)

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