‘2034’, Part III: Only one left to tell the story


There was light in her room now.

A television hung from a metal arm in the far corner.

Something was written on its bottom.

Wedge relaxed his throbbing head against the pillow. With his eye not swollen, he focused on the television and the raised piece of text at its base. It took all of his concentration, but slowly the letters grew sharper, tightening around the edges. The image came together, coming into focus. Then he could see it, with a clarity close to twenty-twenty, that fantastic and redeeming name: PANASONIC.

He closed his eyes and swallowed a slight lump of emotion in his throat.

“Hello, Major Wedge,” a voice said as he entered. Her accent was timidly British and Wedge turned her attention in her direction. The man was Persian, with a bony face cut at flat angles like the blades of many knives, and a precisely cropped beard. He was wearing a white coat. Her long, tapered fingers began to manipulate the various intravenous lines that came out of Wedge’s arms, which remained handcuffed to the bed frame.

Wedge gave the doctor his best provocative look.

The doctor, in an effort to please himself, offered a friendly little explanation. “You were in an accident, Major Wedge,” he began, “so we brought you here to the Arad hospital, which I tell you is one of the best in Tehran. Your accident was quite serious, but for the past week my colleagues and I have taken care of you. The doctor then nodded to the nurse, who followed him to Wedge’s bedside, as if she was a magician’s assistant in the middle of his act. “We really want to get you home,” the doctor continued, “but unfortunately your government is not making it easy for us. However, I am confident that everything will be resolved soon and that you will be on the right track. How does that sound, Major Wedge? “

Wedge still hasn’t said anything. He just continued his gaze.

“Good,” the doctor said uncomfortably. “Well can you at least tell me how you feel today?”

Wedge watched television again; PANASONIC was developed a little faster this time. He smiled, painfully, then turned to the doctor and told him that what he had resolved would be the only thing he would have said to these fucking people: his name. His rank. His service number.

09:42 MARCH 23, 2034 (GMT-4)

WASHINGTON DC

He had done what he was told. Chowdhury had returned home. He had spent the evening with Ashni, just the two of them. He’d made them chicken fingers and fries, their favorite, and they’d watched an old movie, The Blues Brothers, also their favorite. He read his three books by Dr Seuss, and halfway through the third –The Battle Book of Butter– he fell asleep next to her, waking up after midnight to stumble down the hallway of their duplex to his own bed. When he woke up the next morning, he received an email from Wisecarver. Material: Today. Text: To take off.

So he dropped his daughter at school. He came home. He made himself a French coffee, bacon, eggs, toast. Then he wondered what else he could do. There were still a few hours left before lunch. He walked over to Logan Circle with his tablet and sat down on a bench to read his news feed. all the coverage – from the international section, to the national section, to the opinion pages and even the arts – it all dealt in one way or another with the crisis of the last ten days. The editorials were contradictory. One warned of a bogus war, comparing Wén Rui incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, and warned of opportunistic politicians who now, just like seventy years ago, “would use this crisis as a way to advance ill-advised political goals in Southeast Asia.“The next editorial has gone even further back in history to express a contradictory view, noting at length the dangers of appeasement:”If the Nazis had been arrested in the Sudetenland, great bloodshed could have been avoided.“Chowdhury started to foam, coming to,”In the South China Sea, the wave of aggression has once again swept over the free peoples of the world.He could hardly finish this article, which leaned on an increasingly noble rhetoric in the name of the country’s push towards war.

Chowdhury remembered one of his classmates, a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, a former enlisted sailor who had made his debut as a member of the Marine Hospital Corps in Iraq. Walking past his cabin in the study tiles one day, Chowdhury had noticed a vintage postcard from the USS Maine nailed to the score. When Chowdhury joked that he should have a ship that does not have jump and sink pinned to his cabin, the officer replied, “I’m keeping it there for two reasons, Sandy.” The first is to remember that complacency kills – a ship loaded with fuel and ammunition can explode at any time. But, more importantly, I keep it there to remind myself that when the Maine exploded in 1898 – before social media, before the 24 Hour News – we had no problem engaging in national hysteria, blaming it on ‘Spanish terrorists’, which of course led to the Spanish-American War. Fifty years later, after WWII, when we finally did a full investigation, do you know what they found? The Maine exploded due to an internal explosion – a broken boiler or a compromised ammunition storage compartment. The lesson of Maine– or even Iraq, where I fought – you better be sure you know what’s going on before you start a war.

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