The Way of Being
By Leslie Bates
[Author’s note: While I’ve borrowed characters from the Urquhart Trilogy certain events happened differently or did not happen at all. Obviously the conflict that drove TO PLAY THE KING didn’t happen and whatever financial mischief that occurred in THE FINAL CUT was rendered irrelevant by the so-called Final War. And of course LEGACY never happened. No, I can’t say what happened to the tape. –LB.]
It was cold in the ruins of Moscow.
Yes, Russian winters were a bitch. But Allen Keller had experienced colder days in his native state of Minnesota. He was dressed comfortably for the morning’s event. Of course not everyone was as sensibly prepared for the weather and there was no shortage of whining, moaning, and groaning about it.
Standing with a military honor guard at a gap in the rubble that was once the wall of the Kremlin, Allen Keller waited for the last official delegation to arrive. There was a time when he would have expected the Italians to be late to today’s event but the only word they seemed to use these days was “Avanti!” Of course after the Vatican and most of Rome had gone up in a cloud of radioactive smoke this should not have been a surprise.
It had been years since a main force unit of the alliance, now known as the Omaha Pact, clashed with any organized opposition. But there were still insurgents and bandits to deal with in the territories controlled by the Omaha Pact.
A lifetime ago, when he was a mere rifleman on a grass cutting detail in the United States Army, Keller had once joked that his role in the big NATO war plan was to cut the grass around Red Square for the great NATO victory parade. Of course back then the Soviet Union was something to be feared. And if it was possible to win in a global nuclear was it would be the Soviet Union that emerged as the victor.
In a way that old joke was somewhat prescient. Not that there was grass to be cut, certainly not in the middle of a Russian winter, but that Allen Keller was in charge of the event that would bring to an official end to the final global war on the planet Earth.
And it wasn’t really a ceremony, only a simple act of justice followed by a simple act of disposal.
The chill air efficiently carried the sound of the last motorcade to enter the vast plowed expanse of Red Square. The sergeant in charge the honor guard called his troops to attention as the line of Humvees approached the former gate of the Kremlin.
The sergeant called out the command to present arms as the motorcade came to a stop. The rear seat doors of two of the Humvees were opened and a man and woman emerged from each of the vehicles. Keller greeted them as they approached. He nodded his head in a barely perceivable manner to the former occupants of the first Humvee.
“Your Majesty, Madame Prime Minister.” Said Keller.
King William the Fifth had inherited the position of Monarch of the United Kingdom when his grandmother, the Queen, his father, The Prince of Wales, and both houses of Parliament were effectively vaporized on the first day of the Final War. His prime minister, Sarah Harding, had been the protegee of Conservative Prime Minister Francis Urquhart and had been in Oxford attempting to reconcile with her estranged husband on the day the war started. A task made more difficult by her visible state of pregnancy at that time. However this didn’t stop her from inheriting Urquhart’s political machine and thus effective control of the United Kingdom, and bringing it into the Omaha Pact.
Keller then turned to greet the occupants of the other Humvee.
“Lady Urquhart, Commander Corder.”
The wife of Prime Minister Urquhart and his chief hatchet man were at the Urquhart estate in Southampton on the day the war started. Keller had his own suspicions as to what they were doing but he sensibly kept those to himself.
“If you will follow me, please.” Said Keller.
He led the official British delegation and the honor guard through the charred and shattered ruins of the Kremlin to a large heated tent next to a cleared area. He let the official delegation in before he entered the tent himself.
Upon entering the tent Allen Keller walked over to his boss, the President of the United States and Chairman of the Council of the Omaha Pact, John Andrew March.
“Everything is ready, sir.” He said.
“Let’s do it.” The President and Chairman replied.
Outside of the tent a set of bleachers had been set up. In front of the bleachers was a pile of wood that had been salvaged from the ruins of Moscow, some soldiers, and a Ford van that had been painted in army green.
When the official delegations of all the members of the Omaha Pact had taken their place in the bleachers behind President March, Allen Keller stepped forward, turned to the soldiers by the van and spoke clearly.
The side door of the van was opened and the soldiers reached in. Out of the van they dragged a white haired man in the tattered remains of a tailored suit. He had been bound and gagged. There would be no final words for him. The old man was dragged over and dropped on his knees before Allen Keller.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”
Putin glared up at Keller.
“You have been identified as an Enemy of Mankind. You are to be dealt with as such.”
A soldier in a black mask stepped up behind Putin, drew a Soviet era Markarov pistol from a holster, aimed at the back of the head, and fired one round in the old Soviet style.
Putin fell forward. Dead.
Other soldiers now stepped forward. They lifted up the corpse of Putin and laid it out face down on the pile of wood. Upon the body they placed the blood-red banner of the Soviet Union and then piled more wood on top. At the bottom of the funeral pyre volumes of Marxist literature and ancient copies of Pravda pulled from libraries and museums were laid down as kindling. One of the soldiers brought out a lighter and set an ancient sheet of newsprint aflame. Shortly thereafter the entire pyre was on fire.
The official delegations returned to their Humvees and drove to the airport. There was one more stop to make, one more act to witness, before everyone could return home.
With the end of one age comes the beginning of the next era.
At Cape Canaveral a massive rocket lifted off from the newly constructed Launch Pad 39-D. Aboard it was the Earth Return Vehicle for the first manned mission to the planet Mars. On it’s side was painted not the flag of any nation, but a flag with a white star within a white wreath on a blue field. The banner of the Omaha Pact. In two years another spacecraft would go out, it’s four-person crew would place human footprints upon the Martian surface for the first time.
There would further missions to Mars and other planets. There would be bases and permanent settlements to ensure that Humanity would not be trapped on one world and condemned to extinction. There would be new technologies such as fusion power, anti-gravity, reactionless thrusters, and ultimately the jump drive, which would take Mankind to the stars.
On that cold day in the ruins of the Kremlin someone within earshot of President and Chairman John March had said that world peace had finally been achieved.
March turned around and said. “Oh? Really?”