July 12th, 1967. Monsoon takes on a whole different meeting in Viet Nam. The rain had been coming down all morning. I had infiltrated a platoon just a bit east of the central highlands this morning, posing as a replacement that was lost, looking for Charlie Company. Wasn’t difficult, most of the guys didn’t really give a shit, as long as you had round eyes and weren’t carrying an AK.
I watched them trying to slog in the mud. It seemed it was raining both directions, up and down, and maybe sometimes sideways if you got a breeze. I know it was miserable. I really couldn’t feel the heat and the moisture, but I could see despair and frustration written on their tired faces.
The heat caused a misty fog to rise up to meet the down pour. The sounds of the jungle were muted, for a while, as if those creatures were trying to find a shelter, too. The smells were mixed, rotting vegetation, wet earth, sweat from the men, and the lingering smell of exploded ordnance that hung heavy in the air. They had just fought a short battle. No one killed, but a few wounded. The Huey’s had just lifted off about the time I showed up. I stepped back into the jungle, my ‘16 slung over my left arm, my right hand wrapped around the stock. I smiled. The ‘16 was a hologram too, it would never hurt anyone.
I had walked about 20 feet past the perimeter, and leaned against a large mahogany tree. I fixed my eyes on my surroundings. I had been bouncing around the country, from about 1960 thru 1973, trying to get a feel about this most controversial war that America had been involved in in the 20th century. I had even followed some family history of a 10th generation uncle who had fought here. During the earlier years, it seemed like the US was doing some good, then it just fell apart. So many reasons why, but we don’t want to get into that.
There, to my left, a flicker of movement. A small bird, flying from one bush to another. No, there was something else. I watched intently. There! Just a bit closer. Oh, a conical straw hat emerges from the undergrowth. Then a head and shoulders, dressed in black pajama type material, belted, with an ammo belt, a young Vietnamese lady, maybe 25. Hard to tell for sure. Sometimes the women seemed ageless. She moved forward slowly, I turned to face her.
I watched as her weapon came up, a bit of surprise on her face. Go ahead, dear, you are going to be more surprised and it will warn the platoon. She fired at me, not more than 20 feet away. I smiled, then touched my ring, and faded from sight, reappearing about 30 feet to her left. She had a shocked look on her face, couldn’t believe her eyes! When she pulled the AK around, I smiled again, and disappeared again, back in the bush behind her. She turned and retraced her steps, retreating from the sounds of gunfire coming from the camp. Wonder if she will tell anyone that she saw a GI ghost? Probably not. I moved back to the other side of the camp, and appeared beside a stack of boxes that had been unloaded from the choppers. No surprise attack this time.
Two beeps inside my head and Misha said, “Jamie, don’t do that. That is a potential tear, you can’t interrupt the flow of events.”
“I know. But these guys have been hit once today, they look so stressed, and worn to the bone.”
“Still, dear, you cannot interfere at all.”
“Ok. This is hard, you know.”
“I know. Think up something interesting to do when you get back, We will take your mind off of it.”
“We will, hmmmm? Okay, later.”
“Oh, by the way, there is another angel near you there. Maybe you can hook up.”
“Gotcha. I will scan for him.”
I scanned the area for a hundred yard radius. 57 warm bodies, no electric blips. She must have been mistaken. I widened to 200 yards. Still none. I decided to jump, as my shift was about over.
Back at the center I ran some video trying to find a good spot to record. Later that evening I found it, some pictures taken by correspondent Joseph Galloway. The pictures were of a battle that took place in 1965, near the Drang River, the “Ia Drang Valley. I had mentioned a 10th generation uncle, well, he was there. A member of the 7th Cavalry. Family history had perked my interest many times about him. I had seen pictures before, I had even stalked an old ‘movie’ called “We Were Soldiers”. That is, with our technology we can step into a movie and interact with it. But this would be different. This time I would be actually in the bloody battle.
I talked to my supervisor, and told him what I wanted to do.
“Jamie, of course we want this recorded. But after what you did yesterday, we can’t risk having a tear in time. I dunno, many of these people from this battle went on to have important positions, influential positions. I understand it is personal to you, but you screwed up yesterday.”
“I understand, Sir. I could, you know, just remain invisible the whole time. Maybe I would have to miss out on dialogue with the soldiers, miss out on that interaction. It would be better than nothing, and I really want to do it!”
Well, needless to say, I won the battle. But I had to make the jump with another recorder, Ron Clark. Ron was one of the oldest recorders that I knew, he was about 42. Yeah, I know, that isn’t really old. Hardly more than a teenager in 2518. Men now can live to about 130, women, 10 or 15 years longer. And, for the most part, remain active.
Ron and I decided to make our jump about mid after noon on November 14th, 1965. By then, Lt. Col Hal Moore and his troopers would have made contact with the Vietnamese, and hell would have broken loose.
Ron would be visible and I would not. Punishment for being ‘too creative’ the day before in the jungle. Now, understand, Ron can see me, but the soldiers can’t. I found a patch of trees and told Ron to lock in on me, seconds later he was standing by me. It was sounds of battle all around me.
Within a few minutes I had 3 bullets pass through me. I could not see where the fire was coming from, but it seemed all around me. We had appeared at LZ X-Ray. The battle went on sometime after dark. Helicopters were bringing supplies, and taking out wounded. Heroic men flying into certain death, then miraculously flying back out again. Sometime that evening I knew that the man who had taken the pictures I had seen, Joe Galloway, would be arriving. But I missed him. Later in the next morning I saw him, when napalm was dropped close by, he rushed out and pulled another soldier out of danger. The thing that struck me, was all the famous people I was to read about were here, just behaving like men, fighting, struggling to stay alive. Yeah, they got medals, but not near enough. I wondered where my dear old uncle might have been. But in a meleè of this sorts, is not the time for a family reunion. Besides, that is forbidden, to contact a predecessor, at any time. On November 16th, parts of the men marched out, on the 17th,a group broke off for LZ Albany. As they entered a clearing near to the LZ, they were ambushed, the casualties were high. They were finally all pulled , but the NVA would be back, and the war would go on for about 8 more years and about 55,000 young American men would never see their home again. And countless thousands would visit Viet Nam nightly, in their dreams. The nightmare would be saddled up for the rest of their lives, for some.
I was, myself, touched by this visit in history. Ron and I both recorded different parts. Another recorder, of Vietnamese descent, recorded it from the other side. Now students can go to the archives and they can step into the battle and witness the horror, and the heroism, of those two days. Perhaps, if this type of deterrent had been available earlier, wars would not have been so easily entered into. Instead, the public was shielded from war scenes. Hal Moore, Basil Plumley, Joe Galloway, the heroic pilots, and others will find their place in history. I will never forget them, myself.
Now, I have some days off, before looking for more history. I have seen many wars, that seems to be what is most demanded. Maybe next time I will find another place in history, a peaceful place.
Yeah, or not.
I stood against the wall, near the foot of St. Philip Street, watching the vendors setting up in Market. It was just after 7 AM on Friday, October 24, 1811. Across the way a small, dark man, wearing a dark jacket and a vest the color of dark wine, gazed back at me from under a tall conical hat with a wide brim tilted over his right eye. In his hands he held several bottles. Small bottles, the kind in which perfumes would be found.
It had to be him. I had inquired at a warehouse on Bourbon Street. They said he would be here. A lady, a fine lady, approached him. She curtsied, he bowed. He said something to her, she smiled. He took one of the bottles and held it out to her. She smiled again. She took the bottle and held it just a little bit in front of her nose. As the recognition of scent reached her olfactory nerves, her hand went to her heart. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, nor him either. He reacted to the pleasure in her voice, and his posture and bearing took a different mode. Yes, it was him. Yes, this was Jean Lafitte, the Privateer/Pirate/trader/smuggler. He was in his late 20’s obviously. But you could see an image, even now, that of a man that will have fame and adventure. I watched. I wanted to get closer…..
The morning was busy. I watched casks of different sizes and kinds wheeled out by slaves, black men, sometimes shabbily dressed, sometimes barefoot on the brick and cobblestone. They went about their tasks, emotionless, mechanical, almost thoughtless. You could see the resignation stamped in to their faces. The smells became stronger, as more and more goods were brought out and stacked.
Never in my world could you dream of a melody of scents that could resemble what was here today. There were spices, boxes of onions, and garlic. There were two other men there displaying scented oils, some clearly for perfume, others for flavors, and baskets of spices and seasonings. There were barrels of coffee, great horns of sugar, casks of salt. As well as chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and cheeses. Bread could be smelled baking somewhere nearby. I instantly became hungry. I know, don’t eat the food. Your system might not be able to handle it. Damn, this wouldn’t be easy! I wouldn’t be able to get close to him, not in this crowd, and not be able to remain un-noticed, Maybe later.
I turned to go back up St. Phillip Street some where to find an ally to step into and disappear, just a step or two into the future.
“Mon cherie! You, with the beautiful cloak, come back!”
I turned and looked behind me.
“Here, mon cherie, up here.”
I looked up. Oh. My. God. There really were angels, and they have halos and everything, at least I thought.
“Cherie, did you loose your tongue? Where did you find the beautiful cloak? My, it is bon! I would bet that it would keep two warm as well as one.”
Aw, I bought it in Carondelet, up the great river.”
“Oh, you are an American boy. I like American boys. Come up and see me.”
All the while I am looking up at this goddess. Slightly dark, almost olive skin, wearing a white gown of sorts. It hid nothing. Her breast didn’t need it, the rest of her didn’t need it. Long legs, her long hair hanging over the rail. Looking up, it was astounding. My mouth would not form words. I could not help but to stare. Oh My…..
“I am so sorry lass, I have not the time. Perhaps a rain check?”
“Perhaps.” She pouted, and stuck her leg through the railing of the balcony and wiggled her toe.
“Perhaps, for you, American Boy.”
I continued on down St. Phillip’s to Royal and made a left turn. No one was looking. I stepped into the doorway of what looked like a blacksmith shop, but was void of man and beast. I touched my ring.
December 14, 1814. I had no idea where, but history said that Andrew Jackson had a meeting with Lafitte. Jackson had been here since Dec 1st. Some said he was fighting mad. The city was without defenses. Others said he was despondent, worried, desperate to be ready for an eminent attack by the British. What ever, he was about the city. I had checked in for a few hours everyday, following him, then skipping time, and following Lafitte. It kept me busy everyday. In the midst of these excursions I studied all the records. So many versions of stories, so many stories themselves. Some things written about him were simply not true. I gained experience by simply watching him. He was a faithful friend, he bonded with his people. He was a man of the times. He loved to drink, he had no qualms about slavery, yet his own slaves were treated with the utmost respect and care. He had little regard for the rule of law. In the 20th century he would have best been described by using one of the terms from the Star Trek Series. He was a Ferengi, making wealth was what drove him. I’m sure he must have born in poverty, to have such an obsession. I stood in the doorway of a warehouse in the 200 block of Bourbon Street. It was getting dark. Lafitte and two of his cronies exited the building and turned up toward Canal Street. I followed back far enough to stay out of sight. At Canal he turned right for one, two, three blocks, then entering a tavern. I stood watching. Shortly, from across the street, came three men. One tall, wearing a dark cloak. Another in buckskin, with a coonskin cap. Another in homespun. They crossed the street, walking rapidly. Then I saw maybe a dozen more move from the shadows.
I need to get inside. I walked to the batwing doors, but when I went to push the door and step inside, a burly man in deerskins stepped in front of me.
“Sorry, stranger, tavern’s closed. Ye’ll need to go some ‘ers else to slack yer thirst. Go’on now, thas’ a good lad.”
I looked across the room as I turned. It was Jackson and Lafitte sitting at a table in the back of the room. The strong hand pushed me out and stood blocking the door. I moved away, back about a block, and found a doorway to step into. Minutes went by, then an hour, then two. Then I heard conversation coming toward me. I stepped back into the darkness, they passed me. I took a moment, then followed. As I turned on Bourbon, I was grasped by the arms. Lafitte stepped in front of me.
“Mon Ami, you are everywhere I look. And have been for weeks. What business of mine interests you so much?”
“Aw, M’suier Lafitte, you are a legend. I would like to be a part of your crew, if I may?”
“Hmmm, and why did you not come and ask me at first instead of standing in my shadows?”
“I was…. I was afraid you would say no to an American.”
“Nonsense, mon ami. I like the Americans. You come and see me tomorrow at my warehouse at the corner of Rue de St. Philip and Bourbon. But a warning, if you are seen in the shadows anymore, it will be, well, like this…..!” He pulled his dagger and pretended to draw it across my throat. “Do you understand?”
And he was gone. In the darkness I touched my ring, and I was at the relief station, my heart still thumping.
My friend Randy looked up as I materialized. “Damn man, you look as if you had seen a ghost!”
“I think I almost was one.” I related the circumstances of the evening.
“Yeah, well, you need to be careful. I am sure I don’t have to tell you, the men of those periods played for real, and violence was a part of life.”
“Yeah, I usually have a shield up. But it was just too crowded tonight.”
Well, now my cover was blown. I had verified that Jackson and Lafitte had met, so someone else would pick up the story. I would take a few days off, go see my girl, and look forward to my next assignment. I know he and his men helped the Americans defeat the British, and then he went back to his old pursuits. Then, sometime about 1823, he got into a sea battle and was rumored to have been killed. I will check back later and see what really happened. History is wonderful. Over the centuries you see the same mistakes made over and over again. I hope now we have evolved to a point we can rise above that kind of ignorance.
Well, end of my journal tonight. I need to focus on the beautiful lady with me. We lay here on this beautiful lake, with tall, lush mountains to our rear. Our Sun has set for the evening. Now, one moon appears, to our north, and the glow of the second moon appears to the east. It is just an awesome place. Gravity is at such a low level that as the moons reach their zenith, we will be made to float in our transparent pod and will spend the evening making love, wrapped in each other arms, floating in the moonlight next to a beautiful lake that will almost float with us.
Life is good.
The General had his dander up, he was hell bent on destroying the Native Americans. I found him just as flamboyant and colorful as the history books described him. His horse was lathered and more animated than any of the others around him. I knew it was because, he was simply feeding off Custer’s energy. Horses are rather like that.
I glanced down at the stout bay that was standing under me. I usually didn’t get this close to that part of history I was recording. I just had to get this right, so many different versions of that fateful day.
The scout charged back up to where the officers were gathered.
“There are thousands of them, Gen’rl! I mean thousands! I din’t know they were that many red devils on earth!”
“Calm down, man. Draw me a picture of where they are, we will surprise them.”
I couldn’t help chuckle at that. The trooper beside me spat tobacco juice out and said, “Whut’s so funny? Hey, you new? Don’t remember seein’ yuh.” I was about to answer when
“Listen up! Gen’rls got a few words!”
I had taken three days off and spent most of it with my best girl. We had gone to the beach, and rode the wave skimmers. I loved it, to be able to ride at any speed reasonable or to stop, a foot off the water, to look at fish or other things beneath the waves. I always secretly wish I had invented that little device. We spent an evening stalking recent movies. They had found a way to enable you to enter a holo-projection, literally step into a play, completely interactive, then leave whenever you wish. They did that way back when I was just a kid, but wow, they had gotten so much better,. Now you could actually think that you felt a character when you touched them.
The last night home we did an adult one. Not quite porn, but lots of nudity and sex. We left pretty quickly, came home and destroyed our bedroom, table knocked over, mattress in the floor, shower curtain pulled down. When we awoke next morning and looked around, we had a good laugh and wound up in each others arms again.
The General had moved us out toward the river. He seemed to be unsure of his distance He kept stopping as if to ascertain where the north side of the village was Finally he decided and we charged for the river But as we arrived, a heavy fire erupted, and the charge was halted. The fight continues as we make out way back to the little hill behind us. We were attacked from all sides, then finally, with no place to go and not totally surrounded, but still unable to retreat, everyone dismounted. Men were falling around me. I sensed bullets going through me, and saw them going through the bay.
Such horror. No way to describe it. Almost everyone dead, only a few left.
Now a warrior coming for me, tomahawk upraised, fury in his eyes, painted with blood covering his painted body and face. I touched the Bola, holding my neckerchief in place, and faded from sight, along with the bay. I moved back to where Benteen would be, and joined the rear of the formation and reappeared. The fighting went on for sometime, till reinforcements arrived.
I was so very touched. I touched my bolas, “Audio report, please scan my feed and see if it is complete. I wish to leave here and not return. Reply to be silent message.”
A few minutes later came series of clicks against my chest that released me. I rode the bay out to small bush, as if I intend to relieve myself. I look around, no one is looking my way. I touch my bolas, and I’m gone. I now find myself in a large tree above the Cheyenne village, across the river. I will remain here for some time and watch the after battle activity. One thing for sure, the valor of the men, on both sides, was something. Both horrible and inspiring. The troopers, knowing they will die but, still standing, still fighting. What is the thing inside a human that drives it? I want another assignment away from battle for a while.
The whole thing took less than a half hour.
I didn’t know what day it was. For sure, I had set the computer for 10 a.m. Friday, May 23, 1863, but one could tell it was later than that. I hadn’t been walking that long and I was losing light fast. The northeast Mississippi foothills along a little river. I started to step across the rusty colored branch to the flat rock when, damn, it moved! I saw the triangular head drawn back to strike. Quickly, totally by reflex, I swung my staff. My aim was deadly. He was dead.
It was at that moment I felt the bump. What the fuck? I had only killed a snake. The orders were to not kill or injure any creature big or small while on detached duty. Our jobs was simple – to correct history. From almost as far back as there was a record the dominant class wrote the history. It was written to benefit them. Facts were only part of the equation. Finally, after several wars and bad administrations, the councils decided that we would send back teams to observe history, and correct the errors. Then we would have sound guidelines for society. I mashed the little Cannon on my ring, and the 12” holographic image sprang up. The very attractive image of my fiancé, Misha, smiled back at me.
“Can I help you Gabe?”
“Yes,” I said, “A moment ago I was a bit forceful with a serpent. I am afraid it is destroyed. I got a bump. Can you bring it up and see what I affected? It was a rather large copperhead. You have my 20 and timestop, right?”
“Roger, OK. Give me a minute.”
I watched the pretty face, with all those delicious expressions. She shook her head, causing the long blonde waves to fall away from her face. “Here you go. Yep, that is a kinda serious tear. It will have to be repaired sometime in the near… my future, not yours. It seems he was to bite someone really important, changing the course of a battle here in this place, about two years into your future.”
“Well, maybe we can scab that, and get another serpent to do it.”
“Don’t worry about it for now, it will have to go to committee.”
“Yeah, just what I didn’t want to hear.”
“Gabe, we are finding out that almost everything in the past links with lots of other things, it doesn’t leave you much space for error. Anyway, that Union Uniform looks great on you. A really good look for you. When will you return?”
“Day after tomorrow, mid-afternoon. I have been craving Vietnamese food, wanna go out? Hmm, on second thought, after sitting here watching you, I think I would just as soon eat in. And you had better crawl back in my ring quickly, I hear voices.”
“Oooh, that sounds like fun! Luv ya babe, I’m gone gone!”
The two men were dressed like him, Union Army Infantrymen. I turned and said, “Hey, you men know the whereabouts of the 3rd Ohio?”
One of the men shook his head and said, “Nope, where ya coming from?”
I said, “Down river from Pittsburg Landing. Been on leave up at my Pa’s and Ma’s in Vincennes, Indiana.”
The other man said, “Probably down here closer to Corinth. You can walk with us.”
I thought, No, not gonna do that. He would wait for the right moment. And that moment appeared, as about 200 Union Cavalry came at a gallop out of the trees. The two men turned and were transfixed by the sight. I stepped back and touched the side of the ring with my left forefinger, and was immediately 20 miles south.
I stood looking down on the breastworks of the town of Corinth Mississippi. I smiled. Those two boys were probably still scratching there heads, wondering how I could have gotten away that fast. I wondered if I would ever see them again. So far, I had always been able to skip when no one was looking. That was the directive, but I knew plenty that had not, and history was full of those stories. Some had sworn they had seen angels, others swore sorcery or witchcraft. Totally depends on your perspective. The History Search was about 50 years old now. The first 5 years they had made so many tears that it took the next 5 years to scab them. But continued improvements and better training had decreased the tears at all levels. #1 Tears were almost unheard of now, #2’s less, and on down the line to his level 5 today. I had a good record, and I wanted to keep it that way. I watched as the Cavalry I had observed earlier make a charge on the Rebel forces. Lots of noise, lots of yelling, then they withdraw. Just a harassment, that’s all. One week from today, those Reb’s are going to abandon their fort, that is what I was there to observe.