25 Short Stories and Novellas - novelonlinefull.com
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Russia with a fall offensive and d.a.m.ned if he didn't get within eighty
miles of Moscow before the Russkies could stop him, and then-then-"
Uncle James looked up. There was a stunned expression on his face. All
his indicators were flashing in the caution zone. His cheeks were flushed
and he was breathing hard.
Carlotta let her hand rest lightly on the little stack of bank notes.
"He's very overexcited," she explained. "This has been a big day for
him. He hasn't been in San Francisco for forty-three years, you know."
"Wait," Uncle James said. He stretched a hand toward the Brazilian.
"There's something that I need to say."
There was an unfamiliar note in his voice suddenly, a forcefulness, a
strange clarity. The cloudiness was gone from it, the husky senile
woolliness. It sounded now like the voice of someone else entirely,
someone a hundred years younger than Uncle James.
The Brazilian nodded vigorously. "Yes, tell us everything, General!
Uncle James smiled. There was an eerie look on his face. "I wasn't a
general, for one thing. I was a programmer. I never fought an actual battle.
I certainly never killed anybody. Not anybody. It's all a lie, that I was
any kind of hero. It was just an error in the computer records and I
never said anything about it to anybody, and now it's so long ago that
n.o.body remembers what was what. n.o.body but me. And most of the time
I don't even remember it myself."
Uh-oh, Carlotta thought.
As secretively as she could manage it, she slid the bills from the table
into her purse. The Brazilian didn't appear to notice.
Uncle James said, "It was only a two-bit war, anyway. A lot of miserable
skirmishes between a bunch of jerkwater towns gone wild with envy of
what they each thought the other one had, and in fact n.o.body had
anything at all. That was what ended the war, when we all figured out
that there was nothing anywhere, that we were wiped out from top to
bottom." He laughed. "And there I sat in the command center at the
university the whole time, writing software. That was how I spent the
war. A hundred G.o.dd.a.m.n years ago."