Another Look at My Past HTML version

Chapter 21
Time travelers Frank Mills, Nelson Jones, Horace Wilson and Timmy Thatchenson were sitting on a large
rock. Dick Burlington was on disciplinary report, again. They had been joined on the rock by Smythe, Bud
Grace, and another man that Frank did not know.
Frank was wondering if the humans were going to win the war after all. In some kind of unconscious way he
had forgotten that he was from the future and that he knew how it would all turn out. He needed information
from somebody close at hand.
“What do you want, Elm Branch?”
“The trombone called Retreat today.”
“Yes it did.”
“Did you ever hear Retreat before that?”
Smythe considered for a moment. “The last day of Basic they played it for us. So we would know what it
sounded like.”
“That's not what I mean and you know it. Did you ever hear Retreat for real, before today?”
“Elm Branch, what's with all the questions? Bud here was just saying, you are always asking about
something else or six other things.”
But Frank got help from Bud on this one. “Smythe, you really do not want to talk about this, do you? Your
little friend here actually asked a good question this time. For him, I mean, considering that he's an idiot.”
Bud was embarrassed that he had said something nice about Frank so he had to quickly insult him extra to
make up for it.
Smythe was visibly considering what to say. Finally he spoke.
“No. If you must know. I spoke to some other old timers before joining this rock club. Never before have
humans retreated from the hssswwx. A lot of times we don't exactly win, and sometimes both sides decide
not to continue fighting right then. But never before ha ve we had to run. Their new way of staying together
in big groups, it has me worried.”
Now Bud was curious about something. “So why do you keep re-enlisting, Smythe? A man your age would
not be expected to serve if he did not want to.”
“Maybe you have a way to eat outside of the Army. I don't. As long as the Army keeps giving me food, I'm
Frank looked over at Nelson, and he saw that Nelson thinking the same thing that he was. The food here in
this army was more vile and gooberous than they would have ever believed. Yet it was the only choice for
some. Humanity here on Altgeld was in a bad way.
“Mills. Where's Mills?”
There stood Sergeant Pain. The conversation ended. Everybody sat there looking at him.
“Frank Mills, I have a message for you.”
“I'm right here. You can tell me any time you want to.” Frank was tired and he did not feel like getting up.
Besides that, getting up might look like he was inviting Sergeant Pain to sit on the rock.