The old soldier walks through the halls of the Kremlin; it feels good being back in Moscow. He has been called back from the Ukraine. Eyes that thought they had seen all the possibilities that man can do, have had their horizons expanded in the Ukraine. He is not looking forward to this meeting. He sits in one of the chairs directly across from the huge mahogany desk. He looks around at the office splendor and thinks with all the talk of change, things remain the same. The Tzar lost the throne for his excesses, yet the first thing a peasant with power demands is opulence. He stands up and salutes the two men who enter the room from a side door. After some pleasantries, they sit and for a moment the man behind the desk and the old general think about one another.
This is a man whose time has long since passed, Stalinís Chief Minister thinks looking at the medals that cover the left side of the General's uniform. This man is a national hero but that does not give him the right to stand in the Peopleís way.
When the General looks at Stalinís Minister and the under secretary he sees only bureaucrats. He chuckles to himself when he thinks if they were in his command they would not even make good cooks. It saddens him to think it is a soldier's duty to obey no matter what he personally thinks of the leaders of his beloved Russia. The Minster speaks but he holds the general's attention for only a short while. The general has heard all the bureaucratic mumbo jumbo so many times his mind wanders back in a review of his life. He thinks about the little boy in this city that was then called St. Petersburg. A chill creeps into his thoughts when he thinks about freezing cold winters, which is quickly consumed when he remembers his mother's warm heart. His father was killed in the food riots of 1869. Two years later his mother just did not wake up one morning. A boy of eleven with no one who cared, survived by living like the rats who rule the city when it is shrouded in darkness. In this harsh world fate seems to take great pleasure in stomping on dreams, yet occasionally stops to embrace what seems hopeless. It seems like at the end of every winter food shortage drives the people to riot. Even as a young boy, the general had enough smarts to know that this approach never filled so much as one belly. In fact, it only reinforces how powerless the poor are. Participation is for the foolish, but opportunities can be snatched from the confusion. The boy, who was destined to become a great general, hides in a small dead end ally between two buildings facing the square. Right after the soldiers make their sweep of the square there always is some fool with a busted head whose pocket could be picked.
It was twilight when the Tzar's cavalry charged into the square. The moans and groans of the disgruntled and hungry quickly turned to screams of panic. The horse soldiers with their guns, swords, and clubs made the mob that was united by desperation scatter every which way. The fear of death or mutilation proved stronger than the ache of an empty stomach. The screaming, gunshots, and clattering of the horse's steel shoes against the cobblestone was frightening, but the boy held his ground. In these hard times, opportunity is as rare as a gentle word. The people that filled the square were defenseless. They had no chance against the heavily armed and disciplined troops of the Tzar. Yet a rock blindly thrown toward an overwhelming force may find luck as its guide.
The old sergeant did not like this duty, but orders demand that they be obeyed. These peasants did not deserve the honor of battle. He looked down the line of his men, as they were about to make contact with the mob. The new recruits were easy to pick out. Their faces gray with a fear if they live long enough they will get use to.
The sergeant feels the thud and taste blood. The rock has found its mark right below his helmet. The aching pain is lost as the turmoil that surrounds him starts to spin. The fall from his saddle to the ground seems an eternity. A soldier and his horse together make a perfect match for war. A soldier goes into battle driven to fight by duty and pride. A horse goes into battle because it has surrendered its spirit and must obey the master. Separated from his rider in the absurdity the horse has nothing but common sense that now screams escape. The young boy's heart stops when the horse slams into the small space; it's eyes wild with fear. Its hot breath turns to blinding clouds when it hits the cold air. When the frightened animal realizes that there is no way out of the small space, it quickly becomes a death trap for both boy and horse. The horse's brief fling with a masterless life has lead it to tragedy. The calming tone of the young boy's voice offers the panicked animal its only hope. The boy gently pats the animal's head. It settles the horse to the point that everything is going to be all right. When things quite down out in the square the boy backs the horse out. The boy carefully walks the horse around the wounded that litter the square toward the soldiers. When they get close the sergeant walks up, he is covered with blood. The old general remembers the sergeantís exact words; Boy, you got a way with horses. Boy, you come to the garrison at the end of Russ Street and ask for Sergeant Lintoff. Before the sergeant climbs back on his horse, he slips five Rubles in the boy's hand.
The next day the boy who is to become general is working in the stable for the 125th Regiment. It felt good not to be alone, to belong to something. From that day on the army would become his family. Working in the stable was hard work, but the boy always gave his best. Thinking about the old days, the general remembers the boy named Caleb. He was a couple years older. No matter what the general did the boy just seemed to hate him. The boy used to bully him and tried to make his life miserable. The general was there less than a week when the boy told him to go into a stall and put a bridle on the horse inside. When he went in, the other boy slammed the door shut, trapping him. The horse inside had been driven mad by one battle too many. The horse reared, jumped, twisted, snorted and was relentless in its attack. What little space there was within the stall seemed to be filled with flashing hooves. The boyís only hope was to remain calm and try to become invisible. A minute goes by and the boy's luck held, but time was surly on the horse's side. When the sergeant got wind of what was going on he opened the top part of the stall door. The old general laughs to himself when he thinks how he flew like a bullet over that half door. He did not stop to ask any questions. He attacked that bully and beat him to within an inch of his life. The sergeant did not pull him off; he figured that boy had it coming. He thinks how proud he felt when the sergeant told him he was a natural warrior and one day he would be a soldier of distinction for the motherland. From that day on the sergeant started training the boy. At sixteen he was the youngest soldier ever accepted into the elite 125th Regiment.
The first two times he was asked to fight were little more than controlling the peasants, but fear shared his saddle. He so wanted to be like the sergeant who seemed to not know fear. He would learn the sergeant's secret in their first big battle together. It was twilight by the time the regiment moved into position and bivouacked among the trees. Right before sunrise the infantry would attack the enemy position head on. Then the cavalry would follow drawing out their horse units. Then the 125th would charge out from the trees and engage the enemy behind their first line of defense. Their mission was to cause as much confusion as possible until the main force broke through. They all knew that if the enemy held that the 125th would be trapped. The war started right on time. The sergeant and the boy watched the infantry march onto the field of battle. First it was the artillery that took its pound of flesh. The infantry did its duty, keeping up their advance. When the cavalry of both sides charged into the fight it was as if the sergeant and the boy had ring- side seats to hell. Now the time had come for them to stop being spectators.
The morning mist still clung to the trees as the 125th broke onto the battlefield. The smoke from the guns and artillery offered brief concealment on their way to the enemies back left flank. Right before contact the boy looked over at his sergeant. He seemed not only willing, but also eager for battle. The boy still had a fear of pain and of not knowing what will happen next. They caught the enemy by surprise when the regiment smashed into their exposed flank. Things were going good for the 125th, the kill ratio was about three to one. The boy saw the enemy soldier jump out of a burning wagon and bayonet and fire his rifle into the sergeant's stomach. The sergeant, a warrior to the end, hacked his attacker with his saber, killing him instantly before falling from his horse. The war seemed to stop for a moment as the boy looks down from his horse at his friend lying in the dirt. It was a death wound; his stomach and intestines were oozing out of a gaping hole the size of a helmet. The old general remembers the look on his friend's face. The look was of shock at how this could have happen. Before the young man returned to the fight he had learned the lesson about fear. The great warriors thought deep down in their hearts that nothing could happen to them. With that as a belief that they knew to be true there was no reason for fear. If by chance death finds its mark, let it be a surprise. The young man won his first metal in that battle. With his lessons well learned, he distinguished himself as a soldier of courage and smarts. By nineteen he was the youngest officer ever to command the lead platoon of the 125th. By twenty-nine he was regimental commander. At thirty-five he was already the most decorated combat soldier in Russian history. The old general thinks about the decision he made that changed Russia forever. He was the commander of the Tzar's personal guard. The Tzar was slow to realize that the world was changing.
The war was over but the people did not want to go back to the old ways. They filled the streets every night. The difference was that when the soldiers came they did not run away. They stood their ground and fought and in many cases they turned the army back. While the Czarina played with her mad monk, the Tzar turned a deaf ear to the people's screams for food and justice. Russia had vast wealth and resources, yet the peasants lived in poverty. They no longer accepted the serfdom and peasantry of their lives under the Tzar. Now they are the people, people who demanded that they have a share of the fruits of their labor. The night he refused to let his men fire on the mob that stormed the palace he did not feel like a traitor, he had not betrayed Russia. He made the right choice by siding with justice. He went that night from the hero of the Tzar's army to the hero of the people. He felt bad when he heard the news that the people's army killed the Tzar and all his family.
He knew in his heart that what he did was right. Now the people were in control of their destiny. The old general thinks about Lenin and his words. The ideas of that man had soul. Now this new leader, this Stalin, this so-called man of steel had no ideas, only goals. Anything that dared stand in this manís way would be destroyed and brutality is how he makes his point. The general holds up his hand to interrupt Stalinís Chief Minster, a man who loves the sound of his own voice. The General has made another decision, and again he knows it is the right thing to do.
ď I know the importance that you have placed on this mission. I myself was an orphan living on the streets until the army took me in and became my family. I have charged into over one hundred battles for the Russia I love. No son of the motherland can claim more devotion. When the Bolsheviks charged the palace I had to make a choice. For over thirty years I would kill any who dare threaten the motherland. When I looked out at the mob, I did not see Russiaís enemies. What I saw storming the palace was the blood and life of Russia itself. I joined the people that day in the revolution. I was a part of the victory and I am proud of that. There is nothing I would not do for the people of the motherland. Now you ask me to surround villages and kill the people that live in them. You look at the people of the Ukraine and you see the enemy of the revolution. I just came back from there and when I look into the faces of the Ukraine people they are the same I saw that night at the palace gates. I will not slaughter these people for you. I now resign my command, effective imediately.Ē
Then Minster pulls the revolver from his desk draw. The old general sees the smoke, feels his forehead explode and then hears the shot. His last thought is what a coward this man is.
The Minster tells the undersecretary to send in Boris. The undersecretary asks if he wants the general removed. The Minster says no, leave him there, he will help me make my point. Boris comes in the room and only glances at the general whose brains are dripping down the back of the chair. He sits and for what seems like the longest time not a word is spoken. The silence is maddening. The Minster reads the file on the man who now sits in front of him. Every few seconds he looks up to study the man and wonders if he will be the right choice.
ďBoris we are now at the cross road of the revolution. In the next few months we will have to make tough decisions. If we show weakness the people will loose their chance to share in all the bounty that life offers. We have to fix an internal problem that could destroy the peopleís hope. If we donít stop this insurrection right now the capitalist pigs will return and place their boot again on the neck of the people.
What is going on now in the Ukraine, if it is permitted to live, will bring down the Central Committee and Collectivism. I picked General Putin because he was a true hero and all respected him. The general is old and his mind has gone soft. He would rather let the revolution collapse upon itself, than do what I am about to ask of you. He wanted to turn his back on his duty and oppose the plan the Central Committee and I have come up with to save our beloved revolution. I would not, I could not let what has become a foolish old man put what might be distasteful to him in front of the people's revolution. The death of the general has given him another chance to again be the hero. Russia will hear how the farmers of the Ukraine defied the will of the people. They ambushed the beloved general, dragged him from his car, tortured, and then murdered him. The people's rage will smooth the road for what we must do.
Let me explain what is going on in the Ukraine and why it is threating the foundation of the revolution. Communism is not just Russia's government. Collectivism is not just another way to grow food and the manufacturing of goods. These names represent the ideas that will lead all people to their fair share. No longer will the majority labor for a select few. The capitalist's greed will make them want to keep the status quo. What the people have accomplished so far has been inspiring. The capitalist look at what Russia and her Republics have done and see it as poison to their place of privilege. They are looking for weakness so they can once again put the people in their place. We now have a weakness and I will not let it destroy the people's dreams. In order for the people to reap the full benefit of the Communist dream all must be freed from the yoke of the capitalist.
Only when the world is united under Communism will man accomplish his greatest rewards. The Capitalist now has the weakness they seek. How will the people of the world embrace communism when with in a part of its own heart some refuse to conform. The Ukraine must be shown that Russia will not stand for one of their own stabbing the people's dream in the back. The farms in the North Ukraine have been converted to collectivism. The laborers that worked the large farms took what was rightfully theirs and killed the capitalistic pigs who enslaved them. The Ukraine central committee right now as we speak is being purged of the capitalist puppets that infect it and question the revolution. The South Ukraine is the thorn in the revolution's side. It has no large farms that are controlled by a few. The peasant were given the land as their own, it was payment for containing the Ottomans by the Tazr. Now the Kolob of the Ukraine are resisting the greatest dream for all men. They must be destroyed. They must be made an example to all that thinks about stopping what is every man's right. We are replacing all the military in the south. All Ukraine's in the military will be shipped out to post in Moscow and Siberia. We will replace them with officers and men from Siberia. They have a hatred for the Ukraines that goes back to the old land wars. There will be no armed resistance. You will have a free hand to implement the orders of the Central Committee.
The world is a most dangerous place. Germany is struggling with her defeat but her dream of domination is a not dead. Japan wants to be part of the west but the capitalist will not let them in. Russia's move to a collective society has been slower then anticipated. It takes time for all to see the way. Russiaís enemies are rebuilding their militaries. We must prepare for the inevitable, for this we need money. Right now we are weak but traitors that eat at the heart of our republic from with in will be the ones who pay for our renewed strength.
The harvest in the south Ukraine looks like it will be the best in years. They call the Ukraine the breadbasket of the republic. The rich land of the south Ukraine produces more per acre than anywhere else. The farmland of the south will become the showcase of the new world order. How do we get the land back from the people? I will tell you how."