“Recruit, are you giving up?” the instructor bawled again. Chess stared, wide-eyed at the muddy landscape just beyond the windshield and threw the truck’s gear into reverse. Despairing, he listened to the helpless spinning of the tires. “Are you quitting on us?” the instructor demanded. “You could have a whole truckload of soldiers depending on you, here!”
Frantically, Chess worked the gears for a heart-pounding eternity as the rain fell harder against the windshield. Finally, he got the truck moving again and he sighed in relief.
The instructor did not seem pleased. “You will never give up!” he shouted at Chess. “While there’s people depending on you, you will not even pause. You will never, ever stop!”
Chess tried to calm his breathing as he resumed driving. His shoulders sagged as he realized that he was probably being trained for his future job in the army. And that, even if he was never a leader, as a driver he would still end up being responsible for the safety of an entire platoon or more.
In the weeks that followed, Chess continued to feel discouraged. Except for the obstacle courses, he was not good at most of this stuff. But he kept trying: what else was he going to do? Going home was not an option. Many times he pictured his mother and sister to remind himself why he was here. And the pep talks he gave himself were fine, he thought dejectedly, as long as he succeeded.
But it was not all completely horrible, he reflected. The constant activity… and small victories, like successfully driving the humvee, kept him from sinking completely into depression. And now, on his free time, there was the game. The game had actually gotten pretty fun, despite his initial dread of trying to explain it. And then, there were other highlights, too.
“So, you were telling us about the time that you and your group went on a journey with the indigo priestess,” Mal said. While speaking, she placed her hand lightly on Chess’s knee. He froze, staring at it. “So what happened then?” she prompted, quickly removing her hand.
Chess felt his heart speeding up at her touch. Did it mean anything? he wondered. With effort, he managed to ignore the incident. What else could he do, with so many people around? “Uh… well,” he stammered, “her temple had been attacked by a gang of bandits that were notorious in the area --”
“Bandits attacked a temple?” Dallow demanded skeptically.
“Well, yeah,” Chess answered. “The temple dwellers helped the sick. And the herbs they used could also be used for drugs, which the bandits stole. We set out to bring her and a few other survivors to the closest sister temple.” He sighed, drifting back into the story, despite his self-consciousness. “It was a long journey, and along the way were many dangers where everyone in our party had to use their skills. The priestess helped, too -- especially by her reputation.”
“What do you mean?” Mal asked eagerly. “People respected her?”
“More like they feared her.” Chess smiled to himself. “Feared what power she might have.”
“So she could do real magic, then?” Mal pressed.
“Well…” Chess shrugged. “There were so many rumors and legends about her, that many of our usual enemies kept away. For instance, when we traveled across the wild plains--”
“What the hell is this?” The pages of game notes blew off the cot and the players looked up, surprised. Brandt was frowning down at them, and the players closest to him shifted uneasily.
“Mind your own business,” Mal retorted, sliding closer to Chess as she spoke.
Brandt snorted, looking at the little scene before him. “Hope this crap helps when you’re overseas, you jackasses.” He walked away, laughing to himself.
Feeling suddenly deflated, Chess rose and slowly started picking up the papers.
From his cot, Dallow muttered, “At eight hundred meters.” He raised his arm to nose height and gazed down the length of it at Brandt. “A thousand meters if his big mouth’s open.”
Brandt halted then, turning to talk to someone. Dallow brought his arm down quickly.
Continued next page...
Spock: I never met John Gill, but I studied earth history from the text he prepared.
Kirk: I knew him very well. He was my instructor at the academy.
Spock: What impressed me most was his treatment of earth history as causes and motivations rather than dates and events.
Star Trek: Patterns of Force, Season 2, Episode 23
After I read Nehru’s Glimpses of World History, I wanted to get someone else’s perspective on history. And I wanted to read a somewhat briefer glimpse! A natural choice, therefore, was A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells. This is the prolific science fiction author who brought us the The War of the Worlds and introduced us to the potential for Morlocks in The Time Machine, among many of his other creative ideas. (He also has a much longer history book, which I have not attempted yet.)
Here’s why I am able to wade through both of these books: they are not textbooks and they do not have the standard focus on dates, names of battles, names of rulers, etc. Instead, both focus on trends through history. Wells starts his chapters out with sentences like, “The second and first centuries B.C. mark a new phase in the history of mankind.”
Nehru also refers to trends, and points out when they recur in different places and different ages. And he often goes further, adding his views on human nature. The repeating themes that I most noticed in his book were, first and scariest: the way every empire – many of them indomitable for centuries – eventually and inevitably falls. And, along with that, his idea that a nation can rarely be conquered unless something has gone so wrong that the people allow it.
For those who lived in those days it must have been amazing to see this vast empire totter. Herotodus thought over it and drew a moral from it. He says that a nation’s history has three stages: success; then, as a consequence of success, arrogance and injustice; and then, as a consequence of these, downfall.
Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru
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