She fell off the radar soon just after a year or so. With my friends I had just discovered superheroes comics, so I imagined that she had an arch-nemesis like Superduperman and Flashzinga and that that nemesis, in the end, had won.
I asked my mother what she thought of the idea but her answer was quite cryptic for me at the time. “She probably got her things” – said my mother, and I had no idea what things those may be. It took a few months for me to realize that even my girl schoolmates one by one, had started passing through that moment when a girl’s body remind her that, to be a woman, there is a prize to pay.
And then I grew up more or less, among highs and lows at school, small loves, big illusions and scorching delusions and all the rest, till I get to my twenties. And to that academic and social mediocrity that, in our then reverend nation, were the best age and conditions to be drafted by the army. This could have been not so bad, if not for the most unexpected of the wars. The war between Earth and Anipos Prime... had I ever suspected to see a war, I would never jumped a day of school and studied my ass off. Everything is better than finding yourself under a sniper’s rifle, in the mid of Siberia in September. Everything, even analytical geometry
I resisted the temptation to fly to Canada principally because Canada was in the war too. If you were lucky, they sent you back to our army. If you were not, they granted you a faster-than-light citizenship and shanghaied you to their front, which was arguably a lot worse than ours and people died a lot faster.
As an untrained dude with no practical usefulness but in a good health and fit, I was cannon fodder of a quality that was scarce in our fast-food derailed generation. I found myself on the front line well before I had learn to recognize ranks, with the kind of swiftness that my long gone German granddad, a centenary who saw the fall of Berlin in the Volkssturm and had the habit of retelling the tales of those days to his astonished grandchild, would have defined Gotterdammerung-ish.
It was there that I met her; almost identical to the girl she was ten years before hardly grown a day older. She was still able to fly, though with a lot less elegance than in my records. She was still able to bend a rifle with her bare hands but not to do the same with a tank. Not anymore. The smile was the same but, for the rest... she looked awkward, clumsy, and fragile. And, at times, she also seemed a tad dumb.
Talking to her she told a story that vindicated my mother insight from ten years before. Growing into first puberty, that something who gave her powers started misbehaving and the doctors, having really no idea of what was going on in her body, found no better way to deal with it than putting her in a form of suspended animation. They used a procedure that would have killed every person unable to stop a locomotive with her bare ends, a procedure that probably had unpleasant side effects, judging by what few was left of her legendary abilities and of the smartness she was known for.
Seeing her overwhelmed me with tenderness. I was supposed to be two years younger but the suspended animation trick meant I was now at least five years older. In my own right, I was a brat bat then, but I couldn’t help but think she was a child - not even a kid - and she should have been safe at home.
Clearly our sacred authorities had a completely different idea; they see her just as a soldier who did not need Kevlar to be bulletproof. Luckily for her, our enemies were pretty decent lads – for the bunch of robotic armoured monsters that most of them were - that thought more or less the same of me and didn’t sway out of their way to kill this possible nuisance. After the war, we also discovered that their commands knew about her way more than our scientists knew, or that she ever suspected, and were able to pull the plug on her powers in every moment they needed.
They simply found it best to leave our genial generals with an asset that was not really, one but that conditioned their tactical plans and made them, if possible, easier to predict.
As time went by her lack of real usefulness became more and more evident. Her powers were increasingly “fuzzy”, our chiefs were less and less careful in using her and even the rest of our troops started being more and more rude with her. Most of my comrades saw her as a useful monster; others, like deluded fans, couldn’t forgive her for not being up to their childhood wet dreams. In a very cruel way, everybody had reasons to get rid of her... not all made the decision consciously, maybe. But there were also those who believed it was better to eliminate every proof of one of our army major misdemeanours.
It was under the eyes of everybody who cared to look. I could see it but I had no idea what to do. By then, stay alive one other day had already become my major purpose and, what’s worst, an increasingly difficult one to reach; And I had learn, and verified, that saying the butchers that you knew what they were up to was the fastest way to end on top of the corpses’ heap... “Selected for the first morning assault” was the usual formula.
So I kept my head down, I kept silent and been a mute accomplice – like many others, and any of us will go to hell for this – in the slow killing of a girl who knew how to fly.
It was then that I met my piece of luck. Bad luck maybe, but still luck. A sniper as automatic as merciful got me right at the stomach with a magnesium tracking shot. He got me well, placing me in that thin line that nowadays stands between “we stitch you back to the unit” and “it’s too much of a hassle, let him die”. The almost dwindled out of existence zone of “let’s send him back to a true hospital”. Maybe, it was just that the surgeon knew that I wrote sketches for “Wailing from the front”, the improbable webzine that “Groucho” Lorentzson mounted on the third company server.
Lorentzson didn’t survive the war... the high commands got him executed for defeatism and unpatriotic propaganda while I was lying unconscious in the hospital. He was just one of the many critics that, one way or the other, our supreme commanders got somehow eliminated towards the end of the war – probably to be sure to continue to command in the after the defeat.
He did not sell any of us out kept to his word and claimed that it was all the product of his feverish brain work, and I’m still grate to him for this. I hope to discover, someday, where they buried his rests to pay my respects... but this is another story for another day.
In my hospital bed I discovered a life of reduced fat acids and proteins intake diet was ahead of me, but that I was alive and bound to stay so for a while. Under heavy medication, I spent the next few weeks on trips – not all of them metaphorical – and could not see her end.
An impossible order to hold the position alone while the rest of our company followed the division and repaired to the rearguard, in a masterful “position rectification” that grandpa Heinz would have loved to comment upon. In reality they were running like hell, fleeing as fast as they could while the Anipos robot army decided that it was, finally, time to make some step forward. And they left her behind to be killed.
She could not mount much of a resistance; the Anipos knew she was really, from Beta Draconis. Which means that “a signal at 125 Hz modulating a band 25 carrier can affect the tetraglobuline shape and disable Betans’ cells main energy transport system, eventually killing the subject cells if the signal power exceeds 100 mw/square meter”.
Practical translation: if you have a Betan anti-riot gun – or its schematics or just a big radio transmitter and a high school kid with a knack for analogical radio technology – you can kill platoons of high flying, steel bars bending Betans, using just one hand, and with no sweat.
|Before the battle of Salem|
Here is where end the certainties about what really happened and a number of legends have developed as the years passed. Some say she was half human; hence a little immune to the Betan weakness so the Anipos had no choice but shot her down. Some say that she was maimed by the Betan frying signal so much that they had to put her out of her misery. For some, in the end the Anipos got her back to that planet from which she was sent away that she was just an embryo, and she now lives a pacific life among her species. Obviously, I hope for this last story to be the true. I hope it is, for the sake of my own soul; I hope I will discovers she lives, under a different Sun, the kind of life she had so much earned the right to live here.
If she’s dead and this is more probable... I hope that, on the other side of the veil, she met with her old dog. The one she talked about, the day we stole a gallon of Vodka from the Siberians of the fifth. That old San Bernardo shepherd, who waited for her while she was in suspended animation till he died of old age. I hope they are there, under the shadow of the old Oak that was near her house in Oregon, before Oregon disappeared...