A Captain of the Gate
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A fabulous story in the 'Without Warning' trilogy. A 'What if' story of the Cold War ... a small piece of alternate history of the period told via a biography of one of its players, Lieutenant Branch McKinnon, an adventurer in a different post-WWII world of American isolationism.
Contents Cover Epigraph Prologue 1 The Grave 2 The Earth my Hell Afterword Endnotes Acknowledgments About the Author Copyright Epigraph Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate, ‘To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his Gods?’ Thomas Babington, first Baron Macauley. PROLOGUE Branch McKinnon exhaled, and with the hot, stale breath, went some of
the somewhat ragged start of the line, maybe three hundred yards away from the first gentle rise of McKinnon’s Hill, a regular smattering of new arrivals joined those who would spend the next hour shuffling forward to say a prayer, lay flowers, or just stand quietly with their heads bowed. There is a point about a hundred yards from the grave where everyone stops talking as though they have entered the nave of a church. No marker signals exactly where this transition is made, and no instructions
often than not. I had assigned each of the new guys a buddy from one of the older hands in his squad, and Forster was supposed to be teamed up with Bob Whitelock, who’d been with us for over a year. Unfortunately, Bob had the sea sickness something terrible and at the very moment Forster wandered off the marked trail, his buddy was bent over about 25 yards back, up chucking into the sand. ‘Even with all that noise and chaos on the beach, I recognized the click click sound off one of the Jumping
packs and weapons without complaint, but with a grim and somber frame of mind as they prepared to push deeper into their own small corner of the earth, their hell. AFTERWORD This is an idea I had a few years ago, that I’m still working on, for an alternate history of the Cold War. There were a couple of what-ifs in the back of it. What if the A-Bomb didn’t work, at first? What if the slaughter of invading Japan pushed America back into isolationism? What if, and this my favorite, the Domino
etc, but of course, it’d all be total bullshit. — John Birmingham ENDNOTES 1 The policy was credited with saving thousands of American lives but it remains a sticking point in relations between the two countries, with some ultranationalist Japanese politicians still demanding fifty years later that the US apologize for its ‘war crimes’. Throughout the 1970s some American diplomats maintained that they could tell how difficult any given set of trade negotiations were likely to be by the fervor