I’ve been a fan of Science Fiction for a long time. As a writer, I admire people who can look into the far future and present a story that has the possibility of coming true. All good science fiction has this element. For all you Trekkies out there, you understand. Just look what has happened since William Schatner portrayed Captain Kirk.
“Communicators” have become cell phones. A stun gun is a close relative to the phaser. The crew used electronic tablets–guess what? We do too–ever heard of the I-pad or a Kindle? Remember the touch screen on the television series? Voila! Windows 10 to the rescue! A scientist in Japan has made a look-a-like robot he sends to locations to give speeches when he can’t attend. Remember “Data?” Then there’s there’s the whole matter/anti-matter thing that I really don’t understand.
Why on earth am I thinking of such things. I got inspired last night as the finale of “Extant” aired. If you’re not familiar with the plot, it spins a tale of aliens and machines taking over our world. Far-fetched? I don’t think so.
I’m not going to address the alien part of the story because so far we haven’t even determined whether there is another Earth some where in the galaxy. I will address the takeover machines are making.
Every time I see or read about a machine filling in for humans in the work place, I become leery and frankly, a little scared. So many devices are filling our world and most people welcome them with arms outstretched. They take our jobs. They fill our factories and businesses. They even live in our pockets and purses. Machines run our world already. Satellites connect us and then pull us apart. Other satellites run our computers and even our gas pumps. Wonder if all of the connected and went on strike? Where could that leave us? The growth of technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but do they?
I know the program “Extant” is just so much TV magic, but it makes one think. At least I hope so. I can tell you one thing, if a machine tries to take my job, I would pull its plug!
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)
North Africa, May—Josie rose early and went about her routine. She worked harder than any nurse under her supervision holding herself as accountable as any nurse in her command. She earned her title, “Nurse Ironsides” and smiled every time she overheard someone refer to her with her “title of distinction.”
A corpsman met her at the mess tent one morning and saluted her. “Ma’am, beggin’ your pardon, ma’am.”
She returned his salute. “Yes private?”
“The colonel wants you to stop by his tent ASAP, ma’am.”
“Thank you soldier.” Josie left her meal and went straight to the colonel’s tent.
Josie removed her helmet as she entered the colonel’s office and saluted him as she stood in front of his desk. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
“Yes, Lieutenant. Please sit down.”
Josie sat in the chair opposite the side of the desk of where the Colonel sat.
“Josie, you are one of the most integral members of our staff here. The nurses here are a fine team, and that’s on you. Every corpsman, officer, and doctor holds you in high regard.”
“Thank you sir; I’m just doing my job.”
“Well, the brass recognizes your accomplishments too and issued new orders for you.”
“You’re being transferred to the tenth field hospital in Sicily. They need a nurse like you to head up operations. For accepting this combat assignment, you will receive a pay increase, but unfortunately, no bump in rank. I wanted to promote as well, but the brass seems to think you’re a little too young and not seasoned enough to merit a promotion.”
“Yes sir.” Josie remained stone face serious, but inside she dreaded this move. “When am I to go, sir?”
“You’ll leave tomorrow.”
The colonel rose and saluted her. “Josie, I’m very sorry to lose you. You’re as tough as any man and yet you possess the gentleness of a good woman. Keep your head down lieutenant. And God Speed.”
“Thank you sir.” Josie returned his salute, turned on her heel, and left the colonel’s office replaying his words. I need to leave tomorrow? Why so quickly?
Immediately she made plans to inform her staff and appoint an interim replacement until the Army officially appointed someone. She remained with her thoughts about the move. I guess I always wanted to go to Italy because Rosalie’s father got a faraway look in his eye every time he spoke about “the old country.” And now I’ll see for myself, but I know it will be anything but a vacation.
The next morning a driver picked up Josie at 0600 to bring her to the dock where the ship for Sicily would disembark. Josie readied herself to enter another active combat zone and worked to mentally prepare for her new assignment.
At the edge of the base hospital, all fifty-nine nurses, the corpsmen, and the doctors lined up at the edge of the road and saluted Josie. The driver stopped as the nurses sang the “Army Nurse Corps” song as their goodbye and tribute to Josie. Their gesture spoke loudly to what extent the medical personnel loved her. Tears of joy and sorrow covered Josie’s face. She jumped off the jeep and hugged everyone thanking them for their hard work. She got back and the jeep, waved and shouted, “I’ll miss you guys!”
Josie remained silent the rest of the way to the dock. When the jeep finally stopped, the corpsman got out of the vehicle and hugged her. “Keep your head down, Josie. I’ll miss you.”
“I will, Jack. Thanks for the lift.” She wiped away a pesky tear that escaped from her left eye. She marched with confidence and her equipment on her back toward the ship which would take her into battle once again.
U.S. and British troops invaded Sicily on July 9, 1943. The medical staff needed to arrive three days later, but even with the slight delay, the nurses found themselves in the thick of combat.
As they landed on the island, German Stuka dive bombers sprayed machine gunfire on the troops below. Doctors and nurses dove into slit trenches and foxholes. As Josie crouched in the trench, she thought of the large number of wounded soldiers having to wait for treatment while the enemy kept her pinned down.
When the sergeant in charge told his troops to move out, Josie followed. They made their way into a small town the allies held. The church served as the hospital and Josie was right. Many new casualties waited for help. A nurse triaged the wounded; when she saw Josie she smiled. “Are you Josephine Schneider?”
“They need you in the back. Dr. Bachman has his handful without a surgical nurse assisting.”
Josie knew all medical units came equipped with at least one surgical nurse. “What happened to the nurse I’m replacing?”
“She died from shrapnel wounds after a bomb went off in the center of town. Store your gear in the room to the left and then report to surgery – stat!”
“Yes ma’am.” Josie gulped and went to work.
Paris, France-June 1943—A whole year had passed and there was still no information about Emma. Marta wrote letters every day hoping a kind prison matron at Anrath prison might deliver her correspondence. It was therapeutic for Martha to keep writing about daily events because discussing them in a letter in the same words she might speak at supper helped her believe Emma still lived. In the back of her mind, she also realized Emma might never be given her letters.
On a hot day in June, Pierre passed Marta on her way to work. He fell in step beside her and greeted her with daily pleasantries. “Marta! How wonderful to see you again.”
“Likewise, Pierre. How are you getting along?”
“As well as to be expected.” Pierre answered as he tipped his hat to a Nazi standing on the corner of the street.
After they got out of ear-shot of the German soldier, Pierre said, “A surprise for you, mademoiselle.” He handed her a newspaper.
“Inside, a train ticket to Vichy is for you. I am sending you on a little vacation to the South of France.” Pierre winked at Marta.
“Really?” Marta wondered why Pierre said such an odd thing. “Why?”
“Someone wants to meet you.” Pierre said in hushed tones. “Get on the train today. Take little with you and stay at the train station until you are contacted by one of my people.”
Marta’s body stiffened and her eyes widened. “What’s going on Pierre?”
“Just do as I tell you, Marta. You will be very happy if you follow my instructions.” Pierre raised one eyebrow as he puffed out his chest. He slipped her a newspaper which held her train ticket. “Take this with you, mademoiselle. The story on page six is most stimulating.” He smiled at her and walked away with a swift gait.
Montpellier, France – June—After her encounter with Pierre, Marta turned to go back to her apartment. She packed an overnight bag and called her superior at the Louvre to say she had been called away for a family emergency and would miss the next few days at work. The train would leave the Paris station at noon.
Marta wondered why Pierre wanted her to make this trip, but because Emma trusted Pierre with her life, she would too. She took the bus to the Paris train station, boarded the train to Montpellier, and chose a seat next to well-dressed young woman. The woman appeared to be about her age, She wore a stylish white suit with matching shoes, a large hat, and a large diamond ring on her left ring finger which proclaimed her wealth. Marta recognized no ordinary citizen wore such beautiful clothes, and she instantly put up her guard. It was likely this woman was a German sympathizer.
The woman greeted her. “Bonjour!”
Marta smiled. “Good morning, to you too.”She folded her hands across her handbag resting her lap.
“Are you going to Montpellier?”
Marta asked in a soft voice. “Why do you ask?”
The woman’s spoke nonchalantly. “No reason. Just curious. I like to visit with my seat mate when I travel. The trip does not seem to drag on so when I talk with the person sitting beside me.”
Marta really didn’t really want to engage in conversation with this stranger. She didn’t want to take a chance because a bit of her German accent lingered in her voice, and she didn’t want to raise any suspicion. Plus, instinct told Marta not to trust the beauty who sat on the adjacent seat. Marta wanted to be sure she didn’t divulge anything about her mysterious trip. “I am very tired. I do not want to be rude, but I do not wish to visit. I would rather sleep.” Marta smiled and closed her eyes.
The French countryside whiz by the window as Marta wondered why she Pierre insisted she make this trip. In six long hours, she would understand.
Marta allowed herself to fall asleep which served two purposes. She would be rested when she arrived at her undetermined destination, and the silence fended off any further conversation attempts by the woman beside her.
The train pulled into the station, and after it came to a stop, Marta filed off behind the well-dressed woman. As they left the train, the conductor offered his hand to female passengers aiding them as they made the large step down off the train to the platform.
The well-dressed woman said in a too pleasant voice, “Bonne journ!”
“You enjoy your day, too.” Marta smiled and strolled in the opposite direction.
Now at the train station Marta didn’t understand the plan Pierre set in place for her. She studied the train departure and arrival board as she anticipated her contact. Then she strolled from one of end to the station to the other. A tall man dressed in casual white slacks and sear-sucker blazer approached her.
“Hello, Marta.” He tipped his straw hat.
“Hello.” She said shyly.
“I am your driver. Please follow me.”
Marta hesitated. “You’re a friend of Pierre’s?”
The mysterious man escorted her to a small car. He pulled away from the station and drove through the unfamiliar countryside to a sleepy Mediterranean coastal town. Marta breathed in the fresh salt air as the coolness of the breeze coming off the sea brushed across her body. A fishy odor permeated the beach area, but in a strange way, she found the scent pleasant. She never saw seaside scenery, and Marta enjoyed the picturesque view. The sapphire colored water, the gentle waves lapping the shore, boats bobbing at the pier transported her to a foreign land she loved at first sight.
The driver stopped in a quiet residential area about three city blocks from the coast. He turned off the engine and smiled. “We are here.” He jumped out of the car, opened Marta’s door, and offered her his arm.
Marta received his gesture, carrying her overnight bag and purse in the other hand. They walked on a cobblestone walkway flanked by beautiful red roses on both sides. Marta’s heart pounded harder against her ribs with every step. She wished the man would tell her why he chose this place. He led her up a flight of stairs to the door labeled Apt. 212. He unlocked the door to reveal a sunlit cozy flat where a bony old woman rocked in a chair near the window. Marta’s brow wrinkled as she stared at the frail woman struggling to stand up to greet her. Without a word, the tall man put the key to the apartment on the table next to the door and left without a word.
The old woman spoke first. “You do not recognize me, Marta?”
The sound of her voice, told Marta the identity of this stranger. She gasped and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God! Emma?”
“Yes.” Emma nodded as her eyes moistened.
Marta moved closer. “My Emma? How? When?”
“I am free at last. Let me feast my eyes on you. You are so beautiful!” Her voice quavered. Emma welcomed Marta into her bony arms.
Marta didn’t move. How could this woman be Emma? She stared at this stranger.
Emma consoled her. “I understand my appearance is wretched, but I will recover now that I am with you again.” Her eyes told the truth.
“Oh, Emma. What did they do to you?” Marta moved closer as tears collected at the rim of her eyes.
“Someday I may tell you. But for right now, I just want to be happy we are together again.”
Marta blinked again and again to ward off the tears wanting to escape as she stared at this poor, bone-thin woman struggling to move. Seeing Emma in such bad condition broke her heart. Her healthy, athletic, beautiful Emma now appeared as a battered, broken woman. Emma put her skeleton arms around Marta and hugged her. Marta didn’t expect her to be so strong.
After standing close for several minutes, Emma kissed Marta’s cheek while her eyes glistened. “I thought we would never be together again.”
Marta caressed her gently. “Welcome home, Emma. I missed you so much.”