The general observed wryly that that had been a necessary war, one with God on their side.
Richard of Amwell agreed, smiling.
After a moment the general drawled, “Now . . . what is it you all want?”
The chairman looked off to collect his thoughts then responded with a single word. “This.”
The general eyed the Amwell Man, scratched his chin and shook his head. “Well, you've got it. What else do you want?”
“We want to live a better way.”
“Well, I'm glad that you want to live. Worried for a while there y'all were bent on being martyrs. Making me some kind of Genghis Khan. But about a better way—I don't have any control over that.”
“That's right,” said the chairman.
The general cocked his head and sighed. “What do you say we quit playing with meaningful words and say what we mean to say? What do you want of us, of me, here, now?”
Unconsciously the soldier had placed his hand down hard on the worn leather flap which covered his pearl-handled revolver. The act did not escape the chairman.
“General we want to live on this earth—“
The soldier loosened his tie, saying, “You should be talking to the politicians—
“—Adapt ourselves to it, not it to us! Don't you see what we're doing?”
“Uh. no, frankly, and I repeat, you should be—“
‘We have no business draining the earth's resources for no real purposes.
Apart from space research there's no need to dig into the ground for anything.
College professors, hippies, the New Left, ‘Outsiders' - they were all the same to the old warrior. “You mean like oil and gold and coal, and water and iron ore and highway beds. Like foundations for houses and buildings—useless things like that?”
The Amwell Man's reply held such solemnity it stopped the General in mid-breath.
“Yes.” He paused before continuing. “Either we learn to live like the
Earthen or be destroyed in the holocaust we started. It might already be too late.”
“Now just a whole minute here - ! What holocaust you talking about?”
“The one we created, all of us, out of the vacuums, the airless pockets Where water, oil and minerals once were from the mines and shafts we've dug, the poisons we've buried, tunnels and channels, swamps and shorelines changed or covered. The atmosphere we've polluted causing temperature inversions, increased earth-crust pressures. Unbalancing wind and tide—“
“Wait a minute, now I remember! It was on the box a couple a years ago. Knew I'd seen you before but couldn't put my finger on it.” The soldier got to his feet and stretched. “Amwell something.”
“General, there are people in Africa, New Zealand, the Himalayas, at the Poles, on sea islands—in our very own country on reservations—who have existed comfortably for hundreds of thousands of years, maybe longer.”
“Now you're asking us to live like savages!”
“Not savages. Earthen.”
“Earthen. You make that up?” The general could almost enjoy it.
Nothing so invigorating as a wrangle with a fanatical idealist, and this one was certainly a humdinger. But behind his eyes was the picture of thousands of trembling fingers on buttons, throttles and triggers waiting for his command.
“So you want us all to farm with stone tools, eat raw vegetables and fish,
live in mud huts, or caves, mebbe?”