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Monday, May 21, 2012

Unfinished Civil War Fantasy

Gen. George Meade appeared in the tent unceremoniously, accompanied by a staff officer and an orderly.  His long-bearded haggard face, shaded by his black military felt hat with the rim turned down. Looked careworn and tired, as if he had not slept the night. In fact, as Gen. Carl Schurz surmised, he probably hadn’t since Gen. Hooker had abruptly resigned his commission and the President had sent for him in the early hours of the morning. The ink on Meade’s commission to take command of the Army of the Potomac could not have even dried yet.
Meade wore his spectacles on his nose, which gave him a magisterial look. There was nothing about his appearance or bearing—not a smile or a sympathetic word addressed to those around him—that might have made the hearts of soldiers warm up to him, or that called forth a cheer. There was nothing of pose, nothing stagey about him. His mind was evidently absorbed by the problem before him—a stage coach with thick reinforced walls and bars over the windows.
“Gen. Meade,” Schurz moved to greet his new commander. “Congratulations on your promotion, sir. I apologize for intrusion on your time.”
“I’m not certain either congratulations or apology is in order, Gen. Schurz,” he said. “But I will accept both if you tell me why you sent for me and why there appears to be an extraordinary amount of security in this area.”
Schurz nodded and pointed to the carriage at the center of the tent. “Unfortunately, we’ve made a rather disturbing discovery about the Confederate plans and their—technology.”
“Technology?”  Meade asked, with a cautious glance at the bars of the prison coach. “In there?”
“You had best see for yourself, sir,” Schurz said.
Meade peered through the window of the coach. The light was dim inside. Curled up in a fetal position was a fragile-looking young woman, dressed only in rags and clutching her shackled arms to her bosom. Meade was shocked as the woman slowly looked up and two glowing eyes peered back at him. The general looked at Schurz with a perplexed expression.
“There’s no easy way of explaining this that’s believable, sir, but let me try,” Schurz paused. “When I left Germany many years ago, there were rumors of secret police, of government spies, who were the perfect infiltrators to break up political movements and capture enemies of the state. Until yesterday, they were just fancy stories told in hushed whispers amongst revolutionaries. Some believe it’s why we failed. I now know these spies are real.”
“You believe this—girl—is one of them,” Meade said. “Who is she?”
Who she is, we don’t know. What she is is unfathomable…” Schurz said.
“What?”
“A doppelganger, sir. A shape-changer.”

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