~Part Five~

My commanding officer and I were each about to experience a season of extreme reversals:

Later that year, Fremont would be court-martialed for more or less declaring himself King of California—he was sent back east in irons, but managed an honorable discharge. A few years after that, his father-in-law urged him to go exploring so that they might find the route for a southern transcontinental railroad. Of course, his pregnant wife came along by boat for the first upriver leg of the journey and, of course, their little four-month-old boy died and, of course, she went temporarily mad and refused to admit he wasn't merely sleeping and, of course, Fremont had to pry the cold, lifeless little body from his insane wife's arms to convince her he was dead and, of course, this was as bad an omen as it seemed...Snow, Indian warnings unheeded, you name it: ten dead out of 33.

Only ten, lucky bastard.

[He pauses.]

Eleven if you count his baby boy.

[Finding his drink and perhaps gesturing in a manner nearly professorial:]

But, Fremont, you see, was cut of a different cloth than you or I or anyone I have ever met: Fremont expected it. It turned out he'd bought amputating instruments back in Philly. See? The morality tale of Manifest Destiny is not entirely populated by the-glass-is-half-full kind of fellows!

Well, what the hell: I guess he had a precedent.

It was later revealed in the official military report that the strongest banded together and ate the weaker who died off, as Fremont pressed ahead to Taos and survived without needing the rescue that all the others to a man required.

[He raises his glass weakly, despairingly:]

Oh, Colonel, my Colonel!

[He drinks.]