Still Bravely Singing

Title: Still Bravely Singing
Author: mimic117
Feedback: Is printed out, fawned over and stroked to tatters at
Rating: G
Category: V
Setting: In the universe of the future presented in the story, While Daring Greatly. You should read that first before you read this.
This story was a Memorial Day challenge for the IWTB list, issued by David Stoddard-Hunt, who now owes me big-time for luring my muse away from what it was already doing.
Keywords: same CD in While Daring Greatly, so if you survived that, there's nothing to fear here.
Archive: Yah, you betcha I'll do Gossamer and Ephemeral myself, thanks.
Disclaimer: Still not mine, although I'm finding myself less ticked off at CC as time goes by I'm just too forgiving.

Summary: When the battles are won and the casualties counted, it's important to remember the price of victory.

Thanks: To Dan Walker, my co-author on the original story, for giving this one his superior fantasy-genre expertise And to Cin for her Beta Bitch seal of approval I appreciate you both all to heck.

The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.

Charles Eliot Norton 1898

Cleve Land City
Year: Now Time
Season: First of Sun
Time: Beforedark

Settle down, younglings. I know you are restless, but the Remembrance will still be going on when we are done today.

Settle down, please. Thank you.

Today will be our last Keeping Session. Shh, shh, younglings.

I know. I am sorry to see them end as well. It pleasures me that you have enjoyed hearing my tales as much as I have enjoyed telling them. Sharfic, did you wish to ask something?

"Will you be coming back next year to tell more of the Keeping stories, Metax Fox?"

I am afraid not. Each year, I travel to another part of the continent to share our Keeping with other younglings like yourself. When the Second of Rain begins next year, I will be in a different town, looking at new, eager faces. Perhaps someday, I will return here to teach *your* younglings, if the Great One permits me such a long life.

"Don't you have a home?"

I do, Melve, but for the weeks of the Keeping Session, I am often far from my home. I miss my family and familiar faces, but each place I go becomes like a new home before I leave. I will be taking my memories of you and your village with me this time.

"Why do the Keeping Sessions have to end now? Have you run out of stories?"

Forgive me for laughing, Morbo. To answer your second question, no, I have not run out of tales. Our Keeping is so long, I would need many years to tell you all I know. Even if I only told you the tales about the Date Times, it would take me many, many Seasons to relate them all. As to why the Session is ending today, let me reply with a question of my own. Who can tell me what is special about today?

"It's First Day of Remembrance Week, of course."

Thank you, Milo. But please raise your hand next time.

Milo is correct. Today begins the most sacred week of Now Time. I am sure in the past you have participated in the Memorial Chants, Reverent Devotions and Honoring Hymns.

But do you know why we hold these rituals every year at this time? Sindac?


It is all right, youngling. I did not expect you to know. With our final Keeping Session, I will answer Morbo's question and my own. I have already told you many wonderful tales about the courageous Alien Resistance and how they vanquished the evil Man of Smoke and his minions. But every story of heroism and villainy must have an end. That is what we will talk about today.

My last Keeping begins five Date time years after Walt Skinner and his valiant troops brought down the cruel Alien invaders. It was a victory obtained at terrible cost, as we have seen in previous Sessions. The loss of life was staggering. The destruction had reduced most large cities and towns to debris and ashes. But the survivors were grateful the war was over and worked tirelessly to rebuild some part of what they had before. Ruling Councils were set up to form governments.

Enforcers were trained to keep order. Healers were sought out to cure the sick and ease the suffering of the old and dying.

Keepers were taught from the few remaining books until they fell into dust and could be read no more. In every corner, people from all walks of life worked together to restore our world.

"Did the Loneguns fix the technology they'd broken?"

No, Scora, unfortunately, they did not. There was nothing they could do to fix it. And without the technology, all forms of motorized transportation and electronic communication and convenience ceased. Over many decades of disuse, the numerous parts of all the Karz, Tee Vee's, and Ray Dee Oh's crumbled into rust and decay. The world returned to a simpler time, when food was cooked over fires, messages were delivered by hand and people stayed within walking distance of their village. Over the five Years of Restoration, small settlements sprang up where pockets of survivors had held strong.

In the third Year of Restoration, the Head Ruling Council in Washton Dee Cee began plans to build a monument to commemorate those fallen in battle. They sent messengers to the larger villages, asking their Ruling Councils to join them in overseeing this great undertaking. For two years, they labored to complete their splendid vision. A special spot was chosen in the place known as The Mall. Rubble from the old, destroyed memorials was cleared away to make room for the First Monument. When it was finished, a grand Dedication was planned. Only one thing was needed to make the ceremony perfect. But it was nearly denied to them.

The Head Ruling Council had decreed that Walt Skinner deliver the Dedication speech, but it was not to be an easy task: none could find him. The trackers followed one rumor after another, from town to town, for many, many weeks. Then, when they had found where he was living, it took them many more days before he agreed to deliver the speech. Our Keeping tells us that he refused again and again, insisting that he had no interest in bringing attention to himself. He had served his people long and honorably, as his scars would attest. Now, he wished only to rest until his days ended.

The Council would not accept his answer. They employed every means at their disposal to convince him. They offered wealth, prestige, fame and power. They did not understand that those things had never appealed to him. The Council members were frantic as the day of the ceremony approached and Walt Skinner still refused to accede to their demands.

Finally, it was the designer of the First Monument who broke through his resolve. When he was told of the form the statue had taken, Walt Skinner immediately agreed to deliver the speech and packed his bag to return to Washton Dee Cee.

The Council was overjoyed.

"Why did he change his mind, Metax Fox? He'd resisted everyone else. What did the designer tell him?"

Patience, Milo, patience. You shall know all shortly.

The day of the Dedication ceremony arrived in the First of Sun.

A cool breeze blew through the massive group of people crowded onto The Mall. Thousands of them had journeyed on their first Pilgrimage to attend. Some said the scene greatly resembled the day the Alien Resistance leaders had been exposed and murdered. Many who had been there remarked that the enormous, shrouded statue was standing on the very spot where Mulder and Scully died. The atmosphere was crackling with excitement and speculation, as it had been on that dreadful day as well. This time, however, the reason for their assembly was joyous and festive. No one would ever again be harmed by the dastardly Collaborators or their Alien allies.

A murmur of anticipation washed over the assembled people as a tall figure mounted the steps of the Dedication platform.

His gait was slow and painful. He leaned heavily on the walking stick in his hand. Those closest to the platform could see the deep scar that furrowed the left side of his face from his cheek to his ear and down the side of his neck -- a souvenir of his last mighty battle with the black-hearted Man of Smoke.

It was rumored that his other injuries obtained in that desperate combat were numerous and horrific, but he continued to fight until the hideous fiend was annihilated. Only then, did Walt Skinner accept the life-saving Healing he urgently needed.

As he made his way toward the front of the platform, the murmurs of the crowd grew and swelled until it became a clarion call of triumph. Walt Skinner watched silently as his people saluted him with their shouting voices and clapping hands. He waited for many long minutes, patiently holding his body as straight and firm as his injuries would allow. At long last the noise abated and he opened his mouth to speak. His words carried on the wind to the listening people, where they were engraved in their hearts for all time.

"I am a man of simple words," proclaimed Walt Skinner. "I have never been comfortable with the rhetoric of politicians or preachers, writers or poets. But today, we gather to dedicate this shrine to the memory of those who gave the last full measure of what one human can give to another, and the words must be said. Our honored dead deserve no less. Their bones are scattered as far as the earth is wide, and so we are forced to revere their memories only and not their graves.

There will be no poppies growing between rows of crosses to mark their final resting place. There will be no national or global cemetery where they may all lie together in eternal rest, as befits heroes. Instead, we dedicate this statue as a symbol of the great sacrifice they made to obtain freedom for the entire human race. And while this memorial depicts the image of only two people, it represents so much more than just these two. It stands for the love, determination and raw courage that ultimately won back our planet. For it all started with these two, but it never would have ended without the countless millions who followed their example by standing up to the enemies of the Earth's people. We honor them. We thank them. We will never forget them. For they did not forget us, even as they laid down their lives in a war that had no guarantee of victory."

Then the statue's shroud was removed and a great cry of amazement arose from the crowd. The huge monument showed two people, a man and a woman, holding hands as they stood side by side. They were First Fox and First Dana Mulder and Scully -- as they had appeared at the Washton Dee Cee Mall on the last day of their lives. The faces on the statue were calm, but anger blazed from their eyes. Mulder held a speaking stick in his hand as he leaned earnestly toward his audience, and his mouth was open, caught in the midst of his defiant speech. First Dana stood resolutely by his side, as she always had, holding her painfully damaged body proudly. This was our memorial to our fallen comrades -- a pivotal moment in Earth's history, frozen for all time. It was a reminder that nothing of great worth comes without great sacrifice, and that we should not only cherish the freedom they gave us at so much cost, but never forget those who paid the supreme price.

Somewhere, a bell began to toll over the hushed crowd. It tolled as Walt Skinner wiped the tears from his eyes, painfully climbed down from the platform, and slowly walked away, never to be publicly heard from again. It tolled for hours as the people who had gathered to hear his speech returned to their homes and jobs. It tolled without ceasing for seven days and seven nights as the citizens of Washton Dee Cee continued with their lives. And still it could not even begin to toll out the number of sons and daughters, husbands and wives, lovers and friends lost in that great struggle. Some say the Loneguns took turns tolling the bell during those seven days, but no one knows for certain. It is only known that they were there, before they retired into obscurity and died as old men, many years later.

So, now you know the story of Remembrance Week and why we gather together for seven days every year, no matter where we live, to toll the bell and talk about the Before times. This is a solemn week of reflection for all the peoples of our planet.

It is a time to remember the dedication and courage that was needed to ensure that there would be a future for our race. We must never lose sight of the great sacrifices made so that we might be here today. I hope that, someday, each of you will choose to make the long Pilgrimage to visit the First Monument in Washton Dee Cee and view its magnificence for yourselves.

"That was the best Keeping of all, Metax Fox."

I agree, Morbo. And that is why there are no more tales for me to tell. That is why the Keeping Sessions always end on the First Day of Remembrance Week -- so you may look upon the rest of this Week with new understanding.

Our last Session is over, younglings. It has been my honor to impart our Keeping to you. Perhaps I will have the pleasure of seeing some of you at a Renaming Day when you are older.

Enjoy the rest of Remembrance Week and never forget Mulder and Scully now live in you. Their Keeping is in your hands.

The End

Author's Note: For those who may be interested, the Title of this story is from a line in the poem "In Flanders Fields" by Captain John D. McCrae.



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