The wizard does things a bit differently.|
by JD CopyHack
I have enjoyed so many stories through this list that I felt compelled to contribute one of my own. It's my first attemp at fiction of this kind and is a bit of a departure from the usual fare. I hope I didn't butcher the concept of the SRU Universe too much.
Mindy and anyone else is certainly welcome to repost this, should you feel it is worthy enough. As for anyone else, comments and suggestions are always welcome.
I hope you enjoy.
SRU -- Changing Private Ryan
Dateline: June 6, 1944
It was dawn as the Higgins landing craft plowed through the choppy seas. The air was thick with fog and the skies were overcast. The Allied High Command couldn't have asked for better camouflage to begin the European invasion.
Aboard one of the craft, Private James Ryan stared blankly out to sea. Around him, many of his fellow soldiers were in various stages of prayer. And those who weren't were vomiting over the side of the vessel or onto the floor below. James looked about him, he saw the fear in their eyes, then clutched at the strange medal that hung next to his dog tag. From a distance, it looked like a typical St. Christopher's medal, like any good Irish-Catholic would be wearing. But, up close, it was a different story.
James's concentration was shaken by the sounds of combat. From the cliffs above Omaha Beach, the Germans had spotted the invasion force and began to fire. American and British ships answered back, rocking the cliffs with a heavy barrage. James squeezed the medal even harder and whispered to himself:
"I sure hope this works."
Through the sounds of war, his mind drifted a few weeks back to that fateful day along Portobello Road. By then, he knew the invasion was imminent, and like any 20 year-old, he was scared to death. A feeling that was accentuated even more once he learned that he would be part of the first wave of attackers.
Since his arrival in Britain, he had wandered these street several times before, often stopping at the fruit market or to haggle with the jewelry merchants. On this day, however, nothing really appealed to him. Instead, he simply wandered aimlessly, enjoying the relaxing pace. The call to arms would come soon enough.
Doubling back toward the rail station, he noticed a tiny shop at Wicklow Corner. "Funny," he said to himself. "I've never seen that shop before." Edging closer, he read the name, etched into a simple wooden sign: Spells R Us. Impulse told him to open the door and browse the shop. As he did, a small silver bell tinkled his arrival.
It was a musty, dusty shop, filled with odd curios. One item, a wooden replica of Lord Nelson's flagship, Victory, caught his attention. "Dad would like this," he muttered as he reached for the model frigate.
"Please don't touch that," a man called from behind him.
Startled, James turned around to see an old man behind the counter. He wore a bathrobe and pointed hat. James thought that his long white beard made him look a lot like a skinny Santa Claus.
"Don't you mean Father Christmas," the old man asked.
"After all, we are in England."
"Huh, what? How did you know..."
"There's not much I do not know, James. You see, I am a wizard."
"Yeah, right. And I'm General Eisenhower. Look, it's late, and I gotta be getting back to base."
James turned on his heel and stepped toward the door when the old man spoke again.
"It's okay to be afraid, James. You're young and should be home at the church picnic with your girlfriend. What's her name? Melissa?"
"Yes... that's right. How do you know so much about me? Who put you up to this? I know, I bet it was Reilly. He's always dogging me. Just wait till I get back to base."
"No one put me up to this, James. You think it's just coincidence that you have never seen this shop before. No, the reason you have never seen it here before is because it's only been here for about 10 minutes. And after you leave the shop, it will be gone once more."
"I came here to help you, James."
"Tell me, old man, how you can help me. I'm about to be shipped to France any day now. The Germans are going to be aiming at my head."
"I have many potions and spells, James. I can make you stronger, braver, a better shot. Whatever it takes to help you overcome your fear."
"Well, if you are a wizard like you say, why can't you just end the war with one of your spells?"
"I wish that I could. But even a wizard as powerful as I is limited in what he can do. I can only help those who are fighting this horrible war. Tell me, James, how would you like me to help you?"
"You already know. I don't want to die."
"That's easy. Wait here. I'll be right back."
The old man disappeared into the back room. James considered leaving, to get away from this crazy man as quickly as possible. But, what if the old man was a wizard as he claimed?
"Almost lost you, didn't I?" the old man said as he returned to the counter. "Here,. I have something for you."
In his hands, the wizard held out a simple looking silver medal and chain. James examined the object, which seemed to be etched with an image of the wizard himself.
"No offense, but this looks like a piece of junk."
"Remember, looks can be deceiving. Believe me when I tell you that this cheap looking medal possesses some powerful magic. You say you don't want to die, and I know you are skeptical. But tell me, James, what do you have to lose by wearing it?"
"Oh, my dear lad, I wouldn't think of charging you for it. You are here to protect my beloved country and to free those countries that have been less fortunate. You have already earned this, and I would be honored for you to wear it on the field of battle."
With trembling hands, James took the medal and draped it around his neck, feeling a static tingle as it rested against his chest. He then thanked the wizard, who responded with a heartfelt salute, then turned to exit the store. Once outside, he took several steps across the street and turned to look back.
The shop was gone.
"I'll see you on the beach."
Captain Miller's voice snapped James from his dream-like state. The Higgens craft had landed and the ramp was lowered. As the Americans emptied out into the cold, knee-deep waters, they were met with a shower of machine gun fire from the pillboxes atop the cliffs.
Several men in front of him had already been cut down as James hit the water. The weight of his gear, combined with the muddy sand below his feet, pitched him forward, face first into the surf. Struggling to his feet, he found refuge behind one of the steel cross barriers the Germans had anchored upon the shore to inhibit Allied landings. Gunfire rained upon him, pinging off the cold steel. Few of his platoon had survived the landing, and James clawed over dozens of fallen bodies to join the remains of another platoon as it continued toward the cliffs.
With each passing moment, another soldier fell. Shells and bodies seemed to explode in unison and soon the beaches were dyed red from the bloody carnage. James never heard the bullet that ripped into his temple. Instead, there was a brief, white-hot flash of pain, then blackness...
A murmur of voices was the first thing to stir James from his deep, unconscious state. Slowly, deliberately, he opened his eyes. The lids felt heavy, like lead. He tried to raise his throbbing head, but his neck was too stiff. The effort too painful. As his eyes eventually came into focus, he saw a nurse across the room talking with a pair of GIs. Funny, he thought, why can I understand what the nurse is saying, but not what the soldiers are saying?
He tried to speak and the words came out in an unintelligible whisper. His lips felt thicker than usual and he tried again. This time, he caught the nurse's attention, who smiled back at James then turned to call down the hallway. "She's awake."
She? She who? James thought as he scanned the room. It seemed as if he were the only one in here. Suddenly, a man and woman entered the room. The woman, who appeared to be about 40, was crying. The man was older, perhaps in his late 60's. He just stood and smiled.
"Oh, Giselle, your grandfather and I were so worried about you."
This woman must be mad, James thought, as she reached down and kissed him lightly on the cheek. The man held his hand, caressing it gently. Uncomfortable with the affection being shown to him by these two total strangers, James squirmed in his bed. Despite the pain, he lifted his head. When he did so, a lock of brown hair fell across his face. He brushed it away and was surprised to feel a thick tuft of hair, totally unlike the cropped, government-issued cut he had gone to battle with.
Continuing to explore with hands that felt much smaller, he noticed that his head was wrapped in a bandage. He had been shot in the head and survived. He was a wizard!
But who was Giselle? And why were these strangers fawning over him. He got his answer soon enough when he managed to sit straight up, only to see the visage of a young woman staring back at him from a mirror across the room. She couldn't be more than 16 or 17, a lovely young thing despite the bandage. When he raised his hand, she did the same. When he opened his mouth, she repeated his actions. He WAS the girl. Then, he started to cry.
"There, there," the woman said, holding him close. Mama will take care of you now."
"What happened to me?" he asked, wondering more about his lost manhood than his bandaged head. He was surprised at the softness of his voice.
Meanwhile, the old man explained how American paratroopers had landed in the city, which had been occupied by German soldiers. During the ensuing battle, the girl James had become was struck in the head by a ceiling beam that had fallen during an explosion.
While her mother nursed her, the grandfather took to the streets looking for medical help. Dodging bullets, he came across an American medic, who he convinced to return to the house with him to help the girl. Initially, the girl appeared to have died, but miraculously began breathing again after the medic arrived. The next day, after the town had been secured by the Allies, Giselle was transferred to the hospital for better care.
By the time the grandfather had finished his story, the doctor returned to the room along with an American medic.
As the mother hugged the American, the doctor explained that he was the one who accompanied the father back to the house and saved the young girl's life. James smiled at him best as he could. The American spoke, but none of what he said made any sense. By now, the full gravity of the situation had set in. Not only had he become female, but he had also become French. English was now a foreign language, one he did not understand.
As disturbing as all this was, James realized that he had survived the war. The Allies had penetrated Hitler's vaunted "Atlantic Wall." Soon, if all went according to plan, France would be liberated "before the fall of Autumn leaves," just as Winston Churchill had promised.
Within a few days of his awakening, James returned to the simple farmhouse Giselle called home. At first, the adjustment was a difficult one. After all, not only had he changed sex, but also cultures. For obvious reasons, being French was a lot easier than being female. But as time passed, he grew more comfortable in his new role.
As a male, James had been six-feet-tall and weighed 180 pounds, but as a Giselle, he barely stood five-feet-tall and couldn't weigh more than 100 pounds. Working the farm with his new mother and grandfather, he obviously missed the strength of his former body, but learned to appreciate the limberness of his new female form.
Of course, having breasts took some getting used to. Though they weren't large, they still moved and jiggled in a sometimes annoying fashion. At times, he had to remind himself to sit to urinate, but it was the monthly "visitor" that caused the greatest discomfort. Still, after time, he learned to cope.
Surprisingly, make-up and fashion came a bit easier. Giselle was an attractive young woman, and James took pride in making her look her best.
By September, France had been liberated by the Allies, and a sense of normalcy started to return to the tiny town. Just before Christmas, the inn re-opened and Giselle took a job as a waitress. There she met a young GI named Rick Pennington, who was among the second wave of American troops to storm Omaha Beach.
Against all reason, Giselle found herself falling in love with the young man, and soon they were married. The war ended in May of 1945, and Giselle returned to the United States. Not as James Ryan as she had originally hoped, but as a pretty, French war bride.
The couple took advantage of the GI Bill, and purchased a home in a small town in New Jersey. Rick became a building contractor, while Giselle practiced her English and settled in as a housewife. Within six years, they had three children.
By chance one day during a family vacation, Giselle found herself passing through the tiny Vermont town where she had first grown up. Pointing to a dusty country road, she asked Rick to follow the path toward a weathered, two- story house. Outside, an old woman hung clothes on a line. It was Giselle's mother from her past life.
Thousands of memories came flooding back. For a moment, she considered he considered getting out of the car, racing to the old woman, and telling her what really happened to her son. Figuring it would be best to leave well enough alone, she asked her husband to drive on.
The years passed, and Giselle aged as all women do. In 1968, her eldest son, Rick Jr. followed in his father's footsteps and served in Vietnam. He returned safely four years later. In 1975, she became a grandmother for the first time. Five more grandchildren would follow by the time the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion came around in 1994.
To commemorate, the entire Pennington family returned to Omaha Beach for the ceremonies. After speeches by the American and French presidents, as well as a those made by a host of military and government dignitaries, Rick and Giselle toured the historic sights so etched in their memories.
At the Normandy American Cemetery, Giselle excused herself while Rick reminisced with some old Army buddies. Now 67, her movements were frail but filled with purpose. Finally, she stopped at a simple white marble cross.
The inscription read: Pvt. James Ryan 1924-1944
Wiping away a tear, she placed a single red rose upon the gravesite, then turned and walked away.
The rest is history...