Literary Hype Internet

Our Man Red

Our Man Red

I’ve been involved in a lot of wars in my day. Some of them you’ve read about. Most of them you haven’t. The only thing you can say for certain about those wars that made history is that the books got them all wrong. As for the wars that never made the annals…that’s where the real interesting stuff took place.

When Hyperion asked me for another story, and gave me the particulars of the reader who commissioned the story, I was reminded of a war I had to privilege to be involved in a long time ago. This was one of those wars you’ll never hear about no matter how much history you pour over, which is too much the pity. There was one particular incident that will always stick out in my mind, what I like to call “Our Man Red.”


It was about 900 years ago or so, in what today is called Turkmenistan. Even then it was a miserable place; why anyone would fight over it is beyond me. But you know how Kings are; they just can’t stand it there might be some land out there they don’t have.

I had made myself a reputation by then as a soldier and commander, and worked my way up to what today you’d call a Full Colonel. (All my military ranks have been translated to modern terminology so you won’t get confused.) I was privileged to serve under General Wheeling, known as “The Jesuit.” A more able commander you never met. He was tough, cunning and brave, and best of all (at least to my mind), he trusted his officers to do what they needed to out on the field without a lot of back and forth. (As you can imagine, communication in those days was not the easiest of matters, and getting a message through channels iffy at best.)

Our foe had a commander not nearly as capable. He wasn’t a complete fool, but he was so timid and suggestible that he ought not to have ever led men into battle. (As was the custom then, the command was because of family connections.) You know, it’s been so long that I can’t even remember his real name, but I do remember that everyone; even his own soldiers, called him General Moochie. This didn’t bother him at all. It was the sort of grandfatherly role he saw for himself. Like I said, nice old guy, but this was war.

General Moochie had the far superior force in terms of numbers, but with General Wheeling at the helm (and very capable officers like yours truly carrying out the battle plan) we should have wiped them out long since. Would have too, if it weren’t for Colonel Acker’s Regiment, the man they called Colonel Red.

Everybody hated Colonel Red. He was the meanest sonofabitch you ever met. And he was brilliant. Colonel Red was as adept in the field as I was; maybe more, and I say that with bitterness. If Colonel Red been in complete charge the whole war might have gone differently. As it was he managed to bully old General Moochie into doing the right thing most of the time, which had us at a stalemate.

Nobody called Colonel Red “Acker.” For some reason he hated his name and refused to hear if spoken. Instead everyone called him Colonel Red. The reasons for this were all rumor, and there were many of them. It wasn’t hair, as Colonel Red’s was bald as an Egyptian whore. Some claimed his face would get all red when he was bawling out a subordinate (or in Red’s case, just as likely an officer on the same level or even superior). Some said he got his name because of how much bloodshed he caused the enemy.

Whatever the reason, Colonel Red inspired fear, awe and downright loathing in his regiment. They recognized his military genius and followed his orders strictly (woe to the man who didn’t), but they didn’t love him like they did General Moochie. Behind his back they called him “Our Man Red,” and not fondly.

Now, in Colonel Red’s regiment there was a young Lieutenant. Never found out his first name, but his Christian name was Reshni. Came from a good family, and certainly was going places. Reshni asked to be assigned to Colonel Red’s regiment, to learn from the master, a decision the young Reshni was now regretting. He led a platoon of soldiers, all good men and true.

Well, there was one…let’s call him a special case: Private Broz. Broz did everything you told him, followed orders with efficiency, even if he seemed a bit slow on the uptake. That was the rub. Anything outside the narrow parameters of his orders, and Private Broz was simply lost.

The other soldiers in the outfit teased Broz mercilessly, and only direct orders from Lieutenant Reshni kept things at a simmer. Still, it was a near constant headache for the up-and-coming Lieutenant. He fretted constantly that news of the problem would reach Colonel Red. Lieutenant Reshni hoped to eventually be noticed by the Colonel, but not for this!

One morning Lieutenant Reshni was eating breakfast in his tent when the flap bent back to admit Sergeant Bink. Bink was a good Sergeant; it’s why Reshni had put the man in charge of Broz’s squad.

“What is it, Bink?” Lieutenant Reshni asked the Sergeant, sipping his tea.

“Sir, I hate to bother you,” Bink hesitated, unsure how to go on. “It’s about Private Broz.”

Reshni swore and almost dropped his tea. “What’s he done now?”

“Well, sir, you’re not going to believe this…” Bink told his commanding officer. He was right. The Lieutenant didn’t believe him.

“How can that possibly be, Bink? Broz does well enough with a direct order, but the man’s daft, lad! Explain how this could be!”

“I don’t know, sir. I only found out myself by accident. I felt it was my duty to tell you; you’d know what to do about it.”

Lieutenant Reshni gave his subordinate a withering glare. Mulling it over for a second, he said, “This is just the kind of matter I want to keep our man Red from every hearing about. Oh, very well. Bring Private Broz by after morning maneuvers, before lunch. We’ll see if it was a fluke or if…we need to take it up the chain of command.”


“Lieutenant, you come from a very respectable family. And you have so far been a model officer; efficient, thorough and when called for, imaginative. So tell me then Lieutenant; why do you seem to have so much trouble with one soldier?”

Reshni wanted to pull back at the stinging rebuke from his Captain, but held his ground. Any retreat now and he’d never live it down. “Sir, you know Broz has been nothing but a headache for me. I would never bother you about it, but sir; I saw with my own eyes!”

“Chance.” Captain Oliver said dismissively.

“No sir. That I’m sure of. After the Sergeant brought this to my attention I ran several tests to confirm. Somehow there’s some brains in Broz’s head after all.

“Sir, with this information, I felt I had no choice but to bring the matter to you. Obviously I leave it up to your discretion what to do with it at this point.”

“Number one rule of the army.” Captain Oliver muttered. “CYA. Very well, Lieutenant. Bring him over now. I want to see this myself before we bother the Major. If it checks out, we’ll let him decide whether to tell Our Man Red.”


Captain Oliver stared at Private Broz in disbelief. “Private, did anyone tell you about all this? You’re not in trouble if they did; I just need to know about it, son.”

Private Broz gulped; eyes wide with what you might have called terror, if the man had been capable of that. He was not accustomed to speaking, but finally managed, “N-n-no sir. Nobody told me n-nothin’. Just somethin’ I always do. Used to lie on my grandpappy’s floor and stare at his m-m-m…”

“That’s okay Private,” Captain Oliver said, less to soothe the addled Private than to stop the man’s yammering. “You stay here, have some bread and some wine…on second thought; no wine. You can have some meat, though. Cook’s roasting a deer for the officers.”

Private Broz’s face was so pathetically happy that Oliver almost spit. “Lieutenant, you stay with Private Broz. I’m going to get Major Sibeyon. He can tell Colonel Red.”

Lieutenant Reshni did gulp then, no matter who saw him do it. Captain Oliver forestalled his question. “You are to stay with Private Broz until this matter is resolved.”

Captain Oliver walked out, leaving the poor Lieutenant to wonder if this matter had really been all that important after all.


Major Sibeyon was not a man given to pleasantries. Educated, refined, an impeccable soldier; how he had been stuck in Colonel Red’s regiment was beyond him. Colonel Red was an astonishingly good tactician, to be sure, but his pugnacious manner had everyone on edge, and Sibeyon was afraid that he would rise no further stuck here in Red’s shadow. The only bright spot was that getting requisitions wasn’t the usual nightmare; just the suggestion that Colonel Red might investigate matters personally was usually enough to get the supply Sergeant on his giddy-up.

When Captain Oliver showed up, unexpectedly hesitant, Major Sibeyon had a premonition his day was going downhill in a big way.

“No more delays, Captain. Let’s hear it. This better not be more about that fool private in Reshni’s platoon. I’ve done all I can to keep that from Our Man Red.” Major Sibeyon listened in growing consternation as Oliver laid the story out.

“There is precedent for this,” The Major said at the conclusion, his voice momentarily taking on a lecturing tone. “They call it ‘idiot-savant.’ While the man in question may be of sub-human intelligence in almost every respect, there are certain areas where he exhibits genius.”

The Major thought pensively for a moment. “I’m not sure what you want me to do about it, Captain.”

“Well, sir, with skilled men of this nature in such short supply, I felt it was my duty to bring it to your attention.”

Major Sibeyon fixed the Captain with a level look. “Captain Oliver, if you think for one moment that I’m going to bother Colonel Red with his trivial matter…”

The Major cut off as his aide-de-camp brought him a note. The contents were scanned quickly, and Sibeyon asked his aide, “How long has he been gone?”

“All day sir. One of the aides in the 5th Battalion said Colonel Red Colonel was going to scout out the land. He could be gone all night.”

For the first time since Captain Oliver showed up Major Sibeyon smiled. “Come, Oliver. Let us see this prodigy of yours. If he’s as good as you say, we shall have to inform superiors as soon as possible, and as luck would have it, Our Man Red is off scouting, which means we will have no choice but to take it directly to General Moochie.

Captain Oliver smiled too. That was the best news he’d heard all day.


The very startled guards outside General Moochie’s spacious tent sprang to attention, eyeing the most unusual procession they’d ever seen. Accompanying a cringing Private was a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, a Captain and a Major. The Major announced his presence and a guard ducked inside, while the others waited; a mixture of nervousness and anticipation. All except the Private, who looked like he wanted to throw up and faint all at the same time.

The General’s aide-de-camp emerged from the tent. “Did Colonel Red approve this…?”

“Colonel Red’s out scouting,” the Major said all in a rush, “and we felt this couldn’t wait. “If you would like me to hold off and inform Colonel Red that you felt it was important to get his orders first….” He let the unspoken implication hang in the air.

“Gods!” the aide-de-camp swore, forgetting himself for a moment. Recovering he said, “No sir. You certainly did the right thing. You can bring Private inside. There are several roast turkeys just off the spit.”

Private Broz’s eyes lit up at that.


General Moochie hated how much he had to rely on Colonel Red. But at the very least the General was competent enough to know that Our Man Red, as the General knew the men liked to call him, saved his bacon time and time again. So the General relied on his advice, gritting his teeth all the while.

So when the General’s aide-de-camp awakened him, with news of a prodigy from the ranks, a prodigy that could read maps and terrain and instantly tell where and when to place troops, the General got excited.

“And you say that Colonel Red doesn’t know about this?”

“Yes, sir. The Colonel is out scouting for you.”

I don’t remember telling him to do that. The General thought, but he kept it to himself.

“I think, Captain,” General Moochie said confidentially, “that we should keep this to ourselves for the time being. No sense bothering Colonel Red. I’m sure he’d be embarrassed at having such a tactician in his own regiment and not knowing about it. No need to bring shame to the Colonel.”

“Yes sir.” The General’s aide said, unable to hide the huge grin.


It was a different guard rotation late that night when a Private emerged from the General’s tent. He was calm, sure-footed, the picture of confidence. The General had been in the tent, closeted away for hours now with strict orders he was not to be disturbed.

The Private gave a companionable nod to the soldiers on guard duty, and asked amiably, “You boys had anything to eat in awhile?”

The guards were all sergeants, but unsure how to respond to someone so obviously as home coming out of a General’s tent. Better safe than sorry; “No sir.”

The Private ducked back in the tent for a moment and returned with giant roasted turkey legs.

“Eat up, boys. General Moochie’s compliments.” They looked at him gratefully.

The man—he couldn’t possibly be a Private with that air; maybe a spy?—leaned in close. “The General is absolutely not to be disturbed for any reason under Heaven.” He’s formulating a new battle plan, and will be extremely angered if someone interrupts his studies.”

The guards almost tripped over themselves assuring the man they wouldn’t let anyone in.

“He’ll be up most of the night, so tell the shift-change the same thing. The General isn’t to be disturbed until he comes out, not even for breakfast.”

The man smoothly walked away into the night. With a stride that clearly said he had every right to be there the man walked out of the camp, past the other officer’s quarters to the perimeter of the camp and beyond. He walked for three miles through light and then heavy woods until he came to me. I was waiting with a small group of handpicked soldiers, one extra horse.

“It’s about time.” I said. “I’ve been waiting damn near two hours in this light-forsaken night. Catch my death of cold, I will.”

Private Broz laughed huskily, and began to change clothes.

“What about General Moochie?” I asked.

The voice was muffled by Broz getting out of one uniform and into another, but the answer came back. “I took care of him. Left orders he wasn’t to be disturbed.” It should be enough.”

“You killed Moochie?” one of my Captains asked, awe in his voice.

“Don’t be a fool,” Broz said disdainfully. “An army can have no better ally than General Moochie on the other side.”

“Was it hard to get them to believe your story?” I asked.

“Hard enough. I pretended to be an idiot-savant, which was easy enough. The hard part was giving them troop advice that seemed crafty and genius when it was actually rubbish. That,” Broz said with a flourish, “was the real art.”

“I’m not surprised Moochie fell for it,” said I, “but what about Colonel Red? That ornery bastard’s about the best commander I ever ran across. Even with Moochie in charge Colonel Red has fought us to a standstill, and then some.” I might have been a trifle sulky. It’s not every day I’m equaled and at times even bested on the battlefield.

“The Colonel…” Broz said, really milking the moment. “Well, I’ll tell you one thing. I found out why they call him ‘Red.’”

Broz finished lacing up her new uniform, not a shred of modesty in front of the men and me, and shook her long luxurious red hair out of helm brushing it with a comb found in the pack on her horse.

“Ahhhhh! That feels like heaven!” she said, swinging easily up onto the horse.

“So?” I prompted.

“It turns out that Colonel Red,” Broz said with great relish, “has a thing for red-heads. A weakness, you might say. It wasn’t easy to draw him away from camp.” She smiled wickedly. “We no longer need to worry about him at all.”

I smiled in return. “Excellent news Colonel. Let’s move out.”

You had to hand it to Our “Man” Red.

No comments:



Literary Hype is the dream-child of Hyperion, who may or may not be completely insane. We offer original stories, Poetry, Books Reviews, Music Lyrics Analysis and more. (We even have Adult Fiction on a sister site: After Dark Tales.) We hope you find what you are looking for!