by Rob Morris
Prologue - Pinch-Hitting For Sidney Freedman....
KOREAN WAR, 1953
Sidney was patient, and he could afford to be. After all, he was almost 2000 years old. The young soldier in front of him, though, was anxious to get out his words.
"So--there--there went my entire unit. The 138th served this country as well as any unit has ever served--this country."
"They were the finest drummers this or any war has ever seen. But Robert--you say that they were wiped out by leaflets?"
The young man simply seemed to take the surreal disaster in stride.
"Yeah. Just all those leaflets--then--poof!"
This kid from the Midwest seemed like Radar's extra-twitchy cousin--if Radar actually had blood relations, which of course, he didn't.
"No disrespect to your unit, Robert--but how could leaflets cause their deaths?"
The young man shrugged.
"Well--Doc, you know how they originally have the leaflets in huge bundles, then they untie them, and drop them from planes?"
"Yeah. That's how it goes."
"N-No, that's--that's usually how it goes. In this case--they kind of forgot to untie the bundles before they dropped them. My unit had 24 drummers. The planes above us had 23 bundles."
Sidney winced a bit, at the thought of just how heavy those massive bundles would be, especially with acceleration. It wasn't a pretty thought.
"Robert--how are you handling being alive? How do you feel about surviving that---rather absurd---catastrophe?"
"Basically--I'm-I'm for it."
The young man had many issues to work out, Sidney was sure. But with a badly broken Hawkeye waiting down the hall, muttering about chickens that changed into babies, and men who could shift shape, his meatball psychiatry was done.
"Private--what's say I drive you back to your unit?"
He shook his head.
"I'm not entirely for that, Major."
"Oh, it wasn't a request?"
Accepting his fate, the young drummer who now had no unit sat as Sidney took him back for reassignment.
Then the shots rang out. Sidney swerved. They quickly resumed course, though.
"M-Major Freedman, sir?"
"I think you kind of got--kind of got shot, sir."
"What makes you say that, Private?"
"Well, its that blood coming from your shoulder. That's usually a pretty good indicator of being shot."
Sidney smiled, now somewhat nervous himself.
"Blood? What blood?"
"We-ll, this-this blood, right..."
But when he checked, the soldier found only a blood stain, and a tear. There was, however, no blood and no wound. The young man sat back down, dazed and doubting his sanity.
"D-Doctor? How long til we reach base?"
"About twenty minutes. Why do you ask?"
The drummer shook his head.
"I've always hated it when my Mom calls me Sonny...."
CHICAGO, 1978 - THE RIMAPU MEDICAL BUILDING
His one-time best friend was starting to wear on the psychiatrist's nerves.
"So there's no hard feelings, right?"
The shrink flashed a sarcastic smile.
"Why-why would there be hard feelings? I mean, all you did was come to the college where I was now head of Psychiatric Studies, take seven of our colleagues, get blasted drunk, and cause me to lose my job. Where-where would the hard feelings come from?"
The often extremely selfish orthodontist shrugged a particularly unknowing shrug.
"See--you never know when to let these things go!"
Doctor Bob Hartley took what he knew to be a fruitless stand.
"Jerry--these things were last month."
"Yeah, but I know you, Bob--you'll be talking about this for weeks. Just let it pass, okay?"
"Consider it passed--and send in Carol."
Jerry bit his lip.
Bob's blood froze.
"Jerry--all of her vacation days for this year were used up, were they not?"
"Not--quite all. To get her to come back, I kind of had to promise her a fourth week."
Hartley gave in.
"All right--send in the temp. After all, there's no way it could possibly be..."
In walked an older woman, looking a bit addled--but actually being very, very addled.
"Why, its Doctor Harman. You see, I never forget a name. What should I do first, Doctor Hartkov?"
This fourth time around, Bob didn't even bother.
"Just answer the phone. That's-that's all."
She nodded, her eyes vacuous not from senility, but just from being that way.
"Oh, good. You know, that last Doctor here before you----"
Jerry needlessly volunteered.
"Yes! That was his name. Well--between you, me and the wall--he was a slave-driver."
Bob closed the door after her. He glared hard at Jerry.
"Jerry--I specifically called the temp agency and requested that she never be sent to me again. Now why can't they honor that one simple request?"
Jerry had the sheer nerve--his specialty--to walk out while dismissing his friend's concerns.
"Bob---let it go. What problems could she possibly cause you? You're going to that reunion of those Korean War Vets--was it a medical unit?"
Hartley calmed, just a little.
"The MASH 4077th. My psych school instructor, Sidney Freedman, can't make it. Emily's staying with me, at the Hotel. Be good to get out of the --MUCH SMALLER-- apartment we had to move into, after we were somehow forced to move back."
"Boy, Bob--you are never going to let that go, are you?"
Since Emily had purchased a small weapon, Jerry and the other doctors no longer showed up unannounced at The Hartley's apartment. Only Howard and Mr. Carlin did. Howard, because they still loved him, and Carlin--because he was their landlord.
No, Bob was unlikely to let it all go.
In the office outside was Sidney Freedman, talking to the temp who had trouble with dialing a phone, let alone answering it.
"Are you--certain--that Doctor Hartley isn't here?"
"Well, I like that! Don't I look like I know who works here and who doesn't?"
Sidney was in a hurry, and so just made his delivery.
"Please give this to the man on this label. Just leave it in plain sight. The 4077th are a group of unique cases--these are their complete case histories. And I do mean complete."
She was smiling.
"You have such a nice moustache."
Sidney walked off, his head hurting. The elevator opened, revealing Mister Petersen. He gasped to see Sidney.
"Sidney Freimensch! Are you here for me?"
"No, Petrastanhopl, I'm not here for you. I'm never here for you."
The little man huffed.
"That's because you fear my prowess with a sword. As Nimrod, I was a mighty Hunter before..."
Mister Carlin walked up.
"Shut up, Petersen, you pimple!"
Sidney left Chicago very, very quickly.
The addled temp read the file that she was not supposed to, and shook her head.
"Science Fiction nonsense. Poor Doctor Harman. Those Book-Of-The-Month salesmen are just so aggressive."
She hid it away, and truly forgot it ever existed. Later, Bob emerged from his office.
"A Doctor Freedman was supposed to stop by with a group of case histories. Was he here?"
She looked up.
"Oh, my--you shaved your moustache. A good look for you."
Bob shook his head.
"That's not like Sidney. Maybe he left it with Emily."
Bob left to join Emily at the hotel where the 25th Anniversary Reunion Of The MASH 4077th was going to take place. He did so without Sidney's case histories.
Besides Hawkeye's breakdown, Margaret's divorces, Frank's--Frankness, and Potter's one-time lack of confidence, the folder contained much more. It contained the secret history of the 4077th MASH. A story of spies. A story of Immortals. A story of witches, and vampires, and time-travelers. A story of the 23rd and 24th Centuries. A story of Godzilla.
And Doctor Bob Hartley would go into the Reunion of the MASH 4077th--knowing absolutely none of it.