17. An offer Fagen can't refuse

Fagen knew he had no real choice. He'd never leave the islands without Ellis, and for the first time since they'd met, he saw the very real possibility of a future with the woman he loved. Clarita sat beside him, eyes cast down, hands in her lap kneading her kerchief. He knew going on the run was out of the question. He could tramp all over Asia for years, and the army would never stop looking for him, probably already offered a reward for his head. Even if he found a den of thieves vile enough to accept him, he knew it wouldn't be long before he was murdered in his sleep for the copper in his pockets.

His options limited, finished with false hope, he vowed never again to go into a situation without both eyes open. He looked at the general and said, "I'll ask you the same question I asked General Aguinaldo. Why me? I'm just a private soldier and not a very good one. I've failed at everything I've tried to do. Hell, I'm a shrine to failure."

"You're too hard on yourself, Mister Fagen. You have much to bring to our cause."

"Begging your pardon, sir, but those are just words. They don't have any real meaning to me."

General Sandico put both hands on the table and leaned forward. "David, you are only a failure if you now choose to be. Fate has brought you to us, and circumstance has made you more than a private soldier, more even than a good man searching for peace of mind. Accept El Presidente's offer, and you become a symbol of everything wrong in this world and everything right. You become a shining example in your country and mine that truth and moral purpose are more important than anything. We humans are paltering, weak-willed creatures. We rely on the archetypes that rise from among us to show us we can transcend, reach beyond ourselves and overcome life's grim exigencies. Call it God's will, fate or circumstance, it makes no difference. It's only important that you understand you can do more than anyone else to rid these islands of the evil upon us, more even than El Presidente himself."

Fagen searched the general's face for signs of dissemblance, but found none, no trace of insincerity or unctuousness in his voice. At first he scoffed at Sandico's attempt to make him a martyr, or a savior. He knew he was neither, but if there were only a grain of truth in what the general had said, then maybe there was a chance for him actually to do something with his life. If he saw the immorality of this war, maybe others would too, and enough of them would speak up and the awful killing would stop. He looked at Clarita. She sat motionless, her eyes closed, tears streamed down her cheeks. Fagen took a deep breath and said, "I couldn't make war on Negroes, sir."

The General stood up. "Very well. If you'll raise your right hand, I'll administer the oath of allegiance."

"One more thing, sir." Fagen put his arm around Clarita and looked into her shining dark eyes. "I don't think it's wise take this step alone. I'm not Filipino, I'll need someone to help me with language and local custom."

" El Presidente agrees with you. He has authorized me to assign Senorita Socorro to that duty, if that is your wish."

Clarita looked at him, a little smile curled her lip. Fagen held her closer. "It is my wish, sir."

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1. Fagen arrives in the Philippines

2. White soldiers bring their prejudice with them

3. Fagen hears another side of the story

4. Dinner with Colonel Funston

5. Fagen's first taste of combat

6. Fagen meets Clarita

7. More than fair?

8. The water cure

9. Fagen gets his fortune told

10. Imperialism exposed

11. Sergeant Rivers speaks his mind

12. Genocide

13. Fagen meets El Presidente

14. Bad news comes to Fagen

15. Fate takes over

16. San Lazaro leper hospital

17. An offer Fagen can't refuse

18. Funston makes a plan

19. "Capitan" Fagen

20. Funston assembles his team

21. Morality, ethics and war

22. Jungle encounter

23. Commencement

24. Benevolent assimilation

25. Colonel Bloody Shirt pays a call

26. Fagen declares war on God

27. Major Baston tastes his own medicine

28. Funston on the march

29. Fagen goes home