So. I'm a bomber pilot in Viet Nam during what they still call "The American War". Plane gets shot down. The only other survivor is the bombardier. I know all of this with the pre-loaded memories and clarity that come from certain kinds of dreams.
Queue a lengthy montage of the two of us perpetrating sabotage and skullduggery on NVA and VC forces, but the visuals are in the style of the Metal Slug series of arcade games. Incredible. Bullets everywhere. Fading into ghosts just as patrols appear. Upgrading from sidearm to machinegun to flamethrower. Grenades throwing dozens of little round pieces of shrapnel in perfectly round patterns.
The world was two dimensional and it didn't bother me in the slightest.
After the montage ends, we return to a grubby break in the thick triple canopy where we are attempting to collect enough water off the top of a mud puddle to drink. Our knives are rusted and there hasn't been anything to eat other than the occasional stolen NVA ration or breadfruit in a week. Perhaps the montage was all fantasy, or fever dream.
We decide our only hope is to break into an enemy stockpile to resupply before our last push back into American territory. We watch it for three days, learning the patterns of habitation, and finally make our move.
We're stuffing our tattered pockets with bags of rice and dried bananas when the lights come on. Huge rolltop doors that face a river open up.
Russian amphibious vehicles roll in, full of Soviet troops. An officer disembarks, in his dress uniform.
We are too dumbfounded to move.
He greets us warmly, and in English.
"You must be the officers I am here to meet!" he says, approaching us with hand extended. "I have so much more respect for Spetsnatz now that I see the true dedication you have for your mission."
He thinks we are Spesnatz. If we don't play along, we will die.
So we sit with him, sipping vodka and eating canned ham and boiled potatoes. He thinks we are a pair of Spesnatz operatives whose mission is to sow discontent and hate for America throughout the rural populations that may not already be fully gone over to the VC yet.
We bullshit him for a little while, but the veneer wears thin. At one point, he dismisses his assistant so we can speak privately.
"I've told them you are speaking English out of dedication for your cover and mission. They are stupid. They believe this. I do not. You are the American pilots."
As we bristle, he continues in the same level tone, "No, no need to worry. You see, I have two problems that you can solve for me some day. Firstly I hate this place. I hate it with a passion that perhaps the two of you will understand better than most. Secondly, I am tired of canned ham and potatoes. For you, a feast. For me, the same thing I have eaten daily for ten years. Here or at home, there is no difference."
He proceeds to ask us to put in a good word for him when we get home. He offers to have us escorted to the edge of the nearest American-held territory by one of the Soviet advisors and a few high ranking NVA officers.
"I know," he nearly slurred over his shot glass, "That America is generous to those who help its downed pilots. Give me the number of your blood chit. I will do my part, and hope that you do yours."
Just as we're writing down our ransom numbers, I wake up.