Born Gerald Herbert Mannheim on 1st March 1942, the son of a Berant woman and a US engineer working for a French construction company in Berana. He grew up on the tales of his clan and tribal heritage. His mother was the only daughter of the Ber (pronounced bear) Clan Father, the clan for whom the country Berant is named. The Ber had been kings for several centuries, until two despotic kings ruled in succession and pushed the Amir Clan too far. Civil war followed and the Amir became the ruling clan of the country in the 6th century AD / CE. The Ber remained the premier clan of the Bera tribe whose lands run from the capital city of Berana to the western mountains.
Anaire Mannheim teaches her son the culture, skills, laws, history, ethics, language, and legends of her clan, tribe, and country. Herbert Mannheim teaches his son the culture, skills, games, history, ethics, and legends of his birth land of the United States of America (US). Gerald grows up learning French, English, and Beran (the tribe's language). Over the years of his childhood and youth he learns and examines both of his parents' cultures. He's able to identify many common elements in them and works hard to be a good example of both. He's a perfect example of the welding together of the best parts of both cultures.
During the Japanese occupation the Mannheim family lives and works on a clan farm in the mountains, hidden away from the Japanese. At the end of World War Two they move back to the city to help with the reconstruction and rebuilding of the country.
When the generals take over the country they say things will be better. There's little immediate difference in Berana. After a few days the generals are murdering people for no valid reason. People become afraid and start defending themselves; the generals and their troops become worse. Like many others the Mannheim family decides to leave the country. However, they've left their decision too late because the generals have now closed off all avenues of escape. The fighting grows worse. Many of the people find a refuge in the embassies of foreign governments, the most notable being the Australia, New Zealand, UK, and US ones, because their governments have agreed to accept any refugees. The generals establish military forces around the embassies and won't allow anyone who has Berant citizenship to get close to them. They also refuse the embassy staff permission to roam the city or country unescorted. The citizens take to calling the soldiers of the generals' army Vultures, because they act like vultures by picking over the bodies of the dead citizens.
A New Responsibility
Herbert Mannheim is determined to get his family out of Berant and to safety. He knows many others who are married to Berant citizens, as they make a small sub-community within Berana. The foreign born can leave upon producing their passports, but their families can't and this is not acceptable to any of them. They gather together in a part of Berana not often visited by the generals' troops, but not far from the embassies; it's soon called the Foreigner's Quarter. They search for a way to get their families out. If they can reach any of the embassies they'd be safe.
In mid June 1946 Anaire's brother, Bardee, visits them since he has a proposition to put to Herbert. He says, "Husband of my sister, we're a clan. The head of the clan, the Clan Father, is directly responsible for every member of the clan. As such, all orphans automatically become his dependants and he must care for them. My father is dead and we've no Clan Father. The Clan Council has gathered, talked, and voted. We wish you to take over as Clan Father until such time as one of my sons or nephews reaches manhood and you select one as suitable."
Both Herbert and Anaire are stunned, it's almost unheard of for a clan to ask one not born of the clan to be Clan Father; it isn't against the laws, but not it's the traditional way of things. Herbert asks, "Why me?"
Bardee replies, "It's the consensus of the Clan Council you've the best chance of see to the welfare of the clan children, especially the orphans whose numbers grow each day. The Vultures are busy trying to eliminate the tribe and clan. You, as a foreign national, they won't touch. You can get food, clothes, shelter, and take them to safety."
"Take them to safety? How do I get past the Vulture blockade?"
Bardee responds, "Accept this responsibility and you, with all your friends, will safely pass the blockade. The Clan Council can guarantee this." Anaire gasps when she realises what the Clan Council has in mind to do. Herbert takes Anaire's hand in his when he realises what he's not being told. He gives a slow nod, and accepts the silver ring Bardee places on his finger; along with the responsibility it represents. Four year old Gerald watches this without understanding it.
By late June the preparations are nearly done. Over a dozen buses and trucks are gathered. The exteriors have been strengthened with steel plates. The engines are well tuned and all mechanical parts are in top condition. Together they'll carry over five hundred people while providing protection against small arms fire. The Foreigner's Quarter has one hundred and fifty residents left and the vehicles will carry about three hundred and fifty more Berant citizens with them: orphans of the Ber clan and now dependants of Herbert. Dozens of Jeeps and light trucks are also prepared as battle wagons. One of the US citizens in the Foreigner's Quarter volunteers to leave his family and enter the embassy to ensure all is in readiness within. They choose July 4th, 1946, as the day to act. This has a great symbolic significance for the US people, the largest contingent there.
A Way Out
On the evening of July 3rd people start gathering in the warehouse being used to ready the buses and trucks. Each vehicle will have a US national at the front of it and they'll hold their passport up, ready to show them when needed. Each vehicle is driven by an adult trained to drive that specific vehicle and knows its capabilities very well. The people spread out in the warehouse to get some sleep, if they can.
Soon after dawn on the fourth of July they wake up, wash, have breakfast, and start to get ready. Each person is allowed to take aboard one carry-bag they can carry on their back or chest. All other property must be left behind because there isn't room for it. At 8:00 a.m. they start climbing aboard the vehicles. They take seats and hold their bags in their laps. Drivers and mechanics are giving the vehicles final checks and tests to make sure they'll handle the demands of the day.
At 9:15 a.m. all is ready, but five buses are still almost empty. The side door opens and a long line of people enter the building. The adults speak to the children, many hug tight, and the children mount the last buses, filling them. All the adults stand there with weapons in hand. Some of the foreign born adults walk over to Herbert to ask about this. They arrive at the bus Herbert will ride in whilst Anaire drives it. He's helping Bardee's five children aboard. They're on the verge of tears, like many of these late arrivals. Just as the other foreigners arrive Bardee shakes Herbert's hand, and says, "Look after our orphans, brother. We must leave to open the door. Give us ten minutes head start." With tears in his eyes he turns and jogs towards the front door while he waves his arm above his head. The armed adults swarm aboard the combat vehicles while four open the front doors wide. They jump aboard when the vehicles go by. The small convoy of makeshift combat vehicles leaves with their occupants shouting their clan battle cries.
Turning to the others, Herbert says, "They go to clear the Vultures from our path. Say your prayers for them while we drive, because we won't have time to mourn them today or go to their funerals." Shocked, they all look at him. One by one they turn away and walk back to the vehicles when they realise those fifty plus adults are giving their lives so this convoy may reach the embassy in safety. The price for their sacrifice being the safe conveyance of their children out of the danger zone. All the parents understand and relate to this action. Ten minutes later the convoy starts up and moves out while it follows the route previously decided upon and marked out on the road with cans of paint. Out the door, straight down the road, left, and four blocks to the main road through Berana, right, down the main road to the US Embassy, and right into the embassy gate to safety and a future away from the murderers in charge of Berant.
Working the Key
.... There is more of this story ...