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Bunkers and Traps

By Sam Seal

(Based on the characters of the series 'Space: Above and Beyond', created by Morgan and Wong.)

Life aboard the Not-So-Good Ship 'Chigditz' was finally settling into some sort of routine. The Wild Cards were roused from their sleep by Hawkes' CD Player at precisely 5.30am each day, in plenty of time to shower and dress before breakfast at 6 o' clock.

A breakfast which very much depended upon who's turn it was to cook. It had been agreed very early on in the proceedings that each Nation should take turns to do the cooking, as it was intended to foster a sense of Unity in the face of the Enemy.

It didn't work, of course.

Mankind's' Xenophobia was not easily overcome - even amongst themselves. For a start no-one liked salty porridge - not even the Scots. And the English thought the idea of eating English muffins that early in the day to be utterly bizarre, insisting on a full fry-up with a side order of buttered toast to accompany their ubiquitous gallons on strong Breakfast Tea - with Kedgeree and Earl Grey (or a facsimile there-of) for the Officers. Croissants were out of the question, making the French even more anti-social than ever. Plus, there was never enough ham for the Germans or museli for the Swiss -and, by their very nature, endangered species were hard to come by in order to satisfy the yen of the Japanese.

After having to explain at considerable length that Grits were NOT the same as gravel - despite all appearances to the contrary - it was the Americans who finally solved the problem - by making Pancakes for every-one. (And even then the Canadians claimed Moral Superiority and bagged all the Maple Syrup...)

Nathan West prodded his pancake dejectedly. He was missing PG (his pet wood-louse, who had gone AWOL aboard the Saratoga and was currently listed as 'Missing - Assumed Swept'), and sadly fished his dog-tags out from under his vest for the umpteenth time that morning to regard PG's erstwhile home - an empty matchbox fixed to the chain with a bent paper-clip.

"Put it awaaaay, West!" the others chorused, wolfing down their food with enthusiasm.

"She's gone, Nathen! Drive on!" Vansen added as she tried to wring the last drop of ketchup out of the sachet and onto her final pancake. True, it was an unusual combination, but it still managed to be a big improvement on Wang's Marmite and Pickled Onion with Chocolate Sauce.

After a couple more minutes the Wild Cards were joined by Cooper Hawkes and Colonel McQueen, who had, curiously on McQueen's insistence, volunteered for Night Watch in the British Quarter at the site of the make-shift 18 Hole Golf Course. Hawkes was diligently wiping some suspiciously green-looking gunk off the blade of his K-bar, whilst the Colonel did the same with the blunt end of the 5 Iron he had just 'happened' to take with him the night before...

"That should teach them to always replace divots," McQueen muttered darkly. "Cooper - remind me to warn the Brits against using the Traps on the Seventh Hole for a while." Helping himself to a couple of Damphousse's fresh-made pancakes and a mug of coffee, he added "One Chip Shot in the wrong place and..." He left the rest to their fertile imaginations.

"Eurch!" Wang pulled a suitably disgusted face. The Colonel smiled wolfishly.

Damphousse wandered over to join the party, wiping her hands on her apron before taking it off and tossing it across to Vansen.

"I cook, you wash-up, right? We did have a deal!"

Vansen scowled.

"I still don't see why we have to do all the dirty work around here," the Captain snarled as she donned the apron and stalked off toward the canteen sink. As and act of dubious kindness McQueen sent Wang and West after her, with orders to 'man' the tea-towels.

Damphousse settled down next to Hawkes to eat her own pancakes. "Did I hear you say you wanted to talk to the Brits, sir?" she asked incredulously, between bites. "I mean, is that wise?"

McQueen shrugged.

"It's either that or a couple of dozen irate Golfers knocking down our doors in an hours time and walking Chig Spooge everywhere."

Hawkes looked across the room and noticed the British Prisoners CO, one General Ffortescue-Smythe, striding purposefully toward their corner table, with a small, bandy-legged Private in tow.

"Uh-oh! Too late," he hissed. "In-coming!"

McQueen stood to greet the General, noticing as he did so that Damphousse and her breakfast had apparently done a PG and disappeared into the woodwork, pancakes et al pertaining to her presence.

Hawkes loitered, curious, and the Colonel had no opportunity to shoo him off before the General descended upon them.

"Ah, McQueen!" the General greeted, waving his ever-present baton around in vague circular motions back toward the table. They both sat facing each other, flanked by their respective subordinates. "A word," he said.

"General?"

"Noooo...." said the General slowly. "Golf Course!"

McQueen sighed. It was going to be one of those conversations. "Actually, sir, that's two words," he pointed out, " - but very good words, if I may say so," he added swiftly.

The Private snickered. Ffortescue-Smythe scowled at the sound, but protocol meant he had to introduce McQueen to the Private who's name, against all the odds, really was Tommy Atkins. McQueen introduced Hawkes in return.

"Now, where was I?" the General asked distractedly.

"Golf Course, sir!" both Hawkes and Atkins promptly prompted like a Greek Chorus.

"About the bunkahs, sah!" Atkins added, lest the General take the reminder to be a Signal Of Intent. Ffortescue-Smythe looked enlightened and subsequently determined to have his say.

"Ah yes! Well, Colonel, the thing is - I was playing a quick round yesterday, and I found myself well and truly bunkered on the Tenth." McQueen winced, knowing what was coming, but unwilling to interrupt. "So there I was up to my ankles in freshly raked sand when I suddenly found myself instead, up to my elbows in decomposing Chigs! Six of 'em, if you please. What do you think of that?" He waved the baton agitatedly, adding "Damn near put me off me stroke, so it did!"

McQueen blinked. "Well, sir - I did warn you against using the Traps on the Tenth," he said cautiously.

The General was having none of that, however. "Traps? TRAPS? I'm talking about the damn Bunkers, man, not the bloody Latrines!"

Now it was McQueen's turn to look bewildered. "So am I, sir."

The General paused. "You are?" he asked suspiciously. "Then what's all this talk about Traps. Traps are..." Words failed him.

"WC's, sah!" the Private piped up. "You know, Sahs, as in Wartah Closet, kaarzi, aaht 'ouse, privy - "

"Jon, head, err... ladies powder room." said Hawkes, dredging his memory. (It didn't take long.)

"Yes, Hawkes, I get the idea - CFB."

McQueen felt weak. Life had never been like this with the Angry Angels - but then he'd never liked them much, to be frank. Where-as the 58th? That idea was even more worrying...

Ffortescue-Smythe derailed that particular train of thought before McQueen had a chance to follow it further, however, but gave him a whole new one to worry about.

"Well, now. Glad we've cleared the air - eh?" He stood to leave. "Best get back to the dear old Lady, I suppose. She about ready to give birth when I left..." Ffortescue-Smythe headed resolutely off toward the British Quarter - leaving McQueen idly wondering where the hell they had managed to find a couple of old Quonset Huts in the middle of deep space. Not to mention the General's wife!

Private Atkins remained, however. After a quick peek around the door-frame to make doubly sure the General had gone for good, he swiftly whipped a half-smoked dog-end out from behind his right ear and lit it with an aged Lucifer, dragging the head along the sole of his boot to ignite it. He began to puff away at it with an illicit delight.

"Gen'rals bitch, Mate," he explained to the Colonel as the atmosphere around the table rapidly became unspeakable. "She's in Pup."

Meanwhile a mystified Cooper Hawkes was regarding this new, singularly repulsive Military phenomenon with eye-watering fascination as he sat down and started sipping his own, now-tepid, coffee.

Seeing the young Lieutenant's interest, Atkins proffered the smouldering stump of tobacco. "You can 'ave me butt, if you like!" he offered cheerily.

Hawkes almost choked on his drink.

The English Private turned to McQueen worriedly. "Wha' did I say, Guv?" he begged of McQueen.

"Don't ask," came the weary response as the Colonel proceeded to pound Hawkes on the back - some might say a little harder than necessary. "And if you call me Guv again, or Matey - or Squire," he added ominously, "I guarantee I will personally strangle you. Is that understood?"

"Right you aah, squah - ahh... Sah!" Atkins replied, hastily stubbing the offending cigarette out on the floor and preparing to leave. But then "Oh yes, sah, jus' one more fing before I sling me 'ook."

McQueen regarded him with justifiable caution. "Yes?"

"Black bin liners, Sah."

Oh, yes, here we go... McQueen thought wearily. "As in...?"

"As in 'Ave you got any, sah? Any bin bags, sticky tape or mushy peas."

"Mushy what?"

"Peas, Guv'n - err - ah - Squw - uh - Sah! Only - " and Aktins approached the Colonel and dropped his voice conspiratorially, "It's them Frenchies, Sah," he whispered. "They got a Plan."

Against his will McQueen found his professional interest piqued. "Go on."

"Well sah, it's like this. You know back in the old days we used to try to escape from places like this by dressin' up as Johnny Fritz and quietly strollin' aaht?"

The Colonel nodded patiently. "I know what you mean."

Atkins drew even closer. It was like being accosted by a very small bonfire. "Well, them Frenchies are planning to pull the same stunt wiv the Chigs - only playing dead, as it were - by taping 'emselves up tight in them black bin-liners and..."

He stopped as the Colonel's head dropped forward to hit the table with a thud. "Sah?"

"...Just don't bother explaining the mushy peas, Private. Alright?" McQueen muttered faintly. "I don't want to know..."

THE END

Copyright SamSeal

July, 1997