Lukewarm in London
By Sam Seal
(Based on the characters of the series 'Space: Above and Beyond', created by Morgan and Wong.)
The 58th had still
been recovering from the ISSCV's Standard Crash Landing
when the Chigs had attacked. Five of the Wild Cards lay
dead from gut-shot wounds on the ground - but fortunately
they were unessential characters, not vital to the plot.
and The Wild Cards were Prisoners, newly transported to
the Chigs most infamous Prisoner Of War camp - a massive
enemy Flying Fortress known to those humans who were
contained onboard as... Chigditz!
Each of the Wild
Cards had been scheduled for Intensive Interrogation
during the first half of that day. Being in charge,
Colonel McQueen had heroically volunteered to go first.
The Chigs had demanded the usual sort of information -
the intended target of the Earthers' attack; all proposed
military movements in the area; whether they took sugar
in their tea ect...
They had failed to
elicit anything of worth from him though, having opted to
tickle the wrong foot.
McQueen they then chose another victim - but, alas for
them, they selected Cooper Hawkes to go next and,
assuming that all Marines were alike, rapidly concluded
that the 58th knew very little about anything at all!
considerately billeted in an area reserved for
English-speakers, the Wild Cards were released into the
Courtyard to mingle with some of their fellow prisoners,
most of whom seemed perfectly rational. True, some of the
Canadians had a nasty habit of breaking the Rule and
speaking French when-ever they got over-excited, and the
other Americans kept fighting over who's turn it was to
use the Cooler for Pitch and Catch practise - but on the
whole it was a fairly sane mix!
It wasn't until
the Wild Cards encountered their first batch of English
prisoners that the relevance of the 'sugar in tea'
question was revealed.
"Oh yes, old
boy!" General Ffortescue-Smythe of the 44th Royal
Berkshire Regiment explained cheerfully to McQueen as
they toured their little slice of Paradise, the rest of
the 58th obediently (for a change) trailing along behind.
"Absolutely HAVE to insist on sugar in ones tea -
the Geneva Convention and all that. Keep old Jonney-Chig
on his toes, eh what? Or... was it the Hague Convention?
Who knows? Who cares! Just as long as they stick to it,
that's what I say!" The General brandished his baton
wildly to emphasise the point.
He led them past
the queue for the British Quarters' impromptu 18 Hole
Golf Course and into the British Dormitory, making sure
to give the Vaulting Horse in the centre of the room a
wide birth as he did so. The other British prisoners
paused briefly in their activities to regard them
incuriously, before returning to their Concert Party
them! Singin's damn good for moral,"
Ffortescue-Smythe cried above the chorus of "Pack up
your Chiggy in a Body Bag and smile, smile,
smile..." He waved his baton at the choir
encouragingly, whilst using his right hand to put a full
kettle of water on to boil atop the rooms small stove.
"Plus, of course, the noise drowns out the sounds of
digging!" He paused to indicate a relatively empty
corner. "Now," he said, "just make
yourselves at home!"
McQueen enquired faintly as he watched the others settle
where-ever they could find a space. Taking the General at
his word, Hawkes tried to perch on one of the available
bunks - and promptly fell through it! The rest of the
58th gathered to inspect the damage - which turned out to
be surprisingly minimal.
had the grace to look abashed as he approached. "Ah,
yes," he sighed. "DO try to be careful, chaps
and chap-esses, most of these bunks have been stripped to
their frames. Pit props, you know..."
Military History, Colonel McQueen had been half-expecting
this bizarre turn in events, and so managed to maintain a
commendably straight face when the General approached him
and whispered conspiratorially "We're digging an
Escape Tunnel, you see... Well, three, actually! I
believe they're called Ron, Mick and Gary, or
He led the Colonel
over to where the Vaulting Horse stood, inexplicably, in
the middle of the room, where-upon he leant over to
cautiously tap a special coded rhythm against one side.
After a moments
muffled conversation from within, the entire structure
shifted itself a couple of feet to the right to reveal
two dirty, yet remarkable cheerful, faces peering up at
them from ground level. Each man saluted smartly, before
reaching back down to their feet and producing a couple
of small sacks full of dirt. They proceeded to pass these
up to their team-mates, who seemed to magically spirit
isn't it?" the General asked the Wild Cards, his
voice laced with enthusiasm as he handed around six mugs
of freshly brewed and impossibly sweet tea.
certainly is!" McQueen answered truthfully, speaking
for all of them.
They were even
more amazed to hear of the ways in which the soil was
being 'lost' - the roof-space was already packed to
capacity, it seemed, and dry mud was damn-near impossible
to casually scatter across the floor of a star-ship and
simply 'toe in' - and so the British had successfully
campaigned for some space in which they might create an
Allotment - ostensibly a place in which to grow their own
vegetables - but in reality an excellent cover for the
secret dispose of all the extra dirt.
Ffortescue-Smythe sighed luxuriously as he took his first
sip of tea. "Not quite Earl Grey," he
apologised ruefully, "but a damned sight better than
that stuff they served at Sandhurst, eh, Colonel? Mind
you - " he continued before McQueen could formulate
a repeatable answer, "if I could have ONE wish
fulfilled at this moment, it would be to be back home in
dear old Blighty, stood at the bar in the 'Hanging
Highwayman'. And there, on the bar before me, would be a
pint of Best Bitter - three inches of head and warm
enough to toast a crumpet over!"
There was a
collective sigh from around the room. Some of the Brits
had to wipe a wistful tear from their eyes... And a
couple were practically sobbing.
downed his tea in a couple of gulps, grimacing at the
taste of almost neat syrup, and rose to his feet
decisively. It was DEFINITELY time to leave.
luck with the Tunnels, Sir," he said smoothly as he
endeavoured to chivvy the Wild Cards out of the room
before the Air of Insanity began to rub off onto them -
though it would be hard to make them worse than they
already were, he added mentally. "But we really MUST
They had almost made it to the door before Ffortescue-Smythe intercepted them. "Ah yes! Colonel, before you go - a little dickey bird has told me your lot are pretty fair pilots. Am I right? Good!" He gushed happily, brandishing a toasting fork under McQueen's nose. "Well then, you might just be interested in a joint effort and join some of our boys up in the loft - they're attempting to build a Glider - out of toilet roll holders, don't ya know..."