Par for the Course

By Sam Seal

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

Colonel McQueen was furious. That morning he had entered their Bunk House with a list of the days scheduled activities only to find that the entire 58th Squadron had gone AWOL again. This time en masse. And thus he had been forced to delay the briefing in order to go find them again, and safely shepherd them back to where they belonged.

He decided that the communal Courtyard would be as good a place as any to start. Trying to keep a low profile - lest the 58th spot him coming and hide - and recognising a familiar face, the Colonel pulled up sharply next to the British Prisoners regular mess table to interrogate the General's preferred lackey, Private Thomas Atkins esq.

Atkins was sitting with his back to the Colonel, using a well-chewed pencil to make notes in a nicotine stained notebook. Upon closer inspection McQueen concluded, with surprise, that Atkins must be the Briton's Quartermaster - as he was busily engaged in doling out the usual food rations, pairs of socks, the odd saucepan, writing paper, pencils...

Betting slips...

Tennis rackets..

Fishing rods..?

Refusing to believe that he was even capable of hallucinating 22 men in immaculate cricket whites standing at the head of the queue, McQueen got straight to the point.

"Private Atkins - have you by any chance seen my Squadron this-morning?"

Atkins paused in the middle of rearranging a box full on snooker balls to regard the Colonel speculatively. "I might 'ave," he said. "It depends..."

McQueen scowled. "On what?"

Atkins sucked the end of a pencil thoughtfully. "On wethah or not you wants ta make a Deal," he murmured around a mouthful of 2B.

Oh God, he's another Greasy Weasel, McQueen realised in disgust (though Atkin's complexion more favoured the Cotton Rat - a sort of yellowish grey). Even so... "It depends on the Deal," he responded with Swiss-like Neutrality. "I'm listening."

Atkins removed the pencil from his mouth and drew the Colonel away to a more secluded part of the compound.

"I needs some Chigs, Squire," he whispered. "The more the merrier. Dead 'uns."

"I've warned you about calling me that," McQueen glowered, making throttling motions with his hands in the air before the Private, who blanched satisfyingly. "Why?" he added.

"I'm not s'posed to tell anyone - " the Private began, but on seeing the Colonel's expression darken even more ominously, he swiftly added " - but I'm sure I can trust you to keep it quiet!"

McQueen sighed. "Fess up!" he ordered.

Atkins 'fessed'.

"We use 'em as a kinda... International Currency, ya see. We've arranged to swap 'em with the Frenchies - they can work miriculs wiv a hot stove and some garlic, sah - in return for one of them Louwey the Fourteenf dining chairs they got in their last Red Cross Parcel - "

" What!?"

" Oh yes, sah! Antique-ee tables, armchairs, paintin's - the works!" His rodentine eyes were like saucers. "An' you should see their bunk'ouse - ev'ry one of 'em wiv a four-poster bed..." Said eyes glazed dreamily. McQueen snapped his fingers under the Privates' nose to regain his attention (he'd had a lot of practise with Hawkes). "Any'ow - wot we dun wuz, we used that chair to bribe the ole Chiggy Captain wiv, in return for the Sports Field - "

"Sports Field," McQueen echoed weakly. "You've got a Sports Field."

"Yup! An that's where you mob is right now. Sah!"

That had been three hours ago.

McQueen consulted his list of scribbled directions incredulously. "Down the steps next to the swimming pool?" He looked around carefully and yes, there as promised, was the swimming pool - right next to the cricket ground, just south of the football pitch. He took a deep breath and descended to the next level...

There before him lay the British POW's New, Improved Golf Course.

All 7,000 yards of it. Or 6, 400 metres , depending on your point of origin. All 18 tees, fairways, putting greens and holes - flagged - not to mention all the rough, bunkers, banks, strategically positioned trees and a bloody great ornamental Lake (dotted with anglers).

It covered the entire deck.

And there, tight against the hull, was a Victorian-style Club House...

...being whitewashed with plenty of enthusiasm (but little actual effect) by members of his Squadron - themselves awash in a sea of black Labrador puppies. At least, McQueen assumed they were black Labradors. At the moment they resembled Dalmatians, due to the amount of whitewash involved. Infact Hawkes was currently laying prone, pinned to the deck by the small ball of black-ish fur asleep on his stomach.

He was listening to his stereo whilst reading a Comic.

Teetering alarmingly on the brink of yet another nervous breakdown, Colonel McQueen decided that it was more than time he stepped in and put a stop to all this libertine behaviour.

He approached General Ffortescue-Smythe purposefully. "Sir! May I ask just what the Hell you think your doing with my Marines?"


Colonel McQueen pointed at the white-wash debacle grimly.

"Oh, them! " The General stopped his futile attempts at erecting a deck chair and regarded the 58th as if trying to remember... Then "Ah yes! They're on Punishment Duty," he explained.

McQueen froze. "What gives you the right to punish members of the United States Marine Corps?" he seethed, hands on hips in the traditional manner.

"Football, old boy!" came the immediate response. "I mean to say - There we all were on the Foottie field, having a jolly kick-about in the name of Morale, when all of a sudden one of your boys picks up the ball and runs with it all the way to the goal mouth and throws himself to the ground with it. He then rose to his feet and proceeded, strictly against Federation Rules, to do some sort of bally Victory Dance - cheered on by the rest of his team." The General looked outraged. "I mean to say - it's just not, ah, cricket."

"If they've caused any trouble, sir, I'm perfectly capable of punishing them myself," McQueen pointed out truthfully. "Half an hour of Intensive Military History and they are as putty in my hand..."

"I can imagine," came the somewhat dusty reply. "Still, since your here - one supposes they're all yours now, to do with as you see fit."

With which dismissal the General tried to return all his attentions to the recalcitrant deck-chair.

But - just as Colonel McQueen was about to swoop down on the 58th Squadron like the ultimate Avenging Angel - the entire Chig battleship was violently rocked by a massive blast to the hull - followed by two more blasts and a mild yet rather unpleasant sense of decompression.

"All hands to the pups!" General Ffortescue-Smythe bellowed, dramatically dropping his chair and seizing up an armful of puppies. "Rescue is at hand!"

"It is?" The Colonel asked, looking around in alarm. "Where?"

The General pointed his ever-present baton to where a vast hole had suddenly appeared in the side of the ship where the Club House had so recently stood - not easy to do with an arm full of puppies. "See?" he said. "Looks rather as if all our troubles are over! Or, as you Yanks would have it - 'Here comes the Cavalry!' "

McQueen looked - half-expecting horses.

Meanwhile the 58th had scrambled into action - in their own, inimitable fashion.

"I'm not leaving without my curlers! I don't see why I should have to go without my curlers! It's not fair - I risked my life for those curlers - "

"I'm not going anywhere without my autographed coffee mug from Wrigley Field! I saved all month - "

" You think you've got problems? All my boyfriends letters are back in the Bunkhouse. I'm not going anywhere - "

" PG. . .? Pee. . . Gee . . .?"



Copyright SamSeal

July, 1997