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The Trench Rats: Part 8


A TRENCH WALL collapsed and blood went streaming along the ground, muddying the earth.

Turquoise stared at the ceiling--or rather, the bottom of the bunk just above him--frowning as the image kept repeating itself in his head.

He wasn't certain why it wouldn't go away...they usually did, pretty quickly, but this one stayed with him, and gave him an anxious feeling. No, anxious didn't quite describe it...he had a bad feeling.

A knock came to his door. He shut his eyes and let out a small annoyed sound. He'd just managed to get back to his own quarters for a brief rest, and now this. Why did people always seek him out?

"Go away!" he shouted, putting his hand over his eyes.

A voice he didn't recognize came through the door. "Um...Sir?"

He lifted his hand and blinked. Who was that? With a sigh he pushed himself off the bed and went to the door, opening it and peering out. "What?" he snapped, before noticing that the Rat standing there wore a private first class insignia and held his hand up to his brow in a stiff salute.

Turquoise stared at him.

The private didn't move, merely stayed frozen that way.

Turquoise shifted one foot awkwardly. He didn't recognize this one, so it was obviously a newbie. He was shorter even than Turquoise and wore a green cape. Logically...Turquoise decided his name must be Green.

"Uh..." he said, breaking the silence. The private's eyes shifted but otherwise he didn't move. "PFC...Green..."

"Yes, Sir!" The private looked astounded that Turquoise knew his name.

"You can put your hand down, Green. I'm not the sergeant."

"Yes, Sir." Green did so, but stayed at attention.

This time Turquoise sighed inwardly. Though almost everyone in the Trench Rats bore a relatively low rank, those who were lower in rank always seemed to submit to those who were higher--sometimes to a fault. As a mere lance-corporal he felt he in no way deserved the title "Sir," yet privates were calling him that all the time. On occasion even lance-corporals called other lance-corporals "Sir," but thankfully that was only when one was in command over the other...otherwise he didn't think he'd be able to stand all the "Sirring" that seemed to go on.

He had to at least try. "You don't need to call me Sir, either, Green. I'm just a lance-corporal here."

"I'm sorry, Sir--I--uh--Lance-Corporal--I--uh--" Turquoise modified the expression on his face, to indicate that the private could say what was on his mind. "The truth is, Sir, uh, well, I just feel better calling you--I mean, uh--well--I'm only a PFC here, and you are higher in rank, so..."

"Well...that's okay, I guess...what do you want, Private?"

Green seemed to relax slightly. Here's a person who could become used to routine, Turquoise thought. "I was told to get in touch with you, Sir. You see, I'm new here, and--"

"Indigo sent you, didn't he?" Even as he said it Turquoise wasn't certain how he knew. "To have me show you around."

"--Yes, Sir." Green gaped at him.

"I suppose that's okay, too. Hold on and I'll be right along with you."

"Yes, Sir." Green stood absolutely immobile while Turquoise went to the stand in the corner and splashed water in his face, shaking his head--the strange vision had left him feeling fuzzy and distracted. The last thing he needed to do was show some newbie around while he was half out of his head. He shook his hands off and turned back to him, but kept rubbing them together almost unconsciously.

"So you're new here, huh." It wasn't even a question. Green answered anyway.

"Yes, Sir. I just got set up in my room, but I thought maybe it would be better if I, uh--got to know the place first. Someone told me where the main HQ is, but so far that and my room are all I know."

"Well, you should know where Mess Hall and the hospital ward are, too. They're both in the West Wing. Your room is here in the East Wing."

"Yes, Sir."

"That's where most quarters are." He said that to let Green know he wasn't God, he didn't know where everybody's specific room was. That was, not unless he'd been shown who lived there. Then he didn't forget.

"Yes, Sir." It didn't work; Green was still looking at him like he should be put up on a pedestal and worshipped.

Turquoise swallowed. His hands were still shaking. He felt like he needed a drink. "The North Wing is still shut down after the bombing. Indigo forgot to tell you about that, didn't he."

"Yes, Sir."

"There are many smaller tunnels leading off of all the wings, but Doomsday mostly is in control of those. Those tunnels are where most of the wiring and electronics for this place are stored. I'll show you a few of the more important ones later, in case you get assigned to work with him."

"Yes, Sir."

"Doomsday is our chief engineer, by the way."

"Yes, Sir."

"You probably won't see him much."

"No, Sir."

They reached the intersection of the four main wings; Turquoise stopped and briefly glanced in each direction, sheerly out of habit. It wasn't as if he needed to get his bearings.

"They're serving soup in Mess Hall," he said, sniffing the air, though when Green sniffed he didn't seem to smell anything. "Rice soup. Supper starts in a few minutes. I'll get you there a bit early if you like."

"Yes, Sir."

"That's the North Wing." He pointed out the portion of hall to the right; it went on for a short distance before they could see sawhorses blocking off the way, and what appeared to be a caved-in section of the roof beyond that. Green swallowed. Turquoise merely went on ahead.

"Mess this way." Green hurried to catch up as the lance-corporal strode off. Turquoise waved his arm at an entrance on the left-hand side of the hall, from which was issuing a lot of noise; evidently there were other Rats who wished to start supper early, too. Green sniffed and licked his mouth. Turquoise continued on, past the hall, so he had to leave the cafeteria behind.

"The hospital ward is directly ahead. It suffered some damage during the attack, but it's mostly fixed up now. Lieutenant Burgundy is in charge down there. Lance-Corporal Lyndsey Skye is the head nurse. You've already met Indigo. He's one of Burgundy's interns."

"Yes, Sir. I didn't know that, Sir."

Turquoise tried not to grind his teeth. This "Sir" thing was really grating on his nerves. He pushed open the doors to the ward. "Trench Rat ward is to the left, refugees and outside patients to the right. Hello, LC Skye."

Skye came forward with a tray in her hands. It held a bowl of soup. "Good evening, Turquoise. I was just bringing this to our lovely German patient. Who's this?"

"This is PFC Green. He's new here. I was showing him around."

"Do come in. I'm sorry to say the doctor's out right now. Probably taking care of his arm." She shrugged and turned away, not explaining, disappearing behind the curtain blocking off the private ward.

Turquoise followed her in, so so did Green. He tried to look in the Trench Rat ward, but a curtain was blocking it off as well. Turquoise assumed he wondered if anyone was in there...and how badly they might be hurt.

He tried to shove thoughts of the collapsing trench out of his mind...

Nurse Skye was taking the tray over to the Nazi patient, who sat glowering at her from his bed. There were three others on the ward, and they all stared at Green as he went past. His face grew red. One of them leaned over toward another and whispered something in French. Turquoise very nearly felt his ears burning for the embarrassment the private must be feeling right now.

He then got a better look at the patient. "What--what happened to his head?" he asked, a slight note of alarm rising in his voice. He hadn't noticed that nasty gash before. It had been sewn up, but from the looks of it, no one had bothered to use anesthesia.

"Oh, he and the good doctor got in a bit of a tussle earlier today. Gold had to break it up and whip some sense into him. With the butt-end of his gun, to be exact."

Turquoise cringed. Green paled. Turquoise could guess what he was thinking: This corporal is starting to sound like a pretty nice guy. He had a sudden mental image of Gold, snarling and savagely ramming the gun into the already-weakened Nazi's head, grinning wickedly as the prisoner went down. Then he had to shake his own head again. Who had thought that one up, himself or Green?

He glanced at Green and saw the sick look on his face and felt his question had been answered.

Skye went toward the patient and offered the tray. The Nazi kept glowering, even when she offered some kind words in German. Turquoise stepped forward; Green followed. The Nazi turned and glared at Green, but when he looked at Turquoise the expression on his face changed. When he spoke to the lance-corporal there was a plaintive tone to his voice. Turquoise sighed and said something in return. Skye only frowned and shook her head.

Green leaned toward her. "What was that?" he whispered, curious. "It looked like he was...asking him for something."

"He's asking when he can be let go. He doesn't like it here, with Americans. He wants to go back. For some reason I suppose he thinks Turquoise will help him out. That's how a lot of our patients are. Turquoise isn't even an intern here and the patients look up to him more than they do to Burgundy." A shrug and a sympathetic look. "But we're not going to be able to let him go. He could always go back and tell the Nazis where our HQ is. And we can't let anybody know that. Not even the British. There's always the chance someone we don't want to know could find out."

Turquoise managed to listen in on them while listening also to the Nazi patient. In truth he only half listened to both. He stood with his stare far away while the patient kept talking to him in German.

"When can I go from here?"

"I'm sorry but you're a prisoner now. You can't go."

"I swear I won't let them know of your Headquarters. They won't learn it."

"I'm sorry but you still can't leave. Make the best of it here."

"You must let me go. I can't survive here! That doctor will kill me first! You must let me go!"

Turquoise didn't respond to him this time. He turned away, back to Skye and Green, speaking up as the patient raised his voice in protest. "Maybe we should go now. Dinner should be starting. Follow me. Thank you for showing us in, Nurse Skye."

"You're welcome, Turquoise. Do come again when you're able." She had to raise her own voice to be heard over the Nazi, who was now practically shouting to get Turquoise's attention. When he didn't get it, he slumped back in bed, ignoring the soup she offered him.

Turquoise rubbed his head, suddenly aching, and headed for the doors, hearing Green trotting to catch up, and Skye serving dinner to one of the other patients, replying to his questioning murmur, "Oh, he'll get over it. Once he finds out Lieutenant Burgundy doesn't have a vendetta against him. I'm surprised he hasn't considered poison in his soup if he thinks Burgundy is going to kill him...oh, no, there's no poison in there, Sir...you must believe me."

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