Army 100

The world is at war and Reagal Black is just one of the millions fighting it.


3. Chapter 3

Sebastian flung the door open and darted through it yelling, “’Scuse me! Emergency!” and ran off somewhere to the left, while Reagal stepped cautiously into the shabby bunkhouse and looked around.

            Though the large room could really have done with a coat of paint, you could not fault it on neatness. Fourteen single metal framed beds with plain grey covers lined the wall opposite Reagal, and three more ran down each of the sides, where they stopped next to what Reagal assumed were bathrooms as it was into the one of these on her left that Sebastian had exited. At the end of each of the beds there was a plain wooden trunk, and at the head of each bed were the only adornments of the room. Several had photographs tacked to the wall above the metal headboard, though around half were bare. Both side walls had a single, skinny window which did not have such luxuries and curtains or blinds. In the middle of the room there were two circular tables around each of which there were eight chairs. One of these chairs was occupied

            The tall, blonde soldier stood up and approached Reagal. “Reagal is it?” He smiled and shook her hand, “I’m Sergeant Holmes, sorry about Private Lee there, I think now that he might have been the wrong choice, but it was him or Private Oakfield, and while I’m completely sure both would have remembered what to say equally well, I’m afraid Oakfield might have neglected to say it.” His smile did not show teeth, but it was genuine and welcoming. His blonde hair stood up at the front in a cows lick, and his face was pink, like he had spent too much time in the sun, Reagal looked at him and immediately trusted him. “I just got back in from the welcome-fest. The other three went to Corporeal McClean for their tour. I think that everybody else was glad to get rid of him, he takes training a bit seriously.” Reagal could already understand why Sebastian revered this man so. He did not act like he was better than her because she was new, or because he was older and he did not talk to her in imperatives and threats, he talked to her like he wanted to have a conversation with her.

            “And I have to say sorry, because I’m afraid you won’t get a tour, until tomorrow, there are so few of us that we were lucky to get the first three all around the same time, but they’ll all be back soon so I guess we can only show you around here.” He smiled and gestured to the dull room, “This will be your home for the next two years.”

            “Yay!” Reagal pumped her arms in mock celebration.

            “Oh you speak! I thought I had another Henry Oakfield on my hands.”

            “Oh I can talk no problem. I was just letting you talk first, manners and all that.”

            “Of course, manners are very important. This is your bed.” Holmes had led Reagal to a bed inbetween two which were already occupied, according to the full shelves and embellished walls. “Your trunk,” he lightly kicked the wooden box, “has all of your clothes in it already, and you’ll have to change for supper.”

            “And when is that? Sir?” She added, remembering Sergeant Reid’s caution.

            “Anytime from six until ten, most days everybody just goes once they have finished training, but everyone’s coming back here first tonight. And you don’t need to call me sir, Holmes is fine.” He smiled again as Sebastian returned.

            “Sorry ‘bout that. I really had to go.” He sat down at the table and lifted a deck of cards.

            “You’re forgiven. I was just telling Private Black here that I don’t insist on titles.”

            “Nah your way to cool for that sort of stuff aren’t you Holmes? Hey Reagal isn’t it?” Reagal nodded, “Well Reagal, do you know Holmes was the youngest soldier ever to make sergeant?” Holmes shook his head slightly but Reagal was impressed.

            “Really? That’s pretty cool.”

            “Not really, it’s just because nobody from this brigade had chosen to stay on in years, and the guy who had been sergeant of the 81st was getting kind of old. And anyway it’s not even true, there was a guy years ago who got made sergeant when he was still on conscription.” Holmes took the cards from Sebastian and started to deal them out, “You in?” He asked Reagal. She declined but sat down opposite them.

            “But I thought that didn’t count because he left. Isn’t Sergeant Reid from 100 always talking about how he was best man at his wedding? I bet it’s not even true.” Reagal inhaled sharply.

            “What?” Holmes picked up a card from the deck and looked to Reagal.

            “Em, what was this guy’s name?” She asked even though she knew what the answer was going to be.

            “Atticus Black.” Holmes put his cards down, “I win.”

            “You always win.” Sebastian started to deal the cards again.

            “Atticus Black is my father.” Sebastian stopped in the middle of setting down a card and his jaw dropped. Holmes cocked his head and looked at Reagal.

            “No way!” Sebastian looked at her in awe, his eyes bulging.

            “Seb, close your mouth.” Sebastian did, but his eyes continued to bulge and he still held the card in his hand, “You’re really Atticus Black’s daughter? I always thought that he was secretly kidnapped by the Spanish or something.” Reagal felt uncomfortable as they both stared at her.

            “Rainer is going to hate you!” Sebastian laughed and finally started dealing the cards again.

            “No, Rainer’s a good guy, he won’t hate her just because of something her dad did.” Holmes picked up his cards and smiled at Reagal, but she could see he didn’t really believe this.

            “Rainer might be a good guy but he holds the best grudge. Remember when Grey accidentally smashed his foot in the bathroom door and Rainer made him do ten laps every day for a whole week?” Sebastian kept looking at Reagal when he thought she wouldn’t notice.

            “Why does this guy hate my dad so much?” Sebastian and Holmes looked at each other.

            “Touchy subject.” Holmes looked for a moment like he wasn’t going to tell her, but after he put down his winning hand, he turned to her, “ I think it has something to do with his mother, but he always says that people shouldn’t look up to him the way they do, and that he was a bad person. I’m sure your dad’s lovely though.”

            “Oh yeah! Real nice guy.” Reagal laughed sarcastically as the others turned back to their game.

            “Anyway, you probably should get changed before the others are back. Make sure you tie back your hair, too. Girls’ Bathroom is through there.” Holmes nodded to the door on his right as Reagal made her way to the bed on which she had thrown her backpack opened the trunk. There was plain clothing similar to what Sebastian and Holmes wore on one side and on the other there was a pair of brown combat boots and a beret, which she had seen many of the younger looking soldiers wearing. Under this there were grey pyjamas and underwear, as well as an official looking uniform and right at the bottom, a small zip lock bag with hair bands and grips. Reagal pulled out clothes and the hair bands, before grabbing her hairbrush from her bag and heading into the bathroom.

            The bathroom was just as clean as the main room, and was tiled all in white. There were showers to one side, and sinks and mirrors to the other. The toilet stalls were at the bottom of the room. There was a pile of neatly folded, faded grey towels at the end of the row of sinks and one of the mirrors had a crack running diagonally across it. Other than a dripping tap, it was quiet, and she could hear Sebastian and Holmes talking in the other room.

            “Seems alright.” Sebastian, Reagal thought.

            “Yeah, she looks like she’ll be able to handle this know problem, good job too because the other three don’t look like they’re going to be able to stick the training.”

            “Oh, that little rich girl! She won’t last a minute if you let Rainer at them!” There was silence for a moment before Sebastian spoke again, “I’m telling you Holmes, one day I will find out how you’re cheating! Can’t believe she’s Atticus Black’s daughter. How cool would that be? Having a guy like that for a dad?”

            “I guess, she doesn’t seem to really like him though… I don’t think she’d appreciate you telling everybody.”

            “Holmes, you don’t trust me!”

            “I trust you, just not with a secret. Is that Poppy coming? Can you see?” Reagal started to get dressed, and thought about what had been said about her dad. Other than this Rainer guy, it seemed everybody liked him so he must have been alright when he was here. She wondered what had turned him into such a horrible man, and the she thought “he was probably always a ghastly person, but just hid really well.” The last thing Reagal had expected coming here was to hear about her father, she thought she had escaped him for now.

            She was just tying up her hair when a tall, busty black girl came in. “Hi! You must be Reagal, I’m Honour.” She hopped onto the counter between two sinks and shook Reagal’s hand, “I hope you’re nice. I was talking to the other new girl earlier and she was so rude!” As she said this, another girl came through the door, “Reagal this is Poppy, Poppy Reagal.”

            “Oh that’s a lovely name!” Poppy did not shake her hand but hugged Reagal tight. Poppy was one of the prettiest girls Reagal had ever seen. She was mid height, but her platinum blond hair fell in lose ringlets from its ponytail behind her beret, and her pale skin and perfectly rosy cheeks gave her a look of pure innocence. “I’ve never met anybody called Reagal before.”

            “I think my mum might’ve made it up.” The too girls seemed very chatty and giggly, which Reagal did not much like, “I have a friend called Honour, she’s in 74 though.”

            “Oh! I was almost in 74!” Poppy sounded delighted, “I couldn’t decide and I was standing there between the two rows, and in the end I chose this one because I thought Rainer was hot! I know it’s so silly!” And indeed Reagal found these girls, or Poppy at least, to be very silly. There was a knock on the door and a male voice called out

            “Hurry up! I’m starving!”

            “Coming Flint!” Honour shouted back, “That boy is always hungry.” She jumped down from the counter and led the way to the door. Outside, the barrack was now full of people. A broad olive skinned boy with curly black hair stood just outside the door. Honour patted his belly and Reagal took him to be Flint. “This is Reagal.” Flint nodded to her and picked up a conversation with Honour.

            “I was talking to Grey and would you believe that— ” Poppy and Reagal walked over to their beds, Poppy’s was on the left of Reagal’s. Reagal was tying her boots as Poppy talked.

            “I remember my first day. The woman who met us off the bus was terrifying. Who did you get?”

            “Sergeant Reid.” Reagal looked around some more.

            “Oh the one who reckons he was besties with Atticus Black?” Poppy laughed. Did everybody know Reagal’s dad? “Although I hear he’s really very strict. I bet he’s one of the ones who always set laps. I had to do four laps two weeks ago, I was running to the mess hall and my hat flew off. Colonel Nicks caught me just before I picked it up. It was horrible, by the time I’d run it once I was ready to keel over.”

            “Pops!” Honour called, and Reagal was pleased to see her go. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Poppy, she just thought she was a bit flighty, and maybe a bit too chatty. Reagal sat up on her bed. Sergeant Reid certainly had the wrong impression of this group, who between Sebastian and Poppy, could probably talk without ever stopping. There were several people talking in groups around the room. She saw Holmes talking to a tall young man with short blond hair which sat in tight curls. Reagal took this to be Rainer as he seemed a little older than the others, maybe twenty, twenty one, and though she would never admit it, she agreed with Poppy: he was pretty good looking. At the end of the bed next to her a tall gangly boy with puffy brown hair was speaking to Sebastian and another boy, this one with short black hair and a very lithe build, who were both sitting on chairs turned around from the table. Sebastian caught her eye and smiled.

            “Lads, this is Reagal. Reagal this is Scout Finley,” he pointed to the boy on the bed , “and Davies… eh Davies” Sebastian looked to Davies for help.           

            “Green.” Davies answered.

            “Oh yeah! Sorry man, I did only just meet you. I know Reagal’s surname though, Black.” Sebastian smiled at her, pleased, “Scout and me were just telling Davies here some of the more important rules, weren’t we Scout?”

            “Yeah, like how if you get stuck with Rainer in training, its okay to accidentally kick mud in his face once in a while.” Reagal saw Holmes stand up and count everybody.

            “Okay everybody fall in!” Holmes shouted and everybody got up and walked towards the front of the room.

            “Reagal,” Scout tapped her on the shoulder, “your hat.” He held it out to her.

            “Thanks.” Reagal took it from him and met his eyes. They were deep-set and a startlingly bright shade of green. She pulled on her head and tugged it so that it sat slightly to one side.  When they were all standing at the front of the barrack, in a loose semi circle around Holmes, he spoke to them.

            “Okay, so I’m sure you’re all more or less acquainted with our new recruits by now, but just in case, this is Russell Walker,” Holmes pointed to a fair haired boy standing between Flint and Honour, “Davies Green” he pointed out Davies, “Foxe Montgomery,” now he pointed to a small girl with pixie cut hair died a vivid red, a telltale sign of wealth, “and Reagal Black. So I need somebody to be a sort of guide for each of these guys for the next few days. Poppy,” Poppy smiled a smile complete with dimples and fluttering eyelashes, “ I want you to show Foxe the ropes,” her smile faded slightly but none the less, she waved to Foxe in a most cheery way, “Flint, take Russell. Davies you can go with…” Holmes looked around the group, before settling with, “Grey and Seb you’re with Reagal, since I know you’re both –ah-acquainted already.” Sebastian winked at Reagal and she smiled. “Okay everybody good? Let’s go then.” And he led the way out the door, talking animatedly with Rainer again.

            “So, how’re you liking this place?” Sebastian asked as they followed the rest from the room.

            “It’s way more relaxed than I thought it would be.”

            “Oh no, that’s just us,” He held the door for her as they entered the cool, dark evening, “Like I said before, Holmes is awesome, but you have to be careful not to forget yourself when your around everybody else. We can’t let anybody else know that he’s nice to us, or they might put Rainer in charge, and then we’d all die.” Reagal laughed, “No I’m completely serious, the man’s insane! Oh god when he finds out about your dad!” Sebastian laughed.

            “What’s funny about that?” her voice was cross, but she wasn’t really. Reagal liked Seb, he was straight talking, she thought she could trust his word.

            “Nothing,” Sebastian stopped laughing, he too could feel the natural authority in Reagal’s voice, “just I’ve never seen Rainer attack a girl before, not really. He made this girl Phoebe cry lifting weights last year, but he gave her a hug afterwards so it doesn’t count. But oh boy, he’s going to kill you. Can you do a press up? Because if you can, I’d make him think you can’t so that when he finds out he’ll make you do that instead of laps. Laps are the worst.”

            “I’ve heard.” By now they had reached the door of the large grey building that had blocked the way at the end of the row. Again, Sebastian held the door for her, and she thanked him.

            “But then maybe he won’t find out, I’m not making promises but I’ll try to hold my tongue.” Seb handed Reagal a tray as they joined the queue. “Dinner’s an hour longer today because some of you get here pretty late. Sometimes we don’t bother going back to the barracks, or as I prefer to call it “home”, after training, just head on up here. Nobody cares if your muddy or sweaty or smelly, because everybody is, you know?” The line moved quickly, and Sebastian was soon filling his plate with meat and vegetables, “Potatoes,” He said, “Potatoes and pasta. They are your best friends, I guarantee you that within a month you won’t ever want to see them again.” They now walked through the huge room, packed with tables and tables of people to one near the back. “And another thing, don’t go drawing attention to yourself, everybody thinks we’re very quiet, but really we’re just smart enough to know when to shut up.”

            “I have my doubts on whether or not you can shut up.” Reagal sat down between Seb and another boy from their brigade, short with brown hair and wire framed glasses.

            “Oh!” A guy with fairly long dark hair in a bandanna underneath his hat (Reagal thought he looked ridiculous, he thought it made him look tough) “Seb, I like her, she has an attitude. Grey McGovern” He said shaking Reagal’s hand, before proceeding to shovel food into his mouth at an alarming pace.

            “So we were standing in the jet line, and who’s next to me but Hugo Casey!” Everybody looked blankly at Flint, who had sat down, and seemed to be completely ignoring Russell’s presence next to him, “Right, well I went to school with Hugo, he’s in 48,”

            “Oh so he’s a dumb ass then?” Seb swallowed a mouthful.

            “Well kind of yeah, but anyway you know what he was telling me?”

            “What?” Scout was sitting at on end of the table, Flint at the other.

            “Well he said that he’d overheard his sergeant and some other sergeant talking and apparently Atticus Black’s kid is here this year!” Reagal choked on her pasta, and Seb smacked her on the back, trying to carry on the conversation in a nonchalant way.

            “Oh yeah? Does he know where?” Flint was looking at Reagal struggling to compose herself, but he turned back to Seb.

            “No but apparently it was a go between with three completely different ones, he must be amazing.”

            “Oh it’s a guy?” Seb asked, acting casual but shooting a few to many glances at Reagal.

            “Well… I don’t think he said, but I assume so.” Flint shrugged.

            “What because a girl couldn’t be amazing?” Reagal was slightly angry at the assumption, and most of the table laughed.

            “Oh no, I’m sure a girl would be great but Atticus Black was like a superhero. He caught pretty much every spy there was around in his two years, and he got made sergeant two months into his second year. You wouldn’t get it, you don’t know anything about the guy,” Reagal didn’t doubt that, “But this man came up with some of the greatest plans this army have ever seen. He once managed to get 600 soldiers into a Spanish base undetected, and every one of them came out alive. I mean this guy was insanely awesome. When he didn’t stay on, apparently tons of people thought he’d been kidnapped or shot or something.”

            “He sounds like a lot to live up to.” Davies chimed, “I mean I sure wouldn’t like to be compared to that but my Dad’s a plumber so I have it easy.”

            “Exactly, that’s why I think it’s a guy, because why would they go telling people about a daughter of Atticus Black’s? She’d be crushed under all the expectations.” Sebastian looked at his plate, holding back laughter at the look on Reagal’s face.

            “So, let me get this straight,” Reagal placed her knife and fork on her plate, “Your saying that this kid of Atticus Black who’s here can’t possibly be a girl because they wouldn’t tell people about a girl in case she wasn’t strong enough to handle it?”

            “Well… Yeah.” Flint saw the anger on Reagal’s face, but didn’t seem to register it. Seb patted him on the back.

            “It was nice knowing you.”

            “You sexist pig.” Reagal spat. The exchange was not loud, so none of the other tables had noticed the argument, but the other guys at the table and stopped eating and where now watching the pair as though it was a truly entrancing tennis game. Flint did not know how to reply to this comment so stayed silent. After a moment Reagal’s expression changed to one of neutrality, “Okay, so we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot, that’s all, so why don’t we just start again?”

            “Okay… Um, Hi I’m Flint Navy.” He offered Reagal his hand, she shook it and replied

            “Pleased to meet you, I’m Reagal Black.” The moment went on for a while as one by one, the boys realised what she was saying. By the time Flint’s mouth had dropped open and his eyes gone wide, Sebastian was positively shaking with the effort of not laughing.

            “Oh Shit.” Flint said quietly.

            “Oh shit is right,” Reagal drenched her voice with sarcasm, “Now I’m going to leave, but you know Flint,” she looked at him, eyes wide, “Feel free to join me because you know, it’s dark outside and I might get scared!” Everybody laughed as Reagal stood, followed by Seb, which she was glad of because she wasn’t sure how to get back. Once they were a few feet away Sebastian spoke.

            “You do realise that by morning the whole place is going to know?”

            “Well, they would have found out eventually.” They joined a short queue to leave their trays back.

            “Yeah but now Rainer is definitely gonna kill you tomorrow. You have no idea how happy that makes me.”

            “You’re a bit sadistic aren’t you Seb?” They left the hall and ventured back into the cool night.

            “We all have our talents. Mine is taking joy from other people’s misfortune. What’s yours?”         

            “Probably making fools out of people. I accidentally punched my brother in the face earlier and he had to tell my dad he walked into a tree. It was hilarious, he was completely covered in blood.” And as she said it, she felt a pang in her gut. That had only been today, yet it already felt like weeks ago.

            “How do you accidentally punch someone?” Sebastian laughed.

            “It was his own fault, he snuck up on me.” They went into the bunkhouse, which was completely empty.

            “You’re kind of hard ass for a girl aren’t you?” Sebastian lay down on his bed, two down from Reagal’s.

            “Are you a sexist pig two? Because I thought you were okay.” Reagal sat on her own bed, because she didn’t know what else to do.

            “No, I just meant… Well what age is you brother?”

            “Fifteen, why?”

            “Right, I just mean that I can’t really imagine any of the other girls around here giving a fifteen year old guy a bloody nose. I mean you’ve seen Poppy.” Just then Scout, Davies, Grey and the boy with the glasses came in, “Although my sister probably could’ve knocked me out on a number of occasions, but she was far too polite for that.” Seb was now up, gathering things together.

            “I’ve met your sister Seb, she’s not that polite.” Scout joked, gathering together his own things before following Sebastian to the bathroom.

            “Yeah well, she’s not talking to me right now so… Thanks Heners.” The boy with the glasses held the door as he too, disappeared into the bathroom. Davies sat down on the chair he had earlier occupied.

            “What a day, huh?” Davies yawned and stretched, as though to emphasize his point.

            “Yeah, I can’t believe this morning I was in a park.” Reagal laughed, “Imagine what its going to be like tomorrow, I think those five hours I lost to sleep on the way here might come in handy!”

            “You live five hours away? I was only on the bus for one and a half and I thought that was bad!” They both laughed, leading to a moment of awkward silence, as often happens between two people who have only met.

            “Well I think I’m going to get ready for bed.” Reagal made her way to her trunk, as Davies stood ad walked over to his own, three beds down, next to Sebastian’s.

            “Yeah me too.” Reagal gathered her things and made her way to the bathroom. She had changed, and was brushing her teeth as Poppy, Honour and Foxe walked in, each cradling her own pyjamas and toothbrush.

            “Oh my God, Reagal, is it true?” Poppy’s pitch fluctuated more than Reagal thought was normal, “Did I hear it right from Grey that you are Atticus Black’s daughter? Like the Atticus Black?” Poppy was again occupying the space between the first two sinks, where she had sat earlier in the evening, when she ha been quite as talkative but not quite as irritating.

            “Poppy, leave the girl alone,” Honour began getting changed, right in the middle of the room so that if anyone were to push open the door, she would be stood directly in their line of sight, “She’s gonna get enough of that without you joining in.”

            “Sorry,” Poppy jumped down, “But it’s so exciting!” She really did seem to find it thrilling news, and was bobbing on her toes like a child who had been promised a trip to the seaside.

            “It is I suppose,” Honour held her toothbrush in one hand, as Reagal now listened up for a lull in which she could politely make her exit, “Did you really tear Flint a new one? Grey says you did.”

            “You could call it that, yeah.”

            “Good,” Honour said firmly, “Hey Poppy,” she shouted down to the stalls, “aren’t I always saying that Flint needed a good talking to?”

            “Yeah, cause he’s so sexist right?” Poppy called back.

            “Right, you see…” But when Honour turned back to speak to Reagal, she had gone.

            Reagal lay down on her bed, and as the other people in the barracks went about their business before lights out, she thought. She thought about whether or not 81 had been the right choice, and then she thought about her father and wondered why he had never told her about how famous he was here. Then she wondered if he even knew he was still so important to the people here. She could not help but to feel a little respect for her father, despite knowing very little about what he had done to deserve it, and regardless of how much she desperately wanted to hate him. By this point, she was back to considering the pros and cons of the 81st brigade and whether she ought to have chosen one of the others. Holmes called lights out, and Reagal decided that there was no use dwelling on what had already happened, and that she had better get to sleep if she had any intention of proving Flint wrong the next day, let alone proving him wrong, Reagal style.

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