Aaaand two posts in one day! Why, you ask? I'm stuck in a room two and
a half metres square with a laptop, an ethernet connection, and a big
pile of research to do. When I am virtuous and complete one section of
work, I allow myself to post :)

This is just a fun 'what if' (fun for me, anyhow) that came to me
while I was making breakfast one morning, and got scrawled in drawing
pads and on scrap paper during lunch breaks and meetings and classes.
Essentially, this is the story of Men At Arms, with a twist. This means
that occasionally, the original story slips in. Maybe more than
occasionally. But don't think of it as plagiarism; think of it as
recycling, or homage. Sure.

Now, I am sure there is no plausible parallel universe in which Sam
Vimes would leave his wife for another woman (I'm saying nothing here
about Patricians or Watch Captains), but there are probably a
few where Sam Vimes didn't manage to acquire a wife. I also firmly
believe that his feelings for the woman in question are entirely
paternal. Not once is there a reasonable spark of anything else. Well,
okay, /once/, maybe twice, but only if you really /want/ to see it
there.

But what if the spark was there?


Transformations 1 / 3


'Vetinari's terrier, I've heard them call you,' the Prince went on.
'Always hot on the chase, they say, and he won't let go.'
Vimes stared into the calm, knowing gaze.
'I suppose, at the end of the day, we're all someone's dog,' he said.
-- Jingo


Consider how people own things.

Like rooms.

There are two rooms which, more or less, this man owns; a bedroom whose
only personal touches are a razor, a sheet of cardboard under the bed,
and a grubby trunk half-full of what personal belongings are important
to the sort of man who doesn't even hang pictures on the walls. Not
even a candle, because this room is used, not for living in or even for
residing in, but merely for sleeping and washing in.

The other room is larger, rather better-lit, and with bigger windows;
drafty, because this is not a man who spends his time in rooms at any
rate, and he likes the outdoors. There is a desk, covered in a
reasonable amount of paper, because the Watch has yet to become the
tree-killing, paper-generating machine that it someday will be. There
is half a curry on one of the stacks of paper, and a mug of tea on the
only bare patch.

There is a squeaky chair, liberated from a store-room by young Carrot,
for his Captain to use.

It is occupied, of course, by the Captain, who is in the throes of a
minor personal dilemma.

A few months ago, the dilemma would already have been drowned in a
couple of shots of cheap whiskey, which was the Captain's drink of
choice. But there was something about nearly getting incinerated by a
dragon -- and the memory of Sybil Ramkin being its first, and
thankfully /only/ sacrificial victim -- which had caused Sam Vimes to
bring his life sharply under review, and draw a few conclusions which
were beginning to have an effect.

The conclusion that he drank entirely too much was the first, and so
he'd quit. It hadn't been easy, and he wasn't entirely sure he'd kicked
the thing completely. Once or twice he found himself with a bottle in
his hand without having recalled why or when he'd bought it. But he
almost never actually finished one anymore.

He felt as though he could use a drink, right now. He'd just thrown out
a half-full bottle and it would be so easy to go fetch it back.

He'd just finished interviews with two of the three new recruits that
the Patrician had sent them. They weren't to go in the Day Watch, of
course, because the city wasn't quite ready for a troll and a dwarf
patrolling in broad daylight. And the City Watch certainly wasn't ready
for a werewolf patrolling at /any/ time.

But Vetinari'd said take them. Do it, he'd said.

Never mind that this Detritus lad was thick as a brick sandwich and
Cuddy the dwarf not much taller than one; never mind that it was daft
to put a werewolf in the /Night/ Watch. Never mind that the werewolf
was Delphine von Uberwald, the daughter of the most noble werewolf clan
this side of the Ramtops. Who cares? It's only the Night Watch, after
all.

He rubbed his temples, and looked down at von Uberwald's file. In a
moment of honesty, or possibly defiance, she'd actually written
'Werewolf' on her application. He imagined she was probably not the
most attractive of women, probably pointy ears and heavy eyebrows, sort
of thing -- the nobility tended to look that way in any case. Probably
couldn't hide it, he thought.

There was a hesitant rap at the door.

Well, no time for a drink now. He'd successfully thought about
depressing things /other/ than that, for as long as it took von
Uberwald to arrive.

"Come in," he called. The lance-constable, not yet in uniform, not yet
sworn in, came forward a few paces, and stopped, at something
approaching attention, in front of his desk.

Sam Vimes stared.

Delphine von Uberwald was a tall, graceful woman -- a quite young
woman. She had pale, ash-blond hair falling to her waist, a pleasant
face that was just shy of being beautiful, and the air of someone with
a tightly-coiled internal spring. She shifted nervously under his gaze.

/What a lovely woman,/ Vimes heard himself think. The unusual nature of
the thought snapped him back to reality, hard. It'd been years since
he'd let a healthy appreciation of the female form override his duties
as a Watch officer. Alcohol, yes, all right, but not women. You had to
pick your vices with care.

And she's a werewolf, good gods, what's wrong with you?

"Lance-Constable Delphine von Uberwald, I assume?" he asked, covering
the brief moment of confusion by searching his desk for her file, which
proved to be right in front of him.

"I'd prefer Lance-Constable Angua, sir," she said mildly, and quite
nervously.

"You would?" he asked, looking at her application. 'Von Uberwald,
Delphine A', it read.

"Yes, sir. It's just that von Uberwald's a bit of a mouthful, and...my
family..."

He looked at her over the edge of the file. "You won't get any special
treatment in the Watch because your father's a Baron in some country
hundreds of miles away, Lance-Constable."

"No, sir, it's not that at all..." she trailed off again. "But the von
Uberwalds are well-known and -- I mean -- "

"Ah. You repudiate the family's ways and have run off to the big city
to be an independent woman?" he asked, unsuccessfully stifling the
little core of sarcastic cynicism which made him Vimes -- and often
made him crave that drink.

"Sir?" she asked, now thoroughly confused.

"I don't like werewolves much," he said briskly, aware that he was
being far more cruel to this woman than the other two. "The undead in
general, to be honest. But I don't like anyone, really, so you're all
right there. My senior officer's got to know, lord knows how we'll work
your days off, but I'll leave it up to you whether to tell the others.
Lance-Constable Angua."

"Thank you, sir," she said, with a composedly grateful smile that made
him regret his harshness. Nevertheless, he continued.

"Don't thank me. Thank the Patrician. He's the one told us we had to
have you. You'll get fair treatment, but don't expect anything more
than that."

"No, sir," she said.

"All right. You've been through Watch procedures and Sergeant Colon'll
be training you. Any questions?"

"No, sir."

"Off you go, then."

She turned and left, as gracefully as she'd entered. He watched her go.

When she was gone, he put his fingers to his lips, thoughtfully. That
woman was a werewolf? She'd looked so normal. More than that -- she'd
looked unnaturally normal. Nondescript clothing, no unnecessary
fidgeting, not even strong facial expressions. A woman used to
succeeding at the attempt so many people made to /blend in/.

He felt a vague stirring, deep in his copper's soul, that told him
she'd make a good Watchman -- she had that necessary balance.

Vimes used to drink to forget, which was ironic because he often
couldn't remember what he was trying to forget, even when sober. But an
extended period of time without the bottle had begun to reawaken those
memories, and attached to all of them -- because they were memories of
all the terrible things he'd seen, as a copper in Ankh-Morpork -- had
been that old, corroded sense of duty that his first sergeant had tried
to give him, years and years ago.

By gods, she was young! Or perhaps he was simply old. Certainly she was
older than Carrot, but that wasn't saying much; Carrot was barely more
than a lad, though a well-grown one.

The treacherous little voice in his head said that Lance-Constable
Angua was pretty well-grown, herself.

He shook himself, stifled the automatic urge to reach for the
now-non-existent bottle in the bottom drawer of his desk, and got to
his feet.

***

It was a busy time for the Night Watch. Unusually so. Before the new
recruits, it was mainly cup of cocoa, patrol, find a place out of the
wind, return to the watch house. It was a good formula. With only four
people, it worked pretty well. Of course Carrot's routine was a bit
different, since he was a young lad and hadn't picked up the cynical
attitude of his comrades*, but at the end of the day they were all
still alive, so good for them.

But now there were the recruits to train, and Captain Vimes was getting
a bit keen about actually stopping unlicenced crime. Shaping up to
trade in alcohol as an obsession for real policing, was the general
consensus of Colon and Nobby. They blamed Carrot, in part, who
shamelessly encouraged the Captain's sobriety habit.

He was even taking an interest in the training. Now they stood --
Carrot, Vimes, and the trainees -- in front of one of the city's
enormous gates.

"This," said Corporal Carrot, "is the Hubwards Gate. To the whole city.
Which is what we guard."

"What from?" said Lance-Constable Angua.

"Oh, you know. Barbarian hordes, warring tribesmen, bandit armies..."

"Invading hegglers," Vimes added, in a murmur that Carrot, if he heard
it, ignored.

"Just us?" Angua asked.

"Oh, no!" Carrot laughed. "That'd be silly, wouldn't it?"

"Silly," Vimes echoed. "So if you see anything like that, you just ring
your bell as hard as you like, and the rest of us will come running,"
he said. He saw the sarcasm pass straight over Cuddy's head and
straight through Detritus', but he wasn't speaking for their benefit.
He watched Angua's reactions with interest.

"What happens then?" she asked. Carrot looked at Vimes, who shrugged.

"Haven't ever had opportunity to find out," he said. "Carrot, I think
that's enough of a civics lesson for one day. You take Cuddy and
Detritus, stop by the armourer on the way and place an order for some
elephant battle armour for Detritus and...erm, a breastplate for Angua,
right?"

"Certainly, sir," Carrot said. He started off for Remitt the armourer's
shop, the recruits following. Angua started, too, until Vimes took her
arm.

"Not you, lance-constable," he said. "You stay here with me."

She gave him a questioning look.

"They'll be a while. We can make it back in time for Colon to give the
evening report, if we take a few side streets."

The look didn't leave her face. "Just...me, sir?"

"Well, let's say I'm holding off on the others until we can get Cuddy
to let go of his axe and stop Detritus saluting himself unconscious,
all right?" he said, more defensively than he meant. "Walk with me."

They'd gone about ten feet before he tapped her right leg with his
truncheon. "Not like that. This is called 'proceeding', I always have
to teach the new ones. You lift your foot like so, swing the leg, let
it down. You can walk for hours, like that. Got to know how to walk
properly, in this job."

"You like walking, don't you, sir?" she asked. He shrugged.

"I like the outdoors. I like the city," he said.

"So does Corporal Carrot."

He smiled, grimly. "The city likes Corporal Carrot."

"Sergeant Colon," said Angua. "He draws a lot of desk duty, right?"

"Fred Colon's a good man," Vimes said, automatically.

"Why has he got a pet monkey?"

"That's Nobby. He's human, we think."

"You don't like us much, do you, sir?" she asked. He winced, inwardly.

"I told you, lance-constable. I don't like anyone much."

"You like Corporal Carrot."

"Everyone likes Carrot. He's good at...being liked."

"He told me he's a dwarf."

"Aye."

"He's six foot!"

"He's a tall dwarf," Vimes said humourlessly. "He's adopted."

"Why -- "

There was a splintering noise across the street. They turned as a
figure sprinted out of a tavern and took off running.

"Stop! Stop! Unlicensed thief!"

Vimes was about three seconds into a dead run when he realized he was
doing the wrong thing. Here'n'Now -- it was undoubtedly Here'n'Now, he
could /see/ it was Here'n'Now -- would run straight home; he could have
gone up Mormius Street into Borborygmic Lane, and down Whilom Alley to
Zephire street, and made it with time to spare.

Too late now. The terrier instinct was full-on, and it was only when he
finally skidded past Here'n'Now and punched him in the head that he
realized Angua was right behind him.

Silver dollars rolled across the cobbles. Angua nearly ran into him.

"Bigods," Vimes panted, hauling Here'n'Now up by the scruff of his
neck. "You've got a set of legs on you."

She blinked, and he realized how incredibly terrible that sounded. For
the first time in his life, he fully experienced the term 'lecherous';
he had never felt so much like a lecherous man. He reddened.

"You run well," he added. "Also important in this job. Running."

She smiled.

***

They arrived back at the Watch House just as Colon was beginning the
evening report. Vimes took the unlucky Here'n'Now down to the cells
while Angua seated herself between Carrot and Detritus. She looked like
a whippet between two rottweilers.

"What's all this about, then?" Nobby asked. "Us sittin' down here and
you standin' up there?"

"We got to do it proper, now there's more of us," Colon replied. Vimes
came up from the cells, and leaned in the doorway. "Right! Ahem. OK. We
welcome to the guard today Lance-Constable Detritus -– don't salute! --
and Lance-Constable Cuddy, also Lance-Constable Angua. Right, that's
out of the way. Now, says here -— "

"Sergeant?"

"Yes, Carrot?"

"Aren't you forgetting something, sergeant?" said Carrot. "They've got
to take the oath, sarge. It's the law."

Colon shared a look with Vimes.

"He's right, Fred," Vimes said. "Haven't done that in years, but I
recall it. Think I even took it, which not everyone did. Did you take
the oath when you joined, Carrot?'

"Oh, yes, Captain. Only no-one asked me, so I gave it to myself, quiet
like."

"Care to give it to the recruits, then?"

Carrot stood up and removed his helmet. He smoothed down his hair. Then
he raised his right hand.

"Raise your right hands, too," he said. "Repeat after me..." He closed
his eyes and his lips moved for a moment, as though he was reading
something off the inside of his skull.

"I comma square bracket recruit's name square bracket comma..." He
nodded at them. "You say it."

They chorused a reply. Vimes turned a treacherous laugh into a cough.
Angua was determinedly looking at a point six inches to the left and
two feet above Carrot's ear.

"...do solemnly swear by square bracket recruit's deity of choice
square bracket to uphold the Laws and Ordinances of the city of
Ankh-Morpork, serve the public truft comma and defend the fubjects of
His ftroke Her bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket
Majefty bracket name of reigning monarch bracket..."

"Never did like that part," Vimes said quietly. Angua tried to
concentrate on nothing but Carrot's voice, providing them with the next
series of words. On top of everything else, Detritus' patient monotone
was already several dozen words behind everyone else.

"...without fear comma favour comma or thought of perfonal fafety
semi-colon to purfue evildoers and protect the innocent comma laying
down my life if necefsary in the caufe of said duty comma so help me
bracket aforefaid deity bracket full stop Gods Save the King stroke
Queen bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket full stop."

Angua fell silent. She looked at Carrot first; there were tears running
down his cheeks. Then she looked at Vimes. He, too, seemed to be
fighting tears; he'd been laughing silently for about a minute.

"—pro-tect the in-no-cent com-ma—"

"In your own time, Lance-Constable Detritus," Vimes said briskly, when
he'd managed some modicum of control. "And now, Carrot, I'm sure there's
one more thing to do..."

"The King's Shilling! Yes sir!"

Vimes took three small dollar coins out of his pocket, and tossed one
to each of the recruits. Cuddy and Angua caught theirs; Detritus'
bounced off his chest, and ricocheted into Nobby's helmet. Vimes sighed
the sigh of a man who knows his lot in life, but wonders how he drew
it.

"This is called the King's Shilling. You take it when you join," he
said. "Don't know why. Suppose you've got to give it back if you quit,
or some daft nonsense like that. All right, Fred, I think you can start
now."

Colon cleared his throat, and began the evening's announcements. Vimes
let them wash over him, while he thought about other matters. He heard
Colon say something about parades, and then he heard him call Angua
'miss', and heard her correct him.

"Not miss," she said. Colon's brows drew together.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Angua is a man of the Watch. She doesn't have any sex while she's on
duty," Carrot said.

Vimes' face was as empty as a man about to win large sums at Cripple
Mr. Onion.

***

The rest of the Watch had gone out to Short Street, to see if they
couldn't sort out what Vimes referred to in his head as the Parade of
Armageddon. He'd have gone, too, but Carrot had taken him aside and
asked him not to. Carrot said he scared the recruits. Vimes thought
that fear was quite the proper emotion for a recruit to have. Fear made
people faster on the uptake. It made them notice things.

But someone had to watch the Yard, and he wanted some time to think
things over. Mostly, what on the Disc he was going to do with the new
recruits.

There was a certain...fear-inducing element to Detritus. If you could
get his thoughts off slow-blink and teach him a few things about
coppering, he'd be a force to reckon with. Cuddy looked the sort to
survive in the Watch by sheer indestructibility. He was the kind of
ma -- the kind of dwarf who didn't go looking for trouble, and didn't
waste any time ending it when trouble found him.

Angua had the makings of a really good copper. She could go Day Watch,
if she wanted. If they'd let a werewolf in the Day Watch. Which they
wouldn't. He didn't even want her in the Night Watch. He didn't /like/
werewolves.

But he did like Angua. She was quick to learn, she did as she was told,
and she asked the right questions.

He was just settling into his chair, behind his desk, when the world
exploded.

Right, that did it! The alchemists had blown up their Guild House for
the last time, if Vimes had anything to do with it...

But when he peered over the window sill he saw, across the river, the
column of dust rising over the Assassins' Guild.

***

The rest of the Watch came trotting along Filigree Street as Vimes
reached the Guild entrance. A couple of black-clad Assassins barred his
way, in a polite manner which nevertheless indicated that impoliteness
was a future option. There were sounds of hurrying feet behind the
gates.

"You see this badge? You see it?" Vimes demanded. "Let us in, in the
name of the law!"

The Assassin smiled nervously at him. "The law is that Guild law
prevails inside Guild walls," he said.

Vimes glared at him. Angua stepped forward.

"Then bring us the Master of Assassins," she said.

"Who're you?"

"Lance-Constable Angua, City Watch," she said, showing him her badge.
Her other hand rested calmly on her belt, several inches from her
sword.

"Hah! Your uniform doesn't scare me," the Assassin said. "Not yours
neither," he added, to Vimes.

Vimes looked down at his battered breastplate and worn mail.

"You're right," he said. "This is not a scary uniform. I'm sorry.
Forward, Corporal Carrot and Lance-Constable Detritus."

The Assassin was suddenly aware of the sunlight being blocked out.

"Now these, I think you'll agree," said Vimes, from somewhere behind
the eclipse, "are scary uniforms."

The Assassin dashed away.

"Sir," Angua said, as they crunched into the courtyard. "I think
there's something you ought to -- "

"Is this the time, Lance-constable?" he snapped. There was a pause.

"Yes, sir, it really is," she said. She reached into a pocket and
handed him a letter. He read it, glanced at her, smiled a terrible
smile, and looked up the stairs, at the Master of Assassins,
descending to meet them.

Something smelled wrong. You didn't have to be supernatural to know
that. But this little sheet of paper should make it all better...

"What is the meaning of this?" Dr. Cruces demanded, when he reached the
small band of Watchmen.

"Ah, Dr. Cruces," Vimes said. "Captain Vimes, Night Watch. This is
Sergeant Colon, Corporals Nobbs and Ironfoundersson, and that's
lance-constable Cuddy. The big standing stone is lance-constable
Detritus, and this, Dr. Cruces, is lance-constable Angua."

"No-one sent for you!" Cruces snapped. "What gives you the right to be
here, mister policeman? Walking around as if the Watch owned the
place?"

Vimes paused, his heart singing. He savoured the moment. He'd like to
take this moment and press it carefully in a big book, so that when he
was old he could take it out occasionally and remember it. He decided
that he could forgive Angua being a werewolf, for this moment.

He handed Cruces the letter.

"Well, if you would like the most fundamental reason," he said, "it is
because I rather think we do."

Dr. Cruces read the letter. He looked at Vimes. He read it again, and
looked at Angua. She gave him a, well, let's face it, a wolfish grin.

"I see," he said, handing her the letter. "Very well."

Vimes gave Angua a nod, and turned to face the Master of Assassins.
"What happened here?"

Dr. Cruces hesitated.

"Fireworks," he said.

That was only the beginning of the trouble.

***

* Who would never have referred to themselves as that. Comrades was the
kind of phrase only Carrot could use without sounding like an idiot.