He wasn't sure why he felt so nervous. It wasn't like he had never travelled before. In fact, he had been all over the empire fighting through the various campaigns that arose. Some of those battles had been truly terrifying but he had always managed to keep calm and carry on, and as a result, he never lost his head; literally. Somehow this was more frightening. Going all the way overseas to a completely different continent was the equivalence of going to Mars. With one exception. It would be like he was the martian invading foreign territory, rather than the other way around. And people didn't take too kindly to invasions of any sort, even if he was only going to be stationed in Canada as a representative of the Queen mothers people, and not actually fighting anyone.
In other words, he was foreseeing his doom even before anything had happened. Maybe his only real problem was that his mentality had been twisted and deformed from everything he had experienced on the battle fields. After all, he had watched a lot of good men die agonizing deaths; had even been the cause of many. Those kinds of experiences were bound to leave a permanent mark on ones psyche, some deeper than others. The only way that he knew how to effectively cope with such torments was to drink himself into oblivion every night, as a way to prevent the nightmares. However, this night he had opted to not drink anything and simply not go to sleep at all. He wanted to have all his wits about him when they landed.
Leaning against the boats railing, he looked out across the horizon and was just able to discern the outline of a land form in the early morning gloom. It wouldn't be long now before they finally arrived. The only way in which this made him happy was that he wouldn't have to feel sea sick anymore (the alcohol had only helped to a certain extent). He had never been much of a sailor and therefore the ocean was not kind to him. Especially not for the week and a half it took to get over here.
Suddenly someone startled him by speaking directly beside him. He hadn't noticed their arrival at all. He wondered how he could have missed that.
"What are ye doin' up so early mate? Ain't you usually dead as a doornail until mid afternoon?"
"I couldn't sleep," said Brackenreid to the ships captain.
"Ah," said the weathered man shaking his head knowledgeably, "ye got them jitters do ye?"
Brackenreid didn't respond and simply continued to stare out across the Atlantic Ocean.
"Ye'll be fine, Thomas," said the man patting him on the back. "Ye've got yer mates with ye and ye'll meet others that are already ashore. Ye won't be alone. So don't worry."
Not really, he thought. All of my mates are dead.
"I hope you're right Martin."
"O' course I am," he said smiling. "I'm always right."
A couple of hours later they were beginning to dock, Brackenreid keeping his composure and remaining stoic even though his stomach was in knots. The same couldn't be said about the other men. They were all hooting and hollering and clambering to get off the tin can. He wished he could join in but he couldn't muster the motivation to do so. Besides which, he was supposed to set an example for the rest of them.
When they did land, the others scrambled off the boat quickly leaving him behind. He was frozen to the spot and it had nothing to do with the coldness of the morning.
"What are you waiting for?" yelled one of the soldiers from the dock.
When Brackenreid didn't respond the man shrugged his shoulders and left. There was no sense in dragging out this affair any longer than it already had been. So he picked up his bag and followed suit.
There was a small garrison of Redcoats stationed near Halifax in a little town called Thornhill. This was where he was headed to right now. Even though this was several kilometres from where they docked, Brackenreid could hear the ruckus they were making a long time before he actually saw them. Shortly after he arrived there, he could hear the angry barking of the Colonel in charge.
"...despicable display I've ever witnessed in my ten years in the army! We are not here to party! We are here to represent her majesty the Queen! How do you think she would react if she saw you sorry lot behaving like animals?" No one spoke. "Well I'm waiting for an answer!"
Brackenreid passed by some white tents and could now see the commotion.
"Not well, sir!" shouted out a ballsy private, who had stepped forward from the main line.
"You're bloody well right she wouldn't! I don't want to ever see such a display again! If I do, there will be severe consequences! Is that understood?"
"Sir, yes, sir!" they all shouted, postures stiff, straight and unmoving.
The Colonel now noticed Brackenreid and rounded on him. "Where the bloody hell have you been, Major? You're supposed to keep this lot in toe! Maybe that promotion was a little premature after all!"
"It won't happen again, sir!" barked back Brackenreid, saluting the Colonel.
"You're damn right it won't! Just because we aren't at war with anyone, doesn't mean that heads can't roll!"
Then he stormed off into his tent and didn't appear again for hours. Brackenreid assumed they had interrupted his sleep and that's why he had been particularly unreasonable. He turned to face the men and they were all looking at him with thinly veiled amusement. No doubt they found it hilarious when the piss was taken out of him for a change.
He wasn't about to storm off himself, so he simply walked by the row of men slowly several times as he said, "I know what you're all thinking. You're thinking it's unfair that you can't have your fun. After all, you've been stuck on a boat with nothing to do for the past week and a half. You have my sympathies, you do. I felt your pain just as much as you did." Then switching into high gear he yelled in his usual brusk manner, "But too bad you bloody bastards! You better bloody well control yourselves better than you did on the boat! Yes, many of you were quite outstanding on the battlefield. And you should be proud of your accomplishments. But enough's enough! You've already had plenty of time to act like idiots! It's time to shape up men! I won't tolerate any defiance of that order! The first one to do so will have hell to pay! Is that understood?"
"Sir, yes, sir!"
He had now been in Nova Scotia for a month and was getting increasingly bored with nothing to do, which of course did little for his dismal spirits. Unbeknownst to him, things were about to change.
"Major Brackenreid, come here!" boomed Colonel Walker.
Brackenreid had been in the middle of a card game with some of the men but promptly dropped them and hurried over to him.
"Sir!" he said loudly, saluting.
"You're being transferred to one of our other locations. They're in desperate need of a new Major. The last one died of a heart attack a few days ago. It'll be good for them to have some younger blood over there."
"And where am I going, sir?"
"Toronto. I hear things are quite bustling over there. There's quite a lot to see and do. You should enjoy your time there. Which is fortunate as you're going to be there for awhile."
"When am I leaving, sir?"
"Tonight. You should arrive within a few days. A private will be there to escort you to the garrison."
Brackenreid saluted again and then left to go pack his bag. He hoped this change would be for the better and possibly help to lift his mood.
As he exited the train, an eager beaver of a soldier rapidly approached him and then saluted. His posture was impeccable and he looked to be on the point of breakage as he was so tightly wound. Brackenreid couldn't help but laugh internally at such a display.
"Enough of that," he said. "You'll do yourself an injury. Just take me to the camp."
"Sir, yes, sir!" bellowed the young man. Then he turned on his heel so sharply that Brackenreid was sure he could have cut glass.
Was I ever like that?
It was disturbing to him that he couldn't seem to remember that far back. How long had he been in the army anyways? It was now February of 1889. He had been drafted to duty in 1884 and was trained just in time to enter the battle of Tamai. The Sudanese had been slaughtered during that fight even though the British numbers were only half of theirs. No doubt the machine guns they had were a rather unfair advantage. But he wasn't going to complain too much. Why should he? He survived.
Half an hour later they had arrived at the Toronto encampment. It was situated in the woods some distance from any residences. This was likely because it was a much larger group of soldiers than the Nova Scotian one. The young man led him to the biggest tent there; presumably the headquarters for the camp.
He poked his head in and said, "Sir, the new Major is here!"
"Thank you private," said an unmistakeably upper crust accent. "You may go now."
"Sir, yes, sir!"
Brackenreid pulled back the flap and entered the spacious accommodations. The man who had spoken was clearly a General based on his resplendent outfit. Brackenreid had been under the command of several different ones throughout his military career. They all had vastly different strategic approaches, but the one thing that never failed was the uncompromising air of authority that they continuously exuded. This man was no exception. It was as if he was born and bred to this role. Who knows? Maybe he had been.
"Reporting for duty, sir," said Brackenreid saluting.
"Do you know why you're here, Major Brackenreid?" asked the General as he continued to write a letter.
"To replace the previous Major, sir."
"Yes, but more to the point, what will your duties be?"
"Whatever you want them to be, sir."
"That's what I like to hear," he said as he placed the letter in an envelope and sealed it with his special stamp. "You'll go far here with that sort of attitude."
"Thank you, sir."
"Your first task will be to take your pick of the boys and train them up to be exceptional soldiers. I hear you're quite good at that."
"Sir, yes, sir."
"Okay then Major, get to it."
"Right away, sir."
During one of his rare breaks, he decided to head into town so that he could explore it once again. He knew that he would only be able to see a fraction of what the city had to offer as it was such an enormous urban landscape, far larger than that of Halifax, and possibly even rivalled that of London. After wandering around for several hours and not finding anything to suit his fancy, he invariably ended up in one of the pubs, like he always did. This one was the furthest away from the camp that he had ever been, he assumed that it was somewhere around the centre of the city.
Since he didn't have to watch himself like he normally did at the garrison, he found that he was letting himself overindulge in the brew. And as a result his judgement was quickly becoming impaired. So when he thought another man was giving him funny looks he took extreme offence.
"What are you looking at, you bastard?" he asked drunkenly. "Haven't you ever seen red hair before? I'm just as good as you! You can't tell me otherwise!"
The man looked confused by the comments and said, "I don't want any trouble, sir."
"Well, it's too late for that, now isn't it?"
And before anyone could do anything he took a swing at the man. One punch was all it took to knock him over. He clattered to the ground and stared at Brackenreid uncomprehendingly. Brackenreid punched him a few more times before two younger men sprung into action. He tried to fight them as well but they were able to overpower him and eventually they managed to restrain him.
"Let me go, you bastards!" he yelled. "Do you know who I am?"
Instead of listening to him, they called the police, at the injured mans insistence. Within minutes constables were responding to the disturbance. One of which was a man who appeared to be in his late twenties. But it was a bit hard to tell with the big blue helmet he was wearing and his impaired perception of things.
"What seems to be the problem?" he asked politely.
"This crazy man just attacked me for no reason!"
"Oh, like hell I did!" exclaimed Brackenreid. Then he made another mad effort to get loose but was unsuccessful.
"Major, if you refuse to control yourself, I'm afraid I'll have to take you in. I'm sure your commanding officer won't be too pleased about that."
That comment hit home and he immediately began mastering his emotions so that he was once again behaving like a gentleman, albeit a sloppy one.
"Thank you, Major." Turning to the man with the beginnings of a black eye, "Are you all right, sir? Would you like me to call for a doctor?"
"No, I'm not all right!" screamed the wounded man. "I want you to arrest this man for what he did to me!"
"As you wish, sir. Come along then," he said to both of them and signalling to the other constables to grab hold of Brackenreid. They shared a look but didn't say anything and proceeded to do as they were told. Clearly this one was their leader of sorts, even though they were all the same rank.
"You're going to regret this sunshine!"
"We'll see about that."
Back at the station house, Inspector Stockton came storming out of his office when he saw who was being brought in.
"Murdoch!" he barked. "What do you think you're doing?"
"This officer assaulted this man. He wants to press charges. I can't deny him that right."
"You can't just arrest military men for slight infractions! We have certain...understandings between us!"
"No one is above the law, sir."
"Dammit, Murdoch! Do you always have to make things so difficult?"
"I'm only doing my duty as a police officer," he said in a cool manner.
"You know, if you weren't so damn efficient, I would have fired you a long time ago!" Murdoch deigned to respond. "Go ahead and write this man up, but don't expect me to rescue you when you get into trouble for it!"
After Brackenreid had been interrogated and Murdoch was convinced of his guilt, he led him to the cells and locked him up, Brackenreid protesting all the while. A short while after that, a young woman burst into the holding area, the constable on duty tried to stop her but didn't want to harm her in any way so let her pass by.
"Are you the scoundrel responsible for hurting Percy?"
When Brackenreid laid eyes on her, all his anger at being imprisoned evaporated on the spot. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her shining brown hair was tied up elegantly and her brown eyes seemed to sparkle with a mischievous joy. The purple dress she wore showed off her womanly charms and only helped to solidify his attraction to her.
"Are you mute as well as dumb?"
"Not at all, love."
"Just because you're British doesn't give you the right to call me that!"
"Well, then, what should I call you?"
"Like I'd tell you my name after what you did!"
"Have it your way, love."
Why am I acting like this if I want her to like me? He blamed his actions on the alcohol still coursing through his veins.
"Ooh, fine then! I'll tell you my name if you tell me why you assaulted my fiance."
Fiance? His heart stopped instantly at that pronouncement but he answered nonetheless.
"He insulted me," he said lamely.
"I highly doubt that!" She made a face and said, "You army men disgust me!"
She turned to leave but he called out, "Wait, what's your name? A deals a deal!"
"Margaret, but it's Miss Taylor to you!"
She glared at him once more and stomped out of the room. He wished with all his might that the door would magically open and he could go after her. But he would have no such luck.