9

"'Morning you!" Johnny said cheerfully as Julia, lugging her sea-bag barged through the doors of the female soldiers' accommodation, "Here, I'll take that!" and before she could protest, if that had been on her mind, he had taken the bag and slung it over his shoulder.

"Good morning to you too," Julia smiled, taken slightly by surprise by Johnny's action, no US serviceman, so indoctrinated by political correctness as they were, would have taken her bag from her. But she didn't mind that Johnny had done so, after all, she told herself, he couldn't be expected to know better.

"I've been a-thinking," Johnny said once they were both settled in the Landrover, with Julia's bag stowed next to the radio sets. "Your man going to be in a hurry to get back to the Smoke?"

"The what?"

"The Smoke – London. Officers call it 'Town' but to us blokes it's 'The Smoke'."

"I don't know... I guess."

"OK, here's my idea. We have a very quick breakfast, then we go up to the Mess, here, and you take your car and follow me to the mess at Larkhill. That way, when we're done with playing silly buggers, you can head straight back. It'll save time in coming back here to Tidworth, and faffing about with kit-bags and suit-carriers, and stuff." 'And,' he added silently, 'you won't get thrown around in the back of the Landrover for too long'.

"Johnny Walker, are you trying to get rid of me?" Julia demanded, pouting slightly, but failing to hide completely the laughter in her eyes and voice.

"No! I'm just trying to make life a bit easier for you, honest!" Johnny blurted, and then as he realised, he grinned and added, "And you just got me, didn't you?"

"Only a little bit!" Julia giggled.

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Johnny and Julia saluted crisply, as the two officers, laden with overnight bags and suit carriers walked through the Mess doors. Harm returned the salutes and eyed the tableau in front of him with a cocked eyebrow, "So what have we got here?" he asked as he saw the Navy sedan drawn up behind the Landrover.

"Bombardier Walker's idea, sir" Julia said, anxious that he should get the credit. "He suggested that if we load the car now with our gear, then we could come back here as soon as we're finished with the demonstration and get on our way without delaying by having to go back to the barracks at Tidworth... sir."

"H'mm, trying to get rid of us, Bombardier?" Harm turned an amused eye on Johnny.

"No, sir! Just trying to make things as easy for you as we can!"

"What do you think, Captain? Can we trust his motives?" Harm asked Gill.

"Yes... I think so."

"Very well! Open the trunk Yeoman Two, and let's get our gear stowed away!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

It too only a few minutes for Harm's sea-bag and suit carrier to be secured in the car, and for Gill's gear to be stowed away in the Landrover. Gill took a last look around to ensure that nothing had been overlooked, before she gave a decisive nod and said, "I think that's everything, Bom. Let's go!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Johnny waited until the two women were safely installed in the rear of the vehicle before he climbed up behind the wheel and buckled his seat-belt before turning his head to ask Gill, "Still straight for the Bombard Shelter, ma'am?"

"Yes, please, Bom." Gill answered as she wriggled in an effort to get as comfortable as possible.

"Excuse me, ma'am?" Julia asked tentatively.

"Yes, what is it Petty Officer?" Gill replied. The two women hadn't spoken much, but Gill had been impressed by the younger woman's appearance and bearing, and even today, after a night in transit accommodation, she had managed to rid her uniform of the accumulated dust and grime of the previous day's activities

"Uh... what's a bombard shelter?"

"It's a protected bunker, from which we can observe the fall of shot from the target end of the trajectory." Gill told her, "In other words, we'll be behind a couple of metres of reinforced concrete and rammed earth, about one hundred and twenty yards from where the shells from this morning's demonstration will be landing. Then once the shoot is over, we get a chance to leave the shelter and examine the effects of fire on the targets. It will also give you an inkling of what it feels like to be under artillery fire. Oh, don't worry, she called out cheerfully as she saw the look of concern on Julia's face while the Landrover turned off the tarmac road onto one of the tracks across the ranges, "It's perfectly safe, even if it is a tad scary!"

Julia gulped, "If you say so, ma'am." she said unhappily.

Gill smiled in what she hoped was a reassuring way, "Honestly, it's not so bad as it sounds. All Gunner officers do this as a part of their YOs' course straight after commissioning. This is my third time in the shelter, and I'm still here to smile about it!"

Julia smiled nervously back. Fortunately she didn't have much longer to brood as the Landrover bounced its way over the plain, Johnny deliberately keeping a good distance between himself and the vehicle ahead in order to avoid the chalk dust churned up by its wheels, firstly so that he could see where he was going, and secondly to keep the dust out of eyes, ears, noses and mouths.

"That's the worst of the Plain, sir!" he said to Harm. "In summer it's a dust bowl. In winter it's a bog!"

"I thought being chalk, the water drained away quickly, Bombardier?" Harm queried.

"It does sir, up to a limit, and then, maybe the land gets like a sponge, it gets to a stage where it can't absorb any more, or maybe because it comes down in greater quantities than the land can deal with. But the ground does get boggy, that's when all these damn ruts get carved into it!" Johnny grunted as the off-side front wheel dropped into a hidden rut, jarring his spine as the shock travelled up his legs.

"Sorry about that ma'am! Just didn't see that bastard!"

"OK, Bom, we're still in one piece – more or less!" Gill replied, rolling her eyes for Julia's benefit.

"It's over now ma'am, we're at the Zulu muster!" Johnny said as he braked to a halt, aligning the Landrover at the end of a row of similar vehicles.

Barely had they dismounted when a Gunner Captain hurried across to meet them, his eyes flicking from one to the other in order to identify to whom he should speak . He recognised Gill as he drew nearer and having seen Harm dismount from the vehicle's cab, he looked more carefully, seeing the US Navy tag on his BDUs as well as the black Eagle patch on his collar. Halting, he saluted Harm, "Good morning, sir, I'm Captain Andrews, the safety officer for today."

"Good morning Captain. Harmon Rabb, USN and Captain Shephard..."

"Yes, sir. I know Captain Shephard, how are you Gill?" He smiled and extended a hand.

Gill took the proffered hand, "Good morning, Ken. I'm fine... so you're our minder for the day?"

"I am, for my sins," he grinned, "Look, do you mind taking your party straight to the shelter. You know the path? It hasn't changed. I've got my hands a bit full just now, and it would make it easier."

"Sure, you go ahead. The usual NSPs, I take it?"

"Yes, thanks! I owe you one!" With a grin and second hasty salute, he left the group and bore down on the party dismounting from the next vehicle to arrive.

"OK, your attention please," Gill said in a serious voice. "The bunker is around the end of that stand of trees, about three hundred metres from here. The path from here skirts the impact area, and although there the path is subject to rigorous EOD, there is a real danger from unexploded ordnance if you should stray off it. So Do. Not. Leave. The. Path. I'll lead, Captain Rabb please follow me, then you Petty Officer. Bombardier Walker you're tail-end Charlie. Clear?"

A chorus of 'Yes, ma'am' greeted her words, but it was Harm's joining in with the two NCOs that brought the grin to her face. "Alright, let's go!"

The Bombard Shelter was a long, basically rectangular building with an arched roof. It had two steel doors, one in each short end wall of the building, and the whole structure looked a bit like a an oversized Nissen or Quonset hut that had had turf laid over it.

Passing through the door Harm took comfort from the fact that there seemed to be a good three feet of earth rammed hard against a further three feet of concrete, and although he knew deep down that the British Army wouldn't knowingly put its guests in danger, he couldn't help nut be reassured by the solidity of the structure.

Once inside the shelter he could see that there was a bank of communication equipment at the far end, at which sat a couple of British Soldiers, already wearing headsets, while an Officer checked map details, and occasionally spoke to one of the signallers who relayed his remarks over the net. One long wall was pierced every few feet by observation ports which held armoured glass, allowing those in the shelter to observe the fall of shot. Gill led them to one such observation port and with a rueful grin said, "Now we must suffer the curse of all military operations!" she grinned at Harm and Julia's expressions, "We've hurried up to get here, now we must wait!"

"Yeah, we suffer from the same affliction too!" Harm acknowledged.

Johnny slid down with his back against the wall, and tugged on Julia's hand as he did so, "Like my dear old drinking uncle used to say, 'it's foolish to stand up when you can sit down'."

Julia grinned, but then as she saw that Gill didn't make any comment, she looked questioningly at Harm.

"Go ahead, Yeoman Two, if you want to. It's your six that's going to get dirt on it!"

Julia copied Johnny's slide down the wall and looked around her with renewed interest. The shelter was filling up with officers in all kinds of different field uniforms, and none of them seemed to be less than field grade, except for the British Captain who had first greeted them and was now talking to an NCO posted by the door.

Whatever Captain Andrews said, the NCO nodded once, and heaved the door shut. It closed with a resounding clang, and both Harm and Julia were forcibly reminded of a ship's watertight doors being dogged shut, as the NCO took hold of a long, centrally mounted lever and tugged it across the surface of the door.

The officer at the far end of the shelter stood up, and raising a microphone to his lips, he spoke, "Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen. I am Major Thornton, the Range Conducting Officer for today. In about ten minutes the demonstration will begin. The first shoot will be a Fire Mission Battery, five rounds fire for effect, after adjustment. I will have the radio routed through the speakers along the wall," he indicated their position, and the visitors duly followed his signals and looked up to see the equipment, "So that you can follow the progress of the Mission. Once End of Mission has been given. The CP will order Report Guns Empty and then Detachments Rear. Once we have heard that, the doors will be opened, and we will have ten minutes to examine the effect of the fire on the targets. If you look through the observation ports you will see a motley collection of vehicles and a number of Figure 11 targets. These you will be able to examine and judge the effect the fire would have had on live targets. Are there any questions?"

"An officer in the uniform of the Bundeswehr raised a hand, "Ja,herr Major. On the vay here, ve vere told not to step ov the track for fear of nicht explodierter Munition ...uh... unexploded munitions... Vhat meks it now so safe for us to valk amongst the targets?"

"A good question, Herr Oberst," The British Major replied. "Artillery ammunition is most reliable. Unfortunately the Royal Artillery is no longer the only user of these ranges, and a great deal of firing is now carried out by non-Gunners using infantry weapons, which sadly are not always as reliable as ours. It is these that pose the greatest problem. The impact area in from of the shelter is rigorously swept each time it is used. And as a further measure for your, and my safety – and I am very careful of that, I assure you..." he paused for the chuckle to die down, "We have a second observation party whose sole preoccupation today is the counting of individual shell bursts. If the number of bursts does not equal or exceed the number of rounds fired, then we will not be taking a stroll around the targets, instead the targets will brought in here for examination."

The German officer nodded, "Ja, Thank you, Herr Major!"

"Any other questions? No? Good. Bombardier, tell Zero that we're ready for them to begin!"

"Sir!" replied on of the signallers, and raising his microphone to his mouth he began to speak.

As promised the radio messages were relayed through the wall mounted speakers and Gill, listening to them intently was able to translate their meaning for Harm, while Johnny was doing the same for Julia, finally saying, "You might just want to get up see this!"

Johnny hauled himself to his feet then turned to give Julia hand, almost pulling her to her feet, so that she stumbled slightly. His hands shot out to grab her by the upper arms and steady her. Julia blushed and murmured just loud enough for him to hear, "You did that on purpose!"

Johnny just grinned, and said, "OK now watch!" he nodded towards the armoured observation port. Julia jumped as a silent plume of smoke and dust leaped into the air less than two hundred yards distant. The thickness of the walls and of the glass prevented her from hearing the noise of the detonation, and in some ways it was, she felt, like watching an old silent movie from World War One, but the shock effect travelling through the ground was easily felt through her booted feet, and that was definitely not within the realm of watching a movie.

There was a pause of a minute or so before the next shower of chalk erupted from the ground, this one less than a hundred and fifty metres away and right in the middle of the prepared targets.

Again the shock waves were felt by those inside the bunker, and Harm and Julia exchanged glances. True Harm had felt the explosions of the near misses that he and Mac had survived in Afghanistan, but they had been at a considerably greater distance. This was much closer, and in some ways felt more personal.

A minute later, it felt to Harm that all hell had broken loose as a storm of explosions threw dust and smoke into the air. The ground literally trembled under his feet, and although he had read, years ago, Ernst Junger's book 'Storm of Steel' he had never before appreciated the intensity of an artillery bombardment. And this event, as earth shaking as it felt, and as impressive as it had looked through the observation port had only been thirty rounds, fired over a period of two minutes!

As the last of the tremors underfoot faded the speakers crackled into life again, "End of Mission. Good shooting!"

Looking through the observation port, several vehicle could be seen burning, and of the cluster of Figure 11 targets, several had been blown flat, while others leaned at drunken angles, and more than one had been ripped into shreds.

The British Major who had been listening intently to the radio finally heard the message for which he'd been waiting, "Detachments rear!" and gave the signal to the NCO standing by the door, who swung the lever back to the 'open' position, and heaved the door open. The guests were ushered out into the open and almost immediately noticed that the air that they breathed had become tainted with the smell of burnt cordite.

Gill led Harm, Julia and Johnny towards the nearest group of Figure 11 targets, and as they approached they became aware of several gashes ripped through the printed human figures that had been pasted onto the plywood backing. "You can see where the targets have been hit," Gill pointed out the gashes, "This one and this one, would have done this chap no good at all, and this one alone, would have killed him!" Gill pointed to one particular gash that extended for several inches from the printed figure's right hip, well up into his chest region.

"Shrapnel wounds?" Harm asked.

"Strictly speaking, no," Gill answered, "Splinter wounds or fragment wounds would be more accurate. Nobody has used shrapnel ammunition since about nineteen sixteen, but the term is so widely and incorrectly used, particularly in the media, that people will insist on calling it shrapnel." She dropped her eyes and searched the ground for a minute or so and then bending one knee, she stooped down and rose to her feet again.

"Shrapnel was a shell that contained hundreds of ball bearings wrapped around a bursting charge, and was fused so that it exploded in the air in front of the enemy. Its best use was against troops in the open. Trench warfare really put an end to it. But the damage here today as done by fragments like this:" She opened her hand to show three shiny, irregularly shaped and very jagged shards of metal.

"They produce very nasty jagged wounds that bleed freely, because there is very little hydrostatic shock to accompany them, and depending on the size can cause traumatic amputation of limbs or the head. The shells also kill by over pressure, destroying internal organs by the shock wave travelling through the air."

Julia looked pale, and even Harm looked grim. Yes, aerial bombardment did much the same thing, but as he had already noted, and had been told by Gill, one of the characteristics of artillery was its ability to repeat a fire mission in a matter of seconds if the initial bombardment did not achieve its desired result.

Johnny had only been paying half attention, he already knew what Gill was telling the two American sailors, and so he was the first to spot the Range Conducting Officer approach the various groups and start to shepherd them back towards the shelter.

"Ma'am?" he said quietly, but nevertheless interrupting her mini-lecture, "Time we were heading back indoors."

Gill looked around and nodded, "Do you want a souvenir, sir?" she asked Harm, holding up one of the shell fragments.

"No, I don't think so, thank you," he replied somewhat grimly, "the mental images I've gathered will be quite enough." he made a sweeping gesture with an arm that indicated the devastated targets. Gill nodded in understanding. She had never been an FOO, female officers weren't allowed that far forward, but she had been at OPs several times to watch the fall of shot, and this had been her third visit to the Bombard Shelter, but even she had undergone a certain tenseness as the shells had fallen so near.

Once safely back inside, the Range Conducting Officer announced that the next fire mission would be a fire mission three batteries, triple the amount of fire that they had just witnessed. Having seen the damage that a five round mission from a single battery could do, and having felt the shock-waves underfoot, there was scarcely a pair of lips in the shelter that wasn't dry as they waited for the mission to start

The fire mission, when it came, lasted no longer than the first, but three times the number of exploding shells in the same area not only tripled but also intensified the ground-borne shock-waves, until it seemed that the ground was literally shaking beneath their feet, and it was with an almost unconscious collective sigh of relief that the audience realised that the shoot, and with it the fire-power demonstration had come to an end.

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

The drive back to the Larkhill Officers' Mess was accomplished quickly and for the most part in silence. The impact of the morning's demonstration had had a sobering effect on the two sailors, and Johnny was pre-occupied with thoughts of how soon he could call Julia, while Gill was mentally running through the items on her mental check-list before she departed on a week's leave the following Friday before leaving the regiment for her new posting at the MOD in London.

Pre-occupied he may have been, but Johnny sounded cheerful enough as he braked to a halt alongside the Navy Sedan, "Here we are,sir! All safe and sound with nary a scratch on you!"

Harm who hadn't been privy to Corporal Morrison's warning to Julia, was completely ignorant, of course, of the fact that Julia had confided that warning to Johnny the previous night over dinner, was taken slightly aback at the British NCOs' comment but managed a creditable, "Yes, thank you Bombardier!"

The four dismounted from the Landrover and stood in a somewhat awkward group for a few moments, until a spark of inspiration struck Harm. "Walk with me," he said to Gill. It wasn't a request, but it wasn't quite an order either, but Gill saw and heard nothing wrong with the idea, or the way it had been put to her, and fell into step with him as walked along the edge of the tarmac that bordered the lawn in front of the Mess building.

"I... uh... was thinking last night... after dinner, how we got off on the wrong foot, the other evening, and I got to admit that I blamed you..." he held up a hand, "No, don't interrupt... but then I got to thinking about our only previous conversation when you called my office and we spoke on the 'phone. I was... uh... taken aback by the coolness in your voice, and put it down to you being a typically arrogant Brit, and reacted to your voice and to my assumptions. But it didn't jibe with the person I've come to know, if only slightly, over the past forty-some hours. And thinking back again to that conversation, I remember just how irritable I was that morning, too many interruptions, too much paperwork, Trouble and Strife, an insubordinate Yeoman – two insubordinate Yeomen in fact. One in London and the other in the States! So, in addition to my thanks for an enlightening and enlivening two days, during which time you have been a very gracious hostess and guide, I would like also to extend my apologies, for my attitude, which obviously, again in retrospect, sparked off your own... ah..."

"Bitchiness?" Gill supplied with a smile. "Sir, there is no need for you to apologise to me. I have been in the army quite long enough that I should be able to cope with Senior Officers' quirks without letting them get to me. I'm only sorry that my lack of self control should have given you any idea that we were all stuffed shirts!"

"Believe me, Captain Shephard, despite the formality of last night's dinner, I will never think of the British Officer as a stuffed shirt again!"

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Johnny and Julia watched the two officers stroll away with a mutual sigh of relief, and each hearing the other they turned with a slightly embarrassed air. "Was I that obvious?" Johnny asked Julie.

"Yeah you were, but no worse than me!" she smiled, but then sobered, "Were you serious last night, about calling me, about wanting to see me again?"

"Of course I was!" Johnny said taken aback, "Why on earth would you think I wasn't?"

"Well... Soldiers and sailors... well... a lot of them have a reputation of saying anything to a girl as long as it gets them what they want..." Julia said awkwardly.

Johnny was about to deny the charge, furiously, when a pang of conscience seized him. He had, in fact, been guilty of that approach himself, way back in the dim and distant past.

"That might have been true of me, about ten years ago," he confessed to Julia, "but I like to think that I've grown up a bit since then." He drew a deep breath, "look, Julia, if all I wanted was a one night stand, I could get that any night of the week in any one of half a dozen pubs in Salisbury. Instead, I want to... I want a chance to get to know you, much better than a two day stay and on duty can let me. And if that means waiting for the weekends so I can get up to London, or you can get down here, then that's the way I like it."

"Oh..." Julia pinkened slightly at the tone in Johnny's voice. "Yes... OK, you've got my number, I'll be waiting for you to call." Then seeing the two officers turn back towards them, she said, "I wonder if those two are going to get their heads out of their sixes?"

"Huh?" Johnny said in surprise.

"The Captains Two," Julia giggled, "I was just wondering if they'd ever make arrangements to meet in London or in Tidworth?"

"Him and her?" Johnny said incredulously, "You are joking! I thought they were going to kill each other on Thursday!"

"H'mm... it looked like that didn't it?" Julia smiled, "And I don't know about him, but your Captain Shephard is certainly attracted to my boss!"

Johnny looked at the two approaching officers with fresh eyes, "Really?" he asked doubtfully.

"Really!" Julia affirmed in a voice that left no further room for disagreement.

Johnny shrugged, "Oh, well, OK, if you say so!"

"I do say so... and if you keep that attitude up, we're going to get along just great!"

"Uh... yeah..." Johnny said, not quite sure what Julia meant, but the smile on her face told him that he'd just done, or said, something right.

"Face front!" she hissed as the two officers neared them. Johnny and Julia stepped away from each other. Julia taking post by the passenger door of the Sedan and Johnny stepping back to allow room for the two officers to walk into the space between the two vehicles.

Harm stopped by the door being held for him by Julia and turned to face Gill, "Captain, thank you for you hospitality and your instruction these past two days. You have given me some serious food for thought."

"It was my pleasure, sir!" Gill replied bringing her hand up in a sharp salute, while Johnny braced to attention in the background, "Goodbye,sir!"

Harm returned the salute, just as crisply as Gill had rendered it, "Goodbye, Captain!" he paused and with a nod at Johnny, "Bombardier!"

"Sir!"

With a final nod at Gill, Harm slid into the passenger seat of the sedan, while Julia closed the door and with a quiet, "By your leave, ma'am," slipped past Gill and with a brilliant smile and a silently mouthed 'call me' for Johnny, she got into the driver's seat and starting the engine, manoeuvred the sedan out into the stream of traffic that was building up as other officers returned to the Mess before heading off to their various destinations.

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Gill and Johnny stood for a moment or two as the dark blue car with US Navy plates edged it way through the mass of vehicles that despite the best efforts of the Provost Bombardier and his RPs threatened to become just as grid-locked as it had the previous evening.

They both heaved a sigh of relief as the car edged clear of the mess and accelerated onto the road. Gill and Johnny grinned as they looked at each other, "Shall we go, Bom?"

"Well, there's nothing left for us to do here ma'am!" Johnny agreed "Straight home, ma'am?"

"Straight home – unless you want to buy me that greasy spoon sandwich!"

"I think I'll pass on that. Ma'am," Johnny grinned, as he held the door for his BK.

Gill laughed as Johnny closed the door and walked around the front of the vehicle to the driver's side. "All set, ma'am?" he asked as he buckled his belt.

"Think you can get through this lot, Bom?" Gill asked.

Johnny just gave her a reproving look, which only started her laughing again, which in turn coaxed a reluctant smile from him.

It did take Johnny some minutes and some silent cuss-words to weave a way through the stalled traffic, drawing a scowl from the hard-pressed provost NCO, but eventually he pulled out on to the road, and moving up through the gears settled the Landrover at a steady thirty miles per hour until they were clear of the garrison speed limit, accelerating again once he had crossed the Netheravon road heading once again for the Droveway and then the Tidworth road.

"Oh... it's so good to be back up front..." Gill said over the noise of the air over the canvas and the engine.

"Well, he did give you the option of riding in the cab, ma'am!" Johnny pointed out.

"Yes, he did! And the CO would have killed me!" Gill retorted, "I already put up a black on Thursday evening, so don't be surprised to see my name in Part One Orders as Duty Field Officer for the next week!"

Johnny smiled to himself, Gill was one of the most popular officers in the regiment, but she was still an officer and it didn't hurt that she could occasionally get it wrong.

The rest of the short journey passed in uneventful silence, even the halt at the Garrison VCP was brief, the Fusiliers who were this week's Duty Unit, accepting the British Identity Cards after only a cursory inspection, and with a smart butt-salute the Lance Corporal passed them through. There was even less fuss at the regimental guard room barrier, the RP on duty there being a member of the same battery as Gill and Johnny, and again with a butt-salute passed them through.

Without being told Johnny drove straight to the Mess, and as Gill dismounted, he jumped out too, both almost instinctively stamping their feet to settle the trouser blousing over the top of their boots. Johnny's efforts in that direction were of course instantly negated as he climbed into the rear of the vehicle to salvage Gill's overnight bag and suit carrier.

"Can I take those for you, ma'am?" he asked as he climbed out of the vehicle, once again stamping his feet.

"No, that's alright Bom, thank you. I can manage."

"OK, ma'am," Johnny threw his hand up in a salute, "I'll put this baby to bed, and I'll see you on Monday morning ma'am!"

"Yes. Thank you, Bom!" Gill returned the salute, and bag and suit carrier in hand climbed the steps up to the Mess doors, her mind firmly set on a shower to get rid of the morning's dust, a hot soak to relieve any incipient aches and pains after being bounced around in the back of the Landrover for what now seemed like days on end. The soak would of course, also allow her to try and analyse why she felt so... so... 'Oh, for God' sake, admit it girl! You are attracted to that Yankee sailor!'

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Harm sat back and closed his eyes briefly. Bombardier Walker was a good driver, and had tried his damnedest to make the ride in the Landrover as easy as he could, but there was no getting away from it, he had been thoroughly bounced around during the experience. It was no wonder that Martinez had been overcome with travel sickness. And that was something he needed to check on.

"Yeoman Two, are you frequently travel sick?"

"Uh... no sir!" Julia replied, "Hardly never! I used to be as a kid, but until yesterday, I hadn't been car sick in years!"

"So, it was the heat and the motion, Yeoman Two?"

"I reckon so, sir. You rode in back of that monster for a while, it's worse than a Humvee!"

"That it it is Yeoman Two, that it is!"

Julia frowned, there was something peculiar about what the Captain was saying, and after pondering for as few seconds she realised what was, "Sir?"

"Yes?"

"Have you forgotten my name, sir?"

"No, why?" Harm asked in surprise.

"Well, you keep calling me by rate and rating, instead of my name, it sounds kinda strange..."

"Oh, that's probably because I'm channelling Captain Shephard. The British always call their NCOs by rank. She says that if the Officers don't show respect for their NCOs, how can they expect the privates to show respect. So, I thought I'd give it a try!"

"Oh, OK, sir. It just feels a little strange... That Captain Shephard, she's something, isn't she sir?"

"How do you mean?" Harm said, his tone suddenly becoming severe. He wasn't about to let his Yeoman gossip about other officers, even if they were British.

"No disrespect intended, sir!" Julia said hastily as she picked up his change in tone, "It's just that I was thinking about what a tough week she's had, what with packing, ready for her move, handing over her post to a new guy and then looking after us... well, you sir..."

"Move, what move?" Harm demanded becoming aware of a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Didn't she say, sir? She's being posted to the Ministry of Defence in London in two weeks!"

"No... she didn't tell me..." Harm said, and wondered why she hadn't.