He’s bound to be guilty ’r he wouldn’t be here!
Starboard gun … FIRE!
Shooting’s too good for ’im, kick the louse out!
Port gun … FIRE!
—Ancient chanty used to time saluting guns
But that was after we had left Camp Currie and a lot had happened in between. Combat training, mostly — combat drill and combat exercises and combat maneuvers, using everything from bare hands to simulated nuclear weapons. I hadn’t known there were so many different ways to fight. Hands and feet to start with — and if you think those aren’t weapons you haven’t seen Sergeant Zim and Captain Frankel, our battalion commander, demonstrate
As our ranks thinned down Zim quit bothering with formations himself, except parade, and spent more and more time in personal instruction, supplementing the corporal-instructors. He was sudden death with anything but he loved knives, and made and balanced his own, instead of using the perfectly good general-issue ones. He mellowed quite a bit as a personal teacher, too, becoming merely unbearable instead of downright disgusting — he could be quite patient with silly questions.
Once, during one of the two-minute rest periods that were scattered sparsely through each day’s work, one of the boys — a kid named Ted Hendrick — asked, “Sergeant? I guess this knife throwing is fun … but why do we have to learn it? What possible use is it?”
“Well,” answered Zim, “suppose all you have is a knife? Or maybe not even a knife? What do you do? Just say your prayers and die? Or wade in and make him buy it anyhow? Son, this is
“But that’s just what I mean, sir. Suppose you aren’t armed at all? Or just one of these toadstickers, say? And the man you’re up against has all sorts of dangerous weapons? There’s nothing you can do about it; he’s got you licked on showdown.”
Zim said almost gently, “You’ve got it all wrong, son. There’s no such thing as a ‘dangerous weapon.’”
“There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men. We’re trying to teach you to be dangerous — to the enemy. Dangerous even without a knife. Deadly as long as you still have one hand or one foot and are still alive. If you don’t know what I mean, go read ‘Horatius at the Bridge’ or ‘The Death of the Bon Homme Richard’; they’re both in the Camp library. But take the case you first mentioned; I’m you and all you have is a knife. That target behind me — the one you’ve been missing, number three — is a sentry, armed with everything but an H-bomb. You’ve got to get him … quietly, at once, and without letting him call for help.” Zim turned slightly—
“Something still troubling you? Speak up. That’s what I’m here for, to answer your questions.”
“Uh, yes, sir. You said the sentry didn’t have any H-bomb. But he
“I understood you.”
“Well … you see, sir? If we can use an H-bomb — and, as you said, it’s no checker game; it’s real, it’s war and nobody is fooling around — isn’t it sort of ridiculous to go crawling around in the weeds, throwing knives and maybe getting yourself killed … and even losing the war … when you’ve got a real weapon you can use to win? What’s the point in a whole lot of men risking their lives with obsolete weapons when one professor type can do so much more just by pushing a button?”
Zim didn’t answer at once, which wasn’t like him at all. Then he said softly, “Are you happy in the Infantry, Hendrick? You can resign, you know.”
Hendrick muttered something; Zim said, “Speak up!”
“I’m not itching to resign, sir. I’m going to sweat out my term.”
“I see. Well, the question you asked is one that a sergeant isn’t really qualified to answer … and one that you shouldn’t ask me. You’re supposed to
“What? Sure — yes, sir.”
“Then you’ve heard the answer. But I’ll give you my own — unofficial — views on it. If you wanted to teach a baby a lesson, would you cut its head off?”
“Why … no, sir!”
“Of course not. You’d paddle it. There can be circumstances when it’s just as foolish to hit an enemy city with an H-bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an ax. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is
Zim bounced to his feet. “I think you’ve kept me talking just to goldbrick. Up you come, soldiers! On the bounce! Man stations, on target — Hendrick, you first. This time I want you to throw that knife south of you.
Hendrick missed it again.
We trained with sticks and we trained with wire (lots of nasty things you can improvise with a piece of wire) and we learned what can be done with really modern weapons and how to do it and how to service and maintain the equipment — simulated nuclear weapons and infantry rockets and various sorts of gas and poison and incendiary and demolition. As well as other things maybe best not discussed. But we learned a lot of “obsolete” weapons, too. Bayonets on dummy guns for example, and guns that weren’t dummies, too, but were almost identical with the infantry rifle of the XXth century — much like the sporting rifles used in hunting game, except that we fired nothing but solid slugs, alloy-jacketed lead bullets, both at targets on measured ranges and at surprise targets on booby-trapped skirmish runs. This was supposed to prepare us to learn to use any armed weapon and to train us to be on the bounce, alert, ready for anything. Well, I suppose it did. I’m pretty sure it did.
We used these rifles in field exercises to simulate a lot of deadlier and nastier aimed weapons, too. We used a lot of simulation; we had to. An “explosive” bomb or grenade, against mat?riel or personnel, would explode just enough to put out a lot of black smoke; another sort of gave off a gas that would make you sneeze and weep — that told you that you were dead or paralyzed … and was nasty enough to make you careful about anti-gas precautions, to say nothing of the chewing-out you got if you were caught by it.
We got still less sleep; more than half the exercises were held at night, with snoopers and radar and audio gear and such.
The rifles used to simulate aimed weapons were loaded with blanks except one in five hundred rounds at random, which was a real bullet. Dangerous? Yes and no. It’s dangerous just to be alive … and a nonexplosive bullet probably won’t kill you unless it hits you in the head or the heart and maybe not then. What that one-in-five-hundred “for real” did was to give us a deep interest in taking cover, especially as we knew that some of the rifles were being fired by instructors who were crack shots and actually trying their best to hit you — if the round happened not to be a blank. They assured us that they would not intentionally shoot a man in the head … but accidents do happen.
This friendly assurance wasn’t very reassuring. That 500th bullet turned tedious exercises into large-scale Russian roulette; you stop being bored the very first time you hear a slug go
But we did slack down anyhow and word came down from the top that if we didn’t get on the bounce, the incidence of real ones would be changed to one in a hundred … and if that didn’t work, to one in fifty. I don’t know whether a change was made or not — no way to tell — but I do know we tightened up again, because a boy in the next company got creased across his buttocks with a live one, producing an amazing scar and a lot of half-witty comments and a renewed interest by all hands in taking cover. We laughed at this kid for getting shot where he did … but we all knew it could have been his head — or our
The instructors who were not firing rifles did not take cover. They put on white shirts and walked around upright with their silly canes, apparently calmly certain that even a recruit would not intentionally shoot an instructor — which may have been overconfidence on the part of some of them. Still, the chances were five hundred to one that even a shot aimed with murderous intent would not be live and the safety factor increased still higher because the recruit probably couldn’t shoot that well anyhow. A rifle is not an easy weapon; it’s got no target-seeking qualities at all — I understand that even back in the days when wars were fought and decided with just such rifles it used to take several thousand fired shots to average killing one man. This seems impossible but the military histories agree that it is true — apparently most shots weren’t really aimed but simply acted to force the enemy to keep his head down and interfere with
In any case we had no instructors wounded or killed by rifle fire. No trainees were killed, either, by rifle bullets; the deaths were all from other weapons or things — some of which could turn around and bite you if you didn’t do things by the book. Well, one boy did manage to break his neck taking cover too enthusiastically when they first started shooting at him — but no bullet touched him.
However, by a chain reaction, this matter of rifle bullets and taking cover brought me to my lowest ebb at Camp Currie. In the first place I had been busted out of my boot chevrons, not over what I did but over something one of my squad did when I wasn’t even around … which I pointed out. Bronski told me to button my lip. So I went to see Zim about it. He told me coldly that I was responsible for what my men did, regardless … and tacked on six hours of extra duty besides busting me for having spoken to him about it without Bronski’s permission. Then I got a letter that upset me a lot; my mother finally wrote to me. Then I sprained a shoulder in my first drill with powered armor (they’ve got those practice suits rigged so that the instructor can cause casualties in the suit at will, by radio control; I got dumped and hurt my shoulder) and this put me on light duty with too much time to think at a time when I had many reasons, it seemed to me, to feel sorry for myself.
Because of “light duty” I was orderly that day in the battalion commander’s office. I was eager at first, for I had never been there before and wanted to make a good impression. I discovered that Captain Frankel didn’t want zeal; he wanted me to sit still, say nothing, and not bother him. This left me time to sympathize with myself, for I didn’t dare go to sleep.
Then suddenly, shortly after lunch, I wasn’t a bit sleepy; Sergeant Zim came in, followed by three men. Zim was smart and neat as usual but the expression on his face made him look like Death on a pale horse and he had a mark on his right eye that looked as if it might be shaping up into a shiner — which was impossible, of course. Of the other three, the one in the middle was Ted Hendrick. He was dirty — well, the company had been on a field exercise; they don’t scrub those prairies and you spend a lot of your time snuggling up to the dirt. But his lip was split and there was blood on his chin and on his shirt and his cap was missing. He looked wild-eyed.
The men on each side of him were boots. They each had rifles; Hendrick did not. One of them was from my squad, a kid named Leivy. He seemed excited and pleased, and slipped me a wink when nobody was looking.
Captain Frankel looked surprised. “What is this, Sergeant?”
Zim stood frozen straight and spoke as if he were reciting something by rote. “Sir, H Company Commander reports to the Battalion Commander. Discipline. Article nine-one-oh-seven. Disregard of tactical command and doctrine, the team being in simulated combat. Article nine-one-two-oh. Disobedience of orders, same conditions.”
Captain Frankel looked puzzled. “You are bringing this to
I don’t see how a man can manage to look as embarrassed as Zim looked and still have no expression of any sort in his face or voice. “Sir. If the Captain pleases. The man refused administrative discipline. He insisted on seeing the Battalion Commander.”
“I see. A bedroll lawyer. Well, I still don’t understand it, Sergeant, but technically that’s his privilege. What was the tactical command and doctrine?”
“A ‘freeze,’ sir.” I glanced at Hendrick, thinking: Oh, oh, he’s going to catch it. In a “freeze” you hit dirt, taking any cover you can, fast, and then
Frankel’s brows shot up. “Second part?”
“Same thing, sir. After breaking freeze, failing to return to it on being so ordered.”
Captain Frankel looked grim. “Name?”
Zim answered. “Hendrick, T.C., sir. Recruit Private R-P-seven-nine-six-oh-nine-two-four.”
“Very well. Hendrick, you are deprived of all privileges for thirty days and restricted to your tent when not on duty or at meals, subject only to sanitary necessities. You will serve three hours extra duty each day under the Corporal of the Guard, one hour to be served just before taps, one hour just before reveille, one hour at the time of the noonday meal and in place of it. Your evening meal will be bread and water — as much bread as you can eat. You will serve ten hours extra duty each Sunday, the time to be adjusted to permit you to attend divine services if you so elect.”
(I thought: Oh my! He threw the book.)
Captain Frankel went on: “Hendrick, the only reason you are getting off so lightly is that I am not permitted to give you any more than that without convening a court-martial … and I don’t want to spoil your company’s record. Dismissed.” He dropped his eyes back to the papers on his desk, the incident already forgotten—
—and Hendrick yelled, “You didn’t hear
The Captain looked up. “Oh. Sorry. You have a side?”
“You’re darn right I do! Sergeant Zim’s got it in for me! He’s been riding me, riding me, riding me, all day long from the time I got here! He—”
“That’s his job,” the Captain said coldly. “Do you deny the two charges against you?”
Frankel looked disgusted. “Oh. So you would get yourself killed and perhaps your teammates as well because of a few little ants?”
“Not ‘just a few’—there were hundreds of ’em. Stingers.”
“So? Young man, let me put you straight. Had it been a nest of rattlesnakes you would still have been expected — and required — to freeze.” Frankel paused. “Have you anything at all to say in your own defense?”
Hendrick’s mouth was open. “I certainly do! He hit me!
Captain Frankel looked down at his hands, looked up again at Hendrick. “Young man, you are under a misapprehension very common among civilians. You think that your superior officers are not permitted to ‘lay hands on you,’ as you put it. Under purely social conditions, that is true — say if we happened to run across each other in a theater or a shop, I would have no more right, as long as you treated me with the respect due my rank, to slap your face than you have to slap mine. But in line of duty the rule is entirely different—”
The Captain swung around in his chair and pointed at some loose-leaf books. “There are the laws under which you live. You can search every article in those books, every court-martial case which has arisen under them, and you will not find
The Captain tapped on his desk. “Now about those batons — They have two uses. First, they mark the men in authority. Second, we expect them to be used on you, to touch you up and keep you on the bounce. You can’t possibly be hurt with one, not the way they are used; at most they sting a little. But they save thousands of words. Say you don’t turn out on the bounce at reveille. No doubt the duty corporal could wheedle you, say ‘pretty please with sugar on it,’ inquire if you’d like breakfast in bed this morning — if we could spare one career corporal just to nursemaid you. We can’t, so he gives your bedroll a whack and trots on down the line, applying the spur where needed. Of course he could simply kick you, which would be just as legal and nearly as effective. But the general in charge of training and discipline thinks that it is more dignified, both for the duty corporal and for you, to snap a late sleeper out of his fog with the impersonal rod of authority. And so do I. Not that it matters what you or I think about it; this is the way we do it.”
Captain Frankel sighed. “Hendrick, I have explained these matters to you because it is useless to punish a man unless he knows why he is being punished. You’ve been a bad boy — I say ‘boy’ because you quite evidently aren’t a man
I had sneaked a look or two at Hendrick’s face while the Captain was chewing him out — somehow his quiet, mild words were a worse chewing-out than any Zim had ever given us. Hendrick’s expression had gone from indignation to blank astonishment to sullenness.
“Speak up!” Frankel added sharply.
“Uh … well, we were ordered to freeze and I hit the dirt and I found I was on this anthill. So I got to my knees, to move over a couple of feet, and I was hit from behind and knocked flat and he yelled at me — and I bounced up and popped him one and he—”
“STOP!” Captain Frankel was out of his chair and standing ten feet tall, though he’s hardly taller than I am. He stared at Hendrick.
“Huh? I said so. But he hit me first. From behind, I didn’t even see him. I don’t take that off of anybody. I popped him and then he hit me again and then—”
Hendrick stopped. Then he added, “I just want out of this lousy outfit.”
“I think we can accommodate you,” Frankel said icily. “And quickly, too.”
“Just gimme a piece of paper, I’m resigning.”
“One moment. Sergeant Zim.”
“Yes, sir.” Zim hadn’t said a word for a long time. He just stood, eyes front and rigid as a statue, nothing moving but his twitching jaw muscles. I looked at him now and saw that it certainly was a shiner — a beaut. Hendrick must have caught him just right. But he hadn’t said anything about it and Captain Frankel hadn’t asked — maybe he had just assumed Zim had run into a door and would explain it if he felt like it, later.
“Have the pertinent articles been published to your company, as required?”
“Yes, sir. Published and logged, every Sunday morning.”
“I know they have. I asked simply for the record.”
Just before church call every Sunday they lined us up and read aloud the disciplinary articles out of the Laws and Regulations of the Military Forces. They were posted on the bulletin board, too, outside the orderly tent. Nobody paid them much mind — it was just another drill; you could stand still and sleep through it. About the only thing we noticed, if we noticed anything, was what we called “the thirty-one ways to crash land.” After all, the instructors see to it that you soak up all the regulations you need to know, through your skin. The “crash landings” were a worn-out joke, like “reveille oil” and “tent jacks” … they were the thirty-one capital offenses. Now and then somebody boasted, or accused somebody else, of having found a thirty-second way — always something preposterous and usually obscene.
It suddenly wasn’t amusing any longer. Popping Zim?
Captain Frankel looked around, motioned at me. “You. Flash regimental headquarters.”
I did it, all thumbs, stepped back when an officer’s face came on and let the Captain take the call. “Adjutant,” the face said.
Frankel said crisply, “Second Battalion Commander’s respects to the Regimental Commander. I request and require an officer to sit as a court.”
The face said, “When do you need him, Ian?”
“As quickly as you can get him here.”
“Right away. I’m pretty sure Jake is in his HQ. Article and name?”
Captain Frankel identified Hendrick and quoted an article number. The face in the screen whistled and looked grim. “On the bounce, Ian. If I can’t get Jake, I’ll be over myself — just as soon as I tell the Old Man.”
Captain Frankel turned to Zim. “This escort — are they witnesses?”
“Did his section leader see it?”
Zim barely hesitated. “I think so, sir.”
“Get him. Anybody out that way in a powered suit?”
Zim used the phone while Frankel said to Hendrick, “What witnesses do you wish to call in your defense?”
“Huh? I don’t need any witnesses, he knows what he did! Just hand me a piece of paper — I’m getting out of here.”
“All in good time.”
In very fast time, it seemed to me. Less than five minutes later Corporal Jones came bouncing up in a command suit, carrying Corporal Mahmud in his arms. He dropped Mahmud and bounced away just as Lieutenant Spieksma came in. He said, “Afternoon, Cap’n. Accused and witnesses here?”
“All set. Take it, Jake.”
“It is now.”
“Very well. Hendrick, step forward.” Hendrick did so, looking puzzled and as if his nerve was beginning to crack. Lieutenant Spieksma said briskly: “Field Court-Martial, convened by order of Major F.X. Malloy, commanding Third Training Regiment, Camp Arthur Currie, under General Order Number Four, issued by the Commanding General, Training and Discipline Command, pursuant to the Laws and Regulations of the Military Forces, Terran Federation. Remanding officer: Captain Ian Frankel, M.I., assigned to and commanding Second Battalion, Third Regiment. The Court: Lieutenant Jacques Spieksma, M.I., assigned to and commanding First Battalion, Third Regiment. Accused: Hendrick, Theodore C., Recruit Private RP7960924. Article 9080. Charge: Striking his superior officer, the Terran Federation then being in a state of emergency.”
The thing that got me was how
Lieutenant Spieksma said to Hendrick, “Do you wish to cross-examine the witnesses? The Court will assist you, if you so wish.”
“Stand at attention and say ‘sir’ when you address the Court.”
“No, sir.” He added, “I want a lawyer.”
“The Law does not permit counsel in field courts-martial. Do you wish to testify in your own defense? You are not required to do so and, in view of the evidence thus far, the Court will take no judicial notice if you choose not to do so. But you are warned that any testimony that you give may be used against you and that you will be subject to cross-examination.”
Hendrick shrugged. “I haven’t anything to say. What good would it do me?”
“The Court repeats: Will you testify in your own defense?”
“Uh, no, sir.”
“The Court must demand of you one technical question. Was the article under which you are charged published to you
The accused stood mute.
“Very well, the Court will reread the article of the charge aloud to you and again ask you that question. ‘Article 9080: Any person in the Military Forces who strikes or assaults, or attempts to strike or assault—’ ”
“Oh, I suppose they did. They read a lot of stuff, every Sunday morning — a whole long list of things you couldn’t do.”
“Was or was not that particular article read to you?”
“Uh … yes, sir. It was.”
“Very well. Having declined to testify, do you have any statement to make in mitigation or extenuation?”
“Do you want to tell the Court anything about it? Any circumstance which you think might possibly affect the evidence already given? Or anything which might lessen the alleged offense? Such things as being ill, or under drugs or medication. You are not under oath at this point; you may say anything at all which you think may help you. What the Court is trying to find out is this: Does anything about this matter strike you as being unfair? If so, why?”
“Huh? Of course it is! Everything about it is unfair! He hit me first! You heard ’em!—
“Huh? No, sir. Isn’t that enough?”
“The trial is completed. Recruit Private Theodore C. Hendrick, stand forth!” Lieutenant Spieksma had been standing at attention the whole time; now Captain Frankel stood up. The place suddenly felt chilly.
“Private Hendrick, you are found guilty as charged.”
My stomach did a flip-flop. They were going to do it to him … they were going to do the “Danny Deever” to Ted Hendrick. And I had eaten breakfast beside him just this morning.
“The Court sentences you,” he went on, while I felt sick, “to ten lashes and Bad Conduct Discharge.”
Hendrick gulped. “I want to resign!”
“The Court does not permit you to resign. The Court wishes to add that your punishment is light simply because this Court possesses no jurisdiction to assign greater punishment. The authority which remanded you specified a field court-martial — why it so chose, this Court will not speculate. But had you been remanded for general court-martial, it seems certain that the evidence before this Court would have caused a general court to sentence you to hang by the neck until dead. You are very lucky — and the remanding authority has been most merciful.” Lieutenant Spieksma paused, then went on, “The sentence will be carried out at the earliest hour after the convening authority has reviewed and approved the record, if it does so approve. Court is adjourned. Remove and confine him.”
The last was addressed to me, but I didn’t actually have to do anything about it, other than phone the guard tent and then get a receipt for him when they took him away.
At afternoon sick call Captain Frankel took me off orderly and sent me to see the doctor, who sent me back to duty. I got back to my company just in time to dress and fall in for parade — and to get gigged by Zim for “spots on uniform.” Well, he had a bigger spot over one eye but I didn’t mention it.
Somebody had set up a big post in the parade ground just back of where the adjutant stood. When it came time to publish the orders, instead of “routine order of the day” or other trivia, they published Hendrick’s court-martial.
Then they marched him out, between two armed guards, with his hands cuffed together in front of him.
I had never seen a flogging. Back home, while they do it in public of course, they do it back of the Federal Building — and Father had given me strict orders to stay away from there. I tried disobeying him on it once … but it was postponed and I never tried to see one again.
Once is too many.
The guards lifted his arms and hooked the manacles over a big hook high up on the post. Then they took his shirt off and it turned out that it was fixed so that it could come off and he didn’t have an undershirt. The adjutant said crisply, “Carry out the sentence of the Court.”
A corporal-instructor from some other battalion stepped forward with the whip. The Sergeant of the Guard made the count.
It’s a slow count, five seconds between each one and it seems
The next thing I knew I was staring up at Corporal Bronski. He was slapping me and looking intently at me. He stopped and asked, “Okay now? All right, back in ranks. On the bounce; we’re about to pass in review.” We did so and marched back to our company areas. I didn’t eat much dinner but neither did a lot of them.
Nobody said a word to me about fainting. I found out later that I wasn’t the only one — a couple of dozen of us had passed out.