The Nine Amendments is part of the In The beginning…again fantasy series that will see the light of day before the end of the year all things being equal.
In this scene, Sarge Flogin is supervising the induction of draftees as they prepare for military service on the obligatory Wholly Foreign Tour of Salvation.
Partz’ first day in the army had been unusual, Flogin remembered. Not least because the sun was shining that morning in Port o’ Bill. Then there was the number of draftees: Partz was it. Normally there would be between fifteen and twenty young men lined up, ready, if not exactly willing, to do their duty.
Flogin never openly questioned these things, as he knew the Trois were constantly forging new frontiers and required Wholly Soldiers all over the Wholly Empire.
Partz had approached the draft office: a plank of wood set upon two empty barrels, a bundle of nerves and excitement all rolled into one, skinny seventeen-year-old body.
‘Name?’ the drafting officer for the day asked. This was Corporal Zimmer as it happened, re-joining the garrison command after a month on compassionate leave. The family pig had died and he had returned home to attend the funeral. Well, Zimmer said it was the family pig. The rest of the family called his older brother Sam. Sam had died of an eating disorder that had nothing to do with being fat. Obesity was generally not a problem in Port o’ Bill, except amongst some members of the Trois and they never saw it as a problem. Sam was always a bit simple (probably because of vitamin deficiency) and after eating the roots of an unknown plant had died of poisoning.
‘Partz,’ replied the boy. ‘That’s with a zed’, he added.
‘Initial?’ Zimmer demanded.
‘W,’ but officially it is ‘I,’ obliged Partz.
There was a slight pause as Zimmer began to fill in this detail on the draft sheet. He looked up studiously and asked.
‘Eye Partz, eh? Which ones? Retina, cornea or what?’ said Zimmer with a straight face.
Sarge Flogin, who was standing behind Zimmer, frowned, at the same time allowing himself a small grin. Although every soldier at the Sueridge Canal garrison could read and write, he was surprised by Zimmer’s knowledge of optical biology.
‘Now, then, corporal. No need for that. What’s the ‘I’ stand for, lad?’ Flogin asked.
‘Individual, sergeant,’ replied Partz equally straight-faced.
‘Individual Partz!’ Zimmer could barely contain himself. ‘So are you the sum of the Partz family or the son?’
‘Mr. Zimmer. Do you really want to go down that path?’ Flogin asked.
With a first name of Drivel the corporal was wise not to push the issue.
‘No, sarge. Sorry, sarge.’
‘Right. Just as I thought. We’re all a bit unusual in this unit. But that, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing. We must think of ourselves as unique.
‘My brother, sergeant,’ said Partz.
‘What’s that, lad?’ asked Flogin suspiciously.
‘Unique, sergeant. That’s my brother’s name.’
Flogin cleared his throat of some invisible blockage. ‘Oh, really?’
‘Yes, sergeant. They’re traditional names where my dad comes from. But after we moved to Judysear my parents decided it wouldn’t be such a good thing to be Individual or Unique, so they renamed my brother, Enry, after my dad’s boss, and me, William, after the famous Judysear general, William the Konkerr.’
‘Ah, I see.’ Flogin knew all about General Konkerr. Konkerr the Plonker he was less than affectionately known as. The general who always brought his men back from battle. Most of them in body bags.
‘So you are, how might we say, foreign?’ Flogin suggested.
‘Well, not any more, of course. We’re all part of the Wholly Empire now. Isn’t that right, sergeant?’ said Partz brightly.
‘Yes, lad. Very holey,’ Flogin agreed, after a fashion, being acutely aware of the fractious nature of the Wholly Empire and the attitude of the Trois toward most things foreign. Sarge’s parents, like a fair number of Judysearans, were Frinch; a fact he did not advertise and hence most people just assumed that Flogin was his surname. In fact it was le Viande, and when one realised that the Judysear translation meant, the meat, it was understandable why Flogin was sympathetic to Partz, unusual name.
‘Right, Individ—William, lad. Sign your name or make your mark and get aboard ship. We don’t have all day for cult’ral chitchat. Welcome to the army, Private . . .’ He paused. Oh, gawd, ‘Partz.’
The Nine Amendments©Douglas Pearce 2013