DISCLAIMER: None, other than any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters are mine. (© 1989, 2008, WGA Reg. #084582-00)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is my baby and it is very long, which is why I am posting it in sections. It is a complete story but I am transferring it from paper to disk, another reason for the sectional posting. PTR is as much about the trials and tribulations of basic training as it is one woman's personal journey through this time frame, which is why there will be sometimes as many paragraphs spent on military detail as on the lead characters.
WARNING: This is a story about the military so there are a lot of bad words. There is sex (some of it is heterosexual) and violence.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Permission To Recover
Two weeks had felt like two days and before Dale knew it, she was flying into Marietta, Georgia, a neutral airfield where Anne Bishaye believed she could pick Dale up and not run the risk of being seen by anyone from Tenth Battalion. The original plan was for the undercover lieutenant to come back to Averill a day or two early, brief her boss on what she had accomplished while she had been away and then relax before she had to return to her mission at McCullough. Now the strategy was Anne would drive Dale to Atlanta where she would drop the lieutenant off on the north side of town and Dale would take a bus to the Atlanta Airport, hooking up with a few of her fellow trainees for the bus ride back to post.
Dale conveniently came up with an excuse to get out of having to spend the night at the Bishayes' home. She had no idea what could or could not have transpired between Anne and her, especially with Jack not in the house, and maybe nothing at all would have happened but she was not willing to run that risk.
The thought of actually being confronted, face to face, with her feelings for the enchanting colonel in an environment that could have very well included a bedroom and an absent husband, was too much for Dale at this point of her self-discovery to deal with. Dale, knowing she wanted Anne Bishaye sexually, and knowing she couldn't, shouldn't have her, was enough for her to not tempt herself, unnecessarily. She had not forgotten what Bishaye had said to her just before leaving Vermont but since the colonel made no move to act upon the intent from those words (or clarify them) and probably wouldn't, especially after the Kirk incident, Dale was left in carnal limbo.
The thought of being with Anne, alone, thrilled her while the thought of not being with her alone, relieved her. If she could have gotten out of meeting her at the airport that day, she would have but she knew she had to get together with her boss, her friend, to not only brief her but receive a report on what had been going on, if anything, during her absence.
Still, when Dale got into Bishaye's car and studied the beautiful woman behind the wheel as unobtrusively as possible, the lieutenant suddenly wished she had returned the day before; that the sensual colonel had seduced her, as she had so many times in her daydreams.
"You look exhausted," Anne observed and smiled easily, as they drove out of Marietta toward Atlanta. "Some vacation. Walker looks more rested than you do."
"She probably is," Dale commented and stretched out as much as the front seat would allow. "So, while we're on the subject, what is going on with Walker?"
"Absolutely nothing. She said you would understand this; Swinegar has turned into the perfect bimbo, which, fortunately, hasn't gotten her anywhere, Michaelson plays a mean card game and Cassey is a sore loser. Other than that everyone has been well behaved, minded their own business, done details and hung around. I understand the part about Michaelson and Cassey...what about Swinegar?"
"Probably nothing. She's got a wild crush on Drill Sergeant Robin and we thought since she stayed for Christmas exodus, we'd keep an eye on her behavior with him, being that he was one of the NCOs in charge of Christmas company. We figured if a move was to be made on him by her or vice versa, this would have been the ideal time to do it. Obviously nothing happened but I have a feeling that wasn't from lack of trying on Swinegar's part. But let me say again that both Shannon and I feel, in no way, Swinegar's overzealous crush on Robin is anything more than just that."
"So what about you? I can only assume you came up empty, too."
"Nothing else has happened since I called you last week."
"Was that you that called me last week?" Anne kidded. "I thought I was speaking to someone at a lumberjack convention during dueling buzzsaws."
"I had a problem with my phone," Dale told her, vaguely.
"Really? I thought it might be that you didn't want to talk to me."
Dale looked at her, feeling caught. "Why wouldn't I want to talk to you?"
"Dale...I never know with you. So, refresh me since I could barely understand you."
"I talked to Stuart's girlfriend, who is helium from the shoulders up, did I mention that before? It was like conversing with a vacuum. She gave me absolutely no information. Then I spoke to everyone in Stuart's art class and that came up a dead end, too. She had only been in class for two weeks so nobody really got to know her. And nobody admitted to giving her a ride home after class at any time. Everybody had alibis for the night of the murder. I spoke with Stuart's mother, who let me look over all of her daughter's personal effects and that was a complete no go, too."
"Was her mother able to help you with anything?"
"Nada. Zip. I guess because of Carolyn's lifestyle, she and her mother were barely speaking. They footed the bill for Carolyn's funeral but neither she nor her husband attended. In fact, they had already tossed a lot of stuff. I was lucky to be able to get my hands on what I did. Not that it helped me."
"Were you able to track down the people who did show up at the funeral?"
"I was able to talk with a few but not all. Sharon Burke is looking into the rest of the crowd and said she would let me know immediately if she comes across anything more odd than what we already have."
"Burke is a sharp woman. If something looks out of place, I am sure she will spot it."
"Which reminds me, could you possibly look into talking her into staying in? What a waste if she gets out."
"I agree. We discussed her situation when she called me about Stuart's murder. It was very unfair, how all that transpired with her and I told her I would make a few calls. I have done that and, hopefully it will make a difference."
"Well, I just saw her and she hasn't changed her mind yet."
"These things take time, Dale. You are too impatient."
"She doesn't have a lot of time left."
Anne sighed. "All right, I will call her again and give her one of my patented Fort Ord MP pep talks."
"Jeez, don't bore her to death, I want you to give her incentive to stay not remind her of why she wants to leave," Dale said, kidding.
The colonel arched an eyebrow and glanced over at her young friend. "Remind me again why I like you?"
"I can't, for the life of me, think of one reason." This is what Dale most enjoyed and now missed about her friendship with Bishaye; the playful banter that dangled between insult and flirting. Now, every word that left either of their lips seemed suspect to double meanings and the ease with which they traded barbs before had now become strained. Now, with the confused undercover lieutenant realizing the exact intent of her true feelings for the colonel, Dale felt she needed to be cautious with what she said and just how she said it. She did not want to make a fool of herself with this woman who caused her insides to shudder with pleasurable and unrequited anticipation at just the mere thought of her. She was startled out of her contemplation by a slight slap on her arm.
"Where'd you go?" Anne questioned, curiously.
"Nowhere. Just thinking."
"The case. So...I then contacted the same people Shannon saw before training started and nobody gave me anything new. Everybody's story is still the same, so that was a big waste of time." She yawned and stretched out again, a languorous move that unintentionally came across as highly erotic and it did not go unnoticed by the attentive colonel.
Dale had no idea how really attractive and alluring she was without even trying and her unassuming nature concerning that was one of Bishaye's favorite attributes regarding the CID agent. What Dale didn't, couldn't understand was that the battalion commander was also torn by her feelings for the young undercover lieutenant, the pull between them so obviously much more than professional. Anne could not really believe that Dale couldn't sense her attraction, as well. But her emotions went much deeper than even Dale could have guessed.
"What's going on with the cadre? I really need a head's up here because they certainly are a mixed bunch."
"MacArthur and Kathan have been replaced. So I have no idea to tell you what to expect there."
"What about the others?"
"What do you want me to say, Dale? Yes, they are all a little crazy but they have a right to be with everything going on right now."
"Some may be a little crazier than others and I think they were that way long before this case developed into what it is." Greeted with dead silence, Dale decided to confront the one work issue she knew was throwing a wedge between them. They had danced around it long enough and she wanted it out in the open. "You know, you really pissed me off about the Kirk thing."
Anne immediately bristled and fired back with, "Yeah? Well, you pissed me off, too. When you saw she was going to be trouble, you should have stayed away from her. But no, not you. Trouble is like a magnet to your steel. If you are anywhere near it, it draws you right to it."
Dale was a little taken aback by Anne's sharp tone and how her temper had flared so quickly on this subject but backing down now was not an option. "I don't often tell you that you're wrong, Anne, you know that, because you rarely are and I respect your judgment. But you and your tight little cadre miscalled that one. I'm not sorry I got involved with her situation and I would do it all over again except if I could have foreseen the outcome, I would have walked her out Main Gate myself in the middle of the night," Dale argued, her voice elevated to match the older officer's.
"You disobeyed a direct order from me, Dale!" the colonel yelled at her, gripping the steering wheel so tight, the color drained from her hands and fingers.
"What the fuck is with you and this 'order' bullshit? You got over ordering me to do things a long time ago."
"Really? When was that?"
"When you started asking instead...when I thought we had become friends." Dale was sounding resentful now. "You know, Colonel, it's not just the Kirk thing, it's your whole attitude lately that pisses me off! And don't tell me that it's your job. Sell that crap to a farmer for fertilizer."
Bishaye suddenly pulled over to the side of the road, driving far enough away from the flow of traffic, where they would not be a hazard to any passing vehicles. She threw the car into 'park' and neither had noticed just how secluded they were. When she turned to face her young friend, the irate older officer placed her hand on the back of Dale's seat. "You have no idea what goes on at my rank, what is expected of me in the position I have!" Anne spit out. "I'm already tired of your innuendo that I've somehow become as cold and as calculating as some of our superiors who are only trying to make rank so that they can conquer the world. I have an impossible job and you know it doesn't matter how many connections I have, I will forever be under a microscope doing what I do because I am a female in an experimental position of power! If I fail, you know it doesn't just look bad for me, Dale, it looks bad for all women in the military! You know that. You know that I am expected to walk on water and not even get the bottoms of my feet wet when I do it because if I do - despite the fact that my competitor, Colonel Joe Shit The Ragman, has made repeated obvious mistakes - if I make one, one mistake, he will be promoted and I will be removed and disgraced because in DAs eyes, I couldn't cut it! And all because I'm a female; no other reason. So don't you dare sit there and give me shit about things of which you can only scratch the surface!" Her eyes flashed angrily at every syllable.
"Fine! That part I can understand but what about us? You used to be able to talk to me about this stuff, you used to share with me the frustrations of your job, you used to tell me to watch what you were doing because some day I would learn from your mistakes and be able to do it better! You used to call me every once in a while to show me that you cared. You created me, Anne! You built me from scratch to be your perfect little soldier, molding me into exactly what the Department of the Army wanted, with you singularly being in charge of me. It was great when I was making you proud and you were getting all the attention when my apprehensions were valid and lauded. Then I get hurt and I'm no longer a priority. I know you were there in the hospital when I woke up but after that, you moved on. And I barely saw you or heard from you, like I was no longer useful so I was no longer important to you. And that hurt. A lot."
There. It was out. And the truth in Dale's words and the pain in her voice silenced both of them. When the lieutenant looked into the colonel's eyes, the depth of emotion was intangible. Before either woman could reply to what Dale had presented, Anne grabbed a fistful of the younger officer's jacket and yanked her closer, threading her other hand through the CID agent's hair and pulled their faces together. Before she lost her nerve, Anne seized Dale's lips, pressing her own against them with a passion to match her previous anger.
The action surprised and stunned Dale. At first, she was too shocked to react any other way than rigidly, trying to comprehend the less-than-diplomatic moment and then it hit her. Anne Bishaye was kissing her! Anne Bishaye! The woman who occupied all of her lesbian fantasies. While the soft lips ground down on hers, it only took another second for Dale to snap out of her awkwardly confused state and begin responding to this dream come true.
Sliding one hand behind the colonel's head and the other cupping her face, Dale tried to adjust her breathing as she let instinct take over. Tentatively, she moved her lips against Bishaye's, afraid Anne would come to her senses and break the contact and come up with a logical reason why what was happening, had happened. But then, since Dale never did anything tentatively and couldn't have cared less about logic at that point, she advanced more aggressively, daringly outlining the colonel's lips with her tongue, causing a low moan to emanate from Anne's throat.
The older officer took that invitation and lightly sucked Dale's tongue into her mouth, dancing with it once it was there. Seconds, minutes passed as the kiss intensified and the women continued to explore a new side of their relationship, a different kind of need neither ever thought they would acknowledge, much less satisfy with each other.
Dale reveled in the softness of Anne's lips and, at the same time, was captured by the sheer virility behind the kiss, the power alone in the gesture. But she expected nothing less from Anne Bishaye as the colonel never did anything timidly. With every sexual nerve ending tingling, the younger woman knew they would either have to stop now or they never would. Even though they were somewhat isolated from the main road, they still could get caught and, as difficult as it was to put the brakes on, neither really wanted to run the risk of being discovered doing what they were doing.
Reluctantly breaking the contact, Anne put pressure on Dale's shoulders to gently push herself away. Both women's eyes were closed, the only sound in the car being heavy breathing.
"I shouldn't have done that," Anne gasped and put her hand over her eyes as though she were shielding her exposed emotions from the younger woman.
"I shouldn't have let you," Dale responded, feeling just as vulnerable.
"You couldn't have stopped it." The beautiful colonel moved her hand and looked at Dale.
"I know." The lieutenant had still not opened her eyes yet.
"Don't, okay?" Blue eyes met concerned yet still desire-filled brown ones. "We'll just sit here and over analyze everything and it will ruin the moment."
"Because it can never happen again..."
"I know," Dale nodded and finally got her breathing somewhat regulated. She knew but she didn't understand. "Why?"
"Why? I think you know why. I'm married. I'm your boss. The military would destroy us. I'm not gay. You're not gay. How many reasons do you want?"
"How can two people who aren't gay kiss like we just did?"
Anne looked down and conveyed embarrassment. "I don't know. I can't and won't try to explain it. You and I have something...primal...going on between us, we always have. It defies reasonable explanation. I know you usually take your cue from me and I'm sorry. I should have had better command of my actions."
Dale had to rein in the urge to scream, 'I wanted you to kiss me!' Maybe she should have thrown herself at the woman who had just ignited her blood as the colonel seemed to be desperately wrestling with her own self-control. Or maybe she would just let the older officer believe that Dale was strictly a lesbiAnne and drop it.
Anne still reeled from what had just taken place between them, took a deep breath and exhaled, finally releasing her grip on Dale's jacket. This prompted the lieutenant to slide back toward the passenger side of the bench-type seat, away from the object of her affection.
"All this and you still talk like a C.O.," Dale smiled. She looked back up at the colonel and saw an expression that now seemed distant and sad. Dale interpreted it also as remorse and regret. "Hey, don't sweat it. We don't ever have to talk about it again."
Anne ran her hand through her auburn hair and focused her attention out the driver's side window. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah. You said that. So, why, uh, don't we get back on the road?" She watched as Anne put the car into 'drive' and merged the vehicle back into traffic. "I guess this is it for private meetings for a while."
"Unless it's absolutely necessary, yes." She glanced over at the younger woman next to her. "Especially in lieu of today..."
"Look, either we're going to talk about it or not. If we're not, stop referring to it. If we are, let's talk," Dale told her, annoyed.
"I just don't think talking will accomplish anything."
"Fine. Then how 'bout them Yankees, huh?" Dale was a little disturbed that she had started to choke up. She swallowed the lump in her throat and focused her attention out the passenger side window.
Anne couldn't help but laugh. "It's football season and you're living in Alabama, you'd fare better asking how them Crimson Tide are doing."
"Okay, I just want to say one thing and then I'll drop it. I know I get on your nerves. I know I can be unorthodox and hard to handle but you could and you can always deal with me. Regardless of the obstacles put before us, we always worked through it. Whatever this is, whatever happened today, whatever has been happening to cause this friction - the good and the bad, which I'm not too sure aren't related - we will work through this, too. Because, despite my bitching, I believe in you, Anne. Always have and always will and I never want to do anything to let you down. And...um...if my letting you kiss me and then kissing you back in any way let you down, I apologize. I will readily admit that I suffer from a little bit of hero worship."
The colonel was not prepared for this confession from her young friend. She tried to disguise being overcome with Dale's honesty and what it meant to her. The only thing she could come up with to say was, "Well, you shouldn't."
"I know. I know better," Dale said and smirked. "We've changed, haven't we?" She received a nod from Anne and continued, "I thought it was just you at first but it's both of us, isn't it?"
The colonel resisted the urge to reach over and touch Dale's arm. "Unfortunately. You've changed, too, Dale. When you first came to my company at Ord, you were wide-eyed and innocent, very respectful of rank and position. You were your average, every day, small town girl coming to the 'big city' and very eager to please."
"I'm still eager to please. Except now it's me I'm eager to please and not the Army. You can't fault me for wising up." Although it was more than evident that she was also eager to please Anne Bishaye.
"You're cynical. You have every right to be, of course, but you're only twenty-four years old. You're too young to be so disillusioned. I just wish you hadn't been so Goddamned good at this."
Curiously, Dale studied her. "Why is that?"
"Because then you wouldn't have gotten hurt. And maybe if you hadn't been so good at it, you would not have been MP material and you would have been recycled. Or you just would have been bounced to another MOS. I mean, who knows? You'd probably be out by now, doing something unrelated and productive and searching for your happily ever after."
"I don't believe in happily ever after." Especially now, she thought, with you so close yet so very far.
"No, you don't now because you have jaundiced ideals."
"If you had left me alone in Vermont, maybe I could have gotten my life on track but you forced me back into service and not even for something good. I mean, if I had to come back in, why am I being wasted on this chickenshit assignment?"
Anne paused momentarily and then said, "I wouldn't call a what's happening in Tenth Battalion and a murder exactly chickenshit."
"Anne, we still don't know if Stuart's death is even related and we have no clue whether whoever is behind all this is even going to strike again. I can't speak for Shannon and I really don't know what her CID experience is other than being on loan to them for a few months when she was an XO at Bliss but my experience and skills are way beyond this. This isn't a sure thing and Shannon and I could spend another three months here and have no more than we have right now. In the meantime, I'm not sure my foot is going to make it. I'm not pleased with the idea that I could end up in a wheelchair for something that isn't even going to produce results. If you had intel that told me, for sure, that this cycle was going to be affected then I would have no problem doing my job and waiting for it to happen and then do what I had to do to get the case resolved. I should have been assigned to Stuart's murder before I was put here."
"A lot of things should have been done differently but they weren't. And..." Anne sounded almost wistful, "I thought it would be nice that you and I could be together again."
Squeezing her eyes shut, Dale asked bravely, "Then why can't we be?"
"Please, Dale," Anne said, quietly, "you know I didn't mean it like that and you know why."
No, she didn't. Not really. Dale knew that Anne would reiterate about marriage, career, orientation but, as for why, when they both obviously felt the way they did, they could not discreetly meet every once in a while to get whatever 'this' was out of their systems. "So, we're just supposed to ignore our feelings for each other? Forget that kiss?"
Silently, Bishaye drove and just stared straight ahead. Then, finally, she said, "I won't ever forget that kiss, Dale, and you have no idea how much I would love to do it again. But we can't. I love my husband and it could only end badly for you and me."
"Why? I know you love me, too." She had wondered when she had gone from sounding strong to sounding pathetic.
"Yes, Dale, I do. But not enough to give up my career for," she admitted, bluntly.
As difficult as it had been to hear Anne's words, as much as it hurt, Dale knew it had been harder for Anne to say them. Dale, knowing the colonel as well she did, would have been shocked if Anne had been anything less than direct. In a way, it was better that Anne was candid now than let Dale think there was even a chance for them to be together. She wanted to ask Anne about her parting statement at the Rutland airport but realized that her boss would probably tell her that, like today, she had a lapse in judgment and leave it at that. 'I've really missed you. More than you'll ever know or I want to admit. I need you near me, Dale, I can't lose you again.' Even at face value, that was an odd declaration for someone who didn't want to be more than friends.
The ride to Atlanta was uncomfortably quiet as both women became lost in their own thoughts, their own private regrets. Finally, the colonel brought Dale out of the hypnotizing hum of the car and the rhythm of the road seams being crossed by the tires. "Are you okay?" Her tone was one of concern.
"I will be," Dale assured. "I'm a big girl."
"I know you are."
"I'm just confused about us, that's all."
"So am I," Anne admitted, truthfully. "But I have to keep things in perspective and the bottom line is an affair would not be productive for either one of us. It may be momentarily gratifying but the end result would be disastrous for us both. As tempting as the thought is..."
"So you have thought about it?"
Anne glanced at Dale, who was staring at her, then returned her attention to the road ahead of her. "It's crossed my mind. You have an energy, an intensity, that is very hard to resist and you and I connected from the moment we met. We have, basically, fulfilled all of each other's needs except sexually. Before you, the idea of being with a woman was very, very foreign to me. Not that I think it's wrong, it's just something that never interested me. I love men, I love Jack but you drew something out in me that was different, undefinable. I have wanted to kiss you for a very long time, to know how your lips felt on mine, to feel that link which could not be accomplished any other way -"
"Then why did you stop us?" Dale asked, as the memory of that kiss flooded every part of her body.
"Because I could see it spiraling out of control very quickly and I don't think either one of us would have been ready for that."
"And you have to be in control. Always. Don't you?" There was a hint of bitterness in Dale's tone.
"Yes," Anne responded. "I do."
Dale wanted to scream out of sheer frustration. If Anne only knew. She decided to change the subject. "When are you going to give your battalion speech? You're overdue."
"Tomorrow," Anne replied, surprised by the abrupt change in conversation.
"Just make it more compelling than Colton's. What a piece of shit CO he is."
Anne sighed. "He isn't that bad. You two just got off on the wrong foot."
"Wrong foot? I could be a centipede and I still wouldn't have enough feet for us to get off on the right one."
Pulling up to the curb, around the corner from the bus station, Anne was glad they weren't going to have the time to get into that discussion. "Gee, Dale, I would love to rehash this with you but you need to get to the airport so that you can ride back to McCullough with your fellow trainees. Who knows what you could learn on the trip back?"
Dale laughed, "Oh, you're a crafty one, Mrs. Bishaye." They exchanged a tentative look, wanting to hug goodbye but neither daring to touch the other. "Well...I'd better get going then..."
"Yes. I, uh, will see you tomorrow in the vast sea of trainees."
Getting out of the car, Dale removed her suitcase from the back seat. She walked around to the driver's side. "Thanks for the ride, Colonel. It was very...educational."
Nodding, Anne said, "We're okay, right?"
"As okay as we can be under the circumstances, I guess." Dale put her hand up and made a small waving motion. "See you tomorrow."
"Bye," Anne said, as she watched Dale walk away from the car, turning right at the corner and disappearing behind a building. If you only knew, Anne thought.
The ride to the Atlanta Airport by bus was short but incredibly lonely. Dale was numb and could not help but feel a loss at what had happened between her and the woman of her dreams. But every now and then, out of nowhere, a smile would split her face as the full recollection of the kiss would attack her brain and surge unabashedly to her sexual places, reminding her that she had kissed Anne Bishaye. It didn't matter that she could not tell anyone or that it would go no further between them. The memory would always be hers.
She had waited an hour in the USO room with the others until the announcement was made that the coach had arrived to take the military personnel back to McCullough. Dale immensely enjoyed the bus ride back. In the two-and-a-half hour trip, she, Kotski, Tramonte and Tierni shared a lot of tales from their exodus from post and two forbidden bottles of Mad Dog 20-20. Alcohol was not allowed on the bus but that didn't stop the only four women on the bus from partaking, when Tierni had produced the 'contraband' from her large purse. If ever Dale needed a drink, it was now. Before they reached the main gates of McCullough, Tierni placed the two empty bottles back in their brown paper sack and stuck them in the overhead luggage rack. She ignored Dale's suggestion of dropping them down the commode, where even the most persistent drill sergeant would not have stuck his or her hands.
When the commercially chartered bus pulled up to the on-post depot, the riders were divided up and put onto two military coaches. The vehicles remained stationery, idling, while the civilian bus drove away. Within moments, a vile-looking male drill sergeant stepped purposefully onto the bus in which Dale and her pals were now seated. All conversation ceased as the staff sergeant established his presence by just standing there. He then raised his left arm high into the air and in his grasp was a familiar looking paper bag.
"Oh, shit..." Tramonte whispered, softly, closing her eyes.
"Whose whiskey bottles are these?" he roared, and slapped the bag with his right hand, causing the empty bottles inside to clink together. He hesitated a reasonable amount of time. "I ASKED YOU A QUESTION! WHOSE WHISKEY BOTTLES ARE THESE?" Again, his query was greeted with silence. The drill sergeant scanned the blank faces. "Well, I'll tell you what...until somebody confesses, these buses ain't goin' nowhere. I don't care if your sorry asses sit here for three days and you all get nailed for AWOL."
The occupants of the bus returned his stare, looking genuinely innocent, with the exception of the only four females in the back, who were all thinking, 'Well, we weren't drinking whiskey, we were drinking wine, so maybe those really aren't ours,' even though they all knew they were guilty. They watched the staff sergeant exit their bus and climb aboard the next bus. Reading his obviously shouting lips, the Alpha women saw that he was repeating the same message to the other group.
"What are we going to do?" Tierni asked, in a desperate whisper.
"Nothing," Dale advised, under her breath.
"You should have shoved them down the toilet like Oakes said," Kotski intoned, softly, through clenched teeth.
"Shhhhh, he's coming back," Tramonte warned.
The drill sergeant boarded the bus again and began walking down the aisle, stopping at each seat, bending down so that he could smell everyone's breath as they answered. "Are these your whiskey bottles?"
The response of "No, Drill Sergeant" was repeated until he reached Tramonte and Tierni. He studied them intently and then looked behind them at Dale and Kotski. Passing over the four of them, he proceeded to ask the remaining males on the bus. When he got back up to the front, he instructed the driver to carry on. As the driver pulled away, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
"Why do you think he skipped over us?" Tramonte asked.
"He probably didn't think we had the guts to do it, being female and all," Kotski commented.
"I never thought I would say thank God for discrimination, but I am so glad we got out of it," Tierni said.
So am I, Dale thought, not wanting to imagine having to be hauled before the battalion commander now.
The Alpha trainees were dropped off at Tenth Battalion at twelve-forty A.M. and signed in at 0045 hours. Dale was the last to file into the Orderly Room, surprised to find Shannon on CQ duty. As Dale signed in, Shannon had a knowing smile on her face.
"What?" Dale asked, wondering about her partner's smirk.
"You four smell like a still."
"Yeah," Shannon laughed. "You stink. What was your pleasure?"
"Woh! Good luck getting up tomorrow."
Dale smiled. "No task too tough. How are things here?"
"What time are you off CQ?"
"See ya upstairs?"
"No way. I'm going to bed. We've got a big day tomorrow, including a scheduled speech by the battalion commander."
"Oh, great," Dale said, sounding annoyed for Shannon's CQ runner's benefit. "That will probably be like a sedative, as if we need that."
"That's why I want to get my rest tonight, so that I am not tempted."
Dale grinned at her and stated, sarcastically, "I wish I could be as dedicated as you."
"Fuck you very much."
0430 hours came much too early, especially for those with a fermented grape hangover. Dale was not one of them, however, and she fell asleep instantly and woke up clear-headed, her dreams overrun by having sex with Anne Bishaye. That was not going to make her seeing the delectable colonel any easier that day.
Surprisingly, no one missed formation, where the buzz was that one female did not return. Bonnie Kramer was officially AWOL at 0520 hours. Kramer was the last person Dale thought would not come back. She seemed pretty settled in with the military lifestyle and the plans she had for herself and her husband when she got permanently assigned. Three females disobeyed orders and got married over exodus without permission from Battalion or prior counseling from the chaplain, which was required now that they were in the Army. Lesley Jaffe was now Lesley Flack, Lesley Minkler was now Lesley Horan and Tracy Travis was now Tracy Novak. The drill sergeants, however, refused to recognize their marital status and would still refer to them by their maiden names.
It was obvious that no one, with the exception of Christmas Company, had continued to do PT during the approximate fifteen day break. The platoon sergeants were clearly conscious of this and drilled their troops extra hard that morning, some to the point where eating chow afterward would have sent them reeling immediately into the latrine.
At 0800, all four companies that made up Tenth Battalion were marched to Quigly Auditorium, directly across from the Alpha Company area, where they were to be addressed by the Battalion Commander. Command Sergeant Major Hernan Soledad was the first to appear on stage. He was a short but hefty man with a salt and pepper buzzcut. He stood stage right and spoke to the soldiers without the unnecessary aid of a microphone. "YOU WILL STAND WHEN COLONEL BISHAYE COMES ONTO THIS STAGE AND WHEN SHE LEAVES! YOU WILL YELL A 'GOOD MORNING, MA'AM' THAT WILL BE HEARD AROUND THIS POST! AM I UNDERSTOOD?"
"YES, SERGEANT MAJOR!" the mostly male audience responded.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY, LADIES?"
"YES, SERGEANT MAJOR!!"
"THAT'S BETTER." He looked over the crowd of maybe five hundred GIs, give or take a few drill sergeants. "BATTALION! ATTENTION!"
The entire auditorium was on its feet and at rigid attention when Anne Bishaye walked on stage and stood behind the podium. Dale couldn't see her with everyone standing but her heart traitorously fluttered when she heard the colonel's voice say, "Good morning, Tenth Battalion," she spoke into the microphone.
"GOOD MORNING, MA'AM!" the chorus of voices yelled, literally shaking the auditorium.
"Nice," she nodded and smiled. "At ease, take your seats," she commanded. In unison, her audience sat.
Dale observed Bishaye scanning the crowd and felt a mixture of sadness and pride. She turned to look at the reaction of her peers and she noticed a majority of the men were staring at Bishaye with startled admiration, obviously shocked at the colonel's movie star appearance. Dale suppressed a smile, knowing that they would soon find out that their battalion commander was as strict as she was gorgeous.
"I'm sure each one of you is finding your stay at sunny Fort McCullough a real pleasure," Anne began amid a lot of snickers and throat clearing. "I hope each of you had an enjoyable holiday. I know I did. Now, down to business. First, let me apologize if I repeat some of what you have already heard from your company commanders, however, some things are important enough to say again.
"I'd like to begin with the importance of OSUT. One Station Unit Training means you are going through Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training - LE School, in your case - in the same company, with the same drill instructors, with the same trainees. This is also the first time men and women will go through basic combat training together. It's all experimental and it's going to depend on all of you to prove to the Department of the Army whether or not it is possible to continue this kind of co-educational training, altering the entire program so that everyone, not just MP trainees, can go through BCT together with no separation for male and female except for billeting. That would mean the Women's Army Corps would be phased out, altogether, and we would just have one Army, which I personally think is long overdue." Her smile was so contagious that most of the trainees found themselves smiling, too.
"Let me point out that Tenth Battalion's cadre is the finest. Believe me, for everything new that we're all going to be experiencing, we need them. Converting you from civilians to disciplined, proud soldiers is not as easy as it sounds. Your drill sergeants are not tough just for the hell of it. They don't get on your case just because they feel like picking on you. They are tough to make you tough, to make you the best and most highly motivated soldiers you can be. I have no doubt you won't remember your drill sergeants with a great deal of affection but I guarantee you will remember then and you will respect them. If you went through basic training as many times as they have, maybe you'd even understand them but it isn't their job to make you like them.
"We're aware of how you are going to be feeling over the next couple of months. You're going to be more than tired. We realize that for some of you, your schedules have been completely reversed. You are getting up at 0445 instead of just getting in at that time." It wasn't a coincidence that she was looking directly at Dale when she said that and Dale wondered how she could always pick her out in a crowd so fast. "That's a considerable adjustment for some of you. Exhaustion is inevitable. But I would strongly advise you not to fall asleep during your training day.
"The PT - Physical Training - as you already know, is not like a high school gym class. It's hard, it's damned hard but you need it and don't expect it to ease off as training advances. If nothing else, it will only get harder. Also, you are going to march until your feet are ready to fall off. But keep marching. And you are going to run until you think you have no breath left. But keep running. When the PT tests come around, you'd better push yourselves to the max. It is all there inside of you, it is just a matter of attitude.
"I will also strongly suggest that nobody gets into a fight while they are here. That might cost you time you don't have and some money and you are not making that much to lose. Besides, if you have the extra energy to fight, it's saying to your drill sergeants that you are not getting enough PT, which your drill sergeants will then have to take out on your entire platoons and that's not going to make you very popular in the barracks.
"The chow will not conjure up memories of a home-cooked meal but the food won't kill you, either. The menus have been much improved over the past few years and, personally, I feel this battalion has one of the best mess halls on post. I eat here many times and I'm not dead yet - or at least that's what my husband tells me," Bishaye smiled, winking at the front row, causing a few sets of hands to be folded over crotches.
"I am sure you realize by now that you have selected one of the hardest times of the year to go through training - the dead of winter. Summer has its disadvantages, too, with snakes and poison ivy, heat prostration and sunstroke but you're faced with pneumonia and frostbite. You will survive. You're not the first to deal with this kind of weather and you will not be the last.
"Most of you are here by choice. And, this particular MOS is your choice, also. However, just because you've opted to serve in the Military Police Corps doesn't mean that's what you'll be spending your entire enlistment time doing. You first have to get through basic training and then LE School and continue to maintain a certain standard to remain an MP.
"Being a military police officer is a privilege. It is one of the Army's elite corps and you must constantly earn the right to stay there. You will continually be on display. People will be listening to everything you say and watching everything you do. You cannot break the law, military or civilian, and expect to be forgiven because of what you do. You cannot break the law and bust somebody for the same things you do when you are not on duty. And 'off-duty' is just a figure of speech to a member of the Military Police Corps, as you may not always be on the schedule but as an MP, you are always on duty. You will discover, especially after you have reached your first permanent duty station, that you must maintain the highest level of military standards at all times. You cannot be a hypocrite. You cannot preach what you do not practice. Am I getting my point across? You cannot be perfect but you'd better damned well try." Her tone was much more emphatic now.
"If you are prejudiced, you will have to get over it. It's hard to hold a prejudice against someone you are forced to eat, drink, sleep and train with. You are literally spending twenty-four hours a day with these people. You will either learn to love them a lot or hate them intensely. Just remember, the person you may be making racial slurs against is getting the same training you are and may have to save your life one day. It's always good to have a clear conscience if that day ever comes. Not that you won't make enemies, you will, but the enemies you make in the military will fade away when they are out of your sight but the friends you make are forever." Once more, she searched out Dale's face, zeroing in on it. "I can personally attest to that statement."
Dale's heart leapt in her chest again and she wondered why Anne was doing this to her. Was she purposely trying to torture her? Dale looked around, uncomfortably, hoping the people directly in front of her, beside her and behind her were wishing that affectionate expression on the colonel's face was for each one of them. She knew, unless anyone was privy to their situation, no one would have a clue that Anne was singling out Dale and, squirming slightly in her chair, Dale wished the colonel would quit it.
Bishaye looked over the crowd and continued. "In closing - no applause, please - I need to mention AWOL. It means Absent Without Official Leave. It's not kid stuff, it's a federal offense. If you have a serious problem, talk it out with your drill sergeant, your senior drill sergeant, your first sergeant, your training officer, your company commander, your chaplain...even come to me, if no one else will listen. Allow us the chance to help you resolve your issues before you reach a point where you act irrationally. An AWOL offense is something that will follow you around the rest of your life, it will never go away and you will go to jail. So, I am asking you to think over your options very carefully before you make the choice to desert. Unfortunately, as most of you already know, there was an incident in Alpha Company before Christmas exodus which made us all realize that sometimes your problems are much deeper than we think they are. Although, these were unusual circumstances, we are not blind to the fact that it could happen again.
"Most of you, especially in this group, are here because you want to be, you freely enlisted, no one forced you to raise your right hand and you need to take responsibility for that choice. We understand that nothing will feel like it is going right at first but it will all fall into place, believe me. The Army is an entirely different environment than civilian life, it takes some getting used to, some major adjustments for those of you who have never been around the military. You are not in prison or a concentration camp. There is a method to our madness and it is all for your personal improvement, so suck it up. We want you to get through these cycles as much as you want to get through them. The end result is just as important to us. With that said, good luck over the next three months. You're going to need it. I hope to see you all at your graduations."
Everyone was so mesmerized by Bishaye, they didn't see Command Sergeant Major Soledad enter the stage and stand off to the colonel's right. When his harsh voice boomed, "BATTALION! ATTENTION!" it visibly startled the first six rows. Recovering quickly, the members of Tenth Battalion were on their feet.
"Good morning, troops," Bishaye smiled.
"GOOD MORNING, MA'AM!" Tenth Battalion responded
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