Dogs Of War

Who: Morgenstern, Byrd, Pierre
What: The three pick up a very special delivery.

Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent is a mass of closely packed houses on the eastern edge of the town, a little sleepy, and out of the way of the main activity. German artillery left a heavy toll here, as this place was in clear view of the guns from Vimy Ridge which can be seen in the distance to the north, though the taking of the ridge by the Allies in 1917 has eased the pain of the residents here. No house is undamaged, many have been razed to the ground in the indiscriminate shelling of earlier years.
People are still living in those homes though, making do as best they can. Refugees from the village of Vimy, just beyond the ridge and in German hands, with no better place to go, have also congregated here, taking over the few homes that were abandoned by their occupants and making them their new home.

Like many other orders, this order is passed down in the chain of command until it lands on the lowest possible line, which today happens to be Corporal Morgenstern. The order puzzles him a bit, but mostly because it is for once not an unpleasant thing at all. He goes on the lookout for a couple of familiar faces to join him on the mission.

Byrd's face, and the rest of him, are idling on the line. He's field-stripping his rifle at the moment, giving its parts a good cleaning with a rag and solvent so it's in proper shooting order. Morgenstern doesn't go unnoticed. The ANZAC shoots the legionnaire and a grin and quick nod. "Top of the evening, Corp."

Pierre is being lazy on top of a collapsed wall, enjoying an evening smoke, and doing his best to stay out of anything to make the rest of his time off the front a little more enjoyable than it has been so far.

Morgenstern perks up when seeing Byrd, since that's just the kind of familiar face he was hoping to see. Pierre's presence brightens his mood even further and he shoots the two a grin. "Evening Byrd, Travere," he calls out to encompass them both when he talks. "Just the two I wanted to find," he says briskly, waving the papers around to give a preface to what he's going to say next. "Need you two to come with me to the train station and pick up a special delivery." Way he says it makes it clear this isn't anything too unpleasant. He'd sound a lot more harsh if it was.

"Special delivery?" Byrd finishes the cleaning job on his rifle hastily, then reassembles it with practiced ease. He picks up on Morgenstern's mood, and looks more curious than grumpy about the prospective mission. "The Brass is sending us a shipment of chorus girls? That's the sort of speciality I could go for."

Pierre tosses away his cigarette, watching Morgenstern for a few moments like he's waiting for something more. But when that seems to be it he gets up and makes his way down to the ground. "What? What kind of delivery?"

Morgenstern looks back and forth between the two. He could tell them, but he decides on the spot not to, wanting it to be a surprise. He carefully tucks the papers away and grins broadly, his scarred face lighting up so much he looks rather pleasant for once. "No chorus girls. But for once it's something we'll like. Well, most of us anyway. Come on," he says and turns to head back towards town.

La Gare

Steam engines fill the air with their noise, there are shouts and barked orders in this hive of activity. The men of a half dozen nationalities traipse past, some of them with the drawn faces of those who have just been relieved from the front lines, others, new recruits, with expressions of mingled fear and eagerness.
Loading and unloading both go on here, as reserves are built up at Arras. The front line lies further to the east, on the Belgian border, and trains regularly shuttle men and materiel to the Ypres Salient on what is, for some, their final journey.

The train station never rests, with new soldiers coming in or wounded leaving, or soldiers on leave heading off to Paris or other areas. And supplies are constantly being unloaded from the incoming trains. Morgenstern looks again at his orders and points off to one of the train-wagons. "That should be the one."

Byrd shrugs as his hopes of a caboose full of chorus girls is dashed, but he lopes after Morgenstern readily enough anyhow. He strides over to the train-wagon indicated, giving it a look-over curiously.

"Let me guess" Pierre says with a grin, "A lot of ammo that needs to be carried to the front? Always seems like I am the one who gets to carry that up to the front." He rubs his nose in thought, "Can't we just get on a train and go to Paris instead?"

Morgenstern grins and shakes his head at Pierre. "Not this time. If we're lucky we won't have to carry a thing. And paris will still be there later, Travere." He follows Byrd up to the wagon and also looks around as if searching for something. A British sergeant spots the trio and makes his way over, and as Morgenstern spots him he takes out the orders to show. "Corporal Morgenstern, and this is Private Byrd and Legionnaire Travere. We're here to pick up the special delivery," he says, making quick introductions. The sergeant nods politely and holds a hand out to shake to all three, then gives the orders a look to make sure everything is in order and scribbles his name on them quickly. "Right then, they're in there," he says and points to the wagon in question. "Good luck with it, Corporal. They've been nice company, you treat them well."

Morgenstern grins at the Sergeant then turns to open the wagon, pushing the doors open. Sitting patiently inside are two dogs with their tongues lolling out. One is an English sheepdog and the other is a mongrel of all kinds of races. "Meet Skip and Tommy," Morgenstern says amusedly.

Byrd smirks at Pierre, nodding in ready agreement at that idea. "Paris is a thing I'm dedicated to seeing before I get out of this country. I've heard stories about the girls there that'd keep even you warm at night just thinking of them, Travere." He leans in to get a better look at this special delivery when it's unveiled. A grin comes to his face when he sees the dogs, and he lets out a chuckle. "Well, those're rather homely chorus girls, but they'll do in a pinch." He reaches out to give the mongrel a rough, friendly petting on the head.

(Skip? How cruel.) Pierre says in French before he walks up to the sheepdog, muttering something to the dog before he puts his face next to the dog's, looking out at Morgenstern and Byrd and switching back to English. "Looks just like my brother, we look kind of alike. Imagine me with a little more hair, can't you see that we're family?"

The mongrel, Tommy, stands up and waves his tail around happily as Byrd pets it. He sticks his head up against Byrd's and gives the ANZAC soldier a buff to the cheek in a kind of greeting. The sheepdog Skip is as friendly, but seems a bit puzzled about what Pierre is doing. So he licks the legionnaire right over the cheek.

Morgenstern guffaws both at Pierre's joke and the general behaviour of the dogs. "Friendly bastards. And yes, Pierre. I see a distinct similarity," he says merrily and he too leans in to scritch Tommy behind the ear. "Alright, unless you two have something awfully against it, you'll be in charge of these two new members of the Arras forces. I've got a list of commands they're trained to listen to. They'll be our eyes and ears in the trenches, but they're also trained messenger dogs."

"Messengers, eh?" Byrd pats the mongrel's back, chuckling as he plays with the dog. "Can you fetch me a Parisian girl, Tommy? Nothing too skinny." He also gets a laugh out of Pierre's words, before nodding to Morgenstern. "I think I could manage that, Corp. They seem like good boys. Reminds me our terrier we had on the boats back home. Better than a cat at keeping the rats down. Smart little son of a bitch."

Pierre mutters something more to Skip before he stretches out to his full length again, "A list? Like a written list?" he asks while grabbing the leash, "I wonder if he can …" he doesn't finish whatever he was about to say. "I wonder if it is warm with all that hair."

There's no doubt these dogs are welltrained, although the handing over was a bit abrupt, leaving Skip and Tommy a bit unsure of what they can do. But as the leash is taken, Skip hops out of the wagon and sits down next to Pierre, panting a bit as it is a warm day and he does have a lot of fur after all. But they don't seem to be suffering, either of them.

Tommy hesitates, but he too jumps down and walks in a circle around Byrd, sniffing at his boots before he takes a seat next to the tank-driver.

"Right. A written list," Morgenstern agrees. He takes it out and hands it over to Pierre to take care of. "They're apparently very well-trained. But still, we need to get used to each other I imagine." He snaps his fingers and remembers something, taking out another paper. "Almost forgot. They're going to need food rations, so here's your papers on that so there won't be any problems. Not that I imagine they'll be starving…" he says dryly, grinning lopsidedly at the dogs. "Every man will wanna spoil them."

Byrd takes Tommy's leash, scratching the dog once more between the ears as he handles it. "Are they just going to be doing messenger work, then?" he asks. "I wouldn't mind sicking this mate here on the rats in the bloody trenches."

Pierre puts away the papers into one of his pockets, looking down at the dog sitting next to him. "Sit" he commands it, and while the dog looks up at him wondering what is going on he gestures towards it, grinning at Byrd and Morgenstern. "See? This won't be a problem."

Morgenstern rubs at his jaw at Byrd's question. "Can't see why that'd be a problem. Just make sure they don't start thinking that's their only job. In a manner they're soldiers just like us," he notes matter of factly. He grins at Pierre and looks at Skip again, the dog wagging his tail carefully as he listens and watches the new and unfamiliar people around himself. "I imagine your main problem will be brushing mud out of Skip's coat…" he dryly tells Pierre.

"Tommy don't seem like he'll mind the mud much," Byrd says, giving the dog another fond pat on the back. "He's a right scrapper, he is." He offers the mutt a joking little salute. "Good to have you aboard, mate." He turns to Pierre. "So, what sort of commands can we give these pups?"

Pierre looks down on the dog, rubbing his chin, "Maybe I should shave it?" He sits down on his heels next to the dog, looking up at Byrd. "I don't know, eh, I haven't had time to look at the paper yet. I will take care of that later." He turns to look at his dog instead, testing with "Get me a beer?" but the dog doesn't move at all at that.

"Nice critters," Morgenstern agrees. But he is no longer petting them, even taking a step back as if to distance himself a bit from them and not get too attached. "Byrd, you better copy that paper from Travere before he loses it," he says dryly, giving the other legionnaire a small jab about his sometimes absentmindedness.

Byrd is patting and talking to Tommy like it was his boyhood pet, a big grin on his face. "Eh? Sure thing, Corp. Maybe I'll ask that sweet Aussie nurse to help with the copying. She's a better hand at writing than I am." He shrugs, a bit sheepishly, still absently scratching at the top of Tommy's head. "Things must be getting lean for the Crown if they're drafting mutts, eh, mate?" he chuckles at the dog.

Pierre digs through a few of his pockets before he finally finds the paper he just put away, he stands back up, offering it to Byrd. "Maybe you should hold on to this and just tell me about the commands. That way I can't lose it, right?"

Morgenstern straightens up at that and his expression turns neutral. "Good idea. It's best if you two learn them by heart anyway. Can't pull the paper out anytime you want to give them a command," he says briskly. "And that is in fact the case," he replies to Byrd. "From what I've heard, they started with pure-breeds but now they're not picky. And the mongrels have proved themselves invaluable."

Byrd nods, quite eagerly, at the prospect of learning the commands non-verbal. "Sounds like a finer plan to me, Corp. I was never much on books and such anyhow." He gets a wry chuckle out of the NCO's words about mongrels, grinning. "Ain't that just like? Once the pretty boys get themselves shot, they've got to bring in the real men to get the job done, eh, Tommy?" He pets the dog roughly on the back. The mongrel lets out an enthusiastic bark.

"I better show him where to sleep." Pierre says, nodding to Byrd and Morgenstern, "And see if he likes liquor." He starts to walk towards the exit, the dog following him after a light tug on the leash. Pierre switches to his own native language on the way out, chatting away and gesturing as the two make their exit.

Morgenstern watches the two leave, giving Pierre and Skip a wave, and he has to grin at the picture, before he turns back to Byrd. "Well, you all seem to get along fine here so I'll leave you to it, Byrdie. If there's any problems, let me know."

Byrd clucks his tongue at Tommy, leading him out after Pierre and the sheep dog. "I think we can manage each other, Corp. I got a feeling we're birds of a feather, the lad and me. C'mon, Tommy. I'll show you where you'll be sleeping at." With that, he leads the dog off, a boyish spring in his step.

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