Jingo Page 20


'Sergeant!'

'You can put it where the sun does not shine, sir!' said Colon desperately. Once again, Vimes saw Rust's milky–blue stare. Rust never looked surprised. And since he knew that a mere sergeant would never dare offer cheeky defiance, he erased Sergeant Colon from the immediate universe. The gaze turned briefly to Detritus. And he doesn't know how to speak to a troll, Vimes thought. And he was once again impressed, in the same dark way, by the manner in which Rust dealt with the problem. He dealt with it by making it not be there. 'Who is the senior corporal in the Watch, Sir Samuel?'

'That would be Corporal Nobbs.' The committee went into a huddle. There was a rush of whispering, in which the words'–an absolute little tit –' could be heard several times. Finally Rust looked up again. 'And the next in seniority?'

'Let me see... that would be Corporal Stronginthearm,' said Vimes. He felt oddly light–headed. 'Perhaps he is a man who can take orders.'

'He's a dwarf, you idiot!' Not a muscle moved on Rust's face. There was a clink as Vimes's badge was set neatly on the table. 'I don't have to take this,' Vimes said calmly. 'Oh, so you'd rather be a civilian, would you?'

'A watchman is a civilian, you inbred streak of piss!' Rust's brain erased the sounds that his ears could not possibly have heard. 'And the keys to the armoury, Sir Samuel,' he said. They jangled as they landed on the table. 'And do the rest of you have any empty gestures to make?' said Lord Rust. Sergeant Colon took his grimy badge out of his pocket and was a little disappointed that it didn't make a defiant tinkle when he threw it on the table but instead bounced and smashed the water jug. 'I got my badge carved on my arm,' Detritus rumbled. 'Someone c'n try an' take it off if dey likes.' Carrot laid his badge down very carefully. Rust raised his eyebrows. 'You too, captain?'

'Yes, sir.'

'I would have thought that you at least–' He stopped and looked up in annoyance as the doors opened. A couple of the palace guards ran in, with a group of Klatchians behind them. The council got to their feet in a hurry.

Vimes recognized the Klatchian in the centre of the group. He'd seen him around at official functions and, if it hadn't been for the fact that the man was a Klatchian, would have marked him down as a shifty piece of work. 'Who's he?' he whispered to Carrot. 'Prince Kalif. He's the deputy ambassador.'

'Another prince?' The man came to a halt in front of the table, glanced at Vimes with no show of recognition and bowed to Lord Rust. 'Prince Kalif,' said Lord Rust. 'Your arrival is unannounced but nevertheless–'

'I have grave news, my lord.' Even in his stunned state, a part of Vimes registered that the voice was different. Khufurah had learned his second language on the street, but this one had had tutors. 'At a time like this, what news isn't?' said Rust. 'There have been developments on the new land. Regrettable incidents. And indeed in Ankh–Morpork, too.' He glanced at Vimes again. 'Although here, I must say, reports are confused. Lord Rust, I have to tell you we are, technically, at war.'

'Technically at war?' said Vimes. 'I am afraid events are carrying us forward,' said Kalif. 'The situation is delicate.' They know they're going to fight, Vimes thought. This is just like the start of a dance, where you hang around looking at your partner... 'I must tell you that you are being given twelve hours to remove all your citizens from Leshp,' said Kalif. 'If that is done, matters will be happily resolved. For the present.'

'Our response is that you have twelve hours to quit Leshp,' said Rust. 'If that is not done, then we will take... steps...' Kalif bowed slightly. 'We understand one another. A formal document will be with you shortly and, no doubt, we will be receiving one from you.'

'Indeed.'

'Here, hang on, you can't just–' Vimes began. 'Sir Samuel, you are no longer Commander of the Watch and you have no place at these proceedings,' said Rust sharply. He turned back to the Prince. 'It is unfortunate that things have come to this,' he said stiffly. 'Indeed. But there comes a time when words are no longer sufficient.'

'I must agree with you. And then it is time to test one's strength.' Vimes stared in fascinated horror from one face to the other. 'We will, of course, allow you time to quit your embassy. Such of it as remains.'

'So kind. And of course we will extend to you the same courtesy.' Kalif bowed slightly. So did Rust.

'After all, just because our countries are at war is no reason why we should not respect one another as friends,' said Lord Rust. 'What? Yes, it bloody well is!' said Vimes. 'I can't believe this! You can't just stand there and... good grief, whatever happened to diplomacy?'

'War, Vimes, is a continuation of diplomacy by other means,' said Lord Rust. 'As you would know, if you were really a gentleman.'

'And you Klatchians are as bad,' Vimes went on. 'It's that green mouldy mutton Jenkins sells. You've all got Foaming Sheep Disease. You can't just stand there and–'

'Sir Samuel, you are, as you are at pains to point out, a civilian,' said Rust. 'As such, you have no place here!' Vimes didn't bother with a salute but just turned away and walked out of the room. The rest of the squad followed him in silence back to Pseudopolis Yard. 'I told him he could put it where the sun didn't shine,' said Sergeant Colon, as they crossed the Brass Bridge. 'That's right,' said Vimes woodenly. 'Well done.'

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'Right to his face. “Where the sun don't shine.” Just like that,' said Colon. It was a little difficult to tell from his tone whether this was a matter of pride or dread. 'I'm afraid Lord Rust is technically correct, sir.' said Carrot. 'Really.'

'Yes, Mr Vimes. The safety of the city is of paramount importance, so in times of war the civil power is subject to military authority.'

'Hah.'

'I told him,' said Fred Colon. 'Right where the sun does not shine, I said.'

'The deputy ambassador didn't mention Prince Khufurah,' said Carrot. 'That was odd.'

'I'm going home,' said Vimes. 'We're nearly there, sir.' said Carrot. 'I mean home home. I need some sleep.'

'Yes, sir. What shall I tell the lads, sir?'

'Tell them anything you like.'

'I looked him right in the eye and I told him, I said, you can put it right where the–' mused Sergeant Colon. 'You want me an' some of der boys go and sort out dat Rust later on?' said Detritus. 'It no problem. He bound to be guilty o' somethin'.'

'No!' Vimes's head felt so fight now that he couldn't touch the ground with a rope. He left them outside the Yard and let his head drag him on and up the hill and round the corner and into the house and past his astonished wife and up the stairs and into the bedroom, where he fell full length on the bed and was asleep before he hit it.

At nine next morning the first recruits for Lord Venturi's Heavy Infantry paraded down Broadway. The watchmen went out to watch. That was all that was left for them to do. 'Isn't that Mr Vimes's butler?' said Angua, pointing to the stiff figure of Willikins in the front rank. 'Yeah, and that's his kitchen boy banging the drum in front,' said Nobby. 'You were a... military man, weren't you, Fred?' said Carrot, as the parade passed by. 'Yes, sir. Duke of Eorle's First Heavy Infantry, sir, The Pheasant Pluckers.'

'Pardon?' said Angua. 'Nickname for the regiment, miss. Oh, from ages ago. They were bivvywhacking on some estate and came across a lot of pheasant pens and, well, you know, having to live off the land and everything... anyway, that's why we always wore a pheasant feather on our helmets. Traditional, see?' Already old Fred's face was creasing up in the soft expression of someone who has been mugged in Memory Lane. 'We even had a marching song,' he said. 'Mind you, it was quite hard to sing right. Er... sorry, miss?'

'Oh, it's all right, sergeant,' said Angua. 'I often start to laugh like that for no reason at all.' Fred Colon once again stared dreamily at nothing. 'And o'course before that I was in the Duke of Quirm's Middleweight Infantry. Saw a lot of action with them.'

'I'm sure you did,' said Carrot, while Angua entertained cynical thoughts about the actual distance of Fred's vantage point. 'Your distinguished military career has obviously given you many pleasant memories.'

'The ladies liked the uniform,' said Fred Colon, with the unspoken rider that sometimes a growing lad needed all the help he could get. 'An' it... weelll...'

'Yes, sarge?' Colon looked awkward, as if the bunched underwear of the past was tangling itself in the crotch of recollection. 'It was... more easier, sir. Than being a copper, I mean. I mean, you're a soldier, right, and the other buggers is the enemy. You march into some big field somewhere and all form up into them oblongs, and then a bloke with the feathery helmet gives the order, and you all forms up into big arrows–'

'Good gods, do people really do that? I thought it was just how they drew the battle plans!'

'Well, the old duke, sir, he did it by the book... anyway, it's just a case of watching your back and walloping any bloke in the wrong uniform. But...' Fred Colon's face screwed up in agonized thought, I well, when you're a copper, well, you dunno the good guys from the bad guys without a map, miss, and that's a fact.'

'But... there's military law, isn't there?'

'Well, yes... but when it's pissing with rain and you're up to your tonk– your waist in dead horses and someone gives you an order, that ain't the time to look up the book of rules, miss. Anyway, most of it's about when you're allowed to get shot, sir.'

'Oh, Im sure there's more to it than that, sergeant.'

'Oh, prob'ly, sir,' Colon conceded diplomatically. 'I'm sure there's lots of stuff about not killing enemy soldiers who've surrendered, for instance.'

'Oh, yerss, there's that, captain. Doesn't say you can't duff 'em up a bit, of course. Give 'em a little something to remember you by.'

'Not torture?' said Angua. 'Oh, no, miss. But...' Memory Lane for Colon had turned into a bad road through a dark valley '... well, when your best mate's got an arrow in his eye an' there's blokes and horses screamin' all round you and you're scared shi–– you're really scared, an' you come across one of the enemy... well, for some reason or other you've got this kinda urge to give him a bit of a... nudge, sort of thing. Just... you know... like, maybe in twenty years' time his leg'll twinge a bit on frosty days and he'll remember what he done, that's all. He rummaged in a pocket and produced a very small book, which he held up for inspection. 'This belonged to my great–grandad,' he said. 'He was in the scrap we had against Pseudopolis and my great–gran gave him this book of prayers for soldiers, ,cos you need all the prayers you can get, believe you me, and he stuck it in the top pocket of his jerkin, 'cos he couldn't afford armour, and next day in battle whoosh, this arrow came out of nowhere, wham, straight into this book and it went all the way through to the last page before stopping, look. You can see the hole.'

'Pretty miraculous,' Carrot agreed. 'Yeah, it was, I s'pose,' said the sergeant. He looked ruefully at the battered volume. 'Shame about the other seventeen arrows, really.' The drumming died away. The remnant of the Watch tried to avoid one another's gaze. Then an imperious voice said, 'Why aren't you in uniform, young man?' Nobby turned. He was being addressed by an elderly lady with a certain turkey–like cast of feature and a capital punishment expression. 'Me? Got one, missus,' said Nobby, pointing to his battered helmet. 'A proper uniform,' snapped the woman, handing him a white feather. 'What will you be doing when the Klatchians are ravishing us in our beds?' She glared at the rest of the guards and swept on. Angua saw several others like her passing along the crowds of spectators. Here and there was a flash of white. 'I'll be thinking: those Klatchians are jolly brave,' said Carrot. 'I'm afraid, Nobby, that the white feather is to shame you into joining up.'

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