Monday, 29th May 2023 - 16:22:49 pm

"He's coming around," Captain Jacobson said.

Jacobson and Kincaid were in Sergeant Walker's private room in the barrack. The sergeant was stretched out on his cot, a wet towel on his forehead. A blanket was covering the pillow under his head so that the shoe black that still darkened his face wouldn't get on it. Kincaid had taken the black off of his face. Jacobson was bent over the sergeant. Kincaid was leaning casually against a wall.

"He's coming around," Jacobson said again.

Walker groaned and opened his eyes. They gradually focused on the captain's face. "Oh shit," Walker said and closed his eyes again. He reached up a hand to feel the side of his head. "Oh shit," he said.

"Marvelous job, sergeant," Jacobson said. "You put up a great fight. The colonel was delighted."

Walker opened his eyes again and blinked. "What?"

"That was about the most even match we could have had," the captain said. "You had him twice but he managed to get away. If you could have kept him in close, you would have won easily." Jacobson smiled. "Next time, keep him in close. He's no match for you there."

Kincaid looked on without expression.

"He cheated," Walker said.

"What's that?"

"He cheated."

"Nonsense. How could he have cheated? There were no rules."

"You said no weapons. He hit me with a two by four. That's a weapon."

"A what?" Jacobson suddenly laughed. "Oh, I see. You think…" He shook his head. "No, sergeant, that was no two by four. He hit you with his fist. It may have felt like a two by four but it was his fist."

Walker knew a two by four when he was hit by one. "It was a goddamned two by four." After a second he added, "Sir."

"Sergeant, believe me, if there had been a two by four out there, or any other kind of weapon, we would have seen it." He turned around to Kincaid. "You didn't have a weapon, did you Kincaid?"

"No sir," Kincaid said quietly.

"You didn't see a two by four, did you sergeant?"

Walker was confused. He didn't know if he had seen one or not. He might have, but the first blow had knocked him so groggy it was hard to remember. It must have been a two by four that hit him, otherwise why would he be so sure? There was no use arguing. He knew what he knew. So what if he hadn't seen it? He didn't answer the captain.

"We've got some good news," Jacobson said to Walker. "Kincaid is going to stay on here as a drill instructor after basic training. He'll make a good addition, don't you think?"

The sergeant and Kincaid locked eyes. Their expressions were hard to read.

"And also," Jacobson went on, "this night fighting was a big success. The colonel loved it. It's going to be a regular part of our training program. Kincaid has come up with some great ideas on ways to improve it to make it more realistic."

The trace of a smile flitted across Kincaid's lips. The captain had agreed to the use of fake knives that left stains and instant cameras with flashes attached to rifles. The realism would increase and there would be less chance that someone would get hurt. There was no need in anyone getting hurt.

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