Class B sat silently on their beds. Their packs were packed and after Michael’s desertion from Marcus no one felt the urge to say anything. Marcus avoided looking at Sarah and instead looked out the window. They all started slightly when a knock was heard upon their door before it opened.
A gaunt man stepped into the room his face framed by hair and a full beard. “I am Scout Sergeant Lion,” his voice was guttural and low. “I’d like Hopefuls Kirk and Bennett to proceed to the front of the barracks with the others. The rest of you are to wait till you're called.” He turned on his heel and crossed the hall.
Kirk and Bennett shouldered their packs and headed out.
“Good luck to you both!” Sarah called to them as Bennett closed the door.
The room lapsed into silence once more. Sarah kept her attention on the door, while Marcus continued to stare out the window. Michael, Reed, Aaron and London all began to fidget. At last there was another knock on the door before it was opened.
“I am Scout Sergeant Fox,” the man stated, his hair red and bushy. “I’d like Hopefuls Aaron and Marcus to join me at the front of the barracks. The rest of you wait. There’ll be two more Sergeants coming for you.”
“Good luck to you both!” Sarah called again.
Marcus snorted as he closed the door a little harder than necessary. Sarah sighed. “Stiff shirt more full of himself than a hay cart, huh?” She looked to Reed. “Why a hay cart?”
“Well,” Reed looked at the other two.
“A hay cart is generally full of hay, right,” London shrugged. Sarah nodded in understanding.
“You didn’t call him a stiff shirt the first time though, what was it you said,” Reed paused a moment.
“Stuck up prick,” Michael supplied. “What does that mean?”
“Same thing as stiff shirt I guess.” Sarah shrugged. They looked at her puzzled. “Well where I come from prick is a nickname for,” she paused hoping Jason might help but there was no response, “male genitalia.” She gestured to her crotch.
The looks of shock slowly turned to understanding until they were all laughing, Sarah included. It really was an apt description of Marcus. A loud knock on the door sobered them up.
“Glad to hear some of you are having fun,” a man stated as he opened the door, his large dark eyes sparkling with amusement. “I’m Scout Sergeant Deer and I’d like to have Smith and Reed join my men at the barracks front. Scout Sergeant Sparrow will be along shortly to collect you last two.”
Sarah and Reed wished the other two good luck and headed to the front of the Barracks. They were joined by four other Hopefuls. Two from Class A and two from Class C. Deer Troop was not the most fear inspiring name, Sarah thought as the lithe figure of Sergeant Deer moved to stand before them. Although, she reconciled, there were only so many predatory animals names out there to be used.
“We’re running at almost twice our normal size,” Sergeant Deer informed them. “We’re going to spend the next two days trekking to our assigned base camp location. Once we get there I’ll be splitting you into pairs; one Hopeful and one Scout. That is where the real Scout work begins.” Sergeant Deer did and about face. “Ready?”
“Ready,” his men responded and they were off.
As they speed up over the field, Sarah realized one reason why this was Deer Troop. They were fast. She jumped over a log. Agile and graceful. She leaped over a ditch. Once they entered the woods, she and the other Hopefuls struggled to keep up.
Sarah could only guess how long they traveled before finally stopping to make a small travel camp. All she could accurately state was that it was two breaks later and near sun set. As they ate their dinner Deer explained a little more about what was to come. Sarah listened intently.
“Now tomorrow, we’ll reach our base camp. We’ll set up the tent and poles. I will stay at the base camp to keep watch, the rest of you will go out in pairs; one Hopeful with one Scout.” He chewed a bite and swallowed before continuing.
“While you’re scouting your job is to: One,” Deer held up a finger, “avoid being seen. Two,” he held up the next finger,” find one of the other camps and, if possible, take its flag. And Three,” He held up one more finger, “if you are seen, the two Hopefuls must fight to first blood." He put his fingers down. "If you lose you must give your flag to the victor and return to base camp immediately.”
Sergeant Deer finished his meal and wiped his bowl clean. “Now it’s time to turn in.” He grinned at them. “Hopefuls you’re spared watch duty tonight, but don’t think you’ll get out of it forever.”
As Sarah climbed into her bed roll she thought about what Deer had told them. A smile slowly spread across her face. This trial was like a full combat version of capture the flag. She’d always been good at that game.