I'd like to thank Mulligan and Steve T for their assistance in turning this into a better story than my initial effort, any errors remaining are of course mine.
A special thank you to Benjin from the Swarm Authors list for improving the German used in this story.
"Sarge, what's the plan?"
Ollie Benteen looked around the small group of soldiers with him and grinned, "Get fed, get pissed and if you can manage it after that get laid," he announced.
"That's the sort of plan I like," replied the guy next to him with distinctive curly red hair.
"Red," said Ollie, "The simplest plans are always the best and this is as simple as it gets."
He cast his glance around the rest of the group and smiled. The other seven with him were single like him and part of the same unit of the British Army.
They had the dubious privilege of being members of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, the Army's mechanics and technicians and were currently serving together in Germany where they were attached to the Seventh armoured brigade.
The 'Desert Rats' as the brigade was known was based in the small German village of Fallingbostel, which was conveniently situated so that its members could reach Hamburg with its notorious red light district, the Reeperbahn, whenever they had the time.
The bunch of them was taking the opportunity to introduce the newest member of their clique, one Corporal David White, to the joys of Germany and to have a little fun at the same time.
"Pay attention," said Ollie as the late afternoon train they were on approached Hamburg's central station. "We're going to be arriving at the Hauptbahnhof in a few minutes and I don't want any of you wandering off on your own without being sure you can make it back."
Beside him Red looked to the ceiling but didn't say anything. He'd known Ollie for nearly three years and he'd been on several of these excursions before, the speech Ollie was going to give had been given on every one of them. True, Ollie hadn't lost anybody on any of those previous trips but like aircraft safety briefings it became old very quickly.
Ollie dug into one of his pockets and pulled out a bundle of business cards, he handed them around. "Take one of these and keep it safe," he instructed. "The first sentence on the front asks a taxi driver to bring you back to this station, the second is to be used here to get you on the right train for home." He looked around and shook his head sadly; "It would be better if you took the time to learn the language but that should be enough to get you heading in the right direction if we get separated."
"On the back," he continued, "are the phone numbers for the guard room and the RMP duty station back in Fallingbostel. The last number is for the English speaking desk in the Davidwache, that's the polizei station on the Reeperbahn." He looked around making sure he had their attention, "It would be better if you didn't have to use those numbers but don't hesitate if you believe you need to. There shouldn't be any trouble if you do, I'll just have to fill in a bit of paperwork after you get home."
His statement was greeted by a series of nodding heads around the table they occupied in the middle of the carriage.
"Right, keep those cards safe," Ollie ordered and the group slid the cards into pockets or wallets. Several of them had received similar cards on previous visits and had been forced to make use of them on occasions; none of them thought it was a waste of time even if the briefing was.
"David, this is your first time here so stick with me," Ollie grinned, "but not too close."
The group laughed out loud as David blushed, not sure if Ollie was serious or not. He was the 'Nig'; the Newbie in Germany and this trip had been arranged ostensibly to introduce him to the joys of Germany. He was pretty sure the group wanted to get to know him and see how he reacted to the sights to come. He'd heard enough about the Reeperbahn and its loose women to whet his appetite but at the same time fill him with a certain amount of embarrassment due to his sheltered upbringing.
Joining the Army instead of going to university had been a step that his parents had heartily disapproved of. The training had turned out to be practical but boring and he wasn't so sure that his decision had been such a good one. Still, another two years was all he had to serve before he had a chance to leave and the experience could prove useful for later in life, especially if the stories concerning this alien invasion proved to be true.
'Red' Haskel, the only recovery mechanic in the group broke into David's thoughts, "I take it we'll be taking the U-bahn from the station?" he asked.
Ollie nodded, "I was going to suggest getting something to eat at the Hauptbahnhof before we ride the underground to the Reeperbahn. We wouldn't want to get there too early and hitting the bars on an empty stomach isn't a good idea."
"A proper sit down meal?" asked Andy Farrell, his nose curling in distaste.
"No, 'Rad, '" replied Ollie to the radar technician, "I was thinking of hitting one of the pizza places on the concourse and stuffing our faces with carbs."
Rad Farrell nodded in understanding and acquiesced, "OK."
"A quick heads up on where we're going," said Ollie as the train slowed even further. "The Reeperbahn is about a klick long, at the top it's the posh end and standards drop the further down you go. If a girl asks you to buy a drink, don't! That's not being nasty but if you agree you'll find you're presented with a bill for a thousand Euros or more for her 'champagne' and take it from me you won't get out of paying for it."
A couple of the guys looked sheepish having been caught in that ploy themselves on earlier visits.
"If you want a jump head for the Eros centre which is about half way down the strip." Ollie looked around and grinned, "Don't worry about catching anything, the girls are checked out every couple of weeks and they're more worried about disease than you are. If they catch anything from you they're off work until it's cleared up. All that happens to you is you get a jab up the arse and have to drink orange juice for a month or so."
The train clattered to a halt and Ollie got to his feet after the civilians had exited their carriage, "Now let's get out there and have some fun," he announced before leading the way.
Paul Whilley slumped down in a seat and looked around, "You know," he said, "the one thing I miss about England is the girls' legs."
Dave White looked around the concourse and frowned, 'what was Paul going on about?'
"Yeah," agreed Adam Potter, Paul's fellow vehicle mechanic, "You'd have thought that skirts had been banned or something."
"Too true," piped up Pete Lamar, an electronics technician. "The only women you see in skirts around here are fifty something Poles."
"Or their mothers," added Ollie as he lowered his body into the chair at the head of the table and indicated an ancient woman hobbling past in comfortable shoes and a long heavy skirt.
A round of laughter that subsided quickly when the trouser clad blond waitress appeared at Ollie's shoulder greeted his words.
"Bitte?" She asked looking around expectantly.
"Acht Bier, bitte," replied Ollie before taking the handful of menus the girl held out to him.
"Kommt sofort," she replied before disappearing back inside.
Ollie distributed the menus around the table, "Fill up lads, it'll absorb the beer and that'll help you last longer tonight."
"What are you having?" asked Red after looking at the menu for a couple of minutes.
"Pizza," replied Ollie, "Pizza Fungi."
"Pizza Fungi?" asked 'Eve' Potter, his nose curling in distaste.
"Fungi is mushroom," explained Ollie, "So it's a mushroom pizza."
He glanced around the table and took in the look of confusion on several of the faces as they studied the menus. "I'll tell you what," he said, "Let's have a selection of pizzas and garlic bread and we can all help ourselves."
"No anchovies," declared Chris O'Neill.
"Chris, if they come with anchovies they come with anchovies, just pick a bit without them."
The young armourer rolled his eyes, "I can't stand the things."
"We're going to have half a dozen pizzas, I doubt if there's going to be more than one with fish on it," said Ollie.
"Okay, it's not a problem," replied Chris, subsiding back into his seat.
"Has anyone else got a problem with pizza?" asked Ollie.
Shaking heads and muttered, "No's," were the only response he received.
The waitress reappeared carrying a tray containing eight frosty glasses of amber liquid and the boys around the table turned their attention to her.
"You are ready to order?" she asked in slightly stilted English.
Ollie showed her the open menu and pointed, "Ein, Zwei, Zwei, Ein und Zwei."
"Eine Margarita, Zwei Fungi, Zwei Napoli, Eine Salami und Zwei Knoblauchbrote" she repeated and Ollie nodded in agreement.
She pattered off again with several sets of eyes tracking her pert posterior before the boys passed the beers around.
Paul turned his attention back to the table, "Have you heard anything more about that speech, Sarge?"
The speech in question was the one the American president had made to the world last week concerning the threat to the planet posed by the approaching Swarm.
Ollie shook his head; "Nothing official has come through, though the speech has helped to make sense of a few rumours that have been floating around the mess."
"Rumours?" prodded Paul.
.... There is more of this story ...