Fancy Pants sat in the train with his fellow soldiers looking at the Prench country side with fascination. As he looked out the window he thought back to the circumstances that got him there.
Prance and the Griffin Empire have been uneasy with each other for decades from old border disputes. While there hasn't been a full scale war for a while there have been small skirmishes on the border the two countries share. Now while Equestria has been neutral to this both sides have been hounding them to pick a side. So after many years Equestria has come up with a compromise. The Equestrian Army would allow willing soldiers to go on loan to either country for a single year of service.
That is where Fancy Pants comes in. The son of a tailor in the slums of Manehattan he has always wanted to travel and see the world. When he learned the Army had this chance he jumped at it as soon as he turned 16 and after months of basic training he was now on his way to the Prance/Griffin Empire border town of La Frontière. He then looked at the others with him all fresh soldiers like him dressed in dark blue service blouses with gold buttons and rank insignias on the upper sleeve, a tan campaign hat with the two alicorn symbol of the Equestrian flag, sky blue trousers for warmth and hind leg protection, thigh high black boots, and chain mill underneath their blouses and over their dark blue shirts and white suspenders for protection against sword attacks that were still common on the battlefield. He turned his attention back to the countryside before he notice the train was pulling into a town.
The train pulled to a stop at a train station and a pony stepped into the cabin. He was dressed in a similar uniform to the others, but more ornate with a black hardee hat with a large feather in it and a grey cape on over his uniform. "Alright privates," He stared, "Welcome to La Frontière. I am Lieutenant Ironside and I will be your commanding officer during your stay here. Now while you are here you are to not only follow my instructions but the instructions of anypony in the Prench Army that is above your rank. You are on loan to Prance and thus must show them the respect you would to an officer of your own country. Are there any questions?" He asked to no response. "Great you will get further briefing once you are settled. Now line up orderly and we'll march to your quarters where you will be assigned a cot." As soon as he was done all the soldiers got out of their seats and formed two straight lines and followed Ironside.
They began to march out of the train with Fancy Pants close to the middle of the line he was in. As they exited the train they got a glimpse of the Prench town of La Frontière. It was a small border town with the buildings that look both Griffin and Prench showing its complicated history on the Prench/Griffin Empire border. Unlike the architecture though all the inhabitants were the tall skinny Prench ponies, with them all dressed in the simple clothing one'd expect to see in a small town like this.
As they marched on the fort that they would be stationed in came into view. The fort of La Frontière was a large old fortress built by the Griffin Empire about a century ago in an effort to expand into Prance. However Prance quickly responded and fought back taking La Frontière and it's fort in the process. Since then La Frontière has been considered a high priority fort against any possible invasion from the Griffin Empire. To keep the fort prepared a lot of measures were taken. There were many soldiers both young and old from both Prance and Equestria, enough to ensure the exact same amount was on guard 24/7 and all armed with swords, crossbows and magic beams from unicorn soldiers. Along with that they had enough artillery to level an entire city. With it being a good mixture of muzzle loading cannons that fire all sorts of cannon balls, and new breach loading cannons that fired a self-contained artillery piece. Prance was ready for whatever the Griffin Empire had for them.
They continued to follow Ironside until they reached one of the barrack buildings. "Alright privates" He began, "You have five minutes to go in there and pick a cot. It will be your home for the next (blank) so choose wisely. Now after you have chosen a cot you are to line up single file in the court yard were you will be assigned to your position. Dismissed!" He ordered and all the new soldiers entered the barracks.
Fancy Pants was rather quick at selecting a cot. He picked one towards the center of the room to decrease his chance of getting called out by the Lieutenant. After he was done he went out to the court yard to await further instructions.
"Attention!!" Ironside yelled as soon as everpony was out in the court yard, "Alright privates now that you're here we are now going to go over what you are doing here...." Ironside started.
As Ironside continued with his briefing Fancy Pants glanced around the fort. He looked at the Prench soldiers and how their uniforms looked almost the same but with bright red trousers and different kepis. As he looked around some more he spotted some nurses going into the infirmary and that is when he saw her, the most beautiful mare he has ever seen.
She was a Prench mare who looked about his age dressed in a nurse's dress with a white coat just like his and a soft pink mane. Fancy Pants watched her join the other nurses on their way into the infirmary. He knew right there that he had to meet her and find out her name.
"Private!!!" Ironside voice came in knocking Fancy Pants out of his thought. When he looked back he saw that Ironside was right in his face.
"S...sir?" Fancy Pants responded nervously.
"What is your name?" Ironside demanded.
Fancy Pants gulped, "Fancy Pants sir."
"Ok then private Pants, I was wondering if you would care to repeat what I just asked," Ironside continued to ask.
"Uh....uh.." Fancy Pants stammered.
"I thought so," Ironside said before turning his attention to the other soldiers. "Let this be an example. My word is law and must be listened too always. I say jump you jump. I say fight you fight and if I say die you die am I clear?"
"Yes Sir!!!" All the soldiers said in unison.
"Good," Ironside as he turned back to Fancy Pants. "Now sense you're new I'll let it slide just this once but I don't want any more slipe ups or you will be punished. Am I clear?"
"Yes sir!!" Fancy Pants responded nervously.
"Good," Ironside then got out of Fancy Pants' face and stepped back in front of the soldiers. "Now since not everypony was listening I'll repeat my question. Who here knows how to read and write?" As he asked all the privates had blank looks except for Fancy Pants who raised his hoof. "Ah," Ironside started as he noticed Fancy Pants again. "My new friend. Where did somepony like you learn how to read and write?" Ironside asked diverting attention back to Fancy Pants.
"My mother was a tailor. So she taught me how to read and write to help her order materials sir." Fancy Pants responded nervously.
"Well then. Do you think you can work a telegraph?" Ironside asked.
"I think I can." Fancy Pants said unsurely.
"I hope you're a fast learner because we need a new telegraph operator and you're the most qualified." Ironside said.
"I'll do my best sir." Fancy Pants said.
"Good when we're done here you'll report to Sergeant Relais." Ironside finished.
"Yes Sir" Fancy Pants saluted as Ironside turned to the others to give them their assignments.
Eventually Ironside was done assigning everypony to their post, and now Fancy Pants was heading to the telegraph office. It was relatively easy to spot with it being a small shack with telegraph wires running in and out of it. He entered the shack to see three other ponies, one prench and the other two equestrian, all gathered around various pieces to telegraph equipment. "Hello," he said interrupting the others.
"Hello there?" The Prench unicorn stallion dressed without his coat and chain mail started as he got up from his chair. "Are you here for something?"
"I uh, I've been placed here Sir," Fancy Pants stammered.
"Oh you must be the new recruit we requested," The Stallion started. "Well welcome to the telegraph office, I'm Sergeant Relais, over there is Swift glider," He said pointing a hoof to the Pegasus only wearing the trousers, suspenders and shirt of his uniform with the sleeves rolled up. "and over there is Cypher," He finished pointing to the earth pony wearing his uniform the same way as Swift Glider but his sleeves weren't rolled up and he still had his hat and boots on.
"Nice to meet you all," Fancy Pants said taking his hat off.
"Now that you know our names what's yours?" Relais asked lighting a cigar.
"Private Fancy Pants Sir." A saluting Fancy Pants responded.
"Hahaha, really can you guys believe this," Swift Glider said laughing.
"Come on Swift, He's new give the kid a break," Cypher said idly.
"Did I do something?" Fancy Pants asked nervously.
Relais sighed and shock his head as he approached Fancy Pants, "No you didn't, some ponies here forget what they were like when they first got here," he said as he put some ash from is cigar in the ashtray on the desk while glaring at Swift Glider. "Don't worry about it though you'll get it. Now lets get you started." he stated as he gestured Fancy Pants into the room.
Fancy Pants nodded and followed the Sargent, "What will you have me do Sargent?"
"Well first just Relais is fine, We're all pretty relaxed here being in this shack all day," Relias reassured.
"Yes Sar.. I mean Relais," Fancy Pants said.
Still sighing Relais decided to move on, "Close enough, Now you are on receiving," He pointed a hoof to the desk with the telegraph machines on it, "You and Cypher will receive and decode the telegrams," He gestured the machine printing out a strip of paper, "They are printed on here in morse code, Do you know how to read morse code?" He asked.
"No I don't," Fancy Pants stated.
"Ok I thought so, Don't worry we'll fix that," Relais reassured as he turned to Cypher, "Cypher is that decoding book around here some where?" He asked.
"I think it's somewhere around here," Cypher said as he started going through the drawers of the desk.
As Cypher went though the drawers Relais turned back to Fancy Pants, "Ok while he's doing that I'll explain the rest, you and Cypher will receive and decode the telegrams, then you'll pass them to me where I figure out where in the fort they go, and Swift Glider will deliver them to their destination, Is there any questions?" he asked.
Fancy Pants looked at the desk, "No I don't have any,"
"Alright if you have any problems just ask Cypher," Relais said as he went to his own desk, "Oh and before I forget you're going to want to take the chain mail off,"
"My chain mail?" Fancy Pants asked looking down at his uniform.
Relais sat back down at his desk, "Yeah, you're going to be sitting in this small and humid shack all day so theirs no point in wearing it and trust me no one will yell at you," He said knowing what Fancy Pants was going to ask.
"Ok," Fancy Pants said as he used his magic to take off his coat and chain mail. He breathed a sigh of relief from losing the weight before draping the coat back on over his shoulders.
"That's better now take a seat and Cypher will walk you though ok?" Relais said before returning to his paperwork.
"Thank you," Fancy Pants said as he turned to the desk to see Cypher found the decoding book. He then took a seat and Cypher began to explain morse code.