The next few weeks proved grueling for Moses. Dressed in uniform, army worked on his physical fitness. They loaded his pack with rocks and made him perform forced marches, then runs after. In the afternoons, just after lunch, they had him run in line to a converted hangar, filled with weights. There, he had to skip rope, vault over wooden horses, lift weights, and perform calisthenics. Mid afternoon, wearing the immaculate uniform of an officer, he had to sit in a tent with other pilots, listening to the briefing of the enemy’s latest movements.
He often dozed off as an overbearing mustachioed officer spoke, illustrating his words with a blackboard and chalk. Moses would awake to the savage striking of the officer’s riding crop across his desk.
“Do you think this is a game, Lieutenant Moses?” demanded the officer.
“No, sir,” Moses blurted.
The other pilots laughed as he straightened in his seat and attempted to force his eyes open for the rest of the ordeal. If not the briefing tent, he’d have to endure crude flight training. It seemed the men of this time lacked the sophistication of simulators. In fact they lacked a great deal in most technological advances that even human households in the future had come to enjoy. At least in the AFC (Australian Flying Corp) he knew the comforts of soft, warm beds and somewhat fresh food. Without the benefit of fridges he often found any meat on his plate smelling slightly off. The other pilots never seemed to mind.
It looks like they’re used to it he told himself whilst watching them heartily tuck into their meals in the pilots’ mess.
They retired at the end of the day to their private bar in what once served as a sizeable gardening shed. With much insistence, they managed to get him to drink strong alcoholic drinks. After vomiting loudly over the rails of the bar’s porch the next morning, they refrained from insisting again. Moses was surprised that they’d make him, a seventeen year old, imbibe the foul liquid. He was even more surprised to learn that soldiers as young as fifteen fought the war in the trenches.
Once a week, a Sopwith Pup flew over the German lines to scout out their defenses. On the occasions a scout plane returned, the AFC would launch an attack of fighters. Each time, Moses asked the scouting pilot if he’d seen Sudenjah’s plane. The answer remained the same; “no.”
In the meantime, he’d join the air assault in an SE5a. Compared to his Magpie, it behaved very sluggishly, but he at least managed to coax the strange biplane into performing any maneuver he knew. When facing enemy swarms, he’d grit his teeth and curse under his breath as the plane would either roll or climb at the last moment. At least the Fokker DVIIs flew just as sluggishly. He realised that he had come to rely on advanced speed, due to modern technology. If he wanted to down these planes, he’d have to out maneuver them.