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Back on the reservation at last, and Corporal Afa wanted a chat.
“Founder, a word if you is having a moment?”
‘Yep. Of course.’
“We is going to be very short of space in the house for a few days. It is being helpful if recruit Abel could share your room, at least until things is settling down.”
‘No problem, Corporal. I’ve never had a room of my own till a few nights ago. I’m used to sharing.’
Nellie, Jane, and Abel were waiting for him in the lounge.
“Yoo, boss boy, you got any plans? I got training soonish. But we better get Abel sorted before then. He got no clothes, no spare uniforms, no toothbrush even. And you gotta find us a ping pong table for after dinner. This fool reckons he can play. I gonna kill him.”
‘Everyone here is going to be pretty busy this arvo. We’ll have to look after ourselves. How about we find a terminal and get Abel some gear ordered? There’s one in my room.’
Down the hall, up the stairs, and into Sandy’s room.
“Hey, you gotta big one Sandy. It’s as big as our dorm.”
‘It’s not as big as our dorm. Jane, can you work the computer? Better teach Abel too.’
“Any idea how we log-on here? There’s no fingerprint port.”
‘Suppose we just use our school log in?’
Jane tried this. Alarms went off, in the house. “Intruder Alert. Commander’s sleeping quarters. Intruder Alert.”
A stern face appeared on the screen. “Identify yourself. You are in a restricted area. Stay where you are and await the arrival of security forces.”
The bedroom door crashed open. It was Gunny, followed by Corporal Afa.
“Lieutenant, what have you done to alarm General Dean’s internal security people?”
‘We were trying to log-on to order Abel some gear and some clothes.’
“It’s being OK, Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant. I is handling this.”
“Very good, Corporal. Carry on.” At least Gunny was gone.
Corporal Afa approached the monitor.
“Alarms off. Identify yourself security officer.”
That’s weird, thought Sandy. His English is suddenly allgood.
“Security officer Delta2 Peter Symons, Citizen Corporal.”
“Very good. I see you can read the information on your screen. Can you tell me who attempted to log-on to the system.”
“Ahh, it was Citizen Jane, Corporal. But she used a school login and password.”
“It was indeed Citizen Jane, security officer, and she can log in however she likes. Do you accept that?”
“Yes, Citizen Corporal.”
“And has your system identified the people in the room with her when she logged on?”
“Citizen Nelson, a visitor, and…..a founder. I’m sorry Sir, I acted too quickly.”
“There’s no harm in that security officer. The visitor, he is Citizen Candidate Abel, a permanent resident yet to be chipped. ….Recruit Abel would you take off your uniform please? Leave your boxers on. But stand at least one meter from any wall or other person….Mr Symons would you record the biometric data for the citizen candidate please?”
“Certainly Citizen Corporal…Citizen Candidate, you will see a blinking light in the ceiling. Could you hold your right hand up to that please, fingers spread….The camera needs a good view of your fingertips. Thank you, now your left hand… Thank you. Arms by your side, would you look at the light please…Open your eyes wider if you could. Thank you. Scan is complete Citizen Corporal.”
“Could you transfer all, on behalf of Founder Sandy, ordering and command privileges from Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant Shane to Citizen Candidate Abel please?”
“I’m sorry Citizen Corporal, that requires authorization from either the Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant or from Founder Sandy.”
“Do you recognize the presence of Founder Sandy?”
“Founder Sandy is in the room with you Corporal.”
“Founder, would you mind?”
‘Yeah, whatever Corporal Afa asked for, do that please.’
“Certainly, Founder. How else can I be of service today?”
“The founder would like to order some personal effects for the citizen candidate and perhaps for others. He is not familiar with the system. Could you assist the citizen candidate?”
“Of course. Citizen Candidate, what personal effects are you looking for?”
“All of them. This is a borrowed set of boxers.”
Corporal Afa motioned to Sandy, and they left the room.
“My apologies, Founder. I is not realizing you would think of doing these things for yourself. To be using any monitor on the reservation, just say ‘HAL’. It is cutting out all the crap, and HAL is seeing you right. We is not normally dealing with the bureaucrats. If it is ever happening again, just be asking the system to confirm your identity. Be ignoring the human, or Choo. Then tell it what you is wanting. You is being a founder. You can be having everything.”
“The system is giving you whatever you ask for, if we is having it on the reservation. You is being a founder. All other founders, including HAL, is being notified of every request you make, but none of them, except for HAL and maybe Citizen Administrator Luke is keeping up with all the data they is receiving.”
‘Thanks, CC. I better get back in there before Nellie clicks to this and tries to get Abel to order him some big guns and bombs.’
Corporal Afa gave Sandy a strange look. He didn’t know Nellie.
Back in his room, it seemed that Abel had finished ordering.
“The goods will be delivered this afternoon, Citizen Candidate.”
“Hey, Sandy, you wanna swap beds?”
“Well, if you aint gonna sleep with Abel you need two beds. There’s two beds in our room, but we only using one.”
“And we could use a nice big bed like you got. She kicks real bad. And she steals the blankets. Not really sure it’s worth it.”
Nellie got a slap around the head for that. The penny dropped.
‘Yeah, sure. But change the sheets you grub, or make sure Abel gets that bed.’
“Change the sheets.”
Moving the beds was fun. Then they went looking for the laundry to get clean sheets. They had an eye out for a few chairs that needed liberating, and a coffee table for Sandy’s room so they could meet in there.
They didn’t get past the dining room. There were nice smells coming from the kitchen and Nellie decided he needed a snack before training.
Gunny was in the dining room, at a table with sergeants Max and Harley. Sandy went over. The two sergeants stood. That was embarrassing.
‘Sit down, please. Gunny, there’s a lot of work to do. Anything I can do to help?’
“Citizen Lieutenant, you are an officer. We try to keep officers as far away as we can from work. Involving them doubles the work, and triples the time it takes to complete it.”
The sergeants nodded their agreement, vigorously.
“Anyway, I see that you are looking after yourself, and sorting the citizen candidate out. That is, actually, really very useful. Carry on.”
Somehow conversations with Gunny just didn’t work out the way Sandy thought they should. Oh well.
Back at their table Abel had had an idea. “Why don’t we just ask the computer where the laundry is?”
‘HAL? Don’t you think he has more important things to do? Like save the reservation from imminent invasion? I’m not asking HAL the way to the laundry.’
They found a terminal. Abel spoke to it. The laundry was in the basement.
Nellie decided it was time for him to get ready for training. Sandy thought he would go the gym before dinner. Abel and Jane had another conversation with the computer, and decided they would go and pick up some ping pong gear and chairs and stuff from a warehouse. A van and driver would meet them outside in ten.
Sandy realized he had made a mistake sending Jane and Abel out together. It was fine when the clothes and stuff Abel had ordered from his room were delivered. Well, mostly fine. Sandy had been having a quick snooze after his workout and before dinner when there was a knock on his door.
Three troopers were there, each with their arms full of stuff.
That wasn’t too bad. But Abel and Jane had left in a van. They came back in a truck. And Sandy didn’t know the half of what they’d brought back. He got told to take the chairs and table up to his room. By the time he’d done that, there were three ping pong tables being set up in the lounge.
Jane had had an idea. Sandy didn’t like it when Jane had an idea. They involved lots of work, by him and Nellie most of the time. Most of the time too, her ideas weren’t that legal. Mind you, she’d had lots of ideas worse than this one. A 1RR ping pong championship. Three troops. Three tables. Then the champions of each troop to play off for the title.
It seemed everyone was keen on the idea.
There was nothing the matter with dinner. Three meats to choose from, potatoes, and vegetables. Sandy didn’t see Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant Shane, which was good. He didn’t know what Gunny would think about a ping pong tournament.
The corporals were at dinner. Corporal Stan from Charlie troop was keen to play. The other two said they could get by without him.
There was a bit of an argument about the rules in the Bravo troop qualifiers. Marty, their soldier Gooch, couldn’t hold the bat by the handle. It was too small. So he held it in the palm of his hand. Couldn’t complain about that, but he wanted to use two bats. One in each hand.
No-one had a rule book. Sandy had to decide. He said everyone could have two bats if they wanted. Jane said they weren’t bats they were paddles. Abel reckoned they were rackets, with a wooden blade and two rubber sheets, one for each side. No-one else cared. Two bats.
Then there was another argument. Marty hit the ball so hard it sometimes smashed. Did that mean he lost the point if the ball didn’t hit the other side of the table? Did the other guy lose the point if he couldn’t hit a smashed ball back to Marty?
Jeez, this command stuff was tough. Sandy decided that smashed ball meant replay the point.
Marty won the Bravo troop comp. Twenty-two smashed balls. Four crushed bats.
The Charlie troop comp came down to a battle between Harley and Stan. It was a good match, but Stan was just too quick. He seemed to be moving into position even before Harley hit the ball. Harley played the nice shots, but Stan played the last ones. Ugly things they were too, half the time.
But it was the game between Nellie and Abel that everybody watched. Nellie was good, real good, but Abel was something special. Where Nellie played away from the table, big booming shots, Abel crouched over the table, hitting the ball on the up, and using the whole of Nellie’s side to make Nellie run. It didn’t always work, but when it did it was great. A little shot just over the net, to one side. Nellie charging round the side of the table to get it. A big deep shot. Nellie rushing back and returning the ball, diving to reach it. A soft shot to mid table, bouncing twice before Nellie could get back to his feet. Final score 21-17.
Marty beat Stan pretty easily. Abel didn’t have much trouble with Marty. Two bats were great, but Abel worked him out. The shot straight at Marty, so he had to move one way to hit the ball. Then the shot to the side Marty had come from. Gooch do not scramble well. 21-11, and Abel was 1RR ping pong champion.
“Did you see him? Eh, Sandy, did you see him? That Abbey, he can play. Killed me. I’m stuffed. Hey, let’s get something to eat.”