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Sandy was in the lounge, just chillaxing, waiting to head off to the airport, thinking about things, just thinking not worrying, when Jane came in.
‘Hey, how was your afternoon?’
“I had my first flying lesson, in a simulator. It was cool, but it finished up a bit hinky.”
“The computer took me through a few scenarios. The last one was weird. You and Nellie were aboard a surface vessel, a frigate, looking for a nuclear missile submarine. I was overhead, flying a bomber, carrying nuclear weapons on a mission to bomb Shanghai. The frigate located the sub, and was then crippled by a torpedo. The sub surfaced to fire missiles.”
‘So what’s hinky about that?’
“I dove my bomber into the sea, setting off a nuclear bomb. The sub was destroyed and we were all killed.”
‘That’s hinky. You decided that all by yourself.’
‘Scratch you from my Christmas card list.’
Then Nellie was there.
“Jeez, she’s a busy life, this army thing.”
‘How was training?’
“Great. Always great. Those Gooch make fantastic props, and the Choo, excellent.”
‘You fellas got a game plan?’
“Yeah. Smash them, get the ball, score tries. It’s easy. Even a Samoan could follow it.”
Sandy thought about reminding Nellie that Samoa won most of its league matches against Tonga, but nah, no point.
“What’d you do before training?” Jane was curious. She’d had that weird computer flight simulator thing.
“Uh, nothing, nah just paperwork. Waste of time. I finished school like two days ago. Should be no more paperwork. I’m not an office fella. Guns now. Guns and league. Stupid paperwork too. Questions, questions, dumb as.”
“Tell me. I might have to do them too.” Jane wanted to know more.
“They started off with real dumb stuff. About the Alphas. Who knows? Who cares? Then school stuff. Computer wasn’t working right. It reckoned I got the first one wrong. Didn’t bother after that.”
“The first one, what was that all about?”
“Real simple. Asked what one plus one was. I said it was two. Computer said I was wrong. It was ten, one-zero the computer said. Idiot thing.”
“Were there any words to go with the numbers? Binary, say”
“Oh yeah, binary, whatever that is. But one plus one is two. No question about that.”
“What else did you get asked?”
“Didn’t bother with the rest of the school stuff. Remembered what you said.”
“Eh, what?” Jane didn’t think she’d ever said anything that Nellie latched on to.
“That you get a mark for writing your name down. Reckoned each question was worth one mark. I wrote my name lots. Should have got lots of marks. Probably aced it.”
“The computer gave up on the school stuff. Reckon I wore it down. It gave patterns, and I had to guess what was next, or copy it before the beep. It got faster and faster. That was good. I won.”
‘Sounds like the testing I did yesterday, in the citizenship exam hall.’
“Aww, hope not. I might have failed.”
“Naah. Yah think so?” Jane thought Nellie would be a great citizen.
“Yeah, they gave us sit-u-a-shuns. Had to decide what to do next. The first one was OK. It was like, pretend that we had rifles and were attacking these turkeys up a hill. Gallopi or somewhere. The group that went first got shot straight away. The next group, they were all killed too. So were the next fellas. Then it was our turn. The lieutenant said ‘let’s go’ and I told him to hang on, it was a real dumb idea. He started shouting and saying ‘that’s an order’.”
“What did you do?”
“I hit him. Knocked him out. Saved the dumb buggar’s life. The next sit-u-a-shun was the same, but this time Sandy was the lieutenant. He said ‘let’s go’ and we both went charging over the top. Got killed real fast. You’re a dumbass Sandy. No news there.”
“Whattcha doing, following Sandy to, like, certain death?”
“Well he’s my mate, eh? Even if he is kinda a bit stupid sometimes.”
“Was that the end?”
“Nah, there was one more. We was on patrol. Nice guns and all. Sandy was being a dickhead. I told him, but he wouldn’t listen. Tried to tell me to do it. Annoying as. No way I was doing it. He kept on being annoying so I hit him too. Sorry Sandy, you aren’t that annoying normally. Don’t make a habit of it. Anyway, that’s why I reckon I might have failed. Sit-u-a-shuns. And I was different every time.”
‘Seems to me like you might have done OK, Nellie. You don’t want to overthink things.’ That all sounded typical Nellie to Sandy.
“Nobody ever accused me of overthinking, boy.”
Gunny interrupted the conversation. Where did he come from? “Lieutenant, I took the opportunity to have citizenship examinations administered to recruits Nellie and Jane this afternoon.”
Nellie and Jane looked at each other and winced.
“It may well have been wiser to wait, or at least to have given them some notice.”
That didn’t sound good.
“However, they both passed.”
This time Sandy was sure that was a smile from Gunny. At least a twitch.
“With your permission, I will now activate their chips.”
‘Go ahead Gunny.’
“Citizen Recruits, bend your heads forward.” Gunny had one of those screwdriver things. One touch each and they were done.
“Jeez Sandy, you are the golden boy.”
Sandy had never been to an airport before, so he didn’t know what to expect. He rode there with Corporal Afa and Gunny in the same covered truck they had taken to the Stargate. Through the gates and right up to the airplane. The big airplane. A Dreamliner Corporal Afa had called it. Rode up a platform thing to the door, where the steward showed him to his suite – bedroom, bathroom, combined lounge and dining area. Not big, but pretty comfy. It looked as though there were four suites at the front of the plane.
“The Senator would like a few words with you when you are settled in, Founder.” There were stewards up this end of the plane.
‘Now’s good for me, thanks.’
The Senator’s suite was nearer the cockpit.
“Come in Sandy, have a seat. Gunny will be along in a minute. What would you like to drink? Anything to eat?”
Orange juice and a steak roll. That would do Sandy for a midnight snack.
“Well, you’ve been seventeen for two days now. What do you think of it?”
‘Honestly, I haven’t had much of a chance to think, Senator. Just watching so far.’
“That will all change soon enough.”
There was something Sandy wanted to ask the Senator. Now was as good a time as any.
‘Senator, what is the story with Ben? I asked HAL but he said it was your story to tell.’
“Well, we might have a minute or two before Gunny has tucked the troops in and made sure everything is secure to his satisfaction.
The Old Man placed the eleven of us in three different boarding schools. Luke, Red, Bluey, and I went to one. Ben, Jules, Mike and Mark went to another. They were expensive schools, and I guess that Ben, like Mike and Mark came to believe that they were better than other people. In many ways it’s hard to come out of an expensive boarding school without that attitude.
When we started college, The Old Man got all of us together and explained our origins. He regarded us as humanity 2.0, a Beta version of humanity, the next step in human evolution. Ben, and he wasn’t alone, thought about this, and decided that we were better than the ords, and that their extinction was only a matter of time. It seemed to him a pretty simple application of the principles of natural selection.
He appreciated, as we all did, that there were just too many Alphas for us to announce ourselves. For a while he went along with the old man’s strategy of building Uso Dex. However, the pace was too slow for him. He thought that the way to ensure our safety was for us to rule the Alphas. Military conquest was out of the question, at that time. Ben thought the way forward was through politics.
And that was the big division. I followed the Old Man in his belief that we should work on building our knowledge and strength until we could leave this planet. Ben thought that we should use our wealth to rule the Alphas. He thought we would never have to leave. The Alphas would fade away, maybe with a bit of a nudge from us, and the planet would be ours.
We were split. Ben was supported by Jules, Mike and Mark. I was in a group with Luke, Red, David, and Dean. It was 5-4 with Bluey and Dick not really caring either way, so long as nothing got in the way of their research.
The debate went on for a number of years. Uso Dex got bigger, and eventually Jules decided to get rid of us. He set a trap which would have resulted in Luke, Dean and I being killed. We avoided that, although it led to my court martial. I hunted Jules down and killed him.
The only way forward from there was for Ben and his supporters to leave Uso Dex. In the end, Mike and Mark stayed. I entered politics to keep an eye on Ben’s activities here, but he left the country. We don’t know what he has been doing for the last fifty years.”
Sandy had questions, but Gunny Shane came into the lounge.
“Time for take-off Senator. Shall we remain here?”
“Good idea Gunny. We have some things to talk about.”
The steward came in, took away their glasses and plates, and checked that their seatbelts were fastened. No-one spoke as the plane taxied to the runway, stood still as the engines raced faster and faster, and then accelerated down the runway. Sandy was pretty sure he felt the plane leave the ground.
“Gunny, that Chinese trap, what do you make of it?”
“As you know Senator, I believe that the Chinese have a population of Choo, maybe of Gooch, and they used us to eliminate their population of obsolete humanzee, or a part of that population. They now know our capabilities in small group engagement. And they have the body of a Gooch which will give them more information.”
“They were very wasteful of their humanzee. That’s true. So that’s why you changed your mind about leaving through the Stargate?”
“Yes, Senator, it is. If there is a population of Gooch, or of Choo, over there we should offer them the opportunity to leave with us.”
“So, how many of you are staying?”
“Humanzees, chimp-human hybrids without back breeding to human are an obsolete technology. The Chinese are thirty years behind us there. You’re right, having the body of a Gooch may jump-start a stalled program. There’s something else Gunny. I suspect China may be where we will find Ben.”
“It’s only a hunch. The Chinese just aren’t the people to want humanzees, straight chimpanzee-human hybrids. They regard humanity as being in three levels. At the top is the ruling class of China. Next are the Chinese as a group. At the bottom is the rest of humanity, whom Chinese regard as infra-humans. For centuries China was closed to the rest of humanity. Racial purity is very important. There is no place in that structure for humanzees. If the Chinese want laborers they have hundreds of millions of peasants.
With Ben though, it’s a bit different. We had humanzees when he left Uso Dex. The back breeding with humans and then the artificial breeding of those grandchildren of humanzee who were neither too human nor too chimp had not started. He would have wanted to continue that line of research just to ensure he kept in touch with us. That boy is a chess player. He’d want to be in a position to cover any move we made. It seemed he missed the back breeding with human bit.
In the last week or two, Luke and Red have become convinced that China has developed a racially selective biological weapon, a genocide device. North Korea has killed four Jewish members of the US embassy in Seoul, and has threatened to exterminate the Jews, if South Korea and Japan are not ceded to North Korea. They seem to have released the weapon in New Ziland through a new whooping cough vaccine.”
“And you believe that weapon is linked to Uso Dex research before Ben left.”
“Yes. I do. It’s old research TOM did with the North Vietnamese when everyone thought race was all about specific genes.”
‘And is that why you are going to New Ziland, Senator?’
“One reason, Sandy. We have the first doses of anti-toxin to deliver to our people in New Ziland. Red has really been quite busy developing it. Red and I are going to attend a meeting to talk about the deaths in vaccinated babies. And, as you know, our Gooch is to be arrested at the request of the FBI.”
“If Ben has a position of influence in China that just adds uncertainty.”
“Too right, Gunny.”
“Invading China and extracting any Choo or Gooch that are there is not going to be simple Senator.”
“It is not. We need to know where the Gooch or Choo are, if they exist, first of all. HAL is onto that.”
“Lieutenant, it has been another long day for you. I suggest you get some sleep. Tomorrow could be your first taste of combat.”
Sandy was kinda annoyed, the way Gunny mothered him. He could look after himself. But, yeah, he was tired so he unbuckled his seat belt and stood up. A steward appeared from nowhere.
“Can I show you to your suite, Founder?”
“See you in the morning Sandy. Perhaps you could have a bite to eat here with me before we land?”
‘Yeah, sure. Thanks, Senator.’