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Sandy had been having a good sleep, when HAL woke him up. Or, HAL’s voice coming through the speaker by his head woke him up.
“Good morning Founder. The Senator would like you to breakfast with him when you are ready.”
Somehow a new uniform had appeared beside his bed. Toilet, shower, get dressed. Back to the Senator’s lounge. They were there already, Shane and Red.
“Good morning Sandy.”
‘I suppose. What time is it?’
“Oh eight hundred hours reservation time, Lieutenant. We have traveled a seldom used route, flying to the tip of South America and then up over Argentina and Brazil. We are now flying over the Gulf of Mexico, about 300 kilometers from our coast.”
‘Oh, thanks Gunny.’ Sandy helped himself to some of the old people’s food on the table – pastries and fruit, and poured himself a juice.
‘What happened in New Ziland after we left yesterday?’
“Their prime minister, Don Key, refused to comment on Adam or Abel, saying that our footage was obtained illegally. He maintains that his chief science advisor is correct, and there is no coming epidemic. He describes our actions as terrorism.”
‘Gunny, what do you say about Abel joining Abel troop?’
“I say no, Lieutenant. But that’s not important. What do you say?”
‘Well, he’s lived among the ords all his life. Nellie, Jane, me, we don’t know crap about the ords. And Jane will be leaving Abel troop to become a pilot, so there will be a gap.’
“But, you three have spent all your lives preparing to join the army. You are skilled with small weapons. He is not.”
‘He’s in. He can take over those orderly duties for me that Corporal Afa performs. And he can train up as a medic. We don’t have a medic.’
“As you wish, Lieutenant.”
‘Senator, do we have a pilot attached to 1RR?’
“No. When you order an aircraft, a pilot from the pool is allocated to you.”
‘I don’t want that. I want Jane to be our pilot, and to remain with 1RR.’
“It is your unit Sandy. HAL, can we manage that?”
“Yes, Senator. I will get Corporal Afa onto it.”
“Go see a steward Sandy. Get a real breakfast.”
‘Why’s that Senator?’
“You’re hungry lad. You’re mean when you’re hungry.”
Back in the lounge hospital, Sandy found a steward. Abel was awake. His father was being examined by Mr Bolton, the surgeon.
‘Can we have breakfast for four please?’
The surgeon looked up and turned around.
“Good morning. My name is Bolton. I operated on these two yesterday.”
‘Hi, I’m Sandy. How long before Abel can be up and about? He’s in the army now.’
“I’ve removed that drainage tube, and changed his dressing. Of course, he can’t train until the stitches come out in ten days, and even then the internal wound will take a further two weeks to heal.”
‘So, he can walk out of here, in a uniform?’
“Yes, he can.”
Sandy thanked the surgeon, and went through the curtain. Nellie and Jane were asleep. Nellie had his arm round Jane. Sandy poked him.
‘Wake up soldier. Breakfast time.’
“Breakfast. Good. Hey, wake up Jane.”
The steward was setting breakfast up in the lounge hospital. Abel was out of bed, wearing only a towel, sitting in a comfy chair by the food.
“What do you want to eat Dad?”
“No, I’m fine thanks.”
‘Guess what Abel. You’re in the army. In our unit. Gunny’s a bit worried, but we’ll train you up as a medic and on comms. You gotta look after me too.’
‘Corporal Afa will get you up to speed. You sleep OK?’
“Nah, hardly at all. Lots of movies to choose from though. Hey you never told me you were so important.”
‘What? Nah, not me.’
“Yeah. That corporal, Afa, looked in on me last night. Stayed for a chat. A long chat. Told me heaps. Said he’d get me something to wear. I left New Ziland wearing a towel, no luggage, and I’ve lost my towel. Someone left this one by my bed.”
“Don’t believe it man. That Sandy, he’s OK, but him a fool half the time. We gotta look out hard for him now he’s got the top job or he’ll make us look real bad.”
Sandy returned to the Senator’s lounge for landing. He wanted to ask a couple of things.
“Well, Sandy, how’s it been, your first mission in command?”
‘Pretty good Senator. I didn’t have to do much. Most of the time Gunny and Corporal Afa have done the thinking for me… What’s going to happen to Adam Gooch now?’
It wasn’t a frown, but Gunny didn’t seem too pleased at the mention of Adam’s name.
“Gunny, what do you think?”
“Citizen Adam Gooch has all the rights of any Uso Dex citizen. However, he will not be allowed to live in the New World. His case was considered some time ago, and the Gooch accept his decision, made seventeen years ago, to attempt to assimilate with the Alphas. His way of life is not ours. It may be that the Senator has a role for him in diplomacy. We do not.”
“Does that answer your question Sandy?”
‘Yeh, I suppose so.’ It sounded pretty harsh actually. ‘There’s something about Australia, isn’t there Senator?’
“What? Why do you ask?”
‘Just curious. But they supported Uso Dex in the United Nations, and you’re setting up that thing there for Dr Pink.’
“I like Australia, and I like Australians. Your mate, Nellie, there is a lot of the Australian in him. See if you recognize this person. He will take any amount of abuse from a mate, in public, but absolutely none from anyone else. He fears no one, crawls to no one, bludges off no one, and acknowledges no master. He says what he thinks. If he loses, a game, a fight, or an argument he laughs about it the next day. There is no one you would rather have beside you in a fight. And, if ever you are in trouble, real trouble, you’ll find him standing right there beside you, no matter how badly you’ve stuffed up.”
‘Yeah, that sounds like Nellie.’
“That’s how Australians were described by a bloke called Nino many years ago....”
‘And you don’t like New Ziland?’
“No. I do not like New Ziland. It can be a nasty little country. Hypocritical, smug, sucking up to the big countries. If New Ziland were a kid, it would be that slightly creepy one who is always hanging around, on the edges but never in. That kid you’d never let babysit your little sister, although you can’t quite put your finger on why. The one who starts off pulling pony tails, and gets worse. New Ziland requires its people to conform, difference is sneered at, and the kid who rises above the others is pulled back down to size. An Aussie plays to win. A New Zilander is happy just to do better than his neighbor.
Many of the people we value most highly in Uso Dex have fought to retain their individuality in cultures which try very hard to turn out people like Big Macs, everyone the same. Most New Zilanders prefer the safety of the herd.”
The Senator stooped speaking and looked at Sandy. “I’m sorry Sandy. These are just my views. I shouldn’t be dumping them on you.”
‘No, go on. It’s interesting.’
“Well, you saw that policeman shoot Adam yesterday. He was scared, a coward with a gun. But he will stay a member of the police. Our brother David was poisoned by his wife in Palmerston North. The wife said it was suicide. John Cleese, British comedian, once said “If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick.” But our brother did not kill himself. He was a visiting professor at the local university. The first police on the scene thought his wife was acting – she was yelling but there were no tears. She ‘just happened’ to turn on her cell phone when the police were there and there was a suicide text from our brother. She produced a suicide note, but when we pointed out that the signature was not his, she produced a second, unsigned, suicide note. Despite the suspicions of the first policemen on the scene, the senior officer back at his desk, Dick Prosser, decided this was a suicide. It took four years to charge the wife with murder. Dick is now a member of parliament in New Ziland.
That’s not the whole story Sandy. There are many excellent New Zilanders, people whom we would accept, and have accepted, as citizens, like Citizen Major Bolton. But more and more the good ones are becoming the exception. They are being driven from the cities to small towns like Cambridge.”
‘Is that why we won’t help with this vaccine thing?’
“We are going to help. Red insists on it. He’s been working night and day. First to develop an anti-toxin, and then to mass produce it. But our help will be provided secretly. We have provided the anti-toxin to our people in New Ziland. But no, one reason I don’t care if New Ziland lives or dies, is because the world won’t miss those people when they are gone. There is nothing special about New Zilanders. Americans, the English, the French, Italians, Australians, the Japanese, the Chinese, Xhosa. It’s a long list of groupings that bring something to humanity. New Ziland has achieved its goal of fitting in, of not standing out, and it won’t be missed. But, the main reason is that New Ziland is a country where a strong leader, a Nazi dictator, could come to power and could rule.”
‘So, why don’t we, if we’re going to war and all, why don’t we let this thing kill the Alphas?’
“We could have killed the Alphas years ago, Sandy. We’ve had the biological weapons. But even a ninety per-cent kill rate would leave us outnumbered ten thousand to one. But there’s a more important reason.”
“Alphas breed citizens. Not often, but among the billions of Alphas are hundreds of thousands of citizens we haven’t identified yet. We want as many of them as possible.”
Yep, that made sense. Jeez, this command business was tough. Mind you, at least Sandy had found out why there were Alphas.