This time he found he wasn’t alone in the communal showers. P. Patel was already scrubbing himself under the warm water that cascaded down, small beads forming on his dark back when they weren’t being washed away by the flow. Andrew greeted him and exchanged a few pleasantries before starting his own wash in silence. Talking while performing this particular function had never really made him feel that comfortable.
They resumed their conversation over breakfast, which they shared across the small table. He’d opted for cereal this time. He could get something hot at lunchtime or that evening, but saw that P. Patel was eating one of the pre-cooked affairs he’d tried himself a couple of days earlier, no doubt for similar reasons. They were soon joined by others, as each arose, completed their morning’s ablutions, then came up to the upper deck to eat.
Andrew left them to it. The deck wasn’t crowded even with a full team in it, but it only had the one table, which only sat four comfortably, so he wanted to give up his space to someone else who’d need it more. He popped back to his own room before heading off for his office. He didn’t have much there that needed doing, and it was still very early to start what few tasks he did have to complete, but there wasn’t a lot else to do in the camp.
In his office, he amused himself at first by finally voting in the forthcoming elections. The votes would soon be counted and the outcomes decided, so he didn’t have a lot of time left. Viewing the details of the local candidates took quite a while especially as with many tangents being online it was easy to explore them, but eventually he made his final selection and pressed the ‘enter’ key which would send his own decisions to join those of others who’d already voted this way. The postal votes would need to be tallied too of course, and wouldn’t be counted until the last day of voting. That wouldn’t take long though. Most people nowadays voted online. It was probably possible to see who was going to win in advance if you had the right access rights, though this was of course strictly forbidden and very few people had such rights.
He’d gone down into the courtyard their trucks formed to exchange a few words with Hitu and to see his team off on their mission, the first under the control solely of the sergeant major, before returning to his office to resume the tasks he needed to get done. Now and then, his work was interrupted by one of the batmen or one of the team who’d remained behind at camp, to let him know about something or other.
The ‘captain’ rank was the only one assigned two batmen instead of the usual one. Even the few generals that there were got only one personal assistant. Captains, though, were often out in the field with the men they commanded, and there wasn’t anything in the way of ‘spare’ support to perform the administrative tasks which kept camps such as these running smoothly. Having two batmen helped the captains to do this, while at the same time ensuring personal standards didn’t slip. It was difficult, after all, to admonish men for being poorly turned out if one’s own presentation was anything less than exemplary.
The sun was high in the sky, though not past the mid-day point, when Andrew heard the now familiar drone of the choppers approaching. He finished what he was doing – a written report on the last mission he’d led – before heading out to greet their arrival. Two choppers had come, both laden with supplies to replace those they’d taken to the town.
The blades on the machines started slowing once their engines had been turned off but were still moving when Lieutenants Forbes and Pedersen climbed out and made their way over to Andrew. There were a lot of supplies to unload which would undoubtedly take some time, and the pilots weren’t in any particular hurry to return to their home base.
“Want to get that coffee now?” asked Lieutenant Forbes. “I’ve arranged for Marc to oversee the unloading. He can join us once it’s properly under way.”
He nodded, and barked out orders for the unloading and storing of these supplies to the corporal that was approaching. He was one of Hitu’s company, so not someone Andrew knew that well. The corporal saluted and headed off to round up the men that would help him complete this task, everyone really that wasn’t engaged in the guarding duties that the captain still saw fit to order. Many of these were already making their way towards the chopper pads, knowing they’d be needed. They weren’t exactly keen to undertake the work, but there really was very little to be done at the camp, so this task would provide a welcome change to their routines.
“Instant okay?” he asked when they had reached the kitchen. “I could brew some fresh, but it’ll take quite a long time.”
She nodded, assuring him that instant coffee would be just fine.
“Besides I had ‘fresh’ back at the base before leaving. I think I can last a bit longer without more.” She smiled as she said this.
It wasn’t long before the kettle clicked off, indicating that the water inside was ready to perform its duty, and he poured the steaming liquid into the two mugs he’d prepared stirring their contents as he did so. They took the finished coffees to the table.
She’d removed her flying helmet when they’d landed and she looked more ‘womanly’ now. Her blonde hair was much the same colour as Andrew’s own, and was indeed as long as the regulations that controlled such things would allow. It wasn’t sweaty either. This was her first assignment of the day, and the flight over from her base hadn’t taken long, so there hadn’t been time for her helmet to get too hot.
They chatted idly about this and that. At first, their conversation revolved around their respective missions. She had news to pass on about the other companies. There was another unit they were supporting that was comprised of two companies, like Andrew’s, so she knew quite a bit about this one. She also had stories from the other flight lieutenants, tales shared over food and in the long evenings back at the base. It wasn’t really exciting stuff. The other companies’ exploits had been pretty uneventful, like Andrew’s own. Indeed, the disaster relief work he’d been sent out to do was probably the most interesting thing that had happened to anyone.
Anne – Andrew had soon learned that this was her Christian name – had been out to the scene a couple more times dropping off supplies, and Andrew was pleased to learn that things there were going well. Clearing the road properly hadn’t taken very long, and the team there were now mainly involved in clearing away the worst of the mud from the side that had collapsed. He was a little surprised that the people of the small town were intending to rebuild it in the same spot it had stood in before, rather than moving everything down the road a bit and starting afresh in the clearer space such a move would provide. Long term, he guessed, they wanted to stay near to their fields, and probably owned the land their houses were built on, so in a way such a decision did make sense.
By the time they were joined by Lieutenant Pedersen they’d left the topic of their Werlder Force exploits, and had moved on to talk about more personal subjects. Lieutenant Pedersen joined in the conversation now and then, but for the most part sat and listened as he consumed the brew he’d made for himself.
They’d been talking for nearly an hour when the corporal – the same one as Andrew had given his orders to earlier – reported that the choppers were now emptied and ready to depart. They leisurely finished the second cups of coffee they’d indulged in before returning to the courtyard.
This was empty of supplies, the corporal having had the full boxes mostly taken to the store rooms over Andrew’s and Hitu’s offices, before breaking them open to replenish the cupboards in the various billets. There was a bag of mail too. Not much, they hadn’t really been gone long enough for there to be much news to be conveyed from their respective homes nor had they been at this post long enough for any redirected mail to catch up with them.
He bid the two lieutenants a pleasant flight back, and watched as the blades started whirring again as they started their respective engines and the rotors sped up to lift these unlikely machines back into the sky.
The afternoon passed quite slowly. He’d taken lunch with the captain, discussing in a bit more detail their plans to send out four teams instead of two, then finished the paperwork back in his office before attending to more personal matters, such as the mound of ironing that had now grown back in his room.
The evening was very quiet too. He spent most of this with his captain, first dining then sipping a rare glass of wine, then resuming their chess matches. He excused himself quite early, and returned to his own room, where he spent his time listening to more ‘I, Claudius’ before flipping off the light and trying to get to sleep.