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Chapter 7 – Part 3
There was a tap at the door and Mandy came in carrying a mug of tea. ‘I’m ever so sorry about what happened. I can’t think how I managed to drop that other mug,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t find any clean mugs, so I had to do some washing up, and then I found you’d run out of milk, so I had to go up to the shop, and when I got back, Sam was making some tea, and….’ Mandy put the mug down on the desk next to Martin. ‘Oh, that’s a very unusual computer isn’t it? Is it new? I don’t understand them at all. Mine is always crashing.’ She stared at the cube for a moment, blinking slowly.
‘Mandy,’ Martin said. ‘Do you know anything about this?’ He pointed at the message on the screen. She leant closer and began reading, slowly. Martin could see her lips moving as she read.
‘Mandy? Does that mean me? Ooh! This is exciting; I’ve never seen my name on someone else’s computer screen like this befo….’
‘Mandy? Mandy? What’s the matter?’ Martin said. She seemed paralysed, her lips half-open, frozen in the middle of speaking. Martin touched her shoulder. She relaxed and sighed, blinked rapidly and then stood up straight.
‘I said “Trish, doesn’t he look just like Sting when he was young?” I said. “Only his hair is”….’
Mandy continued to stare at the computer screen like a lobotomised goldfish.
Martin pushed ineffectually at her shoulder. ‘Mandy?’
‘I said “Trish, doesn’t he look just like Sti…”.’ She turned to face Martin. She leapt to attention and saluted him.
‘Sir!’ Chief Security Officer Coleman reporting for duty sir!’ She saluted him again.
‘Sir!’ She saluted him again. ‘Awaiting orders sir!’
‘Stop saluting me.’
‘Yes sir.’ She stopped in mid-salute. ‘Why, sir?’
‘Because every time you lift your hand up like that it lifts that shirt up and I get a flash of your pubes.’
‘Sorry sir. Are my pubes unsatisfactory sir? They are trimmed to regulation length, sir.’
‘No, they are fine. It… they… it… are amongst some of the finest pubes it has been my pleasure to see, in the flash… er… flesh… as it were…. Mandy?’
‘Why do you keep calling me sir?’
‘Well captain sir, because you are the Captain. Sir.’
‘Yes sir.’ She relaxed slightly. ‘Oh. Are we still undercover then, sir?’
‘Undercover?’ Martin stared into Mandy’s eyes, hoping to detect the signs of insanity, but she stood straight, stiff and tall. She was staring at something over his shoulder. Martin turned to look at what she seemed so intent on, but it was just his poster of Mars and its moons.
Martin sighed. He couldn’t tell if she was insane or not. ‘What?’
‘Have I got your permission to contact Annabelle, sir, and confirm the mission is on course, sir?’
‘Yes, sure.’ Martin nodded and tried not to look down as Mandy – inevitably – saluted. ‘Whatever you want.’
Mandy strode back to the computer to compose an e-mail. Martin admired the practised ease with which she manipulated the machine and the email program.
‘I thought you said you didn’t understand computers.’ Martin said.
‘Oh, that was just my cover, sir. You should know that. After all it was you, sir, back at base, who suggested I should use the cover of a hairdresser, sir’
‘It was…? Did I?’
Mandy smiled indulgently at the computer as it uploaded her e-mail. She tapped the top of the monitor and ran her fingers across the keyboard. ‘Quaint. I like antiques, so romantic. Hermione will be so thrilled by it all too, I’m sure.’ She turned to face Martin, stood to attention and saluted once more. ‘Sir? Shall I carry on with the mission plan, Captain?’
‘Yes…, if you like.’ Martin felt his only option was just to accept everything, otherwise he was sure his brain would explode. All of it had all long since stopped making sense to him. He sat down on his bed and sipped at the hot tea Mandy had brought in for him. He had a sudden thought that could just explain the whole thing. But his tea looked and smelled just like ordinary tea.
‘Right. Sir! I will go and alert the rest of the crew.’ Mandy stood right in front of where Martin sat on the bed. As he suspected, she saluted. Martin was quite pleased about how little of his tea he spilt as the hem of the shirt raised and lowered again as Mandy saluted him.
‘Yes, right. Do whatever you want.’ All Martin knew about such matters was that it was best not to provoke the obviously mentally unhinged. He recalled reading stories on one of the more excitable tabloid newspaper websites about some new designer drug doing the rounds of the clubs. The article claimed the drug had various strange, unpredictable, side effects. ‘Do whatever you think best.’
Mandy turned towards the door and marched out.
Martin jumped to his feet. ‘The rest of the crew?’ he shouted, but Mandy had already gone.