Chapter 6 – Morning Routine
The ringing of a virtual alarm clock jolted the bedroom's three occupants awake.
“Good morning, Private Wilson,” came the calm voice of the AI. “It is oh-six-hundred hours ship's time. You have one hour to prepare yourself, your concubines and dependants, and get yourselves to the mess room. It is recommended that you consume breakfast in the ship's mess with your fellow sponsors. The mess room will be open for breakfast from oh-six-thirty.”
“Very well,” Dave sleepily advised the AI. “Come on, ladies, wakey wakey, rise and shine.”
Both of his concubines shakily arose, still partially asleep and worn out from the entertaining bonding activities of the night before.
“Babs,” Dave commanded, “go upstairs, wake up the kids and get them down here. Angie and I will get our showers in while you do that. As soon as the kids are in the living room, you get your shower.”
By the time Barbara had gotten the kids down to the main floor, Dave and Angela had finished their showers. Dave was now dressed in a plain-grey coverall, while Angela wore the concubine shift. Barbara shared her shower with the five kids. Her embarrassment over being nude in the shower with the two boys was soon overridden by her need to chivvy four-year-old Shirley along. The child was more interested in playing in the falling water than in actually getting clean.
With minutes to spare, they made it to the mess hall. A tall figure in dress green, wearing sergeant's stripes and bearing a matte-white pace stick, stood at the doorway, glaring up and down the corridor.
Another two families followed the Wilsons, and Sergeant Kowalski entered the mess room. A corporal, seated between two naked concubines, shouted, “ROOM!”
Everyone in the room flew to their feet. There was dead silence for a moment as a disgusted Kowalski strode in. “I am Battalion Sergeant Major Kowalski. You may call me by my first name.” He paused for effect. “'Sergeant Major.' Welcome to the 12th Marine Division, the Chosen Frozen. Sit.”
Everyone sat, but nobody except the kids did more than sneak a bite from their plates.
“In the future, when an officer or NCO enters a room, you sit to attention. I'll excuse you this once. Carry on eating. We've a lot to do today, and not a lot of time to do it in.”
Everyone resumed consuming calories as Kowalski glared at them.
“We start with the Marines' body modifications this morning at oh-eight-hundred. The schedule is posted. Marine body mods will be done between oh-eight-hundred and twelve-hundred, and thirteen-hundred and eighteen-hundred.”
A few men had a screen pop up before them to indicate that they were to be in the med tubes by no later than oh-eight-hundred.
“Those of you heading into the tubes this afternoon, get into your sleep trainers in your pods. You'll start with basic dress and deportment military courtesies, and Confederacy Armed Forces rank structure. Those of you in the morning contingent, hit the sleep trainers after lunch.”
More of the Marine recruits had the AI display their daily schedules.
“If you haven't filled out your concubine allotment, listen up! You'll notice you aren't scheduled for med tube time today – you'll be accompanying teams of Marines on regular extractions to pick up suitable concubines, and will have to get your sleep training done after you've finished. You will be finished filling out your harems by sixteen hundred.” He glared around, to the discomfiture of certain sponsors. “Or else.”
He resumed pacing, and the privates resumed eating. “In the evenings and after tomorrow during the day, you can have your concubines' body mods done. I recommend you start with their wish list, and dial back anything that turns you off. You get the final say, remember, but if they like the way they look then they'll be happier with you – not that you'll have any chance of surviving their... 'appreciation'.”
The room erupted in snickers.
“In addition, these pods are your homes. You can decorate them as you like. I suggest you have the concubines come up with a floor plan for your approval while you're busy today. We can have the floor plan modifications done tomorrow while they're in concubine training and the pods are empty.”
“As soon as your harems have finished breakfast,” Kowalski concluded, smacking his hands together so hard he made many of those present give a startled jump, “you can take them back to your pods. Then either hit the med tubes, the sleep trainers, or return to the common area for assignment to extraction squads. Sooner you get started, the sooner you're finished. Let's go.”
On board the Arctic Princess, the morning routine was similar to a warship: the ear-splitting, irritating boatswain's pipe played “Wakey Wakey” through all the pods at oh-six-hundred sharp – a little too sharp for Lyn, who had managed to overcome her inhibitions and enjoy Terry's attentions into the wee hours the night before. The voice of the duty Quartermaster rang through the Public Address system: “UP ALL HAMMOCKS! UP ALL HAMMOCKS!”
Wendy flew from her bunk and raced from cubicle to cubicle. “Up all hammocks! Up all hammocks! Let's look alive, let's get these bunks made, get the diapers changed, get our showers in! Move it!”
Lyn sniffed her skin. She could definitely identify the smell of sex. She desperately needed a shower.
Wendy snagged the two newest concubines, still not wide awake. “Look, girls, we're the older so we've got to act as the good examples. Get your showers in first, get in shifts, get your bunks made and give a hand with the mothers. You ever change a diaper before?”
Neither Lyn nor Sandy had ever been in a situation where they had to perform this chore. Wendy swore. “AI, do we have any child care classes, and can we get these two in that class?”
“Affirmative, Concubine Wendy Chambers,” the AI responded. “As a result of your conversation with Concubine Sandy Hause and Concubine Lyn MacDonald, both of these concubines are already scheduled for the ten-hundred class on basic child care.”
“C'mon, we've got to get this hen party moving.” Wendy thumbed at the teen concubines and children behind her. “Won't be long before First Call for Mess.”
Just then, a three-note bugle blast came across the intercom.
“What's that?” asked a startled Lyn.
“First Call for Mess!” came a disembodied voice of the Duty Quartermaster. “First Call for Mess!
“I think it might be the first call for mess,” suggested Sandy.
“I think you might be right,” Lyn agreed, as concubines and dependants lined up at the pod hatch.
Five minutes later, the bugle blew again. The same disembodied voice called out, “Mess Call, Mess Call!” and all the inhabitants – some encumbered with infants or toddlers – joined the stream of bodies heading toward the mess room.
At the Mess Room, Sandy noted that each pod had its own assigned table, with room for everyone. Enough high chairs had been placed at each table for the infant and toddler contingent. Wendy had the free concubines and dependants get their meals first, and then oversee the occupants of the high chairs while their mothers grabbed trays. It was efficient; within fifteen minutes everyone was tucking into a nourishing breakfast.
As Sandy sat back and let digest her meal of a western omelet, home fries, coffee and orange juice, she felt comfortable. The Arctic Princess, she decided, wasn't the worst place in the universe to be.
No loud bugle, squealing boatswain's pipe or clanging alarm clock woke Samantha. Instead, the lights in her bedroom gradually and gently came up to full strength over five minutes. At the end of that time the AI calmly advised her, “Sub-Decurion Redburn, it is oh-six-hundred.” The teen rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, stretched, and slapped the bare butts of her bedmates, Vickie and Callee. Samantha was the sponsor, so Samantha set the dress code for her pod: her concubines routinely wore nothing but their collars.
As Samantha showered, eight-year-old Michelle staggered in to join her. Mickey was never a morning person but, like her cousin Allison, she hero-worshipped her sponsor and spent every possible moment together with her.
By the time the pair emerged from the washroom, clean and still sky-dressed, Vickie and Allison had breakfast laid out. Callee was busy feeding her son Jason. Michelle was by this time feeling almost human, and happily settled down at the table beside her cousin.
As Samantha took a couple of pancakes from the plateful gracing the middle of the table, she addressed the AI. “So, what's our schedule for today look like?”
“Concubine Victoria Redburn has routine office hours from oh-eight-hundred to thirteen-hundred,' the AI reported. “There are seven patients scheduled, six for routine prenatal checkups and one a routine post-adoption review. Details will be provided at the surgery.” Vickie was the planet's sole veterinarian, responsible for increasing the pet population as well as ensuring that wherever possible, the cats, rabbits, mice and gerbils were adopted out to family units and properly cared for. It was not unusual to see the attractive brunette wandering around either the Marine Corps' Camp Shackleton or the Navy's Base Scott, dressed in a white concubine's shift with the veterinarians' symbol on the breast pocket.
“Concubine Callee Redburn is instructing two child care classes at Camp Shackleton's school in the morning, at oh-eight-hundred hours and at ten-hundred hours, and a third at the school at Base Scott in the afternoon from fourteen hundred hours to sixteen hundred hours. She will be free from thirteen-hundred until fourteen-hundred.”
Callee wasn't the brightest bulb on the planet, but she knew well how to care for kids. Any child in her care was aware how much she cared about them – and just how far they could push their luck before she kicked a discipline issue upstairs to the sponsor. The courses she was teaching were designed to instill babysitting skills in teenagers and their tween siblings, regardless of CAP score.
“Dependant Michelle Redburn has sleep training courses this morning, from oh-eight-hundred hours to thirteen-hundred hours. There is a meeting of the Thule Music Club from fourteen-hundred to sixteen-hundred.” Michelle was a member of that club. At the Halloween Dance two weeks previously, she and several fellow eight-year-old girls, clad in rabbit ears, bunny tails, mitts and bunny-foot slippers – and nothing else, the powder-puff tails being held on by nanites – had given a dance performance at the Beauty Saloon, the base brothel. As far as her mother Vickie was aware, the little girl's grandmother had not yet found out about her granddaughter's activities. Vickie prayed that Samantha hadn't found it an amusing enough thought to add a postscript to the next message to the Old World. Knowing the Swarm was likely going to kill your mother was bad enough. To have your mother killed by a heart attack because of something as innocent as that dance would have been beyond the pale.
“Dependant Alison Redburn has homework this morning, and hockey practise from fourteen-hundred hours to fifteen-thirty hours.”
Vickie still wasn't terribly thrilled by the thought of her beloved niece being on a hard slippery surface surrounded by 16 swift bodies mounting hard-toed ribbons of razor-sharp sheet steel on their feet and large, long pieces of timber in their hands, but Allie was getting a kick out of it. She had a talent as a goalie, and her skills were developing daily.
“I wish we had a better goalie coach for you, Allie,” Samantha fretted.
“You're doing all right, Mother Sam,” the youngster assured her.
“Sub-Decurion Samantha Redburn, you have morning parade at the Camp Shackleton main parade square at oh-eight-hundred hours, send-off for the relieving Hesperus garrison at oh-nine-forty-five hours, remedial concubine class at eleven-hundred hours, practise for the McGee Moody Blues Tykes team at fourteen-hundred hours, monthly qualifying on the RLA-1 at the sniper range at seventeen-hundred hours, and sunset parade at the Base Scott parade square at nineteen-hundred. You also have seventeen messages marked 'routine' and three marked as 'priority'.
“What are the urgent messages?” asked Samantha cautiously.
“First from the Medical Inspection Room. Please report to the M.I.R. sometime today for routine prenatal examination.
Yes, she realized, it had now been a month since she'd conceived the twin boys she was carrying. “OK, is there time available after Sunset Ceremony?”
“Yes, Sub-Decurion Redburn. The Scott Base M.I.R. will be expecting you immediately after the Sunset Ceremony.”
“This message has been conveyed to every officer in the Brigade. Colonel Deschenes will hold promotion parade tomorrow immediately after Morning Parade, as usual. He, and I quote, 'requests the honour of your presence.'”
Obviously, someone was going to be promoted – probably, as the new colonists were going to arrive in two weeks, several somebodies. “OK, block out the time.”
“Done, Sub-Decurion Redburn. The third message is from Admiral Vincent Van De Graaf. The CSS Sir Francis Drake, AGS011, will be arriving tomorrow, expected ETA at 10:24 hours, after the Promotions Parade. Passengers will be off-loaded, and as Senior Civil Service Officer, you are on the standard welcoming list. The ship is on a mission for the Office of Targeted Extractions.”
That ship was one of Tribune Whitefeather's tiny fleet of K'treel Explorer ships, specifically chosen not because they were surplus (or to be more honest, useless) to the needs of the rest of the fleet, but because they were fast and small, and could be used to ship small numbers of people with specialized talents to far-flung colonies quickly. Samantha had submitted a number of requests to the Office and, hopefully, this voyage would fill some of those requests.
“OK. Looks like a busy day for everyone,” Samantha concluded, “but it looks like we're all free at thirteen-hundred. Lunch at the Beauty Saloon?”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
“Excellent. Block that in our calendars, please, and reserve a table at the Beauty Saloon. Does Radio Free Thule have its morning news report?”
“The time is blocked out, Sub-Decurion Redburn. Yes, the news report is ready.”
“Let's hear it, then,” Samantha instructed.
The disembodied voice of Judy Kawamori's concubine Kenji filled the air with a calm recitation of the news of the day.
The CSS Sir Francis Drake did not sail alone. Keeping her company, even though in hyperspace they couldn't see much less talk to each other, was the newly-minted, purpose built Isaac Asimov-class research ship, the CSS Arthur C. Clarke and the tiny fleet's sole escort, the corvette CSS Caldecot Castle.
Only the second such vessel built so far, Arthur C. Clarke was designed with large laboratories and roomy crew quarters. It was equipped with the most powerful and sophisticated AI that the humans had been able to talk the Confederacy into providing them. Although charged with conducting scientific research and as a result utterly unarmed, it was still a military ship, manned by Fleet Auxiliary. Even the scientists on board – at least the volunteers, for not every scientist had the aggressiveness for a sponsor-level CAP score – were technically Fleet Auxiliary.
Because the passengers on board the Drake and the crews on board the Clarke would be part of Thule's settlements, both ships kept to Thule standard time. At oh-six-hundred, the boatswain's pipe sounded “Wakey Wakey”, the duty quartermaster gave the command of “Up All Hammocks!”, and the day on board both ships began.
The Clarke's Captain, Fleet Auxiliary Commander Roger “Toddy” Todmorton, honestly didn't know what to make of those members of his crew in the Sciences division. No other ship except this class had such a division, and it was stuffed as full of oddballs and characters as the Office of Targeted Extractions was reputed to be.
For example, during the morning meal, two of his scientists were playing what appeared to be poker with a deck of Tarot cards, while an even more dubious duo was using a collection of chess and checker pieces interspersed with classic Monopoly game tokens, on a Snakes and Ladders board.
That latter game invited questions. 'AI,' the Captain queried subvocally, 'what game are Lieutenants Payne and Hotchkiss playing?'
'Uncertain, Captain Todmorton,' responded the AI. 'They appear to be making up the rules as they go along.'
Grey-haired, fully bearded Lieutenant Payne placed a knight on a square occupied by a boot, and announced in a gentle Georgia accent, “That's a Cadillac. That gives me a theocratic flush, reduced by its square root.” He reached over to a cribbage board and moved a peg forward about seven holes.
“Ah,” corrected Hotchkiss gently through his luxuriant grey handlebar moustache, his voice betraying his California roots, “but you went through the forensic wormhole to get there. That changes the Zodiac from titanium armadillo to polyester chipmunk.”
“Ah, yes, I should have included that in my calculations. How careless of me. Thank you.” Payne relocated the pin on the cribbage board back two spaces.
“Um, excuse me, gentlemen, what game are you playing exactly?” the Captain asked, unsatisfied with the AI's response.
“Double fudge dominoes,” Payne responded.
Hotchkiss added, “We're using the Zürich rules.”
Toddy looked at the cluttered table between the two lieutenants. Not a single domino tile nor a crumb of fudge could be seen. “You are aware that the AI is monitoring your every move, just like it is for everyone else?”
Both nodded calmly.
“Are you deliberately trying to drive the AI insane?”
“Uh-huh,” nodded Hotchkiss. “It's been a boring trip so far, and we were trying to make things more interesting.”
The audacity of the admission was breathtaking, and for a moment the Captain could not utter a sound. “Driving insane the one intelligence on the entire ship with control over both our astrogation and our life support sounds like a good idea to you?”
Both men looked at each other, shrugged and turned to Toddy. They both nodded in enthusiastic happiness.
Captain Todmorton regarded the grinning men with some dismay. “Your concubines had better be getting training toward becoming mental health professionals. You need all the help you can get. Look, stop teasing the AI. That's an order.”
“Aw, daddy, you're no fun!” protested Payne.
“Gentlemen,” he addressed the pair of senior scientists, “I am in my thirties, and you two are double that age. Pray do not address me as 'daddy' again. It makes me feel as if I were into my eighties.” He regarded their “uniforms”, which consisted of loud Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts, black socks and sandals. “Next time you dine in the Ship's Mess, you will wear the proper uniform of the Armed Forces of the Confederacy. Understand?”
“Aye aye, Sir,” acknowledged Payne.
“Aye aye, Sir,” echoed Hotchkiss.
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