Monday, 1 February 2010

God, I needed that

"Well done, sir."
"Thank you, sarn't major."
"Yes, well done, sir. I was really starting to think it couldn't be done."
"Well, Sister Diana, you know me. Stubborn sort of chap."
"Oh, yes, sir. Networking two Macs, with different operating systems, and two PCs, again both with different OS's. Jolly well done, sir."

I leaned back, and promptly fell over, since I was on a bar stool with no back, and had just consumed several pints of ice-cold lager. With great dignity I picked myself up, picked up the stool as well, and resumed my position.

"I'm sorry, sir?"
"Pardon me. I meant to say, well, God knows it wasn't easy, but we British rise to a challenge, don't we, chaps?"
"Oh, indeed we do, sir."
"Erm... actually, Herr Kapitan Observer, I'm German."
"Shut up, you fool, the MPs might hear."

I waved vaguely at the barman. He seemed blurred. He must have been drinking.

"You know, at one point I thought we'd had it. You know what those Macs are like. Nearly everything happens automatically, but if it doesn't, well, you're up a gumtree and no mistake. They don't give anything away, the inscrutable little buggers. All you'll get out of them is 'Error -36' over and over again. You almost have to admire them, really."

Sister Diana's eyes really seemed like the most huge, limpid pools...

"So how did you manage it, sir? Was there anyone to help?"
"God, no. One's on one's own on this sort of junket, you know. Fortunately, old Wizzer Wilkins from the Signallers had once given me some of the gen."
"Really, sir?"

I nodded. And fell off the stool again. Picked myself up. Get a grip, man, I thought. There are ladies present.

"Yes, well I knew all their IPs, you see. Much like knowing which club a chap will be in at a certain time of day. So I could do some ping tests."
"Ping, sir?"
"Yes, it's rather like giving a wave and shouting 'hello, old boy', and with a bit of luck, you get a reply. So I got the Macs to do some of this pinging lark, but not a dickie-bird back. Silence of the grave."
"Gosh, sir. What a pickle!"
"Well, yes, I must admit I was wafting the bat outside the off-stump for a few moments there."

I waved again at Abdul the barman.

"Four more Carlings, old boy, quick as you like. And four more each for these chaps. And the mem-sahib, of course."

"Good health, sir."
"Chin chin."
"Ach, ja. Vielen Dank."
"Shut up you fool, the MPs might hear."

I lowered the level in my glass by a strategic few inches and put a hand carelessly on Sister Diana's thigh.

"Yes, things seemed pretty bleak for a while. But of course we officers are trained for every situation, and one never gives up."
"Gosh, sir. Never?"
"Never, Sister. I say, do you mind if I just call you 'Diana'? I don't really think of you as a Sister, I must say."
"That's quite all right, sir."

The sergeant-major emptied his glass and looked keenly my way.

"So what did you do, sir?"
"Well, sarn't major, I thought back to the last time I'd put a new machine on the network, and it came to me in a blinding flash."
"Oooh, my word, sir."
"Yes, Diana. It was obvious once one had thought it through. The firewall on the old XP machine was set only to accept traffic from specific IP numbers. Because of the changes on the network, the Macs' IP numbers weren't on the list. I just had to give them their papers, as it were, for the firewall, and Bob's your uncle, all tickety-boo."
"Oh, sir. How marvellous."

She put her hand on mine, which was still resting on her warm thigh. I looked into her eyes. All four of them. I read the message therein. I pulled some notes from my pocket and spoke to the other two men.

"I say, chaps, how about if you two shuffle off and leave us here debrief... word to the wise, nod's as good, and all that, what?"

They glanced at each other, caused the notes to disappear, stood, saluted, grinned hugely, and shimmered off into the heat haze.

Diana gazed at me adoringly.

"Oh, Captain Observer... of all the bars, in all the war films..."

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