Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chapter 45: Paradise Explained

The next morning I woke with the sun. I was sprawled on my back and I had two bodies curled up and entangled with mine. I had a clear head, as I hadn't had very much alcohol at all the previous night, but my body was sore. It was a feeling I knew of old, the punishment extracted for physical exertion and adrenaline. I extracted myself, reluctantly, from the tangle on the bed and dosed myself with some paracetamol, and took care of the usual bathroom routine. I pulled on a bath-robe before pulling up a deck-chair on the balcony to watch the magnificent spectacle of the sunrise over this beautiful piece of African bush. The morning chorus swelled into its full-throated glory, while the hippos lumbered into the water to rest from their nocturnal exertions. After ten minutes or so, I heard sounds of life from the room behind me, and after a while Daise emerged, wrapped in her own terry-cloth robe, to silently hand me a cup of coffee. I nodded my thanks to her and she sat on my lap while we took sips and shared a silent appreciation for the peaceful spectacle. Alina emerged a short while later and stood behind the chair., resting her hands on my shoulders. "Beautiful morning," I finally broke the silence. "Is it always like this?", Daise asked quietly. "Mostly. Sometimes there is mist on the water then I think of Avalon." "The Lady of the Lake?" Alina asked. I twisted my head to look up at her. "Yes, you know the story?" "My father read to me a lot when I was younger. Mostly old Russian fables, but I also enjoyed the English stories. I learnt a lot of old-fashioned English words like that." "If you liked those, maybe you would enjoy some of the fantasy that I do." "Like what?" "Lord of the Rings?" "I have tried to read that. It was a very long book, almost as long as some of the old Russian stories..." Daise interjected I laughed when I saw the teasing smile on her face. "Tolkien was born here. Few hundred kilometers away, in Bloemfontein. We'll drive through there when we take a trip down to Cape Town sometime. We can stop and see the museum they have there. It's quite interesting." "Will we ever be able to just enjoy ourselves?" Daise asked sadly. "Yes," I answered definitively. "We'll sort all this stuff out and then we can live normal lives. I promise." "OK." Daise's voice was small and quiet. She was so tiny and vulnerable in my lap, it made me feel all fatherly and protective. I was slowly learning that she had moods like a cat. Sometimes fierce and aggressive, the Huntress, then the next moment sensual and demanding, then sometimes, rarely, showing a soft vulnerability that was particularly endearing, especially considering its rarity. "We need to go down to breakfast," I finally announced reluctantly. "There's lots to do today." "What should we wear?" Alina asked. "Jeans and T-shirt should be fine. We'll just explore a bit today spend a lot of time talking. We weren't the first to get to the dining room. Bettina was there with Lisa and Katy. When we walked in, Bettina looked up and saw me and responded to my querying look with a laugh. "You should know what its like to have kids. Up before Sparrow's Fart..." Bettina said smiling at Lisa. "What's that?" Katy wanted to know. Lisa was only too keen to show off her knowledge. "Have you ever heard a Sparrow Fart?" she asked Katy. "No," Katy answered with a frown. I could see that Daise and Alina were just as puzzled. "Then you haven't got up early enough," Lisa declaimed, then burst into giggles at the expressions on the three women's faces. I left them to gossip, and grabbed a plate, ordering two fried eggs from the on-duty chef, and piling my plate with fried mushrooms, pork sausages, bacon strips and four slices of toasted white bread. When my eggs were ready, I put them onto the toast, piled the bacon and sausages on top and dribbled a generous helping of Golden Syrup over the lot. I sat down to eat and after a few mouthfuls got a strange feeling, so I looked up to see four female faces staring at me with identical looks of disbelief. Lisa was the odd one out. She had approval and curiosity written large on her face. "Does that taste nice?" Lisa asked. "No," Bettina jumped in, "you're not trying that." At the sight of Lisa's disappointed face, I stage whispered to her, "Try some from my plate." Lisa shifted quickly to sit next to me, avoiding even a glance at her mother, and ate the forkful of food that I offered her. Bettina frowned at me, and I shrugged, "Little Girls, like butterflies, need no excuse." Bettina smiled and I could see her deciding to let it slide. Lisa was instantly a fan, but before she could start pestering her mother to allow her to have a plate of her own, I told her, "You can have a plateful tomorrow," adding after a frown from Bettina, "if your mother says you can." I ignored the beginning of the protracted mother-daughter negotiations as the guys started arriving. Once everyone was well breakfasted, I gathered everyone up and herded them outside. As we walked I pointed out items of interest, distracting them from where we were going and what we were planning on doing. My mind had been working furiously all the time, even waking me early to send me out onto the balcony, and the whole time I had been exchanging morning banter with the crowd, I had been thinking through what our next steps were going to be. I took a footpath up the rise to the right (south) of the lodge, with the rest following me to the top. Once we crested, I waited for everyone to catch up then pointed out what was in the valley below. "As most of you know," I started, to rolled eyes and grins from the guys, "the purpose of the farm is to run as a business. The lodge is only a minor part of what we do here. This is the major part." "What is it?" Daise asked, looking down into the valley, obviously puzzled. "That's what we call our 'Adventure Center'," I replied, "It's where we do the Team-Building and training that pays for this whole operation." "Can you tell me what we are looking at?" Bettina asked. "Sure. That's why we're here." I answered. "This building just below us to the right is the barracks, then over there is the obstacle course," I pointed out. "Where the trees and dense green bush runs is a small river where we have a bush-lane firing course. Up there where the river runs up into the hills, we have a standard firing range." "What's that funny set of ruined buildings?" Daise pointed them out. "That's the paint-ball range," I answered. Bird spluttered as he tried to suppress a laugh. "What's so funny, Bird?" Alina asked him. "Rupert's not telling you the 'Whole Truth'," he answered. "Have you played paint-ball?" "Yes," Daise and Alina answered, almost in unison. "OK, but not like this I guess. We have what's called Airsoft1 gear. It's called Milsim2 — Military Simulation — because it is supposed to be a game that simulates military operations. I get the feeling that you're going to find out just how intense and little like a game it is though, if I know Rupert." I grinned and said nothing about that. "What I've been thinking, is that we need to start putting some teams together and seeing if we can't hurt these arseholes. While we're waiting for things to happen, I figured it wouldn't hurt to start sharpening ourselves up, and running you ladies through some sort of training program," I told them. "Bird is correct, the Milsim weapons and training ... we've gotten to a stage that it's as close to real as we can go. Instead of firing at targets, we set up scenarios where your team has to fight another team, and it feels like the real thing. We do use real weapons for the range and the bush-lane course, with targets, but we'll train you on the Airsoft stuff first." "What are we going to wait for Rupert?" Johnny asked, emerging finally from his long introspection which I suspected had more to do with an excess of alcohol than with any natural philosophical bent. "My first priority is intelligence. I've called on an old mate, Gerrie. He's a Mil-Int type. He's driving down from Vrede. Should be here late today. Also put out the word that there's an Op happening and we'll see how many that attracts. You know how the bush-telegraph works." "Ja, might get no-one or hundreds rocking up," Johnny said with a smile. "Have to wait and see." "In the meantime, I want us all to move into the barracks and start working on fitness and weapons drill. Sharpen up on Urban and introduce the ladies to the game. Should be fun." There were groans from the guys and a few puzzled looks from the girls. I ignored both and headed down the hill towards the barracks. 1 2 Chapter 46 Home - My Library - Top [Bookmark Next Chapter] - More Info

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