Chapter 5 In the Nick of time

Ten para-minutes after going to I-Drive, 10% of the ticket class warships of the RARS Empire dropped back to C-drive. The battleships had the appearance of broken mosaic tiles enthusiastically glued together. The underlying colour of the fleet was cream and ochre, but the tiles offered flashes of reds, blues, and greens, that belied their gaudy and stylistic origin.

Aboard the lead ship, the GE Problem, Captain Admirable Remedy rounded on his crew. He was very annoyed.
“What in rars is going on? That’s the fifth time this week the server engine has failed. Get me engineering on the comm!” he roared. He was a thin, boney man of late middle-age, with a fairly rattish face, and quick jerky movements fuelled by a ceaseless energy. He paced the captain’s deck impatiently.
“Right away, captain” affirmed a sub-lieutenant, patching him through.
Within moments, ‘Scotty’ Shorn was online.
“What’s happened to the engines this time, Shorn?” demanded Remedy.
“Och, we don’ quite know as yet, Sir. Weev parsed a queery up t’ second level engineering team who’ve parsed it up t’ third level team. Basically, the third level team has already fixed the wee problem, but they’ll be keepin’ it to the’selves for aboot two weeks before lettin’ oos know. Engineering out, aye.”
Remedy sat back and sighed. He turned to his Second Officer, a buxom lady with a thick mane of dark hair. “Winger, set a course for the WebWorld9,” he instructed. ”We’ll just have to use the backup coffee-cup engine and go to CD-drive until the server core’s back up and running. We’ve already lost 90% of the fleet and we’re meant to be backing up the Domino with an attack on the station tomorrow morning. Rars only knows when we’ll get there now!!”
“Course is set captain” came an anonymous voice from the helm.
“Engage!”

******

Meanwhile… deep in the complexities of the WebWorld9 File Application Server Protocol Sharing … also known as the computer mainframe …

It was a dark day in FolderLand. Well, inside FolderLand it’s always dark. Standback.cfee, the coffee vendor, was serving Doctor.Stavros.dctr a fresh early morning hit of Earl Black Tea, when in walked the lithe and sexy Wilma.exe, and her trusty sidekick, K9.prrr.
Computer files led their own unique lives, after all. It’s not just a matter of passing binary hexadecimal values back and forth, a cosmopolitan world of customized executables were required to keep the proverbial cogs running smoothly. And as these inhabitants were ignorant of their relation to the space station that was the WebWorld9, so were the many species that lived and worked on the station unaware of just how the whole damn thing ticked along.
Wilma’s eyes flashed a greeting at the coffee vendor, and Standback’s tentacles flushed red in embarrassment. The good doctor, having just rushed from an early pre-natal delivery in the Folder called Eelee, chuckled to himself.
“What is thy bidding, My Master?”, breathed K9 to her Mistress. Wilma looked down at her trusty cat, and smiled, “Oh, go and play with Tweeeky.bot, for a few para-secs, if you want”.
As K9 wheeled about to head for the service door beside the counter, the people in the shop suddenly became aware of distant, muffled voices:

“… Where is … does … realise … this affects his hold time … Nick…?”

And:

”… wonderful … guest …”

And:

”… they intend to … yargh … been assass … uhh.”

The last one was followed by a muffled thud. Standback’s patrons simply looked at each other in bewilderment.

******

The Shuttle A/MX detached from the HMS Server and telnetted across to one of the free docking arms protruding from the ring surrounding the WebWorld9 space station. Slogs had elected to arrive with the pomp and ceremony that came with a Home Server Farm Fleet shuttle, rather than use the Teleportation suite from the ground deck of his star ship. Being able to walk into a Trade Summit was far better than zig-zagging out of thin air, he had declared to Sandy, his Second-in-Command, when they were hurriedly trawling through the Fleet’s tome of a manual on Diplomatic Etiquette.

The shuttle bumped to a stop, hissed with re-pressurisation, and on cue, the hatchway slid open. Slogs and Sandy were greeted with a feeble and off-key attempt at a naval whistle as they stepped onto the station, and then Rhett Crisko strode forward, a fixed smile politely holding his face together. He politely but briefly shook hands with the Server Farm Fleet captain.

“Welcome aboard, Captain, long time no sea… ha, ha, ha …” giggled Rhett lamely at his own joke. Slogs returned the plastered smile, and followed it with a frown for good measure.
“Thank you, Crisko, it has indeed been too long since we last met, far too long…”
“Ummm… Shall we get on…?” offered Sandy.
“Yes, yes!” Crisko clapped his hands together. “Javva the Hub of Titfortat, Ambassador for the Rars Empire has already arrived, and given his opening speech… At least, I hope that was his opener, I’d hate to have to hear it all again…”
“What are they demanding, I mean, bringing to the table?” enquired Slogs, settling into his role of Representative of the Home Server Farm Fleet.
“Ummm … We’re not too sure yet…” answered Rhett truthfully. “Something to do with pleasant beings and self-determining planets…?”
“Don’t you know?!” Sandy was incredulous that the small detail of why all this was taking place had eluded them.
“Oh, well we know the general abstract conceptual … thingy … of it all…” Rhett waved his hands expansively. “In fact, we think he’s about to show us a new-fangled thingummyjig, a technical gizmo that the Rars Empire is offering to us.”
“Hmmmm,” answered Slogs dubiously.

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