Chapter 6 – Gross Grumpet
by Paul du Preez
Through December and January I’ll be serializing this YA novella. Enjoy! (Its available in stores right now – scroll down to the ‘announcements’ panel for retailer links.)
It took me ages to write and record this stuff: what would really help me is some feedback. Thanks in advance.
At lunch time, Jordan trudged up twisting steps to Grumpet’s turret office, and knocked.
“Inside,” barked Grumpet.
Jordan entered, waited, arms dangling.
Grumpet raised his jowls from a plateful of spaghetti he was eating. A steaming cuppa stood alongside; and two bowls of apple crumble topped with whipped cream.
“Trifling with corrupt AI is risky business, boy,” pronounced Grumpet. “A matter of interest to Domestic Security. You could be in deep waters.”
Jordan said nothing.
“Where did you get that code, boy?”
“I found it, sir.” NEVER GIVE UP A BLUD: that was the rule – even though Sean had landed him in it.
“Really? Not very likely,” snorted Grumpet. “Where did you find it?”
“Dunno. I was on the net, sir. Must have picked up a virus, like.”
“You happened to find a virus?”
“You don’t find viruses, boy. They find you.”
“I dunno. Sir.” Jordan stalled. “Maybe it found me, then.”
“And you decided to upload it on the school system.”
“It was an accident, sir.”
“Ah… In that case, give me your PPC and I’ll have it disinfected by the IT department.”
“It’s not here,” Jordan lied. “I sent it home at break.”
“You sent it home at break!”
“Well, it wasn’t working, sir.”
“Jordan, Jordan… As your Head of Year I can pick up this phone and tell the Head Teacher to call Domestic Security; they will seize it from your home.”
“But… won’t you need a warrant for that, sir?”
“Yes! Do you think Domestic Security won’t issue a warrant, boy?”
“Dunno, sir,” said Jordan, calculating. He was sure Grumpet guessed his PPC wasn’t really at home. A warrant would cause a fuss – especially if Domestic Security couldn’t find it. And the hack was just a prank – he reckoned Grumpet knew it wasn’t a virus, or anything serious: he wouldn’t risk looking dumb in front of the Head Teacher, Domestic Security, everyone. He wouldn’t call it in, Jordan decided. “Whatever you gotta do, sir.”
“Harrrrrr…” growled Grumpet – but saw he wasn’t getting anywhere. “Your PPC. In my hand. Tomorrow,” he barked.
Jordan waited, obstinacy made flesh.
“Sit down,” commanded Grumpet. And, as Jordan reluctantly sat, he got up from his half-finished meal and glided round to stand behind Jordan’s chair. “I had a report from your class teacher. Your hair needs trimming.” Grumpet rested his plump hand on Jordan’s afro; dug his fingers into its thick, lush fuzz.
Jordan bucked. He could feel Grumpet’s flabby belly pressing against his shoulder over the rim of the chair-back. Whoa. Freaky!
“Cooperate with me and I can turn a blind eye.” Then, slyly, “Do you want to get it turboed?”
Jordan clamped his jaw shut.
Persuasively, “I know you want to get it turboed.”
Jordan waited. Forever.
“Why so tense? Relax – you can trust me. We could be… friends.”
Crump. Beyond freaky! Grumpet’s fat bulk was between him and the door…
Then, at last – after a frozen gobbet of time had slithered slowly down Jordan’s back – Grumpet turned and oozed back to his seat.
…Now he could bolt if he had to.
Back in his chair, Grumpet pleaded, “Have some apple crumble,” and pushed a bowl towards Jordan. “Don’t be stand-offish now. I’m offering you the opportunity to dine with me. A senior member of staff!”
“Thank you sir. But I’m not hungry.”
“Come now. Rethink your attitude. Life is about making the best choices – as I am sure you have heard our dear Headteacher say many times. I am in a position to help you. No letter home requiring you to ‘do’ your hair to regulation length. And, who knows, maybe you’ll be able to keep your turbo after the holidays (which I know you want done). Next year, your year-group will still be mine.” Grumpet watched Jordan, who stayed deep-frozen. “And then there is the…small matter of the cyber-vandalism you perpetrated this morning. Domestic Security doesn’t have to be notified. I could turn a blind eye…”
Suddenly shy, Grumpet dropped his gaze: “But, Jordan, friendships require effort from both sides: I am your friend – but you need to show willing.” He raised moist, dog-like eyes and begged, “Just eat a little apple crumble with me.”
No way!!! “I’m sorry sir, but I’m really not hungry.”
“Aha…” Grumpet frowned, “In that case you won’t mind missing lunch.” And snapped, “Because if that’s your attitude you’ll stay here till you tell me where you got that code.”
“I found it, sir,” repeated Jordan.
Grumpet grunted in annoyance and quickly polished off his spaghetti. “Get your hair cut to regulation length. Before the holidays. Perhaps that will teach you adjust your attitude.” He spooned down his apple crumble. “And I won’t forget about your cyber prank – I will give you rope, but my patience will only last so long before your lack of compliance forces me to go to the authorities.” And finished off Jordan’s portion of apple crumble as well. “But let us be optimistic. Let us hope your surly attitude will change. Perhaps the problem is a lack of exposure to the finer things in life. Jordan, I think we should use this opportunity to expand your mental horizons. Every cloud has a silver lining. Don’t you agree?”
Grumpet swivelled in his chair and fished in a filing cabinet, producing a bound manuscript. “I am the author of a fascinating paper entitled ‘Tectonic Shearing Legacies in Victorian Sewage Systems’. I think you will find it inspiring.” He tilted his seat back and began to read aloud.
Sean, blud, you owe me, thought Jordan. Big time! Still not gonna give you up – that’s uncool – but this is stretching it. Way stretching it!
Whoa. Freaky! by Paul du Preez
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Will & Jordan: Cyberhunt is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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