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A short story 18-Jun-2005 At 1:59:27 PM PN
Our swashbuckling hero had been stuck in Arabia, chasing locals from one end of the desert to the other. It had been six years since he had spoken English, even longer since he had tied into a rope and done battle with that, the most trying adversary - the mountain environment.

He sat down at the desk, wiped dust off the PC screen and logged on. Amazingly, the password still worked after all these years.....He took a long swig from a Fosters. He winced with the familiar taste of Australia's worst export, distained by true Australians in favour of a VB or a Carlton. Fosters had been designed for the American market, which favoured lighter, watered-down versions of the full flavoured lagers that were enjoyed back home. Some things never change, he chuckled, and crunched the tin can with his left fist before throwing it into the waste-paper bin on the other side of the room.

The pile of climbing gear - ice axes, snowstakes, crampons, ropes and rock boots - lay on the ground in the corner of the office, under an old surfboard, where he had left it so many years ago. He picked up the ice axe and made a few air swings, recalling the satisfaction of a solid placement in the ice - you could hang your whole body weight off the single tip of the axe if you placed it properly.

He cracked open another Fosters and took a look out the window through the blinds. The afternoon had grown long, the sun was sitting low in the sky and the wind had picked up over the ocean. A lone yacht plowed through the breaks a few hundred metres offshore, keeling heavily to starboard as gusts carried its main sail. Seagulls milled around on the boardwalk in anticipation of the foodscraps that would invariably come their way from the many seaside bars and grills.

He eased back into the chair and took another sip of the bitter tasting beer, going down much better now after the initial shock, and logged on to Chockstone.

The beer was quickly slammed down...."Wha? Damn you Hexy!!!!"

There would be a lot of work to do......

It had been years since he had last checked email. When a stray bullet had taken out the sat phone there had been no option to get online in the desert. As a result the email inbox was full of unread messages. The most disturbing was an email from Michael, an old mate in Australia.

>"P, I need your help, Hex has taken over Chockstone. He's now reached 100,000 posts, most of them to himself, only a few of them climbing related. As you know, we'd been trying to set up Chockstone based on Neilo's original premise - an informative and friendly site for people to browse through, catch up on the latest climbing news, buy gear and pick up technical tips from more experienced climbers. All this was going great guns until Havashatwithexy came into force. It's taken over Chockstone, we don't know what to do. Please help! I've gotta go now!! Nothings safe any more...."

He leaned back in his chair, now onto the third beer, and took a deep breath. He shuddered to think of the situation back in Victoria, Australia. He opened the drawer of the desk and looked down at the standard issue Browning 9mm, waiting patiently in it's holster. Eager for service once more - her majesty's secret service. The Browning was often called the disco gun as it was easily concealed and with silencer a shot would be barely audible in a noisy bar or disco. It had come into vogue during the so-called cold war - when every man and his dog was walking around Washington thinking he was James Bond replete with pistol, listening device and coder.

He took another long swig from the beer and thought to himself - shite, there isn't much time.....

Edited by Admin to remove an offensive term. 29/6/05

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