"You want to turn us into weapons?" exclaimed Max.
"What does that even mean?" asked Cora.
"Sounds interesting," murmured Mel.
Cam's eyes became dreamy. "I think I'd be nunchucks. Or maybe one of those big jousting sticks."
They all turned to look at him. Self-consciously, he shifted in his seat. "You know. If I was a weapon."
Mel snorted. "Cameron, you are many things. But a weapon you are not. Well, maybe a Nerf gun."
"People, people," said Ethlukjamson, impatiently. "You wanted the short version, so if I may continue?" The others fell silent. "Thank-you.
"Time was short. Flixl and his team set to work on making the plan a reality. He spent every possible hour researching, formulating, experimenting and reformulating. He spent so much time on the human problem that his official work began to suffer. Suspicions began to arise among his military superiors.
"But finally, he found the solution—the means to turn lowly homo-sapiens into awesome homo-kickassiens. He also had to deliver the treatment, and that was where I came in—hologrammatic AIs like me would infiltrate the human population and pick out the best candidates for weaponisation.
"But then, on the very day before the invasion was due to start, disaster struck. Flixl was betrayed. Barely escaping arrest at his quarters, he managed to make it to his secret lab and began the process of launching the delivery capsules, even though the final weaponisation formula hadn't been fully tested, and the holograms"—Ethlukjamson looked down at his shiny black shoes and sighed—"still needed a little work."
"He managed to launch eight capsules before the military police tracked him down. When he saw there was no escape, he punched the chief MP in the face, called them all steaming piles of rancid Betelguesian monkey-puke, triggered the bomb he'd installed in the lab for just such an occasion and blew the lab, the remaining capsules, the MPs and himself into sub-atomic particles. He was a Rigellian, after all." Ethlukjamson shook his head. "What an assemblage-fornicate."
This one took Cam a few seconds. "I've got it—what a clusterfu-"
"Yes, thank you Cam," interjected Cora. "I think we all get it."
"Anyway," continued Ethlukjamson, "my capsule was one of the eight."
"So," said Max, slowly. "That means there's seven other badly-dressed holograms out there recruiting seven other groups of—baristas?"
Ethlukjamson grinned. "Surprisingly, baristas actually weren't the first choice for world saviours. No, the plan was to track down the best warriors on Earth and convert them into the super-soldiers your planet would so badly need to kick some Rigellian bottom. Er, butt. Actually, ass. No, sorry, sorry—arse. Yeah, kick some Rigellian arse." He beamed proudly at them.
"Which brings us back to the question," interjected Cora. "Why us? We're not exactly the arse-kicking types. Well, except maybe for Mel."
"That's a bit complicated. The Rigellians dispatched a fleet manned by Narguwullians to capture or destroy the eight launched capsules. With copious discrimination."
"Extreme prejudice?" hazarded Cam.
"Precisely," confirmed Ethlukjamson.
"So," said Cam, "the Narguwhatsits' ships were the fireballs that got us up in the first place?"
"Yep," replied Ethlukjamson. "Those fireballs were a bunch of non-liquefied Narguwullians looking to toast my curvy little non-corporeal arse. They were patrolling the stratosphere looking for me and my compadres. Speaking of which—" He paused and his eyes took on a faraway look for a few seconds, before coming back into focus. "I can't make contact with any of the other capsules. We should be able to communicate, but I'm getting zilch."
YOU ARE READING
The Four Baristas of the ApocalypseScience Fiction
In the Earth's darkest hour, unexpected heroes are stirring. Stirring their coffee, that is. When aliens invade, four baristas on a camping trip hardly seem the most likely saviours of the world. But thanks to a hologram with no fashion sense, some...