In the ice-cold vacuum of space, on the far side of the moon, out of the reach of any Earthly telescopes or satellites, a Rigellian battle-station lurked. Lurking was somewhat difficult for a craft that was about the size of Utah, but it lurked nonetheless. Deep in the heart of the station was the control room from which the invasion of the Earth was being orchestrated. In the centre of the control room, amidst clusters of display screens, and surrounded by junior officers, stood the leader of the Rigellian invasion forces. His name was Admiral Xarnax Splurmfeen. From the tip of his towering, solid crystal ceremonial war helmet to the bottom of his platform-soled, pyramidal, bejeweled battle boots, he cut a resplendent and imposing figure. Yet, despite all his finery, he was not happy.
This was no real surprise to his crew, as most of the them couldn't remember the last time Admiral Splurmfeen had been happy. This was mostly because it had been a very long time since he had been happy but was also partly due to his alarming tendency to shoot, blow up or launch into space any crew-member of who happened to annoy him. Admiral Splurmfeen's low annoyance threshold resulted in very few of his crew enjoying long careers under his command. Although—to be strictly accurate—very few of them enjoyed their careers under his command, irrespective of their length.
The current source of his unhappiness was a screen displaying the remnants of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
"Who," bellowed Admiral Splurmfeen, "is the complete and utter moron who destroyed that bridge?" Rigellian is generally a harsh and graceless language, and his voice, hardened by a career of enraged rants, was particularly coarse, guttural and most of all, very loud. "Minimal damage to major infrastructure, you brain-dead blobs of rancid armpit discharge! Those were my orders! How are the scum-sucking Earth slaves going to meet their shoe quota if they're busy REBUILDING THE STINKING BRIDGE THEY NEED TO CROSS TO GET FROM THEIR STINKING HOVELS TO THE STINKING SHOE FACTORIES?" He drew a large and disturbingly spiky gun from a holster slung low on his waist and shot a passing junior officer in one of his kneecaps. The officer attempted to hop on his way, but hampered by his enormously high platform soles, soon fell over and was forced to crawl. The admiral glared at him. "Are you bleeding on my control room floor?"
"No, sir!" The officer guiltily clapped a hand over his wounded knee, before crabbing away awkwardly on one hand, one knee and an elbow.
The admiral turned his attention from the small screen displaying the infuriating bridge to the control room's main display screen, which thankfully was displaying much more gratifying images.
"Status report!" he barked. The images on the main screen refreshed and rearranged themselves as another junior officer nervously stood and began to speak.
"Admiral, all invasion objectives have been achieved, largely as planned and on schedule, with only"—he paused for a nervous swallow—"minor deviations from mission protocols." He edged surreptitiously to one side, so that his kneecaps were shielded by a convenient desk. The admiral glowered at him and didn't put away his gun, but refrained from shooting any of the officer's exposed areas, which he took as a signal to continue.
"One hundred and forty-two major cities have been attacked, with the damage mostly"—swallow—"limited to non-essential infrastructure and iconic landmarks, presumed to be of significant cultural and patriotic value to the Earthlings." Images flashed up on the main screen of a toppled Eiffel tower, a headless Statue of Liberty and a largely flattened Taj Mahal. "Casualties have also been kept to a minimum, in order to maximise the available slave population once the invasion and subjugation are complete. Most major world leaders have been captured, and although several are still on the run, we expect to have them all within another Earth day."
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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...