Chapter 11

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After a final, despondent glance at the peacefully recumbent forms of the baristas, EJ turned to face the approaching Rigellians, morphing as he did so into the form of a Narguwullian trooper.

"Hey there," he called, as they came within range. "How's it hanging?"

The two Rigellian soldiers came to a halt in front of him. They looked as though they'd be lucky to be five feet tall in their socks, but their elevated battle boots and crested war helmets boosted this up to over six feet. The soldier on the left raised his visor and glared at the hologram. "How is what hanging?"

EJ blinked. "Do you know what? That's a good question." A quick peruse of his downloaded copy of the internet provided the answer. "Your penises, of course."

Now the soldier blinked. "What is a penis?"

More perusing. "A human male sex organ."

The soldier turned to look at his companion, who now also lifted his visor. They shared a perplexed glance. The soldier on the right turned back to EJ. "But we don't have human male sex organs."

"And," contributed the soldier on the left, "if we did, then presumably they would hang down, as that is the nature of gravity."

"Unless perhaps gravity is anomalous on this world," speculated the soldier on the right.  "Then perhaps our penises would hang up.  If we had penises."

"Or possibly," pondered the soldier on the left, "human penises are anomalous in their interactions with gravity."

"Yes," said the soldier on the right.  "Or maybe they're inflatable."

"Maybe," said the soldier on the left.  "Both of which would presumably make human sex somewhat anomalous as well."

EJ reflected on his internet experiences.  "Oh, it is."

They all paused to consider this.  Then the soldier on the right shook his head, as if to clear it.

"Your behaviour is very strange for a Narguwullian trooper."

"Yes," said the soldier on the left.  "And why are you wearing that hard and very short yellow hat?"

EJ groaned internally.  "Uh, it's to protect me from, um—rocks.  Yeah that's it, rocks.  With all these gravitational anomalies around there's rocks and penises and stuff flying around all over the place.  You can't be too careful."

The two Rigellians looked around and took in the complete absence of flying rocks and penises.  They looked back at EJ.  "I suspect you are a faulty unit," said the soldier on the left.  "You will be scheduled for recycling when you return to the battle-station.  No doubt your faulty status is the reason why you activated your distress beacon."

"Yeah, yeah—that's right.  I was faulty for a bit, but I got better.  Now I'm fit as a violin and ready to crumble.  Um, rumble.  Yeah, that's it.  Um."

The soldier on the right gestured towards the four motionless, prostrate baristas.  "What is the status of these humans?"

"What humans?"

"The humans lying on the ground behind you!  What is their status?"

"Their status?  Well, let's see—I'm pretty sure Max and Cora are dating and Cam's with Mel, although I've got to admit, sometimes I wonder what the attraction is.  Apparently, from what I've read, some men—"

"Their military status, you imbecile!  Are they combatants or non-combatants?  Are they a threat?  For that matter, are they even alive?"

"Alive?  Actually, now that you mention it, no they're not.  Dead as a box of hammers.  Um, or a doorknob.  I killed them, which of course demonstrates that I am a fully functional, non-faulty Narguwullian trooper.  You guys can jump back in your battle-tank and head home, nothing to see here, have a good night, check you later."

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