Chapter 13

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"What do you mean you want to steal their battle-tank?"

"I mean," replied Max, swaying slightly and looking intently at the more in focus of the two EJs he could currently see, "I want to steal their battle-tank.  Seems pretty clear to me."

EJ was momentarily speechless.  But only momentarily.  "Are you insane?  Any minute now, that battle-tank you want to steal is going to blast us into microscopic particles.  I'm amazed it hasn't already.  We need to get out of here!"

"Fine, fine—whatever.  But not until we steal the tank.  'Kay?"

In desperation, EJ turned to the other three baristas.  "Can you lot please talk some sense into him?"

"I'm up for a bit of tank stealing," replied Cam, from where he was sitting on the ground beside Cora.  "Sounds like fun."

"Woo-hoo!" cried Cora, lifting her arms up in the air.  "We're with you, Maxie!  Let's steal that sucker like a boss!"

"Aw, yeah," chanted Mel, doing a little war dance.

EJ stared at them, speechless.  He hadn't known exactly what to expect from the Baristas, post-weaponisation, but it was  fair to say that this apparent state of slight euphoria, moderate drunkenness and serious foolhardiness wasn't it.  He really hoped that it was only temporary and that a good night's sleep would sort them out.  The only complication was working out how to keep them alive for that long.

Meanwhile, Mel's dancing was starting to make apparent an issue that darkness and scrambled brains had previously obscured.

"Er, Mel?" said Max, somewhat hesitantly.  He seemed to be looking very intently at the ground, the sky, the trees and pretty much everything in the vicinity—everything apart from Mel, that is.

Mel was really getting into the swing of her war dance.  "What?"

"Um.  Can you please stop jiggling like that?  It's making it hard to concentrate."

"What, you don't like my dance?"

"No, no," said Max hurriedly.  "Your dance is awesome, just great.  Not that I'm looking at, I mean it.  It's just that you're kind of well...topless."

"Huh?"  Mel stopped dancing and looked down.  "Well, would you look at that.  Those short-arses completely trashed my T-shirt.  Bloody aliens."  She quickly divested herself of the tattered remnants and inspected her exposed skin.  "Not a scratch on me, though.  That weaponisation stuff is the business.  Seriously guys, have a look—blasted by two alien space-guns and not so much as a sunburn.  Check it out."

"Er, no—that's OK Mel.  I'll take your word for it." Max was in serious danger of dislocating something in his efforts to avoid copping an eyeful.  Fried synapses notwithstanding, his personal code of chivalry was very clear on the issue of mates looking at the breasts of mate's girlfriends.

"Cam, give Mel your shirt," said Cora.  Cam—who had been staring, transfixed—dragged his gaze away and did as he was told.

With Mel's modesty restored, Max's attention returned to the next most pressing matter at hand.

"Right, EJ—you were a military AI whatsit thingy, before you got all humanned-up.  How do we steal that tank?"

"We don't!" shouted EJ.  "We run away from that tank, very quickly, before we get barbecued!  That is a highly sophisticated military machine, equipped with awesome destructive power, while you are a bunch of possibly brain-damaged baristas, equipped with unknown and possibly non-existent power!"

Max crossed his arms.  "We are stealing that tank.  S'only fair.  They trashed my wheels, so I'm stealing theirs."

"It doesn't even have any wheels!"

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