Chapter 14

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In the hold of the battle-tank, the eight remaining members of the crew stood in a circle around the baristas, each with at least one weapon trained on their prisoners and several with two—they had raided the tank's substantial armoury for the biggest guns they could carry.

Rigellians are strong—and like big guns.

Staring down the barrel of some kind of silver, spiked space-bazooka, Cora whispered to Max from the corner of her mouth, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

Max was having trouble staring down the barrel of the gun pointed at his head, as it appeared to have five of them.  "I was," he whispered back.  He switched his attention to the other gun pointed at him.  This one was glowing green, was adorned with four bayonets, and somewhat disturbingly, a fork.  "Now, I'm not so sure."

"What are you guys complaining about?" hissed Mel.  Of the thirteen guns currently pointed at the baristas, seven were directed at her.  Clearly, having seen her disposal of two of their colleagues, the tank crew were a little wary.

"Well, at least you know you're bullet-proof," whispered Cam.  "Or laser-proof?  Energy-beam proof?  Dunno, but space-gun-proof, anyway."

"Yes, against the piddly guns those short-arses outside had.  What about these ones?"

"Silence, humans!" barked the XO, immediately wishing he hadn't barked it so loudly.  He had a killer headache.  "You scum are our prisoners and will only speak when spoken to."

"OK, no worries," replied Cam.

"Silence!" shouted the first lieutenant, whose head was fortuitously quite numb.

"But the other guy said we could speak when spoken to and he spoke to me so I figured I could speak."

"You will speak when we tell you to!"

Cam considered this.  "OK, just so we're clear—we can speak when spoken to but only when spoken to in a manner instructing us to speak.  Is that right?"

"Silence!" bellowed the XO and the lieutenant, in unison.  The XO groaned and rubbed his temples with the hand that wasn't holding a laser-guided rocket-launcher.

The first lieutenant grinned.  "Something the matter, XO?  You seem to be unwell."  He knew this was a good thing and was happy about it, but couldn't for the life of him remember why.  His memory seemed a little fuzzy for some reason.  He wondered if it was the same reason his head was numb.  Anyway, the important thing was to focus on the prisoners.  He blinked and shook his head.

"Hang on.  Wasn't there a Narguwullian with the humans before?"

"Yes," snapped the XO.  "He went back to his craft, as the captain ordered.  Don't you remember?"

"What?  Of course I do!  Where is the captain, anyway?"

"He's outside with a car parked on his head!  Damn it lieutenant, what's wrong with...?"  Realisation dawned on the XO.  "Oh dear, you seem to be a little concussed.  With the captain out of action and you indisposed, that means I'm now in undisputed command of the tank."

Once again, the first lieutenant wasn't really sure why, but he knew this was a bad thing.  "What?  Disinposed?  No, I'm ferfectly pine.  Couldn't be wetter.  And furthermore, plerk."

The XO grinned and held up three fingers.  "How many, lieutenant?"

The first lieutenant frowned in concentration.  "Hang on, I know this one.  Give me a second.  Um...I've got it—W!"

"W fingers?"

"Yes.  Quithout westion.  Smelnark," replied the first lieutenant with great conviction, before passing out and collapsing to the floor.

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