Chapter 24

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The Rigellian battlestation emerged into view from behind the crescent of the moon.  It emerged some more.  And then some more.  And then it kept on emerging.

Cam and Max floated in front of the viewport and watched in silent awe.  The sheer immensity of the station drove home the scale of the challenge they were faced with.  This station was clearly the product of a highly advanced, industrialised, space-faring civilisation, capable of traversing the galaxy and of conquering whole worlds.

And they were a couple of baristas.

"You know what?" said Cam.  "I know we've been invaded, I know these Rigellians are aliens with spaceships and all that kind of stuff and I know we're up against it.  But I didn't really get it.  Until now.  Look at that thing.  Mate, what chance do we have?  We are so boned."

Max swallowed.  He felt exactly the same as Cam did, but couldn't see much point in admitting it.  "Oh, I don't know.  We've done alright so far.  Let's just get on board and see what happens.  We'll figure something out."

Cam gave him a half-hearted grin.  "You never were much good at pep-talks.  But you're right.  We may as well give it a crack.  It's not like we can bail out now, anyway."

The door to their room slid open to admit Flenson, who was looking a little worse for wear.  He regarded the baristas with bloodshot eyes.

"Hey there, Zlep," said Cam, turning away from the viewport.

Flenson put a hand to his forehead.  "Not so loud," he snapped.  "Why do you bloody Earthlings always have to go around shouting everything?"

Max cast an experienced eye over the captain.  "Let me guess.  Big headache, feeling grumpy, can't think straight?"

Flenson glared at him.  "How do you know that?"

Max grinned.  "Mate, I'm a barista.  I know caffeine withdrawal when I see it."

"Is that what this is?  What the hell do I do about it?"

"That's easy.  Have a coffee."

Flenson's face brightened.  "Have you got some?"

"'Fraid not, dude.  I didn't pack the espresso machine, so you're just going to have to ride this one out.  Think of it as motivation.  The sooner you help us sort out the invasion, the sooner you can get some caffeine into you.  In fact, if we win this thing I'll guarantee you a free lifetime's supply from Committed Coffee."

"Committed Coffee?"

"That's the name of our coffee shop.  The slogan is, "Crazy about coffee?  Get Committed."  What do you think?"

"I think you're better at making coffee than slogans.  But look, the reason I came to see you is because we'll be at the battlestation in a few minutes.  Any ideas as to what you're going to do?"

"We were kind of hoping you might be able to help us with that," replied Max.  "It's your station.  What are its weak spots?"

Flenson shrugged.  "No idea, sorry.  I'm a communications officer, so engineering isn't really my thing.  I do know that we've never lost a battlestation.  Ever."

Cam shook his head.  "You're even worse at pep talks than Max."

"There must be something," persisted Max.  "Some weak spot, something we can blow up or shut down or just basically mess up in some way.  Think Flenson, think."

"If only I  had a coffee," muttered Flenson, frowning ferociously.  "Let's see.  Hmm, maybe you could-"

He was interrupted by a crashing sound as the shuttle gave a sickening judder and the lights momentarily dimmed.  Pushing himself away from the doorway, he zoomed over to a communications panel located on the wall.  "Flenson to bridge.  Status report!" he barked.

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