Chapter 29

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Meanwhile, on the bridge of the battle-tank, deep in the chilled wastes of Antarctica, things were heating up.

"Now Mel, we don't want to do anything too hasty.  How about we put my capsule down and talk about this, like grown-ups?"

"Hah!  Grown-ups?  You're not even a week old.  How about you bite me?"

EJ paused to consider this.  "Would that help?  It's just that I don't actually have any teeth."

"Lucky for you," growled Mel.  "Otherwise I'd knock them out, you lousy, stinking SPY!"

The hologram looked pained.  "I told you, I'm not a spy - I'm a source.  It's totally different."

"Have you been keeping secrets from us?"

"Well, I suppose you could put it that way-"

"And have you been recording everything we do?"

"Um, more or less."

"And transmitting it back to the battlestation?"

"Well, yes.  But-"

"Then you're a bloody spy!  Give me one good reason why I shouldn't crush your capsule and put an end to you.  And your stupid yellow hard-hat."

"Because I'm your friend?"

Mel snorted.  "I said a good reason, dipshit."  She braced the capsule between her hands.  "Time to say good-bye."

"Mel, wait," said Cora.  "Let's at least hear the full story, first.  You can always kill EJ afterwards."

EJ looked even more pained.  "Or we could, you know, not kill EJ."  He decided to appeal to the one entity he was sure he could rely on.  "Right, Marilyn?"

There was a few pregnant seconds of silence.  "We'll see," replied the tank, eventually.

Crushed, EJ opened his mouth to protest, but then, thinking better of it, sat down and lapsed into glum silence.

Uva Kwoin cleared her throat.  "Perhaps I haven't been entirely clear.  As I said, the hologram has been reporting on your activities" -Mel growled ominously- "but not to the Rigellians."

"Well then, who has he been reporting to?" asked Cora.  "Who else would care about what a bunch of clueless baristas are up to?"

The Councillor smiled.  "Only about half the galaxy.  You may be surprised to know that the four of you have practically become galactic celebrities.  And as for being clueless, I think you're being a little harsh on yourselves.  You're doing a very good job of frustrating the Rigellians.  They're not an easy race to stop."

Cora frowned.  "Celebrities?  Us?  But hardly anybody even knows about us."

"Perhaps not on Earth.  But thanks to your hologrammatic friend, billions of GalCon citizens do."

"I think our friend better explain what the hell is going on," suggested Mel.  "And it better be the truth, otherwise Eejie will be saying buh-bye."

"Everything I've told you has been true," protested EJ.  "All the stuff about Flixl Bluxlspun getting tired of conquering planets, and about the roadside attractions, and about wanting to help the Earth - it's all true.  I just didn't tell you where he got the money from."

"The money?" queried Cora.  "The money for what?"

"For everything.  For all of this.  For you.  You think it's cheap to research how to weaponise humans, program holgrammatic AIs and build delivery capsules?  Let me tell you, it's not.  Flixl had the will to help Earth, but not the means.  So he couldn't be too picky about where he got his money from."

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