The occupants of every vessel in the solar system winced, as the high pitched squealing, broadcast on an all frequencies, burst out of their communication systems.
"-eeeeeeeeeee! Oh, I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it's me! Oh, it's so exciting! Oh, I'm going to be ever so famous. I'll be on The Galaxy Today! I'll be interviewed by Strarl Fabulon! I might even meet—oh, I can't believe it—SCOOP7! Eeeeeeeeeee—"
"Marilyn, who or what the hell is that?" demanded Mel, hands over her ears. "And can you turn it down?"
"It is turned down," protested the tank. "Hang on, I'll just reduce the treble as well." The squealing dipped to just below the ear-haemorrhaging range. "As for who it is, I don't know. But the transmission is coming from Mars."
"-eeeeeee! Guess what, everyone? Oh, you're going to be ever so pleased. I found him! Yes, I did! Little old me! I found that bad old Splurmfeen. And he doesn't look very happy, let me tell you, tee-hee. Oh, you should see his face—he's ever so cross. Come quickly, come and see! I'm sending the co-ordinate thingies now. See you all soon! Eeeeee—"
On the bridges of four different spacecraft, spread across several hundred million kilometres of space, three baristas and a GalCon Councillor simultaneously frowned, and spoke as one.
"What the hell?"
"Greetings, viewers. Strarl Fabulon here, with a fast-breaking development in the Rigel-Dirt campaign crisis. Ex-admiral Xarnax Splurmfeen has been found! Just when all hope seemed lost for the Dirtwegians, just when it seemed certain that their alleged civilisation was doomed, along with all life on their planet, the man who holds the key to their salvation has been found.
"Over the last few days, hundreds of vessels, from dozens of GalCon worlds, have gathered in this system, initially to protest Rigel's invasion, and later to support the plucky resistance of the Grimelings. Then, just a short time ago, in a massive show of spontaneous, unanimous support, these vessels joined in the hunt for Splurmfeen. A hunt that moments ago came to a successful conclusion, as a brave, young Alpha Centaurian woman found the ex-admiral, lurking on the barren and lifeless fourth world of this system. Multiple spacecraft are now converging on his location.
"But they will need to hurry, viewers. With reckless disregard for my own safety, heedless of the unrelenting, ever-persistent peril of the situation, my ship is shadowing the stricken battle-station, as it accelerates further into its death-dive. I can see the lower parts of the superstructure now beginning to glow red, as the station enters the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Surely it can't be long before it's descent is unstoppable.
"Splurmfeen may have been found, viewers, but Dust is far from saved. Stay tuned."
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The Four Baristas of the ApocalypseScience Fiction
In the Earth's darkest hour, unexpected heroes are stirring. Stirring their coffee, that is. When aliens invade, four baristas on a camping trip hardly seem the most likely saviours of the world. But thanks to a hologram with no fashion sense, some...