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Meanwhile, in the arboretum Café Puke franchise…
…the heroic earplug duo and their allies from Scroton were still in deep conversation. Outside – shooting in through a window in the back wall – Rupert Piles caught everything upon his mighty TV camera…
“This is good.” He said to himself. “I’ll be able to stretch this into a two-part docudrama. I might even win an award for it. Heaven knows I’m overdue one. Let’s hope no one gets the drop on me, like the aliens did on Nigel and his gang.”
Whilst important discussions were taking place in one Café Puke outlet; in another, which happened to be located at the edge of the nearby Wide Blue Yonder…
…a surprised pair of Baristas were…ugh…surprised to see Jungle-Jake lead Mary-Sue and Moyst into their workplace.
“Hey,” the taller of the two Baristas – both of whom were cleaning spilt coffee from a table near the back – cried, “what are you guys doing here? Has your café burned down, fallen foul of the Health and Safety Executive, or something?”
“Or have you been fired for rudeness and overt gum chewing?” The shorter earplug inquired.
“I smelt some sugar cane.” Jungle-Jake added. “The pong led us here.”
“Oh yeah,” the first Barista said as comprehension dawned. “We had a load of sugar cane crystals in sachets: but no one bothers with the real thing, not when they can have nice white refined sugar. It was past its sell-by date. We’ve been burning it in an incinerator out the back.”
“If you wanna look around out there,” the second Barista said helpfully,” you might find a few sachets on the ground. We were having fun flicking ’em at each other, and we couldn’t be bothered to pick them up. But, watch it, people take their plugmutts ‘round there to have a pee, so they might smell a bit iffy.”
Meanwhile the autofocus of Rupert’s camera found it difficult to see clearly through the futuristically pseudo-opaque glass in one of the café’s side windows…
More fortunately, the microphone experienced no difficulty picking up what the occupants of the café were saying to each other.
“Let me get this right.” Nigel was saying to Magnuss. “You never actually saw the aliens: they spoke through a vocoder-like apparatus, so you have no idea what they really sound like; they destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford as a demonstration of their power; they want your unconditional surrender; and they’ve given you two weeks to make your decision – and left you to think it over?”
Magnuss was happy with that summation. Then he thought of something else:
“Oh yes, they also left a huge ovoid ring. It’s hanging in the air, over the sea, just off the coast, near the sewage outlet. It’s heavily armed, has multiple layers of electro-magnetic defensive screening, and is the means by which the semi-fleet departed this region of space.”
Beatrix picked up on one of Magnuss’ terms: “Semi-fleet?” She inquired. “Might an alternative nomenclature for a small number of armed invasion ships be termed a ‘flotilla’?”
Magnuss thought about it for a second. “Yes, I guess it would.” He answered. “Yes, the ovoid ring was the means by which the flotilla departed this region of space.”
Beatrix turned to her husband. “There, I told you so – when we blew up that shape-shifting sausage roll: there is a flotilla of our latest ship out there – and it’s kicking ass!”
Nigel didn’t need to be reminded. All his fears were taking on corporeal form. “Do we know where they went to?” He asked Magnuss. “You know, when they left via the ovoid ring?”
Magnuss fetched out his cell phone. He spoke as he did so. “We sent a drone in after the…flotilla. Before we lost contact with it, the drone sent this back.” Quickly searching through its library of images with deft movements of his pinky-orange fingers, he produced this…
A collective gasp escaped the seven sets of Scrotonic lungs. “Weird Space!” The seven owners of the seven sets of lungs exclaimed in a hushed tone.
“Recognise the planet?” Magnuss inquired. “It’s brown all over, with no surface water.”
No one did: but Julian noticed something pertinent:
“It has an aura.” He said. “A glow, if you will. It could indicate a substantial cloaking facility. Large enough to hide the entire world, maybe. You said that their ships evaded your sensors? Perhaps this world is evading Scroton’s.”
Nigel’s fears doubled at these words. “You mean that there is a hidden planet in Weird Space that we don’t know about – that has a capacity to develop technology as well or better than we can? If I had any pants on, I’d probably be pooping in them as we speak”
Beatrix looked at Nigel. “You don’t have any pants on?” She inquired quietly.
“Forgot to pack any.” Nigel explained. “That’s why I chose the kilt. But enough of my wardrobe disaster: We need to act – and act decisively. “
Talking of acting decisively, in the Wide Blue Yonder Café Puke, Moyst, Jungle-Jack, and Mary-Sue had thanked the Baristas for their help, and were leaving the café – their pockets burgeoning with vaguely unpleasant-smelling sachets of unprocessed cane sugar…
So, the difficult facet of their task completed, now it was merely a matter of retracing their steps back to the arboretum; past the bamboo plantation…
…and finally to the café where Nigel, presumably, awaited his sugar…
“Pity we couldn’t find a mortar and pestle.” Jungle-Jake lamented quietly.
“That’s old tech.” Moyst snorted derisively behind him. “No one can expect a Barista to find ancient stuff in the Museum of Future Technology. I mean – it’s counter intuitive, aint it!”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022
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