it!” Justin exclaimed, looking down at the blood splattered across
his previously immaculate boots and trousers. He was tired of the flower-loving,
tree-hugging hippies continually protesting outside the naval base. This
time he had given them a few bloody mementoes to take with them.
Ross looked at the mess on his friend’s clothes. “Don’t
worry, that’ll wash out.” he said, as he turned and leaned over
the sink. He turned on the cold tap and began washing the fast congealing
red liquid from his hands. “I’ve had quite a lot of experience
getting blood out of clothing, believe me.”
Justin smiled. “I don’t doubt it!”
Pan was standing nearby. “I could use any tips on stain removal.”
He said as he screwed up the now moist paper towel he’d been rubbing
over his hands. He threw the sodden towel into the bin in the far corner
of the washroom. His aim was impeccable.
Ross loved giving out that kind of advice. “Well, the first thing
to do is rinse the bloodied area with cold water. That’ll get rid
of a lot of it. Don’t whatever you do use hot water or you’ll
cook it. You all know what black pudding looks like – fuckin’
foul. The next thing is to soak the stained clothing in dishwasher detergent.
It has protein digesting enzymes which do a good job on blood stains. If
there is still a stain try a little diluted hydrogen peroxide. That normally
does the trick.”
Lawrence and Peter walked in, their boots caked in drying blood. Lawrence
smirked. “I bet the shroud of Turin would never have existed if you
were around back then, Ross.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
Justin was the last to leave the washroom. He joined the others standing
outside on the dock in the bright morning sunshine. Western Scotland was
renowned for having the most cloud cover of anywhere in the United Kingdom,
but today it was not living up to its gloomy reputation. If I’m
going to give out a good kicking, Justin thought, I prefer to do it on
a crisp, bright morning like this.
Ambulance sirens could be heard fading away in the background as they
ferried away the last of the bruised and battered protestors. Now was
the time. “Right boys,” Justin said with a serious tone. “I
guess we should get on with business. Follow me.”
Pan, Peter, Ross and Lawrence followed Justin. As they walked along the
dock to the large grey building at the end Justin could sense the air
of expectation amongst his friends. It was right that they felt that way.
They were going to be the first civilians to see the Navy’s latest
and greatest piece of technology. The cost of the project had been phenomenal
- no expense had been spared. They could only wonder at the capabilities
of what lay hidden behind those massive grey doors. Justin could not help
grinning. He loved to have important secrets locked up in his brain. And
he loved to reveal them even more.
Ross broke the silence. “Hey, guys!” He said, as he produced
a chrome-plated hip flask from his pocket. “I think we should have
a toast.” He undid the lid and raised the flask up. “To us!”
After choking back a mouthful of the burning liquid he passed it on. Everyone
repeated the little ritual.
Peter was the last to take his swig. He grimaced. “Bloody Captain
Morgan! You’d have thought that he’d be able to make a decent
bottle of rum by now.” The consumption of strong alcoholic beverages
was not one of Peter’s favourite activities.
The group carried on their way to the giant grey hanger. Justin stood
in front of a small panel just to the side of the large doors. As he did
so a red laser beam ran quickly over his body before focusing on his eyes.
Almost immediately the retinal scanner confirmed his identity. An unnecessarily
sexy sounding computer voice spoke. “WELCOME, CAPTAIN CODD. YOUR
MASSIVE AND IMPRESSIVELY PHALLIC VESSEL AWAITS YOUR PRESENCE.”
With a hydraulic whooshing noise a small door next to the panel opened.
A look of disappointment crossed the faces of Justin’s companions,
who had obviously been hoping the huge doors would ease their way open.
It was the last time they were going to unimpressed for quite a while.
They followed Justin through the small door.
Pan, Peter, Ross, and Lawrence stood and stared in awe at the sight before
them. The interior of the hanger was incredible. At over a hundred metres
tall, and a kilometre in length, the building was the largest construction
facilities in the world. High above, huge pieces of machinery hung from
the ceiling like giant mechanical insects – some of them were moving
slowly on wide rails. Running between the machines were a myriad of gantries,
on which dozens of grey-haired men in white coats tapped away on palmtop
PCs. Across the floor, autonomous robots ferried men and equipment in
From the centre of the ceiling, a thick cluster of cables and pipes dropped
down and connected to the longest, blackest, tallest, widest machine known
to man. This was obviously what they were all here to see.
Justin was sitting on a nearby robotic transport. “Climb on.”
Ross joined Justin at the front of the vehicle. Pan, Peter and Lawrence
climbed onto the back and grabbed some hand-holds. The robotic vehicle
accelerated quickly and headed towards the centre of the hanger, zigzagging
between the other transports. Within seconds they were speeding along
the side of the giant black behemoth, which was floating in a deep channel
Justin took a deep breath, and then spoke proudly. “Behold!,”
He said with reverence. “The new flagship of the British Royal Navy,
and the largest, most ferocious, and most deadly war machine ever constructed
– HMS Death Reaper!”
Ross punched the air. “Fuckin’ yes!”
Justin continued. “It’s four hundred metres long, seventy
wide, and sixty-six high. With twenty-two decks, nothing else comes close
to this baby!”
The robotic transport slowed and came to a halt next to the giant submarine’s
conning tower. Everyone stepped off the transport.
Pan looked up at the tower. “Man, this is cool! It beat’s
that little old sub thing you showed us a couple of years ago.”
Peter agreed. “Yeah, that was - to put it crudely - crap!”
“It certainly was.” Justin agreed, leading the group onto
the gangway that lead to a large hatch on the side of the Death Reaper.
“We use those for target practice now.”
Two guards armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers met the group
at the top of the gangway. They saluted their captain. Justin returned
the salute and stepped through the submarine’s hatch.
Peter laughed. “If I could choose what my taxes are spent on,”
he said, following Justin, “this would be it!”
The others followed, nodding in agreement.
“Gentlemen, if you would like to take your seats I shall continue.”
Justin said, pointing across the small but luxurious compartment. Pan,
Lawrence, Peter and Ross looked around and saw four seats with their names
mounted over four of them.
“What’s going on?” Lawrence asked as he slowly surveyed
the plush surroundings. The four friends sat down in their arm chairs
fixed at various positions around the room. As soon as they were all seated,
a small retina scanner descended from the ceiling. After the scanner had
made a rapid flyby of everyone’s face, they were all positively
identified and logged into their seats.
Justin began slowly. “A long time ago the Defence Agency realised
that the people who joined the armed forces might not be the ones best
cut out to fight for their country, or indeed the world. It became apparent
that a process was needed to identify the ideal candidates. To this extent
over the last twenty years every arcade game, computer and games console
has had a small transmitter installed within it to relay high scores in
intelligence, mental agility and speed of thought, and of course identity,
direct to the Defence Agency. From the early Atari games consoles, to
Play Station, to Gameboy Advance, players’ identities and qualities
have been monitored. Even the Sinclair C5 had a chip to recognise driving
skills, but we don’t like to talk about that one.”
Ross was playing with the controls surfaces on his seat. He had managed
to access HMS Death Reaper’s weapons systems - an act that seemed
reminiscent of some game he had once played. It was an act that also felt
completely natural to him. “So, what you’re saying is that
not only is this one bottom-kicking fucker of a vessel, but the crew is
top-line and chosen from the best video game players this country can
“Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.” Justin replied. His
tone lowered slightly. “But there are a few high-level crew positions
still not filled. We need the best – the very best – video
game players available.” He looked around the room. “In case
you haven’t guessed, the best players available are sitting right
Pan had found the doughnut maker next to his seat and was quite content
chomping away on a fresh batch of sweet and doughy snacks. After hearing
Justin’s last words he spat out his current mouthful. “You
think we’re really that good?!”
Justin nodded. “We know you are that good.”
Peter leaned towards Pan. “Think about it. It’s obvious. Think
of the incredible Gameboy and Play Station sessions we’ve had. They’re
Pan thought for a second. “That’s true, I never though about
our sessions like that before. I just thought of them as normal.”
Justin smiled. “That’s why you’re all perfect for these
high-ranking bridge crew positions. You will fit in naturally. You’re
superior hand-to-eye coordination and super-rapid reflexes will enable
you to perform your tasks with ease.”
Ross punched the air. “Fuckin’ yes!”
Pan asked a question through another mouthful of doughnut. “So,
what tasks would you want us to perform?”
Justin answered. “There is only one objective for the mission this
vessel is about to embark upon: destroy an alien doom cruiser that is
on a direct intercept course with Earth.”
Everyone was silent.
Justin had been expecting this reaction. “This is the real thing
– no game. I will understand if you wish to decline. But the future
of mankind is resting on your shoulders. Decline and we are all condemned
to a lethargic and vegetarian future.”
Everyone looked at Justin, obviously perplexed at his final remark.
After a few more seconds of silence Peter spoke. “Do we get to blow
up loads of strange and mental evil things?”
Justin nodded. “Yeah, why not?”
“And destroy strange far-off planets?”
“Okay, you can count me in!”
Pan grinned. “Me, too!”
“Fuckin’ in your face!” Ross yelled, which was a close
to a ‘yes’ as could be hoped for.
Lawrence had dozed off in his seat and seemed oblivious to what was going
on. As everyone assumed he would say yes anyway, he was included.
Justin was very pleased indeed. “Okay, let’s head up to the
bridge. We launch in ten minutes. And don’t worry; we’ll be
back in time for tea and medals!”