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Book: Hippies
Chapter 1: Alien Doom Cruiser

“Damn 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 all directions.

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 of water.

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 provide?”

“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 here.”

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 scarcely believable.”

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?”

“Hmm. Possibly.”

“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!”

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