Do Coffee Makers Dream of Killing Sheep?

I'm having a really bad day. Actually, that's an understatement. I'm having the kind of day that would make a serial killer curl up in a ball and whimper for his mommy. It started out pretty normal, as days like these often do. I got up, and went through my normal morning routine. Lots of cigarettes, with oxygen breaks to shower and get dressed. Then off to the kitchenette to do battle with the coffee maker.

My coffee maker is the oldest one I could salvage, because the newer ones have really snobbish attitudes, and a tendency to go into catatonia when they realize that they live in a dump, literally. Mine is almost fifty years old, made of a plasti-steel composite, prefers to be called Damian, and will probably outlive me. Unfortunately, having survived in the Dumps for so long Damian has developed an...adversarial...attitude. Which is to say that the damned thing tends to shoot first and laugh at the bodies later, no questions needed.

Sadly, Damian the Coffee Maker is probably my closest friend.

Grabbing the riot armor off the table beside my bedroom door, I donned the vest and crouched down behind the shield, before edging slowly around the corner to face the kitchen. Damian's latest thing is passwords. I've been writing them down, because the one time I forgot, I spent three days barricaded in my bedroom.

"Intruder! Password!" Damian barks. Its voice is deep, guttural, and has a burr of synthesizer around the edges. I've often wondered if Damian's CPU was designed for a tank and got put in a coffee maker by mistake.

I check the Post-It stuck to my door frame. "Alpha, tango, two, four, niner, niner, lambda, zero, crouton."

"Correct. You may enter, Melinda."

I creep into the kitchen, keeping the shield up. Damian has been known to take a stun shot at me just to keep in practice. I still have a scar on my butt where I made the mistake of turning my back on it.

"Morning, Damian." I say cautiously, as I come into his line of sight. "I don't suppose we could just make with the coffee, and skip the crap?"

The face on the little screen gives me a thoughtful look. "You are willing to concede?"

I groan. Ever since I brought it back online, Damian has been trying to convince me that it owns me, instead of the other way around. "No, Damian, I just want my freakin' coffee."

A stun round blatts into my shield, nearly knocking me over. "Then we shall proceed. Normal rules?"

I let out a frustrated sigh. "Sure. Why the heck not?"

Instantly, stun rounds fill the air around me, blazing purple beams of energy that can blast me unconscious for hours, and leave me with the mother of all hangovers. The normal rules are, if I can get close enough to hit the "Percolate" button, I rule the house for another day. So far, I haven't lost yet. There's a good reason I make sure I'm wide awake before I leave my room.

Crouching behind the shield, I assess my options. Usually, diving under the table, then rolling forwards to hit the button works pretty well. But Damian has apparently figured that out, because today it's saturating the area under the table with stun fire. So, it's on to plan B.

I crab-walk over to the broom closet, my skin crawling with goose bumps from the energy crackling all around me. Getting the door open while keeping the shield up is one of the less fun things I've had to try. The door pops open and I jump backward into the closet. I take a minute to catch my breath thinking, as I have so often before, that if I ever find the idiot that gave a paranoid coffee maker weapons I'm going to throw him into a closet with Damian and leave him there for a few days.

The storm of stun bolts slackens a bit as my coffee maker tries to figure out what I'm up to. I wait until it's down to minimal cover fire, take a deep breath and dive out of the closet, grabbing the broom as I do so. I roll across the kitchen, a purple bolt slamming into the floor by my head as Damian figures out my plan. But by the time it starts pummeling my shield with stun fire, I'm only two feet away. Leaning the broom on the shield and bracing myself against the constant pounding, I carefully slide the gun port on my shield open. A bolt comes through a split second after I jerk my hand away. I grab the broom, focus on my goal, and jab the handle towards the softly glowing little button.

Beep. Boop.

The stun bolts cut off abruptly. I creep closer, making sure the "Percolate" button has turned green before lowering my shield.

"Well, it looks like I win again, Damian." I try not to sound too smug. On the one hand, I've never lost in the year and a half that I've had Damian. On the other, I still remember the time I tried to have a microwave. The morning after I brought it in, I found it blasted to pieces, with a note on it that read, "Coffee makers rule!"

I still have no idea how Damian wrote the note, and that worries me.

The face on the screen glares at me. "Will you want Arabica, Columbian, or espresso today, Melinda?"

"Columbian. And could you at least try to make it look like coffee this time?"

Damian grins evilly. "I make no guarantees."

I find it best to retreat at that point. Leaving Damian to brew the sludge of revenge he passes off as coffee, I step outside to see if the news vendor across the alley is open yet. My neighbors and I are pretty sure he steals the papers from various upscale businesses, but frankly we're so happy to get the news for cheap that we've been known to shoot anyone that tries to take advantage of him.

Seeing that the little closed sign is still up, I start to turn back inside, bracing myself to drink coffee from hell. Suddenly, I find myself lying on the pavement, fighting to catch my breath.

My first thought is that Damian has shot me out of spite. But he's never been able to shoot and brew at the same time, or I'd never have gotten any peace. That's when I see the S.F.R.B officers heading down the alley towards me.

The Security Forces of the Belgium Republic are one part Gestapo, one part police, mixed liberally with several parts mercenary, cockroach, and Mafioso. Malicious, apathetic, and thoroughly bribable, the SefRebs make Damian look like a cuddly little puppy.

I force myself to lie still, thinking furiously. My vest must have taken the worst of the shot, or I'd be out like a drunken soldier right now. But I'm five feet from my door, and all my weapons are still in their holsters, hanging just inside the front door, mocking me silently.

The SefRebs sidle up to me, laughing softly. The one on the left is short and ugly, and the other is tall and ugly. Tall and Ugly kicks me, hard, in the ribs and growls out, "I know you're awake, little girl. So sit up and play nice, and I promise not to break too many bones."

Scowling, I sit up, fighting the urge to rub my side. I can't afford to show weakness, but it hurts like hell. "What can I do for you, boys?"

They laugh darkly, eerily in time. I think they must teach them that in Bully School. "You can answer a few questions for us, little girl." One of them produces a photo of our news vendor. "This man is unregistered, and he's wanted for petty theft. Have you seen him?"

I immediately start to shake my head, earning me a slap across the face. Several repeats of this later, my face is on fire, and I'm starting to panic. I'd rather die than betray a friend to the SefRebs, but if I don't give them something soon, the creeps will probably haul me down to lockup on general principles. And being unregistered, I'll probably never leave.

As if on cue, the short one turns to his friend, a leer on his face. "Look, we're getting nowhere with this. Let's just take her down to HQ, and let the inquisitors sort it out."

Tall thinks for a moment, then nods. "Go grab the cruiser. I'll wait here and keep an eye on her."

As his friend walks off, Tall begins to regale me with stories of all the awful things that await me in the company of the inquisitors. But I tune him out as I hear the most glorious sound, one I never thought I'd be happy to hear.

Boop. Beeeeeep.

Damian's brew cycle has just ended.

Squirming slightly 'til I can see the coffee maker, I motion slightly, trying to get it to shoot the SefReb. It smiles and pops up the words on its screen, "What's in it for me?"

I fight the urge to start screaming obscenities, and mouth, I'll make you half owner of the house. I'll never bring in another appliance as long as I live.

The bastard actually takes a moment to think about it. Then he pops up, "I want to be your business partner, too. No more spending my days on this counter, waiting for you to come home."

I can feel myself turning red as I struggle to breathe around all the curses I'm choking back. I manage a nod.

Damian smiles viciously...and does nothing. I stare at him, waiting for the shot. The cruiser glides silently around the corner, pulls up to a halt next to me and Tall, and still Damian is just sitting there.

They're actually cuffing me and getting ready to put me in the cruiser when two precise shots ring out. And the scary thing is these aren't the coruscating purple of stun bolts. These are lurid red, signaling kill shots.

As I stand there, staring at the two dead SefRebs, all I can think is, Whoa. Damien has an active kill setting?

I slowly walk inside, as the neighbors come out of hiding. I don't have to worry about cleaning up the mess. The people that live in this area will be more than happy to destroy a cruiser, and burn a couple of SefReb bodies. Heck, they'll probably throw a party, and use the officer's bodies to fuel the bonfire.

I stare at Damian for a moment. It smiles enigmatically. "So," it says, an undertone of glee dancing through every word, "let's discuss how big my cut of the profits will be."

And I thought this day couldn't get any worse.