Today’s opening scene was inspired by some designer coffee I got free at work. I guess no one else was brave enough to try it. It boasted “blueberry infusion” or somesuch nonsense. It tasted much as you’d expect blueberry-infused coffee to taste. Someone needs to remind coffee designers that coffee is not tea. At any rate, when mixed with sufficient amounts of Folgers, you just barely taste the berry. Which goes to show, enough coffee can fix any problem, even a problem with coffee.
At breakfast the next morning, six security minions groaned with defeat while Ensigns Gel and Straus raked up credits and IOUs for various pre-virus replicated items. Ellie was sitting at the table with them drinking coffee – or something the replicator had said was coffee but also tasted like roasted ground blueberry seeds – and gaping at them all.
“Oh, come on! You can’t possibly think that –” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “- that Lieutenant LaFuentes and Loreli…”
“What? The way he’s been acting? It was obvious someone got on his good side.” Il said. “I mean, at our security update, he didn’t even shoot LeRoy when he asked if we had to warn runaway prisoners before stunning them.”
Jenkins chortled. “True! And I thought I was the one who’d gotten lucky.”
The chorus of “Whoa!” and high fives drew looks from the other tables. Ellie sighed and picked at her meal. She made a note to ask the doctor for some imposazine cream. If this kept up, she was going to start breaking out again, she just knew it.
“I still don’t believe it, either,” Minion Il said. “She’s our Ship’s Sexy. Isn’t that against the rules?”
Gel shrugged, a motion that set his whole gelatinous body flowing and made the objects he’d collected and was storing in his body wiggle and shift. “There’s precedent. They just have to fill out the right paperwork.”
Straus added, “It makes perfect sense. Not to say anything inappropriate about my superior officer, but have you looked at his body?”
Ellie sipped her coffee to hide her discomfort.
Straus continued. “She’s Ship’s Sexy and he’s the Alpha Male. I mean, he even listens to Dread Oog Rage Metal.”
Ellie almost spat out her coffee. “What? That drove the Roostan Ambassador insane. It’s banned on 87 percent of the planets in the Union, even after they took out the parts that boil liquids.”
“Yeah, but it’s the music of the Hood. You can’t deny a man his culture. Rage Metal helped them win their freedom.”
It was true. The Dread Oog of the Coe Nebula had hijacked the generation ship Hood with the intention of reforming its human inhabitants. As part of the reconditioning, they had subjected the humans to what they considered to be dulcet, soothing sounds designed to elicit calm and goodwill. The Dread Oog did not account for differences in middle ear construction or brain chemistry, however. While most of the adults, hardened by the constant turmoil of their home ship, were only mildly annoyed by the music, anyone undergoing puberty had a very different reaction. The sounds triggered the simultaneous production of testosterone, adrenalin, and dopamine. After the first half-dozen test subjects destroyed the lab and the laboratory assistant, the experiment was canceled.
However, a recording had been smuggled out by one of the test subjects who had been humanely released back into the wilds of the lower decks. As talk of overthrowing their alien overlords spread, the recording was copied and shared. Then, on Kikas Day, the music was played at full volume to rile the young people to rebellion, much like the bagpipes of Ancient Earth stirred men to berserker rage. By the time the album ended, not a single Dread Oog was left in possession of all its limbs.
Ever since, the lyrics of “Sweet and Slow Flow the Waves of My Love” have struck fear into the hearts of every Dread Oog.
Translated literally, the music was called “smooth jazz,” but after the Revolution, it became known as Dread Oog Rage Metal.
And it was, indeed, banned on most Union planets.
“It’s banned from HuFleet and Union ships, too,” Doall continued as if the narrator had not interjected a lengthy musical backstory that would be important later on so take notes. “It’s been proven to scramble artificial intelligences. The Orion’s Rising almost drove into a star after one verse. The AI on the Dyslexa never did regain its language capabilities.”
“Easy, Doall!” Gel said. He set a hand – or rather a pseudopod – on her shoulder. “He takes precautions. He has an independent recording device and earpieces so only he can hear it, and it’s totally separate from the Impulsive’s systems. The only reason Leslie and I know is because he was humming the tune and we thought he was having some kind of fit. Okay? Don’t get rage metaled yourself.”
“Puslie?” Ellie asked, “You’re okay with this?”
The voice of the ship replied, “Don’t worry, Ensign. I take precautions to protect myself and the crew.”
“All right,” she sighed, then shook herself. “All right. I’m fine.”
“Good.” Gel removed his pseudopod, then with an “oops, sorry!” took back the scrap of paper that had slipped out of his interior ooze and attached itself to her shoulder. “Now that that’s settled, we can get back to more important things. What, exactly, did you see in Loreli’s quarters last night?”
Everyone at the table leaned toward Doall conspiratorially.
Doall gazed into her coffee. Well, if she had to do high school again, at least she could be the popular girl this time.
Incidentally, Stanford just created a sound so loud that it can literally boil water. I love when science paces science fiction. I wonder if they use it to make coffee. Being in California, they probably like blueberry-infused gourmet.