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Introducing Ellen

"It is over," Recruit Cal murmured in a dead voice, pale and trembling. He blinked in disbelief, pinched himself hard to make sure he was not in some horrible nightmare, and reluctantly decided to accept the dreadful truth that was about to change his life.

Alas, his coffeemaker was no more.


It had just let out its last struggling breath, then had fallen silent. The valiant machine that had relentlessly supplied Cal with its elixir of life for as long as he had been here would give him happiness and comfort no more. It was an old coffeemaker, to be sure, and the young Recruit had never expected it to live forever, but its tragic passing at the moment he needed it most was more than he could bear. But even as he mourned his old companion, manly tears gliding down his cheeks, our hero already considered finding a worthy replacement. It was disrespectful for the one that had just left this bleak world for a better place, but it was also necessary — for, indeed, what is a man without coffee?

"You can surely understand," whispered Cal, addressing his lifeless servant. "Do not worry, friend, I shall never forget you."

Someone passed in the corridor just outside Cal's response center. The young Recruit immediately put on the mask of grim stoicism he had studied from half a hundred action heroes. He was supposed to act professionally, and a professional does not weep. No, tears would not solve his problem. Steeling himself for the task at hand, he strode out of the room, his trench-coat flapping dramatically behind him.

It took him quite a while to find the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology in the inextricable maze of the Headquarters. Slaloming between the white-coated technicians testing their revolutionary inventions like the Character Analysis Device and the Disguise Generator, Cal went directly to a Token Black Man, who probably had a significant rank (like many Token Black Men in American films).

"Excuse me, mister Token," Cal said in a businesslike tone, "but I need a coffeemaker quickly."

The man threw him a puzzled glance. "Uh, you can probably find one in the storage room over there," he said, pointing. "It's where we put what we want to get rid of at our next yard sale. It's a bit of a mess, but you can take whatever you want. It's not like there's anything really valuable in there."

"Thank you."

As it turned out, a bit of a mess was a massive understatement. Under a thick layer of dust and cobwebs, a staggering number of appliances, tools and strange gadgets occupied almost every square inch of the floor. Cal picked his way carefully through the dimly-lit room.

Then he tripped on someone.

Gasping, he looked down at the face staring up at him. No, it was not someone: it was something. To be precise, an android in the shape of a little girl with tangled black hair and large, innocent amber eyes. She (it?) was badly damaged, with many multicolored wires laid bare, but her contact with Cal's foot had woken her up. With an eerie little smile, she started singing the digits of Pi on the tune of the Soviet national anthem. The young Recruit stared at her with astonishment. She was apparently very sophisticated, and without the wires she would look perfectly human. But she was obviously broken. Cal suddenly forgot his initial purpose here, fascinated by the android. He did find a coffeemaker that he absent-mindedly put into one of his pockets (some trench-coats have VERY deep pockets), but when he quit the storage room all his attention was focused on the android in his hands.

By the time he reached his response center, the robot girl was making a lecture on the many useful applications of string theory to winemaking. Cal put her on the floor and rummaged in his locker to find his toolbox. He was not much of an engineer, but he intended to repair her to the best of his abilities. Opening up the android with his knife, he got to work. Here in the Headquarters, time did not obey to logic or regularity, so the young Recruit used cups of coffee as an approximate unit. From one to three cups, the robot girl translated one of Barack Obama's speeches into pirate speak ("Arrrr, matey, aye we can!"). From about three to six cups, she composed an opera version of The Matrix. At seven cups, she predicted the next big San Andreas earthquake for October 2014. From eight to ten, she recounted every single move of the six chess games that opposed Garry Kasparov to the computer Deep Blue in 1997. Cal thankfully found a way to shut her down just as she was starting to graphically describe every sexual position taught by the Kama Sutra, and from then on he was able to work in silence.

Around fourteen cups and a half, Cal felt he had done a decent job. All wires had been reconnected and several missing parts had been replaced. He only hoped his tampering had not turned the android into a blood-thirsty megalomaniac bent on world domination. Of course there was only one way to find out, and it was to flick the switch — which he did. Life immediately came back into the android, and Cal half expected her to start explaining in Morse code why France lost the Algeria war. When she did not, he took this as an encouraging sign that his repairs may have worked.

"Where am I?" was the first thing the robot girl asked, frowning with puzzlement.

"Response Center 72," answered Recruit Cal. "Headquarters of the PPC."

"Ah... and who am I?"

"I have no idea," Cal apologized. "I found you in the storage room of the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology. They wanted to get rid of you in a yard sale."

"That's hard for my self-esteem," the girl complained.

"Oh, sorry. You were broken, and I guess the Department couldn't be bothered to repair you. But I did. And I won't sell you in a yard sale." He paused. "Unless the price they offer is really good. But I'm not planning a yard sale any time soon, so don't worry. I'm glad you're here: I should start going on missions very soon, but they haven't given me a partner. You interested?"

She thought about it. "What do we do on those missions?"

"We kill Mary Sues and restore the plot continuum."

"Does it involve spiked flails?" she asked hopefully.

"Yes, if you want."

"I'm in," she grinned.

"Great. What's your name?"

"Dunno. I don't remember anything about myself, I think my hard disk got erased."

"Then find yourself a name."

"Sure. I'll browse the Web, I have Internet access." Her gaze grew distant. After a moment her grin widened. "Hey, did you know that the Meganeura, a kind of dragonfly from the Carboniferous period, had a wingspan of 75 centimeters? Most. Awesomest. Insect. Ever!"

"Don't get sidetracked," sighed Cal impatiently. "The 'Net is fascinating, but you only need to find a name."

"Could I be called Meganeura?"


"Fiiiine, Colonel Cranky," pouted the android rather immaturely. It took her half a second of research to come up with something else: "I'll go with Ellen. After Ellen Ripley, from Alien."

"Hey, she's..." Cal began, his ears reddening. "...I kinda like Ripley, if you know what I mean. I can't have a partner who's named after her. That would be disturbing."

"It's either that or Meganeura," replied the girl stubbornly.

"Arrrrgh, okay. Anything but Meganeura."

"HA! No one argues with an ass-kickin' bitch like Ellen!" she exclaimed triumphantly.

Cal rolled his eyes. Being partnered with someone more or less sane was probably too much to ask here at the PPC. Wearily he poured himself a fifteenth cup of coffee, adding some napalm for superior potency: there was already too much blood in his caffeine system.


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(Deleted comment)
Thank you, I was wondering how to hide the text.

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