The Coffee Shop
A strange sensation of being followed niggled at Agent K. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and she could feel a cold gaze on her back. But every time she turned around, there was only an ordinary street, filled with people going about their daily lives. There was nothing special about the street, or the people in it. Still, Agent K’s instincts had been honed over the years – she trusted her instincts, and mistrusted the evidence of her own eyes.
She scanned the street. Just up ahead was a coffee shop, filled with artists, college kids, and entrepreneurs using the free wifi and guzzling over-priced, high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks. Agent K strolled casually to the coffee shop, acting as if there were nothing wrong but keeping her eyes and ears open for anything unusual. The feeling of being watched did not dissipate, but didn’t grow any stronger, and she still detected nothing out of the order.
Entering the coffee shop, she joined the line of caffeine addicts waiting for their fix. The line was sufficiently slow moving that several people had their smart phones out, checking email, texting, or playing games. (The businessman in front of her shook his phone angrily, muttering “Stupid pigs, pop already!”) Agent K made a quick scan of the room, then whipped out her Agency-issued genius phone (quite a few steps beyond the consumer smart phone) and opened the Agency communications app.
This app was made to look like a knitter’s favorite app, with stitch and row counters, pattern displays, a Ravelry interface, and a stitch pattern design function. This last was actually a direct connection to Agency headquarters. Agent K rapidly designed a stitch pattern that described her circumstances – trapped in a coffee shop with unknown adversaries tracking her movements. She entered the last purl stitch, reread the pattern to make sure she had accurately described her situation, then sent it over the airwaves to Headquarters. The Agent on duty would receive her message, decode it using yarn and needles, then advise her of the Agency’s response with another pattern.
She looked up from her genius phone and sighed. The line was not moving at all. She craned her neck to see what was happening – an older gentleman was holding up the line for some reason. She slipped her sound amplifier into her ear (disguised to look like a particularly obnoxious bluetooth headset, with lots of blinking lights), and discovered that the gentleman wanted a plain black coffee. She sighed. This could take awhile – the kid behind the counter had probably never had such a simple order before. She bent her head over her phone again.
That feeling of being watched had lessened somewhat since she had entered the coffee shop, but now was growing again. She pretended to be engrossed in a furious avian game, but was sneaking peeks around the coffee shop. Still nothing out of the ordinary. Finally the line was moving, and as she shuffled forward, she glanced out the front window of the coffee shop.
And froze where she was.
From across the street an alien glared directly at her. He was standing a doorway with his tentacles and slimy body hidden under a tan trench coat. A fedora had been pulled low over his eyestalk, with the eye itself peeping out from under the brim. Agent K almost laughed – it was a lame and rather comical attempt to blend in, but it seemed to be working. No one else on the street or in the coffee shop was paying the least bit of attention to him. Agent K considered for a moment – if she didn’t know better, she would probably think that he was just a rather fat man with a funny looking hat and wouldn’t give him a second glance.
With as few movements as possible, and never taking her eyes off the creature, Agent K slid her thumb over her genius phone and re-opened the Agency communications app. Very deliberately, she tapped out the Agency’s version of SOS – KPK (knit purl knit). That could meant that an Agent was in distress, or that an alien had been sighted, and the Agency would react quickly.
Agent K risked taking her eyes off the alien for a split second to scope out the coffee shop. There seemed to be a back door, but she would have to go through the small kitchen to reach it. If she moved quickly enough, probably no one would be able to stop her. But should she move at all? At least in this public place the alien might not attack. On the other hand, the aliens had been bolder of late and had not shown any real reluctance to inflict civilian casualties. It was a real bother for the Agency, finding ways to convince civilians that they hadn’t just seen a giant green slimy alien with a sheep tucked under its tentacles.
Agent K glanced back at the doorway, and cursed herself for a fool. While she had been looking for escape routes, the alien had moved. She looked frantically around, but didn’t see it anywhere. There were too many people in the coffee shop – she would have to risk going out the back door to the alley behind the shop. At least there she would be able to see the alien if it tried to attack her.
She murmured an apology, then pushed her way past the baristas into the back of the shop. One of them tried to stop her, but she flashed her Agency badge and told her to stay put. Surprised and overawed by Agent K’s in-command attitude, the barista hesitated, then went back to serving the customers.
Agent K strode toward the back door, then stopped abruptly when she smelled burnt toast. Oh, no. She spun around. Sure enough, directly behind her stood the alien, having teleported into the shop’s back room. No one else would think twice about smelling burnt toast in a coffee shop, but Agent K was particularly sensitive to the smell of a short-range alien teleportation device. She raised her hands slowly in the air, staring at the laser gun barrel pointed directly at her stomach.
“What do you want from me?” she demanded.
“You’re Agent K, are you not?” he replied. “I recognize your from Wanted posters we have in our ship’s break room. When I bring you in, I’ll be rewarded beyond belief! Maybe even get myself sent back home, covered in glory. No more chasing smelly sheep on this god-forsaken rock!”
“Yes, I’m Agent K,” she answered warily, seeing no point in denying it. “But in a few minutes, this coffee shop will be swarming with Agents, and you’ll find yourself back home all right. But probably not covered in glory. Covered in lime jello, maybe.”
“Shut up!” barked the alien. “There will be no Agency rescue this time, Agent K. I blocked your phone signal. In fact, I blocked the phone signals of the entire city. There are going to be lots of unhappy cell customers! BWAHAHA!!!”
“Wow, that’s evil even for you aliens!” gasped Agent K. Her heart sank at the thought of no backup, but she had escaped on her own before, and she would just have to do it again. The alien continued to laugh in a sinister fashion, but Agent K was looking for an opportunity, and her left hand brushed just such an opportunity.
She grabbed the long loaf of crusty French bread out of the basket on her left, and swung it like a baseball bat. It broke in half, but not before knocking the laser gun out of the still-laughing alien’s tentacle. A swift kick knocked the fedora down over his eye.
“Hey, what the …” the alien said indignantly. But his reaction was too slow. Agent K kicked the laser gun out of his reach, then pulled her own yarn gun, training it on the exposed upper neck where the eyestalk rose from the trench coat.
“Stand still and raise your tentacles,” growled Agent K. The alien did so, tentacles trembling with outrage.
“I can’t believe you did that! Now how am I going to get glory?” the alien almost wailed in frustration.
“I don’t know, but that’s not my problem. Now tell me how to shut off the cell phone blocker!”
Just then, Agent J burst into the kitchen of the coffee shop, with several agents behind him, all waving yarn guns and shouting at the coffee shop patrons to get out of danger.
“Um, I lied,” confessed the alien. “There is no cell phone blocker. I thought you might come quietly if I told you there was no back up.” He drooped despondently. “I’ll go quietly. You did say lime jello, didn’t you?”