Science Fiction Short Story Contest
|Edgar paused at the door, taking a deep breath. Months of his life had spent getting to this door. He'd broken laws, invested thousands of dollars, and spent hundreds of hours for this moment, but finally, he was here, at the heart of the conspiracy. He raised his hand and knocked.
The door opened to reveal a tall, thin man with blonde, greasy hair and an unkempt beard. This would be the one the network called Cutter. He smiled, a thing as greasy as his hair. "Edgar, it's nice to finally meet you. Come in."
Edgar stepped in, then paused, noting the dark-haired young man behind the desk. In contrast to Cutter, he was clean-shaven and non-descript. That would be the one called Baker.
"Likewise. I'd like to say how much I've heard about you, but the truth is I know almost nothing about you, just your cause. I don't even know what you want from me."
Cutter grinned. "That's good to hear: anonymity is our greatest ally. Our cause is as popular as it just: most people agree with us, in principle, but they just aren't willing to do what must be done. But we've been watching you, and we hope you may be different. Lasers, Edgar. We want lasers in space, and we think you're the man to see it done."
Edgar felt his eyes widen. "What, are you planning to build a death star or something?"
Cutter shook his head grimly. "Where do you find these people, Baker?"
The dark-haired man's voice was soft. "I'm not sure if you noticed, but there aren't too many willing to take direct action. We choose among the people who are available, not among the people we'd most like to convert. But Edgar, at least, has a brain - I think he's joking."
Cutter's voice was just a bit too fluid, too credulous. "Of course, of course. Too many idiots are influenced by the wrong kind of culture. The same people who use laser pointers to entertain their cats think laser beams make funny noises, and they make short red blasts that travel at 40 meters per second. At that speed, a bolt from geosynchronous orbit would take 15 minutes to reach the ground. And blowing up a planet with a laser? Not only would that take 10^36 joules, but all of that energy would have to be bouncing around in a chamber full of mirrors first. Pure silliness, utterly impractical. If you want to wreck a planet, steer an asteroid into it."
Edgar forced his face into a blank expression. Cutter, it seemed, was not entirely sane. He supposed he should have guessed, but - well, it was no use to dwell on that now. "Of course. Returning to the problem at hand, how big are these lasers?"
Cutter glanced at Baker, who answered smoothly. "One ton, perhaps two."
Edgar's brow furrowed. "With a laser that size, and a large spinning mirror, you could vaporize a human target from space. How many will you need? And do you need the mirrors to go up too?"
Cutter shrugged. "Dozens, at least. And no, you don't need to worry about that. You've heard of OurSat, the latest competitor to StarLink?"
"Ah," Edgar acknowledged. So Cutter really did have the cash to fund his insanity.
"Can you do it?" Cutter asked.
Edgar nodded slowly. "I can. My inspection teams will sign for whatever I ask them to, and changing a manifest is child's play. But if I'm going to do this, I need to know why. How does this further the cause?"
Cutter and Baker exchanged glances again. After a moment, the latter spoke. "Pizzerias: every single one that serves pineapple must be destroyed. Neat, efficient, and no one will be able to find us, much less stop us."
"Almost every pizzeria serves pineapple, and will as long as a few people order it."
Cutter laughed. "That's always been our problem, separating the wheat from the chaff. But after a few demonstrations, I think people will learn. But if we have to, if we absolutely must, we can destroy all of them. Every single pizzeria. I hope it doesn't come to that. So, are you with us?"
"Yes," Edgar answered slowly and saw the shoulders of the others slump in relaxation. They really had been worried about his reaction. Good, let them be.
Edgar continued, "There's just one thing you should know."
He pulled from his pocket a long piece of plastic, 3-D printed and then machined with exquisite care. It had no cartridge and was only good for a dozen shots, but it was small and completely invisible to metal detectors and common scanning devices. He took aim quickly and carefully at Cutter. Just before pulling the trigger, he laughed. "Hawaiian pizza is the absolute best, assholes."