Friday, September 21, 2018

Free Write Friday #1: Iced Coffee

Editor's Note: I'm trying to get my creative groove back, so I'm finding writing prompts over on r/writingprompts and taking them for a ride to see where I get. This is my first attempt.

Earth was known as the tea capital of the galaxy, but that title help ill-meaning; the tea of Earth is a dangerous drug for aliens.

0600 came early for Officer Havel Smith. After nearly three years on day shift, he kept expecting to get used to the schedule, but he had never been a morning person. Ever. So the process of getting up and getting showered and dressed and into uniform and then driving to work was always, without fail, something of a trial. Coffee, however, helped.

Coffee was the fuel that drove Officer Smith's day. Every morning, as soon as he had been freed from roll call and getting briefed on whatever overnights had to deal with, he would get into his squad car and make his way down to the local coffee shop and order his usual non-fat caramel macchiato with an extra shot of espresso and sit in his squad car and enjoy every glorious sip. It was his thing. It was his morning ritual. He wanted his coffee. He needed his coffee. He was an altogether more pleasant person to be around when he was given the opportunity to drink his coffee, it's just that lately-

"357, Central."

"Damn it," he said, cup of beautiful, steaming hot coffee about halfway up to his lips. With a deep sigh, he set the cup down in the cup holder and grabbed his radio mic. 

"Go ahead, Central."

"357, respond to Festival Foods, 1120 Old Cartman Road for an unresponsive subject. Fire and Ambulance are enroute as well."

Smith sighed again, knowing exactly what this was going to end up being. "Copy that, Central. I'll be enroute."

Another voice popped up on the radio. "Central, show 314 enroute as well. I'm six blocks away."

"Copy, 314."

Smith put the radio mic back in it's usual place and threw his squad car into reverse. Once he was out of his parking space, he made his way to the entrance of the parking lot and, seeing no traffic approaching pulled out on the road and flipped on his lights and sirens and began heading west toward Old Cartman Road. He was going to have to switched to iced coffee. That was really his best option- he didn't really like iced coffee, but he hated lukewarm coffee even more than that. If he was going to go to all the trouble of getting a hot coffee, he wanted it to be hot, damn it. 

Maybe he'd be wrong though. Maybe it'd be one of the transients, drunk out of their mind on grain alcohol. That'd be a nice change of pace. But he probably wasn't going to be wrong. Two days ago, it had been the Rainbow over on Marietta. Three days before that, it had been the Super Target on Highway 625. Now it was Festival Foods.

He slowed down as he reached Old Cartman Road and turned in the back entrance of the grocery store. As he drove down the parking lot toward the building, he saw the fire truck pulling out onto the road, the ambulance just behind it. His heart sank. "Damn it," he sighed again. "Tomorrow, I'm going to order iced coffee. It'll be easier." He pulled his squad car up behind 314's squad (she had already arrived and was probably inside assessing the situation), flipped off his lights and sirens, put his squad into park and opened the door, grabbing his coffee (now lukewarm, much to his annoyance) and, closing the door behind him, he walked inside the grocery store.

Smith didn't bother asking anyone for directions. This was the third one of these that he'd been dispatched to in the past two weeks. He just glanced up at the signs marking the aisles and, catching sight of the 'Cereal/Coffee/Tea/Breakfast Bars' above Aisle Nine, made his way to the aisle turned the corner and stopped. "Morning, Sanchez."

"Morning, Smith," she replied. "Had to stop for coffee, I see."

"Well, I sure as shit ain't drinking tea no more."

Officer Sanchez chuckled. "Few people are, these days. It's a pain in the ass."

"Bad enough you've got take it up to the counter to get sudafed and get on some government list," Smith said. "But now they're locking up tea as well?"

"Not here they aren't," Sanchez nodded toward the scene at the far end of the aisle. Smith sighed and set his coffee down on the shelf with the oatmeal. He reached a pouch on his belt and pulled out a couple of blue, latex gloves and began putting them on. "I suppose we should see what we're dealing with."

"I suppose," Sanchez agreed, pulling out gloves and putting them on. Together they walked down to the body at the far end of the aisle. Sanchez stepped around to the far side of the body and squatted down. "Looks like we got a Ursan."

Smith sighed... "Oh joy, the Chief is going to love that." He looked over at what was left of the tea shelf. "Can you tell what they were going for?"

"A little bit of everything from what I can tell," Sanchez replied. "There's some green around the nostrils though. Probably a matcha freak."

"Figures," Smith replied. "Ursans always seem to go for the green teas."

"Yep," Sanchez replied. "Gotta get their maximum high. Their neural receptors twig harder to green tea than black."

"Sanchez, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure can, Smith."

"You ever think you'd be doing something like this when you joined the force?"

"Looking at dead bodies?"

"No, the...  you know. The alien thing."

Sanchez shook her head. "Nope. Didn't even think aliens were real until they showed up looking for tea."

"Me neither," Smith said. It was actually surprising how well humanity had taken the news that they were not alone in the universe. Mainly because the various alien races were too busy chasing down tea to make any serious attempts to conquer the planet or enslave humanity. The alien governments had placed Earth under an interdiction to prevent mass emigration to the planet and so far, that seemed to be doing the trick at keeping the peace. It had taken some getting used to, but humanity now generally shrugged off the sight of an alien strolling down the street. Earth governments had taken advantage of the addictive properties of tea to gain access to technology and sustainable energy that were being implemented across the planet.

So, governments looked the other way. They didn't want to see the consequences. Sure, Smith thought, it's just one more Ursan junkie dead in the breakfast aisle. But we have zero point energy now. We have anti-gravity technology. We have faster-than-light drives. We're solving famine and improving health care. It's a bonanza of miracles. He turned back from his detailed examination of the tea shelf to look at the body of the Ursan, lying on the floor. A bonanza of miracles, that comes at a cost. 

"What do you think, Sanchez? You think we need to call in homicide?"

Sanchez stood up and took off her gloves, one by one. She shook her head. "Nope," she said. "Looks like an overdose. We'll let the Medical Examiner and Forensics see if they come up with anything different."

"You want me to call 'em?"

"Central already has them enroute."

"Sounds good," Smith said. He took his gloves off one at a time and, moving carefully, headed back down the aisle to where he had placed his coffee, Sanchez just behind him. As Smith reached his coffee, the forensic team arrived. 

"Smith! Sanchez!"

"Leo," Smith said, raising his coffee in greeting. 

"What do you have for me this morning?" The lead forensic guy hung back a moment as the rest of the team began to document the body and the death scene. 

Sanchez shrugged. "Matcha freak. Ursan. Looks like an overdose to me."

"Oh boy," Leo replied. "Third one this week."

"Yep," Smith replied. "You got this?"

"Yep," Leo said. "We got this." Then he kept moving down the aisle to join the rest of his team.

Smith took another sip of his coffee. "Damn it."

"Cold?" Sanchez asked.

"Yes," Smith said.

"Well, let's go to the bakery and get some food. I could do a danish," Sanchez said.

"They got fresh coffee over there?"

Sanchez shrugged. "Probably," she said. "No guarantee it'll be hot by now though."

"That's okay," Smith replied. "I'll take it iced."

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