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The Obligatory Coffee Shop AU

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It was Deirdre's last day working in the Unity Café, having finally finished her degree. While she had yet to find a job that actually made use of her expertise, she was sick and tired of this one. It wasn't only that the proprietor, John "Please Assassinate Me" Garland, made it abundantly clear that she should not be fooled by the indie décor or the organic cupcakes – they would go to Alpha Centauri before his shop became a green cooperative. It was also the customers, who served as a perfect example why she preferred plants to people.

The surgeon Dr. Pravin Lal was the only regular she liked. His commitment to humanism was most welcome and he recognised that the fate of humanity depended on that of the Earth. His glumness was therefore highly understandable, but actually, the more pertinent reason was his wife having left him. Deirdre could sympathise with heartbreak too, but it had been a decade. Time to move on.

The other regulars she wouldn't spit on if they were on fire. Coffee shops had always been a place of political fermentation as well, but did they have to be so disagreeable?

Take Academician Zakharov. He was her university's star professor, though he mercifully wasn't in her department. As an aspiring researcher, Deirdre supposed she found his desire to expand the boundaries of knowledge admirable, but his frequent e-mails to the entire university about the ethics board standing in the way of scientific progress were frankly alarming. Those messages made his rants about the evils of religion seem downright benign.

Indeed, when Pastor Miriam and her flock came through the door, Deirdre found herself agreeing with him. If the tips were good, she would put up with the most aggressive proselytisers. If the tips were really good, she'd even accept Jesus into her heart, though she'd return to her pagan ways as soon as the missionary left. The tips were never good. Bible tracts were worse than nothing.

It was a pity that Miriam and Zakharov never came at the same time. Deirdre would have engineered things so that they found themselves adjacent, if not at the same table. She would act so very shocked when the homicide squad started asking questions.

Homicide was just the word to bring the next customer from hell to mind. If the not at all friendly neighbourhood police officer Santiago merely had a paranoid air and constantly checked her surroundings, that would be fine. But did she really need to have her hand on her holster all the time too? Even when she was holding her coffee in the other hand? Deirdre was certain she had murdered people, a suspicion that went beyond the prior of her being police.

Councillor Yang was less immediately threatening, but really was Santiago on a systematic scale. He believed that democracy was too dangerous to be allowed. Deirdre supposed that she had to partly agree, as enough people voted for Yang to re-elect him to the town council. His platform was law and order, which translated into aspiring towards a police state with, naturally, him in charge.

There were others too, but at least they didn't come particularly often. The cyberpunk girlfriends would be cute if they didn't keep trying to pay in obscure cryptocurrencies. The union organiser had sensible ideas about class struggle, but really could stop sneering about students and environmental justice. The less said about the guy who was always bragging that he was a navy seal the better. And a special shout out to all the screaming toddlers out there, particularly the ones that never grew up.

All of this would be behind Deirdre soon. She had already said her goodbyes to the co-workers she actually liked, Lindly in particular. The teenager was a lovely lass, but too eager to please and probably at risk of burn out. They'd promised to stay in touch and meet up, though probably not for coffee.

Deirdre had not formally resigned yet though, as she was waiting for one particular customer. And now he had come and ordered a frappé. He would be in for a surprise.

If all she knew about Morgan was his behaviour in the café, she would have no cause to complain. He was funny, genial and tipped comparatively well for good service. He didn't rant about his laissez-faire economic policy preferences in her earshot.

But then, why would he? He didn't have to tell random baristas about them, he paid lobbyists and bribed policy makers. Deirdre had checked and double checked, but he was indeed the CEO Nwabudike Morgan of Morgan Industries, incongruous as it was that he might repeatedly patronise a down town coffee shop. Maybe he actually owned the place.

No matter how affable he might be personally, being the controlling force behind Morgan Industries put him ahead of all the other customers in the awfulness ranking. A mere hundred companies were responsible for over seventy percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and his was among them. Deirdre would show him that his plunder could have social consequences. Given that climate change would bring many million early deaths, her actions were very mild.

Plus, twenty percent tips looked a whole lot less impressive with the knowledge that Morgan was a multi-billionaire.

She really ought to poison him like he poisoned the planet, but it would be pointless. Companies such as his were like hydras, a new CEO would step up and continue seamlessly. It also wouldn't fit her, sorely tried, belief in pacifism.

No, Deirdre drew strength from the Earth. And in this case, she drew strength from her university's biology lab. She shouldn't really be taking their material, but this was for a higher purpose.

Deirdre walked up to Morgan's table briskly, as not to let her determination falter. She put his cup down. "Here you go, polluter."

He looked at his cup, then up at her and back at his cup again, before finding words. "Worms!?"


The End