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Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Introduction The origin of this short fiction began as an exercise using writing prompts. I listen to lectures by Brandon Sanderson and one of the sessions had a guest lecturer, the sci-fi writer, Mary Robinette Kowal, who wrote the brilliant alternate history novel, The Calculating Stars. And her topic of discussion was short fiction (which I love) and what makes them tick. I think you know where I am going with this. As a fun task, she provided a few words that you had to incorporate into your short fiction. I won’t tell you what the prompts are :) . And quite likely, those prompting words do not exist in this story anymore. But suffice to say that they worked well and ended up giving birth to the story that you are about to read. It falls into the category of flash fiction and is my nascent attempt at sardonic humour. Enjoy! Maybe.


As the information-carrying plasmids in the bacterial medium swam through his bloodstream towards his brain, all Caid could think was, “Bugger! I need me some coffee.”

A rare commodity and only one way to get it. He would have to synthesise it.

Being the impulsive data jockey that he was, he quickly squirted query plasmids into the global information bionet and attracted the result-set phages using bacterial conjugation.

The plasmid-encoded instructions on ‘How to make Premium Coffee Beans’ assimilated into his neural cells. He could already sense the aromatic richness of hard caffeine in his olfactory system — a pleasant feedback effect of subjective information assimilation — and he relaxed into his shape-mimetic chair.

Data assimilation completed. He jumped out of his chair and entered specific gene sequences into his synthesiser and activated it.

“Cannot proceed. Input haemoglobin,” the synthesiser alerted.

"Bollocks! Haemoglobin?” Caid was puzzled.

“Blood!” he realised with a start.

"Why would it need blood? I just want coffee,” he thought.

“Maybe it’s personalised?” he rationalised.

"Oh! Sod it!”

And with a sigh of resignation, Caid pricked his thumb with a needle jack that sampled his blood and popped the cartridge into the input slot of the synthesiser.

The synthesiser bubbled and brewed the protein goo into what Caid hoped were coffee beans.

“Synthesis complete. Elapsed time: 3 min 42 seconds 23 milliseconds,” the display flashed and the output tray slid out.

“What the fuck???!!” Caid exclaimed incredulously.

And there in the middle of the output tray, sat, in lotus position, a homunculus in a steaming pile of organic detritus.

“What the fuck is this??”

Unable to believe his eyes, he stood rooted to the spot.

The homunculus opened its eyes, flexed its arms, stretched as though coming out of deep hibernation, yawned and stood up. It stood tall, all four inches of it.

“Ah, shite! The synthesiser cocked up! Where the fuck is my coffee beans?” Caid blurted out, involuntarily, more to himself than to anyone else, certainly not to the homunculus.

He was not expecting a reply.

“Hello there, sir," the homunculus cheerfully greeted.

"Thank you for initiating mitosis. I am very obliged.”

It continued even as Caid stood with a steadfast gaze in disbelief, “I’m a recombinant protein amalgamated organic intelligence of limited lifespan designed and indentured to the Caffe Zero Group Limited having the task specification of caffeine steward. I’m fully capable of ichor analysis and I thank you for your ichor sample as your consent for completing this transaction. Caffe Zero Group Limited aims to deliver caffeine beverages made from premium quality coffee beans to its customers anywhere in the world in record time. My in-built chemical laboratory has thoroughly examined your plasmatic corpuscles and have identified your preference based on current caffeine levels and tolerance. Remember, ichor shows everything. I have submitted your order report via my seven7th generation organic cellular networking transceivers embedded in my neocortex. Your lab assisted preference will be stored in Caffe Zero databases for the next 30 days for dispatch without analysis. Six espresso shots with two complimentary chai-tea lattes are en route by drone service and should be with you in the next 30 minutes. The containers are self-heating to ensure that you enjoy your caffeine dose at the right temperature to maximise the drinking experience. The total price of 723.75 Creds VAT inclusive has been deducted from your account on consent via genome verification. Caffe Zero Group Limited thanks you for your order. Remember to place the containers in the recycle chute after use, for our drones to collect. Caffe Zero Group Limited actively participates in waste and recycling initiatives, including biofuel generation. We thank you for your cooperation. ”

“I’ve fulfilled my primary purpose and thereby take leave of you. Cellular degeneration will commence in five seconds. Enjoy your coffee, sir. Have a good day!” the homunculus bowed grandiosely.

Caid simply stood watching, speechless, certain that his eyes are betraying him, as the homunculus’s features distorted and dissolved. Ten seconds later, protein sludge remained.

He dropped into his chair; the shell-shock muted him for a few seconds.

“£723!!! How the fuck did this happen?! I just wanted to fucking synthesise some bloody coffee beans!!!” Caid shouted at his empty room.

Personalised coffee on the way aside, he felt a tad bit victimised by shady caffeine corporate strategists; maybe “a tad bit” was an understatement.

So much for trusting data soups from unsolicited bionet cesspools.


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