Astrid van Bergen slipped into the nearest branch of Sunny Side Coffee Co with a sigh of relief, the aroma of freshly ground beans catching in her nostrils and already beginning to reinvigorate her. While the coffee at the Tranquillity City HQ of the United Nations Police Force wasn’t bad, it wasn’t a chocolate and hazelnut latte either. Sweet, flavoured coffees were a taste she picked up back in college, and the habit had stuck around since.

“Welcome to Sunny Side Coffee Co,” the young man behind the counter in the sunshine yellow and dusky orange uniform greeted her, preparing to launch into the latest marketing spiel fed down from head office.

“Not today, sorry.” She smiled apologetically, giving a dismissive wave of her hand to the marketing infodump. “I’ll take a large latte to go, with a chocolate and a hazelnut syrup shot.” She said, before flashing her UNPF badge. It was good for a ten percent discount, and over her years in the police force that worked out to be a statistically significant saving.

The young man’s eyes widened as the RFID pop-ups appeared in his vision. “Oh, of course! Sorry, Detective. Do you have a-”

“Oh!” Astrid smiled and dug her loyalty mug out of her satchel bag, presenting it to be scanned and filled. “Nearly slipped my mind, thanks for reminding me.” As she watched him preparing her order, she focused her sight on the mug. Loyalty mugs and other apparel were a common thing, items with contact-charging RFID chips in to hold all sorts of useful information, keyed to their registered owner.

In the case of Astrid’s Large Loyalty Mug, with appropriate credentials anyone looking at it could see how much coffee she had left in it, what type of coffee it was, what the temperature was, her brand loyalty status and any augmented reality enhancements she had given the cup. In this case, the yellow cup appeared white with the UNPF logo on, and underneath a short message stating the cup to be the ‘Property of Detective Astrid van Bergen, Cyberized Response Unit Member.’

The detective stepped to the side as she waited for her drink, letting the next customer be served. Even though Tranquility City had entered Downtime Mode, there were still places open to serve those working or just finishing up work, and plenty of people about. Side-eyeing the customer though, Astrid felt something niggling at her.

He was tall, artificially tall at that. While she was only five-foot five, this man was nearing seven-foot. His stance suggested prosthetic legs, military grade at that from the large footprints. Working in the CRU, she had gotten skilled at appraising her fellow cyborgs. Quad-Limb Conversion, which went hand in hand with torso augmentations to handle the added weight and support systems. Tactical Vision Wraps over his eyes, and plenty of facial scarring. Definitely a war veteran.

“Welcome to Sunny Side Coffee Co, where the beans are fresh and the deals fresher. Could I interest you in today’s exclusive offer, a muffin and a latte for only six and a half UN Credits?” The barista smiled, though Astrid could easily see his nervousness. She couldn’t blame him, if she were honest with herself. He cast an intimidating presence.

“You can’t interest me in coffee.” The veteran grumbled, resting his hands on the counter. “You could interest me in credits though.” He added as the servomotors in his fingers started to work, the easy wipe-clean metal surface on the counter beginning to crumple.

“I… I’m not authorized to do that.” The young man gulped, casting a quick and desperate look in Astrid’s direction. She gave the slightest roll of her hand, mouthing ‘stall him’ as she fired off an emergency notification to the HQ through her HUD.

“Then get some.” He snarled, before glancing over to Astrid. “Or this lady won’t be getting to enjoy her coffee.”

Faking a whimper, Astrid moved back towards a booth, playing the nervous victim as she reached back, her hand slipping under her coat to find the familiar form of her taser gun, strapped to the back of her belt.

“You’d have to do an order first with us, S-sir… then I could ‘refund’ you that and more…” The barista suggested, gesturing to one of the pre-packed cookies behind the counter.

“Alright, go get one, but you better make it quick. And no funny business.”

As the barista stepped back toward the shelving, Astrid whipped her taser gun out and pointed it to the veteran. “Unidentified citizen, I am Detective Astrid van Bergen of the United Nations Police Force! Cease and submit and your charge will be reduced, any further illegal actions will result in harsher sentencing!”

The agility from the man was rather surprising, considering the apparent age of his prosthetics. Whirling to face her, he lunged forwards to attack, a quick sidestep taking him clear of the probes shooting out from the gun cartridge. “You won’t stop me, Whitey!” The criminal spat that final word out, a slur used against pretty much all of the UN’s forces. Swinging out with a powerful and well-anchored left arm, a confused expression crossed his face as it impacted against Astrid’s arm, raised to ward off the blow, with little effect.

Taking advantage of the confusion, Astrid slammed her left fist into the cyborg’s solar plexus, the blow getting a slight wheeze for all her force and effort. Undeterred, she swung her right hand up, catching the man with the grip of her taser gun square on the chin. This time, a more intense grunt came, with the smattering of blood as teeth bit lips.

Astrid darted back just in time to avoid a wide-reaching sweep of an arm, her exoframe powering up to full under her coat and over-trousers as she closed the gap between them. While it lacked some of the raw power that could be exerted compared to military grade cybernetics, it could evidently help her go toe to toe as she brawled back against the criminal. Blows were traded, dodged and parried until a lucky jab caught her in the side.

Quick to take advantage, her attacker’s arms latched around her, easily hoisting her in the air to crush her in the metal embrace. “What’ve you got to say now? Maybe if you beg for mercy, I might not kill you.”

Astrid struggled, grunting in reply as her exoframe strained to keep her from being crumpled.

“Anything?” The cyborg leered, lifting her higher to peer into her eyes. “Well?”

Planting her feet against his thighs, Astrid pushed back before slamming her head in, catching the tip of his nose with her forehead. The resulting crunch loosened the arms around her, dropping her to the floor with blood on her face as he rolled to-and-throe, clutching at his face. “What have I got to say?” Astrid snarled, drawing her second taser gun to aim at the veteran’s chest. “You’re under arrest!” With the click of the trigger, the probes shot out and made contact, the current from the cartridge’s capacitor unloading into the now juddering on the floor criminal.

The doors to the coffee shop burst open as a CRU armoured response unit came in, taser rifles and impact dampening body armour all ready, only to find the lone detective standing over the now inert threat.

“Officers.” Astrid smiled, wiping the blood off her face with a napkin. “Subject pacified. Just in time to clean up.”

“Nice work, Detective.” The lead response officer complimented her, already heading to restraint the man. “We’ll take it from here. Looks like you’ve got some work to do here still though.”

“Oh?” She asked, before following his eyes to the collection counter, her loyalty cup ready and waiting. With eager speed, she finished cleaning up on her way over to it. As soon as her hand touched the cup, she saw the familiar ‘Credits deducted’ window crop up, before a second later seeing several more pop-ups. ‘Credits received’ said one, refunding the cost of her drink. A substantial amount of loyalty points were also added, her cup status updating with several offers to be claimed at another time. With a raised eyebrow, she glanced over to the barista.

“Sunny Side Coffee Co company guidelines gives us the right to give free drinks and bonus points in exceptional situations.” The young man smiled, his hands shaking slightly as the adrenaline come-down hit, watching the officers drag the prone figure from his store “And for an employee to take a break after things like this. Thanks, Detective.”

Astrid shook her head with a smile. “The thanks are appreciated, but not needed. It’s my duty.”

“As a police officer?”

She laughed. “No, as a coffee drinker of too many years to want to recollect.” Lifting the cup up, she took a long sip of hot coffee goodness. Just the thing to pacify her craving, for a little while at least.


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