THE WAR OF AGES • by Jane Brown

Gwen took a sip of her Earl Grey — the only drink this abominable café couldn’t stuff up — then glanced at her watch and shook her head. Tardiness was the height of rudeness in her book, even though, unfortunately, it was a trait most of her employees had. Pity, she’d had high hopes for her latest recruit, Felix.

She gazed around the café. The only other customers were a group of Gen X type businesswomen sitting at the bar.

The bell on the door chimed and a flustered man with a long grey beard hobbled in. She watched with a wry grin as he struggled to take off his thick winter coat, accidentally knocking into a waitress and making her spill a full tray of coffees. “Oh dear, what a mess. You’d better clean that up before someone slips,” he said, before ambling over to Gwen’s table.

Gwen smiled. “Nicely done, Felix. The rest of my team could learn so much from you.”

He gave a graceful bow before taking his seat.

Gwen pulled out a clipboard. “Felix, your first month’s statistics are very impressive — ten complaint calls to T.V. networks per day; fifty-three continuous minutes talking to strangers about your ingrown toenails; five times going through the supermarket checkout express lane with a full shopping cart…” She looked up. “Amazing work. We estimate you’ve successfully annoyed over 100 millennials in only one month!”

Felix beamed. “I must say, I am very much enjoying this job.”

Gwen looked at him with one eyebrow raised. “We don’t usually promote an employee so early, but we have a big project in the pipeline so in this case we’re going to make an exception. I think you’re ready.” She pulled out the badge from her coat pocket.

Felix stared at it. “Felix Greyweather. Level One Social Media Access.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t get it.”

“We’re targeting social media accounts of millennials. All platforms, doesn’t matter which one you choose. Your mission will be to comment on as many posts as you can. Of course, make sure your comments are completely unrelated to the original post. Bonus points if you make them controversial and/or inappropriate. Phrases like “Back in my day” and “That sure is a pickle” are strongly encouraged.”

Felix tapped his bowtie. “You got that, boys?” he said, then put his hand over his ear and nodded.

Gwen gasped.

A swarm of millennials entered the café. Felix grinned and ripped off his long grey beard, revealing his trendy manicured beard underneath. “Thanks for that, Gwen. Your speech has been successfully recorded and is safe in the cloud. Now we have the proof to put your whole operation behind bars.”

Gwen shook her head. “No! You wouldn’t!”

“This time tomorrow, you’ll all be checking in to Pretty Peony Nursing Home.”

Gwen grit her teeth. “Not if I have anything to do with it.” She pulled out her walky-talky. “Calling all units, rumble at Café Ninety-nine.”

No one noticed the businesswomen at the bar (who had been gleefully watching the chaos unfold while sipping their lattes) clink their mugs together. “Cheers to Gen X,” they whispered before moving on to brainstorming ideas for their next takedown — Gen Z.

Jane Brown is a programmer and short fiction writer from Australia. Her stories have been published in MetaStellar, The Centropic Oracle, Etherea, and elsewhere.

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