Game's over Boom Boom.
The smoke-cracked voice of The Clivvers grated as he prodded me up against the wall. His eyes transfixed me, dark with shining light flecks like half-burnt bone.
I flinched as if a giant gull was pecking at the worms of my eyes. He was meant to be gone. Not enough money he said, what was his skeletal monstrousness doing here now? Was he here for my soul?
What do you mean upstairs? These stairs... or...
The Clivvers looked exasperated.
Of course, these fucking stairs you imbecile. What other stairs are there?
Ah. Now that he mentioned it, there were no other stairs.
Um, alright then.
I straightened the lapel of my suit jacket causing a snort of derision from The Clivvers.
When we get to my office you can tell me why you are wearing that fucking thing.
He shook his head and motioned me upward.
I sat opposite him at his desk. He had a shiny new office on the 6th. I had rarely been on the 6th. It looked appallingly like a normal office. No bean bags, no standing desks. It even had row after row of PCs and people sitting at them. I had shuddered as I was led through to the back wall where The Clivvers resided.
Now I shuddered as I faced him. He took out his vape and blew a cloying sweet cloud over me. It smelt of violets.
You are probably wondering what I am doing back here, hmm?
I nodded like a dog that has heard too many of Pavlov's bells.
The Clivvers snorted with contempt and looked around at his office.
Ah this fucking place. Only this place could do it. They wouldn't pay me enough when I was here so I left. Now I am an independent contractor. So they have re-employed me, for THREE TIMES the fucking money to do my old job. That makes sense, doesn't it?
I nodded and hedged my bets by shaking it as well. I looked like a distressed donkey.
So, Boom Boom. You are wearing a monkey suit and working for the REDSHIFT project. Been burning a whole lot of money. A whole lot of money. Now spill. What the fuck is actually going on up there? What are they doing? What are you doing?
I thought of the artisan coffees, I thought of the nights out. I thought of that sweet Cuban cigar smoke. I could hear the guys laughing now and slapping each other on their well dressed, grey-suited shoulders.
Nothing is going on up there, nothing untoward I mean. We are working really hard.
The Clivvers stood.
We are innovating, finding new ways to deliver. Leaner, smarter ways of working. Solutionising short term enablement of... stuff.
I said a little defensively.
The Clivvers stared at me long and hard. Very slowly he walked around his desk. He paused before me and raised a hand out flat before me.
I looked at it quizzically.
With a resounding smack, his open hand careened off my cheek.
OW!!! What the fuck!?!
He leaned over and grabbed my lapels. For a moment I considered bringing my Ancient Dambe skills into play and taking him down to the floor but I worried one thing might lead to another.
Snap out of it man, look at you? Dressed like a cockatrice, strutting around. What happened to the man who hated those who shat in other peoples pockets?
He leant back and fumbled in a pocket before pulling something out.
What happened to the man who found THIS!
In his hand was a familiar stinking, fish-paste'y thing. It was the bizarre Alien device I had found in The Clivvers old office.
I jerked back. The fishy stink of the Alien device had roused something in me. My penis swelled to its familiar half-Cumberland and a flood of memories came crashing down on to me.
I... I... Don't know what came over me?
I looked about in a state of mild confusion. Then I noticed what I was wearing.
What had happened to me, had I been brainwashed? Assimilated somehow? Those jokers up there, they were getting away with murder and I had just gone along with it.
I looked down at my suit and shoes in disgust.
The Clivvers tucked away the Alien device.
Are you ready to talk now?
I started singing like a canary sitting on a bad man's finger.
After it was done I returned to the 5th floor.
The office when I entered, was a scene of chaos. A team of guys in black suits I had never seen before were moving about the floor stuffing the bean bags and anything else that wasn't nailed down into some large packing crates.
Bushy-Tail and Saltyboz looked like the last of the guys that were being escorted out. They shot me venomous glances as they were led past. I made ready to turn and go myself when one of the black suits spotted me. He glanced quickly down at my pass.
Hey, are you one of ours?
Um yes. Is REDSHIFT being wound up?
Black-Suit examined my pass a little more closely before grinning a wolfen grin and looking back up at me.
Oh yeah, it's being wound up alright. We are the Auditors. You had best go back to your old desk. But listen...
I had already about turned but stopped and looked back.
Don't go too far... Cal Davvers wants to see you.
Something of the detective sparked up in me for the first time in a long time. Cal Davvers... Who the fuck was that?
I tilted my non-existant fedora at the punk in black.
Does he now? Well, tell this Davvers I take my coffee black, no sugar...
I left with a swagger that could dry-cure beef and headed home to the good lady. I think I had something she might have been missing...