I yelped with fright and turned to see The Clivvers standing just behind me.
BoomDawg, over here.
He gave me a skull-like grin and motioned to a seat at the back of the cafe.
I followed him whilst trying to compose myself. I wasn't a child's toy to be easily rattled but I had to admit, The Clivvers had given me The Shivers. As I walked over I willed my testicles to drop back down from whatever lofty heights they had leapt to.
We sat. I opened my mouth to speak.
He waved a hand for silence.
I had to leave.
He said with his customary rasp.
I was turning over too many rocks that people didn't want turned over. People high up were starting to ask questions, in my business it doesn't pay to attract too much... attention.
He pulled out his vaper and took a healthy drag. He exhaled slowly, looking me up and down like a hamster chewing dry ice.
What do you want anyway? I am out of it, you hear. I am out of the game. I can't help you. You are... on your own now.
I've always been on my own Clivvers, always. I lost my virginity on my own in Taiwan back in 67 and I ain't ever looked back. But let's not talk about that.
I pulled the Alien device from my pocket and slapped it down on the table between us with a wet slorp. It quivered fishily.
You know what this is?
He pulled a face as if a horse was breathing heavily in his ear.
Jesus, put that away. It stinks!
He reached a hand out to cover it and looked around furtively to make sure no-one had seen.
So you know what it is?
I said grimly.
Yeah, its a fucking diaphragm and looks well used. Throw it away. Why the hell are you carrying that around, it's disgusting, that's probably jizzum that's leaking out? I thought you had a whiff of the sea about you.
I tried to form my mouth around the strange alien sounds he had uttered to describe it.
Yeah, where did you get it from anyway?
I stated, watching him closely.
His face blanched as if I had put my penis in one of his neighbour's chickens.
Look, get rid of it. That's all I am going to say.
I palmed the alien dya-fra-ghm back into my pocket.
Tell me something else, Clivvers. Before you left, had you heard of FUSION?
I heard some mysterious men talking about it on the stairwell. It sounds suspicious. I think it could all be related.
The Clivvers narrowed his eyes as if farting quietly. He stood.
Listen, if it's a project you are interested in ask Bannock Man. He might know.
Bannock Man? Who the hell is...
But the Clivvers had upped and gone, the door swinging slowly closed behind him.
How the hell was I going to find out who Bannock Man was? Then it came to me. There was one person I hadn't tapped up yet. Someone who knew everything and nothing.
I better warm him up with a coffee first though.
You ever tried Prison bread Mikey?
Mikey looked up from the reams of code displayed on his PC.
Call me Mikey one more time and I swear I will kill you.
I sat down and slid him over a Flat White, coffee always worked on Mikey.
Gotcha a Coffee, Mikey man.
I will kill you. I mean it.
I pretended to doodle something in an imaginary notepad with an imaginary goat's penis.
And what would happen then Mikey? Where do you think you would end up?
I slammed the non-existent notepad down and pointed at him with the goat's penis.
Prison Mikey. Prison, like I have always warned you about. You're heading straight into a self-fulfilling prophecy!
What do you want?
Fusion, spill the beans Mikey, spill em.
FUSION? It's just a project to join the two client-facing portals together. You know, so the customer has a more seamless journey? That's all.
I sneered, Mikey had picked the wrong day to play me like a fool. I swung the goat's penis that's only existed in my head menacingly by my side.
You been down the rear stairwell recently Mikey?
I said in a soft whisper.
Is this Prison talk again?
He said with exasperation.
Not this time Mikey, you and me are gonna go for a walk.
I gripped his collar and hefted him up with one hand, the other clutching onto the imaginary goat's penis. I wasn't going into this one empty handed.
What the hell are you doing??!
I ignored his outraged blathering and hauled him out toward the entrance to the rear stairwell. The door was covered in red warning tape.
BoomDawg, it says we shouldn't enter. Yeek!
I ripped down the warning tape and pushed open the door. A strange smell wafted out, sweet, yet stingy on the eyes. I hauled Mikey down the first few flights.
Near the bottom, the stairwell was cordoned off with plastic sheeting. The smell was stronger down here. Sweeter, more pungent.
I pointed at the plastic sheets and opened my mouth to speak when the lights flickered.
The plastic sheeting in front of us parted.
An alien face leered out of the plastic. Giant bug eyes set over a long black, tubular proboscis.
The lights flickered again. Then they went out.