[Back by popular demand! Well, someone mentioned it in passing… Find the rest of the story here and enjoy!]

I glanced over again. He was still busy talking, hands gesticulating and eyes locked on the girl stood at his desk. I nudged Alex as he was packing up for the evening.

“Who’s that talking to Tom?”

Alex shrugged. “Katie, from downstairs. Don’t know her surname. Why?”

“Just not seen her up here before,” I replied casually.

Truth was, I was very suspicious of why she’d been talking to Tom for so long. I’d been building up the courage to confront him all afternoon over Kerry’s disappearance, but he had been busily engaged for an hour now.

I looked at the clock. It was getting late – Alex’s leaving had left just the three of us in the office. I carried on pretending to work; a few minutes later I saw Katie nod and shift her feet to leave, and took my chance.

“Tom,” I called as I walked over. His eyes caught mine – grey, metallic. Then they flickered away from me, towards the doors. Sarah, the pretty but uninterested girl from my first day at work, had burst through them and was heading in our direction.

“I just need a word with you-” I began to Tom but Sarah cut me short.

“It’ll have to wait until tomorrow, Kyle Broomer,” she snapped. “Tom, I need to see you upstairs now.”

I’m usually subdued on work matters and outspoken on conspiracy ones. The situation here seemed to combine the two – my conspiracy voice won out.

“No, Sarah, I need to speak to him.” Tom put his hands up towards me apologetically; pre-empting his excuses I continued, “He knows something about Kerry’s disappearance.”

Time blurred.

Sarah shot towards me as Tom leapt from his chair.

The two collided, almost in midair. Sarah’s fist met Tom’s chest and she immediately jumped back into a crouch.

I didn’t know what Sarah was up to, but a fight with a cyborg wasn’t going to end well for her. I grabbed Sarah’s hand and turned for the door.

“Run!” I shouted. Sarah’s grip tightened as her other arm swung towards my face, fist clenched.

Just before it hit me, my legs gave way and I collapsed. Tom had dived forwards and held my ankles like a vice.

In one movement, he flung me backwards along the floor and rose to his feet. I crashed hard against a desk and my breath rushed from my lungs.

I could only watch as Sarah and Tom squared up to each other. They reached a strange impasse – one would twitch, almost imperceptibly, as if just starting to move, drawing a similar feinted response from the other. It was as if they were predicting the other’s movements, and only a glimmer of a reply was needed to dissuade it.

After a few seconds, Tom dropped to his knees and swung a right hook at Sarah’s midriff. She caught it and twisted as he spun round to reach her head with his left hand, trapping her neck just as she pulled his arm clean out of its socket. The pop was followed immediately by a crack and Sarah slumped to the floor.

Tom turned to me, still slumped against his desk, popped his arm back into its socket, and spoke in the artificial voice I’d always known he must have.

“Good cyborg; no time to explain. Kerry’s safe. Come with me.”

I got unsteadily to my feet. Powerless to resist, I followed.


[Colleague_2.1 and 2.0 also available]

09:22 Broomer, Kyle wrote:
Busy this morning hey? Missed our 9 o’clock catch-up the day we have SERIOUS news! Pop round my desk when you’re free

Come now, you can’t be that busy. Your calendar says you’re free.

From: Kyle
To: Kerry
Time: 10:14
Hey, just been by your desk, your manager says you’ve not called in sick, what’s up?

Call Log
Kerry (mobile) (6) 13:37 >>

Kerry (mobile) 21:27 <<

My best friend Kerry has disappeared. She was in work yesterday – we had lunch together as usual and discussed various theories including that about Tom, the suspected cyborg who works in our office. I mention this because Kerry’s disappearance has coincided with Tom’s getting rid of his glasses. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s something Kerry and I were waiting for, because we reckon his eyes hold clues about his real identity. This morning, he came in without his glasses. I haven’t gone over to chat with him yet, though I could on any flimsy premise, but Kerry’s disappearance has rattled me because I’m sure Tom’s behind it.

Kerry and I have been friends since our first day of work. We were two of several new starters that day, and bonded within ten minutes of arriving in the building. As a group of us waited at reception, Sarah, another newbie, asked if I had seen the fifteenth anniversary memorial service of 9/11 which had been on recently. I hadn’t but I know plenty about it and when she brought up the footage of the Pentagon impact, I mentioned the hole in the building which is suspiciously half the width of a Boeing 757.

“Come now, you don’t believe those conspiracy theories, do you?” Sarah asked. She was quite a pretty girl, and the conversation had been going well until now, nevertheless I have always been one to stick to my guns.

“There are too many anomalies in the evidence to believe everything the FBI investigations found,” I replied. “Thermite in the wreckage, insider trading on United Airlines stocks…”

Sarah smiled and laughed lightly. The polite response. I was used to that, at best, by now, but was still disappointed when she turned away to talk to the guy across from her. I looked around at the rest of the group, most of whom averted their eyes, but found Kerry’s locked on mine. She gave me a slight nod, and when we spoke at lunch later that day the 9/11 Truth was our first topic.

Kerry was what I like to call a ‘bambi’ – wide-eyed and impressionable, with views that could slide around like a young deer on ice. But she was also a meticulous researcher, and soon we became a great team – more than the sum of our parts. My endless creativity and curiosity coupled with her knack for uncovering information led to prestige in the online world of ‘conspistadors’, as we called ourselves (I came up with the name). And while we had plenty of topics, none was so under-our-noses as Tom.

We thought we had the upper hand, an eye on him, but now I fear he’s got to Kerry and I don’t know what to do.


Kyle’s long had his suspicions about Tom. The nagging feeling something wasn’t quite right; that the guy wasn’t exactly what he seemed. If asked to pin it down, he’d struggle, but mutter something about possession or aliens being likely.

Superficially, they got on pretty well – they’d chew the cud at lunch in the canteen or exchange the manly ‘nod & grunt’ greeting if they passed each other in the office – which seemed to suggest no one had mentioned to Tom all the aspersions on him Kyle blurted out to anyone who would listen.

“I think he’s a cyborg,” he was saying to Alex one afternoon by the water cooler. “I think they messed up his eyes but he wears those thick glasses to hide that fact.”

“I think it’s probably just that he’s got bad eyesight,” Alex said.

“He got telescopic eye sight and probably spy-satellite hearing as well,” Kyle replied. They looked across to where Tom sat at the far end of the long office, his eyes fixed on them. Alex reddened and looked away, but Kyle kept his eyes fixed on Tom as he spoke again.

“He can hear…”

He watched as Tom’s lips mouthed the words with him,


Deus ex machina

“a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object…often implies a lack of creativity” (thanks Wikipedia)

I wouldn’t say as kids that we suffered from a lack of creativity, if anything, our imaginations had gotten the better of us here, as we’d killed off all three of our characters, without thinking where that left our game…

Happily, their younger siblings were conveniently present, but against a Geri Haliwell-inspired Shadow Master, there could be little hope. Enter Kyle!

I decided to write this today as it’s Kyle’s birthday – we’ve not spoken in a while but I’ll link him this article later as I’m not sure he even knows about this! Kyle was another good friend who may have joined us in this game on occasion before he moved to Illinois from our hometown in Massachusetts. By the time of these events, he’d definitely moved, but that didn’t stop his fantasy counterpart saving the day!

In a fashion reminiscent of (and likely copied from) the White Power Ranger, who returned super powerful and immune to evil influence (I will have the utmost respect for anyone who can correct me if I’m wrong here), Kyle intervened to single-handedly fight off and banish the Shadow Master, while clad, if memory serves, in all black armour (because white would’ve been too obvious). What a badass!

Certain death avoided, the younger siblings (I became ‘Timothy’, my sister possibly chose ‘Jamie-Lynn’, but we can’t for the life of us remember what new name Andrew picked… ) lived to fight another day, safe in the knowledge that on the rare occasions our own prowess failed us (and, as we’d soon scheduled, printed and laminated our own ‘magic university’ timetables, that was a rare thing indeed) our absent friend would return once more.

Kyle – happy birthday, and I hope you appreciate what a part you still played in our lives after you moved away!

[The above is 333 words, by complete chance, and the last one was 444 words. If anyone knows of any symbolism I’m inadvertently messing with here (I’m worried 666 will be soon) do let me know!]