To be honest, it took me all morning to realise that he was a robot. In retrospect his overuse of the word 'synergies' in the 9am meeting should have aroused my suspicions, but I was too busy coaxing the coffee pot. When he stood up and opened fire with a pencilgun it was quite a surprise, and the bullet-proof boardroom glass suddenly seemed like a wise investment. We all dived under the table in time, although Councillor Q's ear was clipped by a bullet, sending him into a somewhat hysterical state. Between us, J and I managed to wrap a laptop cable around the robot's ankles whilst he was reloading and take him down.
The Strategic Infrastructure Community Kickoff meeting thus irrevocably disrupted, we dosed Councillor Q with brandy and tied our cyborg infiltrator to the Chief Executive's posture chair for interrogation. More than likely it was sent by Human Resources (recently and ominously renamed Meat Assets) to destroy us all, thus saving money on redundancy payments. Unluckily for them, we actually read our contracts, noticed the 'waiver in case of death by robot' clause, and put in place appropriate procedures. The robot had little of interest to tell us, other than the name of the company HR had rented it from, so the admin team deprogrammed it and repurposed some circuits to enhance the water cooler. I flipped a coin with D for its natty leather briefcase. None of us were exactly sure how the pencilgun worked, so I filed it under 'Programme Management procedures' where it is unlikely to ever be found.
That little incident resulted in the Termination Threat Level in the building being raised to Mauve, which will be somewhat tedious if I end up leaving the office last, as I'll need to release the war termites. At least I never arrive first; those little menaces are harder to gather up than set free. Threat Level Mauve also means random DNA, personality, and Voight-Kampff tests, which generally mean learning more than you ever wanted to know about your colleagues. I'm still trying to forget the extent of enhancements that P has had.
After lunch I wrote up minutes, hesitant as to whether 'Homicidal robot attack' was best noted under Action Planning or Any Other Business. The Chief Executive gathered us together to give a pep talk, which was well meant but made me think he was taking the whole thing a little too seriously. There wasn't really any need to wave an AK-47 around, even if it was neatly embossed with our corporate branding. We don't have the budget for military training courses, so he suggested push-ups during team meetings. The idea wasn't greeted with much enthusiasm, but the AK-47 impeded serious debate about it.
Once all that had settled down, it was my turn to sweep the fire escape for mines. I found 3 cheap Tesco minelets and a delux Waitrose tank-buster, which is usual for the middle of the week. Dropped them off in the specially-reinforced recycling bin; hopefully they'll be turned into something more useful. A couple of phone calls followed, on such flimsy pretexts that I suspect they were checking whether the robot had been successful. I mean, who phones local government to ask what the time is?
Donned helmet and knuckle-duster fingerless gloves for the cycle home, although unfortunately I left my greaves at home. The Local Army of Local Arbury have been setting up roadblocks, which don't appear to serve much purpose beyond reminding those passing through that they still exist. I think Arbury took it a bit personally when the council decided to strategically ignore areas with lower than average house prices. After a initial period of chaos and warlord-ism, though, their big society bin collection service has become a lesson to us all. The lesson being, 'Don't throw anything away that you wouldn't want thrown back at your face'.
The pothole slalom in Chesterton continues to get more exciting. I zig-zag raced some guy on a red mountain bike; he won by a whisker after very nearly crashing into a van. Several people outside the pub applauded. A bus driver beeped, but I don't think that was meant to be appreciative. No call to use the brass knuckles this evening as the motorists seemed peaceable, probably as a result of the ceasefire on the A14. I gather the lorry drivers have agreed to hold talks and start clearing the razorwire off sliproads.
I had to show my Neighbourhood Identity Tag at the top of the road, and picked up this week's local vegetable vouchers. The People's Community Market had a nice selection of potatoes, but no onions at the moment. It's a pity that I don't like beetroot as there's quite a glut. Perhaps I could use beetroot juice to dye the curtains magenta?
It was my turn to make supper, which I successfully managed under strict supervision. The herb garden on the morning room roof is flourishing nicely, it was definitely worth shoring up the whole structure with pallets (which also make it more defensible). A troupe of Jobless called round at about 8 to ask if we had any odd tasks. They looked so sad that I got them to sort my bookshelf by colour, in return for some stew and cups of tea. Apparently they have a big encampment on Coldham's Common and are considering taking over the empty retail park. Sounds like a good plan to me, those empty units are havens for wolf-cockroaches at the moment.
The powerdown was scheduled for 10pm, and we just managed to get the washing up done by then. As it was a warm night, we sat outside around a campfire, telling stories, making up new obscenities, and playing the Yes and No game. There were some stunning shooting stars to be seen - although L insisted they were Girton weapons tests rather than astrological phenomena. If so, their range has markedly improved.
Slept peacefully until 3am, when some raucous students flew over in a helicopter, flinging oyster shells and laughing in a distinctly horsey manner. Their hilarity was soon curtailed when the Neighbourhood Order Billet deployed nets. The colleges should really secure their helicopters better, or at least stop teaching first-year engineers how to hotwire them. The rest of the night was quiet, or at least not loud enough to wake me. The morning news (who was apologetically late; apparently his alarm clock broke) said that refugees from Chittering started a bar fight at about 5am, but were soon subdued and thrown in the river.
I fed the frogs in the shed and checked my emails when our internet ration came through at 8am. Lucky that I did, as the Chief Executive had decided on a dispersal strategy and told us all to work at home, in an email sent at 2am. That's all very well for his part of town, but down here if you're found at home and healthy during the day you get press-ganged into tasks involving shovels. Usually digging or repelling invaders. The simplest thing to do was to volunteer as a lookout, which is definitely more fun than joining the argument about the Neighbourhood Plan. It has become increasingly esoteric and focused on tangents of dubious usefulness, like specifying a regulation neighbourhood beard length.
The lookout post is at the apex of the pedestrian railway bridge, which forms the current boundary with our adjacent neighbourhood. The border isn't in dispute, so lookout duty mostly involves spotting dangerous wild animals, tasering Wisbech stowaways, and tagging the odd tourist. There's a gazebo with a two-way radio, and you can usually get some hoodie kid to fetch coffee for a small fee. I read a couple of lengthy legal documents, but reflected that they have little relevance as long as the police continue their siege mentality on Parker's Piece. I hear that their defensive emplacements look rather beautiful from the air, but make them totally unreachable by anything but carrier pigeon. Even those are unreliable since the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook became popular.
One of my colleagues who lives nearby wandered over at lunchtime and kindly shared a cheese sandwich. We discussed the current state of the job market; she's considering going for an IT job that only pays in pumpkins. I think she'd be better trying for employment at the University. They may insist on microchipping and an equity share of your children, but at least their currency can be exchanged before it goes mouldy. We agreed to keep each other updated, then she had to go and take over as Head Mistress at her neighbourhood school.
In the afternoon I drafted a Board paper and after some complex calculations caught up on the house energy bills. We're currently ahead, but must use less electricity next month otherwise the difference will need to be made up in plasma donation or nursing time. I do pity the neighbourhoods with no medical facilities, but having a treaty with Addenbrooke's is a double-edged sword. At 3pm the next shift began and I tried to slip away and get home. The Neighbourhood Order Brigade were having none of that, though, and I was planting saplings and felling traffic lights until nightfall. There was carrot soup and toast on the table when I got back; I love my housemates.
There was also a letter from my parents waiting for me, addressed in Celtic as well as English so that the The Ancient Kingdom of the Iceni (formerly Suffolk) postal service would accept it. Mum says that Dad has been promoted to Wise Old Man on the Parish Council, after telling a historic anecdote that lasted 47 minutes without repetition or hesitation, but plenty of deviation. I'm so proud. Mum is already an official Wise Old Woman, although she isn't too keen on the title. Their alpacas are doing well, and Mum says she's making me a jumper with their wool. The debate about whether tiled roofs are evil and should all be replaced with thatch continues to rage; it seems that a growing minority consider caves to be the preferable alternative. No more noise from Norfolk (or Them Up North, as Mum puts it) although constant vigilance is being maintained. It sounds like both parents are happy and enjoying the picturesque local sport of 'throwing rocks at the Landrover'. Neither of my cousins have returned from their quests yet. They occasionally phone home on stolen iPhones to let us know they're OK. My aunt has started breeding quails.
By the time I'd finished reading this missive it was raining pretty hard, so the campfire was a no go. We checked the sandbags and seagull-repellent, then trekked over to the local pub, which had some rock band and a scrabble tournament. They also have enough independent PV on the roof to avoid powerdowns, so the lights barely even flicker when the neighbourhood grid goes down. Wading home was a little tricky, as the puddles were full of eels. I swear Fenlanders are deliberately introducing the slimy buggers for nefarious purposes. One of them nearly chewed my bootlace off (an eel not a Fenlander, on this occasion).
The house was pretty cold and the mould staging a comeback, so to cheer ourselves up we constructed the community trampoline. Otherwise known as jumping up and down on a pile of mattresses. This confuses the neighbours, which is always fun. They've quietened down a lot since the Neighbourhood Order Brigade discovered they were students and put them on sewer-digging duty. The volume of puddles suggests they're slacking off a bit, I have to say.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow, as it'll be my turn as Neighbourhood Mayor and walk the boundaries, carrying a big stick and giving orders. I intend to ensure that the Neighbourhood Plan must be in haiku, tax tabloids for every capital letter that they use, and outlaw bacon in all its evil forms. Viva Big Society!