The pile of sheets shifted position slightly.
"Come on Algernon, give me a break", the voice came through rather muffled from the pile.
"It's 7:30, you have a meeting this morning, you told me to get you up", the voice was growing impatient.
The sheets sprouted a leg, "But I didn't mean this early, can I have five minutes?"
"Get up now!", the voice had progressed from impatient to cross in one quick step.
"Three, I promise"
The voice waited. The sheets shuffled over to the edge of the bed, "Times up".
"Oh please, that was never a minute"
"You're arguing with me?", there was an uncanny sense of disbelief in the voice.
"OK, OK, I'm getting up, see?"
The sheets collapsed in a heap on the floor revealing a collection of skin and bones vaguely resembling a human, but only because it fitted the general description, two legs, two arms, a head, and a slightly larger section holding the others together.
The head stared into Algernon's face, now flashing 7:32 at him. The box took an uneasy step backwards, not being quite sure about the body's intentions. "Now look Roger, I'm only doing what you asked"
Roger picked the box up as if to throw it, then reluctantly placed it back on the table. "But 7:30?"
"It's your first job in months, I'd thought you'd like to make an impression", the clock walked over to the edge of the table, and sat down with its legs dangling over the edge.
"I will, I'll look like I haven't slept for weeks!", Roger scrubbed his eyes in an effort to stop the room spinning.
"You'll be OK after a shower. Shall I tell Kevin you're up?"
"I'll get breakfast myself thank you." said Roger adamantly.
Algernon cocked his head on one side, "Give him a chance, he's been trying really hard"
"Yes but most people get better with practice don't they?". Roger was staring in disbelief in the direction of the kitchen, as things were battered about the room.
"He's only been here 6 months, and you don't exactly eat much here, if it's not made with bread, tomatoes and cheese you're not interested". Algernon had jumped to the floor before Roger had knocked into the table whilst heading for the bed.
Algernon called through from the hall, "Your shower's ready". Roger disappeared into the bathroom. The noises emanating from the room gave the impression he was getting washed, although it was difficult to be sure with Roger. Algernon was just about to shout when Roger emerged wearing a bright yellow and orange tie. It wasn't the only thing he was wearing, but coupled with a white shirt, black waistcoat, black suit and black shoes, it looked more than a little out of place.
Algernon's display went blank.
"What?", Roger exclaimed.
Algernon was on the work top in the middle of the kitchen, "The splash of colour on your front Roger, have you been sick?"
"No. I thought I would bring a little colour into my life". Roger kept turning the tie over and over as if expecting to find another side to the normal two.
"What like that?", Algernon lit up one of his digits, and then immediately turned it off again.
"I'll change it." Roger returned with a light blue strip stretching from his neck to just above his waist, the background remained more or less the same. "Better?"
Roger turned towards the panel above the sink, "I'll just have toast thank you Kevin."
"Oh. You don't want this then?", Kevin's arms sagged under their own disappointment, almost dropping the plate in the process.
"Roger would just like toast Kevin, we'll deal with this mess later", Algernon turned to Roger, who had already made for the table.
Roger had his head in his hands, the steam from the coffee Kevin was pouring rising above his head in faint wisps.
"So what's the Job?"
"I don't know, I've just been asked to meet this lady at the Tea Kettle at 9:30, I don't know anything more than that."
"It's difficult to tell from the message she left with Andy. I suppose I was lucky to even get the message."
"He's very forgetful Roger"
"He's an answering machine! He's supposed to answer the phone, take a message, and then pass it on when I come home. He's not supposed to wait until it suits him to give me the messages."
"He's been under a lot of pressure recently, it's very difficult having to remember all those messages."
"It was the first message for weeks. And whose side are you on?"
Roger supped his coffee, looked at his watch, and then rushed for the door, giving Algernon just enough time to shout 'Good Luck!' before the door shut.
"What's the betting he'll be back by lunch time' said Algernon, twisting his moustache.
"I bet the washing up he won't" said Kevin.
Roger walked out of the building and onto the pavement.
The city seemed noisy, but he had been inside now for weeks waiting for that lucky break to come along, which was precisely where he was headed.
Geek was like all metropolitan areas, it had its history in a small village, but unlike the rest it had been born out of a technology village in the middle of nowhere. The city was made up of a strange collection of computer companies and support services, combined with the highest concentration ever of pizza parlours, Net cafes and foreign take away joints. People rarely took away however, Geek was run on the principle that if it could be delivered, take away wasn't an option.
There were no supermarkets, as such, if you wanted something it could be delivered to you within hours, minutes if you were lucky enough to live above the store. When you're typing on your keyboard at all hours of day (and usually the unsociable ones) the last thing you want to do is go out.
The pavement carried Roger through to the cafe quarter where the Tea Kettle stood out as a hive of activity. He approached a set of tables in the corner.
'Mrs. Mrs Abbot'
The lady shifted slightly as Roger returned with a glass of water and a coffee, double espresso judging by the size of the cup.
'So what's the job?', said Roger eager to get started.
'Do you know who I am?'
'Not off hand, there is a famous family of the Abbots, they produced the first A.P.E. in 2012, but no-one sees them anymore since the ruling.' The lady looked at Roger with controlled displeasure.
'We try not to talk about that now, even though it doesn't count anymore.'
'Well, it's been 15 years now, and they can't all have been bad?' said Roger, raising his eyebrows slightly.
'Well, no, but sometimes it hasn't exactly been easy.'
Roger was about to interrupt the woman when she seemed to collect herself and then started again.
'I'm Anne Abbot, widow to Alf. The job I need you to do is difficult, possibly dangerous. Our newest A.P.E. has been stolen. Money is no object, but time is more of a problem. Elk may be listening, and the council wont be happy if they think we may have lost such an important asset.' Mrs Abbot stood and left in what seemed to be a single motion, leaving a calling card on the table.
Roger turned it over and looked at the IDcode on the back.
Algernon looked at his watch. A futile effort, a clock automatically knows the time but he somehow felt comfortable doing this rather than just standing on ceremony counting the seconds.
'Where is he?' he said to no-one in particular.
The door rattled and in walked Roger.
'Damn', he strode over to the plastiglass and pressed the fade.
'Presumably you got the job?'
'Yes,' Roger checked the now black window 'but I think it comes with a problem free of charge.'
A tall man studied the cityscape from his window, lifted his hand to his head, and started rubbing at his temples. Walking back to the door, Elk took one last look at the lights. The letters of 'Pizza Noir' flashed at him in sequence, and the hum of a hoverpod delivering, or collecting, brushed at the foot of the building. It would probably be another Noir Special, topped with olives, mushrooms, anchovies, and olives for that special black sensation. It almost certainly signified that yet another nerd was slaving over a hot keyboard staring into the bright lights of his vid screen.
The figure breathed in sharply and then sighed whilst shaking his head.