Goons – Chapter 17

1 day until takeover

Tomorrow is the big day. We will drive to BBC studios, along with several of the S-type bots, and we will do whatever we need to do to ensure Bossman is able to interrupt Countryfile and say his piece to the nation. The bots are in perfect condition. We have investigated BBC studios security and rehearsed various different scenarios. Bossman has practiced his speech a hundred times. We are as ready as we’ll ever be.

The three of us go out to dinner, which is something we’ve never done before. It’s a cosy, nondescript restaurant with good food, and all around us people are enjoying date night or catching up with friends. There is a mildly rowdy birthday party at a large table in the corner. Me, Em and Bossman are just another small celebration.

Bossman, despite having an IQ of 224, can’t quite wrap his mind around spaghetti, and gets a substantial amount of bolognaise sauce on his tee-shirt. I choose lasagne with a side of garlic bread, because I feel like I ought to be carb loading. Em eats steak and chips, and she eats it like a wolf.  

When we’re done eating, Bossman raises his glass and says “I just wanted to say thank you to you both.” He looks lost for a moment, and then adds “Thank you.”

“Wow. I hope tomorrow’s speech is more impressive than that,” I say, and Bossman grimaces.

“I’m not good at this stuff.” This is the first time I have ever heard him admit to not being good at something. “But I appreciate you both very much, seriously.”

I don’t know how to respond to this, so I raise my glass and say “Cheers.”

Bossman clinks his glass against mine, smiling and maybe looking a bit pink in the face. Then I touch glasses with Em, who doesn’t look at me.

“Em, if you don’t make eye contact you get seven years of bad sex!”

“I doubt it,” she says, and drinks deeply.

She has been quiet all evening, eyes focussed mainly on her plate. I thought she was just hungry, but now I’m beginning to suspect something is wrong. For the first time in ages, I remember that conversation we had shortly after I started working for Bossman, about how she thinks the TV broadcast is when everything will go tits up. About how she doesn’t plan on being around to watch it go tits-up. It’s the night before, and she is still here. If she hasn’t changed her mind, she is running out of time.


Sleep doesn’t come easily. I keep thinking about a conversation I had with my dad, not long before he died. It was after he sold the farm, and I visited him in his poky little flat and we drank beer and ate mini scotch eggs. David Bowie had died, and Dad couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a fuss about this.

“If I hear the word influential one more time,” he said, popping a scotch egg in his mouth and leaving me to wonder what exactly would happen if he heard the word influential one more time.

“But he was, though, wasn’t he? The whole glam rock thing, and androgynous fashion, and all sorts.”

“Pop songs and haircuts. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of his stuff. Starman, Space Oddity. But he didn’t change the world, he wasn’t bloody … Napoleon.”

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