Prologue

It was a lovely Monday morning. The sky was a brilliant blue, the birds were singing brightly, people were smiling gaily. And Nick was walking into work. Which, of course, is the way of things because it always poured with rain during the weekend. Nick was a tall, lanky man, handsome in a floppy fringe and easy-grin sort of way, formerly from Croydon, who had joined the call centre in Cardiff only recently, much to the disgust of his father who had a “proper job” in the postal service.

Nick’s walk perceptibly slowed and faltered as he approached the great imposing entrance to his workplace. It was grey and bland, a design feature that Nick swore had been deliberate: to subjugate the workforce even before they had entered! He sighed, and strode forward.
A mangy black cat appeared out of nowhere, and barreled into his feet. Nick went sprawling, his shoulder bag breaking his fall. He picked himself up, and peered inside the bag.
“Oh no. Squashed sandwiches for lunch,” he moaned.
He relegated himself to the forthcoming horrors of a Monday morning, and entered the tall anonymous building.
He flashed his cheap photo ID card at the sour-faced guards who sat behind the welcoming desk and passed beyond the security fence to the building’s set of four lifts. He depressed the call button, and then drummed his fingers impatiently against the wall panel. He knew he’d have to wait for the arrival of the only functioning lift that was available, as did his co-workers who were gathering around him.
Finally the lift appeared from another interminably long trip that had given it a wheeze similar to that of an asthmatic football player. Nick stepped aboard and pressed for his usual floor. He patently ignored the others entering the lift, and settled into the habitual stare that pierced the display of incrementing floor numbers.
A mechanical wheeze and cough later, Nick ambled his way into the office and veered over to the kitchenette. Within minutes he had brewed himself a fruit tea, which he carried to his seat at the Helpdesk. He could hear his colleague, Huw, cackling over the latest additions to an ongoing humorous story that he had been writing involving all the Helpdesk operators. Jim replied with a polite smile, and gave Nick a friendly wave.
Nick sat down and threw his bag under the desk. Eight fifty-five.He sighed, and fired up his computer, clamping the headset about his ears. With seconds to go, he plugged himself in to the FutureNet telephony system.
The comm system beeped, and the first call of the day had arrived. Monday had begun, and it came in the form of a customer who had been “fiddling” with their website and the cgi feedback form in particular. Nick conjured up some remote enthusiasm and attempted to put a ‘smile’ into his telephone voice.
He stared at the screen, which was once again filled with confusing and contradictory information.
He calmly scratched his chin, leaned back and debated the validity of his life. How often had he wanted something really exciting to happen, even just the once!

He would never forget that thought, or live it down, for the rest of his life.

From his computer a faintly tinged blue light tantalizingly wormed its way out towards him while at the same time he could vaguely discern the crooning of a French-Canadian-Arabic voice. Nick wondered what was happening, and tried to sit up …. but found he was held fast! He panicked, his eyes swiveling around in a vain attempt to catch someone’s attention. But then he noticed that the blue hue had grown to encompass him, and was still attached to the monitor screen. Everyone else was hard at work and concentrating on their own screens, and failing to notice Nick’s slightly blue tinge develop to a really serious glow that meant business.
With horror, he realized he was slowly digitizing into the screen. His last thought was the recognition – because, professionally, he couldn’t help it – that the file size was exceeding its safe quota, since his equivalent pixel size and colour sharpness were really detailed.

Then he was gone.

A moment later, Jim glanced over and noticed that Nick had suddenly disappeared. He put it down to a toilet visit and moved to put Nick on an ‘unscheduled break’ (which of course was very ironic given the circumstances), before returning to his own irate caller.

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