The following may or may not have taken place at the Nottingham Forest Training Ground in the not too distant past.

It was a cold morning, the sky was the colour of an aubergine in the pitch black. So it was pretty dark then. It was 5am. There was a light. A sole light that illuminated the words ‘Nottingham Forest Academy’. A paranoid man was shifting impatiently, his face swollen from the short sleep he’d had. In his ear was an earpiece, what it was connected to was a mystery. His icy hands encased in surgical gloves. He wore a black tracksuit top with the letters ‘AB’ printed in gleaming white. His name was Andrew Balderston.

Andrew looked down at his watch and before he could give quiet voice to his agitation, a light began to swing across his face as a Land Rover pulled in to the car park. The machinations of its heavy engine killed with the turn of a key. Andrew knew who was at the wheel and the relief relaxed the muscles of his face as he readjusted his earpiece for no particular reason. The door snapped open and an unassuming man stepped out, nonchalantly swotting the door, closing it behind him. “Sorry I’m late, Andrew,” he said, in what can only be described as an Essex twang. “Aren’t you freezing your nuts off in only a t-shirt?” replied Andrew, shivering. “Nah. I don’t feel the cold,” the man said, definitively. Andrew looked at him in wonderment, “Oh yeah, right,” he said.

Andrew twice looked over both shoulders as he unlocked the door to the building. They went inside, making sure not to turn any unnecessary lights on as they walked down a hall and stopped at a door. The sign on the door read: ‘TREATMENT ROOM’. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore, this sneaking around,” said Andrew stepping into the dark treatment room, “It’s not right, I can’t keep this secret anymore, what if people found out?” The man had heard this all before, he showed no emotion as he sat and said: “No one must know.” Andrew chewed this moral dilemma over in his mind, his hands wringing. Finally, he caved in and went to the cupboard marked ‘HAZARDOUS MATERIALS’. “If only people knew what was really in here, eh?” he let out a half-chuckle that died in the air. Andrew unlocked the cupboard, inside were silvery tools and sharp objects that looked more akin to fixing an expensive machine or torture than fixing a stubbed toe or a dodgy knee.

 

Andrew laid out the tools on a table next to the man who sat expressionless looking straight ahead. “You know what to do,” said the man, coldly. Andrew nodded, steeling himself. He picked up what can only be described as a small flat-head screwdriver and took a deep breath as he directed it towards the back of the man’s skull. The man continued to stare ahead, motionless and unblinking. After the last screw was unscrewed and placed on the side table, he caught sight of this Frankenstein-esque picture in a mirror. “Is there a problem?” asked the man, flatly. “No,” said Andrew, “No problem.” He hated this next part and it never seemed to get any easier for him as he eased the plate off the man’s head, a sour expression on his face. “There,” said Andrew.

Inside the man’s head were wires and blinking lights, the quiet hum and crunching of whirring hard drives. He was a machine. An android to be precise. It had all become so oddly sci-fi to Andrew who switched on his keyring torch. “You know which chip to remove?” asked the man. “Yes… but are you sure? What if we have another injury crisis and Dan Harding is out? Who will play left-back then?” replied Andrew, panicking. “I’m sure the gaffer will get some defensive cover in January, he can’t get any more midfielders in, can he? I want all my processing power directed to my midfield protocols. I’ve changed my number too,” said the man, crisply. “Okay, okay… Which chip is it again?” asked Andrew, trying to delay the inevitable. “The chip marked ‘Left-Back Protocols’,” said the man.

Andrew picked up some tweezers and plunged them into the mess of wires and after some manoeuvring recovered the chip. “I’m going to keep hold of this chip. I’ve got to cover my own back,” declared Andrew. “Do what you have to do,” replied the man. “Oh and while you’re here, I got that ‘Goal Celebrations Protocol’ chip you wanted, after that goal against Blackpool two years ago, I’d say we need to fit it ASAP,” suggested Andrew. The man nodded, sagely.

They were back in the car park as Andrew finished locking up the building. “See you later,” said the man, walking towards his car. “Can you do me a favour? I know you’re a machine or whatever, but you need to stop running around for the whole 90 minutes being ridiculously good and winning every tackle, don’t you think people will get suspicious? I mean, I can only cover for you so much, but you have to help me out,” said Andrew, imploringly. “I’ll do my best,” replied the man, almost humbly. As Andrew drove away, the man sat in his car. He didn’t move. He would sit there until it was time for training, in hibernation mode. This was no ordinary man. He was a machine. His name? Christopher David Cohen.

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