Staff Writers




'Intel says that he has hooked up with the TLF.'


'Why good?'

'Because that destabilises them. This guy is bad luck, and they are going to realise that as soon as he fucks up - and it has been long enough since he fucked up that he's overdue a mistake.'


'Look, the TLF are a diversion you don't need to get sucked into. The trials of the upgraded Weapon Eyes are underway at the moment and I need you to be on the ball when it comes to the release of this news.'

'We're releasing it as new? That is a little unusual, isn't it?'

'No, we are going to be the legitimised response to the chaos out there.'

'Oh, I see.'

'What do you see?'

'I see the perfect storm you have engineered, Jonas.'

'Do you indeed? Beyond this point in the conversation I would advise you to be very careful what it is that you think you have divined in my movements. There are not many people who are privy to my schedule. Your role as my security advisor puts you in a very privileged, but very dangerous position. Discretion is something you were screened for - if it turns out that we made a mistake then we will remedy that.'

'I totally understand.'

'Good, I hope that you do. Get up to speed on what you need to know about.'

Grunewald watched the man leave the room. He hated having to replace high-ranking officials because they often had skills that it took a long time to hothouse; the tech at his disposal meant he wouldn't lose that, but the naturally occurring skills always beat the artificially replicated one. Grunewald picked up the phone.



'Scalp Ester.'

'Dig, mirror, upload?'

'Usual protocol.'

'Meat substitute?'

'Of course. Appearances matter.'

Grunewald got one of his other lieutenants on the line.

'Are you ready?'

'Operation Laurel is green-lit?'

'Yes, who are we using?'


'You pulled him from the prison?'

'Yes, the lines dried up in there.'

'And you worked up a convincing scenario? One that this Stanley will buy?'

'We're not dealing with a genius here, sir.'

'Yes, this is true, but I can't afford any fuck ups at this stage of the game, Barlow. I need Stanley dead, I need the data from inside his skull, and I need it to look like it was done by someone in the TLF. We bury him and we bury them, and we walk away with our hands clean.'

'Yes, sir. Totally doable.'

'Call me when it's done.'

Grunewald viz-flicked through several reports. His name was nowhere near this, and that was how it should be. The public face on the whole thing was going to be some zombified meat puppet - none of them seemed like much more than that to him. He knew that he was not a good man, but he had a vision. That vision may have been designed to fill the coffers, but he still believed it was worthwhile. Casting out a shadow like a net - he was interested what he might haul in.

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