A Room with a Vu

Martin Clark

The continuation of Martin Clark's thriller with a Byzantine plot. Part 1 was Let Every Voice be Still, Part 2 was All Avenues Closed.

Unfriendly hands pushed me down into a plastic chair. The hood came off. I faced the glare of an Anglepoise lamp in an otherwise darkened room. I had the sense of being in a large, vaulted space but it still felt hot and stuffy, even in comparison to the trunk of the car. As kidnappings go it was a case of so far, so conventional, although how they’d snatched me from under the watchful eyes of my corporate minders was still a complete blank.

A man perched himself on the edge of the desk, partially in the light. He was tanned and wore a heavy gold signet ring. "Vaughn Vermeer. A lot of people have been looking for you."

His accent was East End London. I figured this crew as retired villains living in Spain who’d lifted me as a favour. It wasn’t that big a journey from Marbella to Lisbon in a high-end Mercedes. This whole setup felt more like private enterprise than NovaRus, my former employers. I stretched my legs and tried not to wince. "Then aren’t you the clever ones."

"Let’s keep this simple. Where’s the money?"

"If I say ‘I don’t know’ am I liable to get a smack from chummy behind me?"

He fiddled with his ring. "If you want to act dumb over this, sure, be my guest. We can take as long as you like. It just depends on how much of a face you want at the end."

I sighed. "Look, do me one favour. I need to know what you think you know. Then I can fill in the blanks and point out why this isn’t going to end well for either of us."

Another man spoke from off to my left. "Mister Vermeer, why prolong this needlessly? You will either give us this information now or suffer under interrogation, but talk you will." His delivery was clipped, precise and betrayed no accent, but it was definitely English as a foreign language.

I twisted my head towards the new speaker but he was just a grey-on-black blur. "Why should I co-operate? It’s not like I’m ever walking out of here."

"I see no need to kill you once the funds you stole have been secured. In fact I would rather see you on the run, acting as a distraction for other interested parties."

It was obvious this new guy was the one calling the shots. "I believe that’s called giving the sucker some false hope, bud, so that he plays ball. Somehow I don’t see this crew being too keen on leaving any witnesses behind."

"Nevertheless that is the best deal on offer. Or we can do this the hard way, as the saying goes."

I hesitated, wondering if there was any mileage in co-operating. "Just tell me what you think has happened and I’ll take it from there."

There was a pause. The shirt was sticking to my back and I could feel a line of sweat trickling down from my hairline. Finally the foreigner sighed. "You work as an investment analyst for the Lisbon office of NovaRus Banking and Finance. They have been stripped of liquid assets, in their entirety, by a two-man team of Finnish hackers based in Ivalo. Despite this seemingly remote location one man is already dead and the other has disappeared. This was the extent of the investigation by NovaRus security personnel before your employer collapsed as a commercial entity. Need I go on?"

I shrugged, or tried to. "Why not, I haven’t heard anything so far that makes me one of the bad guys."

"Very well. NovaRus was founded on Russian Mafia money plus some subsidiary funds certain oligarchs wished to squirrel away as insurance. Although NovaRus is no longer actively employed in money laundering, their backers take a decidedly ‘old school’ approach to financial failure. Especially one of this magnitude, especially one engineered by you, Mister Vermeer. Make no mistake, you have offended a group who make this ‘crew’, as you described them, look like babes in arms. I intended no offence."

The guy with the signet ring laughed. "None taken, Zunz. I’ve dealt with the Kombinat and they don’t mess about. Real animals, some of them. If they stop at using a blowtorch and bolt-cutters then you’re getting off lightly."

It was tough to keep the fear from my voice but I laughed as well. "I’m well aware of who I work for, and just what they’re capable of. Do you really think I’d be stupid enough to cross them?"

Zunz moved slightly and I caught the glint of light on his round spectacles. "Oh, you had help, and from quite a novel source, I will grant you that. Very few people would have thought to utilise a synthetic personality drawn from a virtual environment computer game. You are to be applauded for your audacity."

"You do realise how insane that sounds?"

But I must have flinched or something, because when Zunz spoke again there was a self-satisfied smile in his voice. "I traced the instigators of this cyber-larceny back through intermediaries to one Juan Canasta. In reality no more than another middle-man but even under the most intense questioning he denied any involvement. The most intense questioning imaginable, Mister Vermeer. I’m satisfied he was entirely innocent, even though his associates were as equally convinced they were working on his behalf. Seemingly I was at an impasse."

"Tough luck. Putting me under the hammer won’t change anything."

From the suggestion of movement Zunz removed his glasses and polished them. "I said seemingly, Mister Vermeer. Canasta was a vain man and as part-payment for arranging a finance deal he had his persona duplicated within Shadow Corporation, a multi-player virtual reality game. One of those described as a ‘full sensory immersion experience’, using the Ultra-Reality synaptic interface. Not my idea of entertainment, but it takes all types, as they say. Obviously you had help from the game controller in circumventing its communication protocols, such that Canasta’s real-world contacts evidently believed they were talking to the genuine article. Bravo, sir, even if it has ultimately all been for nothing."

There was another pause. Zunz replaced his glasses. "Now, as my associate asked earlier – where is the money? Give me the account details of where your synthetic Canasta hid the NovaRus funds and all this will soon be over."

I shook my head. "I got stiffed, right? I don’t know how, but someone dumped me from the game before I got Canasta to-"

The guy standing at my shoulder smacked the side of my head with something hard – almost certainly a gun. It took a moment for the room to come back into focus.

Zunz sounded disappointed. "Simple denial will not suffice, Mister Vermeer, surely you realise that? If you prove tiresome then I will abandon you to more direct questioning at the hands of Mister King and his associates."

King swore under his breath. "Well, thanks for the name check, Alonzo. Care to hand out my e-mail address as well?"

"Oh, I think Mister Vaughn realises the chances of him living a long and happy life are diminishing by the second, Harold."

I could feel the situation slipping away and my future with it. "Listen! Please, let me explain!"

Zunz sniffed. "Do not try my patience."

"NovaRus wanted to take down Cromarty Investment, I don’t know why. More accurately, they wanted to steal the artificial intelligence which governed the Cromarty trading database. It would know every-"

"Steal an AI? Please!"

"No, no, listen! AIs play games, AIs play a lot of games. For some it’s the only time they get let out of the box. NovaRus found out Cromarty liked to play Shadow Corporation and sent me in with a virus. It screwed with the interface bandwidth protocols and allowed porting of the AI into the virtual game environment, like it was a disaster recovery transfer. It was then transferred out, but I don’t know where."

"And somewhere along the way you decided to turn on your employer and empty their bank accounts? You will understand this does not sound like a spur of the moment enterprise."

"No, that was already on the cards." I took a deep breath. "My daughter was kidnapped, supposedly by the HanaMed corporation, who forced me to carry the virus."

"You claimed previously it was NovaRus and now it is HanaMed?"

"That was just misinformation on their part. I realised that NovaRus had to be behind this, if only due to the lack of progress in discovering who was responsible for taking Helene. NovaRus like to employ family men as they’re more reliable, more loyal – or at least they have more to lose. My wife…" I cleared my throat. "My wife died in an accident and I found out Helene wasn’t my daughter, that I wasn’t her real father. I guess NovaRus found out as well and decided I was now an expendable asset, a cut-out should Cromarty come looking for their AI."

Zunz sounded weary. "You still have not mentioned the money."

"A minute! Just after I introduced the virus another player, Duncan Bonn, shot me. In the game I mean. That dumped me out but I still retained a one-way audio link to his persona, so that I could hear what was going on. It was Bonn who came up with the idea of plugging the virtual Canasta into the real world and I was only too happy to oblige by providing details of NovaRus accounts and access protocols."

"You expect me to believe it was as easy as that?"

"Of course not! I was so closely monitored at home I couldn’t sneeze without my line manager sending round a box of tissues. There was no way I could ever cultivate the contacts required to find someone like the Finnish hackers. Anyway, like I said, it was Bonn’s idea and he only pulled it off because the game controller was in on it. You should be asking them what happened."

Alonzo Zunz stepped forward into the light, his glasses two circles of reflected light. "Now there, Mister Vermeer, is where we have a problem."

I felt my gut twist with fear. "A problem?"

"Sandra Haas, the controller, is clinically brain dead. She was found that way, still in her interface chair, smiling. Her autonomic systems function but all higher reasoning is gone, almost as if her mind has been wiped clean."

"Uploaded, maybe."

Zunz frowned. "Explain please?"

I shook my head. "Never mind. What about Duncan Bonn?"

"Ah, yes. Duncan Bonn has a date of birth, social security number, a virtual profile, a presence on several social networking sites and internet commerce history. But he does not exist."

"What? Look, I’ve played several games with the guy, of course he exists."

"On-line, certainly he does, but in the real-world he has proven to be somewhat more elusive. He has an address in Birmingham but none of his immediate neighbours ever remember seeing him in the flesh. Apparently he is frequently away from home, for extended periods of time."

"He’s a journalist. Plus he’s been doing research for some book he’s writing." Even as I uttered the words I realised just how little I knew about Duncan.

Zunz inclined his head. "Yes, indeed, his occupation is listed as that of freelance journalist. He has a steady, if unremarkable, series of articles to his credit, mostly in obscure computer journals with a highly specialised readership. But no, the more we look into Duncan Bonn the man, the more he appears to be merely a sophisticated sock-puppet created by Birmingham University."

"A…No way! Then who’s been playing games as Bonn? I could swear it’s the same personality each time."

"It hardly matters now and in any event he no longer exists as a run-time intelligence at Birmingham. I am afraid that brings us back to you, Mister Vermeer, as the only participant in this affair that we could lay hands on."

"Doesn’t that tell you something, huh? Someone has been playing the long con and I’m just the fall-guy."

Harry King shifted on his perch. "But you’re our fall-guy, Vermeer, so we get first crack at beating the truth out of you." From behind me I heard someone crack their knuckles.

Now that the ‘stick’ had been produced I expected Zunz to step in with the ‘carrot’, but he merely shook his head. "I did warn you, Mister Vermeer. I am here to ensure that the required information is obtained, nothing more. When it comes to persuasion I defer to Mister King. I understand he is quite the expert."

The big man grinned. "Damn right I am. Amateur boxer, bare-knuckle and gloves. I know where to hit someone, and how hard. Don’t worry, Vermeer, you won’t die on me, or even lose consciousness." He got to his feet. "No matter how long it takes."

I had nothing to bargain with. Bonn and Haas had screwed me royally. Hands gripped my shoulders so that I couldn’t twist away from the incoming blows. I could taste violence in the air.

Zunz turned his head to one side, as if listening to a voice that only he could hear. He frowned. "Now? I must advise you that we have yet to…As you wish." He pursed his lips. "My apologies. I have been instructed to take a more direct approach." It took me a moment to realise he was apologizing to Harry King, not me. King shrugged and walked past me, out of my field of vision. The hands on my shoulders were removed. I heard a door open and close.

A young woman replaced King at the desk in front of me. She looked like an Alice in Wonderland clone, right down to the head band and pinafore dress. I blinked in surprise. It was Blondie, an über fan of Debbie Harry, just as I remembered her from playing Shadow Corporation. For a moment game and reality merged and I looked round, hoping Mazy was here as well. If she was then Zunz, King and every one of his associates were going to die in the proverbial hail of bullets. Or, if they were really unlucky, she’d use knives.

Life failed to live up to my expectations.

Blondie smiled. "Hello, Vaughn. You look very like your character, I must say, if maybe a bit older. A bit more grey around the temples."

I looked at her, I looked at Zunz, I shook my head. It made no sense. "Why is she here? She knows even less about what happened than I do."

Blondie slapped me across the face and I felt my nose break. It was like being hit by a heavy oak floorboard. I cried out and snorted blood, one hand clutching at my nose, the other held out to ward her off. "Stop, for Christ’s sake! Jesus!"

Zunz looked away, as if uncomfortable at the sight of blood. Blondie leaned closer to me, her eyes shining. "Are you a religious man, Vaughn Vermeer? I don’t see the point, personally, but some take comfort from the idea of a better place, beyond this veil of tears." She hit me in the gut, leaving me gasping. "I enjoy the world as it is. I enjoy inflicting pain."

I sucked in air, unable to understand how she could be so damn strong. Then fear washed over me like a cold shower. "You’re an augment?"

She smiled, showing perfect teeth. "A short life but a happy one. I have the strength to literally tear you limb from limb, although I doubt Zunz here would appreciate the floorshow. You seem surprised to see me, Vaughn, but surely you didn’t think your employers were smart enough to conceal their preparations entirely? That virus you introduced into the game environment had to come from somewhere, and those kind of geeks like to brag."

"What, you wanted to steal Cromarty as well? What the hell have they got that makes their AI so valuable?"

"Steal him? No, nothing so elaborate. If you’d kept to the game scenario I’d have been able to ensure Cromarty crashed and burned, which was the whole point as far as we were concerned. NovaRus would have taken the fall, eventually, and that would have been an end of it. As it stands, all we can salvage from this is the money."

"Should I even bother to ask who ‘we’ are?"

Blondie patted my cheek and I managed not to flinch. "I’d only lie. Now, speaking of the money…Zunz?"

He lifted a gun from the desk and stepped forward. I tried to get up but Blondie held me in place like an adult dealing with a squirming child. Zunz held the weapon to my head. I closed my eyes.


It was like being hit by a narrow-headed hammer; a sudden stab of agony that spread into a diffuse blossom of pain. But I was still alive. Blondie let go and I opened my eyes. She looked at me, expectantly. "Say something."

I blinked, fingering the spot on my head where I’d been ‘shot’. "What?"


I was talking in stereo, except that the second voice wasn’t mine. Zunz put down his ‘gun’ and held up a control unit incorporating a small speaker. "There is now a direct neural interface with the speech centre of your brain. I shall turn it off for now, but rest assured you will remain able to communicate clearly despite the physical state of your body, within reason."

I could tell that ‘within reason’ wasn’t what Blondie had in mind. "Christ, give me a break! How can I convince you I’m not in the loop? I simply don’t know where the damn money is!"

Blondie flexed her fingers. "That would be very unfortunate, Vaughn, as then we’d have no further use for you, would we? Now, just so you understand, keeping you alive doesn’t require arms, legs, genitals, eyes or even a tongue. As long as blood loss remains within acceptable limits I can reduce you to a dumb and blind torso without impairing your ability to speak, if only by proxy. I’ll choose where to start but you can call a halt at any time, as long as you’re willing to co-operate. Be warned though, I won’t give you a second chance."

Zunz wiped his mouth with a hand that trembled slightly. He looked queasy. My mind raced, trying to find a way out. "Wait, wait! You’re looking at this the wrong way. Canasta, the virtual Canasta, engineered the transfer of funds from NovaRus, right?"

She frowned. "So? That was just the ‘how’, not the ‘where’. Don’t try and stall, Vaughn, I’ll just make it hurt all the more."

"No, listen. I think this was always about the money and lifting the Cromarty AI was just a smokescreen. I think this was an inside job from start to finish – embezzlement, not theft."

Blondie stepped on my foot, her seemingly diminutive frame exerting pressure akin to being under the hoof of a shire horse. Augments were jacked to the max, with sub-dermal ballistic shielding, a carbon-twist musculature and sensory enhancement. I had more chance head-butting a tank than taking her on. She ground her shoe against mine. "What, a bad boy did it and ran away? Surely you can do better than that, Vaughn?"

I spoke through gritted teeth. "I’ll help. Finder’s fee."

"You really are in no position to bargain, Vaughn."

"You can’t afford to fuck this up twice."

There was a pause. For a moment it looked like I’d pushed Blondie too far – but then she smiled and stepped back. "Now we’re making progress. There, Zunz, didn’t I tell you the feminine touch would work wonders? Very well, Vaughn, explain to us why you believe someone else within NovaRus is behind all this. If nothing else it will make for an amusing anecdote."

I took a deep breath, trying to order my thoughts. "Cromarty Investment are small-fry. They’re no real threat to NovaRus, definitely not enough of one to warrant sabotaging their operation in such a convoluted fashion. I have to ask, did your backers say why they wanted to stop NovaRus getting their hands on the rival AI?"

Blondie looked at Zunz. He blinked. "We did not speak as to motive. I did garner evidence that suggests our operation was driven by a fear that NovaRus knew something concerning Cromarty that was not public knowledge."

"OK, fair enough, it was a spoiler. Right, now, think ‘money’ from the outset. I have knowledge of corporate funds and the means to access them. I’m now classed as unreliable due to the death of my wife and the knowledge that Helene isn’t really my daughter. They have less hold over me because I have less to lose. Helene is kidnapped in a way that makes it obvious NovaRus were responsible, further pushing me towards what is euphemistically termed a ‘planned departure’. Duncan Bonn suggests that the only way out is to crash NovaRus by stripping them of all liquid assets. As soon as I give virtual Canasta the account details I’m dumped from the game. It’s all too much of a coincidence. There has to be a link between NovaRus, Birmingham University and the game controller – Haas? Find that and you’ll find whoever was really responsible."

Zunz frowned. "Are you suggesting it was someone within your own management structure? But if Cromarty were no rival to NovaRus, what was the justification for such an operation? No, Mister Vermeer, simply pointing the finger of suspicion elsewhere will not do. Miss Voss, kindly continue with your interrogation." He looked away in anticipation of renewed violence.

But Blondie – Miss Voss – hesitated. "The Lisbon office wasn’t a big operation, Vaughn, you must know who it is you’re accusing. Spit it out."

I wet my lips. Putting a name to a theory was going to create a shit-storm for someone down the line. "Arcady Petrov, the head of security. He’s the only one who could have sanctioned the Cromarty operation and arranged to have my daughter kidnapped despite her corporate minders."

Blondie stroked my cheek. "Nice try, fingering someone who’s been recalled to Moscow and is probably dog food by now." Her hand became a fist.

"No, wait! Did he get there, huh? Check up and I bet you’ll find that Petrov is in the wind."

Zunz looked at me. "Even if that were true the failure of his operation gives him ample motive to jump ship, as the saying goes. Of itself it does not prove his involvement in grand larceny."

My mouth was dry and I had to cough before continuing. "Petrov is a jerk, banished to Lisbon when Moscow society tired of his drunken antics. He may be ambitious and greedy but the man is no criminal mastermind. No, he was part of this but someone else put it together."

Zunz stepped closer, clearly irritated. "Enough of your vague theories and accusations. Either volunteer something of use or Miss Voss will proceed as planned."

"Cromarty screwed Debbie!" I was conscious of gabbling and forced myself to speak in a calm and logical-sounding manner. "I mean, if you look hard at the company hosting Shadow Corporation I bet you’ll find someone was paid to allocate Sandra Haas as game controller. Let me guess, despite her in-game persona the real woman is a bit socially awkward? Few friends, maybe plain looking, overweight? The Cromarty AI wasn’t the target, he was in on this from the start. He cozied up to a lonely, vulnerable woman and seduced her, made her believe they could have an on-line future together."

"Arrant nonsense! Miss Voss, please-"

"Wait, Zunz. I’ve heard of something like this before." Some part of me noticed Blondie had lapsed into second position, indicating ballet training in her past. "I know of a female persona AI putting the moves on a guy, but that was straight-up virtual sex, not ‘love’ in any shape or form, but I suppose it could happen. Are you saying that it was Cromarty Finance who set out to wreck NovaRus?"

I shook my head. "No, well, maybe – but I don’t think so, it feels bigger than them. Look, try this - someone gets to the Cromarty AI who serves up Sandra Haas and thus the in-game Canasta, with his potential real-world contacts. Petrov is in on the deal and mounts the snatch operation as a smokescreen, with me as double-blind embezzler. Duncan Bonn is the ring master, prodding everyone in the right direction. When the dust settles I’m the only one left standing, holding a very empty bag."

There was a pause. Zunz laughed, he positively giggled. "Do forgive me, please. You have missed your calling, Mister Vermeer, you should be concocting screenplays for straight-to-video thrillers. Before I have Miss Voss crush your testicles can you offer up any concrete evidence in support of this convoluted scenario?"

The idea made me wince but I managed to avoid crossing my legs. My back was slick with sweat. I wiped my mouth. "There must be…" The penny didn’t so much drop as fall on me from a great height. "Fuck!"

Zunz arched his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"

I made to stand up but Blondie’s fingertip on my forehead kept me in place. I flexed my fingers as if trying to gather in theory and supposition as allies. "We’ve been had - me, Petrov, NovaRus, everyone. Everyone human that is. I’m certain Petrov is dead, he’s the only principal who isn’t cyber based, and that now includes Sandra Haas. It won’t be the Kombinat who got to him, though, it will probably be ruled a freak accident."

I expected more derision from Zunz but instead he turned to the desk and lifted an ePad which lit up as his fingers danced over the screen. Blondie looked at me with narrowed eyes. "You’re saying this was put together by someone operating exclusively via cyberspace?"

"Not just via but from." I took a deep breath. "An intelligence working out of Sensorium City."

"Isn’t that an urban myth? A bunch of rogue AIs as run-time nomads?"

"Unfortunately not, Miss Voss." Zunz rejoined the conversation, gesturing with his ePad. "It would appear that the Shadow Corporation game, and with it the virtual Juan Canasta, is no longer commercially available. The company was purchased shortly after NovaRus crashed and their hardware base has been relocated to Kazakhstan. Coincidentally, the research project which spawned the ‘Duncan Bonn’ entity at Birmingham University was not terminated as I was led to believe earlier. Rather, its source of funding, and all intellectual property rights, now reside with a charitable foundation based in-"

"Kazakhstan." I laughed. "Oh, I’m way ahead of you, Alonzo. We’ve been stiffed by the on-line equivalent of the Wild Bunch. Game over, boys and girls - no winners today." Blondie was clearly irked at the prospect of no further violence. "Can’t I just kill him anyway, Zunz? He has the life expectancy of chocolate sunglasses as it is."

He raised a hand. "No, no, Miss Voss, there is no need to be so precipitous. At present the collapse of NovaRus is down to the actions of one rogue operative – that would be you, Mister Vermeer – and his ad hoc embezzlement scheme." Zunz smiled at me. "As I stated earlier, Vaughn, I am authorized to use every means at my disposal, including financial inducement."

"So we’re back to money?"

"Previously you stated a willingness to assist us in return for a finder’s fee."

"So I did, Zunz, so I did. What figure did you have in mind?"

"One-percent of the net sum recovered following the deduction of operational expenses, or one million UK pounds, whichever is less."

"Bollocks. Given that the Kombinat think I’m the bad guy in all of this I’ll need a damn sight more than a million to cover my tracks and live happily ever after. Even if they believe I got ripped-off as well, they’ll still hunt me down, just to prove a point."

Zunz removed his glasses and polished them. "Undoubtedly. You cannot run forever, but at least I can offer you a good head start."

"I want the full million, in bearer-bonds, and a way out of Portugal."

He inclined his head. "Agreed."

I relaxed, but only slightly. "OK then. Well, I could go over Canasta’s financials, the real Canasta, as the game version would probably have used the same accounts. The money won’t be there, of course, but it might give us a useful point of departure."

"Trust me, Mister Vermeer, when I say that all conventional lines of forensic finance have already been exhausted. No, your true worth lies elsewhere. I wish you to take a less conventional line of enquiry."

"What the hell does that mean? I can’t go wandering about with every wide-boy between here and New Jersey looking for me. I’m no field agent, Zunz."

"Ah, but you are, Vaughn, you are. You have exhibited your martial prowess many times in virtual reality games too tedious to list."

Blondie laughed and even I snorted, which hurt. "Like that’s supposed to count for anything? Those games are as good as any military simulator, I grant you, but it’s no substitute for real-world experience."

Zunz smiled. "But it is not the real world that I wish you to investigate, Mister Vermeer, but the virtual."

I stared at him. "You can stick it up your arse, Alonzo, if you think I’m going anywhere near Sensorium City."

"Yet that is precisely what I have in mind, Vaughn. Currently we enjoy a head start over everyone else searching for the NovaRus funds and it would be foolish to squander such an advantage. Even if other interested parties come to the same conclusion as yourself, the more outlandish rumors surrounding SenCity will dissuade all except the most resolute human visitor."

"And with good bloody reason! It’s one thing dealing with a corporate AI when it has the on-line equivalent of a double-barreled shotgun pointing at its head, quite another going toe-to-toe with one of those rogue bastards on their home turf. No, forget it. You let one of those fucks inside your head and you’re never the same again."

He took his glasses off and polished them again. "Nevertheless, Sensorium City is our El Dorado, as it were, and you will be my Pizarro."

"Bugger that! Send Blondie - Miss Voss – she’s cut out for this kind of thing, even if she won’t have her in-built advantages on-line."

Zunz lifted the neural controller, which I was less than happy about, but a hard look from Blondie keep me in my chair. "Miss Voss is far too valuable an asset to risk in the unregulated and potentially hostile environment you may encounter. The neurological safeguards provided by an interface chair may well prove ineffectual – but rest assured we will do our best for you."

"Nah, forget it, it isn’t worth the risk. I’ll take my chances with the Kombinat and anyone else snapping at my heels."

"My apologies, Mister Vermeer, if I made it sound as if you had a choice in the matter." He pressed a key. My world went monochrome. I couldn’t move. "The implant extends micro-fiber tendrils into the surrounding tissue, using residual synaptic energy as a power source. One side-effect is a progressive anesthetic effect, very useful during brain surgery, and induced unconsciousness. We are sending you to Sensorium City, Vaughn, first class."

The room seemed very far away. Blondie picked me up like I was a rag doll. Zunz was a voice in the darkness.

"Do not forget to write."

© Martin Clark 2013 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 13:22 Mon 09 Sep 2013
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