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Ghost in the Machine.

Ghost In The Machine.

Ally Tresidder (c) 2008

‘S.A.R.S., bird flu, vaccinations, it’s all linked! I can’t believe no one has ever realised.’ Charlie glanced at the door, then pushed his chair backwards with his feet, the coasters surreptitiously spinning over the threadbare carpet. He pressed his ear to the door, listening attentively before rolling silently back to the desk.

‘Stupid,’ he said, smacking himself on the forehead. ‘They don’t know where I am! Just get this info on film.’ He looked directly into the lens of the camera. ‘Right, here goes.’

Charlie held up a red file to the camera, the words Project Neuromancer in bold black type across the front. He spoke as he opened the file and turned slowly through the pages.

‘As I was saying, S.A.R.S., bird flu, vaccinations are linked.’

Charlie paused on a sheet of paper showing the abstract for research into nanobioelectronics and its uses in social control. He lowered the file.

‘”They”’ve been using nanotech to control people for years, secretively peddling it into the population through vaccinations. That was the reason “They” were advertising the importance of vaccines during infancy in the early Noughties. Get ‘em while they’re young and play on the fear of parents. If the kids aren’t immunised they could contract a fatal illness. Hah! There’s not been a case of a real fatal illness in years! Not since the global influenza pandemic of 2010, when H5N1 DNA was used in the ‘flu vaccine.

Oh, and that’s another thing. H5N1. Have you not noticed how “They” give the really scary illnesses number-letter identifiers or long names that need abbreviating? That’s because they’re the illnesses that “They” have developed. But I’m tangenting again. The global ‘flu pandemic managed to wipe out nearly all naturally occurring viruses as well as most of the population. Since then, the Top Hats decide who lives and dies in civilised society.’ A furtive glance at the door. Looking back to the paperwork, he displayed another typewritten sheet. Society for the Advancement of Nanobioelectronics. Ref: SANBE/1:54:36, November 2002, Results on preliminary tests for Specialised Asiatic Reduction System (S.A.R.S).

‘Not Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, as the press was told. I mean, syntax? Nobody questioned it. Acute would indicate severe, wouldn’t it? Other nationalities only started being ‘infected’ by it when the press got hold of the story. Just like H5N1. How suss was that? Both S.A.R.S and H5N1 originating in Asia? See, “They” thought that by taking pot shots at people in tiny villages from the largest national population on Earth that “Their” tests would go by undetected. More fools “Them”!

‘But what has this to do with nanobioelectonics? Well, real vaccines killed the occurrence of natural illnesses, and neo-natal genetic engineering lowered the chances of genetic diseases. This meant the Government no longer had scare tactics on a local, natural level, or anything “They” could use on a global level other than terrorism, and “They” couldn’t keep using that old rope. So “They” developed Nbees, “Their” cutesy term for malevolent hardware, and this hardware was originally introduced in the MMR vaccines. Remember how autism rates went up?’ Charlie raised his eyebrows and grinned a lop-sided, knowing smile. ‘Yep, malfunctioning Nbees. Remember the press furore about how vaccines caused autism? “They” had to cover that up quick! It was the first time that Nbees had been used on any great scale on humans. Hence the high malfunction rate.’ Charlie shrugged his shoulders.

‘But I’m getting ahead of myself. You probably wanna know what Nbees are,’ he said, nodding. ‘Well, Nbees are self-replicating nanobioelectronic molecules “They” use in vaccines instead of viral DNA. Used as a social control method, “They” tag the general vaccinated population with GPS specific nanotechnology, storing each person’s details on a massive database. A second vaccine introduces immuno-boosting nanotech to ensure that any fluke occurrence of a natural illness would be fought off. A third vaccine provides the latent, self-replicating “Kill/Cure” Nbees. When activated, these Nbees affect the cells in the same way a natural illness would. And ta-dah! “They” have a way to control people. When “They” want to scare people with “natural causes”, “They” randomise the names in the database, the Nbees are activated, and depending on the severity of the terrorism, “They” would hit “Kill” or “Cure”.’

*****

Jack Parole double-clicked the mouse, pausing the media player. He had seen enough. His eyes flicked quickly across the other screens of the computer bank, checking for messages, security breaches. Visitors. A large, burly male followed a sultry, brunette beauty wearing a fitted trouser suit and red stilettos along the outside corridor. Yep, they’d be here soon. Absent-mindedly, he scratched at the vaccine patch on the back of his hand as he looked back at the video screen and shook his head. How could this guy ever have been an agent for the Government? He was a Ghost, not to be trusted. But the higher powers insisted on using the non-vaccinated masses as stealth agents. Ghosts always had an ulterior motive for wanting to work for the Government. Usually they only wanted to be accepted and gain a step up in social class. Charlie Foia’s motivation seemed to be a need to cause trouble. Filthy, double-crossing bastard.

Jack leaned back into his lumbar-supporting computer chair and picked up the mug that sat next to his Trilby. He was still not up there with the top boys in their top hats. Maybe snagging this double-crossing rat would gain him the respect he so deserved for a lifetime’s work for the Government. He lifted the mug to his mouth, the glazed ceramic smooth and warm on his lips. Ghosts should never be gifted a step up in social class and redressed with a Trilby. Jack would make big changes when he reached his office with a view. Untraceable or not, he wouldn’t trust these Ghosts for fear of them doing the twist.

‘Eugh! That’s all I need!’ Jack spluttered the lukewarm, honeyed liquid back into the mug. ‘Now how in the hell am I gonna stay calm?’ He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as the sound of quiet, gargled laughter diverted his attention. Spinning around in his seat, he glared at the hanging man.

Charlie Foia swung gently in a chair suspended from chains in the hangar’s rafters. Ropes bound at ankles, wrists, and legs secured him to the unbalanced seat, as he was pitched face-first to the ground. His arms were pulled back behind the chair frame, the muscles in his shoulders quivering from holding his body taut, forcing the rope at his wrists to cut into already raw skin. Freshly formed scabs seeped warm crimson fluid as Charlie’s twisted smile cracked across his face.

‘After five days I didn’t think you’d have that much fight left in you, Foia,’ Jack growled.

‘Well I didn’t realise you had two brain cells to rub together, Jack.’ He tilted his head, indicating the plaster on Jack’s hand. ‘You can’t think for yourself once you’ve been infected.’

‘At least I know what I am,’ Jack said through gritted teeth.

Charlie’s disdainful glare angered Jack. In one swift movement he stood from his seat, covered the distance between the computer station and the hanging chair, and punched Charlie in the face.

The chains jerked as the chair spun away from Jack, sending flames of pain around Charlie’s body. He laughed mirthlessly, blood spattering from his mouth onto the white rubberised floor, the red spots punctuating the raised nodules on the non-slip tiles. But his laughter quickly died as the fragrant taste of vanilla and Sharry Baby orchids gently filtered through the room. Stilettos heels thudded dully on the rubber flooring. Charlie’s heart pounded in his chest. Pounded in time with her thudding steps. His neck muscles screamed their reluctance as lifted his head to look around. He caught a sweet, fleeting, twisting glimpse of Candy. He smiled a slow, pained, relieved smile.

Suddenly the chair jolted, ceasing its aerial display. Candy’s seductive scent mingled with the foul, feathery smell of the hired muscle. He lumbered behind Charlie, holding the chair motionless. But Candy was here. A sight for sore eyes, quite literally. She walked around her meathead minder to stand in from of him.

‘What have we here then?’ Her voice sounded lifeless, even to her own ears.

‘Candy?’ She could see the questions in Charlie’s bloodshot blue eyes.

‘Candice,’ she corrected him, stroking his heavily bruised cheek with her leather-gloved hand, quickly pulling her hand away and slapping him hard across his face. ‘You lying piece of shit.’

She watched as the questions rolled through his mind, his swollen face contorting, first with surprise, second with shock and abhorrence.

‘You? You shopped me?’

‘Aw, you’re cute. In a dumb and trusting way.’ Revulsion coloured her words. She felt him shudder as she traced her finger across the biohazard tattoo on his chest.  ‘You shopped you. We just let you believe you were going to get away with it. I didn’t think you were that stupid. Come on Charlie, I am the Prime Minister’s daughter. Do you think I’d be allowed to marry a Ghost? No, Charlie. I am the mole’s mole.’ She hoped her disappointed smile didn’t betray her true sadness.

Why is she doing this, Charlie thought. He knew disbelief would be apparent on his face; he had never been able to hide his feelings from Candy. Candice, he corrected himself. He glanced quickly at Jack, tapping away on his computer, a self-satisfied smile on the stupid lab rat’s face. He looked back to Candice, the one person in this corrupt world whom he thought he could trust implicitly. Her skin was flawless. Sunglasses covered her gold-flecked green eyes. Right now he only wished he could look into those eyes. He was sure he would spit his distaste right into them.

‘You can keep those thoughts. Just like you, I did what I had to do,’ Candice said. He watched as she turned and sashayed to the computers to peer over Jack’s shoulder.

‘Is everything in place?’

‘Just about,’ Jack said, clicking the mouse. Charlie glared, the muscles around eyes and mouth tensing painfully, as Candice rested her hand on Jack’s shoulder. If he ever escaped he would… Then she discreetly removed something from the desktop. His attention fell to the computer screens as a scan of the room began, and four bright spots appeared.

‘How?’ Realisation hit Charlie, winding him like a punch to the stomach. He looked down at the tattoo that Candice had paid for. A gift she had given to him before he left for the assignment that ended in his capture. He had been tagged. ‘I swear, if I ever get out of here…’ he growled under his breath.

‘That could be arranged,’ the hired help snarled into Charlie’s ear, pressing a gun to the base of his skull.

‘Great! Fan-bloody-tastic!’

‘Yes, it will be,’ the minder said, his voice grating like broken glass. He yanked the chair, sending fresh swathes of fire around Charlie’s body. The chains squealed their freedom as the teeth on the pulley system lost their bite. For a second, Charlie felt weightless. Then he hit the floor with an agonising thump. Candice turned to look.

‘Cornfed, don’t play too rough, now,’ she said, her voice almost playful.

‘Should I,’ Cornfed asked. Charlie winced as the gun was pushed back into the base of his skull.

‘Not yet. We’re not quite ready here.’

Charlie tried to relax his muscles, grateful for the relief on his wrists and back. His whole body throbbed. At least the bullet to the brain would take the pain away. ‘All of the pain,’ he thought, looking at Candice. Her curves were just as alluring now as they were when he first saw her. His heart thumped in his chest at the sight of her. Dammit! Why could he not think of her any differently? She had used him, but he couldn’t hate her. She turned from Jack and walked over to him.

‘Take that away,’ she said to Cornfed, pushing the gun from its niche below Charlie’s matted blonde hair. ‘Get the paddles.’

‘Paddles? What in…’ Charlie’s eyes widened. She gazed at him from behind mirrored lenses, watching his confusion skitter across his face.

Jack strolled over to the group and handed Cornfed another gun.

‘If you relax, this wont hurt. Much,’ said Candice. ‘Jack, go viral.’

‘Yep. On it,’ said Jack.

‘What’s goi..’ Charlie mumbled as Cornfed fired the Taser. Within seconds the bright dot indicating Charlie’s presence disappeared, along with his consciousness.

‘Done,’ Jack said, clicking Send on the computer screen.

‘Good.’ Candice ran a hand through her hair. ‘Cornfed, haul Foia’s arse out of here. We need to be gone.’

Cornfed untied Charlie and effortlessly lifted his limp body onto colossal shoulders. Jack threw a pair of running shoes to Candice, and quickly stuffed a laptop, memory sticks and Taser chargers in his holdall. Slipping on the runners, Candice stood tall and pointed the other Taser at Jack.

‘I’m sorry, Jack,’ she said, pulling the trigger. Jack convulsed violently as he fell to the floor, pain and confusion on his face. Candice snatched up the holdall and ran. A few seconds later Jack’s red dot blinked out.

As Candice, Cornfed and Charlie left the hangar, the computers beeped. A message popped up on the screens.

“Neuromancer.vid uploaded to http://www.server.”

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