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The Fuller Memorandum



Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.

I nod.

“Good,” she says briskly, her accent so clear she could get a job as a BBC news anchor. “So.” She pauses. “Something went wrong yesterday, and you’ve got a report to file. Want to fill me in on it? So I know what to expect?”

So I know what to expect is Iris-speak for so I can cover your ass.

“Yeah . . . I fucked up a routine out-of-the-office job for Angleton.” I take a deep breath. “One dead bystander, in front of witnesses—luckily the only direct eyewitness is already sworn to Section Three.” (Section Three of the Official Secrets Act, which covers our activities, is itself classified Top Secret under the terms of Section Two, making knowledge of it by unauthorized persons an offense—and we enforce it ferociously.)

“I’ve got to file an R60 and then Operational Oversight are going to be calling the shots. There’ll probably be an enquiry. I may be suspended pending the outcome.” Oddly, it’s a lot easier to say this to Iris than it was to Mo.

Iris watches me for a few seconds. “Oh, you poor thing.” She nods to herself. “Was it bad?”

“It was stupid,” I say between gritted teeth. “Stupid, stupid. If I’d noticed the entanglement channel between the airframe and the control panel, or warded both artifacts at the same time, it wouldn’t have happened. And if she’d opened the door five seconds sooner, or later, it wouldn’t—shit. If I’d been told what the airframe had been used for I wouldn’t have . . .” I trail off.

“Save it for the Auditors,” Iris says tiredly. She takes her booted feet off the desk, then leans forward. “That phone call I just took was your case officer, Bob. I think you should go and get yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee or whatever pleases you, then go and wait in your office. Business as usual is canceled for the day, and if I catch you doing your time sheet or answering support queries I will personally kick you around the block, okay? Go play games on Facebook or something. I’ll bring your case officer round and sit in with you while you fill out the R60, so you’ve got a witness. If you think she’s giving you grief, let me know and I’ll handle it. Then”—she takes a deep breath—“I’m signing you off sick for two weeks. You don’t have to take it, I mean I can’t force you, hell, maybe you’d rather do some light admin and filing than sit at home or go for a week in York—that’s my suggestion—but you’re overdue for a slowdown, and I’m going to make sure you get it.”

“But Angleton—”

“Leave him to me,” she says brightly, with a smile that shows me her teeth: “He’ll do as I say.”


Before I can open my mouth and insert any feet, she adds, “It’s Angleton’s job to point you at the enemy, Bob, but it’s my job to keep you from breaking. I take my job seriously. If I tell Angleton to back off, he will.”

Oh. I hadn’t looked at it quite that way before. I manage to nod, then close my mouth.

“Why?” I ask.

“Fatal accidents never have just a single cause,” she tells me, “they happen at the end of a whole series of errors. What the enquiry is going to ask is, how far back did the chain start? And I’ll tell you this right now, it started before Angleton shoved you out to go and do that job yesterday. But I’d better not say any more for now. Go and get that coffee: we’ve both got a tough morning ahead.”

I’M SITTING IN MY OFFICE, SHIVERING OVER A COOLING CUP of coffee and reading The Register, when my door opens without warning. I look up: it’s Iris, which is no surprise, but the other visitor—“Jo?” I say, standing: “Long time no see!”

“Not long enough, under the circumstances,” she says with a twitch. Jo is short for Josephine, as in Detective Inspector Josephine Sullivan, formerly of Milton Keynes but working for us in Operational Oversight these days. (That’s my fault; on the other hand, so is her still being alive after the SCORPION STARE business, so I suppose they cancel out.) Looks a bit like Annie Lennox, if she’d taken up a second career as a nightclub bouncer. “How are you keeping?”

“Badly.” I look round at the mounds of paper, the padlocked secure cabinet covered in Dilbert cartoons, the cubicle-farm-sized novelty dart-board with a picture of the Prime Minister’s face over the bull’s-eye: “Uh, I wasn’t expecting you.”

Iris gives Jo a sidelong look: “You’ve met?”

“Yes.” Jo gives her one right back. “I won’t let it influence me.”

“You’re here to take my statement?” I ask.

“Yes.” For a moment Jo looks haggard. “Bob, what have you gotten yourself into?”

“I’ll fetch another chair.” Iris catches my eye and shakes her head pointedly as she backs through the door.

“A mess. How long have you been working for Oscar-Oscar?”

Jo sits down on the squeaky chair with no arms, and opens her attaché case. “Two years now,” she says quietly. “Please tell me before we begin, while we’re not under oath, you didn’t do this deliberately?”

I shake my head. “Cross my heart and hope to die, it was an honest fuck-up.”

“Okay.” She takes a deep breath. “I’m just here to fill out the forms with you and ask you the questions. If a decision is made to pursue an enquiry I will declare a conflict of interest and withdraw. Are you happy with that?”

For a moment I feel a flicker of gratitude amidst the gloom and dread. “Fair enough.”

Iris returns, pushing another rickety office chair through the door. (I approve. Most of my previous managers would have sent a minion to do that for them; actually mucking in and getting stuff done was beneath the dignity of their station. I’m still taking notes on Iris’s style, although right now my career doesn’t exactly look to be on course for promotion.)

“Are you ready to begin?” Jo asks.

I nod.

Jo pulls out a notepad and a voice recorder, then her official warrant card. She holds it up and my eyes are drawn to it, with a swelling, stabbing sensation in my forehead as if a swarm of bees have taken up residence between my ears. “By the power vested in me in the name of the state, by the oath of service you have sworn under penalty of your mortal soul, I bind you to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Not ask, or order, but bind. My tongue feels swollen, as if I’m having an allergic reaction. I manage to nod.

“State your name, rank, and date of birth.”

I feel my lips move and hear a voice reciting. Iris is watching me closely, her expression hard to read. It’s okay: I feel comfortably numb. I want to tell her, but my voice isn’t having anything to do with my mind right now.

“Yesterday morning, June fourteenth, you met with Detached Special Secretary Angleton in his office. Describe the meeting.”

It’s funny, I didn’t realize I could remember that much detail. But the geas drags it out of me over the course of an hour and a half, and by the end of it Jo is grimacing and wincing as her hand spiders back and forth across the pages of her report pad, filling it in verbatim—I’m not the only one whose muscles aren’t under my own control while the report field is in force.

Finally she draws breath again. “Is there anything you’d like to add for the record?” she asks, turning over a new page.

My mouth opens again, almost without me willing it: “Yes. I’m very sorry.” My jaw shuts with an audible click.

She nods sympathetically: “Yes, I suppose you would be.” She closes the report pad with a twitch, says, “The report is now over,” and switches off the voice recorder.

Iris sags. I follow suit a moment later, then Jo makes it a threesome. The wards on the cover of her R60 pad and voice recorder are glowing almost as brightly as the haunted instrument panel in Hangar Six. “Whwhat happens now?” I ask. My throat feels gravelly.

Jo glances at Iris, who raises that eyebrow again—the one that can shut down committees or terrify demons to order.

“I take this back to Oscar-Oscar, and have copies created under seal. One goes to Human Resources”—I try not to cringe—“one goes to the Auditors, and one goes to Internal Affairs. Everyone else involved in the incident gets the same treatment. IA put the collected transcripts—and the special coroner’s report on the victim—in front of the Incident Committee, who investigate and determine the cause of the event.”

I lick my lips. “And then?”

Jo shrugs uncomfortably. “If they find that the cause was negligence they throw it back at HR for an administrative reprimand. If they attribute it to malice they may action Internal Affairs to prosecute the case before the Black Assizes, but that requires evidence of actual criminal intent. Oh, and they copy Health and Safety on their findings, so H&S can issue guidelines to prevent a recurrence. Meanwhile the Auditors get a chance to muck in if anything catches their eldritch eye. But that’s basically it.”

She delivers this with her best poker face.

“And in practice . . . ?” Iris nudges.

“Do you really want to . . . ? Well, hmm.” Jo looks at me sidelong. “I’m not going to try to second-guess the Incident Committee, but it sounds to me like a straightforward mistake made by an overworked employee who hadn’t been fully briefed and was in a hurry to get back to his other duties. If it turns out that the victim wasn’t authorized to be in Hangar Six, the employee in question would be off the hook—up to a point. But Jesus, Bob!”

Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.


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