The first book in the series about a futuristic, high-tech counter-terrorism agency. Mixing sci-fi, action, crime and humour, the story follows the agents of T14, including one who has a computer chip in his head, as they fight international espionage and home-grown terrorism with an unlimited budget.
It all began the day I read my obituary.
Using the Cartesian Cogito and Occam's razor I reasoned that I was alive, so there were three options.
Somebody was trying to threaten me.
Somebody had good reason to think I was actually dead.
Somebody was sending me a coded message.
I could think of more effective threats, particularly with the resources and moral contortions available to the people I was currently pretending to work with. Besides, if they had worked out who I really was they would have just rung the doorbell and shot me in the head, or at least tried to. They would also have no way of finding out about the code system unless they'd captured one of my fellow agents and tortured them. No, be sensible, don't let your imagination run away; there's already enough paranoia in the organisation.
Although this was one of the publications where I could expect to find such coded communications, this one didn't make sense. Part of it seemed to be a message directed at me, a warning, but the rest wasn't part of our code system, or rather the last two sentences were a meaningless jumble of various messages.
In any case, a knowingly false obituary could potentially draw unwanted attention, despite the fact that only around a dozen people knew me under that name. The group I'd infiltrated knew me by that name so it was a high risk strategy.
The problem with being properly undercover, not just playing at it, is that you are entirely on your own. Last year I had been briefed on my mission and then cast adrift. Since then I had not been able to directly contact anyone at T14. Unless my life or cover were in immediate danger, I had to deal with everything myself until the mission was over. I'd amassed nearly enough evidence to put the gang away but there were still a few loose ends.
Anyway, the point was that I couldn't just phone up the office and ask what the message meant; I had to figure it out for myself. Assuming it had come from HQ then it was not a risk they would have taken lightly - I'd only received two messages since the mission began. But it had to be from them: the chances of anybody accidentally using so many of our code phrases in a genuine obituary were infinitesimaly small, even allowing for the coincidence of it being somebody else with such an unusual surname.
I came to all these conclusions in the newsagents. I purchased a few items and quickly returned home, whereupon I locked and bolted front and back doors, turned off all but one of my phones and closed all the curtains.
Unlikely as it was that anybody had been stupid enough to enter my house during the twenty minutes I'd been out I checked all my traps nevertheless. They weren't traps in the James Bond sense, rather items I placed in certain exact positions that couldn't fail to move if anyone entered a room. A piece of sellotape on a door opening is always a good standby, or tiny pieces of bluetac strategically scattered over a carpet. Several items of apparent junk mail were also strewn across the length of the tiny hallway - there was no way anyone could traverse these without treading on some of them.
I gathered them up and paused for a minute, listening intently. There was no sound of movement so I made my way through the living room - no problems there - to the kitchen and back door. It would be impossible to move or climb over the tumble drier I kept up against the door without disturbing the pieces of bluetac under its feet.
Everything was okay so I relaxed very, very slightly. It was just after 10am so I had plenty of daylight left in which to escape if needed. People think darkness is best for an escape but they're wrong - nobody can look inconspicuous at night. If you think you're being watched or followed the best course of action is to stride out purposefully in broad daylight among plenty of witnesses. If I didn't receive a phone call by midday then that was what I would be doing.
I started packing and cleaning away anything I couldn't leave behind. Still unsure whether I would be returning to the house, I had to hedge my bets.
Two hours. There was a lot to do but I took the time to sit down and rest, drink plenty of water and coffee and eat the three Mars bars I'd bought. It would be a long day and I had absolutely no idea what would be required of me so I needed to fill up on energy while I could. I also needed some space to think.
If I wasn't contacted today then that brought up a whole new smorgasbord of complications. It could mean that my own employers had ordered my death, though that made no sense - besides, it just wasn't cricket. Mind you, I thought I had ruffled Peterson's feathers when I... no, that's absurd. He was a creep but he wouldn't have me killed. He wouldn't dare.
It could be a double bluff - I think that they think I've been dealt with and then compromise myself. It would have to be somebody who hardly knew me to think I'd fall for that one. Or it could be that everybody, my employers included, thought I was already dead. But then who was the message for?
Would it be such a bad thing? I had plenty of money squirrelled away in untraceable accounts so I could just disappear and go back to living a normal life. However, I couldn't do that without knowing for sure and I couldn't think how to find out without revealing my continued existence. I wasn't sure if I could actually be charged with treason but I was certain that any perceived dereliction of duty or hint of going AWOL would be frowned upon in a rather severe manner. Besides, I f**king love my job.
I churned things over in my mind as I drank a third coffee and continued packing.