Forge Netting 25: Project Forget

The perfect sleeper agent – program and reset; then ready to go for the next mission. They retained no memory and their heads were set up with a robust psychological architecture that could have any ready-made personality bolted onto it that needed to be used. It seemed that the original personality didn’t suffer either – that it reasserted itself when appropriate and sufficed as an interface for off-operation communication.

The psychological testing that they carried out was, he believed, unique – looking not for robustness but for a specific kind of weakness; a weakness that would make the subject more versatile and malleable. They never expected to find someone quite so perfect as him – the others were good, but with him it were as if he were designed specifically for the purpose of the operation.

Terence Ensign was an odd individual before anything was done to him. They tried to label him as a dissociative personality but that didn’t quite work to explain him. After analysing him from every angle possible they decided that he was the model subject after which all the others would be patterned.

Holson had fifty men commissioned for the project, labelled Mnemosyne initially, with plans to expand it once it had a production statistic which spoke of its efficacy.

The nature of their remit changed somewhere around the point when it was realised that the tool they used to create these soldiers might be weaponised. They started to mobilise what they called Blank Squads. Blank Squads were used for delivering strategic amnesia packets to designated memory hazard zones. The euphemisms would have been amusing to those carrying out the operations if their operating systems were allowed buffers that could handle the processing necessary for a sense of humour.

Whole groups of important thinkers with ideas that ran counter to the philosophy of the power elite of the day were hit with a whole truckload of customised amnesias – anteriorgrade amnesia, Alzheimer’s, Korsakov’s. All manufactured perfect replicas designed to through trackers off the scent. Ensign was the best at it – a figure so blandly universal that he was invisible in plain sight; he didn’t need to blend because no one noticed him.

It was said that Ensign liked to kill philosophers most because they tried the most labyrinthine ways to convince him that it was wrong. Fatalists were boring. Optimists were humorous. He supposed each memory wipe had its own things to recommend it, but yes, he liked philosophers.

So had he gone off the grid? How had he broken through his programming enough to disappear? Well, it appeared that with him his real personality wasn’t subsumed unless he allowed it to be – it was like he were lucid dreaming and if his intention was there to control the situation he was being put in he could quite happily direct it like a rather forceful backstreet driver. Those early days where they had been testing the architecture and the responsiveness of the agent to the handler he had thought it best to remain hidden and just learn how it all worked.

He waited until Project Forget was well under way – a project so extensive it stretched even his bosses considerable resources, and while someone was turned the other way – namely his handler … he shot him with a restructure dart and walked out of their lives.

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Forge Netting 4: Righting A Blank. Check

Colin had been working for LEthe since it had brought out its treatment – so he wasn’t there from the first; those guys were all in development; but he had been with them long enough to have seen some things.

They had offered the employees free treatments as an incentive at one point but he had refused. Sure, he could see the attraction but he would rather hold onto the painful shit instead of becoming a zombie. Quite how zombified people were becoming was now becoming evident – and if it kept getting this negative spin in the media then the whole company was going to be up shit creek without the proverbial paddle.

He’d worked in places before where a lawsuit sapped them quicker than you would believe – you just had to hope that the initial profits could absorb the impact of a class action lawsuit; that the PR campaign they would need to mount could resurrect the product and the reputation of the inventors. There was a lot of repurposing in the drug industry – all that specialised equipment was expensive and if you could convince the world that the drug which had just been declared dangerous for one thing could be used for something else then you didn’t have to scrap it. That, he found interesting – just because they were using it to treat something different it didn’t make it any less dangerous … didn’t remove the effects.

The guy he had been assigned to had been out of communication for a while – he had, as far as he could tell from reading the case notes, drawn the short straw in this game. People stupidly thought that they could sign up for this product and go unobserved? Investments left to go unwatched were not going to reap them many rewards.

None of those using were going to be that hard to track down – it was a backdoor feature that none of those who had signed up were informed about.The thing is – depending on how much the people had been using and the side effects that they were starting find about – there might be more than just a slightly destabilised individual with memory loss; if the infection leak was also present then there might also be something occuring in the localspace that threatened anyone who came near.

He activated his transparent second skin and the nanoswarm security measure that was being recommended as a standard action for any operative in the field, and he left his house.

the final act

the man who sits down opposite me looks nervous – he has only emerged into public since an amnesty was announced by the current president for all those involved in operation radicalise. he doesn’t look much different from the days when all those training videos were issued, so one wonders how he has managed to survive in the world at large.

‘oh, by acting,’ he says ‘once they announced they had captured me and disposed of my body at sea people stopped looking. i got work on general hospital and other shows, if you can believe it, playing sympathetic moslems who were persecuted by people who associated them with the acts of terrorism being perpetrated by my so-called organisation.’

‘and what did you do if anyone remarked on your resemblance to a dead terrorist?’

‘oh, i would just tell them i was a lookalike and i was dressed this way for film work.’

‘and they believed you?’

‘sure, why not? saddam hussein had lookalikes – this kind of thing is just accepted nowadays. whatever they dream up in hollywood is nowhere near as wacky as some of the things which go on in real life.’

‘so, where have you been living?’

‘so-cal, on my own vineyard.’

‘are you worried that people are going to be angry to find out that your fate was a lot better than that of the people who were killed in your name?’

‘of course they’re going to be angry, and they have a perfect right. when i first joined the CIA i never expected to end up in the position i was in. some might call it deep cover but it was something entirely different. using money from a slush fund i was tasked with building an organisation that set the west supposedly against the moslem world; i was an agent provocateur.’

‘how do you feel that it didn’t work?’

‘well, it did for a while, and it did in some ways. i am glad it was not a total success though. half of us probably wouldn’t be here if i had succeeded. but think about it – the second remit of the mission was to make it easier for the american government to tighten homeland security and that worked like a dream; people were agreeing to things they never would have agreed to beforehand.’

‘so, do you still meet with some of the people who mounted the whole operation?’

‘of course – i still have a handler too. i probably shouldn’t say that, but yes, they have managed me from day one and i don’t see them relinquishing that in the near future, if ever. i am sure in the days to come that some of the other people who were playing this dangerous game are going to emerge from the woodwork, and you are going to be very surprised jjust who was involved.’

‘any hints?’

‘sorry, no – it would be more than my life is worth.’

Grit: Takeaway

Grit was pissed – pissed as much about the need for him to be pissed as about the thing which got him there. Fucking people – the bastards always let you down. Whenever someone else let him down he actually felt more let down by himself – annoyed that he hadn’t seen how something was going to play out; fed up that he had not judged someone’s character right.
When you’re running different scams and you bring someone in to help out in the management of one of them you should be straight up and lay it out there who it is that a person is getting into bed with. Now he finds out, when he’s neck deep in the shit, that he’s dealing with the Triad and that his ex-partner, whose body is now scattered across numerous takeaway dinners, has left him with a debt that he can’t afford to pay.
Barney was a numb nuts and had saddled him with someone who seemed to have read the handbook on stereotypical inscrutable oriental gangster. Cho was still knee high to a grass-hopper but it was rumoured he had the legendary death-touch at his command and plenty of people could testify to the one inch punch. Cho was a name that, when it was dropped, stopped someone dead in their tracks. No one knew the real meaning but in the thesaurus of hard bastards it had pretty much come to stand for insanely dangerous motherfucker.
Grit was perturbed – what was it with him lately? Cursed? That didn’t even begin to touch it – if he’d opened a pyramid and stuck his cock in the Pharoah’s  favourite he couldn’t have been more cursed.
As soon as he saw that little bastard’s tattoos he knew he’d trod in the biggest pile of shit he’d ever been near in his life. He didn’t ever do too well in circles where sense of honour was a factor – business was the be all and end all for him and he knew that didn’t cut it with some people.
What he would normally do was to just off the problem, but that wasn’t an option here. So, how to take out a problem without appearing to be the one who is taking out the problem? It was a tried and tested method – he found someone else to do the job, and who better than another Triad?
He started to seed rumours that Cho was weakening and ripe for the picking, and then he also started to push rumours that he had been bad mouthing his contemporaries: a perfect recipe for causing anger at the man.
Some might think it was cowardice to operate in this way, but Grit thought it was smart to be an invisible component in this whole machine. He saw a low fire burning in the network of Triad gangs, so he put some tit for tat killings on the fire as fuel.
Weeks of low level fighting began to build, began to take on form. Grit knew what was coming next – the slow burning fuse had to eventually reach the charges and Cho’s world went up in flames.

Grit: Complications

‘Complications.’
‘Huh?’
‘You heard me. I know you did.’
‘Everything’s a complication.’
‘Grit, why do you have to be such a wiseacre all the fuckin’ time? It get’s boring, you know?’
‘No, I don’t. Keeps me amused; and as far as I’m concerned that’s the most important thing. So what’s the news? What has you wetting your draws?’
‘We were given bad info.’
‘And, what have we done?’
‘Killed someone on the wrong day.’
‘Early or late?’
‘Early. They didn’t get to sign something they needed to.’
‘And the repurcussions are?’
‘A contract on our heads.’
‘Fuck me; I knew this was amateur night the moment I stepped through the door and saw you were on the crew.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘It means, Colin, you dumb fuck, that I wouldn’t trust you adding one and one together.’
‘Fuck you, Grit.’
‘No, fuck you, you fucking liability.’
The gun was in hand and discharged the second the sentence had ended. Shit, he thought – might have paid to find out exactly who’s been sicced on us. Still, that wouldn’t be that complicated.
He picked up the phone and called his present employer.
‘Fred?’
‘Is that you, Grit, you cunt?’
‘Yes, Fred, it’s me – what is this bullshit? We carried out the job as per instructions and now we’re dodging bullets ourselves?’
‘You did it early.’
‘I was told a time and I did what I was asked to when I was asked to do it. Colin fucked up his part of it and he’s dead.’
‘You killed him?’
‘Yes, does that concern you?’
‘Course it doesn’t – I paid to have both of you put down.’
‘OK, look, if I take out the other person responsible for the fuck up are we square?’
‘Yeah, we’re square, but that doesn’t mean the guy who’s out to kill you is gonna stop.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because I wired him the money up front and he maintains radio silence up until he has a confirmed kill.’
‘If I put a bullet between his eyes is that going to be a problem?’
‘He’s just a hired hand, so no – not really.’
‘Can you give me a name?’
‘They call him Stack.’
‘OK, well you know who the other fucker I’m after is – don’t you? Bennett – the intel man.’
‘Grit, do you have to? He’s useful a lot of the time.’
‘Sorry, Fred, he has a debt to settle. Is this something you can live with?’
‘I don’t have much choice, do I?’
‘No, you don’t. I mean, I want to be cool with you, but this has to go down a certain way.’
‘OK. I’m sure we’ll speak soon, Grit, when you’ve done what you need to.’
‘I’m sure,’ he said and hung up.
Bennett was a cinch to find – well, at certain points in the day he was a cinch to find because he was trying to make some money by selling the information he had come by. When he went to ground to dig up intel he was the hardest fucker on earth to find. Grit knew his window of opportunity and he took it.
Bennett was a brown-nose, especially when he thought you wanted to buy what he had to sell, so getting him to go outside was the easiest thing ever. When Grit pulled the gun on him he wasn’t necessarily surprised; he wasn’t pleased but he wasn’t surprised. He must have known that the info he had provided last time had somehow got fucked up – usually it didn’t come to this, but if it was going to end the promise of it ending this way had always been there.
When they found him the police pretty much instantly gave up on any chance of finding the perpetrator of the crime – grasses and intel men were never short of enemies and they had better things to do than waste their time tracking down who it was that had finally grown tired and offed the bastard.
Grit wasn’t keeping a low profile at all, and if the person hunting him had any smarts at all he might have wondered at that; might have wondered at the perverse lengths Grit seemed to be going to to draw attention to himself. Stack seemed to miss the clues though – hadn’t spotted that he was walking into a bloody great trap.
The room was dark and Stack thought he was sneaking in – that was outfoxing someone.
‘How,’ said Grit ‘Did a dumb fuck like you ever get such a good reputation?’
‘Um.’
Um was not an answer that was going to impress Grit – his gun had a much more to the point remark to make. Stack died with a look of surprise on his face – for Grit that pretty much said it all.

Grit: Stupid Shit

‘Punch the cunt in the face – don’t pussyfoot around it; get in there and do some damage.’
‘If you don’t shut the fuck up I’m coming after you when I’ve finished with this mug.’
‘Shouldn’t have told his mum to go fuck herself.’
‘How was I supposed to know that old bag was his mum?’
‘Fucked if I know. I suppose if you’d seen him without his beard you might have seen the family resemblance.’
‘That old bitch has a thicker beard than he does.’
The drunken buffoon that was trying to teach Grit a lesson got a lucky punch in – landed it square on his jaw and he nearly bit his tongue off.
Grit had been going soft on him because he was sober and he knew he could take the idiot apart if he wanted to and, after all, he was defending his poor old mum’s honour. The hit to the jaw and the blood flooding into his mouth from biting his tongue changed all that though – a quick left-right combination and aan uppercut to the jaw and the bozo was on his back sparked out in less than thirty seconds.
‘Still got it, eh, you old bastard?’
‘Yeah, so watch out, numb nuts.’
‘Who you calling numb nuts?’
‘So, Berry, why am I up here in the land o’ the jocks?’
‘Because, my old china, some stupid kilt wearing cunt is trying to muscle in on Big Terence’s business.’
‘Which is?’
‘Why do you need to know? You never used to be so curious.’
‘True enough. How much am I being offered to carry out this little task?’
‘50% above your usual asking fee.’
‘Not bad. he must really want him out of the way.’
‘You’re a bright one sometimes, Grit, anyone ever tell you that?’
‘I don’t speak to many people.’
‘Funny.’
‘Anything special want doing with this one?’
‘We don’t come to you for special, Grit; we come to you to get the job done. We don’t like loose ends and you very rarely leave them.’
‘OK, so when?’
‘Go to the desk, ask for a key to your room. Find on the bed a laser-sighted rifle, and observe your target across the street having lunch.’
‘Really? All this done this quick and simple?’
‘You’d prefer it was complicated?’
‘No, course not.’
‘Then get to it, man. Neither of us have all day to sit around here flapping our lips, do we?’
‘No.’
Grit followed the instructions he was given and found the rifle exactly where he had been told he would find it. He lifted it, sighted the guy, and bang, dropped him.
Seconds later he was back downstairs. Seconds later he was asking himself exactly who it was that he had just offed – and that face kept rolling through his head. Shit – he had better get out of here as quick as he could. He’d just put a bullet in someone who he had been sworn off of; someone connected to his own crew; a personal friend of his boss. How fucking stupid could you be?
He swung the car round in the drive of Berry’s house, got out, walked up to the door, knocked on it, and when Berry opened the door smiling like a fucking idiot, he plugged him full of holes.
‘Fucking idiot,’ he said, and he meant himself as much as Berry.

Grit: Thinking

How often have you wanted to punch someone in the mouth? A lot? How many times have you wanted to shoot someone dead? Again you say a lot. Grit had wondered about those things all the time when he was younger, had stopped wondering and started doing when he was a certain age, and had spent just as long thinking about why he’d done them. Regrets? He had a few; but not as many as some might think. When you did what he did for a living that kind of thing would have you crying into your beer every goddamned second of the day if you let it.
He had never been much of a philosopher – that kind of thing could slow you down and make you indecisive. But he wasn’t averse to thinking – that kind of attitude would get you killed. Like most things in this life you had to try and strike a balance. He knew he held a role in his own life – he did not believe in fate; did not like the idea that some abstract pair of notions were resolving themselves through him. He did not want to be an avatar of good or evil – he was a man and he expected there to be plenty of both in his make up.
Gary liked to talk, but there wasn’t much thinking behind it, so Grit occasionally had to school him in the art of keeping his mouth shut and using his head a little more. Gary had a thick head so it often took a second to beat the idea into it. Grit didn’t exactly enjoy it but he didn’t exactly lose sleep over it either.
Gary’s relationship with discretion had gotten him in trouble before and it had got him into trouble now. If he weren’t universally known for the stupidity that was his stock in trade he would surely be dead by now – his well known idiocy got him a beating instead of a bullet in the head. Those who sponsored the beatings hoped and prayed that one day he would learn – they hoped and prayed that others would learn not to talk to him about anything.
Johnny was nursing a pair of broken legs and a wired jaw for his part in fucking up a multi-million pound deal. Grit’s knuckles were skinned thanks to the lesson he had given Johnny.
Thinking – seemed like it came natural for some, but for others it might always be out of reach.