Chapter 2 – Pandora



It took me a long time to catch up with Charlie, he was in and out at all hours, and really only came home to sleep, wash, change and very rarely eat. He didn’t answer any of my messages nor accept any calls. When I did see him he clearly had a good income, he had a pair of wraparound shades that were visual terminal spectacles rather than the more normal ones. He was a little taller than me, but not especially tall for a bloke. I couldn’t tell what his eyes were like and he was wearing a close fitting cap on his head that hid most of his hair. What little of it I could see was dark. He was wearing good clothes, quality labels in a common fashion. I doubted he would stand out in a crowd.

One night I managed to catch him in, and spoke to him about how I could earn some money. He asked me what sort of things I could do, and whether or not I was good at playing games, because if so he had some testing work that I could probably do, although he’d need to check with his sponsor if he could let me do it for him. I said that I was desperate for a job, and if he could get me one I would do his laundry for a week, because as we were talking he was sorting it out and I could tell he really didn’t want to be doing it.

He agreed and said he’d let me know tomorrow. So I went to bed pleased for once, and hoping that Charlie would come through for me.


After I got away from Pandora I went to see Rosie at her studio to see what she and Cat might have found out about Pandora. When I arrived Rosie was busy with a client, and I waited outside until she was finished, and amused myself by watching Rosie deliver her ministrations to the client on her web cam. She really was a professional, but nothing would entice me to let Rosie work her magic on me, no matter how hard she tried to persuade me, and she’d tried to offer me freebies a couple of times. The only one I’d accepted was the web cam feed.

When Rosie’s client left I stepped inside the room before the door closed, she looked unsurprised at my appearance and she carried on tidying up after the session.

“Come to take me up on my offer have you?” she teased me with an open smile, and open arms.

“Depends on what the offer is this time.” I replied, stepping in to hug her and give her a peck on the cheek in greeting.

“Anything you want, big boy” she replied, teasingly, and letting her hands wander down my back.

“I’m just here for background on Pandora” I said, stepping back from her and sitting in the nearby armchair. She pouted at me and sat down on the sofa opposite.

“I asked around like you said, discreetly of course.”

“So what did you find out”

“She is one of us, but she’s not as old as she looks.”

“How so?”

“Seems she grew up fast. I asked some of the kids I know that are still in the home, and they told me that she definitely came from there and had been there for a while, since before the council took over. So I went back and looked at the photos, and you can see her continuously in them back to the early days, including one with her sitting on your knee when she was a baby.”

“How come I don’t remember her then? The only Pandora I remember from Dawkins House was almost seven when I left, she’d only be about 12 or 13 now. This Pandora has to be at least 16, you can’t sit the exam until you get to 16.”

“It’s the same girl we’re talking about. You remember she was always tall for her age, and very bright and interested in the world around her? That and she was constantly hungry?”

The penny was in the air, and it had stopped going up.

“How sure are you about this?” I asked.

“Very. The people I asked are all very reliable sources, and there is also a good document trail showing that she was in Dawkins House. Even if they matched up someone looking a bit like her, I don’t think that they could pull off the substitution. I spoke to her about some of the things that we shared in the home. I only left three years ago myself, so I was there with her for a bit.”

“So how did she get away with doing the exam? And why does her ID have her as a 17 year old?”

“No records when the council took over. So they did what they did with the rest of us. Asked us for details, and then checked those against the norms for physical and intellectual development to see how accurate they were. She tells me that they refused to believe her age, so she got put down as an intellectually slow, but physically average 12 year old.”

“And she was, what? Just turned eight?”



“Wait, there’s a little more. I spoke to Han about her. He says she’s one of the special ones and we need to make sure she gets looked after. Also, he said to give her self-defence training.”

“Did he elaborate at all?”

“That’s all he said.”


“Well if that’s the business out of the way, how about some pleasure?” she smiled at me wickedly, dropping the hold on her silk dressing gown.

I beat a hasty departure, making my excuses rapidly as I left…


My other sources confirmed what Rosie had told me, and made me much happier that Pandora was one of us, and someone that I had an obligation to help. I could at least reset the paranoia alarm, but I still needed to be careful to avoid falling for her, or rather acting on that. Especially given her true age. There would be time enough for love when we’d all got away from here.

The first stage was to get Pandora involved in a way that would make her useful without giving her any suspicions about what we were doing, or making her vulnerable to a raid. She needed to have some essential skills before we could risk telling her about the scale of the operations we were involved in, and if she consented getting her involved too. If she didn’t want to get involved, then we’d need to make her one of our refugees to be evacuated.

So the first step was getting her an unlisted terminal so that she could play the training games on it to give her the time to process how to go about acting covertly and maintaining operational security. The game had been deliberately written as an alpha test of a multi-player game about being a spy and operating a clandestine network in hostile territory. So without giving anything away it would introduce her to the concepts she’d need to help us help ourselves against the discrimination. It also had some martial arts training moves involved in it too, just in case she needed to defend herself.

The next day I took her a new terminal, told her it transmitted everything back to the game developers and not to use it for anything else. I kept it as brief as possible so that I could remain focused, she had the same effect on me as the last time. Unusually for me I found myself like a rabbit caught in headlights, although mostly I managed to keep control of myself. When she reminded me that I’d promised to get her some paid work I couldn’t find any words and just stared at her. She said she’d do my laundry for me if I gave her fifty pounds, so I just handed it over and left.


The next day Charlie came into the house at lunchtime, I was in the main room using the shared console to play Old World, my favourite MMO game. I didn’t notice him at first, standing in the doorway watching me absorbed in the game. I don’t know exactly how long he was there for, but he eventually attracted my attention, and I noticed that equally I’d attracted his too.

He had a new terminal for me, a slate type, and he told me that he wanted me to use this terminal to run the tests and not for any other purpose as it would send anything I did back to the development team for the new game. He said that there were full instructions on the tablet that I would see when I started it up, and that all the software I would need was installed.

I asked him how much time he thought it would take and what the payment would be. He said it was probably a few days of constant play, but that I could space it out over the week. It would tell me when I’d done enough. The pay was experience at this stage, but if I did a good job then the next time I’d get proper money. He did say that if I wanted money, he’d give me fifty pounds to do the laundry, so I took that for starters.

As soon as he left the room I fired it up and started to read the instructions. The game was similar to Old World, but instead of being set in a mythical mediaeval setting it was set in the present day. The players were secret agents of some sort, either protecting something or attempting espionage against it. My instructions were to play the training missions before becoming part of a corporate counter-espionage team.

So I played it. In the training missions I had a handler and a couple of trainers. They seemed more like other players than an AI. They were certainly following a script, as they had specific skills to teach me, but there was a free text option and the answers that came back from it seemed real. It took about eight hours of play to complete each of the training missions. At the end of it I had learnt some real world martial arts (it used the webcam and the main broadcast screen to do the motion control for combat). I also knew about some of the fieldcraft required to move about in an urban environment and follow someone. So I was ready for the main missions.


Chapter 4 – Beginnings will be published on 15th October 2013.

If you cannot wait, get Perfects on your kindle for 99p.

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