prologue Dermot Queensland grabbed the envelope where it had been slipped between the garbage liner and

the metal container. A corner was stained with soy sauce. He tore the envelope open. Three sheets of paper were inside with line after line of letters and characters. Computer code. It was Greek to him. Natalie would be awake in an hour, he thought. He remembered the way the sun blasted into the bedroom of her bungalow in Auckland. She wouldn’t put shades on until the baby came, and by that time he

was long gone, back to New York and on the biggest story of his life. He left her behind, with her Reality, the little girl he Skyped with whenever he needed Natalie to decipher code. His daughter. Reality. That was what he was holding: the new Reality. He read the handwritten note on the yellow post-it: D. -- This is the override code that’s implanted in every OS install. It’s the smoking gun. J. The smoking gun that would bring down FreeSoft, the world’s biggest vendor of high-security Democracy-enablement cloud systems. FreeSoft, the personal playpen

of Basil Raines, CEO, visionary, tech genius, Lord of the Cloud. Dermot looked down the dark alley to the street. He needed to get into the light so he could snap photos of the sheets and shoot them over to Natalie. Pushing the sheets back into the envelope, he walked down the narrow walkway behind the Chinese restaurant. The soy sauce was slick on his fingers and he thought about licking them. He was going to need to get the story written fast, before anyone at FreeSoft found out that the code had been copied, and get it out onto the Web.

Dermot heard the soft shuffle behind him but didn’t pay it any attention. When he was struck from behind, he didn’t have a moment of awareness before he blacked out. He didn’t feel the knife slice his throat. He didn’t see the gloved hand that pulled the envelope out from beneath him. What Dermot did feel was a strange cloud form inside his chest. He felt himself leave his body. And as this cloud began to disperse in the air around his body, he was able to see the yellow post-it, grimy on the ground, illuminated by the soft glow of a neon sign that read, Madame Rose, Spiritualist & Soothsayer.

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