Andrew Sarchus and Eris Cailleach have a plan. And it is clearly unfathomable, impossible and utterly corrupt. The only clues Sam Haine has are that it has something to do with dead people and something to do with brimston, whatever that is. She needs inspiration, the kind of inspiration you can only get from a bona-fide super villain who is trying his best. Sort of.
No, laziness was no crime; the only crimes that Sam could discern were the revolution-inspiring affluence of the hotel suite in which she had smeared herself and the glimmering sin still sashaying behind the word Brimston.
At first she had assumed a misspelling of brimstone. But then, observant of Clochapel’s love of self-important strutting codes, she had suspected an acronym – like the ARC probability curve, or the HIVE communities or the LEGION database of faces that Andrew had gushed over at the party. It had been surprisingly easy to list six possible acronyms for BRIMSTON, each suggesting a hideous sin more appalling than the last. By the time she had posited Brutalised Reason-Inhibiting Meme, Stimulating Total Oracular Necrosis she had decided to give up that particular tactic as a swift route to paranoid collapse.
Although… it did turn out that there was such a thing as oracular necrosis – the death of foresight, apparently, and the subject of a paper lodged with the United Nations on the failure of governments to anticipate consequences when deploying armed forces into warzones. The paper had been penned by a dour sounding woman named Tessa Wrack, and its insights felt like cold wind on dog-licked skin. Sam committed the paper to memory and continued her research.
There were no politicians, plutocrats or pollutants of note named Brimston, no known technological advances in the fields of weaponry, epidemiology, or media science. The word offered no particular insight when filtered through any of the thirty-six applicable ciphers at her command, or translated into any of the languages of the planet and then patiently re-filtered thirty-six times. It was simply a word, a verbal Rorschach for some heinous crime.
Perhaps it was a trap, sleight of hand, a diversion from the real plot – evidence of Eris’ total mastery –mistressy?- of Sam’s own psychology? Maybe maybe… Or perhaps Eris would have assumed that she would have reached that conclusion of legerdemain and so used the actual word as its own codeword. Reality as a metaphor for reality…
But then last night Eris had stolen into the suite at just after two in the morning, waking Sam from unrecognisable dreams. A ghost of the scent of burnt jasmine and that soft voice in the dark from the foot of the bed. Sam had eased herself up onto her elbows and peered through the expensive night at her visitor – one part Doctor Lament Demain, one part herself. Had she crawled up from under her bed?
“Good morning, Ms Haine, sorry to intrude.”
“Call me Sam, please, Eris. I prefer to be on first name terms with all my midnight callers.”
“Eris isn’t my first name, Sam. I think it’s my third.”
“What are you doing here, Eris?”
She smiled in the dark, the precise delineations of her amusement lost in the blind.
(c) Ian Bird 2009