The Chip

The Chip – chapter 3 first draft

Jack had the gun in his hand and was crawling for cover before the door had even begun to swing open. Charley moved more slowly, but he had a gun in his hand before anyone came through the door. He slid off the leather sofa and aimed through a gap in the cushions. When Jack gave him a questioning look he mouthed “Kevlar.”

There were three of them. The first one through the door was playing action movie- toting two Uzis and spraying the room with them. Jack crouched behind one of the chairs, making himself as small as possible and hoping it was bullet proof as well and that there were no ricochets.

The hammering and crashing stopped eventually, replaced by a cackle and the sound of two empty magazines hitting the floor. There was a single crack, and the laughter stopped.

One piece of mirror on the wall opposite the door still hung on. Jack could see the doorway, one gunman crumpling to the floor and two others registering shock. He glanced across at Charley, who nodded, tapped his head and pointed to his left.

They stood together, braced quickly and fired two shots each. Jack’s target was holding a pump action shotgun, struggling to bring it up he pulled the trigger as Charley and Jack rose, discharging into the floor a few feet in front of himself. Both Jack’s shots hit his target squarely in the chest.

As the body crumpled to the floor Jack realised what he had just done. He hadn’t hesitated at all to kill another man. None of the questions of morality or other reasons to pause had occurred to him. The military training programmed into his brain must have helped, it had probably over ridden everything else. He dropped the gun on the chair and looked away.

The room was a mess of holes and broken glass. The picture window along one wall was completely smashed. Jack imagined he could hear sirens through it. On the table Charley’s glass of single malt was untouched. Jack picked it up and knocked it back.
Charley was examining the bodies. “They’ve probably got at least one more downstairs, waiting to see what happens.”

Jack picked the gun up again and walked warily to the door. They were at the end of a corridor, so he didn’t have to worry about anything to his left as he swung out of the door to the right with gun held high. Nothing moved in the corridor. After a moment he stepped back into the flat. “The Vilnius gang again?”

“I don’t recognise them, from either gang. Maybe there’s a third party trying to get involved.”


The sirens were louder now, and they were probably heading for the flat. Squealing tyres briefly drowned them out. “So what do we do now?”

“If the Police get here before your friends we go straight to jail. Where we’ll be lucky to last the night.”

“Do you have another car?”

“Yes, of course. Though it’s a little small.”

“Well let’s go then.”

“Hold on.” Charley opened the drawer in the coffee table further and pulled out a large camera bag. “Ammunition.”

They went down the stairs, guns ready at their sides, and entered the garage by a door in a poorly lit corner. “That one.” Charley pointed at a new style Mini.

“I’ll drive.”

Charley squeezed into the passenger seat. Marty walked through the side and sat in the rear. Before Charley had even closed the door Jack set off for the exit.

As they waited for the gate to clink up into the ceiling they listened to the sirens. “They’re heading for the front door.” Charley noticed, “Go left, we’ll come out streets away.” He leaned forward and started tapping instructions into the satnav. “Follow this, I have a friend who’ll take us in.”

Fiction- The Chip, Chapter 2 first draft

A bit rougher a draft than the first chapter, because that was something I’d been thinking about for a while. This one is a bit more made up as I go along.

Jack had never visited Manchester. He watched the red brick buildings go past, trying to memorise land marks so he might find his way around later. He tried not to look at the back seat, but knew the ghost was still there. The fat man was quiet, concentrating on driving. For someone who had moved so fast bottling a gunman in the restaurant he seemed to labour over every turn of the steering wheel now.

It was probable that he was supposed to be scared, but Jack couldn’t summon the emotion. Few things since being told he would never walk again had been able to scare him. When every walking moment was a miracle he would treat them as such. He was intrigued more than anything else. Where was the fat man taking him? He would know soon enough. Why? Again, the answer would be clear soon. It might take a while to work out how had he found his way to Manchester. The only thing he was finding disconcerting was the indistinct figure in the back of the car. But even that would be explained in time, he was sure.

They stopped before a shutter that was already rising. “You’ll probably find this outside your pay grade, but one does have to maintain a cover.” the fat man announced as they headed down the steep ramp. He parked right beside the elevator doors. “Take these and call the lift would you. It does take a while for me to get out.”
There was an electronic tag attached to the keyring. Jack held it against the domed plastic circle beside the lift doors and there was the clunk of machinery coming to life. “Most impressive.” said the ghost beside him. “We had this sort of equipment in our more secure facilities.”

Jack glanced across at the Mercedes. The fat man was still struggling out of the car. “Who are you?” Jack whispered.

“Marty Roberts, old chap.” He extended a shadowy hand, Jack just stared at it. “Pleased to make you acquaintance.”

“Are you real?”

“I honestly don’t know, old chap. I was escaping from some prison, the last thing I remember. And then I found myself here. Awfully odd prison, it was made up of shifting shapes and numbers. I had to keep trying a combination lock over and over.”

The fat man had waddled over. Jack turned to him, “Charley, do you know a Marty Roberts?”

The fat man’s expression was, for a moment, priceless. Then the confusion was gone as fast as it had appeared. “Two things, young fellow. How do you know my name? You should have been briefed in with my alias. And what do you know about Marty? The man was dead about the time you were born.”

The lift arrived with a ping. They looked in as the doors opened, to make sure there was no-one to hear the conversation. “Marty Roberts told me your name, and his. Right now he’s standing about here,” Jack waved a hand through Roberts’ chest. He held back an urge to apologise, “giving me advice, talking about a prison break and generally freaking me out.”

“That sounds like Marty. Calm as you like, whatever the situation. He could tell you to risk your life as if he were asking ‘one lump or two’.”

The fat man was taking this far too well. “He’s sizing you up for the take down.” Marty informed Jack, “He thinks you’re a mad man.”

“Can’t really blame him.” Jack realised he had spoken out loud. He looked at Charley, who had raised his eyebrows in as non-threatening a way as he could manage.

“I’ll tell you what,” the ghost offered, “you just need to say the one word to him.”


Charley’s mask slipped as his jaw dropped. “What?”

Marty spoke and Jack repeated him. “It was your last mission together. You took a bullet and were bedridden for months. That’s when you started eating and stopped exercising and became the man you are today.”

“You could have found any of that in the archives.”

“It’s true. In fact, that’s where he thinks he did get it. Marty Roberts is fast coming to the conclusion that he’s not really Marty Roberts and he’s neither alive nor a ghost.” This was when it fell into place for Jack, and he hated that he’d been beaten to the answer by a piece of code. “I can try to explain…..”

“Upstairs. It’s bloody cold down here, and I always need to get myself around a good single malt after someone has saved my life.”

* * * * *

It had been a nice enough day, the sun was obscured by cloud, but it wasn’t heavy. There was plenty of light, but no blinding glare. Jack had dawdled at the lights, tightening straps on his backpack even after the change from red to green. He set off gently into the junction, and was halfway across when the car ran a red light and hit him squarely on his right side. He was lifted into the air and thrown twenty metres to crack against the side of a building. His crash helmet absorbed most of the blow, but there was still some force expended on the skull and brain beneath. Enough to mash bits of grey matter and destroy his ability to walk.

The offer had come along within a month, when the broken bones were beginning to heal. An experimental technique, the chip would go in the dead space and emulate the brain cells it replaced. It was great in theory, but it would be the first time it had been done to a human. He hadn’t thought to ask where the funding, and the technology, was coming from. Perhaps that had been a bad idea.

* * * * *

“So you think they were testing military technology on you?”

“I think the AI, Marty, is military. He keeps trying to tell me about your escapades off duty. Something about a woman in Munich called Helga.” Jack swirled the whisky in his glass and watched Charlie’s reaction. The fat man smiled.

“I didn’t know she was double until far too late. Such a waste. Lips like those would have made a fortune in California.”

The ghost sat next to Charlie on the leather sofa shook his head. “Is he suggesting that she should have become a prostitute?”

“Or a porn star.”


“I’m just talking to Marty.” Jack indicated the spot on the sofa. Charlie shrugged.

“It’s going to become awfully confusing if you keep chatting to someone who isn’t there, you know.”

“I’ll try to keep the mad sounding stuff in my head then.”

“Enough about your problems, as fascinating as they are. Let’s talk about me.”

Marty relaxed into the sofa, though the cushions didn’t yield. “This should be interesting.”

“Okay. Let’s talk about you. Who were the thugs back in the restaurant?”

“Lithuanian mafia.”

“Lithuanian?” Jack was about to comment that he couldn’t find Lithuania on a map when one appeared in his vision, with the country highlighted. The view zoomed out to give him geographical context. Jack nodded knowingly. “Not Russian?”

“My boy, every country has its criminal groups- cartels, families, whatever you want to call them. Just because everyone’s been talking about the Russians for the last few years doesn’t mean they’re the only nationality in the game. Two of the larger Lithuanian mobs want to set up franchises over here, on the tail of their new Europe status. I’ve been trying to play them off against each other. A bit of a Yojimbo situation I hope will lead to mutually assured destruction.”

“I knew he’d turn out a maverick.” Marty muttered.

“Not a very safe thing to be doing.” was Jack’s observation. “Which side was trying to kill you today?”

“The crowd from Vilnius. The least evil of the two, but unfortunately also the smartest. They wanted to negotiate a little less subtly for the merchandise I’m offering.”

“And the merchandise is?”

“I know where a particular body
is buried.”

“An important body?”

“Only because of what’s in its stomach. He was supposed to carry some papers out of the country, wrapped in condoms and swallowed the way drugs mules do it. But the diet disagreed with him and he started getting cramps in a safe house. The gangs have got their own doctors, after a fashion. They pay their fees, get them over here from the old country then call on them when they’re residents to patch up gun shots and such. His minders called one of them, one I’d turned. By the time the kid had got there our man was dead. His compadres decide the body shouldn’t be found. Not knowing what he’s carrying, they go and bury him in the corner of a field somewhere. Meanwhile, the kid had called me and I’d followed them. I dug him up and move him.

“Soon enough, the goons got sent back to cut the body open and retrieve the documents. Now they’re in the hole they dug. I let things stew for a while before I hinted at double crosses and the like, getting both sides wound up to shooting point. I guess I’m not as good as I used to be, because the Vilnius guy earlier seemed to be on to me.”

“What’s in the stomach?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t even opened him up yet- I’m a bit squeamish. As far as I’m concerned it’s pure McGuffin. The important thing is to get them fighting amongst themselves and give us openings to exploit in bringing them down.”

“Ask him about his back up.” Marty suggested.

Charlie went red at the question, “Well, strictly, I don’t have any. My job was to turn the boy. This is all just ad-libbed.”

“You’re off the lead?”

“I’ve been on my own for months. They don’t really know where I am, who I’m being, and they don’t really care so long as I keep giving them info. I just haven’t told them about this yet. It did only come up three days ago, it takes them that long to find the right form to fill out.”

“Oh fucking wonderful. I’m going to call someone and hopefully he can get me out of this mess. I don’t know what he can do for you. Perhaps you should phone home too.”

* * * * *

Ted’s phone was sat in a cradle in another room. He couldn’t use any of the really fancy functions, but he could still see who was calling him and answer if he wished. He put Jack’s call on the conference speakers. “What happened to you? We lost the tracking signal for a while.”

“I think another program decided to block it for security.”

“What do you mean another program.”

“I’ll try to explain later. Do you know where I am? Can you come and get me?”

“I turned on the secondary and tertiary location routines. I’ve got you narrowed down to within a few buildings. We’re going to send someone to pick you up if you can find a building name, room number, that sort of thing.”

Charlie gave his address when prompted. “Did you get that?”

“Yeah. People are on their way right now.” After Jack had hung up, Ted turned to the military guy, “Perhaps they should pick up your man as well. If he’s still there when they arrive.”

* * * * *

Charlie went to get more whisky. Jack laid his phone on the table. Then he pulled the gun from his waistband, where it was beginning to get uncomfortable. He released the magazine and took the bullet out of the chamber then studied the inside, double checking that it was empty.

“A Glock.” Marty noted, “Time was the Eastern Europeans, the undercover ones at least, all carried useless stamped steel things from a factory in the Motherland. They only fired every third time you pulled the trigger. Now they’ve all got these plastic guns that are smooth and well machined and reliable. Capitalism seems to have made some things more dangerous don’t you think.”

“For better or worse it was the winning ideology.” Jack looked down and realised he had stripped the pistol without even looking at it. The parts were arrayed before him on the table. “Communism was a horrible disaster, but that doesn’t mean capitalism is perfect.”

Charlie returned with more malt. Seeing the deconstructed weapon he slid the drawer in front of Jack open to reveal cleaning gear. Jack didn’t recognise any of the implements, but somehow he knew how to use them. Within minutes the gun was clean and its action smooth. He reloaded it and put it back on the table. “What do we do now?”

“We wait to be picked up. Then I’ll see if I can salvage anything of my little sting.”

Ten minutes later someone with a shotgun blew the lock off the door.

Fiction- The Chip: first draft, first chapter

We’ve been watching a few of the new season’s US tv shows here at Casa Spinneyhead, specifically Chuck and Reaper. I’m two episodes into The Bionic Woman as well, not far enough to get a good impression yet.

Chuck and Reaper are similar in several details- the hero is a dropout with a slacker best friend working in a big box retailer with no real future until something extraordinary- the Devil or the CIA- comes along to shake their lives up. They’re both entertaining diversions if not groundbreaking television.

All of which is to say that The Chip, whatever I end up calling it, is similar to these series in some respects. It falls somewhere between the light touch of Chuck and the darker spy tales of Spooks. The premise may feel a little like Chuck, but it’s the latest iteration of an idea I’ve been working on for a few years. The exact nature of what’s in Jack’s head, and how it got there, will be revealed if I write more.

The Chip

“Jack, where are you?”

“I…… Don’t know.”

Jack studied the street from his pavement table. A shopping street, though not a major one. As well as the cafe he was patronising he could see bars, restaurants and art shops. A nice neighbourhood, even if he didn’t recognise it. He fought down the panic, but still felt the chill crawl down from his stomach and drag his balls up into his body.

“Ted. I haven’t a clue where I am. I don’t recognise the street. I’m having a….. latte, I think, at a pavement cafe.”

“How did you get there?”

“That’s rhetorical, right? You can’t tap into me and tell me can you?”

“You’re on low power and advanced tracking is off. All I can tell you is you’re out of range.”

“Great. So should I do cheesy sci-fi cliché fifty four and stumble up to the most attractive local demanding she tell me where I am, what year it is and who’s Prime Minister.”

“You’ve forgotten?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Okay. I have a solution. Is bluetooth on on your phone?”

“I don’t know.”

“When I hang up turn it on and wait for a message.”

Jack laid the phone on the table, glancing at it occasionally, waiting for something to happen. In the mean time he opened his wallet and checked its contents. Shrapnel, notes, receipts, cards. And a railway ticket. Jack thought he knew where he was now.

The phone’s message tone went off. Jack cut off Dixie before the Duke boys broke in with a “Yeehaa!” and read the text.

‘Run the attachment.’ it said, ‘You may lose a little time.’ it added in warning. That didn’t make much sense. Jack pressed the button.

* * * * *

“…you okay?”

She snapped into focus in front of Jack, where there had been nothing before he had pressed the button. Short black hair, square face, small nose and brown eyes Big brown eyes that were studying him, looking for clues to his state.

“Uhhh.” he looked around. Other things had moved, there was a group two tables over that hadn’t been there before. The three women looked at Jack and his new companion, concern and possibly amusement on their faces. “Yeah. I think so.”

“You weren’t moving. We thought you were having a petit mal or something.” She nodded to the three women.

“No. No. I just…… space out sometimes.” It was the best he could think of. He pointed at a big black Mercedes across the road. “How long’s that car been there.” Some part of his brain, he could guess which, was spinning together connections, forming a pattern he couldn’t yet discern. It had happened a few times in the weeks since the operation. Sooner or later it might make sense. Sooner if he teased at it.

The woman was confused. She glanced at the Mercedes, thought about it. “A couple of minutes. You’re waiting for him? He went in the restaurant.”

“No. I don’t think I’m waiting for him.” On cue a big black BMW SUV came along the opposite side of the road. It pulled across and stopped with a screech directly across from the Mercedes. Three men got out, leaving the driver waiting with the engine running. “I think I’m waiting for them.” The phone rang, Jack snapped it up and answered it. “Ted I’m in Manchester. I’m sure you know where by now. I think there’s about to be a red on red situation.” He lowered the phone, missing Ted’s reply, and said to the woman, “I don’t even know what a red on red situation is.”

Jack stood slowly. The woman was trying to work out her escape route from this madman. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”


“Okay Susanne. Tell your friends to get up and walk away really quickly. Those guys had guns and I think they mean to use them.” Jack raised the phone to his ear again, “Sorry, I missed all of that.”

“How do you know about red on red?” Ted had been cut off in mid info dump and tossed back to the start of his reply.

“How do you? And what is it?”

“Criminal on criminal violence. It would have been black on black, but y’know.”

“There are some things you need to tell me when I get back.” The SUV driver rolled down his window and looked around. The mirrored shades didn’t give much away, but he didn’t seem bothered by anything he saw. “Right now I’ve a problem to solve.” Jack didn’t turn the phone off, but dropped it into his shirt pocket. “Susanne. Your friends.”


But Jack was already off, strolling toward the BMW. The driver didn’t pay him much attention. Anyone leaving the cafe would have to walk past the car on the way, so Jack was able to get within arm’s length to make his move. His flat hand jabbed out, catching the driver just below the ear. The driver’s head slumped forward. Jack opened the door and checked for a pulse. “Did you just kill him?” a voice squeaked behind him.

“No, he’s fine. Susanne, your friends.”

“Are probably calling the Police.”

Jack reached inside the driver’s jacket and pulled out a pistol. He didn’t flash it around, but Susanne saw it. “Good. Now get them to somewhere safe. And anyone else in the cafe.” He checked there was a bullet in the chamber, flicked the safety on and stuck the gun into the waistband of his trousers.

“What are you going to do?”

“Save some lives, I hope.”


“Probably because of the bloody chip in my head.”

* * * * *

“Ted. You are going to have to explain to us how this came to happen.”

“I would if I could. But I think this is beyond the scope of my programme. You may have to provide me with more information.”

They were in what Theodore Rosinski called the ‘X Files meeting room’. Buried under some nondescript London building it boasted sound and electromagnetic shielding and any number of other security measures. It was dark, apart from thin shafts of light cast down onto the seats at the large oval table and the grey ambience of three large video screens awaiting signal. There were four others in the room with him, across the big table at its narrowest point. All were in partial or complete shadow- even though he’d had plenty of time to study their faces on the walk down the twisting fluorescent lit corridors earlier.

“The subject was not ready to go out in public.”

“That’s true. Jack has only been able to walk again for three weeks. He shouldn’t be able to make it as far as the gift shop, let alone make it all the way to another city and do what he did.”

* * * * *

Jack didn’t go straight across the road. He walked a short distance along before crossing then headed back. There was a shadow in the restaurant’s doorway. Someone to stop random members
of the public walking in and asking, “Hey, is this the place with the Elvis impersonator?”

The large man blocking the door turned and stared down at the smiling stranger who had just swung the door open. “No. Private party.”

“Of course it is. I’m on the guest list.” Beyond the big man there were seven people in the restaurant- the other two from the BMW, one of them guarding three staff, the other sat at a table with a fat man in an expensive suit. Apart from the fat man they had all turned to look at Jack. The fat man was studying the bottle of wine in the centre of his table.

The doorman was going for a gun. Jack struck the back of his hand, lightly, almost a tap, and it clenched. A second blow to the neck and the doorman collapsed. Jack drew his gun but couldn’t decide which of the two remaining thugs to target.
The fat man snatched the wine bottle and felled the man across the table from him. Satisfied he had done enough, he topped his glass up from the bottle and returned to eating his meal. Jack shifted his aim to the remaining gunman, who had grabbed one of the staff and forced her in front of him. He was saying something Jack couldn’t understand. But with his pistol pointing at the sobbing waitress’s head the intent was obvious. They had a stand off.

Jack fired a single shot.

* * * * *

The screens came to life, and lit all the people around the table a sickly gunmetal grey. They were looking at the firing mechanism of a semi-automatic pistol. A bullet had hit it, bent the hammer out of shape and locked the slide on its rails so the gun could neither fire nor reload. “That was a lucky shot.” the man to Ted’s left said.

“That was deliberate.” the man on his right replied. “I’ve heard it discussed, but I never thought it could be done.”

“Jack has never fired a gun in his life.” Ted protested.

“No, but maybe the chip has.” The speaker was the fifth man in the room. Ted had never seen him before today and this was his first contribution to the discussion. He had a distracted air that Ted recognised from himself, but was far better turned out. It wasn’t the expensive wardrobe of a minted new media success, just someone who knew, or had been taught, how to turn himself out neatly. Ted guessed a geek with military background. “The chip’s have the ability to evolve sections of their code, correct?” the stranger asked.

“Yes. They learnt how to mimic the sections of the brain they were replacing. It was faster than coding and recoding ourselves, and a lot more efficient.”

“You planned for a lot of redundancy? There’s plenty of empty space to write to.”

“A lot more than we thought. The brain codes shit with some major efficiency.”

“Yes. I think Jack’s brain is processing an expert system AI that’s gone missing from an Army server.”

* * * * *

The fat man sipped at his wine. “You should kill him, you know.”

“No dead bodies. The Police would be more interested in that.”

The gunman looked at his wrecked gun, then at Jack, then the fat man. Jack couldn’t tell whether he understood what had just been said, but he dropped the gun and let go of the waitress. She staggered a few steps then turned and slapped the gun man. When he didn’t react she kicked him solidly in the groin. As he collapsed she carried on kicking and punching him, sobbing all the time. Eventually a waiter pulled her away.

“Yes. Perhaps you’re right.” Jack glanced at the fat man, who was polishing off his meal and showed no sign of having spoken. “You know that he’s an agent don’t you?” the voice said. Jack turned to look back through the door. He could see through the man standing at the threshold. “I’d have been here earlier, but I didn’t want to distract you while you were busy.”

The fat man wiped his mouth on a serviette and pulled a large roll of cash from his jacket. He counted off a few bills and laid them on the table. Then he looked around the room and counted off several more. “Come on then. We should be on our way.” He squeezed out of his seat and walked past Jack, and through the silhouette at the door.

“You should go with Charlie. I’m sure he’ll explain it all on the way.” the ghost advised. “Oh, and put the gun away. Don’t want to arouse suspicion, do you.”

Jack checked the safety on his gun, then pushed it into the waistband of his trousers and followed the fat man. The ghost disappeared before Jack could walk through him. The fat man opened the Mercedes’ rear door for Jack. “Get in, get in. We need to be a long way away before the Police arrive.”

“Okay, let’s get out of here.” the fat man said as he sat down. Jack checked the rear view mirror. The ghost was sitting on the back seat, staring out at the street. As they pulled off Jack glanced back at the table he had left only a few minutes earlier. Standing in front of it was Susanne, watching them speed away.

* * * * *

“It’s been learning by running scenarios dreamt up by the best minds we could gather, but at its heart it’s based upon one of our finest operatives. We seeded the AI with everything we could find by and about Marty Roberts.”

“No rank?” the man to Ted’s left asked.

“Marty Roberts sort of transcended rank structure. The instructors just wanted to create the ultimate tutor for recruits.”

“What happened?” Ted asked.

“Marty escaped. The AI treated network security as another challenge and sneaked a copy of itself out. We spent a long time checking network traffic, but a lot of it ended up trickling into your servers. We reckon it’s all in Jack’s head now after saving itself to the redundant space on his chip and in his grey matter.”

“What’s it going to do?”

“Tell him how to react to dangerous situations, such as the one in Manchester. Try to re-establish bonds with Marty’s contacts. The fat man in the restaurant worked with Roberts in the ’70s, just before he retired. I don’t know how the AI knew he’d be there when he was, but it got Jack there in time to rescue Charlie.”

“So just call in this Charlie then.” a voice from across the table recommended.

“Not so easy. Charlie’s….. Well, he’s not exactly rogue, but he’s definitely loose at the moment. He has plans for what to do if his life is threatened, and no part of those plans involve getting in touch with Army intelligence.”

“So my patient is at large with one of the greatest medical advances for years in his head, getting advice from a computer that thinks it’s James Bond and in the company of a fat spy who is being hunted by mafiosi?”

“That about covers it.”

“Well this is going to be an interesting weekend.”