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"The Cleanup Procedure" (Novel Excerpt)

Morrison unfolded a pair of black cloth sacks from a belt pouch and held them out. “Put these on.” He handed one to each of us, then retrieved a long-sleeved raincoat from my closet and handed it to Jaid to wear over the clothes she had borrowed from my wardrobe. At the goading of her minders, Jaid shrugged on the coat, whose long sleeves, cut for my own frame, completely hid her gray-skinned hands. With a shrug, I put the black bag over my head. Any information the public gleaned from our arrest was Morrison’s responsibility now. We were led awkwardly down the back stairwell of the building and herded into a large van which was parked in front of the exit. I could hear the murmur of a few onlookers, probably being held back by fake crime scene tape and other members of the response unit. As soon as we were aboard, our guards settled in around us. “Can we remove the head-sacks?” Jaid tried unsuccessfully to sound patient. “They’ll have a container truck nearby. We can take off the sacks once we’re all locked in a windowless metal box together.” Since I knew the procedure, it made no difference whether they answered, or I did. “Mr. Morrison, correct me if I’m wrong.” “Targets don’t need to know the procedure.” Morrison was apparently in the front seat of the vehicle. “But I already do. You’re okay with all of this? You heard what Evan was going on about. Yanking keys is messy stuff at the best of times.” “Above my pay grade, Owens. The people who call the shots in the Network know what they’re doing.” “I am one of those people. Or I was, until today. Doesn’t that worry you?” “You know the nonsense that the higher-ups have to go through to call us in.” Morrison didn’t sound concerned. “If they all came together on this, then you had it coming, and the evidence they know what they're doing is sitting right next to you. No offense, Ms. Jaid, but your friend here broke half the rules in the book when he brought you here, and he knows it. Far as I can tell you didn’t do anything wrong. But you’re not supposed to be here, and you Soubrans do have a pretty terrible track record.” “Morrison, you are an honorable warrior for your world. Every attempt not to spill your blood needlessly will be made, but your leaders have brought on themselves what is coming.” I winced behind my sack, but the response team’s leader only laughed. “Right. That’s positive thinking.” (Art by Phelan A. Davion. Excerpt from my "Gates of Achera" manuscript, part 4 of 8. This excerpt happens only a couple hundred words after the "Change of Plans" excerpt I posted recently.)

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