Authors: Charles Stross
THE APOCALYPSE CODEX
Ace Books by Charles Stross
THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES
THE JENNIFER MORGUE
THE FULLER MEMORANDUM
THE APOCALYPSE CODEX
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Copyright © 2012 by Charles Stross.
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: July 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The apocalypse codex / Charles Stross. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (A laundry files novel)
1. Howard, Bob (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Evangelists—Fiction. 3. Geeks (Computer enthusiasts)—Fiction. 4. Intelligence service—Great Britain—Fiction.
5. Demonology—Fiction. I. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
FOR TERESA NIELSEN HAYDEN
As usual, I’d like to thank my regular test readers for their sterling work in kicking the tires. In addition, I’d like to thank my agent Caitlin Blasdell and her assistant, Hannah Bowman; TNH (the best editor I never had); and Marty Halpern (who has gone above and beyond the call of duty for any copy editor in his work on the Laundry Files).
In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his
level of incompetence.
—Dr. Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle
Table of Contents
THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER: IT’S BEEN TEN MONTHS, AND I
only wake up screaming about once a week now. The physiotherapy is working and my right arm has regained eighty percent of its strength. The surviving members of the Wandsworth Cell of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh have been arrested and detained indefinitely at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, in accordance with the secret supplementary regulations in Appendix Six of the Terrorism Act (2003); and every day, in every way, my life is getting better and better.
(The happy pills help, too.)
Please ignore the nervous tic; it’s an unavoidable side effect of my profession. The name’s Howard, Bob Howard: I’m a hacker turned demonologist, and I work for the Laundry, the secret agency tasked with protecting Her Majesty’s Realm from the scum of the multiverse. The nightmares, scars, and post-traumatic flashbacks are the fault of the bad guys, some of whom
work (or rather, worked) for the Laundry—which fact is currently causing a shit-storm of epic proportions to rage through the corridors of government.
Ten months ago, while seconded to the BLOODY BARON committee, I stumbled across evidence of a leak inside the Laundry. That sort of thing is supposedly impossible (our oath of office supposedly binds us to service on peril of our soul) but, nevertheless, Angleton—whose assistant I am, and who is not entirely human—set a trap for the mole, with yours truly as the tethered goat.
Things got a little out of hand, and before the dust settled the Black Brotherhood attempted to raise and bind an ancient evil called the Eater of Souls, using a ritual that required a human body for it to possess. (Guess who they had in mind for the starring role?) Luckily for me they hadn’t quite worked out that the Eater of Souls already
incarnate in a body—Angleton’s—but before the Seventh Cavalry arrived I discovered the hard way that Nietzsche was right: if you stare into the Abyss for too long
, and likely finds you crunchy with ketchup and a little relish on the side. Bad dreams ensued all around, and it left me with a disquieting new talent that I’ve been doing my best to avoid thinking about too hard.
Well, they arrested Iris and her surviving minions and sent them to a camp in the Lake District where it rains sideways five days out of four, all technologies invented after 1933 are forbidden, and if you walk too far beyond the perimeter fence you find yourself walking back towards it. I imagine that’s where they live to this day, when they’re not answering questions in a room where the patterned carpet makes your eyes burn if you stare at it for too long, and your tongue writhes like a tapeworm in your mouth if you try to stay silent.
As for me, I got to go home four months ago. I finished writing up my confidential report, and the nightmares have mostly stopped: I only dream about the fence of living corpses around the step pyramid on the dead plateau a couple of times a week now, and the hole in my right arm has mostly healed. So I’m all right, at least on paper.
A month ago, I went back to work. I’m on light duty for the time being, but I’m sure that’ll change once management decides to feed me back into the meat grinder.
BEFORE I CONTINUE, I’VE GOT A CONFESSION TO MAKE.
A couple of years ago, Angleton told me to start writing my memoirs. Which should have struck me as really fishy—why on earth should a junior civil servant in an occult intelligence agency be required to
write a memoir
? (Especially as ninety percent of the stuff therein is classified up to the eyeballs and protected by wards that will make steam boil out of your ears if you try to read it without the right security clearance.) But I’m older and more cynical these days, and I understand the logic behind it.