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“Then look again!” Fontaine declared.

The director watched in dismay as the stilted image of the agents searched the two limp bodies in the van for a list of random numbers and letters.

Jabba was pale. “Oh my God, they can’t find it. We’re dead!”

“Losing FTP filters!” a voice yelled. “Third shield’s exposed!” There was a new flurry of activity.

On the front screen, the agent with the buzz cut held out his arms in defeat. “Sir, the pass‑key isn’t here. We’ve searched both men. Pockets. Clothing. Wallets. No sign at all. Hulohot was wearing a Monocle computer, and we’ve checked that too. It doesn’t look like he ever transmitted anything remotely resembling random characters‑only a list of kills.”

“Dammit!” Fontaine seethed, suddenly losing his cool. “It’s got to be there! Keep looking!”

Jabba had apparently seen enough‑Fontaine had gambled and lost. Jabba took over. The huge Sys‑Sec descended from his pulpit like a storm off a mountain. He swept through his army of programmers calling out commands. “Access auxiliary kills! Start shutting it down! Do it now!”

“We’ll never make it!” Soshi yelled. “We need a half hour! By the time we shut down, it will be too late!”

Jabba opened his mouth to reply, but he was cut short by a scream of agony from the back of the room.

Everyone turned. Like an apparition, Susan Fletcher rose from her crouched position in the rear of the chamber. Her face was white, her eyes transfixed on the freeze‑frame of David Becker, motionless and bloody, propped up on the floor of the van.

“You killed him!” she screamed. “You killed him!” She stumbled toward the image and reached out. “David . . .”

Everyone looked up in confusion. Susan advanced, still calling, her eyes never leaving the projection of David’s body. “David.” She gasped, staggering forward. “Oh, David . . . how could they—”

Fontaine seemed lost. “You know this man?”

Susan swayed unsteadily as she passed the podium. She stopped a few feet in front of the enormous projection and stared up, bewildered and numb, calling over and over to the man she loved.