Author: John McLaughlin

“Will it hurt?”

“No, just feels a bit weird. Like your veins have turned to ice.”

The tech switches on the IV and they hear the gentle hum of the pump kick in. She’s correct; a deathly cold is already gripping his extremities. Hayden lays back in the foam recliner and shuts his eyes.

“I’ve heard the treatment is quick.”

The woman smiles as she tidies up the medical waste. “Yes, our new CRISPR process is fast-acting. Your DNA should be completely scrubbed by the end of today’s session.”

That was good.

Hayden knew he had made mistakes in his career. Thankfully he was a careful man, so those errors could be counted on one hand. For instance, there was the guy in Vienna–a rush job, to be sure; too many bone fragments. And another in Caracas. All told, only a few, but still–one misstep could be one too many in his line of work.

The woman pulls a clipboard from inside her coat. “Standard consent form,” his one open eye follows her finger to the bottom of the page, “please sign here.”

Hayden scans the summary section. “Somatic DNA Spoofing: Hypervariable regions are randomized in every cell of the body; prevents the possibility of forensic DNA tracing.” He dashes off his signature and the woman tucks away the form.

She gives a warm smile. “How do you feel, Mr. Bunting?”

The Bunting identity had been quite expensive, but he had been more than willing to pay. Oscar Hayden would die for good, today in this room–thanks to the treatment.

He gave a weak grin. “Fine, I guess.” He imagined the tiny synthetic droplets being buoyed along by his bloodstream, their cargo of modified RNA now latching onto his cells and deleting his trace.

“Please do let me know if you need anything. At Anonymous, Inc., client comfort is our top priority.” Yes, yes, that’s fine; he shoos her away and she takes a corner seat from which to observe his vitals. Though she does have a lovely body, yes indeed. If only I were 20 years younger, I’d…


“Mr. Bunting.”

A hand on his shoulder. “Mr. Bunting, wake up.”

His eyes creak open. “Oh…how long’s it been?” He pulls himself upright.

“About five hours. The treatment is complete.” And before he can react, she’s swooped down with an injection into his right shoulder.

“Oof! What was that?” he asks, rubbing the site.

“Immune booster: vitamins and interferon. To speed the recovery,” she taps into her palm display, “Excellent news, Mr. Bunting. 99.98% penetration! You are officially a ghost.”

“Glad to hear it.” He smacks his lips, his mouth tastes like rubber. “So I’m ready to go?”

Her back is turned while she fidgets with a set of gloves at the countertop. “Take a few minutes, Hayden. The procedure can be rough on a man your age.”

“Excuse me?” Yes, his limbs do feel like concrete at the moment. Perhaps a rest would do.

“As usual, your instincts are spot on. Spoofing was the correct play; you were just a bit too slow this time.” She packs away the last of the equipment. “So now I’m cleaning up after you, instead of the other way around.” A crooked grin: “Boethius sends his regards.”

She hoists him over her shoulder like a limp sack of laundry. Damn, she’s strong.

“Ya know, if I was 20 years younger…”

“Shh, Hayden. Don’t wear yourself out. We’ve picked a nice spot for you: a meadow, with patches of flowers all around.”

She exits the clinic, carrying a man without a trace.