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His real name is Ethan, but his code name is Scam:
Omnisciently Manipulative Voice
Scam isn’t very good at speaking for himself, because he’s always had the voice to speak for him. He just opens his mouth, and it starts talking, saying whatever it needs to get Scam what he wants.
Alas, it doesn’t think very far ahead.
Here’s a passage from Zeroes:
The guy walked with a steady purpose. He had an army-green duffel bag over one shoulder. Ethan let himself drift into his way until the bag slapped against him.
”Hey, watch it!” he said in his own voice.
The guy spun to face him. He was a few inches shorter than Ethan, but twice as big across the shoulders. And he had no neck. The sort of guy who could crush you with an annoyed glare. His right hand dropped into a jacket pocket, like he was ready to pull a knife.
”Whoa.” Ethan backed away. “My mistake. Sorry about that.”
The guy scanned Ethan. His eyes were piercing, way too blue. Almost electric. But a moment later he smiled, eased his hand out of his pocket and gripped Ethan’s shoulder. It was like being held up by a wall.
”Sorry, man,” the guy said. His voice was calm and low. “Did I hit you?”
”No problem. You missed, actually,” Ethan sputtered, fear beating in his chest. All he wanted was to be on the same side as this guy in his next fight. He let the voice take over. “Taylor sent me over to help you out.”
That was one of the voice’s specialties. Names.
The big guy paused, looking him up and down. Not smiling anymore.
”Taylor sent you?” An edge of disbelief in the low rumble of his voice. “How’s a squirt like you gonna help?”
Ethan hated when this happened. The voice would get him into situations that only the voice could get him out of. Then he was stuck, listening and waiting. Letting it talk.
”Taylor said you were bad off last night. Wasn’t sure you’d remember the way to his house.” The voice sounded like it was making a joke, so Ethan tried to smile.
The guy stared at him another moment, then laughed. Abruptly, like that was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. “What a dickhead. I worked off that hangover in the gym this morning. How do you know Taylor?”
”My sister’s in his old army unit,” Ethan heard himself say, and cringed.
Thing was, his sister really was in the army. Stuff could go really wrong when the voice told the truth. What if the guy asked for his sister’s name? What would the voice say then?
But the guy relaxed, like he understood everything now. “So you’re family. Taylor wants you to join the team.”
Ethan nodded, because it seemed like the right thing to do. “He said I should learn from the best.” The voice twisted his throat, like it was imitating someone. “‘Nobody better than the Craig.'”
A low thunder of laughter spilled out of The Craig, who reached over and took Ethan’s shoulder again. The weight of his hand almost buckled Ethan’s knees.
”He tell you to say that? What a dickhead.” He shoved Ethan, sending him stumbling a few steps backward. “Come on. Car’s this way.”
The Craig headed for a side street. Ethan took a breath and followed.
Hell, maybe he could still get a ride home out of this.
Scam’s “voiceprint” background was created with a separate layer of paper cut-outs. Then it was flattened for scanning using this hi-tech process:
Click here for more about Zeroes. It’s out in Australia and the UK, and comes out Tuesday, Sep 29 in the US.
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