THE NEWS is all over the screens. I've seen her face on the side of a building. She looks just like a movie star.

There are black helicopters high in the sky over the funeral parade, their undersides decorated with company logos.

I've got this mah-jong tile I picked up at the zoo. The green dragon ideogram is floating over the surface of the playing piece, a holographic projection. This is how Cage always talks to me, through secret devices, transmissions, voices in the head.

It reminds me of my time at the Academy, my final encoding day. I was so proud. I killed more electronic ghosts than any other student. Doctor Cage picked me out from all the young disciples. It was him put a gun in my hand.

'I will be your control from now on, Aura,' he said.

Cage has a soft way of talking and whenever he speaks to me the air smells of jasmines. It was him dressed me in silk.

Now, I'm sitting alone in the Green Dragon Hotel.

There are purple velveteen curtains at the window and I have closed them on the night. I don't want to see that face on the building anymore. The princess taunts me. Ever since her death, a week ago, Cage has been obsessed with finding the stolen elixir. I must do my best in this task.

Every channel on the television is filled with images of Diana, her life, her times, her tragic love affairs. Even the pornographic channel on cable is showing live coverage of the body's procession through the streets. Only a documentary, on pay-per-view, offers any kind of distraction; old, black and white footage of a naked man, bound in chains, manacles, leg-irons.

My bed is littered with cartons of rice, devilled chicken and crumpled aluminium trays. The scorpion sits in the cage, working its mechanical tail. Beads of poison stain the tissue-lined nest. I hope Cage will be pleased; I have found the first of them. There are six more out there, one of them more precious than all the others put together.

I followed the instructions on the mah-jong tile to get here.

There was an open market I had to get through. It was crazy. Everybody looked suspicious. Even the people setting up the stalls; they had come in from the shanty towns hoping to sell cheap copies of transistor radios, video cassettes, Swiss army knives, Parker pens. A slick-haired man was selling bootleg images, working the crowds that lined the funeral route.

'Get your Charisma here!' he was shouting. 'Become somebody!' And there were many takers; corrupted, barely recognisable versions of Oscar Wilde, David Bowie and Diana herself walked the streets, shrouded by this brief promise of celebrity.

They have opened the glands of animals and extracted the perfumes directly.

What the fuck do they know?

Private security operatives spoke into their hands and their hands answered them back and they seemed to point me out. Has my cover been blown? A helicopter followed high above, my every move caught on camera. Who can I trust anymore? I had to run.

Where is Cage's latest message?

The television whispers to me. They have sealed the naked man in an iron coffin. The box is lowered into the river, down through a hole cracked in the ice. How will he ever escape?

I have sealed the tail of the scorpion, being careful not to become infected.
ÖThis programme is brought to you courtesy of Haversham's Department Store, for the more discerning bon vivantÖ

The scent of jasmines comes from the screen.

It's time to put on my makeup. I have to be ready.

My next assignment.



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