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Our friend uses the train a lot, a commuter like myself. Note: look for big, consistent winners at the races - stock markets maybe. three IRA attacks, one faulty ship – which sank unfortunately, one spy escaping the safe house a day early, a rail crash averted – but disputed, an aircraft with a faulty fuel line – gratefully found in time, Reagan's win at the polls, an attempt on our Ambassador in Angola – averted, the Eurovision Song Contest winner – just to make a point, the Iran-Contra affair... got the idea I rang a good friend in the London CIA section, the researcher I'm supposed to co-operate with on the psychology of the Russian leadership -' 'Yes, yes, ' the P. And talk about city traders, I was one for a whole six months before starting to work for Jimmy Silo. Actually, it was how he recruited me, and not for the first time. I took a breath, a quick glance at the wall and the photographs of my kids and ex-wife. and my friend.' I caught my own image in the desk mirror; seventy years old going on twenty-five. ' 'Something along those lines.' This was now a different ball game, a very different ball game. In fact, just about the only decent friend I had ever had. I could be a dangerous alien for all you know, ' he toyed. Fair to say we got the run of the place after that.

Hell, I may have even sat opposite him, and I'm sure by the tone that it is a him. ' A thought surfaced, Jack's features hardening quickly. Donohue, fetch him as well.' When the officers had assembled in Cabinet Office Briefing Room 'A', COBRA, the Prime Minister stepped purposefully in and sat quickly, placing down her handbag. 'Kids', I repeated in my mind, they were now parents themselves. At least I appeared twenty-five on the surface, thanks to the genetically modified stem cells floating about my system, hunting earnestly for something to repair and rejuvenate. When I had come up in the lift I figured he was some sort of clairvoyant, and that he used his gift to trade the markets. Finally, Jimmy said, 'Of course, if you expose me ... And I certainly could not help your mum and others.' He opened two cans and poured me a lager, which I needed. A teenage girl with a lopsided hat and cute smile took me to one side and sat me down against a wall, re-appearing with a bottle of milk and a bundle of blankets.

His boss always read the letters first, just to make a point, but never gleaned anything of use outside of the obvious facts detailed. She cut through the chatter with, 'You have short-cut ... 'Prime Minister, we know that Magestic is probably London based, or a commuter along the M4 motorway. so if the Americans have had letters, they would, most likely, be posted to the US Ambassador here ... The number of spreadsheets I accidentally sent my mum from forty thousand feet over the Atlantic. I'm immune to all diseases known to man - and a few they haven't discovered yet. 'Kicks off in about seventeen years time, give or take.' He raised a finger. Further on we spotted Cheetahs, Zebras in the distance, before pulling into what looked like a farm.

Like the other so-called 'experts', Jack considered, his boss was stuck in the detail, not the topics or the style. 'My contact went apoplectic at the mention of the word, demanded to know what I knew.' Numerous whispered conversations broke out, the P. When I first started work in the city of London, mobile phones were called phones and were the size of a house brick, a thousand pounds to buy; only city brokers with pink shirts and briefcases lugged them around. I heal quickly, I don't sleep much, I eat a lot, but I can't jump tall buildings in single bounds and I most certainly do not wear my pants outside my trousers.' 'Wa ... And there started one of the great loves of my life.

Straight to the point, The Prime Minister said, 'This gentleman –' motioning toward Jack. ' She waited as concerned looks swept around the assembled faces. As a teenager I had tried to tame it, around the time I had tried in earnest to stop my mum from buying me shirts with wide collars, and cuffs that took ages to iron. When Jimmy returned, the family avoided eye contact for five minutes.

'Up to now we have assumed that this was just about us.' Jack delicately raised a finger. The taming had not worked, neither the hair nor my mum. It was cut every six weeks and we agreed to ignore each other and do our own thing. Six foot four, built like Darth Vader's big brother and smart with it, we were getting on well. As we sat at their kitchen table, the sun going down, a variety of animals wandered in.

We were up at 6am, on the tube at 6.30am, two changes, into the office for 7.45am, pink Financial Times under arms and looking quite the part in our smart suits. And if you had this ability, and you were warning people and saving lives, then you'd be ... That shocked the man even more, Jimmy taking off his ripped shirt and adding to their fixed gaze. It reminded me of my own student days in Kingston Polytechnic. Jimmy asked him, 'How much do you spend each year on exchanges to Russia and China? 'About five grand, I think.' 'And how many people does that allow to travel? My address is in the envelope, and I want a list of names and places they visited. I had not been in the First Class section of a train before and sat looking the place over. I was just, you know, checking it out.' We squeezed past people in the queue at the buffet car and grabbed two seats on a table of four, suit jackets off and neatly folded, placed overhead. 'If you look left, ' Jimmy said without raising his head. Parents now live off to the right.' I scanned what detail I could, the track raised to the height of the tops of the terraced houses. ' 'Couple of miles to the Severn Estuary, off to the left.' I clocked the town centre, what I could see, before we ground to a squeaky halt at the station. The first impression of any place is often from a train carriage. Why the fuck didn't the council clean up those houses facing the track? Still, London was just as bad; rich people did not live in houses overlooking the train tracks. The hospital was a giant white edifice, almost a single block that had been unimaginatively designed by the same guy who commissioned the rest of the high rises in 1960s Britain. We stopped next to a park, Jimmy checking his watch. 'Follow us, then.' Jimmy led us to a building next to the park, looking as if it had been designed after a trip to Japan and some Saki downed. He opened the envelope to a cheque for quarter of a million pounds. 'Call out the name, the stage name and the name of the song.' He picked up a tape as I grabbed several. Back in the box.' 'Susan Chasilton, a.k.a Sugar Sweety, Blow my mind.' 'Nope.' An hour later we had selected just three artists from three big boxes.

We hadn't yet opted for pink shirts, and I definitely couldn't afford a mobile phone. Back at the lodge we nagged the staff to join us at the veranda bar and Jimmy bought everyone way too many drinks, soon a round of German songs filling the night air, some quite rude, followed by the black driver singing a local lament about a boy who lost his goat. It's two hundred K.' I took in the layout, that which I could see. ' 'Long old way, almost half a mile in both directions. My contact details are on the proposal.' Oliver followed us up, Jimmy shaking his hand. Irate, Jimmy explained, 'I know every band that's going to be a success, dumb fuck.' 'Oh ... 'Fucking Batman never had this much trouble with Robin.' Would you kill Hitler as a child? Jimmy knocked and entered, the two of us stepping into a cramped and untidy office. ' I asked a bored looking middle-aged woman, Jimmy shooting me a look. ' Jimmy asked, the rest of the young staff now attentive to the two stuffed suits in their midst. twenty five.' I made that two hundred quid a throw. If I'm satisfied with your progress I'll double the amount next year.' Timms read the cheque with an expression, as if it might be a fake. 'I went to Kingston Polytechnic myself.' 'Errrr, ' she let out with a pulled face. 'Should have told her you were a millionaire, might have worked better. 'We're not in First Class, ' Jimmy pointed out as he stood waiting. Jimmy started on his newspaper as we pulled out, the train almost empty. 'Going the wrong way, ' Jimmy quietly stated without taking his gaze off his paper. Jimmy looked up, issuing a sigh after studying the platform, alone with his own thoughts. After paying the cabbie Jimmy approached a photographer. This is where our taxes went, I considered as we stepped down a flight of steps and into a reception area. Poor bugger had to hold a finger to the digits to work them out. 'Take that lot down to the garage, ask the doorman to bin it all and slip him a few quid.' We put the tapes that we had selected - that Jimmy knew would be hits - into a big envelope and couriered them back to Pineapple. 'Two will be big, one will be a one hit wonder, like a lot of artists.

Jack read the brief letter over and over, trying hard to read between the lines. We'd be locked up, tortured for information, dissected probably. But for now we have to be careful.' 'So, your plan –' 'Is to make some money, build up contacts and friends, build up credibility with the tip-off letters and, when the time is right, go public.' 'What? 'Years from now you'll be very rich, and have your face all over the TV and papers, so start thinking like a celeb' in the making. I need to educate you in the ways of the world.' It sounded good. ' 'It won't, dumb fuck –' 'Because you know which ones crash, ' I said, feeling silly. The genetically modified stems basically reverted me to a full adult at the youngest age, around twenty, which was what I needed for my parents to accept me as me. is very secret, so we'll discuss it at some point later. Eventually I'll grow old and die if I don't get another injection ... There's no one else I can trust with what you now know, and what you're going to know.' I felt honoured, then immediately concerned. 'David Attenborough, eat your bleeding heart out, ' I said. 'Great man.' And for the next four hours we sat there.

The letter, a tip-off about an upcoming IRA terror attack, now had the addition of TOP SECRET stamped onto it in blood red ink. depends on it.' 'Bloody hell, ' I let out before setting about my lager. After about eighteen-years-old the production of stems slows down - enough to keep us alive and to heal wounds - but not enough to keep us looking youthful forever. When I was an old guy I was strapped to a bed and intravenously injected with stems for ten weeks, stems taken from the wombs and umbilical cords of ten ladies I made pregnant for that very procedure. 'Reading material.' He took out each book in turn and made a pile on the floor that grew to a height of three feet: history of the world, UK history, first aid, advanced first aid, Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support, expedition first aid, mountain rescue, UK politics, The Global Economy, principles of flight, piloting helicopters... 'You know, in years to come they'll make three prequels to Star Wars.' 'What the fuck's a prequel? With a deadly serious expression he answered, 'My life.' After a reflective beer I asked, 'Well ... ' 'Now you carry on trading the markets, you study, you travel ... I'll give you some money so that you can trade your own account, make you eventually look rich on your own, so you appear to be my business partner and not an employee.' 'R ... Next day in the papers it would say you hate your mum.' 'Little bastards. ' Jimmy explained, 'In the years ahead the tabloids will get more aggressive than they are now; they'll print anything, till some privacy laws start to take effect after 2009. On the veranda of a well-stocked bar we sat, cold beers placed down, and looked out across pure African countryside; a gentle slope down to a winding river, all sorts of animals milling about, forest in the distance and hills beyond, the sun setting.

Thirty minutes later and a buff coloured file was keenly opened by Jack Donohue at the Ministry of Defence. Everyone has stem cells, they're what builds our bodies when we're in the womb. or getting shot by irate husbands.' 'And then what do I do? I'm going to try and stop them, not least by tipping off those they aim to invade.' 'Bloody hell.' I sipped my beer as he fetched a large box. ' 'Bloody hell.' 'Your language tutors will arrive in a few weeks.' 'I'm like Luke-frigging-Skywalker being trained to use The Force.' He eased back. If someone asks you if you like your mum you'd say yes. Jimmy booked us in, speaking in German to the German owner, a room for the taxi driver arranged, then tipped his head for me to follow.

Rents were high in London, especially in posh Richmond, and I had taken the lease on a whole damn house just to be near my parents. All I needed was some money, and not to be so damn tired on the weekends that I just slept. 'It has a gammy leg and we file down its teeth and claws.

Four streets distant, it was far enough away to be independent. Somewhere out there was the big wide world and the bright lights, yet to be discovered. It cannot hurt anyone.' Jimmy got up and grabbed the beast around the neck. He got the animal to rise up and put its paws on his shoulders as he grabbed it by the mane, the lion seeming to enjoy the encounter.

Being an intelligence researcher, Jack knew the limitations of field agents and double agents, and predicting the next winner of the Eurovision Song Contest was not amongst the attributes of any spy he ever knew of. The fact that the Magestic letters had been assigned to him was a great honour for Jack, his career not quite working out as anticipated in his youth. 'PCD' I repeated in my mind: Personal Communications Device. credibility, built up over twenty years or more.' I lowered my head to the letters, suddenly realising where this was going. My first lion family was a joy; we could not have been more than twenty yards from mum and cubs at one point.

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