There are only 30 days to go until the UK release of The Nightmare Stacks, and to celebrate, my UK publisher Orbit are giving one lucky and inventive reader the chance to win a Laundry Files pack, including signed copies of The Nightmare Stacks, plus a Magic Circle of Safety mug and a Laundry Files tshirt. All you have to do is come up with your own Laundry Files gadget, app, or piece of tech - for good or evil. Give us a name, a classification and a brief explanation of how it works/what it does.
Five runners up will win a signed copy of The Nightmare Stacks.
Here are some examples of gadgets you might run into, or might run into you, if you work for the Laundry. (Terms and conditions apply: continued below the fold.)
Name: OFCUT (Occult Field Countermeasures Utility Toolkit)
Classification: Mobile application - counter magic class
Deployment: Usage recommended for field work by Laundry Agents for defence and offence against hostiles. Includes both preventative measures (Thaumometer: measuring magic in the area) and more extreme counter-measures (see ref: Scorpion stare)
Magic being a side effect of computation, Laundry IT services have been working on portable invocation and exorcism equipment since the late 1970s (see ref: Osborne-1). In the 21st century, modern smartphones have become as powerful as 1990s supercomputers and replace the laptops and briefcase-sized portable computers of earlier days as a platform agents can use to run the OFCUT software suite. OFCUT has tools for sensing magical flux (thaum field strength), identifying active intrusions using the smartphone's various antennae and positioning sensors, and a handy database of known ghostly manifestations and extradimensional horrors to assist the agent in working out how fast they should run away. It also includes a secure email and messaging client, a remote access tool to allow Head Office to activate and control the phone's features remotely, and a voice chat tool so that the agent's last words can be captured for posterity.
With additional bluetooth-controlled peripherals a proficient demonologist can use an OFCUT-equipped smartphone to summon and control the sort of things sane people prefer to avoid, and with an additional secondary camera module it can acquire SCORPION STARE capability.
Classification: Irresistibly shiny slab of preciousssss created in high security bunkers by a secretive cult-like corporation based in Silicon Valley. Sold around the world to millions of people who can't resist its Class 4 glamour. Believed by some to be merely a smartphone.
Allegations that the sub-basement floor plan of JesusCorp's new billion-dollar donut-shaped headquarters in Cupertino is laid out as a vast summoning grid are under investigation, but JesusCorp's internal secrecy, enforced by the so-called Worldwide Loyalty Team, is harder to penetrate than the cold-war era KGB.
Deployment: It's nearly impossible to keep employees from buying their own JesusPhones, so IT services finally bowed to the inevitable and started handing them out as official work equipment. At which point, JesusCorp's paranoid approach to security becomes an asset: running a native version of OFCUT the JesusPhone becomes a secure, reliable Swiss Army chainsaw for tackling occult intrusions in the wild--and without attracting undue attention, because they're ubiquitous.
Name: Scorpion Stare
Classification: Weapon: Medusa class
Deployment: Basilisks and Medusas have been known of since antiquity: an observer-mediated quantum tunnelling effect causes a tiny fraction of the nuclei of carbon atoms in the target of the basilisk's gaze to be replaced by those of silicon atoms from a parallel universe, causing a sudden release of gamma radiation and heat. More recently, special-purpose electronic hardware has been developed that allows two or more suitably-connected high definition CCTV cameras to produce this effect. If you wonder why stereo/3D digital cameras are scarce on the market, this would be why: they're deadlier than hand grenades.
The Laundry operates Scorpion Stare technology in various modes. On a national level, in time of emergency/invasion by Elder Gods, the national CCTV network can be turned into a look-to-kill grid. And at a personal level, an agent with a smartphone and a special secondary camera module is less conspicuous than an agent toting a sawn-off shotgun. But in practice relatively few problems can be solved satisfactorily by making heads literally explode, encouraging bored civil servants to run around thinking they're James Bond inevitably leads to tears before bed-time, and the failure modes are drastic and unforgiving (more than one employee has ended up the subject of a secret Coroner's Report after forgetting to remove their auxilliary camera module before taking a selfie in the bathroom mirror).
Effects: People (and objects containing any amount of carbon--trees, grass, painted surfaces, small yappy dogs) bursting into flames, leaving characteristic remains that resemble the original object reincarnated as a cinder block. Vampires have been observed to sparkle in daylight (very briefly).
Name:* HOG-3 (Hand of Glory)
Classification: Unconventional weaponry level 2
Deployment: For centuries, it has been known among occult circles that the hand of a hanged felon, suitably pickled and inscribed, can be used for certain ritual purposes as a ghastly five-branched candle. While the fingers burn, according to legend, the bearer can be invisible, can enter any locked building, and can force their will upon others. Much of this is bunkum, but it is confirmed that someone holding such an artefact is very difficult to see.
Prior to 1965 the Laundry maintained a discreet supply arrangement with the Home Office, but after the abolition of capital punishment in the UK supplies became scarce. Finally, a 1980s research project identified a suitable and plentifully available substitute--which is why so many of the pigeons in London's Trafalgar Square appear to only have one foot. The newly miniaturized HOG-3 burns for a duration of up to 120 seconds, during which time a person or vehicle connected to it can move unseen. This is, however, an emergency tool.
HOG-1: Most powerful version, but extremely rare as no more are being produced. (It is believed that less than ten remain in storage.) Attempts to obtain replacement supplies from overseas fell foul of human rights legislation banning support for capital punishment.
HOG-2: Made from an octopus. Unfortunate side-effects. Don't ask.
HOG-3: Standard issue since 1989; ultra-compact, short duration invisibility device, manufactured using feral pigeons. No longer issued routinely due to incidents of employee abuse resulting in prosecution for stalking. Stockpile diminishing and not being replenished following discussions with the RSPB.
Want to enter? Read the T&Cs, and if you're eligible, leave your entry in a comment below. (When the winners are announced I'll post an update blog entry telling the winners to get in touch so we know where to send the prizes.) Over to you!
ADDITION TO TERMS AND CONDITIONS
You can run variations on Scorpion Stare or basilisks all you like; they ain't gonna win.
Similarly, OFFOG, TASP, and other clear steals from other SF authors (such as Eric Frank Russell or Larry Niven, in those two cases) will be disqualified. Oh, and I am fully aware of the SCP Wiki, and that's off-limits too. (If you want to win, it needs to be All Your Own Work.)
And (you did read the terms and conditions, right?) this bears repeating: "anyone aged 16 or over in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand except employees of Little Brown Book Group, their families, or anyone professionally connected to the competition either themselves or through their families." Non-UK/EU/Australasians are welcome to pitch in, but sorry, you're not eligible for the prizes.