As I'd been told it would be, the cassette tape was under a feed tray in the Staff Only part of the Lemur House of the City Zoo. I put it in my personal stereo, pressed play and opened the accompanying envelope. It contained a photograph of a fresh-faced guy in a sports jacket and a tough looking brat.
"Good morning Mr Harrass," said the voice on the tape. "The people you see before you are a young probationer biology teacher from St Maurice of Johnston Academy and a third-year pupil who is the acknowledged leader of a group of kids who have been giving the probationer a rough time.
"Your mission - should you decide to accept - is to discredit the pupil in front of his peers, returning class control to the teacher. As ever, should you or any of your Implausible Mission Force be discovered the Registrar will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Mr Harrass."
Unfortunately, I didn't get the tape player out of my coat pocket in time to stop it setting the lining alight. I wondered if I'd get it repaired on expenses.
The Implausible Missions Force was another branch of the Special Teaching Service, the elite, covert branch of the GTC. When I'd signed up for the STS I'd pictured myself joining in raids like the one on Irvine Welsh High. A group of fourth-years were holding a girl fresh out of college as a virtual hostage in protest at the lack of resources employed in the school. The STS stormed the classroom at 2:25, crashing through the windows armed with overhead projectors and CD-Rom drives. But I'd been marked down as more of a loner and found that the Implausible Mission Force work suited me.
At home I thumbed through the folder of agents I could call on. I paused when I came to the file on Judith Gillespie. The broad had impressed me with her work on the great nursery vouchers scam (TESS, February 16) but I didn't see how I could use her on this one. In the end I made a call to a chemistry teacher I knew for some technical back-up and decided to do the actual dirty work myself.
I toyed with going in with my youth gear again but decided to pose as a returning adult. When I got to the school I made a beeline for my target.
"What are you doing here, mister?" he asked as I sat beside him in class.
"Mature student, son," I said. "I missed a lot of school when I was your age."
"Did you dog it?" "Not exactly, son. I was in the slammer."
"What for?" At this point I maybe overplayed it a bit. "A geography teacher disagreed with me so I ate his liver. I washed it down with a nice Chianti. " I made some delicate slurping noises in his face. I could see I'd impressed him. "Want some gum?" I asked. He looked doubtful but I fixed my gaze just below his ribcage and he quickly took a piece. The lesson began. My partner chewed away, stopping only to throw insults at his teacher, little knowing that he was ingesting the type of gum that makes you violently ill if you even smell a cigarette.
I chose my moment well. The lesson was a dissection video. As the scalpel went in I squeezed a plastic chemical bottle full of exhaled smoke. The boy turned white, gagged and ran out the room, taking his reputation with him.
After a minute or so I asked to go out to the can myself and never returned.