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Job Opportunity: Laundry Field Agent. Do You Have What It Takes?

You: you’re a civil servant, working in an administrative or support role, within SOE X Division, commonly known as the Laundry. You have signed the Official Secrets Act. You know the score. You know that when you carry out certain computation operations, it has echoes in the Platonic realm of pure mathematics – echoes audible to beings from other universes, who can be bound to act at our command. Magic is a branch of applied mathematics, and there are agents out there working ceaselessly to protect the realm from esoteric alien threats. You aren’t one of them – yet.

You believe you can contribute more to the organisation by taking a proactive role. You’re a dynamic self-starter and a team player, flexible and able to plan and execute on your feet while remaining within official guidelines. And you want to get out from behind your desk.

Do you have what it takes to handle an active service assignment?

We’re looking for the next Laundry field agent to assist our rising star employee, Bob Howard. Bob has seen service. He’s dealt with nameless horrors you could only dream of, and with only limited . . . mishaps.

Starting today, we will be releasing clues that will allow you access to the Laundry Vault.

Only those able to solve the clues and access the Laundry vault will be entered into a selection process for active service. If you are selected, we’ll provide you with everything you need to join field operations as an agent, including your own uniform (plus mascot), the necessary portable gadgetry, and receive unrestricted access to all previous cases in the Laundry series, as recorded by the infamous Bob Howard.

 Several runners-up will also receive a full set of Laundry case files, including the latest release, The Apocalypse Codex.

Charles Stross's Laundry Files

The last clue will be released on the 13th of July at which time you will have six days to enter the code and register for consideration. The code to the vault will be changed on the 19th of July – coinciding with the date of The Apocalypse Codex‘s publication.

The Clues

Application File One: Missing Letters


Application File Two: A Brief History of Laundry

Application File Three
Application File Three: The Necronomipod

Application File 4: Personal Liability & Damage Waiver Application File 4: Personal Liability and Damage Waiver

Find the Laundry Vault Find The Laundry Vault

Applications are now closed. Thank you all for participating.

View the answers.
UPDATE: Winners have now been notified. Congratulations, Alun, on making the final cut and thank you all for taking part.


Item: For safety reasons, the code to the Laundry Vault will be released in sections determined by Orbit at intervals of three days apart.
Item: The direction to the clues will all appear on this page.
Item: It is recommended you use a browser to view each clue. It is also recommended you do not use one of the following browsers: Netscape Navigator, Voyager, Cyberdog, Mosaic, Links 2.0, xxxterm, AWeb, IceWeasel, Grail, Prodigy Classic, Flock, Internet Explorer (join the 21st century, the browsers are better here)
Item: Keep a note of each answer as you solve the puzzles. You will need them all to access the Laundry Vault
Item: Once you have the key to the Laundry Vault, you will be asked for identification
Item: Your entry will be date stamped
Item: Your submission will be assessed
Item: Entries will close on Thursday 19th July

UPDATE: Winners have now been notified. Congratulations, Alun, on making the final cut and thank you all for taking part.

Background reading: The prologue to The Apocalypse Codex. Read it now.

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  1. Jamie Gibbs

    June 29, 2012
    at 9:36 am

    Challenge accepted. Good luck to the other applicants. May the secrets of the Vault reveal themselves to you.

  2. lain

    June 29, 2012
    at 9:48 am

    will minorities like germans be allowed to participate? :)

    • Felice Howden

      July 2, 2012
      at 4:57 am

      While Laundry is only accepting full applications from UK residents at this time, other groups are more than welcome to take part in the hunt for the Vault.

  3. Therion Ware

    June 29, 2012
    at 1:14 pm

    So using telnet on port 80 (proper browsing) is ok?

    • Felice Howden

      July 2, 2012
      at 6:04 am

      It’s best experienced using a browser rather than telnet (from my rudimentary understanding of it). Not all code is prettier than the pictures that cover it.

  4. NelC

    June 29, 2012
    at 5:14 pm

    As a Black Chamber operative, I believe I’m ineligible for this competition. Besides, I have the books already. (Yes, even the latest, thanks to the guys in Predictive Services.)

  5. Antongarou

    June 30, 2012
    at 1:47 am

    are people not resident in the UK eligible?

    • Felice Howden

      July 2, 2012
      at 4:59 am

      Hi Anongarou – sorry, we can only open competitions to the markets we sell the book in, so we can only offer UK residents this prize. But as I say above, you can still join the hunt.

  6. Zoe @ FantasyBytes

    June 30, 2012
    at 3:02 am

    I’m in :)

  7. Some Body

    June 30, 2012
    at 2:27 pm

    Will the next clues appear on this page as well?

    • Felice Howden

      July 2, 2012
      at 4:55 am

      Hi Some Body – yes, the next clues will also appear on this page, released in the space where it currently says the next release date.

  8. Baughn

    July 3, 2012
    at 7:06 pm

    Amusing, but I hope they’ll get harder. :)

  9. Ion P

    July 3, 2012
    at 11:52 pm

    Got it. But, er, how do I send in my answer?

    Or is it one of those things where I hold onto the clues for future reference?

    • Felice Howden

      July 4, 2012
      at 4:22 am

      Just hold onto it for now – you’ll need all the answers as the password to the Vault at the end.

  10. Ion P

    July 4, 2012
    at 9:06 am

    Ah, right. Thanks :)

  11. Humots

    July 10, 2012
    at 8:24 pm

    UK residents only? RATS! Still, it looks like fun. I’m in. Will the next clue be posted at 12:01 July 13 GMT?

    • Felice Howden

      July 12, 2012
      at 8:55 am

      The next (and final) clue will be posted at 9am GMT on the 13th of July, or as close to as is inhumanly possible.

  12. BZ

    July 11, 2012
    at 8:52 am

    Hmm. One silly question. In the first paragraph it is written that Laundry is SOE Division X, while logo says SOE Q. Is logo wrong, or the paragraph? Or are both right? :-O

    • Felice Howden

      July 12, 2012
      at 10:06 am

      Good question. They’re both right – SOE Q Is the division that makes occult Bond-style gadgets (for example, they might program something like a Necronomipod, though this was done off the books) and SOE X are the operational arm, so field agents and the like.

  13. Karl C

    July 11, 2012
    at 11:38 am

    Will the Isle of Man and the Channel Island be deemed part of the UK for the purposes of this competition?

    • Felice Howden

      July 12, 2012
      at 11:11 am

      Hi Karl. Yes, the Channel Island and the Isle of Man will be included. Hunt away!

  14. braddie

    July 12, 2012
    at 9:29 am

    “This entry was posted on Friday, June 29th, 2012 at 9:07 am and is filed under Contests, New Titles, Orbit Australia, Orbit UK.”

    Does that mean Australians qualify to enter? (please say yes!!) :)

    • Felice Howden

      July 13, 2012
      at 4:09 am

      Hi Braddie. Unfortunately, we’re unable to accept applications from outside the UK, although I know for a *fact* that Australians would make excellent field agents. Apologies.


    July 13, 2012
    at 4:18 am

    You know, it occurs to me that this whole thing could be viewed as a highly sophisticated way of getting emails for marketing purposes.

    …In which case, kudos and respect, you get mine with pleasure :) Great idea for a competition.

    For the next book, please consider having an “easy” track with a smaller prize – that way you can ramp up the difficulty on the “hard” track. This time round, the only puzzle that was really challenging for me was the first one. And that was because, *after* spotting the solution, I wasted half an hour on a red herring thinking it couldn’t be that straightforward :P

    I am quite sure that within Stross’s fan-base there’s enough puzzle-setting and -solving expertise to make GCHQ look like total pansies. Make ’em feel it.

    • Felice Howden

      July 13, 2012
      at 4:44 am

      Thanks for the feedback – much appreciated! (Also, rest assured the emails are for the competition only.) The comment about telnet really put the technological sophistication of Stross fans into perspective, I think, and this will certainly be taken into consideration in the future.

  16. BZ

    July 13, 2012
    at 4:27 am

    Found it. However,I do not qualify. :(

    • Ov

      July 13, 2012
      at 1:12 pm

      It’s quite easy, but as your co-applicant I’d prefer if you didn’t discuss it publicly :)

  17. Gram

    July 13, 2012
    at 5:43 am

    This looks cool, what is it, I love it!

  18. Martin Helsdon

    July 13, 2012
    at 12:12 pm

    Fun, and a take on the SPOOKS meme from Charles Stross’ ‘Halting State’? 9-)

  19. Baughn

    July 13, 2012
    at 2:50 pm

    Well, this took me maybe five minutes total.

    Still fun, but I wish it had been a bit harder. How is this going to prepare me for Case Nightmare Green, I ask you?


      July 14, 2012
      at 1:04 pm

      Simple: five minutes is the average life expectancy of a new computational demonologist. It’s the approximate time it takes for a rasterised demon to burrow its way up your optic nerve.

      Wait, you didn’t actually *look* at the image in the first puzzle, did you? Oh dear…

  20. Julie Vaux

    July 15, 2012
    at 4:24 am

    NOW all the clues are OUT you tell us Australians can’t enter!

  21. E-Bag Lady

    July 15, 2012
    at 5:30 am

    I agree the clues were not very hard – but the format of releasing them over several days probably weeded out a lot of people and I would hate future Stross-related comps to be elitist in any way! For more generic “harder” stuff, more cryptic clues (cf crossword variety) might be more challenging but less exclusive?
    Anyway, good luck to one and all!

    • Jad'

      July 18, 2012
      at 11:30 am

      That was fun to get the clues released other several days.
      Field agents have to prove determination and patience ;)
      And the way the clues were embeded was quite fun :D

  22. Agent D

    July 15, 2012
    at 5:13 pm

    I’d just like to say thanks to the people who put this together. It was a great way to do a competition and it was good fun. Very much appreciated thank you.

  23. Pete Haughie

    July 21, 2012
    at 4:58 pm

    When are the winners being announced? Or is it that if I’ve not heard I’ve not won sort of dealio?

    • Emily Rowland

      July 23, 2012
      at 4:59 am

      Hi Pete. We’ll be announcing the winners soon. You’re not out of the running!

  24. AB

    July 29, 2012
    at 10:44 am

    Has the winner been named? According to the rules the announcement should’ve been a couple of days’ ago.

  25. Damon

    July 30, 2012
    at 5:52 am

    Hi Felice or Emily,

    What’s up with the competition? I thought the winner would be announced within a week of the comp closing, but I can’t seem to find a post about it. Thanks for the fun experience.


    • Felice Howden

      July 31, 2012
      at 6:15 am

      Hi Damon,

      Winners have been contacted, and the post has been updated. Thanks for taking part, and also really glad you enjoyed it.


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