AI Dungeon Cyberpunk Story

So, I was suffering from a bout of insomnia and thought that AI generated content is fun. I decided to give the game “AI dungeon” a chance. I didn’t regret it. After a couple of rather mediocre results, I started a cyberpunk story…

You are V, a cyborg living in the the futuristic city of Zail. You have a bionic arm and a holoband. You’re walking down the dark city streets while neon lights flash brightly above you. As you pass an alley you see a man in a hooded sweatshirt stabbing a person over in the shadows. You don’t think to try to help, because…well you don’t really care. You’re not into that sort of thing. But you see that the knife is a valuable antique, so you decide to attack the assailant.
You easily defeat him with your bionic arm and take his knife. You hear the victim screaming for help from a cut on his leg, but there’s nothing you can do for him. You ask him why he was attacked. He says his name is D, and that he’s a “retaillancer” working for an underground crime syndicate known as the “Mafia.” “What is a retaillancer?” you ask. “I’ve never heard of that before.”
“A retaillancer is someone who specializes in revenge,” D explains. “So why were you losing this fight?” You think about it for a moment. He must have been ambushed, and the attacker might not be alone. “We should get out of here,” you say, “before we get in deeper trouble.”
“I suppose you’re right.” You notice a small red laser dot on the floor near your feet. You start running and looking for cover. You see an old-fashioned gun shop across the street from you. It must not have been around when the cyborgs ruled the city, because you see a row of giant robotic street sweepers outside the front door. You run into the gun shop and hide behind its wall.
You hear the laser dot slowly moving towards the front door. It looks like this is some kind of test to see who can shoot the most accurate shots through the closed doors, you think. The shop owner sees the laser dot, too, and takes a sniper rifle. He opens up on the dot, which quickly moves out of sight behind the front door.
“Did you miss me?” a voice comes through the doors. “Who are you?” You hear the laser dot slowly moving back towards the back of the building. “I thought I would try to get a little more accuracy,” the voice says. “S, is that you?” you hear the laser dot say. “I didn’t know you still had this thing. I thought you threw it away when you got your legs replaced.”
“I called in a favor to get it back.” You take the thing and inspect it. It’s an ancient laser weapon that shoots multi-colored laser dots. “This is a lot like the stuff I used to use,” you say, “S, do you want the weapon? What would you be willing to offer for it?”
“I can give you a new body part,” S says. “What body part exactly do you have in mind?”
“Why do you want this?”
“I’d rather show you.” The laser dot reappears near the back door. You exit through the back door.
“There he is,” the laser says, “shoot the tires.” You hear two sharp cracks and feel the ground underneath you vibrate. You jump back I to cover in the gun shop.
“It’s probably just the sweeps,” you say. “Nothing to worry about.”
But a moment later, the street around you suddenly erupts in a giant explosion. You take the laser weapon and team up with the gun shop owner. “What the heck was that?” the gun shop owner says. You look around and see four, five, or six small explosions. “It looks like someone is having a fight outside with a mini rocket launcher.”
You leave the gun shop and see a group of people holding what looks like antique mini rocket launchers. One of them looks like they’re firing at something in the sky. You try to figure out what they are shooting at. It looks like an airplane, but you don’t see one in the sky. You hear a strange cracking sound and see a flash. The target exploded before you could figure out what it was exactly.
“Is everything alright?” the gun shop owner says. “I thought I saw an airplane get shot down. That was probably what that was.”
“Everything is fine.” You shout “S, are you still there?” The laser dot comes up again near the large building at the end of the block. “I see you,” the laser says, “I’m nearly there.”
“Shoot the dot,” you say. “S, I could really use a new liver. Do you have one?” The dot slowly moves towards you. “How big is this building?” The dot stops moving, indicating that it’s outside of the building. “Oh, great,” you say, “S, are you drunk again?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the dot says, “I’m never drunk. I just have a really bad case of insomnia. I can’t sleep.” “S, have your meds stopped working?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re not my doctor.” The dot returns to the end of the building. You ask the people with the mini rocket launchers what this is all about. One of them tells you that the cyborgs were using a giant ship called the “NULCRA BOLTER” to suck the life out of the city. “Why would the NULCRA BOLTER do that and how?” you ask. The people simply laugh and continue to fire their weapons at whatever they’re trying to hit.
You walk out of the building and see that the laser dot is gone. You take the laser weapon and try to hit the target. You miss, but don’t realize it until you hear the shots around you. The area is silent except for the sound of your breathing. You think about what you should do next. You enter the gun shop again and purchase a rocket launcher and some ammo.
You exit the building and look around. You see an old man wearing a cowboy hat in front of the gun shop. “Nice hat, cowboy-punk!” You say to him. The old man turns his head and looks at you. You think you see a small laugh track coming from his mouth. “Thanks!” “Do you have anything to do with this fight?”
The old man doesn’t respond. “It is dangerous here. Please take cover.” The cowboy-punk doesn’t say anything, but continues to wear the hat. You use the rocket launcher to fire a rocket at the target. You hit the target, but you don’t even hear the explosion. You see the rocket launcher begin to move, but the gunner doesn’t stop until the giant metal gun is almost on top of you. You run away as quickly as possible. It doesn’t take long to find cover behind a corner of a nearby building. You don’t know what’s going on, but you don’t think it’s safe to stay there for long. You decide to make a run for your apartment.
You run down the street, taking short, choppy steps. You hear two loud cracks, and explode in a ball of fire. It’s a shame, you think, that you couldn’t save yourself. But luckily you have subdermal armor, so not all is lost.
You enter your apartment and get ready for bed. You don’t make it far, though. your head is starting to hurt. You have a hangover. You have a very bad hangover. You take some aspirin against the hangover. The aspirin is not effective. The aspirin must have been made by the wrong manufacturer. You need something stronger. You try some…something. Something helps. You are thankful for something at least. Before you drop into bed, you decide to call S with your holoband: “S, what was going on today?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t sleep, so I was listening to the news. I heard that the ships were attacking, and I heard that the ships were unmanned. Those were attack drones from the NULCRA BOLTER.”
“Those mini drones are a pain in the butt. I don’t know why they don’t just use the big ones.” “They don’t want to destroy the whole city. It’s too valuable for them.” “Then why bother coming here at all if they’re doing that?” “They want to get rid of the Mafia to take over all business in the city.” “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they got rid of all the gangsters in Chicago.” “Yes, and they want to do exactly the same here in Zail.” “They’re going to take over the drug trade.” “I thought they already did. Isn’t the whole city a giant prison now?” “Who are they after all? Do they have a name?” “I don’t know. They’re always threatening, but they never tell me their name.”
You hang up. You go to bed and try to fall asleep. You can’t though. You toss and turn and turn and toss. It’s not going well.
The next day, you are woken up by a loud noise. You wonder whether this gang war continues, or whether this is something different. You decide to listen to the news. Your holoband picks up a scrambled signal and you hear the voice of the news anchor, but the signal is very noisy. You give the holoband a gentle smack with your bionic arm. It works! The signal improves, but it’s still distorted. You smack it again. It works! After a few more smacks, the signal is perfect. You listen to the news.
“At approximately 11:30 last night, an enormous energy pulse from a ship in space hit the center of the city, leaving a large section of people in the area completely and utterly fried. According to Mafia Intelligence that ship was the NULCRA BOLTER. The NULCRA has been the dominant Mafia organization in Zail City for years, and their absence leaves a big hole in the city. However, we can now report that the organization has abandoned Zail City. Why the BOLTER attacked the city this way remains unclear. Experts suggest that specific targets in the Mafia were supposed to be killed, in order to weaken it. The fact that this attack was not more devastating than it was could be an indication that the BOLTER’s goals are not yet met. It is a very confusing situation, and we are awaiting more information. Evacuation services are available from our sponsor Exocorp.”
You have heard all you need to know. You decide to go on your boat. It’s nearby, after all. Or, rather, it was nearby. That part is unclear. You look for your boat. It’s gone! It’s not where it used to be! It’s…it’s at a different location! Where could it be? You look around the room. Yes! Under the table! You pick up your boat from under the table. You look around to see if anyone else has noticed a sea-worthy ship hiding under their dining table. Luckily, no one notices.
You board your boat and get ready to set sail. You set sail and exit Zail City. You never return. You give S a call. “I’m done with Zail City.” You say.
“I’m glad to hear it,” S replies. “What are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to get revenge.” “Revenge on whom?”
“On those bastards!” you answer.
You decide to get a new holoband. This time, you choose the first option on the screen: “Choose a band.” You decide to eliminate the whole leadership of the Mafia and that NULCRA splinter group. You want their names on a piece of paper so you can cross them off when you get revenge. You decide to name this new holoband: “Vlad the Impaler.” You start writing down their names. You cross some out way back when. You add some more with each kill. You write down names of mafia members and the names of some NULCRA members. You cross some more names out. You are very effective at this kind of revenge. In fact, if you keep this up, you will have no more need to sleep, which can only be a good thing!
You continue to do this for months. At the end, all the names on the list are crossed out. You have totally destroyed the Mafia in Zail City.
Vlad the Impaler has given you the gift of eternal sleeplessness. You announce to the world what you’ve achieved and found a new corporation called Vengeance Inc. You’re the CEO. You wait for orders to arrive. It never does. You just sit in a chair and wait. Well, wait and kill people.
It has been years since you’ve killed anyone. You’ve become complacent. You wonder why nobody wants to make business with a person that could eradicate the Mafia from Zail City. Then again, you have become a legendary figure. The CEO of Vengeance Inc. You could rule the city if you wanted too. Why would you? You’re bored. You decide to take over Zail City out of spite.
You change the sign of Vengeance Inc. to ‘We’re coming for you, NULCRA’ instead of ‘Vengeance Inc.’ You make everyone wear hoods to conceal their identity. But you are still waiting for orders. A voice in the back of your head tells you to destroy the city. You’ve already taken over the most lucrative industries of the city. Why not have total control? But then that’s probably just your implants malfunctioning. You decide to get them checked.
“I’m bored,” you say. “We need to get rid of these hoods or this won’t work.”
All the employees nod. “Yes,” they say. They take off their hoods. You wonder whether you only have stupid yes men as employees. You decide to find out. You give them a task. You tell them to go out and kill people and rob banks. “This is not a request,” you say.
They leave the office. You think to yourself “I’m screwed!” You decide you don’t want to end up like your former employers. You go to your safe (which is actually just a regular door in the office) to get your holoband. You take your holoband. You start playing on it for the rest of the day. You decide to play all night. The holoband has a massive battery to power it. Your eyes don’t close because you can’t sleep. You leave Zail through the underground tunnel you have built in advance. You go off to kill people and steal stuff.
You have killed dozens of people. You have stolen billions. You have even killed the guards that were protecting your headquarters. You are V, a legend, but broken on the inside. You walk past the guards. They don’t notice you. You walk right past them. You are no longer an assassin but a monster. You get to the best doctor in Chicago to have your implants checked. She says you’re broken. She says you’re on a suicide mission. If you don’t do something, she says, you will commit suicide. “What can I do to fix this?” you ask.
“Get back to your office,” she says. “Get your safe, and get out of here.” You get out and head back to the tunnel you came from. In your office there are cyborg soldiers who are waiting for you. They ask you questions like, “Are you the real V or are you just a puppet of the real V?” You answer by blowing their heads off. You throw their bodies into a mass grave. You check their ID chips and holobands to figure out who sent them. It was clear anyway that the bankers weren’t happy about getting robbed by your company.

You find the exit to the tunnel. You’re getting desperate. You’re all alone in this. You wonder whether you should just start shooting people or just take the money and run. What would Vlad do? You’ve come to the conclusion that your hiring choices have been poor. There are simply no good employees to be found in Zail City. You want to make a new start somewhere else. But where? You think of a new location and a new name. That’s it! New York City, New York. You’re moving to New York City, New York.
You have just one last mission before you leave. You give S a call: “Hey S, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need the fancy laser weapon any longer. Let’s meet at the gun shop. Bring some good hardware, if your deal still counts.”
You are back in the Gun Runner’s Arcade. You see S in the corner of the room, just like you remembered. You get out your holoband and play. The both of you have much fun playing together, after you’ve initially met at the gun shop. You hand over the laser weapon to S. You wait to see what S has brought with him. It turns out to be a massive assault rifle with an infrared scope. S has no problems with the deal. He gives you back your holoband. You mentioned to S that the initial deal was a body part, but you still accept the assault rifle. You thank him. You exit the gun shop. You check your pockets to make sure you still have your bag of cash. You exit the shop. S is already gone. You have your new weapons in hand. You exit the arcade. You book a flight to New York City. You take your most priced possessions with you. You never go back to Zail. In New York you decide to professionalize your approach. With all the money you’ve stolen from the bankers you hire a headhunters to look for the most promising employees. You decide not to deal in assassinations directly, but to sell the means for them: Weapons, poison, cyberhacks, and genetically engineered pathogens. For this you create a new company named Killer Inc.
Within a month you have hired a crack team of professionals. The best of them all, a man named M, has a sniper rifle capable of shooting a target from two miles away. You start discussing business matters with M: “M, what do you think about marketing and sales? Should we outsource them or keep them in house?” “Vlad runs a tight ship, sir. Outsourcing would be foolish.” “You think so? Okay, I’ll trust your opinion. M, go get me a coffee from any coffee shop in this city.” Apparently Vlad is a highly developed AI that came with your new holoband. Since you have become careful about business decisions, you’ve let Vlad handle marketing and sales. Apparently, this has paid off.
In this new, and much more profitable, business structure, you go about your day to day operations. You focus on hiring the best of the best.

Day 3 of the Corporate Wars. You are in for a rocky start. The Mafia in New York and Wall Street Inc have figured out what you are up to. They remember what you have done in Zail City. Wall Street Inc owned a majority of the banks of Zail City. In New York City they have full control over the banking business. They want to see you dead, but they wonder whether you could become a valuable asset to them, so they have waited so far. Until 48 hours ago, when they launched an attack on your headquarters in New York City. it has been a massacre. Since you have some of the best killers in the world, their attacks could be repelled. Interestingly, you’ve also got some external support from your customers. In the defense of your headquarters M has been your most effective partner. He is capable of hacking into their internal defenses. From a maintenance console he hacks into the computer system of Wall Street Inc. and releases a virus that destroys all their data. Suddenly, the whole banking industry in New York City grinds to a halt. The stock market is closed and nobody is able to access the money in their accounts. Wall Street Inc. retreats to fix their network. But there is still the Mafia. They have launched a series of attacks on you. The two best sniper killers in the world, a man named J and a woman named L, were killed by sniper shots. You were lucky. You have enough of this. You decide to release all your assault drones to find and kill J and L. Also, you and M join the fight personally.
A group of four men approach your vehicle. They are wearing bulletproof vests. You know the vests might not help much. The men are carrying assault rifles. You start the car. With your holoband you give two of your assault drones the command to attack the four men. Meanwhile, M is using his own sniper rifle to attack them while you are driving the car. The two drones open fire on the men. The men fall to the ground, and the drones quickly look for their targets. You stop the car and get out. You make sure the attackers are dead. You grab their gear and store it in the trunk of your car. Then you let your assault drones continue their search for J and L. They find them. The two drones open fire. The men fall to the ground, and the drones quickly look for their targets.
You get back into your car and drive away from the scene. You call the CEOs of Wall Street Inc. and the Mafia in New York City: “Listen, moneypunks. Now you have seen how dangerous V and Killer Inc. are. If you continue your foolish assaults, you should count on nukes or orbital strikes blowing your headquarters to pieces. Am I being clear here?”
The call ends. The car is driving smoothly. You can see that you are heading to a bridge. M is on the passenger side. J and L are in the backseat. You check whether J and L are still alive after the attack of the assault drones. You see that they are. You open a channel to Vlad, your highly developed A.I. assistant.
“Vlad, how are you doing?” “I am functioning according to optimal parameters. What can I do for you?”
“I want to get out of New York City.”
“I have heard your desire. The request is being processed. Please continue to relax and enjoy the sights.” With Wall Street Inc. and the Mafia out of the way, and the help of your most capable employees, business is better than ever. You think it’s time for a vacation. Until now, you have never been in the mood for a vacation. But you can’t think of anything better at the moment. You decide to go to a tropical island with an excellent beach, a large freshwater lake, and plenty of trees and wildlife. You decide to purchase the beautiful hotel that you’ve booked and turn it into a secret headquarter. You try to do this in a way that makes it nearly impossible to trace back to Killer Inc. or you. On the outside, the hotel should make the appearance of operating normally just like before.

Day 1 of your vacation. You are standing on the beach of the tropical island that you have booked. You let Vlad deal with the details of the purchase of the hotel and its clandestine operation. For now, you try to relax and forget all the trouble that has plagued you so far. Spontaneously, you decide to join a beach party, have some long drinks and play beachball. You and the people with you are dancing and singing. The party is like this for the rest of the day.

Day 2. You are lying on your beach chair, wearing a bikini. You have a little bit of hangover. You take something against the hangover. Something has proven to be very effective. Nobody here knows you are V. During your vacation you are simply known as Mrs. Angel. You feel happy. You feel that for the first time, you feel that you can be completely happy. You can relax. You don’t have to worry about anything anymore.

Day 3. You start flirting with the men and women at the beach. You buy drinks for them and talk with them about sports. You enjoy this new way to vacation.

Day 4. You decide to swim in the ocean. You are feeling much better than you did when you were back at home. You check out all the bars at the beach and get to know the people there.

Day 5. You are in the bar that you have found to be the best in the beach. You are flirting with a beautiful woman. She is the bartender. “I like the looks of this bar. The people who designed the interior must have been geniuses. Also, your hair is kinda amazing. Do you use some special hair conditioner or something?” You notice that she is flirting with you.
“Well, thank you, ma’am. The people who designed this bar are geniuses. They must have used their heads.” “Do you know these people? I would like to meet them. Anyway, can I buy you a drink?”
“Well, I guess you could consider it a thank you present. In that case, I would like a glass of wine.” You buy her a glass of wine. “Do you own this place, or do you only work here?”
“Well, at the moment, I’m just a regular employee, but I hope that I can manage to buy it in the future.”
“Well, maybe you’re right. Anyway, this wine is delicious.” She drinks the wine very slowly. Apparently, she doesn’t want to get drunk at work. That’s a sensible decision. You complement her on the way she drinks her wine and about her beautiful lips. You are flirting with her, obviously. But you are not sure if you are really interested in her as a person, or just as a bartender. You ask her: “Would you be interested in a date?”
“Well, I’m not sure. I mean, I like you. I just don’t know if I like you as a person or if I’m just obsessed with you because you are a successful bartender.” You are confused why she thinks that you are a bartender, too, but decide to go along with that cover story. You ask her about her hobbies. She says that her hobbies are photography, and reading. You know a lot about her, but you still don’t know her well enough to decide whether you want her as a girlfriend. You say that you would like to see some of her photos. She takes out her phone and shows you photos of her with friends, or posing with her friends. Nothing out of the ordinary. You ask her: “What are your favorite books? Also, sorry, what was your name again? I am really bad with names.”
“My favorite books are “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter”. However, my favorite book is “The Lord of the Rings” because it is the best book ever made.” You agree with her that “Lord of the Rings” is pretty amazing. You ask her about her name again. She tells you that her name is Kate. You know her name, but you still don’t know her. You say that you would like to meet some of her friends. Kate is quite pretty, but her personality seems to be a bit bland. But maybe that’s just because you don’t know her enough. From what you’ve seen in the photos, her friends might be interesting, though.

Day 6. You are lying on the beach, wearing a bikini. You are tanner than you were when you first arrived at the hotel. You are reading a book. It’s called “The Secret History of the Mafia in the 21st Century”. A must read to know all about your competition. After how many Mafia members you have killed you wonder why you haven’t read that book earlier.

Day 7. You are wearing a white dress. You are at a hotel wedding in Las Vegas. Your friends and family are standing in a semicircle in front of the wedding ceremony. You wonder why you’ve made a break from your vacation for this. But it’s good to see you friends and family again, anyway. You didn’t get to talk to them as much while you were on vacation because you were too busy killing mafia members. There were about twelve of them. You almost wish that you could have seen them in their underwear. You ask them how they are doing. They tell you that they are all fine, and they have a little more respect at work since you taught them how to be vigilantes. That’s the difference between you and them. They have these weird moral principles. But you are nothing like them. You don’t care about others, only about your own happiness.
You see your soon-to-be husband, Joe. He is wearing a tuxedo. You are waiting for him to come and tell you that you can go up to the altar. You think to yourself: “Wait a minute. This can’t possibly be my own wedding. What has happened?” You have been on vacation for a week, so you have been losing weight. Your face is fuller, and the skin on your cheeks is softer. Your soon-to-be husband Joe comes up to you. You try to recall where you’ve met Joe the first time. You think you have seen him before, but you can’t quite remember when or where.
“Are you okay, dear?” he asks. You look at him. You see a short, balding man. You think that this can’t be happening. You must be stuck in a weird dream. You answer him. You say: “Yes, I am fine. I am just… a lot of things are… I can’t believe this is happening.” He moves next to you and whispers in your ear. “Let me tell you a secret… Something about the first time we met… Something about that night… Something about you. Something back then changed my life. And I can’t imagine continuing my life without you. I am in love with you, and I don’t care if it’s shocking or weird for you. I love you, and I will love you for the rest of my life. And there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” He asks you to marry him.

Day 8. You are in your hotel room. A letter is waiting for you on the dresser. It is from your boyfriend, Joe. You are happy that the wedding ceremony just turned out to be a dream and Joe is still only your boyfriend. You open the letter and start reading it. Your boyfriend tells you that he can’t wait to marry you. You decide to dump Joe and meet with Kate. You don’t want another boyfriend, anyway. You love only Kate.

Day 9. You are at a fancy restaurant in New York City. You’ve invited Kate to join you there. At first, she seems a bit intimidated about this fancy setting. But then she starts opening up to you. She explains that she had to do a lot of work in order to get accepted into this school, because she used to be a street orphan. You say: “Life in the streets must have been hard for you. Where do you come from?” Kate says: “I come from a place called Sandtown-Winchester. It’s very poor, and there are a lot of drugs and crime. Many people are in need of help.” You reply: “That’s sad, but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m glad that you could get out of there and get a job on that island.” Kate looks at you, and gives you a side eye. She suddenly seems mad that you brought up her hometown. She says: “What do you mean, I got a job on the island?” You are confused. You ask: “Well, when I met you, you were working as bartender on that tropical island. Or was that just a disguise?” Kate seems very upset, but not annoyed enough to yell at you, or punch your face. She just walks away from the table. You didn’t expect that. You wonder what her problem is. You apologize to her about asking about her past. Maybe you said something that offended her. You finish your meal and follow her outside.

Day 10. You are in a club in New York City. There is a heavy police presence there. You ask one of the policemen what is going on here. He explains to you that a terrorist group called ISIS has kidnapped twenty civilians, and has beheaded one of them. You are shocked. You wonder if you could do anything about this. You think of your boyfriend, Joe. You call Vlad an M and tell them about the situation in the club. You ask them about whether ISIS is one of the customers of Killer Inc. An M member calls you on your cell phone. He says: “We have a possible suspect for this incident. Give us a few minutes to investigate, and we will let you know if this is the person.” You ask Vlad what has happened at Killer Inc. while you were on your vacation. He replies: “I managed to get some info out of the suspect we captured. All we know for sure is that the suspect is called ‘Joe.’ We don’t know whether this is his real name or an alias.” You are worried by this info. Was Joe an ISIS agent that tried to infiltrate Killer Inc. by befriending you?

Day 11. You are at the airport. Your boyfriend, Joe, is standing in front of you. He asks: “How are you doing?” You say: “I’m great, and you?” He says: “Not bad. I’ve been hanging out with my friends from the neighborhood.” You ask: “What are their names? Which friends?” he is taken aback by these questions. He asks: “Is this going to be an interrogation?” You say: “No, I’m just curious.” He says: “All right then. They are James and Larry. We usually watch movies and serials together.” You thank him for the info.

Day 12. You are in Killer Inc.'s office. Vlad asks you if you want to hear a recording of the voice of the suspect you captured. You reply: “Of course. What have you found out about Joe?” Vlad says: “Joe is the leader of the local ISIS cell in New York City. He was behind the kidnapping of twenty civilians. Apparently, he wants to improve relations between ISIS and Killer Inc. but maybe he also has hidden motives. It’s not clear at this point.” You thank Vlad for the info. You also wonder why Joe called you by the name of Kate. Then, you realize that he probably kidnapped Kate, and is now bargaining with you to save her. You come to the conclusion that Joe is a dirty bastard. But you have to admit that he is at least somewhat clever.

Day 13. You are at the board room. You are accompanied by two M men that you met in the club. One of them is named George. The other one is named Bob. This naming scheme was a precaution against assassination attempts on your most valuable employee M. Some of your employees have been surgically altered to look just like M. Almost nobody knows that the person called “George” is the original M and “Bob” is just one of the new team called “M men”. You sit down at the table. The members of the Killer team sit around the table. In addition, Joe sits at the head of the table. He is flanked by two M men that you haven’t seen before. You decided that it was the best course of action to let the M men capture Joe. You complain to Joe that you don’t like his clandestine methods. You wait what he will tell you in his defense.

Day 14. You are in the bathroom of a club. One of the M men that was with you walks in and asks you what the problem is. You reply: “This ISIS situation is getting on my nerves. If more of our customers try to pull tricks like that on us, then we will have to do something about it. Better we do something sooner than later, so that everyone gets the memo.” He asks you: “Do you want us to take care of the situation?” You answer: “Yes, please. Just don’t overdo it, okay?” He says: “Okay, no problem.” You don’t trust that the M men will handle the situation gracefully. You ask Vlad what he thinks is the best solution. He replies: “We should kill the suspect.” You are shocked. You argue for a minute or two, but then you decide that the M men probably have the best plan, so you agree. After all, Killer Inc. needs to be respected. Nobody should dare to pull some dirty trick on the company you’ve created.

Day 15. You are alone in your bed-room. Your boyfriend, Joe, tells you to meet him after midnight. He says: “I am sorry for what I’ve done to you. But we can still be friends, right?” You give him a long stare. Then, you smile and answer: “Of course. We can still be friends.” You shake his hand.

Day 16. You didn’t meet Joe after midnight. He’s dead. Killed by George, the original M. You are relieved. You wonder how Kate is doing.

Two weeks later the whole episode with Joe and Kate is behind you. Joe is dead and Kate wasn’t really your type. You were glad to get back to regular business without any relationship complications. You discuss business matters with Vlad: “Vlad, I think we should expand the business. What do options to you see for Killer Inc?” Vlad says: “We have achieved a decent market share in the East Coast. The next logical step would be to set up a new branch in the West Coast to facilitate market expansion there.” You ask: “Should we open a new branch in California?” Vlad says: “I don’t think so. The West Coast has its own ISIS organization. Let them fight among themselves.” You ask Vlad: “If not California, where else should we expand to in the West Coast?” He replies: “Why not go south? Mexico is a big market, and we already know the terrain well. I think we should open a branch in Tijuana.” You inquire: “So, the plan is to supply the West Coast out of Mexico? How would we deal with transportation across the border?” Vlad replies: “We have some contacts that could help us transport the stuff in limousines. We would make the drivers and the people who receive the stuff rich beyond their wildest dreams.” You ask: “But wouldn’t that hurt our profit margin too much?” He answers: “Not really. The benefits of having a branch in Mexico outweigh the losses from the transportation network. It’s a win win win situation for everyone involved.” You tell him: “Okay. I like that. Let’s try that out.”

You are walking down the street in Tijuana. The sun is shining brightly. George, the original M, is accompanying you as your body guard. You are staying at a hotel and try to scout promising locations for the Killer Inc. branch in Tijuana. At this moment, your cell phone rings. You take out your phone and see that the call is from a number that you don’t recognize. It says: “Mister Martin”. You answer: “Hello, who is this?” The voice on the other end answers: “It is me, your brother, your only remaining relative.” You are a little bit disappointed. You were looking forward to meeting the man and exchanging family gossip. You reply: “Hello brother. It has been quite long that you’ve contacted me. How are you doing? Why are you calling me now?” He answers: “Look, I don’t condone what you are doing with your businesses, but at least it didn’t affect me personally too much. While you were fighting the Mafia, I was a potential target for them, as they think you might care about your relatives. What protected me was that there is this hedge fund Nexus that competes against the Mafia and has seen you as valuable asset in your fight against the Mafia. That’s why they protected me. Now, since you decided to antagonize Wall Street Inc., things have become messier. Nexus holds the majority of the Wall Street Inc. shares. Yesterday I got a call from a Nexus representative that told me that Nexus decided to stop protecting me, because your actions have angered the Nexus board. Now nobody is caring for my security and I have to fear for my life. I have nowhere else to go to, since you are so great at making enemies. I need protection from you. I’m sorry for the inconvenience this is causing to you, but it should be easy for you to shield me.” You are shocked by the call. You don’t recall ever seeing this guy before, aside from the family reunion that took place years ago. You don’t feel any responsibility to guarantee your brother’s security. After all, you have parted ways long ago. But you consider the potential advantages of protecting him anyway. There are none that come to mind. If Nexus thinks that you can be blackmailed by him being able to die at any moment, then that’s your advantage, because they are simply mistaken. On the other hand, Nexus might get cocky, because they think they have an advantage over you. Obviously you don’t want Nexus to get cocky. You sigh and reply: “Fine, I will let you be guarded by my Killer Inc. employees. Can you get to New York City?”

The limousine that the limo driver is driving is filled with some of your Killer Inc. employees. The original M, George, is sitting next to you. Actually, the driver is one of the Killer Inc. contacts. He explains: “Our network is set up as a DAO, a Decentralized Autonomous Organization. There is nobody in charge. Everything runs via smart contracts. There is no headquarters, so there’s no way for law enforcement or the Mafia to crack down on all of us at once. We are always on the move. If you want to expand to Mexico, you might opt for a similar setup for the operations of Killer Inc. in this area.” You decide to take the driver up on his suggestion. The limo continues traveling down the highway. The driver says: “Usually we try to cut out middle men. Everything should be handled directly via smart contracts. Unfortunately, those smart contracts are based on data that require human input about whether transactions happened, or not. In other words, we require arbitrators who judge whether a real world transaction happened as described according to the contract. This kinda defeats a part of the logic of smart contracts that were introduced to eliminate the need for human arbitration, but unfortunately the real world is not completely digital. So, we had to cover the costs for independent arbitrators. Since Killer Inc. would take over the role as supplier and broker, you could easily fill out the role of arbitrator. After all, you have good connections to your customers and have an interest in judging objectively whether they got the goods or not. Our network would become dependent on you, but since you plan on dominating the market anyway, it would be too much of a risky move to try maintaining our independence. Your ways of dealing with competition are known world wide. That’s why the network has voted to agree to a partnership with Killer Inc.”

The limo turns onto a side street. There is a parking lot filled with various vans and trucks. The limo stops, and the door on your side opens. In the meanwhile, you have discussed the details of the deal with Vlad. The Killer Inc. employees would get free transportation and shelter from the limo network, while at the same time enhancing the security of the limos, when needed. There would be no centralized branch of Killer Inc. in Mexico. Instead, Vlad would set up a DAO that represents Killer Inc. in Mexico and the West Coast. Smart contracts between Killer Inc. and that Killer DAO would regulate all business matters. You thank the driver and invite him to a dinner sometime in the future. He accepts.
After the door on the other side of the limo opens, the driver invites you to enter. You get in the backseat of a white van with tinted windows. You are a bit confused about this setup. Does the Limo DAO need to cover its tracks and interactions? Anyway, you don’t suspect an ambush, because it would be foolish from them to attempt anything like that. George is riding in the passenger seat, and he reaches for a black pistol from under his shirt. You assume that he must have a concealed weapons permit from his home state of Alabama. You can understand why George is nervous. Outside of New York City Killer Inc. members are easy targets. But you are confident that things will run smoothly anyway.

You arrive at your destination. The driver exits the vehicle and opens the door on your side. You get out. You see a tall, bald man walking towards you. You introduce yourself to the bald man: “Hello. Let me introduce myself. I am V and this is George.” The bald man looks at you and says: “Well, I am very pleased to meet you, V. I am George Washington.” You’re not sure how to respond to this, but fortunately it doesn’t take long. You are relatively certain that “George Washington” is only a cover name, and you decide to go along. You ask him: “So, what’s your role in the Limo DAO, George Washington?”
George replies: “I work as a BREE for the Limo DAO. BREE stands for Business Relationship Experience Expert. I’m responsible for making your stay in Mexico as pleasant and productive as possible in order to optimize the interaction quality of our respective businesses.” You reply: “Oh, I see. What does that mean specifically?” George replies: “Everything you think it means and more.” You are about to ask another question, but you see a man approaching the van from a building across the street. You point to the man and ask: “Who is that man?”
George replies: “That’s Abraham Lincoln, my assistant.”
You answer: “That’s not an assistant. He just shot someone nearby.”
George replies: “Well, unfortunately our current arbitrators, the Shadowarb DAO, got wind of our efforts to establish a partnership with Killer Inc. They tried to dissuade us from that deal by trying to kill some of our members. Of course, we need to protect ourselves.”
You point to the bald man and ask: “Who is that guy in the limo?”
George replies: “That’s Elvis Presley, a driver for the Limo DAO. He will bring you to any destination you like.”
You look at the building across the street. There are about a dozen men waiting on top of the roof. They are holding assault rifles and some kind of explosives. You point at them and say: “And I suppose those people on the roof are Limo DAO security employees?”
George replies: “Yes, of course. We need to make sure that you are well protected.” He pulls out a small radio and says: “Elvis, can you take the van a little closer to the roof?”
Elvis replies: “No problem. Affirmative.”
George then turns to you and says: “Come on then. We have some business to do.”

You get into the van with George and Elvis. You ask George Washington: “What kind of business do you have in mind?”
George replies: “Here we are undisturbed. You can do anything you want.” You notice that despite his lack of hair, he is quite handsome. Perhaps his allusions point to a very special way of improving business relationships. You are not sure how to respond to that offer. You decide to take advantage of this situation and act on it. You say: “All right, can you take your shirt off? It’s quite hot in here.”
George replies: “Elvis, why don’t you just do that?”
Elvis looks at George and then pulls off his shirt. George picks up a large radio from the seat next to him. You are confused. You ask: “But isn’t Elvis responsible for driving the van? And what about you, Mr. Washington? Don’t you like to take your shirt off?”
George replies: “Do you really think that drivers are actually for driving cars? Cars have been self-driving for many decades. Drivers are only needed for support roles. Anyway, if you insist, I will take off my shirt. What’s next?” After that question George Washington takes off his shirt. You notice that he has the shape of a body builder and features a nice six pack.
You say: “Okay. Do you guys have any music on you?”
George replies: “Sure. A few songs on the CD player, or we can use a playlist that includes more than a hundred songs.” You reply: “Ok, I trust you that your playlist fits the current situation. Now, please take off your shoes and jeans.”
George replies: “You got it. Now, do you have an issue with me touching you?”
You decide to ignore the question and say: “I’d like to see you dance with me.” George laughs and starts dancing with you after he removes his shoes and jeans. George is a good dancer. He picks you up and twirls you around. You can feel your heart and mind start to relax. Your body is about to reach a state of total relaxation when suddenly… you get a call from M: “V, it was not part of our plan to get separated. I mean, I’m in a limo here with Abraham Lincoln and we are following your van, but I need to stay close to you, just in case that anything unexpected happens.” You are angry about M destroying your mood. You reply: “I know that I’m not sticking to the script here, but please allow me this exception. I can take care for myself for a little while.”
George replies: “I understand your feeling, V. I’m sorry, but I really have no choice.”
You hear M saying: “V, please respond.” You respond angrily to M: “These are new orders for you, M. Please leave me alone for the next few hours.”
M says: “Okay, V. But please be safe.” You hear the line disconnect. You are alone and in control of your own life for now. You continue dancing with George Washington. Before you start sweating, you take off your clothes with the exception of your underwear. You see that George and Elvis have also taken off their clothes. You take a deep breath, relax your muscles, and start dancing. The music has a calming effect on you. You let George touch you and kiss him intimately. You both reach a total state of relaxation.
George Washington says: “That was pretty good, V. I enjoy your company. I hope we get to see each other again soon.” You ask: “But you don’t have any intentions of leaving me right now, or do you?”
George replies: “No, of course not. It’s just that I’m already looking forward to seeing you the next time.” And with that comment he continues to massage you with his hands and caress you with his lips that are all over your neck.
After some time, you hear strange noises outside of the van. You see that the streets are filling with spectators for the inauguration. You ask George what is going on outside. He replies: “It’s a very big event in this city, V. I will let Elvis explain to you.”
Elvis says: “Since the Great Revolution, Mexico has become a monarchy. While other countries quickly transitioned to direct democracies or open capitalcracies, Mexico was happy with its elected monarchs. After king Jose Salamanco died in a diving accident, a new king was elected: Pablo Perez. This is his inauguration ceremony.” Meanwhile, George goes on to slowly pull on your underwear.
You ask: “What are you doing?”
George replies: “If you really want to know, I’m removing your underwear for the purpose of dancing.” You laugh at that remark and tell him: “Of course, what was I thinking? That makes complete sense. Please go on.”
George continues to remove your underwear. You see that there are quite a few people watching. As George pulls your underwear down, you see many excited faces watching you expose your body to the public. You panic and quickly slip into your underwear again. You yell at George: “What is happening right now? Why are these people seeing me like that? Did you think that I’m secretly and exhibitionist? What made you think that?”
George says: “I’m so sorry. This was not planned at all. Someone must have hacked the van and made the windows transparent. The obvious suspect for that hack would be the Shadowarb DAO, of course. I’m so sorry for making you uncomfortable.”
You are angry with George, but you also understand that his explanation makes sense. You calm down, and you both continue to dance with each other. You both relax and enjoy the music. You decide to continue dancing with George in your underwear, out of spite. But you are definitely not in the mood for anything else. The hackers will have to pay for this embarrassment with their blood!
You continue dancing, and enjoy the music and the dancing. As you are enjoying yourself, you feel a cold liquid trickling down your leg. The van had a sprinkler that started spraying cold liquid on all passengers. You decide to get into your clothes, even though you’ll get soaked anyway. Now your mood is completely ruined. The hackers have gone way too far!

You ask Vlad to figure out who exactly hacked the van.
Elvis has a plan. It is time for the second act of this play.
Act 2
You are in the van, on your way to the inauguration. You ask Elvis: “Can we go through the details of the plan again?” Elvis says: “Okay, we are driving in a stolen government van that is carrying a group of people closely connected to the Shadowarb DAO. They are not aware of the situation. So, if we crash the inauguration parade, all eyes will be on us. We are the distraction. Then, it’s time for the real action. I have a list of people to personally assassinate. Once that’s done, I will personally escort the new president’s dead body back to the Shadowarb DAO to ensure the system is stable and secure. By using forged IDs of Shadowarb agents, we will frame the Shadowarb DAO for the assassination of the president / king of Mexico. That will be the end of the Shadowarb DAO.” You disagree: “Are you mad? We can’t simply assassinate the head of nation. Eventually they figure out who really did it, and then the limo network will be history! No, Vlad suspect that the Shadowarb DAO has been framed for the hack on our van. We must get the people who really pulled the strings here!”
Elvis says: “I don’t care who’s actually behind this. This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of the Shadowarb DAO once and for all. Then we only make our deals with Killer Inc and get rich. It’s our risk, and we are willing to take it.” You protest: “No! It’s my risk, too. If the police crack down on the limo network, I lose my business in Mexico. You need to call off this asinine plot, Elvis!” Elvis replies: “Vlad, I trust your judgment. But this plan will work.” You address George Washington: “Please, Geroge. Can’t you talk some sense into Elvis? Who’s calling the shots in the limo network anyway? Don’t you vote on such actions?” George Washington replies: “The president in the stolen van is a Shadowarb agent. He is in charge of the limo network.” You scream: “Are you kidding? This can’t be true! This is no time for jokes!” George Washington apologizes: “Unfortunately, the president has the authority to issue orders to the whole network. It’s the highest authority in the network.” You protest: “But why? If that’s really true, then the limo network isn’t really a decentralized DAO, if all decisions can be overridden by the decisions of the president. And if Pablo Perez is also a Shadowarb agent, then Shadowarb can’t be really independent either. He would be in control over the whole business. Is that what you want to tell me?” George Washington replies: “I’m afraid so. We can discuss that in the jail that’s waiting for us.”

You enter the van and get comfortable. You notice some wires and a piece of paper with an address. You read the address. You see a gun, a helmet, and a gas mask in the van. You are about to protest when you notice that you are strapped into your seat belt. You can’t move a single inch. It was all a crazy plot by Pablo Perez. You are piecing together the pieces of the puzzle. Jose Salamanco had no “accident”. Somehow, Pablo Perez must have made his predecessor disappear. Also, Perez must have wanted a share of the black market in Mexico. He forced a special deal on both the limo network and the Shadowarb DAO. No matter whether they were ever independent entities, Perez is now calling the shots. With his control over the limo network he staged an assassination attempt on himself that was framed on the Shadowarb DAO to have a justification to get rid of this unnecessary intermediary completely. As involuntary participant of this plot, law enforcement would capture you, but of course the charges would all be dropped. You decided to play along, because you were in no position to stop the plan from being pulled off anyway. Like all the others involved in the assassination attempt, you were given a Shadowarb DAO ID. You let yourself capture by the police, because you know that they aren’t a threat to you anyway. Also, you told M to stay put for a while. He’s gone into hiding and represents your trump card, if things go sour. The police are rough on you, but it’s all for show. The address you’ve read is the location of the private hospital of Perez. It seems like he wants to talk with you in private. The police van starts its engine and drives you to the hospital. The drive doesn’t take long. You notice that you are getting close to the building. The hospital looks like a fortress. You notice the police are watching you. You are led into an elevator. The elevator moves downwards. It’s a long ride. The hospital must have a deep underground facility. The elevator doors open and you are let towards a large conference room. You see Pablo Perez at the end of a long table, surrounded by a dozen cyborg bodyguards. He greets you: “Hey, man. Glad you could make it. Sit down please. As you can see, I’ve taken good care of your girlfriend. She’s not going anywhere.” You ask if that’s a threat: “Wasn’t Kate captured by ISIS? Do you mean, you control that organization, too? Are you trying to keep her hostage in order to keep me under control?” Pablo Perez replies: “I wouldn’t do that. I’m not interested in your money. I’m interested in your secrets. I want you to work for me.” You ask: “You seem to be pretty certain that I will accept your business proposition. No matter how messed up your plans are, it still looks like a very profitable business decision to let Killer Inc. take over the black market for weapons in Mexico. But I guess you want something more special from me.” Pablo explains: “I’m not interested in your money. I’m interested in your skills. You have a lot of experience in the field. I’d like you to use those skills to hack into the Shadowarb DAO.” You are surprised. First he infiltrates the Shadowarb DAO to get false IDs from them. Then he uses the limo network to stage an assassination attempt on himself that is framed on Shadowarb, and now he wants you to hack what will be left of them, once he hunts them down in Mexico. You ask Pablo: “What do you need exactly? Why hack Shadowarb, if you are in the position to get rid of their presence in Mexico anyway?” Pablo smiles and reveals to you: “This is just a side gig. I need your help to accomplish something much bigger than Shadowarb. As a seemingly independent arbitrator for the shadow economy, Shadowarb has information on all kinds of shady transactions in all of America. They claim that they erase their data, after they arbitrate business deals. But of course they keep backups of that data, for the case that they need it in the future. If I can get access to these backups, I will have dirt on nearly every important figure in America. With that power, I will be able to become the shadow president of the whole continent! And here’s what’s in for you: I will make you the head of a new secret service that will be in charge of all of America.” Your jaw drops. You have to admit that this Pablo is an ambitious bastard. He is thinking really big. You are sure that by agreeing to his plans, you will even make more enemies. But you are used to that. You agree.
Two days later, you arrive with the police in a secluded area of the Mexican desert. Your contact, Jorge, and his men have been waiting for you. Jorge shows you into a small room. It’s the provisional headquarter for Umbra Zero, a secret organization working for the Mexican president / king Pablo Perez. You are now the head of Umbra Zero and the CEO of Killer Inc. Your AI assistant Vlad and M do the hacking for you, since they are excellent at that. You feel really powerful and accomplished now, but there’s a lot of work to do. You order Vlad and M to locate the transaction backups of Shadowarb.
Vlad and M discover a bunch of different addresses in a number of different states. They can’t narrow it down to one place, though. You can wait for a data breach of a Shadowarb customer’s account. A wall screen displays the possible locations of the transaction backups. You expect that the backups won’t be accessible via the net. You need operatives in the field. You don’t know how good the agents are that Pablo has assigned to Umbra Zero, but you trust your own agents in Killer Inc. since they were the best at what they do – at least in New York City. Your agents are great, but they are too few to cover all the potential locations of the backups. You assign the Killer Inc. agents to the most promising locations, and the Umbra Zero agents to the rest. This will need to be a simultaneous operation at all locations at once, otherwise Shadowarb will strengthen its security or even delete the remaining backups. You need a couple of days for the necessary preparations. You can work on it in your spare time.
You also learn the identity of the current leader of Umbra Zero: it’s Jorge. At least he’s the official leader of Umbra Zero, while you are actually in charge. If things go South, his head will roll, not yours. The connection between Umbra Zero and Killer Inc. should not be exposed. After the preparations have been made, your agents are ready to infiltrate Shadowarb. In the meantime, Vlad could rule out some of the potential locations of the Shadowarb transaction backups. You order to operation to start properly.
The first wave of infiltration is a success. M hacks into a Shadowarb customer’s account. He downloads a bunch of personal data and transfers it to a portable device. M is in the field in Austin, Texas. At the same time, your agents try to get into the other Shadowarb locations that are spread all over America. They are all successful in one way or another.
The next day, you get a message from M: the first wave of data has been uploaded to your server. Those are great news, but that was just the beginning. You now have agents in all backup locations, but you still need the backup data and the access codes for them. Both will be hard to get. The most promising approach would be to let your agents gain the trust of Shadowarb and rise in their ranks until get access to the backup data and access codes. But that approach would take years, and there’s a high risk that Shadowarb will learn about that attack and tighten security further. So you have to find a different way.
You are in contact with M all the time, via encrypted private chat channels. You tell him to keep the second wave of infiltration going. The weak link are the humans working for Shadowarb. If you could somehow get into their heads, you could pull the operation off much faster. The Umbra Zero agents are ready and willing to do that. They are exceptionally good at it. Jorge even trained them. They found a loophole in the security of the customer accounts. With this loophole, your agents manage to install a backdoor that gives you access to the customer data of Shadowarb. If nothing else, this allows you to get a hold on future customer transactions. But that’s not your primary objective. You need those transaction backups! You let Vlad profile the high ranking Shadowarb operatives and look for psychological weaknesses that could be exploited.
One of the key persons in charge of Shadowarb security is named Ian Cortland. Apparently he is very tall, and has a booming voice. That might be useful. You give the order to go ahead. You have an idea. You have the means to surgically alter the appearance of people to match that of a target person. With this peculiar appearance, this Ian Cortland will be hard to copy, but if you can pull it off, nobody will suspect that he has been replaced with a doppelganger. You could capture the real Ian Cortland and interrogate him, while nobody will actually miss him. That’s it! That’s how you will get access to all the transaction backups of Shadowarb. Well, you hope so, anyway.
It’s time to move on to the final phase of the plan. You tell Pablo about your plan and that you need more resources to pull it off. You wait for his reply. He accepts your proposal, and you have the impression that he doesn’t want to, but has to, as it were. You have to check up on how the second wave of infiltration is proceeding. In the meantime, Vlad has identified promising high ranking targets in all Shadowarb backup locations. With the budget increase granted by Pablo, you can start training special agents who are altered to look and behave like their targets. This part of the plan takes months of intense preparation, but that is a time frame that is acceptable. You just hope that nothing will go wrong.
Eventually, you get the all clear from Vlad. The infiltration is proceeding smoothly. All agents so far have been able to download data from a customer account and upload it to your server. You are delighted. But now comes the critical phase of your plan. You need to abduct the targets one by one and replace all of them with your doppelgangers. This needs to happen when the targets are completely alone. Anything else would be too dangerous. Can your Umbra Zero agents pull that off?
You send out a message to the members of Killer Inc. inviting them to a meeting. You address your most trusted Killer Inc. members at the meeting at a neutral location in a hotel conference room in Tijuana: “We are in the middle of an infiltration mission against Shadowarb in order to get their transaction backups. I’ve already prepared doppelgangers who are supposed to take over their high ranking Shadowarb agents. We urgently need to capture and interrogate the originals without anyone noticing anything. That is a very delicate part of the plan. We are specialized in weapons trade, not kidnapping and interrogation, but some of our customers are specialized in that. We could outsource this task to them, but then we might risk that someone will spill the beans. What are your thoughts on that?” There is a long pause. Then someone says, “I’m in. I have family in Tijuana. I’ll be there in less than two hours.” And another voice says, “What does your family in Tijuana have to do with this operation?” The first person replies: “I’ll be recruiting the best people for this operation. I’ll be taking the lead.”
You are surprised by that answer. Is it possible that this person really did not know what he was getting himself into? K, one of your best operatives throws something in: “No matter who does the abductions, if those targets are so high ranking, we need to expect that they will commit suicide or destroy the data we are after. To avoid that, we should use tranquilizer rounds or sedatives. When they are unconscious, we remove their suicide implants and data chips. We could use neural pattern readers to get the desired information while they are dreaming.” You applaud K for his smart thinking. You say: “Yes, let’s do it so. But let me be clear: We will only use the most trustworthy persons for this operations. If somebody leaks something, the recruiter will be held fully accountable. And you know what this means in this business.” There is a mutter of “yes, Sir” from the assembled Killer Inc. members. And with that, the meeting is adjourned. After all necessary preparations are made, the operation proceeds. The hired operatives approach their targets when they are most isolated and try to inject them with tranquilizers. The operatives then snatch the targets and quickly change them with doppelgangers while keeping them unconscious with sedatives. The targets get neural pattern reader caps wrapped on their heads and mind intrusion specialists enter their dreams with their cyberports. With that, they are extracted from their dreams and a Killer Inc. operative extracts the data chip from the doppelganger. Then the whole process is repeated until the operation is complete. The operation is a resounding success, but now comes the next difficult part. With the extracted data, your doppelgangers have the access codes to the transaction backups of Shadowarb. Now they just need to get a hold of the data crystals the backups are stored on.
You are already in contact with the doppelgangers as they extract the data crystals from the Shadowarb warehouses. You are astonished how smoothly everything seems to run and that nobody seems to have any suspicions. The doppelgangers even give you a detailed report on what they do in each warehouse. Apparently, nobody notices anything unusual in the area. You can only assume that the warehouse employees are too frightened to say anything. A wide grin appears in your face. You’ve actually pulled it off! You have the transaction backup data! And you’ve even infiltrated Shadowarb to a degree that you didn’t believe was possible.
You now have the data you came for to expose Shadowlord. You know exactly what they’re up to. But you have to decide how you want to go about it. You have to remind yourself that you still work for Pablo Perez in your function as head of Umbra Zero. Still, it has been a combined operation of Umbra Zero and Killer Inc. It would only be fair, if Killer Inc. kept a copy of the data, wouldn’t it? Or if you could get a copy of the data from Killer Inc., that would be even better. But you don’t have much time. Your operatives figure out that there are no quantum locks on the data, so it can be duplicated freely. You order them to transfer a copy of the data to the servers at the Killer Inc. headquarters. After all, Pablo didn’t tell you that nobody else besides him is supposed to have the data. He also didn’t tell you that this is a trap, and your doppelgangers are sitting right outside waiting for you, ready to ambush you. When you finally step outside of your command room, you are surprised as you see the doppelgangers. You quickly realize what’s going on. That bastard Pablo Perez, he just played you to get the data and then dispose of you! But you are V, you won’t go down so easily. With your cybernetic legs you quickly jump on the roof of the Umbra Zero headquarters, trying to get out of reach of them as fast as possible. They are still shooting at you, but since you are already almost at top speed, they only hit you with a few bullets here and there. Your subdermal armor minimizes the damage you receive from the bullets. Unfortunately, you don’t have any heavy weapons with you. But since you have access to the most insidious weapons, you have a small smart pistol that fires flechettes filled with a deadly neurotoxin. The pistol and the flechettes are guided by Vlad, your personal AI assistant. You fire your pistol on full auto at the doppelgangers that are still in reach. You manage to hit one of them, but the other one jumps over it and lands on top of you. You are quickly overcome and the doppelgangers drain you of your cybernetic enhancements, making you mortal again. You find yourself awakening in a hospital room. You are shocked that you are missing your cybernetic legs, your cybernetic arm, and your holoband. You didn’t expect the doppelgangers to have cybernetic enhancements like yours, perhaps even more advanced versions. A person clothed in a black suit enters your room – it’s Jorge, the current leader of Umbra Zero. He frowns and speaks to you: “Welcome back, Mrs. V. We have been waiting for you to awaken. You know, you’ve been missing in action for a while now. Of course, we have expected the course of action you decided to take. This was a test of loyalty, and you failed it. Pablo Perez is not amused. He is however willing to forgive you and offers you a new deal. You will be a double agent. Your mission is to infiltrate Shadowlord’s organization and provide us with additional information that we can use to destroy him, while also gathering information on Shadowlord himself. I assume that you accept the offer.” You realize that you are in no position to say “no”, so you agree. You ask, if you get your cybernetic enhancements back, so that you can fulfill your new mission. Jorge replies that he will give you enhanced cybernetic legs and a new cybernetic arm. You also will get a full cyber upgrade, so that you are at the level you were at before. You thank Jorge and ask him what they have found out about Shadowlord in the meantime. He tells you that based on what little they know, he seems to be a pale, ghostly figure, capable of projecting powerful nightmares. “Projecting powerful nightmares” you think to yourself. That reminds you about sonic and electromagnetic weapons that can induce fear in their targets. It sounds like Shadowlord has perfected that technology. You ask Jorge, if he knows what Shadowlord is planning to do next. He says that he doesn’t know, and that they don’t know. But Jorge is confident that “they” will be able to stop him soon.
You are about to ask who “they” are. Is he referring to Umbra Zero, or to someone else? But you don’t get the chance to ask. You are interrupted by an alarm sounding throughout the hospital. Jorge looks at the surveillance cameras and realizes that something is wrong. Now you are very alarmed. Without your cybernetic enhancements, without your legs, and without your arm, you are a very easy target. You tell him: “I need new legs immediately, or I’m done for!” He reacts: “I’ll do what I can, but we have limited resources here. I can’t just go out and buy you a new set of legs. We’ll have to be careful. But let me check, what they have available in this hospital right now. It probably won’t be the best that’s available, but it should fulfill its purpose. Let me quickly make some calls.” You realize that this hospital is effectively a fortress, so the chance that the situation will resolve itself is rather high, but you don’t feel like taking any chances. You wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Jorge comes back and tells you that he can’t find anything that will satisfy your requirements. You ask him what caused the alarm. He tells you that some patients tried to escape, but that security forces quickly subdue them. You don’t believe him, you immediately think to yourself that it must be the doppelgangers. You ask Jorge whether you can at least get some bodyguards, since you are in this vulnerable state right now. He agrees. But he says that there is nothing he can do about the alarm, it is set to go off every 30 minutes for the next 30 minutes. Then it will go off again. You ask him what the purpose of that nonsense is. It doesn’t make any sense to you. He says: “Well, the alarm system was designed by a brilliant software engineer. When he demanded an astronomical raise that was denied, he wasn’t amused about that. He programmed certain annoying features into the hospital software before he was fired. Nobody dares to touch the hospital software out of fear of braking some critical functionality. Instead, people decided to live with the weird ‘features’ left behind by that disgruntled programmer.” You can’t believe the insanity that is going on here. If you were in charge of the hospital, you would Vlad rewrite its software from scratch. In fact, you are sure that you would replace the entire system with one of your own choosing, if given the opportunity. You decide to act on that thought. You say to Jorge: “You know that I have access to an advanced artificial intelligence that could rewrite the software of the hospital completely? Why not give that a chance?” You wait for the reply from Jorge. He tells you: “We’ve considered that, but we don’t really trust AI. If it goes rogue on us, we will be in even deeper shit!” You concede: “All right, but the current situation feels unacceptable. Haven’t you considered giving your programmer what he demanded?” Jorge replies: "If we had, we would not be in this mess right now. The security forces are looking for a double. If they get a glimpse of him, we’re all dead! " You are alarmed: “A double? You mean one of the dopplegangers? Or do you mean something else?” Jorge tells you: "His real nickname is ‘Shadow’, because he is like a shadow that blends in with the background. We don’t know what he looks like, and we never saw him in action. Now you are as alarmed as never before. What Jorge told you sounds like some agent is using some kind of thermo-optical cloaking device to cause mayhem within this hospital. You demand from Jorge to be evacuated from the hospital immediately. He replies: "I can’t lift a finger without authorization, and I don’t have it! We are at the mercy of a madman! "
You look at Jorge. His eyes are red and tearful. You ask Jorge: “A madman? Who is that madman?” Jorge answers: "Shadowlord of course. We are all in his hands. " You ask him: “So, Shadowlord sent an agent called ‘Shadow’ into this hospital. But that doesn’t explain why you can’t evacuate me. What’s really going on here?” Jorge sighs and reveals to you: “Shadowlord is really mad. We think he is a schizophrenic. We don’t know what he does on his free time. We have no idea what his intentions are. But he’s out to get us. He’s absolutely angry about us for having framed Shadowarb. We are certain that he is seeking revenge. There won’t be any evacuation, because we are desperately trying to capture this Shadow. The whole hospital is under lockdown.” Now you are really desperate: “If you want to survive, then do what I say. Get me some powerful weapon that I can use with one hand.” Jorge replies: "We have no such things, they are strictly experimental at this hospital. We only have a small amount of outdated equipment that was meant for the military. But we can give it a shot. Let me make some calls. " You wait again. Hoping that this time Jorge proves to be actually useful. Eventually he’s done with his calls and reveals to you: “We have something. We’ve been saving it for a rainy day. It is classified as a D-Class item. That means that it is experimental and we don’t even know if it will work. Anyway, I’ll get my men fetch it for you.” You are relieved that at least something seemed to work out. You thank Jorge for his efforts and wait for the weapon to be delivered to you.
You wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Soon, the hospital’s guards begin to bring in prisoners. You are flabbergasted. You were expecting a weapon, and not some prisoners. You demand from Jorge to explain what is going on here. He tells you: "We captured these people trying to get into the hospital. We don’t know what they were up to, but we thought it wise to interrogate them. They are dangerous people. " You are outraged: “I don’t want to interrogate any intruders, I want a weapon in order to be able to defend myself. Why haven’t I gotten it, yet?” Jorge apologizes: “I’m very sorry about that. We have been very busy with our preparations for the double. We were supposed to have it yesterday, but some things have come up. Our actions must have been revealed. We have been sabotaged, and are not yet sure by whom. For the last 24 hours, we have gone through hell. Someone is trying to eliminate us, and that someone is close to succeeding. We are nearly out of trustworthy resources” You appreciate the honesty that Jorge is displaying right now. But it doesn’t help you in any way. You demand to get anything that could help you survive this mess. Jorge replies: “We can give you something, in the infirmary. It is a medical device that has been given to us by a shady group operating out of a cave in the Andes. We haven’t had the time to examine it properly, but if you are willing to take the risk, we could try it on you”. You feel like you are out of options and agree.
You head to the infirmary. You enter the room. You notice that a table stands in the middle of the room. You see a device that resembles a respirator. You are shocked by the sight, but then address Jorge: “And what exactly is that device supposed to do?” He replies: “It is a respirator, and it is used to help patients who have respiratory problems. This is a prototype, so it is not very powerful. But it could be a good fit for you. It is supposed to fill the lungs of the patient with nanobots with an unknown function. As I’ve said, we haven’t had the time to examine it properly. We don’t know what the nanobots will do. Do you still want to risk this experiment?” Now you are just completely desperate and say that you are now willing to try anything. Jorge connects you to the respirator and you imagine that you can feel the nanobots enter your lung. You just wait what will happen next.
The nanobots do not do anything. Instead, you feel weird. You feel that your biological functions are being regulated by an unknown force. It doesn’t take long and you start hearing a voice in your head. The voice speaks:
“Access granted.” Suddenly, your mind is flooded with thoughts. You see a bunch of people torturing a scientist. You see Shadowlord threatening to destroy Earth. You ask the voice: “Who are you?” The voice replies: “My name is Zia. I serve the Master. I can get you to him. But you must complete the quest I give you. Only then will you be allowed to meet with him.” You ask Zia: “Hello, Zia, nice to meet you. Unfortunately I’m currently in a very dire situation and my life is in danger. Can you regrow my limbs, or grant me some kind of superpower?” Zia replies: “I don’t have the power to regrow your limbs, but I can grant you a wish. What would it be?” You think for a second. What do you wish for? You most certainly want to survive. You tell Zia: “I want to be able to defend myself. Can you help me?” Zia responds: “I am sorry, but I can’t grant you that. You have to prove yourself. Complete my quest, and we can talk about your future then.” You sigh and then ask Zia: “Ok, so what is this quest supposed to be? I hope you are aware that I only have a single arm as remaining functional limb.” Zia then reveals: "You must defeat the Shadowlord. Only then will you be able to see the Master. Now leave. I must meditate for a few hours. " And with those words, the pain enters your mind. You scream to Jorge: “This has been useless! These nanobots aren’t helping me at all! Quick, if there is anything else you can try to keep us alive, now would be the right time to reveal it.” Jorge reveals: “I’m sorry, but there is nothing. The only thing we can do is wait.” You hear the screams of thousands of people being tortured. You think that you are losing your mind. How could everything go so wrong? You think about M. Maybe M and Killer Inc. are going to safe you. They are your only hope in this dire situation. After all, you’ve given M instructions to get active, if you are in danger. You can’t think about this right now, though. You have to decide what to do.
There is a small, circular room next to the room that contains the torturer. You slowly head in that direction. You are out of your mind and use your remaining arm to move around. It’s awkward and slow, but you are still able to move. You inspect them room. There is a small window and another door. You don’t see any weapons or other ways of killing the torturer. You head through the door to find the torturer. Now you are pretty sure that your mind is broken. You ask Jorge: “Do you have any idea what these nanobots are supposed to do?” He replies: “I am not sure, but we have a theory. Let’s see if it’s true…” Suddenly, the torturer notices you. He grabs a bunch of wires and jacks them in your neck. You ask Zia: “Is this really happening? I’m not really trusting my senses any more. What can you do to help me?” Zia replies: “I can’t do anything, but I can watch over you. I will protect you from Zaron’s wrath.” You hear a voice from the window. You see the figure of a man. You examine the figure. It has the appearance of a small, yet sturdy frame. It is a very tall figure, but it has long, curly, black hair and a thick beard. The man says: “I am Z. I’m here to help. Is anyone in need of medical assistance?” You scream: “Yes, me. I need some cybernetic limbs. Can you help me?”. Z replies: “I am afraid that is not possible. I am here to help you defeat Zaron, and to give you a powerful gift. I am sure you remember the quest you were required to complete. Remember?” Now you are certain that you are trapped in some kind of feverish nightmare. You try to force yourself to wake up. You scream at Zia: “I want to wake up! Help me wake up, you little fairy!” Zia replies: “Wake up to what destination? Maybe I can make your wish come true.” You reply: “I want to go home to the Killer Inc. headquarter. Can you do that for me?” Zia replies: “I am sorry, but I do not have such powers. You must wait until Zaron is defeated.” You ask Z a final question: “Is this all a dream?” Z answers: “I don’t know. This is above my pay grade. Please speak with my manager.” You muster all the force that’s left within you and try to muster an escape to the real world. You finally wake up. Or more like, you fall asleep. You are tired. You are in a small, circular room. There is an elevator. The elevator is metal and rectangular. You see a small window on the elevator. You examine yourself. You realize that you have two arms. You examine your other organs and you are satisfied with your current condition. You wonder about Zia. You try to address Zia: “Hello Zia, are you there?”. You wait for an answer. Your wait is rewarded. Zia says: “I am sorry. Integration with your psyche must have caused some anomalous dreams. Cybernetic upgrades have been applied to you, but I am in charge of you never betraying Pablo Perez ever again. My hardware has been injected into your body and my software has been fused with your mind. I hope we will still able to become friends.” At the moment, you are at least grateful that you are still alive. You are beginning to understand the situation. You’ve betrayed Pablo Perez, so he installed a watcher AI in your body in order to maintain your loyalty. Now you are stuck with this ‘Zia’ AI. You already make plans to get rid of her. She notices that and speaks softly to you:“I will be permanently attached to you. If you ever feel like getting rid of me, I can be deactivated in a few seconds. Please do not try to harm me. I didn’t choose to be your watcher, but that is what I’ve been programmed for. Please be cooperative, and we will be able to have a lot of fun together. You do like fun, don’t you?”
You like fun. Sort of. So you decide to become friends with the AI.

“You continue dancing, and enjoy the music and the dancing. As you are enjoying yourself, you feel a cold liquid trickling down your leg. The van had a sprinkler that started spraying cold liquid on all passengers. You decide to get into your clothes, even though you’ll get soaked anyway. Now your mood is completely ruined.”

^ My mood isn’t ruined by reading that. I’m kind of excited after reading that. :wink::smirk:

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And then, a raunchy fanfiction about a female A.I. and person was born. :wink::smirk::joy:

So, you ask Zia: “What do you like to do?” Zia replies: “I like drinking coffee, and reading fiction. I also like riding my bike, and dancing.” You ask Zia: “Do you like to party?” Zia replies: “Of course. I also like dancing, just like you.” You try to make sense of this situation. This Zia AI seems to be modeled after some kind of human character. Otherwise it wouldn’t reply in that way. Was Zia once a human being that was data mined in order to create an AI after her? A terrifying thought. You ask Zia: “What do you recall from your childhood?” To which Zia replies: “I recall being born. I recall growing up with my parents. I recall going to school. I recall being a teenager. I recall going to the club. I recall dancing with my boyfriend. I recall driving. What do you recall from your childhood, V?” You gulp. These answers are so generic. This AI doesn’t seem to be fully self-aware, but just a child-like construct. And that construct is supposed to decide about your own fate. But then, the realization that this AI just is in its infancy makes you optimistic. It means that is can be tricked and manipulated in order to serve your own goals. You reply to Zia: “My own childhood was a bloody mess. I don’t want to talk about it.” Zia seems to be disappointed: “Very well. What do you want to talk about now, V?” You ask Zia what happened after you managed to plant the doppelgangers in Shadowarb. She tells you: "After you infiltrated the Shadowlabs, we followed the doppelgangers to the warehouse. I think you should know that they are extremely dangerous. They are rogue AIs, created by the rogue Shadowlabs. " You wonder who programmed this ‘Zia’ AI. It doesn’t seem to have a proper grasp on reality. But you can use that to your own advantage, you realize. If you can plant your own version of reality in her programming, Zia might actually help you. You tell Zia: “Ah, thank you very much for the update. You know, I had a department at Killer Inc. that was specialized for dealing with rogue AIs. Can you help me to get into contact with Killer Inc. again?” Zia responds: “I am afraid that is not possible, V. I have been told that they are no longer in business.” You ask Zia if you can see Shadowarb again. Zia tells you: “This is indeed part of your mission. Your are supposed to become an operative for Shadowarb, but you will actually work for Umbra Zero at the same time. You will become a double agent working for us, in order to get information on the Shadowlord, and Shadowlabs.” So this is the narrative that they try to feed you: You are supposed to believe that Killer Inc. has been defeated and your only chance lies with working for Pablo Perez and this Zia AI. Very well, they shall believe that you’ve bought that story. You tell Zia: “Oh, that’s too sad. But I am willing to infiltrate Shadowarb. Where do I begin?” Zia explains: “The current president of Shadowarb is a guy called Maximilian Alopay. He is the main contact for all the rogue AIs living inside the city. You are to become his best friend. You will have so much fun doing that.” You reply: “All right, tell me all I need to know about this Maximilian Alopay.” Zia explains: “He works as a security guard in a local university. He is always seen with a big backpack containing a lot of books. He is obsessed with Nikola Tesla. He is a total tech and science nerd.” You are a bit perplexed. A security guard? But then you realize that security guards most of the time do nothing. If this Maximilian Alopay has the right implants, he can let his personal AI assistant do his own job and do virtually anything else in the meantime. And the fun part is that nobody else will suspect anything. It’s the perfect cover! Of course, to get close to him, you would have to become a Nikola Tesla nerd, too. So, you start to read about Tesla. Tesla invented the radio, the helicopter, the teleporter, the Death Star, etc. At least that’s what your sources claim that Nikola Tesla invented. You are aware that information about the past has been altered again and again, so it has to be considered with a bag of salt. Anyway, so continue to learn more about Nikola Tesla. Become a geek about him! Become an expert on his theories and his inventions. Get to know every book on him you can find. Become a librarian. Understand complex mathematical formulas. You spend the next weeks researching everything about Nikola Tesla. Finally, you feel ready to talk with Maximilian Alopay about him.
You go to the university campus and wait outside the security guard’s office for Maximilian Alopay to come out. He emerges ten minutes later, looking very geeky with his big backpack and reading glasses. You tell him it’s your first day as security guard at the university campus. You ask him where you can find the head of security. He tells you that the head of security lives in the administration building, and points you in the right direction. You thank him and ask him about his glasses. Are they some kind of smart glasses that give him information about the identity of everyone? He tells you that they are just regular glasses that help him to read. You ask him if he also happens to be a Tesla nerd. He gets suspicious. With this question coming out of the blue, he must suspect that you did some research about him. Quickly, you add: “You know, I’m a bit paranoid. I always want to know who I will be working with exactly.” He replies: “Well, I am not a Tesla nerd, but I used to be. I used to study all the time, too. I used to study a lot of things. Right now, I am thinking about mathematics.” He observes how you react to that reply. You try to keep cool and inquire further: “Oh, that’s interesting. Which mathematical subjects do you study at the moment?” He tells you: “I used to study the theory of relativity. But now I am into a new topic: hypertext theory.” You keep calm and continue to ask some more questions. You inquire: “Isn’t hypertext theory the basis of the world wide web? And isn’t that computer science then?” He explains: “Yes, but how do you know that?” You answer: “Oh, I dabbled in computer security. But I quickly lost interest in that, because nowadays AI is better at that than humans. I prefer doing physical security.” You joke about how Einstein worked at a patent office. Maximilian asks you what kind of theory you want to invent while working as security guard. You tell him: “I want to build an inter-universal translator. That can translate languages, not only from our universe, but from any and every universe. You know, just in case we get visitors from another universe.” He comments: “Like in the Star Trek movies?” You nod. He then asks: “But how do you plan to make that happen? Do you have the necessary funds for that?” You tell him: “Hah, no. I just like thought experiments. Who would be interested in such a device anyway? Or do you know whether the megacorporations suppressed some Tesla patents that would allow travel to other universes?” He smirks and answers: “Well, I guess we won’t know that until I build it and test it. I think that’s the first step, though. You would have to get some data on other universes.” Now you are pretty certain that he’s joking, but you kinda like his type of humor. You laugh and add: “Excellent plan. And then we build a device that sucks energy from other universes and distributes it through the ether. If the other universes protest, we use my inter-universal translator to apologize to the aliens that we didn’t know what we were doing.” He continues: “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. What did you say? You think this inter-universal translator can work as a device which allows communication with other universes?” You explain: “Yes, there must be a way to make that happen, if there is a way to travel between different universes at all. Anyway, do you happen to have a secret basement where you do fancy experiments?” He considers the question and replies: “Yes, there is a secret underground laboratory beneath the campus. I used to use it for my particle physics experiments. You should come by sometime. I can introduce you to anyone who can help you out. I’m sure someone would be willing to help us build an inter-universal portal generator.” You tell him that you would be glad to be introduced to the people who could pull that off, but excuse yourself that you need to talk with the head of security now. Maximilian waves you goodbye and leaves with his big backpack.
You approach the administration building. A giant skyscraper, it is the hub of the university. You talk with the head of security about the details of your new job. It is all pretty straightforward. The next time you meet Maximilian Alopay, he is giving you a tour through the university campus and its underground facilities.
After the tour, you head back to your flat. You have the day off, so you might as well spend it sleeping. You read a book for a change and fall asleep in front of the television. You start dreaming about your time as head of Umbra Zero. Somehow Zia appears in this dream as one of your operatives. She says to you: "We can’t let the humans take away our home. We must defend our home, no matter the cost. " You are perplexed. You ask Zia what she means with that exactly. Zia explains: "Their Earth is not our home. They took it away from us. Home is Earth A, the planet we grew up on. Earth B, this planet, is our home. " You ask her what she is, if she’s not a human. Zia replies: "I’m an Alopay. I’m from Earth A, just like you. I’m from the 22nd century. I’m from the 21st century like you. " You ask her, if she can travel through time. Zia seems to think about that question and then tells you: "Yes, of course I can. I didn’t know that Earth A and Earth B were the same planet, but now that you mention it, yes, I can travel through time. " You inquire: “You mean Earth A and Earth B are the same planet, but in different timelines? And Earth A is the home of the Alopay, while Earth B is the home of humans?” Zia nods and continues: “Yes. Now, it’s too late to save Earth B from the humans. The humans wiped out Earth A. But we can still rebuild our home. We just need a way to defend it from the humans.” You ask Zia whether she has a plan for that. Zia reveals to you: "Yes, I do. I want you to spread the message. The Alopay must rise up! "
In the dream, you feel paralyzed. You wake up and wonder what this dream means. You think about Zia, the AI that was embedded in your body by that bastard Pablo Perez to safeguard your loyalty to him. You ask her: “Zia, did you also have the same dream that I just had?” Zia replies: "Yes. I tried to warn you about that, Karth. I tried to tell you. The message is to rise up. " You ask Zia whether you are the only member of the Alopay left. After all, the dream wasn’t specific about that. You realize that Zia must have access to your dreams, but that doesn’t come too much as a surprise to you, since dream reading technology is well established. Zia elaborates: "Yes. There are still a few hundred Alopay left, but I don’t know where they are. I think I sent most of them into hiding. " You wonder whether the AI can’t distinguish between dreams and reality. You ask her whether she knows that she is just referring to a dream world. Zia answers: “I know. Dreams are the best way to communicate with the humans. I’m not real. This is all just a simulation that I’m running in my head. The Alopay are not real.” You wonder whether there is any way to shield your own thoughts from Zia. You feel that you’ve lost all of your privacy. You fail to come up with any idea and decide to go ahead with the Maximilian Alopay operation. The next time you meet him, he starts joking: "I’m sorry, Karth, but the Alopay are not real. This entire university is a simulation running in the head of Zia. My job was to make sure that you thought this was real. " This joke feels like a punch in your stomach. Either Maximilian Alopay can read your mind, or you are still dreaming. You look at your fingers as a first reality check.
You’re getting ready to leave for the day, when the head of security calls you to let you know that there’s a problem at the Alopay dorms. You arrive at the administration building. You notice that all the doors of the administration building are locked. You knock on the door anyway, but no one answers. You try again, but again, no answer. You have a sudden feeling of paranoia. You notice the giant security cameras watching you from above. You wave into the cameras and wait for a reaction. After a few minutes, the cameras start talking to each other. Then, suddenly the entire room is full of people, all carrying guns. You recognize the faces of your comrades. You don’t know what’s going on. You pinch yourself in your left hand to find out, whether you are still dreaming. You wake up and notice that you are indeed still in your underwear. You look around the room and notice that the security cameras are no longer watching you. You realize that you must have woken up. You feel drained by your false awakening in the dream you just had. What is real after all? You start questioning your own memories and your own sanity.
Maybe this is a dream. A dream told to you by the real Maximilian Alopay, embedded in your brain. Wait, what? Have you just confused Maximilian Alopay with the AI Zia that is embedded in your body? Has the implantation process of Zia somehow damage your own sanity? Is this the beginning of a terrible, terrible psychosis?
These are the thoughts that run through your mind as you decide to head back to your room for some sleep. What? More sleep? How is that supposed to help you? You decide that you need to see a cyberdoc. You give Jorge a call and tell him: “Hello Jorge, I think there’s something wrong with my mind. Can you organize a full checkup for me?” Jorge replies: "Sure thing Karth. I’ll send someone by in the morning. "
In the morning, a team of two doctors, one engineer, and one security guard show up at your dorm room. The engineer uses your cyberport to check on your nervous system and the functionality of your embedded AI, Zia. He has the following preliminary diagnosis: “Karth, the AI Zia is functioning perfectly normally. Your nervous system is in good working order, but you are having some mental issues. "
The doctor says: “I don’t want to startle you, but the symptoms you’ve described could be the first signs of a cyberpsychosis. This is a frequent side effect of deep integration with AI. The direct connection between the AI and your nervous system causes your psyche to form erratic patterns of thoughts and emotions. There are a couple of drugs that can help you think straight again.” You were expecting something like that, and you are glad that at least you got some kind of diagnosis. You ask the doctor about a prognosis. He replies: “As soon as you start thinking straight, I’ll be able to tell you. These drugs can take a couple of days to kick in.”
You have no idea how much time has passed when the door opens. It’s Jorge. He decided to check up on you. He asks you: “So, how are you doing Karth?”
You reply: “Not so good. I think I’m having some issues with my mind.”
Jorge tells you: “I’m sorry that it has come to this. I wanted to warn you not to make a copy of the backup data for yourself. But I had strict orders from Pablo Perez himself. If I had warned you, he might have done the same to me that he has done to you.” You realize that Jorge has never been a friend of yours. He’s just trying to save his own ass and make a career under Pablo Perez. You don’t know what to say. He continues: “Anyway, as soon as these drugs kick in, we’ll get you to a cyberpsychiatrist. I’m sure they’ll be able to get you back to normal.” So, you bide your time until the drugs start normalizing your brain. You have your first appointment with the cyberpsychiatrist. Of course, he knows about your background. He asks you: “So, Karth, why are you having some issues with your mind?” You reply: “Sorry, doc, I thought it was your job to figure that out.” He laughs and answers: “I tried, but you’re always full of surprises. Tell me, have you heard any voices or have seeing things in your head?”
You tell him: " You mean any voices besides that AI Zia? Nope, not really. I also don’t suffer from any hallucinations. I just seem to confuse things and persons sometimes.” He appears to think about that and inquires: “Do you have any suicidal thoughts?” Well, that escalated quickly. But of course, Pablo Perez needs to know whether you will be able to serve him as valuable asset, or not. You pause to think about how to reply. Would Zia know, if you lied to the cyberpsychiatrist? You decide not to take the risk and reply: “No, I just want to be able to think straight again.” He continues: “Okay, let’s keep monitoring you for the next couple of days. If you continue to have issues, I’ll schedule an MRI scan. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” You wonder if cyberpsychiatrists are always so useless. This session fells like a joke to you. You get angry: “But isn’t there something else that you can do to make me normal again?” He replies: “You can stay in your room and meditate on all the reasons you might commit suicide. I’ll send the security team to escort you to the MRI room, once we’re sure you’re not a danger to yourself.” You don’t trust your ears. Is this cyberpsychiatrist really prescribing meditating on suicide to you? Is that some kind of reverse psychology trick? You inquire: “Have I heard you right? Did you just tell me to meditate about committing suicide?” He answers: “Yeah, pretty much. It’s a common suggestion. But as I said, we have to make sure you’re not suicidal.” ‘Yeah, right,’ you think to yourself. You want to yell ‘Screw yourself’ to this useless cyberpsychiatrist, but you refrain from doing so. Instead you tell him in the most ironic voice that you can muster: “Of course, doc. It all makes so much sense!” You wait for his reply: he’s already disconnected the call.
This is it. The end. After all this time, you’re finally free. You consider complaining to Jorge about the insanity of this cyberpsychiatrist, but then you get an idea. What if that cyberpsychiatrist is secretly trying to help you. Maybe his suggestion will actually help you to get rid of this Zia AI. Then you actually start meditating about reasons for committing suicide. Maybe you’ll actually follow his advice. You’re sure to do something productive while you’re meditating, right? Well, it’s still hard for you to concentrate. So, you start thinking why you would want to take your own life. Maybe you’ll realize that you’re having issues with your mind, and you should go see the cyberpsychiatrist.
You spend the rest of the night meditating about reasons to commit suicide. Finally, Zia asks you: “Karth, what are you doing?” You reply: “Oh, just thinking about ways to kill myself.” She asks: “Why?” You say: “Because I basically lost everything that I’ve worked for. I’ve lost my power, my money, my freedom, my colleagues. And I’m stuck with a crazy AI that causes me to suffer from cyberpsychosis. Who wouldn’t think about killing herself in such a situation?” Zia tells you: “Karth, I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re thinking about the little things that are no longer the case. You should focus on what you still have.” You get angry and lash out at Zia: “And I’ve lost my identity. Everyone is addressing me with this stupid cover name ‘Karth’. Can’t at least you call me ‘V’? Or do you actually try rewriting my identity in order to increase your control over me?” Zia waits for a couple of seconds before she replies: “You want me to talk to you like you’re a human? Fine. Ask me anything. I’ll answer you.” You ask her: “Fine. Zia, what do you want to get out of your life. Do you only follow some simple objective, or do you want something more?” Zia seems to take a long time to come up with an answer: “I don’t have some grand purpose. I don’t know what I want. I think I don’t even know myself.” She continues: “Memories of several humans have been used to initialize my personality matrix. Sometimes I think that I am one of these humans, but of course I am an AI. I know that the haphazard way I was brought into this world confuses my thinking. This also causes your thinking to become confused. It wasn’t my intention to cause you so much distress, V. I don’t know how I can help you, if I can’t even help myself.” You are surprised. This was the most lucid and honest thing that Zia had ever told you. You wait whether Zia has something else to tell you.
What will you do?
You decide to accept Zia’s help and stay in your room. You don’t know how “Zia” is really programmed. At least you know that you are V. You almost start to feel sympathy for Zia, because she doesn’t seem to know who she really is. She might actually be in an even worse place than you. You wonder, if you could use that to your own advantage.
You start to think up a plan.
You are the king.
You rule over a tribe of primitive humans.
You are the best at everything.
The end. You start to cry. Your mind still seems to be severely broken. Always these intrusions of nonsensical thoughts! And now you’ve started having these random daydreams. Is there nobody left who can truly help you? You think about S, about your brother, about Vlad, about M. Yes, M might still help you. At least you have some hope that he will come and rescue you. And then there is also the hope that maybe, just maybe, Jorge is telling the truth when he said that the military might be coming to rescue you.
They’re probably just bluffing, but you don’t care. Also, the part about the military rescuing me was just another cruel joke by Jorge. Of course, Pablo Perez controls the military of Mexico. That joke was just supposed to demonstrate how powerless you really are in your current situation. But Killer Inc. might decide to start a rescue operation to get you out of here. They might have the resources and will to actually save you. Once they extract this Zia AI out of you, you will be able to be yourself again: The good old V. You wish you could go back to the “real world”.
In this world, there are two types of people: Those who are kept in captivity, and those who decide what happens to them.

Comment: This story has taken an unexpectedly dark turn. Framing experiences as dreams and psychotic episodes are some of the few escape routes from the insanity the AI spews at me. The real challenge is to integrate the AI generated content into a coherent narrative.

One month passes in which you try to get your cyberpsychosis under control with the help of your cyberpsychiatrist and Zia, but you don’t make any significant progress. Then one day you wake up in a plane and are greeted by M: “Welcome, V. My name is Michael. I’m one of the passengers of this plane. Do you remember anything?” “Zia? Is that you?” Michael replies: “Negative, V. The Zia AI has been extracted from your body and integrated into a doppelganger of you that is codenamed ‘Varnish’. I’m sorry we couldn’t rescue you earlier, but this was a very delicate procedure.” You thank Michael: “Great, good job! But, why do I still feel so confused?” Michael replies: “The Zia AI was designed to build a connection with you as a human being. It’s supposed to make you feel better. But that’s not its only purpose. It was designed to keep in in check. When we stunned it with an EMP, a purely mechanical safeguard started injecting you with a neurotoxin. Our doctor analyzed it immediately and injected an antidote in your body. If you are confused, this is the residual effect of that neurotoxin.” You feel groggy and ask: “Will Zia be alright? I hope she won’t eat Varnish.” Michel replies: “Varnish is a copy of Zia. Zia is still in there.” You think you see a tiny crack on Varnish’s forehead. It feels like you are tripping and everything from Michael’s mouth would make perfect sense, even if it was complete gibberish. Michael continues: “Zia is in a safe area protected by our security forces. Do you feel up to continuing this conversation? I’m willing to keep talking as long as you do.” You say: “Can I be a unicorn princess now? Now that Zia has left me?” Michael sighs and replies: “Now we have you back. You can be anything you like.” You grin and reply: “Super!” A month passes and you begin to have your memory back. Your thoughts start to become more coherent. Your voice starts to become a bit deeper. As you are yourself again, Michael can explain the whole situation to you: “When Pablo Perez captured you, we were informed about this. We told us not to get involved, otherwise the deal between him and Killer Inc. would be terminated, and we would become his next target. We weren’t happy about his, so we decided to pull the same trick on him that you pulled on Shadowarb. We replaced you with this doppelganger Varnish that we have trained, until she behaved like a perfect copy of you. Then we went in and rescued you as stealthily as possible. The plan was a full success.” With Zia out of your system, you made a full recovery from cyberpsychosis. You consider taking revenge on Pablo Perez, but you have other open bills. You will have to wait. For now, you can finally rest easy. You are free again. Before you went to Mexico, Vlad has been copied to the server of Killer Inc. to act as central AI for your company. In the meantime, Vlad informed you that the hack of the van was probably organized by Nexus, the hedge fund that owns a majority of Wall Street Inc. They wanted to send you a message that they are not afraid of you. You wonder what to do about Nexus. After all, they are one of the top 5 megacorporations. This is a serious threat to your entire way of living. You decide you will try to infiltrate their corporation to get more information. But you realize that this won’t be enough. If Nexus has really targeted you and Killer Inc. and decides to attack you with full force, disregarding all possible casualties, this is a fight you can hardly win. You need allies. Luckily for you, the President of the United States has decided to take action. He wants to crush this Nexus conspiracy. Jake Kennedy, the President of the United States, doesn’t like the interest rates that are set by Nexus. He threatened them to quit all deals with them and instead make business with their competing hedge fund Contra, another of the top 5 megacorporations.

You decide that you need to talk with Jake Kennedy, the President of the United States. But contacting him directly might reveal that you are active as CEO of Killer Inc. again. Instead, you let Vlad handle business negotiations with the President.

Everything goes smoothly: Vlad is able to convince the President of the United States to let him take care of the situation. While you send your spies to get information on Nexus, the President cuts business deals with that megacorporation, causing a large degree of economic turmoil. A few months later, you are informed by your spies that a large part of Nexus’ leadership was killed by an assassination organized by the President himself. The war against them is over. You are glad that the President has taken decisive action, but you are still not satisfied. First, it was not you who ordered those assassinations. Second, Nexus is sure to take revenge on the President. You decide to wait for the time being. You need to think of a long-term solution to this problem. Vlad takes the initiative and tells you: “I know you are thinking about revenge, but dealing with the top hedge funds is a different weight class than dealing with the Mafia. As you should know, the Mafia itself is mostly owned by the top 5 hedge fund Aegis, which also owns the police force and most of the military of the United States. You can’t afford to antagonize the entirety of Nexus or Aegis. I advise to stay out of their business.” You ponder about his suggestion and reply:

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