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.
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.