Chapter 27:

United in All, Gathered By One

11 Kingdoms

Report: United in All, Gathered By One

Accessing Linked Material Agent Estaban, Department issued Canary Drone

The camera clicks on while Estaban overlooks it. "There I have thermal imaging attached. With this, I can trace the heat of the power cables running through the tunnels and hopefully, it will lead us to a location where our hacker is." Estaban states. He starts looking over at his young team member Agent Richards who is busy packing up climbing gear and flashlights. "You should throw in some food and water supplies there too. No telling how long we could be down below. The Bart tunnels are the only semi cleared path near the old Headquarters. We can hope that a crack is open to head into a room or such.”

“Sir are you sure it’s wise to go about searching for the Hacker in the unstable environment underground?” Asks Richards as his nerves begin to show while he packs a large canteen.

“It’s not wise but it’s the best way to handle things. It’s like the search and rescue missions back when I started in the force back in New York, after the strike in the last war." Estaban says but then starts to regret seeing himself hinting at his actual age when discussing a nearly twenty-year-old war.

“I remember the effort the weeks after the missile strikes, you helped out then. I thought guys your age signed up for Military duty or were drafted." The nerves on Richards began to calm as he places five MRE packs in the bag.

"Yeah, I was a rookie. I felt my job was to serve the public by helping keep the peace in the homeland. While my big brother fought it out across the borderlands. Anyway the damage of the collapsed buildings through Manhattan, we focused on sections around major landmarks that took severe damage. I was on the team searching the ruins of Turtle Bay. Given most people were given enough warning to evacuate the area but still, we had to search for possible survivors in the ruins. We entered the subway tunnels and damn if sections of the system collapsed into the cities sewers. I went in on a Monday morning and it was Thursday afternoon before I saw daylight again. Luckily I packed enough to deal with my time down there but one thing I didn't do down there was sleep. Damn rats and roaches would try and eat you if you slept. That reminds me I hope you got plenty of sleep last night." The young agent's nerves return to shaky as Estaban laughs. "Guess we were just all damn lucky those missiles weren't nukes. Would have made the end of the war a bit more tragic, you know. How about you Richards, your folks involved in the war?”

Richards nods his head in agreement. "Yeah, my mom was in Israel working on restoration and peacekeeping there. My dad was stationed back home to train the new soldiers."

A National Guard officer walks up to the two agents. “Sir we are ready.” The two men gather their bags and walk with the soldier to a table where a map of the Bart tunnels and sewer passages are as another soldier starts the meeting. “Okay boys and girls, previous reports have turned up a few options for us. The target should be in-between the collapsed area of Montgomery and Powell stations. So we are looking for any opening that may bring us north from the collapse. The underground team will proceed into the area and seek any possible openings below. The rest will be split into two teams, A and B. Team A will follow as best they can with the underground team along the tunnels looking for possible above-ground entrances. Team B, will head to the ruins of Black Clover HQ and use equipment to see if any possible areas below are open, as well as seek out a way to get in from above. In your bags, you will have ten beacon markers. These are for any remains you may come across. As much of this area is still being cleared out you all will likely find some. If you find an entrance do not proceed in without your team. Lastly, if a suitable target and entryway, is found. Then you are to pull back immediately and call it in. This person has been killed before and there is no telling how well armed they are. Up until a few months ago, this area was under Martial law. Chances are we will find squatters and others under here with all kinds of illegal items. But we have one target. Agent Estaban, the squads are all yours." Estaban nods and walks up.

"Thanks, soldier. Well, it's as the good man said. Today we are after an international terrorist that until yesterday has been hiding right under our nose. Our target was just identified three hours ago by our Team in DC. This is the man we are looking for." Estaban pulls out a paper with the school photo of Martin Thick. “Martin Thick, age 17, from the former Pacifica district, has access to the most advanced network and tools that Black Clover stored at the San Francisco Headquarters. This includes heavy weapons and robotic parts as well as containing power over the Plague computer virus. If you have a Nuro-link and have not been issued an antivirus code yet, then we ask you to remove yours now for your safety and the safety of your teammates." Some of the gathered soldiers laugh. "This is not a joking matter, the hacker has found a way to manipulate those with the connection to 11 Kingdoms. Given many of you have it instead hooked up to your military or law enforcement branch, but it's best not to risk a possible way to have you turn on us. I already had to arrest one victim of this manipulation. I would like to keep that number at one. I cannot state how important it is to bring this person in, alive. Now let's all be safe and stay together, make sure to check in every hour got it." The group responds with a collective yes sir. Before the lead soldier starts to call out names for the teams while Estaban, and Richards, study the map.

“Four blocks that’s all it comes down to sir?” Richards asks.

"Yeah looks that way. Given the target will be north along this route." Estaban scratches his chin. "The sewers run big around this way there are even some sections of tunnel that date back almost two hundred years."

“Well those tunnels couldn’t survive long could they?” Richards asks then something catches his eye. “Sir what do these lines going north show.”

“They are the Cable Car lines. But don’t worry. No way, not even a small child could fit the rails space. The only place they could even get under the cables is at the turntable." Estaban replies looking over the spot as he notices something. "Which is right at Powell and Mason right in the area of searching? Let's check it out signal the soldiers we have a possible entrance." Richards runs to get the soldier's attention and instantly the squad moves to head to the intersection of Powell and Mason. Upon reaching the large circle the men spread out and sure enough in a few minutes, the call goes out for the discovery of the doorway and a broken chain flung nearby. "Looks like our entryway. Estaban takes the lead and flicks a switch on the drone. "Oh yeah, the power cables are lit up like Christmas." He leads along the wall of the tight passageway where the cable runs its turn around and finds a three-foot-wide crack in the wall of the small room under the streets. He jesters for a flashlight and Richards hands him one.

At first, the light blinds the camera on the drone but soon it fades back to normal. "What do you see, does it link to the sewers, Sir?"

"Not sewers Sir! Looks like another tunnel of sorts though." Estaban replies.

"Readings on our maps say it may be the old Nob Hill Tunnel. It collapsed during the quake. Guess no one got down here to check for openings through the cable car access." Replies the lead soldier. Estaban turns the flashlight about and spies an open manhole cover in the middle of the tunnel.

“Yeah looks like someone found this way in, and likely it’s our guy.” The team leads on down into the sewer system below the collapsed tunnel. As they enter a very fragment odor of rotting sewage, street runoff, and one more smell, rotting flesh hits the men. All of them find the need to spread a menthol paste along their nose to handle the potent smell around them. Following the city plans on record, the group heads in the direction of the former headquarters building. While checking the power lines, running under the streets of the ruined city. A track that normally would take a few minutes by foot above ground to reach takes four hours of squeezing and crawling. Till the group reaches a few feet, before their target and spies that a section of the building has collapsed down on the sewers. The small entrance they discover opens to a deeper cavernous section of the former headquarters, now being flooded with water and sewage. Despite the power lines still providing a source of electricity to the lost section of the ruins, the lights are out and the group has to resort to the light of their flashlights, to reveal the room’s actual size.

The first light to hit the room in months shows that the floor of the room is still a good ten feet below. From the crack in the ruins, the group enters. They grab ropes and secure them along the piping of the sewer to repel down into the room. At the bottom, in the building sludge, a broken hemp rope lays saturated from a long time of staying in the filth. "Looks like the last person here didn't make it out this way." Estaban states.

"Not a good sign sir!" Richards replies grabbing his issued pistol from its resting spot and keeping it in line with his flashlight.

"No, but the attacks continue so he has to be still alive. He might have just found another way in that's all." Estaban says. The team spreads out, in a formation sweeping the room. Estaban, using the drone spies the power running through the building and spots a small point where it stops. Richards places the light of his flashlight, to reveal a security camera. “It still has power, so it looks like our element of surprise is over." The group nods as they head down a hallway from the room. Soon the low hum of the computers can be heard and the group dowses their flashlights and quiets down. Estaban slowly opens the door and has the drone sweep the room. Inside is a large system of monitors and one of the Nuro-link chairs. The monitors reveal screens from 11 Kingdoms flashing back and forth to other locations. Posters and photos of Fawn are displayed across the room along with a makeshift altar to a strange female that looks to be important but is nothing more than a piece of concept art for the game. Estaban holds up his fingers counting to three before the drone drops a flashbang causing the monitors to flicker and shake but little more happens from that side of the room. While at the other end the men rush the chair. When they reach it they stop and dread hits the eyes of each of the men. The decaying half-eaten by rat's corpse, of Martin Thick, is sitting in the chair. His neck completely burned to the point where the Nuro-link has melted into his skin.

"Damn it!" Estaban shouts and kicks one of the monitors.

“It’s like the pictures from where they pulled Ms. Eve off the chair.” Richards states.

"Yeah, only then they had emergency response teams and others to pull her out and help her body stay alive. Looks like the kid wasn't so lucky." Says Estaban.

“Does this mean there is another hacker?” Richards asks.

“Won’t know till we run tests but I doubt it, It’s likely the kid did it to himself." States Estaban.

“So then is he like Ms. Eve and trapped in the game?” Richards questions.

“No, it’s worse if he went in he went in willingly. He chose to leave our world and escape into the game's world. He chose to become a monster that is killing people. Gather the data men, and get a group to see if they can safely get us another way out. This search is over we found what we were after. Just a bit too late!" Estaban takes his flashlight and throws it against the wall in frustration. "Now our only way to stop this rests in the team in the game or else we have to go to Plan C."

"Plan C sir?" Richards looks at Estaban puzzled at his earlier words.

“The UN decided last night that should Fawn fail to stop the virus and hacker in the game and delete the programs internally. Then the UN would issue an EMP explosion to destroy the Pangai and central servers. If that happens we lose everything, including Ms. Eve and possibly others trapped in the game. All hope lies in the girl to succeed or she will be the one to suffer the greatest for it all.”

File Source Ends

Accessing Personal Logs: Fawn Midin

It takes me the rest of the day to return to being able to walk normally. Given the extent of the damage from Jill’s glances is doing nicely. Along with the treatments of healing magic I am receiving from Cassandra even though Jill is determined to fully observe her treating me. The two of us try and ignore the gelatinous man watching from the corner.

"Cassandra, there is something I have been meaning to ask you since you joined the gang in helping me out!" I ask as I move my right leg about trying to train the muscles back into shape.

“And what would that be about?” She responds.

"Well I know why Jilland, The twins, and Riex, are all helping me but why are you, Malok, and Kylie. It's not like you helping me defeat the hacker will help reward you any more than Min, who is in this slightly unwillingly.” I turn to look at her as she laughs.

"I'm kind of shocked at you." I look puzzled at her as she continues. "I am doing this as is Malok, and Kylie, because it is exactly what Masaru spoke about before the accident. In this game, the kingdoms can stand separately and the light of the world will dwindle and fade out. Or we can stand together in a common purpose and glow brightly. During the last war, my home country was blamed for the battle of the borderlands. Given in actuality it was later found out the corrupt government and drug cartels were bought out by the Terrorist groups as a way to divide the United States forces making them vulnerable to attack. The people of my country didn't want to be involved but we had no choice. Then came the day of the missile strikes on New York and DC, while our government celebrated along with their allies, my people decided they had enough and civil war broke out opening the US soldiers a clear path to head in and help us regain control over our country. The war on the Western Hemisphere calmed down to a few skirmishes. We needed a sign of courage and strength to lead us to turn from the side of our government and the drug cartels. We got that sign on that day when we saw the buildings of New York fall, yet it only bolstered the Americans and caused them to push their attackers back through Mexico and across the Panama Canal.”

I look at the woman. The war of Ideals was the last world war and is still recent enough that many of my upperclassmen remembered the live newscasts. Of course, everyone ether born before or after has seen the footage of the evacuation sheltering of New Yorkers before the strikes and several images of the building hits. I was too young to see the images at the time they occurred but my mother made sure I knew about the destruction of the UN and Chrysler buildings. Because it was there that dad suffered his war wound. He was a young photographer looking for work and when the early warning came out one of the news networks at the time hired him to try and get some images of the missiles as they hit. Except he made one small mistake and figured the UN building being, a symbol of all nations would be safe. He was found early after the strikes. His left foot was a mangled mess unable to repair by normal medical standards, as a reward for his determination the news network turned him over to Black Clover to receive one of the prototype cybernetic limbs they were working on. While New York was the secondary target and the cluster missiles that hit were not armed with Nukes. The ones that targeted DC had a greater threat. A two-fold strike first a set of missiles were launched to break away buildings and safe rooms while the second with a nuclear payload would hit the center of our government. However, the attackers didn't count on two things. The first being the defensive anti-missile drones that DC had at the time launched a few weeks earlier. The second was that the plans of the Terrorist were leaked and the nuclear materials were harmless and fake. In the end, the strikes did little damage but struck a nerve in the already divided nation from the scandals and politics of the first quarter of the century. And once again in history, the sleeping giant of America has awoken and fought back. Much of the credit went to Black Clover's drones and mech suits that at the time only American forces and its allies had access to. Both cities' damage was repaired or rebuilt except for one site. The Statue of Liberty had taken a blast from a thermite-based missile and melted its structure from its feet. Now instead of the iconic image of the statue standing tall, it looks more like the statue is rising from the sea torch held high in hand. She was left that way to remind us how fragile our liberty was. How we must struggle to keep its flame alive. By the end America was reborn, it was weaker but it still stood as a strong symbol of freedom and liberty. The war was all about freedoms and rights. In the end, the UN promoted themselves to the chief judiciary of all actions of war and threats to nations. A choice that many including the powers in control of the US were not too happy to see.

“So you fight with me because it’s the right thing to do for your country or because it’s some sort of apology for the actions of the war?” I ask looking as Cassandra casts a new healing spell.

“Neither, I told you my people saw the symbol of courage and we took action to follow through with it ourselves. Same with Malok, courage, and honor are infective when you see it in one strong enough. Kylie, I think however always was on your side you just never got the chance to see it. But I could be wrong she is quite a self-absorbed girl, kind of like you.” I listen and think back to the few interactions I had with Kylie. She was strong and a good fighter, but she never really said anything. She could talk she just never did. Her face was straight and blank.

“But why follow me. I mean I am marching to my death there is no way of saving anyone in this battle. What courage is there to follow?” I ask and again get the response of a laugh first from Cassandra.

"You showed it. During the fight with the dragon, the world governments may have made up their minds on you and the virus. But the people saw otherwise in you. In a time when hopes and wishes couldn't reach you. Facing an enemy so strong no one stood a chance against, instead of fleeing or hiding from the world again you faced the threat. And you won. Though you may doubt it, child, you carry the light of courage with you, and with that myself, and many others within this world and the one outside this one, we all stand by you. Prepared to see what new day your actions will bring."

“A new day I will bring. How can you be sure I can do such a thing?” I ask Cassandra she smiles and Jilland steps up and touches her to interrupt.

"Because you already have, the moment you saved the lives of the people from the virus by bringing them into the game. You have changed mankind. You created new life from the ashes of the old. I know that you don't get much info from the outside world these days so I should let you know what has been going on." I look surprised Jill was my window to the outside world but it all pertained to the actions of my issues. Was something else going on in the world I didn't know about that could affect my own. "A growing population in and outside the news media has begun to debate the idea of life. What it truly is. It started as whispers when rumors first started you somehow were alive in the game within the first week of the accident. But after your actions three days ago the whispers have become shouts. Protests and fights have started on the streets all over the idea that there is something more after all. You see Fawn you answered a part of a question asked so long ago. You showed us there is more to humanity than flesh and blood. That a soul does exist and that a strong soul will not fall easily or let others be abused. You have given them hope that just maybe there is indeed some reason in the world for it all. The good and the bad.”

I turn to shake my head "I didn't do any of this on purpose. It's all too much all I did was try and survive until a way could be made to get me out. And I tried to stop others from being hurt the way I was. Now you’re telling me that I am what, some kind of god in their minds.”

“Some yes, but others look at you as a possible beginning of a new species of humanity. You are the beginning of humans that have moved beyond their earthly forms and into a new world of wonders. Not a computer-designed AI but a real digital life form. You're an amazing step for humanity. And many in the world stand with you to protect that new life." A new form of life. I can't help but feel the nerves shake my body from the words Jill speaks. I am a new life form, once born human but no longer. I am digital data with individual thoughts and senses. No, I am not the only creator of this life. I was brought here through the power of another. The shell of the goddess in the game Allushia, now warped by the twisted mind of Martin Thick into the wicked hacker Dark Mistress. As my body shakes I think of the task before me that the next day will bring. Since finding out the truth I have been thinking about how I will stop Dark Mistress. Until now all hope laid in my genesis power, but now I see the real power she truly fears I will bring, and with that my nerves clear. I hold my hands on my scarred body close my eyes and focus. When I open them the world is already returning to normal and I look down at the previous location of my wound. Now not a single mark was left on the body. Something that causes my medical team to pause a little longer after the world has returned to normal as well.

“Fawn, your wound it’s gone.” Jill reacts in shock.

"My healing didn't look like it had any effect, what did heal it all of a sudden?” Cassandra follows up.

“I did it. I used the genesis to heal wounds and it did.” I fall quickly from my standing position the strength of the power on myself seems to have drained me of what little energy I have.

“I wouldn’t suggest that when the battle begins. It looks like you can’t handle doing it too much.” I nod my head in agreement at Jill’s words. “Rest now, you will need all the power you can spare when we reach the dark city tomorrow.” I crack a smile as the plan I have is set. Tomorrow is the day it will all end and I will use the power I have to stop Dark Mistress for good or die trying.

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