Deception (Conquest: A Dystopian GameLit Saga Book 2) – Chapter Five: Legendary Class

No sooner had Brittany accepted Doug’s offer than, in a flash, they arrived in his virtual cabin. A large oak table sat in the middle of the room. Brittany pushed aside several goblets to make room for the stone. With a loud grunt, Doug heaved it onto the table.

“This ice is crazy thick.” He rubbed his hands together for warmth.

“Wait here. I’m gonna go grab my blowtorch.”

“Your what?” Brittany raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“You’ll see.”

With a grunt, he ducked through a door on the far wall. He returned moments later with a modern face shield and a large real-world-looking blowtorch decorated with jewels and ancient-looking runes.

He hesitated as he swiped at an invisible screen. “Um… we’ve got a problem.”

“What?”

“I used up too much of my Mana making fireballs back there.”

“So?”

“This blowtorch is magically enchanted.” he winced. “Would you mind activating it?”

“I only have 40 Mana left.” she hesitated, “Is that enough?”

He chuckled and handed her the face shield and the torch, “Plenty.”

The wielder of this relic must possess a minimum Intelligence of 1 and Willpower of 1. Do you wish to activate the relic?
This will tax 10 mana.
Yes | No

She quirked an eyebrow. “Where did you get this thing? Even a noob with default stats could use it.”

“I made it.” he said with an arrogant smirk.

“I see. Why’d you set the parameters so low?”

“Why not? I’d rather use Mana for fighting.”

“And what’s with the face shield?”

“You’ll want to wear that while using the blowtorch, otherwise any stray sparks can cause you to incur damage points. I tried to bypass that issue while writing the code, but I couldn’t.”

She shrugged and put on the face shield. Pressing the YES button on her screen, the blowtorch came to life and she began working at the ice.

-10 Mana

Within minutes, all of the ice had melted, and she could now recognize the carved lettering.

“It’s in Hebrew.” she said, meeting his gaze.

Doug stared at the runes. “What makes you say that?”

“I studied abroad in Israel for a semester.”

“Oh. What does it say?”

She studied the characters more closely, then frowned. “I’m afraid I’m too rusty.”

She traced the curve of one of the characters with her finger, and a box popped up.

Do you wish to translate the message?
Doing this will tax 15 mana.
Yes | No

Smiling, she pressed YES.

-15 Mana

Two more windows popped up in her augmented vision in successive order.

Translation:
Buried within the legendary ruins of the Tower of Babel you will find an ancient portal to the Old World. Activate the portal, and you will receive a Legendary Class.
Do you wish to accept this quest?
Yes | No

Congratulations!
You have completed a quest to decipher a stone with ancient runes in the Northern Lands. For your endurance in this quest, you have been awarded with the following:
+300 XP
+10 Intelligence
+5 Willpower

Brittany swiped away the Quest completion notice and stared at the Translation window in shock. The legend of the Tower of Babel being hidden somewhere inside Conquest was renown throughout the gaming community. To date nobody had found it, but not for a lack of trying. Several guilds had been formed over the years, but none had been successful in locating the ruins.

And a Legendary class?! It was almost unheard of. Only one other player had achieved such a class many years before, but had gone into hiding. To this day, the identity of this player had remained a secret.
Her finger hovered over the YES button anxiously.

“So?” Doug prodded. “What does it say?”

Her eyes refocused and the message went blurry. She had almost entirely forgotten that Doug was there. A pang of guilt surfaced in the pit of her stomach, knowing that Doug should share in the reward since he had helped her locate the stone.

She toggled through her settings, and activated the Sharing option. The message on her augmented vision blipped momentarily and returned:

Translation:
Buried within the legendary ruins of the Tower of Babel you will find an ancient portal to the Old World. Activate the portal, and you will receive a Legendary Class.
Do you wish to accept this quest?
Yes | No | Share

“Well?” he huffed. “Don’t leave me hanging!”

She gave a wry chortle and hit the SHARE button. The pupils of his eyes refocused. His jaw dropped.

“No way…”


Despite her excitement about their new quest, Brittany was exhausted from her long day. She needed to go home and get some sleep.

“Hey, Doug.” she waved to get his attention “I’m gonna hit the sack. Thanks for your help today.”

He smiled broadly. “No … thank you! I gained ten points in Intelligence and five points in Willpower, and I even leveled up thanks to this quest.”

“I gained those too, but unfortunately I’m still 140 XP shy of Leveling up.” She yawned. “Anyway, how about we meet up again tomorrow night?”

“Works for me. I’ll study this map to the Tower of Babel we were just awarded and try to put together a game plan.”

“Just don’t go behind my back and sell it, or I’ll hunt down your respawning point and camp out.”

The map was likely worth millions of dollars in real money. It would be very tempting to just sell the knowledge on the black market.

“You have my word.” he placed a hand over his heart as if paying tribute to a flag.

“Good.”

Brittany brought up her augmented screen. She swiped to the left several times until she reached the log out screen.

Do you wish to log out of Conquest?
Yes | No

Brittany yawned again and pressed Yes . There was a burst of brief static, but instead of returning to the real world, she found herself floating in a thick cloud of darkness again.

What the…

C:>CyberBolt.exe_

A cursor flashed for several seconds until a series of letters appeared in successive order.

Why didn’t I exit the game?

A string of coding sped past her field of vision, followed by the familiar music-box like hymn of Conquest. In a flash of light, she found herself back inside Doug’s cabin.

“Back so soon?” he chuckled.

“What?!” she panicked. “I can’t leave the game!”

“What do you mean?” Doug swiped his hand to the right to close his virtual screen. A look of concern crossed his face.

“I… I…” Brittany took a deep breath. “You saw me! I tried to log out, but instead I looped right back here.”

“That’s odd…” Doug raised an eyebrow, “Here, I’ll take a look at your avatar’s source code.”

He brought up his keyboard and typed a series of commands. An alert then popped up in her augmented vision.

@Andrex has offered to review your avatar’s programming source code.

WARNING!
Changing source code in-game may cause your player experience to become unstable. Do you wish to proceed?
Yes | No

Brittany ignored the warning and pressed ‘Yes’. A string of coding appeared before both of them in mid-air. She watched as Doug scrolled through the code, looking for any anomalies.

“So what happened, exactly?”

“I tried to log out, and then I ended up in a dark room. My entire field of vision was filled with a blinking cursor, followed by a string of code.”

His eyebrow raised. “Do you remember what the code was?”

“It was just the executable file for Conquest. As if I were installing the game for the first time.”

His lips pursed. “Is this the first time that’s happened?”

“Yes…” She paused as the memory came back to her. “Err… No, I guess not. It happened earlier, too.”

“When?”

“Before our PVP Match.”

“Can you remember what happened in RL before that?”

Her eyebrows scrunched. “Hang on. My memory’s a bit fuzzy.”

She stared into space for several moments, trying to jog her memory of the cursor.

Why can’t I remember what happened?

Doug broke into her reverie. “Did you hit your head or something?”

“No, I don’t think so…” Then the memories from the precinct came flooding back.

“Holy…” she gasped.

Brittany’s eyes widened, and she took several calming breaths.

“I…” she stuttered. “I… I was decommissioned…”

“What for?” Doug asked.

“I stumbled across an anomaly with CyberBolt’s Law Enforcement Terminal,” she explained. “Not that you’d know what that is…”

“On the contrary, I’m quite familiar with it. “

“You are?”

I used to be an officer too. Didn’t I tell you that during our PVP match?”

“Oh yeah…”

“What kind of anomaly was it?”

“I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about it.” she gave him a strange look. “Besides, how do I know you’re really an officer and not just some punk trying to get information out of me?”

“I was an officer.” he corrected. “I got decommissioned too. My full name is Doug Carlton.”

She faced him full on. “Doug Carlton? You’re the Doug Carlton? As in, the officer from the Chicago South Precinct put on permanent probation?”

A disturbed look fell across his features. “Do I know you in RL?”

She shook her head. “No, but I’ve heard about you. I’m from the South Precinct too.”

“Small world.” He cupped his chin in his hand. “What do you know about the National Security Agency?”

“As in the corrupt government agency?”

“Precisely.”

“I know that way back in 2013 one of the NSA’s contractors leaked incriminating documentation about their worldwide cellphone data collection practices. Then he fled the country and obtained asylum in Russia.”

“What happened to the NSA after that?”

“Well, after years of public outcries, the NSA was dismantled.”

“Wrong,” he countered. “They just went into hiding.”

Great. He’s a conspiracy nut. And to think, I was starting to like him.

“I have a hard time believing that,” she scoffed. “How could such a massive organization go into hiding for a decade and remain unnoticed?”

“Humor me for the moment. The data collection practices were the most highly contested and the most publicized act the NSA was committing, but the leaked documentation revealed much more than that. Not many people understood that the NSA was using that data to track the movement of billions of people worldwide using cellphones. Additionally, the NSA maintained security vulnerabilities, or rather ‘back doors’ in most software and encryption available on the market. This left the programs susceptible to cyber-attacks by the NSA as well as other possible parties.”

“I remember my father telling me about this at the dinner table when I was a child.” Brittany said. “I thought he was just being his usual paranoid self.”

“It was a pretty hot topic back in the day,” he replied. “After a certain NSA contractor went rogue and leaked this top-secret information to the media in 2013, the NSA limped along for years as the public and the President of the United States called for the NSA to be dismantled. Meanwhile, cell phone companies were revisiting their software encryption programs and rewriting them to exclude the NSA from extracting data from their customers. Overall, the future of the NSA was looking dismal, so they hashed out a new plan.”

“What plan?”

“Are you familiar with radio-frequency identification technology?”

“You mean the RFID tags they inject inside pets?”

He nodded. “Yes, exactly. After the NSA recognized how bleak their future looked, the director instructed all personnel to relocate to their old underground locations worldwide. These were existing federal buildings and US embassies throughout the world, where they had secretly built additional subterranean basements during the initial construction of these buildings. After they relocated, they made a public announcement that they were dismantling their program.”

She held up her hands, interrupting his fantastical tale. “All right. Let’s pretend I believe your crazy story for a minute. What did the NSA do next?”

“Upon relocation, the NSA began developing a new technology similar to RFID tags that they called Gamma-Frequency Identification. They used this new technology to manufacture microscopic GFID tags for human injection. After several failed prototypes, they created functional microscopic Nano-chips. Without the public’s knowledge, they infiltrated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and inserted these Nano-chips into billions of vaccines which were quickly distributed to the public.”

“What?!” she said, shocked. “But that’s unconstitutional!”

“Agreed.”

“How can you possibly know all of this?”

“Let me ask you this, and then I’ll tell you.” He lowered his voice to a soothing, even tone. “After the U.S. Government contracted with CyberBolt Entertainment to protect communications and information systems against penetration and network warfare, what happened to the hackers of the world?”

“To my understanding, they were basically out of a job.”

“Temporarily, yes. But after a while they banded together to form an alliance of hackers with a united enemy.”

“CyberBolt,” she finished.

“Exactly. They created a secure forum inside Conquest where they could meet and discuss theories. They also used a secured open source platform to develop a program to hack into CyberBolt’s servers.”

“Are you saying they have already developed the program, or they’re trying to?”

“It took many years to develop, but we finally have a functioning algorithm.”

“We? You’ve joined them?”

“More like they took me in.” he clarified, “We call ourselves the Cyber Police. I’m kind of their mascot.”

“I see.” she wasn’t amused.

“After several failed attempts to hack into CyberBolt’s server, we stumbled across an existing ‘back door’ that had been established during the software’s initial development. Once we discovered this back door, we learned that the NSA had gone into hiding.”

“Interesting theory. After all, the NSA was notorious for discreet surveillance.”

“Yes, they are.” Doug agreed. “So please tell me, what was the anomaly you encountered with CyberBolt’s Law Enforcement Terminal?”

She studied him for a minute.

Maybe I should trust him.

“Well…” Brittany said, throwing caution to the wind. “I ran a blood sample from a crime scene. At first the results displayed the profile for a Lillian Thatcher…”

“Whoa, hang on,” he interrupted. “The Lillian Thatcher, as in CyberBolt’s developer of the Law Enforcement Terminal?”

“Yes, that’s what the profile indicated originally,” she acknowledged.

“But then the system had a glitch, and after several more tries her profile had changed to a Jamie Davenport from Tallahassee Florida.”

His pupils dilated. “They’re relocating her…” he muttered.

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry. Lillian is an undercover NSA Agent. We’ve been tracking her for months ever since we established our back door into the CyberBolt server.”

“She’s NSA? But she’s Allan’s girlfriend!”

“Allan…” he paused as he connected the dots, “Wait, are you referring to Allan Young?”

“Yes, he’s our primary murder suspect.”

“Murder?” He shook his head “I don’t think he’s capable of such a heinous act. I’ve read his files. The NSA has been watching him closely for years.”

“Why? Does he have a criminal background that I’m not aware of?”

“No, nothing like that. They’ve been watching him because there’s something unique about his blood chemistry which causes their GFID Nano-chips to malfunction. So far they haven’t determined a logical explanation for it. It seems to only happen early in the mornings.”

She pursed her lips. “Tell me more about this Lillian Thatcher. At least, that was her name until it changed. Now she doesn’t seem to exist.”

“As I said, the NSA must be relocating her.” Tension creased his face. “I hope they haven’t caught on to us.”

“So you think it was the NSA who changed her profile?”

“I have no doubt. The real question is why. That’s what we need to get to the bottom of.”

“How do you know she’s with the NSA?” Brittany queried.

“Lillian was the operator who developed the NSA’s back door in the CyberBolt server.”

“Are you sure she’s not the one who killed Jason Bridger? She had plenty of access to change her own profile from inside CyberBolt, regardless of the back door.”

His whole body stiffened, and he gazed deep into her eyes. “Jason’s dead?!”

“Yes. He was killed a few days ago, Allan is our primary suspect.”

“No, no…” He paced around the room like a caged animal. “This isn’t good.”

“How do you know Jason?”

“Jason was our primary contact inside the NSA,” he said. “This is very bad news. Do you know why he was killed?”

“We are still trying to determine Allan’s motive. But to be entirely honest, I think he’s innocent.”

“And you think it was Lillian who killed him?” he continued to pace, “I guess that’s possible. After all, if she got wind Jason had gone rogue and joined the Cyber Police, she may have been assigned to dispose of him.”

Brittany nodded. The logic was sound.

“I need to warn the others.” he called up his invisible keyboard and began tapping away. “We’ve been able to successfully access their personnel files, but we are only days away from completing a viable algorithm to hack into their mainframe. We still don’t know how many people they are monitoring with these GFID Nano-chips, nor do we know why they are doing it. If the NSA knows we’re on to them, we’re in big trouble!”

“You’re serious about all of this.” Brittany stammered. It was a statement, not a question. “None of this can be real!”

“Wait…” he stopped typing, a look of horror sweeping across his face. “Where were you when you lost consciousness?”

“I… uhh…” she cast her eyes to the ceiling. “Last I remember, I was in the Decommissioning Room at the precinct.”

“How long ago was that?!”

“I dunno…” she scratched her head, “A few hours ago maybe?”

He gulped. “I gotta get you out of there.” He pointed to the keyboard that only he could see. I just looked up your GFID signature. Your vitals are weak.”

Her stomach clenched in dread. “What are you saying, exactly?”

He looked deep into her eyes and spoke four words that dug into her heart like an icicle.

“I think you’re dying.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s