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Project Aviate

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Hey man, stop looking at that logo. Get reading.

Project Aviate is a story written by Tabuu, focusing on the tale of Hector Faustino, an assassin living within Silicon City, a massive metropolis housing the database of every Wiki in existence.

It is a reboot of Aviate and Safety, taking inspiration from Tabuu's older stories.

Scarecrow Von Steuben writes songs for the story's boss fights, and it's recommended that you download and listen to them while you read the chapter they were made for.

- World 1: Hector Kills The Author

executing program "aviate.exe"
executing
executing.
executing..
executing...

Select a stage.

executing file "intro stage.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

There’s a special circle of Hell for people like me. I was told these words of wisdom with a nice, underlying layer of spite- which is justifiable, considering that I had the speaker impaled against a brick wall at the time. When I asked him to elaborate on the meaning of that statement, he just made a few blood-gurgling noises before grasping at my sword and dying.

Considering where his “wisdom” took him in life, I’d advise taking it with a grain of salt.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 1-0: Xephyr Blues





Oh, I forgot my manners.

My name’s Hector Faustino.

Hi.

I live in a country-sized metropolis called “Silicon City”, and when our users aren’t being paid to be data junkies, they’re running a seedy underworld and a utopia devoted the rich and ranked.

Now, I don’t want to make a false impression here. I’m not what you’d call a “good” guy, but I’d be insulted if you called me a bad one, too. I kill people for a living. I enjoy it.

But I’m not a bad guy.

Just as long as you’re not the one I’m targeting, anyways.


Silicon City isn't the best place to live.

For one, “assassin” is an accepted profession.

That should tell you all you need to know about this place.

For a person of my profession, there’s some very important rules you need to govern yourself by.

I recited them to myself as I ran across rooftops in an apartment complex in broad daylight. I wore a large, brown trench coat with a black T-shirt, blue jeans and running shoes. Secured on my back (hidden by the coat) was a large battery with a single cord extending from it. On the left side of my waist was a holstered large-barreled revolver (I have many speedloaders in my pocket) and strapped to the right side of my waist was a sleek, black blade. This setup is finished off with a pair of gloves that provide both protection and flexibility- something a person like me, without that much brute strength, sort of needs.

With a great leap, I soared from one rooftop to another, rolling with my landing and jumping back to my feet, continuing to run.

Rule one: jump, man.

I made a sharp turn to my right- towards the street- and leaped off the ledge of the building. On my way down, I snagged a clothesline, momentarily halting my fall- and let go before it snapped, landing on my feet on the cement. The landing shook me for a second, but it wasn’t at a height that would injure me- and I was a professional when it came to hitting landings like this, anyways.

My landing, unfortunately, drew much pedestrian attention- and my target, a man with a naval uniform, red eyes and short-cut black hair- bolted.

His name was Blocky Ishimaru, and, despite his orderly appearance, he was a major figure within Silicon’s organized crime syndicate, the Xephyr Blues.

The street was crowded. It was a clear, sunny day, with kids, teenagers and adults alike enjoying a nice day. People were on the sidewalks selling fruit, old possessions or entirely new things they had created themselves. My landing- and Ishimaru’s subsequent flee- served the purpose of erupting the gathered users into chaos.

I tossed off my coat and ran, knocking people out of my way and jumping cars in my path.

Blocky never left my sight, but damn, he could run fast.

I kept running until, finally, he turned a corner and reached a dead end.

It was one of those areas you see in every great chase scene in the movies- the protagonist rounds a corner into an alleyway with no way out.

I found this amusing, and removed my gun from its holster, aiming it at Blocky. He had his back turned to me, feeling around the brick wall for some reason or another.

“End of the line, Ishimaru.”

Maybe not the best pre-murder one-liner, but he’s the only one that’s going to hear it anyways.

He turned around.

“Oh God,” he said, “Please don’t-”

I pulled the trigger, and the bullet blasted into Blocky’s chest.

The mob boss collapsed to the ground.

I gave a smirk and holstered my gun.

That’d be five grand in my bank account tomorrow. I reached into my left pocket and pulled out my phone- Galaxy Nexus, by the way- and activated the camera app, holding the phone with both hands, staring at the screen and aiming it upwards-

Directly at Blocky, who wasn’t bleeding from a gunshot wound that should’ve blasted his chest to pieces and who was holding his own automatic pistol at me.

I winced. “I’m guessing now isn’t the time for peaceful negotiation?”

He answered my question with a bullet.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage one.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...


I couldn't see anything. I was sitting upright, in a chair, I think. My hands were handcuffed behind it, and my ankles were bound to it at the bottom. My feet didn't touch the ground. There seemed to be a bag over my head, but I couldn't tell with the lack of lighting.

I took small breaths, hoping not to deplete what little oxygen I had.

"He's awake." said an unfamiliar, cold voice, "What do we do with him?"

Shit shit shit shit shit. What have I gotten myself into? Why didn't they just kill me?

What're they going to do?

All I could smell was my own breath- man, I really should've brushed my teeth this morning- and my sweat. My hair was dirty, there was grime on my face and I had never been more terrified in my life. What did they have in mind for me? Death?

I heard a loud, unmistakable crackle of electricity.

Something worse?



PROJECT AVIATE


World 1-1: Shock Therapy





"What's your name?" said a second voice. Ishimaru.

I remained silent.

"I know you're awake," he said, "You're not fooling me. What's your name?"

"Hector Faustino." I said, muffled by the bag.

It was ripped off the top of my head, and I sucked in a breath of cool air.

"Really?" said Blocky, looking down at me with a look of disinterest, "Plain name for somebody sent to kill me."

I was in a wooden chair. Blocky was still in the same naval outfit as before, but in his right hand were two stun rods- the source of the crackling I had heard earlier. My heart sank at the sight of them.

I noticed something.

I didn't have my clothes. My coat, my shirt, my battery, my sword and my gun were all gone- the only thing they left were my jeans and the underclothes beneath them. I was barefoot.

"I'm assuming you know my name, Assassin?" Blocky said it with a sardonic grin, crouching in front of me, staring into my eyes with his own blood-red pair. He handled the stun rods with utmost casualness- looked like shock therapy was his thing.

I broke eye contact to scan the room- other than me, him and the chair, it was pretty nondescript. One door from my point of view. Emergency exit. Concrete floor, walls and ceiling. Blindingly bright lights from above. At the far right of my field of view was a faucet coming out of the wall, dripping water into a large, metallic gray bucket coming ever closer to overflowing.

The concrete was cracked in some places- this room had seen its fair share of abuse. The owner of the first voice I had heard was nowhere in sight.

"What do you want?" I said. At least, I think I did. My voice was tiny. Barely above the volume of a whisper. I looked back into Blocky's eyes with fear I'd never known in my life, and he gave a sadistic little grin.

"You going to tell me who you were working for?"

I was scared. But I wasn't about to be a snitch before I died. Hell no. I stared back into his eyes with strength I didn't have, and he only looked happier for it.

"I see," he said, standing to his full height and turning his back to me, taking a few steps away, "You aren't going to make this easy, are you? Shame, shame."

He walked towards the bucket of water and picked it up with his left hand, doing a spin and returning to my side.

"You sure you don't want to reconsider?" the Mob member asked, "I assure you, you're going to tell me what I want to know. You can do it now, or you can do it after I've had my fun with you."

"Fuck you." I spat.

He laughed, and I was doused from head to toe in ice cold water.

"You need to wake up," he drawled, dropping the bucket and putting an electric rod into either hand, "Torture isn't nearly as easy for the victims as they pretend it is in the movies."

He jabbed the rods into my damp chest, and I screamed in agony. He held them there, and I just kept screaming, struggling against my bonds, trying to force the chair over, begging him to stop-

He pulled back.

My throat was raw, tears were in my eyes and my entire body was in pain.

I broke down.

For the first time in years, I broke into tears and sobs. I heard Blocky's footsteps on the wet floor and looked up through teary eyes. He pressed the rods together and the electricity chirped like thousands of birds.

His grin was sadistic. He was enjoying this.

"P-please," I whimpered, "I'll- I'll tal-"

He lunged forward.

I don't know how long it went on the second time.

I kept screaming and screaming until I couldn't make any noises with my throat, and eventually, I lost the strength to even struggle against my bonds.

The electricity stopped coursing through my body. The pain lowered to a strong ache over every square inch of my skin, but the worst of it was over.

My eyes were closing.

I was out.

With a blast of freezing water, I was jerked back into consciousness.

Blocky looked down at me with a look resembling concern, but when my eyes fully opened, it faded into a look of boredom. In hindsight, I probably just imagined it.

"You going to talk?" he asked, lightly slapping my face, "I don't think you can handle another round of that."

The stun rods were nowhere to be seen.

"Tabuu." I whimpered, "Tabuu, Alexander Lockheart. One of your subordinates."

Blocky's face lit up with interest. "How much was he paying?"

"Five thousand," I said, "He was paying me five grand to kill you. It's the biggest offer I've ever gotten to take somebody out. He told me that all I needed to do was kill you and send him a picture, and he'd wire the money right over to me."

Blocky gave a laugh. "You're not very bright, are you? Lockheart can barely pay his own bills, much less pay for a hitman of that caliber. See, if I died, he'd take my place. He'd control the people I control, see? If you successfully killed me, he'd be made the boss and then you couldn't touch him. It wouldn't matter if he ripped you off- my boys- minus him, of course- are loyal. They wouldn't let somebody kill their boss while he's with them, and they would actively guard him if they were told there was somebody to watch out for. If you failed...well, he had nothing to worry about there. You'd just be killed. That was his plan."

That bastard. That fucking bastard.

I grit my teeth. I trusted him. I fucking trusted him!

"You have to understand," Blocky said, reading my emotions and getting behind me, "There's no honor among thieves." He removed my handcuffs.

"What're you doing?" I muttered.

"Letting you go."

"Why?"

"You told me what I needed to know."

"But what about my clothes? My phone, my gear?"

"Confiscated. You'll get them back if you make it home." My blood ran cold.

"If?"

"Unfortunately for you," Ishimaru said, "The people above me aren't quite so merciful as I am. Just be lucky that they don't know where you live- only I happen to know that little gem of information. Relax. I'm not going to exploit you or anything."

He was on his knees, untying the rope around my feet and looking up at me from between my legs.

Somehow I doubted that.

I was untied.

"If you know where I stay, where do I go from here?"

"South." he said, "It's not too far. You seem good at freerunning- you can probably avoid the gunners if you don't slow down on your feet."

I gulped. "How did you survive the gunshot I gave you?"

"Bulletproof vest." he said, "Don't go anywhere without it. I knew there was a price on my head on the streets, so I kept my guard up these past few weeks. Paid off today."

I stood from the chair and weakly stumbled forward. I almost fell, but Blocky caught me.

"Come on, Hector," he muttered, "You gotta do better than that. Have some water."

He pulled a canteen out of his uniform, popped open the lid with his thumb, and crouched beside the faucet, turning it on and filling the container with water.

He stood up, holding me up with his left arm. "You strong enough to drink?" he asked, "Or am I going to have to feed you like a baby?"

I weakly raised my free arm in protest, but he jammed the top of the canteen into my mouth and tilted my head backward.

It was humiliating. But my throat was on fire and I needed something to quench my thirst. I drained the canteen like my life depended on it (which it kind of did), and when it was empty, Blocky roughly pulled it out of my mouth and pushed me forward.

I could walk again. The water gave me some strength.

The door was in front of me.

"Door's right in front of you," he said, "It opens onto a rooftop. Keep going forward and you'll come across the apartment complex you live in. There's a lot of traffic at this time of night, but there's still plenty of people patrolling the streets looking for you. Stick to the rooftops, but stay out of sight. I'm sure a few people had the foresight to check the roofs or at least keep an eye on them. Good luck."

I opened the door into the cold night.

"I'll need it." I muttered.

I ran outside.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage two.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...


I stepped onto the rooftop.

The concrete wasn't merciful on my bare feet, but I'd just have to adapt to the pain if I wanted to get out of this jam alive.

On the bright side, I wasn't weighed down by any of my equipment- and without the battery on my back, I could do rolls arguably more safely- however, I'd have to watch the landings to make sure I don't skin myself.

I gulped.

It was cold outside, but not particularly freezing. The moon illuminated the rooftops, and the world beneath was lit up by the passing cars and open stores.

I took a deep breath and broke into a run.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 1-2: Rooftop Run





I hopped onto the ledge of the roof and leaped off of it, crashing onto the brown clay roof of the East Side's local Chinese restaurant, "The Wiki Wall".

The place was run by a guy who thought "ching chong" was legitimate Chinese and that as long as a dish is served with a side of fried rice, it's totes China, bro.

The owner's a douchebag. But the food? Actually kind of good.

I pulled myself to my feet and kept running. Across from the roof was a taller building- apartment complex, but not mine- with fire escape ladders for each floor. I measured the distance.

I could make that jump. Maybe. If I tried.

I ascended to the highest point of the roof and started running down its slope.

The moment before I fell off, I made a great leap.

I did everything properly. I adjusted my body weight with my jump, maximizing my forward velocity. I put all of my leg muscles into the ascension.

I outstretched my hand to snag the railing of the fifth floor fire escape-

And it hit me in the face, sending me plummeting into an old mattress below.

It was beside an open dumpster.

Completely coincidentally, I found a pair of torn-up sneakers right beside the trash can. Didn't go inside of it looking for them or anything, though. I'd never do something like that.

With the mysteriously smelly shoes on my feet, I started to climb the fire escape up to the roof.

When I made it to the roof, I took a moment to scan my surroundings.

Huge traffic sign over the road ahead. The interstate highway cuts right through this part of town, and my apartment's a little bit past it.

I dashed, leaped, and landed on that slim walkway on those traffic signs- you know, the ones that hold the lights? I leaped from platform to platform, praying to whatever gods I could think of that nobody noticed the half-naked man prancing across rooftops at this time of night.

I heard rapid gunfire.

God hates me.

I leaped off of the signs and snagged a clothesline, taking a moment to swing off it and grab a windowsill. I was being shot at, so I had to be quick.

I pulled myself up, grabbed the next windowsill, and repeated the pattern until I made it to the rooftop.

My apartment was in sight. I had left the light on, and I could see into my window. It was open. I could make it inside through the fire escape.

There was a long, thick wire leading from the rooftop I was on to a place just above my window.

Inspiration struck, and I took my pants off.

I folded my pants vertically and put them over the wire. Standing in my boxers and stolen shoes, I leaped off the roof, my pants and the wire sending me right through my bedroom window- and crashing into my bedroom doorknob, which knocked me unconscious.

I woke up in the same position, pulled myself off of the floor, and opened my door, proceeding into my living room- where a man holding my revolver stood, aiming the weapon directly at my head.

"Freeze." he said. The voice. The guy from the torture room- the one that I hadn't seen after the blindfold had been removed.

Who the hell is this guy? I stopped in place and put my hands up.

The stranger with my gun had short-cut dirty-blonde hair, blue eyes, and lightly-tanned skin. He was skinny and his facial features could only be described as broad- regardless, he pulled off his appearance fairly well. He wore a dark-blue trench coat with a black T-shirt and blue jeans beneath it. Also, sneakers. Nice sneakers.

His eyes were cold.

"Who are you and what do you want?" I asked, calmly. If he wanted to kill me, he would've done it already.

"Patrick Munson. You probably know me as Stooben." he didn't blink while he spoke, just stared directly into my eyes and remained completely still.

The boss of the Xephyr Blues? Holding me, half-naked, at gunpoint in my apartment?

What the fuck?

"What do you want from me?"

"I'm here to drop off your equipment," he said, "And to determine whether or not you passed the test."

"The boss of the Blues coming all the way down here to drop off my gear...and what test?"

"The test to determine whether or not you were worthy of working for us. We were originally going to kill you, but Blocky commended your skills and tracking and almost assassinating him. He proposed taking you under our wing while you were unconscious."

What the hell?

Stooben continued, "However, I wasn't convinced of your skill. So Blocky was ordered to torture you until you gave up your information- and immediately after that torture, while already exhausted and in all kinds of pain, send you to make it back to your home half-naked while our boys were searching the street for you."

I blinked. "Are you out of your mind? Who the hell does something like this?"

"I do." he said, simply. "I wanted to see your skills, how resourceful you could be in a situation where most people would just give up and die. But you made it back here. Quickly, too- minus getting knocked out by your own door, of course."

I sighed.

Stooben indicated a suitcase on my couch to his right. "Your gear's in there, as well as a paycheck for a job well done. I think you'll find that the money more than compensates for the work you've done tonight. If you're interested in getting back to us, I left a phone number in there- it'll expire in three days, so I recommend coming to a decision quickly. Before I go, I want to compliment you on that sword and that battery- that took skill."

He set the gun down on top of the suitcase and took a few steps backward, opening my apartment's front door and making a gesture with his fingers. "See you around." he said. He looked down. "Nice boxers, by the way."

The door shut.

In three strides, I crossed the room and opened it, looking outside.

A coated man was already crossing the street.

Damn, he moves fast.

I gave an exasperated sigh and returned inside, sitting on my couch and opening the suitcase. On top of my clothes and gear was a large, yellow envelope, which I emptied into my lap.

I took a long, hard look at the check.

$10,000.

Beside it, there was a note.

Want more? Call us.
706-761-3884.

I gave an excited shudder.

I didn't know what I was getting into, but I liked it.

You've unlocked a secret!

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage three.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

Sometimes, I wonder if anyone is truly built to be capable of murder.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 1-3: Programmed To Receive





It's a question that haunts me every night.

I can kill people casually. I don't flinch when I cut off a limb or blast open their skulls- and, usually, I don't even feel pity for them. It's a thing of routine at this point. You can only do the same thing so many times before it stops affecting you.

I remember when I first started this profession, if you could call it that. The edits I made for the Wiki weren't insignificant, but editing literally only gives you an apartment. Water, electricity, A/C, internet- those are bills you have to pay by yourself.

The editing requirements were low. One edit for one day in your apartment- simple as that. People that don't have Internet access go to the Database Building or to a friend's place to make their edits.

Unlike most people around here, I actually know who my parents are. They live on the outside, though. In the "normal" world, not this hellhole.

They left me here when I was a kid, and they never came back.

After a few days of living on the streets, I applied for an apartment and made about a hundred edits in my first day to start me off.

I slept in an empty apartment that night, sitting on the carpeted floor and resting my head against the wooden wall. I slept beneath a windowsill, and I took some time to remember what the admin at the Database Building had told me.

"You are not special," he had said, holding my application, "Where you come from does not matter. We have no obligation to return you to your home, and once you apply for an apartment here, you're a legal resident of Silicon City. You are not allowed to leave."

I stared at him in stunned disbelief. I was standing the lobby of the Database Building, just in front of the administrator's desk. I didn't know his name, nor did I ever learn it. The place looked like your typical office building- checkerboard tiles, white walls, the smell of uniformity, and the suffocating lack of soul. The background music supplied took the form of the irritating ticking of a clock on the wall behind the receptionist/admin, and the sounds of keys tapping.

A small country of drug-dealing data junkies ruled by the rich and powerful.

My situation reminded me of a song I had heard on the drive here.

My parents...well, they were average, middle-class citizens, for the most part. We had lived in a small, rural town outside of the country-city's boundaries. It was a nice place. Better than this one, at least.

I didn't understand it at the time, but my parents both had serious, serious drug problems. Our home life was normal- no abuse, no domestic violence- but they had to get their fix.

And the cheapest place to get it was Silicon.

I had been in the place before I became stranded. Trips here were kind of a frequent thing- my parents were strict about me staying in the car, though. I was young- twelve years old- but I wasn't stupid.

I figured it was because they were dealing with dangerous people. The people I saw looked dangerous, anyways. Tattooed bodies, cold eyes, concealed weapons, shady outfits...you know the type.

I would sit in the car every time we went, absolutely terrified of the very real possibility that my parents wouldn't be coming back inside.

But they always did, and I was always relieved when they returned.

This is where we come to the problem I mentioned earlier.

There's only so much times you can repeat something before it becomes routine. The effects are lessened- you either grow bored or comfortable with it.

The last drive was later than usual.

The road was dark and empty. Sand extended infinitely on either side of the road, and at the end laid the glowing city lights. If you squinted, you could just barely make out the massive perimeter wall around the city- it's a shame I didn't know why it was there until too late.

The drive was made in silence until my father turned on the radio. It took a while for it to pick up the signal, but after a few moments of static, a song came on.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

I recognized the song right away. "Hotel California", by The Eagles. One of my favorites. The music was calming, and I rest my head against my seat, shutting my eyes and listening to the lyrics.

There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
This could be Heaven or this could be Hell

I lightly tapped my feet to the rhythm.

Then she lit up a candle, and she, she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor, thought I heard them say:

"Welcome to the Hotel California," I sang along, off-key, "Such a lovely place, such a lovely place, such a lovely face. Ready your room at the Hotel California...any time of year, you can find it here..."

I would've gone on singing longer, but I ended up falling asleep.

I woke up the following morning, laying in a messy heap on the pavement.

My parents had left me.

I didn't know what had happened to them, but I couldn't find their car. The local people- the ones I was scared of- were actually quite nice, but they didn't know what had happened either. According to what they told me, my parents hadn't even arrived to do their usual dealings today.

I was given food and a blanket, and I spent the night on the sidewalk beside the front gate, watching the lonely road through the black bars.

My eyes never stopped their surveillance. I waited to see a pair of headlights rise over the dark horizon, to see them realize what had happened and come back to get me before I got hurt.

They never came.

"Hotel California" was a song, and on its surface, it was a tale about a man checking in at the eponymous suite. At the beginning of the song, the Hotel seemed like a paradise. The people were warm and inviting, the food was good, the wine was strong, and the place looked nice.

As time went on, the main character became uncomfortable. Beneath the surface, things were different. He heard voices at night. The residents referred to themselves as "prisoners here, of our own device". The Hotel wasn't as great as he initially thought it would be, and he wanted out.

At the climax of the song, he bolted in the middle of dinner and tried to escape.

Relax, said the nightman, we are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave

I never considered Silicon a paradise. But the end result of the song has rang true for me for all of these years.

After getting my apartment, I looked for a job.

Manual labor was a popular field, but most of the workers were much older and more experienced than me- I couldn't find anybody to hire me, because I was a scrawny, inexperienced kid.

I spent ages searching for a job, and, one day, a thuggish-looking man walked up to me. Wordlessly, he put a stilleto knife into my right hand and a photo in my left.

The person in the photo was the admin who had informed me of my plight. The man who had handed these items to me gave me simple instructions.

Keep the knife in your pocket. Be nice, smile. Like that, good boy. When the fucker lets his guard down, press this button and stab him right in the back.

When you finish, come back with the knife and I'll give you some money for your hard work. A check to cash in at the bank- you look like you need it, kiddo.

The check was for $800 dollars.

I don't know what reasoning went through my mind.

But actually doing it? It was easy.

I spent my day at the Database Building, asking the admin about all the things I would need to know in order to lead a decent life here. He wasn't such a bad person- he had just been doing his job. He had been honest with me. I opened up to him during the conversation, and, for a while, I completely forgot about the knife in my pocket. I sat in a rolling chair behind his desk, facing him and speaking about what kind of people my parents were.

I was at his right side. From his left, a phone rang. He glanced at it.

"Sorry, kid." he said, giving an apologetic look, "I have to take this call. Give me just a minute."

He turned his back to me and took the phone off the receiver, beginning his conversation.

His back obscured my field of vision. Without thinking, I pulled the knife out of my pocket.

He didn't notice.

I pressed the button and the blade flicked out.

He didn't notice.

I stabbed him in the back. Once, twice, thrice.

He noticed.

And he died.

He didn't even scream. The only sounds made were the phone dropping to the floor, my knife puncturing his back, and him falling out of his chair.

I left the Database Building without a word.

He had been the only person in the lobby.

Nobody saw me walk out.

The first person I saw on my way out was my employer. He handed me the check and took the knife away. He looked impressed.

"You're pretty good at this, kid." he said, ruffling my hair.

He walked away without another word, and I stared at the blood in my hands.

Every night, it's the same thing.

I relive my first kill, down to every minor detail.

It haunted me for a week. Just the thought of it would make me throw up.

But like everything, killing is just one of those things that stop bothering you so much when you get used to it. Killing gets easier and easier every time. I don't feel a shred of remorse for the people I take out.

But I see them in my dreams every night. The pedestrians I didn't remember are replaced by more and more of my victims with every passing day. Sometimes I wish they'd give me accusatory looks, or punish me for what I've done- but they never do. They're just there.

I remain unpunished for my crimes in my dreams and in reality. Silicon looks modern. Silicon has laws.

But it's missing just those few, about hurting people. About killing them.

I'm a professional killer.

And I hate to go to sleep at night.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage four.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

[10:44:54 AM] Javelin Noir: You idiot.
[10:45:21 AM] Javelin Noir: It says you're online, but I'm going to assume that after a failed hit you're back at your apartment, unconscious in front of your computer and wading through your subconscious realizations at just how pathetic you really are.
[10:47:31 AM] Javelin Noir: Joking, joking.
[10:47:50 AM] Javelin Noir: You're on the news.

Javelin Noir has sent you a file: newspaper.png
Download?
Y/N

File downloaded.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 1-4: Blues, not Boards





[2:31:40 PM] Hector Faustino: Oh God.

Half-conscious, I opened the file and fullscreened it on my monitor.

It was a scanned image of this morning's newspaper, depicting a near-naked man jumping off of the roof of a fake Chinese restaurant with the headline "OUR NEW HERO?" beneath it. Underneath the headline was a caption saying "Uniju Smith, owner of The Wiki Wall, gives his thoughts."

[2:33:13 PM] Hector Faustino: ...why are people so stupid?
[2:34:20 PM] Javelin Noir: You are aware you just insulted yourself, right?
[2:34:22 PM] Javelin Noir: And don't even think about trying to counter with where you came from. You're in the same boat as the rest of us now. You're not special.
[2:35:13 PM] Hector Faustino: Of course not.
[2:35:48 PM] Javelin Noir: What happened to you last night?

I paused.

What do I tell him? The truth? A lie?

[2:38:15 PM] Hector Faustino: Long story short, I have $10000 to cash in at the bank.
[2:38:39 PM] Javelin Noir: Nice.
[2:39:12 PM] Javelin Noir: What're you going to do with all that cash?
[2:41:23 PM] Hector Faustino: I dunno yet. I mostly already have everything I want, so I think I'll try and save it up for bullets and weapon upgrades.
[2:42:10 PM] Javelin Noir: You're not that much of a bachelor when you have a table with power tools and bullet cartridges in your living room, you know.
[2:43:25 PM] Hector Faustino: I thought men that build their own tools are sexy?
[2:44:30 PM] Javelin Noir: 1: You have the phrase wrong. 2: You're building murder weapons.
[2:45:10 PM] Hector Faustino: It's my job!
[2:45:32 PM] Javelin Noir: Murder weapons.
[2:46:11 PM] Hector Faustino: At least I don't try to hide them in a garage or basement or something!
[2:46:30 PM] Javelin Noir: This just in: Hector Faustino keeps his murder weapons out in the open! Ladies.
[2:47:12 PM] Hector Faustino: I hate you.
[2:47:30 PM] Javelin Noir: Love you too. Anyways, I got things to do.
Javelin Noir is now offline.

I sighed, leaning back in my chair.

My sleep had been troubled. Well, it's like that all the time. I have nightmares every night, but I can never remember what they're about.

Probably not anything important.

I took a moment to think about everything- to try and absorb and make sense out of it, I guess.

I went to the Awards, where Tabuu presented. After his presentation, he gave me the Blocky hit.

The following day, I did some research on Blocky and Tabuu- Tabuu was a confirmed member of the Xephyr Blues and Blocky was a rumored member.

Tabuu avoided legal repercussions because of his connections with the administration, and Blocky was an admin himself- even if he was outed as a member of the XB, he would receive no punishment.

Regardless, there's two smaller groups within the Xephyr Blues: the ShyGuys and the Ninjis. There's rumors of a third, but there's no word on the street or on the web about them or their activities.

The ShyGuys are the violent sect, and the Ninjis are the nonviolent sect. ShyGuys deal with assassinations, debts, and other nasty mob business. The Ninjis deal with finances and drugs- the "business" side of the gang, if you will.

The leader of the gang is referred to as "Stooben Rooben", but, in reality, that's a pseudonym. There's much speculation as to who Stooben actually is, but according to what happened last night, Patrick Munson is the leader of the Xephyrs.

Patrick Munson is a well-known public figure on the West Side. He's a respected administrator that pursues reforms in the system, hosts many celebrations for the community as a whole, and even does semi-popular gigs as a musician.

The last person you'd expect to be a gang leader, at any rate.

Tabuu is a confirmed member of the Xephyr's ShyGuy sect, and Blocky's rumored to be one of the leaders of it. This is likely to be true, considering what he said to me during my captivity.

After getting electrically tortured, I was sent home at night with Xephyr thugs gunning around for me. Worst rooftop run I've ever experienced.

And then when I made it home...Stooben.

It's all kind of running together, now.

I got up from my computer desk, rummaged through my closet for some clothes, tumbled into the bathroom, showered, and exited my apartment in casual attire: a black Neutrino T-shirt, with my standard blue jeans and running shoes.

I had earbuds plugged into my ear, connected to the Galaxy Nexus in my right pocket, which was accompanied by my wallet and the check for ten grand. A butterfly knife- just in case- resided in my left, alongside my house keys.

My apartment was on the third floor of the complex, so after some stair-walkin', I ended up in the parking lot.

I stepped into the sunny street, smirked, and started to walk for the bank.


CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY
HECTOR > BLOCKY


My name is Blocky Ishimaru.

I'm one of two leaders of Xephyr's "ShyGuy" sect, I'm a Silicon City Administrator, and I specialize in interrogation and torture.

Unlike the other protagonist of this story, I cut right to the point. Nice to meet you, blah blah, blah blah.

I'm just here to confirm some things.

Yeah, the guy calling himself Stooben is actually Stooben. Yeah, there's a third sect within the XB; no, I'm not telling you about it.

The XB was founded by two people: Stooben, and me.

Surprised? Probably not.

Anyways, me and Stooben grew up together on the West side. Spoiled kids, you know the deal.

One day, we journeyed into the East side, and-

Oops.

Spoilers.


AUTO-CHARACTER SELECT
>HECTOR

On my way walking back home from the bank- tons richer, by the way, the music I was listening to suddenly paused. My phone vibrated.

I pressed a button on my headset, and the call started.

"Yeah?" I kept my stroll on the sidewalk casual.

"You're still alive, huh?"

It was Tabuu. "What of it, backstabber?"

"What did you tell Ishimaru?"

"Why're you asking?"

"No reason. I haven't been punished for anything, snitch. I just want to know- how long did it take for him to break you?"

"I cooperated completely willingly." I lied.

"And you plan on joining us, too? I'm not going to allow that, you know. I got boys of my own, and we can override recruitment decisions. As long as I'm still alive, you're not having a place in the Xephyr Blues."

"Yeah, yeah. You done? I have to pay to listen to your rambling, you know."

He hung up, and I pulled the phone out of my pocket.

After I opened the home screen, it displayed a map.

The call had been traced, and I was looking at the exact location it had come from.

Just a little more than five miles from my current location.

I called up Javelin.

"What is it, Hector?" he snapped.

"I need a delivery and a ride."

I heard him sigh on the other side. "Another assassination?"

"No, just tying up some loose ends. I'm on the intersection of Scar Road and Down Street. Think you can make it?"

"On my way."

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage five.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

I got into the backseat of Javelin's car, and we started to drive off.

On the passenger's side was my revolver, my holster, my battery, my battery cord and harness, a loaded speedloader, and my sheathed blade.

Javelin Noir was many things: a doctor who operated his own clinic on the East Side, a registered psychiatrist, psychologist, physician and surgeon, and, most importantly, my best friend.

And the dude who drives me around.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 1-5: Doctor, Doctor





I unplugged my headset and handed him my phone, which was still displaying the map.

"Make a detour," I said, "I want to take him from behind, not knock on his front door."

"Of course." the Doctor said. I surveyed his face through the mirror. Dr. Javelin Noir was a man in his early twenties, renowned in criminal and civilian circles for his prodigy and prices. He was pale, with a sharp, angular face, short-cut spiky black hair, and cold, dark eyes that didn't match his personality.

Usually.

I strapped the battery to my back, hooked the cord into it, pocketed the speedloader, holstered my revolver, and put the blade over my back.

It was a short drive.

"We're here." he said, stopping on the side of the street and handing me my phone. I pocketed it and handed him my wallet.

"Use some of that money to pay off the gas and pick us up something to eat," I said, "If I haven't called you within...two hours, assume the worst."

He nodded.

I got out of the car and shut the door behind me.

He drove away.


CHARACTER SELECT
NEW CHARACTER UNLOCKED
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR - BLOCKY > STOOBEN
STOOBEN IS NOT AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME
AUTO-CHARACTER SELECT
>BLOCKY

"Bill." I said.

"What is it?" a man with a saucepan over his head was slumped into the chair before me, empty bottles of alcohol strewn about the white carpet beneath us. He had light blue eyes, light skin, and a massive, blonde beard-mustache combo. He wore what resembled proper military fatigues, but the bottom half were torn away to reveal his legs- a marvel of technology, completely mechanical.

I had come to visit his house unannounced, a decision I was starting to regret more and more with each passing moment. The place was shrouded in darkness, smelling of alcohol and weaponry. Bill was a well-known anarchist, but thanks to his brother, SonicMario, being an administrator, he avoided legal consequences for whatever stupid, drunken actions he would make.

"We want you to join our gang, Bill." I said, my hands behind my back, "You can do better than...this, you know."

"I'm an anarchist, not a criminal." he snarled, glaring up at me with his single visible eye.

"At the end of the day, what's the difference? We'll give you anything you want, Bill. We need somebody like you on our side."

Bill's mechanical legs pushed him to a standing position, and he lifted me by my collar, my feet about a ten inches from the ground.

I stared back at him with a bored, calm expression.

"You know that we have TFP with us, right? Well, he's one of the Ninjis, but..."

"He's still a criminal. I may tolerate the lifestyle, but I'm not going to become one of you."

I smirked. "You commit violent felonies. Public indecency. Destruction of property. The only reason you aren't behind bars is because your brother cares too much to let you end up in that situation, right?"

I had hit a nerve. "Why, you-"

"Let's forget all of the crimes you've committed for a second. How about your anti-establishment goals? Which, I should mention, you're nowhere near accomplishing. Your legs, your house...all thanks to your hardworking brother, a proud member of the establishment you so staunchly oppose. You sit in this pigsty, benefiting off of his work for 'the man', all while spouting bullshit about how you're going to destroy the system. You're a messy, unemployed anarchist that has a serious lack of direction."

He gave a growl, and his free hand balled into a fist. "Say it again," he hissed, "I dare you."

"You're a messy, unemployed-"

His fist flew towards my face, and, in a swift motion, I activated the stun rod in my right hand and jabbed it into his chest.

He gave an agonized shriek and dropped me to the floor.

"Y-you..." he groaned, clutching at the new scorch mark on his uniform, "I..."

I deactivated the stun rod, got on my feet, and brushed myself off. "You what? Do I need to repeat myself? Come on, Bill. Stop living off of the establishment you hate so much. Come with me, and I'll give you anything you want."

"...I want weapons. Guns, explosives, missile launchers. The whole deal."

"We'll be happy to supply them." I did a 180, stepping towards his front door and opening it. "Come with me," I said, "You're not leaving anything behind."

I stepped into the light with our newest recruit at my heels.


AUTO-CHARACTER SELECT
>HECTOR

I kicked open the back door, looked around the room, vaulted over the table, and fired a single shot from my revolver at a thug who had started running for me.

Fuck stealth.

I crouched behind a supply crate, wincing as the gunfire started roaring throughout the building's first floor.

The building served as a shipping area- a place occupied by both the Ninjis and the ShyGuys. The ShyGuys stick around most often, however- to guard the shipments and transport them.

Most of it was the usual that you'd expect- coke, marijuana, LSD- the whole deal. They had also started to transport legitimate products- Coke (the soda), debranded food, electronics...they were selling it on the streets for lower prices than offered by Silicon's stores and legal merchants.

It was a brilliant business model. I used it myself.

"Where's Tabuu?" I shouted over the gunfire, "That's who I'm here for!"

The gunfire paused, and I walked out from behind my cover, warily eyeing the men around the room. The one that I had shot was on the floor, clutching at his stomach and moaning.

I aimed my gun for his head.

"Tell me where Tabuu is or he dies." I said, steadying the heavy handgun.

"Upstairs." one of the thugs in the front said, "What do you want with him?"

"Unfinished business." I said. "I'd advise you get that man to the hospital instead of worrying about my activities."

"You're going to kill our boss?"

"What I do with him doesn't concern you. But if you want it to start..." I turned towards the man on the floor, cocking the revolver and preparing to pull the trigger-

"Okay, okay. We'll go."

The one who had spoken to me put down his gun and walked to the wounded man on the floor.

"I'd advise you go hit up Dr. Javelin," I said, "Tell him I said the bill's on me. No need to worry about the police knowing about this business."

The wounded man was slumped over the thug's shoulder. He gave a nod. "Thank you." he said.

The thugs left through the front door.

I smirked.

Always like it when they cooperate.

I walked around the room, opening a door near the front that opened into a stairway.

I began to ascend.

Back to stage select.

executing file "w1 boss.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...
file found: "backward mind.mp3"
download? Y/N

I opened the door at the top of the stairs and shut it behind me.

I surveyed the room.

It was a perfect circle, with a single column at the center. The ceiling was about seventeen feet from the floor. Completely even ground. Black marble, except for a frequency of strange vents around the place.

The entirety of the walls and ceiling was a mirror, as was the column in the center of the room. Sitting on a black throne against the column was Tabuu himself, dressed in black, hooded robes. He looked up at me with a smirk, his phone in his lap and a large scythe leaning against the column beside him.

The mirrors everywhere were screwing with my perception, but I met his gaze with a glare.

"Hello, Hector." he said, "I've been expecting you."

"Yeah yeah," I snarled, taking a few steps forward and reaching for my sword, "I'm glad you're so happy to see me."

"A sword? Why not use that gun?"

"I don't waste bullets. And I want to see the life leave your eyes when I'm finished with you." I snarled.

He gave a chuckle. Unfazed, he tapped the screen on his phone a few times and then pocketed it.

There was a hissing sound.

Purple fog started to flood the room.

I breathed it in. Whatever it was, it wasn't poison. Tasted like water vapor.

The fog was obscuring my view. I could just barely see Tabuu standing in front of his throne.

Narcissistic fuck.

He grabbed his scythe.

"This fog is a little...concoction of mine. A potent hallucinogen mixed into water in the fog machines beneath this room."

I started to stumble. I had a serious headache.

"What does an assassin fear, Faustino? Be sure to tell me. Whatever it is, you'll see it in the purple haze."

The pain stopped, and I stood strong.

The purple fog completely obscured the room. I could barely see a few feet in front of myself.

"But whatever you do, Hector..." Tabuu's voice changed, like it was being sharply amplified and sent through a filter, "Don't fear the reaper."

There was a flash of silver and my blood splattered to the floor.

I slashed my blade in the direction I thought the blow had come from, but it was met with no resistance.

My chest had been cut open. My very perception of reality was slipping- from blood loss or the drugs, I couldn't tell.

Tabuu's maniacal laughter came from all directions.

I wondered if it was the last thing I would hear.



PROJECT AVIATE


WORLD 1 BOSS FIGHT


BACKWARD MIND (LOWER)





I kept my blade at the ready, grasping it firmly in both hands and stepping through the fog. I kept my eyes peeled for a silhouette against the purple haze and my ears open for a sound other than the hissing of the vents.

I crossed the room and found myself facing one of the mirrors.

My reflection stared right back at me, grasping his sword and looking absolutely terrified.

I blinked.

A lonely child with a stiletto knife stood in front of me, looking up at me with sad, empty eyes.

My heart stopped. It was me.

"Help." he said, his voice feeble.

"Help me." I repeated, frantic in the fog.

"Help." said the child.

"Help." I echoed.

"Help..."

"Me!" I leaped away just in time to dodge Tabuu's blow.

The mirror shattered.

I gave a roar, charging forward and slashing my blade wildly through the fog.

I slammed into another mirror and stumbled backward.

Tabuu's laughter grew louder.

"Tabuu!" I screamed.

I got to my feet and set off into the fog again.

Tabuu lunged through the smoke.

"You-" I slashed at him, and he blocked with the handle of his scythe, "Son of a-" I kicked his scythe aside, "Bitch!" I slashed him in half.

He kept laughing.

The body was gone.

"What're you looking at!?" Tabuu taunted.

"Fight me!" I screamed.

My scream echoed throughout the room for a bit, then faded.

I took a deep breath. Tried to calm myself and disregard the drug's effects on my system. I shut my eyes and tried to think. To remember.

I had seen vents on the floor before.

They were arranged in a circular pattern, around the column and throne, but...how much?

Seven.

I prowled the room until I found one, and I stabbed my sword into it.

There was a crackle of electricity and it shot through my blade- however, thanks to the inhibitor I keep in the handle, I was safe.

"What? What're you doing!?"

I found the next one and stabbed.

"Stop! Stop that!"

I heard him swing his scythe for me, and I rolled across the floor, stabbing my sword into the next one and twisting the blade.

"You bastard!"

I forcefully pulled the blade out of the ground and repeated the process until I made it to the seventh vent.

I plunged my blade as deep as I could into it just as Tabuu came into view, directly in front of me, and slashed for my head.

I ducked the scythe, forced it out of his hands, and threw it across the room.

His eyes widened in fear.

I grabbed his head and slammed it into the handle of my sword, and he fell to the ground, clutching at his head in pain.

"You bastard..." he moaned, rolling on the floor, "You bastard!"

I pulled my blade out of the vent and sheathed it.

The fog was settling against the ceiling.

Tabuu was on his knees in front of me, looking up at me with a gleam of hope.

"You know how you said I wouldn't join the Xephyr Blues as long as you're alive?" I said.

He gave a feeble nod.

I drew my revolver and pressed the barrel between his eyes.

"No...please..." his voice broke.

"Problem solved." I snarled.

I pulled the trigger.

Tabuu's body hit the floor.

Back to stage select.

- World 2: Hector Joins A Gang

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT FOUND!
download "world 2"? (100 kb)
Y
DOWNLOADING.
DOWNLOADING..
DOWNLOADING...
FILE DOWNLOADED

Select a stage.

executing file "intro stage.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR - BLOCKY > STOOBEN

My name is Patrick Munson. I’m in my twenties, serve as an Administrator of Silicon City and Porplemontage’s right-hand man, and I also lead a gang called the Xephyr Blues under the pseudonym of Stooben Rooben.

I was born on the West Side, which is significantly wealthier and less populated than the East. There are no apartments here- there are, however, lines of houses and towers of expensive hotels spread around. Most people living on the West Side remain blissfully ignorant of what occurs within our eastward neighbor, and the few who do know don’t care.

This- the West Side- is where the administration lives and plots: and this is where our leader, Porplemontage, resides.

I was born to a rich family. Discovered my affinity for music at a very young age.

And my views on the world would’ve remained permanently limited if not for my friend, Naraka Ishimaru.

Blocky is a nickname.

We were raised in two different environments. His parents demanded great achievements out of him, and he usually met them- his clothes were generally formal and refined, naval outfits being one of his favorites. Since he was young, he had a furious devotion to the goal of being an administrator- and when we were in our late teens, he was promoted.

He was given an assignment to go to the East Side’s Database Building and upgrade the server, and he invited me to come with him.

It was a day that, for the both of us, changed our lives forever.

Just outside of my house, we got into his car- an old-fashioned second generation Lincoln Town car with a sleek, black paintjob.

I got into the passenger’s seat and buckled myself up.

We started driving off.

“Hey, Blocky?”

He gave a frustrated groan. He hated being called that- the primary reason being that his surname meant “round stone” in Japanese- making his given nickname an annoying paradox.

Most people didn’t see the irony.

“Yeah?”

“Why’re they sending you for this first job? Upgrading the server isn’t exactly grunt work, right?”

We stopped at an intersection.

“Because,” Blocky said, “A few weeks ago, the admin who normally maintains the Database was assassinated.”

“Ouch. How?”

“Stab wounds. Multiple, right in the back. It was a sloppy job, but whoever did it really wanted the guy dead.”

“Aren’t they going to try and investigate?”

“Nope. Murder isn’t illegal.”

“...That’s kind of fucked up.”

Blocky shrugged. “Part of the job.” he said.

We pulled into the parking lot of the Database Building, got out of the car, and stepped inside.

I stayed close to Blocky- I’d never been here before- and we ascended the elevator to the top floor of the building.

The elevator led into an empty hallway with a single, locked door at the end.

Blocky twisted his key in the lock and stepped inside.

The server was massive.

It was a supercomputer hosting three hundred terabytes of storage, a single terabyte of RAM, and a couple hundred quad-core processors. The machine hosted just about every commercial Wiki in existence: and since using these services now comes at a price, it was the country's primary source of income, making an average of several hundred thousand dollars a day.

It was a massive, black machine in the center of the room, and while it got warmer inside the closer you got to the machine, the outer circle of the room was absolutely freezing.

Ishimaru was unfazed.

Together, we stepped inside and found a monitor hooked up the massive machine, sitting atop a desk.

There was a keyboard and mouse in front of it.

Somebody was still logged in.

Blocky sat down. “Hey,” he said, hovering his cursor over a folder on the screen, “They exist after all.”

“What do you mean?”

He looked excited. “The restricted archives, that’s what. Records of what brought Silicon City into existence and stuff.”

“Why aren't these publically accessible?”

“Do you want to find out?”

I bit my lip and took a few worried glances over my shoulder.

“Sure.” I said.

I’ll summarize what we found.

Over twenty years ago, a large organization of billionaires successfully purchased California from the United States. Using their untold finances, they successfully transformed the entire state into a massive, sprawling metropolis- and, in the following decades, made a massive perimeter wall.

Silicon City was founded and kept a decent trade relation with the United States. Despite the events that transpired within the city, America never dared to interfere with their biggest customer in history.

The organization eventually disbanded, leaving its money to a pair of youths they trusted with the new country’s future: Steve Shinn, currently known as Porplemontage, and Scarecrow Von Steuben.

Steve quickly took control over the country’s political system and established an oligarchy.

Steuben fiercely disagreed with the direction Steve wanted to take the country, so he formed a rebellion- the Xephyr Blues.

However, Steve had more powerful people on his side- and Steuben’s insurrection was snuffed and wiped from the public record.

In the database, we learned all of this and more- including the present-day conditions of the people on the East Side and the tyranny the administration forced over them.

I donned the name “Stooben” after the leader of the original Xephyr Blues, and, with Blocky, we created the new gang.

Our goal is simple.

We’re going overthrow Porplemontage, destroy the system, and then rebuild it from the ground up.

The ShyGuy sect of our gang helps further that cause through force- the side I let Blocky preside over.

The Ninji sect of our gang helps further that cause through finances- that’s the side a man named Adriel “TFP” Rao oversees.

The third sect of our gang is the Blues: where me, Blocky, and another founding member reside.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage one.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR < BLOCKY - STOOBEN

I opened my eyes in bed the following afternoon, naked except my boxers and the bandages Javelin had wrapped me up with the previous day. I had cashed in my check last night, giving Javelin several hundred to cover his driving expenses since my last paid hit and the guy I had shot.

Me and Javelin had a simple agreement: he drove me around, lobbed my gear and patched up my wounds, and I shared the profits with him. In addition, if I went a while without getting a hit, he’d give me a portion of his own funds so I don’t slack on my bills.

Our friendship was an even simpler affair: he’d be my voice of reason and tell me not to do something stupid, and I’d do it anyways. I had been thinking about joining Xephyr since my fight with Tabuu, and Javelin strongly advised against it.

I dialed the number Stooben left me.

Forgive me.

After a few seconds, the other line picked up. “Hey, baby.” the man on the other line cooed.

I nearly fell out of my bed. “B-Blocky!?”

He was laughing. “Thought you’d never call, Hec.”

With an exasperated sigh, I asked: “What number did Stooben give me?”

“My personal cell.” Blocky responded.

You've gotta be kidding me.

“Anyways,” Blocky said, his voice growing firm, “You want to join us, right?”

“Yeah, that’s the plan. What about it?”

He sighed. “Why did you kill Tabuu?”

“Little punk had it coming. He said I couldn’t join the Blues ‘til he was dead, so I sped up the process with a bullet to the head. Don’t tell me you planned on letting him stay around?”

“For a little longer, yes. The gases we made with those chemicals were quite potent, and they proved quite useful in debates with our shipping partners and the American gangs.”

I remembered what that gas had done to me. “Sick bastards.” I muttered.

Blocky chuckled. “It got the job done. Fortunately for you, he left a good supply and the recipe for the stuff at his house. So we can still make more whenever we need it. Still wanna join?”

“Yeah. What do I need to do?”

“Come to the Database Building.” Blocky said, “Alone.”

“Alright.”

Blocky hung up.

I got out of bed and, after a quick shower, stepped outside with my sword over my back, my revolver in its holster, and a new set of clothes on my body.

I began to descend.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 2-1: Now listen up, here's the story...





In the meantime, there was a broadcast airing on Silicon’s Prime-time News.

A man with brown hair, black eyes and light skin took center screen, standing behind a podium inside of the massive Stadium on the West Side. Uniju Smith looked around the room in stunned glee, noting the absolutely massive amounts of administrators, West Siders and East Siders alike in the audience.

“My name is Uniju Smith,” he said, a grin on his face, “And I think that it’s time for a reform in Silicon City!”

There was uncertain muttering.

“For several years now,” he said, “Our community has been overrun with crime and corruption. A shadowy underground lurks just beneath our peaceful society, and I’m sure you’ve heard the names around. The Xephyr Blues.”

There was a loud click as the massive flatscreen behind Uniju turned on, displaying a photo of a group of people with light and dark blue bandanas and scarves walking the streets, hands floating over imprints of concealed weaponry.

“In the past week alone,” Uniju said, “There’s been six reports of gang-related violence, and in one of these tragic cases, a former member of our own administration was found, brutally murdered, in a warehouse where we suspect the Xephyrs have been trafficking drugs and stolen goods. He had been severely drugged and mutilated by blades for what some suspect to be hours on end before the killers finally had the mercy to end his misery with a bullet.”

A picture of a circular room with shattered mirrors and a tarp over a corpse appeared on the screen behind him.

“These Xephyr Blues aren’t just criminals. They’re sadistic murderers, and you could be next! I know that we have no laws against taking the life of another human being, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take action against this kind of threat within our community!”

There was a murmur of assent.

“This is our country!” Uniju shouted, pounding his fist into the podium, “And I’m tired of these scum walking our streets!”

The audience’s agreement grew louder.

“The Xephyr Blues,” Uniju shrieked, “Are rumored to be led by a man named ‘Stooben’! There could possibly be members of this gang within our own administration, undermining the progress of this country and tormenting the people! I, for one, am tired of it!”

The cheering reached a deafening volume. “Let’s destroy the Xephyr Blues!” Uniju screamed.

His final cheer was drowned out in smattering applause.


AUTO CHARACTER SELECT
>HECTOR

I stepped into the Database Building at sunset.

I hadn’t been here in a long, long time.

I looked at the desk where a new administrator sat. I remembered what happened to the first one I had seen sit there, and I gave what, from a distance, might’ve looked like a frown.

I put my hands in the pockets of my trench coat and took a look around the lobby. At the back of the room was the receptionist’s desk and his little working space, and to the left and right were two doors: one leading to a pair of elevators, the others leading to the computer room.

I took a few steps forward, and the admin at his desk gave me a look, his eyes scanning me from head to toe. “Faustino?” he asked.

“That’s me.”

“Elevators.” he said, simply.

I gave a nod and entered the door on the right, and as soon as it shut behind me, I felt something jab against my back.

“Weapons, Hector? Really?” Blocky had the barrel of a pistol pressed against my spine.

“It’s dangerous to walk around at this time of night without any protection.” I responded, calmly.

“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you? Give me the gun. You can keep the blade.”

I gave a sigh and gave him my revolver without turning my back.

“Let’s go.” he said.

He came from behind me and called the elevator, stepping inside and inviting me in after him.

The door shut, and he entered a quick combination into a keypad beside the door.

I gave a sigh.

“Hector?” he asked.

“Yeah?”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Too late to turn back now.”

“In that case...do you want to know my name?”

“...Isn’t it Blocky?”

He shook his head. “That’s a nickname that kind of grew on me. No. My name’s Naraka Ishimaru.”

“Sounds cool.”

He shrugged. “It’s alright.” he muttered.

The elevator came to a halt, and the door opened.

I followed Naraka out of the elevator and into a long hallway with a single door at the end.

He opened the door, and we stepped inside.

I gasped.

It was a massive, circular room with a gargantuan machine in the center. The Database. Around the room were scattered more people than I could possibly hope to count, a good majority of them donning blue scarves or headbands.

And then there was a man, standing on top of the massive server and looking down at me, donning a long coat similar to my own, with his arms crossed and a smirk on his familiar face.

Stooben Rooben, leader of the Xephyr Blues, stared down at me.

I had become one of them.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage two.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR < BLOCKY - STOOBEN

With a great leap, Stooben landed from the server to the floor directly in front of me, and I stumbled backward in surprise. Blocky stopped me from falling and Stooben held his hand out to me with a grin.

I grabbed his hand and we shook, firmly. He was still grinning. It was entirely different from the cold expression he had when he’d held me at gunpoint a few days prior- he seemed quite happy to see me. “Glad to see you’ve made the right decision, Hector,” he said, “You won’t regret it. Here, have this.”

He handed me a blue bandanna with a white X on it. “You obviously don’t need to wear this everywhere you go,” he said, “But you’re going to need it as kind of a pass into our meetings and gatherings, alright? Whenever you have this around, you got the power of the Blues on your side. Remember that.”

I nodded and tied it to the handle of my sword, just below the hilt. He looked at the blade.

“Swordsman?” he asked.

I nodded.

“What practices?”

“Self-taught,” I said, “But I’ve watched plenty of samurai movies. What about you?”

“Expert in kendo and fencing,” he said, “You could practice with me sometimes.”

I shrugged.

“Anyways,” he said, holding his arm out, “Think it’s time for you to meet the gang.”

He wrapped an arm around my shoulders- something that made me immediately uncomfortable- and looked around the room. “Who wants to introduce themselves to the new blood first?” he shouted.

The first volunteer was a young, slim dark-skinned man with brown eyes, an oversized white T, and loose jeans. He had his bandana around his neck, like a scarf or a necklace. “Name’s Adriel Rao,” he said, holding his hand out, “You can call me ‘TFP’. I lead the Ninji Sect.”

We bumped fists.

Next up came a man dressed in blue fatigues, with a huge blonde beard, light blue eyes, mechanical legs, and, for some reason, a saucepan on his head. “Bill Freeman,” he nodded, “Friendly neighborhood anarchist. You can call me Gordon, if you want.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“In-joke,” he explained, “Long story.”

I shrugged it off.

Next up came the guy I shot. He was dressed in a black T shirt and blue jeans, and while he tried to be nice, I could sense the tiniest bit of lingering resentment- which is justified, considering I did shoot the guy.

Then there was this chick- somebody else I recognized as an administrator- Walkazo. She had a slight frame, blue hair (dyed?) and bright red eyes. She was known around the city as being kind of a bitch, so the fact that she was a member of a gang of criminal anarchists greatly surprised me.

She seemed nice enough when it came to personal matters, though.

I would’ve spent more time going around and meeting people, but Stooben put an early end to the meeting. He looked very troubled.

“Hide your bandannas,” he instructed, “And try to split up before you get out of here. Go straight home, and try to watch the news or ask around about what happened tonight.”

I left the Database Building about half an hour later, waiting for the rest of the others to pour out before I stopped Stooben on our way outside.

“Stooben,” I asked, hands in my pockets, “Why did you want me to join this gang?”

He looked at me. “Because I think you’re a capable member,” he said, “And that you’d do even better if you had something to fight for.”

I gave a laugh.

“No, no...” I said, “You greatly, greatly misunderstand me here. I don’t care about the city or the people in it. The way I see it, it’s every man for himself- and as long as I get what I need to get by, the whole damn world could burn down and I wouldn’t feel a pang of sympathy.”

He gave me a look. “If that’s the case,” he said, “I’ll be sure to keep your interest.”

Without another word, he turned around and walked away.

I set off back home to my apartment.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 2-2: Moonlit Mask





CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR > BLOCKY - STOOBEN

I pulled into the driveway of my house, turned off my car, twisted the keys, pulled them out of the ignition, and went inside.

It was past midnight, and I was extremely, extremely tired.

I peeled off my uniform and stepped into the shower, staying in for about thirty minutes longer than I needed to before crashing into my bed, face-first.

I have a pretty nice house, I’d say- two stories, painted walls, plenty of furniture, plasma screens...

It’s a bit of a shame I don’t actually use it that much, but impressions when inviting guests over mean everything.

My bed, however, is likely what I’m most proud of.

Memory foam. Electric blanket.

So. Fucking. Comfortable.


CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR - BLOCKY > STOOBEN

I met up with him at the Eastern Gate of the city.

I had been doing it for weeks, now.

He stood outside of the gates, like always, in a black trenchcoat with a white clay mask on his face, with simple black dots acting as his eyes and mouth. There were no actual holes that I could see in the mask, so I often wondered how he could see me- but it wasn’t a question I concerned myself with too much.

“Stooben.” he said.

“ShyGuy.” I nodded, “How’s it been on the outside?”

He sighed at the pseudonym. “It’s been okay,” he said, “But I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince any foreign militia to help us out. America, as always, turns a deaf ear to us when money isn’t involved.”

“But what about the American public? Don’t they have a problem with this?”

“Obviously, considering that a majority of the Internet’s information is now only available for a fee. The popularity of Tor has been rising, but common users still have trouble figuring out how that works, so they’re still getting pretty angry. A few of them actually want to take California back.”

“Not as long as Porple’s wallet is full.” I snarled, “It’s a twisted system in here, man. But I’m glad that you’re willing to come all this way for these meetings. Aren’t you worried they’ll try to take you back?”

“At the press of a button,” he said. “I could cut off the power of the entire East Side and jam their communications. I already have a fake feedback loop being fed to the surveillance cameras around here. Anyways, as pleasant as it is to see you, I’m here because there’s something I need to give you.”

He slipped his hand through the gate’s black bars and handed me a small, slim rectangular box with a USB port. I raised an eyebrow.

“External hard drive,” he explained, “Just install those files to the server whenever you get the chance.”

“Why?”

“For the same amount of digital control and surveillance that the administration has,” he said, “And a few programs of my own- mainly, one that’ll give me complete remote access to the server.”

I eyed him warily.

“Relax,” he said, “I’m on your side. Any word from Ninji about the weapons?”

I shook my head.

“I’ll bitch at him a little bit later. Anyways, I’ll be off. See you later.” He gave a nod and, after taking a few glances around, walked away.

I watched him leave for a few seconds, then pocketed the drive and walked away.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage three.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR < BLOCKY - STOOBEN

I woke up the following morning with a slight headache and a growing feeling of dread for what I’d see when I made it to my computer desk and looked at what would undoubtedly be a wave of responses to the single message I had sent to Javelin last night.

Javelin being Javelin, I wasn’t disappointed.

[10:32:18 PM] Hector Faustino: so I joined the xephyr blues
[8:51:07 AM] Javelin Noir: What.
[8:52:23 AM] Javelin Noir: Oh my God, you’re asleep, aren’t you? Did you see the news last night? Don’t tell me you were joining while that was happening.
[8:52:30 AM] Javelin Noir: The irony behind this all is just too horrible for me to celebrate.
[8:53:13 AM] Javelin Noir: You’re too much. You’re an idiot. You’re going to get yourself killed, and there’s nothing I’m going to be able to do to help you when that happens.
[10:37:05 AM] Hector Faustino: Morning, honey. <3
[10:40:25 AM] Javelin Noir: Your parents were crackheads, right? Do you think that’s resulted in a genetic defect that causes you to be this much of an idiot? I specifically told you not to do this. You consistently refuse to listen to my advice. I’m seriously wondering why I even waste my time trying to convince you. You never listen.
[10:41:10 AM] Hector Faustino: Anyways, what did happen on the news last night?
[10:41:45 AM] Javelin Noir: You know Uniju Smith, the guy who runs that fake Chinese restaurant?
[10:43:01 AM] Hector Faustino: Yeah, what about him?
[10:43:40 AM] Javelin Noir: Your half-naked escapades from the other night put the public eye on him, which allowed him to announce his enmity towards your new gang. Oh, and he’s successfully provoked a manhunt for Xephyr Blues, which is backed by the Administration.
[10:44:53 AM] Hector Faustino: Well shit.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 2-3: Eidos Interactive Can Suck Me





Later that day, I got a message from my Facebook tab while looking at Internet porn.

Random Guy
Hey, Hec.

There’s no way that’s his real name, I thought, wiping my right hand on my pant leg.

Hector Faustino
Yeah?

Random Guy
Have you ever heard of Bill Freeman?

Hector Faustino
I know the guy, yeah. Why?

Random Guy
Those legs of his aren’t ordinary prosthetics. They’re prototypes of what I’m about to tell you about. They’re heavy, but he can move faster and jump higher. They’re armored, too. It’d take a rocket to the knee to dent them.

Hector Faustino
That’s either the worst Skyrim joke I’ve ever heard or you’re an idiot.

Random Guy
I’m not. They’re called bio-mods, and while some of them are full prosthetics like his, others, are, well, modifications added to your body that you can add once you get the power supply and motherboard installed.

Hector Faustino
And what am I going to have to mutilate to put this stuff inside of me?
Oh God there’s no worse way I could’ve phrased that.

Random Guy
The motherboard/power supply replaces your spine.

Hector Faustino
what

Random Guy
It’s actually not too expensive, but yeah. The surgeries to get it and the other mods installed are fairly invasive and risky.

Hector Faustino
Well fucking duh.
It’s a SPINE REPLACEMENT.
Why are you even telling me about this?

Random Guy
You’re an assassin, right? Imagine how much easier your jobs could be with bio-mods!

Hector Faustino
Can we call them something that isn’t stupid if we’re going to continue the conversation in this direction? Like, augmentations or something?

Random Guy
You don’t understand how pissed Eidos would get if they were called that.
Hector Faustino
Isn’t the entirety of the Deus Ex series basically warning about exactly what you’re recommending me?
Random Guy
Yup.

Hector Faustino
Fine, I’ll check them out. I know a guy who could install this stuff for me.

[3:51:23 PM] Hector Faustino: Hey, Javelin?
[3:51:59 PM] Javelin Noir: What is it?
[3:52:45 PM] Hector Faustino: Completely hypothetically speaking, what would you do if I asked you about replacing my spine with a computer and adding modifications to my body?
[3:53:13 PM] Javelin Noir: Please tell me you’re joking.


Back to stage select.

executing file "stage four.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR < BLOCKY - STOOBEN

“Is there any way at all I can talk you out of this? I’m confident in my abilities, but...” Javelin sighed, “I don’t want you to do something you’ll regret. This is permanent. You’re about to literally lose your humanity and become a machine. Are you sure you want to do this?”

I shrugged. “Don’t care.”

He sighed. “Lay down, then. On your stomach.”

I was inside of Javelin’s operating room, which he converted from his garage and kept at utmost sanitary conditions. He was indicating for me to lay on his operating table, which resembled a hi-tech torture rack in more ways than one. Regardless, I obeyed and laid myself on it like I had so many times before.

“There’s two things I’m going to do,” Javelin said, “I’m going to inject you with morphine- lots of morphine- and then I’m going to put a VR helmet on you so that your mind doesn’t notice your spine being replaced. You ready?”

“Put the helmet on first.” I said.

“You got it. See you later.”

I silently agreed.

The helmet was put on my head, and I blacked out.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 2-4: Mechanical Rhythm







Only to wake up in VR.

I was standing in a blank white room. I heard nothing but the blood rushing through my body, my breathing and my heartbeat. I took a look at myself. I was wearing my usual outfit- trench coat, T shirt, jeans, shoes and blade. My back-battery was absent.

VR isn’t too complicated. Basically, it’s hooking your brain up to a computer and experiencing life in a virtual body. It’s used for many things: gaming, military training, physics simulations, psychology experiments, medical treatments, and porn. Interactive porn. Unfortunately, Javelin never lets me use his rig for anything other than training and his operations on me.

What do you want to do today, Master Faustino?

VR follows the commands of either the user or the computer administrator, with privileges falling to the user if the admin isn’t there.

“Has Patrick Munson sent his battle data?” I asked.

I had told Stooben in advance about my surgery plans, and he told me that he’d have the data his own VR machine had gathered on him sent to Javelin’s so that I could run a practice round against him.

He has. Do you wish for me to create a projection of this data for you to fight?

“Yeah. Bring it on.”

Is there anywhere in particular you want this battle to take place?

“Surprise me.”

The blank landscape transformed into the top of a windy cliff overlooking a green forest far beneath, with a steep, unforgiving cliff wall leading up the peak I stood on. This scene was illuminated by a bloody sunset, painting the world red.

I was impressed. Compy knows what I like.

A man in a black trench coat with his hands in his pockets appeared before me. Data-Stooben looked up at me with a dull expression. “You ready?” he asked.

I responded by unsheathing my blade and charging for him. I swung upward, trying to land a hit on his stomach- but he pulled out two blades from beneath this jacket and put them in an X shape, stopping my sword from connecting. In his right hand was a slim, sleek rapier and in his left was a long, sharp katana. The scabbard was on the left side of his waist.

I pressed against his guard, but it didn’t falter.

He pushed me back, but I stopped myself from stumbling and stayed square on my feet.

He sheathed his katana, but kept his left hand on the handle. He held out his rapier towards me. It was a peculiar stance, and I wasn’t sure how to approach it.

I grasped my blade with my right hand and swung.

His rapier shot for my sword hand and I stopped my swing clumsily, stumbling backward before either blades connected. He stepped forward, pulling his katana out of its scabbard and slicing open my chest, following by making a lunge with his rapier-

In pain, I slashed away the slim blade, but Stooben’s charge didn’t stop- his katana cut through my right arm and I dropped my sword. I grabbed my revolver with my left hand and raised it, but his rapier quickly disarmed me and his katana struck that arm as well.

My blood was splattered all over the clifftop rock, made darker in the sunset’s light. Stooben held his blades in an X shape, both of them pressing against my neck. He silently dared me to move.

“Fuck you!” I shouted, raising my right leg and kicking him in the stomach, “I’m not done yet!”

Stooben stumbled backward and I fell to my knees, busting open the skin against the rock. In a moment of mad inspiration, I disregarded my now-useless arms and picked up my sword with my teeth, biting the handle of the blade, holding it tightly in my mouth, leaping to my feet and charging forward-

Clank.

Slash, slash.

He blocked my blade with his katana, slashed my legs and slit my throat in three smooth motions.

I slammed to the ground with finality, breaking my nose on the rock.

I couldn’t form words. I couldn’t move. Everything hurt.

My blood was everywhere. I couldn’t breathe, my mouth was fucking submerged in it.

I was dying.

Then I woke up in Javelin’s operating room, the surgery finished and the helmet being carefully removed from my head.

“You look shaken,” Javelin said, “Is something wrong?”

I ignored him and pushed myself off of the table, taking a few steps forward and looking into a mirror on the wall.

I was taller. Slightly.

I felt ridiculously energized.

“I feel great.” I breathed, turning my back to the mirror and looking at what I saw.

My new spine glowed blue beneath my skin, the fluid within it constantly in motion and quite warm.

I shuddered. It felt great.

Javelin sighed. “What do you think?” he asked.

“It’s amazing.” I muttered.

My phone, which was sitting on a table across the room, started vibrating. Javelin picked it up and tossed it to me.

I answered it and held it to my face.

"Who is it?" I asked.

"Blocky," he replied, "I got another job for you, Hec."

"And that is?"

"Uniju Smith. Kill him."

"And the reason I should do that is?"

"He's having people kidnap anyone he suspects of being a member of the Xephyr Blues. They have Walkazo."

"Since when's she a damsel?"

"That's the point. Whoever he and his people are, they're dangerous. I wouldn't fuck with Walkazo. So I'm gonna count on you here."

"Alright. You better be paying well."

"Five grand."

"Ten."

"Seven."

"Deal."

"Glad you know me so well. Later." I hung up and gave Javelin a look.

He sighed. "I hate you." he groaned.

"Love you, too."

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage five.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR < BLOCKY - STOOBEN

Javelin dropped me off in front of the Wiki Wall.

“Look,” he said, firmly, “Don’t attack anyone unless they shoot first. Be very careful. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet.”

“Yeah yeah,” I said, stepping onto the sidewalk and leaving my sword in the car, “I’ll be careful.”

He sighed. “Just find out as much as you can so we can make a plan, alright? Running in guns-blazing won’t help you this time.”

“Yeah, mom. I know. Later.” I shut the car door, waved and walked off, ignoring Javelin’s retort as I entered the restaurant, leaving him in the sun.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 2-5: They China Food!!!





The Wiki Wall resembles a piece of the Great Wall of China from the outside, but the restaurant within is fairly spacious and comfortable, containing a large, vertical-rectangular room with dozens of large, round wooden tables with small chairs scattered about. The building was made from stone, but the windows were plentiful, as were Japanese paper lamps hanging from the tall ceiling, providing a warm bloom to the room, which was accented by the red carpet. In the back were an assortment of doors, two to the left corner leading to the bathrooms and two on the right from where servers- generally dressed in kimonos, but also in typical kung-fu outfits and at least a few very bad samurai cosplays- entered and exited from the kitchens..

Beside the entrance was a counter, where a twenty-something chick that once reported me for sexual harassment worked a register and stood in front of a wall-posted menu which took the form of a gigantic scroll hanging from the dark stone. On the walls around the restaurant were scrolls with illustrations from China and Japan, as well as various Katakana and Hiragana that probably meant gibberish when translated. There were also masks and swords on the walls all around.

I ordered a platter of fried rice with mixed vegetables and mustard sauce- not the condiment- with teriyaki steak, sweet-and-sour chicken and the sauce to go with it. The order ran me over twenty bucks, but I paid it and was escorted to a table near the back of the room by a fake samurai.

“Your food will be with you shortly, sir.” said the fake-samurai with an unusually thick British accent.

He walked away. I tapped my nails on the polished wood , pulled my phone out of my pocket, and logged onto IRC.


***User Hector has joined channel #xephyrbrotherhood
<Hector> I’m at the Wall, waiting for some food. after I eat, I’ll try to make contact with Smith.
<Blocky> Alright.
<Stooben> Careful, Hec. I’ve heard things about Uniju. There’s some pretty dark rumors about the guy.
<Hector> Here’s hoping it’s not bodily fluids in the food I’m about to be eating.
<Blocky> Well, if it tastes funny
<Hector> Fuck you.
<Stooben> Later. Anyways, if Uniju invites you to the second floor, keep your guard up, alright? That place cuts off all kinds of signals going in and out.
<Hector> Like a rape dungeon?
<Stooben> Like a rape dungeon.
<Hector> That’s not creepy at all.
<Hector> Food’s here. Gonna go ahead and chow down.



My food arrived, and I began to eat in silence. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sir Brit Samurai pointing at me, speaking to someone standing just out of my peripheral vision. My back was to the back of the room, so I wasn’t able to turn to see who it was without drawing attention to myself. Fortunately, turning wasn’t necessary.

“Can I have a word?” said an unfamiliar voice.

I turned around. The voice wasn’t familiar, but I recognized his appearance. Uniju Smith, wearing a white cooking outfit, stood at my side. I casually put my hand over the screen of my phone and pocketed it. “Yeah?”

“You’re a new customer, right? I was just wondering what you thought of the food.”

I eyed the plate. It was almost empty. “Yeah,” I said, “It’s really good. I usually order take-out, but it’s tons better fresh.”

“You want to come see the kitchens when you’re done eating?”

“Sure.” Perfect opportunity to investigate, I thought.

Uniju returned to the kitchens and I returned to my food. Once I finished, I got out of my seat, left a tip for Brit Samurai, and entered the kitchens in the back.

The kitchen was a huge, circular room with fridges and ovens lining the walls and a large group of hibachi grills, stoves and deep fryers at the center. Many people- including Uniju himself- were in the process of cooking at these outlets. Uniju was working on a platter of fried rice, and when he finished making it, he put it onto a plate and walked up to me.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“You guys work very hard.” I noted, watching a fake ninja walk off with a tray holding five plates.

“Yeah, we cook everything ourselves. You know, you look a bit familiar...what’s your name?”

“Hector Faustino,” I replied, “I once got chased by the Xephyr Blues across the rooftops of the city, yours being one of them.”

“You know, it’s thanks to that that I got the media attention I needed to start my campaign. What do you think of my perspective?”

I think you’re kind of stupid. “After what those assholes did to me, I’m glad that somebody is standing up for the innocent people in Silicon.”

He gave a grin at that. “I’m glad you look at it that way, man. Hey, do you want to see the second floor? There’s some, ah, interesting things I could show you. You gotta promise your confidentiality, though.”

Hook, line and sinker. I’ll bite. “Yeah,” I said, “Let’s go.”


***User Hector has left #xephyrbrotherhood (Ping timeout)
<Blocky> That can only mean...
<Stooben> Yup, he’s going in.
<Blocky> Aren’t you worried?
<Stooben> Not overly. Hector can handle himself. I’m just more worried about what’s up there. No windows, no known ways in or out. And, as I believe we’ve just witnessed, it cuts off wireless signals.
<Blocky> But if nobody’s ever been up there, then how do you know it exists?
<Stooben> Oh, that’s the easy part. Uniju has no registered residence in the city, and he’s been recorded mentioning a second floor a few times. I sent Martini to investigate a long time ago- he couldn’t find a way to the second floor, but he could verify that one existed.
<Blocky> You think that’s where Walkazo is?
<Stooben> No doubt. Martini told me he’s seen people going in and coming out hours later, with
<Blocky> With what?
<Stooben> Sorry. Hit Enter too early.
<Stooben> With augmentations.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage six.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

"I know where Walkazo is," I said, getting into the front seat of the passenger's side of Javelin's car, "And it's not looking good."

"What is it?" Javelin asked, twisting his key as I shut the door and getting on the road.

"Interrogation. Locked in a blank room with no food or water for hours on end, then taken out, beaten and interrogated. She has yet to break." I put a fist over my mouth as I said it, feeling sick at the memory.

"Did you see it?"

"I'm trying to forget. But I did make contact. Left a note I hope she noticed. While I was..." I gagged, trying to hold it back, "I took part in the interrogation to convince Uniju. They call themselves Unijuists, and they think they're a group of Batmen or something. It's fucking sick. There's other people in there, too...they aren't members of the Blues, Walkazo was a lucky catch..." I stopped talking for a moment, reaching for the drink I had bought from the Wiki Wall and drinking some to force whatever wanted to come up down.

"Deep breath," Javelin said, "Calm down."

"The people that don't tell Uniju what he wants to hear? They die. No normal person can handle the kind of shit he does, and it's amazing that Walkazo has lasted as long as she has...I just...oh God, I'm going to be sick..."

"Deep breaths, man. Since when did death bother you?"

"It doesn't. It fucking doesn't. Killing people? Sure, okay. But nobody deserves...they're just innocent people, man..."

"You've murdered plenty of innocent people for money."

"They must've done something to piss off my clients. That's just the way it is. But this...no, nothing like this. I make it quick. I don't...Uniju's a twisted fuck..." I took another drink and shut my eyes, trying to think about anything else other than what was coming out of my mouth or what wanted to.

"Is there anything else?"

"Yeah. Cyborgs. They're all fucking cyborgs. The Admins pay for the shit Uniju gets up to, and they're converting more and more people by the day. The stupidly-dressed servers? Fucking cyborgs. Each and every one of them. Even Brit Samurai."

"Brit Samurai?"

"Uh, long story." I bit my lip, "Look, just...take me to your place tonight. I'll order some parts for fast shipping. I need you to add more augmentations to me."

"But-"

"They're fucking superhuman, Javelin. Their augmentations are ridiculous, and even I can't fight that kind of shit. I have the money. And the Doc." I gave Javelin a look, "Please, man. I gotta get those people outta there...I gotta save them..."

Javelin gave an angry sigh. "Where is this heroism coming from? I thought you didn't care about other people? I thought it was just a job?"

"Shut the fuck up!" I shouted, "I see what you're doing and it's not fucking funny. I'm an asshole, but I-"

I stopped. But I what?

"Care too much?" Javelin asked.

"Yeah," I said, taking a deep breath, "I care too much."

I'll get you out of here soon.
Stay strong.




PROJECT AVIATE


World 2-6: The Lament of Brit Samurai





CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR - BLOCKY > STOOBEN

I handed the external hard drive back to ShyGuy. "The program doesn't work," I said, flatly, "Aoken isn't going to work out with a faulty program. I'm going to need you in here if you want this to work out. I left a little something that'll still give you remote access to the server, but you can't have direct control until you fix that."

The masked man sighed, pocketing the drive. "This should be good enough for me to work with. I'll get back to you as soon as I come up with something, but if it's necessary, I can hijack the server by directly controlling the database. I don't want it to come to that, but yeah, you know. Aoken is all about timing." ShyGuy turned his head a bit, looking around. He was standing just outside of the gate- our usual meeting place- but he was as paranoid as ever.

"Yeah, and it's not exactly the best political climate at the moment to make it happen. The Xephyrs are either heroes or monsters- at the moment, there's no middle ground, and the Admin's pet project, the Unijuist movement, isn't helping our public image at all. When're Ninji's weapons arriving?"

ShyGuy laughed. "Oh, that's the best part. You know how the Admins are getting ID-locked weapons, right? Ninji has those too, and he gave me the key to lock them when I need to. Come Aoken, and the Xephyr Blues will be the only ones with working weapons in the city."

I smirked. That's good news. "What about Ninji himself? When is the man coming here in person?"

"He plans on coming to stay in about a month or so. He wants more personal control over the Ninji sect."

"Adriel won't like that very much."

"Ninji's offering him an escape route in exchange."

"That's a deal he'd bite for. TFP isn't big on this gang business at all, really. I bet he'd love to go home." I looked at the moon overhead, "But then, I think we'd all like that."

ShyGuy's head tilted down. "Yeah," he said, "I'd imagine. Thanks for delivering the drive, though. I'll message you later. I'm gonna get going."

I nodded. "Yeah, man. See you around."

ShyGuy turned his back to me and walked away.


CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - STOOBEN
HECTOR < BLOCKY - STOOBEN

With my new augmentations, I arrived at the Wiki Wall late the next afternoon, entering from the back and ascending to the second floor.

The second floor had three rooms- a bedroom where Uniju stayed, a dungeon of sorts where people were locked away, and an interrogation room. The second floor was entered like an attic, where you emerged from the floor into a circular room with three doors- Uniju's room, alone, on one side, and the two other rooms on the other.

Without hesitation, I unsheathed my sword and entered the interrogation room.

I hooked the cord from the battery on my back into the bottom of my blade and gave a smirk as it activated.

There was a cyborg in the room delivering a beating to a bound prisoner, too locked in his sadism to notice the sound of my blade buzzing.

Walkazo- the prisoner- however, saw me.

My blade, when charged, is like a medical saw. The electricity allows it to vibrate at a high frequency- near invisible to the human eye- and when it's at this frequency, it can cut through just about anything with minimal effort.

The cyborgs have a significant advantage when it comes to amounts of augmentations, including an armor beneath the skin that is extremely difficult to break through.

"Hey, asshole!"

The cyborg- Brit Samurai- turned.

With a single, clean slash, I separated the upper half of his body from the bottom and reached out with my left hand- a new prosthetic- and tore out his robotic spine, grasping it in my left hand as the halves of his corpse fell to the floor.

The spine/power supply glowed with lightning blue energy, and I grasped it tighter as my prosthetic started to do its work, absorbing the energy from the power supply until the liquid within was transparent.

I crushed the drained supply and tossed it away, unhooking my blade from the battery to conserve charge and slicing away Walkazo's bonds with ridiculous precision.

She looked up at me with a raised eyebrow. "Was all that necessary?"

"For these assholes, yeah." I said, picking up Brit Samurai's blade- which itself glowed with the same liquid from his power supply- and handing it to Walkazo. She took it with a nod and I walked out with her at my side, finding, much to my displeasure, that the room outside was loaded with cyborgs in cosplay with their glowing weapons at the ready.

I gave Walkazo a look, nodding at the entrance to the dungeon.

"Yeah yeah," she said, walking to the door and kicking it open, "I'll get them out."

She proceeded inside and I turned to the group of angry cyborgs, steadily approaching me. "Where's the boss?" I called, blade held over my shoulder.

"That's not important." said a cyborg ninja in the front, blue blade at the ready, "You ruined our business plan for today. We had to make the customers leave. You're going to pay for that!"

"Credit or cash?"

"Fuck you!"

The cyborg lunged with inhuman speed.

Speed that, with my new right eye, I could keep track of.

I shut my left to focus and stepped forward, slashing his blade with my own and making a strike to his chest that failed to do any real damage but did succeed in pissing him off.

I sidestepped to my left to dodge another strike and ducked as he slashed upwards, hooking my battery to my blade and swinging upwards, separating the ninja's hand from his body and then vertically bisecting him, forcefully removing his power supply and crushing it in my hand.

I opened my left eye and gave a bloodthirsty grin as the other cyborgs approached me, grabbing my revolver as one stepped into close range.

I released three bullets at point-blank range into his chest, breaking through his armor and stabbing my electrically-charged blade through his heart, twisting it like a key in a lock before kicking him off.

"You want some!?" I jeered, revolver in my left hand and blade in my right, "Come and get it!"

They were happy to oblige.

Back to stage select.

executing file "w2 boss.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...
file found: "loudness war casualties.mp3"
download? Y/N

After we had the hostages out of the restaurant- from the back- I began to walk back inside. “Hey!” Walkazo said, “Where are you going?”

“Got some business to take care of. Still have to kill the guy, you know.”

“Let me-”

“Uh, no. My kill. I’m not sharing.”

She gave a look of annoyance and I shrugged, turning my back to her and re-entering the restaurant.

I entered the kitchens with my sword held loosely in my right hand and my left resting on the handle of my holstered revolver. I found Uniju resting on a bench on the opposite side of the circular room, a sheathed katana on the bench beside him. He was holding his head in hands.

“Do you want to make this quick?” I asked, “There’s no need to prolong this whole process.” I pulled out my revolver, reloaded it and stepped towards him, pressing the barrel against his forehead.

“Point-blank range,” I explained, holding the gun in my mechanical hand, “You won’t feel a thing. I’ll pull this trigger and it’ll all be over before you know it. Any last words?”

His eyes met mine. “No.” he said.

I pulled the trigger.



PROJECT AVIATE


WORLD 2 BOSS FIGHT


LOUDNESS WAR CASUALTIES





The gunshot left a ringing in my ears and disconnected Uniju’s head from his-

Wait. There’s no blood.

I turned around.

Uniju was standing a fair six, seven feet away from me, holding the sheathed katana in his left hand and placing his right on the handle.

How did he move that fast?

“You’re too slow.”

“Is that so?” In an instant, my arm was raised and I fired at Uniju’s head- and my robotic eye was able to track Uniju tilting his head just a couple of inches to the left to avoid my bullet.

Holy shit. Does he have augs too? I put my gun away.

I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be very useful.

“Bionic hand and eye? I don’t remember you having that yesterday.” Uniju grasped the handle of his blade, “Modifying your body is no substitute for skill, but if it’s technology you want...”

Out of his scabbard, he pulled a solidified, scarlet beam of pulsing energy, which began crackling without its inhibitor.

What.

He held out the beam katana towards me, holding his scabbard loosely at his left side.

Beside his thumb on the handle, I noticed a switch.

He flicked it, and the blade shot through my chest.

I didn’t even feel it at first.

My mind hadn’t fully caught on to just what was happening yet.

I picked up on it when he started lifting the blade upwards in an attempt to cut me in half, and I placed my left hand on the solidified beam and pushed down as I was lifted off of my feet.

Uniju gave a snarl and swung his blade through the air, sending me sliding off the end and slamming into the wall across the room.

I crashed to the kitchen floor and put my hand over my chest, finding that the blade had literally burned the wound closed- it hurt like hell, but I wasn’t in any immediate danger.

I tried to ignore the pain- which, even considering my threshold for pain tolerance, wasn’t easy- and got to my feet, circling the group of fryers at the center of the room until Uniju came back into view.

“So what’s your special ability?” I called, “Making your sword longer?

He growled and slashed for me.

I ducked the massive beam and charged for him, jumping as he attempted a second slash for my feet and parrying away his third as I entered close range. I grasped my blade in both hands and swung downward.

Crack.

His blade, retracted to the length of his forearm, stopped mine, hovering an inch from the top of his skull.

He kicked me backward and sheathed the blade, blocking my counter with his scabbard and delivering a devastating kick to my side before I could react. While I was recovering from his kick, he slammed the scabbard against my skull and I found, much to my displeasure, that it certainly wasn’t made out of wood.

I almost- almost- lost my footing, stumbling to my left and his right, putting an unfeeling hand through the undoubtedly bloody, sticky mess that was my hair.

Shortly after verifying that I was, indeed, bleeding, he unsheathed and slashed his katana in one smooth movement, slicing open and burning my chest with a single swing. My footing faltered and I finally fell on my ass, dropping my blade and slamming my back into the floor.

He stomped on my chest and raised his beam over his head, looking down at me with a snarl and dealing the finishing blo-

Walkazo kicked him in the back and he stumbled across my face, tripping and falling face-first into a large deep-fryer.

His beam katana stabbed into the floor and I looked up at Walkazo.

“That was my kill.” I echoed, bleakly.

“Get up.” she sighed.

Using Uniju’s blade as leverage, I pulled myself from the floor, found my blade, sheathed it, and picked up his scabbard. I pulled the beam katana out of the floor and pulled back the switch he had pushed, watching the blade retract to a shorter length.

I sheathed it and set it over my back.

“So...” I said, staring at the cook’s unfortunate demise, “What now?”

“We blow the place up.” Walkazo responded, simply.

What?

My question, unfortunately, were unable to prevent the “accidental explosion” that happened at the Wiki Wall restaurant that night, which wiped out its employees and owner in one fell swoop. The Administration would later determine that Uniju had been making usage of a dangerous new cooking component and, making a tragic error in judgement, attempted to fry it with explosive results.

Any people who offered an alternate explanation disappeared near immediately afterwards, including a group of people who claimed to have been held as prisoners within the restaurant.

Back to stage select.

- World 3: Blue Blades, Black Roses

executing program "aviate.exe"
"aviate.exe" is experiencing problems, troubleshoot?
N
executing program "aviate.exe"
executing
executing.
executing..
executing...

Select a stage.

executing file "intro stage.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

NEW CHARACTER UNLOCKED
HECTOR < BLOCKY - WALKAZO
STOOBEN - HIDDEN - HIDDEN

Stooben slashed my blade out of my hands and held his rapier to my throat. “Sloppy,” he criticized, “No augmentation in the world is going to make you a better swordsman. Pick the blade up.”

I growled and bent sideways, grasping the handle of my new blade and taking a couple of steps back.

A scabbard, doubling as a power supply, hung from my waist.

Uniju’s beam katana was fueled by his scabbard, which used inductive charging whenever he sheathed it to power the blade. The power supply was built into the scabbard, and a smaller battery was kept in his actual sword, where he used a switch to extend and retract the beam.

I took his power supply and charging method and modified my original blade to match it- now, the high-frequency vibrations were triggered with a switch beneath the hilt, and the electricity could be recharged through the scabbard, which, like Uniju’s, used inductive charging.

The end result was a much, much more power-efficient blade that was significantly easier to use without the back-battery and cord.

Five months had passed since my joining of the Xephyr Blues and the rise of the Unijuist movement. The movement, however, had taken an approach against general evil, but not the gangs. Rumors circulating about Uniju's actions made them unsure of their dead hero, and the Administration’s cover-up attempts showed, if nothing else, that there was something fishy going on in our government.

My augmentations increased in number.

I replaced my remaining human eye with another bionic, and I had modifications inside of my body that increased my stamina, strength and endurance- I could shrug off a fifty-foot fall if I hit the landing, my reflexes were better than ever, and I was stronger in every possible way.

But I hadn’t mastered my gun. My proficiency with the blade was still drastically limited- especially in comparison to Stooben- and my parkour actually suffered from the added strength because I underestimated my potential for making certain jumps and the such.

I was sloppy. All power, no skill.

Stooben sheathed his rapier and grasped his katana in both hands. Kendo, he explained, was a two-handed style. Power.

I mirrored his pose and our blades crossed at their tips, ends pointing towards the owners of their opposite.

“Deep breath.” Stooben ordered.

We both obeyed.

“Go.”

Our blades clashed.

Adriel Rao- TFP- had escaped Silicon. Now presiding over the Ninji sect was the man it was named for, lean and tanned and in his late twenties with a peculiar shade of hair- orange?- and damn-near black eyes. Ninji, unlike TFP, was a cold, calculating businessman. Our shipments increased in quantity and secret shops were popping up around the city, dramatically undermining the legal markets at every turn.

Everything about Ninji- from his personality, to his business strategies- dictated aggression. I didn’t know the guy that well, but Walkazo- who had bumped my friend counter up to two- really disliked him.

Stooben broke through my guard and stopped his blade an inch from my chest. “Not just power,” he said, “Control. Precision. The blade is an extension of yourself, not an augmentation.”

He split my shirt, displaying the scar from when Uniju had stabbed a solidified laser beam through my chest. Turns out shit like that scars permanently. Javelin assured a quick recovery, but the scar would always be four inches too close to my heart.

“If it weren’t for Walkazo,” Stooben said, his blade over the scar, “You’d be dead. If you want to be strong, you can’t half-ass it.” He sheathed his blade. “It gets you killed,” he said, turning his back to me, “Keep that in mind.”

The entire world faded to gray and shattered.

The simulation ended and I removed my helmet when control of my real body returned. Stooben and I sat inside the basement of the Xephyr Blues’ hideout in the Database Building, having been hooked to a VR rig used for various simulations and practice by us and other members of the gang.

“If you aren’t going to dismember me, why do we use VR all the time?” I questioned, getting to my feet and stretching.

“In case there’s an accident. VR doesn’t equal ‘ruthlessly murder your opponent’.”

Remembering my battle against the Stooben simulation, I gave a pained chuckle. “Now you say that...” I muttered.

“Huh?”

“Nothing, nothing. See you later.”



PROJECT AVIATE


World 3-0: Table Manners





[4:21:44 PM] Hector Faustino: Hey, Javelin.
[4:22:14 PM] Javelin Noir: The answer is “no”.
[4:22:37 PM] Hector Faustino: I was just saying hi!
[4:23:12 PM] Javelin Noir: Or you were going to ask for my medical supplies again.
The last time I trusted you with them, you got high on my prescription meds and morphine,
declared yourself King of BANGladesh and started humping a table.
[4:24:04 PM] Hector Faustino: In my defense, that table was really attractive.
[4:24:51 PM] Javelin Noir: There is something seriously, seriously wrong with you. If you pay for therapy, I’ll help you with it, but...
[4:25:31 PM] Hector Faustino: I’m not crazy.
[4:26:11 PM] Javelin Noir: You live alone, your house is a mess, you kill people for a living, your keyboard is stained with...I don’t even want to know, and you have two friends. Two friends, Hector.
[4:26:45 PM] Hector Faustino: I guess you could say my keyboard has...
[4:27:21 PM] Javelin Noir: No.
[4:27:30 PM] Hector Faustino: . . .
[4:27:54 PM] Javelin Noir: No.
[4:28:15 PM] Hector Faustino: StickyKeys. B)
Javelin Noir is now offline.


[4:32:52 PM] Hector Faustino: Hey, Walkazo?
[4:33:12 PM] Walkazo Crane: Yeah?
[4:33:41 PM] Hector Faustino: How’re you?
[4:34:12 PM] Walkazo Crane: Uh, fine.
[4:34:41 PM] Hector Faustino: You have a weird name, you know that?
[4:35:32 PM] Walkazo Crane: I’ve...been told?
[4:35:52 PM] Hector Faustino: What kind of name is “Crane”, anyways?
[4:36:12 PM] Walkazo Crane: ...My mother’s?
[4:36:34 PM] Hector Faustino: Huh. You never told me about your parents. What was your mom like?
[4:37:13 PM] Walkazo Crane: She was nice. Named me and everything. She stayed in Canada for a few years before following my father into Silicon City.
[4:37:49 PM] Hector Faustino: What was your dad like?
[4:38:24 PM] Walkazo Crane: My father wasn’t around very much.
His name was Scarecrow Von Steuben.


You've unlocked a secret!

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage one.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR > BLOCKY < WALKAZO
STOOBEN - HIDDEN - HIDDEN

I gave a sigh, resting my head in my hands.

“Repeat that one more time.” I said to Stooben.

“The Administration’s ID-locked weapons are coming in tonight,” he said, “I want you to dispose of their old ones by any means necessary. They need to be defenseless, come Aoken.”

“I can take a team, right?”

“Yeah,” he said, “I don’t expect there to be too much guards at the armory tonight, since they’re going to be focused on the weapons coming in. Just bring a few people. Rob or destroy the place, I don’t mind.”

“I’ll take Bill. He’s been itching for the chance to use all the toys we gave him. You sure there won’t be any guards?”

“Fairly sure. ShyGuy’s been getting a bit anxious, lately- I think he’ll be coming to the city in a few days so that we can execute Aoken. In the meantime, I’m going to see if I can’t stir up politics some more.”

“How do you plan on doing that?”

Stooben smirked. “Tell them who I am.”



PROJECT AVIATE


World 3-1: Blue Event Horizon





NEW CHARACTERS UNLOCKED!
CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - WALKAZO
STOOBEN > SHYGUY < NINJI

I sat at my computer inside of a lone house in New Mexico, accessing Silicon City’s server and poking around for important files.
My name isn’t important. Shyguy will suffice.
In another window, I opened Skype and sent a message to Stooben.
[5:23:50 PM] Herr Shyguy: Stooben.
[5:25:12 PM] Patrick Munson: Hm?
[5:25:48 PM] Herr Shyguy: I found an interesting little thing in the server. A hidden folder in the restricted archives.
[5:26:11 PM] Patrick Munson: A hidden directory inside of a hidden directory? Damn, what did they want to hide that much?
What is it? Do you know?
[5:26:45 PM] Herr Shyguy: The file’s been there for a while. About...twelve years.
[5:27:16 PM] Patrick Munson: Twelve years? What is it?
[5:27:41 PM] Herr Shyguy: An address in a .txt file. I’ll send it in just a second.
Herr Shyguy has sent Patrick Munson a file: rev2.txt
[5:28:12 PM] Patrick Munson: ...Scarecrow.
Why didn’t you look around for this kind of thing earlier? How did you even find it?
[5:28:45 PM] Herr Shyguy: A button saying “Show Hidden Folders”?
It’s really simple. You never thought somebody would hide something in the restricted archives?
[5:29:11 PM] Patrick Munson: But the restricted archives are already...nevermind, I’m not going to press you about this.
Anyways, thank you.
This is going to be really useful.


CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR - BLOCKY - WALKAZO
STOOBEN - SHYGUY > NINJI

I sat in the back of the shop I had established near Sili-Mart, tossing a red apple upwards and letting it rise and fall from and back to my palm.

Aoken was coming soon. The ID-locked weapons would be coming in, the non-ID ones would be stolen, Stooben would make his move politically, and we’d have the city beneath us in no time.

The buildup of all these years was finally going to overflow.

Rise.

After Stooben and Blocky formed the Xephyr Blues, they established contact with me and Shyguy: the first two people to have escaped from Silicon City when it became a prison, and two members of Scarecrow’s original Xephyr movement.

“Shyguy” and I are, well, best friends.

It’s been like that for thirty, almost forty years now.

Age hasn’t slowed me down at all, though.

Fall.

I caught the apple and stared at it for a minute, thinking about what we would do once we took back Silicon City from Steve.

Scarecrow Von Steuben’s ideals were of a utopia. He wanted to take California and turn it into this prosperous, wonderful place for everyone to live in. This implies naivete, but he believed in firm governmental control to ensure that this would happen- for the greater good, he used to say.

Steve Shinn’s ideals are more realistic. A ruthless businessman, through and through. Authoritarian as they come, as ruthless as is necessitated. He understands the concept of capitalism and the need for a lower class, though at this point, the citizens of the East Side-over half of his country- are little more than indentured servants.

I had long assumed that Stooben’s ideals were identical to Steuben’s, but now I had my doubts.

Whatever.

I bit into my apple.

Too late to turn back now.


CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR > BLOCKY < WALKAZO
STOOBEN - SHYGUY - NINJI

“Bill, are you ready to go?”

I stood beside the door of the hideout we had imprisoned Hector in, waiting for Bill to finish getting his things in order. For reasons I amount to him being a lunatic, he kept the saucepan on his head while putting ammunition for his rocket launcher in his backpack.

I gave a sigh. “It’s not like we’re going to war, Bill. We’re just going to blow something up. There is no need whatsoever for all those rockets.”

“You never know.” he said, hoisting his bag over his shoulders and grasping his rocket launcher, raising to full height with the assistance of his mechanical legs.

I turned my back to him and opened the door, straying out into the night.

I kept my stun rods on a belt in case I needed them, and a small .45 in a holster on my right leg. The armory was kept just beyond the border between the two Sides- the interstate highway, which was patrolled by sentries to make sure no Silicon residents tried to use it to escape to the United States- and once we came to the highway, a massive drone descended from the sky, vaguely head-shaped with a dark gray metallic body, a single red camera lense at the center. It was armed, and it likely would’ve shot us down for the rocket launcher if not for my Admin membership.

“Identification?” the machine asked.

“Naraka Ishimaru.” I said.

“In your party?”

“A friend. Official business.”

The drone gave what appeared to be a nod and flew away.

We crossed the interstate highway and found ourselves in front of the armory- a tall, three-story bricked building with barred windows.

“There aren’t any people here, right?” Bill muttered.

“Yeah,” I said, “Everybody’s supposed to be out receiving the new ID-locked weapons. You ready to blow this place sky-high?”

He gave a near malevolent smirk, loading his rocket launcher.

“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”

You've unlocked a secret!

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage two.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

CHARACTER SELECT
HECTOR < BLOCKY - WALKAZO
STOOBEN - SHYGUY - NINJI
A FATAL ERROR HAS OCCURED
AUTO-CHARACTER SELECT
>BILL FREEMAN

When I was a kid, my brother and I were a lot closer than we were as adults.

He was a few years older than me, trying to get a job with the Administration- he had big life goals and he wanted to provide for our family.

Our parents were philanthropists, but they weren’t exactly making much money themselves. We were making a drive through the East Side one day- my brother was at his graduation ceremony, and I was in the backseat of the car, my father behind the wheel and my mother deep in conversation on her phone. We were heading to his ceremony.

I don’t know how it happened.

There wasn’t any time to think until after the fact.

One moment, things were completely normal. The next was a blur of heat and agony, and I found myself on the pavement, my legs crushed beneath a flipped car and my parents bleeding from their skulls and being eerily silent.

I had a moment of clarity, where I felt no pain and realized that our parents were dead.

Then the pain- the physical and the emotional- came and I screamed at the top of my lungs, begging for help for hours that didn’t come until a dark-skinned boy a little older than me happened by the site of the accident and ran off to get his parents.

The boy- Adriel Rao, TFP- saved my life, but my parents weren’t so lucky.

My brother blamed himself for what had happened, and I spent years in a wheelchair with useless legs.

TFP and his family were exactly the kind of people my parents had wanted to assist: almost poor, living in the dirty, torn East Side. The Administration pampered their own kind- including my family- that lived in the West, and they allowed the East to rot. The East was the base of operations of Scarecrow Von Steuben’s Xephyr Blues movement, which, according to what TFP told me, had wanted to do the exact opposite of Shinn’s Administration.

I didn’t much like either of those ideals, though- the Admins were pretty corrupt with their power as it was, and while the Xephyrs had good intentions, everything about them screamed Big Brother Is Watching.

I was imprisoned enough by my legs. I didn’t want to live a life under constant sedation and surveillance.

The new Xephyr Blues claimed to be anarchists, but I stayed away from them, even while TFP was eager to join.

My brother learned of augmentations while they were still in development, and I got one of the first prototypes- heavy, armored legs that could take damage like a tank, jump as high as a bird flew, and move as fast as an Olympic runner.

I remember when they first got attached.

I couldn’t feel anything where my legs once were, even while my mechanicals touched the ground. I kicked a wall, pulled my foot out of it and noticed that I felt...nothing. No pain, no touch.

But I could move.

The first day with my legs, I went outside, ran, and jumped as high as I could.

I hit one hundred feet, at least.

I was flying.

That moment of euphoria- that moment where my false feet didn’t touch the ground, where I stood higher than anyone else in the world, where I was crowned by the sun and the sky.

At the peak of my jump, I felt invincible.

I plummeted to the ground.

My feet crashed to the ground, but I landed squarely and didn’t even stumble. I was high on the happiness I felt, started running again and made another jump, leaped from the ground and touched the sky.

But I was still in a walled city. If I tried to jump the walls, they would either kill me or track me down and bring me back.

Standing on top of a building overlooking the West Side, where the Administration’s headquarters waited in the horizon, I gave a frustrated scream.

I had left my wheelchair, gotten out of my cage.

But I was still imprisoned.

And that wasn’t the life I wanted to live.

I eventually gave in and joined the Xephyrs, and I became more distanced from my brother than ever.

And I killed him.

My parents, dead in an accident. My legs destroyed in the very same.

My brother, giving me new legs.

My brother, killed by the family he spent his life trying to love, nurture and protect.

I was back in my apartment the following day, looking at the TV and watching as the news reporters talked about my brother’s “accident”. I seethed at how the Admins covered up the actions of me and Blocky, and I saw Stooben begin his press conference.

I cut the TV off.

I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and put on a backpack full of ammunition and explosives, grabbing my rocket launcher, and a blue blade Walkazo had taken from Uniju’s cyborgs.

Aoken. Blue blade.

I was going to destroy the Administration. And the Xephyrs. I was going to kill them all, stab this blue blade through Patrick Munson’s heart and destroy those walls.

I kicked my door off its hinges and ran outside, doing a 180 and shooting a rocket, point blank, directly at the ground.

And I jumped.

My momentum sent me soaring across the city block, crashing onto the roof of a building beside the interstate highway splitting the city. A single drone eyed me and silently prepared its weapons.

“You’re next, Munson.” I whispered.

I blasted the drone out of the sky.

Deafening sirens echoed around the city, and drones- dozens, no hundreds- swarmed the sky.

I began to jump across the rooftops, blowing the drones out of the sky as I went, bullets and smaller rockets flying by me, in a flurry of chaos.

A blood-red sunset stained the sky, and news helicopters in the distance watched me cautiously.

Standing atop a building nearly a mile away was a figure I could barely make out.

Hector Faustino, with his revolver and blade at the ready, awaited me.

I wasn’t going to keep him waiting.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 3-2: Red Sky, White Cement





My name is Patrick Munson.

As people around this country are aware, I’m a bit of a token leftie. A member of Shinn’s administration, but a musician that argues many of his decisions- for what I believe to be the betterment of our society.

I want families to stay united. I don’t want people living in poverty on the East Side, I don’t want Administrators being tyrants over the people there and scrambling for power...of course, there’s people that don’t do that. My personal friend, Bloc- Naraka Ishimaru, Walkazo Crane...and others.

Last night, I lost another one of those friends- Sonic Freeman, taken in a mad act of violence.

You’ve been lied to, Silicon. You’ve been lied to for a long time. I knew Sonic Freeman- he wasn’t an idiot, he didn’t accidentally trip a building full of explosives. He was murdered. He was murdered by somebody in the Administration that used their power to cover themselves up.

Don’t look like that. You know it’s true. Uniju, another hero, was killed. He sought positive change for the people of this country, and someone, somewhere, destroyed him, everyone he stood for, and laid out insidious rumors to tarnish his good name.

I...we...are tired of this.

My name is Patrick Munson, but I go by another.

Steve Shinn’s last great opponent was the man he founded this city with, Scarecrow Von Steuben, the founder of the notorious Xephyr Blues.

The Xephyr Blues, as you may notice, have been making movements to help this city. Haven’t you seen the new shops popping up? That’s all them.

That’s all...us.

My name is Patrick Munson, but in the Xephyr Blues, which I revived, my name is Stooben, named from Scarecrow.

I founded the Xephyrs with my friend, Naraka Ishimaru- better known by his nickname, Blocky- another Admin disgusted with the actions of our fellows. We discovered the truth behind all this, the corruption that’s been eating at this city since its founding.

And we had one more founding member. A third.

Her name is Walkazo Crane.

Scarecrow Von Steuben had a lover and a child. Not on the public record, of course. He didn’t want them to be targeted.

But Walkazo is his daughter.

I have revived the Xephyr Movement not out of a desire for power- I already have that- but for you, the people.

I am the leader of the Xephyr Blues.

And I want to...what?

Look at the screen behind me, friends.

Sonic Freeman’s younger brother has been consumed with grief at what this Administration has done to his family.

Those are the eyes of a man that’s lost everything- that wants to avenge the things wrongfully taken from him.

He’s coming for us. Drones have already intercepted a few missiles he’s sent our way.

Fear not.

Do you see the man standing on that rooftop?...Okay, the cam’s zoomed in now...

That’s Hector Faustino.

He’s another one of us.

Uniju Smith was a dear friend to him.

Sit back and relax, my friends.

He’s going to save us all.

Back to stage select.

executing file "w3 boss.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...
file found: "waking up with grief.mp3"
download? Y/N

AUTO-CHARACTER SELECT
>HECTOR


Bill crashed to the rooftop, landing on his feet about three meters away from me. I gave him a dull stare, my revolver held towards him in my right hand and my scabbard clipped to my belt on my left side, my mechanical hand lightly grasping the handle of my blade.

“Why didn’t you shoot?” he asked, looking at the barrel of my weapon.

“We were comrades once,” I said, holstering the weapon, “I believed that you deserved an honorable death.”

He laughed. “Honor? Wake up and see the world. You’re a killer. I’m a killer. Since when did we care about honor?”

“Since you did. You didn’t fire that rocket for me when you had the chance, so I didn’t fire a bullet through your skull.”

He gave a grin at that. “So there is honor among thieves after all. If I were you, I'd pull that gun out again. I’m not going to hold back.”

I nodded, placing my right hand on the handle of my pistol.

“Wait,” I said, “Why are you doing this?”

“I have nothing left to lose. I have no reason to fear death, and because of that, I’m going to kill Munson and destroy these walls. I’m going to free these people the only way I know how, or die trying.” The grin was gone, replaced with a hard, sad look. He grabbed his launcher and loaded it.

“The only way you know how?” I questioned, pointing my pistol at him.

“Anarchy.”

He fired a rocket at his feet and blasted into the sky.



PROJECT AVIATE


WORLD 3 BOSS FIGHT

WAKING UP WITH GRIEF (SKY/cement)





At the peak of his jump, Bill launched another rocket at me.

I shot it down in midair, detonating it between me and him, creating a smoke screen. I scrambled backwards as Bill fell through the smoke, blade at the ready-

In a swift motion, I holstered my gun and pulled my blade from its sheath, placing my mechanical left arm on the dull side near the edge and stopped Bill’s blade just short of splitting my head open. He gave a smirk and leaped back, grasping his blade with both hands, getting into a fighting stance. The blue fluid within his blade glowed slightly, but I disregarded it.

Remember what Stooben taught you.

I grasped my sword in both hands, adopting a faux Kendo stance.

I leaped forward and our blades clashed.

This battle. This battle is...different.

I swung at his side and with a blue blur, he blocked with a one-handed swing.

Whenever I fight, I feel...happy. The adrenaline gets me high and the joy- the joy of having the power to take someone’s life and using it- it’s overpowering. But this...this is different. I’m not holding back, but...

How come all I feel is sorrow?

I leaped backward and raised my revolver, firing the five bullets remaining inside at close range.

The blue fluid within Bill’s blade glowed brightly and the blade moved itself into the path of each and every one, rapidly deflecting them.

Oh that’s just bullshit.

“That’s dirty.” Bill said.

I shrugged and smirked. “You’re one to talk.” I said, using a speedloader to reload my revolver. Bill hefted his launcher once more and I rolled to the right, dodging a rocket he fired directly for me. I used my arms to push myself off the ground, avoiding the debris from the explosion of his missile and landing on my feet after a twist in midair, just in time to see Bill rocketjump right back into the air.

I surveyed the skies. Bill landed on the rooftop of a building to my right, the red sun behind him making him look like a living shadow.

He fired another missile.

I detonated it with a pull of the trigger of my revolver, but another rocket burst through the resulting smoke.

I gave a frustrated hiss and shot it down as well, taking a few stumbling steps backward and preparing to fire again-

Bill fell from the sky and slashed my chest open.

My blood splattered to the rooftop.

He stared directly into my eyes. “It won’t kill you,” he assured, “Your augmentations should make sure of that.”

My gun became too heavy to hold.

I dropped it, staring in disbelief at the blood on the ground.

I’m not going to lose here. Not again.

I unsheathed my blade and stabbed it into the ground, using it to support my weight.

I glared at Bill, defiant.

He gave a sad sigh. “Why do you insist on continuing?” he asked, “This is nothing to die over. Why don’t you just call it quits?”

“I can’t let you kill Stooben...” I muttered, steadying myself on my own feet and readying my blade, “I haven’t beaten him yet, that’s my fight...”

I could barely stand. Everything hurt too fucking much.

But I wasn’t about to fall. I wasn’t going to close my eyes, and I sure as fuck wasn’t about to give up.

“You want him dead?”

“No, no...I want to beat him. I’m sick of people thinking they’re better than me!”

The anger blocked out the pain and I swung once more, Bill leaping back to dodge my first swing and blocking the second.

I pressed against his guard and upon failing to push through it, hopped backward to dodge his retaliatory strike and lunged for a stab.

“I get it. This is a matter of pride for you, isn’t it?” he asked, slashing my blade aside.

“It’s more than that. Fighting and killing...being the best...that’s all I have left!” I slammed my fist into his face and he stumbled backward, swinging his blade and slicing me open once more.

I didn’t even feel it.

With a growl and a swing, I separated his sword hand from the rest of his body and kicked him in the chest.

In response, one of his mechanical legs broke open my ribcage and sent me crashing to the cement.

We both hit the ground and pulled ourselves to our feet, his back to the edge of the roof.

“Any last words?” I growled, limping forward and activating the high frequency vibrations in my blade.

“You first.” he said.

He attempted another kick and I cut the leg clean off in response, making another step forward and slashing out his heart.

His eyes met mine one last time.

His remaining foot left the roof and he fell.

The sky hit the cement.

I finally lost consciousness and fell on my face.

Before the world went dark, I was able to give a smile.

I had won.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage three.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

HECTOR < BLOCKY - WALKAZO
STOOBEN - SHYGUY - NINJI
ERROR
MANUAL CHARACTER SELECT HAS BEEN DISABLED
>WALKAZO

It was quite possibly the biggest risk we had ever taken, but to Stooben, risk and reward were entwined so deeply that he couldn’t imagine one without the other. From this mindset, he deduced that great risk would equal great reward.

I’m not saying he’s stupid. He’s far from it. He makes stupid risks, yes, but with risks, there’s always a chance. For whatever reason, the outcome is always in his favor. Like a roulette table where he takes jackpot every time, as if the game is rigged in his favor.

Despite his intelligence, his luck and his charisma, he’s humble. Because of these qualities, Blocky and I were drawn to him.

This time, however, things had turned out more perfectly than he could’ve possibly hoped. Not only was Uniju’s death and the Administration’s actions afterward perfect to stir up civil unrest, but the destruction of the Admin’s armory and Bill snapping as a result of his brother’s death set the perfect stage for the conference. Uniju had given the people a hero, and while Stooben initially intended to step up to that mantle, Blocky found someone better.

Hector.

Bill’s path of destruction was a piece of news that I thought would derail our plans, but when Blocky gave Stooben the news, he took it in stride, willingly putting Hector in the public eye while Faustino himself desperately fought to stop Freeman’s advance through the city.

Ironically, Stooben could’ve easily taken both of the hero roles, as the leader of a political revolution and the savior of the city. I found it funny, actually, how similar Stooben and Hector were.

They were both swordsmen who favored parkour, handguns and trench coats, for one. They both revelled in bloodshed- perhaps quite a bit more than was healthy- but their motivations couldn’t have been more different.

Stooben was guided by a network of morality and political goals, while Hector worked through a very, very basic system of rules on how he managed his profession. Unlike Stooben, he lacked anything resembling morals- fighting was seemingly all he lived for.

Was.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 3-3: No More Heroes





>HECTOR

I woke up in pain, a circumstance I found becoming annoyingly frequent in my recent life.

I was in...a hospital room?

Like, an actual hospital. Not Javelin’s garage.

I was actually worried, now.

I pushed the covers off of my body and raised myself into a sitting position, giving a pained scowl.

I’d been patched up, but fuck, I was hurting all over.

I was shirtless, but my pants had been left on and my weapons were on a bedside table.

Will I get in legal trouble for leaving the hospital without permission?

I holstered my revolver, attached my scabbard and sheathed my sword.

Do I give a shit?



>BLOCKY

You know, when I revived the Xephyr Blues with Stooben, I didn’t join in for the reasons you might think.

My name is Naraka Ishimaru, and I’ve spent my life believing in two very simple things: that justice, above all, should prevail; and that justice is determined by the stronger side.

I joined Stooben and the Xephyrs because I believed in my heart of hearts that we were the strongest, that one day, we would become judge, jury and executioner.

That Stooben would determine right and wrong, the judge; that Walkazo would weigh in with her opinions, the jury; and that I would be the one to take action.

I have always viewed myself as the executioner.

I’m not saying that Stooben and Walkazo are lazy.

No, far from it- this wouldn’t be possible without either of them. I’m just the man with the guns- they’re the ones who tell me where to shoot.

I’ve become unsure, though, because I think that there’s someone stronger than Stooben now.

Not Steve.

He’s just a senile old man. He’ll be put out of his misery soon.

Not Bill, either.

He’s already past his prime.

Not Shyguy, he’s too passive. Not Ninji, he’s a follower, not a leader.

No, the man that I think may be stronger than Stooben is the one who I witnessed give his all yesterday.

The one who truly has nothing to lose, who fights for the fight and nothing else.

Hector Faustino.

I can’t help but wonder: what kind of justice does he believe in?



>WALKAZO

In the Database Building, within the server room, I watched him type.

Shyguy was in his usual attire- black robe, white mask- and he was leaned across the desk, fingers dancing on the keyboard while lines of code passed through a terminal. Granted, the other side of his screen was occupied by a music video of some weird anime thing, so it kind of took away from the tension- but I knew he was at work.

“When is it going to be ready?” I asked, just loud enough for my voice to be heard over his headphones.

He paused and moved the right headphone out of the way of his ear.

“Probably tomorrow,” he said, “Tell Stooben to call for the conference. I need...perfect timing, here. As soon as the conference begins, I’ll execute it.”

“Are you absolutely sure this will work?”

“Positive. I haven’t been wrong before.”

“There’s always a first time, you know.”

His mask betrayed no emotion, but I couldn’t help but feel he was smirking.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, turning back towards his screen, “I don’t care if you’re Steuben’s brat or not. Don’t sass me.”

“...What did you just say?

He froze.

“Thought so.”

I did a 180 and exited the room, stepping into the hallway and to the elevators.

Just before I hit the Down button, the doors opened.

There he was.

Orangey hair, black eyes, arrogant smirk. “Pleased to see you, Walkazo,” Ninji said, holding out his hand, “How’s it been?”

I stepped around him and into the elevator, hitting the down button and keeping my back to him.

“I don’t have anything to say to you.” I muttered.

“Don’t you?”

The doors shut, and I began to descend.

I remembered an overheard conversation from my childhood.

“The child, Scarecrow...she’s been getting in the way.”

“Ninji, don’t bring that shit in my house-”

“She’s too young for this, Scarecrow. Don’t you think it’d be better off if she were sent back to...where does her mother come from? Toronto?”

“Shut the fuck up, Ninji. They’ll be safe, they’ll be fine here. I’m not sending my family away. Not again.”

“They need to be hidden.”

“I need her mother at my side.”

“I need them out of my way.”

“I swear to God, Ninji, if you even think-”

“Whoa now big man, don’t go jumping to conclusions. I’m just saying, if fire erupts...you aren’t going to be the one used to put it out.”

I heard my father sigh. “Whatever. I’m not going to let that happen.”

“...By chance, do you have a bathroom?”

“Uh, yeah. Upstairs.”

I froze in my spot at the top of them.

The kitchen was the only light on in the house at this time of night- the living room and the stairway were barely illuminated.

I shut my eyes tightly.

I heard Ninji advance up the stairway.

I heard him stop beside me.

He lightly patted my head.

“Feisty brat,” he said, “Like firewood, don’t you think? You’re not very stealthy.”

I didn’t say a word or move a muscle.

He gave a little laugh and proceeded to the restroom.

I swallowed.



>HECTOR

I gave a sigh, closing my browser window.

My email inbox had been filled with nothing but fanmail.

"How close were you and Uniju" this, "do you think he would be proud of you" that, "you’re our hero".

It put a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’m no hero.

Bill wanted to be a hero.

He died trying to set you people free, and you cheer on his murderer.

For what? What have I done for you?

He wanted to save you all. Not me.

I don’t even care.

Stooben’s a hero. Bill was, too. Maybe even Uniju.

But me?

No. No.

Why do you people cheer me on?

I’m a murderer. I killed your heroes.

I’m nothing like them.

Back to stage select.

executing file "stage four.dll"
executing.
executing..
executing...

>STOOBEN

The Administration was uneasy.

Even while I had openly outed myself and my friends as leaders of the Xephyr Blues, the political climate was too volatile for them to take action. The public had never been so watchful of the Admins- and they were throwing their support behind the Xephyrs- Hector especially. Before Javelin could pull a rescue, an ambulance had come by- and a mob of supporters dragged Hector’s unconscious ass off the rooftop.

He had successfully taken Uniju’s place as the public’s hero, and he was a better representative of the Xephyr Blues to the public than the rest of us could’ve ever hoped to be.

I was content with this. I had a bigger crown to take, after all.

I gave an excited tremble.

Aoken is almost ready.

I dialed up the owner of Silicon’s largest stadium- where I had done my press conference and Uniju had done his.

After I finished my call, I hung up.

Things are in motion.



PROJECT AVIATE


World 3-4: Golden Brown





>NINJI

Preparing for Aoken was exciting.

After all this time, Scarecrow...your dreams will become reality.

I gazed upon the ruins of the Steuben household on the East Side. The brick had been worn down throughout the decades since the house was last used, but it still stood.

I took a few looks around, saw no one, and entered the old place.

The first thing that hit me was the lack of a corpse stench. Even though Scarecrow’s body had eventually been buried, it spent months in his old home, long after his widow had been killed off and his daughter put up for adoption. I had came to the house once during that time, and a smell like that isn't one you forget.

Stooben had sent me here to find Scarecrow’s safe. A hidden folder in the restricted archives- made, no doubt, by Scarecrow himself- told its location through a text file. The safe was on the second floor of the house, past the bathroom, into Scarecrow’s bedroom, and beneath his bed. The safe was in the floor, and the combination was ridiculously simple.

01-03-02.

The house was dark.

Light from the outside scarcely reached within, and I activated a flashlight, carefully stepping through the kitchen.

In the living room was a still-lingering bloodstain on the carpet at the foot of the stairs- the place where Scarecrow had met his end from a bullet fired by one of Shinn’s lapdogs.

The memories of my old friend made me sigh as I ascended the stairway.

At the top of them, I gave a smirk, remembering an encounter I had had there.

Firewood I meant to dispose of before things got worse. I’m sorry you couldn’t be saved, Scarecrow, but your daughter grew up to be a fine woman. It’s almost a shame I’ll have to kill her.

I entered Scarecrow’s bedroom, my flashlight immediately finding its way to Scarecrow’s bed. I set the light down on a dresser beside the doorway and began my work, pulling the bed to the side and seeing the safe in the floor.

It was already open.

There was a file folder inside, labelled Project Aviate.

I heard the sound of a pistol being cocked, and I felt the barrel press against my spine.

“What the-”

“Don’t move.” Walkazo snarled.

I smirked. “You were the one scared to move last time. Why the change of heart?”



>SHYGUY

Aoken was finally complete.

I opened a browser window, watching a live stream of the press conference. As Stooben stepped on stage, I began to type a text message, which he had told me in advance to forward to himself, Blocky, Ninji and Walkazo.

Aoken is ready.

Shall we begin?

I saw him pause on the stage and smirk. He faced the camera, stared directly into the lens, and nodded.

That’s my cue.

execute “aoken.exe”?



>STOOBEN

Everything was falling into place.

On opposite sides of the stage were two podiums, facing towards each other. From the right, Steve Shinn stepped to his podium. He was sixty years old, but he still carried himself with impeccable power.

I hated the man, but I respected him.

I stepped to my podium and nodded across the stage at him.

Ninji and Shyguy’s parts were done. They would be disposed of, and I wouldn’t need to fear retribution from them.

The Shyguy Sect of the gang could take on the Administration- who, thanks to the ID-controlled weapons that Aoken would disarm, would be defenseless.

The Ninji Sect would no longer be needed.

The people will side with the revolutionaries.

From the ashes of the Administration would rise the Blues, where me, Walkazo and Blocky would finally serve our purpose as judge, jury and executioner.

Back to stage select.

executing file “finale.dll”
executing.
executing..
executing...
THERE HAS BEEN A SEVERE ERROR
“finale.dll” HAS BEEN CORRUPTED
REPAIR?
Y
repairing.
repairing..
repairing...
“finale.dll” CAN NOT BE REPAIRED
“aviate.exe” HAS BEEN CORRUPTED
REPAIR?
Y
repairing.
repairing..
repairing...
“aviate.exe” CAN NOT BE REPAIRED
“aoken.exe” has been found on Drive U!
execute?

- Unlockable Content

Don't click the tabs until you've reached the appropriate point in the story!

Uniju Smith’s Interview from The Wiki Ambassador
by Vincent “Galactic” Peters

“Galactic”: Today we have Uniju Smith, the owner of The Wiki Wall, for an interview about the mysterious man we’re calling “Naked Chinaman.”
Uniju: Happy to be here. Speaking of China-
G: We’ve heard accusations that you’re not Chinese. Uniju. How do you respond to these allegations?
U: That’s bullshit! I own a Chinese restaurant!
G: And your food is good, but-
U: I have a katana!
G: Katanas are Japanese, Uniju.
U: Same thing!
G: They really aren’t.
U: *incomprehensible muttering*
G: Anyways, what do you think of the man seen last night jumping our rooftops?
U: Impressive skills, I’d say. But I highly doubt that a half-naked man should be our community’s focus right now.
G: Then what do you propose?
U: I think we should be looking for the Xephyr Blues.

Back to stage select.

FILE DIRECTORY
U:\restricted\
SEARCH “SCARECROW”
SEARCHING.
SEARCHING..
SEARCHING...
ONE RESULT FOUND IN “PROFILES”
VIEW?
Y/N

SCARECROW VON STEUBEN
STATUS: DECEASED
RANK: STEWARD (FORMER)
SEX: MALE

Scarecrow Von Steuben, along with Steve Shinn, founded Silicon City in 1993, after [REDACTED]’s successful purchase of California from the United States, as well as the takeovers of the companies residing in Silicon Valley, the location the new country was named for. Due to the two’s disagreements on how the country should be run, conflict quickly began between the two factions: the Administrators, headed by Shinn, and the Xephyr Blues, headed by Steuben.

Steuben, who died during an attempted coup d’etat at the Administration’s headquarters, has no known relatives.

His rebellion was crushed after his death, though the status of certain key members of his organization remains unknown.

Back to stage select.

Excerpt from The Wiki Ambassador
by Vincent “Galactic” Peters

ADMINSTRATION ARMORY DESTROYED IN TRAGIC ACCIDENT

Last night, the Administration's armory was destroyed in a series of massive explosions. According to current evidence, a patrolling administrator accidentally triggered munitions of C4, which caused a chain reaction that blew the building sky-high. The deceased Admin who caused this was Sonic Freeman, better known by his alias, SM. The current whereabouts of his brother, Bill Freeman, remain unknown.

In light of this tragedy, Patrick Munson has called a press conference to be held later tonight, where he wishes to discuss the matters of weapon control, taxing, and the Xephyr Blues.

Back to stage select.

FROM THE JOURNAL OF HECTOR FAUSTINO

After I killed Stooben, I abolished the Administration and dissolved the Xephyr Blues. Walkazo and Blocky weren't very happy with the latter decision, but they didn't fight me about it.

I removed the digital surveillance across the city and, from the Database Building, unlocked our data for the world to see. I had the walls destroyed and decided to leave the fate of Silicon to the people who still resided there.

Some people, like Blocky, want to become a democratic, independent nation. Others, like Walkazo, want to return Silicon City to its former state as California and reunite with the United States.

Me, I didn't stay around to see what happened. Neither did Javelin.

We left the city about two weeks after Stooben's death and Aoken's execution, and we haven't looked back. I don't have a home to return to anymore, but Javelin says he has relatives back in the Southeastern United States.

I decided I would tag along, at least until I found somewhere else to go.

This is the end of my story. What happens next is up to the people of Silicon, and I hope they use that power better than the ones before them did. I may never learn to forgive myself for the people I've killed, but I have learned that when it all comes down to it, the only choice you have in this world is to rise or die.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Ascend, I mean.

Back to stage select.