"... in another series of coordinated terror attacks, ninety-eight have been killed and hundreds more injured in explosions across Braid, Pandora and Shore. Wellness and Enjoyment Centers have been targeted by Penitent forces yet again this afternoon in what has been a devastating campaign of terror."
"We now have a statement from Jay Mythchild, CEO of TransNational Enterprises."
"Obviously we take assaults of this nature very personally. The Wellness and Enjoyment Centers should be, and always will be, a place to let your hair down and feel safe. We are cooperating fully with the rest of Charon, as well as launching our own investigations into the matter. In the meantime, we are increasing the presence of Szevens and even Immortals at all WECs and other likely targets across Charon’s TransAtlantic Empire."
"That was Jay Mitchell of TNE. We now turn to Elizabeth Jones in the studio, one of Charon’s Inner Circle, and head of counter-terrorism. Elizabeth, what exactly does Charon plan on doing to address the continuing threat of anti-afterlife extremism?"
"We are doing all we can to support the families of those affected by these attacks. Pathos are continuing to fund new shells for those wounded and killed as a result of Penitent action, and anyone without a criminal record is given free access to the afterlife. We continue to strengthen security measures and crack down on extremists, rebels and militant groups in and about the city."
"Elizabeth, there are some who say that Charon are not doing enough to ensure the safety of their citizens, particularly with regards to activity beyond the wall. Gangs continue to grow unchecked. Drugs, arms and human trafficking are on the increase. Rebel groups are free to organize and indoctrinate without government interference. What do you say to that?"
"The situation outside the walls is currently outside of our sphere of influence. What we can do is ensure that those with criminal intention do not make it inside, and are not given a platform to further radicalize within our cities. But without giving too much away, I can confirm that we have been monitoring the activity of multiple insurgent groups and are coordinating with the Szevens to bring them to justice before they can do further harm."
"This is Operation Green Moon, correct?"
"I can neither confirm nor deny that."
"But you are doing something?"
"Yes. And in the meantime I urge anyone who has any information regarding Penitent activity, anti-afterlife extremism or meta-communism to come forth and please, please tell us. There will always be a place in the afterlife for those who help bring criminals to justice, and keep their fellow citizens safe."
"Thank you Elizabeth."
"Moving on to Entertainment news. The e-sports team ’Daily Grind’ has romped home to yet another win this season, making this..."
Adrian sat on the end of the bed of his one room apartment. He had his two laptops set up on chairs pulled in front of him, and had a bowl of cereal balanced between them. His 65" television was tuned to the news as always, and he’d even stopped typing and eating to watch.
Green Moon, he thought. What is it with Green Moon?
As far as he was concerned, it was a myth. Like the wendigo or the tooth fairy. They loved talking about it online, but nobody had yet to come forth with any evidence or sources.
Adrian closed down the farming simulator he’d been running on his second laptop, and fired up the SNet.
He never thought he’d say this, but he even missed Internet Explorer. The SNet had been the final nail in the coffin of the olden ways. There was no more Internet or Gamestation Network or the likes. Charon had supplanted everything with their own one-thing-does-everything system. The Afterlife was but a part of the SNet, alongside the sim game servers, social media and the encyclopedias. Every corps had their own private share as well, neatly partitioned away amongst all the porn.
Some things never changed.
In a way, it terrified him how the human Soul could be filed away alongside Busty Babes, FaceNet and Neverquest.
He fired up the required programs, typed a little code and entered DarkNet - his forum of choice, and one away from prying eyes and Charon’s influence. Such secrecy made it highly illegal of course. But that was all part of the fun.
He scrolled through, searching relevant tags in an effort to see what people were saying about recent events. Typically, there were a lot of highly insensitive jokes and disturbing macros. Anything on Green Moon was speculative still. No-one seemed to have any information on it, which was unusual. He knew that his moles in Charon were still operating - Rufus, Xander and greengobbo29, among others. They were all alive and well; still active on the forums and posting the latest dirt and insider gossip.
Something was very wrong. Either all of his moles had been bought off, admittedly highly unlikely, or whatever Green Moon was it was outside of Charon’s influence. Which was even more unlikely. All that was left was Occam’s Razor - it was made up. The only question was whether it came about deliberately or as a result of miscommunication.
Adrian flicked his eyes over to his other laptop. The flash drive from Alyx protruded from the side, tiny LED blinking unerringly. His decryption software was in its fourth day of consecutive running, and he was getting close. He could feel it. He switched between tabs repeatedly, idly going back and forth and running things around in his head.
Green Moon. This was going to bug him.
His laptop chirped. His heart jumped.
He was in.
Adrian cracked his knuckles, pushing the chair with his secondary laptop atop it away to make room. The bowl of cereal clattered to the floor, splattering soy milk and grain hoops all over the floor.
He opened up the contents of the flash drive.
Images. Spreadsheets. Corporate wank.
He sighed. This would take a while. He could flick through the images in a matter of minutes, he figured. He would start there.
There were sections of both Inner City and Outer City highlighted in a variety of colours. There were some symbols scattered around too, some reoccurring, others isolated incidences. He furrowed his brow, reaching for his bowl of cereal and grabbing thin air. He cursed the spur of the moment for stealing his dinner.
There was a reoccurring symbol, looking a little bit like a fish. There was one over Harper’s Hydroponics lab. Another on Melissa’s warehouse. A third on Jessi’s bar.
They knew. Charon knew. They were on to them.
He opened up a chat window on his forums. He sent off a quick message to Silver, then checked the map again.
His house was clean. As was the farmstead.
He sent off another message, and let out an exasperated sigh.
Time for some more cereal.
"Your move," Abby said, having knocked over one of Kylie’s rooks with an emphasized wallop. She was on track to her eleventh win against Kylie - out of a total of twelve games played this month.
The two girls sat on a sturdy hammock, strung up between two opposing shelves in one of the large storage cupboards. They’d made certain to pick shelves they knew to be screwed into the wall this time, following the ’Great Collapse of 2047’ that left Kylie with a broken arm. The TV was mumbling from the corner of the room, stuck on the designated news channel.
Three days had passed since they’d had had their mini-break at the WEC. Harper hadn’t mentioned anything more about his meeting, and made sure to change the subject any time it was brought up. Still, he was glad to see the two had enjoyed themselves, although he couldn’t help but notice the suspicion with which they now viewed him. That was to be expected though, and to be fair they weren’t wrong to suspect him of something. He’d much rather not involve them though.
Kylie pondered her next move. She’d learned a while back not fall for bait, which seemed to be the case right now. Abby’s queen was looking particularly vulnerable. Clearly it was a trap.
But what if it’s not? she thought. What if she knows I know not to take the bait, and now she’s taking advantage of that?
Kylie tutted. She had a tendency to over-think these things. She tried to think like Abby did - six or seven moves ahead, but the most she could manage was considering the consequences of her current move. This game was complicated.
Snap. Now there was a game she was good at. Poker. Blackjack. Anything involving chance or a good deal of bluffing gave her a fighting chance against the ’Abigail powerhouse’. She had to admit to being more than a little jealous of her.
Screw it, she thought, going in for the kill.
Abby grinned the second Kylie took her hands off the piece. Kylie knew that look. That was the look that told her she’d lost.
It didn’t take long for Abby to plow through Kylie’s defenses, picking off her pieces and securing a solid win. Kylie congratulated her, more than a little confused at how she’d pulled that off. She wasn’t going to think about it too long though.
It was time for her dare.
"You have to eat," Abby said with a mischievous grin. "Six whole raspberries. At once."
"Ohoo," Kylie huffed. "You bitch. Fine."
Abby produced a pot of berries, pre-prepared for the occasion. Of course she knew she was going to win, Kylie thought. She always wins at Chess. She emptied the pot straight into her mouth, chewing and trying not to let her discomfort show.
She pulled it off. She’d chewed and swallowed without so much as grimacing. It was hard work.
"Actually," Kylie said in mock pensiveness. "I think I quite like those. I look forward to your crumble."
"Well that’s wasted a perfectly good dare."
"You can have another if you like," Kylie suggested. "If I can pick it."
"Umm... what?" Abby stood baffled, and slightly flushed.
"Dare me to break into the secret lab."
"No," she sighed. "We’ve talked about this, and what’s Harper’s business is Harper’s busi-"
Kylie clamped a hand over her mouth, holding her lips shut. She reached for the TV remote, turning up the volume.
They recognized the WEC they’d visited earlier in the week. It was the headlines, and reporter’s commentary that had them wide-eyed. They watched the report in silence, Kylie’s hand still clamping Abby shut. Only when the report was over, and Kylie hit the mute button, did she release her.
"W-w-we were just there," Abby stuttered.
"Like, that c-could have been us."
They sat in silence for a little while longer. Kylie rested her head on her friend’s shoulder, seeking what comfort she could.
"Hey Kaz," Abby whispered.
"One more game of chess. You lose, I’ll dare you."
"Abs, you sure?" Kylie said softly.
"Mhmm," Abby nodded. "I could use the distraction."
Kylie beamed. "Me too."
Mae flicked the switch on the dusty old TV set, its distorted image zipped away.
"They’re not blaming that shit on the Penitents again are they?" Ruth scoffed.
"Well who else is it gonna be?" Alyx asked, tapping the ash from her Fuzz out the window. "Sure ain’t us."
"Ain’t no gangbanger that organized," Alyx laughed. "Hell, WE ain’t that organized. We got one whole city. Mostly."
"Inside job," Mae stated. "Corp Wars. ’S all I’m saying."
Alyx and Ruth rolled their eyes.
"Where’s Silver anyways? Thought this would be right up their alley," Ruth asked.
There was a beat of silence.
"Why’s everyone looking at me all of a sudden?" Alyx asked, defeated.
Mae’s eyebrows jumped. "Because you’re the one best acquainted with-"
"Please don’t finish that," Alyx interrupted.
"Just saying what we’re all thinking." Mae stood, walking towards the window and Alyx. She snatched the Fuzz from Alyx’s hand, inhaled, then flicked it out the window. "Aunty Mae needs a drink," she said, then left.
Ruth looked at Alyx and shrugged.
About a minute later, Silver came bursting through the door. They held their laptop by the lid, and their cheeks were flushed and hair ruffled. "We got a situation," were the first words out their mouth.
"What’s up hun?" Alyx walked towards them, pulling them into a hug and sitting them down on the sofa.
"That was Adrian, he’s cracked it" Silver said, immediately standing up again and pacing. "Charon know. They have-"
Silver, stopped in their stride, then turned to face Ruth. They reiterated. "Charon know. They have maps, documents - everything. All of our Inner City contacts have been marked. Harper, Melissa, Jessi. They’re screwed. We need to extract."
Ruth reeled as though struck. "Get word to Adrian to help organize things in the city."
"Uh-uh," Silver shook their head. "They got diddly-squat on Adrian. I’ll send word to him, but I don’t hold out much hope of him actually getting involved in this. He said to send a Runner."
"Well that’s me," Alyx sighed. "I’ll head straight for the Uncivil Union, rendezvous with Jessi, then hit up Harper’s."
"For all we know, Jessi is the leak," Silver said, tapping away on their laptop.
"No," Ruth said firmly. "If Jessi were the leak, they’d have Adrian and they’d have us on there too. It’s more than likely they just noticed something strange with all the importing and exporting. It may be a watertight operation, but it isn’t airtight. This is just Charon pulling their thumbs out their asses for once and paying some actual attention."
Silver slumped back into the chair, defeated.
"So what then?" Alyx asked.
"Damage control," Ruth said. "Jessi can handle himself no problem. Harper’s going to have to pack up, burn the bridges and get out before it’s too late. But that’s going to take a days. There’s a girl in Hydroponics called Kylie. She’s a bystander, but she’s Elly’s daughter. We sent Kylie there at her mother’s request before she... yeah. And you know with Elly’s record, she’s screwed if they catch her working atop all the crap in the basement. We’re talking Sheol-levels of screwed."
"So you want me to pull her out whilst I’m there? Get her out of the city?" Alyx asked. She’d only ever heard of Elly in talking, but everyone in Invictus spoke of her like she was some sort of Martyr. She did a lot of standing up to Charon, that was for sure. But as far as Alyx knew, she was just a loud-mouth who pawned her only daughter off on them and went off to shoot herself.
Ruth nodded. "Get in there, grab her and get out. Talk to the others the way, make sure they’re up to date and working on something. I’ll be on comms anyway. So stay in touch." She said that last line with particular emphasis.
"Aye aye," Alyx said, giving a mock salute. "I’m on my way."
Silver drew Alyx into a long kiss, before patting her on the ass, wishing her luck and letting her go on her way.
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:43] "cracked the drive. charon know. they have maps. harper. melissa. jessi. farmstead safe for now. send runner. will send you the map"
Agl0cks [25/02/2048 20:43] "Shit. Got it. Thanks for the heads up."
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:44] Sent you a file.
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:44] "GONNA LAY LOW FOR A WHILE"
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:44] "caps soz"
Agl0cks [25/02/2048 20:46] "Ruth says to get off your ass and get people safe. Organize an exodus or something."
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:46] "nah mate, gonna stay here. charon dont know me so will keep digging into green moon. you were right"
Agl0cks [25/02/2048 20:47] "I understand. Stay safe."
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:47] "u2"
Goldyl0cks [25/02/2048 20:47] ;>;;;