The creaky floorboards of the old dilapidated house threw dust into the stagnant air with each step AJ and Kathy took. Nothing had changed since the last visit there and to AJ that was good news considering the situation him and his girlfriend were now a part of. They anticipated the worst as they ventured back into the living room, peering into the hole above the secret dungeon. The makeshift staircase they crafted from stacking old computer towers remained intact and looked sturdy enough to handle the descent.
“Okay, I’ll go first to make sure nothing is down there.” AJ said with slight trepidation.
“Be carefull babe.”
AJ placed a foot on the top of the towers, shaking it to test the stability. “Good.” He said to himself as he stepped down. The darkness of the sprawling space before him installed a sense of anxiety, unaware of any hidden presence. He could feel something–someone, but regarded the feeling as paranoia. AJ reassured Kathy of the safety and called for her to follow.
It was darker than Kathy remembered, prompting her to search for AJ’s hand. They exposed each dark corner and nook by walking around with the lit camera light of their phones. Finding nothing, they proceeded to launch the computer systems.
“We need to find more information on whatever the hell is going on here, I hate surprises.”
“I know you don’t, but this stuff takes a while. As soon as it’s up we’ll search for files related to this…Peter Lancing.” Kathy said as she raised the dusty armrests higher for comfort.
“That’s his name; Peter?”
“Yes. 19 years of age–well, was.” Kathy answered with the roll of an eye. “He was an anonymous hacker for this Interweb Reformery, however I’ll have to get more than that if we’re to save ourselves.”
The large screen blasted light intense enough to turn the room into a light shade of grey and displayed several icons that left AJ befuddled to its meaning. Kathy understood each one and immediately clicked on a folder which held files describing the studies of Peter. One was opened and read:
May 5th, 2042.
There’s not a lot I can say here, not from what I have discovered. The world around us isn’t what it seems. There are things I cannot explain, but ever since I have accessed the network I have began to see strange signs on everything. The room around me seems to be made out of codes, as if I’m in a virtual realm. I go outside and see the same thing, it’s a scary thought that my research has led me to believe that I am living in a digitalized world, one that can be and probably has been manipulated in the way the organization sees fit.
The Organization is “deleting” people as they say, which further continues my belief…and I feel I might be the next to go. This is all too vital, this information is too great to be in the wrong hands, but if I were to find the one that could fix all of this there would be no worry for humanities survival. I’ve said all of this too many times to the Interweb Reformery; my group that is planning to take over The Organization.
I need to find the one person able to carry on our plan. I may be at a loss of hope.
AJ’s and Kathy’s minds reeled in utter confusion. They couldn’t interpret the possibility of them living in a digital world.
“My goodness…what if what he said is true?” AJ said still in shock.
“If it is, everything about this world that we knew was false.” Kathy said, swallowing the lump that formed in her throat. “That also means we…both of us are just floating point calculations. Data swimming around a virtual realm that we can’t control.”
The couple’s view of their life and the world around them changed drastically at that moment. A realization that they had no idea who they really were. Kathy closed the file and tried to search for more information concerning the discovery the boy wrote about. A audible thump on the ground behind them startled the two and as they turned around a man in a black and grey armored suit launched himself toward AJ.
He dodged the swinging fist that was aimed for his face, stepping back with enough clearance to allow one of his own fists to connect with the side of the man’s head. The man jumped away and ran back to AJ then kicked him in the abdomen. Kathy watched in terror as AJ kneeled on the ground clenching his sides. He managed to get back up and formed two firm fists ready to defend himself with his might. The man rushed toward AJ again, but this time AJ pivoted his body to dodge, granting enough clearance to grab the arm and break it with his knee. The man stumbled backward and held his arm steady to prevent the bone from protruding from the skin any farther.
“Bastard!!” The man yelled loudly in pain.
Kathy’s face flushed with irritation.
“Who the hell are you?” AJ demanded.
The man mustered the strength to stand up and face AJ a few feet away from him. “My identity is not necessary for this time. Not ever. You do not need to know when the gathered knowledge will only be a waste of my breath when you’ll be dead soon!”
“We know who you work for, that may be enough.”
“There are far more things that you will never learn, no matter how much you try.” The man said with a glare directed toward Kathy.
“What is it that you want?” She asked. “There has to be something that you you’re fighting for.”
The man shook his head and chuckled. “Fighters. You two are not what we usually contend with. My leader will find great use in your determination. My name is Hal73, an agent for The Organization. They are multidimensional, all knowing, and invisible, they cannot be stopped, and they cannot be eradicated. You on the other hand, are.” The man said as he walked in circles around the room, switching attention between AJ and Kathy. “We only want one thing; a perfect world with no strife, no death, no poverty. No crime or abuse, a world that should have been. We are happy, no? It’s been going on for decades and this so called ‘Interweb Reformery’ desires to take control to shape the world back to it’s original tainted form, back to it’s insufferable and inconsistent way of life.”
AJ and Kathy reflected on the spoken words of Hal. They felt sinister and dark while maintaining a sense of truth and sincerity. To believe those words put them in a position of having to choose between helping or fighting against one or the other, two sides that could lead to any outcome and they didn’t know which one was truly against humanity.
The confusion was overwhelming and AJ began to devise an intricate plan to halt the progress of both wars, taking Kathy to a corner of the room for a more private chat.
“I have an idea, and you need to trust me baby.”
“Okay.” Kathy said in a more concerned tone of voice than usual. She could anticipate what was running in AJ’s mind and assumed the worst. “What is it?”
“What if one of us…were to join a side. As a team, both of us working inside the two sides.” AJ said. He thought perhaps his girlfriend would serve a better purpose inside of the Citadel, her knowledge of the systems were profound and she agreed. AJ figured he could stay behind and search for others who had direct relation to Peter since his father was a correctional officer who had access to civilian records.
Kathy looked back to see Hal with his back toward them, ripping a part of his suit off to create a bandage for his arm. “But how would we still remain in contact while keeping this plan secret?”
“That’s what we’ll figure out. For now play along.” AJ said with forethought, then proceeded to throw his hands in the air shouting false statements of their relationship with a wink of an eye.
“You never want me around anyway, all we ever do is have sex.” Kathy said jokingly, but with a pure act of seriousness.
“Oh is that how you feel? All I ever want is to use you for my pleasures? Please.”
“Fine! You fail to understand my point of view, every single time we get into these arguments you go off about me, me, me–I’m done!”
AJ scoffed. “Done? Who else do you have to go to?” AJ said as he nudged toward the confused and spectating Hal.
Kathy walked up to the man and stood beside him. “I’ve found my place with people who don’t want conflict, who wish of a better life.”
Hal nodded in accordance to Kathy’s plea. “I’m glad one of you came to their senses. It seems this war may be over as we speak.” Hal was convinced by the couples facade and wrapped his unbroken arm around Kathy’s waist. “Gatherer-ninty-four, request for teleport.”
In an instant Hal and Kathy disappeared in a flash of light and dancing codes, leaving AJ alone in the dimly lit enclosure.
“It’s over when I say so.”