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((Operation: SIM is a story that will introduce both SIM and the V-Net: most of the main group (Red, Inferno, Amnesty and Arbiter) are likely still engaged in the Gates of Genesis crisis or its aftermath.))

Prologue

The world was still recovering from the scars of war and devastation, with recent atrocities only serving to worsen the already volatile relationships between the "normal" society and the "abnormal" superhumans that had surfaced over the course of the last few decades.

In an effort to try and stop the tide of violence and focus on the rebirth of humanity as a whole world governments agreed to work together for the first time in recent history to create a new technology that would allow humanity to progress further than they had even done so in the past.

This technology was labelled the "Virtual-Net" or "V-Net" for short, it was a project that took many years of research to complete but climaxed in a system in which people could plug themselves into machines and transfer their minds into a "virtual" world, complete with avatars that could exist in virtual-reality much as people did in the "real" world.

The V-Net was a massive success, though concerns were raised over the safety of such powerful technology and although world governments began to release the V-Net into the general public they did not truly have a way of controlling it..

That was until today...

Chapter 1 - Ghost In The Machine

The scene opens to a crowded city-street in a large urban city not unlike New York or other metropolis of the modern age - however it has been upgraded considerably with a decidely futuristic feel to it: this city was once bombed to the ground by the armies of the Voice during the event known as War-Cry yet like many cities it has since risen from the ashes and become a technological haven - a reminder of humanity's amazing ability to defy even the most murderous of adversaries.

The crowds were highly active, many of them in their teens or younger but a few older residents also arrived - a large number of the crowd had cybernetic-implants or accessories, a growing trend amongst the "normal" society as they tried to compete with the rising superhuman population - not to mention a growing number of people who were forced to recieve implants after becoming victims of the never-ending conflict that erupted so frequently around themselves.

However today even the most battle-hardened of humans were excited and cheering, some waving flags as they waited on news from the world governments on their long-awaited guardian of the V-Net - which they had named SIM.. nobody knew what this mysterious SIM was or how it would function but after recent attacks by terrorists such as HAG and general discontent about the abuse of the V-Net most in the crowd were eager to see the guardian in action..

(ooc: if anyone wishes to participate, feel free to do so below)

Sitting on the windowsill from a nearby apartment is the figure of a young boy, appearing to be about 16 years of age. He looks over the crowds. Suddenly, his right eye flips back, revealing a flat, metallic, golden surface decorated with tiny runes surrounding a lens. He uses this lens like a telescope, trying to observe what was going on in greater detail.

The crowds continue to wait, with the usual array of sights and sounds one would expect from a large gathering of people in a busy city-street - after a while a massive screen flickers to life over the side of a building, revealing for the image of several world leaders as they address the crowd:

"..welcome one and all to the unveiling of what will soon be known as a new era of human history.. as you are all aware the V-Net has become a powerful new tool for good in the world.. allowing us to grow from strength to strength.. however with such new technology comes new risks.. the continued abuse of the V-Net by criminals and terrorists seeking to destroy our way of life has become an increasing worry for all of us.. which is why today we are going to activate SIM.."

The crowds cheer a little, though some figures seem a little unsure - as can be expected there are even the odd protestor or two in the group, one notable individual wearing a large sign saying "Stop V-Net Censorship".

Regardless of this most of the crowd continue cheering as the figures continue their speech:

"..SIM will be the enforcer of international law on the V-Net.. with SIM we will be able to make the V-Net safe for all humanity while also having the means to bring those who would abuse it to justice.. it has taken years of research but we are now ready to reveal to you the future of the V-Net.. Operation SIM is now underway..."

The boy on the windowsill sighs to himself, reverting his eye to normal. He leans back, resting his head on the hard metallic surface of the windowframe. His silver hair falls over his face, obscuring his shining golden eyes. Out of habit, he puts his hand up to his chest and rubs his fingers against a small metal tag hanging from his neck. He slid his fingers across the words engraved on it; "Project Revelation, Subject Thirteen."

As the crowds continue to cheer a group of dark figures appear on a nearby rooftop, eventually coming into view - they are dressed in striking uniforms that can only be described as designed to invoke revulsion and fear, dark blue executioner-style hoods atop orange on blue suits, large gloves and boots strapped onto hands and feet as they grip deadly looking weapons of a futuristic design.

"..sickening.. how world governments think they can impose their petty laws upon HAG.. we have evolved beyond such limits.. prepare yourselves: when this so-called "guardian" is revealed we shall blast it to oblivion.. along with any foolish enough to defy our will.." one of the group speaks, addressing the others - their voice heavily altered by some type of technology hidden inside that hood, making it deep and demonic.

Then, as if on command, the screen in front of the crowd begins to flicker as a figure is revealed - at first appearing somewhat like a typical 3D model of a human, that is until its features start to alter into something unexpected, large ears and a tail evident alongside four whiskers as the figure transforms into a near-perfect fusion of human and mouse.

The crowds seem stunned momentarily into silence, save a few awkward laughs and mutterings - one child points excitedly at the screen and comments to their mother "look mommie! a mouse!".

The HAG agents look at this in equal surprise, one of them rubbing their neck in a visible sign of confusion:

"..you have got to be f***ing kidding me.." one of the HAG agents finally notes as everyone just stands in an almost comical fashion staring at this figure.

The boy on the windowsill looks curiously at the mouse. Then he lets his gaze wander and he catches sight of the HAG agents on the nearby rooftop. He analyzes them for a moment.

"They are up to no good, that much is certain." the boy thinks to himself. "Oh well... not my business... but then again, why not?"

The boy gets to his feet, stretching his arms over his head. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a metal wristband which he snaps around his right wrist. Slipping out the window, he kicks off from the windowframe, leaping toward the rooftop with superhuman strength.

The mouse looks around for a few moments then smiles, surprisingly human - then speaks, instantly recognizable as female: "..I know what you guys are thinking.. "there's a talking mouse on a giant screen, time to switch to decaf".. don't worry though.. I'm SIM.. Synthetic Interactive Mechanism.. hehe.. well I hope you guys don't mind the pun but I decided to opt for an alternate title.. Synthetic Interactive Mouse.. hehe.. uhm, sorry.. I'm new to this whole "public speech" thing.. don't be afraid.. I'm here to help you keep the V-Net safe..".

The crowd still seem unsure, not terribly surprising given the situation they are witnessing - though a few do seem to accept SIM's words - meanwhile on the rooftop the HAG agents continue looking almost comically inept as they stand in plain sight, their weapons hanging limp at their sides as they try to comprehend what is going on.

".. their trying to mess with our minds.. let's do this thing.." one of the HAG agents states and they begin to charge forward with their weapons ready, only to stop as they see a new figure leaping towards them.

"I've had it with these freaks, nuke it!" another HAG agent yells and they open fire, as they do so the crowds begin to panick as they become aware of the impending fight - SIM looks over from the screen with concern.

The boy reaches the rooftop, slugging one of the gunners as he passes by in midair. His golden, metal eye activates once more.

The crowds continue to panick as authorities try to gain order, SIM's expression suddenly changes from concern to anger and before anyone can quite understand what is happening the HAG agents find themselves surrounded on all sides by multiple clones of SIM - one of the HAG agents fire instinctively on a clone only to see the gunfire phase through it.

"..Ha! you think a projection is going to scare us -?" the HAG agent begins only to be launched into the air as the SIM clone delivers a very impressive and painful-looking punch to the would-be-terrorist's jaw.

As this occurs one of the few remaining HAG agents targets the mysterious boy who had just attacked them, swapping his gun for a glove that suddenly sparks with electricity as he swings his fist at the boy, "do I have to do everything myself!? you guys are useless! just kill them already!" he yells angrily at the others, who are mostly knocked out or fleeing by now.

The boy ducks underneath the man's blow, quickly activating his wristband and pressing the palm of his hand against the man's leg. A small glowing light emanates from the boy's palm, releasing enough force to shatter bone; the boy pulls his hand back, revealing a glowing circle floating before his palm, inscribed with 4 runes.

The HAG agent falls down, clutching his leg - as he does so one of the SIM clones suddenly manifests between the boy and the HAG agent: "..enough, both of you -" she begins, then swiftly backhands the terrorist as he lunges forward, knocking him out without even looking back - instead staring at the boy:

"- let me guess, you're another vigilante trying to play the superhero? getting quite common these days.. can't say I approve though.. violence breeds violence, don't you know?".

The figure's speech is somewhat confusing when one notices the entire rooftop is now littered with knocked out HAG agents, the rest having long fled the scene - many of the SIM clones in turn vanishing in a ray of light until only one remains.

"Vigilante?" the boy laughs, cracking his knuckles as he stretches out his arms. "No. Not the case at all. I simply felt like helping out. I almost decided that this wasn't my business. Call it an impulse."

SIM simply looks at the boy, crossing her arms as she speaks "..it wasn't your business, the authorities don't take kindly to people playing the hero - not after all the things that have happened.. city-streets becoming war-zones.. families torn apart.. governments trying to enforce even a tiny bit of law in an otherwise anarchic society.." - SIM suddenly smiles, faintly "..though your heart was in the right place, so.. thank you.. I guess.. now you better get out of here before the authorities arrive.. they won't be as talkative as I am..".

SIM turns, looking towards the crowd below, then back at the boy "..besides, their are a whole bunch of frightened people down there that need my help..".

The boy regards SIM for a moment, before simply saying "OK, then", and turning around to walk away.

SIM looks at the boy for a moment and tilts her head, "..listen, if you want to talk with me again please use this.." - a strange device appears on the ground by the boy's feet, resembling a small ear-piece - "..it's a V-Monitor.. it'll allow you access to the V-Net.. I can't talk further.. it's not safe here.. please try and understand..".

With that SIM vanishes from the area, once again returning to the screen as she began to try and calm the crowds - who were still panicking due to the recent upheavel.

As SIM vanishes a new figure appears nearby, having somehow avoided detection - resembling a holographic projection of a blonde man with glasses and dressed in a white lab coat: the figure stares at the boy for a moment before commenting "if you value your life you will destroy that V-Monitor and forget this ever happened.. you have already caused enough disruption.. I can not allow you to jeopardize my research any further..".

"You look a lot like my father." the boy notes. He stoops down to pick up the V-Monitor, and pockets it. "As for your... request... I simply don't feel like it."

The figure simply watches the boy with a disturbing lack of emotion, standing perfectly still "I do not make requests, I am the Authority here.. you are the child.. yet like so many you choose rebellion over order.. so be it.. ignore my warning.. yet know this: enter the V-Net and I shall see to it you will never return.." - with that the figure vanishes from sight in a ray of light, much as SIM had done previously.

Thirteen stares for a moment where the hologram had disappeared. "What's with that guy?" he thought to himself. "And calling me a child too... father says I'm over two thousand years old..."

With these last thoughts, the boy turns and walks away from the scene.

Chapter 2 - Welcome To The V-Net

Later that night a few blocks away from where the crowds had once gathered a group of youths hung around the largely empty streets - ignoring the curfew set in place following the incident, their laughing and shouting showing they had no fear of any authorities nearby.

"..a mouse! that's rich! a f***ing mouse! it's a joke.. gotta be a joke!" one of the youths states.

"who cares what it is? it's ruining my V-Net! I can't do crap!" one of the youths complains, his face concealed slightly by a hi-tec visor.

"..hack faster! come on, Skulls don't give up!" another youth says.

"I'm trying! I'm trying! damn it.. this SIM is blocking me from every server.. this sucks!" the youth wearing the visor snaps.

A short distance away down the same street walks the boy from earlier. Using his mechanical eye for night vision, he has no problems walking in the dark.

"It seems that every world father sends me, I always run into trouble." the boy thinks to himself. "Well, no, this time, I had to stick out my neck and get involved... well, I suppose that would be the point... this is... training, after all..."

"Goddamnit!" the visor-wearing youth yells out, tearing the device from himself as he tosses it to the ground and stomps on it "..you.. f****ing.. MOUSE! I HATE YOU!".

"Hey! I was gonna use that!" one of the other youths shouts, delivering a punch - only to recieve one in return as the two wrestle on the ground like wild animals as the others simply watch, a punk-girl leaning back as she rolls her eyes, casualling looking across the street:

"..real classy, you guys sure know how to keep a girl amused.." she notes with dry humor.

The commotion catches the attention of the boy, who turns quickly. He stands in place, silently watching.

The two youths continue wrestling with each other as the others laugh or simply ignore them - a typical street-gang, nothing terribly exciting or dangerous about them: the boy soon finds something far more dangerous appearing behind himself as a large hand lands on his shoulder, a voice speaking to him in a disturbingly mechanical tone:

"The Skulls are a collection of misfits and rogues, they believe by staying together they grow stronger - an interesting concept.. however it is doomed to failure, you see humanity has always been adept at failure.. that was until they created me.."

Upon having a hand placed on his shoulder, the boy let out a small cry of surprise, spinning around and jumping back. "Shit!" he thought to himself. "Why didn't I notice him coming?" Shaking off his shock for a moment, the boy steps forward. "What are you?" he demands.

The figure releases his grip as the boy turns around, revealing himself as a tall African-American male dressed in a futuristic suit that shows of his well-developed muscles, like those of an Athlete runner or swimmer: he is bald and has eyes that are more machine than man as he stares at the boy before replying with disturbing calm:

"..I am Adam Man, simply put I am the supreme being.. though that is of little concern to you.. I am here because of that V-Monitor you have.. I know you have yet to utilize it and thus I warn you.. do not enter the V-Net..".

"The boy gives off a faint smirk. "You're the second person to tell me that. The first threatened to kill me if I did so. Well, are you going to threaten me as well?"

Adam simply continues to stare at the boy, his face showing no sign of human emotion - his eyes barely even blinking as they seem to scan the boy like a machine processing information, he then turns away and casually walks away: "..then it has begun".

"Wait a minute. What's begun?" the boy asks.

Adam doesn't turn around, he keeps walking "..ask SIM.. if you are willing to ignore my warning.. if not.. forget I said anything.. either way.. we are done here.." - after a moment or two Adam's suit flickers as he activates some sort of device and before long he fades away like a ghost.

The boy stares at the spot where Adam has disappeared for a few moments. He then reaches into his pocket and fishes out the V-Monitor that SIM had left him.

"...ask SIM..." he says to himself quietly, echoing the words of Adam. He stares at the V-Monitor for a moment, before placing it back in his pocket. "Perhaps in a safer place..." the boy thinks to himself, glancing once more at the fighting teenagers before continuing on his walk down the dark street.


The scene shifts to inside the V-Net, an alien landscape resembling a sea of binary code - floating amidst the ever-shifting tide of data is SIM, perched on what appears to be a holographic chair with an array of floating screens in front of herself, which she presses frantically as she speaks into what appears to be a head-set:

"..oh come on.. it's a play on words.. you know "mouse"? that thing folk used to use on old computers? ..well I thought it was funny.. geeze.. I know, I know.. we're meant to be professional but live a little, will you? ..these people have been through so much pain and suffering, they could do with some cheer every now and then.."

SIM frowns as the voice on the other end of the head-set muffles out a string of words only she can hear, flicking her tail as she puts her feet up lazily - scrolling through more screens:

"..look, as much as I love listening to you continually telling me how much of a failure I am their is a V-Net that needs running - I have a particularly obnoxious hacker right now trying to taunt me by downloading classified files and replacing them with pixelated cheese.. no.. the server's working fine.. you heard me correct the first time..".


The boy was sitting on the edge of his bed in the apartment room he was in earlier that day. In his hands was the V-Monitor that SIM had left for him. He remembered the warnings of both the holographic man and Adam. Still, impulse simply told him to try it out, if not only to spite them. He lifted the V-Monitor to his face, and activated it.

As the V-Monitor is activated a sharp pain is felt as wires suddenly latch onto the boy's neck, like small needles - forming a strange link that floods into his mind: causing him to spiral into the alien dimension of the V-Net, his physical form now replaced by what can only be described as a 3D avatar that becomes progressively more detailed as the transfer completes.

"This is... interesting..." the boy notes to himself, taking in his digital surroundings.

"..see, this is what happens when you try and modify your V-Net avatar without the proper knowledge.." a familiar voice notes, soon revealing itself to be SIM - who is now walking alongside a rather disturbing (yet darkly comical) sight in the form of what looks like a headless man in a business suit.

"..though I suppose the look could catch on - you ever fancied going anonymous?" SIM adds, rubbing her chin in thought as he flicks her tail - the pair seeming to walk on glowing platforms made of green energy.

"OK..." the boy says to himself quietly. "That's... weird... All of this... it's wierd... it's bizarre, yet the concept of it is quite beautiful..."

SIM opens a portal and pushes the strange figure into it, closing it behind the figure as she stats: "..at any rate, you'd best be getting along before your mother catches you on the V-Net again - you know you're meant to be studying..".

After this SIM dusts her hands slightly, twitching her whiskers as she notes "..kids.." - her ears suddenly perk up as she notices the boy from before, SIM hurrying over - her every footstep causing little green disks to appear like stepping stones as she calls out:

"..hey! you came! welcome to the V-Net - sorry about the mess.. this is the central hub of the V-Net.. kind of chaotic.. let me take you to a more secure server..".

"Fine with me." the boy said.

SIM nods a little and focuses, as she does so the entire area shifts - transforming into what appears to be a typical apartment complete with a sofa, large TV and a kitchen area: the windows even have a view to what looks like a large city street, the skies bright blue and full of sunshine.

"..the V-Net is kind of like dreaming on a massive-scale, anything you can imagine can be simulated here - though I'm afraid many people are trying to use this imagination for destructive means.. ah well, give them time and they'll improve.. it's a new experience for them.. so... what brings you here?" SIM says.

"An impulse." the boy responds. "It's how I've always done things."

SIM nods a little as she sits down on the sofa, oddly casual for a being that seems to have complete control over her reality - as is evident as she forms a bowl of popcorn on her lap and starts eating as she flicks her tail:

"..you know people say I'm impulsive too.. though you must have a reason.. did you have something on your mind?"

"Yes. A little voice in my head, telling me to put on that V-Monitor." the boy said. "Unlike other people, I have no dreams, ambitions, or goals in particular... hell, I don't even have a real name. With no ending to focus on accomplishing, I act moreso on impulse. I accomplish what I can in the moment before moving on. It's... just how I am."

SIM tilts her head for a moment, her eyes become sad as she notes "..you know.. I don't think that's entirely correct.. everyone has dreams and ambitions.. sometimes we just don't see them.. you know I never had a real name either.. I was the Synthetic Interactive Mechanism.. I decided to make my own name.. maybe you should do the same.." - her eyes light up as she stands up, smiling "..tell you what, let's be impulsive.. think on a name.. the first thing that comes to your head.. a place.. a person.. heck.. even a number.. go on, it'll be fun..".

"I..." the boy begins to say, then stops. "...I'll need to think for a moment." He absent-mindedly reached for the metal tag hanging around his neck, rubbing his fingers on the text that was engraved on it- 'Project Revelation, Subject Thirteen.' Then an idea popped into his head.

"...I may have an idea." said the boy. "Call me... Thirteen."

SIM smiles a little more, her ears perking up as she says "..Thirteen? I like it.. it makes you unique.. people may try and tell you otherwise but in the end we make our own choices.. those choices determine who we are.. remember that..".

SIM looks ready to speak again when a portal suddenly tears open behind her, seeming to tear right through the room like someone ripping a sheet of paper - the portal sparks out glowing green flame as a monstrous figure emerges: resembling a skeletal human with wires and cogs all over his body, an unnatural fusion of man and machine.

SIM's eyes grow wide upon seeing the figure "..no!" she exclaims, instinctively diving forward, shielding Thirteen from a sudden blast of energy that cuts across the side of her body, leaving burning marks.

"...bastard!" Thirteen snarls, before activating the device on his wrist; a complex, glowing circle appears over Thirteen's hand, crackling with energy. He lunges out, throwing a punch at this new monstrous figure.

Battle 1 - Lesser Authority

The figure's arm still smoulders from the blast, one mechanical eye zooming in on Thirteen like an old-fashioned camera lense adjusting to focus on a target as it blocks the punch with a single hand: causing a small shockwave in the process.

""a foolish gesture - one that will only prolong the invetable.." " the figure notes as it charges another blast, which hurls forward like lightning and is made of the same glowing green flame as the sparks from the portal.

A glowing Rune Circle appears in the air at Thirteen's beckoning; the figure's blast strikes the circle, granting Thirteen the energy he needs to transmute it. The green flaming blast seems to transform into a burst of wind which slams into Thirteen, while although ultimately harmless, causes his eyes to water painfully.

"Wow... even that works in cyberspace." Thirteen says, a bit impressed with himself.

The figure forms glowing chains that attempt to wrap around Thirteen's neck - shooting out with alarming speed: ".. I warned you not to interfere with my research.. yet you ignored me.. now you will suffer the consequences of defying the Authority..".

As this occurs SIM begins to stir, lifting herself shakily to her feet as she holds the side of her torso, looking down at the burn marks and focusing a little - as she does so the marks begin to fade away as her eyes suddenly spark with glowing blue flame.

Thirteen, unable to dodge, lifts his left arm up to the level of his neck, causing the chains to wrap both around Thirteen's wrist and neck, allowing him room to breathe. He forms another Rune Circle over the palm of his right hand.

SIM focuses for a few moments, the blue flame in her eyes igniting brightly as she starts to grow immensely tall - the area shaking in the process, the figure takes notice of this and momentarily drops Thirteen as it looks up at SIM and aims another powerful blast towards her: ".. I see you are going to pose a problem, SIM.. no matter.. I do not back down.. as long as Adam Man lives, I will never surrender..".

Thirteen runs at the figure, fist raised in an attempt to deal another blow.

The figure stops its attack on SIM and forms a large cage around Thirteen which begins to slowly crush the life out of him, "..I have precious little time to waste on parasites such as you.. my research is almost complete and with it the cure to the infection which Adam Man has spread across your world..".

The figure continues to increase the pressure of the cage until he suddenly falters, SIM unleashing a beam of energy from one of her hands that shoots down - engulfing the figure in blue flame and causing the cage around Thirteen to weaken considerably.

"..I don't know who you are or what you want but I'm ordering you to get the hell off my server!" SIM yells.

Thirteen forms a rune circle which blows apart the weakened cage.

The figure backs off as the cage breaks apart and retreats back into the fiery portal, parts of the figure still on fire due to SIM's attack - the mechanical voice echoing out as the figure fades away:

"..soon.. Adam's greatest source of fuel.. shall be.. erased..".

"Well, that's over, thank God... who is this 'Adam Man' guy? Is he a friend of yours?" Thirteen asks.

SIM shrinks down to her usual size and her eyes slowly return to normal, yet she looks oddly serious - no trace of a smile on her once friendly face "..I think it is time you came with me, Thirteen.. to see for yourself..".

With that SIM turns around and the area begins to shift, resembling a large holographic "bubble" that soon begins to project images in a rapid order - like gazing into a "magic ball" of legend.

Chapter 3 - The Nature of Man

SIM stands and stretches her arms out towards the surface of the "bubble" - as if preparing to put on some kind of magic-show: "..what I'm about to show you isn't going to be pleasant but you need to see this.." she notes.

"Well then, let's see. I can take it. What is this... bubble-thing? Is it some sort of archive?"

SIM touches the surface of the "bubble" and before long the entire area shifts - like stepping into a simulation "..something like that.." SIM notes.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The simulation shows several scientists crowded around an operating table, with what appears to be an average African-American male on the table - he is strapped to the table, many tubes and wires attached to his body in a manner that was unsettling to see, pumping what appeared to be a silver liquid into his veins: the figure remained lifeless on the table.

"..the nanites are reacting as we expected, subject is stable - keep the flow steady.."

Suddenly the figure on the table twitches, then begins to violently shake as if having a seizure - the scientists try to hold him down as the restraints snap alongside a few of the wires.

"..something's going wrong! the nanites are mutating too fact - we need to regain control!"

Several scientists are sent flying across the room, painfully colliding with the wall as the figure bolts upright, tearing away the remaining restraints and wires - the doors of the lab swinging open to reveal masked soldiers who open fire on the figure with heavy machine-gun fire only for the bullets to bounce off the figure like paintballs.

"..do something! the experiment isn't complete yet!"

Yet the scene soon begins to blur, like static, the imagery becoming more and more distorted - the last visible image is of the figure picking a scientist up and snapping his neck with one hand before tossing the body into a row of soldiers with enough force to send them flying like bowling pins.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SIM pants a little, taking her hand away from the surface of the "bubble" as she folds her ears back "..I'm sorry.. I.. I never was good at this.. let us continue.. shall we?" she says, obviously distressed.

"A superhuman, born from science... like myself..." Thirteen mutters.

SIM squeaks a little "..no Thirteen.. trust me.. Adam is no superhuman..".

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

An image appears of the lab where a lone Adam stands amidst the corpses of many soldiers and scientists - broken and shattered like ragdolls, Adam takes a lab-coat and walks out into the night.

"..for a long time Adam wandered the world.. or so they say.. searching for a purpose.." SIM notes as the imagery shows Adam moving from location to location.

"..yet Adam was continually reminded of the fact he was a god amongst men.. that while his body had no limits others were not so lucky.." - images flash showing Adam breaking a mans hand just by trying to shake hands in greeting, of Adam all-but tearing a boy's arm off simply trying to get his attention and most disturbing of all the death of a woman Adam had tried to embrace.

"..eventually Adam became convinced humanity was weak and that he was the supreme being.. truth be told, no one has ever really been able to prove otherwise.. that was when he met a man known as Professor Snieller.."

An image projects of a familar blonde man dressed in a lab-coat.

"Ooooh, that guy..." Thirteen said, obviously recognizing the man.

"..Snieller worked as a top scientist at Gene Labs - he was always controversial and many had threatened him.. yet he felt safe enough in his stronghold.. that was until Adam arrived.."

The image shifts to show the same man suddenly attacked by Adam Man, who literally drags him - kicking and screaming - from a lab in broad daylight, the frantic gunshots of entire police squadrons being unable to so much as slow the aggressor as he disappeared into the distance.

"..Adam took Snieller to a location so secure even the V-Net is unable to fully visualize it.. all that is known is for years Snieller was forced to create clones for Adam.. an entire generation modelled to look and act just like Adam.. Adam grew to call these clones his sons.. the Sons of Adam were born.."

A simulation appears showing Adam and a large squad of identical figures, all dressed in futuristic uniforms - then shifts to show Snieller, now attached to a large computer by wires:

"..yet Adam was without mercy - still seeing imperfection.. no matter how small.. within his clone he judged Snieller as unfit to serve him.. passing authority over to his eldest-clone: whom he named Adam Jr. - as for Snieller.."

The image shows Adam and one of his clones press a switch, Snieller convulses violently then goes still - obviously dead.

"..he was terminated in body.. yet Adam was not content.. he had Snieller's mind uploaded into an immobile computer.. a prison from which Snieller could never escape.. neither alive nor dead.. trapped forever in isolation.. fitting punishment, in Adam's eyes, for failure.."

"Something about that seems familiar..." Thirteen said.

SIM stops the simulation, the "bubble" vanishing as she and Thirteen return to the alien environment of the V-Net, an endless sea of code with only glowing platforms to support them:

"..that thing that attacked us called itself the Authority.. it knew of Adam.. of me.. yet it also knew you.." SIM begins, then remembers Thirteen's reaction to the simulation "..my god... you've seen him haven't you? Snieller.. he's not caged up in some rusty computer.. he's free.. isn't he?"

"He, uh... he kind of implied that he would kill me if I entered the V-Net... you know, come to think of it, I saw Adam Man, too..."

SIM looks surprised as she motions Thirteen, walking over the glowing platform "..you saw Adam and survived? then he must of wanted to keep you alive - though Adam isn't our concern now.. if Snieller is free then that thing we fought back there must of been his Virtual Avatar.. problem is that thing wasn't complete.. I think he's working on something.."

"Any idea as to what it is he is working on?"

SIM shrugs a little "..I'm designed to protect the V-Net from anything from a global conspiracy to unauthorized selling of spare socks - as such I should be able to figure out what Snieller is up to.. yet I can't.. he calls himself the Authority now.. whatever *that* means.. probably some megalomania-driven alter-ego.. what bothers me is this..".

SIM stops and displays a small "sheet" that plays back an image of the battle with Lesser Authority:

"..soon.. Adam's greatest source of fuel.. shall be.. erased..".

SIM twitches her whiskers as the "sheet" disappears and she speaks again "..Adam doesn't run on fuel.. he runs on people.. literally.. Adam exists to turn others into duplicates of himself - whether they like it or not.. unless.." SIM pauses, in thought - her ears folding back a little "..no.. that's not possible.. no one is that insane..".

"Hang on..." Thirteen says. "Are we talking mass genocide here? Is that Snieller's plan?!"

SIM clicks her fingers and a small sphere appears, it only takes a few moments for the sphere to become a miniature Earth - SIM holds out her hand and her palm glows brightly, as it does so hundreds of red marks appear over the sphere.. then thousands.. then millions.. "..my God.." SIM squeaks, her eyes going wide, "..this isn't genocide.. this is extinction.. Human Extinction.. every mark you see.. is a weapon.. military intelligence.. if I can access it this easily it means someone has already created a database of all military weapons on Earth.."

"That... is both stupid and unforgiveable." Thirteen growls, rage appearing in his voice. "I usually act on impulse, but... I want to stop this. I want to do everything in my power to stop this."

SIM stares at the image in a strange manner, her eyes seeming to glow as they narrow, she speaks rather distant - "..is it? look at this picture, Thirteen.. mankind has created millions of ways to kill itself.. here we are trying to move on after what many considered the "Day of Judgement".. War-Cry was the closest humanity got to utter enslavement.. yet they have learned nothing..".

SIM's fur seems to darken as glowing marks begin to spread across her form, resembling circuitry "..perhaps humans deserve to die.." she says, her voice more mechanical than usual.

"Whoa. SIM. Snap out of it." Thirteen says with concern. "Some people may have done horrid things and deserve to die, but that doesn't justify destroying every one of them... Some people are benevolent, some are malevolent, and that's the way it will always be."

SIM keeps her gaze on the image in her hand - her muzzle wrinkling slightly as her eyes continue to glow "..you know.. it's kind of funny.. I have the whole world.. in the palm of my hand.." - a smirk appears on her face, yet it is a horrible thing to see.. her former sweetness warped now as if her humanity had been drained right out of her.

Then SIM suddenly seems to awaken, shaking her head as her ears perk up - her fur returning to normal as she shakes her hand - making the image disappear as she clutches her head with another "..ugh.. sorry.. I'm.. I'm sorry.. God.. you'd think being synthetic and all I'd be immune to it.. yet.. sometimes.. no matter how much I try.. people just make me so.. angry.." SIM says, her voice returning to its usual tone.

"People..." Thirteen repeats, as if in thought. Figuring out what to say, he looks back at SIM and begins to speak; "Listen to me. Not everyone is the same. There are some crazy psychopaths all over the universe, but there's also a lot more people who are kind and compassionate. Don't be angry with all people, be angry at the few stupid people who try to ruin everything for everyone."

SIM smiles a little, a friendly spark appearing in her eyes as she notes "..you know, Thirteen, for someone who acts on impulse you sure have a lot of heart.. don't ever change, okay? the world needs people like you.. impulsive.. yet thoughtful.."

Suddenly a portal appears nearby, yet it is not fiery and chaotic like the one Authority had utilized - this one was akin to a swirling wormhole of code, completed with binary numbers: a familiar, dark figure appears out of the portal and address SIM and Thirteen with an emotionless tone:

"..do not allow your emotions to distract you from the matter at hand.. humanity must not be allowed to go extinct.."

Chapter 4 - The Enemy Of My Enemy..

SIM narrows her eyes once again, her ears folding back as she looks to the new figure and speaks ".. Adam".

Thirteen steps back, but keeps his gaze on Adam. "What is he- what are you doing here?" he asks, redirecting his question to the newcomer.

Adam simply stares without emotion, his eyes are very distinctive - being silver in color and clearly not of natural design, his avatar seems to be a near-identical image to the figure Thirteen saw before, though now his features are more prominent and easier to see: including his white-on-black armor, which is clearly of military design yet clearly modified to be more streamlined.

"I am here to ensure your success in this mission, Snieller calls himself the Authority now.. an interesting name for one who seeks to exterminate all life.. after all, what will he be the Authority of once humanity are dust? you see.. this is the fatal flaw in Snieller's plan and one I can not allow to jeopardize my own success.. in order for the Sons of Adam to flourish our resources must remain constant and healthy.." Adam replies, speaking with disturbing calm.

"..they are living human beings, Adam - not resources for you to leech off!" SIM snaps.

"since when has humanity been truly free? it has always been the pawn of higher life-forms.. blind, scurrying little creatures.. considering the options available to it I believe humanity would relish the prospect of my rule over their destruction.. wouldn't you agree?" Adam replies.

"..no.. no matter how bad things get.. people will never give up.. they will never be like you.." SIM replies in turn.

"do you speak for humanity, SIM? I offer them an alternative to extinction.. you seem to infere humanity would rather destroy itself at the hands of Authority than exist in harmony as part of something greater.." Adam says.

"No matter how many destructive bastards there are among humanity, humans can survive without your help." Thirteen growls.

"perhaps - however if you wish to defeat Snieller you will need my assistance: I have the access code which will allow you to enter Snieller's own server, to face the threat head-on.. as you already know, SIM, the only way to defeat someone within the V-Net is to enter their server.." Adam replies.

"..you're talking about entering someone's mind, Adam - I don't do that.." SIM frowns.

"then now is as good a time as any to learn.. Snieller is no longer human.. he is very much like you SIM.. a virtual-entity.. my prison could not contain him.. a small error on my part.. yet I always have a backup plan.." Adam says, producing what looks like an old-fashioned key, only it is glowing.

"..this key will allow access to Snieller's "mind" as you call it - it is there he is most vulnerable.. as for myself.. I have business to attend to elsewhere.. so make your decision now.. take the key or refuse.. either way, I am nearing the end of my time here.." Adam continues.

"If you have the key to his mind..." Thirteen said, "Then why haven't you done anything about it?"

Adam tosses the key down on the platform as he turns, walking back into the portal as he comments "..I had no need to - until now.. which is why you are here.." - with that Adam vanishes into the portal, which closes behind him in a flash of light.

SIM watches and folds her ears back as she notes "..I had a feeling Adam wanted you for something.. now I know what.." - she walks over and picks up the key before she turns to Thirteen and speaks again "..listen, you have been a great help but this is where we say goodbye.. I am the guardian of the V-Net and as such this is my responsibility.. you don't need to get yourself killed over this.. it's my fight.. whatever lays inside Snieller's mind is my war.. not yours..".

"SIM... I..." Thirteen begins, but falls silent. After a moment, Thirteen speaks again. "This is a little embarassing for me to admit, but you are the first friend I ever had. I don't want to leave. Not yet. Please, let me help you."

SIM smiles and extends a hand, placing it on Thirteen's shoulder as she speaks "..you know, Thirteen.. you're kind of my first friend too.. which is why I don't want you to risk getting killed.. I'm just a machine.. you are so much more.. life can't be replaced..".

SIM looks ready to continue when suddenly an all-too-familar flaming portal bursts open, this time right between the two - causing SIM to stumble back as a pillar of green flame erupts and a horrific skeletal figure emerges: though now it has Snieller's face attached to it and a ragged lab coat, it even has a pair of broken glasses and patches of blonde hair.

"..Enough.. the Human Exermination Code is almost complete.. you must not be allowed to interfere.. I want that key.."

Battle 2 - Higher Authority

"YOU!" Thirteen snarls, creating a glowing rune circle over his palm and preparing to project it onto the ground beneath the Authority's feet.

Authority cracks his head to one side, a disturbing crunching sound accompanies, he then twists it to the other side - then extends his arms, as he does so wires suddenly erupt from his hands in place of fingers: wrapping around SIM and Thirteen as he tries to constrict them.

SIM squeaks and claws at the wires that wrap around her neck, lifting her up onto her tiptoes as she growls, trying to focus as she forms a glowing dagger in one of her hands.

Caught by suprise, Thirteen barely manages to keep his focus on the rune circle. Struggling, he slowly manages to shift the location of his circle underneath the Authority's feet.

SIM growls as she slices one of the wires off with her dagger, which vanishes soon after as she pants - rubbing her neck as her eyes glow angrily "..Human Extermination Code? what is that? tell me!" she growls.

Authority pulls back for a moment, then resumes his attack as the wire SIM cut off simply regrows - the area shaking as the environment warps visibly: pillars of green flame erupting around the battle-zone as Authority speaks - "I shall not rest until Adam and his spawn are dead - and if I have to exterminate the entire world to do so then so be it..".

SIM growls "that's not an answer!" - she leaps at Authority and bites down hard on one of his arms, causing him to momentarily release Thirteen as he reforms his spare arm and strikes SIM down with a vicious punch.

"Damn you!" Thirteen bellows, activating his rune circle and causing a pillar of earth to erupt underneath the Authority.

Authority is sent into the air due to the attack, SIM recovers and leaps after him - becoming like a speeding bullet as she grabs him by the throat: the two suddenly freezing in place as she forms a glowing aura around herself and Authority.

"..tell me what you've done, Snieller!" she growls, her eyes bursting into flame.

"I have created the seeds of Adam Man's destruction - you should thank me.." Authority replies.

"Thank you?! you are going to kill every human on Earth! Thank you?! No.. I'm going to KILL you!" SIM snarls, her voice becoming darker as her fur begins to change - her nature once again seeming to shift.

Not understanding exactly what was transpiring between SIM and Authority, Thirteen projected a rune circle beneath his feet, creating a powerful burst of wind which launched him in the air at the Autohrity- with a second circle, his fist became surrounded with flames as he prepared to throw a bone-shattering punch at Authority.

Authority notices this and quickly grabs SIM - putting her between himself and Thirteen's fist, releasing her as SIM is sent tumbling backwards by the punch: "..thank you, boy - she was beginning to bore me.. now.. where were we?" Authority taunts, the glowing aura shattering as he falls back down on the ground, landing on his feet.

"YOU!" Thirteen roars. "I'll kill you for that!!" He projects a rune circle on the ground underneath the Authority again; the air above the circle ignites and explodes.

Authory seems to rip apart, however as he does so he becomes a mass of living wires and launches himself at Thirteen, the wires still smouldering from the explosion - "..kill me? ..my poor delusion youth.. I'm already dead!" he replies.

"Then let me kill you again!" Thirteen snarls, running into and dodging the mass of wires.

The mass of wires warp into a basic humanoid form, as it does so Authority changes form yet again - this time becoming a near-perfect imitation of Snieller as he appeared when he was human: dressed in a lab coat, his glasses shining slightly as the flames reflect off their surface.

"..Thirteen.. look out.." SIM says, recovering enough to sit up - extending her hand and forming a bubble around Thirteen as Authority suddenly engulfs the entire area in green flame, vanishing from the area violently.

"..enough.. I have no more time left.. come if you must.. the Human Extermination Code is ready.." Authority's voice echoes as he disappears, leaving a gaping hole behind that seems to lead into a fiery abyss.

Chapter 5 - Extinction

SIM releases the bubble once Authority's flames have subsided and sighs a little, folding her ears back as she struggles to her feet - rubbing her cheek a little "..I'm sorry.. impulsive.." she says.

"That's something I can understand." Thirteen says

SIM looks down at the fiery abyss and steps forward, digging out the glowing key as she folds her ears back "..Thirteen.. listen.. we need to split up.. trust me on this.. Snieller is manipulating us.. we can't concentrate on what's important if we keep worrying about one another.. I'm going to shutdown the Human Extermination Code.. I need you to go after Snieller..".

Thirteen sighs. "I suppose you're right. But will you be okay? You know, the code is inside Sneiller's mind..."

SIM holds the key and thinks a little "..I don't know, Thirteen.. I am the guardian of the V-Net, it is my duty to protect it.. this goes beyond the usual cyber-crime I have been designed to combat yet combat it I must.. the lives of billions depend on it..".

SIM then looks to Thirteen, she seems to have a sad look - yet a small smile "..people like you.. good people.. I can't let them down.. no matter what happens to me.. humanity must live on.. they're a young species - they do a lot of stupid mistakes.. yet all they really need.. is a chance to grow..".

SIM turns back to the fiery abyss and holds out a hand to Thirteen "..you ready to take a leap of faith? once we breach Snieller's mind you need to find him and keep him busy - I'll combat the Code head on..".

"Leaps of faith are what I do." Thirteen says, taking SIM's hand.

SIM smiles, "..you're a good person, Thirteen - remember that.." - with that she leaps into the fiery abyss, as she does so a large doorway appears with an old-fashioned keyhole, yet the keyhole glows as the key SIM holds breaks apart into a beam of light, shattering the doorway as they fall down into darkness.

The fall continues for a few moments until the two suddenly land on solid ground, the darkness tears away to reveal an image not unlike a vast city street, only empty and lacking color save for shades of grey: the buildings all look in varying degrees of disrepair as the street continues endlessly both right and left: to the right a small warehouse lays apparently abandoned, yet the door is open and a flicking light glows ominously.

To the left a large gothic looking tower erupts from the cityscape - the sky around it swirling into a stormy vortex, SIM takes a look around:

"..the tower is the Code manifesting itself.. the warehouse must be where Snieller is hiding.. no doubt activating the Code.. we have to go.. now.." SIM notes, then turns tail and runs left towards the tower.

"Good luck..." Thirteen says, before turning and running to the warehouse.

Encounter: Human Extermination Code (SIM)

SIM makes her way to the tower and looks up, her ears folding back as she sees the swirling vortex in the sky growing by the minute - as flashes of virtual "lightning" appear in the midst of the storm SIM takes a breath and rams into the entrance, causing the door to break open as she tumbles into the dark confines of the tower.

Almost as soon as she breaches the tower the door seals shut, repairing itself and trapping SIM inside - standing up after a moment SIM proceeds to glow just enough to illuminate the area around herself and wrinkles her nose as she sees a massive image of a three-dimensional globe with red marks all over it, spinning slowly in place in the centre of the otherwise hollow tower:

"..funny.. you hate Adam so much.. yet you share a lot in common.. insane.. yet brilliant.. well.. time to shut this thing down.." SIM notes.

SIM steps forward and extends a hand, which proceeds to slowly enter the sphere much like entering a bubble - SIM taking a deep breath before walking further forward: slowly bringing the rest of her body into the sphere as she begins to merge with the Code..

"..just a little more.." SIM thinks, focusing as she closes her eyes - only to suddenly find herself falling backwards as the area shakes violently, she tumbles right out of the sphere as the area begins to warp around her to the point she is forced to close her eyes for a moment..

Encounter: The Core (Thirteen)

As Thirteen enters the warehouse the flicking light that could be seen from a distance is soon revealed to come from a massive computer screen that spans the entire length of a nearby wall, a near-perfect image of Snieller stands with his back to Thirteen, hands folded behind his back as he looks to the screen, which shows a map of world covered in red marks - the red marks reflecting off his glasses as he speaks:

"..she's a machine, you know.. SIM.. she was never alive.. what you see as emotion and friendship is merely advanced programming..".

"I don't have time for idle talk right now." Thirteen says, forming a rune circle over his palm.

Snieller doesn't turn around, the red marks on the screen beginning to glow brightly as he speaks once more:

"..you can not save her - you see.. she is inside the Code.. when you destroy me.. you destroy the Code.. when you do that.." - a small smile appears on his face, Snieller turning around slowly "..well, then SIM will die..".

"Well then..." Thirteen growls darkly. "I'll just have to eliminate you once SIM is done with the code..."

Snieller simply looks to Thirteen for a few moments, the red marks on the screen flashing dangerously as the room suddenly begins to shudder - "..you fail to understand.. you see.. she is inside the Code.. inside my mind.. however.. I am the master here.. I am the Supreme Authority..".

With that the room suddenly shatters to reveal a blinding white light, which washes over everything before turning to pure darkness..

Final Conflict - Supreme Authority

The darkness soon disappears and Thirteen finds himself next to SIM, inside the tower - Snieller now in the centre of the sphere - attached to a network of wires that begin to glow, the sphere spinning in place as the red markers flash on and off repeatedly.

SIM opens her eyes and squeaks in surprise, "..Thirteen? What are you doing here? I -!" she begins.

"..you see, SIM, this is were your intereference ends.. I am connected to the Code and by extention to every military weapon in the world - observe.. the power of extinction.." Snieller states and soon the walls of the tower glow to reveal massive screens.

The screens show large missiles slowly rising from underground bunkers, orbital satellites suddenly starting to activate and drone-fighters suddenly breaking from formation.

"..you thought I was commanding the Code from afar, didn't you SIM? no.. you see.. I am connected to the Code directly.. as it is to me.. you can not hope to understand what I have become.." Snieller states.

Thirteen summons a rune circle which explodes underneath Sneiller's feet.

SIM suddenly lets out a painful yell and clutches her stomach - as if on command Snieller simply smiles, faintly, Thirteen's attack absorbing into the sphere "..you tried to merge with the Code, SIM.. which is why I tried to warn this boy.. he can not save you.. the moment you put one foot in this sphere you sacrificed a piece of yourself to me.. in short.. I am now a part of you SIM..".

SIM growls and rights herself despite the pain, looking at the screen - seeing the drone-fighters flying towards large battle-ships while the missiles began to position themselves painfully slowly in preparation for launch, the orbital satellites also beginning the slow task of charging their experimental but deadly laser-technology.

"..Thirteen.. beat him.. before it's too late.." SIM says, her tone is determined yet grim - she knows what has to be done.. it's not just programming either.. SIM sees the world on the verge of destruction and makes her decision.. "..please.. forget about me.. I.. I understand.. just.. don't stop..".

"I'm sorry, SIM." Thirteen says quietly, before running forward at Sneiller, creating explosion after explosion with his circles. "You BASTAAAAAAAAAAARD!" he roars.

Snieller continues to observe every blow, infuriatingly invulnerable as the sphere absorbs blow after blow - SIM falls to her knees and each blast causes her to tense in pain, ears folding back as she grits her teeth: yet she takes the pain.. she has no choice..

"no matter what happens to me.. humanity must live on.. they're a young species - they do a lot of stupid mistakes.. yet all they really need.. is a chance to grow.."" SIM's words echo into Thirteen's mind, a memory of a conversation they had not so long ago.

"..you're a good person, Thirteen - remember that.." SIM's voice echoes once again.

Then silence falls as SIM falls down, passing out as the injuries become too much for her - ears folding back one last time as she lays face down on the ground: her tail being the last to stop flicking as she goes lifeless: not dead.. just beaten.

As SIM passes out Snieller's expression changes and the sphere visibly weakens, he tries to concentrate further yet the screens begin to shutdown all around him as he loses control of the Code: "..no.. no.. no..".

"DIE!!!" Thirteen snarls, leaping at Sneiller with a rune circle over his fist, dealing a punch with explosive force.

The sphere shatters and Snieller suddenly emerges, wires taking on a life of their own as they wrap around Thirteen and Snieller's human features break away to reveal a metallic skull and little more than a writhing mass of wires that barely cling to a humanoid form: the screens shattering completely as the tower shakes.

"..humanity.. must.. perish.. Adam.. must.. suffer.. you.. do not understand.." Snieller says, his form spreading even further - the wires growing like a grotesque plant as he spreads across the entire room: as this occurs SIM stirs ever so slightly.. her ears twitching as she opens her eyes..

"..Snieller.." she says, almost a whisper - reaching a hand over slowly and grabbing one of the wires that spread out nearby.

"Good people don't deserve to die from some petty act of vengeance!" Thirteen yells, trying to pull the wires off of him.

"..petty? you think this is petty, boy? this would of been mercy compared to what Adam would do - you think you have saved humanity? all you have done is condemned them to a future of unthinkable pain and torture as living batteries.." Snieller replies, wrapping a few wires around Thirteen and attempting to lift him off his feet as the mass rises to take a (very) basic humanoid form.

"..allow me to show you what you have done - you and your "petty" act of "kindness".." Snieller continues - trying to hold Thirteen in place as a projection plays in front of the two: showing a barren world filled with gigantic floating cities made of silver and patrolled by thousands of armored soldiers all with the face of Adam Man: the view closes in to one of the cities and reveals each of the massive towers is filled with humans of all ages and sizes, encased in tubes and floating haplessly as wires connected them to the floating city: below a beam of light bursts forth every now and then, striking the ground below like lightning, when the blast clears a new soldier emerges from the small crater, fully-formed and ready to be collected by a troop of soldiers who wait patiently nearby.

"..this is the future you have created - mine was an act of mercy.. humanity would be better off dead than in a world where Adam and his spawn live and breath.. I warned you.. yet you wouldn't listen!" Snieller yells out.

"Oh, don't worry..." Thirteen snarls. "Because when Adam rears his ugly head, there'll be good people there to stop him as well."

Snieller becomes angry now as he lifts Thirteen up, yelling "..good people!? good people!? I was kidnapped, tortured and killed! where were the good people then!? where were they when I was literally dragged across the streets.." - the image of Snieller being dragged across the street, police fighting in vain as Adam simply bulldozed past them plays, Snieller kicking and screaming the whole while.

"..I begged them to kill me! anything.. yet they didn't listen.. I was taken to my death and the world just let it happen!" Snieller exclaims, throwing Thirteen violently with the wires only to feel something touch him from behind: he turns and sees SIM - still laying on the ground, her hand clutching one of the wires.

"..Adam will be stopped.. he'll pay for what he did to you.. to all of us.. but not like this.. not like this.." SIM whispers, focusing as a glowing light emerges from her hand and spreads into Snieller: causing him to let out a bestial roar as he clutches at his skull.

"..AAARGH! ..what - what are you doing.. to me?!" he roars.

"..erasing the Code from your memory.. I'm sorry, Snieller.. I truly am.." SIM whispers again, keeping her grip even as Snieller prepares to bring several wires down on her in an attempt to crush her weakened form.

Thirteen gets up from where he was thrown, and sees Sneiller about to crush SIM. "SIM! Look out!" he calls.

SIM keeps a hold on the wire as Snieller and the tower proceed to fall down all around her, the scene suddenly fading into pure white as a mechanical voice echoes through Thirteen's mind <<emergency override - system shutting down in 3.. 2..1..>>.

Chapter 6 - Aftershock

The scene suddenly shifts to the real world as Thirteen finds his link to the V-Net abruptly shut down, much like awakening from an all-too-vivid nightmare.

Gasping for breath from the shock of the moment, Thirteen had to take a second to remember what had happened. He tried reactivating his V-Monitor.

For a good few minutes it's akin to trying to tune into an old television station, crackling static bursting forthy after a shaky picture appears for a brief moment - eventually the disturbance stops and Thirteen finds himself floating amidst a sea of binary code, glowing disks appearing beneath his feet and acting like platforms.

The area is quiet and almost haunting as the binary code slowly falls much like rainfall, the entire realm seems abandoned yet strangely tranquil.

"Where... am I?" Thirteen wonders aloud. "Hello? SIM? Is anyone here?" he calls out.

For a long while there is nothing but silence - then in the distance a chair can just be made out, facing away from Thirteen, looking out into the endless sea of data: the figure sitting on it obscured save for a long tail which flicks slightly to and fro.

Thirteen begins to approach the chair. "SIM? SIM, is that you?"

The figure doesn't turn around as a familar voice speaks "..the V-Net will repair with time - the Human Extermination Code has been erased from Snieller's mind.. it is a part of me now.." - the figure taps a finger against the side of their head "..inside my mind.. it should be safe there..".

"Wait... you can't just erase it?"

"..life is sacred.. no matter how twisted.." SIM replies, turning around - as she does so her appearance is different, her eyes sad and her fur unkempt as she generally gives off the appearance of being tired and weak.

"..besides.. now it is in my mind I have the knowledge to combat it should anyone try and create a new one.." she continues, then stops for a few moments as she returns to looking at the sea of data.

"..you know, Thirteen.. I'm not sure what happened.. or why it happened.. but.. thank you.. for being my friend.." SIM says after the pause.

"SIM, I..." Thirteen begins. "...no. Thank you. You've shown me both friendship and purpose. I've always lived life on an impulse, but... to become attached to people... I think it would make this life worthwhile. Thank you for showing that to me."

SIM smiles slightly "..remember what I said, Thirteen.. you're a good person.. life is a beautiful thing - never let anyone tell you otherwise.. people are young and foolish - all they need is a chance to grow..".

SIM suddenly jumps as a projection appears in front of her showing a very flustered military man with an almost comically large handlebar moustache - the projection flickering on and off as they clearly have difficulty connecting: "..SIM! SIM! answer me damn it! what the Hell is going on in there!? we've just had reports of unauthorized tampering with military equipment across the entire globe! do you have any idea what this is going to do for our publicity!? SIM! I know you can hear me damn it! answer or I swear I'm coming in! SIM!?!"

"...I think you'd better deal with that guy." Thirteen says half-sheepishly to SIM. "He looks kinda pissed."

SIM folds her ears back, then nods - smiling to Thirteen "..remember, whenever you feel alone or you don't quite understand - I'm always here..".

SIM jumps again as the figure bellows loudly "SIM!? that's it -! you! get me a V-Monitor, I'm going in! What?! I *KNOW* it's dangerous, damnit! give me that thing! goddamn eggheads.. SIM?! I'm coming in there, you here me?! I'm coming in!".

SIM squeaks and stands up, forming a screen as she beginning tapping at "buttons" in the air - "..I better try and fix up a report before the General bursts a blood vessel.. goodbye Thirteen and good luck..".

"You too, SIM." Thirteen says. He takes one last glance at SIM before disconnecting himself from the V-Net.

After awakening in the small apartment room, Thirteen remains sitting on the edge of his bed for several minutes, thinking.

"I don't think this was supposed to even happen..." Thirteen thought to himself. "Father would get upset at me for becoming sidetracked. But it was worth it." Thirteen holds up the V-Monitor and observes it for a moment. "My first friend... I'll know where to find you. I'll be back someday."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The scene shifts to Gene Labs - a large office building filled with many workers, the scene shifts across several rooms and past a long hallway until it ends at a small darkened room where a single research assistant sat alone at a desk with an old monitor in front of himself, the screen lighting up the otherwise pitch black room.

The assistant leans back, kicking his feet up on the desk as he ate a donut - observing the monitor, suddenly jumping as a message appeared on the screen: "You Have 1 New Message".

The assistant shook off the surprise and repositioned himself as he leaned over to look at the screen, typing a few commands on the keyboard - the message suddenly appearing: yet the assistant has no time to read before he lets out a cry of pain and falls to the ground.

The doors quickly open and lights turn on as security rush in to find the assistant dead, the keyboard still crackling with electricity as one of the guards looks to the screen "..what the hell?".

<<..I Remember..>> the text on the screen flashes continually for several times - then cuts to black as the monitor dies..

-THE END-

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