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I know I have "left" the RPing community but I couldn't let the SIM series die out as it is actually an important part of my RL as well (for reasons which may come clear later, if I'm lucky). This story takes place after SIM City, which shall be completed when I have the time - minor spoilers will be found, sadly.. however they won't be enough to make SIM City completely worthless and trust me you'll want to keep an eye on SIM City as well as the story will be just as fun as this one (hopefully).

If you have a character with a connection to SIM get ready because this may just be one of the most heart-breaking moments they'll face - as well as one of the most intense stories I have ever written..

Prologue

SIM lay in the burning wreckage of what was once her beloved V-Net, now over-run by malicious users and viruses - given horrific form by the power of virtual-reality gone mad: her ears folded back as she curled into a fetal position, tail twitching uncontrollably as she closed her eyes and wept, her tears glowing like the digital data manifesting around her as they stained her fur.

SIM continued to weep as the landscape shattered around her as if some invisible hand had thrown reality itself into a diabolic blender and pressed the switch - soon their was nothing but a spiralling mass of chaos, the ground breaking beneath SIM and sending her tumbling down into the abyss.

As SIM feel down a pair of glowing red eyes appeared and a mouth filled with razor-sharp fangs grinned menacingly before cruel laughter filled the air:

"Kill or be killed, SIM.. that's how the world works.. you.. me.. we aren't so different.. I'm just honest.. you on the other hand are only prolonging the inevitable..".

SIM opened her eyes, which glew brightly with green energy and she snarled - unleashing a beam of energy from her fists that shattered the grinning face, the laughter turning to a horrific shriek as everything turned black..

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

"..SIM? SIM? You okay?" a voice rang out from the darkness and SIM opened her eyes, seeing a familar figure sitting next to her.

"..Ugh.. Striker? ..W-what are you doing here?" SIM asked, rubbing her head as she sat up - looking around at the alien landscape which was the V-Net, tranquil as it could ever be.

"Oh nothing.. nothing.. just checking up on you.. making sure you're feeling better.." Freedom-Striker replied.

"Honestly? I feel so strange.. sick.. Striker? ..what's happening to me?" SIM replied, looking to Freedom-Striker with concern in her eyes.

"You're broken SIM but we're going to fix you.." Freedom-Striker said.

"Y-you are?" SIM said, folding her ears back.

"Yeah, you'll see - it's going to be okay.." Freedom-Striker smiled.

"I..I believe you, Striker.. I.. I'm sorry.. for everything.." SIM said.

"No SIM, I'm sorry.. I'm so sorry.." Freedom-Striker said, his smile fading as he sat by her side and watched her.

Chapter 1

"Doctor Foster may of been one of the world's most dangerous and depraved criminals but there is no denying his genius - which is what makes fighting this corruption so difficult.. you see.. SIM gave it all to protect the V-Net.. she sacrificed more than we can imagine.. I fear the virus Doctor Foster transfered to her however will not be reversed.." a man in a white suit declared, addressing a group of individuals in a small room, the image of a seemingly well-mannered man projected onto the wall - however those present would see nothing pleasant in this image for this was the image of a madman.. a monster who almost succeeded in making the V-Net his own personal laboratory by which to both cause and cure insanity - it was SIM, with the help of Sangria, who toppled his plan and seemingly killed the madman in the process.

However the price of victory was high, for in his final moment Doctor Foster infected SIM with a virus that had been corrupting her slowly but surely - so far all attempts to reverse it had failed.

"Listen, I appreciate what she did as much as anyone but we can't keep pretending she is a living creature - for the safety of humanity we have to terminate SIM before her condition worsens.." a large man states, finally breaking the silence.

"No!" Thirteen yelled, slamming his fist down with rage. The table cracked beneath his hand.

"Thirteen, control yourself." Redwood said, his nose in a copy of Dante's Inferno. "I don't like this any more than you do."

Thirteen bit back an angry retort, kicked his chair from beneath him, and stormed out. "You know what? Fuck this." He growled.

As Thirteen left another figure noted under their breath "..who invited the freaks anyway? haven't they caused enough trouble?"

"ISDF wants everyone who knows about SIM to be here - keep every option open.." a voice whispered in return.

Redwood sighed and flipped a page in his novel. "So what is the general consensus?" he asked aloud.

"SIM is a machine, when a machine is damaged beyond one's ability to repair it must be replaced.. we made SIM once.. we can do it again.." one of the figures said.

"And how do we know that SIM is beyond help?" Redwood asked. Another page flipped. "Have we honestly tried every reasonable thing that we could do?"

"We've worked day and night for several months now on trying to undo the corruption - nothing has worked.. the longer the virus stays the more it corrupts SIM and with her the V-Net as a whole.. for the safety of humanity we must shut down SIM and start a new.. sure, it will be costly.. it will set us back generations but the alternative is risking too much.. the V-Net has already been the cause of several major crisises that have nearly destroyed this world.. we simply can't afford another.. their is only so much people will put up with.." the man in the white suit stated.

"Unless, of course, you superhumans can magically "fix" the problem.. then by all means.. be our guests.." one of the figures said with more than a hint of bitterness.

Redwood raised an eyebrow in response- he knew better than to lash out at those who despised him as a superhuman. "Give me time. I might just be able to work on a solution. If it doesn't work out, then terminate SIM and begin rebuilding."

"You have one week.." the man in the white suit said "..however, the Ship-Mouse project has already began and should you fail we will have little option but to have them take over SIM's role.. until we can rebuild it..".

The mention of the Ship-Mouse project caused a few startled expressions in the room but no one said anything direct as the man in the white suit motioned towards the doors.

"Until next time gentlemen.. ladies..".

"Understood." Redwood said, taking his leave.

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

Upon leaving the room the crowd soon drift out into the hall, as they do so a new figure stands to one side and observes them leave - the figure attracting a few looks and being watched over by a tall man in a white lab coat.

The figure was neither human nor animal, a near-perfect fusion - however his left eye had visible cybernetic implants as did his right hand. one of his ears also had what looked like small metal studs embedded in them.

Redwood couldn't help but shudder slightly upon seeing him- the man made him feel uneasy.

"Professor Gerald, this is most unexpected.. I had hoped we could keep the Ship-Mice hidden a little longer, I had only just announced the project and.." the man in the white suit declared as he moved over to the tall man.

"Jacob shall be no harm, if this project is to succeed people must be exposed to the Ship-Mice before mass production can begin.. we do not want a repeat of the Cyclone travesty do we?" Professor Gerald said.

The Ship-Mouse looked around a little, seeming to be nervous as he hid a little from the crowds - holding onto Gerald's coat much like a child would try to use its parent as a shield when afraid or shy.

"Jacob? Is that what you call him now?" the man in the white said, glancing over at the Ship-Mouse.

"Yes, Jacob's Ladder - some would say it is wrong for a man of science such as myself to use such symbolisms but I see no wrong in it.. Jacob is after all the first step in humanity's future.. giving the.. unfortunate.. termination of SIM.." Professor Gerald said.

Redwood frowned as he overheard the conversation. "The path to heaven... Jacob's Ladder? And just what are these Ship-Mice?" he thought to himself.

"SIM's termination has been delayed, we have superhumans that believe they have a solution and although I doubt they will be successful we can't give up it yet - the Ship-Mice aren't ready for full command of the V-Net yet.. they barely even have an understanding of what it is to be a sentient being, let alone how to control the collective information of humanity and many other species.." the man in the white suit said.

"Yet if the Ship-Mouse project is to be successful we must push them, these are the future pilots of entire colonies after all.." Professor Gerald replied.

"Don't be so eager to reach for the stars, Gerald - Earth is still very much alive and I for one do not wish to abandon it quite yet.. you'll find the stars are not as welcomig as they appear at first.." the man in the white suit warned.

As the two figures continued their long debate the Ship-Mouse slowly moved away from Professor Gerald and like a curious child disappeared into a nearby room - his creator too busy trying to argue his case to notice.

Redwood's curiosity was aroused. He spun around and followed the Ship-Mouse.

The Ship-Mouse made his way further into the room before he found a quiet corner, sitting down he closes his eyes and a soft green glow emits from his body as he makes contact with the V-Net - entering a similar state as someone interacting with a V-Monitor.

"Curiouser and curiouser," Redwood thought to himself. He stood still, watching for a few moments before deciding not to disturb the Ship-Mouse. He turned to leave.

Chapter 2

SIM lay on her back and stared up at the floating data that made up the V-Net, manifesting as glowing binary code - Freedom-Striker still sitting by her side, he hadn't left her side for two days now and was clearly suffering a lack of sleep.

"You need to go, Striker.. Killing yourself isn't going to do anything.." SIM said.

"I'm used to not sleep, besides - you never know what the V-Net can throw at you.." Freedom-Striker replied.

"I'm dying Striker but I'm not dead yet, I can still take care of the V-Net" SIM said.

Shortly after SIM said this the Ship-Mouse materialized in a glowing portal, stepping out and looking over to Freedom-Striker and SIM with an emotionless stance.

"What the-?" Freedom-Striker began, standing up only to fall to his knees as the Ship-Mouse held out a hand and formed glowing chains around his arms and legs, much like handcuffs.

SIM noticed this and tried to rise to her feet as well only for the Ship-Mouse to swiftly leap over and pin her to the ground, his expression changing into a snarl.

"You're ruining everything! Just die! die! die! die!" he growls and begins to choke her before she can fully react.

"HEY!" a familiar voice shouted out; Thirteen appeared, throwing a powerful kick towards the head of the Ship-Mouse.

The Ship-Mouse reacts quickly, leaping out of the way - as he looks to Thirteen tears form in his eyes - his face becoming one of agonizing rage as his eyes burn in a green light and the ground shakes violently around himself:

"NO! NO! NOOOOO!".

SIM's eyes grow wide as she leaps up instinctively and blocks Thirteen as the Ship-Mouse unleashes a massive beam of energy that sends out shockwaves across the area - "THIRTEEN!".

Freedom-Striker sees this and growls audibly, flexing and snapping his bonds as he leaps forward and begins to pummel on the Ship-Mouse, who quickly fights back - able to rival Freedom-Striker in intensity.

Thirteen runs toward the Ship-Mouse, slipping a glove-like gauntlet onto his hand, covered with a number of rune circles. He places his hand on the floor. A circle on his gauntlet activates, and several sections of the floor lift up like chains to restrain the Ship-Mouse.

The Ship-Mouse growls and grabs the chains in his hands with frightening accuracy - despite the rage in his eyes he is obviously focusing extremely well on the battle, tears begin to roll down his cheeks as he tugs on the chains with incredible strength: aiming to spin Thirteen right off his feet:

"I'M NOT GOING BACK IN THE CAGE!" he yells out, delivering a quick kick to send Freedom-Striker flying back as well - Striker seeming momentarily stunned at the intensity of his opponent, who seemed more than capable of taking on both him and Thirteen at the same time.

Thirteen leaps back as the Ship-Mouse throws the chains off of itself; he responds by activating another circle, sending a ball of compressed air hurtling toward his opponent like a large, invisible bullet.

The Ship-Mouse lets out an animal-like scream of rage before disappearing in a flash of light, leaving Freedom-Striker looking as stunned as before - "..what the fuck was that?".

"It's called a Ship-Mouse, I think," Raven Redwood said, emerging onto the scene. "They are going to replace SIM if I can't find a cure for her virus in one week."

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

At the same time in the real world Jacob awoke with a start and gasped, tears still staining his cheeks as he clenched his fists and growled - only to let out a squeak as a hand fell down on his shoulder.

"You have failed me, Jacob - I gave you life and this is the thanks I recieve.. am I not good to you?" Professor Gerald said, twisting Jacob's shoulder until the Ship-Mouse grimaced in pain.

"P-please.. I'm sorry.. I.." Jacob trembled.

"Stop that pathetic whimpering.." Professor Gerald said, his face completely emotionless as he continued to twist Jacob's shoulder, the Ship-Mouse beginning to struggle as he fought back the instinct to lash out.

"There were others.. they.. they stopped me.." Jacob tried to explain.

"You were discovered?" Professor Gerald said, his face turning to rage as he released Jacob's shoulder - the shaking Ship-Mouse falling to the ground.

"I.. I'm sorry.. I.." Jacob squeaked only to feel one of his ears twisted back painfully as Professor Gerald yanked him up.

"You are worthless, Jacob - now let's get you back to the cage with the rest of the failures.." Professor Gerald said.

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

Back in the V-Net Freedom-Striker looked over to the arriving Redwood, "..Ship-Mouse? well - that doesn't sound good..".

SIM sits up and traces her hand over a large cut across her torso, which glows green "..I'm sorry.." she whispers.

"Sorry for what? There's nothing to be sorry about," Thirteen said.

SIM looks to Thirteen, smiles a little and opens her mouth as if to reply then suddenly collapses back on the ground - Striker moves over quickly as this occurs.

"What the -? SIM?! Hey! SIM! Come on! Don't do this now! SIM!" Freedom-Striker says.

"SIM!" Thirteen calls out, kneeling down by her side.

SIM doesn't respond however as she slips into a sleep-like state, though she is still breathing - Striker frowns as he bows his head: "..Damn it.. the virus is killing her.. she tries so hard to fight it but she can't.. not alone.. not like this..".

Striker clutches his hands into fists before looking up with a dangerous look, switching between Redwood and Thirteen: "..listen - I'll stay here and keep SIM safe.. you need to find out what the fuck is going on with these Ship-Mice, as well as find a way to stop whatever shit Foster injected into SIM.."

"I was assigned to find a cure. I have one week to do so," Redwood said. "Thirteen, consider this a new mission for the Alliance. I want you to look into these Ship-Mice. There's something about them that I find... suspicious."

Freedom-Striker narrows his eyes, looking down at SIM but addressing Redwood "..you have as long as you need.. a week.. a decade.. don't matter.. she's not going to be replaced..".

As Freedom-Striker finishes a familiar voice echoes out "..you hold too much faith in your limited power, Striker.." - a portal opening as a tall African-American male steps out, his emotionless expression, futurisitic armor and silver eyes all betray his true identity.

"Adam Man..." Raven growled.

"Why're you here?!" Thirteen demanded.

"I am here to inform you that the cure to SIM's condition has been found.." Adam Man says simply, tossing a small contained filled with glowing geen liquid to Raven.

"...what?!" Thirteen exclaimed.

"Yeah, and I'm the King of Spain." Redwood said sarcastically, catching the vial. "Nope, sorry, but I'm not playing this game with you, Adam."

Adam Man turns around as he enters a portal, slowly fading from sight "..do what you will, Raven - I do not care either way.. destroy it and you'll of robbed yourself of a possible cure - no matter how slim.. use it and you may of fallen into a trap.. either way.. I am done here..".

Raven stared at the green liquid in his hand, shaking his head. "There's no way... unless... but even then..." he muttered.

Suddenly the area shakes slightly as a holographic projection of Professor Gerald's face appears before the group - <<Thirteen.. Raven.. I need you're assistance at once in the base.. we're under attack..>>.

Redwood raised an eyebrow. Given the incident with the Ship-Mouse, added to his initial suspicions from earlier, he had no reason to trust Professor Gerald.

"Thirteen, you stay," Redwood said, throwing him the vial. "Keep ahold of that, but don't use it. I want to observe it later."

Freedom-Striker looks to Redwood before speaking out "..Raven, you can't be serious about walking into an obvious trap alone.. I'll stay here and watch SIM, Thirteen will be more use to you in reality.. my body is currently in an apartment no doubt covered in pizza boxes and wearing little more than boxer shorts.. I'm hardly going to be much use to you.. however here in the V-Net I can at least pretend I'm not a washed-up loser.. I can help SIM.. like she helped me..".

It's not apparent what Freedom-Striker is talking about but his words paint a pretty clear picture, he needs this task - if only to keep himself sane.

"Obvious trap is obvious," Redwood said, tossing the vial to Striker. "Do NOT use that under any circumstances." Let's go, Thirteen." He and Thirteen suddenly disconnected from the V-Net. Thirteen looked back toward SIM before he left; a look of concern crossed his face, and it seemed that he was about to say something, but decided against it and disappeared.

Chapter 3

Sure enough upon entering the real world Redwood and Thirteen find themselves thrown into the heat of a full-scale attack as the base is raided, the masked attackers somewhat familiar to Thirteen as members of HAG, the same terrorists who had began his whole adventure with SIM - somewhat fitting, in a way, that they would return now..

The HAG agents smashed windows and trashed lab equipment while crowds of scientists and workers fled in a panic, fallen security guards littering the floor as sirens blare through the halls.

Thirteen ran straight into the fray, grabbing an agent by his throat and throwing his body against a wall, before charging down two other agents and sending them into oblivion with two well-placed blows.

As Thirteen fights more HAG agents break into the halls and open fire, Professor Gerald emerging alongside the man dressed in white - the two seeming to argue despite the chaos around them.

"Gerald! Give me those files! I won't let you do this!" the man in white exclaims, tugging at a small canister in Gerald's hands, Gerald reacts by violently hitting the man to the floor and storming into a nearby room.

"You and the superhuman fools have done enough damage as it is, I won't let you get in the way of my progress.." Gerald declares.

Silently, Redwood slipped into the room after Gerald, knowing full-well that Thirteen could handle himself despite gunfire.

What Redwood discovers is quite a distressing sight, cages filled with Ship-Mice - many of them malformed, sick or generally abused: some looking no older than children as they huddled together, fearful eyes looking around as their ears remained flat in a sign of distress.

"I have what I need, these files will allow me to start my work in full.. with the lab gone the fools at ISDF will have no choice but to grant me the right.." Gerald mutters to himself as he begins shattering devices and digs into his pocket, revealing a lighter as he clearly intends on setting the whole place on fire.

"P-please.. stop.." a voice begs from one the cages, clearly that of Jacob - the Ship-Mouse clearly scared and weak.

"Shut up! You can burn with the rest of the failures.." Gerald growled, not even bothering to look around.

Redwood reached into his trenchcoat and withdrew his gun, pointing and clicking the weapon at Gerald and clearing his throat loudly. "Don't move, or I'll shoot."

Gerald frowns as he raises his hands, staring away from Redwood as he speaks calmly "You are making a mistake, humanity should be encouraged to grow to its full potential.. not to be shackled and restrained..".

"As much as I'd like to debate personal philosophy, I'm afraid I've got no time for that," Redwood said. "Attempting to destroy SIM, trying to burn down this whole place- I'm 93.7% you're also behind the attack with HAG..."

Gerald makes no attempt to move as he replies, again with perfect cam "..SIM is already a lost cause, attempting to keep that outdated technology "alive" is wasting time and resources which could be used in the Ship-Mouse project.. those HAG agents are a distraction - or rather they were *meant* to be.. as for burning this place down.. I prefer to think of it as doing away with my mistakes..".

Gerald remains completely emotionless as several of the Ship-Mice shiver in their cages, still huddled together - fearful of the sounds of fighting from outside and seeming to know that they were trapped.. alone and waiting to die.. for many of them the only thing they had endured in their short lives was misery and abuse.

"Doing away with your mistakes my ass," Redwood said. "You are guilty of both attempted arson and terrorism."

Gerald puts his hands behind his head and turns to face Redwood, his face completely devoid of guilt as he states "..they are animals.. no.. not even animals.. they are machines.. designed to serve humanity.. when they become corrupted or broken it falls to us to correct them, if such efforts fail they must be purged: I know you understand..".

"..P-please.. don't hurt him.. it's my fault.. I.. I was the one who failed.." Jacob whispers to Redwood from his cage, still looking to Gerald much like a child would a parent - receiving nothing in return as Gerald simply looks to Redwood with that same emotionless face.

"Despite your cruelty to them, this is not about the machines. This is about the law- Arson, terrorism, and considering the attack on SIM, let's add 'attempted destruction of government property' to that list."

Gerald didn't even blink as he replied, "humanity needs to grow - current laws are a burden, once we are free of such outdated ideals we will become our own masters.. fit to travel the stars and claim them as our own.. I have discovered a world, not dissimilar to our own.. I have named it At Err, yet no one in ISDF shares my desire to investigate further.. with current technology it would take decades to send a vessel to At Err.. that is too long for ordinary humans to survive unaided in deep space.. but what's the use? you are not a man of science - you are another pathetic fool who thinks he can "save" the world.. even as it falls before you..".

"That's enough," Redwood said. "I am placing you under arrest, Gerald."

Gerald shakes his head slightly, "..it is not me you should worry about..".

Then it happens, almost without warning save for the opening of an all-too-familiar portal and a large hand reaching over to grab Redwood's shoulder as he feels himself suddenly shoved with tremendous force across the room.

"Leave us" the emotionless voice states as Gerald makes his escape, Jacob and the other Ship-Mice watching in a mixture of fear and surprise as Adam Man stands before them.

Redwood staggered onto his feet, the impact with the wall having jarred him and left him dazed. "Goddammit, Adam..." he growled.

Adam Man proceeded to move over to the caged Ship-Mice and grabbed the cages, bending the bars slightly with his grip "..I gave you the cure, Redwood.. yet it wasn't enough to keep you from interfering.. I blame myself, Gerald is a fool - this could of been avoided had he listened to my instruction.. no matter.. when mankind fails, a God can always succeed..".

With that Adam rips the bars clean off the Ship-Mice backing against the wall as Adam tosses the bars away and turns back towards Redwood.

"What are you trying to do, Adam?" Redwood asked. "You're the only piece in this puzzle that makes no sense to me..."

"I need SIM to be successful - to survive.. without her the V-Net is at risk.. I require the V-Net, for reasons which need not concern you.. so I offered Gerald my "aid" with the intent of destroying him.. only it seems he has done my job quite successfully by himself.." Adam replies.

"..However, thanks to you.. I am left with the task of disposing of the Ship-Mice - personally.. while their creator flees with what he believes is a file containing the information to create replacements.. in reality he has an empty file.." Adam continues, turning back towards the Ship-Mice - looking to Jacob, who was still trapped in his lone cage.

"This one believed Gerald loved him, he sought to please him like a child - yet he was born.. different.. he could feel the pain of the other Ship-Mice and blamed SIM for their plight.. he believed by destroying SIM he and the others could be happy and serve Gerald.. make "daddy" proud.." Adam states, pausing as he stares at Jacob - who curls slightly in the corner "..pathetic".

Redwood stares incredulously at Adam for a moment. "You're mad... he's mad... everyone's... everyone's mad..." he muttered; he tried walking, but Adam's attack seemed to do sufficient damage to prevent serious movement.

"Adam!" yelled Thirteen's voice; the alien superhuman had burst into the room, activating a circle on his gauntlet and throwing a fireball at Adam.

"Another failure who seeks to get in the way of a God.." Adam states as he goes on the attack, directing his assault on Thirteen now as the fireballs slow but by no means stop the insane artificial intelligence.

As the fight between the two superhumans begins Jacob looks to the other Ship-Mice "..what are you waiting for? you have to fight..".

The other Ship-Mice look to Jacob in confusion, "..I know I've said not to fight.. I always said to be good.. I. I was wrong.. we don't have to be like this.. please.. help them.." Jacob continues.

Thirteen jumps back a distance and clenches his hand, activating another rune circle on the top of his gauntlet before hurling a bolt of electricity toward Adam.

Adam forms a small shield of energy around himself which crackles as the electricity hits it, continuing his attack as many of the Ship-Mice watch, suddenly several leap out of the broken cage and leap at Adam, clawing and biting at him despite being easily overpowered.

Jacob watches this and starts slamming against the front of his own cage in an effort to break free, "..Gerald doesn't care about us.. he wants to kill us.. well.. I.. I'm done with that.. come on.." he says, a few Ship-Mice simply staying in their cages: unwilling to fight.

Thirteen runs to Adam and throws a palm-strike at him, intent on fighting hand-to-hand.

Adam slams several of the Ship-Mice to the ground then charges at Thirteen, Jacob breaking free of the cage as he looks around for a moment.

Redwood cringes slightly as he steps forward; the attack by Adam had caused each movement of his right leg to send shooting pain through his body; nevertheless, holding onto the wall for support, he removed the cloth covering his maser-eye, activating it's powers, and waiting for an entrance into the battle between Adam and Thirteen.

Adam aims a powerful headbutt at Thirteen, having always been a brutal fighter despite his intelligence - though a few Ship-Mice still grab at his legs and distract him: "..fools, why fight what you know you can not defeat?".

Jacob grabs a small object from a nearby table and runs out of the room, disappearing into the hall as the fight continues.

Adam's attack smacks into Thirteen's skull with a sickening crunch; Thirteen staggers back, clutching his head, and Redwood strikes; despite the pain shooting up his leg, he disappears in a crimson blur, reappearing almost instantly at Adam, having already thrown a kick at him.

Adam swings at Redwood, turning away from Thirteen as he kicks out, sending a few Ship-Mice crashing across the room - one of the Ship-Mice huddling in the corner looks to the table and finds a sharp piece of glass, grabbing it he runs over and plunges the shard into Adam's leg: which causes silver liquid to emit in place of ordinary blood.

Thirteen uses Adam's distraction to his advantage, jumping back again and throwing another fireball.

Adam grabs the glass and pulls it out, cutting his hand in the process as he grabs the Ship-Mouse, some of the silver liquid getting on the Ship-Mouse's fur and exposed wound before he lets go as Thirteen attacks: pressing a button on one of his wrists Adam opens up a portal and begins to back away.

"..you are all fools.. your precious notions of right and wrong will crumble and die.. that is the way for people like you.. only a God lives forever.. eternal.. unchanging.. perfect..".

"We'll see," Thirteen snarls.

Adam disappears into the portal and makes sure he has the last say "..SIM will be terminated soon, I gave you the chance to save her - instead you did the "right thing".. I hope you feel good about that.. "hero"..".

"LIAR!" Thirteen roars, but Adam was already gone; in a panic, he runs out of the room to find a V-Monitor.

"Thirteen!" Redwood calls out after him.

"Wait.." one of the Ship-Mice says, "..Jacob.. he went after Gerald.. I.. I can feel it.." - the Ship-Mouse seems nervous and holds her head, as if concentrating on something.

"Can you locate him?" Redwood asked.

"..base exit.. Jacob.. going to kill Gerald.. but.. Jacob can't.. can he?" the Ship-Mouse replies, as the others start to recover - the one who had stabbed Adam however dabs at his exposed wound as a trace of silver liquid enters the wound and fades into his blood-stream.

"Take me too him. Quickly." Redwood said.

The Ship-Mouse nods as she heads out of the room "come with me.. please.." - she then disappears into the hall.

The other Ship-Mice watch her leave but seem reluctant to leave, the lone male still staring at his wound as it slowly begins to heal - his ears perking up slightly, yet he remains silent.. as if studying this phenomena.

Redwood follows the Ship-Mouse in pursuit of Gerald, walking quickly despite the pain in his wounded leg.

As Redwood leaves the room another Ship-Mouse moves as if to follow only to stop as the lone male suddenly stands, "..no.. don't go.." he says quietly yet with authority "..we have to go.. come on..".

"..go where?" one of the Ship-Mice ask.

"Somewhere far away.. humans are the enemy now.." the male replies.

"..but we helped them.. they helped us.." one of the Ship-Mice replies.

"Doesn't matter.. when this is over they will expose us to the world.. the world will hate us.. lock us in cages.. it's time to go.." the male says as he moves over to a wall and tears off a grid leading into an air-vent system.

The other Ship-Mice follow, some reluctant but obviously not wanting to fight anymore - many just want to escape the area.

Once the last Ship-Mouse had disappeared into the vent the lone male looks back, his eyes slowly beginning to turn a strange silver coloration as he states to himself: "..they don't want us.. they never wanted us.. we are alone: it is better that way.".

Chapter 4

Meanwhile the female Ship-Mouse leads Redwood down the hallways towards the exit, the hall littered with dead and injured scientists, staff and HAG agents - some of the terrorists have claw marks on them but the scientists and staff were clearly victims of HAG gunmen.

In a small room to the right lay a V-Monitor, should Thirteen of managed to find his way to it in time.

Thirteen burst into the room, grabbing the monitor and putting it on.

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

Within moments Thirteen is transported to the V-Net, SIM and Freedom-Striker sitting nearby - however SIM is silent now and Freedom-Striker keeps his head low, not even looking to Thirteen.

"..she's gone, Thirteen.. her system is shutting down.." he said.

"NO!" Thirteen roared, rushing to SIM. "This... this isn't happening!"

SIM simply lays silent, her eyes closed - looking peaceful, as if in a deep sleep.

"..even if we could cure her the virus would of corrupted her mind, her memories would be purged - she may survive but she would have no memory of who we are or who she was.. other than the basic "SIM" program.." Freedom-Striker said.

Thirteen felt terrible- he had lost a friend once before- and the idea that SIM could return without even remembering who they were- if they were lucky, that was- horrified him.

"SIM may be a program... but she was my first friend," Thirteen said. "If we can save her, even though she won't remember us... well, I owe that to her..."

Freedom-Striker holds out the cure Adam had given to Redwood, "..you and I both wanted to test this "cure", yet we didn't want to go against Redwood.. thing is.. what do we have left to lose?".

Thirteen nodded. "I suppose... let's just do it."

Freedom-Striker nodded and injected SIM with the cure, she twitched for a moment as her whiskers went into overdrive and a small snarl appeared: she clearly felt the needle and wasn't too pleased about it: yet it took a few minutes before she finally opened her eyes.

The eyes momentarily vanished into voids of green and binary code flooded through them, a few blinks soon cleared her eyes back to their usual form as she sat up - looking between Freedom-Striker and Thirteen as her ears rose back up before flicking back and forth as she rubbed her neck.

"...SIM?" Thirteen asked.

SIM stares at Thirteen with no trace of emotion, "..welcome to the V-Net, how may I aid you?".

Freedom-Striker sighs and gets to his feet, "..well, we did it.. we'd better go now.. inform those idiots at ISDF that SIM is repaired before they order her destruction..".

Thirteen nodded sadly.

SIM simply looks to Thirteen and Freedom-Striker with expressionless eyes before she notes "..unauthorized use of ISDF weaponry detected in Base Delta - situation critical.. immediate action required.. end of line".

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

At that moment in the real world the female Ship-Mouse guides Redwood to the end of the hallway, finding Professor Gerald and Jacob standing facing one another - Jacob having formed one of his arms into a bio-tech weapon resembling a small cannon which he aimed at the scientist.

"Go ahead, Jacob.. Kill me.. Be a man.." Gerald said.

Jacob growled and kept the weapon aimed at Gerald but didn't activate it: "..y-you want to know something funny? I..I'm not a man.. I'm stronger.. faster.. smarter.. I could end it all.. right here.. just because I felt like it..".

"Well, Jacob? Do you feel like it?" Redwood asked.

Jacob lowered the weapon, firing a bolt of energy at Gerald's hand - burning a few fingers and destroying the small file he had held: Gerald jumping back as he clutched his injured hand.

"..not yet.. some day.. maybe.. I'll have to think on it.." Jacob replied, turning away.

Redwood was silent at Jacob's answer. He considered the possibility of crossing paths with the Ship-Mouse again if he indeed grew violent, but for now, having Gerald cornered was enough.

Jacob began walking down the hallway when suddenly the door behind Gerald bursts open and the scientist barely has time to blink before he is impaled by a Cyclone unit - the large robot accompanied by two other units as a monstrous female emerges behind them, her face recognizable to Redwood as Heather (from Utopia) - only now under her current form as the infamous Mother Cyclone.

"...well, shit." Redwood mumbled.

Jacob turns around and rushes back, leaping at the Cyclones only to be knocked back as a force-field forms around them, Mother Cyclone extending a hand and uncovering an orb which soon projects a screen that in turn activates monitors across the world, displaying the scene of carnage across the wavelengths.

"..Professor Gerald, a former scientist under ISDF law, has been killed.. countless others have been injured in a senseless terrorist attack caused by ISDF incompetency.. standing before you now are Agent Redwood and the Ship-Mouse known as Jacob.. who would no doubt of tried to cover this incident up like so many of ISDF's past mistakes, had it not been for the arrival of the true protectors of this world: the Cyclones.." Mother Cyclone states.

"Oh yes, the cyclones," Redwood said loudly. "The very same cold, unfeeling machines that lay waste to an entire town of peaceful superhumans as a mere test run under orders from Mother Cyclone herself. Some protectors they are!"

"Which is more dangerous? the cold, unfeeling machine or the greed and ignorance of common humanity? This is no to try and form sides.. This is simply showing the world what the ISDF have achieved.. these are the people you trust to keep your children and nations safe.." Mother Cyclone replies.

"Shut up!" Jacob growls as he punches the force-field, surprisingly breaking it as the Cyclones ready their weapons but do not actually open fire.

"Stop, Jason; she wants you to attack," Redwood said.

"I'm not going to attack her!" Jacob snaps, turning back to the Cyclones "..you want to know something, Mother Cyclone? Professor Gerald was a monster.. ISDF failed to protect us.. yet I walked away.. I decided this whole thing wasn't worth it.. that it was you who killed him and broadcast this whole thing across the world.. why? because you want to prove something? well, what did you prove? tell me? What did you prove?".

"Behold, humanity - your "hero" - a rabid animal.. who talks more sense than the men and women who currently rule you.. I think I have proved enough.." Mother Cyclone replied, shutting down the orb as she and the Cyclones began to depart.

"...I hate that woman..." Redwood growled beneath his breath.

Jacob frowns slightly then looks around, "..you'd better find your friend and get as far away from here as possible, the entire world has just had their monitors hijacked.. again.. by Cyclones, no less.. it doesn't take a genius to realize they'll be sending forces down here sooner rather than later..".

"Wait, what's going on?" Thirteen asked, just entering the scene.

Redwood frowned, silent, in thought; this was not the first time, but one of the very few times that he did not know what to do.

"The world has gone to Hell, be sure not to fall too far into the abyss.." Jacob replies to Thirteen then goes on all fours and scurries into the distance, vanishing from the scene.

Sure enough within a few moments several helicopters approach, alongside armored-vehicles and what looks like a squad of heavy-duty "Guard-Bots" (the official replacement of Cyclones, basically police-robots).

"Thirteen, we need to go," Redwood said. "We've got some explaining to do back at the Alliance."

The helicopters and vehicles continue towards the area alongside the Guard-Bots, with even more reinforcements visible in the background - the world government having obviously gone out of its way to try and deal with the situation, perhaps with good reason..

Chapter 5

A week later and a V-Net monitor shows a holographic reporter speaking out to the audience:

"Following the shocking events of last week the world government has taken full control of ISDF until further notice and tightened security across the globe: although the fears of mass-rioting has largely died down civil unrest is still a real danger as extremist groups such as the Children and Sons of Adam have taken advantage of the situation to gain power in less protected areas.. calls have been made to further restrict superhuman activities as well as a ban on further animal-human experimentation - with several laws being reviewed by the world government.. the Cyclone threat is still high and citizens are urged to remain vigilant and calm in these troubling times.."

Redwood frowned as he watched the news on television in his apartment. "...world's gone to hell..." he grumbled, crunching another empty beer can in his hand; although he wasn't an alcoholic by nature, he needed something to take his mind off of recent events...

Suddenly the reporter faded away as the screen blurred for a moment, revealing a familiar face as SIM appeared - speaking out to the world at large:

"..don't be afraid.. no matter what happens .. humanity must live on.. you're a young species - you make a lot of mistakes.. yet all you really need.. is a chance to grow.."

With that SIM disappeared and the screen went blank.

Redwood stared silently at the blank screen for a moment, before he sighed heavily.

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

In silence, and with a few well-placed punches, Thirteen knocked out three thugs, sending them sprawling onto the cold, rough asphalt of a back-alley, before making a call into a device hooked around his ear:

"I'm done here, send someone to collect the trash..."

"Good job, Thirteen," responded a female voice. He remained silent.

"You've been really down over the last few days, what's the matter?"

"It's... nothing," Thirteen said.

"You're still thinking about SIM, right?'

Thirteen frowned. Renegade had hit the mark.

"Raven told me about how much SIM meant to you," Renegade said. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Thirteen growled.

suddenly a familiar voice cuts in "..don't be angry, Thirteen.. I remember.. you.. so don't be angry.. don't be scared.. I want to tell you something - yet you need to keep it quiet.. the world's been through enough..".

"S-SIM?" Thirteen started, hardly daring to believe in the possibility that the SIM he knew still existed...

"..it took a few days but my memory came back.. at least enough of it for me to understand who you are.. who I am.. thank you for everything.. I.. I don't really know what happened out there when I was infected.. it's still a blur.. yet I remember what we did in the past.. saving the world from Authority and that monster, Warmonger.." SIM replied.

"You're back..." Thirteen exclaimed quietly, still struck with joyous disbelief.

"..Thirteen.. please.. listen to me.. something bad is going to happen.. I need to tell you but you can't let anyone know.. the world is already at war thanks to that psychotic Cyclone woman.. I don't think they're ready for another crisis.. it might just break them entirely.." SIM squeaks.

"Right, right, sorry," Thirteen said. "Just tell me, what's going to happen?"

"I'm not sure.. all I know is.. he's not dead.. Authority is still alive.. he's been working on something and he's not alone.." SIM replied.

"Not alone?" Thirteen asked. "Who's with him?"

"I don't know.. that's why I'm asking for your help.. we need to start with the obvious suspects.. who would benefit from causing a world-wide war? I mean other than the Cyclones.. who else is mad enough to try and spark another World War?" SIM said.

"I... don't know..." Thirteen said, deep in thought.

"Well just think on it Thirteen.. I need to go now.. please.. keep an eye out for anything.. anything at all.. we're not finished yet.. not by a long shot.. I just hope you don't end up hating me for all of this.." SIM replied, her signal promptly cutting off.

"Thirteen?!" Renegade's voice called out loudly, causing him to jump.

"Whoa, I'm here, no need to shout-!" Thirteen exclaimed.

"What happened? Something cut off our signal- are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Renegade," Thirteen said. "Equipment must be faulty, or something..."

"...I see..." Renegade said, barely concealing a note of suspicion.

As Thirteen finishes his sentence a figure observes from a nearby rooftop - dressed in black and holding advanced goggles, speaking into a com-link: "..seems like the kid and the SIM have some kind of alliance going on.."

a voice crackles out in response, "Good, get out of there before he finds you.. this is going to be *delicious*".

-THE END-

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