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Corruptor: Chapter Two

       Last updated: Monday, August 23, 2010 20:12 EDT



    Tori stared out the rain-covered window at the dark ocean below, her mind in what her father often called her “alpha state”. She was unconsciously aware of her surroundings, but her brain was processing information at a frightening speed. She was daydreaming, which allowed her brain to freely roam in any direction as she thought over problems within the game.

    She had discovered a new node last week, one she was certain that nobody else knew of. Made for uploading codes and power ports, whoever controlled a node received a small commission payment for letting other coders use them whenever they uploaded new codes. Even if her character was killed off, the rules stipulated that the money and prestige earned would still go to her main account. Not only was the node a potential cash cow for her, but it also gave her the opportunity to upload her latest attempt at a sequence code, something she had problems with in the past.

    Her first code could only be described as a disaster, one that her friends within the game still teased her about. Who cared about making light repel off you, she thought sullenly as her thought process shifted slightly. While the idea of bending the light around a player had appealed to her from a physics vantage point at the time, it quickly was apparent that it did not make her invisible in the daylight. Instead, it had made her nothing but a human-shaped black blob of nothing, standing out in the open. She had been extremely lucky that there was no other threat around at the time.

    The more advanced coders had scoffed at her, tormenting her to no ends after she first used it. While it made for great camouflage at night, she could not think of any other use for it. Later codes were minor, things she bought off other coders and spliced to do slightly different things for her. Almost all were of the defensive variety, which suited her just fine. Defense wins championships, she recalled her father telling her on more than one occasion.

    Her more recent coding efforts, however, were far more skilled and advanced. It allowed her to temporarily defy gravity, jumping higher into the air with such speed that to an attacker she would have simply disappeared. While in the air, the code allowed her to attack her opponent. It would be brutally devastating in a gladiator combat, or any sort of conflict with a Moderator. If I ever get a chance to use it, her thoughts decidedly darkened. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples with her fingertips. She knew that being grumpy was not going to change anything, but even that knowledge did not change her mood.

    She scrunched up her nose in thought, unaware of her father’s scrutiny as he sat next to her. Rodney glanced sideways at his daughter and smiled, a painful memory tugging at his heart. That was Karen’s face whenever she was deep in thought, he recognized as he looked at her peaches and cream complexion. With the exception of her freckles and blonde locks, she was a spitting image of his late wife. Rodney sighed and looked back at his laptop, his own dark memories threatening to ruin his mood.

    Karen had been so dear to him, the very first woman to take notice of the geeky athlete-computer nerd in Economics 201. She had drawn him out of his shell, forcing him to interact with others while encouraging him to see the potential she had seen in him. It had been due to her insistence that he tried out for the football team at Michigan. She had wanted him to continue to play even after he was named to the practice squad. It had thrilled her to no end when he was named to the starting roster, even if it were for just one game.

    It had been Karen who had encouraged him to invest his money back into the growing dot-com businesses, in spite of the past failings. He had made a killing due to her bravery and his knowledge. The day that she had told him she was pregnant, Rodney felt like the king of the world. Karen, so brave and valiant in the past for him, was going to brave life’s greatest adventure yet, he remembered painfully. And he had sworn to be by her side, he had promised her in the doctor’s office sixteen years before. He sighed and tore himself away from that train of thought. It would lead to the painful memories, the worst memories of his life. He refocused back onto his computer screen, ignoring the ache which had settled back deep into his own heart.

    Budget issues, he thought incredulously as his mind slowly pieced together the spreadsheet he had been staring at for the past ten minutes. All the money in the world being made by us, and we’re still worried about budget issues? Absurd.

    Tori opened her eyes and looked over at her father briefly, an odd feeling coming over her. He was deep into his laptop, a sign of work. She shook her head. I hate when I feel I’m being stared at, she thought as she turned her head back to the window. Off in the distance, a very faint strip of land appeared on the horizon as the sun began to peek up beyond it. She smiled and drifted off into her mind once more, her thoughts coalescing into a more solid idea.

    If I can buy a code off Raul, she thought as plans began to form collectively in her mind. I can combine some of the sequences on my new node. I can sell that and help Daddy out, so he won’t be so sad anymore. It must be expensive to let me have my gaming habits after all. I can help pay some of the bills and, I dunno, maybe help out around the house more? Gah, I feel guilty.

    You should feel guilty, she thought angrily to herself. You play your game four or five hours a day, while Daddy works to pay for it. Add that towards your schooling and you, little girl, are an expensive little brat.

    Stop it, she told herself. He never said anything. You can help, but doesn’t he let you play the game whenever you want?

    Yeah, because he thinks it’s therapeutic, her conscience reminded her. Both the shrink and Daddy think that this is your way of dealing with Mommy’s death.

    Stop it, stop it, stop it! Tori screamed internally. This has nothing to do with Momm- my mother. This is just me, confused, tired and really pissed off.

    Not too confused to spend a ton of money, her conscience said smugly. Or to use the game as an escape mechanism from the pains of reality. Face it, missy, while you run off and hide, Daddy deals with the pain. Every. Single. Day. Think about that next time you log on.

    Tori curled up into a small ball and stared out the window, miserable. She really, really hated her conscience.



    Ten hours later, Tori exited the sliding glass door behind her father and stared. Her suitcase in her hand felt heavy as her jaw dropped in amazement. She felt her fragile control on her temper slip as she caught sight of her first look of the country of Germany. This was supposed to be her home for the next few years?! she silently screamed as she looked at her surroundings. Her father beckoned for her to follow, but Tori remained still, rooted in place. It was summer, and yet…

    It was wet and cold. Rain cascaded down in buckets as thunder rolled overhead, a clear “welcome home, sucker” sign if she had ever seen one. Or rather, she thought, a promise. She almost turned and walked back into the concourse area of the airport, but an overly eager man attempted to usher her towards a waiting cab. Rodney shook his head and pointed down the road. The man squinted his eyes and shrugged, waving and babbling something in German. Tori walked over to her father and set her suitcase down, hard. She crossed her arms across her chest and glared up at him. Rodney carefully hid his smile as a small Passat, doing a very good imitation of an F-1 race car, barreled down the road. It wove between other cars, including passing a truck on the right side. This elicited a few angry honks from other drivers, but the driver apparently either couldn’t hear them, or simply just didn’t care.

    The car swerved across traffic and screeched to a halt directly in front of an astonished Tori. She was so surprised at the sudden arrival of the car at her feet that she did not have time to dodge the sudden small splash of water from the car’s tires. She stared down at her feet and pant legs, both of which were officially drenched. Her eyes rose and bore into the small car, which was idling quietly before her.

    The German luggage attendant who had attempted to help them to a cab jumped back from the curb as the driver’s door opened. Rodney stood still and watched as the driver, a tall, heavy man with an archaic goatee and a hearty smile, stumbled out of the car. Tori gasped in amazement, her anger momentarily forgotten in her sudden surprise. The man had stumbled because the Passat was obviously not designed with someone over seven feet tall in mind. He looked around and appeared almost startled when he spotted Rodney and Tori waiting. He hurried around the back of the car and stuck out his hand to Rodney.

    “John Kalishek,” he huffed, slightly out of breath. He let go of Rodney’s hand. He squatted down and looked at Tori, who was slightly disturbed. The man was definitely over seven feet tall, she decided as he offered her a smile. “You must be Tori.”

    “Yeah,” Tori muttered, looking at her father. She could have killed him as she caught sight of a smile. Instead of committing sixteen different types of felonies, she moved to the trunk of the car and waited for John to open it for her. The man, however, was busy shaking her father’s hand and ignoring the arrival of the airport police officer pulling up behind the parked car.

    “So good to have you, Mr. Adams,” John was saying, ignoring the pouring rain and Tori’s displeased look. He grabbed Rodney’s bag and hurried around to the trunk. Tori waited, her anger growing as he muttered an apology and went back to the driver’s side. A second later, the trunk popped open. Tori heaved her suitcase into the back and threw her second, heavier one on top of it. She cursed a very unladylike curse suddenly as she remembered what else was packed in the first suitcase. If anything broke, I’m going to go nuclear, she swore silently.

    “Tori!” Rodney snapped, looking at his daughter in surprise. “Watch your language.”

    “Sorry Daddy,” Tori muttered under her breath. She sighed. This was not going to be pleasant, she thought as she got into the backseat of the car. John closed the trunk and got into the car, ignoring the demands of the police officer. Tori wondered briefly if the officer was merely a rented cop. John snapped something back to the officer in German, which seemed to mollify him briefly. Her father hopped into the front seat, giving Tori the luxury of the spacious backseat. She stretched out across the backseat and closed her eyes.

    Maybe I can get some sleep, she thought hopefully. That hope was in vain, however, as John’s heavy Texan accent cut through the bad German hip hop music on the radio. Or maybe it was techno-pop, Tori thought and made a face. Bad techno-pop, she had thought, was dead. Apparently not in Germany.

    “So good to finally meet you, Mr. Adams,” John said, his Texas drawl evident despite months of living in Germany. “Guys at work can’t wait to meet you either.”

    Rodney nodded and glanced back to his daughter, who was in all appearance asleep. However, he spotted her furrowed forehead and knew immediately she was faking. He turned forward and gave John a meaningful look. Rodney quickly shook his head. The Texan nodded understandingly.

    “You’ll like the Bundesliga,” John said instead, steering the conversation away from work. “I root for Hamburg, y’know? Pro football ain’t much here, but at least I can catch some. I mean, you know, American pro football. The rest of the boys watch Bundesliga on the vid. Stuttgart looks solid this year, but around the office the consensus is Dortmund. I miss the old NFL, but trying to find other fans here is a joke. So I started getting into the Bundesliga, and next thing I know, I’m a Hamburg fan. Odd stuff. That Beckham kid will probably be better than his pappy, but time will tell, eh? I mean, we get some channels down there… I mean, well, you know what I mean.” He finished sheepishly, as he guided the heat-seeking missile disguised as a compact car across the road.

    Rodney nodded and swore internally; the last thing he needed, besides a new job and a very temperamental daughter, was a loud-mouthed employee who might violate the confidentiality agreement within the office. He made a brief mental note to speak with the OPSEC within the Ramstein office about internal security issues. Potential slip-ups must be prevented. Rodney sighed mentally and decided it was time to change subjects.

    “So we have a former colonel’s house?” Rodney asked as the small German car accelerated past a large truck. Pressed into his seat by the car’s acceleration, Rodney’s eyes widened as John easily dodged between what resembled a semi and a van with scant inches to spare on either side of the smaller compact. John whistled nonchalantly to the beat on the radio while Rodney clutched the handle above the door. He hazarded a glance back at Tori, who still appeared to be asleep. Not for the first time did he envy the carefree existence that was youth. Or her ability to block out the terrors of a Texan driving on the autobahn during rush hour traffic.

    “Yup,” John confirmed, masterfully- or insanely, if Rodney had been asked- weaving through the afternoon Saarbrucken traffic. Rain splashed upon the windshield and the wipers frantically tried to keep up with it, to no avail. Rodney squinted, but could see nothing except the heavy rain. He glanced over at John, who appeared to be having no problems seeing, thankfully. He settled back and tried to enjoy the ride.

    “How can you see in this?” Rodney asked, waving a hand at the windshield. John glanced over and grinned.

    “Oh, yeah,” John said as he ruthlessly cut off an elderly couple as he changed lanes. “I spray on this bead-be-gone stuff for rain. It basically makes the rain get off my window as fast as possible. The wipers just help more. Must’ve forgotten to put some on your side, boss. Sorry.” A horn honked nastily behind them, but John was already changing lanes and passing another black sports car.

    Rodney swallowed and nodded as John continued the merry trek of doom and destruction that was the A6 in the afternoon.




    “Not bad,” Rodney admitted as he stepped into the foyer of the large house. While the facility had been abandoned as a military base years before, civilian contractors and businesses located on the base had ensured that the housing was both maintained and used. Including the massive, luxurious houses located on what had previously been known as Officer’s Row.

    Officer’s Row was a collection of two and three-story Victorian houses which had been used by both German and American senior officers. The houses dated back to the late eighteen hundreds, which was something of a miracle considering what the Soviets did during World War II while marching to Berlin. A few were torn down to add in some smaller and comfortable housing for civilians now living on base, but as a whole they remained virtually untouched.

    Rodney set his suitcase down while John, ever helpful, huffed and puffed as he struggled with two of the oversized suitcases. Tori’s suitcase weighed the most, due to the interface device in her bag. Rodney carefully hid a smile as he looked at the heavy bag.

    Years, he smirked as he walked into the large living room across from the foyer. I could get chores for years if she knew. That would, as Rodney, John and every other employee knew, be a breach of the confidentiality agreement they all were forced to sign upon being hired. WarpSoft was very strict about that and enforced the internal rules religiously.

    The dream of one man, WarpSoft was founded upon the basic principal that traditional online role playing games were simply too limited, too restrictive, for most players. Side quests of past games simply deviated briefly from the prewritten script, and thus players were limited as to where they could go and what to explore. The games threatened to grow stagnant as new patches were uploaded and quickly beaten by veteran players. WarpSoft, when created, had vowed to break the stagnation and start something nobody had ever even dreamed of before.

    First, game designers at WarpSoft decided that players should be able to travel between worlds. If a player grew bored within the Gladiator world, they could go over to Espionage and game there. Get bored there, and the gamer could travel to Haven, or visit the fantasy realm of Kadashter, or the odd and fantastical events that were in Cupid. Thankfully, Cupid was blocked off for underage users, Rodney thought with a smile as he looked around at the sparsely furnished living room. Within each world within the Warp, however, were unlimited possibilities.

    The world map for each world was just that, a picture of the entire known world. Within each world, if the gamer didn’t want to beat the game, the individual could just wander around forever exploring, mapping as they went and selling the maps to newer players. Or they could simply stick to mini quests, which would allow them to finish the game at a different level without actually defeating it outright. Some players took that route, and were glad for it. Players were not forced onto one general path to beating the game; instead, multiple paths could lead to multiple endings. That innovation alone guaranteed the loyalty of millions of customers daily.

    Rodney thought he knew of a few ways to beat some of the games, though they were simply theories. Formerly a lead programmer for an upstart company during the second dot-com boom of 2018 at the tender age of twenty-two, he managed to get out of his company before the market crash of 2021. A nice little nest egg and a pregnant wife allowed Rodney the excuse to work from home and develop his own software, and since Tori had been born two months before the official crash, it had worked out well enough for him to choose his path in life and be happy with it.

    This path through his life would have remained the same had not Karen, the first and only love of his life, died in a car crash on Tori’s third birthday. Rodney had spiraled downward into a pit of despair until he realized that Tori needed him, and struggled to bring himself out of the horrible depression and away from the alcoholism. At the same time, his skills and theories in programming had come to the attention of the most powerful businessman in the western hemisphere. After meeting him, the man had hired him after a fifteen minute discussion. That had happened twelve years before.

    Tori ran past him and bolted upstairs, ignoring a sweating John and her father to pick out her room. Rodney smiled wistfully and looked back at John.

    “I’ll be in tomorrow morning,” he said. John nodded in agreement.

    “Yeah, we work Saturdays,” John replied with a small smile. “Overtime for us lowly peons rocks.”

    “I bet,” Rodney stated, amused. “I’ve got it from here. Thanks for all the help.”

    “No problem.” John nodded and walked to the front door. Just as he was about to step back out into the rain he paused, uncertain. He looked back over his shoulder at Rodney questioningly. “You might want to come in early tomorrow though.”

    “Oh?” Rodney asked, curious. John nodded.

    “Yeah, one of the worlds is acting up,” he muttered under his breath, casting a wary glance upstairs.

    “No problem, we’ll debug it tomorrow first thing,” Rodney said with a monstrous yawn. John nodded and stepped back out into the pouring rain. Rodney closed the door behind him and looked around their new home. Above, he could hear Tori’s footsteps on the hardwood floors as she investigated the house. He sighed and smiled sadly.

    “Home, sweet home.”



    “We’re all in,” Apollo stated as he looked around at his small group, all of whom were seated around the fire. The warm glow of the fire lit the immediate area surrounding them, casting a deceivingly peaceful aura onto the group. The night sky overhead could have passed for a real sky, except for the odd constellations which passed through space. Whoever had created them had what could only be described as a warped sense of humor, he thought as the constellation known simply as Not-A-Virgin circled overhead. He shook his head ruefully and looked at his allies.

    “Yeah,” Moonbat grunted. He shot a wary look at Gargoyle, who coolly nodded. In spite of the reliance each had on one another, the level of distrust still ran high, and would remain so until the operation began. All of them knew that the possibility of one betraying the other was there.

    “First lock out sequence begins in five hours,” Apollo reminded them. “Make sure to leave an I/O port open for us to leave from after we get the money.”

    “I’m on it,” Gorilla stated firmly. “Port is open; I’ll IM it to you guys.”

    “Good,” Apollo smiled. He looked at each of them and raised a stick from the fire. He smiled and looked at the burnt marshmallow. He blew on it for a second before he popped it into his mouth. Digital or not, the marshmallow still tasted like a marshmallow, he thought, his grin turning wolfish. His good humor bubbled to the surface suddenly.

    “Lady and gentlemen,” Apollo laughed. “To us!”

    “To us!” the group chorused, each with a raised stick and a burnt marshmallow in hand. Apollo’s smile remained predatory.

    “And a whole lotta money!”

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