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Corruptor: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Friday, September 17, 2010 20:39 EDT



    Rodney, Chelsea and John watched in shocked horror as the video sent from the terrorists was replayed by CNN for the second time, each of them at a loss for words. Though they had not missed the original message, seeing it played a second time drove the point home. Rodney looked back out the room towards his daughter, his stomach sick. His heart ached at the thought of losing her as well.

    “We are the people,” the disembodied voice began again, the person speaking shadowed out by lack of lighting. Behind him stood four or five more, equally darkened and unseen faces. Rodney resisted the urge to scream at them, to call them cowards. Instead, he continued to listen to the spiel of hate the voice was saying.

    “We are all people here on this planet, to help each other. Yet here we are, dropping money into a vast cesspool for personal entertainment while millions of people across the world starve to death daily. The apathy shown is sickening. The wealthiest nations of the world wish to escape reality by creating games, while the rest of the world suffers within the reality created by the rich. It is a sick and cruel world that we are force fed daily.

    “But now, brothers and sisters, we say no more! No more injustices inflicted upon the poor by the wealthy! No more favorites! Every man, woman and child shall be equal from now on! And how, you may ask, do we propose this? Simple: we have taken the wealthiest children in the world and have, essentially, kidnapped them.

    “We took the future politicians, leaders, and gluttons of our world and have used their own toy, their own escapism from reality, against them. Right now, as we speak, there are roughly twenty-five thousand of the wealthiest children in the world logged onto a game within The Warp called Crisis. Right now we demand that WarpSoft, the largest perpetrator of these expensive escapism toys, pays one million dollars for each person trapped within Crisis. Twenty-five thousand captives at one million dollars apiece. Mere pocket change for a company that is the largest and wealthiest in the world, I presume. This money must be spread amongst the world’s poor, with the exception of a twenty-five percent ‘acquisition’s fee’ for us. We will spread the wealth ourselves.

    “Oh, and before each parent runs to unplug their child from the system, a warning. We have uploaded a virus within the system itself. When a player signs off, generally there is a twenty-second period to allow the player to readjust to the sights and sounds outside of The Warp. When this happens, sometimes there is nausea and fainting.

    “If a player is unplugged while our virus is still active within the server, however, that player will immediately suffer seizures of the worst sort. After that, pulses sent from the virus into the brain itself will overload the sensory system of the body. The brain will try to respond reflexively, and this will trigger even more seizures. Maybe even comas. During these heavy seizures, the brain will attempt to shut down. In most cases, I predict aneurysms and death.

    “So, wealthy people of this little mud ball we call home, I suggest that you call upon WarpSoft to rescue your children, because as each hour passes, your children come closer to dehydration, starvation, like those poor children in Africa, and eventually death. And death, gluttons of the world, is a harsh reality that nobody can escape from.”

    The video ended and the anchorman nodded slowly, looking down briefly at his notes before he spoke.

    “That was the demands of the terrorists, as we showed you earlier,” the anchorman said in a smooth, velvety tone, his voice betraying no emotion. Chelsea turned off the screen as he began to tell viewers the same information as earlier. She turned and looked at her new boss, wondering how she could help him. Rodney, however, was lost in thought and did not notice the measured gaze his employee had given him.

    “Well?” John asked finally. Rodney looked at him, his eyes bloodshot and tired.

    “Well what?” Rodney asked, exasperation heavy in his voice. “Twenty-five billion dollars? WarpSoft doesn’t have that kind of money, I’m certain!”

    He stood up and walked to the smaller living room where Tori sat. Her face, from what he could see beneath the helmet, was loose and relaxed, with the neural interface messing up her hair slightly. He gently touched her cheek with the back of his hand and fought the urge to yank the damn machine off her head. He sighed. He heard someone enter the room behind him and knew immediately who it was. He did not say anything. Instead he waited for her to speak first.

    “Nothing we could have done, Rodney,” Chelsea said and placed her hand on his shoulder. He did not notice the warmth or concern in her voice. He nodded numbly and got down on one knee, in front of his daughter. He gingerly placed his arms around her, holding her. He knew she could not feel it, not now anyways. He held her and whispered to her in her unhearing ear.

    “It’s okay, Piglet,” he whispered softly as a tear trickled slowly down his unshaven cheek, his voice chocked full of emotion and heart-rending fear. “Daddy’s here. Daddy’s here.”

    Rodney felt his gut wrench, and despite the presence of a woman he had only met earlier in the day, rested his head on his daughter’s lap and began to sob. All his fear and pain poured out in the outburst at the threat of the loss of the only important person left in his life. He felt his tears running down his cheeks, and he was unconcerned at what Chelsea, or anyone else for that matter, might have thought of their new boss.

    Chelsea turned to leave, but was arrested by the sight of father and daughter. She could not help but stare. Watching Rodney cry on his daughter’s lap was something that no proper Whitten would allow to happen. Her father, when she had cried as a child, had passed her off to Nana, her elderly nanny. She had thought, while growing up, everyone’s parents were like her own. She learned much later that this was not true. Yet, it still shook her to watch true, unbridled emotion. It also woke something deep within her, and her own eyes watered slightly.

    “Mr. Adams?” Chelsea called out gently, unsure. “Rodney?”

    Rodney raised his tear stained face and looked at her, confused. He had forgotten the younger woman was still there. He had forgotten anything else in the world existed for a moment. He wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand and looked at Chelsea, his features confused and pained.

    “We’d help her better,” Chelsea stated, measuring each word carefully, “if we were back at the headquarters, hunting these bastards down.”

    Rodney nodded and looked behind her. John was standing in the doorway, cell phone in hand. He wore a worried expression.

    “Good news and bad news, sir,” John said as Rodney got up slowly. He looked down at his daughter and gently brushed her cheek once more. John continued. “Good news is that it is a central problem, according to one of the developers. They have a team flying in.”

    “Bad news?” Rodney asked tonelessly as he looked down on the innocent face of his daughter.

    “The source of the problem is within Crisis itself,” John replied. “We aren’t just WarpSoft-Europe, sir. We are the primary server for Crisis. This is bad, because it means that our problem just got worse.”

    “This is bad?” Chelsea asked, confused. “That should mean we can track the problem better, correct?”

    “It means that whoever did this,” Rodney muttered as he walked back to the living room, his voice despondent. “They knew how to access our server points and change everything. Someone on the inside, or was on the inside, and left a back door. Not some garden variety hacker. This was done by pros.”

    “I’ve searched twice, sir,” John replied with a shake of his head. “I didn’t find anything. This can’t be an internal hack.”

    “When we get back, search again. And again. Keep searching until you find it.”

    “Yes, sir,” John said. Rodney, with one last look over his shoulder towards his daughter, walked towards the front door. Chelsea began to follow, but Rodney stopped her as they reached the front door.

    “I need a favor,” Rodney began, but Chelsea had already nodded.

    “I’ll stay with her, sir… Rodney,” Chelsea corrected, her eyes locked onto his. “Until this is over.”

    “Thank you,” Rodney said and walked out the door. John followed him after grabbing Rodney’s suitcase, and Chelsea, very gently, closed the front door behind them.

    Rodney walked to the car and allowed John to drive once more. As they sat down and he gunned the engine, John grew morbidly curious. John knew how it would feel if he were to suffer the threat of a loss such as this. Redundant as it was, he still had to ask, though.

    “You okay, sir?” John asked. Rodney nodded absently. John looked at him doubtfully but accelerated from the row of houses anyway, weaving around two cars. Time was of the essence, both men knew. Which meant certain traffic laws were about to be broken, John thought grimly.

    “I’m going to kill the people who did this,” Rodney vowed. John was a stated pacifist and known throughout the company as one not prone to any rash action or response. For once, John was in silent agreement at the thought of violence.

    “Texas-style justice,” John whispered under his breath, remembering his ancestors’ creed against those who would hurt innocents. “This is not going to be a time to turn the other cheek.”

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