"Whoa, this is much nicer than I was expecting!"
James said excitedly as he quickly took a knee to examine the rig.
"No needles? I know they're barbaric, but they have the best frequency."
Milly shook her head at the question as she walked around to the other side of the rig.
"It's the best one we have, which means it's about five years out of date. It's mostly neural connections and sensors, so to answer your question, no needles!"
"Are the bosses okay with this plan of yours? It could be a trap you know..."
James asked as he looked at Milly directly, concern written over his face.
"You're probably the only person that would ask that. Everyone else would be logged in by now, chasing those credits!"
Pacing around, Milly started tapping the tablet in her hands before exhaling loudly.
"I checked them out as much as I could, but I really think they're legit. Dad says he trusts me, so it's a green light from the Boss man!"
Nodding his head, James stood up and started to take off his shirt.
"Ugh, at least let me close the door!"
Milly laughed as she tapped her wrist, causing the door to close and lock them in the room together.
"Also have we really become that close all of a sudden?"
She gestured at his now exposed chest.
As the fabric enveloped his face, her eyes darted across the needle wounds on his arms. She had the tact to hide the disappointment on her face.
James answered in a deadpan tone as he started to unbutton his trousers.
"Hey, it wouldn't be so bad. We hitch up, you'll get bumped up to C-Class through marriage. Dad gets some grandkids and we play games all day. How does that not sound perfect?"
Milly listed all the benefits to their hypothetical relationship with a thoughtful expression.
"You're actually scaring me right now."
James grunted as he hopped on one leg, trying to remove his shoe.
"Like, we'd obviously adopt! We wouldn't have to do any of that stuff."
Milly shuddered at the concept before shaking her head with a wistful smile.
"Anyways, you're wasting time! Chop-chop! Hurry up! Lets go!"
"If you've the time to be planning our future, you could be giving me the specs of this job instead. I don't want to be going in blind."
Milly tilted her head slightly before shrugging her shoulders.
"I don't know why we go through this speech everytime... maybe it's like our warchant?"
The tapping of her tablet filled the quiet room and James noticed for the first time that he wasn't at all cold, despite the fact that he was standing in an open space in his underwear.
"Get in the rig. The sensors will need a bit of time to adjust to your body. When was the last time you had a protein pack?"
James marvelled at how quickly Milly could switch into business mode.
"Five days ago."
"That's not going to work, give me a sec."
Climbing into the rig, James had to admit that it was incredibly comfortable. He was used to metallic cocoons, but this was luxury by comparison. Plush cushions welcomed his body and started to mold around him.
As he lay down, the cool surface of the backrest caused him to gasp involuntarily. He stared at the ceiling waiting for further instructions from Milly.
"Lower your lumbar."
James shuffled around the mold, trying to follow her instructions but the cushions just followed his movements.
"Are you even trying?"
Milly teased as she appeared at his side, looking down at him with a smirk on her face.
Before he could retort, she leaned over and pressed her hand down on his abdomen.
Flipping the screen in her hand, she showed him the green picture of what he assumed was his spine aligned perfectly to the rig.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?"
"Hey, I'm not used to these fancy ones!"
James muttered defensively.
"Don't scream when the protein injects."
Milly instructed as she held her hand down on top of his chest.
"Inject? What do you me- OH FUCK!"
James immediately tried to lift his body up as a host of hidden needles shot into various parts of his torso. Milly's steadying hand kept his weak body in place and James could have sworn she was suppressing a smile.
Nodding her head, Milly continued to monitor his vitals on the tablet in her hand. After a few moments she seemed satisfied and looked back at James with a sigh.
"It's actually insane how you've survived all these years. Your body barely meets the minimum specs to operate these rigs... Ugh, give me your wrist!"
James knew better than to say anything and merely raised his hand for her to access his terminal.
"I'll bypass the security on your Social Licence, so you can log-in immediately after that point. It should give you a clear window to complete the job, and I'll cover our tracks from this side."
Milly said absentmindedly as she studied the tablet in her own hand.
"How are you able to bypass it?"
James questioned with genuine interest. He didn't really expect Milly to be a hacker, but then again, he never expected to be doing any Platinum jobs either.
"We query your profile and slowly investigate your gaming history for our own records. Turns out there's an exploit in that system where it reactivates dormant or locked accounts during a verification process. Most people don't know about it since the window of opportunity is so short."
James gaped at Milly in shock.
"Yeah, I know."
She grinned in response without even looking at him.
"So how long does the verification usually take? A few seconds?"
James tried to calculate in his head but couldn't even fathom how long the window could be.
"As long as I need it to be... if they ask, I just tell them I'm thorough with my background checks."
"That's just incredible."
James said in wonder as he processed the information.
"Besides, how many people would be paying attention to an E-Classer that hasn't played in 10 years?!"
Milly teased as she started the sequence on her tablet. She winked at James who laughed before sliding the visor down over his face.
Milly of DV8 is requesting access to the following details:
Social Gaming Licence: Number
Social Gaming Licence: Name
Social Gaming Licence: Achievements
Social Gaming Licence: Messaging History
Social Gaming Licence: Friends List
Social Gaming Licence: Game List
"Don't overthink it."
Milly said gently as she waited for his verification.
James nodded as he verified the request and accepted it.
After a few moments of Milly working on her own terminal, a notification popped up in front of James, bringing him a decade worth of nostalgia and longing.
Social Gaming Licence Approved:
Welcome Back, Travesty!
Time Since last Login: 10 years, 4 months, 12 days...
Please Review Terms of Service Updates.
"You're up! I know I said that you should be quick, but don't be reckless. There's a lot of money on the table. Stick to your basics."
Milly warned as she continued to monitor his wrist.
The lights on the visor illuminated to show that James had successfully logged in. Unknown to him, his wrist started to vibrate repeatedly with countless notifications.
Milly looked down in a panic when she read the messages, but froze when she saw who sent them.
Ten years of notifications flooded through James' wrist and Milly felt like she couldn't breathe.
| Message from Helena: Are you okay? Please tell me you're okay.
|Message from Greaves: Buddy, I'm sorry I was an ass. We got through to the finals... So, eh, thanks. I mean it.
|Message from Khance: You must have set like the new world record for longest session, what was that... like, 40hrs? You're gonna go down in history for this!
|Message from Scarr: Helena is going crazy dude, you need to tell her you're okay.
Milly watched in complete disbelief as thousands of messages streamed through.
Initially joyous messages turned into those of concern, with Helena's name appearing more and more regularly.
Looking through the notifications, Milly could see that each of the Paragon's deeply cared about James.
"You actually know them..."
Milly whispered as she looked down at James in the rig.
Suddenly, a different noise emanated around the room and Milly looked down to see what caused it.
Milly froze on the spot as she looked at the notification. Glancing at James, she had no idea how he would react if she was to open it on his behalf.
So many of the messages that came in were from the Paragons and they were incredibly emotional and raw.
Milly couldn't stop herself and bit her lip as she clicked on the message.
The moment words appeared on the screen, Milly realised that she quite possibly just made the greatest mistake of her life.
|Message from Helena: Please accept.
A series of prompts followed the message.
|Helena wishes to know your current location.
Do you wish to accept?
Helena wishes to exchange legal identities.
Warning! Sharing personal information with strangers can lead to identity theft and could compromise your safety. Please be sure that 'Helena' is someone that you know and trust before accepting.
Do you wish to accept?
Milly glanced back at James, her hand hovering over the decline button when she caught sight once again of the scars on his arms.
"Please don't hate me."
Milly muttered as she made her decision.