James awoke to an annoying ceaseless vibration that kept shaking his wrist. His initial attempts to mute it failed and eventually he found himself staring at the ceiling, wondering why he had set an alarm.
The notification window illuminated the previously pitch black room, and James knew it wasn't a wake up reminder. Those reminders were in a red window, which was infinitely more forgiving than the blue window in front of him.
|Funds Received from Dryksell Pharmaceuticals|
He stared at the words for a few moments. Knowing what each of them meant individually, but not together in a sentence.
Clicking the notification dumbly, James sat bolt upright and re-read the message over and over again.
|A note from the office of Graham Dryksell - CEO of Dryksell Pharmaceuticals|
I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for what has happened to you, PatientName.
Our status as one of the Three Big Pharmas has made us arrogant, and worst of all, complacent.
You came to us for help, and one of our employees, Dr. Ruth Meadows, betrayed that trust.
As a gesture of our good faith, and our ambition to correct this, we would like to reimburse your treatment cost.
James felt his hand trembling as he clicked on the flashing icon within his interface.
|Programme: VR Cessation
Advised Duration: 24 Months
Actual Duration: 72 Months
Monthly Fee: $2,500.00
Total To Reimburse: $180,000.00
Disbelief washed over him as he read and re-read the words in front of him. Waving his wrist around in front of him, he confirmed that the message was in fact real and that it was sent to him.
Taking a steady breath, James clicked into his personal funds account... hoping to see the large sum of money waiting for him.
- TravelCard: $200.00 (Pay Now?)
Whilst it was the most amount of money he ever had on himself at any one time in the last decade, it didn't have the $180,000.00 that he was being promised.
James went through his messages again and eventually found the answer.
He stared at the message before laughing humorlessly.
|By special request, of Senior Vice President, Dr. Sarah Dryksell of Dryksell Pharmaceuticals.
Your reimbursed funds shall be credited against your existing medical loans.
Dr. Sarah Dryksell thanks you for taking it personally and contributing your reimbursed funds to society.
"I think I'm actually going to kill her."
James said aloud before he felt a smile across his face.
"How would an E-Classer destroy an S-Classer?"
Whipping off the covers, James got to his feet and tapped the controls on his bedside locker. His automatic blinds activated and revealed the bright blue skies outside.
"Let's figure it out..."
James quickly got dressed before opening the door of his room. What he saw caused his jaw to drop.
The Rig was almost fully assembled, and it was gorgeous. Smooth obsidian panelling where you couldn't see where one piece started and another finished. An ethereal blue glow pulsed across the slick black surface as though the machine was alive. The previous array of components that littered the floor was massively reduced.
Liliana stood beside it triumphantly. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail and her visor was flashing as she ran diagnostics on the machine. She wore a black tank top that hugged her chest, while her midriff was exposed just above the pants of her uniform. Her free eye glanced up and locked onto James' excited expression.
"It's about time you woke up! I needed you forever ago!"
James looked at her and was relieved to see that she wasn't actually annoyed.
"Come on, better late than never. Put this on!"
She opened one of the boxes beside her and pulled out a long sheet of material that seemed to move like liquid.
"What is it?"
James asked as he caught it awkwardly in mid air.
"Doesn't matter, less talking and more changing."
Liliana urged as she made a chopping motion with her hand.
James looked at the material in his hand and then back at Liliana and made a judgement call.
He started undressing in front of her as quickly as he could. When he looked up, he saw that she was still staring at him.
"Aren't you even going to turn around?"
The engineer shrugged with a wide smile.
"I need to make sure you put it on correctly."
James just shook his head as he pulled the material on. It was like a large jumpsuit that covered the majority of his body up to his neck. All that was exposed was a long strip along his spine which he knew was to give access to the metal snake thing he saw earlier.
"Excellent, you'd be amazed at the amount of people that put it on backwards. I'm happy to see that you're in the smarter 50%."
Tapping the cushioned interior of the Rig, Liliana indicated that James should step into it which he did eagerly.
"Don't worry, we won't be logging on yet. There are just a few little tests I need to do, and then you'll be free for a few hours... and then I'll need you again."
Liliana explained quickly as she adjusted each of his legs into a specific position. Her hands went to his thighs, and adjusted them too. Then her hands went to his waist and pressed it down against the cool metallic plates that were beneath him.
"I'll be adding in some cushioned padding later, but for now I just need to make sure we know where your spine is. Otherwise, if we sent the needles in wrong, you'd never walk again."
James looked her in the eye he could see, and he was immediately reassured by the playful wink she gave him.
Her right hand pressed down on his chest and James was reminded of the moment Milly had done the same thing to him in DV8. He braced himself for the stabbing sensation, but it never came. He opened his eyes and looked at Liliana who was concentrating intently at something above his head. James' eyes momentarily wandered across her body which was practically on top of him.
"Should I be worried that your heart rate just spiked a little there?"
Liliana's voice sounded out from above him.
Her face appeared in front of his and her hand once again pressed down on his chest.
"Or should I be flattered?"
Before James could say a word, the engineer tapped on the side of the rig and told him that she needed him out of it.
"I didn't mean..."
Liliana looked at him with a raised eyebrow and a cheeky smile.
"If you have time to be apologising, you could be getting me a coffee instead."
James pushed the coffee button twice and immediately was rewarded with two steaming cups of black liquid. Back when he had been in C-Class, it was his favourite vice. When he tasted his first cup a few days ago from the machine, he nearly cried in happiness.
Liliana eagerly took the cup from him before her attention reverted completely to the Rig.
James took that as an opportunity to start on his own little project.
One of the benefits of the District 6 Apartment was that he was able to use the windows as interfaces. When Helena showed him how easy it was to use them, he had quietly rejoiced as it was going to make his life so much easier. The first thing he did was pull all of the homework assignments from the Loremasters and put it on one window pane. Next, he pulled out a list of heroes in Abidden and Sarah Dryksell's note. He added them to a new window pane which he listed as 'Enemies' and then lastly he created a whole window section to a category he called, 'Threat Profiles'. Stepping back from the windows, he adjusted the lighting to make them more visible. If Liliana noticed, she didn't give any indication.
James then went onto the online store and started searching for a Household Artificial Intelligence. They were incredibly basic entities that could be purchased online without needing a licence. If you wanted something on the level of Locke, or a military grade AI, then you needed a licence. As he went through the list that was on offer, he couldn't help but notice that each of the options in the store had disclaimers on them.
"... that they'll have full access to all data."
James muttered to himself in annoyance before an idea struck him.
Tapping his wrist, he initiated a call with Dario which continued to ring for a full minute.
Just as James was going to hang up and try a different tactic, a gruff voice answered.
"Hi Mr. Hargreaves, I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Of course you are-... n't. Sorry, how can I help you? Is everything okay?"
"I'm looking to buy an Artificial Intelligence in the store, but I can't figur-"
"Stop! Immediately! Don't buy any of that shit, it's all spyware!"
"Oh right, well I'm sorry for bothering you, Mr. Hargreaves."
"Stop being so apologetic, I'm not done. Why do you need an AI?"
"I need to run simulations, calculations and find public information as efficiently as possible, Sir."
"Okay, I'm going to send you an AI that you can use freely. It's one of the early Alpha builds of Locke before we launched Abidden. It's called Jackal, and should have all the capabilities that you need."
James couldn't believe what he just heard. One of the most powerful Artificial Intelligences in the world, and Dario was going to give him an early version of it.
"But Mr. Hargreaves, the licence..."
"Stop calling me Mr. Hargreaves. You're on the team now, call me Dario. As for the licence, myself and Quentin are the licence holders for Locke. Locke will retain full access to the server, so she'll have oversight of all your activities... so if anything was to pop up that could be a threat, Jackal will tell Locke, and Locke will tell us. Understood?"
"Yes, Mr. Dario. Thank you."
James facepalmed as he heard his own words.
A barking laugh was all he heard before the other line went dead.
Glancing back at Liliana, James saw that she had her music back on and was busy with work.
His wrist vibrated followed by a prompt that appeared on his interface.
|Jackal would like access to the following systems...|
James accepted all the terms and conditions as he remembered the promise he made to Helena.
"Time to be the Playmaker."