“The evolution of the lightbulb sure has taken some interesting turns. We had those incandescent bulbs for a long time, but then it turned out they just weren’t very efficient, so they made everyone get fluorescent bulbs, then just a few years later they’re all up and saying LED bulbs are the best bet. It wasn’t twenty years ago that you’d walk into a store and ask for a lightbulb, and that’s it. Now there’s so many options that it’s going to turn into a new fad, like, fan clubs for different lightbulbs and such. Maybe they’ll make a TV show about all the types of lightbulbs represented as cute high school girls. That will raise interest in the issue.”
“Chuck, we really need to stay focused here,” I say. “Can you tell me anything about what I should do to stop all of this?”
“Huh? What were we talking about again?”
I went back to Chuck’s Tech Emporium, while Karina is currently headed to the abandoned church to consult with R8PR (we decided that, in the circumstance of mindless auction robots following me everywhere, it was probably not in the best interest for me to be going to meet with a top-secret fugitive at his hideout). Meeting with both of these experts in the realm of technology could give a good grasp on what’s actually going on here, and give us a strategy on how to fight back against this Cybermancer guy Moonslash.
…At least that’s the hope. I’m currently giving it my all not to let Chuck deviate into yet another discussion about used computer parts pricing, but now he’s all on about lightbulbs. Or something.
“If you’d like, I think I have a few Magitek wand tasers in the back if you want. Can’t remember the pricing on them, though. Probably fifty bucks? One’s in pretty poor shape, I think it shocks the user one out of every five times. Been meaning to fix that…”
“No thanks. I just want to get the robots to stop following me around forever. Can you get the auction shut down?”
“Uh, we’ll see about that. Bidbay is pretty notorious about keeping its site well-maintained, but since the account was made with your legitimate info, it’ll be tough getting you out of that,” Chuck says.
“How long are we talking?”
He shrugs. “Two, three weeks?”
“Tops, don’t worry. Tops.”
“I don’t understand the question.”
“Uh, nevermind. So after the auction is shut down, it’s all good?”
Since Moonslash is a Cybermancer he has probably reprogrammed many robots to work under his direction. It is very likely that there will be everyday robots owned by everyday upper-income folk that have ‘sleeper code’ to annoy you if they spot your face. Or attack you, maybe.”
“Can I just wear a sickness mask and some sunglasses?” I ask.
“Yes, but then you’d be a doofus!”
“I don’t want to be a doofus…”
“And unfortunately, Moonslash is not one known for simple revenge schemes. He did issue the Official Decree of Challenge to you. I’m afraid you might be in for some real trouble here. Robots might not be your only problem.”
“What… does that mean? What is all this Cybermancer stuff anyway? Why haven’t I heard about it before, considering I’m in this whole ‘fighting technologically superpowered fiends’ business?”
“Ah, Morgan, so Cybermancers are a sort of organization of computer hackers,” He tells me. “But instead of hacking on the internet they typically work on real-life technology like reprogramming robots and taking over vehicles, robbing banks, that line of work. They were positively legendary back in the day. At their height in the postwar era, they were a terror to behold. They could program an army of robots in an hour, dismantle a security system with a snap of their fingers. Literally, for the ones who had Power Gloves. I hear they were talking to Denzel about a Moonslash biopic at one point. But…”
“There was gang fighting and in-fighting, the usual. Then technology caught up to them. In their heyday they committed a whole lot of technological crimes, and a lot of security improvements came about in response. After the safeguards got better, some jobs just became too risky. Most of the Cybermancers got caught or cashed out.”
“Oh, wait, so like the sky rail? It has some magnetic breakers in place to prevent anyone from tampering with its movement, but each car also has a parachute attached to the top in case some psycho blows up the railing.”
“Huh? Yeah, just like that. Why do you know about that?”
“After fighting Athena Supreme, I studied up on trains so I could protect them better if she somehow came back and derailed another one,” I say. “That’s not weird, is it?”
“No, far from it. You’re very impressive, Morgan! You’re growing up so fast…” I really don’t know if he remembers we aren’t actually related. “But I forgot all about Athena Supreme. After everything with the Social Media Killer, it almost feels nostalgic…”
“Eight people died, Chuck.”
“True. Eight is a tragedy. If only it were a thousand, it could just be a statistic…”
“Did you know Athena Supreme was a Cybermancer, too?”
If I had a drink, I’d be spitting it out right now. “What? Really?”
“Yep. She was one of their top members for a while. But she went a little nuts and got booted from the group, with their whole honor system and camaraderie thing. Then a few years later she appeared doing, well, you know, all that evil stuff. You were there.”
“I was there.”
“She was a very well-known Cybermancer, though. Surely you saw it on the news that she was one?”
“It’s extremely convenient that nobody told me anything about this. If I knew Athena Supreme was a Cybermancer, I would definitely not have treated Moonslash like a joke! What the hell is up with that?”
“Very likely you simply blocked it from your memory, as you are known to do.”
“Known to… what? Nevermind. But if I’ve already fought a Cybermancer, then it should be a pretty easy battle. I don’t want to murder the guy, but Moonslash doesn’t exactly look like the type of guy who’s going to put up much of a fight,” I say.
“Oh, that’s where you’d be wrong,” Chuck says. “Cybermancers are a linked organization of people with like-minded goals, but their approaches are vastly different. Athena Supreme’s style of combat and aggression isn’t necessarily anything like Moonslash’s. And while Moonslash may not be at his prime, he was pretty infamous back in the day for his fighting prowess.”
“I’m pretty scrappy and he’s pretty shabby, so I’m not expecting much.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. That Power Glove of his is pretty darn versatile. I’d just love to get my hands on it and take it apart… I’ll probably offer him some cash for it if I ever get the chance. Been saving up for a while. The electronics in there have got to be twenty years old, and yet the stuff it does…”
“What should I do right now, then?”
Oh, here we go again with the hmmm-ing. “I feel like I should just fight him directly. Right now feels like a good time.”
“And then be swarmed by a hundred hostile robots at the same time?”
“That’ll never happen.”
“Moonslash’s dangerous, Morgan. Your best bet is to take it easy and keep it safe. You never know when he’s gonna strike next. Fighting ain’t gonna be easy. You’re better off going to the Data Farm and seeing if you can extract some info on the guy, try to beat him from the inside.”
“That sounds a bit drastic… Or a bit too much like my sister.”
“You don’t know her. At least, I hope you don’t. She’s big on the Data Farm and all that junk.”
“It’s pretty useful. I’ll tell you what, if I can’t find anything to stop this guy, I’ll pay your way in there. Then you can dig into all those hidden backstories and such.”
“Why don’t you do that yourself?”
“I’m a busy man, Morgan,” Chuck says.
“Indeed you are.”
“So with that, I wish you luck. Lay low, laugh loud, languish.”
“It’s a saying in the Eastern Union. Means take a chill pill.”
“A ‘chill pill…’”
“Also, I need the copy of your game.”
Wait, what? “What? Wait…”
“Yep. You might face some increased danger if you have the copy of Genesis Crush on you, considering things. I’ll keep it safe for you ‘till everything’s resolved.”
“Absolutely not. I’d rather die. I need to play this game.”
“Now, now. I’ve got a rather large selection of used games if you wanna check’em out. A whole rack of Super Nintendo games at ten dollars. You ever play Super Variations? Real trippy.”
I don’t want any extra damn games… But Chuck’s probably right. My dreams of playing Genesis Crush this weekend are now crushed, and even worse it was probably Karina’s only weekend off for ages.
I’ve battled heinous villains, risked my life chasing teenage girls, nearly gotten blown up a couple times, but none of that compares to how annoyed I am about this Cybermancer stuff.
All I wanted to do was sit down with Karina and play Genesis Crush. I wanted to learn acquire one of the hundreds of unique weapons the game has to offer and some beat’em up combos to defeat all of my foes with laser katanas and diamond brass knuckles and cracked baseball bats… But now I’m having to give up the game for fear that it could put me in mortal danger.
And I don’t even get to fight the guy yet. I can’t even take revenge in some cathartic manner that will allow me to realize that the real Genesis Crush was the friends we made along the way and end it all in a fun battle where I defeat yet another villain in a decisive one-on-one duel.
This is the worst possible outcome of events. I cannot imagine it getting any worse than this. Absolutely no way.