It was an easy job. Well, an easy job for him. Impossible for any baseline below his level, which was almost every baseline.
DiceGen was silently working on the newest model G-Phantom, but their big secret wasn’t quite as secret as had been assumed. Arin Taurin had gotten the call – a private contractor, working through Chang, wanted a working prototype of the G-Phantom Blade, and they wanted it in time to undercut DiceGen’s July showcase. No big deal. It wasn’t the first time Arin had dug around in DiceGen’s innards. He already had the company’s security protocols wrapped around his finger, he knew how their guards operated – even knew of the little Nova mercenary that DiceGen liked to keep on the hush-hush.
He’d talked his way into convincing R&D that he’d been there for weeks, stealing the appropriate credentials or inventing them outright. A week of walking the facility’s halls unquestioned and he knew exactly where everything was – every camera, every guard, every lock and every damn key. Most importantly, he knew where the Phantom was, and how to get to it.
The night of the score, everything went as planned. A little virus to bring down the cameras and alarm systems, a little retinal scan bypassed with a little backdoor program of his own design. It took a mere fifteen minutes to get from Arin’s car to the vault in which DiceGen kept its Phantom Blade, the latest and greatest innovation in consumer electronics… and soon to be in the hands of a wealthy, grateful competitor.
Arin never even got to touch the thing before the lights flashed and the shouting started. Blinding torches shone mercilessly in his eyes, a man yelled his name and ordered him to put his hands in the air.
He’d been caught. It made no sense. He never got caught. This night was meticulous, perfect, nothing had been left to chance.
That voice again demanded he raise his hands.
Sweat poured down Taurin’s face and his head pounded. He hadn’t made a mistake. All variables had been proofed against. All operations were within parameters. A setup. Someone had set him up. Chang? Not Chang. That made no sense. Who had Chang been working for? Who else knew? Who could have gained from this?
It wasn’t Arin’s fault. This was no error. He didn’t make errors. No miscalculation. No error. No mistake. A setup. Who had screwed him over? Who had made the error?
The world around him swirled and slowed. He was numbly aware of guns pointed in his direction, of increasingly furious demands barked by whoever was in charge. None of that mattered. As the world crawled sluggishly, Arin’s mind raced a mile a minute. He could only repeatedly – madly – question what had gone wrong. Who had turned. Why. Why why why?
The clattering of metal on marble snapped Arin back into reality. One of the… he assumed police, maybe… had dropped their gun on the floor. Then another. Several of the figures began to sway drunkenly. One man, Arin saw, clutched his head and moaned loudly. Then suddenly, chaos.
Arin’s would-be captors were falling, stumbling. Some had vomited. The man who’d been yelling was now rubbing his eyes violently, the words coming from his mouth barely resembling words at all. One man lunged toward Arin, grasped at him with a trembling hand, and fell. The thief staggered away from these confused men. He himself was terrified, had no idea what the hell was happening. He turned and left the room, leaving behind him a squad of gasping, gibbering wrecks.
Having abandoned the score, Arin turned a corner, and found himself face to face with someone he recognized – it was one of the DiceGen Novas. They’d never met, but he had this one’s file, knew what she was capable of. She was clearly waiting for him, and just as she raised a glowing hand, he thrust his own toward her.
The Nova’s hand stopped glowing.
She looked at her arm, confused, before suddenly it took on the appearance of a writhing snake, snapping at her. She screamed in terror, fell back against the wall. Arin suddenly became aware that he was controlling the snake. He was making it move, snap, hiss. The Nova shook off her fright and the hand glowed again. Once more, Arin stopped her before she could start. Then, she too, began to sway and stumble, confused and unsteady.
Arin encountered no more resistance as he fled the building, but he realized he was in deep, deep trouble. He’d been compromised. Everything he’d worked for, everything he’d done, it was all up in smoke. All over an easy goddamn score.
But there was no time for rage. Above all things, Arin Taurin was a professional, and he had no time to track down whoever had attempted to end him. Vengeance was not important. Survival was. It was time to die, and find something else to do.
The encryption codes were already written. The ciphers were all in place. A dozen offshore accounts were primed for activation. Arin may not had anticipated tonight, but he anticipated its eventuality.
He initiated the Nobody Protocol. From here on out, that’s who he would have to be.