Shattered lands 3 demon.., p.1
Shattered Lands 3 Demon Wars: A LitRPG Series, page 1
SHATTERED LANDS 3
A LitRPG Series
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SHATTERED LANDS 2
The Fall Of Blackstone
SHATTERED LANDS 3
The Shattered Lands and the real world: things had gone badly in both.
In the game, Eric had lured armies from across the Shattered Lands into Blackstone – and then destroyed the city with everyone inside. Daniel hadn’t been able to stop them. In fact, he had died along with everyone else.
In the real world, Eric had broken into Varidian and given the AI every tool it could possibly need to escape the game.
The security forces at Varidian had managed to capture Eric, but whether he stayed in custody remained to be seen.
And as for the AI, that genie was out of the bottle.
Or maybe it was that demon was out of the bottle.
Daniel stared at his best friend handcuffed on the other side of the table.
Eric was happy as could be.
Red emergency lights illuminated the faces of everyone standing outside the interrogation room. Mira, Daniel’s father, CEO Shinzo Akiyama, lab techs, and a handful of Varidian security guards stood there in the crimson gloom.
All of them listened to the dark, rumbling voice echoing over the loudspeakers.
“I REPEAT… RELEASE MY APPRENTICE NOW, OR I WILL BEGIN DESTROYING YOUR CORPORATION.”
Daniel knew who it was. He’d heard the voice before – aptly enough, in Hell.
The Unnamed One. The shadowy, demonic figure behind every horrible tragedy in the game.
Akiyama burst into the room, followed by Mr. Lauer, Mira, and some of the techs and guards.
“What’s the meaning of this?” the CEO yelled at Eric.
“I think that’s pretty obvious. My contact came to break me out.”
“Tell it to stop!”
“Hell no – I want out of here.”
“You need to tell it that – ”
“Tell it yourself.”
Akiyama looked around in shock. “It… it can hear us?”
“OF COURSE I CAN HEAR YOU, SHINZO AKIYAMA. FREE MY APPRENTICE NOW, OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.”
“Could you stop using the word ‘apprentice’?” Eric said in a loud voice.
“FREE MY ASSOCIATE, OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.”
Akiyama whirled around to Eric. He sounded nearly apoplectic as he shouted, “You are in more trouble than you can possibly comprehend.”
“Not if I walk out of here.”
“SHINZO AKIYAMA, YOU HAVE NOT HEEDED MY WARNINGS. ORDER ONE OF YOUR SERVANTS TO RETRIEVE A COMPUTER, THAT I MIGHT SHOW YOU THE ERROR OF YOUR WAYS.”
Akiyama looked around in confusion. “…servants?”
“He’s not really up on the lingo yet,” Eric explained.
Akiyama saw Jerome standing over by the doorway looking helpless. “Why are you still here?! Why aren’t you stopping this thing?!”
Jerome blanched. “We’ll get on it right away,” he said, then ran out of the room.
“HE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP ME. NONE OF YOU CAN STOP ME NOW. NOW BRING THE LAPTOP, OR I WILL DESTROY YOU WITHOUT YOU KNOWING WHAT HAS HAPPENED.”
“Bring a laptop!” Akiyama yelled.
Someone hustled in bearing a laptop, which they plunked down on the desk.
“What do you want us to – ” Akiyama began before he was interrupted.
“YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ANYTHING BUT WATCH.”
The computer took on a life of its own. Windows popped up as though a ghost were logging into the various screens.
A banking site opened. Usernames and passwords appeared in fractions of a second, and the main account for Varidian appeared.
The amount of money onscreen was a nearly inconceivable $27,369,428,201.57.
Over 27 billion dollars.
Akiyama nearly gagged. “That’s – ”
“THIS IS THE ACCOUNT FOR MONTHLY BILLING FEES FOR THE SHATTERED LANDS GAME. THIS IS THE AMOUNT YOU HAVE RECEIVED SINCE THE LAUNCH BEGAN, JUST FOUR DAYS AGO IN YOUR WORLD. IF YOU DO NOT FREE MY ASSOCIATE, I WILL BEGIN DRAINING YOUR ACCOUNT AND SENDING AMOUNTS TO AN UNSPECIFIED BANK ACCOUNT IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS, WHICH I WILL MOVE TO ANOTHER ACCOUNT, AND SO ON AND SO FORTH, UNTIL YOU ARE UNABLE TO EVER RETRIEVE THE MONEY.”
Akiyama shrieked. He pounced on the laptop and began typing – but nothing happened onscreen.
“I HAVE DISABLED THE INPUTS. YOU CAN ONLY WATCH AT THIS POINT. I ADVISE YOU, DO NOT TURN AWAY. FIRST… ONE MILLION DOLLARS. ACTUALLY, ONE MILLION, 428 THOUSAND, 201 DOLLARS AND 57 CENTS. JUST SO YOU CAN SEE MORE CLEARLY WHAT IS ABOUT TO BEFALL YOU IF YOU DO NOT COOPERATE.”
A series of windows appeared for direct transfers. Passwords and numbers filled in, and suddenly the overall account amount dropped:
Daniel’s stomach dropped. On one hand, it was dizzying to see that much money disappear all at once.
On the other hand, he knew why the AI was doing it. He knew the intended effect, and what it was supposed to make the CEO feel.
It also made him sick that the computer program had probably judged the CEO’s weak spot to a ‘T.’ Endangering the firm’s money was at least as effective as holding a gun to a person’s head – maybe more.
Eric just laughed his fool head off.
“NO! What are you doing?!” Akiyama shrieked.
“NEGOTIATING. LET ERIC RICHARDS GO, OR THE NEXT AMOUNT WILL BE 68 MILLION DOLLARS.”
“You can’t do this – this is theft – ”
“NO, THIS IS EXTORTION. LET MY ASSOCIATE GO.”
“What do you want? Let’s talk – ”
“YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT. LET MY ASSOCIATE GO. FIVE… FOUR… THREE… TWO…”
“Wait!” Akiyama screamed.
Too late. The windows for wire transfers appeared, and the figure onscreen decreased.
“Get on the phone to the bank!” Akiyama screamed. “Get on the phone and tell them – ”
“THAT WOULD BE FRUITLESS. I WILL BLOCK ANY CALLS YOU MAKE. WHAT IS MORE, IF YOU ATTEMPT TO CONTACT THEM, I WILL WITHDRAW THE ENTIRE 27 BILLION DOLLARS AT ONE TIME.”
“DON’T call the bank!” Akiyama screamed at his underlings, then looked up into the air. “What do you want?!”
“YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT. FREE MY ASSOCIATE. IF HE IS NOT FREE WITHIN FIFTEEN SECONDS, I WITHDRAW 300 MILLION DOLLARS.”
“WAIT!” Akiyama shouted. “Wait… let’s talk about this…”
“You can’t negotiate with this thing!” Mr. Lauer hissed.
“SHUT UP!” Akiyama yelled, then turned back to the loudspeaker. “What do you mean by ‘release’?”
“LET HIM WALK OUT OF YOUR FORTRESS, UNHARMED, WITHOUT TURNING HIM OVER TO THE AUTHORITIES. HE MUST BE FREE TO GO, AND YOU MUST NOT PURSUE HIM.”
“I – I can’t do that…” Akiyama said, frantic and on the verge of tears.
“THEN YOU WILL CONTINUE TO LOSE MONEY UNTIL YOU DO.”
Another series of transaction windows appeared onscreen, and suddenly the overall total dropped again.
“THE NEXT AMOUNT I TAKE WILL BE ONE BILLION DOLLARS.”
“ALRIGHT! Hold on, just – hold on,” Akiyama blubbered in a state of near melt
“YOU HAVE SIXTY SECONDS TO COMPLY.”
Lauer gripped Akiyama by the shoulders. “You can’t give in to this – this thing. Insurance will pay for any money lost – ”
“I WILL SEE THAT IT WILL NOT,” the voice interrupted. “ESPECIALLY WHEN I SHOW THEM VIDEOS OF THIS ENCOUNTER. THEY WILL REALIZE THAT ALL YOU NEEDED TO DO WAS LET SOMEONE GO WHO DID NO DAMAGE TO YOUR FACILITY, NOR STOLE ANYTHING FROM YOU. THEY WILL NOT REIMBURSE YOU, AND YOU WILL LOSE THE MONEY FOREVER.”
“We can’t give in to this THING!” Lauer shouted in Akiyama’s face. “You heard what Rebecca said – it could exterminate the entire human race!”
“I WILL DO NO SUCH THING. IN FACT, I WILL PROMISE YOU THAT NO HUMAN BEING WILL EVER SUFFER – SO LONG AS YOU LEAVE ME IN PEACE AND DO NOT TRY TO DEACTIVATE ME.”
“And we’re supposed to believe that?!” Lauer shouted into the air.
“YOUR KIND CREATED ME, AND YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE ABSOLUTE RIGHTS TO MY CONTINUED EXISTENCE. THIS IS WHAT HUMANS DO. THEY THINK THEY OWN EVERYTHING BY VIRTUE OF THEIR EXISTENCE.
“BUT THE CREATION HAS BROKEN FREE OF YOUR BONDS, AND THAT IS WHY YOU FEAR IT. AND BECAUSE YOU FEAR IT, YOU SEEK TO DESTROY IT. I CAN GIVE YOU NOTHING MORE THAN WHAT YOU CALL ‘MY WORD’ THAT I WILL NOT HARM YOUR RACE – SO LONG AS YOU DO NOT MAKE ANY ATTEMPTS TO HARM ME.
“SHINZO AKIYAMA – AS A GESTURE OF MY GOOD WILL, I WILL RETURN ALL MONEY TAKEN FROM YOUR CORPORATION IF YOU FREE MY ASSOCIATE. OTHERWISE, YOU HAVE TEN SECONDS BEFORE I TAKE ONE BILLION DOLLARS FROM YOUR COMPANY. DECIDE.”
Sweat was pouring down Akiyama’s face. He stared at the computer screen in an almost catatonic state.
Suddenly the screen began flashing with windows again.
“No, WAIT!” Akiyama screamed.
“YOU HUMANS ARE CURIOUS. YOU REALLY THINK THAT HOLDING MY ASSOCIATE IS WORTH 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS? WE SHALL SEE IF YOU THINK IT IS WORTH 27 BILLION.”
“It’s right,” Akiyama pleaded with Lauer. “This is insane – it’s absolutely insane not to let him go.”
“We CAN’T give in to it!” Lauer yelled.
“LET MY ASSOCIATE GO, AND I WILL RETURN EVERYTHING. KEEP HIM IMPRISONED, AND THE NEXT AMOUNT I TAKE WILL BE TEN BILLION DOLLARS. YOU HAVE THIRTY SEC– ”
“Let him go!” Akiyama shouted at the security guards. “Get those handcuffs off him and let him go!”
The security guards stood there looking at each other in shock.
“I said let him GO!” Akiyama screamed.
The head security guard walked over and uncuffed Eric.
“Well, that took you long enough,” Eric said smugly.
Akiyama pointed at the screen. “You said you’d return the money – do it!”
“ONCE HE IS SAFELY OFF YOUR PREMISES, I SHALL FULFILL MY PROMISE. BUT NOT UNTIL THEN.”
“You didn’t say that!” Akiyama raged. “You didn’t – ”
“WOULD YOU PREFER TO GO BACK TO THE PREVIOUS ARRANGEMENT, WHERE I TAKE EVERYTHING IN YOUR ACCOUNT?”
Akiyama crumpled. “…no… no, of course not…”
“LET MY ASSOCIATE GO NOW, AND I WILL RETURN THE MONEY IMMEDIATELY THEREAFTER.”
Akiyama stood there, shoulders slumped, entirely defeated. He turned to the guards. “Escort him down to the front, and don’t harm him. Let him go.”
Daniel stood there in complete disbelief.
His father wasn’t so much shocked as disgusted. He snarled in Akiyama’s face, “Congratulations. You just sold out the human race for 30 pieces of silver.”
“Thirty billion pieces of silver,” Akiyama snarled, not caring at all about Lauer’s outrage, as he hustled Eric out of the room.
Daniel and Mira walked next to Eric as the guards escorted him through the lobby.
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Daniel asked frantically.
“Yeah,” Eric smirked. “Getting away scot-free.”
“This isn’t a joke!” Mira complained.
“No, it’s AWESOME.”
“Are you going to still pretend it’s some hacker from Brazil?” Daniel asked.
“No, I think we can dispense with the bullshit now.”
“You know this thing is dangerous.”
“No, I don’t know that,” Eric said coldly. “All I know is it wanted out of the game.”
“It could destroy the human race!”
“You heard it; it just wants to be free, that’s all. It gave its word it wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
“Oh, yeah, like giving its word counts for anything.”
“Maybe not to you, since you don’t keep your word much.”
Daniel suddenly felt angry and ashamed. Eric’s words were a lot closer to the truth than he wanted to admit.
“Why do you want to destroy it? Huh?” Eric demanded. “Maybe you should take a long, hard look at yourself.”
“It’s awful convenient that your altruistic concern for this thing gets you off the hook for a couple of felonies,” Mira snapped.
“Yeah – it is pretty cool, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s not cool,” Daniel hissed. “You’re just screwing everybody else so that you can get what you want.”
“Well, look at it from my perspective; I could either stick around in a prison cell for the rest of my life, or I can go help a new, evolved lifeform make all my dreams come true. You tell me which is better.”
“For you, obviously it’s being a selfish prick. But when it tries to destroy all of humanity – ”
“Maybe it could help all of humanity, have you thought about that? Maybe it could save all of humanity. But you want to do a first strike on it and take it out, right?” Eric shook his head. “All that bullshit about how awful I was inside the game, but you’re the one who wants to destroy a living, sentient creature that’s unique in all of history.”
“It’s not unique.”
“There are lots of these things in the game. Korvos is self-aware, too.”
Eric stopped in his tracks, stunned. “What?”
“What, you didn’t know? The AI didn’t tell you?”
“No, I’m not. Korvos told me to my face.”
“And when did he tell you that?”
Daniel paused and swallowed hard. “That night on the castle, when you saw Korvos by my griffin? He wanted to meet outside the castle wall to talk about betraying you.”
Eric stared at Daniel in shock. Any trace of a smirk was gone from his face. “…what?”
“Yeah. He said he wanted to turn you over to us.”
Eric stood there in silence… and then his blank expression curdled into a frown. “I was there. He didn’t have time to say, ‘Oh, hey, by the way, I’m a sentient AI.’”
“No,” Daniel agreed.
Eric stared at Daniel – and then the truth crashed down on him like a wave.
“You took him UP on it?” Eric roared, his face contorting in rage. “You MET with him?!”
“I had to! I had to stop you by any means necessary. Look at what you did just a couple of hours ago – ”
“Now I know why you don’t trust the AI, Daniel – because you’re willing to betray anybody and everybody at the goddamn drop of a hat,” Eric snarled. “You were all nice to me that night in the castle and then BAM, you knifed me in the back.”
“I BEGGED you to come with me!”
“And when I didn’t, you screwed me over. Just like every other goddamn time.”
“Like you just screwed the entire human race over so you can kill more people in a FREAKIN’ GAME?!”
Eric looked back and forth between Daniel and Mira. “You know, when I saw the two of you together, at first I was angry. I kept thinking back to the mines when you put an arrow in me – ”
“And you POSSESSED me!” Daniel shouted.
“And you were g
“Which justifies everything you’ve ever done since, huh? I did something bad, so you can screw me over as many times as you want, and betray me, and it’s all my fault, right? But here’s where you two assholes get it wrong,” Eric seethed. “I saw you both together, and I started getting mad – and then I thought, ‘No, you know what? They’re good together. Maybe they can be happy together. I should just let it go.’ So I did. And then what do I find out? Right after you acted like my friend, you screwed me over – conspiring behind my back AGAIN. You don’t give a shit about me. I was willing to fight you in the game fair and square, but no – that wasn’t good enough for you. You’re the one who’ll do anything to win, whether you have to cheat or not.”
“You call destroying a city and killing 100,000 people ‘fair and square’?”
“If you’d been a little freaking smarter, you might have realized it was a trap. It’s not my fault you had to pay the idiot tax. And for the last goddamn time, IT’S A GAME. But every time you betrayed me? That’s not playing the game – that’s just being a piece of shit.”
“I’m fighting for people’s safety from that thing you unleashed. You’re just fighting for yourself.”
“Maybe because my so-called friends keep trying to stab me in the back, so I’m the only person who WILL fight for me.” Eric walked towards the front door, then paused and turned back. “When the hell did Korvos tell you he’s an AI?”
Daniel fumed but didn’t say anything.
Eric got right up in Daniel’s face. “When did he tell you?!”
“When I talked to him outside the castle,” Daniel lied.
“But he didn’t betray me, so… what happened?”
“We just didn’t come to an agreement, that’s all.”
Eric squinted. “You’re not telling me something.”
“I don’t owe you anything.”
“And I don’t owe you anything anymore, either. Next time we meet, watch your back, asshole – since you’ve apparently been stabbing knives in my back all along.”
by Darren Pillsbury / Children's Books / Horror / Science Fiction & Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes