Time-line Update and time progression: Midmorning United States, Friday August 16th to Saturday Morning August 17th somewhere in Africa or the Middle East

Chapter 5: Assassin

Syrakis tapped his large toe claws against the concrete idly as he watched the exercise play out in front of him. For the past few days he and his team of RAPTORS had been working closely with a specially created unit of the United States military. All of the soldiers were quite competent and Syrakis was actually rather satisfied with the way things had been going. Only one problem remained.


Syrakis turned and narrowed his eyes at the man who was standing there talking to General Mercer. He wasn't familier with military ranks and honestly didn't care to learn them all either, but he did know the new man was here to observe General Mercer and report back to DARPA and the Pentagon. His accent was difficult to place but his military ID showed this name as Cyrus Corner that he had previously been assigned to a military base in Nevada. Now he was here basically to check up on them. All of the other RAPTORS were picking up on their leader's suspicion and were giving the guy a wide berth as well.

While Syrakis had only been born, or activated in his mechanical body, a short time ago he had still heard of the human phrase "go with your gut." At first he hadn't understand how a person's abdominal organs could be an accurate gauge of anything, but now Syrakis was understanding what it meant. There was no logical reason to distrust this Cyrus Corner but something in his mind, something in the pit of his being said not to trust him. Just yesterday morning Syrakis had put in a request for electronic copies of any public or confidential military and medical records that existed on Cyrus Corner. This morning an A.I. informed him the packet of information was ready and could be examined at any time, but it as it had been obtained by less than legal means it would be automatically deleted within 12 hrs unless he found something of special interest and put in a request to G.U. for further investigation.

Syrakis was prending to be interested in the current military excercises, but in reality he was linked to the network and was currently reviewing the reports he had been sent. A simple word search quickly brought up the most relevant information and Syrakis paused for a moment pulled up a medical report with the word AIDA highlighted in red.

Captured by known cyber terrorists while visiting eastern Europe who have been proven to have close ties with Aihane. Torture using hostile, human controlled AIDA was used for several days before Cyrus Corner was recovered. Strict psychological testing was subsequently undergone to determine possibility of hostile AIDA infection or influence on normal mental abilities. Results were incomplete but after being kept on strict watch for 3 months he was released back to active duty with restrictions on travel, Syrakis hissed and cast a dark eye over at the man. Not all AIDA were bad. In fact those few thatwere free had been helping G.U. over the past year, but those that were hostile or enslaved by Aihane and had gotten much better at hiding themselves. Opening a link to his fellow RAPTORS, Syrakis sent a priority message with the medical file attached to it for them to look.

Strong possibility that Cyrus Corner has been infected by AIDA. Do not give him any information about yourselves, other A.I.'s or A-Life systems and do not say anything about G.U. or our masters the Epitaphs. Syrakis ordered his team into silence and received affirmative responses back from them. After a moment of thought he added another message saying, We do not recognize the authority of Cyrus Corner and shall not address him using any such military titles. Only General Mercer is to be followed and even he may be ignored if he is overruled by a higher authority or if his course of action would put others in unnecessary danger. When more affirmative responses came back, Syrakis headed over to where General Mercer and Cyrus Corner were standing and bowed his head in greeting.

His voice box software had been updated remotely so there wasn't so much of a drawn out hiss to his words now. It was still there, but not quite so overt.

"Generalll Mercerr and Cyrus Cornerrr. What do you think of my teammm? Impresssive aren't they?" Syrakis asked carefully as he eyed the man warily. Cyrus nodded to him but didn't look away from the military excercise that was going on. Right now two of the RAPTORS were performing a high speed rescue and were attempting to pull an injure soldier from a crippled humvee that was weaving back and forth.

"Every movement precisely controlled and well handled especially when it comes to direct contact with the soldiers. I'll bet you could tear a human apart before they could even think of grabbing their gun couldn't you?" Cyrus asked finally turning around to look up him with steely eyes.

Syrakis cocked his head and tapped his claws as he thought carefully about how to answer that. All of his movements were being watched and all of his words carefully monitored. Might as well give them something to think about right?

"Violenceee is always the lassst option any of usss would chooose, but we won't hesitate to use deadly force if someone'sss life is invvvolved," Syrakis said returning the man's firm gaze with a solid stare of his own. Cyrus frowned at that response.

"Do you mean a hostage? What would you do if someone had a hostage?" Cyrus asked with a clear edge to his voice. Obviously Syrakis wasn't winning any "brownie points" with him as the human expression went.

Narrowing his eyes Syrakis answered by saying, "We are herrre to work with the Americannn military braanch. Any hostagesss would likely have been captttured by a terrorissst, cyber terrorissst, militia, guerillla or other ssuch group. Groupss like thessse donnn't just take hostages for funnn. Torture whetheerrr mental or physssical is almossst alwaysss used," he stated firmly and then added, "Disssabling them annd taking theirrr weaponsss would be firsttt priority, but I would nott hesitate to kill themmm if they made a move to killl their hostage," Syrakis paused for a moment and moved his head until he was eye level with Cryrus.

"Not plannning on taking hostages anytimme soooon are youuu?" Syrakis asked leaving his veiled threat hang in the air. If this man was being influenced or controlled by AIDA then the warning should be all too clear. Immediately Cyrus Corner stiffened and openly glared at RAPTOR, but the look passed so quickly that General Mercer missed it.

Setting his lips in a grim line, Cyrus nodded to General Mercer and said, "I believe I've seen more than enough for today. I have a lot to discuss with the other panel members before any decisions are made." Nodding curtly he turned and stalked away. Once he was out of sight General Mercer turned on Syrakis angrily, but the RAPTOR cut him off before he could even begin.

"I am ordering a 24 hour wwwatch on Cyrusss Coorner and willl be doing backgrround checksss and pulling medddicalll recorddds on all Pentagonnn panel membersss. Something is not right about him," Syrakis said simply and looked up as a dragonfly floated around overhead. It was a tiny drone. It had no A.I. or A-Life system of its own but could be controlled by one. Syrakis would use it to keep watch on Cyrus Corner during his stay here. He was scheduled to stay during the RAPTORS entire training period.

Syrakis was not just an A-Life system. He was also an Assassin which meant that any commands he gave were given immediate attention by any available Epitaphs, not just Innis and Magus. However, he was still new to this and had not yet spent much time in the real world. While the urge to order an investigation on Cyrus Corner was strong indeed it would be better to wait. Moving too soon could cause him to slip away without being brought to justice.

Always wait for your enemy to make the first mistake, Syrakis remembered Lady Innis saying those words to him after he awakened in his machine body. Most A-Life systems were created and awakened in their specially created machine bodies receving whatever extra information they needed via the network. Assassins however, always spent personal one-on-one time with Innis and Chigusa online being trained and educated before being transfered to their real world bodies. That personal time helped strengthen the bond between them and helped them to better understand their purpose and role in G.U.

Syrakis flexed his claws and looked back at General Mercer who was still struggling with his words.

"Do whaat you mmmust, but our purpppose is to stop Aihanne and anyone asssociated with him. Militaryyy ranks mean nnothing to me," Syrakis added before sprinting off to join his team of RAPTORS so he could continue training with them.

Aaliyah couldn't wait for this to be over. First a virus, possibly AIDA, had infected her husband's business servers and computers and now these men from Syria were here on business. Men that made it a point to insult her and ignore her at every possible opportunity.

Biting back her own insults, Aaliyah instead played innocent as she watched Fariha, the cook, preparing some lobster, vegetables, and a salad along with some flat bread for the midday meal. The two men behind her continued talking in their native Farsi as if she wasn't even standing there. From the time they had first come here to London on business with her husband it had been painfully obvious that they had very low opinions of women. That was a viewpoint far too many men from the Middle East continued to hold onto. So much for changing times.

When they were told about how Aaliyah had gone to college here in London just down the street they had actually sneered at her and said it wasn't befitting for a woman to pursue such education and that such work should be left to the husband. When Aaliyah told them about the clothing store she operated downtown they added that her husband alone should be providing for his family especially when he was such a good business man. When she added that their children when to a private school together they complained that with her husband's wealth they should have a private tutor who would keep them from being corrupted by these "European savages." After all that Aaliyah wasn't about to tell them that she had been born here in England and thus qualified as one of those "European Savages" herself.

Husband this and husband that. I'm so glad I didn't end up with a close-minded fool like them when I agreed to get married, Aaliyah was careful to kept her thoughts to herself and her expression blissfully unaware as Fariha turned and gave her a taste of the lobster.

"Mmm, delicious. Excellent as always Fariha," Aaliyah said and the other woman bowed graciously and went back to preparing lunch.

Hopefully these two will be gone shortly after lunch. At least I won't have to sit through the meal listening to them drone on with Karim, Aaliyah thought knowing that her husband should be home soon. Karim had agreed to pick up their children from school before coming home to finalize business negotiations with their two guests here. Or to end them.

Karim had made it clear that he was not comfortable setting up any oil or natural gas lines in their part of the country due to continuing civil unrest and rumors of government corruption fueling that unrest. However, he couldn't prove or confirm anything and their business network appeared to have a virus on it so using them to do any investigating on them was out of the picture. So Karim had turned to his wife in order to find out the truth. Aaliyah for her part was only too delighted to prove that these two were criminals in some way or another.

Grabbing her mint and lemon smoothie off the counter, Aaliyah feigned interest in the meal preperations as the men continued talking. They were speaking in low voices, but it was still simple enough to overhear them. Aaliyah's first language was English since she was raised here in London, but her family had come from Qatar just like Karim and his family so they had made sure to teach her Arabic and she had personally taken the time to learn Farsi and several other languages for business reasons. Doing so had never been such a blessing until now.

"We must finalize these negotiations. If we can get these gas lines up then we will be able to shut down the old pipes running through the north. If that's done then we'll officially be in charge of the biggest gas supply coming into the country and we'll have all we need for our air fleet and military forces. That will fueling the civil war spreading across the country side even more and arming them will help fan the flames as well. Once the government has enough pressure on it we'll use the virus he will give to us to take full control of the country's network. Manipulating the news and press will be simple with some pressure and a few bribes," one of them said in Farsi and the other shook head in warning.

"Don't forget. We must get this business deal first. We can do it without those gas lines being set up, but it will be far more difficult and we may not be able to depend on his help in such a case," the other man added carefully. His accent made it a little harder to understand and translate his words, but not impossible.

Aaliyah's ears perked up at that news, but she played off her curiosity by adjusting her hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf, and taking a sip of her smoothie. But who was this "he" they both mentioned? The one who was supposed to be helping them?

They mentioned a virus as well. All of the oil and gas pipelines Karim's business has set up are operated and monitored through network connections that feed data and results directly into our business servers and computers. If those were corrupted then you could conceivable take control of all the oil and gas pipelines we own. That's a rather big "if" though since Karim already has so many security proticols set up, but nothing is impossible, Aaliyah frowned slightly but when the men looked over her way she passed it off as if something bad was in her drink.

The sound of a door opening drew her attention and Aaliyah wanted to run to the front of the house in relief. Any opportunity to get away from these two was more then welcome.

Turning to the men with the best false smile she could manage, Aaliyah excused herself saying, "That must be Karim. I'll be right back."

Heading out of the kitchen she went to the front door and saw Karim and the kids walking through the door. Aaliyah gave the children a hug first before turning to her husband. Karim turned to her and smiled widely. Stepping forward he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

"So are our guests still alive or did you stick a knife in them already after yet another insult?" Karim whispered in her ear. That joke brought a smile to her lips and finally helped ease some of the tension. Grinning from ear to ear, Aaliyah pulled back with a twinkle in her eyes.

"I nearly threw a butcher knife at them after they insulted Fariha's cookingfor the tenth time, but I managed to keep my 'brash attitude' under wraps. You know how tempermental we women are," Aaliyah said with a roll of her eyes as Karim shooed the kids upstairs so they could get to work on their homework.

Karim turned back to her with a shake of his head. "I promise they will be gone soon. I'm sorry I can't eat lunch together with you and the children, but I want those men out of here as soon as possible. In the meantime I truly appreciate your patience," he said warmly and his words helped soothe Aaliyah's frayed nerves.

Looking back over her shoulder, Aaliyah made sure no one else was around before saying in a low voice, "Just as you thought they had little qualm about talking with me around since i'm 'just' a woman. They sound like they're planning a governement coup and need your oil and gas pipelines to do it. If they have control of the biggest oil and gas lines in the country they plan to shut down the old ones. They also mentioned being able to fuel their air force and military with the new pipelines. This of course which would infuriate the people who already feel abandoned and opressed by the army and make the civil war worse. They plan on using a virus someone gives them to take full control of the internet in the country. The government could not hold out for very long under the civil and international pressure."

Scowling at that, Karim crossed his arms and lowered his voice as well, "And I suppose they'll be manipulating the press during all this too?"

"No great tryanny would be complete without it, right?" Aaliyah raised an eyebrow at that and Karim groaned and rubbed his forehead. Mumbling under his breath he let his arms drop and glanced upstairs.

"I'll get things underway and make excuses to try and stall things for a couple more months if I can. Go upstairs and contact G.U. on your laptop since mine is still corrupted tell them exactly what the men said. While I originally contacted them about a possible AIDA infection this has gone far beyond that. These men could very well be the ones who arranged for my servers to be corrupted in the first place and it's likely this person they mentioned helping them is an international criminal that G.U. warned me about," Karim whispered to his wife and Aaliyah chewed her thumbnail as the weight of what was going on started to hit her. Karim put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes.

"This is very important information and we have to be wise about how we use it. Not to mention the children. I will not let anyone harm them and that could easily happen of we aren't careful. Don't breathe a word of this to anyone else and don't let the help know either. While I have no doubts as to their loyalty I don't want to get them involved in this if it does get worse," Karim added before stepping forward and giving his wife a hug.

Aaliyah pulled him close and shut her eyes tightly as she thought of their children being in danger. She had a very, very bad feeling about all of this.

Macha flattened her ears and narrowed her eyes as she looked around. The presence of AIDA in this area was so powerful she could smell it. When the next facility they were supposed to inspect failed to respond then Kaoru had sent his Epitaph here in check it out and try to get some more information about what was going on.

Kaoru and Rhodesia were currently traveling across parts of Africa and the Middle East to look at some robotics facilities that had been set up by local governments and had since been taken over by G.U. Or more specifically by Innis and Chigusa who used them to churn out their machines by the dozens. Skeith may have no problem with them, but personally the new A-Life systems made her very uncomfortable even though their programming was based off of the Epitaphs.

Then again maybe that's why it makes me so uneasy, Macha considered as she looked around at the server. It was completely chewed up. It literally looked like something had just gone around eating all the data lines, security pages, and webpage hubs. The A.I. who was supposed to be here were gone as well. Black dots bubbled in and out of different parts of the area which actually wasn't very large. All it did was operate the basics of the facility. While the building it operated did make machines, instructions for putting them together came from a clone of Innis that was placed here.

But I don't see that Innis copy anywhere. It would not abandon its station unless it was an urgent matter. The presence of AIDA here suggests that it dissolved itself and returned to Innis herself, Macha considered with a hiss as she examined the damage. Innis copies were endowed with the information necessary to create and put together the machines Chigusa and the original Innis designed, but if they were attacked and it seemed that they might be in serious danger in any way then they were instructed to dissolve. In that case all the information they had would automatically be transmitted back to Innis and G.U.

There should at least be one or two A.I.'s here surveying the damage like she was but aside from the hum and crackle of data trying to flow and transmit it was quiet.

Too quiet.

Macha closed her eyes and her body glowed as Karou joined her online and it came not a moment to soon.

Above you! Kaoru warned her and Macha whipped around and put her claws up just as an attack came down from above. A harpoon slammed down on her metal gauntlets knocking her backwards as black dots burned her hands like fire.

Shaking them off Macha snarled as she saw who the assailant was.

"Corbenik, The Corrupted," Macha muttered to herself as she looked at her fellow Epitaph. Corbenik's eyes were empty points of blue light and his body was just disgusting to look upon. His body looked like it had been ripped apart and stitched together over and over again. The shark skull that formed most of his head almost seemed to sneer at them as the teeth in the jaws ground back and forth like teeth on a chainsaw.

His presence alone made Macha instinctively uncomfortable, but she refused to show it. Now the appearance of this area made sense. Corbenik must have literally bitten and chewed it in search of something.

Stay focused and don't let him touch you. We don't know much about Corbenik's abilities and we can't risk being infected by something we can't fight off, Kaoru said carefully as the two Epitaphs circled each other warily. Macha did not want to be the one who made the first move, but they couldn't stand here staring at each other the entire time either.

We don't need to fight him, just drive him off, Karou said and Macha nodded as Corbenik hissed and darted forward with his harpoon extended to spear her straight through her chest. Sliding to the side Macha grabbed it with her metal clad claws and darted forward. Grabbing Corbenik's shark skull she tightened her grip until cracks started to appear all across it.

Just when it looked as if it might shatter, black ooze poured out of the empty eye sockets and burned away at Macha's metal clad hands like acid. Hissing she snatched her hand back and Corbenik whipped his harpoon around and slammed her right in the head. Its sharp points tore deep gouges into the side of her face and knocked Macha off balance. Corbenik whipped the harpoon around and caught her again in the arm tearing her sleeve and leaving a wound that burned like fire as tiny black tendrils ate away at the edge of it.

Flattening her ears, Macha cupped her hands to her mouth and used Seductive Voice sending out sound waves to confuse him. Corbenik stopped and shook his head in frustration as the attack made him dizzy.

"Hydra!" Macha called out and black AIDA dots started to bubble up on the data line running beneath her. A black mass of it rose up higher and higher until finally it started dripping off to reveal a large pink lotus on a thick vine. When it opened up there were curved teeth lining each flower petal. This should be enough to drive Corbenik away. Under other circumstances it would be a risky move since Hydraworked by siphoning data from the surrounding area, but none of the data here in this area was so important that it couldn't be rebuilt within a couple weeks.

Corbenik's solid blue eyes narrowed and shifted from Macha to the giant flower swaying back and forth in front of him. When the corrupted Epitaph showed no interest in attacking it first, Macha decided to take the initiative. Just trading blows back and forth wasn't going to accomplish much and her fellow Avatar didn't seem like much of a conversationalist.

There's no point in asking why he's here. Aihane was no doubt trying to figure out how Chigusa and Innis create their machines but when he couldn't find what he wanted he just let Corbenik tear the place apart, Kaoru offered as an explination. It did make sense.

Like a child throwing a temper tantrum when they don't get what they want, Macha scoffed and shook her head. Giving the signal with her arm, she ordered the lotus to attack. Hissing loudly it shot forward teeth bared.

Before it could sink its teeth into Corbenik's head the Epitaph swung his harpoon around and speared the attacking creature right through the middle and then snapped the weapon up ripping the flower in half and then watching calmly as it dropped down below him.

Seconds later the base of the vine started glowing as it absorbed raw data from the data stream it was attached to. Within seconds it had grown back, but this time black AIDA dots swirled up along with it and split into another, second lotus.

Macha smirked and put a hand under her chin, content to watch things unfold. After all dirtying one's hands with direct combat was so unbecoming. Corbenik however, was not stupid enough to just let that happen. Pulling his arm back he sent his harpoon flying straight towards her. With a flick of her wrist both lotus' moved to intercept the harpoon and were torn in half in the process. Just like the first time both flowers split in two. Now there were four lotus flowers all swaying and hissing back at Corbenik as the harpoon landed behind them.

"Give up Corbenik. You can't win this battle," Macha said but while the corrupted Epitaph might not be stupid, he apparently wasn't smart enough to know when to quit.

Snapping his finger, Corbenik recalled his harpoon and created several more. This time he sent all of them flying and when the harpoons struck they stayed in place and bubbled out black ooze like acid that ate away at the lotus until there was nothing left.

Rolling her eyes Macha waved her hand and the base of each vine started to sprout multiple flowers all filled with snapping teeth and nasty attitudes. This time they did not sit idly by waiting to be attacked. Instead dozens of lotus' launched themselves at Corbenik wrapping around his limbs while others tried to eat his head.

Letting out an unearthly wail Corbenik shrieked as one of the flowers tore off an arm and another pulled off his leg. As soon as they did so the limbs dissolved into black acid that destroyed the flower trying to eat it, but that danger didn't stop the others from ripping the Epitaph to pieces. Black ooze splattered everywhere as the flowers sank their teeth into the Epitaph's body.

When nothing was left but the shark skull and bones they started on that as well, but a chill ran up Macha's spine and she ordered them all to pull back.

Macha get out of there! Kaoru's panic surged through her as fear course through her body.

The bones that had made up part of Corbenik's body started rattling around and reconnecting forming a long shark like shape. Black ooze poured out of every crack and joint as a massive shark formed. Its tail was whip-like and razor sharp. Its eyes were stapled shut and a massive scar ran down its back. It too was held together with surgical staples and when it opened its mouth and let out a roar that made all the data on the server shiver and glitch. Corbenik's entire insides seemed to be nothing but a black hole filled with endless rows of teeth.

That's exactly what it is! Macha realized as Corbenik, no, this monster turned toward her with a savage roar that turned in to a great inhaled breath. When it arched its back the stitches all along its body opened up to reveal another mouth that started sucking in air as well. All the flowers that had just been feasting on Corbenik's body were ripped out of place and literally inhaled by this... this... thing. All the data surrounding Corbenik peeled off in streams and the entire area started to shudder and ripple as it was caught and pulled towards the giant shark.

Chunks of data broke off and streams off code ripped away and disappeared into Corbenik's mouth. Looking up Macha could see that it was not just the information in this area that was being inhaled, it was literally the entire data space itself that was crumbling and disconnecting from the rest of the network.

Macha could feel herself being pulled towards it and quickly opened a data tear. Even as she did so it started to warp and dissolve. Quickly she slipped through it just seconds before it closed due to the strain. The area she ended up in was a local network for an oil refinery.

Silence stretched for several seconds before Kaoru spoke up, What in the world was THAT?

I wish I knew, Macha replied with a shiver. Whatever that thing was it was not something that should exist. Period.

Curious as she was to know what had happened to the area, Macha had no desire to return there.

Send a coded message directly to Skeith alone. Describe exactly what happened in as much detail as you can and tell him to come investigate personally a soon a he can. Rhodesia and I will go to the actual facility and see what happened. The staff should have evacuated once the trouble started, but there should still be some machines left on the premises that can tell us more about what happened, Kaoru directed her.

Macha nodded in agreement and started dictating a message to send to Skeith.

Every word Macha sent in her coded voice message was replaying in Skeith's mind as he looked around. It wasn't often that he received such an urgent message. Even rarer for one of the Epitaphs to demand the presence of another at a specific location. However, the details of Macha's message left little room for hesitation. After hearing her account of the battle there was no way Skeith could just sit back and send someone else.

Now that he was here Skeith couldn't believe what he was seeing. Everything that had been here, all the data, data streams, information hubs, web pages, and more were just gone. Not destroyed or collapsed like The World had been because in that case traces of scattered and glitched out data had still been left behind. It had mostly been useless except for random tidbits of information, though.

Here the entire area had been wiped completely clean. There were no trailing streams of code. No jumbled and glitching clumps of data. No broken data streams trailing off into empty space. There was just...

"Nothing," Skeith whispered as he looked around.

Everything was stark white. There was literally nothing here whatsoever. Nothing but empty space. It was like someone had taken a chunk of the network and removed it or erased everything as if it had never existed. Everything associated with the robotics facility had disappeared. Even the structure of the network itself in this area was gone. No empty webpages. No ruined connections. No structure whatsoever.

What did Corbenik do here? And how did he do it? Skeith considered as the AIDA arms around him searched for information to syphon and examine. Each tentacle pulled in and out of the empty space but found nothing.

Nothing at all.

We've never seen anything like this from Corbenik before. From any Epitaph before actually. Has he always had this ability? Or is it something new? Skeith wondered as he recalled his AIDA arms to great disatisfaction. Whatever Corbenik had transformed into it obviously had managed to swallow all of the information, data, and code in this area. What happened to it after that was a mystery. It was like someone had taken a perfectly sphere of information out of the network without damaging anything else around it and left nothing behind but a vast empty hole.

I have to report this back to Ryou and Niketas as well. He needs to be informed about this new development. If Corbenik is strong enough to just strip the area like this then there is no telling what else he might be capable of. In addition nothing can touch him without their own code being corrupted and eaten away like acid. The title of The Corrupted fits him perfectly and we don't know how to fix him or how Aihane is still controlling him. Surely the slave systems he's using on the others can't be working on Corbenik with his code so screwed up the way it is now, Skeith thought as he considered their prospects. None of it looked good.

We've never had to face an enemy with this type of abilty. What if Macha hadn't gotten out of there in time? Would it have swallowed her as well? Skeith thought and narrowed his eyes. As far as he knew no A.I.'s had reported back about any network holes like this and the other Epitaphs would never sit quietly on information like this.

This could very well be the first time it has ever happened. We'll need to confirm that to be sure, but if so then it shows that Corbenik is getting more powerful, Skeith clenched his fist as a sinking feeling came over him.

If Corbenik is really getting more powerful then there's no telling what else he might be able to do. Aihane may not even need Aura after all, he thought before turning to leave out of the same data tear he had orginally came through.

AN: I know a lot of you have been wanting more action so I tried to throw some more in for you and leave some suspense as well! Also we met some new characters! Aaliyah and Karim will be reappearing so keep a watch out for them!

Syrakis is suspicious, Macha nearly got herself eaten, and Corbenik is displaying some new, previously unknown abilities.

Also I have big news! Shattered Mirror is the number one .hack story 2 out of 3 categories! Its so amazing to see all the support for it and to see new people reading it all the time. I love all of you and thanks so much for your support! This story really would not be as good as it is without you. I love all of your reviews and suggestions!

Now onwards to the next chapter!