Sun shined through the cracks of the small shack and made all the dust in the air apparent. It was filthy. This was the first time its master had a visitor.
"It's clever, really," said a woman's voice.
"You think so?"
"The wording of it. A revolution. These sorts of sentiments are outdated, don't you think?" The woman tosses a stack of papers towards the man.
"Revolution is never an outdated sentiment--that's just what those in charge want you to think."
"Don't make me laugh. Surely you can't believe in this drivel."
"I don't believe in all of it, obviously. It has to be written in such a way that it stirs the right people. A calm and calculated person like yourself wouldn't be driven to terrorism by it, no, but there is a great many people who would. It's schlocky, but it's because they believe in that kind of schlock."
A man sat in a chair before his standing visitor. His long black hair was as decrepit as the place that surrounded him, covered in dust that sat on his scalp visible through his thinning top. There was no sound here, just the chirping of birds and the subtle sounds of water. The self-sufficient home of an analog warrior.
"Honestly, though, maybe you are serious," she said. "The stench of this place is enough to prove it."
"This is an experiment in and of itself."
"I'm fond of experiments too. That's what I'm here to propose to you today, Yuri Seto," said Veronica Bain.
"You're here to make a deal?"
"No. I don't make deals. I'm here to tell you what's going to happen next."
Yuri was perplexed, but interested.
"Those files do not exist. They will never exist. In exchange, I will give you ultimate power."
"And there it is. The bargaining chip. What do you think I need 'power' for? I have all the power I need at any terminal I access from. The internet is power enough. The truth is power enough. The truth has power because it's true. And the internet is truth in all its ugliness."
"And he who controls the truth is the most powerful of them all, yes? That's what I'm here to offer."
"I'm the one calling the shots here. You know that right?"
"Yuri, I don't think you understand, so I will make myself clear--I am always the one calling the shots. There is nothing you can say or do that will move me. It is in your best interest to stay quiet and listen."
She lit a cigarette and took a long drag. It wasn't that she needed the effects of tobacco to clear her mind, no, it was more like a preface, a gesture in which she signaled that the room was now hers, and the smoke that filled it was an extension of her presence. She continued:
"You've talked about it before, haven't you? You hate the Net. Despise it. You think getting rid of people like me or companies like mine will do anything to it?"
"It's the first step in--"
"There is no such thing as a 'first step.' You either go all the way in one go or don't try at all. I'm going to give you the power to wipe the whole board clean."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean what I said. There's only one catch: you will die."
"I don't like jokes. I prefer sincerity and honesty."
"I do not lie. I can promise you the power you seek. But you must die."
"This is absurd. Why should I die?"
"It's the only way to fully integrate with the machine."
"That machine is precisely why we're here, isn't it?"
"And I'm giving you the once in a lifetime opportunity to use it. Think about it, Seto--I could kill you any time I please. People disappear like the dying of the light if I will it. You don't have the option to refuse. You either die conventionally, wastefully, or you die and become a god. A martyr for your cause. Isn't that what you want?" The question was rhetorical, as what Yuri did and did not want was irrelevant to her.
There was a silence now as he thought it over.
"I don't follow. There's nothing sound about this. What's this all about, really?"
Veronica looked at him dead in the eyes, and he saw a complete emptiness in them. The mood of the room had shifted. Suddenly, she had become its complete commander, and he was her creation.
"This is all a game. Do you understand?"
Yuri could not say anything back to her. He was lost in her gaze, his throat shut tight as if a snake was coiled around his neck, hissing into his ear.
"This is all a game," she said, reaffirming it, "and I will tell you how to win."