So this story starts with an unexpected piece of electronic mail, but before I get into that, some context is in order. I’m Lilith, by the way. Nice to meet you. What you really need to know is that my life is basically broken up into two segments: there’s Before my lunatic roommate committed the most severe act of cultural terrorism in the last decade, and then there’s After. Right now, I’m talking about six months into After. I was a college drop out with zero prospects, frantically trying to figure out just what kind of bomb Johnny Osiris had dropped on my life. In fact, I was still trying to find the man. After he put on an augmented reality performance so heinous that it caused augment clubs to be outlawed, he vanished into thin air. When I say vanished I mean he somehow managed to erase every trace of his ever existing. Neat trick, huh? Oz was apparently full of those.
See kids, this is why you don’t answer want ads for roommates posted on the dark net. Well – the apartment itself was pretty sweet. I was still living there even though I sure as shit didn’t have the money for rent. Figured I’d squat in the place until someone came to kick me out (which was taking way longer than I expected). The place was still crammed to the rafters with his stuff. A technicolour cornucopia of obsolete technology older than I was. With no real hope of identifying most of it to sell it, it just there collecting dust. Not that I imagined anyone else wanting it. So I just stayed holed up in that OldTown apartment feeling intensely paranoid. No one had tracked The Beast (Oz’s augmented reality machine) back to this place yet – not the cops, or CityAdmin, or the lawyers of victims and bereaved families – and that seriously freaked me out. Every minute of every day was filled with this impending sense that the hammer was about to drop on me. Any time I heard footsteps on the stairs, or a knock at the door, or a siren out on the street, I though it had to be enforcers coming to arrest me. I wasn’t getting much sleep back then… Eventually the bottom had to drop out, and that’s what today’s story time is all about.
I woke with a start in the middle of the afternoon. My eyes snapped open, but were slow to focus. The stained glass effect on the window’s energy shield filled the room with coloured splotches that always reminded me I was home. The apartment was silent and nothing about my messy, laundry strewn room had moved. So what woke me up? Ghosts? Sometimes that happened, like an after effect from that morning Oz shocked me out of bed. Haven’t been able to use sleep condensers since then without having night terrors. What did I need to condense eight hours of sleep into three for? I wasn’t busy.
Welp, might as well get out of bed now that I’d resumed consciousness. There was no reason to get up other than I had a headache from oversleeping and I had to pee pretty bad. This was my life now. Shuffled myself out of bed, took care of business, brushed the nasty carpet taste out of my mouth and then plopped my ass in front of my screen for however long it took me to feel like I didn’t want to be awake anymore. Sometimes I left the house, but there were people out there. Ugh. Can’t trust any of them…
There was one alert blinking on my screen when I sat down on the beat up armchair that served as the primary resting place for my lazy butt. My rinkydink hand held was tethered into Oz’s super boss monitor setup by a thin cable. Why wasn’t I using his computer, you ask? Because I hadn’t wrestled it into submission quite yet. Figuring out his login was easy enough, but what I found was probably the most labyrinthine file system in existence. There were all these pockets of encrypted files, plus who knows what else I couldn’t even see. And then there were all the crazy alarms and daemons running that I was utterly hopeless at turning off. Things like “porno o’clock” happening every three hours or a pop up with Oz’s creepy face too close up that screamed at full volume cropping up at random, or better yet the way it seemed to open files, music, movies what have you all by itself just made the computer unusable for a normal person. Definitely a huge pain in the ass since my screen was never designed to support a multi-monitor setup like this. It required a lot of convincing. So after some noncaffinated effort, I got my inbox up on the display, where one message sat waiting for me.
Subject: Your work
This email is to request your assistance in dismantling the sculpture Encom commission from you in 20XX. While having it displayed in the lobby of our headquarters has been a point of pride, we feel it is time to refresh our image.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience to arrange a time for you to come in.
Assistant to the Director of Image Management Supervision
What in the hell was this? Clearly, this message was meant for Oz. How in the ever living fuck did it end up in my inbox? Why was I getting Oz’s mail all of a sudden? A wave of cold nausea came over me as I frantically ripped the cable out of my screen and shut it down. Did someone know I was using Oz’s gear? How could they?! Was someone watching me? At that thought, the hairs on the back of my neck leapt into action, causing goosebumps to break out all over my body. Why were there so many windows in here? I jumped up, knocking over the chair, and rushed the windows, yanking the drapes shut while simultaneously trying not to be seen. To further ensure that no one was peeking me, I grabbed a massive roll of duct tape and sealed up all the cracks. In the relative darkness of the living room, I shut down all the hardware before retreating to the kitchen to huddle behind the counter. Now what?
There really wasn’t anything to do in the kitchen. Not without my screen and connection to the uplink… So I just sat cross-legged on the floor stewing in all kinds of shitty emotions – fear, paranoia, anxiety. Eventually, as I catalogued all the ways someone could be spying on me, I started to run out of ideas. This wasn’t a very good plan. Without completely standing, I filled the kettle with water and set it on the stove to boil. Instant noodles always helped in tough situations. The minutes ticked by as I read and reread the label on the top of the noodle cup I’d snagged out the the cupboard – kimchi flavoured. The wheels in my head has lost all traction. The kettle let out an earsplitting screech that had me hitting the decks. Steam billowed out of the spout as I switched off the stove and carefully lifted it off the burner. That kettle kind of scared me. One time I saw Oz nearly burn his pecker off when the handle snapped while he was making himself tea. He later fixed it with a soldering iron, instead of buying an induction kettle like a normal person.
The noodles smelled amazing and this angry pit of hunger opened up inside of me. Two full minutes seemed like an unreasonably long time to wait for the noodles to fully softened. I stuffed those crunchy, wormy strands of wheat flour into my face hole faster than I could chew. Burned my tongue pretty good, but totally worth it. When I was done, I sat in a satisfied heap on the floor. With the infusion of carbs, the thinking part of my brain booted up. The more I thought about my situation, the more curious I was. Sure, I still couldn’t explain how the mix up had occurred, but maybe I should see where this took me. Who knows what would happen? Getting up off the floor, I went to switch the hardware back on and emailed the lady back. Left the drapes closed, though. Better safe than sorry.
Subject: re: Your work
How does Wednesday sound?
Encom had some swanky digs – and this way just the lobby! Two story ceilings, polished floors, tinted mirror walls and all these beautiful people strutting about. No wonder the security guard was eyeballing me something fierce. The standard black cover-alls I’d picked up special for this job looked like they’d been slept in (tbh, they have been) and greasy strands of hair kept slipping out of my pony tail. Of course, there was nothing he could do about my presence because I had a work order to be here. Besides the staggering amount of polish required to keep this massive place so shiny, the most impressive thing about the lobby was Oz’s machine.
The word monolith came to mind. Now I understood why the cherry picker was there. The sculpture was this three meter tall tower covered in screens of all sizes. Jutting out from the bottom and the top, all the way up to the ceiling were these fat cable bundles that looked like tentacles. Stray wires hung loose from he bundles, and protruded from gaps between screens to reach out like tendrils toward any one near by. Some have cameras on the ends, others have microphones. That was how this whole thing worked. The tendrils felt out the room for information, which was then fragmented and remixed onto the screens. The odd tendril even had holoprojectors that occasionally flared up to produce an amorphous spectral projection amid the people moving around. The busier the room, the more chaotic screens became. It turned the frantic energy of a busy corporate lobby into something harmonious and captivating. Who knew Oz has a poetic side.
I really hoped this thing had recordings somewhere because the video and music it produced was really quite mesmerizing. I felt kind of like a monster dismantling it, even though Constance assured me they would find a suitable place to display it elsewhere. I got the impression that I shouldn’t hold my breath… The tendrils had become so fixated on me that it made it even more heart breaking to take it apart. It was like the sculpture was pleading with me to stop. Still hadn’t found the off switch. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to pry loose schematics for the sculpture from Oz’s stingy file system. I’d be flying completely blind if it weren’t for the wonky pair of specs I’d found lying around the apartment.
Normally, I avoid the things like the plague. I hate hate hated these things. Worst invention humans have ever some up with. Wearing them applied a thick, sludgy layer of information on the world that was frankly creepy and invasive. No, I didn’t need to see the public profile of every person I passed on the street. Nor did I need to know the factory specifications of every object in view. These things told you where to buy it, why you needed it and provide similar options. It went so far as to catalogue your preferences based on how long or how frequently you looked at certain things. Wear them long enough and you’ll never have to see anything you don’t like or know again. Why would anyone bother trying to make the world any better when you could just blissfully ignore all the bad stuff?
Crazy thing about specs is they used to be super popular and now, not so much. Not since, you know, that thing happened. Turned out the company who originally produced them had basically created the perfect vehicle for marketing and propaganda, and were paid by various entities to promote certain agendas. That’s how we almost elected a freaking crime lord as mayor… When that little tidbit came to light, people sort of lost the taste for mediated reality and Info Dynamic limited went bankrupt. There were still cheap knockoffs being printed, but they’d become more of a novelty played with by teens. Oz’s were the legit article though, surprisingly enough.
This is literally the only situation where specs were actually necessary. Without them I wouldn’t know a Zonar DSX 7 series from my own asshole. I’d never been very technologically minded. It’d never mattered to me how it worked as long as it worked. There was something squiffy about a lot of the sculpture’s components, though. The readouts were glitchy, with patches of information missing — like the articles had been doctored. That or Oz’s specs had lost their mojo. Didn’t matter. Everything I saw was recorded and streamed back to Oz’s box at home. I’d sort out the problem later. Maybe.
“Yo! Where’s the ladies?” I asked after I’d loaded the last screen into a packing crate and there was nothing left but wiring hanging down like rainbow spaghetti.
“There isn’t one,” the guard grumbled from behind the security desk.
“What am I supposed to do? I’m going to be here all day. Should I pop a squat right here, then?” The fat rent-a-cop stereotype squinted at me trying to judge if I’d do it or not, while I struggled not to break out the “gotta piss” dance.
With a grunt, he nodded, touching something on his desk. “Fine. Just follow the lights.”
“Thanks,” I said, dripping with syrupy fake sincerity, giving him a smile more animal than friendly.
“Don’t deviate from the path. I’ll be watching.” I felt rent-a-cop’s eyes following me, staring fixedly at my ass. Watching me, indeed.
That second can of go juice was a big mistake. My bladder was full of rusty nails as I legged it down the corridors, smearing my greasy fingers along the expensive “liquid glass” walls that looked like an entire galaxy had been poured into molten glass. The bathroom door locked behind me and I was confronted by another multitude of reflective surfaces. What was with this place and the shiny things? I got vertigo trying to keep track of my reflection bouncing around at every angle. Th specs were too dumb to tell the difference between a reflection and an actual person so a bio popped up for each of my reflections. Oz had definitely jiggered with these because instead of my name, it said “the Roommate Creature” and each version had some random fact about me that he’d learned from living with me. Stuff like “will eat anything” and “born fifty years too late”. I really needed to use this around the apartment when I got home. Could learn a lot more about Oz this way. First, I had to take care of the business at hand. I didn’t know if was the vat of vindaloo curry I had last night or I needed to drink more water, but holy fuck balls did it ever burn to pee. Here’s hoping that librarian I went home with the other night had all her shots.
On a whim, I whipped out my indelible lipstick (man-eater red) and scrawled “no globs, no masters” across the mirror above the sink. Maintenance would spent the next week scrubbing it off while the corporate elite would be suitably scandalized. Security would know it was me, but wouldn’t find it until I left – hopefully. There weren’t cameras in there – legally only listening devices were allowed in bathrooms (eww!). Pleased with my handy work, I slunk out into the hallway and follow the lights back to the lobby like a good little drone.
The first sign that something was off was that light path the guard had activated for me was gone when I left the ladies room. Aggressive voices and fearful whispers echoed in the two story room. It had become very dark, like the sky lights had been blacked out. As I neared the lobby, it was obvious that some kind of alarm had been triggered, but from the corridor I couldn’t see much. Encom was really getting their money’s worth out of that rent-a-cop asshole. I strained to hear what was being said. Did anyone know I was there? Were they going to search the whole floor? What should I do? Go back to the bathroom and wait the whole thing out? Or get in the middle of it and see what happened?
Peering around the corner, there were six dude-bros clad in paramilitary gear like they’d come to wage war on Encom’s lobby. Overkill much? The few stragglers caught in the lobby when they’d made their entrance were herded into the elevator and the rent-a-cop was hogtied on the ground, much to my everlasting delight. The weird thing was, the dude-bros weren’t heading into the rest of the building. They were locking themselves down here, like whatever they’d come for was in the lobby. But that would mean… The DIY commandos converged on Oz’s sculpture. They sure lucked out — it was already half packed up for them.
“Looks like half the components are missing.”
“Great, what are we supposed to do now?”
“Maybe they’re in those crates?”
“They’re locked. I don’t know if we’ve got enough time to get ’em open.”
As the conversation wore on, some of the dude-bros stripped off their helmets and other cumbersome gear. That was a bad move. My specs would identify them in seconds — or not. Huh. Something blocked facial recognition. Must have been part of something they wore. Maybe these guys knew what they’re doing after all. One of them pulled up his sleeves — it was hot work burglarizing the headquarters of Encom – and the specs zoomed in on the hasty tattoo removal scars visible there. Whatever the image was, it had been completely obliterated, but the specs still picked up the implants embedded in the skin that had been deactivated, but not removed. Those were the same kind of implants that went with the neotattoos Oz and all his crazy followers had.
“Disciples!” Sometimes my inner monologue wasn’t as inner as I’d like it to be and my voice carried in that big echoey space.
“What was that?” Heads jerked around in my direction.
“Go check it out.”
In the most childish move ever, I pressed myself flat against the wall and hoped no one came this way, but it was the only hall that leads off the main floor. The stomping footsteps and heavy breathing are getting louder. My eyes scrunched shut as I willed myself invisible. When I open my eyes again, this burley mother fucker was laying his clammy hands on me with a sick grin on his stupid face. I tried to slither out of his grasp but it was no use.
“Look what I found.” He led me to the centre of the room with my arms pinned to my sides.
“Must be the person responsible for gutting this masterpiece,” another dude-bro replied.
“Hey, I’m just doing what I’m paid to,” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.
“You weren’t supposed to start until tomorrow,” the obvious leader said, coming over to inspect me. I’m gonna call him Steve. He looked exactly like this awful jock I went to high school with, who was also named Steve.
“Wait, it is Wednesday today, right?”
“Open the crates.”
“Why?” I blurted out, unable to stop myself. If they were here to steal it, why open the crates that were already packed? He wasn’t impressed. I guess little girls should be seen not heard. The one holding my arms squeezes just a little bit harder.
“We need something from inside one of them,” Steve said.
“Which component?” And the manimal squeezed even harder. That’ll leave some beefy bruising in the morning.
“You don’t need to know that.” Aww, Steve didn’t want to play twenty questions with me.
“Then you don’t need to know which crate it’s in.”
There was a long pause. “We want the sculpture’s brain.”
“Why? It’s just one of those dime store printed p86x’s, I think. You know the sculpture is worth more as a whole than in pieces, right?” At least that’s what it looked like when I’d peeped it earlier.
“Not to us, it isn’t,” he said, looking down on me like I was the biggest idiot he’d ever met, which I might’ve very well been for giving this guy lip. Learned that bad habit from my degenerate gambler of a father. Thankfully, he also taught me to have a good poker face.
“Either way, the only thing inside those crates are the displays.”
“You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t take you word for it, but the schematics say there’s a back up wired onto one of those screens and I need it.”
How the hell did Steve get a hole of Oz’s schematics? He pulled out his screen while my captor released me with a shove. Only no one clocked the little palm sized taser clutched in my right hand. With a quick jab, I zapped the fat fuck and he went down like a sack of rotten potatoes. Served him right, touching me with his creepy hands.
“You little bitch!” And then I was staring down the barrels of several assault riffles and shot guns. This was way more guns than I ever expected to have pointed at me in my lifetime.
“Why didn’t anyone scan her and take her tool belt!” Steve barked over the groans of his fallen sack of potatoes.
“She won’t scan. Should we strip her?” said a lanky dude whose equipment looked simultaneously too big and too small for him. Huh. It must be the wonky specs. Trust Oz to figure that trick out.
“We don’t have time for this. Just pat her down. Thoroughly.” Steve moved away to try and make sense of the wire spaghetti I’d left up while String Bean felt me up. He looked disconcerted by the blank expression on my face as I went sort of limp on him. His hands lingered around my hips. I guess he was an ass man. When he got too close to my face, I snapped at his ear with a playful growl. He jumped. I laughed. What was wrong with me?
“She’s clean.” String Bean should’ve checked my belt buckle.
“Time to open those crates.” The barrel of a gun connected with my skull. Hard. For some reason, I’d forgotten to be scared. No sweaty palms, no racing pulse, not even a hint of adrenaline spike. Must be faulty wiring in my brain.
Putting my hands on the first crate, I couldn’t bring myself to key in the combination.
“What happens to me after I open these crates? You never said.” The words popped out of my mouth before I realized I was thinking them.”
“Haven’t decided yet,” Steve said as he looked from his screen to the wires and then back again.
“Fair enough. Mind if I ask what a bunch of Disciples want with the brain of a piece of corporate art?”I tapped the six digit code into the keypad and the crate lip popped loose, falling toward me.
“How did you – yes, I mind.” He glared at me, a deep scowl forming on his face. Not very attractive.
I tapped my specs and pointed at his exposed arm. Furious, he yanked down his sleeves before moving in my direction. I put the next crate between me and him.
“Boss, you need to see this,” String Bean said coming up behind Steve, holding a thin flexi sheet in one hand. The urgency in his voice was enough to distract head honcho from rounding on me. I watched the two converse in low tones as Lanky Dude pointed something out on the flexi. The corner of the sheet was bent funny the same way I’d been fidgeting with my work order on the way here… My eyes widened as the thought dawned on me.
Steve turned his head sharply to glare at me with narrowed eyes and my heart started to race. There’s that pesky adrenaline response. And he was in front of me, shoving the flexi sheet at me.
“Explain.” But my eyes wouldn’t focus. Not that I didn’t already know what he was getting at.
“Wh – what?” I struggled to make my mouth form words.
“You’re the artist. You’re Osiris,” he said in a tone that stung like acid.
A manic laugh bubbled out of me unbidden.
“Explain,” he snapped again, backing me up against a crate.
“Funny story – I’m not Osiris,” I said, flinching away from the blow that I was sure would follow.
“Then why does this say you are?” As he spoke, I became aware of the rest of the crew eyeballing me.
“This has all been some kind of stupid mix up. Osiris was my dingbat roommate, except, um, he’s vanished…” I said, knowing how pathetic it sounded.
“Why should I take your word for it?”
My mouth fell open. I didn’t know what else to say to convince him. I was telling the truth.
“She’s a bit young, don’t you thing?” String Bean said, peering at me with his head cocked to one side. “You’re what? Twenty? Twenty-two?”
“Nineteen,” I answered quickly.
“Right, so that would make her fourteen when Osiris worked with the Prophet,” he said, carefully positioning himself between me and his boss. Steve still glared a me as he mulled this new information over.
“Still… If you knew Osiris then you can help me make sense of these schematics,” Boss-man said, shoving his tablet into my chest. I took the thing with shaking hands and peered down at its contents. At first glance, it looked like utter chaos, but as I thumbed through the various layers a certain Ozian logic began to emerge. It was a lot like how he organized the junk in the living room. I walked over to the remaining sculpture to study it, and with my back to the dude-bros, covertly sent myself the schematics to dissect in more depth later.
Reaching up, I grabbed hold of one of the wire bundles and gave a solid yank, stepping back. It hit the ground with a sharp slap, startling the dude-bros. Yanking down another three, the real guts of the sculpture were left exposed. Specifically the blinking hardware of what could only have been the brain.
“Think I found what you’re looking for…” I said as Steve shoved me out the way. String Bean caught me as I tripped over my own feet and gave me a small, reassuring smile.
Steve pulled out what was probably the clunkiest thumb drive I’d ever seen and plugged it into an open port, presumably to copy whatever was on the brain. The specs identified it as some sort of screenless, micro-powered computer.
“What do you hope to get out of this?” I found myself asking.
Steve ignored me, but String Bean leaned down to whisper in my ear, “Osiris is know for leaving easter eggs in his work. He made this right before the Prophet disappeared so maybe he left us some clues…”
“Oh.” That didn’t really make sense to me, but knowing what I did about Oz, it might have been possible…
A squelching static noise erupted suddenly out of the speakers still hooked up to the sculpture, making us all jump. The dude-bros went on the defensive, brandishing their weapons around, while I hugged myself and willed the ground to open up and swallow me.
Light erupted out of the holoprojectors and assumingly would have filled the displays, too, if they were still plugged in. Weirdly, the same image appeared on my specs, obscuring everything else. A shadowy face emerged from the static, like a stone carving that had been eroded over centuries, the features were too smooth to be recognizable. The sound pulsed and faded for another thirty seconds. And then a voice I immediately recognized as Oz’s began to speak, echoey and reverbed. “Time to wake up!” It repeated over and over, becoming more and more distorted and inhuman. A manic cackling sounded in the background.
“What the hell is this?” Steve yelled in my face.
“Fucked if I know,” I yelled back and just like that, the sound stopped. My ears rang in the sudden silence.
“Let’s move!” Steve ordered, yanking the compustick out of the brain. The dude-bros started moving in unison.
“What about me?” I asked, my head swimming.
“Still deciding,” he answered gruffly, but he looked more worried about clearing his crew out before the noise attracted someone.
“You’re never going to find him, you know.” Stupid. Never should have opened my mouth.
“You don’t know shit,” he sneered, stepping toward me.
“The Prophet and Osiris are the same person, and now they’re both gone,” I said backing away from him, somehow managing to laugh at the situation. And then the room blurred and spun around me.
I woke up with the taste of blood in my mouth and polished marble under me, making my joints ache. The first thing I saw was an intensely bright light. When my eyes focused again, there was a very jolly face hovering over me.
“Are you back with us?”
I nodded. The movement felt like a fist full of marbles were rolling around in my skull.
“The good news is you don’t have a concussion. The bad news is you’re gonna need a new set.” The paramedic held up my thoroughly smashed specs. That’s one way of destroying any evidence left behind, but the dude-bros had no way of knowing that the whole time my specs were transmitting everything they saw back to my server at home.
“You got a real good knock to the brain cage though. You might not want to operate heavy machinery for a few days.”
There was a lot going on in the lobby; lots of footsteps and loud talking in all directions. I struggled to process it all as he helped me sit up.
“What happened? How long was I out?”
“Long enough, I’d say. There was a signal jacking. Reached all over ThisCity. ‘Time to wake up’ what ever that means. Don’t you remember?”
“There were these guys with guns…”
“Yeah, the cams were out. The detectives are hoping you can tell us more about them.”
“They were wearing masks the whole time. I never saw their faces.” The pounding headache made it easy to turn on the water works. If I cried hard enough, no one was going to ask me any hard questions.
A woman wearing a flack jacket and brown dress slacks approached as my tears transformed into hysterics. I sobbed gibberish into the paramedic’s shoulder as the detective appraised me.
“When do you think she’ll be up to talking?”
The paramedic shrugs. “Seems like she’s had quite a shock…”
“Great. She’s as useless as the security guard.” She muttered bitterly as she walked away from us and that was pretty much the end of it.
Okay, so that wasn’t entirely the end of that. Turned out the detective lady was really into doing her job, which was a good thing, I guess. She hounded me for a few weeks before eventually returning my now useless specs. It was pretty easy to blame the whole signal jacking on the dude-bros, since no one could say otherwise. I considered it a thank you for the bump on the noggin. I don’t believe the case was ever solved. Steve and his merry bunch were thorough in destroying all the evidence. Almost as thorough as Oz was at hiding his little easter eggs. The CityAdMin forensic team weren’t able to find any trace of the programming used in the signal jacking, which meant I didn’t end up in the Iso-racks for the next ten years. Can’t tell you what a relief that was.
It didn’t resolve my other dilemma, though. For all intents and purposes, the world still thought I was the artist Osiris. Or at least everything pointed back to me. Osiris was one of those mysterious types with no public persona. In some ways that worked to my advantage because I could just let Osiris languish into obscurity and never produce and more art. On the other hand, if made proving I wasn’t Osiris virtually impossible. So if anyone got any weird art boners for Oz’s work and decided to track him down, they’d find me instead. That didn’t sit well with me. Contacting the art agency that represented Osiris only made the problem worse. They were so excited to hear from Osiris after such a long period of silence. All they wanted to hear was when the new work would be done.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I was convinced that Oz had always intended for me to be his fall guy. The reason he was looking for a roommate wasn’t because he was lonely or any of the other BS reasons he gave me. He was looking for the perfect patsy… and he found one. Crap. This was going to ruin my life. If I didn’t start figuring out what shenanigans Oz had stashed away in his machines, I was going to take the fall for his next catastrophe. It was only by sheer luck I hadn’t already. That mother fucker. I didn’t know how anyone believed that I was capable of making anything as sophisticated and wickedly beautiful as Oz did, but the time to hide in my apartment was over. The world was going to find me whether I was ready or not. Better to be ready, then. Don’t you think?