Gray light squeezes through the automated blinds of SirNiko's apartment. A twitching of his face, and a brief moment of attempting to fall back asleep, to no avail; the blinds flash open at the optimum waking time, dictated by INANI.
SirNiko pushes himself out of his bed, and still half-asleep, throws on his clothes at random, disdaining the clean ones for the ones closest to his bed. His hair is a disheveled mess, but he couldn't care less. The past few days have made him care a lot less about many things.
The door opens automatically as SirNiko steps out into the thin dawn light. The steel enclosure around the town dulls the hues of the sunrise, squeezing out every ounce of color that they could hold. Not that SirNiko, or anyone else in the city, would know what a true sunrise looked like.
SirNiko briskly walks through the streets of Orwell, hands buried in the pockets of his coat to escape the bitter winter morning, as he makes his way to the town center, overlooked by the Town Server -- the giant hall that houses the mainframes and computational facilities of this branch of INANI.
Cracks in the dome filter through glimmers of orange light, dancing and pure in the morning sky. SirNiko gazes at them wistfully, before shaking his head and continuing on. He can think about the... the outside, later. Now's not the time.
SirNiko steps into the town center, and realizes nobody else is here. True, the town had... dwindled, over the course of only six days, but there should be at least a few others here. He lived on the outskirts of the town, so he normally arrived here after the others.
SirNiko grimaces as he thinks of the loss of life. So many people dead, in just under a week. He choked on his sob as he thought of the fear, the anger, the suspicion that had washed over the town -- that had led to them murdering each other, to friends becoming foes. He had once been friends with every one of these people.
Now? Now, they were survivors.
A quick glance at his watch reveals it is 4:59. The morning announcement is about to commence. SirNiko glares at the screen overlooking the fountain in the plaza, and waits for the bell to chime.
"Greetings, citizens!" the screen reads, as the INANI symbol flashes over it, the eight screens staring out, a panopticon to keep watch on each and every... citizen.
"Preliminary investigations have revealed that Wade McGillis has died in the night, due to a break-in!" the screen reads out, and SirNiko sighs. He had nothing against the man -- he may have been a bit quiet and suspicious, but he was only as suspicious as any other man. Which is to say, very. SirNiko's trust had been shattered this week, irrevocably.
"And..." the screen stops reading, pauses, and then wipes out the entire message. Cameras in distant street-corners swivel, and SirNiko raises an eyebrow, as he realizes INANI is confused.
"Where are Ashkin and Tanner?" INANI asks, and cameras swivel to face SirNiko. He glares at them, hands remaining buried in his trench-coat.
"Hell if I know," he says, looking away from the cameras -- and meeting only the gaze of yet more. No escape, he muses.
"I repeat," the screen reads. The text bolds itself. "Where - are - Ashkin - and - Tanner?"
And with that, the screen explodes in a spray of sparks. The eight screens collapse to the ground, the glass shattering and the speakers crumpling under their own weight. A screen tips, tips, and falls straight into the fountain, sending water spraying over the plaza. Turrets in the ground fizzle and spark, as they explode with electricity or come to shuddering halts.
SirNiko steps back quickly as a screen falls where he was standing, and looks at the top of the fountain. A figure stands on top of it, the sunrise silhouetting him. With a squint, he realizes --
"So it is, brother." Ashkin crouches down, perched on the pillar where the panopticon once stood. "You've been freed."
"I..." SirNiko stares in disbelief, and shakes his head, a smile on his face. "I've been free for a long time, Ashkin. Since the second day, I've..." SirNiko looks away, tears stinging at his eyes. "I realized there's another way to live, Ashkin."
SirNiko swallows his tears, and throws down his coat, suddenly feeling flushed.
"I'm an explorer, Ashkin. I've been one since I was a boy. I would leave the town, during the night, to explore the outer reaches beyond the town, to vainly grasp at a freedom I felt I could never attain. Every night, I escaped from this..." He waves around, jabbing at the skyscrapers, pointing at the dome that surrounds the town. "This hell.
"I realized, Ashkin. I realized after I saw the cause in action... I was repulsed by the methods the ORA employed, by INANI's seemingly endless amounts of cruelty. I, though I'd been exploring the frontier every night since I was young, I was never truly free...
"I knew then, that I would never be a free man, as long as others were slaves. That day, Ashkin, I took my first step down the road to freedom. I liberated myself from steel."
Ashkin stares at him, smiling. Before he can speak, Tanner runs down a side-street into the plaza, and skids to a halt as he sees SirNiko and Ashkin talking. Ashkin glances at him, and nods quickly, before jumping off the pillar onto the ground.
"SirNiko, pleasure to see you've joined the cause," Tanner says, shaking hands quickly with his right hand, as he uses a portable computer with his left. "I've been hacking nonstop. We chose today to be the last day we stayed in this gods-forsaken prison. I'm assuming you'll be escaping with us?" A jab with his thumb behind him, and there's an explosion in the distance, shattering the dome and opening a gateway at least a mile wide -- to the wild frontier, outside of the iron grip of INANI.
Tears run down SirNiko's cheeks, looking out to the distance -- as he watches his first true sunrise.
"...Yes." He says, wiping away the tears, and smiles, looking to his two new brethren. Ashkin claps him on the back, and steps purposefully ahead, leading the way.
Thanks again for a wonderful time, my friends! Feel free to share your roles, and discuss what your plans were, how you played the game, and so on.
It was an honor! Thanks for being such a fantastic crew. Love you all!