The Broker looks out his apartment window, staring at the massive skyscrapers that fill the wealthiest neighborhood in London. His eyes move from the flickering lights of aircraft hovering across the troposphere to the golden Adonis hologram projected on the night sky. He fixates on the top floor of the Akcab Tower, imagining what’s happening there. What moves are being planned in that penthouse, and what secrets are kept? He has done this more times than he can remember. After all, he chose this apartment mainly because of the view. Panoramic and strategic.
But the Broker isn’t interested in spending the evening looking out. He presses a button next to the window panes, and after some buzzing, the glass turns entirely black. The electricity running through the glass heats up one of the chemical components and turns it opaque, making it impossible to see through and keeping the light out. Since the molecules inside the windows are heating up uniformly, thermal vision devices are useless for monitoring what’s going on inside his apartment. Perfect privacy. After the buzzing stops, the Broker taps at his digital wrist console, and the apartment lights dim while the vintage projector bolted to the roof turns on. It’s a pretty old piece of technology, but it reminds him of his youth.
His father, Mr. Lee, used to have a projector, and they’d watch movies every Sunday on it. Mr. Lee always suggested they watch comedies or action films, but the young Broker insisted they watch the documentaries Mr. Lee himself made. Some were perhaps too dark, too raw, for a young boy, but the Broker would look at them with awe, mainly because he wasn’t just looking at the movie; he was admiring his father’s craft. He feels the same even now, rewatching it for the millionth time.
The projection on the wall shows Mr. Lee outside of the Karaguchi Conglomerate HQ in Osaka. He looks about as old as he was when he disappeared. A crowd of journalists is gathered around an imposing black hovercar, trying to get a statement from Masashi Karaguchi. Mr. Lee is shouting, asking the CEO to address the claims about increased cancer rates in countries recently flooded with KC products. Masashi Karaguchi is doing his best to ignore the journalists. Suddenly, a rock flies into the frame, hitting Mr. Karaguchi below the cheek. People start screaming, and the image shakes as the camera operator gets pushed by security personnel. The camera gets dropped to the ground, and the picture turns sideways. Now the frame shows a young Punk being held down by the CEO’s security detail. A black WDI anti-riot boot approaches the camera lens, followed by the sound of crushed plastic, glass, and metal, and the film stops. The projector is still on, projecting white light on the wall.
The Broker remembers watching this raw footage for the first time. He was 12 years old. His father had come back from Japan and showed Mrs. Lee what they had filmed and told her that he and the camera operator had been detained and held for three days in a WDI Interrogation Center. They got the broken camera back when WDI personnel released them and told them that the Japanese government had revoked their journalist visas. They had to flee the country in a rush, boarding a ship that sailed for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch settlement and, from there, flying back to London.
The Broker remembers overhearing the conversations his parents had about how Mr. Lee should stop digging dirt about the Big Five. «It’s too risky,» his mother would say, shaking, «If you play dangerous games, you win dangerous prizes. Your son needs you here. Don’t you want to be here for him?». And then Mrs. Lee would start quietly crying her eyes out. Mr. Lee would stay still in silence, fully knowing that she was right but also that his work was a way to be there for his son, to try and make the world a better place for all three of them. How could he stay home when corporations were perverting society and raping the planet? How could he look his son in the eyes, knowing that he could have done something to expose those corporations and stop their crimes? Mr. Lee couldn’t stop searching for the truth.
When Mr. Lee went missing while filming a documentary on Schäfer & Schäfer’s test subject acquisition methods, Mrs. Lee traveled to the Unified Swiss Commonwealth of European States to look for him. She knew her husband had sources and collaborators deep within the Cryptorunner community, but nobody would talk to her. Mrs. Lee lacked the proper connections and didn’t know how to approach them. Eventually, she asked the local authorities, who said that Mr. Lee had probably been murdered or taken hostage by Punks or The Guild. They didn’t offer any proof and refused to take Mrs. Lee’s missing person report. She came back home and tried to get the attention of the press, but none of the mainstream media would pay any attention to her. The Broker still remembers overhearing a phone call his mother had with an Adonis Digital Group representative who said her story was too «dull» to be picked up. A few weeks later, a Zebra Synthetics automated forklift suddenly went berserk and ran Mrs. Lee over while she was trying to get the attention of the United Nations General Secretary outside the London UN building. The police labeled it as a freak accident, they carried out no investigation, and a judge awarded the young Broker a small fortune in damages. A couple of years later, the young Broker was already living entirely under the radar, plotting how to get back at the Big Five.
After some minutes of being idle, the Broker taps at his wristwatch again, and the projector switches to a live Adonis News Flash. A voluptuous woman adorned with gold jewelry and implants is smiling and moving her lips. The Broker is not listening to her words. Instead, he’s looking at the picture next to the anchor’s head. It’s a still image of the UN Bioethics Committee Chairperson, standing behind a pulpit and giving a statement. The Broker knows what is being said without even reading the bottom text. His sources have been telling him about this for weeks. Seeing this news flash is just confirmation. Now it’s on.
The Broker records a short video message, does some minor editing, and publishes it to the secret channels and private servers all the top Cryptorunners usually visit. Word of such a profitable contract will spread like wildfire. And he intends to feed that fire until every corporate adherent is burnt to a crisp.