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The 01 Guerillas were still in shock. Although Black Nest had dispatched snipers at the ski resort last time, they weren’t under fire at that time, and so, the fear was simply surreal to them. When the sniper killed Iron Fist, his blood splattered all over Zhang Heng’s shirt. It made them realize that they had just crossed paths with death himself.
Everyone, including Leah, crouched under their seats, fearing that the flying bullets would claim their lives from nowhere. Two minutes later, Zhang Heng told them, “Okay, you can come out from the hiding. We are safe for now.”
“Uhh… are you sure? I heard that he could snipe the farthest. How far did he shoot when he was being deployed at the ski resort?”
“We are in a city now, not an open environment like a ski resort,” Zhang Heng explained patiently, “The route I chose has a building as cover. The snipers can’t shoot us from here.”
“That’s a relief..” Waldo finally relaxed and returned to his seat.
Although out of danger, Ponytail wasn’t looking too good. “Those people are not targeting us. Their target is Edward. Black Nest’s patience is finally running out, and they do not intend to use peaceful means to resolve this matter.”
“Edward is in a dangerous situation now. We must find him before they do.” Semiprime said in a rare occurrence that he spoke up.
“But the only person who knew his whereabouts has just died in front of us.”
As soon as Little Boy said these words, everyone fell silent again. Although still less than forty, Ponytail was the oldest among the team, and he’d never faced a life and death situation before. Ever since he got himself involved in Black Nest’s and Edward’s matter, he had witnessed death twice.
When Ponytail jumped down from the bridge, he survived miraculously somehow. However, Iron Fist was really dead this time. There was no way that he could survive that fatal shot.
“I’ve been thinking about a question along the way: how did Black Nest find us here?” Philip, who had not spoken in a while, asked.
“No one knows Edward’s abilities better than us, but the guy who died just a few minutes ago said that Black Nest raided their residence two weeks ago. Judging from Edward’s character, he would only become more cautious. At the same time, he must have found out the reason behind it and took precautionary measures. But even so, Black Nest still managed to locate him two weeks later.”
“Are you trying to say that someone betrayed Edward?” Little Boy raised her eyebrows, “At a time like this, there are not many Edward can trust. Iron Fist is definitely not the one that betrayed him. After all, he is already, uhh… that way. So only Mr. Gilm is left, but considering what happened to his son’s family before, it is unlikely he’s on Black Nest’s side.”
“I’m not saying that there is a traitor among us, but that there must be something that allowed Black Nest to locate Edward,” Philip sighed, “unfortunately, we don’t know what that thing is.” “It’s CTOS,” Zhang Heng, who was driving, interrupted suddenly.
“Black nest has connected CTOS to this city.”
01 looked at each other when they heard that, “…it’s impossible, isn’t it? CTOS isn’t even complete yet. And generally speaking, such a project needs to be approved by the House first.”
“Certain parts of CTOS have yet to be completed, and the algorithms haven’t been calibrated to their optimal level as well. However, the part of the system that collects personal data from the public was completed half a year ago. In theory, this toned-down version of CTOS is now online. As for its legal jargon, Black Nest didn’t get authorization from the parliament, but they are very powerful in Toulouse, and the city council is theirs. They’ve obtained a signed document from the mayor, allowing them to carry out some ‘preliminary experimental work’ in Toulouse.”
“What preliminary experimental work?”
“That’s where the problem lies. The definition of the phrase isn’t stated clearly in the document. That would mean Black Nest can do whatever they want at this point.”
“Including silently launching CTOS without the public knowing it?” Leah’s eyes widened.
“It seems like it.”
Before leaving the parallel quest, Zhang Heng wanted to figure out what exactly the number zero meant in the main mission. He did not get the answer from 01, and Edward’s murder didn’t yield too much useful information either. Zhang Heng spent half a month visiting people involved in the matter at that time, and he did not get anything useful from them. After that, he sneaked into Black Nest’s headquarters on the last day and found a copy of CTOS’s development records during its early days. According to the research and development records, Black Nest apparently launched an unfinished version of the CTOS system in secret to capture Edward.
The name of this system-Zero.
However, according to information Zhang Heng collected, Zero was only supposed to be launched two weeks later. Zhang Heng still had plenty of time to do the necessary preparations. Zero must have gone online earlier than scheduled because of the players’ behavioral changes.
Two weeks ago, Black Nest people raided Edward’s room, proving that Zero must have been online at least one month earlier.
“Okay… we now face a city under close surveillance of Black Nest,” Philip took a deep breath, “let me think about what we can do at this time?”
“Can you hack into the CTOS system?” Ponytail asked Waldo.
“I don’t know. Edward once talked about CTOS with me. He and several other talented guys developed their advanced AI security, a system which continuously improves itself through machine learning. He boasted that even he couldn’t hack into it. But you know me, I never thought that there are places in this world I could never go. It will take time, maybe weeks, maybe months, but they will eventually track me down. No… I should say, with the help of CTOS, they will track us down inevitably.”
“I can hack into CTOS,” Zhang Heng said, “but of course, my skills are only good enough to hack into the incomplete CTOS.”
In the parallel quest, a group of hackers led by 01 fought a long war with Black Nest. During this period, the hackers had managed to achieve some small gains. However, every time they found a loophole, Black Nest would upgrade CTOS’ security. In the end, the hackers had inadvertently made CTOS more perfect than before. It was nearly perfect, in fact, which was the group of hackers was in such a rut in the end.
But this wasn’t the future. Zero was the early version of CTOS, and it surely had loopholes. Two months before they entered the small town, Zhang Heng was already more prepared than everyone in the 01 Guerillas.
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