That night Matt had trouble sleeping. Everyone including Sandy left considerably early seeing as how it was still a school night. He wanted to invite Sandy to stay with him but decided against it. Deacon would be there for him in the morning and the thought was unsettling.

He tossed and turned numerously as he fought off countless nightmares and thoughts of betraying his uncle. Even more thoughts of getting tangled up with someone like Deacon made him uneasy. Would he survive this? Would Octocorp actually silence him permanently?

It was eight o' clock in the morning. He heard the last sounds of his roommate Jeff leaving for class. When he heard the front door slam shut he got out of bed and gathered his clothes.

In the shower he kept thinking about how it was the only a few days ago that everything seemed so carefree and easy. It was funny how within the course of a few days something could completely alter his life. Was he to spend the rest of his life under someone else's eyes?

He was relieved that his room was vacant when he got out of the bathroom. "At least he's not pulling any of his magician shit." said Matt to himself.

It was now 8:47. Matt wished that the next thirteen minutes would last forever. He did not have a good feeling about this. What could be so delicate to Octocorp's interests that they would not want to directly approach his uncle? What could his uncle be hiding from them?

Matt sat in the living room couch. Max hopped on next to him.

He reached over and petted the cat's head. "Hey buddy."

Max meowed and began purring.

He picked up his phone and called Sandy. Even though he knew he would get her voicemail, if there were to be a last person to talk to, she would be it.

"Hi Sandy it's Matt. I was just thinking about last night and well, I just wanted to let you know that I" he wasn't sure which "l" word to use. "That I really like being with you. I really appreciate your helping me with my uncle, I know I haven't been 'me' lately but I promise when this is all over and done with I will be normal again. I look forward to seeing you before I go this weekend. Well, enjoy class okay? Bye."

Matt hung up. Before he could put the phone back in his pocket it rang again.

"Sandy?"

"Guess again."

"Deacon."

"Bingo. We're here. You ready?"

"Yeah. I'll be right out."

Matt got up he and looked at Max who meowed at him. "Well, here goes."

When Matt stepped outside he saw a jet black BMW pulled into the driveway with three pairs of sunglasses staring at him. Deacon was driving with Eric and Robert in the back.

"That is creepy."

Matt walked around and hopped into the passenger seat.

"How's it going Matt?" asked Deacon as he pulled out of the driveway.

"Alright I guess. Thanks for not pulling anything tricky on me."

Deacon laughed. "There's a time to joke around and a time to be serious. Unfortunately we need to be serious today. A lot is riding on all of our shoulders and soon, mostly yours."

"Great."

"You know, I forgot to ask you last night if you liked your gift. I really tried to get the extra 9 volt jack."

"Its very nice, my friends really like it too."

"Good."

"I appreciated the note. I really liked the volume on full blast."

Deacon smiled. "Don't look at me, that was all Eric's idea."

Matt turned around and faced Eric. "Don't you guys have a life?"

Eric shrugged. "This is how we pay for it."

Matt grunted and faced forward again.

Deacon pushed the radio button on. Rap music started blaring. He turned it down. "Sorry about that, was out late last night."

Matt wondered where a person like Deacon hung out. He had a difficult time envisioning Deacon having a social life.

"So where are we going?"

"Get some food. Got tired of free continental breakfasts."

"I see. Where are you from?"

"For me home is where the job is."

"And you like that?"

"I love it."

The group pulled into a fast food restaurant and ate a quick breakfast. Deacon took them on the freeway and they traveled north for a few miles before they exited and drove down towards the business district of the city.

"So how did you end up working for Octocorp?" he said finishing off his orange juice.

"Long story short, came to USC, didn't know what my major was so I did Liberal Arts with a minor in Sociology. I was curious when I heard Octocorp representatives were going to be on campus. I met up with one of them, scored an interview and was given an internship while I finished my major. Graduated class of 2012 got my first assignment as assistant to one of the lower ranking managers. Clawed and climbed my way to what I am now."

"And what's that?"

"Their official bitch."

Matt laughed. "You say that with pride."

"This dog is very well taken care of."

"Whatever works I guess."

"Yup."

There was some silence as Deacon pulled out his phone and began dialing his numbers.

"This is Deacon. Is everything set up? You're killing me. Get on it, now, please. We're almost there. We already ate. Just do it. And make sure you have his badge ready; I hate waiting in the lobby. Alright, see you in a bit."

Deacon stuffed his phone back into his pocket.

"We have a corporate office north of here." he said. "When we get there I need you to be on your best behavior. No running, no swear words, turn your cell phone off or on silent, etc."

"Okay." said Matt. He began to feel a little more comfortable around Deacon and the others. He figured by now that he was safe, that they weren't going to kill him.

He wondered what Sandy was up to.

When they pulled into the corporate office' parking lot, there was a nice post at the front that had Deacon's name stenciled on it. He looked over at Matt.

"This isn't even my based office and no one can park here. Pretty neat huh? Not bad for my first job out of college."

Matt nodded in agreement. He already knew that getting a degree didn't guarantee a well paying job. He was impressed with the way Deacon seemed to be treated. He wondered if he would ever be that lucky after graduation, that is if even graduated.

The group exited the car and everyone with the exception of Matt attached photo identification badges onto their left breast pocket. Deacon led the way up the stairs and through the glass doors. With the exception of the golden colored door handles, Matt could have sworn there was no door between the lobby and the outside world.

When he walked in, he noticed to his immediate right a heavily armed security guard wearing dark red and black. The guard was wearing what almost looked like a motorcycle mask, though more conservative with a darker visor. He was carrying an assault rifle and stood like he was a Marine.

"Whoa."

Deacon laughed. "What? Oh don't let Mr. Flemming bother you."

"Is that really necessary?!"

"In certain parts it is. We get attacked quite a bit more than the media would ever portray."

"By what?"

"Gangs, mafia, disgruntled customers, angry ex-employees. Until we stationed O.P.S. members in certain areas, we've always been on our toes."

"So that's O.P.S."

"Yeah, you don't want to mess with those guys unless you're feeling really lucky. They are far more efficient than those damn acne faced, high pitched post pubescent kids, or fat old men with a superiority complex."

The group walked up the stairs and toward the front desk. A woman sitting at a computer with a headset on greeted them. She smiled at Deacon.

"Hey Janice." said Deacon returning the smile. He nodded at Matt. "Do you have a badge for him?"

"Yes, I just need you both to sign this for me."

Deacon signed and gave the pen to Matt who couldn't pry his eyes off of the almost robotic looking creature that stood in the corner.

"Why does he wear the helmet?" he asked as he signed under Deacon's name.

"It's got everything he needs in there." said Deacon as he jotted down information on the clipboard. "Built in comm. radio; he can be contacted through any frequency in this building and within a ten mile radius. Built in sensors that give him on screen data. He can check if you're packing any heat, your blood pressure levels any perspiration, etc."

"Why?"

"Incase you were about to pull something fishy."

"Oh."

"I've worn one before, it's pretty fun. You can even hack and intercept radio signals as well as raise audio levels. I'll bet that's what he's listening to now." said Deacon. He handed Janice the clipboard. "Huh Mr. Flemming?"

The O.P.S. member moved his head in Deacon's direction and slowly shook his head.

"Right on."

"That's creepy."

Janice put the clipboard into a cabinet and placed a badge on the desk in front of Matt.

"Here you go."

"Thanks." Matt placed the badge above his shirt pocket like the others and followed Deacon passed the desk. He flipped it up to see his name and info printed on the card with the Octocorp logo in the back round. "How about that…"he muttered.

Matt was impressed on how clean everything was. The tile floor seemed to reflect the light brilliantly while the nearby plants seemed so still as they absorbed the natural light. He felt as though his mere presence would pollute the building.

The group passed the lobby and walked toward one of the two silver elevators. Each elevator had another O.P.S. member standing next to it.

"I bet the plants feel safe." said Matt as he tried looking into one of the O.P.S. member's visor for some sign of humanity.

With Deacon in the lead they entered.

"Would you mind hitting nine for us?" he asked.

Matt pushed the button and the small room grew silent. Nothing could be heard except for the motors and gears pulling up the elevator.

"So what exactly am I going to be doing here?"

"We have a computer set up that's almost exactly like your uncle's, its got the same virus and anti hacker software, or as close to his version as we can get without him noticing. We've tried hacking into his system ourselves, but our analysts, I call them the 'four eyes' say that we can't extract the files or even make an attempt without your uncle knowing."

"What if he finds out?"

"He might do something drastic."

"Like destroying them?"

Deacon nodded. The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. The smell of new carpet hit Matt's nose. When he stepped outside, he found he was in a large hallway that had pictures lined against the walls that were opposite of a glass wall. It seemed as though the pictures were projected out into the city.

"What if he has already?"

"He hasn't yet. We've kept a constant surveillance on him. He's got us all in some kind of stalemate. He knows that we want it but he won't give it to us and he knows that if we try to take it, he'll destroy it."

"Has he ever said why he won't give it up?"

"Nope."

Deacon continued to lead the group down the hallway as Matt eyeballed all of the pictures. He saw what looked like screenshots from various movies, covers of a few books, pictures of what looked like people his age, as well as old logos of Octocorp.

"What's all this stuff?"

"Memorabilia. These are the first people of Octocorp, back when they were youngin's. Back when they didn't turn into grouchy angry old men."

"How old are they now?"

"They're in their early fifties. From the way they treat me though, that's old enough."

Matt continued passed the pictures until they came to the end of the hallway.

Deacon slid a card just above the doorknob. "Stand back."

The doors opened and led into a large dimly lit round room that had several computers and electrical equipment in the center. There were a few people sitting at their desks and few looked up to acknowledge the newcomers.

"This looks like our computer lab."

"Ours is better." said Deacon. "There's crap in here that you won't see for a few years."

"What do you with all of this stuff?"

It looked like Deacon was looking for someone. "Play really awesome games."

A man that looked as if he were Deacon's age approached the group. He seemed nervous as he adjusted his eyeglasses. "Hello Mr. Deacon."

"Mr. Saguwara, how are you?"

"Good sir."

"Please, just Deacon. I used to be a bumbling grunt just like the rest of you."

"Yes Deacon."

"That's better. What have you got for us?"

"We'll be ready to run the simulations soon."

Matt looked around the room and ignored the conversation between the two. He saw another O.P.S. member in the corner. Light from the computers reflected off of the computer. That made four already. He wondered how many were in the building.

"Well we were about to begin, but there was a problem" Saguwara stopped his sentence and looked at Matt.

"And?"

"Deacon, is he authorized to hear this?"

Deacon sighed. "You're right. I don't know. Its not worth the risk." Deacon turned to Matt. "Hey listen, there's still some things you're not supposed to know about, how certain areas of Octocorp work let's just say. It's nothing personal, just go stand somewhere else for a while alright?"

"What? Where am I-"

"Just go talk to that O.P.S. guy. Tell him it's your birthday or something. We'll be right back."

Matt watched as Saguwara led Deacon further into the room. Soon the whispering was drowned out from all of the typing and electrical clicking.

"Dammit I'm not a little kid." said Matt.

"Hey Eric."

Eric looked at Matt. "What?"

"If that O.P.S. guy pulls anything funny you got my back right?"

Eric laughed. "For the time being."

Matt walked over to the O.P.S. the way a tamer would approach a sleeping lion. "Hey."

There was a clicking noise. "Hi." Another clicking noise followed. The same noises were heard before and after he spoke. His voice sounded cold and slightly altered.

Matt's eyes wandered to the assault rifle the guard held in his gloved hands. "Ever have to use that thing?"

The guard's visor moved slowly down to face Matt.

"A few times."

"Have you been doing this long?"

"About two years." said the guard.

"Do you ever get bored, just standing around waiting for World War III?"

"It's already happening, there's never a dull moment here."

Matt looked around the room and imagined what the workers were so fixated upon. He wondered what kind of software, what kind of power they has access to. "I'm sure of it."

"Hold on a sec." The guard reached onto his belt with a gloved hand and moved a dial. He tilted his head towards the direction of the pair. "They're calling you over now."

Matt turned around and saw Deacon beckon for him. "See ya I guess."

"Bye." said the guard.

Matt walked back to Deacon with Eric and Robert following behind him.

"Did you make a new friend?" asked Deacon.

Matt shrugged. "He's a lot more interesting than these too."

"That's great. This is Mr. Saguwara. He'll be babysitting you during the simulation. Any and all questions will be answered by him. Got it?"

"Okay."

Mr. Saguwara smiled as the two shook hands. It was one of the first Octocorp Employees that wasn't intimidating and actually seemed genuine.

"I got some work to do. This job isn't all fun and games." Deacon looked at his watch. "Alright Mr. Saguwara, you have three hours to turn this noob into a full blown hacking animal. I'm counting on you." Deacon turned to Eric. "Get this kid a hot pocket and some coke, make sure he's happy alright?"

"Yes sir."

Deacon looked at him cockeyed. "Yes Deacon."

"Good. I'm out of here." He slapped Matt on the back playfully. "Get em' champ. Make Deacon proud."

After a couple of hours, numerous sodas and candy bars later, Matt knew his way through what would later be known as his uncle's computer. Mr. Saguwara patiently walked him through every file that was to be retrieved and every possible error that could be encountered. At first Matt tried to read the files, but they were just dummies. The real text was never revealed to him since Octocorp couldn't access that part. He doubted they'd allow him to see the files regardless.

With an hour left before Deacon's return the two decided to take a break.

"So what brought you here?"

"MIT."

"You came after graduation?"

"Didn't graduate."

"Really?"

Mr. Saguwara nodded. "I had bad grades."

"How did you get noticed?"

"I went to one of their open house sessions. They knew I was talented. When they asked what the deal with my grades were, I was honest."

"And what was that?" asked Matt before drinking his sixth can of soda.

"I stopped giving a damn. I didn't want to bust my ass and earn high status so that I could work somewhere I'd never be appreciated."

Matt laughed. "And that worked?"

"They looked at my portfolio and said I would be greatly appreciated."

"Are you?"

Mr. Saguwara nodded. "Very much so. They offered me a very competitive salary with the option of going back to school once I decided to tackle it once more."

Matt took another drink. He was relieved to be talking to what seemed like a normal person employed by Octocorp. "So how much about Octocorp do you know?"

"Only as much as I am supposed to."

"Are you forced to do that?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Are you not allowed to know anything beyond what you do?"

"Oh no, its not like that. Depending on your job and clearance, Octocorp is very open with what they do. Just, why waste your time focusing on what doesn't help you do your job?"

"I can see that. Do you know anything of O.S.S.?"

Mr. Saguwara nodded. "I know enough of the O.S.S. because they have to do with our project."

"Can you tell me about them?"

"Only what Deacon has already told you."

"Hasn't been much."

"I'm afraid that's it then. He'll brief you if it's necessary. All I can say is that this is very crucial to their development."

"I guess we can't mess it up then." said Matt downing his drink.

"Definitely not."

When Deacon returned, he was impressed with the progress that was made. Matt was able to walk him through everything that he was supposed to do when he got to his uncle's house.

"Very good Matt. You're a quick learner it seems. Now its time for the ultimate test." said Deacon.

"What would that be?"

"A nice lunch following some recreational activity. Right now the information's fresh on your brain, its not going to be that way when it's game time. You're going to be stressed, tired and probably in a hurry."

Matt looked at the numerous candy bars and empty soda cans around him. "Well I'm in no hurry for lunch if you don't mind."

Deacon grimaced at the graveyard of junk food surrounding Matt's computer. "I see. So recreational activity will be first it seems."

"And what would that be exactly?"

Deacon smiled. "Dodgeball."

"What?!"

"Dodge ball."

"Are you serious?"

Deacon nodded his head. "To the gym! Saguwara, you in on this?"

"You bet."

"Good, round up your best men and meet us there. Bring your a-game."

"I can't believe you're fucking serious." said Matt as he followed Deacon out of the room.

"We thought it was ridiculous as well. But one of our guys remembered that an old software programming company would play it to relieve stress and aggravation. For us it's replaced racquetball, not to mention it used to be a favorite of the founding members."

"I guess you might have a point, but it sounds so juvenile."

The group exited the room and ended up back in the hallway.

"If you can't take this seriously, you can't be on my team. Last time I was here we barely beat Mr. Saguwara's team of four eyes. As a former track athlete I cannot have that."

"Whatever you say man."

When the group got to the gym's locker room, Matt found a pair of clothes to change into waiting for him. It was a black long-sleeved shirt that bore the Octocorp logo above his left breast with a pair of not too loose fitting black basketball pants and a pair of black and white tennis shoes.

"Maybe I got them all wrong? No, what am I thinking? I am buying into their lies, but I am playing dodgeball with them." he said to himself. "Sandy would never believe this." he said as he looked at himself in the mirror. He was beginning to feel as if he belonged to the corporation already.

As he stepped outside he was met with Deacon, Eric and Robert dressed in the same attire. He had a difficult time not laughing at Deacon's black sweatband around his head and the two older men behind him. He couldn't believe they were seriously going to play dodgeball.

The group of three walked by several treadmills, stepping machines and weightlifting cages. They walked passed a bench that had a man that looked a little older than Deacon pressing a lot of weight. Deacon watched as the man finished.

"Wanna get a real workout?" he asked.

The man sat up and wiped his head with a towel. He was wearing a faded black t-shirt that had "O.P.S." in big white letters printed on it. "Well I'll be damned, you're back!" said the man eagerly as he shook Deacon's extended hand. He looked at Matt.

"Who's the kid?"

"Just an intern." said Deacon before Matt could answer.

"That right?"

"Yes sir." said Matt, following Deacon's lead.

"Alright, I'll play. Who you going up against?"

"Mr. Saguwara and his four eyes."

The man smiled. "They think they can beat us this time huh?"

"You bet."

"I'm in."

It took Matt a few games to realize that he was truly playing dodgeball with Deacon and the others. He was constantly under the impression that it was a test or joke. He hadn't known Deacon long but knew that he was someone that kept the people around him on their toes.

Matt decided that he would play for the Four Eyes since he liked the idea of nailing Deacon. He still felt somewhat of a prisoner and wanted to release his anger, fear and frustration on him in any way possible, even if that meant throwing a rubber ball at him.

Matt turned out to be their best player and only hope in defeating Deacon's team. He found that he had become the most sought after target. Deacon's team was always gunning for him. He had to dodge countless balls that were hurled at him. He could hear Saguwara's teammates cheering him on every time he nailed Deacon or someone else.

When the games were over with the Four Eyes had won. Deacon made it apparent that it was only because of Matt. He swore that next time if they played, they would lose.

After the games, Matt showered and returned to his normal clothes. He met with Deacon and the others in the lobby and they went to a nearby restaurant with Saguwara.

Deacon and Mr. Saguwara spent a lot of time catching up. When that conversation ran dry, Deacon asked Matt about why he was attending college, what brought him to USC and what he was hoping to accomplish. Deacon listened as if he actually cared and began to reveal the more human side of him.

Matt told him that he wasn't sure. He was majoring in philosophy but didn't know what he was going to do about it. For some reason, Matt heard himself opening up to Deacon. He had told him about his recent problems with attending class and how he was uncertain of the future.

Deacon stared at Matt as though he had the interest of someone who had been there before and not someone that was trying to get something out him.

After three, they returned to the office and Matt was sore and well fed. He forgot why he was there in the first place and could not believe the physical toll a few harmless games like dodgeball could take on his body. He was exhausted.

"I told you, it's great exercise. How else can you do so many movements? Where else are you going to have to jump, duck and hurl a ball at the same time?" said Deacon laughing.

When Matt sat at the terminal in the computer room he thought he had forgotten everything already. Deacon had succeeded in removing all of the tasks from Matt's initial memory bank. He had to rely on what looked familiar.

"Alright Matt. We've fed you, entertained you and now we're about to kill you." said Deacon. There was no trace of teasing or humor in his voice. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small nine millimeter.

Mr. Saguwara jumped back. "Whoa shit!"

"What the fuck?!" exclaimed Matt as he realized he was looking down the barrel of Deacon's gun.

"You have three minutes to do what you were taught without a flaw or I will turn your head into a canoe."

"What? Are you fucking serious?"

"What are you doing Deacon?!" said Mr. Saguwara panicked. He motioned for the O.P.S. member to come over. The O.P.S. member remained motionless.

"This doesn't concern him Saguwara. Stay out of it." Deacon looked at his watch and back at Matt. "You've wasted thirty seconds already."

"Shit!" said Matt as he turned around and began reworking the process Mr. Saguwara had shown him. "Shit." Was all he could say.

"You can't do this!" said Matt as he turned around and started beginning the process.

"You signed your life away this morning in the lobby. I can do as I please and get off free as a bird. We do it all the time. Clock's ticking.

While Matt clicked and typed away, Deacon looked at Mr. Saguwara. "I hope you taught him well or you're next."

Deacon placed the gun an inch from the back of Matt's skull.

Matt tried hard to ignore it and continued working.

Deacon looked at his watch. "You have a minute."

"Fuck!"

Matt continued working. He took a few deep breaths and resented where he was. He never should have gotten himself into this mess. He knew he couldn't trust someone like Deacon.

Deacon cocked the gun. "Thirty seconds."

Matt saw the last progress bar appear. He immediately closed all of the windows and began the system power off function.

Deacon took the gun away from Matt's head, aimed it towards the O.P.S. guard and fired. There was no banging noise but instead the sound of an air BB leaving an air soft gun. The plastic ball hit the O.P.S. guard's helmet and hit the ground the way a tiny bug would hit a windshield. Deacon put the air soft gun on the desk in front of Matt and watched as the computer screen powered off. "You had ten seconds to spare. Not bad."

"One thing you did that you didn't really have to though."

"What's that?" asked Matt his voice revealing a mixture of emotional stress. He watched him and Mr. Saguwara through the reflection of the now black screen.

"You were never told to turn off the computer. But that's good. In the real situation, you're uncle would probably wonder why you left it on. Nice thinking. Good job." he said as he patted Matt on the back and looked at Mr. Saguwara.

"Now I remember why I don't always look forward to your visits Harris." Said Mr. Saguwara, wiping his forehead.

"Aw, you don't have to go and call me that. It was all in good fun. No hard feelings if I spooked you a little eh Matt?"

Matt slammed his head against the keyboard and shut his eyes. "I really hate you Deacon."

Deacon laughed. "I get that so much. But I am confident in you. If you can do that with a gun to the back of your head held by a stranger, your uncle will not be a problem."

"Right." said Matt into the keyboard.

Deacon took Matt home shortly afterward. As he pulled into the driveway he looked at Matt who had remained silent the entire ride home. "Look" he said. "I know that was a shitty thing I did back there, but I am putting a lot on the line trusting you on this. You'll understand it's importance soon enough and I will repay you for this."

"Whatever." said Matt. "I just want this to end."

Matt got out of the car and slammed the door. Deacon got out of the driver's seat and caught up with Matt.

"Look kid, I promise that is the last time I'll pull something on you, no pun intended. Alright?"

He extended his hand and waited for Matt to meet it.

"Fine."

The two shook hands. When they finished Deacon reached into his pocket and pulled out another cell phone. "Here." he said as he tossed it to Matt.

"That's your knew cell phone for the weekend. If you make any calls to your girlfriend or friends be careful because they will be heavily monitored."

"Alright."

"Call me when you leave tomorrow."

"Okay."

"I'm sorry, it's my job."

"I'm fine."

Deacon walked away just as Jeff opened the door. He stood next to Matt as he watched Deacon get into the BMW and pull out of the driveway.

"Man for a guy that gives away free pizza he must be getting' some killer tips." said Jeff.

Matt laughed for the first time in a while. "You have no idea what that guy is about."

"What was he doing here?"

"We just hung out after class."