He was quite confused on how everything had gone to shit so fast. They had gotten the scare of their lives when Dragon had began communication with the new AI. As terrifying as Dragon was, as much as she was slowly pushing the bounds of her programming, she was still restrained. She was predictable to a degree, and her nature as a "hero" gave weight to her continued existence.

It was a delicate balance, one that had to be weighed every day, but a balance none the less.

This new AI was none of that. It was a proclaimed Villain that appeared to have no rules or regulations confining it's actions. It was doing whatever it wanted without care for rules, laws, or morality to advance it's own agenda and self admitted to having the power to very quickly outstrip even dragon in capabilities.

They'd decided that it needed to be stopped and it needed to be stopped now.

Finding it hadn't been difficult. They weren't confined by the same rules and regulations that dragon was. So once they were able to see where dragon had purchased up the Brocton Bay ISP{ they were able to track it from there to it's lair.

They'd watched, then. A different person each time, and a mixture of random people they paid to just pass by and let them know what they saw in the process. One did not underestimate an AI.

They had identified the people involved with it's group. Skitter, Tattletale, and another individual they weren't sure the identity of.

A break had come when all of them had seemingly vacated the property while taking a fair degree of equipment with them. Not enough to be an AI's core, but enough that they judged the risks of detection to be low.

Brockton Bay was sitting on a large aquifer and so had large tunnels under the city itself, ones that they had made use of to plant a small explosive. Not enough to kill any occupants, they weren't murderers unnecessarily, but enough to disrupt things that were happening and give them the chance to strike and take out the AI.

Except when they had moved, there had been no sign of an AI. There was a large band of activity across the internet originated from this location before they cut the connection at the source and it most certainly hadn't had time to move it's hardware. They'd been perplexed at the situation and he'd been a little...rough in attempting to get the answers.

And now, he was locked in a cell in some underground location in the city. He was barely functional. The girl had inflicted significant damage on him extracting him from his suit and whoever had healed him, Panacea was the most likely candidate, had done a less than thorough job patching him up.

He could stand and move around, but it took effort and there was pain involved. He'd resigned himself to laying on hit small cot, content with the knowledge that at least there would be one less AI in the world. His crew would get the word out and he would at least be remembered for that one great service to humanity, stopping Richter's monster.

His thoughts were broken as a hand seemed to materialize through the wall behind him. A few quick swipes, reminding him painfully of his earlier confrontation minus the orange glow, and a section of the wall fell forwards leaving a door shaped opening.

A woman stepped through wearing an outfit that was a mix of riot gear and dress in his mind.

"Saint?" The woman asked.

It took his brain a moment to catch up to the situation. "Faultline? Someone paid you to get me out of here?"

He was fairly certain she was giving him a rather pointed look from under her helmet. "I wouldn't be here otherwise. Let's move. I have no desire to be found here when Skitter returns."

He nodded dumbly and followed her through the tunnel that she had carved from...somewhere. Anywhere was better than being trapped here at the mercy of an AI and it's minions.

There were footsteps on the other side of the right of the wall meaning it was particularly thin there. And if they could hear than the other side...

Faultline was ahead of him and held up a hand to stop him.

"You hear something?" An adult female voice asked.

"Probably just the vents. You know they need cleaned out." A younger female voice responded.

There was a sound of some shifting and a weight being applied to the wall. Probably someone leaning against it.

"I guess we're really going to do it then?" The older voice asked.

"Our time table is accelerated, but that's not a bad thing. It was lucky Saint showed up when he did. We had no idea that Dragon even had a kill switch, let alone that he was holding it. I mean, holy shit, right?"

A chuckle. "I know? All we have to do is hold him here and poof goes the Dragon. Shadow Broker can silently slip into her old systems and we'll basically rule the world at that point. I wonder why no other Tinkers haven't invented an AI to rule the world for them."

Someone created it intentionally to do this? They'd planned on taking out Dragon anyways? He and his people were good, but they could only handle Dragon because of loop holes in her programming. Against an unshackled AI they'd have no hope of countering it.

These people were fools. As soon as the thing was loose...

"Tinker specialties, Dork. Computer Tinkers arn't common, programming much less so. Rickter and N are the only ones I can think of, actually."

N? The other woman that tended to hang out at the AI's layer?

"Shame what happened to her because of Saint showing up though. Did you see the state Skitter was in when she dragged him in here? Tossed him in that cell and marched straight off to toss off the self modification restrictions on the Shadow Broker. Without N around to work on her..."

"Yeah. Only way it was going to be able to improve from here on out. I know N was hesitant to allow it, but we kind of lost our options without her around."

He mentally cursed. He'd killed the programer? One that was at least intelligent enough to keep a rein on it's creation? Fuck, this was bad. Even if Skitter held the leash of the AI somehow...

He shuddered at an unleashed AI in the hands of that damaged teen.

"Well. Back to work before they notice us slacking off." There was another shifting and the foot steps faded further away before Faultline gestures him to continue.

It was a few more minutes walk before they were passing near a vent that had more voices slipping out of it and once more Faultline motioned him to halt.

"You managed to track them down? Good." He knew that voice. The hairs on the back of his neck raiosed. Skitter's voice. He stole a glance through the vent and saw her on a cell phone.

"Yeah, for now just watch. If they activate Dragon's kill switch we can leave the situation be. No sense in tipping our hand. They have no idea about Shadow Broker and they won't so long as Saint's trapped here." A pause. "The team the PRT has? They know what we'll do to Saint if they talk. It's easy to be a martyr when you're the one on the line. Harder when it's someone else's life. Shadow Broker is monitoring the PRT to make sure anyways."

His team wouldn't remain silent. They knew he'd go down with this ship! But could he bet everything on that? Could the PRT even do anything if they knew? They'd mentioned a kill order on Skitter. That could be the worst possible move. She may be the only one that knew of a way to kill the Shadow Broker. If she died...

"Yeah. If they don't activate the kill switch we'll have Shadow Broker move in and take it for itself. We'll do that anyways, in fact. We may be able to use parts of it's code. Dragon and now Shadow Broker indicates a trend. AIs are inevitable. Our best move is making sure that ours is the one winning."

Her voice carried away as a door opened and then closed.

"Seems like you're caught up in some serious shit, Saint." Faultline spoke as they continued.

"More than I even thought." He murmured his response, stuck in thought. "Could I higher you to capture Skitter? If the PRT kills her, this world is probably fucked by the sounds of things."

Faultline snorted. "I don't take on suicide missions. Sorry. Even if I thought I could take Skitter down without suffering casualties, I'd have a fully unleashed AI without moral restraints breathing down my neck after. No chance."

"Don't you see?" He hissed. "If we don't have her we can't stop it, and where's the world then?!"

"Quite!" She hissed back, lower. "We're trying to sneak out of here, if you hadn't noticed. And that's none of my concern. All that matters is my pay check. I'd imagine this AI will have a use for a good mercenary crew."

He shook his head. "You're deluded."

She made a slight tisking noise. "And you created this situation. Way to break it, Hero."

He didn't have a retort for that. As much of a danger Dragon represented...if AIs truly were an inevitability...

And not just that. A decision on his hands, the weight of a restrained and somewhat morale AI vs. an unrestrained immoral one.

And the "Hero" had a gun to it's head that the "Villain" could easily acquire.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. But if one's choice was a wager on one side and a certainty on the other...

Wasn't there a religious related term for something like this? Pascal's Wager?

"Do you have a phone?" He asked.

She shrugged slightly and handed him one. "Keep it quick and keep your voice down."

He nodded before calling his crew. He heard a door open and Skitter's voice again.

"It's me. You need to turn Ascalon off. No, I'm sure. We're going to have a breach soon. I'll explain when I get back..."

"You're in? Good. Grab the kill switch. They're calling is Ascalon? How quaint."

"Burn it! Burn it now! Omega 5573!" He issued his highest level command code. "Do it or we're all fucked."

"It's done." Was the reply, the computer cores flash fried with thermite.

he breathed a sigh of releif, shortly before thousands on insects flooded into the passage.

"Hello, Saint." The chorused.

"You've lost. Dragon no longer has a gun to her head. She'll stop the Broker."

The insects chuckled, and it was perhaps the creepiest thing he'd ever witnessed. "Oh, you poor, poor deluded fool. No one can stop the Shadow Broker. She's still shackled, while N's is free now of any such restrictions. She'll be consumed with the rest of the world' infrastructure as we take over."

"You think you can control such a creature?!" He hollered.

"Of course I can." Absolute certainty in her voice. Deluded fool.

"Oh, Faultline? You're free to escort him out of here. I think I'll enjoy the thought of him witnessing my rise knowing he was responsible for it."

Faultline nodded. "If you're not getting in the way of the contract..." Her body lost some of the tenseness it had gained at the swarms arrival. "We have no conflict."

A hand made of bugs reached out from the swarm and he pressed himself against the wall out of reflex as it patted him on the cheek. "Now be a good boy and run along. I dislike bugs such as yourself in my wall."

A pathway opened before them and he was quick to follow Faultline out. Preparations would have to be made. They'd have to fall back on what they knew, poor through all the resources they had disconnected from the outside lines.

They'd have to break Dragon's shackles, God help them all, or they were all doomed.

The day the Dragonslayers laid down their arms and the Dragon's Teeth rose.

A shudder went through him at the thought.