As a child, I was always warned never to associate myself with Trial.

I was forbidden from conversing with anyone who had gone to or even near that god-damned city; forbidden from even mentioning the city's name around family or strangers; and most of all, forbidden from going to the place. "Satama is your only sanctuary," my mother would always say. "Everywhere else is hell on Earth."

Did I listen to her? Heck yes I did. (You were expecting me to say "no", weren't you? Well, then, too bad.)

But no amount of listening to my mother could've changed the ultimate outcome of my life. And that's what truly is hell on Earth.

It could just be a chronic result of the procedure, but I remember the day everything changed clear as day.

(Even though it happened at night...damn, the irony...)

One moment, I was (or at least thought I was) sleeping on my bed, under my rough canvas-y blanket...and the next, I felt an agonizing crunching pain throughout my body, and I found myself screaming bloody murder. Voices coming from all directions were barking out unintelligible-sounding commands, and bullets peppered the air next to me like hail.

I couldn't move. I was paralyzed.

"MOM!" I screamed through my hot tears. "DAD!"

"Shut up!" a deep male voice shouted, and I felt a crack-stab as a booted foot met my rib cage.

I was lying on the floor, struggling to breathe, struggling to stay alive. Then, after what felt like a century of torture, two men picked me up by my arms...which were also broken. So within two seconds, the pain was doubled.

It was so intense, I couldn't even feel the sting of the long, thick needle that was plunged into my forearm a moment later. And when darkness finally closed in, being unconscious felt like heaven...mostly because I couldn't feel anything at all.


"She's the perfect candidate."

When I woke up, that was the first thing I heard.

I was lying on something hard, flat, and cold in a bright silver room; what I was lying on or where I was, I had no cl—

Then it hit me: I was in a hospital. Specifically, an operating room.

Satama didn't have hospitals like this.

That could only mean one thing: I was in Trial.

"Indeed she is, Dr. Perez."

Within seconds, a young woman's face poked its way into my line of direct vision. "Well, it appears sleeping Beauty is awake now. Well, let's not hesitate with the procedure then, Dr. Cari!"

"What the hell..." I mumbled.

The woman—Dr. Perez, I later concluded—walked a short distance away, then called out, "Luka! Bring me the Sierota SIM, please!"

"Yes," a femininely-chipper, metallic voice responded.

A minute later, I heard a "Thank you" and some unintelligible whispers. I tried to move, but I was strapped down so securely that I couldn't budge.

Next thing you know, that lady was in my face again. I wanted to say something sassy to her, but I couldn't think of anything clever enough. Dammit.

"We'll explain what's going on," she said, "in due time."

And before I could speak, I saw—and felt—a syringe being injected into my neck. I screamed for a few seconds, trying to survive the pain. And then it was over.


Or so I thought.

When I woke up, my vision was sharper and clearer—I'd never seen so well in my life. I could hear even the tiniest of things, like the buzz of an air conditioning system, coming from way above me. And though I was very much alive, I didn't feel the need to breathe.

And I also couldn't move. Again.

But this was different.

I couldn't feel my legs this time around.

Because I didn't have any.

I looked around the room frantically. It was dimly lit, filled with electronics, and in one corner I could see... dead body.

"Holy shit!" I gasped, trying to take it all in.

And then the woman was in my face again.

"Welcome to the Sierota Mainframe!" she said in a triumphant, psychotically witch-like cry.

And let's just say that I'd never screamed so hard and long in my life.

So there you have it: my backstory. The reason why I, Sydney Jami Cordelia, am talking to you right now.

The cybernetic procedure that trapped me in the Sierota Mainframe took place fifty years ago, and it's irreversible (according to Dr. Perez) and permanent. As long as technology exists, I'll be alive. Even now, half a century later, I still can't accept the fact that I'll be spending the rest of humanity's existence as a soul living on as computer code in a digital hell.

But that's only what Dr. Perez said.

And maybe, somewhere out there, there is a reversal method. I just need to find it...somehow.

Good thing I have all the time in the world...