For months he'd been immersed in one world after another. Each step had been guided by enemy hands, each scrap of food a crumb meant to sustain him only as long as was necessary to align him for their next upload.
The faceless and nameless enemy worked tirelessly, layering subtle changes one upon another every few days or every few hours. At first it would seem he'd entered a parallel universe with this or that minor shift, but a terrible change would soon be revealed. Worse, with each new program they cruelly encoded an ever-deepening obsession for her: Aurora.
But the heart that knows both love and hate isn't a mass of firing neurons. Blood-pumping organ aside, the true heart isn’t even a muscle. What it is, then, is part of the soul, as intangible as the emotions it feels, and something within his heart fought against that obsession and everything else, causing him to display trust in nothing and no one -- not even himself.
Unable to overwrite his paranoia, the enemy used it: lost in illusions where they controlled the light his eyes detected, he came to doubt that a day was only twenty-four hours. Some had felt like weeks.
After adapting to countless revisions, remembrance of home disappeared, as did the purpose behind all he suffered. He believed himself a crazed madman bent on the lustful purpose of touching and possessing the dangerous beauty called Aurora. It drove him. Haunted him. The link to his trusted command had become nothing more than a whispering phenomena in his head, a demon he sought to exorcize.
That, his enemy knew, was the sign they had been waiting for: he was broken.
They brought him in.
The shock conducted by the electrified prison had forced a total reboot. Typically, once the established connection is severed, separating what had been real and what had been upload required days…more, if the mind had been systematically scattered, and Aurora had been very systematical.
But she didn't know everything about the damn implant in his head.
Sure, the enemy had hacked his mind-server to upload illusions so real and seamless that he couldn't tell where the splices occurred. That didn't matter. What did matter was the reboot activated a hidden secondary processor that fried his original implant. It meant his brain had no access to the files accumulated since leaving HQ and the non-reality experiences stored within were destroyed. His back up server created a factory reset, bringing him online anew.
The voice had said, Red cross for the infirmary and Patient Zero's blood sample. Yellow biohazard leads to the containment cells holding the rest of your team. Blue ouroboros...no one knows.
"One." The doors opened.
He knew exactly what to do.