Carter frowned at the three computer screens that sat before him, watching as the files he'd backed up before they crashed due to Blackray's hacking recovered themselves.
He'd ordered his team to drop work for the day while the Synchron Organization recovered their security and rebuilt its damages, though he decided to stay to bring back the files from old and new projects on his own.
And just when he was thinking he could have some quiet time for himself-
“Carter! Why'd you abandon us halfway towards Sky's office?” Zack burst through the doors. “I was worried about you!”
Carter spun around as Weston stepped in, apologizing as Zack began to wander around the room: the door hung by the hinges.
“You are insufferable, Zack,” said Carter, rolling his eyes. “Unfortunately for you, my team's office doors are normal swing doors with doorknobs, not electric sliding doors like the first team's or the Director's office, so you might want to hold your strength on opening them. Or I'll have to make you pay for more damages. By the way, besides street fighting, did you pick up a few martial arts skills? You broke the door's knob.”
Zack looked at it, then made a face. "Well, no. I already can break down doors. Sorry 'bout that." Then Mikey entered as well.
“Say, Carter, can do you a little research for us?” said Mikey. “Info gathering. Are your computers restored?”
“They are. But for what?”
“Is that an okay?”
“Darn,” said Mikey.
“Unless you tell me what this thing you want me to research is about.”
His three visitors were quiet for a moment.
“I'm guessing, it's the new Dragon Knight,” said Carter, turning back to his computer.
That seemed to strike a nerve, as Zack and Mikey both tensed.
“What, I'm surprised that the Dragon Knight fella or whatever was able to injure you guys,” said Weston, frowning at them. “Even Mikey.”
“I'm just disappointed that our fight wasn't even completed,” said Zack. “I really want to fight him. And then a hole had to crack in the floor.”
“Really? That image was quite funny, if I think about it in a graphical way.”
“In reality, it hurts, and if I wasn't a Gladiator using my powers, I'd be dead,” said Zack with a scowl.
“Do you have anything about the Gladiator called Sawyer Axelrod?” asked Mikey. “Or Dragos, for that matter. That's the name of the Dragon Knight's sword.”
“Fine, I'll do a search of him on the World Net and Galdiators' world,” said Carter with a huff. “If I didn't, Mikey and Zack might never leave.”
“You know what?” said Weston. “You were spot on about that.”
Carter turned to a keyboard. “Also, Zack, I didn't know you were a hacker.”
“I'm not going to boast about that,” said Zack with a frown.
“Zachariah Kagan, huh? Your full name. I heard of your name before.”
“You have?” said Mikey, startled.
“There's an underground group in Gladiators who talk amongst themselves about hackers and cyber crime stuff through Gladiators' forums, on the computers, but they don't seem bothered about hiding it. There's one name of a genius hacker who fixes bugs on the online game of Gladiators when one surfaces: Zachariah Kagan. You're brave to use your real name.”
"I'm not good with fake names."
Carter typed out a few searches, and all three computer screens alighted, one with a Gladiator's profile, one with a list of Gladiator fights that Dragos had played in the online game, one with no searches.
“Sawyer Axelrod, age, location, home country, everything else unknown. Weapon named Dragos, Level 40” Carter read. “Looks like he's neglected to enter data about himself.”
“No, you'd have to fill all data in here to enter Gladiators,” said Weston, startled. “He can't be a Gladiator without all these details. Unless . . .”
“He's another hacker?” said Zack.
"Looks that way," said Carter. "Maybe he knows how to hack."
“Is that a real name, or a fake name?” asked Weston, frowning. "I I had to be surprised about something, it's that he bothered to give himself a name; he could easily use his weapon's name."
“That's your forte, Weston. You can investigate that part yourself; my limit on computers are searches on the World Net and Synchron," said Carter.
“You?” Zack looked at Weston, puzzled.
“He means – I can use my family's money and reputation to find out about Sawyer Axelrod's identity,” said Weston with sigh.
“Also, his level has got to be a joke,” muttered Mikey.
“That's his official level,” said Carter. “Just like how everyone sees your rank as a Rank 25 officially, when you're actually one equivalent to Rank 65. You stopped fighting official Rank Games years ago.”
“Rank 65?!” Zack gasped.
“Whoa, whoa, that's almost halfway through the Rank levels!” Weston gasped.
“I said, equivalent,” Carter cut in. “That's not his proper level. He'd have to enter an official fight to determine his proper ranking.”
“Oh,” said Zack. “But – even so, being a Rank Gladiators is . . . really huge.”
“Other than that, there's nothing on his weapon,” said Carter, glancing at the last screen with the words 'No Searches Found'. “Seems like he broke into Gladiators and played against anyone. He's won plenty, but upon turning Level 40 recently, it's like he's gifted with power.” With a sigh, Carter leaned back in his chair. “And that's it.”
At that moment, one of the screens flashed and showed a live video.
Sky stood on at a press conference, and he announced the acceptance of the Euphoria Association as a sponsor for the games before announcing the selections and its conditions.
“He really din't need to accept them, you know,” said Weston. “I didn't know he was that careful.”
Mikey chuckled. “I've seen how he manages people like that. He's always doing different tactics. Sky was a spy before he became the Director of the Synchron Organization.”
“Sky was a . . . spy?” said Weston.
“Hey, that rhymes, Weston!” Mikey grinned, and Zack laughed.
“I'm serious!” Weston snapped indignantly. Then muttered, “Even though it's funny.”
“Did you think he was an employee of the Synchron Organization before he became the Director?” said Carter. “Actually, he wasn't. Everyone knows of his feats as some years ago, he was as famous as Garrett Heaton, which is no wonder why you, Weston, idolize him. Back then, he wasn't just a Gladiator, but he was a spy hired by the Synchron Organization to watch on a rising enemy. He only permanently became their secret agent after the previous Director took the seat.”
Weston frowned. "Say, I've been wondering this for a while . . . where's the game of Gladiators created? I heard from somewhere that it wasn't in Redwall, even though now this place is its headquarters."
“My home valley was the birthplace of Gladiators,” muttered Mikey.
“A – valley?”
“Uh-huh. I grew up in a valley called Ethion. That's the place where it was first created. The Core, I mean.”