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GM Any megacorporation is shrouded in conspiracy theories. In Bedlam, many of them happened to be true. The Howle-Brandt Consortium was the figurative new kid on the block in the “City of Now”, though they’d been established long enough that their towering jet fuel refinery was one of the top employers in town – and one of the least safe. It was an open secret that their legal team were experts at getting rid of maimed workers without providing any benefits, but rumors went further than that: shadowy military contracts, unethical human experimentation, robots poised to replace the labor force. Bedlam’s hacker community, or “freedom of information” community in their own words, had been trying to confirm it all for years. But whoever did HBC’s cyber security was smart and well-funded. Their clearance system was stricter than the federal government’s, and any sensitive information was squirreled away in databanks requiring direct physical access. They didn’t bother to hide their Bedlam employment practices, which would get them crucified in a town where people had anywhere else to work, so what did they think was worth hiding? The rumor that had popped up lately was that it might be possible to find out. Some user was making the rounds of the surface-level conspiracy and hacker boards, claiming to have inside knowledge of illegal drugging of HBC’s workers. He said he didn’t have proof, but he knew how to get it, if anyone who could beat a secure system was willing to come with him. Cynicism ran fever-high in Bedlam. It was a survival mechanism in a city of broken promises and abandoned dreams. So most of the discussion on each of those posts was trying to figure out the user’s angle. Was he working for HBC’s security team, trying to catch potential hackers? Was he going to ask for money, then disappear before he had to deliver? He’d been inventive with the details, they had to admit, coming up with all that about addictive muscle stimulants to keep the workers coming back. But they had all seen better scams before, and they hadn’t fallen for those, either. But the user, In$id3r, didn’t give up. He kept a private instant messaging channel open to anyone who believed him and wanted to help.