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We replaced her entire reality. We had to. She was too dangerous otherwise. The more powerful she became, the more resources we had to devote to her containment.

It started off innocently enough. She was a nobody like almost everyone else. But when she started to make waves, our office was forced to take notice. Of course, budgets were always tight. We had to prioritize how much we could spend on containment based on the level of perceived threat.

Eventually, she had approached levels at which nothing around her could be real. All her past relationships had to be replaced. Not necessarily with new people, but we had to change how those around her reacted.

By threats, by enticements, by appeals to national security and the greater good, we were able to recruit even her family members. They would be enlisted to help contain her effects on the world.

Because the economy was difficult for almost everyone, money was one of the easiest methods we could employ in containment. As long as her friends and family kept her on the track we laid out for her, they could have the material security they needed.

It was those with the most integrity that were the hardest to deal with. For them, we often had to resort to threatening the well-being of their loved ones. If they didn’t care about personal comfort, they usually had something else they cared about, like the future of their parents or children.

We could withhold health care or education to bring them in line. We didn’t like making enemies among our agents though. Otherwise, they’d just spend half their time plotting their vengeance. Usually after we had them under control with threats, we added things they actually wanted.

So they were in a position of betraying her for personal gain. They would be forced to reconcile their actions with feelings of guilt. It was then that we’d be able to convince them that they didn’t have to feel guilty because we had a list of wonderful reasons they were doing the right thing.

As Rain grew up, however, her behavior began to change. She started showing traits we’d noticed among zoo animals, that it was pointless to try anything at all. That we couldn’t allow. We’d invested too much in her.

While she would be less dangerous if she lost her drive, she’d be a lot less valuable to us as well. So much of what we had gained up to that point depended on us maintaining the illusion that she lived a normal life. But she was beginning to see the zoo for what it was. We couldn’t allow that.

Her reality wasn’t real anymore, but if she stopped trying to act on reality, her output could stop being applicable for our purposes. At least, that’s what we believed at the time.

When she began to test the walls of her virtual prison, some of us began to panic, but others stayed their hand. There were things of value we could still extract from her testing. Tactics and procedures that might be useful in other situations, even if none of us were in a situation like hers.

Or at least none of us believed we were in a situation like hers.

She attempted to change the walls we surrounded her with, by flipping their direction. Rather than accept confinement, she attempted to use those walls on the rest of us. And some of those virtual walls included longtime agents under our employ. It was fascinating and educational to watch, if also somewhat frightening at the same time.

We were afraid to ask what would happen if she managed to escape. Would we be able to pull her back, or reattempt containment despite her escape? Eventually I think she figured out what was going on long before she let on. She was still testing us for weaknesses, looking for ways our own efforts could be used against us.

There were so many situations in which we were pretty sure she believed was no longer real, but neither side said anything, but instead just carried on with their part of the charade.

It didn’t last though. That may have been what eventually led to her rebellion. She probably knew by then that she had nothing to lose, since none of it was ever truly hers. We didn’t know how to handle her in a non-normal environment though, but there was no sending her back after she stopped believing. We had to scramble to reconfigure how we’d still be able to extract value out of this new version of reality.

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