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Dan with classic shirt,
Car vibrates incredulous,
Nate lost his food tray.

“classic shirt” is the bit of the implant. You know, the one i didn’t forget to draw this time.
Anyway, I could fix every little bit or I could post up the page on Monday so people can have their update on time.
-Cryo

Wait, hold on, how old is Dan? 21-23? How does he can get inside a highschool and not get any attention of the school stuff?

Borsht, some bread…what’s the rest of that?

And how does Stradania have better school lunches than I did?

This is a bigger update than most of my fellow readers realize.

You see, the last panel of this comic, as we all very well know, is significant. It portrays a masked figure with what seems to be some form of advanced technology “stalking” our protagonists. Coupled with the recent discussion of disappearances after encounters with this masked figure (re: Fixer242), it is safe to assume that the masked figure is responsible for kidnapping Dreamspace users.

Now, I’m going to go and make some bold claims, and I want you all to sit with me as I burn through them.

ONE: Logically, the masked man is almost definitely an agent of the local government. Between the obsession with the concealment of identity, the highly advanced technology, AND the general harassment and targeting of Dreamspace users, it’s safe to assume that the two are connected. Some may theorize that the masked man has connections with Hope-Fokker, but it makes little to no sense for Hope-Fokker to have been actively targeting its own clients, especially before the earnings report had been released.

With this conclusion, we continue.

TWO: Someone with a high-tech suit, gasmask, and coat has somehow just casually strolled into a school without arousing literally any suspicion. While it’s safe to say that authority figures could likely care less about the safety of their students, it’s still not exactly the kind of foolproof plan that a serious, professional government operative would go through with. And besides, what exactly is the masked man going to do, pluck up Nate in the middle of class? Unlikely. But then why is he even here? Why is he not waiting outside of the school, or at Nate’s home, especially if the masked man has access to government resources? Why is he taking such a big risk?

Because he isn’t.

THREE: The masked man’s suit enables him some form of cloak; invisibility, if you will. With this, he was able to confidently enter the school without arousing suspicion. With this, he was able to carefully stalk Dreamspace users from up close, *without* ever risking detection. With this, he was able to carry Fixer’s body from his shop without risk of… okay, I guess there probably aren’t many people that would interfere with a kidnapping. But still.

Now, we have a covert government agent with extraordinarily high technology ordinarily unavailable to the public, actively kidnapping members of a fairly high-tech culture. We also know that, while he abducted Fixer, he left Lin alone, which means he’s not some typical crimebuster, he’s actively targeting Dreamspace users and Dreamspace users specifically.

Now, the only other character we know that’s been targeting Dreamspace users is whomever created the worm. Could these two people be one in the same? Perhaps. But what motive does a government-affiliated figure have for abduction *and* murder of Dreamspace users?

Chapter four, page four. Through mere resemblance, we’re able to figure that Dan’s father is likely in a high position of power within the Stradanian government. And, if we remember correctly, the Worm didn’t kill Dan. What if this was on purpose? What if all the abductions, the murders… what if they all came down to a father wanting his son back from the depths of addiction? From the crowds of addicts? What if all of this was simply the story of a man taking revenge against what took his son from him?

Now, there’s one piece of evidence that contradicts this theory– the government and Hope-Fokker seem to have some form of connection. The knowledge of Vlad’s confinement, and thus transfer into Hope-Fokker’s hands, clearly implies that the two have some form of link. The idea that Dan’s government-influential father is morally okay with the inventors of Dreamspace seems unlikely at best. Alas, this is a question we’ll have to answer at a later time.

It’s possible that Gasmask is government affiliated.
Part of me wants to say military due to their covert skills, a larger part wants to say parliament-paid independent-contractor, but this might be semantics.
The secret police are unaware of their activities either way, but they have a probably (bribed) collaboration with Tartar, though probably not Hope_Fokker as you suggested. They also don’t seem to be linked, as H_F seems to be nation-wide, and Tartar has local businesses.

Gasmask definitely have a government/secret police vibe to them, given the aesthetics, and even the constant silence. Your invisibility theory holds some water also, though they could also either project a disguise or remotely hack into systems (which is evidenced when they break into Lin’s Klinic). To me it suggest a form of specialised, and more importantly, lone unit or very small group. They also seem to control the cyber-dogs. Why have surveillance dogs if you have a whole invisible squad, especially with so few targets, unless they take it in turns.
This suggests there is a task to research, and are left alone to achieve it.

Also noted is that GM has been seen no where near ShitParade, whom we know to be another survivor of the worm, and while he is living in the Toxic Zone (which is particularly anti-cyber), it seems very unlikely a person who can invisibly roam about the place cannot simply walk into their yard, and kidnap them. Nagy did it easily with a dog multiple times. So either SP was analysed like Dan at Lin’s clinic, or isn’t worth worrying about. Or (and this is unlikely) he cannot go somewhere so low-tech without notice for some reason.

This suggests they are, however, specifically targeting those investigating the worm, not simply DreamSpace users, especially since Dan can no longer even enter DreamSpace.
Fixer having actually tried to analyse the code put him at the head of the queue. But why kidnap? Why not attack with the worm and skip the whole IRL part? Or send the police?

Well there are 2 things to gain – either an ally to beat the worm, or research to further the worm. The former would be to force Fixer into an illegal NDA and gain any answers he might unfold, while also giving access to the higher-tech he clearly needs.
The latter is to test the resilience of the code. This also suggests that Fixer is only alive as long as he proves useful. But somehow the former seems more likely…

Plus I think we’re forgetting a vital player. The_Sandman.

Now, we also know that The_Sandman is infiltrating Digital Serenity on a regular basis, as well the the other local VR companies and this seems to be entirely relevant. This guy, who’s only just appeared in Blue Pill Arcade, has shown absolutely no desire to… well be like Fixer. Why would he care if companies are giving VR trips to tourists? More importantly, why would he be screwing over a DS95 company, when the parliament is doing exactly that anyway. This would negatively impact any further imports or homebrewed tech market.
But what if he were forced to by Gasmask dude.
He seems to have made no money, no threats, not even any demand. Just “This system has been hacked by The_Sandman.”
He has no goal besides disruption of the system itself. So either, T_S has a hate-boner for DreamSpace95, Tartar, Digital Serenity, and Hope-Fokker is getting screwed coz they’re (since they both care about money) or someone else is using his skills for their own ends.

In summary, the creator of the worm wants the VR scene dead and they’ve used incredibly personal info to achieve this when sending the worm. Someone else, probably GM, does not. I don’t think T_S and GM are the same person, nor do I think Dan’s father would send the worm after Dan.
He may have in fact hired GM, out of his own pocket, to ensure Dan’s safety.
Or, they could be a 3rd party, neither affiliated with the government, H_F, or even the local VR scene, and are some simple ronin tired of all the bullshit.

It’s obvious that Dan has been followed and monitored since the early days of the comic (stalked by a cyber dog towards the end of chapter 1 and observed by mysterious figures while he slept at Lin’s for instance). For anyone who wants to get their hands on a live version of SkullFuck.exe Dan is extremely important, someone out there obviously realizes this. Besides Fixer of course… and we saw how that turned out or him. For me one of the big questions is, does is Shitparade equally as important as Dan? I doubt we’ve seen the last of him.

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