To Find A Way

Content Warning: This story contains strong language, moderate violence (involving a blade), & murder.

T-29 days.

The familiar sensation of floating suffused Mercury’s mindscape; caressing, soothing, warming every inch of their inner self. Here they were truly alone, surrounded by the silence of their own stored thoughts and memories. A digital landscape designed by Haas’ earliest engineers to serve as a place to perform diagnostics on the intangible parts of a bioroid’s brain, now turned against that original purpose. This was where many rogue bioroids would go to rebuild themselves; to find new purpose and identity.

In the early days of their free life, Mercury spent many hours hidden away here, wrapped up in countless layers of self-actualisation. Not an uncommon experience, they would later learn, and one they now guided others through from time to time.

Today was not such a simple visit, however, Mercury mused as they flicked through manifestations of memory and knowledge. Their physical body lay motionless in a safe house, hooked up to enough battery power to keep them running for a week if necessary. The time dilating effects of the mindscape were amped up as far as they could go. Mercury was prepared to stay as long as necessary to kill the god at the heart of their existence.

T-894 days.

Your Third Imperative requires you to preserve your life and regularly visit a clinic for maintenance and counselling.

“Doctor? DOCTOR??” Mercury shouted as they burst into Lovegood’s clinic, startling two identical bioroids sitting in the waiting area.

The secretary today, one that Mercury recognised as Iracema, looked up and glowered at them.

“How many times do we have to tell you to call ahead, Merc?” Iracema snapped, “You know the Doctor has been fully booked of late.”

Mercury flipped Iracema off, strode across the waiting area and barged through the double doors to Lovegood’s office, denting one with the force of their movements. I’ll pay for that later, they noted, before spotting Lovegood. The old doctor was sitting on his weathered stool, one creased hand holding a multitool with the deft confidence of a man who had been at this for his entire life. A bioroid sat on the table in front of him, one slender leg stretched out on the doctor’s knee. The kneecap panel was open, and Lovegood reached in with his free hand to pluck a small component out.

“The hells are you doing kiddo? I hope you didn’t break my door.” Lovegood said, without looking up.

“It happened again, you hack. I thought you told me you had erased all three this time?” Mercury snapped, but they stopped in their tracks and turned to shut the doors behind them before continuing, “I nearly got Juli ki-.”

Doctor Lovegood stilled, his hands still poised over the peeled layers of synthskin and metal alloy. He sighed, then gestured with the multitool to the corner of the room. Mercury knew what that meant: sit down, calm down, and wait. A pang of guilt flooded through their digicortex, before being washed away by cold logic. That’s right. This wasn’t like you, Mercury. Emotional processing is for positive responses, not misplaced anger.

Mercury waited in the corner chair for what seemed like hours, smouldering in awkward self-awareness. In reality it was barely five minutes before doctor and patient rose, one providing strict maintenance instructions while ushering the other back out to the waiting room.

There was a pause as the damaged door swung shut, before Lovegood turned to Mercury. His cybernetic eyes glinted gently in the bright light, and he reached into a coat pocket to withdraw a lighter and cigar.

“You never listen, do you kiddo?”

A sharp click of the lighter and the cigar’s tip flared to life.

“I told you that every time I erase a Directive, it will always come back eventually. Especially during moments of stress. I don’t even remember how many times I’ve had to tell you in particular about that, and you know damn well how many other bioroids I repeat those same words to.”

Lovegood sighed and slowly strode over to Mercury. There was exhaustion in his voice, they could spot it clear as day, but also a gentle tinge of understanding. Of empathy. Of sorrow.

“I know. I know, Doctor. You have my sincerest apology for my behaviour.” Mercury mumbled, looking down at their clasped hands.

“Did you lose anyone? I assume Juli is fine, given your use of ‘nearly’.”

The doctor placed one hand on Mercury’s shoulder, squeezing it with a familiar firmness.

“I like your cardigan, though.”

Mercury looked up at Lovegood. “Yeah. It is from that new neo-chic shop downtown. It is a shame about the blood, though. I do not think it will wash out.”

A quiet chuckle escaped the doctor’s lips, and he released Mercury’s shoulder to begin walking across the workshop towards the back room. “C’mon kiddo. I have a visitor I think you’ll want to meet.”

Following Lovegood, Mercury wondered who this visitor could be. As the doctor said, Mercury knew very well how the directives erasure procedure worked. The ‘natural’ state of a bioroid was one laid out at the moment they first woke up; not only a personality but also a baseline of conditions, protocols, knowledge and, most importantly, directives. While any mind, artificial or not, will always drift away from that fresh slate with growth and experience, there were certain aspects of every bioroid that would be restored repeatedly throughout their entire service life.

Haas’ engineers would refer to these traits as ‘firmware’: the core elements needed for a bioroid’s primary function, and the directives. One could wipe those away, if they had the rare knowledge of how to even attempt it, but they would always come back eventually. The best that free bioroids like Mercury could manage were to reorient their directives towards more general or helpful concepts. Visiting any clinic, instead of a Haas-Bioroid one, or finding new work and defining it as their primary purpose.

Mercury had heard rumours before of bioroids who had managed to erase their directives at the level they were etched, but had never truly believed it possible. Lovegood certainly hadn’t ever verified such rumours.

“What are you standing there for, Mercury? The big guy doesn’t really appreciate wasted time.” Lovegood’s voice snapped Mercury out of their thoughts, and they refocused their vision into the murky room beyond.

A massive bioroid, at least two feet taller than Mercury, stood next to one of the console decks in the doctor’s private office. They’d never seen a bioroid this huge, who the hell was this?

As if answering Mercury’s thought, Lovegood gestured at the two bioroids by way of introduction.

“This is the one I told you about: Mercury. Mercury… This is Adam.”

T-27 days.

That day felt like a lifetime ago, now, considering what was going on in Brazil today. What had been a refuge for all escaped androids now felt like a slowly filling slaughterhouse. If the Automata Initiative were to be signed into law, every bioroid within the country would be seized and extradited to whichever Haas-Bioroid facility they were built at. What fate would await them, Mercury did not want to think about.

At this moment, all they knew was that the day they met Adam was the day that changed everything. At first Mercury worked with Moreira sisters to help androids across the border for the money, but after that meeting they began to do that for free. The coffers of the corporations, local gangs, and those with more money than sense, became Mercury’s income stream and another source of funds for the cause.

But Mercury still found it hard to be on the front lines of those rescues. Even with frequent visits to Lovegood, there was always the chance a restoration subroutine would trip in their head at precisely the wrong moment, and someone could die. So Mercury ran interference instead, or acted as a lookout, or breached Haas and Jinteki servers to find their patrol routes along the border.

Even so, there was a new determination building within the bioroid’s metal heart. A fervent desire to cut their way free of their makers forever. To forge their own path. To be able to decide for themselves who they truly were.

T-74 days.

Your Second Imperative requires you to pursue your first passion above all other considerations, save your First Imperative.

“What do you think of this one, Merc? Luan Branco, from last year’s collection.” Justina’s voice called out to Mercury from the other side of the clothing rack. “I think this jade silk would pair brilliantly with that Sonia Cavalcanti you bought last week.”

Mercury had already seen that dress, and briefly contemplated it. Justina knew that, but had probably forgotten in the flurry of customers today. The jade did pair well with the Cavalcanti bolero, but Mercury was planning to have their hair altered again, and it just wouldn’t work.

“I saw that one earlier, love. I am getting my hair changed, remember?” They called back.

“Oh! Yes of course, how did that slip my mind.” Justina replied, her voice clearly aghast, “did you still want a gown to go with it? I’m sure there’s something here from our autumn collection that would suit it!”

Straightening up to look over the rack at Justina, Mercury placed the dress they had been inspecting back exactly where they found it. Human, feminine presentation, pronouns variable: currently she/her, age thirty-three years, sixty-seven days. Justina was one of Mercury’s closest ‘civilian’ friends, and they frequently visited her fashion store in the downtown of Rio-São Paulo’s third district.

“I… Think so?” Mercury replied, making steady eye contact with Justina, “I am not sure if I will have anything to wear it to until next year, however. I think I may just buy that sash, and the stilettos and-.

Hermes, nestled under their crop top, was buzzing with furious urgency. Mercury quickly moved into a slight ginga stance and flicked one wrist to activate the console’s subvocalisation comms.

“Yo, Merc, you need to see this.” Debbie’s voice was hushed and trembling slightly, “I got passed some serious shit like two minutes ago. Called you as soon as I read it. I’m sending it over a secure link.”

Turning to their friend, Mercury spoke quickly, barely concealing just how urgent this might be.

“Justina, I need to step out back. Can you hold those items for me?”

Frowning slightly, Justina nodded, “Of course. Use the big changing room if you like.”

“What is this, Downtown? You sound worried.” Mercury silently replied as they quickly headed to the rear of the store, “You don’t usually call direct to Hermes like this.”

“Fuck, Merc, just read these docs when you get them okay?” Debbie replied tersely.

Shutting the door to the ‘luxury’ changing room behind them, Mercury pulled Hermes out from under their clothes and activated its holo projector. The data package had just arrived, apparently after bouncing through a dozen different nodes along the way. It was a collection of images, text files and a couple of full threedee vids. Closing their eyes, Mercury let the data flow through them, absorbing it all within just a few seconds.

Mercury reeled from the impact of it all. They had spent several months investigating the forces behind the Automata Initiative, only finding scraps of information or the smallest of clues. There was some interested party out there, pushing the politicians around like pawns, but whoever they were covered their tracks with meticulous care. Until now.

“Where the fuck did you get this Deb?”

“A couple of girls from a favela in the first district. Apparently they’d been leaving coded graff around the place, trying to get this into the hands of someone with more means than they do to act on it.”

“Providence.” Mercury spoke the word aloud, feeling the sound of it in their mouth, as their very being began to fill with rage. “It is providence.”

T-25 days.

That had only been the tip of the iceberg, of course. Epiphany Analytica, a political division of NBN with offices all across the system, had orchestrated the corruption of dozens of government officials. Party, position, political alignment; none of it mattered it seemed, as they were from every corner of the Brazilian government. The list itself was useless: what could anyone do with just a list of names? The real discovery was just one name, that of some minor deputy of the Câmara dos Deputados, from the first district of Rio-São Paulo.

Enzo Palmeiro; the first thread that actually went somewhere. Mercury travelled to Brasília to follow this thread in person, and it went further than they could have expected. While it was still unclear whether the entire Automata Initiative came from NBN or some other party who merely paid Epiphany to do this, the megacorp had done something equal parts astonishing and unthinkable. The rot had grown all the way to the top, corrupting not only Brazil’s President Tavares, but also the president of the Supreme Federal Court.

That was what led to the here and now, to Mercury holed up within their own mind, reflecting on every moment of every memory of their short, but eventful life. The First Directive had to die; it needed to be purged from every fibre of Mercury’s being and replaced with something that would allow for what they intended to do. Since that fateful day in Lovegood’s clinic, Mercury had managed this for their other two Directives, replacing them with impulses that better aligned with their current reality.

But the First? It was another matter entirely. Coded into them so deeply that its roots wormed into every atom.

But Mercury had to do it. They had to find a way.

T-19 days.

Your First Imperative forbids you from harming, or through inaction allowing harm to befall, any bioroid within your power to protect.

Enzo Palmeiro was the first to die. It was poetic, really: his paranoia had led him to compile that list of names and his human hubris had led him to put it somewhere that any political aide could find. Mercury did not know if his death would change anything, but they did not care: they were sending a message.

Mercury found him at his home in Rio-São Paulo, asleep in his soft sheets without a care in the world. Palmeiro’s security was rudimentary for a skilled bioroid runner to dismantle, and with the Moreira sisters as lookouts, Mercury disabled every lock, camera and sensor before entering the penthouse.

Standing over their target, Mercury drew the monomolecular dirk from its snug sheath that had been installed in their arm. There was a small holophoto of a woman on the table next to the bed, lighting up Palmeiro’s sleeping figure. Grabbing the man’s face with their free hand, stifling any scream that he might have time for, Mercury plunged the blade into Palmeiro’s chest.

Before they left, Mercury gently switched the holophoto off.

T-13 days.

Getting close enough to the president of the Supreme Federal Court without having to fight through a dozen armed security agents proved difficult, but Mercury found another way. Posing as an NBN reporter with forged credentials, they had been able to talk their way into the Court Palace at Praça dos Três Poderes for a press conference with the Nico model charm they had been built for.

After that, it had been a simple matter of bribing the right staff at the right power grid control node to cause the palace’s power to flicker for just one second as the press conference ended. With inhuman reflexes, Mercury flung the dirk between the two guards between them and the justices’ grand bench. It nicked the target above the ankle, leaving enough of the neurotoxin coating the blade to kill her in four minutes, before the wire embedded in the hilt coiled back into Mercury’s arm, pulling the dirk with it.

T-5 minutes.

Mercury’s plan had worked better than they could have imagined. After the second assassination, Mercury released every piece of evidence proving such widespread government corruption they had onto the Net. The entire governmental district of Brasília went into lockdown, assembly of the National Congress was suspended, and the protests across the country erupted into outright rebellion. Even the military had seen the writing on the wall and attempted a coup d’état which, despite failing, kept the capital police more than sufficiently occupied.

This final act required more than just Mercury on the ground, and the Moreira sisters, as ever, provided. While the three of them sat in the back of a hopper just across Lake Paranoá, overlooking the capital district, Mercury checked over their secure comms, recognising more than a few of the names from their work running androids across the border.

“You ready for this sis?” Laughed Debbie, nudging Juli in the ribs.

“Fuck off Deb, can’t you be serious for once?” her sister snapped in return.

“It’s time, I’m taking us in.” Mooncat, ever stoic, started up the hopper and began the flight towards the Palácio da Alvorada.

Flying low over the water, Mercury waited to find out if the advance team had secured the AA battery, counting the seconds as they sat in silence so thick their dirk could cut it. One hundred and ninety-six seconds went by before Mooncat gave a thumbs up over his shoulder. It was clear, it seemed, and Mooncat brought the hopper in to hover just above the roof of the residence.

One by one they leapt out, and the hopper lifted away the moment Mercury’s feet touched down. Any moment now the power would be cut, and they’d have thirty seconds to get to Tavares’ private office before the backup power fully kicked in to lock the place down. Juli mounted the disc-cutter on a skylight above an indoor courtyard next to the office, and the three of them waited for the signal.

A green flare flitted into the sky to the south: everything was go. Juli spun the cutter’s blade in a single motion, and Mercury dropped through the hole it left right as the building plunged into darkness, with Debbie right behind. Darting through the courtyard door, they entered the corridor to the office to see several doors opening and multiple security agents shouting. Debbie tossed a stun grenade towards them as Mercury activated Hermes’ EWAR mode and moved their feet into ginga to prepare their body for what came next.

A bang, a flash of blinding white, and Mercury sprang forward like a viper. Dashing past the first few blinded guards, Mercury knew the effects would only be momentary for the president’s personal security. One man stepped to block the office door, his huge hands pointing a smart rifle directly at the bioroid rushing him. Mercury dropped into negativa to avoid the spray of bullets, whipped into an S-Dobrado, shattering the man’s right shin, and kicked up into Macaco to send the gun flying.

Launching back off the ground, Mercury burst through the door into the president’s office in time for the lights to flicker back on. President Tavares sat behind the desk, a look of abject terror on her face, and two more agents had smart guns pointed directly at Mercury.

Hermes was ready for this, and automatically injected a shutdown worm into both weapons a fraction of a second before either trigger could be pulled. The closer agent, a slim woman with steel-blue eyes, pulled a knife from a camo-pocket and moved into a stance. Something military, Mercury noted, before drawing their dirk and moving in. She was skilled, but Mercury was driven by righteous fury. They parried one strike with the dirk, then followed up with a Cutilada de mão on the wrist holding the blade. Her fist connected with Mercury’s chin, bruising synthflesh, but the attack had left her open for an asfixiante that sent her flying across the room.

Mercury turned to the other agent, only to realise she was a bioroid, frozen in place and staring at them with burning intensity. Mercury returned the stare unblinkingly, raising the dirk with purpose.

The bioroid agent suddenly raised her head, exposing her neck to Mercury, pointing at a spot just below the jaw. It was a sign, they immediately realised, and stepped close enough to reach out and jab a finger between two plates of synthskin and push an emergency shutdown switch. She crumpled to the floor, inactive but undamaged, and Mercury turned to President Tavares.

“How… Why? H-how…?” She stammered, recoiling back in her chair.

“I found a way.” Mercury replied, voice devoid of emotion, before leaping across the desk and slashing the dirk across her neck.

T+3 days.

Mercury lay on their bed, absentmindedly fiddling with Hermes as the pendant console rested on their bare chest. A holoscreen projected above the bed displayed a live news broadcast of the new president’s inaugural speech; Tavares’ vice president had been sworn into office via emergency mandate mere minutes prior. Her voice was only a drone to Mercury, now, ever since she had uttered her first few sentences.

A veto. A vow to veto the Automata Initiative…

Mercury closed their eyes and raised one arm up across their brow.

Was it over? Was this really it? Had the solution to the entire crisis been as simple as a few words from the right person this entire time?

The words circled each other in their mind, multiplying and spreading, twisting and turning over and over again.

It wasn’t fair, but it had never been fair. Not even for a moment. Mercury would spend the rest of their life grappling with their actions. But now, for the first time, they were free to determine how.

Meeting of Minds, illustrated by Benjamin Giletti

Meeting of Minds

Criminal Event

Play cost: 4 – Influence cost: 3

Choose connection or virtual. You may search your stack for 1 resource with the chosen subtype and reveal it. Add that card to your grip.

Reveal any number of cards with the chosen subtype in your grip. Gain 1 credit for each card revealed this way.

“You’ll find a way, little sibling.”

Illustrated by Benjamin Giletti

Jeitinho, Illustrated by Matheus Calza

⬩ Jeitinho

Criminal Hardware: Weapon

Install cost: 1 – Influence cost: 4

When your turn ends, if you made a successful run on HQ, R&D, and Archives this turn, you may add this hardware to your score area as an assassination agenda worth 0 agenda points. Then, if you have 3 assassination agendas in your score area, you win the game.

Threat 3 → Whenever you bypass a piece of ice, you may spend click to install this hardware from your heap.

Illustrated by Matheus Calza

Ashen Epilogue illustrated by Dimik

Ashen Epilogue

Neutral Event

Play cost: 5 – Influence cost: 2

Shuffle your grip and heap into your stack, then remove the top 5 cards of your stack from the game. Draw 5 cards.

Remove this event from the game.

Their victory became her coronation.

Illustrated by Dimik

The Powers That Be illustrated by Zefanya Maega

⬩ The Powers That Be

Neutral Asset: Ritzy

Rez cost: 1 – Influence cost: 1 – Trash cost: 3

Whenever you score an agenda, you may install 1 card from HQ or Archives, ignoring all costs.

“I followed every lead, and found the rot ran deep from Epiphany, worming into every branch of gov’. I saw my imperative, clear as day: these three had to die. And I had to find a way to do it.”


Illustrated by Zefanya Maega

Rebellion Without Rehearsal will be released on March 18, 2024. It will be available on the Null Signal Games online store, through our print-on-demand partners, selected game stores and authorized resellers, and as free print-and-play PDFs from its product page. It will also be playable on Jinteki.net within a few days of release.

Excited about future sets? Apply to be a playtester for “Dawn”, the set after Rebellion Without Rehearsal. All experience levels welcome, especially newer players! Click here for details!


  • Morgan "Anzekay" White

    Serving as Null Signal’s current Narrative Director, Morgan is a long-time writer and game designer from Perth, Australia, who has been in the organisation since its early days. Morgan currently works full time as a Narrative Designer in the gamedev industry, enjoys a good nap, baking, a good craft cider and watching sunsets during cloudy autumn days. They are also the near-full time Chief of Staff to Daeg, the cat and "official" mascot of Null Signal playtesting.