|The Rule of Thoughts|
|Publication date||August 26, 2014|
|Published by||Delacorte Press|
| Preceded by|
The Eye of Minds
| Followed by|
The Game of Lives
| Spoiler Alert!|
This page contains details about the plot which may lower your excitement and enjoyment of the books. Read at your own risk!
Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he’d ever known about his life—and the world—completely upside down. He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security knew to find the cyber-terrorist Kaine—and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. And, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more complex than they anticipated, and more terrifying than even the worst of their fears. Kaine is a Tangent, a computer program that has become sentient. And Michael’s completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality. The Mortality Doctrine will populate Earth entirely with human bodies harboring tangent minds. Any gamer who sinks into the VirtNet risks coming out with a tangent intelligence in control of their body. And the takeover has already begun.
Michael's Tangent mind has been transported into a human's body- Jackson Porter's body. As he looks around the boy's apartment, he finds out that Jackson's parents and older sister, Emileah, are in Puerto Rico and that Jackson's girlfriend was a girl named Gabriela. Just as he decides that he has to get out, 2 men, Kinto and Douglas, enter the house saying that they were sent to summon Michael by Kaine for a meeting.
He follows them onto a train and manages to escape from them, after realizing that he couldn't just join Kaine and that he had to contact his 2 best friends, Bryson and Sarah, who were- unlike him -human, according to what Agent Weber had told him. Afterwards, he steals the cash that the Porters left for Jackson and manages to find where Sarah's home was, using Jackson's EarCuff and NetScreen, right before they were sabotaged by Kaine who sent Michael a message that read: "YOU SHOULD'VE FOLLOWED MY ORDERS, MICHAEL. WE NEED EACH OTHER."
Tired and hungry, Michael goes off to a cafe and orders some food, running into Jackson's girlfriend, Gabriela, who can tell that something is wrong with who she thinks is Jackson.
Twenty hours lands, Michael got onto a train, known as a BulletStream. He notices a woman, who looks to be around sixty years old, watching him. When she gets up, Michael follows her. Right before she exits the door going to the next train car, she holds up 3 fingers. Confused, Michael continues to follow her. The woman simply tells him that he has three days to change his mind, and hops out the train as it starts to move.
When he arrives at Sarah's house, she wasn't there, though her parents, Nancy and Gerard, were. Her parents seemed very suspicious of Michael, but let him in, with a gun pointed to his head. When Sarah arrives, he pleads with her parents to let him and Sarah talk alone. They end up giving in, and Michael explains the situation to Sarah and convinces her that he is indeed Michael. Then, they heard a woman's scream and checked out what was going on, to find that Sarah's parents were gone. They also found a note that read "This is your last warning. Never again doubt the consequences of disobedience. Obey, and they live. Disobey, and they die. Help me, Michael, and live forever." To make matters worse, they watched the NewsBop and saw that Michael, under the name Jackson Porter, was wanted for crimes related to cyber-terrorism. They decide to split up for a while and discuss their next move next time.
The next morning, Michael hears a knock on the door of his hotel room, and assumes that Sarah somehow found him and immediately opens the door to reveal Gabriela. She says that she knew something was wrong when they last saw him, as he was acting like a stranger. Michael tries to explain the truth, that he's a Tangent and intelligence was somehow downloaded into Jackson Porter's body. Not believing him, Gabriela says that she needs to go to Atlanta to visit her dad who was sick and leaves.
Michael sent Sarah encrypted messages with clues to lead her to his hotel. 2 days after, she finally arrived. They rented an apartment, bought new coffins and searched the VirtNet for Bryson. They looked for him in a hidden place that they had built with code, and are surprised when they hear a woman, who Michael suspects is Agent Weber. They try to catch her, but she gets away before they can get her.
Wondering how Agent Weber had found their hidden place and why she had gone there, Michael and Sarah continue their search for Bryson. They eventually find him in a game called "Curious Ways to Die", and Michael explains the situation.
Afterwards, the area suddenly started to shake and Michael, Bryson and Sarah were somehow shot up into the sky and they end up in a strange place with strange purple light shining around him, a glowing plane that seemed endless and a black sky. They also meet Kaine, who says that he needs help. He said that he imagined a world where the line between the Wake and the Sleep was not as defined as it was, and that he needed human bodies so there would be a presence of Tangents in the real world. He also said that if they didn't help him, he would kill them and Sarah's parents.
Then he told them to decide before the KillSims arrived and disappeared. Then the KillSims came. Luckily, they were somehow Lifted back into the Wake, which they suspect is Bryson's doing. When they manage to meet up with Bryson, Bryson tells them that he wasn't the one that did it and that he heard a voice that said "You have friends among the Tangents."
Then they head off to a local VNS branch, to disclose what they think Kaine's plans are. They are able to contact Agent Weber, but she pretends that she doesn't know them and disconnects. Then the cops catch them, as the 3 of them were wanted for murdering or kidnapping Sarah's parents. Luckily, they managed to escape, though they had to kill 2 people to do so.
They decide to go off to Atlanta, where the VNS headquarters were to find Agent Weber for help. While his friends slept on the bus, Michael contacted Gabriela and told her to meet them in Atlanta and finds out that her father does security for VNS.
When they arrived at Atlanta, an odd-looking teenage girl stared at Michael and approached them, telling them that her name was Carol and that she wanted to greet the First, who was Michael. She explained that Kaine had showed Michael to them and called him the First, presumably because Michael's intelligence transfer was the first successful one.
They met up with Gabriela, and Sarah explained their situation and Gabriela shared them a way to get in. They were able to find Agent Weber who said that she needed their help in locating Kaine and discovering his central coding, to help her destroy him.
They agreed to help her and Sunk into the Sleep, the catch being that they couldn't access the code like they were used to to help them stay hidden from Kaine. As they make their way through the area, they saw a woman running from behind a building, grabbing at her throat as if someone were strangling her. As she moved, she seemed to be struggling against some invisible force. Tiny, sparkling, blue rectangles covered her and ate her.
Strange streaks of different colors started coming out of the sky like lightning and the skyline seemed to fall apart. As the sky ripped apart, Michael saw that the ground was about to get ripped apart and they attempted to run back to the Portal. Once they were forty-fifty meters away from the Portal, it suddenly disappeared. The trio tried to cling onto each other as the ground below them collapsed and they fell, and he lost his grip on Bryson and Sarah.
Surprisingly, there was no crash landing and only silence. Michael called for Sarah and Bryson but only heard an eerie voice say his name. He tried to ignore it, and continued to call for Sarah and Bryson. He coded a ladder from a game he had played to help him climb up towards a light source. When he was 2 rungs away from the light source, he heard the sound of the ocean and peeked through the hole where the light souce was. He got out of the hole, surrounded by black rock that was jutting out the waters of a colossal purple ocean. He saw 2 other rocky areas that created a triangle, with Bryson on one rock and Sarah on the other.
Sarah coded a ladder from a game she had played connecting Bryson's and Michael's rocks to her own. When Michael was twenty feet away from Sarah's rock, the bridge disappeared and he fell into the purple water. As he swam up to them, he saw spliced lines of code moving in the water and shouted for them to get down there.
They drowned in the ocean on purpose, knowing that the Coffin back in the VNS would switch from the state of illusion within the Sleep to normal function, and searched through the code for information about Kaine. Around 10 minutes before Weber Lifted them from where they were, a black hole and an orange light appeared. Figures came out of both of them. from the black hole, came creatures that looked like KillSims and from the orange light were characters from famous VirtNet games. One of the characters shouted at them to get out of the way and that it wasn't time for them to die yet, and Michael grabbed his friends and manipulated the code, making them rocket into the sky as the armies crashed into each other. Michael stopped their flight a few hundred feet over the battle. Unfortunately, 2 dark creatures started charging towards them. One of them, was able to get Michael, sending him into a crazy agony as the creature sucked away on the essence of his life. Luckily, Weber Lifted him out of the Sleep.
Later, Sarah explained the situation to the VNS, and told them about the location of Kaine's central coding in Lifeblood Deep. Then, the 3 of them had to go through an illegal, painful process called Squeezing to enter Lifeblood Deep. They were equipped with the Lance, a creation of Weber, which they would have to plant and trigger with a code in Kaine's central coding.
When they entered Lifeblood Deep, they were astounded by how real it seemed and how little security there was in Kaine's area of central programming. However, when they arrived at the area, a group of people in military formation started to come towards them. Michael managed to trigger it with the code and ran out, waiting to get lifted.
Surprisingly, he saw Gabriela who started to tell him that it was real and that she never should've helped but was cut off when a cop hit her in the head. Then he was carried to a truck and thrown in. He fell asleep.
When he woke up, he was in a prison cell with Sarah and Bryson. Sarah told him that they were never in Lifeblood Deep and that they were dropped into the Wake and destroyed whatever was in the area they had destroyed, and it probably had nothing to do with Kaine.
Later, they were separated from each other. Michael received 2 visitors, a man and a woman. The man told him that Michael, Bryson and Sarah had crippled the VNS, by setting off a chain reaction throughout all of their systems. Then he questioned how mankind could know what was real and what wasn't when mankind could create a world that was so similar to the real world. He told him to think about whether someone was evil because they want humankind to have immortality. This bewildered Michael, and even more so when the man told him that he couldn't reveal who he was to Michael, as it would be emotionally difficult for him.
The woman, turned out to be Agent Weber, who told him that they were on the same side and that she wasn't who she used to be. She swore that Kaine had lead him and his friends into that building in Lifeblood Deep so that he and his friends would go there in the real world and that she didn't switch them. Then she told him that a human intelligence couldn't be destroyed and neither could a programmed intelligence.
Two days later, Gerard, Sarah's dad appeared and told him that his prison days were over. He told Michael that a group of Tangents, lead by Helga, rescued him and Nancy, Sarah's mother,. Then he pulled Michael through the open door and they left.