Ambrosia is from a world that is a near-future version of our own, a world defined by the widespread existence of phantom thieves, a class of vigilante that specializes in breaking into high-security corporations, stealing as much as they can carry, and escaping with style. The most famous band of phantom thieves, known as the Star Five, were instrumental in a historical event known as The Snatch Games, a massive, organized phantom thief run on every megacorporation in America simultaneously. It was what turned phantom thievery into a legitimate political force, as the display of power against corporations once thought invincible, and the corporations' failed attempts to retaliate against the phantom thieves, sparked massive political change on the ground. Phantom thief sympathizers go as far as to claim that the Snatch Games were directly responsible for the fall of the oligarchy that had controlled America for more than a century and the rise of new socialist reform. Whether the Snatch Games were the sole cause or just the final straw on a camel that had been overburdened for a long time, they still made phantom thieves a big name, and for a few years afterwards, it seemed like it was all the public could talk about.
The Star Five themselves, however, weren't done. The Snatch Games had attracted a huge number of players, including many who did not follow the rules the Five had set. There were thieves that called themselves phantoms but stole from anyone, not just the acceptable targets. There were some phantoms who stole from the right targets but whose methods were too violent, and phantom teams that betrayed each other at the last moment. There were even those who were secretly double-agents, working for the police instead of the people. For these rulebreakers, the Star Five held a series of secret punishment games later known to the public as the Delta Games, due to every one of them being held in locations across Delta City. While official statements from the Star Five claimed that the games had only intended to scare participants straight and never harm them, the final Delta Game (and the one that lead to their discovery by the police) resulted in the death of every single participant...save for one. The sole survivor, a girl named Holly who had been placed in the Delta Games by mistake, later testified that one of the participants who had been killed in that game was himself a member of the Star Five, codenamed Ein...and that he had been murdered by another member of the Five, who she only knew by his codename, Duo. Duo was also responsible for the deaths of the participants of the final Delta Game. Had Ein not discovered the Five's mistake and removed Holly as a participant of the game, she would have died alongside them.
When news of the final Delta Game went public, support for the Star Five, and phantom thieves in general, collapsed overnight, especially when participants of prior Delta Games came forward with stories of their own. The remaining members of the Star Five made a few sparse statements explaining the Delta Games from their point of view, denouncing Duo's actions and revoking his title and rank of Star thief, bu by then the damage was done. They retreated from the public eye, and phantom thievery as a whole went underground for several years.
Phantom thieves became a hot subject again when news broke that three young adults had been found mysteriously killed. The night after the news broke, messages were spread across the internet proving beyond a doubt that the deceased were not only phantom thieves, but the remaining members of the Star Five - codenamed Cinq, Tako, and Nio. The messages along with the mysterious circumstances of their deaths caused rumors to spread quickly that Duo, who had never been found after the final Delta Game, had finally tracked down his former comrades and taken them out. The internet called for his blood. This news was soon overshadowed, however, by the rise of a new band of five thieves who had surpassed the scores the Star Five had set at the peak of the original Snatch Games. This new team called themselves The Chessmasters, and they soon took over as the unofficial leaders of phantom thief community due to their incredible record. The Chessmasters took the opportunity to change the old code of ethics the Star Five had put in place, loosening the definition of acceptable targets, allowing the use of more force in a heist, and raising the percentage of their haul that a thief could keep for themselves. The changes ushered in a new, more ruthless era of phantom thief popularity, and it is this era that Ambrosia lives in.
The eldest son of a prosecutor and a public defender, Ambrosia grew up in a cozy suburb north of Delta City. Phantom thieves were a contant fixture of the early years of his life, as he grew up during the height of the Snatch Games. Despite this, they were rarely discussed in his home: his father was a corporate prosecutor, and his mother not only defended phantom thieves in court, she also sympathized with them on a personal level. So many of them were kids with nothing left to lose. The rare few times phantom thievery came up in a discussion, if it was not shut down it quickly turned into a nasty fight, with Ambrosia often joining his mother's side, and his sister Adelaide joining their father's. It all came to a head when the news of the final Delta Game went public and the crackdown on phantom thieves began in earnest. The stresses of their jobs wore both of Ambrosia's parents out, and the inescapable news of phantom thieves, good and bad alike, sparked more and more frequent fights until it finally destroyed their marriage. They got a divorce when Ambrosia was 18, and though his father won custody over Ada, Ambrosia insisted on living with his mother. His mother quit her job as a public defender and began work as a florist and Ambrosia attended college as an art major...partially out of a love of art, but mostly out of spite towards his father, who'd insisted that if he studied hard and just applied himself a little, he'd do great things in the legal world.
Ambrosia doesn't remember much of his college years: he attended a school known for its party culture and soon turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex as part of his rebellion against his father and embrace of what he thought was the life of a great artist. His teachers disagreed, and his GPA tanked as he started regularly skipping class and churning out "masterpieces" that had no message behind them, no artistic value, and a whole lot of pretentiousness. His father did, too - their already strained relationship was completely destroyed, though Ambrosia doesn't remember exactly what caused his father to disown him...though he suspects it might have been a drunked phone call. He made a lot of those. Not much good came out of this era save for one notable hangover, where he somehow ended up breaking into the apartment of a woman named Aria to sleep his hangover off instead of his friend's party pad. When she kindly ushered him off of her couch and pointed him in the right direction instead of calling the cops on his stupid self, it began the most unlikely of his friendships.
He might have continued like this until he died young of an overdose, but instead...shortly after the rise of The Chessmasters in the world of phantom thieves, Ambrosia's father became one of the new acceptable targets for thievery. A would-be phantom got the addresses post-divorce mixed up, and when Ambrosia's mother discovered them rifling through her posessions after breaking into her house, she startled them so badly that the theft turned violent. Ambrosia had been at a rave that night, and didn't get any news of the break-in until the following morning...when his mother had already passed. The news devastated him, doubly so when he discovered that his father and sister had taken charge of his mother's care and the eventual execution of her will, believing him too far gone to be of any help there. Determined to prove himself, he decided to try and track down the thief that had killed her instead, but the local police were of no help and he had no idea where to turn next, realizing that despite being 22, he knew nothing of the world he thought he'd been the king of. The tragedy prompted him to turn his life around - he failed to save his mother, but if he became a cop, maybe he could prevent this from happening to others. With his sister's help, he checked into rehab and ditched his drug and alcohol problems for good, and then re-enrolled in college on a fast track to join the local police academy. He put all of his past life behind him...including Aria.
5 years passed, and his father had been right: when he applied himself, Ambrosia was more than capable of doing great things. He was promoted from beat officer to detective early, and his unconventional investigative methods let him solve several cases that had long gone cold...but the instant he found a reasonable lead or ran into any sign of trouble, he became incredibly reckless, particularly if he thought he could make an arrest. His partners saw his hot-headedness as a liability, and he bounced between them constantly for his first year as detective until his supervisor finally tried one last-ditch effort: Holly Sherwood, known to the force as The Ice Queen, and to the public as the sole survivor of the final Delta Game. She, too, had gone through numerous partners, though for the opposite reason as Ambrosia - her pursuit of phantom thieves was slow, calculating, but exact. If the boredom of scouring through countless archived cases and following even the smallest hint of a trail for weeks at a time didn't make a partner leave, her cold professionalism when they finally discovered a reasonable suspect would scare them off. She caught thieves like a spider caught flies, without showing even the slightest hint of mercy. His supervisor's gamble paid off: when Ambrosia was paired with her, they bonded over their shared ruthlessness towards thieves, but their vastly different methods of tracking them down tempered each of them. Ambrosia became less reckless, and Holly less obsessive. As time wore on, they even became friends, and Ambrosia saw the Ice Queen thaw a little.
However, while things were going well for Ambrosia's career, he found himself having doubts about how much good the force was really doing. Sure, he and Holly were closing cases as fairly as they could, but his fellow detectives weren't doing the same. He saw clear abuses of power, and noticed that the detectives he and Holly always agreed were more like neanderthals with guns were the ones getting promotions and more cases...especially if those cases pointed said neanderthal at more phantom thieves. This was complicated further when his sister helped him get back in contact with Aria, who had kept writing him letters during his time in rehab and the police academy. Aria had succeeded where he'd failed and managed to become a decently successful freelance artist...but the more he hung out with her, the more he began to suspect that not all of the money she was bringing in was from her gallery showings. Especially when, every so often, she said or did something that reminded him of the Lambda case, the one phantom thief case he'd never managed to close. Despite the lingering suspicions, he still found that he and Aria worked well together, especially now that he'd turned his life around. The two grew close, and after several months of dancing around their respective feelings, Ambrosia pulled the trigger and confessed to her. And, miraculously, she accepted.
For the first few months of their new relationship, Ambrosia was content. The Lambda case had gone cold, and he still found himself with suspicions from time to time, but with no new thefts, they were easy to ignore. Talking with Aria even gave him a new perspective on phantom thieves - she made enough to live on, but still lived just below the poverty line, and there, amongst the poorest of Delta City, he could easily see how phantom thievery could be the only escape. Especially if they followed the old code the Star Five had laid out, forbidding serious bodily harm on a target, giving away as much of what they took to their neighbors as possible, and only targeting those who didn't really need all the wealth they held. If the phantom thieves ever went extinct, they'd have no way out. He began to question his own preconceptions about thieves...and then disaster struck. One evening on the way home from a shift, he was chloroformed, bagged, and spirited away. When he awoke, he was tied to a chair, facing down a band of five masked thieves. Terrified for both himself and Aria, he did his best to keep his cool and keep them talking, and after a while, he made some connections. These weren't just any thieves. Though they wore masks of animals, the way they talked, the way they interacted with each other, was eerily reminiscient of the many posts he'd seen from the elusive Chessmasters. And when every one of their questions revolved, for some reason, around Aria, he thought of every one of her friends she'd introduced him to...and one in particular was very familiar behind the mask. He greeted Aria's friend by name, and their jig was up.
As it turned out, the Chessmasters were all old high school friends, and Aria was their leader's twin. They'd taken him, not on thief business, but out of concern for her safety. He'd been right. She was behind the Lambda case. Every one of those thefts were hers. But he didn't want to believe it. In his grief, he turned again to the one thing that distracted him better than anything else. He spent over a month doing little else aside from work on the Lambda case, determined to go over every scrap of evidence, every single hint of a lead they had, desperately hoping that something, anything would come up that would prove it wasn't her. He worked himself into the ground, and only quit when his own supervisor forced him to take medical leave under the threat of taking him off the case entirely if he continued to work on it. But instead of going home, he called the only lead he had left: Aria herself. He loved her more than he loved himself sometimes, and hearing from her again made him realize that that was exactly what had nearly worked him to death over the prior month. He just couldn't reconcile the idea that his greatest love was also his career's biggest threat...but at the same time, he also didn't know how to feel about phantom thieves, not after spending so long hell-bent on hating them. But the thieves he and Holly brought in, the Chessmasters, Aria herself...they were all kids. Just like him, in a way. But unlike him, they were kids with so little power, with no say in society...and with nothing really to lose if they got caught. Except Aria. Aria would have lost him, he realized. And when he thought back to the Lambda case, his trusted intuition pointed out one more thing: the Lambda phantom's last theft...was a week before he and Aria started hanging out again.
When he finally spoke to Aria again, she confirmed everything he'd suspected...not directly, but kicking him out of her house after he asked point-blank if she was the thief he'd been looking for was confirmation enough. Especially when she turned herself in the following day. She confessed to every one of the Lambda case's thefts, but before she did, she told Ambrosia the full story of why she'd turned to theft, and that, too, was for reasons he'd long since suspected. The Lambda case was closed. Aria was sent to prison. But Ambrosia's involvement with her, along with a new sympathy for phantom thieves the whole experience had given him, painted a target on his back...especially when he tried to continue advocating for the rights all their suspects were legally entitled to. His old grievances with his fellow officers returned to him in full force, especially when he quit being their golden boy and started being seen as a phantom sympathizer. Disgusted with himself for trying to change a system that had never wanted to be changed, for being a part of the reason why the poor of Delta City could only turn to thievery to survive, he quit the force entirely. But with nobody else to turn to and no further skills outside of police work, he had no idea what to do with his life next. And then, on a whim, he asked Ada about their dad. As it turned out, he hadn't been the only one obsessing over his mother's killer. But unlike him, his father had actually made some progress...and discovered that the thief had been perfectly ordinary. No mafia connections, no phantom thief community ties...he was 16. 16, kicked out of his home, scared and starving, and told that he could turn things around if he just took that nasty prosecutor down a few pegs. When Ambrosia's father finally found him...it was in an obituary. The guilt of killing another human being for a botched theft he hadn't wanted to commit to begin with made him turn to suicide. And his father was furious.
He'd gone through his own disillusionment of the system he'd supported for so long, and Ada explained that he was still a prosecutor...but now one that worked pro-bono cases for those who tried to sue the police or corporations for human rights abuses. He even served a few stints as a public defender, which Ambrosia thought could never have happened. He had changed. And for the first time since the divorce, Ambrosia asked Ada if she still had his dad's number. The two reunited, and in the longest and most awkward cafe visit Ambrosia had ever had, he explained everything. And for the first time since the divorce, his father actually listened to him. And when the long story finally reached its end, he had a suggestion: come work at his law office. But on the side, if everything Ambrosia told him is true, there was probably enough there for him to compile a whistleblower's report for the entire precinct that might have enough weight to it that it could cause some real change. And despite it all, Ambrosia had hope.
One year after Aria's imprisonment, Ambrosia finally worked up the courage to see her again. Ada had been sending her letters on and off while he'd figured his life out, but at his insistence she had only ever mentioned the bare minimum about him. He'd spent a long time on his report, a long time at therapy, and a longer time still thinking about his relationship with her and his feelings on phantom thieves...and at long last, he'd come to a conclusion. He sat down across the plexiglass from her and told her everything he could...and confessed his feelings one more time, for good measure. He wanted to make things work. And despite everything...Aria did too. They kept in close contact for the remaining year of her sentence, and it passed quickly. And when she and Ambrosia finally reunited, it was like they'd never really been apart...but at the same time, everything had changed. There were no more secrets. Ambrosia didn't know how their future would pan out, and with the cops, the corporations, and the Chessmasters alike all getting more aggressive by the day, who knew how the phantom thief situation would change that. But he wanted to make things work. They both did. And despite everything...he believed they would.