Chapter 0:

Prologue (06-09-2473)

Simulcast Assassin

I am screwed.

Marvelously, stupendously, galactically screwed.

At this point it's safe to say that I'm also dead. I mean, the odds are not 100%. But then again, there's not a 100% guarantee that gravity won't spontaneously stop working and launch me, the corpo Neanderthal interrogating me, and the steel table between us into the stratosphere either.

Here's hoping.

"Do you understand where you are, Mr. Locksley?" The man in the suit across the steel table asks. He's bald and clean shaven, a bonafide sleeve-grown clone in a law enforcement uniform. A copy of a cop. A coppy, if you will.

I say nothing. I know the answer's a Hawkridge Corp. safehouse. They wouldn't like that answer, and I wouldn't like losing my teeth giving it to them.

The coppy across from me purses his lips in what I think might be his attempt at a frown. Or maybe a pout. It's hard to tell with sleeve-meat. Half the time the nerves in their face don't grow in right, and their expression’s pretty much locked into a bored deadpan no matter how they feel.

"Do you understand why we've brought you in?" The coppy asks, resting his big knuckly Neanderthal hands on the tabletop.

"Mmhm mrrmnn mrrr mhhhmhh mllll mrrrr" I say through the gag in my mouth.

The man looks to someone behind me and nods. Someone steps up behind me, and with a tug, the gag in my mouth drops around my neck. I go to open my mouth to repeat myself when whoever's behind me clocks me on the back of the head with something heavy. My vision explodes with stars, everything goes this awful greenish color, and I can taste metal, which means I probably bit my tongue. Once my vision stops sparkling and I can see straight, I try again.

"I said, I'm certain you're going to tell me."

The coppy retrieves a dossier from a case out of sight, and drops the battered manila folder between us. It sits there awkwardly for several long seconds before his sausage link fingers flip it open. Inside is a collection of evidence- chat logs, pictures of me in-game, pictures of me out of game, my Hawknet browser history, and many other bits of personal information. The coppy rifles through this stack until he seems to find what he is looking for, and drops an image in front of me.

It's a screenshot of a man. Well, an avatar, but with AR and VR blending together as much as they do these days, at this point that’s more of a technicality. He’s wearing a sweatshirt, cargo pants, and a full size CRT monitor on his head, one of the big ole clunky ones from like a hundred years ago.

Robespierre. Or me, if you wanna be less technical.

“What’s with the avatar?” I ask innocently.

Officer Neanderthal leans forward, lacing his meaty fingers.

“We were hoping you could shed some light on that subject.” He says.

I adopt my best look of uninformed confusion.

“Me? But why me?”

The coppy purses his lips, but the brow doesn’t move to match. He nods to the person behind him again, and the footsteps behind me are accompanied by another sharp blow to the head. I reel, my vision tunneling, but somehow manage to stay in my chair. The ropes tying my legs to the seat help.

“Mr. Locksley, please do not waste our time.” The man in front of me says. He stabs the image of my avatar with the tip of a fleshy finger. “We know this is your avatar.”

I can feel my pulse pounding in my neck. My feet and hands are sweating. But I keep my breath steady, my voice calm, my face neutral. It’s in times like this that I remember why I practice these sorts of things.

“I’ve never seen that thing before in my life.”

Another blow slams me in the back of the head, this time hard enough to bounce my head off the interrogation table. Things don’t clear so easily this time, and I can feel the urge to puke boiling in the bottom of my throat. The man across from me leans back in his chair.

“We can do this all day, son.” He says, crossing his arms. “Just tell us that you’re the same person as the one in the image, and we can get this over with.”

I spit a small wad of blood and saliva on the picture between us, and do my best to force a smile.

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” I say, leaning back and crossing my arms to match him.

For the first time I see the corner of his mouth twitch, and he takes a deep breath, which he lets out slowly. Then he stands.

“Alright. If you insist.”

He fades into the shadows behind his chair, leaving me alone to scramble in my head for some way out of this. My legs are bound, as is my torso. For some reason, they've left my hands free, but I'm not sure what good that does me, and I’m not gagged anymore, but I can guarantee if I utter a single sound or make a single movement the beatstick behind me will play tee-ball with my skull. My aug-lenses have been Faraday'd, so no pinging for help over the ‘Net. And as if that wasn’t enough, I have to piss. Badly.

Like I said, I’m screwed.

Now, I’m sure you’re asking- “But Krys! How did you end up here?”

Simple. I killed somebody. Well, not just one somebody. Somebodies. To be honest, I don’t even know how many anymore. I lost track after I hit double digits.

To be more technical, Robespierre killed them. In a rather brutal and theatrical fashion, might I add. Live on air. To an audience of tens of thousand cheering fans.

You know, when I say it like that, it doesn’t really sound good, does it?

Look, I know it probably doesn’t sound like it, but I’m the good guy here. Really.

…I’m getting the sense you don’t believe me.

Fine. We’ll do it the old-fashioned way. Sit back, relax, and let me theater of the mind this shit for you. I promise you by the end of this, you’ll see what I mean.

Taylor Victoria
Kya Hon
F.C Fondness