They Who Art Not In Heaven

To Kill A Star: Part 1, Ascension From Light

Two weeks ago...

The tight, scattered alleyways of the Electown residential district were not lightly traveled. Although modern technology had increased the general effectiveness of law enforcement, crime will always manage to survive in large, populated centers. Muggings, backdoor dealings, illegal transactions and the occasional murder are still as common as they've ever been.

Despite this, one Ketl Benedict, minister of the Online Dare-To-Win communion, strolled down these notorious passageways as though he was an impenetrable balloon. He spoke to his congregation about the ability to Dare oneself into a situation one was too afraid or nervous to enter normally. "He Who Dares, Wins" and "Attack is the best form of Defence" were phrases commonly heard in his lectures. He considered unshaking bravery in the face of insurmountable odds to be one of the most incredible experiences possible, especially if that steadfast resilience was eventually rewarding.

Still, to play it safe, Ketl checked his surroundings. Tall, semi-brick structures protruded through weather-beaten cracks in the modern Soli-Cement. A slightly-rusted sweeper robot blindly bumped it's way past, the beaten rotors giving a muffled whining as it slogged through the grime and mud. It was rare to hear birdsong this far into the district, given that it was mostly treeless, not to mention cat territory.

Nevertheless these were merely distractions. Ketl had come to this grim place for a reason. Although his public face was one of a jolly, rounded man who preached on the strength of mind, Ketl is known to certain circles as "The Bishop", a man who's all smiles and no mercy. A newcomer to the world of crime, the Bishop was an underground, heavyweight boxer famed for his brutal face breakers. Although disqualified for supplying competitors with illegal adrenaline enhancers to increase the challenge, Ketl still maintains a lucrative business operation on it's trade.

His navi had recieved a notification via encrypted e-mail that a buyer would be waiting at this location. He hadn't bothered with bodyguards for he believed that no sane man would even dare try to harass him, and prefered to conclude deals in person. He had waited no less than a minute before he heard footsteps approaching from behind. He put on his best business face.

"Now, sirs." he began with a baritone rumble, turning. "What can I do for you... today..."

His speech and smile faltered, as you do when your realise you are speaking to naught but air. If he hadn't been covering his embarrassment with annoyance, he might have sooner noticed someone behind him. He did, however, notice a sharp pain in the small of his back.

Ketl's vision began to darken, his mind covered in a foggy cloud. He fell to his knees as his suddenly weak legs buckled under his weight. He turned, clawing at the unfocused figure who had done this to him. What he saw of his attacker before he lost himself to dreams was of a pale, sheet-white face; dark, soulless eyes and a blood-red grin that stretched across the length of it's devilish head...


He would have nightmares of that face for a long time to come.
The fat man with the extravagant beard slumbered at the masked individual's feet. For a moment, all was still as the one known as "Jim" examined his victim. He pondered the odds between someone finding Ketl before the effects of the sleeping agent wore off. It'd take over eight hours, but this place, tucked into the bowels of the streets, was not often seen. Would the man eventually discover his identity, and later on become a bloated, vengeful nightmare? What if he belonged to some dangerous organisation who were not known for their forgiveness? It was even possible he was being watched right no-

The young man was startled out of his thoughts as a sweeper robot blundered into a decrepit post, which finally gave up it's neglected position and fell mercifully to the ground with a lingering clang. The sweeper paused for a moment, as though in apology, then set off again on it's endless task. Jim let out the breath he had been holding. This probably wasn't the greatest idea in the world, but it was part of the Plan, and he had a part to play.

Gingerly, and with great difficulty, Jim rolled the dreaming dealer onto his back and began rifling through his jacket. His heart was racing. He had never done anything like this before. In fact, he hadn't really done much with his life. He was a guy who drifted through life, his mind in another world. He had gone to school because that was what he had always known. He wasn't an unlikable guy, as he didn't really give anyone a reason not to. He stayed out of people's way, he didn't get involved and had always tried to do his best.

Once high school was finished, Jim had panicked, not having any idea of what he wanted to do with his life. He had no purpose, and without a purpose, he was nobody, which frightened him. That is, until he had met Mister D, an anonymous sender of e-mails who talked with words but spoke with ideas. Mr D had told him of the Plan, a path that would, he said, eventually be of enormous benefit to the human race. He didn't really say how it was supposed to happen. But Jim knew, deep down, that this was the path he was supposed to follow, even if the final destination was unknown.

And so, that was how it started. At first it was just moving blank, cardboard boxes into unused buildings, dropping off packages into mailboxes and disposing of bundles of paper tightly wrapped in plastic bags. Each job would place a moderate sum of cash into his account. Simple jobs for, Jim thought, a simple person.

Then, quite suddenly, it was this. Jim was to fashion a crude disguise, an "image" Mr D had called it, and hide in a specific back alley. Within a package he himself had delivered, there was a disposable syringe with an ominous, blue liquid inside. With that, he had to inject it into the man who resembled a photograph that came included in the package. And here we reach the point where Jim was rifling through the coat of an unconscious man.

After a modicum of tissues, notes, and other general jacket junk, he pulled out the man's rather oddly shaped PET. He stood up, removing the painted paper plate from his face, and switched on the device's power.

'Hello?', Jim called to the plastic box's resident.

The dark screen flashed white, so bright it caused Jim to cover his eyes. When he looked again, he was greeted by an oddly angular sillhouette.

<<Everything is possible for they who believe.>>[b][/b], it screeched, as though speaking with chalkboard scratchings.

The silhouette brightened, a dreadful smile revealing itself. Jim wished it had stayed dark.

<<It's pleasant to meet you at last, "Jim",>>[b][/b] shrilled Fissure. <<I do so hope our cooperation will be most profitable.>>[b][/b]
Present Day


"Bustle" is such a curious word, thought Jim, surveying the hundreds of commuters, salesman, dredgers, travellers and public service men and woman criss-crossing each other across Charge Street, one of Electown's busiest pedestrian areas. He was sitting at a Ret-2-Go outdoor cafe, the kind with wooden deckchairs and yellow umbrellas stuck into the tables. He took a swig of Cold-1 through a straw, contemplating Fissure's latest suggestion.

"The NetMafia?", he repeated.

<<Indeed, yes. Our goals cannot be accomplished with just the two of us.>>[b][/b] Fissure's voice grated violently through the PET's speaker. Jim turned the volume down so as not to disturb the other customers.

"I dunno.", he mumbled, chewing on his straw, "I guess it looks okay.". He held a pamphlet Fissure had told him to pick up on the way here. The cover read "Join The Netmafia - Stretch Your Limits", the inside was full of similar slogans like "Adventure" and "Thrill-Seekers". It looked more like a holiday brochure than an invitation to join one of the most powerful factions that were running half the internet.

<<What are you worried about?>>[b][/b], Fissure schreeched inquisitively, <<I't's not like you're the one going to be getting shot at and blown up all the time.>>[b][/b] Fissure said this last part with obvious relish, his sharp tounge darting out to taste the thought. The act caused a shiver to run up Jim's spine.

"Well, if you say so."

He activated the PET's wi-fi system, connected to the cafe's internet service and logged Fissure into the Netsquare.


((Connecting to The Pioneer by Proxy...))