Liam was fresh to college life. However given his age, which would have normally placed
him in high school, he was an interloper. Out of touch with his generation's pop culture he kept
to himself most often. He was academically gifted, however his depth of knowledge involved
stringent studies on microbiology, zoology, the general sciences, some chemistry, and a short
two day foray into superorganisms which he later dismissed as implausible. Liam had the single-
mindedness to succeed and probably graduate cum laude. His unwavering dedication radiated
from him. His attitude was that all others around him were down right lethargic if they did not
possess the same kind of determination Liam posed. It was an unreasonable expectation which
had stealthily buried itself deep within Liam's subconscious.
Despite all this Liam had one guilty pleasure. From his perspective every living organism
needed basic needs like sleeping, breeding, shelter, and eating to survive. The ancient ancestors
to humans followed in this vein. When we evolved into more cerebral creatures a new
requirement surfaced. We had to be entertained. When the 22nd century reared the corner the
requirements for human survival had been amended yet again. They were sleeping, breeding,
eating, shelter, entertainment, and the Holo-World.
Liam's mom used to tell him that a person's life was divided into three parts. The first
part involved living within the Common-World. In this world a person took care of their physical
body, went to school, got a job, and had a family. The second part of a person's life was in the
Dream-World. Sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers thought the dream world to be
more akin to the Holo-World than to the Common-World. Some even thought it to be a bridge.
The Dream-World was mostly a place where you were devoid of awareness and time slipped by
like wind under a perfectly aerodynamic wing. The third part of a person's life was spent within
the Holo-World. It was the consolidation of social networking, internet, virtual reality, films,
video games, and several other elements shared with the Common-World. It had become a
world synonymous with human's insatiability for entertainment.
If any human best exemplified human insatiability it was David Fargenson. If he wasn't
having fun than life simply wasn't worth living. Liam knew very little about Dave other than his
name and the supposed fact that he had a large pool of friends. Liam and Dave only knew each
other in the Holo-World.
The two had met in the holo-game Final Fantasy. The game of Final Fantasy had it's
origins rooted in the Common-World more than a century before the creation of the Holo-
World. It had been a linear progression game played on a two dimensional display. At the time
players had to use crude interfaces relaying on tactile coordination. In the Holo-World there
was no need for any sort of overtly obvious interface. A neurological interface was required,
but this was never perceived by any of the players once they had rebooted their brains and
singed onto the Holo-World. Rebooting the brain was an expression that described a short
localized and controlled mini-seizure that would cause a human to go unconscious. This gave
the Holo-World interface mechanisms time to recalibrate the portions of the brain having to do
with sensory perception. Ergo, a person made decisions in the common world but was directly
linked to the Holo-World mainframe which would supplicate Common-World senses with
sights, smells, tastes, touch, and hearing that the player was exposed to within the Holo-World.
Liam had met Dave during a game session of Final Fantasy. Dave had been friendly
around town introducing himself to various other players and looking as if he was getting the
lay of the land. For reasons unknown to Liam Dave had spotted Liam and decided to seek out
the companionship the pathetic looking loner. Though Dave had a high charisma he lacked
social graces. He was outgoing but sometimes rude or awkward without intent. He was not like
Liam, but perhaps in social status they were akin. Liam guessed that must be the reason Dave
had sought him out and why their random association that day had developed into a friendship.
Despite knowing Dave for more than two years Liam still looked at the twenty five year
old as mysterious to the point of being an enigma.
"Been wait'n for you
you dirty human" came the gruff voice of Dave.
Liam looked over to his friend and shook off the momentary blurriness that always came
when your body spawned within the Holo-World or within a different program within the Holo-
World. The visage of a purple haired elf with a lion-like tail and steam-punk goggles propped
over his forehead appeared standing on a dirt and cobble stone road right before Liam.
Liam probably should have been distracted by Dave's quirky costume. The problem was
that it was too common place for Dave to be eccentric and Liam had grown used to it. A small
smirk shown across Liam's face, but was quickly erased. Liam was a consummate performer and
always role-played his fantasy characters to exactness. This was something that Dave's
nonchalant attitude had to get used to.
"I wasn't aware that elves were so prejudice." Liam held back another smirk. "Especially
to go as far as to announce your intolerance to a man of the cloth."
Dave laughed. "You look so ridiculous." Liam was dressed in a medieval white robed
priest garb. In the game this outfit signified to other players that Liam's character was a cleric
and capable of casting healing and holy magic.
"Well at least other player knows what class I'm playing as. What in God's Earth are you
supposed to be?"
Dave gave Liam a heavily exaggerated shocked expression. "How could you take the
lord's name in vain when you're a holy man?!"
"Ehhh, Dave you're an atheist. Do you really care? Besides I asked you an important
"Whatever Liam." Dave spoke in a downbeat tone. "I'm just playing as a hunter. I've got
a bow, some quivers, and a dagger."
The two exchanged further dialogue. After a short deliberation they agreed on pursuing
a magical staff. A lizard woman with a rune in her forehead had told them about the dangerous
quest. The two would have to travel to ancient temple ruins east of the city they were currently
The path to the ruins twisted through a morose jungle that appeared to be devoid of life
and yet inhabited by specters of long deceased monkeys, birds, and even talking plants. They
echoed and whispered as if reaching out to Liam and Dave over the relatively short chasm of
"I love how creepy this place is" said Dave.
Liam had a decidedly opposite expression on his face. "Maybe we should turn back and
choose a different quest."
Dave could see the unease in his friend's face. He felt empathetic for his friend, but his
empathy was overruled by stark thinking. He felt it was his duty to encourage bravery in his
friend. As he often did, he responded with a cryptic response. He was looking off into the jungle
when he began speaking. "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total
obliteration." He turned around and looked at Liam. "You must face your fear. Permit it to pass
over you and through you." He smiled. "When it is gone past turn your inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing." He leaned forward and whispered. "Only you
Liam rolled his eyes. "You're quoting something again aren't you?"
Dave shrugged his shoulders. "Can't help it. Don't forget I used to be a Retro-Junkie." On
occasion Dave had revealed little pieces of evidence linking himself to a life outside the Holo-
World. As it happened he used to be part of the cult known as Retro-Junkies. These were
people who shared a negative opinion of the Holo-World. Some felt it was an abomination and
would bring about a total downfall to human civilization. Others felt the Holo-World was taken
too seriously, and that people shouldn't be depended on it. Dave was along the latter line of
thinking. He had a passion for two dimensional entertainments. He watched old films, played
old video games, and read stories that were printed on paper and bound together in an odd
When Liam thought about it long enough he realized that Dave was still a Retro-Junkie
at heart. He never took the Holo-World seriously. When Liam explored his memories he could
find no answer for why Dave had decided to participate in the Holo-World at all. He was still an
enigma, and Liam doubted that would ever change.
Finally Liam responded. "Was it from one of those two dimensional films you watch?"
"Indirectly, yes. Directly, no."
"Well that clears it up." There was a heavy dose of sarcasm in Liam's voice, but he
decided to let the matter drop. As it happened Dave had distracted him so much that Liam had
now completely forgotten about his fear. He thought to himself "I will forget my fear. Allow it
to pass through me. When it is gone I'll look back upon its path and see Dave." He chuckled to
Dave looked over at Liam with a questioning smile but said nothing.
The two walked upon the uneven path for a few more minutes till they came upon the
ancient ruins they had been seeking. Hand carved stone that had once been part of magnificent
structures know lay covered in ivy and moss. It was like the jungle was reaching out with small
hands and trying to reclaim each block of stone as part of itself and hide it deep within its
The only thing that remained of the ancient ruins was the rough outline of corridors and
rooms. Remints of a stone floor shone here and there, but were mostly hidden under centuries
of sedimentary dirt.
Liam began to walk down one of the corridors, but was suddenly and quite rigidly
grabbed by the right arm. It was a painful restrictive grasp and when Liam looked over to see
what had ensnared him he was startled to see Dave.
"Dave! What the hell?!"
Dave's eyes were deadly serious and locked straight ahead of them at a figure standing
within the ruins. He loosened his grip a little. "Don't ask any questions when I tell you this, but
your life is in danger right now."
One of Liam's eye brows shot up and he looked queerly at Dave. He followed Daves eyes
over to the figure. In the temple ruins was a figure approaching them. It looked to be a man
wearing a black long sleeved turtle neck, beat up blue jeans, and a white baseball cap. Sure the
man looked out of place on this particular gaming server but it was nothing to condemn the
Liam was about to voice his opinion, but Dave cut him off. "Let me do the talking and
just stay calm. I'll protect you." Where the hell was this coming from and what was Dave talking
about. Also Dave seemed more conserved with Liam's safety. Why did Dave feel safe?
The figure finally came within talking distance of Liam and Dave. Liam tried to make out
the man's face the closer the man came till he realized the person was standing nearly twelve
feet away and he still couldn't make out a face. It hit Liam quite suddenly and terror surged
within him that made the eeriness of the haunted jungle seem as disquieting as a children's bed
"My name is Distant" came the monotone voice of the man. He spoke with no mouth
and no expression. His body language hinted at nothing either. It was like they were meeting
the shell of a man who had a barren and empty heart.
Dave's eyes turned to slits. "So you openly admit to being the Distant? The one
Distant cut him off. "-responsible for the murders of exactly one hundred people. Today
I break a hundred. I am very excited." There was still no vocal inflection in the man's voice and
though he said he was excited Liam could not tell whether he truly was or wasn't. Liam had
never met a psychopath before and that only increased his fear.
Distant began to speak again. "We're going to play a little game. You two will fight me. It
will be a battle to the death. I changed the parameters of the Holo-World to allow with a
realistic outcome befitting whoever should lose."
"You mean real death?!" exclaimed Liam.
Dave glared at Distant. "How's it work Distant? Have you hacked the Holo-World? If we
lose have you somehow figured out a way to fry our brains in the Common-World?"
"I wouldn't put it so crudely, but yes." Distant reached out a palm into the air and
suddenly a sword appeared in his hand. "Please fight with me."
Dave pulled out the dagger from around his belt. The long sword in Distant's hand
dwarfed Dave's weapon.
Liam readied his staff that he was caring, but Dave held out an arm in front of him.
"Liam, stay out of this."
"That's insane!" replied Liam.
"Just trust me" said Dave as he walked towards Distant. Liam was compelled to listen to
his friend, not because Dave was more experienced than him but because Dave walked with his
head held high and his weapon casually held by his side. It was as if Dave had a secret of some
sort that made him immune to this foe.
"The battle has begun" said Distant. "If you do not defend yourself then you will die
Dave threw his dagger to the ground.
"Dave what the hell are you doing?!"
Dave paid no attention to Liam's plea. His eyes were fixated on Distant like a predator
hunting prey. "You have admitted to your crimes. Evidence has been found against you. Your
location in the Common-World has been located and soon you will be apprehended. Surrender
quietly or suffer the consequences."
Distant stood still for a long moment. "You're bluffing" There was suddenly tone in the
man's voice. Liam could hear fear and anger mixed together like some grotesque disfiguration
Dave continued to speak. He was beginning to sound more and more unemotional. "My
designation is SR-500. I am a trogon-class hunter/seeker program. Your Common-World name
is Aaron James Taggart. You live at 152 summer pool dr., within the fifth floor of the New York
Distant was quiet yet again. Slowly he pointed his sword at Dave. "If I delete you
program I should have time to disconnect and escape the police in the Common-World. A guy
like me has contingency plans. You're really hampering my day though."
Distant drove the sword into the ground. Flames shot from a hot magma pool forming
where the sword had broken ground. The flames lashed out at Dave. Dave had no choice but to
defend himself with a magical force field. While this was happening to silver polished laser guns
appeared in each of Distant's hands. He sprouted wings and flew up into the air while shooting
Dave moved in a distortion of time. Within a millisecond he was floating in the air next
to Distant. For a brief moment Liam could see a trail of blurred movement from where Dave
had been standing to where he was now several meters up in the air.
Dave delivered a powerful blow with his right arm. Considering the program's, rather
Dave's unlimited power Dave had evidently chosen not to attack with lethal force. Still the
impact of the blow had been powerful enough to send Distant straight to the ground with a
Just like that Dave had rendered the psychopathic serial killer unconscious. Without a
sound Dave moved to the ground vertically as if on an invisible elevator. He walked over to
Distant's insensible body. Dave put his hands together and they started to glow. Soon after that
glowing blue walls started to come out of the ground and form a cube around Distant. The cube
sealed itself and hummed quietly as it pulsed ever so slightly.
Dave turned around to face Liam. He was in deep regret and he simply said "sorry
Liam was caught in between the limbo of shock and depression. It was the weird
sensation in life when you feel a plethora of emotions all cascaded at once. Liam wasn't sure
what to feel. All he could do was respond with another question. His eyes holding back tears
and a frown on his face he replied "Be more specific Dave. What are you apologizing for?"