The car rounded the corner in a four-wheel drift, brake lights flickering as the rear swung wide, one tire jumping the curb. A woman threw her hands in the air as the trunk wall smashed her from the sidewalk, sending her flying into the brick wall behind her where she slumped in a spreading pool of blood. The baby stroller she’d been pushing shot almost straight up in the air, a tangle of torn fabric, twisted metal tubing and bleeding flesh. The tires gained traction and the corvette shot down the street, boring its way through mid-town traffic like an atomic corkscrew as KillerDude laughed.
Strobes in the rear-view.
“Shit! I hope they don’t—”
Static cut off his thought, then a voice, sharp though distorted by radio transmission.
“All units, all units - converge. Maxwell avenue - southbound corvette. Tracker in place - all units, converge.”
The ‘vette shot into an alley, braking too late to avoid the crunch of fender meeting wall. It was still rolling as the door opened and KillerDude hit the ground running, black trench coat flapping, nine iron in hand. He was moving slow — too slow; the cops converging on that stolen vehicle tracer were going to surround him. That impact with the wall had hurt more than he’d anticipated, and he was limping.
That was what the golf club was for.
A flash of motion behind some garbage cans.
The club came down, once, twice, more. The life-force left the dirty shell lying on the ground, rising into the air, then shooting suddenly sideways, striking KillerDude in the chest.
Revitalized, KillerDude took off down the alley, moving at full speed once more, making tracks for the safety of his lair.
* * * * *
Jason took off the helmet and opened his eyes, breathing like he’d really been running. He slipped out of the gloves and wiped his hands on his pants, streaking them with sweat.
How did they game before VR? he thought.
Dad had played the original Grand Theft Homicide. Old times, he called them. Screens and controllers. Something called a ‘joystick’.
Virtual Reality put you right in it. Sights, sounds, like you were living it. The newest technology was amazing — everything but taste. All it took was neuro-receptors to let the equipment synch-up with his nervous system. The A.I. auto-assist had sounded creepy but gave pinpoint character control — KillerDude reacted with the speed of thought.
It had been so worth the surgery!
A knock took him out of his reverie.
“Jason! Jason, you in there? You’re missing dinner you know!”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Jason, you have to eat!”
Jason stowed the gloves and helmet.
“I’m fine, Ma. I ate lunch late. I’ll probably just read for school until bed, okay?”
“Well… okay … ”
Jason listened to his mother move away, then looked at his pile of schoolbooks before flinging himself toward the bed. He was asleep almost before he landed.
* * * * *
Homework did not get done. Jason knew he should have cared, but didn’t. His teachers wondered.
Meals did not get eaten. Jason should have been hungry, even lost weight, but had no interest in food. His mother worried.
All Jason could think was Grand Theft Homicide, 24-7. He usually became obsessed with new games, but this was beyond anything he’d ever played. The reality! The scenarios! He was flying along at the top of his game, out-playing guys who’d made a name for themselves on the gaming boards, legendary players like Coldman and The Shocker.
The interface with KillerDude gave him a fantastic edge. He was on ‘invites only’ gaming boards packed with information about upcoming scenarios within the game. The crowning scenario was called ‘Armed Invasion’. Just a name, no background included. He was getting closer than ever to being the first.
Every night, he slipped off the helmet, opened his eyes and looked about at the so-called ‘real world’, unsatisfied.
VR, that’s where it’s at baby. Nothing to do here but sleep and recharge.
* * * * *
He slipped off the helmet and opened his eyes, a satisfied but exhausted grin on his face. It was 3 am and he’d kicked some serious ass in the ‘Pandemonium at the Police Station’ scenario — according to the boards he was the first ever to complete that little bloodbath. And beyond it — ‘Armed Invasion’.
He was ready. He’d been so quick, so in tune with KillerDude while he was at the cop shop, bustin’ heads, slittin’ throats and just blasting the shit out of anything that moved with a big ol’ chain gun.
Tomorrow, he thought as he stowed his gear. The big day. ‘Armed Invasion’, baby!
It was his last thought as sleep overtook him.
* * * * *
Jason opened his eyes. He was exhausted, panting, and he felt that odd lassitude that usually resulted from a VR session. He wiped sweat-dampened fingers on his pants leg before realizing he hadn’t removed any gloves.
What the fu…
He focused on the scene around him.
Daylight. His chemistry classroom at the high school. Blood.
Jason was dazed. Everywhere he looked in the room, bodies, kids, lay in pools of spreading crimson. His breath hitched in, came back out in a sob.
The game had it wrong, he thought. This is what blood really smells like.
He looked down at himself.
A black trench coat.
A gun in his hand.
Sounds drew his attention to the window. Flashing lights, squad cars, black uniforms with SWAT across the chest heading toward the school in two man cover patterns. He looked about the room for escape, a power-up, someone to siphon the life-force from.
There was nothing out here in the really real world.
* * * * *
Back in his lair, KillerDude slipped off the helmet and opened his eyes, a satisfied but exhausted grin on his face.
Man, I kicked ass, he thought. First one to complete ‘Armed Invasion’! Number one on the boards!