an emmense screen that looked out over the crowd watched as he entered. a group of four was locked in battle, concentrating all their worldly energy and squinting their eyes at the huge screen and the rushing and shifting colors and images that seemed to be the focus of their lives at the time. shadows on the walls flickered chaotically, coming from the uncountable glowing screens. there were few other lights besides the games, some at the tables in the center cafe, and a few neon signs. the air was filled with the sounds of winners and losers alike, and there was the usual thumping and twisting of techno music that seemed to come from every pore of the walls and filled the place all the way to the high ceiling. you could feel the boom of the bass in you chest.

i have to admit, it is mesmorizing in here. the constant low hum of the screens is enough to lock you in here forever, but the music keeps ya goin... a lot of energy round here– beit good or bad, and hell, anything that's bad is good anyway. it must be my lucky day– my favorite seat is mine uncontested... put my feet up... ahh, i could get used to this. jack in.

he pulled the thin wire to his temple, fixed his gaze straight forward, and inserted it with slow delicacy.

the room flickered, and was gone. as the dense black curtain dissolved, pin points of light began to appear in the distance, and soon the familiar skyline of the electric city was there. it was dusk, and the sun was an angry red dot on the horizon. the streetlamps along the road below him silenty turned on in succession, showing him the way in. all it took was a slight concentrated thought and he was racing forward, low, careening in the vacuum towards the now dark city.

in his brain, an intricate bundle of sinewy fibers twinkled. it was new, gold connectors and everything– fast stuff. a pleasant warmth seeped from it, and the images it created flowed like the sweetest of sugar waters into his closed eyes. he felt like a live wire encased in honey.

a small, electronic, oragami cricket scurried onto the edge of a digitized grate in a silicone sidewalk. it chirped twice, and far in the distance a floating boy's ears perked up. his head whipped quickly to face the direction of the sound while his body continued on its precise, weightless path. his pixelated pupils widened and became slits, and his eyes squinted and focused. he came to a halt infront of the small, shining black bug, and took it between his fingers, whose minute details were reflected in the cricket's wings. antenae waving, the cricket crawled on folded feet onto the boy's shoulder, and then scurried to his breast pocket, and silently crawled in.

missed you, buddy. i trust all has been well here in the land of the digerati? let's go.

a low and soft chorus filled the air and seemed to come from the darknes at the edges of the city, traveling over the distance low to the ground and then rising up to reverberate in the walls. the hum bathed the boy in electric warmth and set every digital hair on end.

on a flat luminous map, a single blue dot traveled through a maze of gray blocks, closing in on the target. the map shifted up and broke into three dimensions. the red dot was on the top floor of the third tallest building, and it pulsed with flares of red, emitting a ring that radiated out and then faded to black.

so who am i up against this time? i wanna know whose brain i'm gonna be frying. and i want him to know who he's seing when the burn comes, when i look into his eyes and then fill them with fire. death is not the idea, but rather pain, that which lets you know you're alive.