Chapter 1 - Elias
Elias Stewart was a typical fourteen-year-old who lived in Penhook Virginia.
Having just left school after staying late to preside over the school’s computer club, he walked slowly down the tree lines streets. It was a nice spring day, and he was in no hurry to get home.
His parents would still be at work and he had finished most of his homework in class, so the rest of the day was his.
Turning down his street, he looked around the neighborhood seeing the aging homes and cars. Elias lived in a three-bedroom house which wasn’t too old, and his parents made decent money, but they were far from rich.
Being an only child helped, as any spare money wasn’t divided between others, but he didn’t ask for much other than a weekly allowance, which he worked for.
It was enough to cover a movie, or saving up for a few weeks, another computer game.
Knowing he had it better than others, they weren’t too far away from the poorer neighborhoods, Elias usually volunteered one day on the weekend helping out in a homeless shelter that also fed the poor.
In school he wasn’t popular – the other students considered him a nerd – but he had a few friends in the computer club.
Online was a different story. He was a natural dealing with computers, learning how to program at an early age. His inquisitive nature led him to want to know how things worked, so he picked up on how to take apart and rebuild things. This included both hardware and software.
Elias considered himself a gray hat hacker. He wasn’t out to do any harm to anyone else, but some of the things he did were technically against the law.
Of course, those were laws he thought were ridiculous and he did what he could do to voice his opinion, saying as much.
He figured if he owned a game, he could remove the copy protection on his copy, or once he bought a cd or digital music, he should not have to deal with digital rights management or DRM issues.
He paid for his copy, and as long as he wasn’t giving it away, what was the big deal if he had it in multiple places? It’s not like he could be in multiple places at once so only one was ever being played at a time.
Elias liked open-source software best because he could look at the code. This allowed him to learn more as well as make improvements or change things to his liking.
Tonight though, he was going to work on his reflexes. To be more precise, his twitch reflexes.
Elias was also a competitive gamer, playing most all of the first-person shooters that were popular. He was in the top 100 of most of them.
Trying to choose between them was the only thing that kept him from being in the top twenty-five or so.
Elias was contemplating which game to start with when he walked up the front walk to his house. He pulled out his key but paused reaching for the door.
It was standing open a few inches. Looking over to the driveway, neither of his parents’ cars were there, just as he expected. It was too early for either one of them to be home, and neither of them would leave the door open.
Elias slowly pushed the door open and called out. “Hello?”
There was no answer, not that he was expecting one. If someone had broken in, they probably weren’t stupid enough to announce themselves.
From the front door, Elias could see down the front hall and into their living room. The hall looked normal, but that was probably because there wasn’t much in it.
The living room however was another story. From where he stood, he could see things were thrown about. He cautiously entered the house, pulling out his phone as he went. Looking around, he could see that more of the house had been trashed.
He couldn’t tell right off what had been taken - if anything. Moving quickly, he went to his room. Elias knew he could easily tell what was missing from there.
The door was open and the room a disaster – not that he was the cleanest kid. He was a teen after all.
Knowing the mess wasn’t his, he dialed 9-1-1. It rang and he got a message telling him to be patient and that if it were an emergency that his call would be quickly answered.
He sighed and waited.
Hearing a noise, he turned around to see a man dressed in black, wearing a black mask, standing there holding a gun.
Elias slowly raised his hands, hoping it would stop the man from shooting him and give 9-1-1 time to answer his call. “D-don’t shoot. I’m just a kid,” Elias said.
The man in black gave a minute shake of his head and pulled the trigger.
Elias expected a loud bang, but instead only heard a loud hiss. He felt pain, but not what he expected to feel.
Looking down, he expected to find a hole that was leaking (gushing?) blood, but the red he saw wasn’t blood.
There was something sticking out of his shoulder. It looked like a large dart, but instead of plastic or feathered fins at the back, he saw a little red puff ball. It reminded him of a pom-pom or a clown nose.
That was a far as he got before everything went dark and he fell to the floor.