~Disclaimer~

This work has not been beta-read. Expect minor changes and rewording over the course of several weeks. This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copy written. Everything in this work is mea culpa, except that which I borrowed. I do not own Anything that anyone else made, though most of my characters escaped from their cages in my head to influence my work.

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Chapter Zero

It's said that every story has a beginning. A place where historians, readers, or those who study it can look back and say, “Yup. That's where something happened. That first little flap of a butterfly's wings, the soft sound of a twig snapping, that first perfect little crystal of water gently floating from the sky. Or sometimes the first drop of blood. The first scream of terror, the first caw of a feasting murder of crows or a conspiracy of ravens, the shattering of a blade or the sound of gunpowder igniting and propelling metallic death outwards to disrupt the sound of silence.

But not always. Sometimes a story can only begin when a myriad of various factors coalesce, when the Powers-That-Be decide that enough diverging pathways have merged together and the planets align together to create a new saga to be committed to history. Even if sometimes it's a tale that is hidden in the shadows of back-room deals and bloody bargaining to keep it veiled from the eyes of the public, where those that command the world decide it would be inconvenient or unprofitable to let the truth be known.

But then again, sometimes the characters involved just need to be unlucky enough to be somehow associated with the groups that everyone focuses on. The driver who navigated the route a doomed political figure would meet his head upon, perhaps the man that always stops to talk over a steaming cup of overpriced coffee with a figure that later set of a deadly explosion and leveled a major historical structure.

Or, in this case, just a man who found an interesting concept, and felt it would be fun to contribute. A man that was always shy at first, but quickly opened up into an active, cheerful friend with those that were not judgmental, who wanted to contribute to a growing world of silly, perverted people who channeled all that energy into creating a complicated mesh of tales and characters, stories and epics, wars and massacres, births and passionate lovemaking in a complicated and ever expanding web of effort, fighting and surviving through the antagonism of others, cruel hackers and forces bent on taking them all down.

It had been a while since he'd spoken to most of them, after one of his resulted in a heated series of disagreements, though he attempted to remain close with a few of those he'd worked with most closely. Reading and checking things over, being a 'beta-reader' as it were , if only to maintain those fragile threads, with some amount of success, but this unlucky protagonist had only the slightest of successes.

He'd heard rumours, noticed a few things as the years grew more numerous. People were suddenly losing contact, voices going quiet and never 'heard' from again as their accounts and web pages crumbled into dust from neglect. Less and less time was devoted to keeping contact with those that remained,taxes were high, housing was expensive, and he'd grown too dissatisfied from each year that rolled by to focus on such trivial things till one day he realized, it had been months since he'd heard from any of them at all. It wasn't unheard of, but one thing kept nagging at him.

The last little thread to snap, one of the few he kept up with, that he occasionally joined forces with to conquer some poor, unworthy artificial intelligence in whatever game had his focus of the month, had put down his headset with a call of 'BRB' to check out the cause of some weird feedback and never returned. Another friend in common had been just as confused, since it seemed that the man had vanished without a trace. There had been no note, no phone call, no text messages, and most importantly, no final rent payment.

Eventually, even that little twinge of unease faded away as a meager job continued to support a dissatisfied existence, keeping sane with food and the occasional lover, silly comics and manga, interesting anime and sometimes a movie with old high school buddies.

There. Just like that, the stage was set. Events had been set in motion, rusty gears ground mountains to dust in a massive expenditure of power and worlds quivered as for just the briefest, most infinitesimal moment of time one side of a coin linked to another in an endless sea of clinking metal. Of course, the poor unfortunate sod that display of mind boggling, physics-breaking wonder was focused on had no idea of what was about to happen.

He was just sitting in his room after another in and endless tide of days at work, again, relaxing with his shirt thrown aside in a too-small bedroom in a too-small house in a mediocre neighborhood with his half-broken headset when he heard a soft screech of feedback. Headset pulled off, the quiet sound nonetheless had his teeth grinding in irritation as it hi the perfect frequency for his abused eardrums to convey perfectly to his tired mind. The hair on his neck stood upright and he felt a chill, the sound of the feedback growing louder, bursts of static starting to edge in at random peaks. Every time the grey-eyed male turned his head to track the source he saw nothing. Though after a few moments his small, brown and black cat jumped to her feet as though something had poked her, hissed, and ran from the room.

A single slender brow arched upright at the display, and his voice, hoarse from yelling over loud machines for half the afternoon, rumbled like gravel from dry lips. “Right, like that wasn't even slightly creepy. Damn cat.” Yes, he was sitting alone in his bedroom, shirtless, without socks , relaxing in his work trousers and sipping a glass of lemonade, and talking to himself. It was another habit of his, since he usually didn't talk to others out in public. A side effect of his shyness combined with his overwhelming disdain for most of mankind.

With a sigh, he picked up his phone and checked the time, then quirked a brow again as it refused to turn on. He did the eyebrow thing rather often. It seemed to be pretty good at conveying emotion to others without needing to say a single word, after all. “Weird, thought it was fulled charged. Worthless mass produced junk, the battery can't even last the day anymore.” Reaching over again, he reclined in the terrible, 40's era chair he was relegated to using ever since his office chair had broken a few years earlier in the move, and rested his bare feet on the shoddy wooden desk housing the dual monitors and tower of his computer, before reaching down to grab the extension chord and charger to plug in his mobile. The house was so old, there weren't even power outlets in the unrenovated bedroom, he'd been forced to string extension chords from the finished ling room area.

A long yawn crept from his lips and he shook his head, staring at the monitor ahead, Warframe and his friend waiting for him to select a mission and farm some materials for a new Prime Frame they'd been gifted by RNGeesus the night before. “Hold on, Space, I think one of my speakers is messing up, I'm getting some weird feedback, so go, I dunno, grab something to drink. You know you have more fun half-cut anyways.” He wasn't sure just which speaker was acting up, so as he peered at them one at a time, he was rather disturbed when rather then just a sound and a twitch of a woofer or tweeter, the pile of Loot Crate boxes next to the desk seemed to shimmer with a haze and deform, like when you tease a powerful magnet to close to an old school CRT monitor. “Well. Oookay then.”

It was a rather blasé reaction to space deforming before his eyes, but it wasn't the first time he'd seen weird things. He'd once avoided sleep for nearly seven days as a child, and had been gifted a visitation of the hallucination of his lamps dancing and swaying, and so the male figured that he was just over-tired again. The only twinge of a disconcerting feeling he had was that it was timed perfectly with the odd sound. Not an expert by any means on psychology or the ways of the mind and body, after all. And yet, that little twinge in the back of his neck grew by leaps and bounds, and he swept his free hand, divested of lemon tea, across four day's stubble on his chin, one of a series of nervous habits he'd acquired that tended to relax his mind and allow him to focus.

Again and again, faster and faster, that strange noise came, static and feedback in equal measure making his teeth ache, and his eyes winced as though someone had turned on the bright overhead lamp in his dimly-lit room, adjusting his glasses as the waste bin beside him, the pile of boxes, his bed, the closet door, even the window frame all started to deform and twitch. Their forms grew hazy and indistinct, and his easily distracted mind suddenly made a connection between the sounds he heard and the things he was seeing, and an old RPG series he'd played through once. He HAD wanted to go back and play that again, and this time find absolutely everything he could...

He'd probably never receive the chance, though, because between one blink f his tired, red-rimmed eyes and the next the space around him had changed to an overriding, unpleasant level of white brightness that made his tired eyes ache. As suddenly as the irritating phenomenon had ended, it had grown disturbingly silent, even the birds that had been outside the window and the hum of his computer's overworked cooling fans had ended. It was just he himself, his terrible chair, his phone and charger, the pillow he used for back cushioning, the rolled up bedspread he used in place of a seat cushion, his desk his monitors, towers, mouse and keyboard, and about 10 feet of assorted extension chord and surge-protecting power-bars that were suddenly cut off in smoking, slightly scorched ends, his dirty work pants, his wallet and his house keys, the same keys he'd always managed to hold onto no matter the situation.

Oh, and about a dozen cold eyed women in various forms and styles of dress and cosplay of varying ages, all staring at him in what could be viewed as disgust. Well, he hadn't exactly showered after work, yet, so they might be annoyed by the smell. 'Wait, wait, now's not the time to think like that, be witty!' One of the pale-skinned women, covered in dark tattoos that made his one part of his subconscious twinge and claw at the back of his mind, screaming and gibbering in terror,stalked towards him to the tone of high-heels clacking on the gleaming, polished stone floor.

“Uh. howdy, Would you mind-” There was a very sudden interruption to his attempt to be witty and charming, cutting off the fake accent that had bled into his words with the impact of a powerful, properly aligned fist slamming into his skill under his chin and driving it upwards, in a clack of teeth crushed closed and consciousness lost due to a glass jaw.

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