Prelude:Fear

William McKenna heard the echoes of their footsteps long before his door reverberated with their knocking. Fear gripped him at a visceral, gut level … “Why now? Why me?”

The knocking continued unabated, a repeating pattern, three raps from knuckles and a pause.

McKenna carried himself with the air of a man unafraid of anything. Most people never saw past the bluster, his muscular build, the biker’s leathers. Only a few of his closest confidents knew the real man that rattled around inside his heart, the one who felt small despite the external image. The echoes of the footsteps had gripped that inner man in the icy fist of terror.

“Fear is the mind-killer.” he whispered, “Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me…”

As he tried to get his fear under control, he crawled under the kitchen table and pressed his back to the wall. His concentration and focus improved and he hoped desperately that his next move would be enough to fool them.

McKenna heard three knocks and waited for the pause before swinging the door open.

Two men stood there in unflattering black suits and polished black loafers. They wore sunglasses despite the rundown dingy nature of the corridor outside his apartment. The final piece of the ensemble, an earpiece, marked them out clearly as agents.

“Mr McKenna?” the lead agent asked, looking at the scrawny dark-haired man who had answered the door.

“Err, yes.”

The agent turned to his partner, who scanned the nervous man and nodded.

“Mr William McKenna?”

The nervious man merely sweated and pushed glasses back up his nose. His eyes widened in shock as both agents drew large guns out of shoulder holsters.

“You’ve been scheduled for deletion.”

Two bullets simaltaneously impacted head and heart. His glasses shattered sending a shower of glass to the floor. He crumpled slowly to the ground. The agents turned on their heel and walked out of the building showing no remorse, no real emotion at all.

Unseen in the deepest shadows of the kitchen, the whispering continued its repeated litany,

“…I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn my inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

The simulcrum he had hastily constructed dismantled itself in a spectcular shower of green code fragments, a green fire expanding outward from the twin bullet holes and consuming simulated flesh, clothing, even shatterd glasses until all that remained in the apartment were whispers in the dark.

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