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Chapter 1: Welcome, Probie.

From: Strong-arm Security Corporation

To: #M1487

Subject: Welcome probie.

Thank you for choosing to work for Strong-arm Security Corporation. SSC has a reputation for getting the job done, no matter what. As you know, we pride ourselves on hiring only the best for our high-profile, well-compensated assignments. Therefore, in order to qualify for these jobs, you must complete five missions for us. Due to your background and our resulting high expectations for you, you will start with the following assignment:

Make your way to Building C, 32F on Mendelson Lane on the East Side. This is the second home of a high-ranking member of the city's elite. Once there, you will escort the lone resident for a nighttime stroll around the city, ensuring her safety.

That is all. And remember, we have high hopes for your success.


A dark-haired, lean-built young man walked the nighttime streets, skyscrapers piercing through the low-hanging haze that perpetually enshrouded the city's skyline. He took in everything on this side of town, all of it being relatively unknown to him. He lived on the industrial side, so the hazy strips lit up by various elaborate neon signs flashing their advertisements for sex, spirits, and many other vices were rather new to him. The streets were crowded with rowdy people dancing and shouting as the sounds of voices blended with obnoxious music. All this created an atmosphere of constant motion, a complex problem for anyone who wants to remain situationally aware. But he had experience. As he walked on, he slightly adjusted his casual suit's jacket, eyes scanning the scene, his heart beating quickly in his chest.

Eventually he found the street he was looking for and turned down it. There was a row of fancy apartment buildings, and he entered the one indicated by the email. He was greeted by four burly men wearing various large sidearms, and uniforms with SSC badges on the left breast. One of them asked his business there.

"I'm doing a job for Strong-arm."

The security guard smiled and asked, "32F?"

"That's right."

"The new probie!" the second guard said.

"I wonder how far he'll make it," stated the fourth.

The first guard nodded at him and smiled, "Make sure to take good care of her, okay? Be on your way now, my friend," and he indicated the elevator.

The young man replied, "I'll do my best," and the guards laughed. He walked to the elevator and pressed the button. His heart started beating more regularly now, the relaxed nature of the exchange putting him somewhat at ease. The doors slid open, and he walked on. He had never met any of the city's elite before. He wondered if she was attractive.

When the doors slid open, he walked to the door marked F. He knocked twice. After a brief moment, the door opened, and he was greeted by the stench of death, as well as a robotic voice. "Welcome," it said.

He stood there at the door, looking at the inside of the apartment in confusion. He could see that there was a kitchen on one side, and a room for entertaining guests on the other. However, all around, kept out of the way of the needs of human functioning, tucked in corners and on walls was a playground, the kind built for cats. "Please, do come in," the voice insisted.

After a brief moment of consideration, the man entered the apartment, and the door closed behind him. He looked back, startled, then walked further in. As he turned the corner to the right, he saw the rest of the apartment that was hidden before, and he realized that he was the sole human in the unit.

At the end of an odd hall that went off of the main room, he saw what reminded him of a tiny altar before a small pedestal covered in what looked like animal hairs. On the altar lay the bloodless remains of several of the city's rats, fairly young by the size of them, innards spilling out.

"Mr. Pierce," the disembodied voice said, "if you will turn your attention to the corner behind you, you will see who you must guard tonight." He turned around, and in the middle of a bunch of stuffed animals, he saw what he missed on his first look around the room, a black cat lying lazily on its side.

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