The Block was an advanced video-game that allowed its players to go into the game world as Avatars and do whatever they liked. It was just like the real world, only you could be and act however you liked. The game had a rule that your Avatar had to be the same gender as you as to prevent any confusion and problems between players, but other than that you were free to do as you liked. Age was forced to be the same as well. You could also die in the game, but it would only cause you to be ejected by the game and forced back into the real world. Natural laws were still in affect there, so you couldn't just fly around whenever you wanted to or walk on water. At least, you weren't supposed to be able to.

Everyone who lives plays on The Block. During school teachers even let you do your lessons there in a virtual classroom or in some other place with the teacher's Avatar teaching you. It was easy to play and it was more fun than real life could ever be.

The way you played the game was to slip this metal and Velcro machine-like object onto your head and turn it on. Easy as that. It would enter your brain-waves and take you literally into the game, making it feel very real. The Block had been created many years ago by a group of genius-geeks who were tired of always being bullied in the real world, so they created The Block as a way to escape. Someone leaked some of the information out about it, and soon everyone who was breathing was on that game all the time. You could spend hours if not days playing it, and it was the leading cause of many deaths in young-people and older-people alike. The Block sends out warnings to its players every few hours through Machines (people who are not players but are in the game anyway) to help keep this from happening too often. You could never tell a Machine from another player just by looking at them because they looked like anyone else, but if you talked to one you would know immediately. Their voices are all techno-y and not like a player's.

With a game like The Block there were bound to be people who would use it to hurt others, so the game made it alright to carry a weapon once you specified the exact reason you needed it. The trick with that is if you try to use the weapon for anything else it won't work. It kept the players feeling safe and unable to just go around killing each other.

Normal Laws worked as well, so you had to pay for things with these things called Credits that you got for doing just about anything, and you couldn't speed if you decided to use your Credits to buy yourself a car in The Block. The game had Machines to make sure you were following the Laws, and also police-officers who proved their badge to the game could give you tickets and stuff for Credits. There was even a Jail that you had to go to if you broke one of the Laws. The Block is a constantly advancing game made by people who are now practically worshipped around the world.

I am, of course, a player. A very good and well-known one. I go by the name of Sparky on the game, but in real-life I am called Alice. That's also a plus to The Block. You can make yourself a completely different person easily, something I really enjoy. Why? Because I have a no friends and no family. My parents died when I was little and I don't do well with other people partly because of that. My maid, Sue, takes care of me.

A new life is what I want and what I need. The Block gives me that. And for that I am grateful.

Chapter 1

I sighed and flipped through another page in my text-book that my tutor had given me to study the old-fashioned way, wondering what was going on in The Block. Something was always happening, be it good or bad, but at least it was something. My normal-life was ridiculously boring.

"You've already gone past what you need to for today I think, Mistress Alice. If you eat some lunch first I don't see why you can't go play in The Block for a while." Sue said, holding out my game-system to me while she held a bowl of soup in the other hand.

I almost jumped in joy. "Thank you, Sue." I smiled, setting the thick book on the little counter beside my chair as I forced myself to stand up. I had made sure that she would hold my game-system from me until I finished whatever I had to when I had first got it, knowing that I would probably end up forgetting all about my normal-life if I could. Sometimes I hated myself for that decision, but I knew it was only the addiction to pain-free freedom that made me think like that.

"I will be heading out in a few hours, Mistress Alice, so if you need anything just call. I will always be close by." Sue told me as I ate quickly, looking slightly amused and a little sad. She didn't like The Block at all and thought that it was ruining the world, but she understood my desire to go there constantly.

"Thank you, Sue. You're amazing." I sighed contently, finished with my dinner. No doubt she had found a way to get all of my needed vitamins into it.

"I know." she smiled, and kissed me softly on the forehead before handing me my game-system and leaving the room to probably go read. Sue had practically raised me since I was little, so she was like my mother in a lot of ways. She even got cross if I left my room a mess for too long.

I put my bowl and spoon in the sink, downed a glass of water, and took my game-system up to my room with me so I could lay down while being in the video-game-world. Whatever happened to your body in real-life could have serious affects on your game-play in The Block. I didn't want to get sore by sitting wrongly in a chair. My bed was the best place to play.

As I slipped the game-system onto my head and turned it on I closed my eyes and prepared for the little shock that went over your body as you went from real-world to game-world. As it rushed over me I couldn't help but smile in bliss. I loved The Block.

I opened my eyes and saw that I was standing on the sidewalk of 42nd Street in my favorite pair of jeans and my comfortable shirt that was pretty but not flashy. I looked up at the sky and saw that it was day-time, the same as back in the real-world, and couldn't help but smile. I was free at last. I started walking, not really caring where I was going, just happy to be able to move my legs without any horrible pain or much force.

I didn't know how long I had been walking, maybe an hour at the tops, but when I came to a bay where people were out fishing off of docks and selling stuff along the edges I stopped to look around. I pulled my tech-wallet out of my pocket and opened it up, seeing how many Credits I had on me on the little screen inside it. I had plenty to buy a house. I almost never spent any of my Credits, and when I did it was mostly for other people. I was just here to be able to walk easily and have a few friends.

"Yo! Hi, Sparky! How are you doing, girl?" a man running a sunglasses-shop smiled, waving me over. He knew me in real-life as well, he was the guy running the hot-dog shop outside of my apartment I lived in, so it wasn't weird for him to act so friendly towards me. The Block changed people a bit. The people you thought were your friends turn out to be your enemies in The Block, and people you barely talk to become your best-friends. He was overall a very nice man in both worlds.

"Fine, I guess. How about you?" I responded, walking over to his shop. I always bought a pair of sunglasses from his shop whenever I saw him. It was just something I did. A lot like how I always bought a hot-dog from him in the real-world just to hand to some homeless person on my way across town with Sue. I didn't get out very often, so this was the only way I knew about his shop.

"Fine. Still breathing here and home, so can't be doing that bad. How are your relationships growing?" he asked, rummaging around in his stall for a pair of sunglasses I liked. Every time I bought from him I got the same kind. It was like my trademark.

"Not so good." I admitted, accepting the sunglasses he handed me and giving him the Credits I owed him. Whenever you needed to pay for something the Credits would materialize as gold coins in your pocket or your wallet depending on what's easiest to get them from.

"Have a good day, Sparky. Don't go getting yourself hurt, now." he said gently, putting the coins in his little shop's register. It made a pinging-noise as it opened and closed.

"I'll try. Bye." I said, and walked away, slipping the sunglasses on. They fit perfectly like they always did. I walked along the shore for a while, following it around its bend comfortably. I always felt safe in The Block. It was as if I had a team of body-guards watching over me at all times. Invisible body-guards, of course.

As I was walking an angry voice came with the sea breeze from over the water, "Stop, you Machine! Stop!" It sounded like the voice of a man in his 40s, and as I watched the Machine he was yelling at that looked around my age ran right over the water under one of the many docks of the bay and over to where I was standing. He ran right into me, causing us both to fall over, but before I could even get a word of anger out he was up and running away.

I sat up and looked back over my shoulder at his receding form, wondering what on The Block or on Earth had him running away like that. Most Machines had minds of their own, but I had never seen one show any sign of any emotion close to fear no matter what the situation. And that one had looked terrified out of his wits.

"Hey! You're with that thing!" the angry man shouted at me, and pulled his gun out and aimed for me. That was my cue to run as well.

"So much for safety!" I thought, racing the same direction the Machine had gone as the angry guy shot at me. A bullet grazed my arm causing blood to come and ruin my shirt, but not seriously hurt me. Other than that I was unharmed by the time I got far enough away that the guy wasn't chasing me anymore.

I didn't want to take any chances. I hurried down the first deserted alley I saw and leaned up against the left wall as I assessed the damage. It was bloody but not deep enough to really be worrisome. I would just have an awesome scar there from now on, unless I paid to have it forever removed by a nerd in the real-world. I doubted I would ever do that. Whatever they could do I could do probably better in the same amount of time.

Hey, being a loner makes me a very advanced geek when it comes to technology.

"Stupid Machine, getting me dragged into that shoot-out for no good reason. Whatever he stole better have been amazing." I muttered, breathing shakily and feeling a little weak. My energy levels must have been cut because of the injury. The Block would do that to its players sometimes if it felt that they were endangering their Avatars more than necessary or that a wound was too deep to keep from affecting the real body of a person. I would probably have a scratch where the bullet-grazing was when I logged off later, but other than that it would be nothing. And the next time I logged on it would be mostly healed. Avatars could do some awesome stuff while you were logged off, healing rapidly being one thing. Sensing an attack was not one thing.

AN: I own nothing but the idea and (I'm pretty sure) the characters. Any offence taken here or later on will be apologized for. Please review!

I hate to admit it, but any reviews given give me the energy to continue on with this story.