He was on stage, the center of attention to the nothingness that spread out around him. It wouldn't have mattered if not for several key factors. However, he only needed one to clue in on the severity of the situation.

He was dreaming.

And nothing good ever came out of his dreams that began like this.

He peered about, his eyes scrutinized every last inch of his surroundings. He was half sure he was at a space opera house. The hard-wood floor was a sure sign of the death-trap as were the spotlights centered at his person. He knew the place inside and out. If anyone could appease the unheard, unseen masses of the audience, it was him. No one else could possibly groove well enough and survive.

He performed a single pirouette, taking in a quick glance at the area out of his peripheral vision. He blinked, then  looked behind him again. His muscles spasmed from the shock.

Stairs. Not just any stairs. His stairs. His stairs from his canceled TV show.

He started forward, as if in a trance, taking care to listen to his surroundings. Each step he made echoed back to him from barriers beyond his sight. Pricks of ice stabbed his skin, yet the temperature around him never changed. Mere meters from the steps, a hollow, metallic click reached his ears and a blinding light shown down on him from directly above his head.

"Hey, dude...." His back arched involuntarily at the sudden, reverberating, stereotypical surfer accent. Hands tugging, pulling, hauling, tearing, ripping, clawing from everywhere, coming from nowhere in a never-ending torrent of agony while the voice led them away, revealing paradise, only to shove him into a void, threatening to tear his soul apart as he danced - it danced as him and he wanted it to stop make it stop make it stop make it stop--

"You, like, miss me?" Purge snarled, tilting his head up to sea of stars.

"Shut up!! You can't control me anymore!"

"Dude, that's, like, ignorant of you. Besides, I got a killer surprise for you! You're totally going to love it!" Another hollow, metallic click echoed through the dreamscape, and a second, larger splotch of light focused to the side of the stairs on his right. Instantly recognizing the red and black scheme glinting at far edge, Purge turned on his heel and dashed back into the darkness.

Just five steps outside the first circle of illumination, a click sounded and Purge was blinded by the flood of LCD-grade luminescence. He raised an arm to his eyebrows and blinked rapidly.

But he didn't stop.

Five more steps brought yet another click and another spotlight being switched on from someplace he couldn't see. Though that didn't do a thing to halt him.

Click.

Click. The sounds echoed louder.

Clerck.

Clerck. The light grew dimmer.

Clerck.

Clerck. Gears began grinding when the lights appeared.

Clerck. Difficult to breathe.

Clunck. Rattly. He knew he couldn't run forever.

Clunck. Dimmer still. Beginning to blend with t--

Clunck. --he encroaching nothingness.

Clunck. Keep going.

Clang. It was becoming louder. Nearly --

Clang. --unbearable. Hard to breathe.

Clang. Inhuman screaming accompanied it.

Doon. Gasping. Sounds akin to giant footsteps. Panting.

Doon. He could barely see.

Thoom! The world shook and he yelped, landing on his stomach. Lying with his lower half in the dying light, Purge gasped for air, his throat dry from taking lungfuls of air at a time.

A thought crossed his mind: He lived to dance, so how and why did he tire out so quickly? The answer came as quickly as the question popped up.

Entity.

"Are you, like, done playing games yet?" Purge tucked his head in a bit at that casual tone. It was completely unnatural. Everything about the being was.

"Go...to Hell...." he hissed in-between gasps.

"Dude, and after all I've, like, done for you...." Purge closed and opened one hand. "Well, we can, like, play together again." Chills ran up and down his spine as he fought off the urge to curl up even more. What in the hell was he going to do if that thing got ahold of him again? "Heh, wasn't that, like, totally rad last time, dude?" He kept down a growl that was yearning for release, slowly turning onto his hands and knees. Why did his movements seem so sluggish? "Aw, but you're totally going to bail on me, aren't you, dude?" Suppressing every thought of mentally screaming 'yes' at the inquiry, Purge got back to his feet and stared straight up at the endless abyss of stars.

"All right!" he shouted, his voice barely above a rocky whisper. He coughed into his hand and swallowed, already feeling his esophagus being moisturized. "All right," he yelled once more, the tone of his voice stronger than previous, "What do you want with me?!" Despite being upright, his knees were difficult to keep still and his face reddened upon catching the quaver in his voice.

Although all it served to do was elicit a chuckle out of the disembodied voice,

"Relax, I just want to have some fun with ya, dude." Oh sure, fun. Just what the former rogue needed at the moment: humiliation, degradation, and enslavement. "And, like, I have the perfect game, dude! ...But we don't have to play if you go back to, like, where you started running away." Purge grit his teeth and bit back a growl. How dare this thing act like he was it's plaything?

"Huh. Suit yourself, dude. Time to play...." With the surfer accent suddenly taking a low and menacing tone, Purge found that his nerves were on edge. He was more aware of the shaking in his limbs, the icy chill held within his spine, the shuddering breaths he took in regaining his composure...

Then in his peripheral vision he spotted it. Something glimmering from the perimeter of the spotlight, though it was gone in an instant.

In the next there was a needle prick in his left wrist. A mangled cry ruptured from his throat as he clutched the burning area. In one blink he took in the smooth, sturdy, and clear plastic strand that ran into one side of his wrist and, noticing with a brush of his fingers, exited out the other side.

Splick!

Purge cried out once more, grimacing from the added pressure he inadvertently applied to his injury. He glanced at his other wrist, his eyes widening at the implications of what was happening. The lad peered up to see light bouncing off a needle, threaded with the same line that was burrowed into his wrists.

Splick!

Gone in a flash was the bit of silver, replaced with the searing flare that erupted from his left wrist. No sooner had he bit down on his lip to muffle his shouts did the fire rip through his other wrist. Again, again, and again the line was forced through his skin and muscles. His eyes closed, he fell to his knees, screaming in agony as spurts of flames dashed before his eyelids, bright enough to make him recognize the direction they were going.

Fire through his calves renewed his screams.  It seemed to be everywhere, weaving through one limb then into another. It spread like a bacteria, slowly devouring all within it's path, yet, for one reason or another he couldn't fathom, it did not gouge his vital organs.

It would have been better had somebody ripped the assaulted appendages from his torso.

An eternity passed, the pain dulled, and he collapsed to the ground without an ounce of effort to stay up. He was screamed-out. His labored breaths heaved his worn and beyond-aching body in an expanding pool of scarlet. The light above barely registered in his mind as he lied there.

Time couldn't speed up well enough to end his dream.

A twitch of his right index finger, slowly accompanied by the others. Hands moved, arms shifted, and before he knew it he was pushing himself up.

"Ah...!" Purge stuffed the beginnings of a wail down his throat, though it escaped now and then as his extremities were ignited in flaring sensations once again. Short-lived screams were swallowed by the encompassing darkness, though the brilliant egoist was finally able to stand back up on his own two feet.

But then it had to speak again.

"You know... Puppets are, like, totally fun, wouldn't you agree, dude?" Purge winced. The maniacal thing hid it's gloating behind playful, surfer talk. He growled and spat,

"S-stop it!" It chuckled and continued,

"Aw, c'mon, dude! Don't be like that. I still have a present~ Ha-hah." Distortion of unadulterated anger and hatred befell the young man's face. How dare that thing manipulate him in such a fashion?! Him, the amazing, genius Purge! He could not, and would not, stand for such an atrocity to take place! Why he--

"Yah-ck!" He was pulled forward by the lines weaved into him, only to have a human-like force grip the back of his suit and haul him back.

It seemed as if he was not out of screams just yet.

And being a dream, human limits didn't have to apply. Or at least they didn't have to be capped off at the usual extent.

"Let's go, dude. You remember how to walk, right?"

"Yo-aaaahhh!" The line interlaced in his right leg moved forward, ripping the flesh open and spilling out fresh blood from the cauterized wounds. Every movement evoked a sharp cry from the former anti-hero. Tendons and sinew were pulled as he was prodded forward, forced to move not of his own accord.

There was no distraction from the constant barge of pain that racked his body. There only existed just that and the distance he trudged back to where he started his sprint. Each step sloshed the blood inside his shoes, spilling over onto the stage. One tug meant a holler, two equaled a howl, but constant motion meant shrieking to unimaginable eardrum-bursting levels.

When the pain relented, the young man was in tears, unable to do anything other than allow them to flow freely through tightly closed eyes. Shocked nerves made him barely able to stand on his own two feet. If it were not for the puppetry cords, he would have collapsed.

"Hey hey, dude! We're here!" announced the out-of-sight being. Purge curled in his fingers, but had not the energy to make a fist. "Ha-ha! That was gnarly! ...Right, dude? Oh! There's your surprise!" Purge took a withering gasp of oxygen, instantly feeling like needles were carving up his lungs. They begged for relief, yet Purge could not give into that request.

"You...!" he gasped, the airy tone doing little to betray his rage.

"Like, take a look, dude." Amused, yet commanding. Purge scowled. He was not taking orders from the likes of that thing for as long as he lived. Or as long as he could help it.

"Gah...!" His foot moved forward and he took the initiative to keep on his feet. If he didn't move, then it would make him do so. He could live with the chagrin.

Carefully, he made his way, inch by inch, to the edge of the stairs. Something was there, though he couldn't tell what...

Or rather, he didn't want to acknowledge what it was.

"Trust me dude, you're, like, going to get used to this."

Oil reflected in the light. Another step closer. No, he didn't want to see this. He shut his eyes tight--

"Like, don't make me keep your eyes open, dude." An involuntary yelp was set loose.

"Dude, like, shut up, will ya? They're only, like, robots."

"They're not just robots!" Nobody insulted his creations--

"Dude... if you don't, like, shut up, I'll make you." Purge growled. It sighed. "Have it your way, little dude."

Nerves tightened. He screeched, gritting his teeth. He couldn't show weakness. Enough was enough. He had to be strong. No matter how bad it became, he had to stay strong. Even with his dream-body in agony, he had to keep his head. He had to keep--

Gleaming in the light above. No. No no. No no no no no! Not a needle. Not another needle! Not again! Not again!

Closer and closer - oh dance gods it was near his eye scream, scream like your life was on the line - wrong word wrong wor-- CLOSER scream scream -- sssqi-chee -- SCREAM SC -- splip -- REAM SCREAM YOUR LUNGS OU--

He sat up. Wrapped up tighter than a space caterpillar. Where was he? Darkness. Darkness darkness. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe... Where was he? Slower, slower... He concentrated on sound, any sound at all.

Then...

Squ-creak.

"...Hello, Space Police Chief Pine? ...Yes, this is Fuse. Listen, I have a real scoop for you...."