Chapter One


“Can’t we stop yet?”


“No, no stopping.”


“But everyone else has gone already.”


“That’s because they lost.”


“That’s because there’s no way to win against you.”


“Not with that attitude. Now roll already.”


“But it’s been twelve hours. Don’t you have work soon?”


“I don’t see how that’s relevant.”


“But… but… aw fine.” And with the roll of the dice, Tim picked reinforcements for the one hundred and forty seventh time that night, opting mainly to strengthen his forces in the shadowlands, intentionally leaving his left flank open for me to attack. I couldn’t say it was part of my plans, since I didn’t actually intend to win by dominating him, but I figured I would move in that direction next turn away.  I could always pull back my forces were he to start weakening anyway.


Watching with glazed eyes, I let him finish his moves, a one way pile on strike against the green forest of Durmur. It was a land I had left empty to let him take a while back and it was kind of annoying that he was now only choosing to flank me from that direction because it was the way his head was rolling rather than an intentional strike to cut my forces off from each other.


I suppose it hadn’t been fair of me to play it this way. The others weren’t so good with games like this, but they could still play them as good as any of the real time games online and John was actually pretty smart. Even so, none of them could beat me. If they couldn’t take advantage of the luck of the draw at the beginning, they were lost as soon as I grabbed the high peaks and its outlying areas. From there I could easily push forwards and wipe them all out one by one.


If I had wanted to.


“It’s your go,” Tim groanded, seizing the opportunity to seal his eyes shut. I’m tired too, kind of, bit I’m going to see it out to the end. It would be foolish of the general to just mumbled to his supporting officers that he needed to take a nap whilst the enemy was still there. A good general stays rested, but deprives themselves if need be.


Besides, my falling asleep was the only losing condition I had at the moment.


With energy drinks sustaining me, I placed four more sets at the base of the mountain, making Tim groan when he realized what I was doing. A clearly useless move, he would see it as a taunt that I had clearly won the game. What must his mind be going through right now? Asking himself why I hadn’t just finished it off yet. Even with a half dozen bad rolls, it would take a miracle for me to lose now. It was a zombie swarm at this point and only the ability t destroy the whole planet would have secured him anything more than a loss.


“Your turn.”


“You’re not attacking?” he exasperated, upset to the point where he might actally cry if I could just say the right words to him.


“Neh, I don’t wanna risk it.” He merely groaned instead and his hand reached for his next pieces, ready to place more reinforcements. If he strengthed the shadowlands, I should engage in at least one more battle with him to prevent that area from growing strong. There wasn’t much need to be careful left but…




A clatter of falling bricks caught my attention, and I swung round to where the door was.


“Is it that time already,” I said, realizing it was the post, and getting ready to stand up, only to hear a shattering of pieces as the gameboard itself finally had enough and catapulted itself across the room.


“Oh look,” Tim muttered. “Game over.” And with lazy, sluggish motions as intentional as they were necessary, he hoisted himself off the vanished floorboards and headed for the stairs, missing them by about five meters and landing on the couch, promptly shutting out myself and the outside world.


Looking to the gameboard, I smiled, kneeling down to pick up the pieces. I wouldn’t want to have to bother with these when I got up myself, so it was best to do them now before someone trod on them. Rare special edition stuff didn’t mean much to me, but it was always handy in case it ever did to someone else, though mybe I could have left one of the piece by Tim’s foot and have him crush it when he gets up…


No, that would be pointed. Sighing, I spent the next few minutes clearing the pieces up, thinking to myself why I should be more overjoyed with what just happened. To be able to play the game exactly how I wanted like that was amazing and I fulfilled a near impossible win condition that took it beyond the simplistic zero sum that everyone else was playing.


But all the same…


Part of me wanted to boast to the others, but without declaring my intentions beforehand all it would look like would be glorified braggingof a situation Tim would report as a’game we never finish.’ He’d also deny that it was clearly in my favour, telling everyonehe was regaining the shadowlands. Now I couldn’t report that back without sounding like I was covering up the truth, even if it wasn’t.


So that was another wasted game then.




Why isn’t there a true game for me to play?


I thought this as I stared at the clock. Half past eight. I didn’t really feel like going to work today, though that was obviously my fault. It meant I would have to ring up Sue now and tell her if I wasn’t going. Hopefully my voice was at the croaky stage that I could use to pull off a suitable Vader impression.


Deciding to do it in a minute, I plodded over to the hallway, carrying the box full of soldiers and artillery and coins that I had to start using when we ran out of actual figurines. Sleep was only a few minutes away and I wished that I had placed my comfty deluxe frog bed in the cupboard as I reached in to slide the game next to the monopoly box set. That was one game I didn’t intend to play for a while. Perhap we could invite Chris around for that one. He had an economics degree, though he never liked doing these things.


Damn I haven’t seen him in a year. Wonder if he’s dead yet.


Looking at my keys, hanging off the one ring that held them all, I stopped in time, staring at the air molecules before and, my brain humming in discontent. It needed sleep fuel to get it moving again, the many millions of small, complicated cogs needing lubricant to get them moving again. I was just about to headbutt the wall to keep myself awake a few seconds later, when the post dropped from its hanging position on the cusp of the letterbox, spilling out across the floor.


Grumbling, I lumbered over it, letting my arms hang slocuhily as I counted them all. One two, thre, four, five pretty pieces of mail. None of them going to be for me. I kicked them languidly as they took refuge to all sides, when I saw the large one at the bottom shine up at me.




This one, a brown A4 envelope with no outside markings save the first class postage stamp and a plastic film window, stared up at me with the name Jennifer Connelly displayed proud on the white sheet within. That was kind of rare. I never got mail snce moving here. All my bank statements went to my parent’s house and so far, the only people that should have had this address for me would have been the DVLA. Even amazon packages would just have King Juice the junior on them instead of my name. Lunging forwards, I scooped it up on the third try, my eyes csealing themselves in the interlude and refusing to open up again until the third act had started.


Instead, they were intrupted by the sounds of Magic Roundabout, playing on my mobile phone, unsuccessfully trying to wake me up to tell me to go to work. With hidden reserves, I pounced over to the couch to quickly slam it shut, watching Tim bury his head further until the couch until it had swallowed his upper body up. This guy was so lucky. He’d get away with being unemployed for the next year or so until he was finished with uni work. If only i had picked a longer course.


If i skipped today though, i could sleep until two, and then catch up ona few things. There was never enough time since starting that job and even if there was, I was too drained after coming back each night. I still have’t gone swimming yet and I need to push against something or else my arms’ll start feeling hollow again.


The pool would feel so nice right now, I thought holding up the envelope. Probably junk mail, though I’m pretty sure no one has my details here. Maybe dad posted it to me, the big wanker. How mature was that? He goes on about how lazy and irresponsible I am and then he sends this to me without even saying anything. H’s just as bad, the stupid…


If I skip today, no one would really mind…


It’s not like my job’s that important anyway…




Grabbing the keys, I stopped only to change my top, replacing it with my work shirt. My washed jacket still needed ironing, so I slung on the one I worn yesterday. It should be okay, I only put it on yesterday.


Four minutes later and the quickest comb through I had ever given my hair, I was outside the house and entering my car, the envelope still tucked firmly under my arm.




With five minutes left, I strolled into work, launching my official smile at any passers by. I only recognized two of them, those being receptionist lady and security old man, who as far I could see both served the same role of sitting at the desk all day. Not feeling like saying hellp today, I just let them feel the smile on my face and move onto the first set of stairs, sprinting up them three at a time, stopping when someone else started coming down them. Smiling at him, he glanced away the second our eyes made contact, his buggy eyes putting me off as I took the rest of the stairs one at a time. My work area was still about two hundred meters away and I took the rest of the way with my eyes shut as best as i could, catching as much microsleep as possible without bouncing into the walls.


Once I got to there, I could sleep a little more, or perhaps load up on sugar and coke to keep me going the rest of the day. It was groanying though. Coming to work meant giving up free times. And then when I did get home I would probably just go straight to sleep. No, I would probably force myself up to midnight like usual, but do nothing of any real importance even when I had free time.


Was this my life now?






“Good morning.”




“A morning to you, Jennifer. And how are we today.”


“Not bad. Not bad. Little tired though. Didn’t sleep last night.”


“Ah, late night was it?”


…Was he even listening? I thought as  fell down into my chair, the metal support at the back pshing through the practically non existent cushion and into my spine, making me miss the frog that I slept with.


“Something like that.”


I waited for the old man’s reponse, peering one eye at him to see he had already moved back onto his room, taking his time to go through each line of code and double checking his work as he did so. I questioned how he still had a job, the rate he went at, but I learnt the answer to that long ago.


I really want to sleep. Dammit.


At the rate it was going, I wouldn’t even have the time to escape this excuse of a job, this crappy data entry hat relied solely upon my right hand and the numeric side of the keyboard. Hell, even my right hand had pretty much delegated the job to just my index and forefingers and if it wasn’t for my eyes needing to look at the hundreds of piles of sheets that they sent my way every morning, I’m pretty sure I could just sleep while they do the entire job for me.


Goodbye law degree, we should have never got together in the first place.


Sayonara sociology degree, I should have just pulled one of you out of the toilets when I first saw the graphiti at the dispenser.




“I was having a little problem with this co part number and…” Oh crap!


I did fall asleep.


Shit shit shit.


Look up. Look around. Did anyone see me? Did Sue see me? Crap.


“It says 245871694 on the sheet but the only one the co art numbers aren’t normally listed as such in the demographics folder and I was just wondering…”


I think I’m clear. It’s a good job these cupboard segregate the room. I’m cut off from haf the staff, but…


“So, it’s fine is it? Okay, just checking.”


Wait…did he really just make that call?


That type of thing’s obvious!


If you just go to the edits folder, you can see…


I saw the time 09:45


I had slept for forty five minutes.


Crap crap crap. Someone must have seen me, there was no way I could have slept for forty five minutes and not be noticed. People had to walk pass me constantly. Someone should at least be making a snide comment by now.




“Yes, Jennifer?”


I waited, announcing to everyone in the room that I had finally woken up. Liz across me glanced up for just a moment before turning away again uninterested.


“Erm…” I muttered, making something up on the fly. “If you run into those data sheets, you just need to go into the edits…” I stooped over him as I went through it for the old man, giving a step by step explanation of how to get there, though the old man hadn’t reconnected his mapped drives and I had to redo it for him. It took about two minutes longer than it should have and I grumbled all the way back to my tyhree feet away chair when he finally got it and gave me that over enthusiastic thank you.


God I could at least do tech support for this system. Why do they have me inflicting repetitive stress syndrome on my delegates like this.



I guess I really did get away with it. Liz is my micro-micro supervisor, so she would have had to say something, unless everyone really doesn’t give a shit anymore.


Well this was certainly motivational.


A lot more awake, I took to getting my work started. The pile that the mysterious early morning elves had put on my desk today should only take me three or four hours. If I could push through them I’d easily be able to spend the rest of the rest of the day browsing the net. I stretched ne last time and sent my hand to grab my second to last coke can, when I noticed the envelope still sitting on my desk.


Why had I brought that to work?


Well, we have a shredder here, and they’re more likely to recycle than we are back home. Reaching for it, I sliced the top open, before leaning back with my fresh coke can, and pulling the insides out.


Four sheets of paper erupted from the large, brown envelope, as well as a small purple OS mapbook. Catching my interest, the bookresented itself to me first, professing itself to hold navigational information for the entire of the United Kingdom. I hadn’t ordered this. Had Amazn made a mistake? I’d have to check through my account to make sure no one’s been ordering for me (though I guess I’ll keep it if I don’t have to pay for it).


It’s certainly technical. And quite thick considering its meant to be pocket sized. A quick look in showed me showed me general maps of the four countries, as well as zoom ins of many counties. It even had detailed road markings for major cities and even covered a lot of major towns. This was one of those types of map books that meant you might even stop considering using multimap even if it weren’t free and had a much friendlier interface. And though I couldn’t see a price on it (or even a publisher) it had to be one of the more expensive ones.


As concerned as I was confused, I turned o the other sheets of paper. The invoice would probably tell me where it’s from. If it ain’t amazon then i-


The Rules of the Game


“Huh. This isn’t an invoice.”


The first two sheets were connected to each other.


The Rules of the Game


The sample range for participants in the Game are chosen entirely at random from those living in the United Kingdom. Each will be chosen and entered into the Game.


Players that are chosen will receive an envelope when they are entered into the game and at the start of each new turn. This envelope is the one you have been provided with. It contains a map of Britain, this rule sheet. Your profile chart, and the profile chart of your first bounty that you, as a HuNTer, must target. At around the time you receive your first envelope, a total of fifty thousand British pounds will be placed into one of your bank or building society accounts and you will be considered ‘in the Game’ to all other players.


The Game is played in a series of turns, where all players move simultaneously. Each turn consists of a set time period given at the start of the turn. Each turn will play through without failure, even if no bounties are remaining. At the end of each turns, points will be allocated and rewards handed out. The next turn will begin at twelve PM precisely three days afterward the last day of the previous turn.


This time period is randomly determined and will change each time a new turn starts. If you do not have a bank or building society account, then you shall receive your first fifty thousand British pounds via. a courier.


Your bounty will also playing the Game, and has also been assigned a bounty


HuNTers and Bounties are the same thing!


During each turn, the HuNTer’s target is to remove their bounty from the Game.


During each turn, the HuNTer is allowed to move as he or she wishes. A HuNTer’s actions, methods and strategies are entirely up for them to decide.


If a bounty is removed from the playing field…


“What the hell is this…” I scanned through the first sheet once more, trying to make sense of it, the strange wording on the paper making t hard to grasp under my sleep deprivation. I nibbled a thte coke can as I took it all in, before blanking it out and looking to the other sheets.


“No way…” Nearly dropping my coke can, I looked at three pictures of my own face staring back at me, photographed at the fron and both sides like I was ready for prison, except without the little plaque or any of the lines behind me. Above them, listed out was a series of data. My data.


Name: Jennifer Sally Connolley


Age: 23


D.O.B: 12/05/1979


Height: 5ft 3


Weight: 8.6st


Natural hair colour: black


Natural eye colour: Green


Other distinguishing marks: minor scars on forearms




Shoe sizes: size nine


Prescribed accessories: Prescitopion glasses


My forearm tightened itself, scrunching up the draft quality paper in my grip, tearing my sharp fingernails through the sides.


How…how did someone know all this?


No, that was stupid thinking. I knew this stuff would be public knowledge. It kind of hurts to be told that I’m out there on a database but that was acceptable. That shouldn’t be what surprised me. It was these pictures that got me. Even without my glasses, I only added the blong highlights to my hair about a week ago and yet here they were now plastered on my three way prison shot. I hadn’t had my photo taken recently.


Even if I had, I should be smiling. Wouldn’t work have them for the ID cards? I tried to think back, remember if they took more than one sht of me and whether I had messed with my hair back then as well.


I couldn’t remember. Even so…


How dare they?