Chapter Ten


Well, if this didn’t scream subtle manipulation of events from behind the scene, then the likelihood of me being hunted just dropped to zero.


There’s nothing subtle about it in fact. It would be more subtle if my little shadow hunter jumped in front of me with a shotgun and ylled ‘surprise attack,’ waited momentarily for me to react and then took his time to reload the gun and let me finish him off myself.


We’re now on a battleground designed specifically for people like us, not that I’d compare myself to any of these types. A field specifically chosen so that when we leave it, only on of us will be leaving it.


It feels clichéd.


Ahead of me right now is the ocean, the beautiful glitering north sea. If I had super strong eyes, I might just be able to make out Denmark floating away in the distance. But behind me, I know England is just out of sight.


The cruise benath me had hummed away, taking us further and further to nowhere in particular, the us bing me, myself, the forty men that worked on the construction site, including the supervisor and one other guy who I don’t actually know what he does, around three hundred other passengers and crew and, of course, the hunter.


I could have no other reason to be here apart from that one creature.


The very fact that it was a cruise I was on was surprise enough. I had partially expected something to occur in response to certain events but not this. The day I came into work I found Arijit asking me if I had any plans over the next week. It was mainly just to amuse him that I said yes but it turns out it as the bboard who wanted to hear my response.


Turns out they’re feeling very bad for the incident that almost took away mine and Arijit’s lives the other day and wanted to say sorry to all of us. In order to make up for the little mishandling and any stress it may have caused, they’ve decided to give us all a week off work with pay, and provide us with their lovely little barge trip that they have been planning for some of the upper members of the countries.


In other words, please don’t sue us, little miss law degree.


I certainly don’t know what rijit’s intentions would have been but I couldn’t have cared less about their reaction unless I needed it somehow. Even further I know they were responsible for it at all.


Of course, they weren’t entirely responsible for sending us on the trip either.


The question is, who could have such influence over the company that I work for?


Considering everyone here, the closest answer is Arijit, because he’s our supervisor. However, it’s been seen that Arijit doesn’t really speak to anyone at the company except through his secretary/admin person, who is essentially me. Whilst it’s possible he could have contacted them directly, something he in fact did do since he told me…yeah.


Was that too obvious though? Walking up to your bounty and saying ‘I’m going to trap you on a boat where I can kill you. Good luck.’ Or is it that my hunter thinks I’ll be playing too much attention to the ruling on this one.


The Game will only take place in the United Kingdom. This includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, all their respective counties and the outlying islands that are considered part of the United Kingdom. Any bounty removal done outside of the boundaries set in the previous rule will not be counted towards your score, and you will have to wait until your next turn before you can play again.


That paragraph played in my head like a youtube video, stuttering over every word as I played around with the word games. Of course that was what the hunter wanted. Regardless of what is said and what will happen, the ruling is just too vague on the matter. The perimeter is the united kingdom. Therefore, that includes airspace and anything considered British terrirtotries, most importantly, British waters.


We’ve already been told that the cruise ship will not be leaving these waters at any time, yet the rules don’t directly mention waters. Therefore, there is no exact specification stating that this is a valid part of the playing field. What could make it even more confusing would be the ferry itself. This ferry in particular was designed in France and made ???. It is not British. It is owned by the British though. Even if you were to gnore the waters and say that thi might not be a valid area because it’s not a british boat, then you have to invalidate every single American and apanese car on the island as well.


But even this doesn’t matter as far as im concerned.


Because only one thing really does matter to me.


And that is the hunter has chosen this ship himself.


If he’s wrong or right doesn’t atter to me, because as far as im concerned he won’t be killing me this weke anyway. Even if the hunter is unsure of the answer himself as to whether this will count or not as a valid victory is irrelevant, except that I might be able to play him with it should the time come.


The hunter has set this up, that is certain. No way would a board of directors use this method. They’d pay us off in safer ways. There’d also check with everyone first to see their reactions so they wouldn’t have to pay for everybody that was even remotely involved or present at the time.


Maybe the hunter was a son of one of the board or something, working during the summer. There were five lads here that fell into that group. It might be worth it to check themout to see if they know anything. The sooner I find who talked us into this trip, the better.


“Hey, Arijit,” I said to the man leaning overboard next to me. This guy had been following me around all day, and got uncomfortable around the others when they approach. Whether he was tailing me or just being lonely was becoming hard to tell.


“What is it?” he asked, admiring the sea ahead of us. I always figured the middle of the ocean would be full of birds, but I guess that doesn’t make that much sense really.


“You did good, I think, getting us all this trip,” I tell him, staring him in the eyes. He can’t help but smile in return and laughs to himself as he pulls away.


“I wish I could say it was me, but I am not the one responsible for this,” he tells me, and it seems honest enough that he is not lying. The members of the board seemed to have decided upon this themselves.”


“Really, that’s suprising.”


“It certainly is,” he continues. “In fact, I was going to suggest that they give us a day trip to Alton Towers.”


“What?” I say, unable to hold back any laughter. “I’m sure they wuld have to have heard that before they set this up for us.”


“I have never been to any amusement park in my life, but last year I went to Goose fair. I enjoyed it immensely.”


“Yeah I know what you mean.” There was nothing for me to ever appreciate at fairs. Highly rigged games that I couldn’t manipulate easily and long queues. “I don’t think the others would have appreciated it.”


“Ah, who cares about them. Only the board do and their desire not to get sued by everyone down there. Itn is only because they had this trip planned for themselves that his even occurred. And now we have forty muscle bound thugs ruining the trip for everyone else.”


“Including yourself it seems.”


“Yes, I admit it.”


“Well, we might as well enjoy it.”


“Hey, Jenn’fer,” a voice from below called me. On the deck directly under me, some of the boys came into eyeshot, carrying what looked like ping pong bas. “You wanna game? We’re playing doubles.”


“Be right down,” I tell Ronan with a skip and a jump out of his sight. Heading for the main deck, I look over the battle plan. The trap could spring at any time. It was unlikely the hunter will come at me directly in a place like this, so it had to be ambush. Of course, I shouldn’t limit my thinking like that.


Looking at where they could strike. There are five main places on this ship the first is the dining room. Far too open, but poisoning could occur at any time. Luckily, I had prepared for this, and brought my own supplies of instant food. While I hate to contradict my earlier thoughts, it was better than getting the veal served with a light glaze of cyanide. I had enough to serve me for the whole week, and a few fruits to keep me focused as well. I guess I could still eat them from the buffet as long as I picked at random.


Next was any of the living quarters. Everyone slept just above the hold in small one or two person cabins. I was in first class for some bizarre reason, along with Arijit, Will, Stephan and Martin. My guess was that they were the VIP suites for the board emmbers coming on the trip. Everyone else was in economy class. There were two places I could be attacked here, one being my own room and the other being the hunter’s room. The latter was unlikely, practically a confession.


Next up was the engine room. Loud and unbearable. If I could get ed there, then finishing me off without much fuss wouldn’t be difficult. It was also the second best place to be involved in an accident. All that heavy machinery and little girls that don’t know how it works. What could be a better pace to set something up.


Finally of course, there was the unforgiving waters that surrounded this place. A cold nighttime, and even colder waters, and I wouldn’t surive long enough if I got thrown in with no one around, and it’s not like these ships have a hull on the hatch for people on the outside to get inside.


I fall in and I’m screwed.


Which of course means I have to avoid all nightly invitations.


Pretending to fear the edge should be suitable for that.


“hey, what’s taking you so long?” Ronan shouts as I pass Rbin laying in his deck chair, soaking up shade as the boat moves him out of the rays of the sun. He slept peacefully at the cost of everyone else, with a copy of Wells on his face, covering his eyes but not hsutting him up.


“There were stairs.”


I have to be active here. Come in touch wth severa people at a time and try my best to get to know everyone surrounding me. Though he’s done good so far, I can’t go assuming my hunter is some psycho-assassin superman. A slip up has to occur somewhere. I need to get people panicking. “Who’s side am I on?”


“You go with me,” Ronan states as we face off against Phil and Will, who seems upset in response. I grin in response and take up the bat. After spending the entire night talking before the trip, it seem that Will would have wanted to side alongside me. I let himknow I’m serious by serving up something that leads him to hit it too hard. The first ball swings out mmediately, but it gets to the third turn when I realize no one cares about score, and Phil goes out of his way to hit balls that would clearly be out.


We played for about fifteen minutes on the first game, myself having to keep track of the scores in my head. We were clearly overwhelming them, but no one seemed to care.A fun game was fun all the same, but just when we had bounced it about seventeen times non stop, a small buzzing caught our ears, and Roann turned around to speedily pick up his mobile phone, tapping away at buttons faster than I could ever type. He ball spun off his back and rolled down to the floor.


He had been like that before. A fool with his central nervous system attached to a mobile device. I couln’t even fathom why it was important for him to answer each and every message that fast, but it always caught his attention no matter what he did.


After he finished up, will insisting upon waiting for him to finish for some reason, I saw it as plenty of an excuse to switch teams, siding over with will, who stood far too close to my side of the field than what made it easy. The game continued for another hour, with Phil disappearing after a while and getting replaced with Martin, but I didn’t really learn anything by the end of it all.


Afterwards, I walked with Will again, Martin following shortly behind us. We were heading down to the glley. Appartently this place had a swimming pool somewhere. Water water everywhere indeed.


“Just out of curiousity Jenn,” asked Will as we proceeded down and passed our room, after grabbing our swimming gear. “But were you raised by your dad more than your mum.”


Okay, that was weird, but I let it see its way through anyway.


“I guess you could say that, seeing as my mother died when I was very young.”


“Ah, sorry, though me too really.”




“yeah, shedied in a car crash.”


“I’m sorry to hear that.”


“I guess that makes us the same really.”


“Indeed,” I reply, noticing Martin trying to find an appropriate moment to say something. “what made you ask that?”


“I just figured, is all,” he tells me. “You’re very competitive, for a girl.”


Martin laughs behind us, and we both turn to look at him. He gives us an expression that a robber would give the cops that just appeared miraculously in front of him.


“I’ll…catch you guys later,” he tells us, and cuts off on one of the corners.


“It’s not just that,” I tell him. “Games are the best way for a person to have fun really. If you treat everything as a game, then it’s more fun to play.”


“That’s a nice philosophy. I’m a Nietzschean myself.”


“Oh really?”


“Yeah, I go more by the belief ‘if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.’”


“That’s a good one,” I comment. S that how you’re justifying all of this? You deny gods and societies and go fo the nihilist route. It’s similar to mine in a way, but it shouldn’t condone murder. If you’re telling yourself you make your life important with hunting and killing me while you stand besides me, then all that awaits you is an inverted jump to the food supply of a bird.


That is, if you are my hunter.




We swam for three hours after that. Surrounding by such much hydrogen and oxygen, I figured a little more without salt couldn’t hurt, and, for a while, I let my thoughts drift away from the game and had fun with everyone there.


Though I knew I couldn’t let it last all that long. Even as we all sat down to watch television, I felt the hunter’s shadow under me, stalking me. I wouldn’t be long. The hunter couldn’t let it. It had shown me at the construction site. On each battlefield, it would strike fast, it felt like it couldn’t afford to wait, even if it was setting up accidents.


But it would at least wait for me to have an excuse to leave others, to be alone.


Tonight would be when it would strike.


Telewvision and drinks at the bar took up most of our time. I chatted with Will, Martin and Phil most of the time, telling them a life story  that strayed occasionally from the truth. My hunter should have research on me, and I waited to see how they reacted to my having a history degree. None of them did.


Arijit had activities planned for everyone shortly after six, and set up a pool ournament, as well as salsa dancing. Most of the men flocked for the tables, but the few that had found other company on the boat stayed for the salsa lessons. Few of them looked truly interested, save for Robin who had got his wife along n the trip with us somehow. For the largest man here, he was very suave.


It was around now that I separated. I’d be missed at both places, but I had been surrounded by meaningless trivial conversation for five hours non stop now, and I was beginning to tire of it. A shame really, though they held initial interest in the concept of being ‘new’ people, they could not cure the fact that they were all inherently boring. I figured active constrction workers may have more energy to them, but other than Ronan, who liked to play a lot of pub games, none of them could hold anything of interest to me, and Ronan’s conversational abilities to impress ended with his attention to text messenging.


No, the only one who was holding my interest was the hunter himself.


Whoever he was, he was powerful.


It was clear he wanted me to die.


And for that transgression, he would fall to my own game.


I wandered to my quarters, wanting to get ready for the night. My flick knife couldn’t be brought on board for security reasons, and I wasn’t ready to ruin it all and getting me suspicious by trying. The closest thing I had nw was the wire from my ID badge. It was just retractable string, but it would work as a garrot if necessary.


I also had my phone and a few ideas, but they were all in my room.


By the door of room 302, I looked to the sheet of aper on the floor. It was placed there as an obvious marker. I had another set in the room, a piece of my own hair wrapped around the two zips of my bag, but this was enugh to tell me someone had been inside. It could have been the cleaner though. I hadn’t been here in seven hours, and they might have passed during this time.


Booting the door open, I step back just in case my room took that moment to detonate. As nothing but warm air greeted me, I stepped inside, checking the wals, ceiling and floor immediately. Nothing. Not even a window, but I knew that anyway. Both cupboards opened, to show nothing either. The cleaner had apparently been in here. I headed for the bathroom, hearing the door double click behind me.. Taps were off, and the cupboard door was shut in there as well. Opening it carefully sold me nothing but expensive perfumes that common sense told me to later abuse  at the companies expense. Taps were off, and the cupboard door was shut in there as well. Opening it carefully sold me nothing but expensive perfumes that common sense told me to later abuse  at the companies expense.


Empty, my bag hadn’t been touched and as I retrieved the ID card and phone, I left the rest in there without touching them. Odd, this was the perfect place to set up a trap really. I could have been intoxicated, bound, gagged, anything, before getting thrown in the ocean. I could slip in the bathtub. It would be easier than the other options that’s for sure.


But it seems the reaper wasn’t waiting for me here, and I had all I needed. I wiped the sweat off my forehead and allowed myself to relax on the foor, lying down and appreciated the rugge carpet beneath me Part of me wanted to just sit here, wait for the night to end. To survive six days in this place was bad enough. Waiting each night would do its best to push me off the limits of first my mind and then the boat. I quickly text James and Tim in response to their own texts, trying to keep myself focused by questioning their sexuality in relation to graffes and mayflies in that particular order. Heading for a drink of water, I let the liquid fall into the sink for at least two minutes before taking a glassand washing myself with it, slurping the rest from the tap directly.


I should leave here relly.  Wander around. Wair to see just what lure my hunter uses to fish me out. He had to have something planned for tonight. Or maybe he is waiting for the second ay. It would be troublesome memorizing the layout of this ship in one day, even for me. I hadn’t even tried for that matter, mainly in the hopes of outsmarting my opponent who would expect me to do so. He can’t very well lead me to the engine room if I don’t know where it is and if I do need something there I can send a proper member of staff.


I eventually opt for wandering after two minutes of staring at my phone. Mr. allace is still on my mind but I discard him by the time I get to my door and find it locked. Turning back for my keycard I realize that I shouldn’t need it to at least get out of the room. There was only a latch on this side that was already flicked to the vacant position. All the same I flicked it over again and I tried to get out, but again the door itself halted my progress.


A few flicks of the latch later and I had opted for the shake the door violently approach. The door resisted my efforts with easeand refused to budge, though I noticed  it was still shaking near the bottom.


A few more shudders and bangs, and I felt it. It ‘s trapped at the top. Looking up, I see no bolts or fixtures that would prevent my escape. However, my eyes center on two sets of hinges at the top left and top right of the structure Oddly, the hinges the piece of metal that held the hinge overlapped both the door and the door frame, but the hinge itself wraps around and go over the brim of the door to the other side where…




Fuck! Fuck!


Note: Hunter leaves a note in the room?


They must have an incline on the other side. The hunter’s set them up so they’d hang above the door after he installed them. Then he left and carefully set them so they wouldn’t fall, knowing that when I come in I’d be more concerned about the loose paper and the clearly visible note to look at the top of the door. Then they could fall down when the door was swung. Since these door practically slam shut, it could then wedge itself in, keeping me trapped here for the interim. With the bolt on the door added and maybe something along the door’s more natural hinges, I was unable to escape from here.


How annoyingly clever.


It would trap me in in such a way that ordinary force wouldn’t work. There were effectively five points on the door trapping me and only one could I manipulate. Each pair stoped two sides of the door and without a crowbar I wouldn’t be able to pry through. And I’d need a sledgehammer to break through. And unfortunately customs didn’t allow me one.


And all it required was that I didn’t look up. So I was trapped without escape for the moment but it looked like I was relatively safe. The room was devoid of traps but…


I start to choke, near uncontrollably. Like a cat with a hairball lodged down its trachea, I spend too long trying to get it out. Why was it so warm?


Now on my knees, the radiator tells me the answer. It’s leaking, ever so slightly, pouring the natural gas into the room at a rate I couldn’t hear or really notice.. So that was it.


Lock my room and drown me with putrid air. Then come back, remove the hinges and find my poor unfortunate forever eternity sleeping corpse body. This was good.


Very smart hunter.


At this rate, I die, knowing I’ve been killed by you, as I slowly pass away in your wonderful trap.


How flawed was it though?


I grab my bag, slugging upon the mattress and ripping it open. I’ve got loose shirts in here, mainly for sleeping in. they serve as perfect rags for me to clog the leak. It doesn’t do the best job, but it slows down the release of toxicity even as it whiffs it in my face.


Next up is my own face. Impairing my breathing is dangerous so I loosely wrap my second shirt around the bridge of my nose. I won’t have long befor the gas starts affecting my brain so I work quicklyl.


My first thought is my phone but I realize I can’t since I don’t know who the hunter is. It coud be any one of the forty or so people that came with me and I’ll need to choose carefully. Of cours there are better options.


I head for the wall to my right. Out of the five of us that got first class treatment, I got put besides Will and some nameless noble that dislikes us all being here. I aim for the wall on his side and slam into it with all my strength, shouting for his assistance.As I hope he can understand the seriousness of a damsel in distress I soon realize I haven’t heard anything on the otside since I’ve been here. Were these walls soundproof. They were first class after all, the only thing that may break through is the fire alarm, which was on the other side of the door and would actually repell people werei to pull it.


The ventilation was next. It was just one small vent. I had no way of fitting through it, but even so the hunter had taken the intiative f blocking it up. Impossible to see through any of the holes. I saw the screws covered with tops that looked like they needed pliers to remove them. Dang!


This wasn’t a room with a door anymore.


This was a room made out of just six solid walls.


No hiudden trapdoors on the ceiling or floor.  No passageway behind the cupbard. Not even a secret fucking escape route behind the full size mirror in the bathroom


I coughed beneath my mask, the gas in the air reminding me I was on a time limit to defeat this boss. I was facing six walls, a gas pipe and a group of people I could easily call but not trust a single one. Even if I called two in the hopes of not getting the hunter, they would invariably meet at the door and then he could just say that I’m in the ballroom or something long enough to distract any help coming my way.


There are four ways to get into any room.


One is the key. Two is the boot. Three is the pick and four is the fore knuckle. The door is made of oak and vanished. I’m not breaking that down any time soon. I don’t have any tools to pick with and even so the lock isn’t the problem.


If I had a screwdriver ri might be able to dislodge the hinges after undoing them but I didn’t even have my knif now and…


I belch bad gas.


That’s it.


Feeling a little whoozey now, I guess I have a few minutes left before it starts to affect my thinking. Indeed even as I plunge my fist into the warm, misty glass that was once my mirror I begin to question if it hasn’t already happened. The beautiful image scatters as it shatters, and I grabb several pieces with bare hands.


No time to cover myself, I grab the chair and put it to the door, grabbing a shard that was on the edge and scraping it against the solid oak. It grinds and flattens down Hastily I make myself my flat ended shiv an d set it to work. The screws are jammed in but with enough leverage they start to turn under the pressure even my skin begins to tear away.


As soon as one sscrew drops I move on. I need to do it eight times and my shirt on the gas pipe is already useless. I’m panting like a bitch and I know it’s making it worse as I move on. By the time I reach the third my head’s resting against the door and I think I need to rest up a moment. The gas isn’t going anywhere and I No!


Slap it awake! Focus! Stay on the game! You are not going to rot with carbon filling your lungs. I carry myself on, and the forth screw falls to the ground. I don’t test it but move on. I figure that the gas needs to get pass the bouncer, each time it comes at me, so I should have a litte longer left but if it kleeps sneaking under the door then I’m in trouble.


The mirror slips due to my own fluids by the sixth screw and I let all the others drop to meet in. Wanting nothing more to crash, I fumbled down to pick them up, losing which one I was using and deciding to go for the sharest. I should have just picked this one first. A blunt weapon won’t picre metal. Twisting automatically  now, the seventh falls. The eight feels the toughest, but that’s naturally right. It is the boss. Regardless, I use my white mage to heal and tank one last time and it’s more than enough to take it out. As the eight falls I realize that they were only pawns and the two brothers behind it all face me in unison. My training pays of however and I already know I can defeat them, Reaching forward, I grasp them both with my special wrist training and pull forward on them hard. Realiing if they are moved from their power bases theyir souls will leave their bodsies they hold on, but I’m fied for them. With one final leap I jump onto the megastructure and pull with all my might, feeling the finally slip away.


With the final explosion, we all thown aide. I ht my head and nearly pass it as the brothers ade into nothingness. As with all end bosses, the final countdown hits and I know I’ve got to escape as soon as possible. With the keyard on the bed I twsit and turn to get it, grabbing my faithful friend Nokia who’s still out of it. Together we push through the final obstacle, a wooden support structure set up to deter us with feelings or exhaustion and rest. I toss it aside while keeping deep hold of Nokia, and then we’re out into the light.


Air! Precious air fills my lungs and it’s all I can do to gt enough of that sweet oxygenated EXP. I drink it all down  and take whatever bonuses I can get, before realsiing that there must be even better air than this stored somewhere. I push passed all the random encounters and head outside into the darkness, where my true treasure is awaiting me.


Four minutes later, and I’m back to my fucking senses. I rest, looking around me and keeping an eye out for any sudden movements not wanting to take any chances I see the lifeboat and head drunkingly towards it. It had noticed it earlier and it was different to the others in that it looked like it could hold four at most. Falling into the oars, I lay under the sheet, knowing that no one saw me. I let my energy return to me.


I had beaten the second trap.


Could have done better, and if I had found out who the hunter was I could have gotten help befor I went into fantasy land. I slapped myself a few times, making sure I wasn’t there along with my new friends, death and carbon monoxide, before giving myself ten minutes of shut eye. This was good, though I thought I should be pushing yself further, see just where my hunter is hiding himself. He’d want to know as soon as possible where I was. In fact, wasn’t here dangerous. All he needs to do is toss me in my half doped state and he’d win.


But even now, the rough wooden urface f the life boat didn’t do much to deter me in slumber and I reveled in my temporary victory until the dust cover was pulled out from over me, and I saw the big guy looking over me.


“Yoo hoo, Ms. Connolley,” he said. “I’ve found you! Time for your big party!”