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First Contact - Third Wave - Chapter 366
PASSWORD (Never share you password. Neb-Steam Customer Service Will NEVER ask you for your password): [email protected]$$w0rd
Welcome, Da'amo'o the Magician. You have 14 new messages and one Urgent Message.
View Normal Messages?
View Urgent Message?
FROM: NEBULA-STEAM STARLIGHT PROGRAM
TO: Great Most High of Planetary Maintenance Da'amo'o
Your submitted game "Terran Maintenance Attack Simulator" has been reviewed by our Quality and Standards Team as well as undergone our six day playtest system. Your recent patch 0.4.1.A2.a (Food Dispenser Update) was received and applied.
We are proud to announce to you that your game, "Terran Maintenance Attack Simulator" has been approved for sale on Nebula-Steam as part of the Starlight Program, which seeks to amplify the reach of indie developers such as yourself.
Simply go to your Developer's Page and follow the instructions. Remember to upload both your 2D and 3DVR game cover art as well as double-check your splash-page stinger for translation errors.
At this time, you are approved for Early Access Release, Alpha Test Release, Beta Test Release, or Full Release.
Additional options are available to you for release of your media as well as advertising your media.
Once again, we here at Nebula-Steam would like to welcome you to our Starlight Program and we look forward to working with you.
--The Digitally Simulated Brain of Gabe Newell, Nebula-Steam LLC
Would you like to see your Developers Page and Tools?
Great Most High of Planetary Maintenance Da'amo'o galloped around the relaxation lawn behind the Planetary Maintenance Facility, feeling his chest swell with an unidentified emotion. He knew that upstairs, on his computer, files were being uploaded to Nebula-Steam, rolling out the Early-Access Release of what had started as a mere way of passing the time.
Neo-sapients stared at him as he galloped around, but merely smiled to one another. Da'amo'o was known to be a bit eccentric for a Lanaktallan, but he authorized plenty of overtime, divided up maintenance across the planet into zones where one had to travel very little to reach a work order, and had even broken open the stores and allowed neo-sapients to use government vehicles rather than take public transportation to job sites.
Why, he had even authorized uniforms that displayed that a neo-sapient worked for Planetary Maintenance, complete with badges of ranks and coloration that displayed what part of Maintenance they worked for.
One of the Savashan sitting on a bench eating a sandwich (with actual RealMeatTM in it) had been accosted by LawSec two weeks ago. Most High Da'amo'o had arrived personally to release him from the jail cell, took back the tools, chastised the LawSec Commander, and then, weirdly enough, when heating failed to all of the LawSec Officer's offices, had put the repairs on low priority.
As far as that Savashan was concerned, if Da'amo'o wanted to run in circles wearing a purple paper hat and blowing a musical instrument, the Savashan would defend Da'amo'o's right to do so.
Da'amo'o himself was sweating and blowing heavy, his heart still full of something he couldn't describe, as he leaned into the corner he was running around. He couldn't believe it, it was too incredible, too outlandish.
He had logged into his "Developer Options" page on Nebula Steam and carefully read through the contract. It was mind-boggling. It was outrageous.
He retained full control of his program. All rights to it.
Nebula-Steam would host it on their servers, even offered the option for hosting of multi-player servers, and only asked for FORTY PERCENT! of the take. It was outrageous.
Then, he had discovered he could release different versions as long as they were functionally different. He had spent nearly a week coding heavily, allowing the VI 'supervisors' to handle the basic maintenance, and had come up with multiple versions of his game.
Why, he'd be getting six credits out of ten! He had set the price of one hundred twenty credits for the full version, sixty credits for the limited version, eighty credits for the multiplayer, forty-credits for the "Food Dispenser Panic!" DLC (what a wonderful concept. Downloadable content that could just be patched into the game, changing the game, updating it, without having to completely redo it! Just the thought of such a remarkable idea made Da'amo'o quiver with excitement), and the five ten-credit "World Map Packs" and the "City Procedural Generation Software" that was available as a free download to anyone who owned the 'Executor Freakout' version. Then there was the "Building Artpack" for various planets and species, even including a special building relevant to each species, for only five credits, that came bundled in the "Executor Freakout" version. Not to mention the Demo that would unlock into the limited version if a neo-sapient put in their worker ID number.
He had, at first, ensured the settings were put right so that his implant would be pinged for each sale. In the beginning, there was only a handful of pings the first few hours. Then more. Then even more. Until his implant couldn't keep up.
He was terrified to look into his Nebula-Steam wallet.
There was a shimmering in the air and he slowed down, coming to a stop and panting. He tapped the shimmer and a VR representation of a door appeared.
The Pink Panty Fairy stepped through, wearing her new outfit that he'd carefully designed for her. It was modeled after Terran "power suits'. Not the combat kind, no, the kind that projected authority and dominance, consisting of a pair of shined high heeled boots, slacks with creases on the front of the legs, and an official looking torso covering with long sleeves and cufflinks. She wore a pink sash that displayed that she was Da'amo'o's personal assistant and operated with his full authority.
Da'amo'o had carefully gone over Terran images of powerful females and what they wore. He had agonized over current fashions, dressing properly for various jobs, and other media.
He had eventually settled on a modification of the Space Force female Terran uniform, complete with sash.
"You made Gold, Da'amo'o, baby," she said, her glittering iridescent wings twitching. "Ten million sales in the last two hours."
Da'amo'o shuffled nervously.
"Even your map packs, the DLC, and the Executor Freakout versions are firmly in the Gold status," she said. She lifted up a clipboard and looked at it. "At current projections, you should hit Platinum within a week. Returns are less than two percent. Your rating is 'Oustandingly Positive' and average customer engagement on first playthrough is three hours."
Da'amo'o nodded, reaching into his pouch and pulling out a wad of carefully harvested expensive cud. He jammed it in his mouth and slowly began chewing it, thinking. He had been thinking of adding a "Work Crew Supervisor Expansion Pack" where a being could take on the role of a supervisor and move through a procedurally generated building to watch over the neo-sapients as they worked.
If the game was doing that well, he might have to adapt the old public domain software that generated dungeons that he had found on a code repository site. Combining it with the shopping trip simulator software that he had found abandoned might work...
"Currently, using proxy servers to upload the game mean that the majority of purchasers and interested parties think that the game was developed and uploaded from Hesstla, which still has a high Lanaktallan population despite being nominally under Terran control," she said. She lowered the clipboard and it vanished.
"So, Da'amo'o, baby, what's your plan now?" the Pink Secretary asked.
Da'amo'o trotted toward the door that would lead to the elevator that would take him to his office. "What's my schedule look like?"
The Pink Secretary looked at another clipboard. "Clear for the next two days. That's when you have scheduled an inspection of the worker's maintenance vehicles."
Da'a'mo'o nodded. That gave him an idea. "Maintenance Street Racing" where the players could race bulky, unresponsive cargo vehicles and tool vans through city streets to a job, competing with other maintenance teams to reach the contract and clock in first.
He quickly mentally jotted a note and passed it to his datalink to pass it to his console.
Perhaps have the wild card where overpowered flaming Terran vehicles attempt to run the maintenance crew vehicle off the road? he thought.
"How is the reference gathering for Project Blah Bleh Blah going?" he asked her.
She consulted a datapad. "Not well. Mostly we've had to use police sketches and mockups as well as video taken from Gal-Net."
Damnation and tarnation, as a Treana'ad cattle rustler would say, Da'amo'o thought to himself. He had ridden home in a limousine one foggy night, staring out the window, and had gotten the idea to create an entertainment game completely based on fiction, starring the Night Terran.
But he was having a hard time gathering concrete data on the elusive figure.
"You asked me to remind you about tonight, baby," the Pink Secretary said.
"The motion capture actors," Da'amo'o stated. He stopped and waited for the elevator.
The neo-sapients and a few female Lanaktallan were supposed to arrive at his domicile for dinner and then motion capture. He was planning on rewarding them handsomely.
Credits bought more cooperation than his rank, and he had learned to appreciate it.
In the elevator he brought up data on his retinal link, examining it. Most of what he wanted was available on the public domain software repositories. He'd gained an eye for being able to determine if the software might be usable. If it contained extensive documentation, it would be easily usable.
If it did not, there might be hidden gems within in, but by and large, the programmer would have been deceased for tens of thousands of years.
An idea for another entertainment simulation bubbled up in his mind and he clapped his lower hands together excitedly even as he made notes on his datalink.
True, most of his ideas would prove to be unworkable or not as exciting as he had thought at the time, but for every score that had be discarded one would provide the kernel of a great idea.
The door opened and he trotted down the hallway. Opening the door to his office he nodded at the Ikeeki receptionist, who professionally ignored him as she applied dye to the very tips of her pinfeathers with a small brush. She was wearing the finest clothing, her plumage was lush and lavish, and her jewelry sparkled in the light of the office.
Just her appearance had been enough to put many complaining Lanaktallan in their place. The fact that she was so pampered and lavished upon told all Lanaktallan that she was more valued by Great Most High of Planetary Maintenance Da'amo'o then they ever possibly would be.
He sat down in his comfortable chair and waited for the backrest and armrests to rotate into position. He checked his real maintenance program, not his entertainment one, and authorized overtime, dispatched work crews, and scheduled time off for his crews.
Once he had spent two hours working, he had a break and leaned back in his chair, slowly chewing the expensive cud.
He had an idea.
Logging back onto Nebula-Steam, he perused the Terran Confederacy stores, using a proxy server to pretend he was logging in from one of the Confederacy controlled worlds.
He knew he had seen it briefly. Now he was sure.
He said the word slowly, savoring it.
Checking one of the most popular games, he then ran a search to see who was playing the game that had at least twenty hours into it. It was a popular game, a magical primitivism simulation where a user could fight fantastic creatures, romance attractive and unattractive beings, explore ruins and wilderness while wielding steel weapons or magic.
There it was.
He examined it closely. Terrans prized the most difficult achievements. Some achievements had been acquired by less than 0.0001% of those with at least 10 hours in the game. Such achievements as "I Tawt I Saw a Puddy-Tat" for fighting a giant saber-toothed cat with only a flint knife in a blizzard during the full moon while only wearing wolf-skin armor and a hat made from yellow bird feathers. Or the achievement "Chrome Lips Sink Ships" for any Battleship Gunner's Mate rating five or higher who killed at least one enemy vessel as their own ship was being destroyed and choosing to respawn in the ship's clone bank and return to their station even as the ship broke up.
Da'amo'o checked his schedule. He still had six hours he had to be at his desk. He checked the work program. The only thing that needed his attention was a Wandering Terran had set plants ablaze in a park in eVR enhanced reality and the maintenance team needed a Level III Exorcism team. He authorized it and closed the program.
What if I could make it a status symbol? he thought. Sashes proclaimed various ranks and awards, but if one had a retinal link, like any proper gamer (R-Link Lyfe Yo!) , then a being's 'gamer tag' as well as their Nebula-Steam Rank appeared in your vision when you looked at another gamer who was broadcasting his ID.
By nightfall, he realized he'd been in his office till almost dinner. He rushed home, hosted the fancy dinner, then used his motion capture equipment to record various beings doing mundane tasks, right down to washing dishes by hand. He paid everyone, then galloped down the hallway to a solid battlesteel door.
He quivered with excitement when his Gal-Net link cut off. The electronic warfare system he had managed to get transferred to him via a long looping shipping circuit kept anyone from accessing what was beyond the door from outside.
The door cracked open, white light appearing. He quivered with excitement. He had taken the visuals from exciting Terran games and he had to admit, it was psychologically powerful.
He trotted into what was beyond. What had been a wine cellar had been built, off the books, by heavily bribed neo-sapient work crews that he had paid in cred-sticks, promotions, and prestigious employment locations.
His programming lab.
Full eVI assist. Enhanced Virtual Reality.
He had modeled it after Vehicle Repairbeing v823 that he had managed to get onto his account.
He rubbed his hands together as he activated his assistants.
The girls from that wonderfully subversive program appeared, all working hard, with the exception of the red-head, who sat in the corner reading a magazine and smoking a cigarette, giving him a haughty look as she smoothed her black and red plaid skirt with one hand.
He worked far into the night, going to bed only after the Pink Programming Assistant Fairy woke him up for the third time.
He had done it.
He, Great Most High of Planetary Maintenance Da'amo'o, had managed to complete the impossible!
When he trotted into work the next day, everyone could see scrolling on his sash the fact that he had platinum Nebula-Steam achievement awards, that his sash edging wasn't a straight line but was, instead, a flickering violet and pink flame pattern.
Da'amo'o could feel the envy of his lessers as they gazed in awe at the achievements displayed on his sash.
Any being could get attendance and good parking awards for their sash.
When he finished the morning's required maintenance he leaned back in his chair and pressed the eVR button.
The Pink Secretary Fairy appeared, holding a clipboard.
"How's it hanging, Da'amo'o, baby?" she asked, smiling.
"You tell me, dear one," Da'amo'o replied.
She looked at her clipboard. "The Retinal Link Nebula-Steam Account Interlink has gone platinum. The Sash link is the same," she smiled widely. "Nebula-Steam approved your proposal that only icons that match your specifications can be used as a basis for the award displays."
Da'amo'o rubbed his hands together. "And how many software entertainment organizations have purchased the icon and software packages I offered them?"
"All of them, Da'armo'o, baby," she replied.
"Excellent," Da'amo'o said.
"Already Dewie, Cheatum, and Howe have successfully defended your proprietary programming and styles," she said. She consulted her datapad. "They have been paid in full for their services and put on retainer."
"Excellent," Da'amo'o said. He thought for a long moment, swinging around to stare out the window. "I need another assistant, someone to assist me in this job to free me for my true passion."
The Pink Secretary Fairy frowned slightly. "Which is?"
Da'amo'o motioned with all four hands out the window. "To make work into something enjoyable. To use VR and Gal-Net to provide a sense of accomplishment that seems to have been stripped from real life."
He rubbed his hands together.
"To give everyone a sense of achievement."
Forty-Second Assistant Most High of Food Processors Ga'ame'er clopped into the lunch room of the massive building that housed licensing. He adjusted his sash and ensured his retinal link ID header was on as he crossed the room to the line waiting to order lunch.
He realized that in front of him was a Lanaktallan who had their gamertag, Nebula-Steam score, and achievements displayed on their expensive and fashionable sash as well as over their head.
The Lanaktallan, who's sash proclaimed him a twelfth Most High, had only silver achievements.
Ga'ame'er reached forward and tapped the other Lanaktallan on the side. The Lanaktallan turned, frowning, looking a Ga'ame'er.
"Move, lowly one," Ga'ame'er said, reaching up and tapping his sash.
The Twelfth Most High of Traffic Supervision Pehza'ahnt started to lift his lip and then saw the top ranking achievement far outstripped anything he had accomplished.
Feeling shame before one of his peers, he moved out of the way, letting Ga'ame'er take his place.
Pehza'ahnt ground his cud and promised himself that he would grind extra-hard that night. That achievement flaunted by Ga'ame'er would be his.
Oh yes, oh yes it would be.
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I bought drugs from the dark web, now I'm being hunted down.
However, with the illegality surrounding drugs, it means there is some risk getting a hold of it. Usually one has to get involved with sketchy people in strange places. Most of the time, the product is good. After all, the dealers need to keep their customers alive. Still, just getting caught, or buying fake stuff was a risk I didn’t bother dealing with.
Thus, I eventually turned to the dark web. Imagine that, a place online where you can buy the best quality drugs with just a couple of clicks, and they send it directly to your address in a discrete package. It tends to be pretty safe, and people even rate the various pills, full on with forums to describe each individual experience.
As time progressed, a few of the .onion sites would begin to vanish off the face of the internet. Maybe the dealers quit, or maybe the FBI shut them down, no one really knows.
So without a steady supplier, I had to venture deeper into the dark web in search of a new place to hand me my weekly fix. I looked around on a few forums, but most of the posts were old, and a surprisingly large amount of the sites had been taken down. Of those that still remained up, most sold dubious, weak drugs.
Eventually, my search landed me with a new recommendation. It was a place I’d never even heard about, but their product was fairly cheap. As if that wasn’t good enough on its own, their site seemed exceptionally professional. It might sound stupid, but if a site presents itself with a good looking design, there’s a bigger likelihood that people blindly trust them. I never claimed to be smart.
Yes, I was one of those gullible people, and it damn near cost me my life...
The website I found, didn’t even have a name. It just displayed a logo that consisted of a pill in the center of a bullseye. It only contained a single product, but it alone had hundreds of top rated reviews, all praising it in various different languages. It didn’t seem staged, and I truly believed they had been written by different people.
With that, I decided to order a weekend package which held three pills. It was the cheapest option based on the amount of pills, and I figured it would be worth a shot. As promised, the product arrived the next Friday, with an ample amount of time before the evening would even begin.
I got ready for a night out on the town, and swallowed the first pill with half an hour to spare. Of course, I made sure the dosage was fit for my bodyweight and previous experiences, knowing the real risk of overdose if I wasn’t careful. Then, I left my house, ready to waste another night of my life, and…
With that, my memories were shattered into a million incomprehensible fragments. Whether I went to a club, or just passed out in the street, I didn’t know. It was all beyond hazy, a mesh of colors and sounds that didn’t convey any meaning. It has stolen even my most basic, cognitive functions
The next thing I remember is waking up on hard, rough wooden floorboards. I was soaked in my own vomit, but the utter confusion of where I was overrode my pain. It was dark, which came as both a blessing and a cause for unrest. At least my eyes wouldn’t suffer, but it added to the mystery of where I’d awoken.
There wasn’t much in the room, except for a cupboard, a few moldy chairs and a broken fireplace. The windows were partially boarded up, and covered by dark curtains. On the floor, lay three strangers I’d never seen before. Two men, one significantly older than myself, and the other my own age, and a young woman looking slightly older than a teenager.
I rolled over to push myself up, groaning as I realized just how much my body hurt.
“Hey!” I tried to call out, but my voice was too hoarse to produce enough volume.
Once I was finally able to push myself to my feet, I took a peek out the window. We were in a forest, and the little room we’d awoken in looked like a hunting lodge. Whether I’d met these people during a party, or if I’d just stumbled into a drug den, I didn’t know.
Then the girl started groaning, finally regaining consciousness. She looked over at me in slight panic, clearly not recognizing who I was. Then she took a glance at her surroundings, and shot to her feet in fear.
“Where am I? Who are you?”
I backed away from her a bit, giving her enough space to calm down.
“Hey, calm down. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m Wilson, I just woke up here. I was wasted last night and can’t remember what happened.”
She thought about it for a moment, before realizing she too couldn’t recall anything from the previous night.
“I was… I was just partying. I don’t remember…”
“What’s your name?”
“Alright, Lisa. Do you know where we are?”
She shook her head. Her mind was as gone as my own. As we stood there trying to figure out what was going on, the oldest man started to wake up. He had salt and pepper hair, probably in his early fifties. I bent down to talk to him, but as he saw me standing above him, he grabbed my throat, rolled over and started choking me.
“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” he yelled as he crushed my throat.
The girl tried to shove him off, but she was too small compared to the massive man. Luckily, her effort distracted him enough for me to push him to the side, just giving me enough time to catch some air.
“Stop!” I coughed out. “I’m not trying to hurt you.”
The man quickly inspected his surroundings, immediately realizing his mistake.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“We don’t know,” I said, still out of breath. “Why did you attack me like that?”
“I thought I was at home. I didn’t even leave the house yesterday. What the fuck is going on?”
He took a moment to gather his thoughts, rubbing the heavy sleep out of his eyes. He was a well built guy for his age, clearly with some experience in fighting.
Lisa went closer, ready to introduce herself. “I’m Lisa,” she said as she reached out her hand.
“Adam. Adam Morrison. Do you guys remember anything?”
We both shook our heads. The fourth guy was still unconscious, lying face down on the ground. Adam went over to shake him awake, hoping he held some clues as to what had happened the night before.
“Hey man, wake up,” he said as he shook him another time. He still didn’t react.
“Oh boy, that’s not good.”
He then proceeded to turn him over. Lisa and I immediately jumped back in shock as we noticed several bullet holes to his torso. He was dead, and probably had been for quite some time. In addition, there was a note stuck to his corpse.
Lisa and I were speechless, but Adam didn’t seem all that horrified. He just took the note off the guy, and started reading it out aloud.
“Thank you for your purchase. Let the games begin.”
On the paper, I noticed an all too familiar logo. It was the bullseye with a pill in the middle, from the same dark web site I’d purchased drugs from.
“What, you know this logo?” he asked me.
“Yeah… I - I bought some pills from there a few days ago.”
“I did the same,” Lisa said.
The man sighed. “I guess we’re all in the same boat then. Whoever these guys are, they’re not just drug dealers.”
“What do they mean by ‘games’’ though?” Lisa asked.
“I’m not sure yet, but - “
He was interrupted by someone knocking on the door. We all jumped back from the sudden noise, but none of us dared open up. Three knocks were all we got, before a paper slid in under the door.
Adam rushed to pull open the door, but there was no one on the other side. All that lay before us, was a dense forest through which someone could easily vanish within a second. We’d basically have to crawl to get through it.
He picked the note off the ground and started reading.
Thank you for participating in the yearly hunt. You have twenty-four hours to escape the forest, or you will be eliminated from the game. Hunters have been dispatched to track you down.
He handed the letter to me, and I read over it again. Just like the previous note, it held the same logo.
“What the fuck are we going to do?” Lisa asked on the brink of tears.
Adam went from window to window, making sure the rotten blinds and boards were properly covering them up.
“We’re going to get the fuck out of here. But first, you need to get out of the neon-yellow top of yours,” he said as he pointed to Lisa.
“We need to stay hidden. These bright clothes won’t help.”
He went to the nearby closet and started rummaging through it. Within seconds he found some old jackets and shoes that were wet and partially broken down over time.
“Put these on.”
My clothes were already fairly dark, as were Adam’s. He seemed experienced, which gave me a minor glimmer of hope.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Beats staying here and getting slaughtered.”
We didn’t need any further convincing. Adam seemed to be the only one with even the faintest idea on what to do. Because of that, we diligently followed him outside, keeping our heads low as we got ready to crawl through the dense forest. It was about midday, and still we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead.
Even after a few hours passed, we still didn’t see any of the aforementioned hunters. Still, Adam kept telling us to keep quiet, and to only step where he did. Lisa struggled to keep up, as she had replaced her high heels with shoes that were two sizes too big for her feet.
Suddenly, Adam stopped dead in his tracks, causing us both to bump into him. He’d noticed something on the ground, a tripwire. It was connected to spikes that would have emerged from the ground if triggered, killing whoever unfortunate enough to walk into the trap.
“How the hell did you see that?”
“Don’t worry about that… Let’s just say I have experience with it.”
The day went on, and my legs were getting to the point of total collapse. Adam kept looking up at the sky, but the clouds had since fallen away behind a thick layer of dense clouds.
“Where are we heading?”
“South… I think. I’m not sure.”
I was exhausted, out of shape and hungry. Lisa didn’t fare much better. She sat down to take a break, which seemed to annoy Adam. No sooner had she stopped moving, before we heard a brief whizzing sound, as if a bee had flown by at incredible speed.
“What was - “ I tried to ask.
“Get down!” Adam screamed.
Another whiz was heard, followed by a hole produced in the tree behind us. Splinters exploded from the hole through the air.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I screamed as I realized someone was shooting at us.
Lisa got up to run in panic. Adam called for her to get back down, but it was too late. Several more bullet holes were created in the scenery around her as she ran, none even close to hitting her. It was almost as if they weren’t aiming at her. Instead, they just let her keep running.
She didn’t get far, before running into a traphole in the ground. There she fell about four feet onto several spikes sticking up from the ground. I didn’t dare look down in the hole, but I heard her hopeless screams. We couldn’t help her. Still, I instinctively wanted to get up and check on her, but Adam held me down.
“You wanna die?” he asked. “Just stay close to me, we need to keep moving.”
We basically crawled away from the gunshots. But just like with Lisa, none of the bullets even came close to hitting us. It felt more as if they were herding us in a certain direction, but I wasn’t going to stick around and find out if that was truly the case.
“What about Lisa?” I asked.
“She’s dead. Keep moving.”
We spent minutes crawling before reaching a hill. Once we’d gotten halfway down, the shooting stopped. Adam pulled me to my feet and we kept running downwards. At the end of the slope, we finally found a clearing leading out of the forest.
“We got out!” I almost screamed in victory, but then I noticed something in the tall grass. About a dozen, darkly dressed men stood up, each wielding a rifle. They laughed at us as we retreated back into the forest. They didn’t even raise their weapons, they just laughed and waved as we kept fleeing. One of them even gestured for us to keep running, and held up five fingers to signify how much time we had left.
We escaped from the open fields, back into a forest constantly growing in density. There were no bullets flying by, but we both knew they’d follow us where we went. We needed to get out of the forest, but neither of us knew the way. Then we saw it, a mountain in the distance, only an hour’s walk away.
But, the closer we got to the mountain, the darker it got. The clouds above were thickening, and the dense treetops blocked out every bit of light we could receive. Before long, it would start to rain, a prophecy foretold by the howling wind that accompanied us on our journey.
In the dark, I kept stumbling over roots sticking up from the ground. I told Adam to wait, but he couldn’t hear me over the howling wind. As I got back to my feet for the third time, he was just gone. I kept wandering on alone, calling out for him. Then, I almost fell into a deep pit dug into the ground. Inside, lay several dozen corpses in various stages of decay.
Then it hit me, that the hunters wanted us to go here. They needed us to see this pit, so we could know what awaited us when we inevitably lost the game.
“Adam!” I called out.
But through the developing storm, he couldn’t hear me. I just kept walking, watching as darkness overwhelmed my surroundings. I started to hear twigs breaking around me, something stalking me almost in absolute silence.
Then something caught around my leg and I came crashing down to the ground. It was a tripwire, but no trap had been activated. I let out a mild sigh of relief, when I heard someone call out for me.
I looked to the side to find Adam nailed to a tree by the trap that had been activated. He’d tripped it before me, causing him to get impaled by metal spikes. He couldn’t move, he was too wounded.
“I found the exit, but I got careless,” he groaned.
“Oh, God,” I said as I tried to pull the spikes out from his abdomen. It was a futile task, he was pretty much nailed to the tree.
There was a cave in the wall behind me. Adam pointed to it with a trembling finger.
“Just go,” he let out in merely a whisper.
With that, he let out his last breath, and drifted off to eternal slumber. Without hesitating, I started running into the cave. Once inside, I had to rely on my other senses to get through. It was pitch black, but the draft produced meant there had to be an opening on the other side. I felt my way along the walls as I heard footsteps behind me. I just kept going as fast as I could, until I finally saw the light on the other end of the tunnel.
Then I ran again, my lungs burning and my legs wobbly. I couldn’t see any rain on the other side, but the storm might just be trapped on the other side of the mountain. There were footsteps following behind me, followed by chuckles that echoed through the save. I had to keep going, I couldn’t give up.
Then I finally entered open space again, just in time for my legs to give in. I was out from the mountain, and in front of me lay nothing but empty, open fields. I tried to crawl, but I was too weak. I just turned around, and saw five men in dark clothing come outside, each of them with a rifle.
One of the men raised his weapon, ready to fire upon me, but one of the others stopped him.
“Stop,” he said. “He found the way out of the forest. The hunt has ended.”
They chuckled again, before returning into the cave. For them, it had just been a game, a hunt that they’d already gone through a hundred times before. I was just a random victim that happened to purchase a drug off their website.
It took me another three days to traverse the massive landscape and find the nearest town, but the hunters had at least let me live. Once home, I called the police, told them everything that I knew. Of course, the website had been removed by then, and I couldn’t for the life of me find the forest they’d previously chased me through.
Officially, no one has gone missing, because the people chosen for the hunt were people who wouldn’t be missed, including me.