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Chapter 05 - Bounty Hunt

How far was a sniper rifle’s range? It wasn’t a question Brent had really thought of until now. He knew a longbow could hit its mark from 600 feet away, and presumably its modern equivalent would have greatly enhanced range. He dimly recalled hearing about some Canadian special forces dude taking someone out from over 2 miles away.

Out of breath, he came to a halt, panting and wheezing, the pulse of his heart hammering in his brain. Nearby there was a squat baobab tree, its trunk over three times the width of its widest branch. Brent hobbled over to lean on it and rest.

How far had he run? One mile? Two? However much it was, Brent hoped that it would be far enough. He had definitely run harder than he ever had in Physical Education class, back when he still took it.

He became conscious of how dry the inside of his mouth was, and bent over, feeling the urge to vomit.

Urgh…..”

He tore off the motorcycle helmet he’d been wearing the whole time, and fresh air caressed his burning cheeks. He gulped in air greedily, and managed to repress the urge.

His throat was still dry though, and he coughed few times as he tossed his backpack to the ground and pulled out a water bottle. It was only half full, and after drinking it all Brent still felt rather thirsty.

He didn’t have any more, though. Granted, a lot of the loot he had found around this island actually tended to be in the form of prepackaged foods like the trail mix bars and bottled water, so he was not too concerned about that before. But now his thoughts turned to the logistics of long term wilderness survival: what would he do once he did run out? Because it surely would happen. He couldn’t keep counting on finding supplies in random buildings. Those resources were finite, and his fellow competitors in this death game were no doubt taking and consuming them as well.

Or maybe he was overthinking things, and everyone would be dead after a few days from shooting and killing each other, long before starvation would be an issue.

Anyway, the fact remained that he was thirsty. Perhaps he could find a stream or a pond to drink from. It was better than nothing.

Wait, didn’t he have something else besides bottled water?

Brent cleared his throat. “Inventory.”

The window popped up, with his latest acquisitions included:

Inventory

D-Bucks: $1873

Vertical Foregrip

2-4x variable ACOG

Shotgun shells (4)

Sniper rifle stock

7.62mm ammo (30)

Bandages (3)

Tactical Combat Knife

Monstrous Energy Drink (2)

Extended magazine [SMG, Level 2]

Great Valley Mix Bar (8)

Baked Beans (1)

Dombey-Tart (4)

Barrel stabilizer [LMG, Level 1]

That was it, the Monstrous energy drink! Brent pulled one of the cans out and cracked it open.

The drink was fizzy like a soda, but the taste more closely resembled green tea. Brent didn’t really savor the taste too much as he simply chugged down the entire contents of the can.

He felt strangely invigorated within seconds of finishing it. His breathing lightened, and all the fatigue in his lungs and legs had disappeared. None of the energy drinks he’d had back in his own world had such a drastic immediate effect. Maybe…

He let out a loud burp, then called up his Status:

Status
Name Brent Davies  
Race Human
Health   75/100
Adrenaline   25%
Loadout:
Weapon Noisy Cricket (0/14)
Helmet Biker (Level 1)
Armor None
Backpack Tote Bag (Level 1)

The Adrenaline bar which had previously been empty was now a quarter full. As Brent watched, his Health went up by 1 point and the Adrenaline went down by 1. This seemed to happen every 10 seconds or so. So the energy drink was actually this world’s equivalent of a… regeneration potion?

The side effect of not feeling tired anymore wasn’t listed anywhere, but Brent had it nonetheless, and decided to take full advantage of it while it lasted.

He had spotted what looked like a town in the distant and jogged towards them with his newfound stamina.



--break--



The town’s buildings were squat, blocky, and made of orange clay. Their exteriors were not decorated save for some triangular pattern ringing the flat roofs, and the windows were merely holes with smooth square edges.

More thick trees were interspersed among the houses, but just like the other settlements Brent had been to, this one was devoid of life or motion. He eyed with suspicion the windows, whose black depths could be concealing other contestants.

Well, if they were there, they would have started shooting already. Brent cautiously took a few steps into the town. In a central plaza-like area there stood a metal pole with a faded pink loudspeaker, looking out of place among the more archaic architecture.

Then he heard a faint buzzing sound coming from somewhere behind him. He whirled around, fearing another attack.

The buzzing came from a black object with a metallic sheen, flying through the air. As it drew closer its shape became clear: it was a small quad copter drone, of a similar form factor to the kind Brent had seen used by the film club at school, and the rich kids around his neighborhood.

It was heading straight for him, which made him a bit apprehensive, but it didn’t seem to have any weapons on it. Its flight pattern was wavering and a bit unsteady due to the small case that was hanging from two hooks on the bottom of the chassis.

The drone stopped, hovering a few feet away from Brent at eye level. He stared at it blankly for a few seconds, unsure of how to react.

Click! The hooks disengaged, releasing the case to drop onto the ground. The drone rose up and flew away.

Brent knelt down to examine the case, then remembered he was still out in the open. He picked up the case and finding it wasn’t too heavy, went to look for a safe house.

The buildings didn’t have proper doors either, being empty openings like the windows, except a few had ragged red cloth hanging over them. Brent picked one of those and walked inside.

The interior was cool and dark, though there was still enough light filtering through to see by. Brent plopped the case down on a table and flipped the single latch holding it closed.

The case contained a single item: a square yellow box. It was the 9mm ammunition he’d bought earlier, just as ordered! He checked his inventory interface just to make sure:

9mm Parabellum
Category
Ammunition
Rarity Common
Quantity
30

A reliable cartridge used by most pistols and a few submachine guns.

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Apparently that checkout machine was just a kiosk for ordering, and the actual goods were airdropped via drone.

Brent couldn’t help but smile. Things were finally looking up. The box’s thirty bullets were lined up neatly, enough to fill just over two magazines. He took out his pistol and started to load it-

And found that the cartridges were too big for the Cricket’s magazine. No matter how hard he tried, Brent couldn’t squeeze even a single bullet into the frame.

He didn’t understand. Why didn’t they fit? The description said it was used by pistols! Apparently the Noisy Cricket wasn’t included in “most pistols”.

So his money had been wasted after all. He couldn’t even go back to the shop machine to look for the right type of ammo, as the sniper had shot it up, and they might still be lying in wait for the next victim.

Brent threw the weapon to the floor. Useless! It was all so useless! He felt more strongly than ever that he would rather just go back home than continue on in this crazy, noisy, bizarre world.

Beep boop beep beep boooop. The loudspeaker in the plaza blared the signature jingle that preceded an announcement from Dombey Uno. “Attention all you Battleground Survival Legends! The second halo has formed, and the storm will commence closing in on it in three hours. That’s going to be during the night, so watch where you sleep, OOH HOO HOO HOO!!!”

He checked the Map. Again, his current location was inside of the circle, so he didn’t have to worry about moving. He also noticed the name of the region he had entered was now filled in as “Verisimilar Veldt”. There was a certain theme going on here...

Brent sighed. Think on the bright side, think on the bright side. What was the bright side? He hadn’t checked on the survivor count in a while, so he pulled it up:

55 remaining.

And he was one of them. A slightly reduced number of people potentially gunning for him was a positive, if a small one. By this time his Adrenaline bar had drained all the way back down to 0%, but in exchange his Health was now full. 100 hit points still felt a little low to Brent, whose Rogue class character in Eternity Online had close to 2000 HP, and that was considered to be on the squishier side. Perhaps there was some way to increase his maximum limit.

After a couple minutes, Brent mustered up the will to keep going, and started searching around the nearby houses for loot. Just like in the previous area, the furniture was broken down, and didn’t look like it had been used in a while. He found a baseball bat, some food, more useless attachments, and… clothes? He checked out the bat’s stats first:

Diminutive Slugger
Category
Melee Weapon
Rarity Uncommon
Damage 36
Capacity
Infinite
Firing Modes
N/A
Attachment slots
None
Baseball as a weapon, how cool is that?

The flavor quote was a bit odd. The damage was higher than his pistol, albeit at the obvious drawback of being melee. He hefted it in his hands, giving it a few test swings while making a sardonic expression on his face. It was simple physics: calculate the velocity V with regards to the trajectory T in which G, gravity…

He shook his head, not sure what he was thinking of there. The bat at least had a longer reach than the knife, so he decided to wield it as his main weapon until he could find some ammo or a better gun.

Next were the attachments:

Bump Stock
Category
Attachment - Stock
Rarity Rare
Compatible with Carbines, Battle Rifles
Outlawed in several regions, this spring-loaded stock adds a fully automatic fire mode to the semi-automatic rifle it’s attached to.

It was another weird sounding thing that he didn’t have the right weapon for.

Green Triangle Sight
Category
Attachment - Optic
Rarity Common
Compatible with Pistols
A step up from good ol’ iron sights, these are lined in a fluorescent compound for target acquisition in low light and night conditions.

This one actually fit on his pistol. Unlike the red dot sight, this one didn’t have a glass pane, instead consisting of just a couple of tiny plastic nubs with green lines painted on them, which snapped onto the top of the gun. When looking down the barrel, the lines formed a small triangle pointing up. Brent squinted. Was this really supposed to make aiming easier? It certainly wasn’t doing anything for him.

Well, he was out of ammo anyway.

Flashlight
Category
Attachment - Lower Rail
Rarity Uncommon
Compatible with Pistols, SMGs, Rifles
Helps you see your targets. But beware, for it also lets them see you.

It was a small, cylindrical unit with a clip for attaching. It fit on the Noisy Cricket, but Brent discovered that it actually worked fine on its own. The light it gave was clear and directed, making a small bright circle wherever it was pointed. He played around with it for a bit, flipping the small switch on and off.

On to the last items of interest: the clothes.

He’d found a couple of t-shirts, a fleece jacket and cargo shorts. They were monochrome and generic, almost too generic, lacking any logos or iconography. Fortunately, that was just how Brent liked it.

The boy became acutely aware that he hadn’t showered or changed clothes since the previous day, having been too preoccupied until the present moment.

Brent checked the clothes for stats, but no window appeared, which was a bit disappointing. He’d hoped they would provide some sort of bonus or buff.

Retreating into the darker recesses of the first house to change, he peeled off his current shirt, now drenched in sweat, and put on a fresh one. He then swapped his jeans out for the shorts which seemed more appropriate for the climate.

Gunshots sounded in the distance, and Brent decided it was time to get a move on, before the violence found him first. He gathered all of his inventory back into his tote bag, which was now bulging at the seams from everything packed into it.

Warning: Inventory full!

Making a fist, Brent squashed the clothes down further. The bag wouldn’t close all the way, but he was able to pull the drawstrings out enough to make the opening too small for anything to fall out.

He ought to throw out some of that stuff. But what if it ended up being useful later? Not for the first time Brent wished there was some kind of tutorial window or NPC to explain things in more detail.

He put on the tote bag and re-donned his biker helmet. Venturing back out into the plaza, he was greeted by silence. So the fight he had heard earlier was already over.

Brent wondered if anyone had died. Perhaps he could scavenge some supplies from their corpse after the victors had left the area. They might not have much left, or anything at all, but it seemed like he was destined to be a bottom feeder in this game. Who knows, maybe the killers had reached their inventory limit too and couldn’t carry everything away.

Still, the idea of looting a dead body made him uneasy. He’d skipped over searching Duck’s body, after all. It was funny, this was something he’d done over a million times in video games, but that didn’t make him feel any more prepared for the real thing.

Beep boop boop boop booop. Brent jumped as the nearby loudspeaker blared to life with the jingle.

Attention, all contestants in the Verisimilar Veldt! A new random event is starting in your region: Circle of Assassins!

At this distance Dombey Uno’s synthesized voice was so loud it hurt, so Brent started scurrying away from the speaker tower to preserve his eardrums.

The rules are easy as pie: You’ll be assigned one random other player in the area to track. If you manage to kill them you’ll get special bonus rewards, which could be a free supply drop or prestige points. The last one standing in this circle will win the coveted custom title of Master Assassin!” It emphasized that last one as if it were the most valuable part of the deal.

Brent groaned internally. He’d gained plenty of titles in Eternity Online, and they were mostly just a bunch of fancy words in front of your username, with a few providing some minor benefit. The supply drop sounded pretty good though.

But watch out, because someone has you as their target as well. Happy hunting, kids!”

The speaker went silent, and some text in the same font as the status windows appeared at the top of his vision:

Assassinating: Snello

Distance: Far

Underneath the text was a simple red compass arrow, presumably pointing in the direction of “Snello”, his quarry.

Brent resumed walking through the town, pondering this new occurrence. It was the closest thing to an actual quest that he had seen so far. The objective seemed quite simple: kill one person. But rather than some NPC or monster, Brent had a good feeling that Snello was another player. A living, breathing, thinking human being that could adapt to what he did and react in unpredictable ways.

In any case, it was just a shower thought. Brent hadn’t killed a single other player since his arrival on this island, and it didn’t seem like that was going to change anytime soon. Even if he was inclined to go the distance to hunt down Snello(and he wasn’t really, unless he got really desperate), his current situation wasn’t very conducive to doing so. His gun still had no ammunition, so that left what, the baseball bat? If Snello saw him coming before he closed to melee range they could just shoot him, and it would be like the sniper all over again.

Besides, there was the fact that someone was probably hunting him too. The hairs on the back of Brent’s neck stood up, and he looked around nervously. They could be approaching him at this very moment, following their own compass arrow. He wasn’t sure how he was going to deal with that.

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Character Class: Costanza.jpg

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vauntless

Bio: if only I had thorns like a thistle

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