Chapter 12 - Wabbit Season
Current Region: Tumultuous Tundra
The lilting tones of Dombey Uno’s mechanical voice cascaded over the hills, through the woods and into the ears of Brent, Harry, Ray, and Karisma. It wasn’t as loud and obnoxious as it would be had they been standing right next to a loudspeaker, but it was annoying nonetheless.
“Oh great, what is it now?”
The source sounded quite far away, so everyone grew quiet and strained their ears to listen. There might be important information to pick up on.
“Gooood morning survivors, and welcome to Day 3 of Battleground Survival Legends! On Day 2, a total of: 15. Contestants got riggedy riggedy wrecked and are now dead. We need to pump those numbers up, those are rookie numbers! In regional news, the Circle of Assassins event is now over due to time running out, with no winner.”
The ‘Bounty’ tab disappeared from Brent’s view.
“What, no winner? Looks like you guys didn’t care about my special event.” It sounded sad, almost remorseful at this information. “But don’t worry, we’ll be doing something more fun next time!”
“Ta ta for now! OOH HOO HOO HOO!”
That appeared to be everything Dombey had to say for now.
“Well, I don’t have a target tracker anymore,” Brent reported.
“Yeah, I think we all lost ours,” Karisma replied. “So what is our next move?”
“Since we don’t have a reliable way of finding people, let’s get back to looking for ways to escape or finding the game’s organizers,” Harry responded.
“Okay, yeah, but where exactly do we go to do that?”
“I’m thinking we first get out of this tundra region, head to somewhere warmer. Preferably with water, so we can wash ourselves off.”
Harry looked at Brent, who despite having his wounds healed was still quite dirty.
“We could go back to the savanna,” Karisma suggested.
“That’s warmer, yeah, but it’s a long walk. Was there any water there?”
“There was a well in the town,” Brent recalled, “But it was pretty deep, and there was no bucket or rope to get the water out.”
Harry’s face lit up. “Oh! The water cooler back at that research station. It’s more of drinking water than washing water but it’ll do. It’s a bit closer, too.”
Brent sighed. “Look, if we’re being honest, I’m the only one who really needs to get cleaned up. We don’t have to do this right now. I can wait.”
“Nonsense! You deserve it, for trying to do the right thing when no one else would. I see you’re just about finished packing up,” Harry patted Brent’s backpack, “So let’s get a move on!”
“Wait, what are we going to do about the body?” Karisma asked. “We can’t just leave her there.”
Right, the body was still there. In most video games any corpses would just disappear into thin air if you waited long enough. But Brent had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen here.
Ray shrugged. “I mean, we don’t have any shovels or tools good for digging. Trying to give her a proper burial here would take forever, and we might not have that much time.”
Karisma nodded. “I was thinking that we burn the body.”
“A fire would create smoke. That might give away our position,” Brent mentioned.
“Um, we don’t have to stick around after we start the fire,” Karisma replied, “Although I would rather we stayed until it’s done, we can just leave right afterward. The fire will do the work, no time lost.”
“Eh, I’m fine with it,” Harry said. “Anyone got a match?”
“Nope, something better.” Karisma took out a large metal tool that resembled a safety pin. “Spark lighter. Picked it up from the station.” She gave it a squeeze, and indeed bright sparks did fly out of the metal cup at one end. “It’s kind of weird they’d have something old fashioned like this instead of a gas or electric lighter, but it’s perfect for our situation.”
“Oh, nice.” So there had been something useful among all the lab equipment strewn about. And Brent had just gone straight for the chests. It seemed real world experience still counted for something in this world with video game mechanics, something the others had a lot more of than him.
Come to think of it, he was probably the youngest one here, wasn’t he? He wasn’t sure about Karisma but Harry and Ray definitely had several years on him at the least. In the light novels, if multiple people were transported they would all be around his age.
Well, compared to everything else that hadn’t gone as he had expected, this was relatively minor.
There was ample wood and kindling to be found among the trees, and pretty soon they had a small pyre built around Snello. Karisma knelt down and shed some sparks onto it, and after a couple tries the fire took and a small blaze rose up around the body.
“I guess if you have any last words to say, now would be the time,” she announced. “But I mean, we didn’t know her so it’s okay if you don’t.”
Brent did have a few words: “I’m sorry. I wish things could have been different.”
Then, as one, they turned and started walking back to the station, smoke billowing into the sky behind them.
Brent glanced at the interface message. The number of survivors had gone down by 2 or 3 since he’d last checked, Snello probably being one of those. Little more than half of the original number remained.
It was an otherwise uneventful trek back to the research station. The air inside the orange dome where they’d slept was still lukewarm, but that warmth continued to slowly seeping out, and it was inevitable that the temperature would reach equilibrium with the outside within a day or so.
With a little help, Brent detached the jug from the water cooler unit and brought it over to the dome with the bathroom, along with a small bucket. There were a few shower stalls but they were nonfunctional so Brent just stood in one and doused himself with the bucket. This time he’d made sure everyone kept a wide berth so they didn’t walk in by accident while he was undressed.
He was able to scrub himself off reasonably well, but couldn’t get the stains out of his clothes, so he ditched them and changed to a “fresh” set of the cargo shorts and one of the shirts he’d picked up. It wasn’t suited to the surroundings, but hopefully they’d be traveling to a different biome soon anyway.
He couldn’t ditch one thing though: the armor. Besides the cosmetic damage, there was a hole where the rifle bullet had punched through. He checked the stats:
|Armor - Level 1
|Reduces incoming weapon damage by 20%|
It had lost some durability, though this didn’t seem to have any effect on the damage reduction. He wondered what the durability was on Ray’s vest which had probably seen more use.
He donned the vest and headed over to the big orange dome in the center of the station.
“All good?” Harry asked. Brent gave him a thumbs up.
“Great,” Harry said. “We were just having a chat about our next destination. North is definitely out of the question, as that’s where that halo thing is. Ray suggested heading over to that volcanic region south of here.”
Brent gulped. That would certainly be warmer, but…
“Yeah, there’s not much point in staying in the Tundra or Veldt,” Ray added, “We’ve already searched most of these areas for loot and survivors. Sure, it looks kind of dangerous, but maybe that’s discouraged others from going there, leaving all the good stuff for us.”
“Oi, don’t we want to find more survivors though?” Harry asked.
“Not if they’re trying to kill us.”
“Well we won’t know if they are or not unless we meet them.”
“If they are, I don’t want to meet them.”
“Please, not this again,” Karisma sighed. “Let’s just go to the next area over to the west.”
Brent checked his Map overlay and saw that the area was blank, unexplored. “But we don’t know what kind of environment it is.”
She shrugged her slim shoulders. “Then we walk over to the border and take a look. If, god forbid, we see that it is somehow more dangerous and inhospitable than an active volcano, then we can go south.“
No one could really argue with that.
“But before we head out, let’s have some breakfast,” Harry said. “I’m feeling a tad peckish.”
“What? We already had breakfast,” Ray pointed out.
Harry nodded with a good natured smile. “We’ve had one, yes, but what about second breakfast?”
Ray made a confused face, while Brent and Karisma’s faces instantly lit up in turn.
“I don’t think he knows about second breakfast,” Brent said.
“Haha, you know it!” Harry crowed.
What a man of culture. Brent made finger guns and Karisma gave him a high five.
Ray remained confused. “I don’t get it. Wouldn’t that just be lunch? I mean, I’m not opposed to the idea of eating, but…”
The four of them sat down to eat the usual fare of dry pre-packaged foods, over which Brent explained the quotation and the classic novel it had come from to the clueless, uncultured Ray. Admittedly Harry and Karisma had only seen the movies, but still.
After finishing, they set off from the station once more into the snow. Brent took the opportunity to check his status on the way:
|Weapon||M870 Shotgun (5/5)|
|Helmet||Biker (Level 1)|
|Armor||Police Vest (Level 1)|
|Backpack||Camper Pack (Level 2)|
And now for his inventory:
2-4x variable ACOG
Shotgun shells (19)
Sniper rifle stock
7.62mm ammo (30)
Tactical Combat Knife
Monstrous Energy Drink (2)
Extended magazine [SMG, Level 2]
Great Valley Mix Bar (8)
Baked Beans (3)
Barrel stabilizer [LMG, Level 1]
Green Triangle Sights
.357 Magnum Ammo (6)
5.56mm Ammo (30)
.22 LR Ammo (30)
.357 Magnum revolver (6/6)
Frag Grenade (2)
Smoke Grenade (1)
Hm, it was getting kind of long. If only there was some way to… aha! Brent found a filter button which opened up a list of item categories:
Well, that certainly helped narrow things down.
As the group pressed on, they made sure to steer clear of where they had burned Snello’s body, a few puffs of smoke still lingering in the air above.
Motion caught his eye. “Hold on, I see something.” Brent peered through his scope. “Ah, it’s just a rabbit.” It had a light gray coat though it was still somewhat visible against the snow.
“It’s not… a Dombey rabbit, is it?” Karisma asked.
Brent shook his head. “No, just a regular one.”
“Hm.” Ray looked around. “Doesn’t seem like there’s anyone nearby. Uh. Anyone mind if I hunt it down? I can probably do it in one shot.”
Karisma nodded. “Fine with me. Thanks for asking.”
“Yeah.” Ray took aim. “Alright, I’m gonna need a little bit of peace and quiet. Don’t bother joining in Holmes, you’ll just be interfering.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, mate.”
There was a moment of silence as everyone watched. Ray stood stock still, the barrel of his rifle moving ever so slightly as it tracked the animal’s movement. After a minute or so, the rabbit paused on an incline.
Seeing this, Ray breathed in, breathed out, then pulled the trigger.
Crack! Almost too fast for the eye to see, the rabbit was knocked to the ground, it’s legs sticking into the air. They twitched a bit, then stopped moving.
“He got it,” Brent verified. He checked the corner of his view, half expecting to see a kill callout with something like “Ray [Sniper Rifle] Rabbit”, but there was none.
“Yes!” Ray pumped a fist, elated. “See, I told you guys I could do it.”
The four of them jogged over to where the rabbit fell, and confirmed it was dead, a neat hole in the side of its head where Ray’s shot had pierced it.
Brent stared. The rabbit’s head was such a small target at such a distance. If Ray had been that sniper who attacked him back at the vending machine, Brent would never have been able to escape.
“And in one shot too. Nice job, mate!” Harry clapped Ray on the back.
“Thanks. It was a bit tricky as I’m not used to shooting animals.”
As they celebrated, Ray picked the rabbit up by a leg. It was very soft and drooping, lacking the energy and tension it had in life.
Harry nodded. “Alright, I guess we can skin it, and chop it up for meat. Anyone got a knoife?” The way he said knife was just on the edge of intelligibility while sounding totally endearing.
As a matter of fact, Brent did have one in his backpack. He pulled it out. “Yeah, I’ve got one here. Are you gonna do it?”
“I guess so, thanks.” Harry took the knife and started sizing up the rabbit.
Brent had a thought. “Wait, hold on. How long is it going to take?”
“Dunno, I’ve never really done this before. Can’t be too hard to figure out.”
The boy gazed around nervously, spurred by his memory of the sniper. “Let’s not do it out in the open. Too exposed.” The trees were especially sparse in this area.
“Eh, I won’t be stirring up a racket or anything, I think it’ll be fine.”
“I mean, if you make a mess you might get blood and stuff everywhere, and people could track us by the trail.”
Harry’s eyebrows raised. “Oh, hm. I didn’t even think about that.”
“Damn, where did you grow up, to know that sort of thing?” Ray remarked.
Well, the Blood Hunter subclass in Eternity Online had this special ability that Brent liked to use a lot, which wounded an enemy so that it would leave a trail of blood behind it that increased your character’s movement speed towards it. But Brent chose not to explain this as it would ruin the aura of mystery and danger that now surrounded him.
“We are almost to the border,” Karisma said, looking into the air where presumably her Map was displayed. “I kinda want to see what the next region is like. Maybe it’s a tropical beach.”
“Fair dinkum. Suppose I’ll just hold onto the critter until it’s time for dinner, or ah, fifth breakfast as it may be,” Harry joked.
Ray groaned. “There’s a fifth one?”
“Anyway, here’s your knoife back.”
Brent stashed away the knoife while at the same time Harry stashed the rabbit in his own backpack.
He felt like Harry should have done something with the rabbit carcass like wrap it up instead of just dropping it into his bag, but he wasn’t sure what. It would probably be fine. Probably.
After another few minutes of walking they reached the western edge of the Tumultuous Tundra, the telltale giant land-stitches running across the ground.
The snow started letting up some distance before them, and on the other side of the stitches they saw:
A field of green grass, the height of a freshly mowed lawn.
A few leafy trees, and further up was... a transplanted section of a typical suburban neighborhood? There was even a small soccer field in the center.
A breeze blew over, warm and inviting.
“Oh. Well that’s not bad at all,” Brent said, eager to get out of the cold.
Karisma crossed her arms under her breasts. “And you wanted to go to the volcano, Ray?”
Ray shrugged. “Sure, it looks nice, but chances are high that we’ll run into other people and have to fight them.”
“That’s the idea, minus the fighting part,” Harry said. “Let’s go!”
He strode forward, and the others followed.
No sooner had they passed the stitches that the sound of gunshots suddenly filled the air.