Styx was hunting again. This was the part he enjoyed the most. The anonymity of the gaming world was refreshing. The spread of characters that he chose was intriguing. He didn’t tie himself down to only one. Oh no, he was not that stupid.
He had a few different identities so that he could make sure to remain anonymous. It didn’t matter who he was, his game personas were only part of the scenario.
But he knew to be careful because he didn’t want to be caught. Staying ahead of the authorities, of that tall, dogged looking man in his FBI jacket and that strange, slim woman in the baseball cap—that was his aim now and it added another layer of challenge.
There were certain stipulations in place when he chose a victim. Certain parameters that ruled some out, even though they looked like attractive targets. But he had to stick to what was logically possible. He was, at heart, an extremely logical man.
And there was definitely no shortage. Not yet, although in time, he guessed he would need to move to another hunting ground, one of the other big cities, perhaps.
Moving into the game, he seamlessly blended into one of the crowded areas.
He was becoming extremely familiar with this game. Not only did he know its workings well, but he had played it for hundreds of hours now. He had taken his time with the first victims and planned his strategy very thoroughly.
Also, he was finding he took intense pleasure in the choosing. It was a thrill all on its own.
Within the game, as he mastered its complexities and got to know this alternative world, he was learning the best places to hide, the places to lurk and sneak up on a victim, out of sight.
The capture phase was what he liked best about this phase of the game. Capture was not a moment but rather a process. A long, exciting process of selection and discovery, and then of tracking, tracing, and planning.
It was an adrenaline rush from start to finish. His own version of Bordercross, he thought with a laugh, staring around his well-equipped study. His own, advanced version of the game.
Today, he was in the very heart of the game.
He was still in the inner city of this virtual world, but he’d left the cool, chic bars and clubs for the streets of a market. The stalls that were selling bright, colorful merchandise were leaping out at him with their bright pink strawberries, their shiny mangoes, and their green vegetables that were as fresh as if they’d been plucked from the ground this morning.
There were other areas in the game he enjoyed too. The concert venue had been where he’d targeted one of his victims, loving the way she’d danced.
His first one had been on the streets, walking in the public areas of the game, interacting with the other players. A friendly, sociable character—in the game, at least.
His third one had been more mysterious, someone who was more of a viewer and a watcher. She hadn’t seemed to play actively in the game at all and in fact, had seemed a little out of sorts. But something about her had drawn him to her, and from that moment, with the other requirements in place, their meeting had been preordained.
Styx had mastered the ability to view a crowded area fast. He knew where he was going, and he wasn’t hampered by the slow movements of the characters nor by the crowding of the market.
He was looking for names and avatars that appealed to him, that caught his eye. It gave him a thrill to think that their life or death might depend only on whether they were lucky enough—or, of course, unlucky enough—to attract his attention at exactly the right time.
He could be anyone. He could be anyone that he wanted to be.
He was looking for the most exciting and the most appealing victims. The ones who would make the game more interesting and make his victory more satisfying.
There was a flash of red hair.
He turned that way, instinctively, and saw a pretty girl with a body like a pin-up model. She was walking along, swinging her hips confidently.
But he’d had a confident victim. He wanted to push on, look for someone different, someone who was unlike the others. There was no point in repeating an experience. He wanted to push himself, seek what was new, seek what he knew would give him an even greater thrill.
This was the game. The reward was the capture. The pleasure was in the chase.
It was a game within a game. And he planned to play for a long time, judging from the number of victims he had left to choose from.
Like, for instance, the woman with the pink and white outfit, who was moving slowly through the crowd, one hand clutching a folder.
In the perfect chill of silence, he watched her from a distance, using his enhanced vision to get a better look.
This was a character that still had a grainy look to it, as if it hadn’t been upgraded yet. He was sure she would do it soon when she realized the lack of capabilities that resulted from failing to upgrade. He smiled as he thought about what that upgrade would give him.
She had pale hair, cut in a bob like a 1940s movie star, with strands of it that kept escaping her cap and falling across her face. She was wearing pink lipstick, and from what Styx could see of her profile, she had a generous mouth with a wide lower lip.