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©02 The Media Desk

The BOOK of theHunter

ch 36

     Evidently Cliff of the Bastor design team hadn't been as honest as he could have been with me. And furthermore, he must have remembered a lot more than he let on. And kept some notes of his own about the project he had worked on to boot. Because in my real mail the other day a package came to me with my name as Jimbo Hunter.
     "Never call me again." The hand written note said.
     Inside was hand drawn diagrams, a cassette data tape with a carefully printed label, and a whole pile of notes and descriptions. But the most intriguing of all of it was a note written in different handwriting on a 3x5 card.
     'I want to talk to you. Tom.' On the back was an offshore web site address.
     There is an advantage of having unlimited access to one of the largest private computer networks in the country.
     Besides having a machine at hand that could read the old tape and copy it to a disk. I could issue myself my own adult access ID number from my own authorization service, and make it stick.
     Whoever Tom was, his web site wanted all sorts of clearance to get in. I entered my name and number and it checked to make sure I was of age, then it wanted a credit card number promising to not bill me. OK. Then it wanted to verify my email address before it'd let me in, finally it sent a communications packet to my email account.
     All this and I had yet to see anything of interest except a flag I thought looked like the African country that won the Marathon in the last Olympics.
     I registered as Jimbo Hunter and picked my user ID as theHunter, of course. The assistant Webmaster was listed as Tommy Betnor. I sent him a simple email wanting to chat and exchange news of a mutual friend, Cliff from Virginia.
     I left my game account email address for him to respond to and said I could make myself available to join him in an on line chat almost anytime he wanted.
     The rest of the day I did work type stuff for a change and responded to a request from the design section for a list of monster names from a game series. They had run out of new names for them and were going to start recycling them with prefixes like mega- and super- attached.
     The thought of a Mega Turbo Super Giantore coming at me when I was out of ammo and reduced to a big stick and wishful thinking was almost humorous. But I'm sure I wouldn't think it was in the middle of the game.
     I left for home that afternoon still waiting word from Tom.
     After dinner I was setting myself up in the space trading game for the final battle before the next scheduled rebang. These things were always a bloodbath of general gratuitous violence and mayhem. It was one of the best things about the game and the reason some of the players stayed in the thing for six months at a time.
     The tournament game I was in ran for ninety days at a stretch and was populated by careful traders and serious strategists that had ponied up the ten bucks to get in. It wasn't any fun at all, and I was beginning to think that the reason was that at the end of the best of five series, the top players were going to get real cash and prizes. Whereas the open game was loaded with maniacs and people who fancied themselves intergalactic pirates or Mafioso's getting ready to grab as much territory as they could in a final push to win just for the heck of it.
     I wasn't worried about loosing my central fortress area, if anybody tried to get in, they could get in just fine. But they may never get back out. I smiled as I watched my ship fly in with an enemy cruiser in hot pursuit.
     Cartel7: Hey! I can't get out! That was a one way warp!
     theHunter: No kidding. Welcome to the Hole.
     Cartel7: I need help here guys. Ben. Svelt.
     Cartel5: You're in his Trap? Been nice playing with you.
     Cartel7: Come on Ben, help me out.
     Cartel2: don't do it Ben
     theHunter: See ya around.
     Cartel7: Where you going?
     theHunter: Home.
     Cartel7: I can't even transport myself out, I'm stuck. At least blow me up so I can come back tomorrow.
     theHunter: Maybe later.
     Cartel2: I told you before- you mess with theHunter bad things happen
     Bishop42: That why I make sure he stays on my side.
     Cartel7: Come on Bishop, tell him to kill me so I can get out of here.
     Bishop42: He's not playing on my corp in this game. He's gone off solo.
     Chills ran down my spine. Of course he knew about my digging into the 81 mess. The Bishop could have been psychic the way he knew things. That and he knew I didn't like having these characters running around with grudges the size of Mt. Rushmore and weapons that were off the scale.
     theHunter: I keep you up to date on my travels, who I talk to and stuff, when there's something to tell. So far, I don't know anything new worth talking about.
     Bishop42: I hear there's a line to a totally new and unsecured sector.
     Cartel7: That's all nice, but I'm setting here flatfooted. Somebody blow me up so I can get out of here.
     theHunter: Stop whining.
     Cartel7: I am not whining.
     Cartel2: You are so.
     Cartel7: He's got a gravity well in here that's off the scale, I want to get out so I can kick his butt and I can't.
     Bishop42: You'll get over it.
     theHunter: Scan the sector.
     Cartel7: There's two others trapped in here.
     theHunter: One of them is Salvadore, he's been in there about a week.
     Bishop42: Since the game is winding down, it might be a good idea to give all the players an equal chance.
     theHunter: An equal chance.
     Bishop42: Even those outside the corps.
     theHunter: If I can do it on my terms.
     Cartel2: That's the way he always does everything.
     Bishop42: Exactly.
     >>NOTICE FROM MISSION CONTROL: theHunter launched a cobromite torpedo into an unknown sector.
     Cartel2: Translation, goodbye 7.
     >>NOTICE FROM MISSION CONTROL: Cobromite detonation predicted, T-minus five seconds.
     Cartel7: S***T! It's in here!!!!!!!!!!!
     Bishop42: It would seem Ken is about to leave the game well basted.
     >>NOTICE FROM MISSION CONTROL: Cobromite detonation in sector 17625. Three traders were vaporized. Their ships are now drifting out of control.
     theHunter: I've got some email to read. Catch you all later.
     Bishop42: Give my regards to that new player.

     I logged off wondering exactly how much the Bishop knew about what I was doing.
     More than likely he had my email siphoned, my phone tapped, and knew how many bathroom breaks I took at work.
     But he hadn't told me I couldn't pursue my current line of inquiry.
     The email was from Tom. He said I could meet him in their website chat room at nine PM my time. I noted it and erased the message. Then spent an anxious hour or so not doing anything in particular.
     I went back into the game and claimed the three drifting spaceships, looting them of their weapons and goods then cutting them adrift again. My computer beeped. It was nine O'clock.
     The chat room was busy. I was greeted like an old friend. Then I was paged by Tom to join him in private chat.
     From Tom: Turn on your security from your log in.
     I told him I'd have to get it from my other account.
     From Tom: No problem. I'll wait. Just come back in here when you're ready.
     It didn't take long. The self extracting file opened and set itself up as an overlay to the chat room. When I came back in it took a second before Tom turned his on, then there was a flashing bar across the top reporting two people in secure chat.
     From Tom: It's as private as the Net gets.
     From theHunter: So what's up? Oh, yeah, the Bishop sends his regards.
     From Tom: Tell him it's been a long Time since I've seen that name refer to somebody that's not a Catholic Priest. Although I do not think I have met the current edition.
     From Tom: So how much do you know about us?
     From theHunter: Enough.
     Was Tom an 81? How much should I confess to? How did he know the Bishop.
     I had enough questions to fill several chapters in a book, but no idea about how it would end.
     From Tom: So I gathered from Cliff. I've heard through the grapevine there has been problems with some of us. Mulie. Junio.
     From theHunter: Junio? Which one was that?
     From Tom: You met her in Canada. She was trying to get you guys to lead her to Hover for... well, some of the Bishop's old friends.
     From theHunter: She claimed to be Hover.
     From Tom: In any case, she's gone. And as far as I'm concerned, its good riddence. It's 81's like her and Mulie that gave us a bad name.

     So Tom was one. I thought back to Mulie when he was in the bakery, he seemed happy to simply be working on something ordinary, and he was doing a good job of it too. Maybe if I had let him alone, nothing would have happened. I said that.
     From Tom: No, all he wanted was revenge. They lied to us, but I got over it. I'm doing just fine thank you, and nobody bothers me over here. And I will never go back to the States.
     From theHunter: So just how many 81s were there?
     From Tom: You don't know?
     From theHunter: I have no idea.
     From Tom: Neither does anybody else.
     From theHunter: I know of at least 120 but I'd bet there's more.
     From Tom: A lot more, I was one of the first, and there was 30 in my class. They started a new bunch about every six months, for about four years. And the class I helped train had 50 in it.
     From theHunter: Which class was Mulie and Junio in?
     From Tom: I don't know, they weren't in the classes I saw.
     We talked for a long Time. Finally he agreed to meet with me, if I came to his place. But he wouldn't say exactly where that was. I got a fix on his ISP.
     From theHunter: Kenya? Or at least in that neighborhood.
     From Tom: Close enough. You get that far, I'll meet you.
     From theHunter: You'll spot me across the crowded hotel bar and send me a Scotch on the rocks.
     From Tom: Actually I prefer vodka straight.
     From theHunter: Maybe in a month or so. OK?

     Drawing a line down the middle of a sheet of paper I started a list of everything I wanted to know about the 81s and their missions, weapons, and just who had been holding their leash on one side.
     Then I started another list of what I did know about them.
     There was over 200 of them by anybody's estimate (I had picked the 120 out of thin air). Their weapons were built in the late 70's or early 80's with top level but off the shelf technology. They were sent overseas to be deep moles in other countries, and promised they could be changed back when they came home.
     And lastly, after the process to change them back was started, it was found out they couldn't be undone. Which set some of them off.
     And Hover. Whoever or whatever it was, was part of it, up to the White House level.
     My lists filled the page.
     I scanned it and emailed it to the Bishop, along with a good piece of the information from Cliff, and the highlights of my chat with Tom.

     Bishop42: Damn.
     theHunter: I've never heard you say that before.
     Bishop42: I just read your files. May I modify my previous order?
     theHunter: sure.
     Bishop42: When you have nothing better or worse to do, I want you on the case. Learn all there is about the 81's. I've put out some feelers from this end. But be careful. Certain parties are still squeamish about the subject.
     theHunter: with good reason.
     Bishop42: You do have another assignment on the way. It has nothing to do with the 81's.
     theHunter: That'll be refreshing.
     Bishop42: Thought it might.

     I logged off and went into the game. Cartel7 had mounted an attack on my home sectors, he had done quite a bit of damage before being destroyed.
     Should I let it go or levy revenge?

     I decided that theHunter doesn't believe in revenge on his own behalf.
     Against anybody.

End 36 book

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