Chapter 59

“Pitch black. Of course it’s pitch black. Why would I hope for anything different?” Alice grumbled as she was dropped into a room within the labyrinth. She groped around the walls slowly, finding that the room was blocked off from every direction except for a single exit in the form of an open archway. She floated up a few feet and checked the ceiling too. Whatever opening had allowed her entrance had sealed up immediately afterwards. On the plus side, though, the ceiling were high. Alice was estimating around ten feet. The doorway didn’t extend all the way to the ceiling, but if she only had to lower herself to pass through doors that still might work out to be a pretty good deal.

“Yellow weapon and yellow bracelet. Yeah, I’ll be out of here in time to get breakfast,” she said, talking to herself in an effort to keep focused. It was disorienting to be in this much darkness. Not even her bracelet gave off any light, which, given that it had a glow system incorporated, was odd. Still, she should probably be thankful that it wasn’t exuding light. It would have stood out like a beacon in this environment. At least now she could hug the ceiling and have a fighting chance of lasting.

*          *          *

Mary wasn’t all that put out by the darkness. As soon as she landed she opened her mind, stretching the perception until she could hear the thoughts of nearly every other student in the labyrinth with her. After a few moments of careful hunting, she located the thoughts of the person she was looking for and began making her way to him. It was slow going without any source of light, but Mary could feel his direction. Plus, she was well aware of any others that were approaching so she steered clear of them.

It wasn’t that Mary didn’t plan on fighting; it merely wasn’t beneficial for her, yet. She moved quickly and carefully through the corridors, feeling the occasional student grow close to her and listening to the grinding shifts as new doors opened while others closed. She was still listening to everyone’s thoughts and was accumulating some very useful facts about how the labyrinth functioned; however, at no point did she deviate from her plan or alter the goal of her path.

At long last she reached a closed door. She felt around the side and located the switch. As the door slid open she was temporarily blinded by the deluge of light assaulting her eyes. After a few seconds to adjust and a myriad of blinks she was finally able to see again.

“Hey there, stranger,” she said, greeting the room’s other inhabitant. “Need a hand?”

*          *          *

Roy was on a one-man rampage. So far he’d taken down a stretchy guy and some weird chick with dolls. Now he was hot on the trail of someone else, though whom was anyone’s guess in the damn darkness. He’d been lucky and found a lighted room to fight the first two in, but after twenty minutes of waiting he’d given it up and started roaming the corridors, looking for more prey.

Roy could hear the footsteps ahead of him and didn’t bother to disguise his own. If whoever was in front of him was lucky enough to have a red taser they still wouldn’t be able to pinpoint his location fast enough to stop him. Instead he barreled forward, forgoing all manner of stealth in favor of a full on charge. He heard the steps in front of him quicken as well and the chase was on.

Roy’s senses were above a normal human’s range but they were far from the most powerful thing about him. Still, it was enough to keep track of the person running away from him. They were crafty, moving around corners and doubling back down corridors, but they weren’t good enough to beat Roy. As far as Roy was concerned, no one held that distinct honor. With each turn he was drawing closer and closer, and as he rounded one last corner, he was positive he was almost right on top of prey.

As Roy swung around the corner a blast hit him square in the chest, slamming him back against the wall. His head swam and he saw stars as he tried to pull himself back up. His efforts were interrupted by a small jolt to his neck. It wasn’t enough to incapacitate or even annoy him. It was only enough to cause his bracelet to glow white in the darkness and emit a small, sad beep.

“And another one bites the dust,” said a cheery female voice at his side.

“You ambushed me,” Roy said accusingly.

“Don’t be silly. I trapped you. That’s way more effort that a simple ambush. Thanks for playing though.”

A small green arrow appeared on the bracelet, pointing to the left. As Roy stood up and angled himself in that direction the arrow moved as well, turning until it was facing forward.

“What’s your name?” Roy asked.

“Amber,” said the voice in the darkness.

“Amber,” Roy said, tasting the name and memorizing its flavor. “That was a hell of shot. You and I will have to spar one day when this is all over.”

“Sounds fun. You bring the muscles, I’ll bring the concussions,” Amber said.

*          *          *

Vince turned another corner and entered into a new room. It was as dark as the others, but this one had the added adornment of muffled breathing in the corner. Vince’s hand tightened around his weapon. He had a red taser, so theoretically he could take down anyone here, but if it was someone with real combat skill he’d be at a disadvantage if he gave his location away. Never in his life did Vince suspect he would be so thankful to all the times he and his father had snuck aboard a train at night or crept through town silently. Those experiences had taught him to shroud the sounds of his movements, and right now that was likely the only thing keeping the other person in the room from leaping.

Vince readied himself to take the offensive, he’d already prepared an attack plan as soon as he’d arrived in this endless black environment. Before he could strike, though, the other person took him completely by surprise.

“Vince?” The voice was very familiar, it only took Vince a moment to realize who he’d been on the brink of battling.

“Alex? Is that you?” Vince asked.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Alex confirmed.

“How did you know who I was?”

“Man, you guys always forget my power lets me sense others’ minds. We’ve hung out enough to where yours in familiar,” Alex explained.

“That’s... cool,” Vince said, only barely stopping himself from using the word “creepy” instead.

“Comes in handy,” Alex replied. “So... how are things?”

It dawned on Vince that neither of them were sure how to proceed from here. Yes, they had run into a friend, but this was still their test. They both needed to take down others while simultaneously surviving. Still, Vince didn’t know if he had it him to just coldly attack someone he considered a friend.

“Hey, Alex,” Vince said. “In all of Coach George’s ranting, did he ever say we couldn’t work together? I mean, if you and I wanted to team up with someone we trusted on the hopes of increasing our score, I don’t think that violates any of the test rules.”

“That’s true. He said survive and destroy. He never got specific about how we do it,” Alex agreed.

“I like that solution a lot better than us duking it out in the dark,” Vince said.

“You and me both. So we work together until we’re the only two left?”

“I think that would be a beautiful problem to encounter,” Vince said cheerfully. “Let’s get moving.”

*          *          *

Nick was the only one of the five to be dropped into a room that was lit when he arrived. Rather than leaving his cocoon of light, though, he sat down in the center of the room and began concentrating. Nick had known his plan the minute Coach George had explained the game to them. Nick was going to do nothing.

Well, nothing physically, anyway. Nick’s strategy was a focused, steady stream of luck geared that he hoped would keep him hidden. People were wandering around a maze with no sense of direction or idea where they were going. They were depending almost entirely on luck to guide them, and since Nick happened to hold some sway in that department, it should be guiding them anywhere else but to him.

Admittedly, it wasn’t the most ambitious of plans, but given the circumstances it would ideally ensure that he lasted into the final three survivors. The top head hunting positions were all still open, though Nick was under no disillusions that he’d ever had a shot at claiming one of those. Instead he put his efforts and power into making sure he stayed all alone in his little room for as long as possible.

It seemed to be working for a while, but then at once the door in front of Nick slid open. It was difficult to see outside; apparently it was pitch black in the next room over. Nick made no movement to get up from his seat. If someone had found him then they had found him, and if it was just the labyrinth being weird then he wasn’t going to interrupt his concentration. A few seconds after the door opened, though, a familiar voice came wafting in from the darkness.

“Hey there, stranger. Need a hand?”