Chapter View

Riding the Beast

Sweet Sugar

An Unlikely Threesome

Dinner and a Movie

Cabin Fever

Life and Times

An Unlikely Threesome - Part 2


Lost and Abandoned

Drinking From The Cup Of Love

The Dark Side

The Dark Side

Four hours in and the literally-captive audience has been subjected to show tunes, monologues, reenactments and even pantomiming. Unfortunate Gregg Gethard recovered from his incident with a taser only to open his mouth yet again… and yet again receives a nasty shock for his trouble.

As the “Let’s feel sorry for Lyle and his days of wandering and homelessness” scene ends, the stage and screen go black. Red turns away from the audience and faces the screen.

Red is alone in a dark room. A strange sound enters the room and a light begins to play across the midget’s short figure. He looks up and bows quickly. A blurred gray image appears on the screen.

RED: What is thy bidding, my master?

HACKER: There is a great disturbance in the CSWA.

RED: I have felt it.

HACKER: We have a new enemy – Stephen Thomas.

RED: Yes, my master.

HACKER: He could destroy us.

RED: He's just a boy. Merritt can no longer help him. If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

HACKER: Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?

RED: He will join us or die, my master.

Red kneels. The HACKER appears to pass a hand over the crouched midget and fades away.

Red turns to the audience and smiles broadly. It’s the first time the Hacker has revealed himself so openly – or revealed that he isn’t working alone.

A throne-like chair glides from backstage. Red climbs and sits as the John Williams-esque symphony music becomes even more broad and expansive. It’s obviously, mercifully, time for the finale.

As Red borrows from one of the oldest stage shows in the book, he disappears into the chair. The discarded ‘face’ of little Billy Cundiff lies on the seat. The time for masks is over.

The metal doors slide open as the guards escort the CSWA passengers to their cabins. Each one finds a note from Red, thanking them for attending the show, as if they had a choice. It also advises them that all ship-to-shore communication has been cut, and that if they should advise the regular passengers of their predicament, (again borrowing) “a disaster beyond your imagination will occur.”

And in case the first four hours wasn’t enough, the note advised, a replay is available on channel 57 on their in-cabin televisions.

The man known only as the “Hacker” watches from his hidden control center aboard the cruise liner. Masks, indeed. It’s a time for action. A time to reveal who is really in charge.

Three years. Just more than, actually. Three years for the seed of a plan to grow and bear fruit. Three years since bypassing the security on Merritt’s computer and beginning to gather all the information he needed. Through every bump along the CSWA way, through the return of Thomas, through the network changes and bumbles and stumbles of the beleaguered company, he continued to gather the bits and pieces he needed. Information on this contract or that business deal. And most importantly, that one document that would make it all worth it.

And now, the trap was sprung. The revelation of Red as his miniature rook. Ruben Ross as his knight. Pieces on a board, any one of which may need to be sacrificed to win the endgame. To capture the King. To force him into submission. And in doing so, to prove, once and for all…