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V5 Third Announcement
I'm confused! I thought rolls were staying the same as last time?

In fact, I'm so confused I'm giving you all some cold, hard cash.

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Hollow Stars
Well shit, that's why the voice was familiar. The island seemed to like throwing his past in his face, didn't it? After all, she might have had half the forest stuck in her hair and on her clothes, plus looking like she'd been bawling her eyes out, but he could pick Amy Bachelor out of most crowds. That was why he'd gone after her all that time ago, and even though she looked like hell, even though he'd only just stepped out from the corridors and onto the concrete surrounding the pool, he had her pegged on sight. Sure, that striking, deep-red hair was fake, but she was still hot, and for a couple moments his eyes lingered on some very... prominent parts of hers that were definitely the real deal.

...Damnit, Max, focus. She was telling him to fuck off, telling him like he wanted to tell Becca, and he wasn't idiot enough not to know why she might not be happy to see him. Like it was his fault she wasn't grown up enough to stop being so damn annoying, and didn't know how to keep interesting after all those months. It'd been really fun while she was still worth the trouble, then he'd let her down light and never heard from her again. Hadn't she already moved on? He'd seen her all over that one football player during prom, the one who also punched people in the face for fun. Brute.

He wanted to say whatever, that was all the past, worthless, pointless to think about. It wasn't though, not when a girl lay dead in a record store over arguments from more than a year ago. Poor Amy was shaking and stammering, and he finally noticed how those pretty green eyes kept flicking to the steel in his hand. He almost heard the Anaconda whisper, oh-so-gently.

Good, it said, let her fear. Make her grovel and then tear her down. Had it said similar to Becca, in that store? If it had, it betrayed her in the end, and he wasn't going to become Becca. He strode forwards a bit more, until he came to a beach chair not far from Amy and the pool's edge, hand with bag up and gun lowered to point at the ground.

"You don't have to say anything, not going to hurt you," he tried. "Just gonna put my stuff down and sit for a minute, okay?"

Hollow Stars
(I was informed the thread needed to be restored? I dunno, I'm just copy-pasting my old posts because better safe than sorry.)

(Max Sawyer continued from Hanley's Bazaar)

This had once been civilisation. People who mattered once came here to get away from everything in the real world, without forgetting there was a real world. Here they could relax in comfort and luxury, on an island all to their own if you could ignore the little people in their town up the road. Anything they wanted was here to be taken, though not without proper payment of course - they weren't brutes. A nice little kingdom for lords of a world that had done away with thrones and crowns.

No more. Max's day had been spent in the forest, that maze of green that ate up most of the island, moving ever on after the pointlessness of his last stop. Better to meander in the endless rows of trees, the ups and downs and twists, than for someone to get the drop on him. He'd first seen the hotel when he came to the top of a slope, steep, obfuscated by foliage and littered with snaring roots and ditches waiting to snap an unsuspecting ankle. It was close, with its high walls jutting over a break in the treeline like some ancient fortress overseeing all for miles around for its masters.

No more would anyone reside in those halls without blood and death, and as its windows stared out like lidded eyes mourning that fact, every muscle in Max's body yearned to traverse the downward slope and get inside. He could sleep in a real bed, have an actual roof over his head, search the place to see if any food was left worth eating, live like an actual goddamn human being even if just for a few hours. It called to him, and the urge to answer dug to his very bones, to the point he felt pain. He even took a couple steps down the hill...

And then remembered it was a danger zone. Try to live like a real person and you explode. His swearing had been brief but cut through the air like gunfire as he trudged back up, each step made like it was a stomp down on the face of the smug bastard who'd put him here with this exploding leash. He was a Sawyer, not some pit dog meant to be eviscerated for some punk's amusement. Screw the whole lot of them.

There was another campsite on the top of the slope, smaller than the one he had left earlier in the day but serviceable. The tent was a sad green dome of fabric held up with metal posting, but it actually had enough room to fit him, and the bedroll, left here for God knew how many years, only looked a little eaten by insects. There was even a pit outside for a fire, which seemed on the face of it a bad idea but would probably be necessary. Exposure was exposure after all, wasn't it?

Somewhere in there he'd elected to stay the night in that camp on a hill, reasoning that the day was getting long and guaranteed defensible shelter was better than more aimless wandering, and that he wasn't going to sleep on a damn floor again. He sat down for a tasteless dinner of bread, water and a bit of protein bar, just like breakfast and lunch. His stomach groaned, or maybe it was just him at having to shovel that crap down his throat again. What he wouldn't do for a nice, grass-fed steak, a glass of red wine, hell if this kept up he'd settle for a goddamn pizza, not that he'd tell anyone that.

He had never considered himself a complainer, too busy being a doer, but the air around that camp filled with his displeasure as he finished dinner and realised the fire still had to be built. He muttered swears as he dug out the lighter, red like the blood it helped spill; he cursed as he went up and down the hill finding branches big enough to make a fire worth the name; he mumbled to himself about how much of a pain it was as he sparked the lighter and held it to his bounty... and cursed it out like a production manager before deadline when it failed to do anything. The tirade about the useless goddamn wood went on as he went for leaves, grass, smaller twigs etc. so there was tinder and kindling, or whatever his more camping-savvy teammate had been talking about that one game.

It took more sparks and more swearing, but eventually something caught, and he sat back as spark turned to ember turned to roaring flame, lighting up the top of the hill for anyone near. Now half the forest would know he was here, but fuck it, he'd know they were too, and hear them coming all the same.

He didn't want to have to think about that. Why had he even wanted to go to Disneyland? He could've done that any day of the week, and had a nicer room all to himself and maybe Zoe if she wanted to come. Damn, Zoe... where the hell was that girl? Why, a part of him asked, had he taken the better of two days to even give her a second thought?

The next couple hours had been spent at the fire, thinking about Zoe, friends and a home he might never see again. To give himself something to do, he'd finally set his and Becca's packs down and moved everything in hers he wanted or needed to his. No sense in carrying the extra weight. All around him was quiet, bar the sounds of the forest and the occasional distant gunfire, and eventually his eyes grew heavy and his ears dull to the world that had become a void around the campsite and its flame. Gun still in hand and bag over his shoulder, he ducked into the sad little tent and settled onto the bedroll.

It wasn't much, but that night's sleep had been somehow more comfortable than the last.


Morning brought a dead fire, forgotten dreams and a back less sore than yesterday into Max's life, and he was still emerging from the tent and rubbing sleep from his eyes when his ears filled with the terrorists' mechanical squealing. That insufferable voice picked up right where it left off yesterday, adding twelve names to the butcher's bill while making cracks about equal opportunity and lauding praise on the killers. He even gave doughnuts and milk to that one girl, Summer, the one who slaughtered that annoying bitch Naomi.

Also, "points for ingenuity"? Fuck you, Announcer Guy. Fuck you. Even sweet little Yukiko, that old friend from innocent days gone, had joined in the action, and imagining her pushing Stacey - a girl he would've desperately wanted on his arm back home if not for her being so fake - to her death had him walking down the hill in a haze. Everyone was dangerous, but then, he should know the announcements weren't always what they seemed, shouldn't he? They said nothing about how he'd been about to get his brains blown out after all.

The walk took longer than it felt like it should, and he led with his gun as the trees broke away and he went up the little road leading to civilisation, eyes darting back and forth. This area'd just stopped being a danger zone, so he doubted anyone was here, but he'd not been very lucky these past couple days and bullets flew faster than men could run. Yet mercifully, no swift death came, no challenge or vengeful friend of Becca's. Nothing so much as peeped until he reached those marvellously welcoming doors and slipped inside.

The lobby he stepped into settled like its last guests had only checked out yesterday. Hardly a dust mite had fallen, and not a thing seemed out of place - he almost expected a receptionist to show up at the desk and give him a key. Jesus, was that onyx? And these floors, scuffed up by the forest as they were his shoes almost didn't seem worthy of the marble. All the flowers were dead in their vases, the fireplace would never come to life again and there was a dread stillness to the air, but the beauty of the lobby hit him like a punch to the stomach and his legs, sore from days of constant walking and running, almost begged him to just throw himself on one of those white sofas and forget the island for a little while.

He just might have, if not for the fact in such a silent place any noise can carry for ages. He'd been about to sling his bag onto a sofa when a woman's crying flew through the corridors and lighted upon his ears. His hairs stood back up and he found himself following the noise, accompanied by his echoing footfalls and that familiar crying. It took him from room to room, each not as grand as the lobby but beautiful in its own right, but fear in his gut and steel in his hand didn't let him stop and look, urged him on. Someone'd beaten him here, and he'd already let his guard down once. At least make sure there's not going to be a problem.

Eventually his steps started leading him down a corridor to the outdoor pool, indicated by signage, and the crying woman got ever louder. This was the spot, no doubt. He steeled himself, gripped the Anaconda tighter, and thought to call out.