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Spelunking
The fight did not go how Aaron had expected. Specifically, he was entirely unprepared for Tom and Phil to battle their way toward him. He didn't have enough time to duck fully out of view. Didn't really have time to do anything but get a few feet out of the way. He was standing right there, right next to the fight, with a front row seat as Tom actually managed to give Phil a good jab. The wounded boy toppled over, letting loose a cry, and hit his head on the ground. He stopped moving. Was he dead? Had Tom actually done it, actually killed someone? Had Aaron's plan worked?

Regardless of if it had, he didn't feel so good about things. All of a sudden, Tom wasn't a minor threat anymore. He wasn't a small deal. He was a full-on fighter, a potential killer, and, above all, within arm's reach of Aaron, still slightly illuminated by the distant glow of the flashlights. The gun was wobbling again. Breath in. Breath out. Stabilize. Aaron had the weapon pointed at Tom now. Had the other boy seen him? It was only a matter of time.

But... no, this was insane. Aaron couldn't shoot Tom. After all, the boy had just been defending himself. Only acting reasonably. No, they had to run. Tom was useful, that much was sure. But he was dangerous, too. There was too much to process. Just too much.

And then, Nick was there. He grabbed Tom, spun him, in the almost shadows, in the dark, and, for a second, Aaron's gaze locked with that of his ally. Aaron's gun was perfectly still, now pointed at Nick's head. Aaron could see the fear in Tom's eyes as Nick disarmed him. Could see so clearly, could imagine what would happen. It was simple. A flick of the trigger, a bang, Nick falls dead. No trouble. Certainly no morals keeping him from doing it. Nick was a murderer. Soon to be a double murderer, if he got his way with Tom. It came in a flash. Perfect clarity. Aaron knew exactly what he had to do.

He lowered his gun, shot Tom a shrug and a wink as Nick slammed his victim into the wall headfirst.

Crack.

Sorry, Tom. Looks like you're taking one for the team.

Aaron turned and started walking, heading back out of the caves, back into the early morning, back to his team. The part of his team that hadn't abandoned him.

Crack.

Good thing Nick hadn't noticed Aaron yet. Good thing it was dark, and there was nobody there, nobody to see the smile slowly spreading over his face. Nobody to watch as he abandoned his erstwhile companion to the hands of a murderer.

Crack.

Sometimes, things did work out for the best, it seemed. What Aaron had realized in that moment, that second when he could have pulled the trigger, could have saved Tom and removed a menace, was quite simple. Tom was worth a hell of a lot more to the group dead.

Crack.

And, oddly, Nick was worth more alive. In a day, Nick would be announced as a killer. Tom as his victim. The group would be devastated. Well, maybe not, since Tom wasn't exactly the most popular guy in the world, but dammit, Aaron would be devastated for them. He'd make them devastated. Make them angry. Make them want revenge, fear for their lives, imagine Nick Reid behind every corner, waiting to grab them if they left the safety of the group. Because, after all, it was true, wasn't it?

Crack.

In a manner of speaking, it certainly was. There were killers everywhere. Too many people had wandered off alone already. Aaron was willing to bet that at least one of the others who had declined his offer to team up—Francine, Rekka, Machine-Gun-Lily, the guy from the woods, and the stupid girl—had already been wasted. Likely more. They weren't playing this smart. Weren't going to have any hope of escaping. They deserved what they got. Just like Tom did. Tom had been a liability. A danger. A constant irritant. Aaron would've probably had to shoot him anyways. Nick had spared him the necessity, and at the same time, provided Aaron with a double helping of motivation for his team. A martyr and an enemy.

Crack.

Any good story began like that. Some terrible villain hurt the heroes, maybe killed someone important to them, and they banded up for revenge. Revenge was a fine goal. Of course, Aaron had already had his, letting Tom (the rebellious traitor) die. The others would be upset, though. They'd want to get back at Nick. Want to do something. Or, maybe it would just help them have the strength to see their escape through. Yes. That was how he'd play it. Tom hadn't been abandoned. He'd died heroically. He'd known that Aaron was their only hope. He'd died to protect his leader, loyal to the end, a shining example, had nearly turned the tide, but then cruel, villainous Nick Reid had taken his life. Yet, even then, he had held the killer, screaming at Aaron to run, to save the others, to tell the cameras that Tom loved his family.

Brilliant.

The story just needed a little verisimilitude. At the exit to the tunnels, Aaron knelt, and, gun still in his right hand, ready in case of surprises, he dipped his left index finger into the dirt. Rubbed it in his eyes, just a little. They stung, teared up, and he rubbed them clean again, smudging his face, tracing it with tear tracks and residue. Then, for a little color, he smacked each of his cheeks, hard enough to sting. Good. He would, of course, be back in control by the time he found the others—and just where were they, anyways? He'd left them some time ago—back to the calm, confident leader they expected, but he would have a quiver in his voice, seem sadder, perhaps nearly, but not quite, break down as he related the story of Tom's heroic end.

And nobody would dare question it, especially once the next announcements hit. Nobody would dare speak poorly of Tom, insult the memory of one who died to save another. For the rest of their stay, every time someone flinched, showed weakness, acted up, he'd just need to remind them of Tom's sacrifice, and ask them what their fallen compatriot would say.

Turns out, Tom had been the most valuable ally Aaron could have had.

((Aaron Hughes continued in Where Do You o From Here?))
((Post order change and GMing approved. Jennifer's keeping her slot in the post order.))

Away
Alrighty, guys. I'll be gone from tomorrow afternoon until Sunday afternoon. I strongly doubt I'll be able to post and stuff, but, since it's just 48 hours or so, I shouldn't disrupt things too much. All efforts will be made to have any time-sensitive obligations done by the time I go.

Spelunking
Of course, things got even worse. Jennifer watched as everything unfolded. Unlike in movies, it didn't move in slow motion. Even with the adrenaline rush that came from being this close to combat, Jennifer was barely able to tell what was going on. Phil yelled at the boy (Guthrie? His first name was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't quite conjure it to mind), telling him he wouldn't be hurting anyone, and also that he deserved to be attacked. Had Guthrie killed, then? Was Phil really protecting them? Or was this some sort of vengeance from before, for some forgotten schoolyard wrong?

Did it matter? Of course not. What mattered was that they were fighting, that Guthrie had a sword, that one of them was likely to be seriously hurt or even die. It was time to run, time to get clear. Time to find somewhere better. She couldn't, though. Couldn't abandon them to their fates. Couldn't just hear them on the announcements the next morning. She couldn't bear the thought that there had been a fight, a conflict, one that she could have stopped but had chosen not to.

The fight continued, Tom backing off, taking aggressive action with the sword. Nick was moving, inching closer. Was he going to try to break them up too? If he was, it would be better if she stayed back. Better if she didn't get in the way. Nick was stronger than her, almost certainly. He'd have a better shot at subduing one of the two. Of course, he also might get hurt. That wouldn't be fair at all, if Nick got wounded, or even killed, trying to stop two other people from murdering each other. Had he considered the possibility of his own injury? Was he prepared to take that chance, make that sacrifice?

Was she?

All of a sudden, Jennifer found herself frozen. Unable to decide. She couldn't run, but she couldn't move in to help either, not yet. She wasn't ready to die. She was weak and pathetic and cowardly, but she just couldn't put her life on the line here. Not with so much left to live for. Not with so much about the current circumstances unknown.

Like... what had happened to that other guy? He was gone, outside the light from her flashlight, and also Nick's. Had he stumbled down here by mistake, seen the conflict, and done the smart thing and ran? Or was he waiting until the dust settled, letting them eliminate some of his opposition before gunning down the survivors? No way to know. She had to just hope for the best.





Aaron had backed up even further, making sure to stay out of sight. It seemed none of the others had noticed him, or, if they had, they were too preoccupied to make anything of it. So now he had front row seats to this odd dance, where Phil growled something about protecting the others and lunged at Tom, and Tom slipped away, trying to bring his sword into play. Aaron was impressed with the way he handled the weapon. Tom clearly knew better than to slash around with a sword made for stabbing, and he also knew to keep his distance. He even managed the limited space of the tunnel fairly well. Aaron was quite glad that he was not the one facing the business end of the weapon.

He wondered at Phil's motivations. Clearly, the boy was playing Danya's game. Tom had done nothing to provoke him, nothing except be a clumsy oaf in the dark. Yet here, Phil was apparently ready to beat him silly, under the ostensible motive of protecting Nick and Jennifer. True, the two of them looked like they could use it, with Jennifer cowering in the background and Nick slowly making his way forward, looking, to Aaron, somewhat unsure.

All of a sudden, he realized that there was a very good chance that things were about to get incredibly ugly. Tom could come running down the tunnel, bumping into Aaron or leading pursuit to him. He could kill Phil, go crazy, and attack everyone nearby. Phil could kill him, then turn on the others. Jennifer could whip out some sort of surprise, stab the three boys from behind while they were distracted. The only certain thing was that the situation was incredibly dangerous.

All in all, it was a good time to be the most heavily armed person in the vicinity.

Aaron held up his gun, two handed, like the instructions had showed. He checked the safety. Off. The gun was fully loaded, which meant that, if push came to shove, he had twenty shots to remove all threats. He'd have to stay calm. The gun was trembling wildly in his hands, so he took a few deep breaths. He loosened his grip for a second, readjusted it. The wavering lessened. He wondered whether he should just open up now, maybe blow a hole in Phil's head. It would certainly mean Tom owed him one. Only thing was, he probably couldn't safely shoot past Tom. In fact, any shot in here could have easily hit any of the four down the tunnel from Aaron.

And, more than that, he found that he wanted to see Tom sweat a little, see how he did The boy had the advantage. He had the sword. Aaron could just step in if things got out of hand. If they didn't, if Tom killed Phil, well, his name would go up on the announcements. It would be the end of his stay in Aaron's group, and it would establish him as a danger. Aaron would slip out, unseen, and by the next day, his credibility would be completely restored, and Tom would be a fugitive. Yes. That would be best. If Tom just got beaten up a little, Aaron could bring him back, and maybe he'd have learned some respect, learned the value of a team. It seemed there was no way this situation could go poorly.

Besides, Aaron couldn't kill Phil because it was important that he not kill, period. He did not want to be on that happy morning broadcast, shown as someone dangerous to the entirety of his surviving class. It would, among other things, be sure to put Bounce on edge, and he needed her if his plan was going to work. Although...

He had a sudden temptation to just fire a couple rounds into Tom's back. The boy was an asshole. A traitor. Someone who had joined Aaron under a pretense of friendship, only to betray him, humiliate him, force his hand in various unpleasant ways. Back at school, Aaron would have given Tom a piece of his mind some time ago, and then avoided the boy. Probably found somewhere to be alone and seethe. He'd kept it together here because people were counting on him, because it was life and death, but Tom was a danger. He would continue to be a danger. And it would be so easy. The gun had a sensitive trigger.

No. Better to let Tom make a fool of himself. Aaron couldn't get his hands dirty. The future of their escape attempt depended on it, and he could subordinate his personal feelings to that. After all, no matter how problematic Tom was, he wasn't worth losing all credibility for.

September Mid-Month (Ish) Rolls
The time for playing cards is done and all.

Spelunking
For just those few moments, strange though they were, everything was alright. Jennifer wiped at Nick's face, cleaning it a little, and tried to change the dressings on his arm. She had no clue if she was doing things correctly, but she didn't seem to be hurting Nick, at least. He still looked awful. Nothing would change that, except perhaps time. Time, Jennifer realized, that he was unlikely to have. Most of them would be dead before long at all. Looking at Nick, she found it hard to imagine him as a corpse. He'd look the same, just... not move. Not talk, not breath, not think, not feel.

She'd be that way too. Couldn't be too long. She was no fighter.

She was about to say something, distract herself from her dark musings with words, when a much more effective diversion came around. A voice, from the darkness. Phil. Looking for people from the hockey team. A quick search of her memory. Phil. Ward. From what little she'd heard from her friends in the lower grades, he was a real jackass. What did that even mean anymore, though? If so many people, normal, sane people, could become so much worse, what was stopping someone like Phil from turning over a new leaf, showing newer, better colors?

Nick seemed nervous, on edge. He told Phil it was just the two of them, a bad move from a strategic point of view, but a good one in terms of trust. Thing was, Phil was still in the darkness. They couldn't know that he wasn't aiming a gun at them, ready to mow them down as soon as he knew they had no backup. Or, worse, maybe he had a whole team, a group of hockey players roaming the island and killing and looting everyone they came across. Groups were sure to form in this sort of situation, and not all of them would be positive.

"Um, no," Jennifer said. "I, uh, I haven't seen any of them. But, uh, if I... if I do, would you like me to, um, deliver a message?"

It seemed the polite thing to ask, given that she had requested the same in her last encounter. And she would share Phil's words, if he had any. She knew how it felt to be looking for someone, to be alone and scared.

All assuming, of course, that Phil didn't kill her on the spot.

And then, from nowhere, the shouts, the angered voice. Someone else. Was this it, then? Was Phil really here with an ally? Were she and Nick going to die? Though, the voice sounded upset at Phil. What was going on?

One thing was sure: If Jennifer was going to die, she wasn't going to get killed by an unseen assailant. Quickly, she ducked down, scooped up her flashlight, and flicked the beam on, pointing it at the sounds. The sight that met her was surprising. Phil, a short, tough looking boy, was who she'd thought, but he had blood on his shirt, and it was singed. Had he been on the announcements? Worse, behind him was another guy, thin, short black hair, carrying a sword. A sword. And it looked like he and Phil weren't together, and they both meant business, and she suddenly realized there was a good chance things were about to get unpleasant.

And then another figure rounded the corner, just a bit too far outside the beam of the flashlight for her to make him out completely, and Jennifer instinctively ducked back, pressing against the wall of the tunnel, wishing for something to hide behind. Wishing that she'd never come down here.





((Aaron Hughes continued from My Kingdom for a Plan!))

Aaron was in an absolutely awful mood. After their late night (or, more accurately perhaps, early morning) encounters in the woods, Tom had just kept moving, almost like he was trying to lose the group. Aaron would have been glad to have him gone, except for one little fact: Tom was a serious danger. He was a constant threat to Aaron's authority, way too independent for teamwork, and if he left like this, running off, it would look like desertion. That would imply dissatisfaction with Aaron's leadership, which would sow discontent and doubt, and, in the long run, tear the group to pieces and tank all of their chances at escaping.

So, when Tom had gotten far enough ahead that Aaron had been forced to decide between following him or sticking with his actually loyal partners, he'd shouted back to him that he was going after Tom, asked them to hold up for a bit and maybe get some rest, and taken off. He was going to bring Tom back. Drag him if necessary. Even if Tom immediately said he was through with them, threw a petty fit, and left. Aaron was sick of being ditched after Rekka, Francine, and Lily. He was done tolerating it. He had determined that, if anyone else quit the group, they'd be doing it on his terms.

He'd figured out how to load the gun, how to use it, sneaking glances at the instruction manual by flashlight during the walk. It had been his first priority. Better safe than sorry. Better prepared for anything. Better to have a credible way to get Tom to follow him if the other boy proved reluctant.

None of this, though, was the real reason for Aaron's annoyance. What had him most irritated, most on edge, had come courtesy of the announcements forty five minutes beforehand. Most of them had been fairly meaningless, or predictable. None of his friends had died. The only victim he'd known at all was Amber, that awful, vindictive girl he'd been forced to endure at the mall. One of the killers, though, was different.

Jacquard Broughten was a prime contender for the position of Aaron's least favorite member of the Bayview student body. She was a snide, pretentious bitch, a real killjoy too, and Aaron still wasn't over the incident at the gazebo. She'd mocked him, insulted him, made him look like a fool. It didn't grate so badly now, but Jacquard had shown before that she had it out for him, and now she was a killer. He wasn't surprised she'd play, but he'd been hoping her bum leg would stop her, that she'd be an early out.

Whatever. He'd shoot her if he found her. Nobody would blame him, since she was a psychotic threat to the safety of everyone.

Aaron had nearly lost Tom at one point, as the boy ducked into the tunnels. It wasn't a good sign. He drew the gun from his pocket, keeping it ready but at his side. There was a chance that Tom had planned this all, that it was an ambush. He would lure Aaron into close quarters, neutralizing his advantage, then attempt to run him through. A sound strategy, but it wouldn't work, not if Aaron was prepared. He walked softly, following the faint sounds of Tom's footsteps. There were voices, too. At least one female and one male, possibly more. There was too much distortion to tell.

And then, Tom was yelling. Aaron picked up his pace, spun around a corner, and found himself facing a beam of blinding light. Someone was ambushing him. Someone was going to kill him. He ducked backwards and to the side, out of the light, and dropped to one knee, only to see that he was wrong. Tom had just run smack into Phil Ward, second only to Monty Pondsworth in terms of Bayview students you didn't want to meet in a dark alley. And, behind Tom and Phil, stood Nick Reid, who Aaron remembered had killed somebody, and also a very frightened looking Jennifer Romita.

My Kingdom for a Plan!
((Greatest apologies to Kami, but Aaron is required for a certain scene. Everyone impacted should have PMs by now.))

Perfect. Lily handed the ammunition and instruction manual to Aaron, and said he could keep them. Just like that. About time someone made a smart call. Now he was in an actually good spot. He was armed. He could cover his inexperience with the gun by reading how it worked (though, really, how hard could firing a gun be?). He was now the most heavily armed member of the group. Just another little thing cementing the structure, adding to the cohesion. Concentrating power in the leader kept things running smoothly, and that would be vital if they were going to make it out of this alive. Poor planning and disorganization would kill them quicker than any loony with a gun.

"Thanks, Lily," Aaron said. "I'll use it well if I have to, but with any luck we'll never need it."

Another girl turned up, and the guy from before left. It was like a poor comedy sketch, one bumbling buffoon after another trotting onstage, trying to join up or sidetrack them or whatever it was they were doing. It was getting very, very old. The new girl was someone Aaron didn't know, but everything about her screamed ditz, down to the fact that she was apparently too dumb to figure out what was going on. Well, that was her issue. She'd die, and someone would be sad, and life would move on for those who were actually competent enough to make an effort at getting out of this.

Lily tried to be nice to her, which wasn't optimal. Aaron did not want dead weight following them around, and if this girl didn't know they were on SOTF, it was a safe bet she didn't have a worthwhile weapon. Finding a gun in one's bag tended to be a good indication that something wasn't right. Fortunately, it seemed Tom had had enough too. He said everything Aaron wanted to. It was challenging to avoid grinning at that moment.

It was equally challenging for Aaron to hide his displeasure when Tom set off. He was, yet again, taking way too much initiative. Challenging Aaron's authority in subtle ways. Making himself a liability. Because, one thing was sure: Groups did not benefit from power struggles. There was room for one leader, and Tom was the less competent contender. Had he known what he was doing to a greater degree, had he possessed some charm or charisma or spark, perhaps Aaron could have made things work better. Perhaps they could have shared the top, delegating different tasks, or, heck, Aaron could have taken the supporting role. But no. Tom had to go, and sooner rather than later.

For a second, Aaron felt the urge to tell the others to leave Tom, to lead them off in another direction. He couldn't, though, not after framing the departing boy as an integral member of the team. His hands were tied. Lovely. So he said, "Right, let's go. We won't find Bounce by sitting still all day, and it's too risky here, since this little stretch of woods seems quite well-traveled."

Then, turning to the new girl, he said, "You're welcome along if you'd like, but you'll need to turn your weapon over to Aileen until the announcements, just so we can be sure you haven't hurt anyone. Otherwise, you're free to go."

With that, Aaron started after Tom. He kept his speed to a quick walk. It simply wouldn't do to run after a subordinate.

((Aaron Hughes continued in Spelunking))

Autumn O'Leary
Okay, guys. Here's the deal. Let me start by apologizing for everything that went down here, the confusion, etc. For the most part, it's on me.

Basically, what happened is as follows: Mimi was posted as Away for a while. When that notice expired, we should have immediately sent her a notice giving her seven days to post before auctioning Autumn.

However, that didn't happen. The reason is that I totally blanked on it, and thought she was still Away. When it was noticed, I was away, so it didn't get fixed in a timely fashion.

In response, we have Mimi five days rather than the usual seven to get Autumn active. Now, that wouldn't have been an issue. I was in communication with Mimi, and she said she'd have a post up. The time limit came and went without a post, so we threw Autumn up for adoption.

However, the reason Mimi didn't post was because a windstorm destroyed her internet connection. Videos of said storm may be found here and here. For all intents and purposes, she spent the final day of the period Away, but couldn't post due to the dead internet thing.

This suddenly made her being short two days a big deal. Had she had the official amount of inactivity-fixing time, she would have been able to get a post up, saving Autumn from inactivity.

So, with all this in mind and after much deliberation, Autumn is being returned to Mimi. She's away until tomorrow, and then she gets those two extra days to get a post up with Autumn. We will also be watching her activity, because it wasn't fair for her to get extra time earlier, and we do know that. Again, that was my bad, and I'm sorry.

If you've got any questions, feel free to PM me. I'm closing this thread.

Spelunking
Nick understood the meaning behind her gesture, and vocalized it, causing Jennifer to smile a bit. So, this wasn't going to go badly, then. There was hope. Even amidst all of this, two people could still bring themselves to trust each other, to show a little faith in the basic decency of near-strangers.

She was not surprised when Nick joined her, the beam of the flashlight he left behind illuminating his form. What was shocking was the state he was in. Battered. Beaten. Damaged. His face a terrible mess, his arm bandaged. Clearly, he had been through some pretty terrible experiences. Nick's injuries made Jennifer flinch for a second, and she hated herself so much for it. That was the last thing he needed right now. She just... she'd never been this near anyone with nay sort of serious injury before, and it was terrible. And the worst part of it was, in a few days, that could be her state. All it would take would be a single mistake, a single moment of misplaced trust. Nick made that clear with his statements, and then... he thanked her. He thanked her for something she never would have imagined to be deserving of praise.

"Um," she said. "No pro—uh, nobody deserves to die."

It was simple but true. No one here had asked to be kidnapped, asked to be turned into some sort of sick psychological experiment/television phenomenon. Jennifer couldn't even find it in her now to blame those who had killed from fear. They were scrambling to avoid dying, but they were already gone. Already irretrievably altered. The others—and she was sure there would be others, if there weren't already—those who killed from some sense of sadism or revenge or some other stupid motive like that, she did blame, but she also pitied. They were the ones who lost the most. The ones who destroyed everything about themselves that anyone had ever valued.

"Here," she said, looking back at Nick. She had no idea what she was doing, but the words came naturally. "Let me see if I can help you a bit."

She dropped her daypack to the ground, unzipped it, and located the first aid kit. She had no idea how to use any of the items in it. Had never dealt with any sort of serious injury before. But she wanted to patch Nick up to any degree that she could. As she rummaged in the kit, she marveled briefly at how well it was stocked, packed to the brim with esoteric packages and wraps and pills. Finally, she came across a few packs labeled as antiseptic wipes, looking for all the world like those little moist towelettes provided by KFC along with sporks and napkins.

She straightened up again, and realized she hadn't even thought to ask Nick's permission. That was inconsiderate. Maybe he didn't want help.

"Um, that is, if you'd, uh, like. I don't... I don't really know how to use most of this."

Milk of Human Kindness
The boy was talking to the air. Perhaps descending into madness. Or, maybe just questioning the reality before him, maybe wondering who had killed these people, wondering whether they could really be dead. His statements were ambiguous. Isaiah found himself simply staring. Not a clue what to do. And then the guy was talking to him. His statements sounded... off somehow. Like he wasn't sure what to do either. Just the two of them, two kids dealing with something they never should have been forced to.

Why?

Didn't matter. There had to be a purpose. And Isaiah's own purpose on the beach soon became clear, as the other boy asked for help digging a grave. It was notable that he spoke of burial in the singular. Like he was just going to leave the fat guy to rot. So, he had probably cared about this blond guy. They'd probably been friends. Well, that was fine. They'd bury him first. Then, if the guy wanted to leave, that was his prerogative. Isaiah would dig the other grave alone. How challenging could it be? The sand was loose. He knew he couldn't be burying every body on this island, of course, but here doing so would help someone. That made it worthwhile.

"Yeah," he said, dropping his pack to the sand. "I think it's a very good idea."

Isaiah walked closer to the body. He was vaguely interested in the fact that he could not detect any odor from it. Either the salty sea air was overpowering it, or this murder hadn't happened long ago. For just a second, he considered dropping everything, grabbing his bar and tearing off after any footprints he could find, but that would not be productive, would not be a good action. So, instead, he began to shovel the sand, cupping his hands. The grains quickly built up under his fingernails, well-trimmed though they were. It was annoying, but not enough to slow him down.

Of course, his progress wasn't particularly quick. Lacking experience with sand, he was unable to keep large amounts from spilling back into his slowly-developing hole. This was not going to be a fine place of interment. He wished he could do better. They deserved it. But wishes wouldn't change reality, and he had to make do.

Spelunking
The conversation with Nick quickly took a turn from the awkward to the menacing, as the boy stumbled through an attempted explanation for his presence, then gave up and admitted to having killed someone. Daniel Vaughan. Jennifer hadn't the slightest clue who Daniel had been. Couldn't force herself to care right now, either. Right now, she was fuming, furious at Nick for his ineptitude. Couldn't he have done just a tiny fucking bit of a better job lying to her? Put an ounce more effort into not appearing to be in some kind of bizarre game of fatal cat-and-mouse with unknown assailants out for revenge? But no, he had to just dump all this on her. Had to make her his confidante. And, fuck, what if he was lying about it all, just trying to get her to drop her guard so he could put a knife through her stomach?

She wanted to tell him this. Wanted to tell him to fuck off, tell him she didn't care that it'd been a mistake, he was still a killer, he was still a monster and a menace, he'd been playing with fire and was now whining about getting burned, laying it at her feet as if it was her fucking problem.

"It's alright," she said instead. "I, um, I don't know which Alex or, uh, or Maxwell you mean, but I... I haven't seen, um, any of them."

She was too weak. Just too weak. Couldn't stand up for herself. Couldn't scare off a potential threat, because she couldn't bring herself to ignore the pain in his voice, the helplessness. Couldn't make herself disbelieve him. She tried to rationalize it. He'd given away his position, given her a clear shot. She could've killed him. He was clearly innocent. But no, it could've been a trap. It could have so easily been a trap, a deception, and yet she didn't give a fuck if it was. Nick needed someone to talk to. Jennifer was there. That simple.

She didn't know quiet when she'd put the icepick away again. Surely it hadn't been early in his speech. Surely she wasn't that naive. Regardless of the timing, it was again tucked into her skirt.

She stepped away from the wall, into the beam of light, a thin smile on her face. She couldn't see Nick, but she didn't need to. Let him stay hidden if he wanted, if it made him feel safer. If her life was going to end here, in a hail of bullets, well, it'd be an absolute disaster, the worst mistake of her whole life, but at least she'd have gone out trying to do something nice. Maybe being a pushover, being an emotional doormat for this near-stranger, this boy who had killed someone, but surely that was not the worst way to die.

"It's okay," she said. "It, um, I think it'll be okay. Well, um, as much as it can be. I don't... I don't even know anymore, Nick. People are killing, but, uh, but they can't all be bad. This..."

It wasn't working. Not at all. No way to express coherently what she was feeling, that sense of resigned optimism, that feeling that, though their world was for all intents and purposes over, though nothing they did would matter in the end, there was still something worth being for. Something worth finding people for, worth sharing with others. It was the reason she wasn't ready to die. The reason she would never be, even should she, by some miracle, survive this experience. There was always more to the world, always something else to do. And she knew she wasn't the only one who felt this way. She knew that there were still happy moments ahead, that even if she died tomorrow, there would have to be a few good instants first. She knew that the killers were scared, were maybe even sadistic, but that it was only because they'd lost themselves, because they'd been replaced in their own minds by caricatures, projections cooked up as a desperate attempt to survive. But how to convey that?

"I don't even know," she repeated.

Milk of Human Kindness
((Isaiah Garvey continued from Reconstitution))

The announcements had hit Isaiah hard. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but it wasn't nineteen dead. Wasn't a large list of killers. He had gone through them, trying to match names to faces in his mind. Most often, he couldn't. Alex Rasputin he knew of, of course. Janet Binachi, too. Isaiah had always paid attention to his fellow runners, though he did not compete in their specific areas, being more of a sprinter. Rob Jenkins, another killer, played basketball, and was excellent at it.

The first shocker, and one of the earlier ones announced, was Clio Gabriella's murder of Chris Davidson. Both of them were Christians. Sure, they weren't from Isaiah's circles, but it shook him deeply to think that his fellows could have turned on each other so soon, like a pack of jackals. He had never put much stock in GODspeed, Clio's Christian club, viewing it as too much of an establishment sort of thing. The members were the sort who went to church to fit in, or because their buddies did, or because their parents told them to. Most of them didn't seem to have much faith, at least, not of the sort he prized. He had still expected more of them. Expected them to at least try to hold true to their espoused values.

But what really threw Isaiah for a loop was the announcement of the death of Brent Shanahan at the hands of Staffan Kronwall. Brent had been one of Isaiah's baseball teammates. Not his best buddy of all time, by any means, but a presence in his life nonetheless. And Staffan... everyone in Bayview knew Staffan Kronwall. For him to have done something like this was nearly unbelievable. Isaiah gave a wordless prayer, for their souls, and those of all the others on the announcement, the killers and the killed.

Of course, there was that niggling voice in the back of his head. The one which repeated Exodus 20:13, again and again. Thou shalt not kill. Surely among the most famous phrases in the Bible. A dozen of his classmates had broken that commandment. Part of him screamed that they deserved to be punished.

But he was able to quash that with the realization that, if they deserved punishment, it would find them, in this life or the next. It was not his mandate to enforce God's justice. To think that was arrogance of the highest order. Thou shalt not kill did not include exception clauses making the slaying of killers alright, or justifying revenge.

So he had wandered, lost in thought, searching for somebody else, for something to do. Originally he had headed for the parish, not consciously realizing it, but upon seeing that building in the distance, he had changed his course. It would simply be seeking a place of comfort, shirking his real duty. The sun had come up more fully, and now, having ambled aimlessly, he was at a beach. Sand stretched out to the distance, and the sea as well.

There were forms down the beach from him. One moving. Another on the ground, a little ways away. He picked up his pace. Nothing violent seemed to be going on, but he couldn't be sure, and he couldn't let anyone get killed while he watched. The metal bar swung from his hand in a loose grip. He wouldn't be killing, but beating someone off a victim was surely justified, right? He'd just have to aim well, make sure he didn't do worse than break an arm. No blows to the head. No risking lives.

But it wouldn't be necessary. The moving one shouted out. Then he tripped over the fallen form. He didn't seem to be attacking, though, so Isaiah slowed again. The figure who had tripped moved towards the sea, to another still form, one Isaiah hadn't seen before. The figure hoisted this new form up, shook it, spoke to it, though Isaiah could not make out the words. It took him a little while to figure out what had happened. When it came, though, it was one of the worst moments of his life. The figures on the ground had to be dead. Had to be. He sped up again, pausing fifteen feet away as the living boy turned and spoke to the air. Isaiah glance that direction, and could see nothing, nothing except the first figure, the corpse of a rotund boy, his head blown off. The other corpse was in comparatively excellent condition, his blond hair shining in the sun.

It was just too much. There was no biblical quote for this situation, no magic words to make things alright.

Isaiah stood in silence. The bar dropped from his grasp, to land quietly in the sand.

Spelunking
Jennifer was not expecting words. Not expecting a voice so soon. The flashlight had been a mistake. She didn't jump, this time, but she did click the light off, and quickly ducked to the other side of the tunnel, hoping to throw off anyone who was aiming at her. She hadn't seen the speaker, Nick Reid. A quick search of her memory brought to mind a tall, lanky, unkempt-looking boy. Black hair. Was it the right Nick? She hoped so. No way to tell if he was dangerous, though. Probably was. Who, besides Jennifer, wasn't dangerous now?

He said he deserved an explanation. Deserved. Fucker. As if anyone here deserved anything more than the others. As if anyone deserved this entire situation. It figured she'd bumped into a self-centered asshole.

"Um, N-nick? It's, uh, Jennifer. Perez not Romita. What would you, um, like me to explain?"

She did not mention that she was lost. Did not tell why she had shut the flashlight out. It should be more than evident. She was still decently far away, she thought, but it was hard to tell, with both of their voices echoing off the walls. The positive side of this was that she could get a little bit closer, hopefully without him being able to tell exactly where she was. Step step. Step step. Moving softly, putting as little weight on her feet as she could.

"I, uh, why are you down here?" she asked, speaking a little more loudly, hoping her voice would cover her movements. Hoping he didn't turn his flashlight on and shoot her. She had to be ready. Ready to dive for cover, to run. To get the fuck away, or, failing that, to protect herself. Step step. Protect herself. Would it even be possible? Nick was pretty tall, if she was thinking of the right guy. Didn't seem the strongest, but then, she'd never really paid attention.

She hoped he wasn't the killing sort. Hoped they'd just laugh this off, say fancy-meeting-you-here-of-all-places, that sort of thing. But it was too much to count on. Every interaction she had been involved with had ended in tension and flight. While nobody she had met was dead yet, it was only a matter of time. People had murdered, and she didn't know who. The only person she knew to avoid was Clio, and only because Allen had told her. This was not a promising start. Step step. She was close to the wall, but ready to spring away to the other side again if it came to that. She felt goosebumps on her arms and back, not from the chill (though it was not exactly warm), but from the tension. She felt as if, any second, someone or something would jump out and attack her. It was a good thing she was ready, icepick in hand, to stop any attack.

Wait.

Sure enough, her hand was clenched tight around the icepick. It was raised. That wasn't right at all. Not the way to approach things. She wanted to giggle, but instead took deep breaths, and lowered her arm. Don't break down. Don't lose yourself. Talk to Nick. Step step.

She had moved ten paces closer to him. It seemed like a good stopping point. She probably still had room to run, but maybe also to rush him if he did have a gun, did attack her. If that happened... she wouldn't hurt him. Right. Just use the icepick to knock his gun aside. Disarm him, so no one got hurt. Only that. She would never hurt someone. Never.

Right?

Reconstitution
((Isaiah Garvey adopted and continued from And So It Begins, The Epic Struggle Of Man And Bear))

Isaiah had made his way from the destroyed tower, from the confrontation and ensuing silence, to the residential area, where he now reposed. He was in a small house, a one-story suburban affair with a blue roof, at the southernmost tip of the cluster of buildings. It had been unlocked, fortunately. Even with all the insanity of his situation, breaking into a house would have felt wrong somehow. This was not some abode of demons. It was a home. Someone had lived here once. Now they were gone.

He sat in a large, plush chair, trying to figure out what had happened. Chaos. Panic. Of course. What else could have happened? After all, they had been kidnapped by terrorists, slapped into collars, told to fight to the death. Their tensions had run high. Isaiah himself had experienced a moment of weakness, of doubt. Upon opening his pack, and finding a package of water balloons, he had immediately questioned whether God had forsaken him.

Now, he offered a silent prayer, a request for forgiveness. How stupid he had been, how selfish. Had there been reason to question his faith, it would have been their situation, not his assigned implement. No, he had then hidden behind scripture, tried to explain his predicament with it, tried to use it to relate to the others. Alienated them in the process. His appearance probably didn't help. Dreadlocks, a backwards cap, jeans, and a red jersey probably spelled trouble to half the population of Bayview. He was constantly astounded by how many people were willing to judge him based solely on his choice of dress. Racists.

Add to that the stigma of being a Christian in an all-too-often-faithless world, and...

Clunk.

Isaiah started. He had been drifting off. He checked his watch. Correction: he had drifted off. It was late, now. He had been asleep for four hours, just like that. The noise which had awoken was caused when his grip finally loosened on the metal bar he carried, his protection, and it fell to the floor.

He blinked. Rubbed his eyes. Spoke softly.

"Lord, thank you for keeping me safe in my moment of weakness. Please give me the strength I will need in these coming days."

Heaven knew he would need all the strength he could get. He had nearly broken already. He had been willing to see demons everywhere. Willing to believe they walked the earth in the flesh of his classmates. He wanted to dismiss the notion as a joke, dismiss it as a hallucination brought on by the gas, or as a trick of the devil. But the devil did not work that way. He was powerless to force actions. All he did was offer temptation, to those weak enough to fall to it. Isaiah had been weak. He had to accept that. Had to avoid hiding behind justifications. His father would have been disappointed in him, disappointed to know how close he had been to attacking the boys before. It had been fear and greed, a desire to live even at the expense of others. Those feelings were foes that had to be driven out.

Isaiah took up his pack, unzipped the front pocket, and pulled out his Bible. It was old, tattered, the faux-gold leaf fading from years of use. It was the one he had won at the age of twelve, by reciting scripture from memory. Now, he turned to one of the verses most important to him, and his situation, and read in a soft voice:

" 'Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on the pinacle of the temple,

'And saith unto him, If thou be the son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

'Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' Matthew 4:5-7"

By the time he had finished, he felt a little better. Verse had always held power over Isaiah's emotions. The process of reading it aloud or quoting it from memory forced him to slow down, to think, to interpret and analyze. He had been acting as the devil had, using the word of God to justify doing what was wrong. Now, however, he hoped to be able to follow the example of Christ, and avoid tempting the Lord. After all, doing the right thing was not so challenging. He just had to remain honest. If he stood by God, God would stand by him. But he had to do the work himself. That was the other side of that quotation. God was there for you, but only when you really needed Him. He was not an easy answer to every solution.

Isaiah knew that many of his classmates would fail and fall, would lose their ways in these coming days of turmoil.He knew what he had to do. He would try to help them, of course. Try to help even those did not believe, even those who distrusted and despised him.

Because they weren't bad. He didn't like many of them, distrusted the majority of his peers, but they were not bad people. They were the same ones who cheered at his baseball games, who chattered in the hallways, who cried over romances gone bad. Not a one of them, regardless of any sins they may have committed, deserved to be here. And yet, here they were. Isaiah had to remind himself that it was not his place to question, merely to do what needed to be done.

He had rested long enough. One thing was certain: his purpose on this island required more of him than brooding over theology in an abandoned house. There were people out there who would need help, and it seemed like divine intervention was in mighty short supply this week.

He took a brief moment to shuffle his equipment around, discarding the contents of his own pack, except for a spare set of boxers and a denim jacket. The rest—his books, his other cloths, a few packages of chewing gum—would be of no use, and would just slow him down. The Bible, of course, he kept, laying it gently on top of the other items in his daypack. He kept the water balloons, too. If he could find somewhere to fill them, they could serve as backup water bottles.

With that, he took a look around. His discarded possessions looked out of place on the floor, so he took them to a garbage can in the corner of the room and stuffed them in. Everything looked a little neater now. Almost like he'd never been in the house. Almost like its owners could return and have a happy family life again.

Isaiah picked up the metal bar he had pried loose at the cell phone tower, and stepped out into the night.

((Isaiah Garvey continued in Milk of Human Kindness))

CHARACTER OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 10
Alright. Here go my nominations.

First up: R.J. Lowe. This was the easiest pick for me this month. R.J. has so many things going for him. To start with, he's a character I feel about and care for. He's trying to do the right thing, but he doesn't succeed all the time. He killed someone in a situation where it seemed perfectly reasonable, yet the whole thing was an awful misunderstanding, and then, rather than delve too deeply into angst or blow it off entirely, he reacted just right. R.J. can always provoke an emotional response from me. Also, mad props to Stark for writing a character with a disability without making it a gimmick or an all-consuming character trait.

Next on the list: Nathan Choultard. The "Flowerhead" group as a whole is absolutely amazing, and each character in it deserves a lot of love, but the one I consistently feel the most for is Nathan. He's not the leader of the group, but he seems to be its spirit in a way, the glue that holds it together. He's always there to support his compatriots, always ready to back up anyone who needs it. Most importantly, he keeps a cool head in a realistic way. Each time I see Nathan make a choice, I know why he does it, and it makes perfect sense to me.

Finally, Jeremy Franco. I know we aren't supposed to say these speak for themselves, but I think Jeremy really does. He's assertive:
Quote:
 
"SHUT THE FUCK UP JIMMY BRENNAN I'M SHOUTING OVER YOU."

He's good at diffusing situations:
Quote:
 
"Hey, champ, how about let's put the gun away? Or I mean, at the very least, keep it pointed at Jimmy Brennan!"

He's good at making deals:
Quote:
 
I don't roll like that, honest, promise, so like if King Perv shows up I'll kick his ass for you and I won't even need anything in return so don't worry!"

And he knows where he stands:
Quote:
 
"So that makes us all brothers, okay? We're all brothers! Except since I'm on baseball team that also means I can hit things really fucking hard, so that means I'm like a notch above you- though we're still brothers and I'm not looking down on you, not one bit- so I think it's best that leadership role goes to me!"


In all seriousness, though, just the dialogue quoted above would earn a nomination from me, assuming an otherwise pretty good character, but Jeremy is so much more. He's a humorous character who also has a serious side. He's realistic, which, given his concept, is a testament to Jonny's skill. He's a character who brings life to threads, and enhances interactions.


Also, honorary mention to a whole bunch of other characters. It was a tough call this month, and I want to acknowledge the awesomeness of Bounce Volkova, Zach Jamis, Ivan Kuznetsov, Raidon Naoko, Roland Harte, Sarah Atwell, Mizore Soryu, and probably more who I'm forgetting. You all rock.

Spelunking
((Jennifer Perez continued from Somewhere That's Green))

Taking a detour through the mountain, Jennifer was beginning to suspect, was one of the dumbest ideas she had ever had in her entire life. It had seemed like such a good plan, when she stumbled upon the entrance after a few hours of walking. Once again, she had managed to avoid people. She had even, while passing through the inland woods, managed about five hours of sleep, propped up against a tree and shielded from view. Her back had been stiff for the next hour, and her left shoulder still ached, something not helped by the bag she carried over it, but it was worth it for the energy she now had. She had started moving again a few hours after nightfall, and had found the tunnels, and, after checking her map, had determined that they would let her dodge the wide open area in sight of the gazebo and the fun fair, and reach the house of mirrors from the East.

She didn't know for sure why she was going. The odds of Bill having delivered her message by now were low. He probably wouldn't share it all. Most likely, he'd warn Maf away, tell him some crazy girl was setting a trap for him.Maybe that would be enough, though. Maybe he would understand, would turn up anyways. Or maybe Bill would sneak ahead, lie in wait with Deidre, and they'd murder Jennifer. That was why she was moving quietly and slowly, why she planned to scope things out before rushing in.

The tunnels looked like a fairly straight shot on the map. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at all, and she was no longer really sure which way she was going. There had been at least two branches. She didn't know how to use a compass. Didn't know how to find the surface. She was navigating by the dull blue glow of her cell phone. There was a flashlight in the first aid kit. She'd seen it. But that had limited batteries, and she figured she might need it more later. Besides, the glow of the phone would be so much easier to mute in a hurry, if it came down to that.

Also, the phone had a clock. It wasn't right, she was fairly sure; whatever had jammed the phones had prevented it from automatically adjusting its timezone, and the number it showed seemed somewhat implausible, making her wonder if it had been scrambled somehow, to prevent it from being a tip to any would-be rescuers. Still, the minutes side of the equation seemed about right. Right now, that part read :58:47. Another hour nearly gone. How long had it been? She was pretty sure she'd woken up fairly early on in the program, and she'd been doing a lot of walking. The rest and her slow pace were the only reasons she still felt as good as she did.

A short time later, a crackle rang out, echoing through the tunnels. Jennifer jumped and tried to fumble her phone away, but instead dropped it. It landed on the floor with a crack, and there was no more light. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. She remained silent.

And then it started. The awful voice. Danya. The man who had had their teachers murdered. The one responsible for all of their impending deaths.

It did not surprise Jennifer that the killing had already begun.

She sat down on the tunnel floor, ignoring the dirt and dust, and leaned against the wall, as the names and the jokes flowed over her. She didn't want to hear. Didn't want to remember. Didn't want any of those faces coming back. She had to listen for a few, though. Just a few names. The others didn't matter. Could be ignored. Could be dismissed. It was terrible that people had died, but she just couldn't feel anything for them right now. They were statistics, just like she would be before this was done, before long at all if she wasn't careful.

The names that she was listening for—Maf, Victoria, Bounce, Melissa, Alice, and all the others—failed to materialize, on either side of the equation. Her friends and those she cared about were not dead, or killing. A small comfort. She failed entirely to take note of the killers, which, once she realized it, caused her some concern. There'd be no way to know if she was in danger, so she'd have to keep her guard up, but not devolve into paranoia. Just... just stay sane. Normal.

The only bit that gave her any pause was the naming of Paige Strand. She hadn't known the girl well, but Paige had a boyfriend. A now presumably distraught boyfriend. He was the person on the island Jennifer felt for most at the moment. The survivor. The bereaved. For the dead, there was nothing. For the boyfriend, there was nothing left.

She almost cried again.





Some time later—she didn't know how long; her cell phone had been destroyed by her earlier carelessness—Jennifer started moving again. The house of mirrors was not a danger zone. Neither were the tunnels, or she'd have been dead already. She was still lost. She kept her right hand on the wall, walking in a straight line. Wasn't that supposed to help with mazes? Her left held the flashlight. The icepick remained in its customary position.

She would get out of these tunnels, and find somewhere to hide, near the mirror house. Then she could search from there, using it as a base, until time ran out, one way or another. She'd have to be careful, careful not to hurt anyone, careful not to be hurt herself. Careful, cautious, calm. Sane.

Even though the whole fucking world had gone crazy.

Somewhere That's Green
Before Deidre had time to respond, the situation became even more complicated. A boy called out, and Jennifer spun to face him. This had the unfortunate effect of clearly revealing to Deidre the icepick in the rear band of Jennifer's skirt. Combined with her lackluster introduction, she was afraid she really was going to look like a psychopath, and a bad liar to boot.

Those thoughts vanished as the image of the boy in front of her clicked. Bill something-or-other, his name was. Big guy. Tall, heavy, muscular. Football team. One of Maf's teammates. Someone who could maybe help her find him, help her say her little goodbye, or whatever it ended up being. Normally, the association would've been enough for her to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Normally, Bill would not have been holding a large gun.

Jennifer knew nothing of guns, but she suspected that rifle sorts were more dangerous than pistols. She'd seen how erratic people got here. Carla's departure had shown her clearly that weapons did not make for level heads. All it would take for everything to end would be for Bill to decide to kill her. It was really that simple. A tug of the finger on the trigger, some sort of internal process, the expulsion of a large piece of metal. Curtains.

Not quite how she'd imagined her life ending.

She was laughing nervously again, stepping sideways. Deidre behind her, Bill in front. Deidre had seen the icepick, knew that Jennifer wasn't entirely stable or coherent at the moment. There was a very high likelihood of this going poorly. Had she been an outsider, a third party, perhaps she could have talked them down, could have explained. As the focus of their attention, there wasn't a chance. Her palms were sweating. She was glad she hadn't set her bags down yet. Glad she hadn't gotten comfortable. Being with people seemed so overrated, now. It was just too much.

Her laughter abruptly stopped. Everything seemed clear. She could hear a cricket chirping, somewhere. Feel the breeze from the sea tugging at her clothes. Watch Bill's chest rise and fall with his breath.

"I'll just be going," she said. "I still need to find somebody."

The tension was running high. Then again, maybe it was just her. She wondered whether she was the escalating factor in this situation. The others seemed calm enough, but she'd done too much wrong for them to possibly trust her. She'd fucked up fairly brilliantly. The stress had her hands shaking. It took conscious effort to keep them from drifting to the back of her skirt. That would be a fatal mistake. She felt like she was about to burst from nervous energy, like she had to run, run and not look back. But not quite yet.

"Bill, if you see Maf, tell him to keep an eye out for me, please. I'll try to check at, uh..." She couldn't remember many of the landmarks. Only the sawmill, where that horrible explosion had come from; the residential zone, where she'd already seen there were too many people; and some sort of carnival, with rides and a mirror house. That last one gave her the creeps, but it also seemed least likely to have a large group hanging around.

"I'll check by the house of mirrors. I'll try to go by every day or two."

They hadn't shot her or beaten her to death. That was good. Maybe her speech had given them some reason to trust her. She couldn't chance it, though. She had to get moving, get out of here, regroup and try again. It was the only reasonable choice. Maybe she'd be lucky and they'd find Maf, and tell him. Maybe not.

Did it even matter in the long run?

She inched her way to the side, and, after a few quick glances, took off again, the bags and icepick thumping awkwardly.

((Jennifer Perez continued in Spelunking))

D-Day
The stitching pricked. Kimberly didn't watch. She didn't think about it. Compared to being shot it the arm, it hardly mattered. Funny, how she'd already fallen so low. What a difference in perspective a few minutes could make. Thinking back that short time, Kimberly found that she hated herself, hated the fraud she had been. Hated that she had been so scared as to pretend.

Didn't mean she wasn't gonna fuck Kris up for changing her, though.

Then Sarah surprised Kimberly by agreeing to come along. Well. That would make things easier. Not that she needed them to be. She had total confidence that she could succeed at her mission alone. She still suspected she would have to. There was a good chance Sarah was coming along, not to help out, but out of some misplaced hope of cooling Kimberly down in a day or two, when the pain and insult were less immediate. Fat chance. Kimberly had her course. She would stay true to it.

Sarah called for the others. Dutchy and Roland. They'd be coming too, it seemed. Brilliant. Now she would have some sort of fucking procession. This was going to be complicated by the fact that, when they caught Kris, it was almost guaranteed one of the group would choke, would find themselves unable to do what needed to be done. What Kimberly wanted to be done. That would pose a serious danger. Kimberly did not fancy the idea of counting on anyone but herself when the key moment came. She wanted total control of that eventual showdown. She wanted to be able to make Kris see what she had done, make her feel that helpless, that lost, make her understand just what she had stolen from Kimberly.

And then?

Time for that later. For now, they had to get moving. And then Bridget added her pledge to the mix. It was... well, it would have been sweet if it didn't piss Kimberly off. Bridget was getting good at that. She was going to follow Kimberly? Follow her everywhere she went? Like hell she would. No, Kimberly was already planning ways to get some personal space. She would be nobody's ward. It would be simple. Slip off at night, while the others slept, just for a little bit. Spend some time with herself and no one else.

She shifted a little. It felt like the stitching was done. She didn't want to see it. She wished her left arm would just disappear and stop bothering her, if it wasn't going to be useful. It certainly seemed like she'd never be using the limb again. And, just great, that was sure to mess up her guitar playing. Not that she'd ever get a chance again, most likely. Ugh. Not the time for those thoughts. Pull it together, sit up, and get moving soon. If they waited here much longer, someone was sure to find them. That, or Kimberly would just go crazy from the inactivity and take off.

"Hey," she said, "one of you... hand me my bags, okay? I need... a few things." She wanted to sort through it quickly, get what she needed, ditch what she didn't. There were a few items in particular she felt like she could use. Her weapon. Something to cover her arm. She felt exposed with the wound uncovered like it was. Weak. Easy prey. She'd be traveling light here, she realized. No other choice with her arm. Fucking Kris. She would pay for this. Each inconvenience, each trial and challenge to overcome, they all could be blamed on Kris. Revenge, when it came, would be so sweet. Speaking of, she should share her idea about finding help with the others, since there was at least one other person who would have reason to loathe Kris as much as Kimberly did.

"I think we should also find... Reiko," she added. "She'll probably want to help us, since Kris... killed her sister and all."

The age poll!
Another member of the Twenty club here.

Dropping in to Say Hello.
Wow. Yeah, Megami approved one of mine too, back when I was totally new to site. Really puts stuff in perspective. I'd love to see you around more often. It's so cool that you're still stopping by.

Character of the Month #1: August '10
Awesome. Congrats, Mimi! Sierra is great.