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Why We Fight
((Skipping too. Sorry Aura.))

Kiziah had given them a reassuring smile. Even then, Jennifer still wasn’t sure. Kimiko was still dangerous, wasn’t she? But she’d hugged Clarice, as if she really needed it. Yet, Clarice’s body language seemed uncomfortable. Maybe she wasn’t sure too. Maybe she was just as tense as Jennifer was. To be frank, “tense” here meant that she was prepared to do anything. Run, fight, hide, something.

She didn’t want to die here. Some part of her told her that escape was possible, that people have lived through this before, that the terrorists wouldn’t get away with it. That Kimiko wasn’t dangerous, at least not right now. But that didn’t change the fact that even if she was friends with Kiziah and Clarice, she was a killer. She could do it again if she wanted to.

But as Kimiko pulled away, she noticed that she seemed to have an odd look on her face. It was almost as if she’d realized something. Jennifer saw her hands move again, spelling out words she could never personally understand, not without translation. But then, Kimiko started stepping away. She’d turned to give them one last message, but afterwards she broke into a run.

She was gone as quickly as she’d came.

Jennifer slowly lowered her arms, expelling a breath she didn’t realize was there. Kimiko’s departure was a good thing, in a sense. It meant that a threat was pretty much… well, neutralized. On the other, she seemed like she didn’t want to fight. If Jennifer had to guess, some of the bits she got seemed to point towards Kimiko getting into those kinds of incidents by circumstance, rather than something she went out of her way to do.

For a moment, Jennifer was unsure about what to do. Maybe Clarice needed to hear something, but she wasn’t sure what.

“Hey…”

She stepped forward, only to feel a weight against her foot. Jennifer looked down. The gun was still there, still waiting to be used. She knelt, and gingerly picked it up. Dealing with emotions was good. But pragmatism came first. Keeping it pointed towards the ground and away from anyone, she instead approached Kiziah.

“This is yours,” she said, handing the gun in her direction. “Treat it like… your child, I guess.”

Did that analogy even work? You were supposed to watch small children, yes. Watching firearms, especially in a “game” like this, was good. But no one really used an infant to kill other people. No one tell the terrorists that, though, or it’d give them ideas.

Jennifer shot another look at Clarice, then towards the direction Kimiko left, and back. Once again, she was unsure about what to say to her, since Kimiko was a friend of hers and Kiziah’s. This whole thing made her confused.

Bread Suit
“Prop crew, eh?”

Okay, Junko chuckled a little. A little.

That was a new way to describe the people who’d kidnapped them. Sure, Junko guessed that’s what they did, sorta. If they choose to interpret SOTF as, like, this weird indie net series. Probs more of a cult deep web hit than anything gif-worthy on Tumblr, unless you were also equally concerned about social stigma as you were about not getting arrested. Which was to say, both had to be non-existent.

“They gave me a bat. It’s done a good job for me so far,” Junko said.

She punctuated her sentence by sliding it upwards and slinging it over her shoulder. Junko didn’t mention the part about the chisel and hammer. Nor did she want to, nor did she need to. Technically, Hannah had asked what they gave her, not what she had. So, at worst it was a little white lie.

It was friendly. Too friendly. It was strange how easily people talk to each other about stuff here. Everyone at the beach was more concerned about discussing, like, death and shit. Jasmine hadn’t said anything, but even Darius was chatty before, y’know, wasting her stuff. Maybe she was just getting paranoid. Maybe she was just expecting Hannah to lunge forward to beat her with that board. Junko’s eyes locked onto it for a brief second, then remembered.

Oh, right. If they were being friendly, at least for the time being, at least she’d make it clear who Hannah was talking to.

“By the way…”

Junko flicked the flashlight off. Then, she pointed it under her chin and turned it back on.

“Boo.”

Okay, there. Hannah probably figured out who she was. Maybe she could do the whole convo thing again, but well, her feet were still planted on the ground. Her grip was still tight. It felt as if Junko’s body was prepared for something to happen. If Hannah made the wrong move, even the slightest, though, she knew what to do.

The Greatest Sideshow on Earth
Was “grave-robbing” the right word for what Kaitlyn was doing? Emma had no idea. But it still seemed… unpleasant. True, they didn’t need it any more. But, to be honest, that was kind of the problem. It just seemed callous, you know? At least take Mabes elsewhere before you sort out her belongings. Maybe that was just her morals from back home talking. It did seem a little practical, to use what you find. But on the other…

Well, Jaime at least didn’t seem to mind that part.

Emma shot her a look. That was a little too quick. Again, taking someone else’s things, even if they were dead? Even if efficient, still felt slimy. Amanda was conspicuously silent.

The story Kaitlyn had painted for them, at least, made sense. But it still hurt. Mabes’ collar had detonated. By the look of things, it was because she’d damaged a camera. It sounded like something she’d do. Emma rubbed her arm in thought. It seemed like she wasn’t the only one nearby, either. Kaitlyn had found Mia Rose dead. Even in her fatigued state, Emma knew just how horrible death by overdose was, no matter what you used. Slow and agonizing, not what you’d want if you just want to… end things. There wasn’t a doubt Mia died in pain.

Mabes wasn’t the first dead body she’d seen. Everyone had watched Mr. Graham die, and how he was just left there. But seeing it up close like this seemed worse. For a moment, Emma imagined some of the dead in such a state. She wondered if other people descended like vultures onto their things, quietly taking what was theirs. A shudder ran up her spine when she pictured it being Tina and Sabrina.

She really needed to lay down.

However, Emma’s tired eyes locked onto a bottle Kaitlyn had put on the ground. Water. That’s what they were looking for. Bread too, to a lesser extent. Was it worth compromising your morals for water? Though, Kaitlyn had something else in her hands. Emma squinted a bit, trying to figure out what it was. Was it an odd ration pack, or-

Bomb. Kaitlyn had a bomb in her hands.

Her eyes widened. That’s when Kaitlyn pulled a gun out and pointed it at them.

“Easy, easy!”

Emma’s hands were up. Her mouth felt dry. She briefly wondered what to do. Didn’t she do something like this when she and Amanda first met up? Put her hands up, make it clear she wasn’t dangerous? She wasn’t sure that’d work with Kaitlyn.

She gulped a bit. It didn’t help the dryness in her throat.

“Look... I don’t think any of us need a bomb.”

Emma looked at Jaime, then Amanda, then to the door, where Lucilly was standing just outside. Maybe they’d have something to say about that. They weren’t looking for any kind of bomb, though. At least, it didn’t seem something that was high priority. Emma turned her head back to Kaitlyn, and took a deep breath.

“We came in here because… because we needed water. That’s all we need, maybe food too.”

Tables were good for hiding under, the bar was good for hiding behind. They could turn and run the way they came. Or, there had to be another exit. Another way to escape. Fire exits, windows, anything. She prayed to god Kaitlyn didn’t open fire or detonate.

“We can negotiate this.”

Emma hoped that Jaime and Amanda agreed.

V6 Reduced Activity Notices
Hey! Bit of a quick update.

Connection seems fixed, but my mom has company over this evening. I was hoping I'd post what I owe this evening, but that may be a bit of a hamper. Hopefully I'll be done tomorrow, if not tonight.

Bread Suit
“Well, sorry for going King Lear on you, I guess.”

That happened in King Lear, didn’t it? Eye-gouging. Yeah, that happened. Junko wasn’t much of a Shakespeare person, but she distantly remembered that coming up in English class. She remembered that Hannah Kendrickstone liked Shakespeare, so it was a fitting reference, sorta.

Anyways, Hannah Kendrickstone. Again, liked Shakespeare, and wasn’t she a furry too? Maybe? Ah, well. Drama club person, too. She was okay, really. They were in separate grades and didn’t hang out with the same people, but she seemed alright.

Though, she was holding something that looked like a board of some kind. So, great, she had a weapon. Bat versus board, who would win? Well, Junko’s money was on bat, but eh, she was biased. Though, the board had an advantage, in a way. A bit of a longer reach.

Well, if Hannah tried something, that pent-up energy would be put to good use, at least. Kinda, sorta.

Junko pointed the flashlight beam towards the board.

“Whatcha got there?”

Why We Fight
Kimiko had responded by going into a flurry of hand motions. Sign language? Made sense. She was unable to speak, after all. However, Jennifer had no idea what she was trying to say. But the look on her face looked nervous, as if she feared them.

Jennifer felt her mouth twitch. “Dealing with this civilly,” Clarice? That would be a fair way to deal with things, but the part where Kimiko was kind of a known murderer made that more than a little difficult. It didn’t help that Kiziah stepped forward and offered her help. No no no, what was she doing? Again, Kimiko, murderer. That was an important detail, was she the only one who remembered? Well, probably not, but the point remained.

But Clarice seemed to respond to her signing. Judging by what she said, Kimiko was “scared” and “angry.” Was she talking about Bradley? Clarice mentioned him, at least. He came up on the announcements too, didn’t he? Okay, so maybe she was explaining what happened there. Bradley was a jerk, so did he provoke her somehow? Well… Bradley wasn’t known for his political correctness. Was Kimiko in some way a victim of circumstance? But that wouldn’t explain the other time, would it? Cristo. That was who she killed last time. It was a little more difficult to handwave away, unless it turned out something else happened.

Bart chipped in, saying he didn’t want to fight. Jennifer looked at Kiziah’s gun, still resting at their feet. She let out a deep sigh. However, she raised her hands, keeping her palms flat.

“I don’t want to fight either,” she said.

It was true. She didn’t. No one asked to be here. However, Kimiko was still a threat. It seemed like Clarice and possibly Kiziah were friends with her, though. Maybe the diplomatic approach would work? It’d better work.

Halwood, you better know what you’re doing.

V6 Reduced Activity Notices
I'm done with finals, but I may be a bit slow still. Anxiety + connection issues.

The Greatest Sideshow on Earth
((Emma Luz continued from Notes From An Even Smaller Island))

It was going to rain. That was a good thing and a bad thing.

The good news was, if it rained, that’d solve their water problem quickly. Depending on how much, they could easily replenish their stock. All they’d need to do was find a way to collect it. She remembered a few times, people would talk about ways to gather rainwater using a tarp or their roof. Finding a tarp would be tricky, though. Maybe there could be something they could use, though, with a bit of looking.

The bad news: it also meant that they’d have to find another shelter more quickly. It was already a priority to begin with. A good place to sleep was about as important as water. Not to mention… it was getting a little difficult for her, walking around like this. Her legs and shoulders ached. A few times, she’d space out, or even doze a little, only to realize the group was moving. It was clear after a while that she needed a place to rest. While it sounded a bit selfish, she did have somewhat different needs physically, after all. She didn't feel like she could hike for much longer. However, it would also be good for the others, to find a place to sit down, maybe sleep. Rain, with all the issues that would cause, only made that more important.

Luckily, that issue resolved itself. Amanda pointed out a building that could have some supplies they needed. Emma gave a small smile, and it wasn’t just the fact that they had a place to rest and look for things they needed. One of her favorite movies back home had a scene where two of the main characters devised a plan that ended with going to a pub to “get a cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.” She could only see the humor in hiding out in a bar.

Of course, her smile faded some after a second. She missed home. Even if they made it back, she knew that student council meetings wouldn’t be the same without Joshua or Conrad. And home wouldn’t be the same without…

Emma tried to shake that thought aside. It still hurt, knowing that Sabrina and Tina had been killed.

Like the others, she stepped into the pub, and right away, a pungent smell had hit her nose. It was the same familiar smell from the wards. It wasn’t long before they found the source. There was blood, spattered all over an armchair and the nearby floor. At the center of it all, a body sat limply. Emma recognized the dyed brown hair, now matted with blood.

“Mabes?”

Another flash of denial hit. Emma ran forward a few feet, the bag hitting her sides. However, she stopped once she got a closer look. Some part of her hoped that Tessa wasn’t dead, just injured. That she could be revived somehow. However, even from where she was standing, just some feet away, she could tell they were too late. Her skin had turned sickly gray with splotches. Flies huddled near a large wound near her neck.

Her heart started thumping. Emma slowly stepped back.

She usually wasn’t squeamish. Back in school she happily enjoyed dissection in Bio. Emma had seen all kinds of pictures and diagrams that went into detail about how the body worked. Being interested in first aid and medicine meant that she was familiar with all the ways a person could get sick, injured, or killed. Emma had read about ways the body decayed over time. She’d even seen a few autopsy images online. However, nothing could prepare you for seeing someone who once talked about drone attacks over Arizona, who once wanted to create light installations, reduced to essentially a piece of meat. Emma’s eyes squeezed tight.

She opened them again when she heard a muffled voice. Emma turned her head, to see that someone else was here. Someone who was alive. Kaitlyn Greene had a protein bar hanging from her mouth, and a pair of boots in her hands. A quick look back at Tessa told her where they came from. Emma looked back once Kaitlyn swallowed and continued talking.

Emma felt her fist clench. Kaitlyn… was acting weird, for lack of a better way of saying it. She had stepped closer to Mabes’, and said that she had dibs on her stuff. Yeah, her suspicions were correct. Graverobbing. Even if Kaitlyn said she wasn’t responsible and she’d share, there was still something slimy about taking someone’s things after they died, even if they didn’t need them anymore.

Right now, Emma had so many questions. But she settled on one.

“Kaitlyn,” she said. “Do… you know what happened here?”

A few more slow steps backwards.

Bread Suit
Clang.

That got Junko’s attention. Without even thinking about it, she tossed the bread back into the open bag and stood up. It happened so quickly, she felt almost like a jumpcut in real life. Straight from sitting on the ground eating bread, then, bam. Standing with a bat in her hand.

Junko took a deep breath, and looked at the source. The flashlight, still on and laying on the floor, had a moving shadow just in the edge of its beam. Someone was here. Someone was definitely here. Junko’s eyes narrowed. But within a heartbeat, she lifted the flashlight with her free hand, and flicked it off and on towards the shape.

“I see you, you know,” she called out.

Once again, she wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. There was a possibility that they had a gun or something. Maybe it was Isabel, or Nancy. She distinctly remembered that their names had come up on the announcements. In fact, it was Isabel, wasn’t it? The person who… well, killed Danny. Kimiko had gotten a few kills, too, which still seemed weird. Eh, maybe especially the part where she killed Bradley, too.

But, she did feel prepared for whatever this person had to offer. She still had the bat, which had served her loyally this entire time. Well, okay, she still had the chisel, too. And the hammer. She hadn’t figured out what to do with it after finding it inside Jasmine’s bag, so she didn’t throw it out. Maybe she should? Her bag was heavily enough. Anyways, that wasn’t as important as potential killer.

The energy continued to fizz inside her, only getting more and more unbearable now. Perhaps they would fight her, or perhaps she could steal more things from them. Again though, it didn’t seem like she needed anything right now, did she? Walk away? Was that another option? Didn’t feel like it.

V6 Reduced Activity Notices
Finals! I'll probably be a bit more sparse this week and next.

Why We Fight
Something got her attention.

Jennifer snapped her head up as she saw someone else approach. It took a moment for her to process the information. Her brain was still sluggish from lack of caffeine and exhaustion. However, a moment was enough.

It looked like a girl covered in blood. Jennifer’s heart began to pound, this time not from exertion.

Everyone else confirmed who she was. Kimiko Kao. It wasn’t like Jennifer didn’t know who she was, though. Years of working on the school newspaper, of doing articles on the sports teams, meant that she was well acquainted with the fact that Kimiko was part of the basketball and gymnastics team. She was unable to speak, but was the gymnastics captain. And, most importantly… she was a killer. The names went by too fast, but she knew that Kimiko had come up. They even gave her a prize.

The blood was fresh.

Too fresh.

Jennifer’s eyes snapped around her. Bart was terrified. Kiziah was nervous. Clarice just let out a flat curse and tried to hide Kiziah behind her. Could they hide behind the truck, the crates? Could they run for it? Run the other way Anything, everything, to hide, run, escape. Anything.

And that’s when Jennifer saw it. Kiziah’s gun.

Her heartrate got faster when she saw it just lying on the ground just at Bart’s feet. A weapon laying in plain sight, where someone, anyone could grab it. Kimiko could’ve easily just picked it up and shot them, just like that, if Bart had moved. Even if she didn’t attack them, she could still use it on other people.

Jennifer’s head flicked towards the rest of the group for a second. She had to think fast.

She stepped forward, her heart still pounding in her ears. Jennifer stopped just in front of the gun. She looked to see that Bart was still standing nearby, just in case. Her vision blurred, and it felt a bit like watching something in a movie. But she felt herself stand with legs apart, her posture slouched like a wild animal about to strike.

“What do you want, Kimiko?” she snapped.

A split second told her that wasn’t the best idea. Kimiko couldn’t respond, for starters. But, also… she had a sword. That meant any bad decisions she made here, could mean her death.

Another look at Bart. If he grabbed the gun and kept it out of her reach, that would make things better. If he couldn’t, she could. No matter what, though, Kimiko could not have it. That was final.

Notes from an Even Smaller Island
Ah, they agreed with her on the water thing.

Emma nodded at Amanda’s suggestion. If they were going to leave, it was good to pack up. Slowly, she began pulling herself upwards. Standing was, once again, a little tricky. Her muscles didn’t fully cooperate, but she could manage. Once she was on her feet, she rubbed the back of her neck for a second, before she realized she’d spaced out again.

Packing. Right.

She slid back into the room she came out of, and saw her things laying on the ground, where she’d left them. Her bag was left zipped up, and she’d put everything back when she was done using them. Except for one thing: her first aid kit was placed on top of it, just in case. They still hadn’t found out where the blood came from, or even if the person was still alive. For a moment, Emma knelt to get a better look at it.

They’d wasted time. Even now, she could remember how she and Jaime got distracted. They’d spent too long here, and now? Two announcements, too many people lost. She wasn’t sure what she could do, but she knew she needed to be doing something more than what she had. Safety was a priority, and for the past two days they hadn’t been in any danger. But was it worth being safe when others weren’t? Emma’s eyes narrowed for a second, then slowly, she unzipped her bag, placing the kit on top. After zipping everything up, she slung the strap over her shoulder.

Her hand was once again on the door, but she looked around her for a moment. Was she sure about leaving? Still safe, still no problems other than food or water. But she resolved herself. They had to leave. It wasn’t worth it to stick around weird smells, lack of resources, and dingy wards. It wasn’t worth it to…

She opened the door.

As she began walking towards the exit, her fatigued mind tried to remember a few details. They should have sorted out the water thing a long time ago, to be honest. But there were ways to get some. Plants did give off condensation, so they could gather it overnight that way. If it rained, that’d mean water literally coming out of the sky. Inland might be a place to go, since fresh water was more likely to be further from the beach.

Her mind hit a block. She’d just remembered that she went on a lot of family camping trips growing up. Kingman was full of campgrounds and hiking trails, after all.

Emma stopped for a moment. Her eyes once again connected to the floor. A small shiver ran up and down her body. But she looked back up, and continued walking. Without realizing it, her steps were fast, heavy.

Sabrina had never really liked camping.

((Emma Luz continued in The Greatest Sideshow on Earth))