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Little Pig
Wow. He really was nervous, wasn’t he? Bart just recited, step-by-step, everything that he’d experienced thus far. So he’d woken up in the cafeteria, then made his way here? It didn’t seem like he’d encountered anyone else, though.

“I’ve been in here since I woke up,” Jennifer said, looking off to the other side, then back. “You’re the first person I’ve seen thus far.”

Was she still mad as hell? Of course. But she still calmed down, at least to talk to him. Bart, as far as she could tell, was harmless. The part where he went into detail about what he’d been doing without prompting was a little weird, of course. It seemed more like fear if anything, though. Like he was so terrified, he overshared information just to be sure she wasn’t going to do anything. That could be a sign of lying, of course. It often was. But he was tripping over his words and sniffling.

Her fingers tightened on the door frame as she heard a new voice. She turned her head, and saw Kiziah. Kiziah was a kind, intelligent woman, if a little… impressionable. Hopefully she wasn’t impressionable enough to believe that she had to kill everyone here. But she seemed normal. Scared, but normal.

Jennifer let out a breath. She doubted Kiziah and Bart would be the type, but it was still messed up how she had to worry anyways.

“I don’t mind you two sticking around,” she said. “Just as long as you won’t… you know.”

She tried to smile, to make herself friendly. The red lipstick she usually wore had faded into an uneven stain. But even then, she still tried.

You Could Have A Dream About Losing Your Friends
A shriek had filled the room, followed by a stream of light pointed towards the new person. It was swiftly followed by a snarl.

Emma still held on tight to the chair, her knees wobbling some. Jaime was a bit of a hothead at school, that she knew. She’d developed a reputation for arguing with teachers, and while she did have some legitimate arguments she still was a stubborn girl. Being a stubborn person wasn’t that much of a bad thing. Growing up, Emma was familiar with people calling her that. In a way, being that tenacious was a good thing. But she wasn’t sure if it still was when it came to dealing with Jaime. She’d known Jaime, too, from when they took first aid together. She didn’t seem armed, but Emma still felt herself breathing faster.

“Jaime! Jaime, it’s a-alright. No one here will hurt you. Really,” she said.

Emma still felt unwell. Her mouth was still dry, she still felt like throwing up, and her legs still had trouble responding. But, she still felt the situation with Jaime could be defused. If she was just upset, and not at all dangerous, then it probably could be easy. Despite her aching muscles, she tried to pull her head up to look Jaime in the face. Like Emma, Amanda and Lucilly weren’t playing, and hopefully they’d help calm her down too. Hopefully.

I Know What My Fortune Is
Oh, so that’s two, then. Figures. Good to see they still weren’t missing anything. Seriously. Junko kept her smile in turn. And oh yeah, he wanted to know about Darius. AKA, the man who tried to… flirt? Flirt, yeah. He’d tried to flirt with his on-off girlfriend.

“Um… he showed up drunk and I guess high off caffeine too. He started singing and tried to hug Raina, but… she didn’t like that. So she and Wayne decided to step away for a while.”

Where were they, anyways? Did Darius piss them off so badly they couldn’t come back? Should she or someone else send a text or something saying that Darius was gone so they could come back now? Did the aforementioned serial killers get them? Again, the last thing any party needs are serial killers. Also, did Cris know Wayne? Probs, yeah. Cochise wasn’t that big.

“Anyways, I think Aiden and I shooed him off. He doesn’t like skeeter puns apparently, so you could try that if he acts up again?” she said.

She didn’t mind Cris showing up late. She was going to say as much, then-

Johnny stood up, and called out to Fiyori about… wait. Wait wait wait. Did he just openly state that Aiden wanted “feminine attention”? Was that what they were talking about? Did he mean banging? Or just a crush? Both? No idea. But it was a weird thing to randomly call out. If he meant either one, not sure if that was something nice or something terrible. Aiden did look awkward, though.

Junko looked at Johnny’s back as he walked away to piss. Then Aiden, who was waving at Fiyori. Then Fiyori’s face. Then back to Cris.

“… Did that just happen?”

96+ Quite Bitter Beings
What was with Darius?

He took the phrase “knock yourself out” a bit too literally, didn't he? Well, not literally. But he just pantomimed the bottle knocking him out cold. Well, at least that was somewhat normal, she guessed? Okay, Junko smiled, yeah. He was just being weird, but that was better than... anything else, really. It was pretty normal for him, right?

She didn't think she had a reason to be scared of him, though. Hell, her, scared? Yeah, she knew fear, but she wasn't just going to break down crying because Darius was being weird. She wasn't that much of a wuss. She was brave, and strong. Even if Darius tried something, she could take him.

Junko leaned down to pick up her bat again, but the second she did, she heard a sound. Was that someone pouring something out? She looked up, and-

He was wasting her water.

He was wasting her water.

Her heart started racing. It was not fear. Years of athletic practice, of rollerblading, told her one thing. Water was important. She was pretty sure you could last for weeks without food. It'd suck, yeah, but you could last for a while. But water? Water you could last only a few days with. Pretty much every guide, every coach, everyone told you that water was vital. Hell, you didn't need to be an athlete to realize that.

And he just literally tossed it onto the ground.

Junko heard herself seethe. This was part of his plan, too. He'd wasted his own water, with this message-in-a-bottle bullshit. Which meant he had to waste hers, too. Where was she going to get more? She wasn't Bear Grylls or some shit, she didn't have that much knowledge on where to get water. An entire bottle, gone, because Darius was a dumbass.

She stood up. Her limbs shook. Her teeth grinded.

“You... asshole...”

She stomped forward, her bat in hand.

Little Pig
“Bart? Is that you?”

Jennifer sighed in relief. She was still pretty damn angry. Furious, even. But to know it was Bart? That helped somewhat. For a moment, Jennifer wondered if it was some kind of trick. Oh, I was just looking at all the pictures, psyche I'm going to kill you, she guessed. But his rough shape had its arms up. His voice stammered. If anything, she startled him.

“Bart, it's Jennifer. Wallace, not Su. Don't worry, I'm not killing. I'm just really p-”

She cut herself off, and started again.

“I'm just really upset.”

She stepped to the doorway, and yes, the smell confirmed it. It was Bart. She couldn't help but remember that one day at the museum. Did he still have hard feelings about her behavior there? Normally the concern there would be upsetting someone. But for all she knew, he could... do something. Find a reason to kill her. He didn't seem armed, but you never know.

Her hand held onto the door's frame as she looked outside. She saw his face within a heartbeat. You could tell the man was scared out of his wits.

New V5 Reduced Activity Notices
Hey guys, I've been able to get on, but I've been feeling stressed out and exhausted on and off for the past week or two. If I seem any weird when you talk to me about V6 stuff, that's why. Hopefully I'll feel better soon.

You Could Have A Dream About Losing Your Friends
As Emma pulled her hand away from her face, her fingertips came up wet. But the other voice made itself known pretty quickly.

“Lucilly?”

Lucilly was a name that rang a bell to her, too. One thing Emma could remember about her was that she babysat a lot of kids. She was a nice girl as well. She enjoyed sewing too, if she could remember correctly, and did volunteer stuff.

She came into view, and yes, it was her.

“Lucilly… I’m… I’m glad to see you too,” she said.

Despite everything, Emma felt herself smile a bit. Amanda and Lucilly were both good people. Hopefully she could trust them with her life.

“Yeah, I’m o-okay,” Emma said in response to Amanda’s question. “I’m not feeling well right now, but, um, I don’t see myself doing what they say. It’s pretty… gross. What they want you to do, I mean. What about you?”

Talking was starting to get a bit easier. It seemed like the gas was wearing off fine, and she’d just have to deal with the usual fog soon. That’d still be a problem, though.

Emma instinctively squinted and raised an arm across her face once Amanda flicked on the flashlight. That was never a good experience, going straight from darkness to bright light. But once she moved her arm away and her eyes adjusted, she could get a better look at the two. Amanda looked nervous. Lucilly still had trails of snot and tears on her face. Emma couldn’t help but feel for them. She hoped that they were doing okay emotionally, just as they were physically.

“Hey, it might be… be good for me to sit down, okay? Maybe I’ll… er… feel better.”

Emma placed her hands on the chair her bag had been on, and started pulling herself up. Her legs felt stiff, like they had weights attached. But it would probably be better to sit on the chair, rather than the dirty floor, didn’t it? Emma softly groaned as her leg muscles started working for what felt like the first time in a while. Her feet were now touching the floor, which was good. Now she just had to put her body in the chair, and lean forward.

Unfortunately, a series of loud curse words filled the room, and Emma felt her legs slip under her. Her hands were still tightly grasped onto the chair’s backrest, but she lost some balance from the shock. That wasn’t Lucilly or Amanda. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know who that was.

Little Pig
Jennifer, for a second, glared at the manual. For another, she wondered if she should pick it up. There wasn’t much else she needed to know about the game. Just the same information that they told them before. You know, kill or be killed, there are metal collars that explode, don’t die like Graham.

Her breathing was loud; her heartbeat was pounding in her ears. She felt her fists tighten, as if she was going to punch the next person that she saw. Damn it all. Again, she didn’t need to be this emotional. She knew deep down that staying calm was the way to go. But she swore to god, any second now she would rip the paintings into shreds.

She was this close to graduating. Jennifer was supposed to get her diploma, go to Columbia, eventually go to the graduate school. But it turned out fate had other plans for her, and now? Now she was here. She hated every second of this.

Then Jennifer saw movement. A person? It had a shadow like a person, at least. Jennifer’s eyes narrowed. As she stepped forward to get a better look, the yellowed paintings dampened the sound of her heels stomping against the carpet.

“Hello?” she called out. “Who’s there? I’m really not in the mood to get murdered right now.”

Her voice was snappish.

96+ Quite Bitter Beings
Damn it, Darius.

He just laughed, and said that she was smart in not trusting him. Like, he literally just said she couldn’t trust anyone, but she could trust him. Wrap your head around that one. If anyone didn’t understand Darius right now, it was Junko. Then again, she might have been the first he talked to. Or the second. No idea. All she knew was that he was making weird jokes. Apparently the “knowing a way out” wasn’t a joke, but beating people to death with a water bottle? What.

For a moment, Junko considered not giving the bottle to him. Let him be thirsty, even if he was all red and sweaty. To be fair, it was his normal levels of jerkishness. It wasn’t anything that weird, just in a different context. Junko silently cursed her conscience. Again, this could turn out to be some kind of really weird trap. What would be the point of pretending you know a way off and asking for water? Again, no clue. It could be something, though.

She sighed and did a gentle toss in his direction.

“Knock yourself out.”

I Know What My Fortune Is
So after Darius left, Aiden and Johnny went off into a side conversation. Junko couldn’t help but overhear a few snippets of it. Girls? They were talking about girls? Yeah, from what lines she could hear from here, that’s what it was. Someone was having girl troubles? Apparently it was something sexual, based off that hand gesture. With who? Aiden’s date to the dance? Someone else? Damn it, she knew it was wrong to listen in on others’ conversations, but those small tidbits had managed to find their way to her. Oh, she also got a bottle cap tossed at her. Nice. Okay, it was an accident, and at least it wasn’t beer again.

Other than that, it was pretty quiet. Darius apparently had taken most of the noise with him. So Junko tried not to listen any more to whatever Johnny and Aiden were talking about. Polite, you know? She didn't usually care that much about politeness, but gotta show some decency. If Aiden or Johnny wanted her to know, she’d know. So she instead focused on devouring a hot dog and the sound of the fire cracking.

Oh, and someone sneaking up behind her and saying “Boo”.

Junko jumped, a piece of sausage still in her mouth. People had a tendency of showing up behind her this evening. Why, she didn’t know. Maybe it was because her front was towards the fire, and behind was the best way to talk to her? No idea. But she turned around again after swallowing. Oh sweet, Cris had shown up, too. Like Aiden, he had gone to the dance first before heading here, yeah. She’d texted him earlier, and it was clear that he hadn’t dressed out before arriving either.

“Oh, hey!” she said, a smile on her face. “Aiden said the dance wasn’t any good. Guessing he’s right? Also, you just missed drunk Darius.”

You Could Have A Dream About Losing Your Friends
Emma slowly opened her eyes.

“Amanda?”

Amanda. Amanda Tan was a flighty girl, but not a bad one. She could remember being on committees with her. Amanda was a good person, right? Right. She was pretty hardworking and trustworthy. Maybe she was still like that. She said she wasn’t going to shoot, though. For a second, Emma wasn’t sure whether or not to trust her. But she came closer into view, and Emma saw that she had a rifle of some kind. Again, she said she wasn’t going to shoot it, but Emma’s heart still skipped a beat when she noticed it.

As she lowered her arms, she realized she had been holding in her breath. A gasp of air escaped her lips.

“Amanda. It’s… good to see you. Really.”

Emma smiled, even if she was still nervous. Hopefully Amanda didn’t have killing on her mind. She didn’t like the idea of getting murdered, of course. But she also didn’t like the idea of someone she knew turning out to be a murderer.

“Hey… did you see anyone, um, else? I… kind of heard sobbing.”

The nausea still floated around her brain. Emma’s hand reached up underneath her glasses to massage her eyes. She heard somewhere that rubbing your eyes wasn’t a good idea, but it was still a hard habit to break.

You Can't Roller Skate in A Buffalo Herd
Aiden finally released his grip on her. Junko let off a puff of air. At last, breathing. Bear hugs didn’t do the lungs wonders. But yeah, he was gonna sample the Flaming Hots. Maybe he was a hot spicy food sort of guy, maybe he wasn’t.

“Oh thank god you accept bribes,” Junko said. “Food bribes for food officers can be pricey these days.”

Though, did it really look like that? A chicken and a peanut’s bastard child? Junko never thought of it that way. She always thought that it looked like a… Cheeto, except redder and hotter. Shut up, it made sense, didn’t it? Peanut and chicken did make sense, though. It didn’t taste like it, though, but Aiden was going to find out in a second.

In that second, he found out that it didn’t taste like that at all.

“Oh shit, shitshitshitshit.”

It was pretty obvious that Aiden wasn’t a hot food guy after all! Anyone could see that the poor guy was tearing up and sweating. Junko sometimes forgot that people didn’t like hot food the same way she did. Sure, her tongue must be battle-scarred from all the flaming hot cannons and stuff, but other people’s weren’t.

She brought her water bottle, didn’t she? It wouldn’t be the first time Junko had forgotten her water bottle somewhere. Or it being kicked or something. Man, that thing had been through a lot, hadn’t it? Probably not as much as Aiden’s tongue right now, though. Junko’s head darted left and right, up and down. Gah, where did she put it? Maybe Aiden had one of his own hidden somewhere, but she had no idea. Didn’t look like it?

Oh, there it was.

Junko saw the steel gently reflecting the dim shade of underneath the picnic table, and stood up. Her fingers curled around the cap and pulled it up. It was too late, though. Maybe. Aiden was already asking innocent bystanders for help. Bryony, wasn’t it? Yeah, kinda artsy Senior girl.

“Here, here! I’ve got one too!” she shouted.

It Belongs in a Museum
“Ah,” Jennifer said. “I know the feeling.”

Writer’s block: the bane of anyone with an artistic bent. She knew it well. The feeling of staring at a computer screen, notepad, or piece of paper, trying to think of just that right detail. Didn’t matter what exactly you were doing, but it still crept up like some wild tiger.

Jennifer smiled for a brief second. That feeling was one of solidarity. Something she could empathize with, even with the smell. Speaking of which, he just noticed her reaction.

“Uh…”

She didn’t come off as impolite, did she? Jennifer was a blunt person, but the smells of people was right up there with talking to someone about their body weight. It could be well-meaning, but it wasn’t nice to go around telling people they’re fat or that they smell bad. Sure, she still wondered why he didn’t take care of the smell, but again, that’s something she felt was inappropriate to bring up.

But Bart noticed her reaction, so it was a good idea to tackle that elephant in the living room. Well, museum lobby, but still.

“I guess it is,” she said. “I’ve been wondering about it for a while, but… I thought it was impolite to ask. Sorry if I came off as rude.”

Well, this was awkward. Maybe she should have brought it up sooner in Writing Club or elsewhere. It would have at least given her an explanation sooner, to prevent mishaps like this. Jennifer found herself looking away, only to see another classmate. It was Asuka, standing and waving some feet away

Jennifer waved back. She must be here for the same reasons, then? It was hot outside, too. Living on the edge of the Mohave desert meant a lot of air condition. Maybe that was it, for Bart. Just someone who sweats a lot.

Little Pig
It was funny. She’d always liked the idea of exploring an abandoned hospital. Kingman had a few laying around, so it wasn’t like she hadn’t been to some for urban exploration. And yet, here Jennifer was, inside what had to be the world’s most decrepit art room. It smelled like rotten wood, too.

To be honest, Jennifer had mixed feelings about whether or not they’d be rescued. On one hand, wouldn’t people have caught on by now? Buses go missing, it’s SOTF. Period. Maybe the FBI or CIA was getting on that, and they’ll be rescued in the next few hours. Maybe. On the other, it took a few days before rescue happened in 2008. Also, she was sure some of her classmates were morally bankrupt enough to start killing anyways. That Bradley boy, for example.

Jennifer had looked through the bag they’d given them, of course. There was plenty of food and water, though a chain? Really? Well, she guessed that it was useful in its own way. Then there was the manual. It was written in a way that suggested that Danya pleasured himself to the idea of people killing each other. And yet, it was only another reminder that she wasn’t just off exploring an abandoned hospital.

She’d read it over and over while sitting at this art table, just in front of a tree that had fallen through the window. She closed the manual with a small thud.

Jennifer felt herself shake some. She knew Blake wasn’t here, so that was a relief. That was a small one, though. She didn’t remember who did go on the trip. Graham, though…

The image of Graham’s head exploding had come up again. Jennifer quickly stood up, rubbing her forehead for a few seconds. But those few seconds were enough to inspire something stronger in her. Her teeth gritted, and she felt herself breathing louder. A wordless roar left her lips.

The manual flew through the air, hitting an easel and falling to the ground.

Maybe she shouldn’t be so emotional. But it still was hell.

96+ Quite Bitter Beings
Apparently it wasn’t a joke. Know why? Well, Darius pulled out the instruction manual thing from his pocket. You know, the one where they make jokes about killing people and shit. That one. Junko had read a few snippets of it, only to stop because it was so… weird. Anyways, ripping it up was one way to stick it to the terrorists.

Junko raised an eyebrow, watching the shredded paper fall to the ground like snowflakes. She had only one response to that.

“Well… then.”

He’d asked for water, too. Well, Darius did look exhausted and red-faced. He sprinted here too. He was probs thirsty after that. But Junko still wasn’t sure if she could trust him. Sure, he seemed to think that this was bullshit too, but for all she knew he could backstab her, even if he knew a way off. But damn it, her better side won out.

With a bit of hesitance, she walked over to her bag sitting on the ground and unzipped it. The bat made a small thud as she dropped it on the floor to place her hands into the bag. Once her fingers touched a plastic cap, she quickly pulled it up. But for a moment, she stared at it.

This was her water. She wasn’t sure where they could get more. Was it a good idea to give it to him? Sure, he seemed like he needed it, but still.

She didn’t look up.

“Darius… don’t you have some of your own?” she asked. But another, more crushing question came out.

“How do I know I can trust you?”

For all she knew, this was a trap of some kind. Again, he tore the manual, but for all she knew he could be pulling a ruse of some kind. What, she wasn’t sure.

You Could Have A Dream About Losing Your Friends
Somewhere in the room, there was a series of sobs.

Emma froze up, her eyes widening. Even though the gas was still clouding her mind, she could still figure out one thing: someone else was here. Sounded like a girl, too. It could mean many things. Maybe it was someone safe, maybe it wasn’t.

She slid the bag off her hand, and slowly pulled herself into a kneel. It felt a bit like her brain was sloshing around in her skull. Emma looked around. She still had her glasses on, but even then it was somewhat more difficult to focus. It didn’t help it was dark, either.

The sobbing only got louder, mixing well with Emma’s heartbeat. Her mouth felt even more dry. She wasn’t sure if she should say something. It could be someone dangerous. But who at the school would be dangerous? There was somewhat of a bad crowd at the school, but most schools did. She also didn’t think most- if not all- would kill people, either. Their school was different, right? Cochise was a good school, full of good people. Hopefully that was still the case.

Before she could say anything, there was another sound. It was something like a door creaking open. Emma snapped her head towards the noise. Someone was saying something. Another girl? Yeah, another girl. Different girl.

Mom and Dad had taught her a lot. She’d been to self-defense lessons, and had gone camping with them. But, she realized, she still couldn’t remember if they told her what to do in situations like this. So she did the only thing she could think of.

She raised her arms up with her palms flat.

“It… it’s…”

Emma couldn’t speak. Maybe she was still incoherent from the drugs, maybe she was just nervous. But the back of her throat tasted bitter.

“E-emma. It’s… it’s me. Emma-a.”

Her voice came out quiet and slightly slurred.

Hopefully, if she could see her, she’d realize she was unarmed. Hopefully her, and the other girl, were safe people. Hopefully Emma made the right choice.

She tightly closed her eyes, waiting for what would happen next.

96+ Quite Bitter Beings
Junko tilted her head to the side.

An escape? That seemed like a joke. And a particularly cruel one, too. Hahaha. Darius, you’re funny. Really. She felt edges of her mouth tighten a bit. Was this really the time to be joking? Well, okay, she’d probably make a joke about all this bullshit too. But escaping? That was low.

Junko’s eyes narrowed. Darius was a lot of things. But would escaping be something he’d joke about? He said it like he knew a way off, too. Did he? Was it really that simple?

“Are you joking? Because that’s a shitty thing to joke about. Honest.”

She looked him over. Well, despite her first impression he was holding something, but she wasn’t sure what. He seemed scared, but for all she knew he could be calm enough to crack a joke like that. But the image of Graham was still burned into her memory. How could he think of a joke like that? Who responds with being abducted by the SOTF people by making a joke about escaping? Junko was all for humor, especially when shit has hit the fan, but… escaping. Really.

Maybe he did know something. She was going to wait to see what he said. But just in case, her fingers tightened around the bat.

96+ Quite Bitter Beings
Junko Kurosawa knew fear all too well.

She’d long been acquainted with the feeling that comes right when you’re on the track in a crouch start, waiting for that whistle. Those brief seconds at the skate park, when you’re up in the air? That was even more familiar to her. Learning how to vault over an obstacle the right way? She was getting used to that feeling. She’d even felt it a few times while playing video games. Point is, Junko knew what it was like to be scared. However, that fear usually came with a sense of… well, excitement. For most of her life, she had craved that particular form of energy. Whether it was the 400m dash, performing a new trick on her rollerblades, practicing parkour, or even when she first started playing games about haunted animatronics, Junko lived for that. Maybe her brain was wired a little differently. Who knows?

However, even that couldn’t prepare her for waking up to what had to been the entire class tied up and panicking. It definitely couldn’t have prepared her for seeing what looked like some soldiers with guns. To think that Junko could have just laughed off seeing Graham getting killed in front of her? That was inconceivable.

Yeah, they kidnapped them. "They" as in those terrorists. Why did they attack a school like Cochise, anyways? Who the fuck knows? All Junko knew was that that she woke up bound to a chair, with a shitload of classmates and Graham. Some guy showed up with gun and he shot him. Just like that. Not an ounce of guilt or anything. Junko could remember how her face had contorted once the red splattered everywhere. It wasn't like anything in a movie, where headshots were kind of cool and only slightly gruesome. It was like his head cracked open and exploded, all at once. They played them some movie, about a boy shooting someone, but she wasn't really paying attention. But she got the gist of it all. Survival of the Fittest. Kill or be killed. The next thing she knew, she woke up on some helicopter pad.

To be honest, Junko didn’t pay attention to the entire spiel. Instead, her eyes were focused on Graham. Could they die like that? Just shot suddenly? She didn’t want to think of it. Instead, her mind was focused on one thought. It was one thought that stayed with her even when they gassed them again.

The gas had worn off surprisingly quickly for her. However, the thought stayed with her. She didn’t want to die the same way Graham did. Just helplessly waiting to get shot? That was undignified. Graham was a cool teacher. Junko was normally shit at things like equations, so she didn't expect to be any good at Physics. But he made it easy for her to understand. He was a cool, funny teacher. Yeah, he did frown at her when she goofed off, but what teacher didn't? She only just now realized that she couldn't have had a better Physics teacher.

The thought that had stayed with her was almost like a promise. That kind of death? Her life wasn’t supposed to end that way. She wasn’t sure what would be a preferable way to die, but one thing was certain, even when her fingers first touched the wooden bat.

She’d never die like that.

How long had it been since she’d woken up? A few hours? She was getting antsy, to be honest. Junko hadn’t done a lot since then. She’d looked through the bag, yeah. A quick look-over told her that there was pretty much everything she needed in it. Afterwards, Junko had practiced a bit with the bat. It wasn’t hard, swinging a bat in the air. They’d done baseball-type stuff a few times in P.E. She’d been good at it. Though, that was because she was fast, not because she was a good pitcher or hitter.

Right as she finished a swing, someone finally came sprinting. That was Darius Van Dyke. She remembered him. Junko still had the memory of him drunkenly singing Vocaloid songs at her party. That memory was stained into her brain for a lifetime. Junko had stopped, but her hands gripped tighter around the bat. Junko’s eyes quickly flicked up and down, figuring him out. She didn’t see a weapon, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have one. Just that she couldn’t see it.

“Oh, hey Darius”, she said. “You… startled me.”

Her voice was friendly. She managed to smile. Yet, one more thought popped into her head. If he fucked with her, she wasn’t going down easily. Not a murderer, just someone who was going to go down swinging. That’s her.

You Could Have A Dream About Losing Your Friends
In her Junior year, Emma had to do a group assignment in Social Studies about an event in recent history. It was pretty simple: make a poster about something that had happened anywhere between the past few years to now. Yet, it managed to be one of the most difficult group projects she’d ever done. It wasn’t that she was exhausted. Exhaustion was always an issue with assignments, yeah, but that wasn’t the problem. The issue wasn’t the people she worked with, either. They were cool, hardworking people.

The problem was that the subject they had been randomly selected for was Survival of the Fittest. At first, Emma thought while it was not a pleasant topic, they could still finish it pretty easily. She was proven wrong once she actually did some research. It was probably the worst thing she ever had to look up. She read about other atrocities in class, sure. All kind of wars, pain, and suffering. But somehow, realizing that these were kids, just like her, was the worst part. Any one of them could have easily been like her classmates, or her friends. Even like her family. Emma had read somewhere that one time, somewhere over 250 students, plus their teachers, were abducted. What really put it into perspective was getting an idea of how many people that was. Cochise had assemblies from time to time, usually on Wednesday. As she waited for one to start a few days after the project was assigned she couldn’t help but look at all the people around her.

250 or more people would mean a lot of missing seats. How many schools had an assembly after an abduction like that? How many empty chairs were conspicuously unoccupied over the years? How many people were taken away to die? She didn’t want to find out the exact number who lived and died through such horror. Just the estimate of 250 for one incident was enough.

She couldn’t imagine what it would be like, having to kill your friends. The clips themselves couldn’t be viewed, too illegal. But there were a few survivor stories, like the National Geographic article with Kimberly Nguyen.

Emma was used to having nightmares. In fact, she’d had particularly vivid dreams her entire life. For a long time, everyone thought that it didn’t mean much. She did have night terrors, too, but she only knew about that when someone told her about it in the morning. Of course, she found out during her diagnosis that vivid, surreal dreams were something to be expected. Add in the sleep paralysis, and it meant one thing: for the next few weeks, Emma’s night time experiences were full of images of being murdered by someone she loved.

So when she first woke up inside an auditorium of some kind, with her and her classmates tied to a chair, she thought she was having another dream like that. She could vaguely remember it being hot out before they set off on their trip. Historically, Emma didn’t do well in hot weather. It made things harder to stay awake. So maybe she fell asleep on the bus.

Her heart had raced as she realized where things were going. But she remembered a trick someone had told her if she had dreams like that. There was something called “lucid dreaming,” where if you realized you were in a dream you could be able to change things in it. It sounded like something she’d experienced before in her dreams, but recently she’d tried doing it on purpose. It worked like a charm, and it made her sleep paralysis and odd dreams a bit more tolerable. Just a bit. Whenever she experienced it, it felt a bit like changing the channel to something you enjoy more.

Emma, in hindsight, knew it was a silly delusion. But in her panic, she swept into full denial and tried to change that channel. She imagined Mr. Graham turning into a giant coyote and ripping out of his chair to protect everyone. He’d be a big, friendly coyote who’d save everyone. A second later, she pictured herself getting super powers and stopping Greynolds before he approached the chair with Mr. Graham in it. A few more seconds, and she tried to will the military into showing up at the last minute before they could do anything to anyone.

Nothing budged. Greynolds still pulled out a gun, and he… he shot Mr. Graham. He shot their teacher. That’s when Emma realized she wasn’t dreaming. Her last bit of denial didn’t last. She couldn’t change a thing.


She wasn’t sure what they gassed them with, but it hadn’t felt good waking up. How long had she laid on her back, staring at the ceiling while slipping in and out of consciousness? It felt like hours. A few times she had attempted to at least sit up, only to fall back asleep again. She was making more progress waking up, though. At some point, she pulled herself up, her back against the wall. Her brain still hadn’t caught up, so she only fell back asleep. Several times her head would snap back up, with her eyes wide, then her head would droop again. It took some time before she could keep her eyes open.

Her eyes still felt groggy, but she could focus more. Was this some kind of operating room? Did they put her into a hospital? Maybe.

Suddenly, everything clicked into place. Emma still remembered what happened, but now everything fully hit her. They killed Graham, and they were forcing them to cross a line that was reprehensible in every sense. Emma felt her shoulders tighten and shake, as nausea swept over her. It wasn’t just the gas.

She wasn’t sure what to do. Maybe it was the gas, maybe it was panic, maybe it was something else. Mom and Dad had given her an idea of what to do in cases like this, and yet, she was stuck. She knew one thing, though.

“I’m not killing,” she said quietly, a tremor to her voice.

It was obvious. There were a ton of reasons why. It was a disgusting thing to do. People had families who’d miss them. She had a leadership position at the school, and she’d have to set an example. Students killing each other would reflect poorly on the school, too. And what would her family think? How would Mom and Dad feel, knowing that she’d hurt someone? What would Sabrina think, or her cousins-

Sabrina.

That snapped Emma further into alertness. She was definitely on the trip too. Maybe some of her cousins were there, as well. She didn’t want anyone to die. Not her sister, not her cousins, not her friends. Not anyone. Emma felt tears run down her face.

But she tried to stay calm.

Emma’s legs shifted a bit. She finally could move them a bit more, which was good. Still wasn’t sure what it was they drugged them with. It felt like some kind of anesthetic, which it probably was. It wasn’t a good idea to try to figure that out now, though. It wasn’t that important, or at least she didn’t think it was.

She turned her head to the left, and to the right. It ached to do so, but her suspicions were confirmed. Operating room. It looked run-down, though, like nothing had been in use for a long time. There were a lot of boxes and chairs strewn about, too, which was strange. She noticed something about one of the chairs, though. It had some kind of black object laying on top. Emma’s eyes blinked behind her red frames for a beat, until she realized what it was. A bag? Hers?

Emma placed her hands and knees on the ground, and slowly crawled towards the chair. The strap hung off the chair, like some sort of vine. The nausea and drowsiness still followed her, making it more difficult to keep her balance even in this position. Small colorful shapes danced in the corner of her vision. But she kept going. Had to. Opening that bag would mean accepting what’s happening, but at least there would be something useful.

Her hand touched the strap. Emma bit her lips a bit. They were a little dry. But she pulled the bag down. It slid off the chair and onto her right arm, making a loud thud. She cried out. It didn’t hurt that much, but it was still enough of a jolt.

While she didn’t realize it yet, someone could probably hear her from the other rooms.

Suddenly, a Relationship Thread
Hey everyone!


Jordan and Jennifer- Agreed! I think that with their shared interests they could get along nicely. They're both smart, too! I think Jennifer would express concern in his falling grades in particular. They're also both bloggers, and Jennifer probably has reviewed a few movies on hers. Maybe they've influenced each other in some way?

Jordan and Junko- I think she'd just be "meh, whatever" at him. She wouldn't really have any opinions about him either way otherwise. They might know each other if Jordan's an Anime Club person, but other than that, she'd just shrug at any antagonism.

Jordan and Ems- I think she'd have relatively positive feelings about him. Like you said, they're both smart, cautious people. I don't see them being as close as say, him and Jennifer, but I do see Ems being fond of her.

Amanda and Junko- Pulling up what you said about them when I first asked:

Quote:
 
Junko and Amanda are both a little flighty and are both outgoing and confident, with their shared interests, it's fairly possible that they'd be friends. However, Junko's attitude towards work is definitely something that Amanda would be very fond of and it could lead to some disagreement between them. Apart from that, íf they are good friends, I'd think that Amanda's natural curiosity would lead her to go along with most things Junko does, even if she may vocally object at the time.


Agreed, actually. Junko's a bit of a procrastinator because of how absentminded she is, so that could probs be something that'd disagree on. Otherwise, though, they'd get along nicely! I think Junko's feelings would be positive, thinking about it a bit more.

Mabes and Jennifer- I think Jennifer would find the survivalist aspect a little weird, in all honesty. However, she would also relate to the whole "change your appearance" thing since she went through a similar phase (though for different reasons). They're both also artsy people, and Jennifer has bought things from thrift shops. While her thing's more vintage clothing and other items instead of electronics, she would still enjoy the idea of it. The idea of using light as art would also appeal to her. They also both love hiking/urban exploration, which could be a thing they could bond over. So I think she'd have mixed feelings on her.

Mabes and Ems- They'd definitely relate to each other because of the prepper element, yeah! I think Ems would be in some ways supportive of Mabes' interest in survivalism, and Ems has wilderness survival skills as a result of camping with her family. However, despite her background, Ems is skeptical when it comes to stuff like conspiracy theories and general woo. She's probably used to it in some ways, but it still bugs her a bit. In particular, she tends to get annoyed when said theories involve pseudoscience (since she is a science-y person). If the topic of, say, drone attacks came up, she'd just raise her eyebrows a bit. However, she'd try to resist the urge to jump in with facts if it turns to things like vaccines or alternative medicine (if Mabes is the type). If Ems does speak up about it, she'd try her best to be polite, though.

Cris and Jennifer- I like the idea that she interviewed him or Rod, actually! This is especially so since they're both supposed to be superb at what they do, and I think something like state championships would probably be covered by the school newspaper in some way. As for Cris specifically, they do share similar interests in that they both have somewhat of an interest in hiking and urban exploration as well as older media. I'm not sure if they'd be too close, but I do see them connecting in some ways. Though, if Cris did try to hit on her, I think she'd react with a bit of skepticism. Jennifer's not again the idea of dating, casual sex, flirtation, or anything like that, but her first thought would be whether or not he's making a pass because he expects her to put out in some way. While not to the same extent as Feli (Program V2 character), there were a few... stories about her floating around for a while. While they've largely died down as of senior year, I think Cris making a move would- at least initially- kind of make her suspicious of his motives, even if he means nothing bad about it. There's also something I've been thinking about asking about the baseball team, but I'll probably ask it in the baseballer thread since I feel that's a better place.

Rod and Jennifer- Already gave my thoughts on the interview thing, so now here is everything else! Like Cris, hiking would probably be a thing to bond over. Same goes with the reading. I honestly can't think of much right now, though, so we should probably come back to it.

Jane and Jennifer- Some time ago, one of Jane's past handlers (Somersault) did ask me about them in this thread; they put their characters up for adoption before I could respond, though. I did like the idea they proposed, though. However, I feel that it should be up to your own interpretation in the end, since she's yours now. They do, overall, share similar interests in hiking and movies. Jennifer has also written some reviews of movies she's seen, as mentioned above.

Sorry anything here's a bit weirdly phrased or confusing; I've been feeling iffy the past few days, and it might show.