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Plush Wants To Read Your Dead Things!
Not a problem, I'll swap the names!

Plush Wants To Read Your Dead Things!
Taking a leap of faith with CRITIQUE: GWEN O'CONNOR


Gwen is a character who shines most in interaction. Her stint with Group Nap Time is her most prominent and enjoyable read, and it leads into some great moments of emotional conveyance. The stand out for me is her discovery of Ray's recently mutilated body within the Hospital. Not only does this trigger a cool moment for Virgil to play a slightly more comforting role than he's been able to play with Michelle, but it also segues into this breakdown:
"I don't wanna die..." Gwen whispered through her tears. "I don't want this to be me, I can't...if it works, and they blow all the collars, this'll be all that's left." She wiped snot from her nose and tears from her eyes. "But if it doesn't, it might be anyways, someone like Theo or Hansel or, or even now Rosemary and Maddie, they'll kill us."

This makes a nice moment of insight for both Gwen and the group, and really bolsters her appeal. It's got a nice genuineness to it that can be somewhat lacking in her early threads, and I'm really glad to see it develop here.

Even better than reacting to Ray, though, is her one-shot reacting to Michelle's death, and the subsequent thread with Kam. The raw emotion coming from both of them that interlocks and evolves in some slightly unexpected ways is energizing. In fact, I'd say that this is probably Gwen's strongest thread by far, and I really would have liked to see more of the two of them.


Gwen's major character flaw is that her decisions don't make sense a large percentage of the time. She provides little, if any, justification for them, even to the point of arguing against them at points, such as here when she first hooks up with the Group Nap Time crew:
Gwen nodded, but she wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Of course it was important for Vergil to get his stuff back, but this didn't seem like a problem Gwen should get involved in, more of a personal matter.

Still, might as well help out while she could. Only so much time left, after all.

This doesn't really mesh with Gwen's stated motivations up to this point. She has people she wants to find, she's just had an emotional reaction to a friend's death, and the last thing she wants to do is run towards a gun shot. But she goes with the group anyway, for reasons. This really needed more expansion. I'm going to get into part of how that might have been achieved when I dig into the nitpicks section, but right now I want to dive into what is probably Gwen's most problematic element: Her death.

I'm going to be blunt: Gwen's death is an interesting idea wrapped up in poor timing, poor execution, and the wrong character style. I think the poetry theme gels with Gwen's concept, but in practice Gwen is a reactive character, and she's an emotional character. She writes and reads best when there are other people around for her to play off of, and we need that clear connection to her internal feelings to stay invested. The detached, isolated style of the poem strips both of those factors out, and that really weakens its impact. Thematically, it also comes at a very strange time for Gwen. She's re-pepped herself repeatedly, and she's shocked by Dave's death a few days ago in the same manner, finding it somewhat unfathomable. To have her die so suddenly by suicide is surreal and leaves me somewhat confused about her motivations, confusion that is exacerbated by the above stylistic choices in the poetry theme.

This could all be somewhat forgiven, but the poem itself comes off as a little rushed. The structure is very basic and mostly repackages information we already know into a style that's less engaging than it was the first time we were introduced to it. I get the feeling that this was a long standing idea for Gwen given the fact that Espi did not want any death ideas, and that may be part of the problem. Gwen's story at one point supported this, but by now she's evolved and her style has become set. Having someone actually kill her would have been much, much stronger and made a lot more sense with her arc. Speaking from experience, OOC, inflexible commitments can be a toxin for a character, and they should be avoided whenever possible.


I've talked about this issue a few other times throughout these critiques, but Gwen touches on it in an interesting way, by still being readable and understandable despite it. The issue I'm referencing is Profile-Play disconnect, specifically in the Interests section and its application in-game. Gwen has three major listed interests in her profile: Nature, Anarchy, and Poetry. We see precisely one reference to any of these, and that comes in the structure of her death post. Now, Gwen is a readable character, but I think her interests could have been used to both vastly expand upon her decisions and thought process, and to generate new content in her posts that otherwise would have been untouched. They might have even drastically altered her decisions. How would her view of anarchy influenced her place in the Group Nap Time plan? Would it have bolstered it? Undermined it? What does she know, biologically, about the predator-prey relationship that she hints at between the killers and the killed? How does that change how she views both parties, and where she puts herself? These are just a few possible avenues to explore with her interests, and there are reams more.

This is not an issue limited to Gwen, as a review of these critiques will show, but I think Gwen illustrates why it is so prominent: It's entirely possible to write a serviceable, moderately engaging character without any connection to their bulk interests. But you can write a much, much better character if you bring them in. It's something I think all of us can do better on, and I hope reflection on that is useful for Espional going forward with future characters!

Plush Wants To Read Your Dead Things!
Disposing of the DNA evidence with CRITIQUE: CLAIRE MONAGHAN


Claire as a character has two really strong moments that I enjoyed reading. The first of these comes in her opening post. Now, I am not a fan of camera rants in Main, but I can see the appeal of this one. I like the cinematographer angle that Claire takes with it and her consciousness of the underpinnings of the show. It shows a sort of unique brand of intellect that I haven't seen much of, and I would really like to see more of going forward. That sort of eye and understanding sets her apart, though it slips into some problematic elements that I'm going to talk about later.

Claire also has a really fascinating, out of nowhere moment of stream of consciousness that gives us more insight into her character than basically anything else in her story. The full moment is here:
Eight dead students, Eight of one hundred fifty something, One hundred fifty, One hundred fifty Pokemon, Generation One, Several sequel games, Sequels, Good sequels: Empire, Dark Knight, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Lot of tears shed in Toy Story 3, lots of tears shed here, Lotta tears shed back home, Who would be crying now? Mom, Dad, Emma, Mason, Jessica, Dear god, we never finished writing the screenplay for Corral, Can Jessica possibly finish something like that? Would she even finish something like that? Someone finishing a dead person's project, The Song for the Unification of Europe from Three Colors: Blue composed by Zbigniew Preisner, Patrice's version and Julie's version, Who was really composing? Who is really in charge?

I really, really liked this. The spider-webbing drew in a lot of her influences while tying in personal moments and touches to her over-all situation, and it was a very neat way to present that information. I think more moments like this from Claire could be really illuminating and help draw her out of the samey funk she tends to find herself in, and capitalizing on that would be a great direction to explore.


My biggest gripe with Claire is that neither of those really interesting moments are ever expanded upon or revisited. We really don't see more of that cinematic eye, or that spider-webbing consciousness. In fact, her thoughts 99% of the time vary from abruptly direct to strangely esoteric. There are some good examples of what I mean in her opening thread, but this is my favorite for the first point:
Hmm, a kevlar vest. I think I read somewhere that those don't work too well and can cause serious bruising and possibly break your ribs if you are shot too close. Well, at least I know he can't hurt me. With an object. I guess he could strangle me.

The amount of detail and technicality here really throws me. This seems like a description out of a book, not a natural thought. It also doesn't seem like something that Claire would know to that level of detail. Remembering that sometimes Kevlar vests don't completely protect you? Believable, if surprising. Remembering exactly how they fail and the damage they can do? That's awkward to me, and it drew me out. These moments aren't limited to her thoughts, either. This statement to Kyle struck me especially hard:
"Our journey will be tough and full of many perils, but I think we can survive this. Now, let's begin."

People don't really talk that way. Claire doesn't really talk that way, anywhere else in her story. This comes completely out of left-field and left me scratching my head. Claire has a lot of these unnatural, stilted moments strewn throughout her story, which was a shame to me, because there are a lot of strong natural things for her to work with.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of Claire's references could fit but come from very odd source material with little to no context at all. Her contextualizing the killing that occurred on Day One produces one of the biggest moments for this:
Amon Goeth has his rifle in position, and we have to make sure we're not in his sights. Not me, not Kyle, not Alex, nor Kyran, Jack, R.J, or anyone else.

The context for this quote takes some digging. I really don't see anything that would suggest that Claire is a big World War 2 buff, but I can see her as having scene and committed to memory scenes from Schindler's list, which is what I'm guessing Laurels is referencing in this quote. It comes off very awkwardly, though, that Claire would have so much to say about injuries from Kevlar vests and so little to say about what might be a very big influence on her cinematic sensibilities. The duality here is unsettling from a thematic perspective and it's something I'd like to see cleaned up.


This section has never been nitpickier, but I find that some of Claire's references miss the mark for reasons other than being poorly explained, either by absence or indulgence. Some of them simply end up coming off completely wrong in context, to a degree that probably shouldn't bother me but really digs into my read. The biggest offender here comes in her most recent post:
Claire dashed past the other guy and away from the harbor. Like Orpheus, she refused to look back. She relied on her good cardio to get her as far away as possible. She couldn't have a repeat of the encounter with Hansel, so she needed to make sure they couldn't follow her.

The entire point of the Orpheus myth is that he does look back. The reference, in a way, grinds against the implicit purpose of the post in a way that I found quite distracting, and this occurs in other places as well. I think if references like this are to be woven in, they need to be chosen and researched carefully. I also realize that this is the pettiest, nerdiest of gripes and there can be no fault given for completely ignoring it because I'm being a pedantic twat, but pedantic twattery is why this section exists in the first place :)

Claire's got legs. I think she's probably my favorite of Laurel's V5 stable, and I want to see her improve. I want to see things become clearer and draw more of her unique perspective in, and I think that can be done.

Plush Wants To Read Your Dead Things!
Echoing the sentiments of the late, great poet Sinistar with CRITIQUE: ALICE GILMAN


What I like most about Alice revolves around her early threads. In these threads, Alice displays a sort of clinical, targeted analysis that is both cutting and impersonal, while not being emotionless. It has this weird duality of being both self-centered and impartial that really captures the way that a focused, analytical human mind works, and I appreciated her for that. This sort of helps draw the group she's in together: Alice is the Brains, Casey is the Conscience, Carlos is the Practicality. I really like this sort of dynamic and the potential it represents. The three play relatively nicely off of each other, and there's a lot to be said for a strong, early team dynamic.

Ironically, even though she's an introvert, Alice sort of glues the team together. Part of this comes from Casey being one of her known, close friends, but a big chunk of it can be attributed to the fact that Alice helps give them real purpose by paring down their options early on and trying to find the best solution to keep them alive and moving. This was a real strong position for her to be in with lots of implications later on, and I really wish it had been kept up, because I think that position would have been a great make-or-break characteristic for Alice to play with.


Inconsistency is an albatross around Alice's neck that has become a bigger and bigger problem as she goes on. There is a level of frustration here for me, because it's not that Alice is inconsistent from scene to scene, though there is a level of that, as it is that there is a distinct point in her story where it feels like she's become a completely different character, and that transition ended up feeling poorly handled and explained.

About half-way through her story, Alice turns from an analysis-driven decision maker to an emotional, distracted mess. While the bridge between these two exists, it just sort of snaps into place out of nowhere. There isn't a singular, traumatic event that Alice doesn't handle well that brings her to this point, she just sort of gets there. We begin to see it cropping up in A Safe Rest, but it really shines hard in this post from Waking Up To Ash and Dust. This quote, in particular, is very problematic for me:
Alice had always enjoyed solving problems. Being able to look closely at a difficult situation, work out all the variables, and end up with the most efficient way of doing things was always very satisfying, however much it irritated the other players at her DnD sessions. It was part of the reason she loved science so much, after all. Even here, on the island, she'd always had time to consider her group's next move, to weigh their next action.

Now, though, time was limited, and Alice found herself completely at a loss. "We're screwed." She said simply, sinking against the wall.

This is what I call a "how-but-why?" emotional read. I understand how Alice feels, but I don't know why she feels that way. Why is she suddenly more screwed than she was from the onset? What has changed in her circumstances? Previously, everything had been unfolding pretty much as she'd expected, and nothing major happens in this thread. There is a huge disconnect between what occurs here and her earlier inner narrative, to the point to where if you put that post and her opener side by side and changed all of the names, I'd have a hard time nailing them down as the same character. This dissonance made it really hard for me to get into Alice as a character, even though both halves are pretty well written, just because of how confusing it was. I think if Alice is to continue in this direction, really re-clarifying how she got in this state should be a high priority.


There's another big problem with Alice that applies to her group as a whole that I feel is, as somewhat par for the course with this section, endemic of SotF as a whole that has to deal with character interactions. See, the Alice/Carlos/Casey group has a really good dynamic, and that's neat, but it also leads them to become very self-contained. Even in the scenes where other people are involved, the group remains tight and most of their actions revolve around each other. This becomes a bigger issue when the group really doesn't find itself involved in any high-profile issues. They don't interact with big killers, they're not together for any death scenes, they don't become killers themselves, and they don't deal with any major victims or heroes. At times, groups like this feel like they're operating in an entirely different game, with only passing references to the overall story included, and I think that's a shame, because a lot could be done with them to enrich not only their stories, but the stories of the characters around them.

I think Alice does have potential as a character. Sadly, I think it's too late for her to ever get back to the analytical vision that I loved so much in her early game, but there's still a large canvas to work with, and I look forward to watching her move on.

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: Swirlythingy has been inactive for over a month at the time of this critique. In the interest of fairness to active handlers, I'm opening up the queue for one more spot to replace him. Swirly may PM me at any time during this queue prior to that critique to regain his position, and anyone who fills his spot in the interim will gain priority one status for the next queue as compensation.

Kill All Motherfuckers
In a more aware state of mind, Alda might have recognized that the girl she just threw backwards was only blocking the one she was really pissed at. She might have noticed that that girl was hastily fleeing behind her. It might have occurred to her that the girl shakingly finding her feet below the stairs under Iselle and Kathryn's narrow gaze wasn't the one she really wanted to hurt.

Alda Abbate had checked out of consciousness for a little while, though. Right now, there was only the anger, and it had been denied too many times in the last few days to die quietly now. The glaring red tint filled her mind's eye as she stalked forward, wrapping an arm around the bewildered Meera's neck and forcing her head back. Muscles and veins tensed as she squeezed down as hard as she could in the choke-hold. The taut, exposed flesh of Meera's stretched neck strained for purchase as she flailed and pushed at her arms, but Alda didn't feel a thing. Not pain from her writhing attempts at escape, not victory from feeling them get weaker and weaker, not remorse from feeling the life slowly slipping away, not even the old, familiar anger that had driven her here in the first place. It all fell away as she slipped into a detached, neutral space.

She wasn't in the mansion anymore. She was on her back porch at home, watching Paulo and his dumbass friends roll around in the grass with each other. He had a tawny boy with a stupid looking mohawk pinned down, with his arm locked around his neck in tight, unforgiving submission hold. The smaller boy struggled, wriggled back and forth, but finally tapped, and Paulo let him up with a laugh. That triggered them all, a whole mass of swaggering and howling and strutting while they fetched more beers and tried to sort out who was fighting next.

There in the middle of it all was Paulo, with the biggest, dumbest grin on his smug face. Despite how fucking ridiculous she found the whole thing, she found herself smiling too. She didn't like Paulo's MMA bullshit. She didn't like his friends, or the sneaking around behind Mom's back, or any of the things it was turning him into. She liked seeing him happy, though. Every time she thought about turning him in, she remembered that. No matter how much what he did pissed her off, or how distant it made them, he was her brother. They had a strange way of expressing it sometimes, but they loved each other. She hid the smile behind her hand, and decided to keep his secrets one more day.

As she turned around in her mind, she found herself back in the mansion. Her hands weren't covering her mouth, but instead locked tight together to hold her elbow around Meera's throat in the same hold she'd seen Paulo do so many times. Except in this case, if Meera had tapped, Alda never felt it.

The last of Meera's struggle died out with Alda's perspective adjusting back into the present. As her body went limp, the tears finally came.

V5 Halfway Plastic Hammers
The Plastic Hammer Awards!

The Basics

Handler Name: DocBalance

Your Trademark Character: I'm sure I have one.

Current Status of Trademark Character: Mulching and killing, respectively.

Favorite Character: Hansel Williams.

Favorite Weapon: The Ballistic Knife!

Favorite Scene: Path Of Pins, the infamous riddle game. I lost my mind reading it, very well done to everyone involved.

Favorite Death: Carlon Wheeler.

Favorite Quote: “No. You don’t get to be the fucking hero anymore.”-Summer Simms.

Favorite Post: "Yep."

Favorite Location: The Shipping Yard.


Best Character Development: Summer Simms, all the way. Her arc was spot-on perfect from start to finish and served an interesting meta-narrative about the relationship between the abductees and the terrorists.

Best Game Impact: Theodore Fletcher. I have some issues with Theo's overall arc and some of his handling, but I think it'd be hard to argue that any other single character has affected as many arcs by ripple effect.

Best Innovation: Joachim Lovelace. This sort of ties into my favorite meta-narrative for V5, but in a game full of characters struggling to define themselves and stand out against a dehumanizing system, Joachim readily and happily embraces his place as a tool of circumstantial destruction and I love him to bits.

Best Realism: Brandon Baxter. There are a lot of angry people on the Island, but no one handles having legitimate, known anger issues for the bulk of your life better than Baxter, from his profile, to his pre-game, to his death. I'm sad that he went so early, but the central dynamics of Baxter's story were really refreshing alongside some of the other depictions of anger in SotF.

Best Heroic Character: My choice for this includes spoilerths so I'm hushing up.

Best Villainous Character: Paris Ardennes. I love me a good puppetmaster, and so far Paris is a great one. He's got a lot of hype to maintain, but his last two big villain moments have successfully managed to escalate, even if some of the shine and surprise is starting to wear off.

Best Tragic Character: Carlon Wheeler. Just...I have a lot of feeling surrounding Carlon and I cannot properly expand upon them here. He's the one death that still haunts me so far.

Best Humorous Character: Michael Mitchellson. He's been consistently funny in an island full of darkness, and I appreciate the bright light he provides.

Best Tactics: Amaranta Montalvo. Mara has had to make a lot of hard choices so far, and I think they're only going to get harder. However, she's still hovering above being a real villain or openly malicious. She's playing safe and smart and doing things that, for the most part, make a lot of sense. She's had one real, palpable rage break, and even in context, you almost feel sorry for her.

The Sympathy Award: Rutherford "R.J." Roger Jr. The Island has just been constantly dumping on this poor guy since he woke up. I really want things to turn around for him and allow him to find some of the people important to him so that he can find some closure and relief.

The Empathy Award: Rosemary Michaels, for the most part. There are some points that I'd strongly disagree with Rosemary on, but for the most part she's ended up acting in a very similar manner to how I'd imagine myself on the Island.

The Gone-Too-Soon Award: Carlon Wheeler :(

The He-Had-It-Coming Award: Theodore Fletcher, Adonis Alba, and anyone else I'm forgetting whose death includes a last minute conversion. No matter the circumstances, that retroactively justifies everything that happens to a character.

Scenes and Deaths

Best Tragedy: Carlon :C

The Stomach-Churner: Allow me to bandwagon and say Summer's fight with Naomi. Just...everything about it. That was a really squicky death scene, in the best way.

Best Impact: It's really difficult for me to identify a single scene that had the most impact because of my personal read on V5, so I'm going to pass on this one.

Best Comedy: Also going to give this one a pass as I'm having trouble narrowing it down.

The Sunglasses-and-Explosions Award: Summer's entire death thread. There was so much action going on, and seeing the pay-off of the grenade Summer had been nursing all game was sweet. The resulting aftermath was downright chilling.

Best Feeling-Inducer: Caaaarrrrrllllooooonnn ;_;

Best Drama: K.K. killing Kelly Peterson. The tension and raw emotion between Rattle and Bacon in this short scene is palpable and just thrilling.

Best Surprise: Paulo and Ian's fight was intense and very unexpected. Big thumbs up to both of them.

Predictions, Preferences, and Positions

If you could change ANYTHING that has happened thus far, what would you change? Michelle Wexler's death. I feel like the Group Naptime plot-line could have eventually gotten some real legs, and Michelle's death seems to have sent all the characters involved scrambling a little bit.

V5 Final Four: List them! This can either be an ideal list, or IC or OOC predictions. Paris Ardennes, Rosemary Michaels, Hansel Williams, Zoe Leverett.

Who of the surviving characters are you cheering on to win V5? Paris, Hansel, Ami, Ian, Andi, and Iselle are my stand-outs right now, subject to change on my inconsistent personal whims >.>

How do you predict the ending of V5 is going to turn out? A real villain is going to win and adjust to the world just fine afterwards. That's my big hope.

How much did you enjoy/not enjoy V5? I love V5!

What do you like the most about V5? I really enjoy how much V5 has dug into the issue of identity and how many characters are struggling with their personal identity and agency as a result.

What do you think could have been better about the version? Escapes. Now, I personally really don't like escape plots, but I can appreciate them when they're planned to fail but still plausible. So far though, I'm not feeling that from V5's escapes. Planning seems to have been very minimal and they boil down to very simple, selfish ideas, and I'm just not feeling it.

How do you feel about V5 compared to prior versions? V5 is much stronger to me than previous versions, because handlers are getting better at conveyance and consistency. My big gripes with previous versions have been that the well-thought out characters are incredibly dense, the simple characters tend to be very inconsistent, and the flat out bad characters tend to be both. V5 has for the most part nipped both of these problems in the bud at large.

What do you think of the overall 'SOTF' story? The overall story is a little bit messy at the moment. V3, V4, and V5 have all represented fairly significant transitions in style and world-building, and I think that can create a level of over-all narrative whiplash with things like inconsistency in terrorist motivations, resources, and intervention. I have high hopes for the efforts to clean things up, though, and I look forward to where we go from here!

How do you think V6 will differ from/compare to V5 and prior versions? I predict escapes coming back in a big way in V6, and possibly getting a more ruthless vision of the terrorists as a result.

Talk About Yourself

What has been your favorite thing to write in V5? That's a pretty tough decision. I'm going to go with Alda's reaction to Paulo's death. I had the image in my head as soon as he didn't catch a hero, and I refined it pretty heavily. It's one of the few things I've written that I feel unreservedly proud about.

Which of your V5 characters was your favorite to write? I'm going to go with Garrett for now just because I've done more with him, but I think Alda's going to end up over-shadowing him.

What are you proudest of in V5? That I was able to do Garrett's death pretty much exactly as I'd always envisioned it, with some minor adjustments.

What do you wish you could improve? Pretty much everything pre-That's Crate with Garrett. I made some very questionable decisions with him because of OOC motivation and I have major, major regrets about that.

What is your favorite V5 memory? Theorycrafting, flipping out, and just generally being misbehaving children with TheRedVelvet, Notaflyingtoy, and dmBoogie.


The Alignment Thread V5 - Halfway Mark
Lawful Good: Michelle Wexler.
Neutral Good: Sara Corlett
Chaotic Good: Micheal Mitchellson
Lawful Neutral: Rosemary Michaels
True Neutral: Amaranta Montalvo
Chaotic Neutral: Rutherford "R.J." Roger Jr.
Lawful Evil: Hansel Williams
Neutral Evil: Brandon Baxter
Chaotic Evil: Paris Ardennes

Kill All Motherfuckers
Iselle was saying something, but Alda wasn't paying any attention to her, or to Kathryn, or even to Meera and her knife. She'd frozen and honed in on Rosemary's little speech. Her condescending, ignorant, self-righteous bullshit, capped off with a declaration about Paulo that sounded so fucking self-satisfied, like she knew him, like she knew her, like she had any fucking idea how she felt right now, dismissing her reaction like the only reason she was pissed was because of Paulo and not her little toadie waving that fucking knife around.

There were a thousand insults, comebacks, and threats spinning around inside her mind that she wanted to say, but none of them came out. Instead, as she opened her mouth they all coalesced into one pointed, rage-filled scream of hatred as she sprung forward.

That's when her vision went red. It would be roughly half a minute before her rationality kicked back in and, when it did, it would find a very different room awaiting it.

Kill All Motherfuckers
Now they were getting somewhere. Meera's posturing was probably meant to be intimidating, but instead it just made Alda laugh. "I don't think you're following this shit," she smiled as she stalked forward, "Your little knife doesn't scare me."

The cat cracked through the air for emphasis as she stared Meera and Rosemary down. "You're gonna drop your weapons. Then you're gonna come wait by the stairs. And then, if it turns out you're not bullshitting us about being along? Maybe you can leave."

Their move.

Kill All Motherfuckers
Waving that knife around seemed to qualify as "something", at least as far as Iselle was concerned, and Alda wasn't in a mood to disagree. "See, I think you got this all wrong," she murmured as she stepped off the stairs, keeping her eyes on the knife, "coming in here wasn't the mistake. Pulling a knife, though? Iselle's right. That's a problem. I don't think I believe you."

She glanced back at Iselle and Kathryn as she steadied herself at the bottom of the stairs. They seemed ready. Kathryn has the high ground with her gun. If Meera tried to rush them and somehow didn't catch a bullet, Iselle was there to turn her head into a home run. No more fucking around. They had momentum, and she was gonna press it.

"Answers. Right fucking now. Who else do you have with you? Did they follow us in here too?"

The Place
The familiar, neutral mask slipped back over Garrett's face as he listened to Carlon's tirade. He looked back into his eyes with only the slightest hint of curiosity tainting his otherwise blank expression. Animalistic, alien movements dominated his old friend's demeanor now, and in a way that disturbed him more than anything else he'd seen. The decisions made below had an excuse, but this...

"What happened to you, Carlon? How did you become...this?" He stood now as well, looking the other boy up and down. "I changed? I changed? Of course I did."

There was an edge to his voice now. He was trying to restrain his anger. "Everyone changed down there. I can't think of one person I met who didn't make a hard decision."

The screens droned in the background as he nodded towards them. "Everyone lost someone, or was attacked, or attacked, or lost hope, because we were trapped and starved and exhausted until we broke. Except, even though you can see that from the outside, we can't even begin to process it. It's just a constant slide into desperation, and the only thing that changes is when exactly your utterly pointless death occurs."

His voice rose into a sharp point on the last word. Almost automatically, he stalked forward and kept returning fire. "I'm not going to argue that I did the right thing. But I did what I felt what I had to, to protect myself and the people I cared about, and you know what?" His finger flicked up towards Bella and Ami's screen. "I don't see them objecting."

He was inches from Carlon's face now. "So what I want to ask is how, after days up here in a place with no pain, or hunger, or constant fear, somehow managed to change more than any of us, and where the fuck you get off lecturing anyone on right and wrong when you have comparatively zero idea what we've been through."

The Place
Garrett remained quiet for a little while. He wasn't sure how long. It didn't seem important. Instead, he mulled Carlon's question, as if there were any words that could truly answer it. Back then, the reasons had all seemed so clear, but now, with perspective...

"Is she here?" That felt important. That felt solid, so he clung to it. "Because if she isn't, then that speaks for itself. But if she is..." His fingers wrapped around a black bishop on the chaotic board in front of him. For a moment, he wondered if perhaps Carlon had been playing against himself since his death. "Well. I think good and evil become irrelevant."

This wasn't the reunion he'd imagined. Still, understanding that his was the outcome they'd been headed for gave him a modicum of clarity. "I suspect she is, even if you haven't seen her. I suspect we all are. Max is here somewhere. So is Theo. So is Michelle. So is Carmina. So good, bad," he murmured as he dragged the bishop up to take Carlon's pawn. "Looking at all this, I have to wonder if those words have any meaning. If anything we did had a point beyond the experience itself."

He peered back up from the board. "Check."

The Place
Dying, in retrospect, wasn't terribly painful. It was disorienting, to be sure, but he had been fortunate enough to localize his pain to a single wound, one that induced shock and forced him from consciousness quickly and without meaningful struggle. Even the brief second of distinct agony he'd felt when the blade first entered his body was comparatively pleasant contrasted alongside the deep, consuming ache that throbbed inside him upon catching Carlon's gaze.

Garrett had seen many emotions manipulate the young intellectual's face during their hours together. Most commonly, he saw joy, intrigue, curiosity, and satisfaction, with dashes of confusion, sadness, and frustration in rare, out of character moments. He wore a new countenance in his seat behind the broad chess table, though. As Garrett walked towards the man he'd come to regard as a portrait of compassion and goodwill, he found none of the characteristic warmth and energy he'd come to expect. Instead, his face was etched with something that looked dolorously like disappointment.

He had nowhere else to go. With a tense nod, he sat down across from Carlon, and found himself helplessly speechless. For now, there was nothing to do but wait in the harsh, inexorable chill of his disapproval.

The Alignment Thread V5 - Halfway Mark
Mar 10 2014, 12:38 PM
Okay, David is Neutral Good.

But Joachim? I feel Neutral doesn't cut it but I just have trouble deciding whether he should be Lawful or Chaotic
I would definitely put Joachim on the Lawful end. He's started operating on a code that only he really understands, but its clear that he has rules and he follows them. He's dependable as a known quantity.

V5 Eleventh Rolls
Garrett finally got the point.

All Battles Are Fought By Scared Men Who'd Rather Be Some Place Else
Hansel's defense was futile. The more he pushed and squirmed, the tighter Garrett's focus got. He had him now. He could feel his fingers digging into Hansel's thick neck, hear him sputtering for air, see the combined determination and panic in his eyes. The cold gray pits in his skull stared back passively as the struggle began to fade away. Despite his anger, and his triumph, his face remained cold and set.

There was a dull crack in the background over the throbbing in his ears. It could have been a handful of things, a bone in Hansel's body, a stick underneath them, something fragile in his bag...he didn't care. Garrett had accomplished what he'd set out to do: He'd found him. He'd analyzed him. He'd broken him.

But this wasn't a victory. It was merely correction. Harsh correction, perhaps, but necessary. In the end, he'd proven to be a man of his word, and now-


Now there was a knife in his back.

The firm grip around Hansel's neck went limp. He tried to crane his head to see his new assailant, but instead he saw only Ami and Bella retreating across the cliff.

He was dying. He didn't know how, or why, but that much was clear. Already his vision was blurring as he hemorrhaged over his shoulder blade. The weakness seeped in as his blood poured out, and he was powerless to stop it.

It was an oversight, really. He'd never considered that Hansel could have an ally in the wings, that someone would tie themselves to someone so thoroughly monstrous, but here they were. Every time you pinned down one killer, it seemed like two more sprung up in their place, and as he looked up at Ami and Bella, he realized he was no better.

He saw rage.

He saw shock.

He saw contempt.

He saw a promise.

Alongside them, in his mind's eye, he saw Cammy, Kyran, Deanna, Matt, Travis, Rosemary, Meera, Joey, Iselle, Tyler...the surreal, impossible absurdity of it all forced a wheezing chuckle from his haggard lungs. He hadn't broken the system. He hadn't even come close. He'd only perpetuated and nurtured it, rippling through countless other descents into degradation as he passed.

He could no longer support himself. His body collapsed on top of Hansel, his fury spent into exhaustion. As the world slowly went black, a slim smile of acceptance parted into a final, defeated rasp.

"You win, Williams."



All Battles Are Fought By Scared Men Who'd Rather Be Some Place Else
The wet smack he was waiting for never came. Instead, pain exploded in his wrist and his chin as Hansel's strength worked against him. He struggled against it, trying to keep his grip and drive the blade home, but he couldn't find the strength.

Instead, he shifted focus. With an angry snarl he simultaneously dropped the knife and swung his knee up into Hansel's stomach. Then he did it again, and again, ramming as hard as he could to try and free his hands.

There was an look of grim determination in his face as he inched them towards Hansel's neck. Adrenaline coursed through his body along side the throbbing pain that began in his arm and face and ebbed all the way through him. He ached from the strain, but he couldn't stop. He was so close. If he could just cut off his air...

All Battles Are Fought By Scared Men Who'd Rather Be Some Place Else
"Really? I apologize. No more words, then."

Before the sentence had even fully left his mouth, Garrett dropped the bag from his shoulder and pounced, slamming his shoulder hard into Hansel's chest. The gun dipping had been his cue. That brief moment of weakness and distraction was all he would need.

He kept pressing forward, forcing them down with momentum and trying to push the gun away with his legs. As they fell onto the moist turf, he narrowed his focus on Hansel's throat. There was a flash from the sunlight catching the dimly stained blade.

He drove it down hard.

All Battles Are Fought By Scared Men Who'd Rather Be Some Place Else
Garrett shrugged back. "I'm not. I'm someone who does what needs to be done."

His suspicions had been confirmed. There was a time when Hansel probably would have shot him on sight and not lost a moment of sleep over it, but that wasn't now. Now, he was searching for something, even if he wasn't sure what it was. Garrett could use that.

"Are we even? Why don't you tell me, Hansel? How different do we really look right now?"

All Battles Are Fought By Scared Men Who'd Rather Be Some Place Else
Garrett couldn't help but notice the contrast between their first meeting and this moment. Then, Hansel had been bold. Roaring. Physical. Now though...he kept a safe distance. He gauged his movements. He regarded him like a threat.

At some point Hansel Williams had lost his confidence. Now, if there was still that familiar disdain for Garrett, it was buried underneath his fear.

Let's escalate that.

"It was me. Did it yesterday morning. Almost did it again this morning, but turned out that was a misunderstanding."

In his peripheral vision, he watched the gun. The second it wavered from him, he was making his move. He just needed to get an opening.

"Does that surprise you?"