"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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Don't cast aspersions on my asparagus.
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((Kiziah Saraki continued from Why We Fight.))

Already, Kiziah was beginning to sense a pattern. They travelled. They jumped at noises. They tried chatting, tried reminding one another of their fundamental humanity, tried bringing in some conversation that wasn't such pragmatic strategising. Tried doing something, squeezing some comfort and enjoyment out of this awful situation, tried getting some final positive memories out of this mess. And it just wouldn't click. It just wouldn't work. And again, as they had the previous night, they took shelter, drained and taxed, all silently dreading their alarm. And as if by clockwork, the announcement came on. More deaths. More destruction. More irreparable damage.

Was it cruel to tell them what was happening? Or it was a mild relief, some sign of their humanity seeping through, allowing people to identify the threats, to get some closure, to know not to embark on any fruitless rescue quests? Or was it manipulation? Kizi wanted to see the best in people, even now, but she wasn't stupid. The announcements were manipulation.

And Kimiko...seeing the good in her was also hard. "Must have been..." she said, in a lull after the announcement ended, but she let her words trickle down to nothing, covering her tracks by searching through her bag. The blood had been fresh. It must have been Caleb's. Maybe it was a sign of some decency, that she hadn't attacked her? Maybe Caleb had provoked it? No. She couldn't think that. It was unbecoming to think ill of the dead, to shift the blame onto them.

But it was still a routine. Trek, sleep, announcement. It was already in place, all but etched into stone. In a way, that was comforting, a strange source of solace. Patterns meant routines. Routines meant normalcy. Normalcy meant home. But she kept that thought to herself, for she realised it was nonsensical. Fallacious, perhaps. Maybe her mind playing tricks on her.

Maybe, and this was the scariest possibility, maybe she was already desensitised, even just hearing the turmoil from afar, filtered through the sardonic wordplay of a sociopathic monster, some devilish evil incarnate that tried lowering their guards by allowing them to be lured into such routines.

But maybe there was some truth in it. The other deaths barely fazed her. She grimaced and flinched with each one, feeling them more as a slap in the face than the tragedy they were. She found herself, rather disturbingly, thinking of them through a lens of clinical detachment, hardheaded pragmatism. Couldn't even muster up the energy to give them prayers or thoughts, there and then. She swallowed. Closed her eyes. Tried devoting a few seconds thought to picturing their horror, picturing their sacrifices, tried rewriting the announcements more respectively in her head. Wayne had committed suicide, Tessa had tried attacking the cameras and died for her fortitude, Oskar had either fallen or jumped, Alessio had pickaxed Henry and brutally murdered Cameron...

No, was that right?

She remembered the killers better than the killed.

She gave up. Kizi opened her eyes. She would try again later.

Kizi followed Clarice and Jennifer at a distance. If there was hope somewhere, it was the radio tower. The place was built for communication. Communication, that was how they would survive. That was how they'd stop this madness. She saw them talking. A tentative conversation. One that couldn't survive an interruption. She walked over to a table in the middle of the room. The radio tower looked relatively untainted by the ravages of time. She did not let her own hopes be raised, but knew better than to speak out loud. Perhaps the hope others may be well-placed, and she had no desire to puncture it.

She placed her bag on the table, and shotgun on the other half, barrel pointing at the far wall.

And then Nancy walked in. That 'hold it' was like a shot firing through the air.

Kizi's first impulse was to reach for the gun. She stopped herself, thankfully. She knew she was the biggest threat. Curse of the rolls. Given something she didn't have the courage to use. She held her hands up, slowly and artfully, every minuscule movement deliberate and meticulously made to be as predictable as possible. Hard to do, when she was trembling with fear, but adrenaline made up for that.

And then Jennifer moved. Had more courage than Kizi. Kizi jumped to the side when Nancy was distracted, backing into the corner of the room, shotgun maladroitly held at the ready. The barrel shook, Kizi's own quivering getting worse. "Stop or I'll...I'll..." She tried doing a tough voice. That TV sort of tone. Authoritative, commanding. Came out a bare squeak. The nuzzle lowered, aiming at the floor. She couldn't pull the trigger. Even if she wasn't scared that the spray would hit her friends. She couldn't.

She looked at Clarice.

Held out the gun to her.
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If It Bleeds, It Leads · The Radio Tower