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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
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B055: Start

Nick Reid lay alone and asleep in a forest clearing. He twitched; the soporific effect of whatever the terrorist organization's favored brand of tranquilizer slowly slipped away, and at last he emerged from a dreamless sleep into a waking nightmare.

He cracked open an eyelid, but saw only the piercing radiance of the Sun. He quickly shut it again.

"The eff?"

A faint humming sounded in his ears. He sat slowly up, and then quickly lay down again. It wasn't a very good day. Or afternoon, or evening? Time seemed like an irrelevant notion when compared to his feeling of grogginess, and increasingly, dull pain. It seemed as if the ground was a featherbed, and if he were to fall back asleep he would sink backwards, deep down into its depths and be smothered. Smothered by a feeling of headsplitting confusion and grogginess, and -

He sat up again, feeling blood cascading away from his brain, but stayed up, opening his eyes and viewing a curtain of deep purple spots that slowly resolved away. He looked up at the sun shining brightly in the sky, though its brilliant glow no longer pained him.

Guess it's not nighttime, at least.

Yes, it wasn't night. How keen an observation. Nick heaved himself over, stretching out for his bag, and pulled it towards him. A good book might pass the time while he came to his senses. He rifled through it. Jeans, no, first-aid kit, no, Going Postal? No, he was busy reading The Fifth Elephant. Molotov cocktail, no, flashlight... Something stirred uneasily within him. Had he packed his molotovs correctly? There seemed to be six of them, and he had packed - how many had he packed? Math shirt, no, extra socks -


He flipped himself onto his feet, holding his spinning head a moment before looking around wildly. That's what wasn't right: the whole situation wasn't right. He hadn't packed a half-dozen molotovs. He hadn't packed any. Nobody did. Unless this was someone's idea of a prank? Try and get Nick Reid chucked out for drinking, as if anyone would believe he had the balls to get hammered on a class trip, or even anywhere at all? A memory stirred within him, and immediately he hoped it was a prank. He unstoppered a bottle and sniffed deeply. Diesel fumes. They almost knocked him off his feet. Desperate, he prayed silently that the returning memory was just a vivid nightmare, that someone had pulled one over on him. He swallowed hard, and the collar clinging to his neck choked away his hope.

No. There's got to be a rational explanation to this. Just think...

But there was no rational explanation. He hadn't packed that first-aid kit, he certainly hadn't packed those molotovs, and that memory, that memory that froze his veins -

"That boy in the first clip was John Rizzolo, last season's winner. He played smart, and he played hard, and he won."

No, there was no rational explanation at all, even the one he knew had to be true. He remembered all too clearly. He had sat there in that room, restrained, while blood pooled on the floor, feeling the same sick feeling he had right now. His heart drumming, hair standing on end, huddled in a violent cold shiver.

He bent down to his pack, ears pricked and head on a swivel, as if there was an assassin behind every tree just waiting to strike - two hundred and fifty assassins, in fact. Every student, a potential killer, every one a potential friend, and every friend a possible traitor. He caught himself off-guard with a silly sort of thought. You had to be famous to be assassinated, right? Where was that threshold? Would he be famous?

As if in answer, the elusive glint of a camera caught his eye; moving his head around, it seemed to have disappeared, until he spotted a second one. And a third. Well-hidden as they might be, they were pervasive enough to fall under Nick's searching eye. Yes, he thought, he might cross that threshold soon...

Suddenly, the stupidity of his actions occurred to him. Nick Reid, blundering around an open clearing like a blind toddler! Stowing his possessions safely but messily in his bag, he shouldered it and slipped into the trees. Sitting in the shadow of a large fallen log a dozen feet or so from the clearing, trying to properly take stock of his situation. He was uncomfortably alone, but feared a meeting that would break the solitude. He had some molotov cocktails, which were great for burning down forests but poor for beating down enemies. He was sore from his aerial drop, and whatever tranquilizer they used was leaving him with something like a hangover - not, of course, that he would know what that felt like.

"This sucks."



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