"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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Rattlesnake
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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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For a moment, Kari stood still, watching the two young men draw back and wondering how in the world she had obtained such an easy acquiescence from them. Then turning to the rest of Carol's gear, she realized why.

Seven pounds of mass-produced death swung around by her side, reminding her how disturbingly familiar it had become, and also why she seemed to have gained such powers of persuasion. It was simple, of course: she, Kari Nichols, was packing heat. Under her hands it felt cold and hard in the conventional sense, as well as somewhat reassuring and only slightly offputting. From someone else's perspective, though, it would seem cold not in the sense that ice is cold, but in the sense that pushing someone off a cliff is cold; and not hard in the sense of diamonds or steel, but hard in the way that a tumble over a cliff is hard. It would also seem, she thought, quite the opposite of reassuring and very much offputting. She should probably be more careful about swinging the thing around, but it did give her a nice command of the current situation.

And then she saw what she had missed looking at Carol's baggage for the first time, and another twisted stream of emotion ran through her. It was a shotgun. Kari's SMG was by no means inadequate - just one bullet wound could be a death sentence, given the location and the situation, and those wickedly long magazines held plenty more than just one. But a shotgun... There was something about it, some intangible sense of presence normally associated with field artillery. Kari's gun could throw half a dozen rounds through a human head - but only Carol's could remove it. And then came the sense of longing, a guilty sort of feeling she knew would do nobody any good but that she also knew would not go away. Surely Carol didn't want to deal with the thing? Surely it would be better in the hands of someone stronger, more together, more terrified of failing? Someone, to put it bluntly, who deserved it more? Kari couldn't block the brief mental image - falling back through some passage or doorway, whirling about, putting the decisive finisher through some faceless competitor's chest, someone she didn't know because how could she pull the trigger on one of her friends...

She shook her head, trying to clear it of such horrible, indecent thoughts. She laid a hand on her own weapon, but she only pushed it to the side, readjusting its position and reassuring herself. And then, with a returned sense of worry for her classmate's well-being, walked up the beach beside Carol, staying just behind her and to the side opposite the dangling shotgun, keeping what she presumed to be a respectful silence and inclining her head slightly toward Rein and Simon, acknowledging their presence and trying to indicate the acceptance behind the hostility.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Under The Sea Is Where No One Wants To Be · The Beach: North