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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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For just those few moments, strange though they were, everything was alright. Jennifer wiped at Nick's face, cleaning it a little, and tried to change the dressings on his arm. She had no clue if she was doing things correctly, but she didn't seem to be hurting Nick, at least. He still looked awful. Nothing would change that, except perhaps time. Time, Jennifer realized, that he was unlikely to have. Most of them would be dead before long at all. Looking at Nick, she found it hard to imagine him as a corpse. He'd look the same, just... not move. Not talk, not breath, not think, not feel.

She'd be that way too. Couldn't be too long. She was no fighter.

She was about to say something, distract herself from her dark musings with words, when a much more effective diversion came around. A voice, from the darkness. Phil. Looking for people from the hockey team. A quick search of her memory. Phil. Ward. From what little she'd heard from her friends in the lower grades, he was a real jackass. What did that even mean anymore, though? If so many people, normal, sane people, could become so much worse, what was stopping someone like Phil from turning over a new leaf, showing newer, better colors?

Nick seemed nervous, on edge. He told Phil it was just the two of them, a bad move from a strategic point of view, but a good one in terms of trust. Thing was, Phil was still in the darkness. They couldn't know that he wasn't aiming a gun at them, ready to mow them down as soon as he knew they had no backup. Or, worse, maybe he had a whole team, a group of hockey players roaming the island and killing and looting everyone they came across. Groups were sure to form in this sort of situation, and not all of them would be positive.

"Um, no," Jennifer said. "I, uh, I haven't seen any of them. But, uh, if I... if I do, would you like me to, um, deliver a message?"

It seemed the polite thing to ask, given that she had requested the same in her last encounter. And she would share Phil's words, if he had any. She knew how it felt to be looking for someone, to be alone and scared.

All assuming, of course, that Phil didn't kill her on the spot.

And then, from nowhere, the shouts, the angered voice. Someone else. Was this it, then? Was Phil really here with an ally? Were she and Nick going to die? Though, the voice sounded upset at Phil. What was going on?

One thing was sure: If Jennifer was going to die, she wasn't going to get killed by an unseen assailant. Quickly, she ducked down, scooped up her flashlight, and flicked the beam on, pointing it at the sounds. The sight that met her was surprising. Phil, a short, tough looking boy, was who she'd thought, but he had blood on his shirt, and it was singed. Had he been on the announcements? Worse, behind him was another guy, thin, short black hair, carrying a sword. A sword. And it looked like he and Phil weren't together, and they both meant business, and she suddenly realized there was a good chance things were about to get unpleasant.

And then another figure rounded the corner, just a bit too far outside the beam of the flashlight for her to make him out completely, and Jennifer instinctively ducked back, pressing against the wall of the tunnel, wishing for something to hide behind. Wishing that she'd never come down here.

((Aaron Hughes continued from My Kingdom for a Plan!))

Aaron was in an absolutely awful mood. After their late night (or, more accurately perhaps, early morning) encounters in the woods, Tom had just kept moving, almost like he was trying to lose the group. Aaron would have been glad to have him gone, except for one little fact: Tom was a serious danger. He was a constant threat to Aaron's authority, way too independent for teamwork, and if he left like this, running off, it would look like desertion. That would imply dissatisfaction with Aaron's leadership, which would sow discontent and doubt, and, in the long run, tear the group to pieces and tank all of their chances at escaping.

So, when Tom had gotten far enough ahead that Aaron had been forced to decide between following him or sticking with his actually loyal partners, he'd shouted back to him that he was going after Tom, asked them to hold up for a bit and maybe get some rest, and taken off. He was going to bring Tom back. Drag him if necessary. Even if Tom immediately said he was through with them, threw a petty fit, and left. Aaron was sick of being ditched after Rekka, Francine, and Lily. He was done tolerating it. He had determined that, if anyone else quit the group, they'd be doing it on his terms.

He'd figured out how to load the gun, how to use it, sneaking glances at the instruction manual by flashlight during the walk. It had been his first priority. Better safe than sorry. Better prepared for anything. Better to have a credible way to get Tom to follow him if the other boy proved reluctant.

None of this, though, was the real reason for Aaron's annoyance. What had him most irritated, most on edge, had come courtesy of the announcements forty five minutes beforehand. Most of them had been fairly meaningless, or predictable. None of his friends had died. The only victim he'd known at all was Amber, that awful, vindictive girl he'd been forced to endure at the mall. One of the killers, though, was different.

Jacquard Broughten was a prime contender for the position of Aaron's least favorite member of the Bayview student body. She was a snide, pretentious bitch, a real killjoy too, and Aaron still wasn't over the incident at the gazebo. She'd mocked him, insulted him, made him look like a fool. It didn't grate so badly now, but Jacquard had shown before that she had it out for him, and now she was a killer. He wasn't surprised she'd play, but he'd been hoping her bum leg would stop her, that she'd be an early out.

Whatever. He'd shoot her if he found her. Nobody would blame him, since she was a psychotic threat to the safety of everyone.

Aaron had nearly lost Tom at one point, as the boy ducked into the tunnels. It wasn't a good sign. He drew the gun from his pocket, keeping it ready but at his side. There was a chance that Tom had planned this all, that it was an ambush. He would lure Aaron into close quarters, neutralizing his advantage, then attempt to run him through. A sound strategy, but it wouldn't work, not if Aaron was prepared. He walked softly, following the faint sounds of Tom's footsteps. There were voices, too. At least one female and one male, possibly more. There was too much distortion to tell.

And then, Tom was yelling. Aaron picked up his pace, spun around a corner, and found himself facing a beam of blinding light. Someone was ambushing him. Someone was going to kill him. He ducked backwards and to the side, out of the light, and dropped to one knee, only to see that he was wrong. Tom had just run smack into Phil Ward, second only to Monty Pondsworth in terms of Bayview students you didn't want to meet in a dark alley. And, behind Tom and Phil, stood Nick Reid, who Aaron remembered had killed somebody, and also a very frightened looking Jennifer Romita.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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Spelunking · The Tunnels