"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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MurderWeasel
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Somehow we drifted off too far...
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Of course, things got even worse. Jennifer watched as everything unfolded. Unlike in movies, it didn't move in slow motion. Even with the adrenaline rush that came from being this close to combat, Jennifer was barely able to tell what was going on. Phil yelled at the boy (Guthrie? His first name was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't quite conjure it to mind), telling him he wouldn't be hurting anyone, and also that he deserved to be attacked. Had Guthrie killed, then? Was Phil really protecting them? Or was this some sort of vengeance from before, for some forgotten schoolyard wrong?

Did it matter? Of course not. What mattered was that they were fighting, that Guthrie had a sword, that one of them was likely to be seriously hurt or even die. It was time to run, time to get clear. Time to find somewhere better. She couldn't, though. Couldn't abandon them to their fates. Couldn't just hear them on the announcements the next morning. She couldn't bear the thought that there had been a fight, a conflict, one that she could have stopped but had chosen not to.

The fight continued, Tom backing off, taking aggressive action with the sword. Nick was moving, inching closer. Was he going to try to break them up too? If he was, it would be better if she stayed back. Better if she didn't get in the way. Nick was stronger than her, almost certainly. He'd have a better shot at subduing one of the two. Of course, he also might get hurt. That wouldn't be fair at all, if Nick got wounded, or even killed, trying to stop two other people from murdering each other. Had he considered the possibility of his own injury? Was he prepared to take that chance, make that sacrifice?

Was she?

All of a sudden, Jennifer found herself frozen. Unable to decide. She couldn't run, but she couldn't move in to help either, not yet. She wasn't ready to die. She was weak and pathetic and cowardly, but she just couldn't put her life on the line here. Not with so much left to live for. Not with so much about the current circumstances unknown.

Like... what had happened to that other guy? He was gone, outside the light from her flashlight, and also Nick's. Had he stumbled down here by mistake, seen the conflict, and done the smart thing and ran? Or was he waiting until the dust settled, letting them eliminate some of his opposition before gunning down the survivors? No way to know. She had to just hope for the best.





Aaron had backed up even further, making sure to stay out of sight. It seemed none of the others had noticed him, or, if they had, they were too preoccupied to make anything of it. So now he had front row seats to this odd dance, where Phil growled something about protecting the others and lunged at Tom, and Tom slipped away, trying to bring his sword into play. Aaron was impressed with the way he handled the weapon. Tom clearly knew better than to slash around with a sword made for stabbing, and he also knew to keep his distance. He even managed the limited space of the tunnel fairly well. Aaron was quite glad that he was not the one facing the business end of the weapon.

He wondered at Phil's motivations. Clearly, the boy was playing Danya's game. Tom had done nothing to provoke him, nothing except be a clumsy oaf in the dark. Yet here, Phil was apparently ready to beat him silly, under the ostensible motive of protecting Nick and Jennifer. True, the two of them looked like they could use it, with Jennifer cowering in the background and Nick slowly making his way forward, looking, to Aaron, somewhat unsure.

All of a sudden, he realized that there was a very good chance that things were about to get incredibly ugly. Tom could come running down the tunnel, bumping into Aaron or leading pursuit to him. He could kill Phil, go crazy, and attack everyone nearby. Phil could kill him, then turn on the others. Jennifer could whip out some sort of surprise, stab the three boys from behind while they were distracted. The only certain thing was that the situation was incredibly dangerous.

All in all, it was a good time to be the most heavily armed person in the vicinity.

Aaron held up his gun, two handed, like the instructions had showed. He checked the safety. Off. The gun was fully loaded, which meant that, if push came to shove, he had twenty shots to remove all threats. He'd have to stay calm. The gun was trembling wildly in his hands, so he took a few deep breaths. He loosened his grip for a second, readjusted it. The wavering lessened. He wondered whether he should just open up now, maybe blow a hole in Phil's head. It would certainly mean Tom owed him one. Only thing was, he probably couldn't safely shoot past Tom. In fact, any shot in here could have easily hit any of the four down the tunnel from Aaron.

And, more than that, he found that he wanted to see Tom sweat a little, see how he did The boy had the advantage. He had the sword. Aaron could just step in if things got out of hand. If they didn't, if Tom killed Phil, well, his name would go up on the announcements. It would be the end of his stay in Aaron's group, and it would establish him as a danger. Aaron would slip out, unseen, and by the next day, his credibility would be completely restored, and Tom would be a fugitive. Yes. That would be best. If Tom just got beaten up a little, Aaron could bring him back, and maybe he'd have learned some respect, learned the value of a team. It seemed there was no way this situation could go poorly.

Besides, Aaron couldn't kill Phil because it was important that he not kill, period. He did not want to be on that happy morning broadcast, shown as someone dangerous to the entirety of his surviving class. It would, among other things, be sure to put Bounce on edge, and he needed her if his plan was going to work. Although...

He had a sudden temptation to just fire a couple rounds into Tom's back. The boy was an asshole. A traitor. Someone who had joined Aaron under a pretense of friendship, only to betray him, humiliate him, force his hand in various unpleasant ways. Back at school, Aaron would have given Tom a piece of his mind some time ago, and then avoided the boy. Probably found somewhere to be alone and seethe. He'd kept it together here because people were counting on him, because it was life and death, but Tom was a danger. He would continue to be a danger. And it would be so easy. The gun had a sensitive trigger.

No. Better to let Tom make a fool of himself. Aaron couldn't get his hands dirty. The future of their escape attempt depended on it, and he could subordinate his personal feelings to that. After all, no matter how problematic Tom was, he wasn't worth losing all credibility for.
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Spelunking · The Tunnels