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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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So. Day three. There were still more than two hundred students still alive - but that would change quickly enough. He felt sorry for those that felt that killing was the best option. That's not how people were supposed to behave. Reiko, Maxwell, Kris, Clio, Alex, Nick, Staffan, they'd all killed not just once but twice or more. Maybe there could be redemption for the others Danya had mentioned. But the mass murderers... the lot of them were lost. And yet, they didn't deserve to die. They'd chosen to cast aside their humanity, but in the end, what else could you expect? It was hard to say that someone else deserved to go home more than they did. They were just normal teens who had lost their way. All the same, the thought of someone hopping into the boat or helicopter or whatever with a smile on their face and a dozen kills under their belt was unsettling to say the least. That is, if the winner even got to return home: that seemed pretty doubtful, in all honesty.

As of now, there was no real plan for the coming days. None of his newly stress-tempered friends was on the road to murder. They just wanted to survive, but even that was almost foolishly optimistic. Survival was relative, after all, when only one (maybe) student got out of the place. Prolonging the final days of their life, that was all they could ask. There was another, deeper motive that he recognized when he meditated on it. People couldn't bear to die on day one, day two, day three, right out of the gate. When did they plan on dying, though? A week wouldn't be bad, that'd be about halfway-ish, but that meant you were just mediocre. A week and a half? Then you're getting into "if only" territory. And then it would suck, of course, to make it two weeks and die at the end. It was a problem with no solution - no, there was one solution. Kick back, meditate, enjoy your time, and go with the Reaper when he came a-callin'.

So, there he was, poking at a little fire while drifting down myriad streams of thought. There wasn't much else to do at the moment - Imraan seemed to know what was going on, he'd probably have some suggestions. For now, though, he was off by himself, thinking. It was a good activity; Cody didn't want to interrupt him.

But someone else did.

A reminder, yet again, that campfire or no campfire, this was no normal camping trip. The newcomer's name eluded him for a second, and then -

Six and seven came in quick succession at the hands of Maxwell Lombardi, our new favourite Brit...

He would've dropped his bread if he had any.

Maxwell was an agent of chaos. He'd come, no doubt, to fire into the group, cause chaos and destruction, destroy their semblance of stability. Cody wasn't about to let that happen.

His fingers pushed through invisible molasses, closing around the fire axe in what was either a split second or an hour. Turning, rising, getting to his feet, Maxwell was raising a gun, aiming with the deliberate, deadly slowness of an artillery operator. Aiming, Cody could see as he lumbered as quickly as he could across the ground, directly at Imraan - who wasn't even paying any attention. The decision didn't even need to be made; he ran without a moment's pause directly between the two, waving his axe in a manner which he hoped was threatening but which he knew would do no good.


No! He was just a few steps away, so close to protecting Imraan... It didn't seem to have hit him but it was impossible to tell for sure... He'd started, he was turning around now...


Cody skidded to a halt between them axe in the air and face lined in fury. He wasn't going to let Maxwell pick off another unsuspecting victim. Another round flew past...


"Not on my watch, bit-" A searing pain slashed through his side like a red-hot vicegrip pinching his skin into oblivion except it was just his skin it was was a painful burning tunnel right through his body and it was so painful but he couldn't stop...


Cody felt his arm shatter. It folded uselessly against his body and his left hand closed around the axe handle...


Miss. That wasn't much comfort though because Maxwell was still so far away and each step rattled his arm ripping through more and more flesh and he couldn't even tell that he had an arm any more because it might as well just been a twisted stump whose only purpose was to cause him pain...


He wheezed. It was a horrible feeling sucking blood into his lung through a brand-new burning hole right in his chest and there was 100% no way that he could possibly survive but he just needed to make Maxwell think he was going to kill him so the others could vacate...


Another miss but that didn't matter any more. Warm crimson froth was spilling out of his chest every time he breathed and even more heavy liquid blood was pouring into his lungs...


A loud vorpal whizz - the slug missed his skull by inches and he wasn't really sure whether to be thankful or disappointed but at least he got to hear that noise before he died, it was really pretty cool and you didn't get to hear a freaking bullet zip by your ear every day...


He was slowing down now. No amount of anger or determination or whatever could keep him on his feet much less running for very much longer. Maxwell had missed again which bought him a few more steps but he really hoped that he hadn't let hot lead cruise by and nail Imraan...


Another explosion of pain. It was his clavicle now except he didn't have a clavicle any more because it was in a million useless little pieces that hurt so so bad...


He coughed. There was so much blood he couldn't hardly breathe any more and he wasn't yelling any more and it felt like he was running a marathon. Gooey strings of blood and frothing saliva hung off his chin...


One last hit. Right in the face. His cheekbone was broken and probably a few of his teeth too and seriously why did he have to break all the bones in his body there was plenty of soft tissue to hit instead...

He was on his knees and he wasn't moving any more but the world just wouldn't stop and hey why was he on his knees anyways he didn't remember falling but he must have collapsed and now he was falling, falling, falling but he was still on the ground and what was he doing anyways? Yes, he was supposed to race Imraan to Maxwell, no that wasn't right he was supposed to chop Maxwell down or something because why else did he have an axe in his hand? Well maybe he was supposed to start a fire with it because it was a fire axe and isn't that what you did with one because why else would it be called a fire axe, maybe he could ask someone but his lungs just wouldn't work and there was nothing for it now, he was on his hands and knees oozing blood from his chest and his shoulder and his abdomen and his face and his arm and spewing it from his mouth and he realized that this is it and there were no last cigarettes or last meals or last requests or even last words when there were almost half a dozen burning bloody holes in you and the world was growing darker...

One final moment of lucidity. He hoped Imraan was unhurt, hoped everyone else was okay, hoped that Maxwell wouldn't kill them all. There was one thing he needed to do though, just one final thing he had to get done before the curtains closed for the last time. With all the effort he could muster, he looked up at Maxwell, grabbing one hand in the other. His fingers wouldn't move and he was shaking so badly but he was almost there... There was no movement from his body now, but he could have laughed if his lungs still worked.

Lying on the ground in front of him were his hands, one propping up the other, frozen in position with one middle finger raised.




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Your Cross to Bear · Northern Cliffs