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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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((Aaron Hughes continued from Where Do You Go From Here?))

Into the woods they went, though not the nearby woods, due to an inopportune danger zone rotation. Aaron was somewhat twitchy and uneasy. Despite his confidence in his plan, he was still saddled with questionable help. There were a lot of ways things could go very wrong. More than that, he felt constricted by the metal collar around his neck. He could get it off, if he had to. He was pretty sure of that now. The thing was, this wasn't the sort of thing that would work multiple times. He'd have a couple minutes to get his whole group free, assuming nobody was watching him as he started, and then there'd be alarm bells going off all over the terrorists' headquarters, people panicking, the whole lot. There would be forces dispatched to kill him and anyone else he managed to release.

So the removal of collars was secondary. It was a failsafe, something to bail them all out if the other tricks he had up his sleeve didn't work for some reason. The primary goal, the ultimate form of rebellion and the best step to freedom, would be to take down the cameras. This was what Aaron hoped he could do. Disabling the cameras was a death sentence, though, so his only hope was to knock them all out at once. One big bang, and the terrorists wouldn't be able to see who was flipping them off or shooting people or whatever, much less who had destroyed their precious equipment. The only tricky bit would be making sure everything went down exactly as planned. One hiccup and they'd all be dead. If Aaron couldn't be completely certain that everything would go right, if he couldn't guarantee that the cameras would all die at once, he'd get the collars off first.

He was lost in thought again, unfocused on his surroundings and his followers. It felt like it had been some time since he had slept. A day? Two? That was probably not a good thing. Were his allies even following him anymore? It was certainly possible that they had drifted off somewhere. At the moment, Aaron was feeling kind of apathetic towards this whole leader role. He liked having people listen to him. Liked doing good things. Liked getting a little respect, for once. The responsibility could be grating, though. He wondered what would have happened had he not encountered Tom on the first day. Perhaps he'd have gone off on his own, holed up somewhere, schemed and waited and enacted his plan ages ago. Maybe lives would have been saved. Then again, maybe it would have been too much. Maybe he'd have started playing to win.

The need to kill others to survive was something that, disturbingly enough, Aaron did not find that hard to understand. It was, however, something he couldn't do. It was repugnant and repulsive, but he got why people went down that path. After all, in the end, it was the only way people who lacked the smarts for escape could survive. What was morality in the face of death? Dying for ideals was stupid. The only reason to do it was when death was assured, when it made no difference.

Aaron was no idealist. He could play the hero, sure. He'd done it for years, every few weekends, with a cape and a foam sword. But all heroism was just play, just acting. Everyone left on this island had selfish reasons for everything they did. No hiding from it. People protected others because it made them feel good. They killed because it let them live longer.

They led escape groups because one person was a lot more screwed than twenty when a squad of armed terrorists showed up.

Aaron sighed. Also, being a leader meant he could get a guard set up and get some rest soon. He needed it. Needed to pull his thoughts together. He'd gotten a bit ahead again, so he scribbled more into his notebook, keeping it shielded from the cameras.

He looked around for one, shot it a smile. How funny, that the instrument of their captivity was to be so key to their liberation.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open · The Woods: Inland