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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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((Aaron Hughes continued from Could Have Been Worse))

The last few days had not been among Aaron's best. Everything was coming to pieces. Everything had been falling apart since he'd encountered Rob. Lily was dead. Somehow, Rob had walked away from getting shot, had caught up to her and killed her. Aaron would have been upset about this had several other deaths not been preying on his mind. Richard had apparently managed to take a dive off a cliff. That was ridiculously stupid but also completely in keeping with expectations.

Also, everyone who had ever turned down the opportunity to join Aaron's group was now dead. There was that. It was an interesting thing to note. Even with the setbacks, he still had kept people safe. That was something to cling to.

What really had him upset, though, was the death of William Sears. Will was one of Aaron's better friends. He was a smart guy, in his own way. He was loyal, and tried to be heroic. He was also a bit too naïve to have had much of a chance, especially against Nick Reid. For the first time, Aaron was upset that he'd let the killer walk. Before, Nick had been something of an asset, a villain to demonize but never to encounter or actually worry about, a far away threat to galvanize the group to action. Now, though, it was personal. Now there would be a reckoning. The fact that it would play well into the plan was just a bonus.

Jennifer Romita was dead, too, at the hands of Hayley Kelly (KoS), which meant presumably Nick was alone and Hayley was his enemy. Aaron hoped that, when they eventually clashed, Nick came out on top. Ideally, he could get wounded some in so doing, though. That way, the inevitable fight would be a bit more weighted in Aaron's favor.

Of course, all of this was insignificant. It paled in comparison to the things truly occupying Aaron's mind.

His plan wouldn't work.

Well, that was perhaps an overstatement. More precisely, if Danya was telling the truth, the part of the plan related to actually removing the collars wouldn't work. Over the past few days, Aaron had slowed the group's pace, making sure everyone was rested and adequately fed (at least, as much as possible). He'd had them keep watch over the nights, and, on one of his watches, he'd just so happened to leaf through Danya's little survival guide, more for a laugh than anything else. What he'd found hadn't left him laughing.

"So, what do you all need to know about the collars this go around? They're waterproof, they're shockproof, and they aren't removable."

The collars were shockproof. Aaron had isolated a source of power on the island, one no one had ever tapped before. He'd been pretty sure it would be a simple matter of feeding enough of it into the collars to blow out their circuitry. It seemed the terrorists had actually thought of that, though, at least enough to pretend to have it covered. Aaron wasn't quite willing to believe them without testing it himself, of course, but he'd have to be way more cautious about it. He'd need a hostage, or maybe Milo. Someone who either couldn't or wouldn't protest. He'd need to get one of the others, perhaps Charlie, to actually conduct the experiment, in case it didn't work and Danya decided to announce it as a kill.

More than that, he'd need a backup plan.

He hadn't shared his revelations with the group. It would be demoralizing. Besides, as long as they were working productively towards an end, they were less likely to complain. They knew the start of the plan, and nothing more. Aaron could change things all over the place, and none of his followers would be the wiser. In fact, he could keep them spinning their wheels, chasing after some illusory progress, for a potentially-indefinite period of time.

It wasn't exactly an optimal solution. Ideally, he'd have a functional plan and save everyone right away. Realistically, though, the announcements had proved that he was their best bet for survival, and if he had to manipulate them a little bit to keep them safe, well, it was all for the best in the end.

And of course, he was safer with a group too, even a poorly-equipped one. This was certainly better than going things alone, or with unreliable friends.

He'd spoken to Charlie some over the past few days, or, more precisely, passed a scrap of paper (not the one with his plan on it) back and forth. He'd learned who she'd met. He'd learned that Liz Polanski was in bad shape. He'd decided that attempting to help her was a losing proposition, if she was that badly injured. He'd decided that playing around with computers or whatever in the ranger station was equally stupid, especially when it came out that the girl running things had been blown up.

It all added up, in the end, to an island descended into chaos. That was a good thing, though. It meant Aaron's group was unlikely to attract much official attention. It meant they could continue to operate, continue to try to find a way off. It also meant his allies were more likely to cling to him and the plan, even if it seemed to be taking an awful while to take shape.

Because there was always the second plan.

Aaron hadn't really given this too much conscious thought, but he did have a backup idea in case it turned out escape really was impracticable. The best part was, it was pretty much the same plan as if they did escape.

Now, it was near the end of day seven. they'd been at this for a week. They were on their way to the sawmill, and, though progress was somewhat slow, though Bounce had likely come and gone, they were at least doing something.

It was good to have goals.
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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No Such Thing as a Perfect Plan · The Felled Forest: North