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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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((So, apologies for the long post, and also for any skipping that happens in the future here. Just gotta make sure a death finishes on time.))

The new people were all around now, making Aaron edgy and nervous. The two other guys had come over, and the girl had a gun out. The new boys seemed decidedly lacking when it came to heavy armaments, but that wasn't saying much at all. They could simply be hiding weapons, waiting to open up when they were sure there would be no effective retaliation. Aaron glanced at them. With just one of these external entities, he'd probably have risked a longer discussion, but right now he just wasn't in the mood. Aileen seemed to feel about the same way, attempting to get them to leave. That was a poor allocation of resources, though. They had a girl with a gun and a murderous demeanor to work with. You didn't throw away that sort of potential.

"Hang on a moment," Aaron said, looking at the girl. "Quincy Jones, medium height, short hair, a bit stocky?" It was what came to mind with the name, but also described half of Bayview. Whatever. Aaron was a good actor; feigning familiarity was a breeze, and by acting a bit unsure he let himself off the hook for the lie. "I saw him with Nick Reid, oh, four or five days ago, real buddy buddy, right when they killed one of my friends. It was while we'd split off from the rest of the group. If you get them both, I'll owe you. We'll watch for Jones ourselves, too, but we're trying to avoid trouble, not make it."

Milo interrupted, and in that instant, Aaron decided he had to go. The little prick was trying to sabotage this and get them all killed, or he was too dumb to realize that was the likely outcome. Once these people left, he'd sit everyone down and patiently and calmly explain why Milo would be better off working on his own. Perhaps the best way to frame it would be a recruitment scheme, say they were sending Milo off to rustle up some more support, which they certainly needed. In reality, of course, it would just be to get him out of their hair, but with a suitable lie, Aileen and Charlotte would probably be happy to play along. Milo annoyed everyone, after all.

"Anyways, if that's all, glad we could help you. Good luck."

Conversation over, unless she wanted to push it.

Glancing over to the others, Aaron said, "And no, we haven't seen Rena or Saul. Sorry. You might try the sawmill, though; there's shelter there, and it's a good stopping point if they were headed this way."

He didn't add that he suspected there was a trap of some variety there. Better to let these guys flush it first. That would improve his group's chance of avoiding anything truly unpleasant. The boys seemed harmless enough, too, so if everything was legitimate, they wouldn't cause any problems for Bounce and her mystery friend. Of course, there had been smoke from the direction of the sawmill a while back, but it was gone now. Any trouble related to it would have moved on as well.

With the problem neatly in hand, Aaron turned his attention away from the boys and finally addressed Milo.

"Sorry about that, had to make sure no one would interrupt me while I was dealing with important social interactions," he said. "For the past few days, you've been helping us out. We're a group which wants to see this through without any unnecessary bloodshed. We—"

And right then, the announcements came on. Aaron whipped his notebook out of his pocket, blowing off Milo completely, and started scribbling onto his list of the killers and the dead. Rein, the boy with the funny accent from that chess game, had apparently been crushed underneath a bunch of boxes. Aaron found that vaguely... well, not amusing, that would have been twisted, but...

Anyways, other people had died too, including Rob Jenkins. That was a very good thing; there was now one less antagonistic player out for Aaron's blood. That left his problem list with Jacquard and Nick, plus anyone else who still was holding onto crazy grudges from school. Oh, and Milo, if he really was faking his insanity as a ploy.

And then, everything went to pieces.

Liz Polanski was dead.

Aaron didn't give a damn about that. It had been inevitable. The problem was, she'd been killed by someone Danya didn't care to name. It took half a second to put that together with the helicopter that had been flying over the island lately. There were terrorists here, and they were hunting down people with escape plans. They'd killed Liz, who had already messed with her collar. Aaron didn't recall the helicopter leaving, though. They were still here. That meant they had more work to do.

It was impossible to say what Polanski had done to the collars, but Aaron had an idea of the long term effects, now. She hadn't disabled her collar. She'd removed the terrorists' ability to detonate any of them remotely, except through danger zones. This didn't mesh too well with what Charlotte had told him, but it didn't matter. It made enough sense. That, or they figured a manhunt made for better viewing.

The end result was still the same.

They were coming for Aaron and his group next.

It was the only thing that made sense. Why else would they still be on the island? Maybe they were just waiting until he pulled his trick. Maybe they were on their way even now. Somehow, that seemed rather likely.

That meant Aaron potentially had only minutes to enact his backup plan.

He hadn't wanted it to come to this, but on some level, he'd suspected it would. He had prepared himself for it. He knew just how to make it play out, and he had his materials ready. Over the past few days, he'd stripped the ends of his wire and uncoiled it. He had two good sections, now, perfectly ready to be hooked up, just waiting in his backpack next to the gloves.

He had to do this the right way, though. Calmly, he flipped two pages past his plan and scribbled something. Then, he turned back to the plan itself. It was time to give this a try.

He glanced around. If any of the newcomers were still here, well, hopefully they'd get the hint and split. Otherwise, he might have to encourage them to go. He put his hand on the pistol, then removed it again, leaving the gun in place. That came later. For now, he turned to Aileen and said, "Aileen, sounds like there are some new factors in play. Our timetable just advanced. Take this. Read it. We're doing this now."

Next, he said, "Charlie, give me a lookout. If you see anyone else coming, tell me."

Then, to Milo: "And you, hang on a sec. You've got the most important role."

The plans he was holding out to Aileen had been completed days ago, before he'd know of their likely flaw. They read as follows:

it seems pretty clear, given the lack of electricity around the island, that they don't want us to have acess to power. the question, then, is why? i think we can probly assume that its because electricity is some how dangerous to their plans. the thing is, there's electricity all around us. those cameras dont run off magic. i don't know any batteries that last for weeks, and they cant be solar because then a week of clouds would end this whole thing.

that means there has to be a generator somewhere.

i don't know where it is. yet. the thing is, we don't need to know where it is. i think i know the reasons they dont want us using power. now, the obvious one is, if we blow up the generator the cameras all break. thats too obvious though. the thing will be hidden somewhere incredibly difficult to find or get to, and theyll blow our collars if we go anywhere near it.

but that's the thing: it has to do with the collars.

i know a fair bit about electricity. you pour too much of it through complicated circutry, it melts. these collars are the prime example of complicated. thats why we're going to use the camera's power to break our collars. what we do is simple. person #1 takes the gloves i found and the stripped wire. they find a wire off one of the cameras, not too close, so they can't see what we're doing. they make a small cut to expose the conductive part. then they wrap one end of each of the wires i have to the collar of person #2. they take the other ends and hook them to the camera wire. this will channel the electricity through the collar and overload the computer components. since theres no spark, being a closed circut, person #2 will be safe and the explosives will not ignite (plus they are stable, or they'd go off every time students got too near fire).

at that point, we just switch the leads around the group. in about three minutes, every collar should be disabled and we'll be free to maneuver more freely. of course, someone will come after us, but that will take time. in the meantime, we can get to the generator, wherever it is, and take it out. this will break the cameras. at that point, we can't be tracked or observed. we break every other collar we find, free the others, and prepare a defense.

It was a beautiful plan. The only problem was, Aaron was almost positive it didn't have a hope of working.

"Aileen," he said, "you're person number one."
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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