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((And, with help from Inky: the return of Female Student #69 - Clio Gabriella!))

Simon had rested his eyes for a second, but it had obviously been longer than that. When his eyes opened again, the couch felt much warmer under him, and his body protested a little as he got up to look for the bathroom or something. He walked into what looked like a bedroom, single bed, and a nightstand with a mirror mounted to it. Simon approached the mirror to look at himself.

He was, needless to say, quite the mess. He was covered in dirt, sweat, and bruises, his hair was ragged (of course, he hadn't put a comb to it in over a week), and his bread-and water diet meant that his clothes were starting to become loose on him, and

Wait. What was that?

As Simon looked closer at his neck, he noticed a small seam in the collar, nothing too much, but just enough to be exploited with a key. His eyes went straight to his pocket as he reached for the key in his pocket and held it in front of him, as if it were some gold doubloon, and put it to the seam in his collar, wriggling it about for a few seconds, removing a panel allowing the wiring to become visible. As he inspected the wiring on the collar, he put his hands, making a wild guess on his life.

Well, here goes nothing ...

He pulled. Nothing. He looked for anything that would seem like a sensor, and pulled at the lead going into the chip, and then at the wire going into the other chip he saw.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Simon screwed his eyes shut, preparing for the inevitable explosion.


He opened his eyes and pulled at his collar. The thing fell off his neck and clattered to the ground as Simon just stared at the now-useless piece of metal that had shackled him, as one thought came to his head:

I beat the system. I beat the system right in front of Danya!

"Funny. Or ... not so funny. I thought you of all people could do this Simon, you loved computers."

Simon was about to laugh when a familiar voice rang out. He lifted his head to the person lying on her side on the bed.

"What the ... Clio? How, but how are you here? Did you manage to heal yourself or ..." Clio Gabriella, Simon's (ex-)girlfriend, smiled briefly.

"... and yet, you aren't that smart up there, Simon. You can't heal bullet wounds, honey." Clio got up from the bed and sat up on the edge, running her hand through her smooth hair.

"Then what's happening? I just got the collar off, and you're here, even though you got shot, so what would that mean?" Simon was stumped. He had seen the bullet wound, watched her die in his arms. Even with her standing in front of him, he couldn't fully believe it as he took a step towards her.

"Simon, Simon, Simon. Not to be blunt here, but there was a reason I didn't stop you from running a week ago. You're too ... nice. And innocent." Clio paused, as she thought of the right way to break the truth: "This is a dream, honey."

Simon pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation as hard as he could. Nothing. "Γαμώτο." (Shit) "Well, not so much anymore. I killed someone. Just like you did." Clio just smirked at that.

"You're not like me, Simon. You know that. I know that. You know and I know what happened there, but that doesn't make you any more like me. And ... I'm sorry. I'm just sorry that you of all people had to do what you did. Like everyone I killed, I just got that little bit closer to knowing that sooner or later, I'd run into you again. First few days, it didn't bother me, but ... I started thinking. You made me happy, Simon. I never told you that, even ..." Clio lifted her shirt to reveal the bullet wound, now infected from being left untended to for about two and a half days, before letting it drop, "... when I died."

"Nice." Simon laughed without any humor. "So the one person whose ... life, or experience or whatever for the past week that I've improved is still dead. Almost everyone else here is either dead or a killer, myself included. So what happens now?" Clio's expression changed momentarily as she thought about the situation.

"Well, what do you want to happen, Simon?"

That answer was obvious. "I want to go home. But it would probably be stupid of me to say that I want to do it without adding to the body count with Maxwell Lombardi, Reiko Ishida, and other psycho killers I don't care to name running around. I could remove the collars, but with a death squad having killed the only person to even come close to doing it, that's out, too."

"This doesn't have to be a game of killing, you know. I chose that path, and ... well, it didn't turn out too good for me. And I assure you, it's not going to turn out good for the others either. They'll grow weak, they'll tire. They'll become too injured. And when it comes down to it ... they decay. But you can't take that road, Simon. You're not cut out for it. Just ... "

"Save the others? Wait it out? What if they don't want to be saved if I try to?" Those were really the only other two options left, and he didn't feel like stating that both of those seemed equally impossible. Clio must have known because she laughed incredulously at those ideas.

"Save them? You know better than that, Simon. How many friends do you have left here? Name them."

Simon wrack his brains to look for someone that qualified as a "friend." Stacy Hart ... no, she was dead. JJ Sturn? He was just barely an acquaintance, and he was dead anyway. Nick LeMonde actively tried to kill him. "Ray Dawson. Maybe. It would be the new guy and the computer geek, so yeah. Anyone I could consider a friend is either dead already or would actively try to kill me if they haven't done so already."

"Does he look like someone who needs saving, Simon? Is he worth your effort?" Simon furrowed his brow at that question. They'd been kind of the same in some ways - they'd never really talked to each other.

"N ... no. It's unnecessary at best, and at worst, he's just waiting to pounce."

"See? That's all you want to save, someone who can look after himself So why do it? You don't want to be a killer, you've learnt that. And you don't need to save anyone. So ... what's there left for you to do? I can think of several things, one of which ..." Clio slunk around behind Simon and whispered into his ear "... could be to join me if you like."

That was her idea. To end it right now on his own terms. At that moment, Simon's thought of the idea was "Hell, no." But then, the way she said it, it seemed valid, and almost right.

"Well, it seems that no matter what I do, that'll be the case." Simon turned to face Clio again. "You've hit the big question: now or later? Just give me the ..." He looked out the window, but then he realized that if he was dreaming, then it didn't matter what it looked like outside. "... whatever time of day it is right now to think about it." Simon looked down, then kissed Clio on the lips. It held for about five seconds before their lips parted. Clio just smiled and kissed him back as they embraced, and fell towards the bed.

Thud. Clang.

Simon looked at his surroundings as he opened his eyes and sat up. The couch, the tire iron were all there. He felt his neck with his hand to feel the cold metal that had been there for eight days, and only one word came out:

"Γαμώτο!" (Shit!)
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