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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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((Nick Reid continued from Bait and Switch))

The announcements had come and gone once more. Twenty-nine people had been killed. Twenty-freaking-nine. Another record. Probably. Definitely a record, just not 100% on the "another" bit. Nick hadn't really listened to all of them, but he could've sworn that they'd set a record previously. But at any rate, twenty-nine was an enormous amount. The class, it seemed, had lost its collective mind. A couple girls had killed each other, and then a couple of boys. A few got themselves killed in random accidents that forced him to ponder whether there would've been a bodycount on the class trip had they not even been abducted. But what worried him most-

Alex White made his shocking debut by shivving William Hearst and Rena Peters.

Alex white. The second person he'd met, and the first who'd almost killed him. There were times, holding four feet of beautiful high-carbon steel in his hands, that he felt sure he could take on all comers. And then there were times when a more sobering idea took over - he'd just imagine Alex White, or some other slab of meat, doing his best to kill him. What in the world would he do? Size wasn't everything, of course. It sure didn't give you an easy win in a sword fight. But it was also far from trivial, especially in the brutal winner-take-all matches on the island. He recalled pounding away at Maf with the same degree of success he might find in cutting a tree down with a frozen herring. And if you took someone with less fat, more muscle, a personal grudge, and the power of experience...

He needed to get off the island, as soon as possible. There was another way out, one that had a door unbarred by Ivan and Alex and Maxwell - and he knew precisely how to find it. That was what kept him going. Kept his legs pumping step after stupid bloody steep thorn-entangled step.

But of course it would hardly be simple. Also disturbing was the news that Liz had died - or, rather, how she'd died. Gunned down personally by the terrorists running the game. Which meant that if he tried to start something once he'd freed himself of his collar, or maybe even if he didn't, he might find himself outnumbered with well-trained, armed-to-the-teeth adults. He'd need some advice, some support, some comfort. And that was why he was climbing a mountain.

Hut or mountain? He'd made what he hoped to be the right choice. The note said that they'd move on if the groundskeeper's hut proved too dangerous. That was what he was banking on. It was, of course, silly to think of any location as safe in the slightest. But there couldn't not be some murderer lurking there. It was a hut; it was, basically, a space designed for living in. The rest of the island was not. There were, of course, two other areas - the town or whatever and the mansion - that would also offer a roof over one's head, some insulated walls, a bed, maybe even some other comforts of home. But the hut would be easily defendable and somewhat out of the way. The only advantage, albeit a big one, was that he'd know when he was done searching. The mountain was a little trickier: one could even say, provided they had a dry enough sense of humor, that it was as big as a mountain.

He stopped for a rest. He'd reach the top sooner, if he was correct about his location, or later, if he was wrong. And from there - well, he didn't know quite what, honestly, but he'd figure that one out at the proper time. At the moment, however, he was more concerned with getting something in his stomach. He wasn't, come to think of it, entirely sure when he'd last eaten. Really, it just wasn't something he'd been bothered to do much about. What did bother, or at least just annoy, him were the molotovs he'd been carting around. None too light, and every cracker tasted by now like licking a tailpipe. Making rather too big a show for the cameras of pretending his flashlight collection and tangle of wire didn't exist, he-

"This sucks."

-nearly inhaled his cracker. He coughed hard, sputtered, tried out wheezing for a second, suppressed a sudden inclination to go the whole nine yards and just vomit up the whole noxious meal.

"What," he managed to croak. "Really? I'm- Jennifer, that's you?"



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I Will Follow You into the Dark · The Mountain