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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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The girl fell away, slumped to the ground. Baines fought back the urge to take another shot just to check. She was dead, no doubts about it. A bullet in the head. Anything further was paranoia, not a trait he wanted to foster.

His pulse dropped back towards a more normal level, his breathing stabilizing. The cuts and blows the now-dead girl had inflicted upon him stung and ached, but seemed fairly superficial. He'd had worse, certainly. Still, the combination of factors, the girl's dogged determination and the darkness, had made the whole thing seem truly menacing. It had been a fight for his life, and it had felt like it.

Baines took a few seconds to compose himself, to slowly gather up all his equipment again. He kept glancing over his shoulder, but the body made no further movements, just lay there in the dark, barely visible. Finally, set up again, his gear checked, Baines broke into a jog down the tunnels, in the same direction Domino had gone. His foot throbbed like a bitch, but he could worry about first aid later. Greynolds would not be amused if the little adventure with the dead girl allowed the real troublemaker to slip through their hands.

Christina ran forwards, heading towards the cluster, trying to make out what had happened. A flashlight flicked on. A shape stumbled away from the wall, clutching its stomach. Richards, she thought.

He gave out a groan, then said, "Ah, man, that's a bitch. That's such a bitch. These vests are the worst. Man, fuck, I think that might've cracked a rib."

"You get her?" Christina knew the answer, of course.

"I got her."

She was tempted to look, to confirm with her own eyes, but it was pointless. The dangerous part of their mission was done. Now, all that was left was to fix the remaining cameras—a job which, unfortunately, would likely take a good bit of time. They wouldn't be getting much rest, probably trading shifts sleeping in the helicopter, but they didn't need to be too sharp anymore. They'd use the danger zones as cover. From here out, it was tedious repetition and the extremely mundane.

Richards was still bitching about things as Greynolds turned to Christina and said, simply, "Baines?"

"One of them jumped us on her way out, sir," Christina said, feeling very much like a student herself again, trapped in front of the class by a trick question she couldn't quite feel her way out of. "I prioritized our primary objective."

She bit back the urge to say "Baines can take care of himself."

Greynolds shrugged, then started organizing the group to head out again. Shamino seemed to be having some trouble with the radio. Danya would want to be apprised of their success as soon as possible, but, given the news they'd be delivering, the boss would probably excuse a bit of tardiness.

A scrape came from further down the tunnel, back the way they'd come from, and Christina turned towards it. Shamino illuminated it with his flashlight.There was Baines, looking a good bit worse for the wear and more than a little sheepish, blood all over the front of his outfit, walking with a slight limp. Christina heard Richards stifle a laugh, then let out a little grunt and prod his side. At this, Baines cracked his own smile.

"The fuck happened to you?" he said. "Last I heard, she was barely standing."

"Says the guy who's dripping," Richards rejoined.

Like that, the two were off on each other. Clearly neither was in any imminent danger. It was good like this. It wasn't like the last times squads had been dispatched to handle things. Version Three had been a total wipe, with several key personnel members killed in action. Version One, well, that had been a little different. And, of course, Test Run Eight.

She was in no hurry to repeat that experience.

"Come on," Greynolds said. "The job's not done just 'cause we caught out chief rat. There's still a lot of holes to patch up."

Shamino was on the walkie-talkie as soon as the kill was confirmed, and off it again almost as quickly. It was useless. The tunnels did a real number on reception. That was, after all, what had drawn their target to them. With a sigh, he clipped the device back to his belt, then readied his shotgun. No use taking risks. While any student left should be painfully obvious due to the beeping of the collars in the blackout zones, Shamino wasn't going to take any chances. It was always possible one of the collars wasn't working properly.

Baines returned. Shamino was not impressed by his condition, but withheld comment and serious judgment; Baines was, after all, probably the second most competent hand to hand combatant in the group, certainly more skilled than Shamino was. If someone had messed Baines up, he'd had an off day, they'd been highly skilled, or, most likely, both.

Shamino ignored the chatter and catching up, keeping an eye out. Cecily seemed to be paying close attention as well, glancing over her shoulder often. He nodded to her.

And then they were leaving the tunnels. Their pace was somewhat slower; all of them were a bit burned out, but, all things considered, the operation had gone down as well as could be expected. There were still all sorts of problems. The V5 tech crew was going to have a load of data to mill, and a whole lot of changes to make. Shamino could think of a few things himself, to the tune of, say, spending less time worrying about cell phones and more in figuring alternate methods of controlling the students if things actually did go sideways.

As they emerged into the air again, Shamino took a deep breath. He waited two seconds to adjust and ground himself, then made the call. HQ quickly ascertained what had happened, and decided to just knock the tunnels out of play, something for which Shamino was thankful. The last thing he wanted was to spend a long time fixing up a bunch of underground relays. Sure, he could do it, could probably do it well and in Danya's time frame, but the waste of effort would be phenomenal. They needed to narrow the play area anyways. It was reaching the point where the students weren't close enough to encounter each other with regularity, and that would tank the death pace.

Greynolds informed them that their next stop was the mansion. After that, they would be stopping in the woods to finish up their repairs. It would be several days, in all likelihood. It made Shamino wish they could just make the areas danger zones and be done with it, but the mansion was an interesting environment and the woods were an important transit point for the students.

So they got moving.

It wasn't until after the announcement that Baines remembered to report the girl he'd shot. It messed up the announced death order, but that was nearly standard operating procedure by this point anyways. Besides, who cared about one dead girl more or less?

((Death Squad continued The Ninth Announcement))
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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The Gully · The Tunnels