"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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New people arrived. It was exactly the situation Jaxon had hoped to avoid. Not people turning up, of course, but rather the identity of one of the newcomers. George Leidman. He'd identified himself with complete candor. He seemed a reasonable enough boy. He was responsible for at least two unprovoked murders, two cold-blooded killings of innocent classmates. He had strangled a boy in the swamp.

He was on the list. Of course he was on the list, and of course Jaxon was going to obey the list. Anything else would be a disaster. Anything else would render the entire point of the list moot. More than that, it would render pointless the deaths of all the killers who stayed away because of his initial announcement, of all the killers closer to Nate's boat. Sparing this one boy, despite his earnest appeal, would be spitting in the face of the deaths of so many others. It would be sabotaging their own point, removing their justification. It would do nothing but open the floodgates next game.

He deserved to hear it straight, though. Wishy-washy speech had its place, but not when pronouncing a death sentence.

"I'm sorry, George," he said. "You killed three people, two of them flat out murder. I'm going to have to ask you to leave the area."

One of the other STAR members who was not preoccupied with the collar-removal gear leveled his assault rifle at George. Had George been wounded to the point of incapacitation, it would have been different, of course. Jaxon would have made sure he got to leave on his own terms. Right now, though, George was a serious threat. He could be armed, could react violently to his denial. They had to be ready for that.

Jaxon left George's expulsion from the area to his friend, turning to the two new girls who had arrived. Alice and Yeliza-something. Neither on his list. Good enough.

"You're both clear," he said. "As long as you're leaving, we can get your collars off in a jiffy. Just get in line over there." He gestured to the boy who had just finished with Samantha's collar.

One of his other helpers had intercepted a crew of boys in the meantime. Jaxon groaned internally. This was going to be trouble. This particular member of his team would have been better off with Nate. He was all too ready to bounce the killers, all too unaware of what that actually meant for their futures. He was hassling the newcomers, even while tending to the unconscious boy the other students had been carrying. Jaxon would have intervened, but another boy turned up. They were getting quite the crowd, and every new face he saw that didn't match his list raised Jaxon's spirits a bit further.

"Good to see you, Jojo," he replied when the boy introduced himself. "Get in line, and we'll have you sprung just as quickly as we can."
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The Cavalry Arrives · The Beach: North