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As the flow of students steadily decreased, Nate continued to glance around, making sure there were no unpleasant surprises in store. Not a single killer or player had seen fit to grace his beach. It was a real pity, too. He'd been ready to make his point with bullets, ready to smoke some smug fucker. Lombardi would've been absolutely perfect. Really, though, any sick, sadistic monster would've done. All the better to make the people next season reconsider. All the better to mess up Danya's game once and for all.

The players were nothing more than Danya's goons, his pets and disciples. They were the sort of people who came up with ideas like SOTF. It was fitting that they lost their lives to it. They might be a new batch of killers, but they were no different from those of past versions, of Test Run Eight.

Nate had never forgiven them. Never even come close.

"Get moving." A voice from his radio. "You're gonna have company soon. Looks like a couple patrol boats decided there was something more important to do than saving the boss."

"Damn."

Nate hadn't been expecting that. Their group was about as poorly-armed and prepared for conflict as could be. They could tangle with some half-starved, crazed, murderous high-schoolers with hardly a bullet to spare. A boatful of armed and trained operatives was a different story altogether.

"Pack it in, people," he called. "We're going. Now. Collars are top priority. If they've decided to make a point, they may have some tricks ready there, too."

The last collar came off the last student, and Nate gestured them on, running himself. No time to spare. No time to mess things up. Within minutes, they were on the boat, roaring across the ocean. Pursuit would take time. It would be uncoordinated, he hoped. It would still be their heads if they got caught.

He just hoped the assault team had had a smoother time of things.





Of course, the rescue attempt and its aftermath were not broadcast live. The terrorists still had enough control to cut the feed. When it did air, half a day later, the only shots were from an extreme distance. It was hard to tell what was going on, hard to identify the students moving around. The boat was nearly invisible.

The film cut to another shaky shot, clearly from the deck of a boat, of a pair of distant explosions, though what exactly was blowing up was impossible to discern. Text scrolled over the screen:

"An attempt was made by a military organization to rescue some of the contestants in this season of Survival of the Fittest. The lives of many students were lost as a result of the actions of your governments. Any future attempts will be met with an immediate and total detonation of all collars."

Then, a list of block red letters scrolled over the screen, lasting over a minute:

G125, Jacqueline Myrie: DECEASED
G047, Samantha Ridley: DECEASED
B128, Joss Joiner DECEASED
G085, Alice Blake: DECEASED
B008, Peter McCue: DECEASED
G014, Yelizaveta Volkova: DECEASED
G046, Alexandria Jackson: DECEASED
B056, Raymond Dawson: DECEASED
G048, Kaitlin Anderheim: DECEASED
B140, Cisco Vasquez: DECEASED
B121, Allen Birkman: DECEASED
G105, Isabel Guerra: DECEASED
G122, Mizore Soryu: DECEASED
G106, Sarah Tan: DECEASED
G001, Bridget Connolly: DECEASED
G003, Hui "Sarah" Xu: DECEASED
B042, Brendan Wallace: DECEASED
G010, Anna Chase: DECEASED
G082, Felicia Carmichael: DECEASED
G077, Andrea Raymer: DECEASED
B138, Garrett Hunter: DECEASED
B142, Harun Kemal: DECEASED
B041, Simon Telamon: DECEASED
B105, Jeremy Franco: DECEASED
B132, Jay Holland, DECEASED
G079, Eiko Haraguchi: DECEASED
G018, Acacia Salinger: DECEASED
B073, Michael Moretti: DECEASED
G005, Jennifer Perez: DECEASED
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A Slight Change of Plans · The Beach: East