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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Aaron looked out to sea. Aileen didn't care. She was grumpy, sarcastic, but fairly easy to handle. Apparently, she was going to be sullen and surly about this all. That was fine. Those were easy things to deal with. He'd have to let her sulk, but they weren't going anywhere. If Aaron handled things right, she could even serve as a sort of alarm. If anyone stumbled across her, she'd probably become loud and indignant. That would be good warning. Aaron could hide out in the bait shop, perhaps. Maybe he could get some sleep.

There couldn't be many of them left now. Under thirty, though not by much. They were all corralled into a limited area, meaning encounters would increase. That, in turn, meant the death rate might not actually slow too badly. Aaron was guessing they had between one and three days left, slightly more if someone else got creative. It was possible there were other groups trying the same thing, though he somewhat doubted it. Attrition was eating its way through everyone at this point. In all likelihood, most of the other contenders were bedraggled and half mad. This wouldn't be all that challenging. After all, so far he had breezed through his time here, not on brute force, but on actually being intelligent. That was the secret. People played the game all wrong, focused on things besides the ends.

There was only one goal: winning. The way to win was not to blaze through everyone, like Lombardi and Brook and Hartmann and Kelly and so many others who were now dead or dying. It was to be smart, to play the good guy, to ensure you always held the upper hand and to never let anyone get the drop on you. It was to see your adversaries not exclusively as enemies, but as resources too. It was to never, ever reveal that you hoped to come out on top.

Aaron glanced back at Aileen. She was sitting, reading something. Keeping herself occupied. Good. Aaron wandered further out on the broken dock, making sure to step lightly and to test each place he put his feet. While a collapse would probably not prove fatal, it could be damaging to his weapon, and there was always the chance of being injured by debris.

Someone had clearly died here. There were stains that looked enough like blood, and he was pretty sure he could see something that was the remains of a limb. It was enough. Someone had used a pretty serious weapon here. Something like that would be nice to have, but there wasn't enough of the victim left to reverse engineer the killer's identity.

He made his way carefully back to safer ground, looking at Aileen again. She was still reading—

Aaron's expression clouded. She was reading his notebook, the one he had repeatedly asked her to return over the last couple days. She'd always hung onto it, though, always found some way to distract him and maintain control of it. She'd probably had it all planned out. She'd probably figured he'd be too distracted here to even notice what she had. She was trying to catch him out, trying to find something to blame him for. Maybe she'd been planning this for a long time. Maybe since Milo.

"Ah," he said, keeping his tone light. "You found my notebook. I have a few adjustments to make. Would you mind passing it over?"
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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Loyalty Rewarded · The Docks