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Viewing Single Post From: V4 Epilogue: Peace Accords
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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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For the next twenty minutes, Kimberly sat and sobbed, hating everything more than ever, disgusted at herself for losing control and livid at having been tricked. She contemplated revenge, wondered if she could choke the life out of someone with only one hand, tried to guess how many guards were right outside the door and what she'd have to do to keep them from immediately opening fire. Greynolds finished his tea, drank hers, and ate all the crackers. Then he sat, watching her patiently. Kimberly barely moved. Eventually, slowly, she regained enough control of herself to force her hand to her leg. She locked eyes with him, and they just stared at each other. Greynolds blinked freely, maybe even a little too often. Kimberly tried not to blink at all, but it didn't work very well.

Some time later, when she'd become pretty sure she wasn't going to be killed, when her anger had subsided enough to preclude anything suicidal, she found words.

"What the fuck was the point?" she said.

Greynolds considered her for a moment, then said, "You'll have to be more specific. Are you being rhetorical? Questioning the universe? Your victory?"

Kimberly took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. There was a painting hanging on the wall, an abstract series of shapes and colors. She hadn't noticed it before. Richards' assault rifle was propped up under it.

"Why the game?" she said. Then, after a second, "Fuck, not... I mean, why did you have him do that? With the knife?"

"I thought you might appreciate it," Greynolds said. He yawned, then continued. "You certainly seemed to enjoy your own little games on the island. It's all okay as long as nobody gets hurt, right?"

She stared at him.

"Oh, don't worry," Greynolds chuckled. "I'm no moralist. Far be it from me to care if you empathize with the people you played with. I certainly don't. I understand. No, no, don't bother denying it. That gets boring. There is nothing in the world so boring as responsibility. Trust me, the last few days have been an absolute bitch. Sometimes, you've gotta just kick back and relax. I mean, fuck, you've earned it."

Kimberly took a deep breath and shifted. She did not look at the gun again. It was to her left, maybe four steps away. She doubted she could make it in time. She was terrified, ready to cut any deal necessary to get out of this room, to go back to the others, to sit on the boat or in the examination room, to be with anyone but the man in front of her.

"It's traditional to offer you a chance to join us," Greynolds said. "Then you refuse because you want to pretend you have morals. I don't really care. We're going to skip that part.

"I'm not interested in you trying to be defiant. We can sit here and score points off each other forever. Maybe it'd even be amusing, but it seems wasteful. I don't have that long to chat. I'd rather it mean something."

"Like what?"

Greynolds considered that.

"I guess I'll return the question," he said after a time. "Why the games you played?"

Kimberly considered lying or refusing to answer. She considered laughing in his face, spitting at him, screaming in anger. She was pretty sure now that Greynolds wouldn't actually hurt her. He still terrified her more than anything else she'd encountered, but she was beginning to get a better feel for him.

"I don't know," she said. "I've thought about it a lot, and maybe it made me feel better, but I don't really know."

It was getting easier to talk again. Her throat felt less restricted, and she wiped her eyes with the back of her good hand, then straightened her hat. The movement gave her pause. Funny. For all that her mind had forgotten the real world, her muscle memory seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Greynolds opened his mouth again, but Kimberly cut him off.

"My turn," she said, deciding in a split second to take a more active stance against her fear. She didn't pause, didn't give him a chance to cut in again. If she was going to move off the defensive she was going to do it wholeheartedly. "Why do you talk to the winners?"

"Tradition, mostly," Greynolds sounded almost apologetic. "Danya used to enjoy it. Maybe there's some value to it. You are, at the least, somewhat interesting.

"Now, my turn again. Why did you win?"

A pause.

"What?" Kimberly said.

"Why did you win? Why are you sitting here?"

She thought about that one for a long, long while. It was a question she wasn't quite ready to ask herself, one she didn't care to pry too deeply into. She suspected Greynolds knew that, and so she answered with the first somewhat honest thing that came to mind.

"I have no idea," she finally said. "Maybe because I'm selfish."

Once more, silence descended. It seemed like Greynolds was fine with the breaks, and Kimberly felt no need to disturb them. She was aware that she was tired, hungry, bruised and bloody and sore, but it didn't really matter right now.

"Your turn," Greynolds eventually prompted. Kimberly blinked. She hadn't been expecting him to offer her anything, much less to play the game she'd defined, and wasn't entirely sure how to approach it now. She wasn't going to let him turn the situation around, though. If he was giving her a chance to take some control, she was going to seize it and milk it for everything she could.

"What happens now?" she said.

"That's pretty broad."

"To me."

"Well," Greynolds said, "normally I'd threaten to throw you back into the game, make you squirm a little more. Of course, we won't actually put you back. What happened with Dodd, that was Danya's choice, and not one I agreed with. That's not how I set the game up. You win, you go home, just as long as you killed someone. You're alright on that front." Here he chuckled a little.

"I mean, yeah, you last killed someone three days ago or something. I lose track. Still counts. We've had to delay the broadcast, so you won't be back in the States until a couple weeks from now. In the meantime, we'll see that you get the surgery and medicine and physical therapy you need. I'd offer emotional support, but I think you'll do better elsewhere.

"Now, tell me, what's your favorite food? What are you gonna have for dinner when you get home?"

Kimberly blinked.

"The fuck does that have to do with anything?"

"Answer if you wanna ask." Greynolds' voice was nearly singsong. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. His eyes were deep blue, Kimberly saw. He looked pretty damn young.

"Pizza," she said. "Pizza with mushrooms, sausage, and black olives. Maybe add some red pepper."

"Interesting." Greynolds' voice said it was anything but. "Now, I asked because—"

"I changed my mind," Kimberly said. Her energy was building a little again. Her face felt warm. "I don't give a fuck why you care."


"Why did you pick Bayview?"

"Shit security." Greynolds yawned. "Your school was big enough, interesting enough, in a place where we had some assets. Nothing personal. I mean, Minnesota's a terrible state anyways. We probably did you a favor by taking you guys away from there."

As he spoke, he looked at the ceiling briefly. In that second, Kimberly's eyes flicked to the assault rifle again. It would take maybe half a second to dive for it. She'd never fired a gun in her life. That was a strange thought. All that time on the island, and somehow she'd never fired a gun.

"Why'd you quit smoking?"

"What?" Kimberly said.

"You quit," Greynolds said. "You gave your cigarettes away. Why?"

Kimberly waited on that one for a few seconds, rolling it over in her mind, before she began to chuckle. She knew the angle he was coming from, knew what he was really asking.

"I just didn't wanna die an addict," she said, the slight laughter dying completely and instantly. "That's it. Besides, she needed them more."

No need to name Rhory now. It felt disrespectful to speak of the dead by name to one of those responsible for their fates. Kimberly had a vague idea that maybe her failure to launch some assault on Greynolds constituted some sort of betrayal of their memories. Here she was, across from one of their tormentors, across from a man who had psychologically tortured her and countless others, and she was willing to let go of everything and swallow her pride just to go on living. She glanced at the rifle again, not even bothering to hide it this time. Her decision on that front was made. She'd thought some grand rebellious gesture might be a good way to die, back before the abduction and before the last few days on the island, back when she'd still been able to think of things like good ways to die with a straight face. Now it just seemed silly. Dead was dead, and having it your way was nothing more than a consolation prize.

"Who got away?"

Greynolds frowned at that one, and Kimberly saw a movement on his hand, the possible twitch of a knuckle.

"Too many to list," he said. "I'll make sure someone tells you before you go. The girls you talked to, the boy who beat you up, the girl who was looking for you because you killed her friend. Oh, do be careful about that when you get back. Riz got murdered a few days ago. You probably don't have as many enemies, but it only takes one."

"Someone was looking for me?" That made Kimberly's stomach twist up a bit. It had to have been one of Aislyn's friends. Kris had been after the rescue. It was a horrible thought. Aislyn could have gone home. If Kimberly had held herself together, if she hadn't gotten bored and crazed, if she hadn't fucked around to prove that she was tougher than a bunch of people who died, then maybe everyone could have gone home again. A part of her screamed that they all might have died, that Will might have gunned them down. It didn't really matter.

Greynolds smiled, but he didn't answer her question. Instead, he said, "How did getting your revenge feel?"

"It wasn't revenge," Kimberly said.

"What was it?"

"Someone was looking for me?"

Greynolds' smile broadened. He interlaced his fingers, crossed one leg over the other at the knee, and leaned back.

"Felicia Charmichael. She turned up right when you ran from the docks. She actually distracted Will. You should've seen how pissed she was when she found out.

"Now, if that wasn't revenge with Kris, what was it?"

"Someone had to stop her from hurting more people," Kimberly said. "Turned out it was me."

She wondered how true that was.

"Why do you call everyone by their first names?" she asked.

"You get to know people when you watch them," Greynolds said. "Also, it looks like it pisses you off, Kim. Does it piss you off?"

"Yeah." She took a deep breath, trying to force the irritation out of her voice. In a way, vocalizing it forced her to come to grips with just how grating she was finding this whole thing. It wasn't as bad now as it had been earlier. Whatever game he was playing at, Kimberly had some control over herself again. She knew the danger was no less real, knew the man in front of her could kill her on a whim even if he seemed unlikely to, but that wasn't half as scary as the thought of being held down and systematically crippled.

"What happens to the people who got away?" she said.

Again, Greynolds' knuckles twitched. Kimberly tried not to look like she'd noticed.

"I'd love to say we're gonna go after them and throw them all back next version," Greynolds said. "We won't. We don't have the manpower and I don't care enough. They're free to live or die however they want. I imagine a good number of them are already working on spinning this so that they'll never have to work again, like Mr. Rizzolo did."

"Then fuck them." It wasn't what Kimberly had expected to make her snap, and by the look on Greynolds' face it wasn't what he'd been prepared for either. Kimberly realized she'd leaned forward there, that her face was twisted, and so she forced herself to calm down again, to sit flat. She tried to file away her resentment for the people who'd gotten out early, to leave that unpleasant little rock in her soul unturned for now.

"Why the strong reaction?"

Greynolds wasn't going to make it easy on her. She tried to focus on something else, on the dull aches and stings from her wounds, but by now they were familiar to her. She was sitting in a fairly comfortable chair. Compared to everything else from the past two weeks, this was living the high life.

"A lot of them left people behind," she said, telling only half the truth. "Capitalizing on their friends' deaths seems pretty fucking cold."

She didn't say that she was jealous. She didn't say that she was resentful. She didn't say they should have been left in her place.

Kimberly's mood had turned dark enough that she was about ready to start slamming Greynolds' buttons again. She looked down at her lap, straightened her fedora, and forced a smile. Looking back up, she said, "How did Danya die?"

Greynolds sighed.

"You were doing so well, too," he said. "I thought maybe I'd been wrong about you."

Kimberly didn't speak, just watched. This was something new. Greynolds picked up his empty teacup and looked at it.

"I really thought I'd been wrong about you," he said.

Then something smashed into Kimberly's face and she screamed again, her good hand flying to her cheek. The object had fallen into her lap after impacting, and she was just able to register that it was Greynolds' teacup before he was standing in front of her, looming over her. He wasn't tall, and that made it all the worse.

"Oh well," he said. His face was twisted, scrunched up with rage, but his tone was completely unchanged. His arms were pressed to either side of Kimberly, keeping her fenced in, virtually pinned to the chair. Her hand was still in front of her face. She didn't know if she was trying to comfort herself or ward off another blow.

"Oh well. I guess that's how it goes sometimes," Greynolds said. "Maybe you'll even be happy. What was it you said to that boy on the dock? You're fine with liars? That's a good philosophy. Everyone lies.

"Why, I've been lying this whole time. Everything I told you today was total shit. How's that feel?"

Kimberly wanted to be tough, to laugh and tell him to fuck off, that she'd been lying too, but that part of her was being outweighed by the part that just wanted to survive. Fuck dignity. Fuck pride.

Don't kill me. Please don't kill me.

"Please," she mumbled, but Greynolds had already whirled away. His movements were jerky, manic, but almost painfully precise. She watched as he picked up the assault rifle and pointed it at her.

"You could've grabbed this, you know," he said. "I left it for you. The first guys, they snuck knives in. I gave you a gun." His voice was rising, almost cracking. "I thought it'd be right. Tradition. You were just too fucking weak to go for it. Too bad for you. You just flunked your last test."

Kimberly had made it off the chair as he spoke, toppling the coffee table and sending the saucers, platter, and remaining tea cup clattering to the floor. She was crouched behind the chair now, panting, slowly becoming cognizant of just how completely and totally fucked she was. For the second time in less than an hour, Greynolds had her helpless and scared and alone, begging for her life. It was the beach all over again, wanting nothing more than not to die. She couldn't believe it, couldn't possibly believe that she had misjudged the situation and Greynolds' personality so badly.

It clicked just as Greynolds began to say something else, and Kimberly actually started to laugh.

"Come on," she said, standing up. "Come on. Do it."

At this, Greynolds looked genuinely surprised. Then he lowered the rifle.

"What are you doing?" he asked. His voice had the slightest quiver to it.

"It's the same trick," Kimberly said, just as soon as she could force words out over her laughter. "It's the same thing as with the fucking knife. You just wanted to see if I'd fall for the same trick."

Greynolds smiled again, and the malice that had colored his features was gone.

"You're clever," he said, pointing the gun straight at her. She saw his finger flex, but the trigger didn't move. Kimberly let out her breath. Greynolds started to chuckle too, and they laughed together for a second before he flicked something on the side of the rifle, twitched his aim a fraction to the left, and fired a burst at the wall. Kimberly dropped to the ground, screaming, scrambling for cover again, her ears ringing with the aftershock of the gunfire and with Greynolds' laughter.

"Not half as clever as you think you are, though."

He waited a few moments, then flicked something on the gun again and set it down. He was talking very loudly, but Kimberly could hardly hear it over the ringing in her ears.

"I think we're done," Greynolds continued. "You're going to walk out of this room. You'll be escorted to the medical bay. You'll spend about three weeks there. You'll get the best of everything, surgery, physical therapy, all that shit, because that's how I made the rules when I came up with this game. Then you'll go back to the States and waste your life however you want. Meanwhile, I have other places to be. You'll never see me again.

"Any questions?"

Kimberly pushed herself to her feet and slowly shook her head.

"Get going," he said, so she did.
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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