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Blackout; Private thread between Kimberly Nguyen and Liz Polanski (with possible guest appearance by ???)
Topic Started: Dec 24 2010, 05:07 PM (3,656 Views)
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[ *  *  * ]
Liz stumbled forward.

She was hitting cameras, knifing them, keeping herself in constant free fall as she moved towards the tunnels. Her throat burned. She was resolving not to listen to anything else Danya said; dead students, no, torturing Mr. Kwong, no. She had to win. Losing was not something Liz Polanski stood for.

There were better ways to do this, she knew. Finding friends. Using hand signals. Doing something subtle and people-smart. But Liz was not subtle or people-smart. She could hope that people wouldn't murder her on her feet, but in fact, she didn't know. And certainly going up to the first person she saw and trying to talk them into helping her--for some definition of talking--wouldn't work.

So she was smashing cameras, zig-zagging, taking care to black out promising nooks and crannies, hiding plans in them, plans and aluminium cans--she couldn't hide matches, she couldn't hide fire, hopefully people would be smart enough to make their own fire, do it without getting blown up. You've got to have more faith in other people, Mr. Kwong had said. Well, she was having faith in them. Faith in their intelligence, at least.

Blackouts. The terrorists can't see you. I hope you use these, other people.

Dark spots and plans. Plans in plain sight, and plans hidden. One-oh-three plans. That's a lot of paper.

But the dark spots were best. Maybe other people had their own collar-disabling plans, less harmful ones, that they could do in the blacked-out corridors of the island. I'm helping. I'm helping. Really.

Don't think about the kids who died.

Danya, you fucker.

Don't think about your throat burning. The way your eyes ache. Death. Just smash cameras. Smash cameras and leave plans. Mechanical and easy.

Dear fuck.

Fuck crying. Fuck pain. Pain is just a message. You can ignore that message.

You need to have more faith in other people.

She hated doing this. Leaving a trail of plans like Hansel and Gretel. Hoping people would find them. Be smart enough to implement them smartly. Hoping she had said enough, all one-oh-three times she had copied it down. Leaving things to intuition and chance made her sick.

Hush up. You're sick already. Trust things to work out.

Things never worked out.

Liz stumbled through five zones this way.

Inland forest. Ranger station; Ethan Kent was propped outside, some girl was inside. That was a no go. Detour to the Southern felled forest. The crevices of the mountain. The destroyed cell phone tower. Falling down into the mines, knifing the cameras in the miner's shack. Her energy was unhealthy.

Then to the tunnels. The tunnels, so fast.

She collapsed.

Open your eyes. Close your eyes. Open your eyes.

It wasn't the worst place to collapse. She was in a rock-spiked cavern, big and open, spotted with moonlight and water on the floor. The stones beneath her were cool. The problem was, she couldn't move. Her muscles had given out. Dead. Done. Her throat was ragged.

With some effort, she could twitch her fingers.

Well. She needed a drink of water. With some effort, she cupped her hands and stretched out far enough to grab water from the nearest puddle. It trickled through her fingers. Again. She saved enough to drink. It tasted organic and disgusting.

Drink more. It will keep you going.

She cupped her hands, and drunk more effectively this time. Got her left arm rotating. Splashed her face. Cool water felt good. Licked her salty lips.

Come on, drink more. Ignore the pain.

She pulled herself up onto her knees--she felt like an old woman now, bones creaking. Joints ached. She dumped water onto her face, drinking whatever came into her mouth. Again. And again.

Ignore the pain.

She ignored the pain, and let water trickle down her face. Her senses were dull, now.

But her eyes felt bruised.

Everything was heavy. She fell over again, from the effort of lifting her arms.

Sleep.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
Light. Too much light.

Too much light makes the baby go blind.

Liz rolled over. "Wug."

Someone was shining a flashlight in her eyes. Oh brilliant. And it was speaking.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here?"

It sounded like a bad supervillain line. Liz cracked her eyelids, just enough to see who was holding the flashlight.

Squint. Look. Squint.

Kimberly Nguyen. Emo scene. Concerned about her image. Sharp and mean. Liz did not relish being caught by her, of all people.

Open her eyes more. Stay out of the flashlight. Turn, draw back. There's still a knife in your hand.

Kimberly--Kimberly, yeah. Was probably out to kill her.

There was still a knife in her hand.

Kill her. Kill her now.

Knife low. Legs coiled. But God, her body screamed.

And she lunged at Kimberly, her chest puffed, and the rest was pain and slow-motion, Kimberly kicked the knife out of her hand. The impact sent her sprawling, hitting a rock, torn flesh, and her back curled, helpless, protective. Scream cut off by a throbbing windpipe, air expelled, harsh and silent.

And Kimberly had a foot on her back, a pistol click behind her ears, and Liz had never felt more vulnerable in her life.

Not crying.

Instead, choking, "Please", like begging was going to do her any good. But it wasn't crying.

Not dying like a pathetic person.

Not choking. Not crying. But she was trying to speak and coughing now instead, trying to speak with pen and paper nowhere near her, breathing water in her throat, gurgling, spitting, disgustingly, and she could hear Kimberly chuff, and finally words.

"…going to break as many cameras as I could get to. You c-could kill me now, or you could kill me after I've fucked Mr. Danya up a bit more."

She rolled over now. Facing Kimberly, face up, mouth gaping because it wasn't going into any other position. Looking in Kimberly's face, making eye contact, something she'd always had trouble with in real life, eyes shiny, reflective, moving.

And Kimberly's face was a grinning rictus, tense and smiling.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
The feral fear Liz had felt was fading. She was still in pain, still soaked with cold sweat, but her temples were pounding a little less, and her thoughts were coming organized now.

And Kimberly had a score to settle with her.

What?

The shiny toy made sense. The not being a player made sense. But Liz--and here her head ached, she should have drinken more water--couldn't grok the score. Something--probably one of the people she had killed with the cameras. And here her thoughts were coming confused again...

Don't think about that.

Well. Kimberly had all the power in this relationship anyway. Liz hoped she liked it. She could sort of dully understand what might make Kimberly so gleeful to have her trapped under the gun--Liz had been a reluctant sub in sex enough times to taste when someone else had that power. So now Kimberly could do what she wanted to her, and more than likely, Liz would figure out this cockamamie 'score' she wanted to settle.

Time to start asking questions. Scrape your hand forward, find the pad and the pen.

ARE YOU GOING TO TORTURE ME?

Deliberately melodramatic. Might throw Kimberly off.

And it was a good thing to know.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]

Liz was more resigned then scared.

If Kimberly wanted to kill her, she would have done it a while ago. If Kimberly wanted to torture her--well, hopefully she would have said so. She seemed like the kind of person who would say so. There was nothing Kimberly could do, other than killing her or putting her through more incredible pain, that Liz could possibly be scared of. If Kimberly wanted to talk her ear off, she could go ahead. It didn't make Liz any deader.

It's just delays.

So Liz stood up. Slowly. Wearily. God, her bones ached. She felt like an old person. Immediately her mind started pulsing ways to build up her adrenaline, get her feeling unnaturally healthy again. Ready to run.

Don't be crazy. You can't run.

Nah. Whatever tweaked revenge-alternative Kimberly had planned for her, she was pretty much gonna take it.

Just delays. Till you can break more cameras. Fuck--fuck the terrorists up more. If they're going to take Mr. Kwong, they're going to play a losing game.

Yeah. Losing game.

She stumbled. Her legs could hardly hold up under her. She didn't' know if it was the burn or the sleep that weakened her so much. Whatever it was, it didn't seem repeatable. Dying is a funny thing…

Shook her head. She wasn't going to think about dying yet. Too much to do.

And now there was Kimberly, Kimberly here, holding her up on her stumbling legs like a friend. Walking with her, mocking smile, leading her somewhere deeper into the cave. Wherever Kimberly was going, Liz was going to go. Helplessness was a sick relief, in a way. Suddenly she didn't have to hold herself up.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Keep going.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
Liz fell.

Body. There was a dead body, a dead boy in front of her, tacky with blood. Her hands almost slid into him.

The body smelled rank, strong.

She looked at the corpse. A voice at the back of her mind told her to get as much information as possible out of this scene. She wanted to know who the face was.

Daisuke Nagazawa.

The first kid she'd killed.

A stomach twist. A dent in her detachment.

"What do you want me to learn from this?"
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
Daisuke Nagazawa. Had he and Kimberly been friends? Liz couldn't remember. It was the sort of thing she knew as Liz Polanski, weirdo and eavesdropper extraordinare, but now her head was fuzzy, her throat stung, and she could feel the beginning of a nicotine headache coming on. Smoking was out of the question--now and ever, with her neck like this. Need to go to a hospital.

Daisuke Nagazawa. Back to Daisuke Nagazawa. He was in front of her, he was dead, he smelled. Strongly. It was making her embryonic headache worse.

Danya had stopped blowing up collars now. She'd won this particular game of chicken. People could be safe now. Blackout zones, she'd dropped her plan, and maybe there were people cleverer than her--not burning their neck off, but they could use the blackout zones to do something useful. Maybe get everybody out.

Yeah, that would be nice. Unlikely though. Liz was not an optimist.

And it was hard to think happy thoughts when there was a corpse in front of her.

Sick stink in this claustrophobic room. She could vomit now all over Kimberly's shoes but getting any kind of crap in her throat would be too painful. Speaking had taken a lot out of her--vomiting was a bad plan--bad plan--bad plan--

No. She could dry-heave anyway. She hadn't eaten.

This would be one of those things. One of those things where Kimberly asked her in a pained voice why she had killed Daisuke. And Liz would answer with the thoughts and schemes swirling around in her head, her odd brand of lateral thinking, and her exhausted anger, and Kimberly would be converted, or, more likely, hurt her, kill her, but she could take pain, it's not like pain was new or even interesting.

So. Come on, Kimberly. Get this shit over with.

She had energy now. Pained, but still. She should be moving, not watching a bloody corpse-show.

Pen and paper. Still in her hand. WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT OF THIS?
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
Kimberly laughed and laughed and laughed. Liz tried to breathe while she laughed, tried to avoid coughing from the dank air, when coughing tore her throat, made her want to sit in a ball sobbing and be absolutely useless. Whatever the shit this girl wanted, being annoyed at this colossal waste of time just made her laugh. Great. Two points for the unhinged.

Not that she was in a place to talk. Her temples felt bruised.

"Liz," she said, "you stole the words right out of my fucking mouth. What is the point of this? Are you happy?"

What the hell is the point of this?

The nicotine headache was hitting now, hard. Liz could get used to the smell, but now she had her temples to worry about instead. Squeezing them hard wouldn't help. She needed another goddamn painkiller…

Fuck that. She was dehydrated. She needed water.

Kimberly was laughing and laughing and laughing. Or she had been a second ago. It was a little unsettling. Would Kimberly give her water? Be kind to her? Kimberly had no reason to be kind to her. Kind kind. But she wouldn't answer the question until Kimberly gave her water. No, she wouldn't. Something in her wasn't working right. She wanted to fix it.

"Water." She mouthed. A little sound escaped. Kimberly was looking down at her, what was the word? glowing with power. Glowing. Gloating. She liked where she was now. Power.

Liz stashed that information away for later, when she was more cognizant.

Right now she needed water. And Kimberly was looking down at her, reacting to her whispered plea, smiling and amused.

Yeah, no. Fuck later. This information was useful now.

"Please." she said, forcing sound, forcing spit. "I can answer you." She wanted it to come out as disdain. It came out as desperation. Guess I'm fucked. "I just need water."

Kimberly smiled. Turned. "Water?"

Smile, pearly whites. And Liz nodded because water, yes, water was what she wanted, and she didn't care how dumb she looked to get it.

Kimberly kept an eye on Liz, kept the gun on Liz, when she pulled the water from her bag. Her left arm was fucked-up; Liz was briefly glad, cached the information. The process was slow, tantalizing, probably like Kimberly wanted it, and Liz didn't know she could crave water so badly, crave that she'd beg it from her scorched throat.

But no. It wasn't just that. It was cognizance. She needed her mind back.

Kimberly rolled the bottle to her so Liz had to scramble and get it, nearer to Daisuke's corpse, getting the blood under her fingernails. She opened it and drank it gratefully, losing some on her face in eagerness. Falling to the ground again, dropping the bottle when she swallowed, because her throat hurt so much she gasped, and choked a little, coughing sour water into her mouth and swallowing it again.

Cognition was returning. Yes. She could think. She could rub her temples now, with her wet bloody hands, and feel the pain subside, from a pounding sting to a dull ache. Kimberly's question. She needed to answer Kimberly's question, so the girl with the gun could be happy, so she could go on her merry way.

What the hell is the point of this?

Paper. Pen. She could write, albeit slowly.

WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE.

She showed it to Kimberly.

THAT'S THE GAME. IT'S A STUPID GAME. IF WE TRY TO LEAVE, GET OUR COLLARS OFF, HE KILLS US.

Turn the page.

I'M GOING TO DIE. I FUCKED MY THROAT UP, AND PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO KILL ME. I'M NOT AN IDIOT ABOUT THAT.

She showed Kimberly this. Kimberly chuffed a little and nodded for her to go on.

She did. BUT THAT FUCKER GOT MR. KWONG. SO I'M GOING TO FUCK UP HIS GAME.

Turn the page.

I WANT TO GIVE PEOPLE WHO AREN'T ALREADY DEAD BETTER THAN NIL CHANCES. MAKE BLACKOUT ZONES. DROP MY STUPID PLAN. HOPE PEOPLE THINK UP A PLAN THAT'S LESS STUPID THAN MINE THAT MAYBE THEY CAN USE THE ZONES FOR.

Turn the page. She could write smaller now, if she took a little more time with it.

I GUESS YOU'RE PISSED THAT DAISUKE DIED. BUT DAISUKE WAS GOING TO DIE ANYWAY. WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE UNLESS SOMEONE FUCKS UP THIS GAME. SO I'M DOING IT.

RIGHT NOW I'M GOING TO DIE. YOU'RE GOING TO DIE. WHATEVER PEOPLE YOU LIKE OR HATE OR WHATEVER ARE GOING TO DIE. THAT'S HOW THIS STUPID GAME IS PLAYED.

AND IF TWO PEOPLE AREN'T DEAD WHEN THIS SHIT IS OVER, THEN HE HASN'T WON.

Close the notebook. Her paper was almost out. She would have to get on that.

Cognition. She was back in business, albeit with a burnt throat and a semi-serious nicotine headache. And a crazy girl with a gun.

Good day, good day.

She looked up.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
"You know what's wrong here, Liz? With this whole situation? It's not the killing. I mean, sure, that's bad, but the real evil is that they took our freedom. They took our futures. Danya took away our right to decide what happens to us."

"And you did exactly the same thing."

---------

Those words echoed in Liz's head for a long time.

Liz was not a moralist. Ethics had never been something that came on more than an instinctive level for her. Sometimes things were right, sometimes things were wrong. Sometimes things were so wrong that you had to inconvenience yourself making them right, because no one else would. All of this came instinctively to her, a morality she'd learned, it seemed, from nowhere.

So this was the first time she had to think about such things. Albiet, between corpses and guns, it wasn't easy.

"So," she said. "I'm a killer."

It seemed correct to say it, somehow, not write it. And after the water, her throat hurt less.

She looked up at Kimberly for confirmation. Kimberly would know these things.

Kimberly nodded. Smiled.

"And you're saying I'm no better or worse than any of the other killers on the island?" Liz was speaking quietly. Trying not to hurt her throat.

Kimberly was silent this time. Perhaps she didn't want to give Liz any help.

Liz thought for a while. Her hands hurt less, so she used the chance to lean back and find a more comfortable position on the rock.

Finally she spoke, checking her throat before she did so. "I guess I'm okay with that."

Kimberly looked very taken aback. "Really?"

But Liz wasn't looking at Kimberly now. Liz was looking up. This was an intellectual problem now. Maybe Kimberly could help her, but first she had to puzzle it out in her own mind.

"I guess…I guess I would have liked it better if I could have been a good person. Especially at the end of my life. It seems like a nice thing to end your life as." Liz's words were coming slowly, reluctant and thoughtful. Morals were not as clearcut as proofs, but you could work with them the same way--a premise, an answer, and the steps to get there. "I've never really thought of myself as a real person, and being a good person is part of that. But I haven't really had to choose until now. I didn't have the power to effect anything important. I certainly didn't mean to, this time. I just wanted to survive."

That was tangential. What she wanted was tangential. It was what she had gotten that was interesting.

"But I burnt my throat and they have Mr. Kwong, and I'm not going to be able to go back to University, no matter how I play this. And I don't think--no, I'm sure they're not going to let him go, either."

This was more complicated then she expected. Took a moment to collect her thoughts. Counted powers of three. Hid away thoughts of Mr. Kwong.

"So I suppose I could either be good, or I could mess up the terrorists as much as possible. If I were good right now, I'd kill myself, I think. I wouldn't put anybody else at risk. I think that's what being good is. But I decided it was more important to mess up the terrorists as much as possible. I guess because I'm mad. And I haven't got anything left to lose. So even if all I do is create black spots where other people can work in, I suppose I did something? I don't want to be ineffective."

Oh, that was disorganized. Time to wrap up.

"So I guess my…vengeance, if that's what it was? Has become more important than being a good person. Which is kind of sad. But it's true."

"So I suppose I'm a serial killer. I wish I wasn't. But it's better than the alternative."

All this seemed correct. As long as she didn't think of Mr. Kwong--Mr. Kwong and all his stupid hopes that she'd become a good person.

She didn't like disappointing him.

But it was too late now.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]

Liz didn't want to shoot Kimberly.

At this point, tired, headached, and distantly intellectual, she hadn't expected any kind of instinctive morality to kick back in. It seemed like a thing she was, for better or worse, done with.

But now Kimberly wanted her to shoot, and she really, really didn't think that shooting was correct. Some of her was also wondering why Kimberly had given her this opportunity in the first place, but that seemed tangential.

So Liz held the gun to Kimberly's head, and focused on the number of times she could see the vein in Kimberly's forehead pulse. Heartbeats. The entire world felt very strange and distant now, peaked and motionless.

"Why would I shoot you?" She asked, finally. "You don't want to die. And you just gave me a gun."

Kimberly smiled crookedly. "Like you said, we're all gonna die sooner or later. Killing me serves as a deterrent. It shows the others that you're dangerous, can take some fucking care of yourself. Might keep the hunters away."

There had to be a reason why killing her was a bad idea. This couldn't be just instinct. Instinct didn't matter. There had to be logic.

"I think," Liz said slowly, "that if I killed you, it would just give all the moral people who haven't yet let themselves hunt me an excuse to. Also, I don't want to shoot you. I never said I liked being a serial killer."

That was probably not the best defense she could give, but with this entire confusing situation, and her head pounding and saying _you'll never smoke a cigarette again_ and the gun bringing unhealthy energy back, the sort of energy she could use to scatter plans and smash cameras, it was the best defense Kimberly was going to get.

So she removed the gun from Kimberly's forehead, and put it in her sweatshirt pocket. Another weapon for the stash.

And then, both of them heard it. Footsteps moving closer to them in the tunnels.

Liz tensed, glad her energy was back. Stood, slowly. Cocked the gun, in her sweatshirt pocket--the mechanism was frighteningly intuitive. Worked to wrap her burnt hands around the trigger.

"Looks like you need this more than I do." Kimberly said. She was grinning again, a little, as she dumped the spare clip out of her pocket. "Catch you later."

And she winked at Liz, and left.

What?

Liz was more confused than she had ever been in her life.

But never bloody mind that.

She kept the gun aimed at the dark.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
It was Mirabelle Nesa.

Liz remembered Mirabelle Nesa. She'd shared a math class with her. Mirabelle was intense, that was the word, which Liz liked. Liz was often described as intense.

And Mirabelle didn't look like she was going to kill her. If anything, she looked awed. Or horrified.

"Liz." She said. "You're…you're alive."

Liz was still holding the gun at Mirabelle, but she really wanted to put it down. Really wanted to sit down. Her legs were trembling from standing, she probably still wasn't in great physical shape, water aside. Hunger fatigue. She still--she still had some crackers from Isabelle Guerra, yeah?

"Yeah." Liz said. It was a dumb answer. Obviously she was alive. Mirabelle was probably asking something different, but Liz couldn't intuit what it was. People are hard.

Liz squinted to see if Mirabelle had anything in her hands. She couldn't see anything. No weapons? Mirabelle might not be trying to kill her, then. She really didn't want Mirabelle to be trying to kill her. She might be too tired to do anything about it.

Damnit, Liz, you suck at this. Game. Win. Danya. Fuck him. Stop being exhausted and wishing for cigarettes.

But oh, Liz didn't feel badass at all. Not that she had felt badass since, oh, two seconds before she had burned half her neck off.

So. Let's take a risk so you don't faint like an asshole. Ever so slightly. Lower the gun.

"From your expression, I'm going to assume you're not going to murder me." Liz said crabbily. You idiot, you're a mess at telling people from expressions. "So I'm going to quit standing up, like a mess, and lower this gun at least far enough to not immediately shoot you, and get something to eat. Because Jesus, I'm hungry."

So. Let's see how Mirabelle took that.

Yeah. If she got murdered, it was all her dumb fault. Good luck.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
Liz took the bread, and braced herself against the rock wall, lowering the gun. She was breathing a little harder than she wanted to, closing her chapped eyes, trying to ignore everything stinging. There were questions she could have asked, like why are you helping me? and will you get scared and run? but she kept them to herself now. Someone was helping her. It was surprising and unsettling. She'd probably have to think this through at some point. But now she was tired, too tired, and the relief of someone handing her a piece of bread, making her stomach stop gnawing and tying, was something she wanted to accept quietly, close-eyed. For now.

Scarfing food, next to Daisuke's corpse, she looked half-dead herself, hollow-eyed, plucking at the bread with agile, swollen fingers. Only the starved tearing at the bread was lifelike.

Mirabelle sat down next to her, Indian-style. Liz couldn't imagine how Mirabelle had brought herself to touch her; her neck was black red char veined ugly, infectious yellow Frankenstein monster part-dead. Liz saw herself as disgusting, even before the burns; after the burns, she could have been monstrous. Charlie's compact wasn't much of a mirror.

But Mirabelle had grabbed her, braced her, touched her. Liz didn't know what was driving her shit, but it had to be something big. She'd taken the bag off Liz's shoulders, and Liz had been grateful, not even trying to protest. Something bad's gonna come of this.

So she ate the bread, first savagely, then, when Mirabelle mutely handed her a second slice, trying to savor it, slowly. When she was done (and wanted to knock her head back, go to sleep) she pushed herself up on her own power, bringing her pad and pen with her.

I'M GOING TO KILL THE CAMERAS, OKAY?

So now she was taking a risk with her rescuer's life. If she were suddenly in Danya's position, she'd blow Mirabelle's collar now. But Danya had blown collars randomly before, not the collars of the people who'd rescued her from the river, given her weapons. It was a calculated--

This is bullshit. Remember the part where you're not a good person?

So yeah. If Mirabelle said it was okay it okay? she was killing the cameras.

Mirabelle looked at Liz's sign. Then nodded.

Liz took out her knife and killed all the cameras in the room. Mirabelle remained unharmed.

Killing the cameras is okay.

Liz balled up one of her last copies of the plan and lightly tossed it at Mirabelle's bag.

Then she wrote.

THAT'S THE PLAN. IT NEEDS TWO PEOPLE, OR ELSE YOU'LL GET BURNT LIKE ME. I ALSO DON'T HAVE MATERIALS--THEY'RE IN BUILDINGS.

LEAVE, IF YOU WANT, OR STAY WITH ME. I'M GOING TO KEEP BREAKING CAMERAS SO THOSE SHITHEADS HAVE TROUBLE MONITORING.

Maybe Mirabelle didn't want to plan. Maybe she was just here to come along for the ride, or to be saintly. But it seemed obvious.

Yeah. That was the way to go.

Liz's breath was shaky. She felt sick.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
Mirabelle was going to let her sleep.

She didn’t know why she put herself under Mirabelle’s command like that—Mirabelle would let her go to sleep. Perhaps she could logic it out—Mirabelle had helped her, Mirabelle was more deadly than her, Mirabelle was taking risks that would have made Liz choke—but mostly, she figured, she wanted someone to give her orders now. She was exhausted. In her current state, she was unintelligent, useless. And someone had seen it. Someone was going to let her sleep.

It was a relief, really, right now, to take orders. To have someone talk sense (she should parse what Mirabelle was saying, Mirabelle could be off her rocker, but God, she didn’t want to) and to listen, and to obey.

Liz, you’ve got to have more faith in other people.

Mr. Kwong. God.

She needed sleep.

She knelt on the rocks where Mirabelle had spread out a blue dress, thin cotton cloth blurring the stone. Mirabelle had orders. Mirabelle had a plan, or at least a goal. And Liz right now was—no, she was not aimless. She would think of an aim tomorrow.

She was tired. And Mirabelle had helped her. She was grateful. And her natural distrust, her much talked-of inability to have faith in others, was nothing compared to her goddamn helplessness.

There was a relief in someone telling her that she had been pushing herself too hard.

She dropped her head. “Thank you.” Whispered, hurting throat.

Some kid was depending on her, yeah. But someone would guard her now. Guess breaking a collar makes alliances.

Yeah. It was hard even to be cynical.

Sleep, yeah.

She curled up on the blue cotton dress. Nodded at Mirabelle, pointlessly. And closed her eyes.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
When Liz woke up, Mirabelle offered her wine.

Could be poisoned.

But no. It wouldn't be poisoned. There were much easier ways to kill her, so many easier ways. And this Mirabelle chick--Belle had found her. Let her break the cameras, risk killing her. Stayed by her while she slept.

There was no reason not to trust Belle.

But I...

And Liz wanted to trust Belle. Liz was powerless on her own. With Belle--oh God, she couldn't remember much about Belle, her powers of knowing gossip were slipping away with burnt skin around her neck--with Belle she could do things. Ruin Danya's game. Get off the island.

I want that.

Belle's wine burned her throat, but she kept drinking, passing it back to Belle in companionable silence. It woke her up. And alcohol, even grape-alcohol, was good for infection. Right?

Companionable silence.

She hadn't had it since she'd gotten on the island. Everything had been action, reaction, trying to act, trying to escape. Sleeping in a tree, constant exhaustion. Running. Her throat had burned even before now.

And she had never found someone she could trust.

But I trust this kid.

Maybe because it made her chances better. Maybe because there was no choice. Maybe because Belle looked tired and somehow old, and Liz was used to trusting that.

Trust you.

And Belle began to speak.

"I came looking for you," She said. "I...I can fight, but that's pretty much all I can do." Pause. Beat. "And there's no shortage of people who can fight, here. Who can fight better than me, if they got any sort of weapon. Much less a gun." She grimaced. "I got...I got distracted. I was picking fights I couldn't..." She trailed off. "I want to go after Danya," she said. "He's...all the evil that happens here is his fault. I'm not saying we're blameless, but...but it couldn't have happened if it weren't for him."

She was looking at her hands now. Shame? Liz couldn't tell. She had always been bad at picking out emotions.

And Belle spoke simply now.

"I needed to find you, Liz. I needed someone who could free me."

Faith. Agh. Someone was putting faith in her. No, no, no, no. Liz felt like enough of a failure already, fluttering, unsure and running for her life. She had a plan--really, she did--but it depended too much on other people, on Danya's ignorance and the intelligence of everyone she'd collected gossip on and hardly knew. It had variables it's not a very good plan, it's incomplete, it doesn't have contingencies and it was sloppy, and it would totally fall apart as soon as anyone decided that they knew where Liz Polanski was and wanted to kill her. And you have faith in me?

"I don't know if you've got a bigger plan," Belle continued. "But Danya put a bounty on you, and he hasn't killed me yet. Whatever you're doing, I...I want to help out. Try to protect you. But I've...I've got kind of a thing I need to deal with." Another pause from Belle, this one seeming internal. "A girl. A killer. We agreed to meet at the Sawmill tomorrow." She shrugged. "If you, uh...if you don't have any plans, I think I need to..." She trailed off, and restarted. "I can't forgive anyone who could lose that much hope. Enough hope to start..."

She cut herself off again, and Liz winced. A killer. The other drama on the island. The drama Liz had been ignoring, perhaps trying to pretend didn't exist but that's why Danya's so cruel in the first place. We all have weapons. We're all trying to kill each other. Escape wasn't supposed to even be in the game.

And Belle had a killer she wanted to catch. A grudge. Liz felt herself twist in annoyance--can't you see this is more important than a killer? She wanted to laugh at her own arrogance for the thought. After all, if Danya hadn't caught Mr. Kwong, she wouldn't have begun smashing cameras so vengefully. She would have hid. Been sensible.

Not tried to beat Danya at his own game.

"If you don't have any other plans." Belle said in the dead air. "We could head that way."

Liz lay her head against rock, and thought about it. In truth, she wanted to go back to sleep--her head felt heavy still, and the wine, placebo or no, wasn't helping. But the alcohol had stung her throat, and trying to sleep with sharp, throbbing neck pains didn't seem like it would work.

Pick up the pen, the paper in trembling hands. Begin to write.

MY PLAN IS CRUDE. I DID NOT EXPECT THE BURN OR THE BOUNTY, ALTHOUGH I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE.

I FIGURE I SHOULD SPELL IT OUT TO YOU--RIGHT NOW I WANT TO BREAK CAMERAS IN AS MANY ZONES AS POSSIBLE, AND LEAVE INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOW TO GET THE COLLAR OFF WHEREVER I CAN.

That wasn't--that was hard.

THE CAMERA BIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT. IT'S HOW THE TERRORISTS KEEP TRACK OF US. MORE CAMERAS DOWN, MORE PEOPLE CAN ESCAPE--MAYBE BY FUCKING WITH COLLARS LIKE I DID, MAYBE A DIFFERENT WAY. WANT AS MANY ZONES AS POSSIBLE SO THEY CAN'T DZ THEM ALL. WANT TO HIT ALL THE ZONES EVENTUALLY.

GAVE YOU THE PLAN. WANT TO GIVE IT TO MORE PEOPLE DIRECTLY AS WELL AS INDIRECTLY. NEED TO FIND SUPPLIES TO MAKE IT GO AGAIN (THE PLAN, I MEAN); MOST LIKELY IN THE REZ DISTRICT OR THE MANSION. NEED TO FIND PEOPLE WHO WON'T KILL ME, SO I CAN GIVE THEM THIS STUFF. BUT THE DANYA-PEOPLE WILL BE WATCHING ME, HOPEFULLY WATCHING ME TOO MUCH. I WANT PEOPLE TO CLEAR OFF THEIR COLLARS WHEN I'M NOT AROUND--THAT WILL FUCK THE TERRORISTS UP.

ONCE MORE PEOPLE GET COLLARS OFF, THEN WE CAN FIND WAYS TO GET OFF THE ISLAND. RIGHT NOW, MY FOCUS IS MAKING AS MANY BLACKOUT ZONES AS POSSIBLE.

Passed the page, full of cramped handwriting, to Belle. Belle read it, squinting, and frowned. Liz shrugged.

WE CAN GO WHERE YOU WANT.

Stop being powerless, Liz. She'll decide you're useless. She already thinks you're useless. She's seen your neck. She's going to kill you for the bounty.

Liz closed her eyes. I don't want to die.

Paper again.

IF YOU COULD PROTECT ME, IT WOULD BE A BIG HELP.

Belle nodded.

Liz felt way too weak. This girl could betray her. This girl could rip her throat out. And she was depending on her because you have no choice.

And she suddenly felt the urge to cry.

No. No. You're not that girl.

She still had the weapons in her pockets. And she still had Daisuke's gun.

Trust her.

The wine hadn't poisoned her yet.

Trust her.

You need to. You won't get home otherwise.

Trust her.

Liz Polanski, you need to have more faith in other people.

Trust her.

Liz Polanski emptied her pockets. Net gun, crackers, kitchen knife. Search and rescue, compact mirror, semi-automatic pistol.

YOU'RE THE FIGHTER. DIVIDE THESE UP INTELLIGENTLY.

Trust her.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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And then the announcements came on. More people had killed each other. Danya had stopped mentioning Liz, which Liz found troubling; she wanted them panicking, not knowing what to do, making idiot threats on her life. The silence indicated they had something else planned.

They didn't mention Belle, though. That was a relief. Liz would be pissed if they'd waited 'till morning, to blow her up as an example.

And Belle--Belle was offering her a hand.

Liz blinked a little, before realizing what this gesture meant, and let Belle pull her upright. She liked Belle, funny as that sounded in her mind. Belle was helping her. Belle was giving up her own grudges to help her. That was something.

And Belle offered her painkillers and wine, and Liz took them gratefully, four at a time, to numb and dry and pain in her throat. The Residential District was a danger zone today. Tabi Gweneth was going to get a giant weapon there. So Belle couldn't go to the Residential District, and it would be full of drama, besides.

"Mansion." She managed to croak, sounding more pathetic than even she expected. She scowled. Belle had given her the gun, and she tucked it into the pocket of her written-up sweatshirt. COLLARS HAVE MICS. Right. Well, it's not as if the terrorists wouldn't have figured out they were going to the mansion
soon anyway.

There was more clothing she needed to put on. She wore black lipstick like Belle wore her gi--unecessarily, to give her power. Charlie's compact helped her apply the makeup to her eyes too, now that her eyeshadow had drowned in the swamp.

Bandages tied around her neck like a scarf. It's not like she needed to give every sociopath in the world the obvious clue to who she was.

Outside the cavern was dank and cold. Time to wake up. Smash more cameras. Find ways of spreading her it-should-really-not-be-this-painful collar technique without blowing the people she gave it to up.

She had already given it to Belle. That was a relief, at least, even though Belle would be first against the wall if the terrorists panicked again.

Liz, you've got to have more faith in other people.

Kids, I believe in--

A pen, driven with sufficient force, could smash through a camera lens as easily as a search and rescue knife.

There were a lot of cameras left to smash.

(Liz Polanski and Mirabelle Nesa continued in "The Beggar King")
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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