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Later, Buddy; Private Thread
Topic Started: Feb 4 2011, 06:17 PM (5,495 Views)
Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Discretion is the better part of valor.
And running away is the better part of discretion.


((Nick Reid continued from Keep On Smiling))

B055's legs kept working automatically, almost mechanically, as the fairground hove into view. He'd seen it before, briefly, but hadn't come anywhere near it thus far. But that's where he needed to go.

Maybe.

I'll be there. Well, this was "there." Or, close to it. They'd talked about where they were going, he and Jennifer, and this was on the list. She wanted to visit the House of Mirrors for whatever reason. It sounded like a deathtrap to Nick. But maybe it would be better to wait there. He didn't know. He turned inwards, trying to get a handle on how he felt about it.

Nothing.

His head spun briefly. Annoyingly. And the cure, he'd realized, lay strewn over a stump at the edge of some God-forsaken clearing in the woods. Unless Andrea had collected them. Or Alex. But no, he didn't really need his medication. Not like it really helped in the first place. And besides, he had something new, something better. Adrenaline. There was no shortage of it on the island. The problem was that it did nothing for withdrawal.

But that wasn't important now. The dizzy spells would ebb just as they'd peaked. The only things that were truly important were - he counted them off on mental fingers as the Ferris wheel loomed closer - his sword. And his food. And his water. His life - what he needed to get home again. His brain, the thing that should have popped his collar off by now, should have had everyone begging for mercy by this point. Jennifer. Except - he paused, gathered the right words to let loose on his mental stage. She wasn't - it wasn't like she was not important. But she didn't get him closer to home. She just smoothed his journey out. Made it more palatable. She'd die in the next week. He wasn't going to lose. But now he was walking straight into danger, just to wait for her.

If she forgave him.

Again.

He passed through a ticket booth, into the boundary of the park. She'd have to come back. She was a smart girl, she'd figure out where "there" was. And she had the incentive. She was safe with him.

Then why aren't we together now?

That was a one-time thing. They were both in danger. It was a powder keg. His flight, he could try to convince himself, was to save her, maybe others as well. There was no telling how many might have died, or even how many were hiding behind that truck. He'd fled to save her from death in a hail of fire. Left her alone - but, no, not alone. There was a friend. With a sword.

My replacement?

The girl couldn't know how to wield a blade like he did. But she wouldn't murder Jennifer in her sleep. Not that he would, of course. Never in a million years. Well, probably. Almost certainly not. There were some things, though, that were nice to have another layer of reassurance on.

...Almost?

She'd arrive sometime. She was playing to live, right? Trying to make her last days worth living by making everyone else's last days worth living. She'd done more than enough, and she'd kill herself trying to do more. She'd step between him and Alex or Maxwell or Ivan, or maybe just try to stop him from killing someone else. Try to redeem him, or something. Like she cared about his wellbeing, or soul, or whatever. The thought brought on a little flicker of warmth.

And then he turned and squinted. There was someone there.

He held out his sword.

And he waited.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick found himself staring down a pistol crossbow, of all things. He almost laughed. He'd killed a swordsman with his bare hands. He'd been on the wrong end of Maxwell's fists and walked away. He'd taunted a BKA winner. He'd stared down more gun barrels than he cared to count. And now he was being threatened with a tiny crossbow held by an equally tiny girl. Still, he remembered, he couldn't underestimate it.

It was a deadly weapon. For a certain definition of deadly. He knew, for example, that it wouldn't skewer his head at that range. But it could probably kill. He doubted the little goth in front of him could hit anything at all with it, but that held no comfort. He only needed his luck to fail once. Could he dodge it?

Forty feet, we'll be generous and say 150 MPH, call that 200 FPS, 40/200 so a fifth of a second. Human reaction time exactly.

His heart beat a little bit faster. He couldn't kill her, for Jennifer's sake. And he couldn't run off again. That was for his own sake. He wove words together quickly in his mind, turning strands of threats and daring and boldness into the fabric of the best oratory the island had seen thus far.

"Umm," he said. Brain-to-mouth attrition, of course... "Well. I'm a reasonable guy. Willing to talk things out. Given the chance, of course. And, well, I'll put it like this: I can run forty feet or whatever faster than you can reload. That's just something to think about. And I'm not really in the market for peashooters at the moment. So," he said, maintaining his distance but moving to create an open path to the exit. "There's your other choice."

Legs coiled. Sword ready. Heart beating. Waiting. Again.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The moment stretched on and on, somehow skidding past at the same time like greased lightning. Every breath he took felt carnal. Base. So much more real to actually be doing something while an endless stream of thoughts ran every which way. Not just thinking, doing. And yet, each passing moment pruned endless branches of an infinite tree of possibilities. He'd look back at the end of five minutes that filled a week and wonder at his foolishness, how he hadn't seen this or discovered that. There was an eternity to chase his thoughts around in circles. But real moments were a precious few.

There was a noise behind him.

He turned away from Chase, put the whole crossbow situation on hold. He wondered what would happen if she found the nerve to pull the trigger. Would he remember it in slow motion? Would he spend his last moments wondering how he'd failed to dodge a missile that streaked faster than human reaction? Could he drag his killer to Hell with him before his moment ended in a pool of shining blood? Or would he even die at all?

But there was no fatal dart streaking toward him now. It was something far more predictable, infinitely less threatening. He squeezed the handle of his sword; the grip inviting, the weight imposing, the balance impeccable. His opponent, pitiful. Pitiful in his choice of weapons, his choice of strategy, his choice of foes. Nick's mind was a kaleidescope of ideas shifting too fast for words. There was no time now. The enemy was coming, running, approaching in such a haste that he didn't realize he was already -

Shhhhk

- dead.


And he hadn't even hit the ground. The corpse gave way at the knees, dragging Nick's sword arm down, spewing a dark gush of blood that stained dirt and checkered fabric. Simply, swiftly, gone.

It was, all things considered, a thing of beauty. No one else on the island could have done it. His expertise, that beautiful blade, a dash of luck, the perfect opportunity - everything had come together for one flawless moment. So swift, so deadly, so beautiful. Anyone could be assigned a gun, take a potshot, blow some hapless kid away. But this? The work of a master. An artist. No ugly spray of bone and brain, no stomach-turning explosion of liquefied flesh, no boorish unsporting firearms. Just a neat little hole punched with the precision and elegance befitting his weapon, the sword he'd earned with his bare hands.

He turned now, tearing his eyes from the fresh corpse. A bloody crescent slashed across the ground, flung off his blade as it whipped around beside him. A steady trickle continued to ooze down its length, flowing in blood's distinctive manner. Droplets broke off the tip, spaced apart by a second, two seconds, three.

"Don't... don't move!"

Nick froze obediently, staring at the crossbow as if through someone else's eyes. The elation was gone, but in its place was absolutely nothing. No fear. No anger. Just a dull sort of realization. Marty was dead, and he'd killed him. He'd killed a man, and he didn't-

He bit his lip. Squeezed the fat and muscle between his teeth. Tore off curling flakes of dead, chapped skin.
Nothing.
Desperately he bit down again. Hard. Harder. Jaw trembling. Eyes moistening. Finally, the taste of blood. Pain. The floodgates unlocked, and dull shock gave way to creeping horror. He was surrounded by blood. It dripped on his shoes, crusted his jaw, daubed his jeans. Pounded in his ears. Rushed to his cheeks.

Ice ran up his spine, tightening goosebumps as it went. He had a crossbow pointed at him. Right at his face. He could see the bolt head-on. It menaced, rooting him to the spot not with obedience any more, but with mortal fear.

No, his mind protested, It's just a little bow.

Not a real crossbow. A fake. He wasn't going to die right there. She wouldn't shoot it. And if she did, it wouldn't hit him. And if it hit him, he wouldn't die. He reasoned with himself. Pleaded with himself. It was just like standing at the edge of a cliff. It would kill him if he wasn't careful, but there was no need to slip up, no need to go over the edge. But what could he do? There was nothing he could do, nothing he could say. If this was his end, he couldn't say he hadn't deserved it.

He opened his mouth to speak. Closed it again.

He licked the blood off his lip. It was his move. His chance to speak his mind, plead for mercy, call her bluff, make a stand, ask for death.

...

...

"You waiting for something?"
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Beat.

More words. They were moving towards something. What it was, Nick had no idea. But they were, at least, getting somewhere.

"Why... why shouldn't I fire?

That was a good question. He had half a mind to encourage her. It wasn't hard, just a little squeeze of the trigger. Half an inch, if that. It worked something like skydiving, or so he assumed. First time was the hardest. And then you'd learn to enj

Why not? That was a good question. He had half a mind to encourage her. He couldn't say he didn't deserve it, could he? Plead that Danya hadn't told the whole story? That was no excuse. Of course he hadn't told the whole story. He never did. A perfect example of that was oozing warm blood onto the ground. Marty. A killer. Was killing him justified? Nick would've loved to think so. He'd find Jennifer, explain how he'd eliminated a player, stopped someone intent on increasing his score. It would be the truth, almost. No need to include Chase at all. No need to admit that the "player" was just trying to get a quadruple-murderer away from his friend. But it wouldn't change the fact that he'd killed Marty, and it certainly wouldn't change the fact that there was a potentially unstable girl pointing a crossbow at him.

He could explain to her what it meant to be a killer. The one way street. A contract you signed with your victim's blood. And you couldn't ever break it, ever, ever. Every morning brought with it increasingly determined survivors, and every kill put another target on your back. A living Hell and then you died, and maybe it didn't stop there. That was why she couldn't shoot. The dead were the lucky ones compared to their killers.

Beat.

Chase was trembling, sobbing, shaking. Nick was struck suddenly by how small she was. A head shorter than him if not more, built even lighter than he was. Just a normal girl, scared out of her mind.

He saw little chance now of being shot. Even if she pulled the trigger, her vibrating hands left almost zero allowance for any semblance of accuracy. He softened his stance, stuffed the sword's point into the earth, felt the adrenaline drain away leaving him shaking and light-headed. He was shaking too. It almost made him laugh. There they were, two teens, staring each other down on an island in the middle of nowhere. Shaking at each other. He'd try to hide his shivering, of course. Clenching his teeth, clamping one hand around the sword in a vicegrip, tightening up his wobbling calves. Maybe she'd notice, and maybe she wouldn't. But in the afterglow of that rush-

That rush.

He opened his mouth, almost mechanically. Something needed to be said, just to break up the silence. His mouth fumbled, clamping onto the nearest available word.

"Anna."

Wait, crap, do I say Anna or Chase? It's always so presumptuous not to just use their real name, except Chase is her real name, or one of them...

He coughed, clearing his throat. "Anna," he said again, audibly and discernibly this time. He didn't know what came next, but it was a good start. Barring the possibility, of course, 'Chase' would have been better, but he'd learned by now to let bygones be bygones.

"Just... really, it's for you. It's not - dangit, I'm gonna sound like a jerk." He considered his options. 'You think I'm having fun?' wouldn't work. 'The dead are the lucky ones' was awfully presumptuous as well as a bit tacky and slightly off-topic, and 'He's not worth it' was right out.

"Look. You're signing a one-way ticket to Hell, and I don't even care if you're not religious, 'cause it starts the second you pull that trigger. Put that thing down, and neither of us have to die."

Beat.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick had pulled out the big guns. Called her by her first name. Maybe she'd see him as a person again and not a murderer, see herself as a regular highschooler, realize that they were classmates and that classmates didn't bicker and argue over who had killed who. That she, in essence, was contemplating murder. He didn't know what she was really thinking, just as his own mind remained locked against a betrayal of intention that would get him killed.

Whatever had done it, she ended their standoff suddenly by lowering her weapon. Relief washed over him, and the nagging flame of doubt died off completely. He'd done it again, survived another standoff. The whole thing had taken, what, a couple minutes? In less time than it took to walk all the way across the fair, he'd been attacked, fought back, pleaded for his life, gained it in kind. But then, just at the moment of victory, right when Nick thought that maybe he'd finally managed to keep something under control, she did the worst thing possible.

She started crying.

It's a painful thing, trying to keep one's face impassive when a million years of human nature want to twist it into a pretzel. Brow twitching, nose running, jaw knotted, teeth fit to shatter under the power of his quivering bite. Eyes clouding up - that was the worst part. He wouldn't cry. He never cried. Not if he wasn't alone. He never let anyone know how he felt if he didn't want to. That was the only certainty in the world, his hidden strength, the very last thing in the world he could count on. He didn't smile. He didn't frown. But a hundred sparking tells lit his face like Christmas.

He cleared his throat. Swallowed. Pondered his next move.

...clean job...
...nothing left for her...
...so small and vulnerable...
...doing her a favor...


He turned around to look at Marty. What used to be Marty. Not Marty. Just a thing now. A broken doll lying in a pool of blood still warm and spreading. So peaceful and yet so profane. A dead classmate - a killer. Frozen in time - halted in a murderous charge. Clutching one last link to the world in its unmoving hand - a dagger of some sort. Nick bent smoothly down and took the cold metal in his hand. Pulling it free, he found himself starting suddenly when a dead finger brushed against his. It was silly, really, jumping like that. He was no stranger to corpses now, but he much preferred to touch them while they were still alive...

He turned back to Chase, stepping towards her. Haltingly at first, and then more quickly. Still a half-dozen paces away, he halted.

Run now.

Go for it!

...


He took half a stuttering step, and then no more. He couldn't do it. Not without - not good reason. He had good reason. He had plenty of reason. It would be the biggest favor he could ever pay. Quick, painl-not needlessly painful. Just a quick stab, and she'd have no more reason to cry. She wouldn't be scared and lost and lonely any more, no more standing there crying in front of him just like Jennifer had.

Jennifer...

He wondered what she was doing, how she was faring, what she'd think of the next morning's announcement. Would she be angry? Accepting? Forgiving? Caring? Lov- Would she even talk to him again? She was an angel, he'd said so himself in that awkward little note with the misplaced comma. She'd diagnosed, correctly, that the last time they'd met he was suffering a terminal case of just needing a freaking hug, and now things were just getting worse.

Nick sighed softly. There he was. He was "player." A "villain," maybe. People were trying to kill him, and he was killing back. Five so far. Five. Most people in prison for life had done less than him. And he was staring at the thousandth person who'd wanted to do him in, just thinking about a hug. Failure seemed to be the only option, but he'd gone in far too deep. There was no recourse now, really. There was murder in his future. Just... just not right now.

She had to die. She was going to die. There was no way around that, because he couldn't figure out what Liz had done and he couldn't replicate it now with Danya watching, and if he wasn't going to make it off that way he was going to tear through the competition until he was the only one left. Which meant that she was standing in the way of his winning. Which meant that if he didn't kill her now, someone else would. Someone far more bloody-minded and far less competent. She ran through his mind pursued by a pack of wolves. Ripping, tearing, gnawing while she was screaming and screaming...

He shouldered his pack, slipped the jutte into his pocket, and began to walk away.

"Anna, um, if-should we meet again, I, I think I guess I'll owe you one."

Will I ever.

((Nick Reid continued in Bait and Switch))
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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