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Feral Intelligence
Topic Started: Mar 3 2011, 09:05 PM (4,324 Views)
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[ *  *  * ]
((R.J. Lowe continued from They're Made Out Of Meat))

It'd been a solid day of training in the woods, and R.J. was confident. Confident, and more than a little tired. He'd heard the announcement, but was barely cognizant of it. All he wanted now was peace, quiet, and rest. He remembered the town. He reasoned that there were beds there. And with the danger zone only just clearing up, it seemed unlikely this would be like the previous two times he'd passed through this area of the island, and with fatigue and pain rapidly taking their toll, it was the least he could hope for, especially with Mary-Ann not far behind. He wasn't about to lead her into danger. Not after all they'd been through.

He planted his sword in the dirt in front of him, dropping to his knees. His grip tightened around the handle, face contorting in agony as his abdomen burned.

He stared down at the ground. Leaned forward, head rested against the flat of the blade. Deep breaths.






Look up.

They weren't alone. A girl lay sprawled out on the ground before him, not thirty feet ahead. A girl who was all too familiar by now.

Blond hair.




<Mimi>: You are much nicer than I thought you'd be!
<Stark>: Shut up, fatty.
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His gaze was sharp enough to cut a silk cloth in mid-fall. How many had died now as a direct result of his misguided acts of mercy? How many families would never see their children again because of his inaction? He had two chances to stop her cold, and twice, he failed. Who else was going to die because he had too big a heart? Mary-Ann?




R.J. pulled himself to his feet, using his sword for leverage. With his right hand, he made a gesture behind his back to Mary-Ann. Pinky and ring fingers extended, thumb pointed up, bent back ninety degrees at the interphalangeal joint. She knew what this meant. They'd practiced it. The message delivered, he wrapped the fingers of both his hands tightly around the handle of the khanda. Kris moved into a seated position atop a metal box. What was in it, R.J. neither knew nor cared. He had one objective in mind. He had to eliminate every threat to Mary-Ann's survival that he possibly could. If he failed now, it wouldn't be because he didn't try. If she got away this time, it wouldn't because he showed her mercy.

His eyes never left the blonde, his face fixed in a feral scowl, eyebrows threatening to sever his nose. Thousand yard stare met thousand yard stare. He approached her with long, slow strides, raising the blade toward the sky. Once he was in range, he would allow gravity to take care of the rest.

Third time's a charm.
<Mimi>: You are much nicer than I thought you'd be!
<Stark>: Shut up, fatty.
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And with a little push, the massive blade came barreling down toward Kris Hartmann's face.

There is a block of C4 in my bag, R.J.

And with a mighty pull, the blade began to swerve to the left.

a block of C4 in my bag

And as the giant struggled to maintain his balance, the blade slammed into the cobblestones, shattering rock and denting steel.

block of C4

His eyes glazed over, staring silently at the girl in front of him. Was she bluffing? Was there a bomb in her bag? If so, would she really go through with blowing herself to smithereens?

Could he afford to risk it?

For a short while, he just stood there, frozen, blind and deaf to the world around himself and Kris. He never broke eye contact, his face betraying only an eerie calm. He was focused, weighing all his options, considering every possibility. Eternity passed by, in the space of a few seconds. Save a cool gust of wind, carrying with it some scattered dust and fallen leaves, all was stillness, until at long last, a bemused sigh broke the silence. R.J. returned to an upright stance, raising the sword up to rest on his shoulder. He acknowledged Kris with a nod and a smile. Almost as if to say, "I understand." Quietly, he turned back the way he came, back to Mary-Ann. It was a walk not thirty feet back to her, but it felt like an eternity. Time slowing down was fast becoming a theme, it seemed.

Three times, he had a chance to end it.

He knew what had to happen now.

He approached Mary-Ann, set the khanda aside, placed his hands on her cheeks, closed his eyes, and pulled his lips into hers. Just for a few seconds, the two of them stood there.

Yeah. There was a pattern, alright.

Slowly, he released her, a single tear dripping down his cheek, but a smile on his face all the same. Definitely worth the wait, he thought to himself. Shame we couldn't have done it sooner. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he looked the love of his life dead in the eye, and silently, his lips formed a single word.


He knew exactly what had to happen now. If Mary-Ann could live, he was ready to die.

If I fail, it won't be because I gave up.

A single bloodstained steel-toed shoe took its first step back toward Kristina Hartmann.

And with a little effort, the massive blade rose up from the ground.
<Mimi>: You are much nicer than I thought you'd be!
<Stark>: Shut up, fatty.
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It wasn't that he didn't hear Mary-Ann's pleas. It wasn't that he didn't care. It wasn't that he was abandoning her. It was the exact opposite of any of that. He wasn't leaving her. No matter how far apart they were, he was never going to leave her. Never. But he couldn't tell her that. He couldn't vocalize it. He didn't have time to write it down. He just had to hope she found the note. That, and that she got away as quickly as possible. This was all for her. He wished he could tell her that. This was all for her.

He slouched toward Kris, slowly but steadily, sword dragging heavily along the ground. His gaze was fixed. Aston, who he only now had noticed was there, was behind her. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that she was closing in. He liked Aston, really, he did, but that idiot was going to get herself killed like this. Kris, meanwhile, was going for that box she was sitting on. That big, shiny, metal box. The kind arms dealers carried the tools of their trade around with in movies. Opened it. Pulled out its contents. He recognized it fairly quickly as an M79 grenade launcher. He grinned. Something she wouldn't shoot at him at close range. Better yet, something she didn't seem to realize wasn't likely to come pre-loaded.

It would take time to load the weapon. Time she didn't have before he closed the distance between them, and from the look on her face, she knew it. The discordant scraping of the steel against the cobblestones was jarring to anyone's ears. Normally he'd carry his weapon properly, but it would work to his advantage all the same. Tap into Kris' primal fears. Get her to make a mistake. The world seemed to blur around him, but it didn't matter. He was this close to putting an end to her. There was no stopping now, as each step forward seemed to last forever.

This time, though, they were just coming that slowly.

Two hundred seventy five students had a shot at surviving version 4 of Survival of the Fittest. However small, two hundred seventy five students had a tangible chance at returning home from the island. Some, like Maxwell Lombardi and Reiko Ishida, who had transcended humanity and become pure forces of nature, had the odds stacked in their favor. For some, be they fools the likes of Remi Pierce, or simply unfortunate, like Dallas Reynolds or Megan Nelson, had negligibly infinitesimal chances, but they had chances all the same. For most, they were just as likely as anyone to see the game through to its conclusion, but in the end, two hundred seventy five students had a chance at surviving.

It's worth noting, then, that two hundred seventy six students made the senior trip.

That one further student, Robert Jacob Lowe, sealed his fate the moment he stepped on the bus. From the moment of his conception on a cold February night in 1989, to this hot summer day in 2008, a long, impossibly complex series of chemical reactions shaped R.J. into the person he had been precisely three hours ago, the very moment his appendix finally gave way to its growing infection and ruptured. Had he stayed home, he could have caught it early, received appropriate medical attention, had the offending vestigial organ removed, and gone on with his life, empty though it might have been when his class never came home. Oh well. For want of a nail, they say.

R.J. dropped to his knees before Kris. It was purely a fluke of nature that they'd carried him as far as they had. He tried to raise the sword, perhaps fight her off from here. Tried, and failed. His arms didn't have the strength to lift the sword on the way back, so why would they now, when he couldn't even feel them anymore? Slowly, the blade slipped from his numb fingers, clattering on the ground. His extremities had been abandoned by any sensation. Everything else was pain. Roiling, searing pain. But he refused to show it. Even now, when it was so obviously an exercise in futility, he had to stay strong. It was all he could do. Just sit there, endure the agony, and show no weakness.

Just laugh it off.

He stared up at Kris, primed as she was to turn this entire town center into her own little charnel house in a bath of fire, and he smiled, letting out a raspy, voiceless chuckle. Of all the times for him to give out, of all the places, this is what it all amounted to. The light in those brown eyes of his began to fade. His eyelids were growing heavy. Whatever happened now, it was over for him. He glanced briefly back to Mary-Ann, smile still on his face, albeit a bit gentler now, and nodded her off. With a little effort, he was able to form a thumbs up for her. Let her know it'd all be okay.

This isn't goodbye, babe.

He turned his gaze slowly back to Kris. Breathed in. Out. In.

He would need every ounce of strength he had left.

Like a giant, hellish jack-in-the-box, he sprung up from his knees, diving straight for the girl with the grenade launcher. His left arm outstretched, his eyes focused on her neck, he made one last, desperate attempt at her collar. It was probably futile. He knew full well it would be. But in that last moment before he blacked out, he thought that maybe, just maybe, he felt the warm metal of that explosive neckband brush against his fingertips.

He was gone before he hit the ground.

But hey, at least he tried, right?

B119 Robert Jacob Lowe: Deceased


As I write this, it's occurred to me that these stomach pains probably aren't from hunger. Truth is, they've been bothering me since before I ran into you that second night here. I didn't want to say anything - okay, wrong choice of words, I guess, but the thing is, I didn't want to worry you. I wanted to be strong, to protect you. I guess I wanted you to need me as much as I needed you. Funny how that worked out for us, right? All I can really do now is apologize, if I'm letting you down in any way. It's just that this is my time, I guess. Not a lot to be done about it. I've made my peace and said my prayers, and the rest is in God's hands now.

Some people might curse their lot in life if they were in my shoes. Personally? I think that's bullshit. I've been blessed with a family that loved me and cared about me, and I hope they always will. I've accomplished more in eighteen years than most people will in eighty. Sure, I didn't get to do everything I wanted to, but that's the best way to live life, isn't it? Be happy with what you already have, but never settle for just that or rest on your laurels. The only thing I can really say I regret is that I couldn't stay with you. When I told you I loved you, I really did mean it. There were other girls before you, we both know that, but you made me feel something I never knew I could. When you were around, I felt more alive than I ever had before. You're the kind of girl I could've honestly seen myself settling down and starting a family with. We'd have two kids, Michelle and Claymore, because no one messes with a dude named Claymore, and a nice house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and everything. It's just as well I'll never have any of it. I know now that I don't deserve it. But it was nice to think about for a while.

Before I die, I've got one last favor to ask. Since I couldn't be strong for you, I want you to promise you'll be strong for yourself. I reloaded the gun. You've got thirteen rounds left, so use them conservatively and aim them well. Be smart. Understand that some won't hesitate to kill you if it means going home. Respond to these people in kind. If a peaceful means of escape presents itself, seize it. If it doesn't, do what you have to. Much as I'll miss you, I don't hope to see you soon, so prioritize survival above all else. Go home. Hug your parents. Forget about me. Find someone better for you, and live your life like you always have. Anything less, and the bastards who did this to us have succeeded. And if it helps, remember that whatever the announcements tell you, I'll be with you every step of the way. If you're scared, I'll be here to hold you tight. If you need to cry, I'll be here to give you my shoulder. If your aim falters, I'll be here to steady your hands. If you lose your balance, I'll be here to pick you up. And when it comes time that you're strong enough that you don't need my help, I'll bow out gracefully, but as long as you need me, I'm right here.

Most of all, I want to thank you for everything. For giving me a purpose in life. For being there when I needed someone the most. For being you. And for all this rambling, thanks for listening. I really do appreciate it.
<Mimi>: You are much nicer than I thought you'd be!
<Stark>: Shut up, fatty.
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[Writing credit goes to Rugga for this one!]

Mary-Ann could only watch in horror, frozen to the spot as R.J. walked back and then sank down to his knees. He was maybe thirty feet away, but it felt like there were miles between them. Something was wrong with him. He turned back to her and smiled a smile of soft kindness, but there was unmistakable pain in his eyes. Mary-Ann bit her lip as her mind started to work out the awful truth of the situation.

It was a good bye kiss. He knew.

Her eyes brimmed with tears.

She figured it out seconds before he leapt forward and smashed back down, like a rag doll.

The droplets crept down her dirty face as her head made the slight nod that followed the arc of his body.

Everything was quiet. And then suddenly it sounded like she’d swallowed a drum kit.

Mary-Ann ran forward with a total disregard to Kris and her grenade launcher. She threw herself down to him with such urgency she was sure she’d scrapped her knees, but that was of little concern to her.

She dropped her bag and gun down next to him and turned him over, face up.

“R.J.” she whispered shakily through her tears that were twisting her face in distress.

Check for a heart beat. Check for breathing.

She pressed her ear against his chest. He was still so warm. Dead people were cold and hollow. He had to be alive. It would be like last time. He’d sit back up in a minute and she’d yell at him again for scaring her like that again.


She put her hands to his face. She brushed back some of the dark hair off of his face. He was still.

“Please please please,” she mumbled desperately.

Now the tears were coming like a torrent. None of those polite single tears drops running down her cheeks. She was sobbing and hiccupping and swallowing air.

Mary-Ann wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her head into his chest just as she had in life. Small muffled whimpers escaped.

“Don’t leave,” she choked out.

She felt so empty now. She didn’t even have anyone to be angry at except R.J. But she couldn’t be angry at him, as much as she would have liked to.

Mary-Ann couldn’t bring herself to let go of him. She couldn’t step back and wipe the tears away because she knew that as soon as she left him, she’d never see him again.

She sat up. She’d gotten his shirt wet with her crying. Her eyes wide and her hands wringing together she looked at him.

It was then she remembered Kris. Mary-Ann looked up at the other girl. It was as if there was just a big question mark spread on her face.
Edited by Stark, Mar 29 2011, 02:21 PM.
<Mimi>: You are much nicer than I thought you'd be!
<Stark>: Shut up, fatty.
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