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No Such Thing as a Perfect Plan; Open, Late Day Seven
Topic Started: Mar 25 2011, 08:19 PM (5,610 Views)
MurderWeasel
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((Aaron Hughes continued from Could Have Been Worse))

The last few days had not been among Aaron's best. Everything was coming to pieces. Everything had been falling apart since he'd encountered Rob. Lily was dead. Somehow, Rob had walked away from getting shot, had caught up to her and killed her. Aaron would have been upset about this had several other deaths not been preying on his mind. Richard had apparently managed to take a dive off a cliff. That was ridiculously stupid but also completely in keeping with expectations.

Also, everyone who had ever turned down the opportunity to join Aaron's group was now dead. There was that. It was an interesting thing to note. Even with the setbacks, he still had kept people safe. That was something to cling to.

What really had him upset, though, was the death of William Sears. Will was one of Aaron's better friends. He was a smart guy, in his own way. He was loyal, and tried to be heroic. He was also a bit too naïve to have had much of a chance, especially against Nick Reid. For the first time, Aaron was upset that he'd let the killer walk. Before, Nick had been something of an asset, a villain to demonize but never to encounter or actually worry about, a far away threat to galvanize the group to action. Now, though, it was personal. Now there would be a reckoning. The fact that it would play well into the plan was just a bonus.

Jennifer Romita was dead, too, at the hands of Hayley Kelly (KoS), which meant presumably Nick was alone and Hayley was his enemy. Aaron hoped that, when they eventually clashed, Nick came out on top. Ideally, he could get wounded some in so doing, though. That way, the inevitable fight would be a bit more weighted in Aaron's favor.

Of course, all of this was insignificant. It paled in comparison to the things truly occupying Aaron's mind.

His plan wouldn't work.

Well, that was perhaps an overstatement. More precisely, if Danya was telling the truth, the part of the plan related to actually removing the collars wouldn't work. Over the past few days, Aaron had slowed the group's pace, making sure everyone was rested and adequately fed (at least, as much as possible). He'd had them keep watch over the nights, and, on one of his watches, he'd just so happened to leaf through Danya's little survival guide, more for a laugh than anything else. What he'd found hadn't left him laughing.

"So, what do you all need to know about the collars this go around? They're waterproof, they're shockproof, and they aren't removable."

The collars were shockproof. Aaron had isolated a source of power on the island, one no one had ever tapped before. He'd been pretty sure it would be a simple matter of feeding enough of it into the collars to blow out their circuitry. It seemed the terrorists had actually thought of that, though, at least enough to pretend to have it covered. Aaron wasn't quite willing to believe them without testing it himself, of course, but he'd have to be way more cautious about it. He'd need a hostage, or maybe Milo. Someone who either couldn't or wouldn't protest. He'd need to get one of the others, perhaps Charlie, to actually conduct the experiment, in case it didn't work and Danya decided to announce it as a kill.

More than that, he'd need a backup plan.

He hadn't shared his revelations with the group. It would be demoralizing. Besides, as long as they were working productively towards an end, they were less likely to complain. They knew the start of the plan, and nothing more. Aaron could change things all over the place, and none of his followers would be the wiser. In fact, he could keep them spinning their wheels, chasing after some illusory progress, for a potentially-indefinite period of time.

It wasn't exactly an optimal solution. Ideally, he'd have a functional plan and save everyone right away. Realistically, though, the announcements had proved that he was their best bet for survival, and if he had to manipulate them a little bit to keep them safe, well, it was all for the best in the end.

And of course, he was safer with a group too, even a poorly-equipped one. This was certainly better than going things alone, or with unreliable friends.

He'd spoken to Charlie some over the past few days, or, more precisely, passed a scrap of paper (not the one with his plan on it) back and forth. He'd learned who she'd met. He'd learned that Liz Polanski was in bad shape. He'd decided that attempting to help her was a losing proposition, if she was that badly injured. He'd decided that playing around with computers or whatever in the ranger station was equally stupid, especially when it came out that the girl running things had been blown up.

It all added up, in the end, to an island descended into chaos. That was a good thing, though. It meant Aaron's group was unlikely to attract much official attention. It meant they could continue to operate, continue to try to find a way off. It also meant his allies were more likely to cling to him and the plan, even if it seemed to be taking an awful while to take shape.

Because there was always the second plan.

Aaron hadn't really given this too much conscious thought, but he did have a backup idea in case it turned out escape really was impracticable. The best part was, it was pretty much the same plan as if they did escape.

Now, it was near the end of day seven. they'd been at this for a week. They were on their way to the sawmill, and, though progress was somewhat slow, though Bounce had likely come and gone, they were at least doing something.

It was good to have goals.
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Aaron knew they were coming, of course. He'd tracked their progress through the field of stumps and logs. It was hard to be quiet in the outdoors, and Aaron had had experience listening for people even before the abduction. He was aware of the two guys off in the distance. They didn't seem to be preparing to open fire, so they were fine. He was aware of the girl right there in the group, talking to them. It gave him a bit of a thrill when Aileen redirected the newcomer's attention. There was no longer the slightest hint of a question as to who was running the show.

At the same time, Milo seemed to be returning to some semblance of sanity. That was... mildly disconcerting. Aaron wasn't really prepared to deal with Milo being a human being, at least, not one with reasoning capacity. He'd have to revise his plans. He'd have to assume Milo had been faking thus far. Maybe he was actually planning to play, and had been prioritizing his targets. From now on, Aaron decided, he would make sure that he and Milo shared a watch. That way, he could neutralize any threat before it spiraled out of control. Milo was still arrogant. If he was dangerous, he was underestimating everyone by tipping his hand now.

Turning his attention back to the present, Aaron tried to figure out who the new girl was. Right now, though, he was pulling blanks. Frustrating.

"Yeah," he said. "We've been fairly busy. I hope you'll pardon the imposition, but I'd like you to share your name and disclose your armament. We've had some unfortunate business these past few days."

Aaron was leaning against a stump, nice and casual. His hand was resting on the butt of his pistol. He'd taken to leaving the safety off. In all likelihood, it would be more than worth the slight risk to be able to respond more quickly.
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((So, apologies for the long post, and also for any skipping that happens in the future here. Just gotta make sure a death finishes on time.))

The new people were all around now, making Aaron edgy and nervous. The two other guys had come over, and the girl had a gun out. The new boys seemed decidedly lacking when it came to heavy armaments, but that wasn't saying much at all. They could simply be hiding weapons, waiting to open up when they were sure there would be no effective retaliation. Aaron glanced at them. With just one of these external entities, he'd probably have risked a longer discussion, but right now he just wasn't in the mood. Aileen seemed to feel about the same way, attempting to get them to leave. That was a poor allocation of resources, though. They had a girl with a gun and a murderous demeanor to work with. You didn't throw away that sort of potential.

"Hang on a moment," Aaron said, looking at the girl. "Quincy Jones, medium height, short hair, a bit stocky?" It was what came to mind with the name, but also described half of Bayview. Whatever. Aaron was a good actor; feigning familiarity was a breeze, and by acting a bit unsure he let himself off the hook for the lie. "I saw him with Nick Reid, oh, four or five days ago, real buddy buddy, right when they killed one of my friends. It was while we'd split off from the rest of the group. If you get them both, I'll owe you. We'll watch for Jones ourselves, too, but we're trying to avoid trouble, not make it."

Milo interrupted, and in that instant, Aaron decided he had to go. The little prick was trying to sabotage this and get them all killed, or he was too dumb to realize that was the likely outcome. Once these people left, he'd sit everyone down and patiently and calmly explain why Milo would be better off working on his own. Perhaps the best way to frame it would be a recruitment scheme, say they were sending Milo off to rustle up some more support, which they certainly needed. In reality, of course, it would just be to get him out of their hair, but with a suitable lie, Aileen and Charlotte would probably be happy to play along. Milo annoyed everyone, after all.

"Anyways, if that's all, glad we could help you. Good luck."

Conversation over, unless she wanted to push it.

Glancing over to the others, Aaron said, "And no, we haven't seen Rena or Saul. Sorry. You might try the sawmill, though; there's shelter there, and it's a good stopping point if they were headed this way."

He didn't add that he suspected there was a trap of some variety there. Better to let these guys flush it first. That would improve his group's chance of avoiding anything truly unpleasant. The boys seemed harmless enough, too, so if everything was legitimate, they wouldn't cause any problems for Bounce and her mystery friend. Of course, there had been smoke from the direction of the sawmill a while back, but it was gone now. Any trouble related to it would have moved on as well.

With the problem neatly in hand, Aaron turned his attention away from the boys and finally addressed Milo.

"Sorry about that, had to make sure no one would interrupt me while I was dealing with important social interactions," he said. "For the past few days, you've been helping us out. We're a group which wants to see this through without any unnecessary bloodshed. We—"

And right then, the announcements came on. Aaron whipped his notebook out of his pocket, blowing off Milo completely, and started scribbling onto his list of the killers and the dead. Rein, the boy with the funny accent from that chess game, had apparently been crushed underneath a bunch of boxes. Aaron found that vaguely... well, not amusing, that would have been twisted, but...

Anyways, other people had died too, including Rob Jenkins. That was a very good thing; there was now one less antagonistic player out for Aaron's blood. That left his problem list with Jacquard and Nick, plus anyone else who still was holding onto crazy grudges from school. Oh, and Milo, if he really was faking his insanity as a ploy.

And then, everything went to pieces.

Liz Polanski was dead.

Aaron didn't give a damn about that. It had been inevitable. The problem was, she'd been killed by someone Danya didn't care to name. It took half a second to put that together with the helicopter that had been flying over the island lately. There were terrorists here, and they were hunting down people with escape plans. They'd killed Liz, who had already messed with her collar. Aaron didn't recall the helicopter leaving, though. They were still here. That meant they had more work to do.

It was impossible to say what Polanski had done to the collars, but Aaron had an idea of the long term effects, now. She hadn't disabled her collar. She'd removed the terrorists' ability to detonate any of them remotely, except through danger zones. This didn't mesh too well with what Charlotte had told him, but it didn't matter. It made enough sense. That, or they figured a manhunt made for better viewing.

The end result was still the same.

They were coming for Aaron and his group next.

It was the only thing that made sense. Why else would they still be on the island? Maybe they were just waiting until he pulled his trick. Maybe they were on their way even now. Somehow, that seemed rather likely.

That meant Aaron potentially had only minutes to enact his backup plan.

He hadn't wanted it to come to this, but on some level, he'd suspected it would. He had prepared himself for it. He knew just how to make it play out, and he had his materials ready. Over the past few days, he'd stripped the ends of his wire and uncoiled it. He had two good sections, now, perfectly ready to be hooked up, just waiting in his backpack next to the gloves.

He had to do this the right way, though. Calmly, he flipped two pages past his plan and scribbled something. Then, he turned back to the plan itself. It was time to give this a try.

He glanced around. If any of the newcomers were still here, well, hopefully they'd get the hint and split. Otherwise, he might have to encourage them to go. He put his hand on the pistol, then removed it again, leaving the gun in place. That came later. For now, he turned to Aileen and said, "Aileen, sounds like there are some new factors in play. Our timetable just advanced. Take this. Read it. We're doing this now."

Next, he said, "Charlie, give me a lookout. If you see anyone else coming, tell me."

Then, to Milo: "And you, hang on a sec. You've got the most important role."

The plans he was holding out to Aileen had been completed days ago, before he'd know of their likely flaw. They read as follows:

it seems pretty clear, given the lack of electricity around the island, that they don't want us to have acess to power. the question, then, is why? i think we can probly assume that its because electricity is some how dangerous to their plans. the thing is, there's electricity all around us. those cameras dont run off magic. i don't know any batteries that last for weeks, and they cant be solar because then a week of clouds would end this whole thing.

that means there has to be a generator somewhere.

i don't know where it is. yet. the thing is, we don't need to know where it is. i think i know the reasons they dont want us using power. now, the obvious one is, if we blow up the generator the cameras all break. thats too obvious though. the thing will be hidden somewhere incredibly difficult to find or get to, and theyll blow our collars if we go anywhere near it.

but that's the thing: it has to do with the collars.

i know a fair bit about electricity. you pour too much of it through complicated circutry, it melts. these collars are the prime example of complicated. thats why we're going to use the camera's power to break our collars. what we do is simple. person #1 takes the gloves i found and the stripped wire. they find a wire off one of the cameras, not too close, so they can't see what we're doing. they make a small cut to expose the conductive part. then they wrap one end of each of the wires i have to the collar of person #2. they take the other ends and hook them to the camera wire. this will channel the electricity through the collar and overload the computer components. since theres no spark, being a closed circut, person #2 will be safe and the explosives will not ignite (plus they are stable, or they'd go off every time students got too near fire).

at that point, we just switch the leads around the group. in about three minutes, every collar should be disabled and we'll be free to maneuver more freely. of course, someone will come after us, but that will take time. in the meantime, we can get to the generator, wherever it is, and take it out. this will break the cameras. at that point, we can't be tracked or observed. we break every other collar we find, free the others, and prepare a defense.


It was a beautiful plan. The only problem was, Aaron was almost positive it didn't have a hope of working.

"Aileen," he said, "you're person number one."
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So, this was how it was going to be, was it? Everything had worked out just fine, but Milo, all of a sudden, seemed to have tapped some hitherto undiscovered font of intellect. As Aaron handed Aileen the gloves and the wires, Milo decided to speak up, voicing his skepticism about the odds of success. Thing was, he'd also just shared with all the viewers back home and at base that something was up. Their time now was incredibly limited. Aaron's plan was starting to get fuzzy around the edges. That was bad, very bad.

He took two seconds to review. It was simple.

There were two possible outcomes. The first, the unlikely one, was that it would work perfectly, and Milo's collar would stop responding to the signals from the terrorists. A couple days ago, Aaron had been convinced that would work. Now, having read the manual left by Danya, having heard more about what Polanski had done, he was fairly sure there wouldn't be that sort of happy, storybook ending. If there was, half the group was still probably screwed, since Milo had fairly well announced that they were trying something. It wouldn't take long for collars to start blowing.

The second possibility, the realistic one, was that Milo was about to die. The electricity routed through the collar might not be properly insulated, giving Milo a nasty shock. That would be painful, but not deadly, not with only the amount of current needed to run a camera. The issue came in the form of the failsafes, the mechanisms built into the collars to prevent escape. Interference blew them. If this wasn't interference, Aaron didn't know what was. In all likelihood, Milo's collar was going to pop.

This was exactly what Aaron wanted to happen.

By blowing Milo up, he proved himself—and, by extension, Charlotte and Aileen—harmless and seemingly-inept. At the same time, he eliminated a dangerous unknown quantity on his team, and got Aileen onto the announcements.

Oh yes, Aaron had thought through the likely way this would go down. There was a good reason Aileen was the one holding the wires. He didn't think she would like the results of this experiment one bit. She'd shown a marked tendency towards inconvenient disobedience, and, had Aaron been the one playing with wires, would probably have ditched him. With a kill to her name, though, especially one that could not be interpreted as self-defense, she would be tied to Aaron. He'd be one of two people on the island who could vouch for her, could share the real story. She'd be stuck, and his name would still be clear for purposes of recruitment and diplomacy.

With any luck, she could pick up one of those Best Kill prizes too. Inventiveness was encouraged, right? Then, Aaron would send her after it and guilt trip her into handing it over, increasing the overall armory.

It was flawless.

Only, now, Milo's sudden bout of common sense was threatening it all. He was going to get them all killed, just to save his own pathetic life. That wouldn't do at all.

He thought Charlie was saying something behind him. He couldn't make out the specifics. Didn't care. She wasn't a threat. She didn't have the spine to cause trouble.

He pulled the gun out of his pocket, and said to the other two boys, the newcomers, "You should move along. This is about to be a very dangerous group to be associated with."

Just to convince them, he fired a shot into the ground in their general direction.

"Scram. Charlie, watch duty. Now."

And then, the gun was on Milo.

"And, you: don't move a muscle. We don't have time to argue or screw around. Move wrong and it's all over, and not in the happy way."

But after he spoke, he mouthed some more words to Milo and Aileen, silently, hoping they'd catch on.

It's alright, his lips said. It's all part of the plan.

Yes, it was all part of the plan. Maybe not the original one. Maybe not anything related to what they'd signed onto. That was irrelevant. Aaron was saving all of their lives—well, all except Milo's—and, unless they were completely deluded, they would thank him for it.

"Aileen. Do it."
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The two other boys left, with some exchange of profanities. Aaron didn't care. The second they were out of his sight, they were no longer factors. This was it. The moment of truth. He didn't know if they would be saved, but he hoped they would. If things just went according to the plan, they'd all be fine. Well, Aileen and Charlie and Aaron would be fine.

Things almost went according to plan.

He hadn't quite been expecting the actual death to go down like it did.

The collar didn't go off right away. The sadistic creeps who designed it had built it a bit differently. Milo started shouting. Begging. The whole time, the collar beeped. Aaron stood, stared. He couldn't do anything. Had he been able to, he wouldn't have done anything. This was all for the good of the group. Milo was a sacrifice. He was an unfortunately loud sacrifice, one who wouldn't just die and be done with it. This was... this was not going to be a public relations coup. This was going to need some serious damage mitigation. Morale was going to tank here. Aaron was completely at a loss as to how to spin this. Certainly he couldn't tell the truth. Aileen and Charlie would murder him, and with him would die any chance of recovering from this debacle.

Milo's collar finally exploded. There was blood. It was pretty horrific. Certainly worse than Guthrie in the tunnels. Aaron hadn't even seen that.

And Charlie started talking. She started in on him before he could get ready, before he could solidify his plan. He just stood there awkwardly with the gun in his hand as she yelled at him. He was completely blindsided, at a total loss for words.

What was the appropriate reaction here?

He was satisfied with the fact that Milo had died. It was best. It was for the good of the group. Aileen and Charlie wouldn't believe that. A teammate had just died, never mind how useless, deceitful, obnoxious, and dangerous he had been. Aaron was supposed to feel sad. He was supposed to feel like a failure. His plan had allegedly just exploded in his face. He was supposed to be crushed.

Do not grin.

He kept a straight face.

And Charlie pushed his gun into her gut and told him to pull the trigger if that was how he was doing things. He was almost tempted. He wasn't very pleased with her right now. His emotions were running a bit high, and she was on her way to becoming a liability. But that wasn't how this worked. He was trying to save people. If some of his teammates had to die, that was acceptable, but only because it had to be that way.

Charlie was shaking. Aaron made himself sniffle a couple times, then set the gun down. This is what a leader does. When things go wrong, they don't pitch a fit, no matter how much they want to. They don't throw the blame around. They don't try to wiggle out of responsibility.

Aaron was self-aware enough to know things would have been different if the plan had actually gone wrong. It didn't matter, though. He had a role to keep up.

He sat on the ground and buried his face in his hands. He needed time. He needed to stall. He needed a plan. Milo had fucked him over one last time, dying like he did, and now Aaron had to pull things back together.

"I..." he said, after a time. "I thought it.... would work. I was sure it would work."

It worked.
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((Apologies for skipping Jonny, but as he is Away and not on MSN right now and I know people are edging towards inactivity, I'm just going to have something nice and short that doesn't move things too far so we don't leave Charlie behind in the narrative.))

Aaron glanced up and froze. It seemed something had gone wrong here after all. He'd been so focused on neutralizing the threats within his group that he'd managed to let an outside one slip past him. The guy had a gun. Looked upset, but not immediately hostile. He started talking at them, though, ranting and calling them stupid and all sorts of other things. Aaron wanted to snap at him, wanted to explain that, yeah, of course it had killed the guy. That was rather the point. Sharing that tidbit would not be a good choice, though, not at all.

But the ranting, much as it steamed Aaron, bought him time to think, time to plan. It also bought Aileen to work herself into yet another towering rage, which she turned on the newcomer. Aaron let her go. It was a distraction. She was buying time for the group. She was buying time for Aaron to work out a way to get them out of this mess. He didn't bother responding to the rant point by point. He didn't get stuck in an argument. That could come later, when they were on even ground.

Instead, he turned to face the guy more directly, in the process maneuvering himself just a tiny bit closer to the gun. He wasn't going to start a firefight. He just hoped to, if it became necessary, force a stalemate.

"Look," he said, hoping he was giving his voice enough quiver. "We... this has been pretty awful for us. What do you even want?"
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The girls drove the new guy off. The group wasn't mugged or shot or killed. Charlie's and Aileen's aggressive and near-suicidal assertiveness actually paid off and backed the boy away, coerced him into letting out a meek little almost-apology. Aaron was completely stunned. He'd been expecting, well, he wasn't quite sure what, but he'd been getting ready to make a move, and now it was totally superfluous.

He wasn't going to complain. He wasn't going to worry. He was going to pull things together, get everything worked out, and carry on. He was going to see his plan enacted.

Well, okay, he didn't have much of a plan anymore. He was on his backup plan now, and it wasn't that applicable if they were all going to survive and make their way home, but it would do. It could tide them over until he figured out something better. It would at least keep them together, keep them from dissolving in the face of adversity. They'd bonded over this experience. They'd all learned a bit more about each other. Aaron was impressed with his allies, impressed at their ability to handle themselves, impressed at their competence now that they were unrestrained by worthless hangers-on, and, most of all, impressed by the way they were willing to put their lives on the line for those they trusted.

He'd have to be sure to maintain their trust. He'd have to retrieve his notebook before Aileen got to flip through it. There was something in there that it would be very, very bad if she found.

He reclaimed his gun, flipped the safety on, and stuck it in his pocket. Its weight was comforting.

He rubbed his eyes a little bit, then turned to Charlie and Aileen.

"H-hey," he said. "I... I'm sorry this ended up this way. I'm going to need to... find somewhere to think for a bit. I think I can s-still maybe come up with something, but it's going to... take some time to get everything figured out."

He glanced meaningfully at Milo's body there, hoping he looked sufficiently disheartened and upset.

"If you don't want to come, then I understand. But I... hope you will."

There. That was good. He was shaken, but not defeated. He was going to regroup. They were going to follow him. After that, how could they not? After everything they'd been through, after Charlie's hug, after Aileen's killing of Milo, well, they needed Aaron more than ever. He was their hope, their guidance, their leader.

Yeah. They'd follow him.

So he set off. This time, he made sure to keep his pace a bit slower, to not get ahead. This was supposed to be a learning experience for him. He was supposed to mend his ways. Might as well pick something easy that Aileen had seemed upset about.

Besides, it was dangerous to be alone at night.

((Aaron Hughes continued in Altering the Deal))
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