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Minus Something; [Shoot First, Ask Questions Later]
Topic Started: Apr 11 2017, 07:17 PM (1,862 Views)
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Kiziah Saraki continued from A Time to Love.))

Kizi hadn't really been the best partner as they walked. She had settled to scraping the bag across the floor, grunting and panting as her chief forms of communication, hoping that she wasn't unknowingly doing damage to her back or anything like that. She was in this for the long haul, after all. She hadn't been paying much attention to her surroundings, implicitly trusting Lili to be the vanguard, the watcher.

When she looked up, as Lili opened the doors to the cafeteria, Kizi could not help but notice that the...quality of the building had dramatically improved. The architecture had more integrity. Any mess and chaos was fresher, rather than emblematic of a more intractable long-term succumbing to nature. Things looked more salvageable here. More civilised. Maybe there was a hint of confirmation bias at play here, but damn, this boded well. Had some sort of symbolic resonance with her.

She dragged the bag over to the nearest table, following Lili, the shotgun falling loose and almost landing on her foot. She pulled her foot back with a yelp, narrowly missing the din of the shotgun hitting the floor. Kizi had refused offers of help. Probably not the smartest move, but, well, she'd been too exhausted dragging the bag to really think logically. A kind of catch-22. Can't think logically when carrying such a heavy bag, can't realise that without being able to think logically. Kizi picked up the shotgun, resting it delicately on the table, before sitting down, letting out a sigh of relief.

"Okay. Yeah. Posters."

"So..." She was speaking slowly, every other word punctuated with a cacophony of irregular breaths. "So, yeah. Two ways. That I can see us doing this. One is a longer...more, like, a manifesto thing. Like, we say what we're doing. What we believe in. All that. Or, we can just do...a kind of. Quick thing. Like, 'we're not playing, we're making a safe place', lay out the rules." She blinked. If they laid out the rules, they might as well write the manifesto.

"Oh, I don't know. The point is, we have to mention the 'safe place' aspect. Not the mutual suicide thing Penelope mentioned. If it comes to that..." Kizi swallowed. "Fine. Well, no. Not fine. But, okay, better than the alternative. But people won't sign up for that sort of thing. We have to keep the hope of dragging this game out alive."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Lili's analysis was good. Very good. Kizi found herself with her hands over her mouth, eyes staring idly at the floor, just listening intently to her weighing up the options. It was far more rigorous and methodical than her own off-the-cuff intuition-reliant guesswork, and Kizi felt that their collective chances were already being improved dramatically just by talking things out. Just by discussing the options. Just by approaching some kind of truth.

"Yeah." She ran her hand through her hair when Lili's thoughts reached a natural conclusion, when she silently passed the baton of conversation onto her. "My current instinct...is some sort of middle ground?" She clicked her tongue. Kizi was well-aware that that sort of middle-of-the-roadism was indecisive. Vague. Imprecise. She leaned back, trying to think of the words to substantiate it. To give it meaning. She shifted her eyes up to the ceiling, hoping that the change in scenery would kickstart some latent thinking.

"Yeah. Maybe if it's a kind of...we just lay out our plan. What we're doing. A few bullet-points. No need to overelaborate on it. We're gonna draw things out. Establish a safe zone. A few simple bullet-points should suffice. Or a numbered list. Either works." Kizi furrowed her brow. "Alphabetising the list wouldn't work. Actually, numbers will probably be the best bet. Has a sort of chronological clarity, a sort of..." Kizi realised what she was saying. "Sorry. Getting ahead of myself. Yeah. We'll say we'll be taking over..." She pulled out her map.

"Two adjacent subareas in different areas. Because so far they've only danger-zoned areas together. Exception being the library and..." Her thoughts turned more to the danger zone mechanic. "We'll need, like, to draw up a backup list every day. Distribute it to the people in the community. Get things going that way."

She stopped herself from talking any more. She was getting mired in details. Trying to control her thoughts, suppress her doubts, with a fast pace of tackling the minutiae. But she had to think about the big picture at least a bit. Wiping a sole tear of exhaustion from the corner of her eye with the side of her hand, she spoke with more vulnerability. "I wish we'd started earlier. I really wish we had."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Okay. Yes. Forget about the past. Well, don't forget about it. That wasn't what you were saying. But, yeah. Future, focus. On it. Yeah." It was a disjointed mess, but it helped get her thoughts in order. They should remember the past. Learn from it. Be motivated by it. But no time for regrets. That would jeopardise everything.

The commandments thing and the symbol idea were good. Was a wee bit grandiose, maybe. Or had the risk of descending into that kind of thinking, at the very least. They had to be wary of that trap. Couldn't let this be mutated into a vehicle for their own preservation, after all. Couldn't let this become a personality cult sort of thing. Kizi nodded, though. She was sure Lili was in a similar mind to her on that front. No point in insulting her integrity by bringing it up.

"Yeah. So, maybe we can kind of, like, integrate our plan into the rules?" Kizi stood up, beginning to pace a little bit. Still within jumping distance of her gun, so she could throw herself at it if some intruder came in with disastrous intentions. Her senses were largely on a break, and she was hoping Lili would be on guard for any subtle indications of threat. "So, the first few items could be about what we're gonna do, then the sort of rules we'd live by, and then the end goal?"

She stood at the end of the table, scratching her head. She needed a shower. But, no time to worry about that. "And if...if we do get everyone together...and I mean everyone...what then?" Penelope's plan seemed like the logical answer. But fuck. It felt unsatisfying. Maybe they were getting ahead of themselves. And it would, at the end of the day, be a good problem to have. But still.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Their emotions seemed to be on entirely different trajectories. Kizi's early rush of hope had been tempered by some obstinate doubts, some newly unearthed insecurities, by the increasingly poignant burden of the reasonable and the viable. Lili seemed to be just catching up to Kizi's earlier emotional state, of a somewhat heady enthusiasm, and Kizi hoped for everyone's sake that she wasn't doomed to follow Kizi into this more brooding mire of self-doubt and anxiety. Kizi's 'what then' had crystallised in her own head as the vanguard of those doubts. A nagging, vexing voice. Chipping away at her early confidence.

If they got everyone together, if they succeeded against all hopes?

Settle for Penelope's plan by proxy? Just with added partying flair? She couldn't speak for others, but Kizi was in no mood for partying. Granted, it was not her personality. She was no great reveller by nature. But she had had a relatively easy island experience. The more traumatised, the more scarred, they would possibly find that suggestion mad. Insane, even.

She kept these thoughts to herself. They were uncharitably phrased. Lili had done nothing to deserve a sharp tongue or a scornful glare. Nothing whatsoever. Lili was on Kizi's side.

Kizi watched, smiling, unable to mirror her beaming, unable to share Lili's newfound radiance. She tried. She really did. She leaned back, made sure to watch Lili's whole performance, even nodded at points. That much was genuine. It was a worthy goal. Probably a more realistic goal. And again, the moral victory would be won. The terrorists would be defeated. In principle, if nothing else.

"Yeah. That'd be great. Definitely the best way to go out, but..."

"Well, people might not agree to that. They might...y'know, try and fight. Or break everything apart. Try and save themselves. Maybe corrupt the community. Just...well, the terrorists want one death a day. What happens if we get to that point, of everyone being together, and nobody wants to fight or die, and everyone just begins killing one person a day? That'd be really messed up." If it meant survival for even a dozen, certainly, it may be better than the alternative. But that's just eleven more people forced to live with an unconscionable burden. "I wouldn't be okay with that. I know you wouldn't. But..."

She buried her head in her hands. "I can't help but think that if we expand slowly at first - which is what will happen, I'm not saying we should be unambitious in our goals or anything - we can drag this out even longer. Increase the chances of survival. But if we do expand quickly, if it is a couple of days and then bam, we're done, I'm not sure...I'm not sure it can hold together." The words of doubt felt toxic and foreign on her tongue. But she couldn't keep them in.

"Let's just...if we're the final two, we wait. Okay?"
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi realised she may have been a bit too brusque. Maybe a little bit too dismissive. Lili's enthusiasm was deflated almost immediately, and Kizi felt incredibly guilty for that. "Yeah. That'd sound nice." She felt apologetic, wanted to do what she could to help recover Lili's exuberant and boisterous energy. Someone acting so theatrical, so inspirational, so gloriously hammy...that was an element of comedy that she realised she missed the moment she ensured its absence. "And, hey, if it becomes a rowdy party with booze and whatever, I wouldn't complain." She chuckled. Again, not her style, but then again, none of this was.

"Yeah, I don't think we need to...consciously aim for slower growth. Even if we blanket the island in posters..." She shrugged. "Yeah, it'll be intimate at first. Just it could be too successful for its own good. Just a..." She chuckled, nervously, hoping to bring back some of that levity. "Just something to keep in mind, y'know? Something to be cognizant of."

"And sure. That'd be nice. And if more people join in...that'd be nice." She smiled, and offered her open arms for a hug.

"...what's Spiderland?"
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi didn't really get what sort of reaction she was getting from Lili. She dropped her arms, eventually, a motion slightly tinged with regret. She'd missed hugs, but one obviously was not immediately forthcoming. Maybe she'd triggered some kind of arachnophobic reaction? Or Lili had let slip some random nickname or figment of her imagination or obscure injoke or something?

Her better judgement was distracted at that point. So Kizi asked further.

Just as her arms began to drop, Lili stumbled into them, and Kizi instinctively put her arms back up, pulling Lili into a tight embrace.

"Well, is it like, a part of the island with a tonne of spiders in? Because, I mean, I'm not arachnophobic, really, and if you are, that's fine, but if we need to venture back there, I can kind of be the one to go in and - yeah." That seemed like a smart and considerate offer.

Oh. It probably was something worse than that.

"Or is it...I mean, you can talk to me. Or not. Your choice."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Oh. Oh." Kizi's face lit up with realisation. Her eyes opened, wider than normal, and she nodded, taking it in, a satisfied smile appearing on her face. That was an amazing insight into Lili's thinking, in so many ways. Made her all the more awesome. Yup. It was a shame they hadn't been friends before all this because-nope. Nope. No regrets. Future. Think about that. Because their friendship was looking pretty awesome in the long term.

"That's...actually pretty smart. Makes it sound less...foreboding." She chuckled. Genuinely, this time. "I mean, it says a lot about how bad our situation is that a land of spiders seems pretty palatable in comparison, but...well, they're pretty awesome creatures, in fairness. I saw this spider once, and sadly I don't have Google Image to show you but it was awesome. It was metallic blue. Like, a really bright blue. It was awesome. Just a beautiful sight. And there's this other spider, in the Sahara I think, who like, rolls away from danger. Like, cartwheels away from it. Oh, and jumping spiders wear little droplets of water on their head."

She shook her head, trying to recalibrate her thoughts. "Sorry. Pretty awful anecdote without, y'know, an ability to back it up. It's kinda pointless saying, hey, this is awesome, if I can't show it to you." She looked down, staring at the same patch of floor Lili's eyes had been drawn to. "Yeah. It works pretty well. Sorry about asking, I might have, been, like, prying into something traumatic there or anything but-"

Kizi smiled again. It was good to think about this sort of thing. "You know, my first thought when you mentioned Spiderland was that, maybe in that announcement thing at the beginning, they'd tried to scare us to stay on the island by saying all the surrounding islands were covered in spiders, and I'd simply forgotten about that. Really dumb thought, I know." She clicked her tongue. "Spiderland. I like that. Have you, like, copyrighted it or something? Because I might want to plagiarise it." She smiled. It was good to joke again.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi sat back down, and pulled out a bit of bread and water, just to sate her appetite. They were relaxing in this moment. She really enjoyed it. Lili explained the truth behind her naming pick, and Kizi listened intently.

"Listen, you can take credit for the application of the name. You know, very few names are entirely original. I mean, if you wanna get pedantic, Spiderland was a derivative name. Of the words spider and land. So you took it, into a new context, and made it your own." Kizi patted her on the back. "And you're citing your sources, which is a good thing."

The conversation turned to music. Kizi was always awkward with this kind of thing. She felt unnatural, jolted, a little bit out of her depth when talking so forthrightly about interests. All she could do was opt for honesty. "I'm a..." She took another swig of water. Procrastination.

"I'm one of those annoyingly indecisive people who say they listen to everything."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Ooh." That sounded pretty cool. She raised an eyebrow, and sat forward. You didn't need to be a musical aficionado to find that pretty cool. It was creative, and artsy, and experimental, and Kiziah always appreciated people who did that kind of thing. "What was it called? And who by?" Not like she'd have a chance to investigate it, in all honesty, and if she did, she'd probably forget and the album would forever be on the tip of her tongue, driving her crazy with frustration. But still.

"Yeah. I just listen to whatever's on. If I do have preferences or genre likes, I'm too much of a philistine to know them yet."

And then Lili floated another idea. Kizi nodded, leaned back, and smiled, clearly trying to concoct a mental image that was probably too ambitious. "That'd be awesome. Yeah. Really kick it to the terrorists."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Names. Of people we know."

Kiziah was sometimes observant. But normally those moments coincided with her taking the mantle of Captain Obvious, and it did not take long for her to make that startling diagnosis. As Lili had explained her music taste, she had sat in silence, responding with her facial expressions. Genuine interest, sincerely paying attention, but nothing much to contribute to that particular avenue of conversation. When Lili had walked away, Kizi had remained seated, but the piqued interest in her features had been enough to goad her back onto her feet, where she stood at that moment, by Lili's side, examining the list of names.

"Our classmates." As if there was any doubt about the depth of her perceptive abilities, she removed it with that addendum. She spent the next few moments perusing the list, trying to think of something more insightful to say.

"Is it a list of the de-" No. It wasn't. "Looks like they crossed out names as they went along." She was tracing her finger down the list. Looking for her own name, in a flash of ego, but she couldn't find it. She wasn't exactly observant, though, and her name was liable to be misspelt. Plus, she wasn't exactly the most commanding presence in Cochise. Would have been quite easy for her to be forgotten, if this was some kind of register or whatever. "Do you think we should..." Well, a few recent deaths had not been accounted for. There had clearly been a stop-off date, but her amateurish detective skills gave her the slightest suspicion this hadn't been a one-day thing. Some of the scratches looked done by a different hand, or on a different day, or were surrounded by more dust. Maybe a couple of days. "Do you think we should carry it on?"

"Maybe, it can work as a kind of...register? Or recruitment list?"
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
“Sounds like a plan.”

And with that, they got to work. Kizi was not artsy, but she had a way with words. She had a certain self-control when writing things down, something that was not conveyed at all in her undisciplined verbal expression. Punchy, concise, to the point. She could somehow muster all of that when writing, when given time to reflect, when given an opportunity to get constant feedback, to adapt and change.

Kizi did add some decorative flourishes, with excess or unsuitable paint, in the form of circles and arrows and whatnot, just to give things an extra punch, an extra capability to draw the eye. They were very neat lines, very immaculate and clean-cut colouring, an almost mathematical perfectionism to some of the circles. It was clear, from the clashes of colour, that she was making do with subpar supplies, but it was no worry. If anything, the inharmonious colour scheme and discordant irregularity of the designs made them stand out more. And the colours were fresh. They ‘popped’. They would draw the eye. Placement was another thing, but she was sure they could find good locations. Maybe high up? A few of them, anyway. The ones with bigger handwriting, of course. She discussed these things with Lili as they worked, but briefly, logging notes for future conversation.

Her first poster was a ten bullet point list. A simple list, really, of all the stuff she’d mentioned. A good strategy, she decided. Worthy of replication. She didn’t copy things exactly. She wanted to avoid the monotony, and revise her wording as she went along. Bold colours and a big line of text at the top, some eye catching title. One of the titles was an emboldened “SEX”, followed by the subtitle “now that I have your attention…” An old joke, but hey, some levity may be worth a shot.

Five posters to start with, each. She wasn’t going to explicitly hold Lili to that standard. But she had taken five sheets of paper to get to work with, and had given Lili five, and there were a few others in the bag, but whatever. She wasn’t going to rush her, or micromanage, or demand she go according to a template or whatever. Let her creativity run free, let her work at her own pace. Lili kept up the pace, in the end. A few moments where she faltered, because of her eyesight. Kizi always offered a hand to help her out whenever she noticed such a lull.

And it was fun. They talked, they chatted. Continued mixing in the more sombre and purposeful talks with chatting, joking. At one point they had a very short paint fight. It was fun. Very short. Just flicking brushes at each other for a few moments. All in good fun. No reason not to engage in a little bit of horseplay.

And they worked for a few hours. And they ate, and then they looked over their work, and nodded at one another. “So, I’ll get to carving in the names into the table now. We have five to start with, and…” She trailed off. “Uh. What do you think they used? As a carving thing?”
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The flame may have been impractical, but the mere suggestion seemed to put Lili on edge the moment the words had left her own mouth. Seemed to make her feel bad. Lili had sheepishly put it away. Maybe the fire reminded Lili of some past trauma? Better not to ask. Kizi smiled, to signal that Lili's backing away from the fire was not a problem. She wouldn't pry or judge.

Alright. Scissors were good. They were suitable. A convenient side effect of their medical kits, really. If this plan worked, then maybe the terrorists would not in the future provide scissors in the medical kit. Or maybe not. It was a small part of the overall scheme, after all. But still, if they did end up retaliating to their plan by revoking the use of scissors, Kizi felt a small pang of guilt for the students who'd suffer because of their absence from the medical packages.

Kizi wasn't quite sure what purpose scissors served, medically. Looking at how sharp the blades was, she decided she wouldn't think about it too much. "Thank you", she said, with a smile, as she took the scissors from Lili, and held them at a weird angle, trying to get it so there was only one blade, with enough of a hold in the table, to carve a name. It took her a few seconds to get an appropriate position, and she may have cut her thumb in the process. By the end of it, her view of the scissors as an auspicious find was fading, but then suddenly, the blade dug into the table just an inch, sawdust flying out. She was almost tempted to ask for the flame, only held back by how reluctant Lili had obviously been with that idea. "Yes!" she exclaimed through gritted teeth, that they would not have to seek out an option C.

And so she began carving the names.

'Kiziah Saraki.'

She was on the second 'l' of Lili's name when she had to look up at her. "Uh, is your name two ls in the middle? And does it end with a y?"

Kizi looked back down again. "Oh, and I forgot your last name."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Nothing weird about it," Kizi politely replied, oblivious to the uncertainty surrounding her own name's spelling. She set about carving Lili's name into the wood. It was easier. Lots of straight long lines, more than her own name, where she had been forced a few times to adopt a strange mix between a jagged cursive and inchoate approximation of the calculator font. Plus, she'd gotten the hang of it. A good hook into the wood. Knew the amount of force she needed. Every now and then, the wood became damper, more decayed and worn, and the blade would slip at the sudden lack of resistance, but with Lili's name, no real problem. Just meant that the second 'l' in her last name was rather noticeably elongated.

When that ardous task was completed, she looked back. It was scrawly. She always had good handwriting, but that had not translated into eloquent wood-carving. And that wasn't a surprise, when she thought about it. Oh well. The names were clear. Distinguishable. The Ks and Zs, at least, were apparent in her own name, even though she had had to bring the blade out and stab it back in whenever she turned. Such finicky sharp turns were difficult without leaving the wood.

"Anyway, I'm not one to talk for weird names. Kizi's not exactly a common name in the States, after all. And Saraki? Heck, even I wasn't sure I was pronouncing it right for the first ten years of my life." She would have guessed Lili would have had another last name, truth be told. But that was her prejudice speaking. Assumptions were a flaw she sometimes caught herself making. She would probably have asked 'oh, is that your birth name', or some similarly insensitive question, had her tongue not been occupied sticking out of the side of her mouth in mid-carving concentration. Hooray for distractions, really. They were Kizi's best defence against faux pas.

She began carving out Ben, Penelope, and Raina into the wood. "Uh. You know their last names?" She wanted to say something flowery and naturey for at least two of them. Maybe Raina Rose? No. That was alliteration. Assuming alliteration was a bad way to guess people's names.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi was in the process of turning around, to face Lili, to say something. What it was that she wanted to say, that quickly became for naught. It was rendered irrelevant.

The first sense to return was her hearing. A grating, cacophonic ringing. Pounding at her ears, bombarding her brain. She heard every little tremor, every little tremble. No other sense could penetrate through. Just as she was getting used to it, it was shattered, by a metallic clatter, coming from seemingly miles away yet as clear as if it was right next to her ear. The scissors, she realised, in a moment of relieving clarity.

And then a smell. And a taste. A strange one, one that was new to her. It irritated her nostrils, left them feeling inflamed and singed. Her tongue felt dry.

Her sight came back next. It was like she was opening her eyelids again after a particularly long blink, but her eyes had not been closed. They had been transfixed on a sight on the table, yet not relaying the image to her mind. Blood. It was definitely blood. She wasn't stupid. There was no point in deluding herself into thinking it was anything else. Of course it came from her. It was almost pouring out. Like a river. Almost a tranquil sight, really. Coursing over her arm, filling in the name carvings that the group before them had left.

It seemed like forever before her senses of touch, pain, presence came back. It was like they had been piling up, competing for attention with one another, before all crashing through. She could only close her eyes, grimace. She rolled into her side, almost involuntarily, her skin making contact with the wood. Her skin wasn't there. That's where she'd been hit. The blast had caught the side of her torso. A graze, really. Perhaps an injury prompt medical treatment could fix, she realised in a flash of optimism.

Then she remembered where she was, and the optimism died.

"Oh...oh God, why did you do that?" She didn't know how she was talking, or why, or who to, but the words left her lips. She didn't really hear them properly, but felt the sound travel from her voicebox, out through her mouth.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi tried shifting onto her back, but the pressure from pressing her wound - wounds, she realised now - against the table provided a sort of comfort. But you should hold wounds up, she heard a sharp voice telling her. Distinctly like her mother's. It wasn't exactly a comprehensive first aid training, but Olabode got into scrapes a lot. She tried turning upwards. Lili's hand came down, replacing the table. A warmer, more gentle touch. One more comforting.

Less robust as a source of pressure, but the direction, at least, was correct. She felt the flow slow a little bit. Or maybe she couldn't feel the blood cascading down her skin any more, so seeped in it her clothes had became. And that was, of course, assuming there were no exit wounds on the back. She couldn't feel any. But she couldn't feel anything there.

Her mind was clear in that moment. Strangely so. Her breathing was heavy.

And Lili. Lili was angry. But she wasn't fighting. And Alessio, he was standing there. Alessio was his name. He had been in the announcements. He had ceased his hostilities. "Yup." She smiled. "Kinda says it all, really." She looked down at the poster. It was the one with the garish 'sex' title. "Really didn't need those extra nine bullet points that much. But yeah. That's what we're doing."

She looked at him.

"It's never too late to just...work together. Never too late for anyone."
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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