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Biting The Hand That Feeds
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Announcement days were always a surreal day for Aaron Chalmers, almost feeling like a bad dream except for how realistic it was. A waking nightmare. To the jock The Program was always something never closer to him than the periphery of his mind; he was aware of it, sometimes he caught an hour or so on late night TV before he went to bed, but for the most part it was something so distant from his thoughts, pushed aside by concerns about school and an upcoming match that he forgot that once a year a collection of teenagers his own age were sent to an island to kill each other for their country.

The announcement days were the few days in the year when the reality of The Program was inescapable. The days when all the eligible students in the school were lined up outside in front of a massive screen while most of the faculty dressed up in their old dress uniforms and looked on with pride. Though this was only his second year of having to go through this event himself, he probably had more experience with this feeling than most of the other kids lined up in rows around him, having two brothers who had to go through this themselves.

Four announcement days a year for five years he had to wait anxiously to see whether or not his brothers would come home that day or not; the year in the middle when both brothers had been attending Patriot High at the same time was the tensest. If you included Aaron’s announcement days last year then that number went even higher. Hopefully today would mean another dodged bullet for his family.

Nevertheless Aaron stood there stoically, back straight, legs together and arms at his side. Trying to give a show of strength and solidity that he didn’t really feel inside. He knew that he had an astronomically low chance of being chosen, he knew that every time this date on the calendar rolled around, but that didn’t help his nerves. Aaron had always been someone who ran at a slightly higher level of stress than most and he couldn’t help but fear that today was the day his families luck ran out.

Aaron’s expression didn’t change as the screen in front of the assembled masses, along with every other similar screen in the country, flickered to life. Didn’t react as his countries leader began his announcement. To those watching, if they were able to pick his face out from the crowd at any rate, he might have looked like he wasn’t paying attention, almost like he was in some sort of trance. Those who looked closer might have noticed that he hadn’t let out a breath, hadn’t blinked since the announcement started as he listened and watched with rapt attention.

His eyes sharpened slightly as his schools name was read out, but otherwise didn’t react at all. Since the names were read out alphabetically he didn’t have to wait long to find out his fate. There was an almost imperceptible sagging of his face as his name was read out and a little sheen when out from his eyes as they lost focus on what they were seeing. There was no reaction besides from these small things; rather strange considering how tense he had been before.

He still didn’t blink or let out a breath until the soldiers came to collect him, exhaling and blinking a few times rapidly in succession as he saw the uniformed figures approaching. He offered no resistance as one placed a hand on his shoulder and led him away from the rest of the crowd along with the other chosen. His knees were shaking slightly as he walked but that was probably due to light-headedness.

So much for his families luck.


Aaron sat quietly by the lakeside, knees pulled up with his arms crossed over them and his head resting on his arms as he looked out over the silvery mirror sheen of the lakes waters. It could have been anywhere from five minutes to an hour since he had woken up where he was, he couldn't tell; he knew it was enough time for him to get his bearings, get a sense of his surroundings and make sure no one was around before he settled into his quiet contemplation.

It had taken a while for the drug induced fog in his head to clear, for him to realise why exactly he was sitting by a lake when the last he remembered he was on his way to school. As he sat and let his thoughts settle however everything became clearer and clearer until he could remember with perfect clarity the scene on the field outside the school as the announcement was, well, announced.

With a sigh he stretched his arms out behind his head to try and work some life back into his chilled body, flinching slightly as he felt the cold metal on his neck as the collar shifted. The collar was the one thing that had convinced him that what he was remembering had actually happened when he had woken up; it would have been so easy to just believe it was a bad dream, a nightmare fuelled by his anxiety about the upcoming announcement day. Even waking up in the middle of nowhere could be explained away if he tried hard enough, but the metallic presence around his throat made such thoughts impossible. This was real, no doubt about it.

The idea that he was actually in The Program still seemed unreal. The idea that there would be people out there, whether this was, who would try to kill him, that he was expected to do the same, was more surreal than frightening. As much as he had accepted that this really was happening, that he really was in The Program, the implications of that still had not sunk in in a real way.

Reaching over to his left he felt for his pack with his hand and dragged it in front of him, pulling his legs under him so he could kneel in front of the bag and better see into it. Now that he had given himself some time to think through what kind of the situation he was in it was time to see just how bad things were. He sifted through the contents quickly, making a note of everything he pushed aside to create a mental catalogue of what he had to work with.

Most of it seemed like standard Program fare; food and water supplies, a first aid kit, a map and compass and so on. The only surprising addition was that of the jacket; plain and utilitarian it nonetheless looked functional and well made. For now he own letterman jacket sufficed to keep him reasonably warm, even as his breath frosted as it left his mouth, but no doubt he would want to keep the waterproof jacket in case it started to rain later on.

With everything else already sorted through and place aside the only think left in his pack was his weapon, if you could call it that. A long coil of rope with a loop tied at one end, Aaron's first morbid thought was that they had given him a noose. On closer examination though the knot used to tie it didn't look like the characteristic knot seen on nooses; if anything it looked like a lasso, the think cowboys in old westerns used to rope cattle, instead.

Either way it looks like they've given me just enough rope to hang myself with

Letting out another sigh – and a resultant cloud of fogged breath – Aaron set about placing everything back into place in his pack. The jacket went folded up at the bottom while the first aid kit was placed on top of that with the food and water piled right at the top. He kept the map, compass and length of rope out, placing the first two in his letterman jackets pockets and looping the latter around his hand before standing.

Hefting the pack up and throwing it over his shoulder the jock set out along the edge of the lake. Taking some time to himself like that had given him time to clear his head and get a perspective on things, but it had also given everyone else a slight headstart; assuming everyone woke up around the same time as him that is. It was time to start moving.

He had no idea where he was going or what his long term plan was, but as long as he was moving he was at least making progress. He'd start by making a lap of the lake, seeing if anyone else woke up here as well, before moving outwards until... something happened.
Edited by Fenrir, Nov 13 2012, 11:21 AM.
Program V3 Prologue
Michael Bair - Proud to be an American
Quote: N/A
Weapon: Brass Knuckles, Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 Entry
Location: N/A
Status: Alive

The Departed
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