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The Eye of The Storm
Topic Started: Sep 30 2012, 02:31 PM (954 Views)
Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
((Nick Reid continued from One Bath, Two Bath, Red Bath, Bloodbath))

Nick stumbled down one hallway of the hotel, blinking futilely against his exhaustion, driving forward with legs screaming at every step. He needed rest, and he needed it yesterday. He cocked his head, reading the number on one of the endless flanking doors to either side of him, read it a couple more times to press it through his tired mind. People slept there. It was a funny realization, because he'd known it all along, of course, but never really considered it. People were drawn to places like that, and so he'd passed over them previously out of hand. But now, with the possibility of sleep overtaking him whether he willed it or not, that nondescript door could hardly have been more inviting. It was right in the middle of the hall, but there was a sort of genius in that. Who, after all, would randomly check that specific room if they were in a murdering mood? Surely nobody would be in the mood to check every room, and if you weren't going to go all the way, you may not even start. He smiled dreamily and walked inside.

It looked about like what he expected - namely, disused. Everything was dusty and moldering but still generally intact. There was even a window of unbroken glass covering the wall opposite him. He walked in and closed the door behind him with a bit of apprehension that proved unfounded; it wouldn't lock, and so he wouldn't have to break the window to provide an egress. Rounding the bed, placing himself in a nook between the bedframe and the and wall beneath the window, he dropped his assorted gear. He sighed, a literal weight gone from his shoulders, and opened the two packs he'd brought with him, one with B08 stenciled on the side, the other sporting its own crude G13.

His first order of business was patching himself up. It was a pretty quick job, if not the neatest. His patience and alertness allowed for only a crude fix that amounted to little more than a piece of gauze taped over his shoulder. It was the only thing, thankfully, that needed attention right then, though. He sorted everything out as his next task, which amounted basically to dumping his spoils from Jennifer's pack to his own and discarding anything that was simultaneously heavy and not capable of putting holes in people. Of particular interest was the pile of food he'd acquired. What interested him most about it was that there was a lot of it. And, a rumbling gurgle reminded him, he had a very good place to put it all.

He ate his fill for the first time on the island. It wasn't particularly much by normal standards, but his body was in a bit of a forced fast, and who wanted to eat two whole loaves of bread at once anyways? He lay back when he was done, moving first to stuff his hoodie under his head to form the world's worst pillow, and second to rip a musty sheet off the bed to cover himself. It was pretty disgusting, all told, but he'd quite recently slid a sword out of a girl's chest (not to mention placing it there), so a moldy blanket was pretty much amateur hour in that regard. And besides, it lent a nice, homey bit of comfort while also not placing him in a prominently exposed spot on the mattress. He flipped one sleeve over his eyes to block out what sunlight made it through the blinds and into his hiding spot, and closed his eyes.

It didn't feel right. He pushed himself laboriously up, taking the bowie knife in his hand, walking over to the door and balancing it experimentally on the handle. It stayed tenuously upright. He rebalanced it, laying it more securely over the crook of the handle. There was no danger of it simply toppling off that way, unless someone twisted the handle from the outside. And if that happened, the clatter of the weapon against the ground would rouse him from his slumber. Or so he hoped. There were flaws, gaping flaws - like as not he'd be too enthusiastically unconscious to register the fall of the knife, and if he didn't, he would both alert any intruders to his presence and give them a weapon - but it was better than nothing. And compared to what he had at hand, even a knife that size was somewhat less than imminently threatening.

Satisfied, he turned back, returning to his chosen patch of floor, resting his head on his sorry excuse for a pillow, wrapping himself in his disgusting sheet. He relaxed now, sighing deeply, letting his eyelids draw together. It felt so good to lie and rest, to think of sleep. So nice, relaxing, inviting. He could rest now. He could sleep. Could stop fighting and running and yelling and crying and slip into blissful unconsciousness. Just grab a good night's rest. He was familiar with sleep, acquainted himself with it for ten or twelve hours a day sometimes when things turned particularly rough. And now he just needed one last, good night... His last sleep ever?

His heart slammed into overdrive.

A black dot on the black field of his mind. That was what he tried to imagine. It was a technique he'd learned for tricking his mind into sleep when it was overrun with tangles of thought, as it was most every night. Sometimes his mind proved too energetic, running away with whatever the evening's topic of rumination was. Sometimes, though, it worked. And though it was peaceful now, the events of the day, the trials he knew awaited him were spectacularly hard to ignore...

He was in the eye of the storm. Behind him lay ravage and ruin, lingering memories of a trial he'd been lucky to weather at all, a surge of blood and a deathly ripping wind laying waste to all the comfort and security he'd ever known, pushing his mind and body to their respective limits. Before him whipped a freshening gale, bearing down with ominous enormity, less brutal perhaps, but no less dangerous, threatening to topple what tatters remained guarding his sanity, his beating heart. And all around him, for a short, sweet moment in time, was peace. Safety, in a relative sense. Perhaps even an absolute sense. He was alone, likely enough; any reasonable person would likely be sent sprinting by the burst of screams and gunfire emanating from the pool. And if there was nobody nearby, there was nobody to kill him. And, he thought, hovering halfway between truth and desperate speculation, the number of people who could and would push through the bottleneck doorframe and come out on top versus a desperate survivor with an automatic weapon and a blade for each hand was likely zero. He wasn't going to die, certainly not in the next few minutes, likely not in the next few hours. Or, put in the desperate hope swirling in the back of his mind, for decades to come.

Black dot, black field...
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Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
His dreams came on eventually, numerous and bloody. He dreamed he was swinging his sword, striking Megan again and again, splintering his blade with every blow. He dreamed he was home again, except he was sinking fevered into his bed and vomiting every cracker he'd ever eaten. He dreamed he was running from Adam and Jennifer, tripping hidden wires, repaying the overdraft he'd drawn on his life. He dreamed he was drawing his bow, shooting Sally through the throat again and again and again until it resembled a bloody, feathered pincushion.

He awoke.

The sun was shining again, but the heat of the day was long gone. It was morning, he surmised, and moved to roll onto his side except he couldn't. His heart picked up, but he tried to calm himself, force his finger to flex half an inch, a quarter of an inch. An eighth of an inch. He strained, curled a toe, flexed a finger, felt the glorious feeling of looseness travel up his limbs until he was lying panting on his side. He let out a groan. Sleep paralysis was never a good start to the day. He hadn't been that stressed for a good while.

He closed his eyes again, drifting in and out of consciousness until the horrible blare of an intercom system cut the still air, clashing discordantly with the endless whine in his torn eardrum. He rolled over, exposing his good ear to the air.

The announcements were brief, which he couldn't decide was good or bad. From the sound of it, they'd gone from 14 to 7 in just a day, but nothing was really new. Karl and April had gone on killing. Megan was still alive, Adam and Jennifer dead. He couldn't help but recognize a twisted sense of pride in that. Even their twisted host had noticed his newfound purpose, his "going after troublemakers" as it were. And now six other people knew it, and two could see what they had coming, and one would be... well, he didn't really know any more. He'd figure that out later.

If the first part of the announcement left him confused, the second half left him anxious and unsettled. It was pretty clear the way the terrorists were driving the game forward, slashing space to force consistent conflict, probably flushing out anyone who tried to get too comfortable while they were at it. It was an interesting thing to note, in passing, the way the available area was being cut. Half as many spots for half as many people, though the jungle could probably hold the remaining locations together. There was probably a formula to it, deliberately devised, constantly tweaked, engineered to optimize whatever metrics they were shooting for. The business side of international terrorism. That notion was unsettling, startlingly so, but what really hit home was the final statement, a heavy pronouncement delivered almost offhandedly; there was something special planned soon, and the rate at which the available space was dwindling gave him a pretty good idea what that might be. The big question was when exactly the noose would tighten for the final act. When five remained? Three? How much longer would it be until the necessary murders had taken place? And what sickening surprises lay in wait if Danya didn't content himself with simply stuffing the remaining "contestants" together?

That was enough. He pushed himself up, stretching out muscles stiff with soreness and the lingering hints of the morning's chill. There wasn't any part of him he could think of that didn't ache or groan against his movement, but for the first time on the island he was feeling stronger rather than weaker. Heck, a nice warmup, a bit of mortal terror, and he bet he wouldn't feel sore at all. He retrieved his knife, ate and drank what he could, organized his weaponry - revolver in the pocket, sword in the hand, machete stabbed into his bag with the machine pistol thrown in for balance, knife stuck accessibly, if not entirely wisely, through his belt. To be honest, it would probably serve him to ditch something at least - the machete most likely - but as long as the hotel was safe, he thought, striding down the hallway, there really wasn't any reason to leave it.
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Macha
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My life goes sort of like yours does, but funny and more drunk.
[ *  *  *  * ]
[April Stone, continued from This One Goes Out to the One I Left Behind.]

April hadn’t been in much of a hurry to leave the mall. The shots had rang out so loud as to be disorienting for anyone without an earbud glued to their face, making April the lucky one, more or less. Anna was dead, Glen was wounded, and Megan didn’t have the fortitude to chase April. She may have spluttered and cursed, but when the chips were down, Megan was harmless. With her favourite song helping her along and her feet taking her as far as there was road, she felt pretty good about herself.

The deaths had brought with them some added perspective. April could, for the first time, move around without fear of the cameras, without looking over her shoulder. She no longer had to worry about her classmates coming for her, because they had come for her and she had unquestionably won. April felt like nobody could touch her. If she had kept her head down after realising this, she might have been right, too.

The road began to taper off; cracks started showing as the sun rose and by the time the announcement had finished, the asphalt turned to dirt track leading back into the heart of the jungle. April politely declined their invitation. She had been through the jungle enough for several lifetimes. Instead, she pressed her back to a moss-covered stone wall and thought about what she had heard. The main pieces were gone from the field: Nick had killed her main competition, which April figured meant he was the only thing standing between her and home.

She didn't quite know what to make of that.

Her song ended and her jam began, which meant it was time for her to move on. She pressed off from the wall and turned around, her eyes widening at the large building before her. It was a modern hotel, about three stories tall, that looked to house around five hundred people on a good day. The building was surrounded by mossy stone walls that April supposed added ‘charm’ or ‘character’ or any of those other words her father loved putting on his brochures. There was a large courtyard out front, filled with tacky plastic garden furniture; once white, turned a dull yellow by mildew and rain. April pushed the large, cast-iron gate open, and tried to surpress the creaking noise. She took a few steps forwards that echoed across the entire compound. Good thing she wasn't trying to hide, right?

There was a pool by the entrance, but April couldn't smell chlorine. Instead, there was a faint sulfuric smell hanging in the air, as well as ammonia back by the walls. Stray cat piss. On closer inspection, the pool was a muddy brown colour, the filtration system having broken from a lack of proper maintenence. April took a step back. Unguarded pool? She gave it a ten percent chance of not being filled with coyote shit.

If the water didn't put her off swimming, the bodies did. There were three of them, on the deck. Fresh, easily identified: Keira, Charlene, Steinman. That meant someone had been here recently.

"Nick," April whispered. She pulled her pistol out of the waistband of her pants and flicked the safety off.

Carefully, she made her way up the stone steps and into the building. She found herself in a modern reception. The carpets had grown threadbare and damp had gotten through the ceiling, but the hotel looked stable. She could hear footsteps above her; the building carried noise. I can use this, she thought. She paused her iPod, and pulled the buds out of her ears, letting them dangle out of her pocket. Then, she crept her way up the wooden staircase.
TV2:
CS4 - Genevieve Cordova - ALIVE - Rondel Dagger - My lady avails herself of marked down freedom, forever cashed out to no more.
AE1 - Eden Zahn - DECEASED - Ballistic Riot Shield - It was for freedom. From myself and from the land.
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This is literally that brain eating link thing. People are putting this in their sigs again. I guess 2002 is in this season? Click it if you want. Or don't. I'm not your boss.
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Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
Nick moved about the second floor of the hotel, checking, searching, poking, prodding, determined to lay bare all the secrets the building might hold. He'd gone a step further since his initial consideration of Danya's grand conclusion. Here, he thought, It all ends here. It just made sense. The jungle was too vast a place to squeeze everyone properly together, the other buildings too distant for the unevenly-spaced competitors to file into in one dramatic group. And so he stayed, and he fortified his holding. Not with tripwires or barricades or anything of the sort, at least not yet, but with knowledge. Attention to his surroundings was a consideration he had to admit was now bordering on fetishistic, but that was not, he reminded himself, without good reason. He'd found survival in the intricacies of the island arena twice already, and if a bit of shattered glass was enough to stay his execution, how much more might it serve him to know each stairwell, each bend, each nook and cranny of the final stage? He'd know which places cover waited and which places lay bare, he'd know the best places to dig in or to keep his potential exits numerous, he'd know that room 253 would open only after coaxing and that 248 wouldn't close at all.

He moved from door to door trying to keep a casual air about himself, but there was nobody around to fool, and he couldn't really hide the tension in his shoulders or the knotting of his brow. That all came with the territory, though. Anyone who wasn't constantly on edge was likely either dead or irredeemable. He wouldn't be impressing anyone by keeping it all wrapped up, and he'd probably actually encourage any any gun-toting undesirable to open fire before he could get his wits about him. It was just a show for himself, he figured, half that and half habit. Live and let be, that had been his mantra all those ages ago last week. Live and let be and don't encourage anyone to try to help and make things worse instead. He gave a sigh. He could be so obstinate sometimes, and by sometimes he meant every waking moment. But that was fine. Those were just little games he played with himself, just like how he could feel his shivers abate and smooth away rather than rippling through his muscles and warming him against the chill of the morning.

He tested another door, kicked it and watched it stay determinedly shut. He wondered if that wasn't the only game he was playing, the only show he was putting on. To kill in the name of the innocent without their permission, that was certainly a bold move on his part. Making things worse and people dead wherever he helped, except those were people who unarguably deserved to die, except maybe it wasn't his business to step in and be the one to decide that. And that whole train of thought was all a ruse, a red herring smeared across his path to make himself feel vulnerable and selfish so he could rise defiantly and entertain the hope of survival long enough to see whoever it was he was seeing to the end, to the end. Unless, of course, that notion itself was just a distraction. He really didn't know what to think any more, only that he was absolutely terrified. Terrified of what it meant to lose. And terrified of what it meant to win.

He let a shiver roll through him, shrugging against his hoodie as heat spread across his body. He curled his fingers, grabbing the tattered cuffs of his hoodie between them, began to chew the aglet of one cord dangling from the hood. It all felt so marvelously childish, so wonderfully comforting. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a warm reminder of home, he thought, something tattered and torn from more love and wear that it could take. Whatever else he may be, whatever horror lay in his immediate future, he couldn't dispute that he truly was one of the lucky ones. And whether by pure chance or the luck to be so cautious, he chose that moment to turn and check the stairwell behind him.

"Oh."
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Macha
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My life goes sort of like yours does, but funny and more drunk.
[ *  *  *  * ]
April could hear the steady pounding of footsteps on the threadbare carpet as she crept up the rotting stairs. Breath held tightly in her chest, she ducked down, placing her hand up against the cracker plaster wall for balance. A bloody smear trailed in her wake. Moving slowly and quietly, since a single wrong step could give her away in a heartbeat, April made her way up the stairs. It was all too likely that Nick would be waiting for her, as soon as she reached the second floor. April knew all too well how effective traps were on the island. Dougal did too, though he wasn’t in any state to give a lecture on it.

She reached a landing and paused, letting the stale breath free. Her heart thumped against her ribcage. The sound of footsteps grew closer. Clumsily, April pulled her pistol out of the waistband of her pants and flicked the safety off. Clutching it tightly in her hands, she pulled back the slide to make sure the gun hadn’t jammed, and when she was sure it had not, she clambered up the final flight of stairs.

April sprung up the final step and waited in the doorway, gun lowered by her side. Her persuer arrived shortly afterwards. Late like the irresponsible stripper who forgot to take her pill, as Jeanette would say. April raised her gun, but her aim was going awry. The room was spinning, out of focus. Her arm shook, but she hoped it wasn’t noticeable. She got this way when she was tired, at home. That made the most sense.

"Saw your handywork outside," April said. She was trying to stall him. She just needed a minute for her head to clear up, that was all. "I like how you stuck around afterwards. Were you marking your territory?"

With her free hand, she pulled her hair back behind her ears. The room stopped spinning. It still felt hazy.

"I might be a killer too, but at least I don’t shit where I eat."
TV2:
CS4 - Genevieve Cordova - ALIVE - Rondel Dagger - My lady avails herself of marked down freedom, forever cashed out to no more.
AE1 - Eden Zahn - DECEASED - Ballistic Riot Shield - It was for freedom. From myself and from the land.
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This is literally that brain eating link thing. People are putting this in their sigs again. I guess 2002 is in this season? Click it if you want. Or don't. I'm not your boss.
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Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
Nick stood in startled silence as he took in the new arrival, the cord he'd been chewing dropping from his lips to thump lightly against his chest. April Stone. The cutest of the murderers, by Danya's pronouncement. Heck, that might even might even be accurate, as far as you could quantify something like that. He couldn't say that he found Karl especially cute, at any rate, and he wasn't much of a looker himself on the best of days. Not that April seemed to be having anything remotely resembling a good day, of course. He thought she'd been in a bad way when last he'd seen her, but the difference between then and now was striking, even depressing. The island had chewed her up and spat her out. Were she not in possession of a gun and a serious moral deficiency, he might have opened his arms in hospitality rather than crossing them in contempt, regarded her with sympathy rather than bare pity. He could pretend even now that the collar around her neck was just some quirky fashion statement, a harmless choker picked up at some happy event like the bracelets crowding her wrist. Murderer, he reminded that conflicted part of himself, the part that would probably push him to try to hug anything with a pulse anyways. The part that would get him killed if he let it.

He felt so suddenly tired. Weary of all the violence and conflict and killing. A dead girl, that was all he was looking at, one who would no doubt scream and yell and cry and try to wriggle free of his crushing justice before the end. And he had to make it all happen, putting his life on the line once more where he'd hoped and prayed to sail smoothly while willing himself to partake in the great bloody end. And then she opened her mouth, talking like he was the animal instead of her, grouping them both together as killers, and suddenly the revolver was in his hand and he was pointing it right at her.

"I have no words. No, actually, I guess I do. You all talk so big, like this is some sort of game you're winning or whatever." His arm took up the same quaver as his voice, shaking as it supported the weight of the weapon by itself, his other hand still grasping the handle of his sword. "And speaking of winning," he added, forcing the topic after a couple seconds trying to think of a graceful segue, "I noticed this morning that you refrained from murdering Megan, in a fit of uncharacteristic gregarity no doubt. Not sure if that's actually a word, but the point is that if you have any idea where she is, I'd rather like to prevent her from meeting another one of you."
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Macha
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My life goes sort of like yours does, but funny and more drunk.
[ *  *  *  * ]
April slowly circled around Nick, taking care to keep her gun trained on him with every step. Still groggy, she swayed slightly as she walked, like she was imitating Marilyn Monroe. She wrapped her right hand around the elbow of her shooting arm to steady her aim, in a haphazard imitation of a technique she had seen in old westerns, and blinked her bleary eyes until she could see Nick clearly. In her head, she formulated her plan of action. There was a fire extinguisher off to the side, still adorned with its safety tag, and exits on each wing of the hotel. If she could provide a distraction, and if she could goad Nick into following her, she would be able to regain the element of surprise.

April understood that a fair fight would be hopeless. She had known this from the moment she had woken up on the island, and it had been the only thing that had kept her going this long. It dawned on April that no one else knew this. He doesn’t know I fight dirty, she realised. No one knew how she played the game.

She could use this.

“You’re wrong,” April asserted, steadying her aim. The room began to steady. “For starters, you’re wrong about Megan. I might not have killed her, but I tried. I mean, I’d tell you where she is, but it was hard to tell when she was face down with one of my bullets in her back.”

It was a lie. Of course it was a lie. Megan was fine as far as April knew, she had avoided the barrage that had killed Anna and wounded Glen. April had heard her cursing as she escaped from the mall. Maybe she was still there, bumping into walls and crying over diet coke. That was an amusing thought. Still, April was a good liar, and she needed to shake Nick’s confidence. She needed him to make mistakes. If she gave him a moment to collect himself, she was as good as dead.

“You were wrong about me, too.” She continued, her head much clearer. Talking was healthy, it seemed. It came naturally. “There’s no one like me on this island. Only me.”

Her aim wandered. The gun choked out a single round. From the neat puncture in the fire extinguisher, a thick smoke began to engulf the corridor. April burst out laughing. It was the coolest damn thing she had ever seen.

She turned on her heels and ran, gun in hand.
TV2:
CS4 - Genevieve Cordova - ALIVE - Rondel Dagger - My lady avails herself of marked down freedom, forever cashed out to no more.
AE1 - Eden Zahn - DECEASED - Ballistic Riot Shield - It was for freedom. From myself and from the land.
Spoiler: click to toggle

This is literally that brain eating link thing. People are putting this in their sigs again. I guess 2002 is in this season? Click it if you want. Or don't. I'm not your boss.
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Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
Bullets, not words. That was what he should have responded with. His arm shook harder. There was no need for a walking corpse to have her say. She wouldn't remember it in the next few minutes, and he needed to run a tight ship. Play smart. Shoot first, don't ask any questions later. If that even mattered any more. If anything really mattered any more. But if what she was saying was true, then he could-

No, he couldn't expect an honest answer. Megan was fine, or not dead at least, and that was all the fine she needed to be. Of course, maybe she wasn't, and he had no way of knowing. If she'd been alive for the announcement, she was certainly still breathing. Of course, if she was too wounded to move when the terrorists herded them together for the final bloodbath...

His finger twitched. April's mouth opened again. He found himself listening, though what she said next seemed little more than fluff. What exactly did she mean by that, anyways? Obviously there was only one 90-lb vegan with a gun and too many bracelets kicking around the place, but if she was hinting at something deeper or just trying to talk herself up, he didn't really know. And there wasn't any time to puzzle it out. She'd found her nerve, squeezed off a round in his general direction. He started violently, ducking to the side, head swimming with pain and confusion as the blast hammered his ears, leaving hissing and laughter in its wake. The source of both was quickly apparent; April's light footfalls echoed down the hallway as she turned and fled, exultant in her luck, while a choking white cloud filled the hallway, emanating from a bright red canister spinning away on the floor. Nothing of import lay on the other side of the chemical haze, while everything that mattered was running quickly in the other direction. There was only one thing to do now that made sense; he tore down the hall in hot pursuit.

April had a decent head start, but her lead was far from secure. Even if she hadn't looked about to collapse at any moment, Nick was fairly sure his longer strides would make short work of any footrace. Still he hedged his bets, throwing off his pack with its heavy machete and SMG, dropping his sword with ringing clatter, launching himself forward with one hand holding the gun and the other holding his knife off from stabbing into his thigh. One doorway he ducked through and then another, dogging her footsteps, gaining ground rapidly. Another musty doorframe loomed as she flitted out of view. He burst through it himself, emerging into a junction with no April in sight. Skidding to a halt, he whirled frantically around to see April hardly half a dozen feet away from him.

There was no time to think. He raised the revolver with both hands, leveled it, felt it kick back as the roar assaulted his ears.

He remembered to cock back the hammer before he pulled the trigger again.
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Macha
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My life goes sort of like yours does, but funny and more drunk.
[ *  *  *  * ]
The smoke spread quickly in the confines of the corridor. April tried to hold her breath to avoid breathing in the repulsive stench of smoke and stagnant chemicals. That was impossible however, as she quickly came to a dead end, a large metal fire escape, and slammed into it shoulder first. She stopped, looked over her shoulder for Nick, and inhaled sharply as her hands slammed down on the horizontal metal bar. She pushed forwards with all her strength.

It didn't budge. Fire exit, she remembered, and felt like hitting herself. It would be locked, with bolts, whenever the hotel was vacant. April coughed as she tried to remember. There would be one at the top and bottom of the door. In the thick smoke, she could see neither. That meant a more direct solution would be necessary. She blind-fired a shot at the wall, off-hand, to dissuade her pursuer as she tried to open the door.

April swung her arms back for momentum and drove the sole of her size 4 Chuck Taylor's into the door, to no avail. Her knee buckled in retaliation and a wave of pain shot up her leg. She slumped in a pile on the ground, laughing.

“It was worth a shot.” she muttered, as she sat back up and pressed her back against the wall. Her hands- caked in dried mud and blood and now damp with fresh sweat- shook as she tried to flick the safety off her gun. The chemicals from the burst fire extinguisher found their way into her eyes, burning them. Tears streaked down her cheeks. She wiped them away with her free arm.

Pushed off from the wall, she staggered to her feet, trying to steady her grip on the gun. All she managed to do was eject the magazine with her palm, dropping it onto the hardwood floor. April squeezed the trigger at the hazy shape in front of her. Her shot went wide. Sobbing, she continued to pull the trigger, as her gun clicked impotently.

The 45-caliber slug from the revolver tore a big, red hole in her gut, finding its home- as the autopsy would later show- in one of her kidneys. April felt nothing. A red stain spread from the gunpowder-singed hole in her shirt. She dropped her gun, and clutched at her stomach, wobbling backwards before finally falling, her back colliding with the metal door that had been the bane of her existence.

She pulled her hair from her face, and coughed. The smoke had begun to dissipate. Maybe Nick had opened a window, maybe it wasn't dense to begin with. April would never find out.

“Fuck,” She grunted through clenched teeth. “Really screwed the pooch on this one.”

The colors began to drain from the room, the bright blues and oranges were washing out, replacing themselves with a dull, uniform gray. April coughed, and squeezed her eyes shut. Her head throbbed with pain. She sat and waited for Nick to emerge from the smoke; to shoot her, or otherwise finish her off.
TV2:
CS4 - Genevieve Cordova - ALIVE - Rondel Dagger - My lady avails herself of marked down freedom, forever cashed out to no more.
AE1 - Eden Zahn - DECEASED - Ballistic Riot Shield - It was for freedom. From myself and from the land.
Spoiler: click to toggle

This is literally that brain eating link thing. People are putting this in their sigs again. I guess 2002 is in this season? Click it if you want. Or don't. I'm not your boss.
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Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
Moments stretched into hours. Nick watched April fall, watched her lean back and cry and sob and cough and bleed. Watched her begin the inevitable process of dying. And inevitable it was, he could see that clear as day even though the noxious smoke was only just thinning away. Nobody lost that much blood and walked it off, not people two or three times her size. His finger twitched and relaxed as he let his arm fall limply by his side. That was that. Mission accomplished. He needn't fire off his last round. He could just walk away now, leave the whole sorry scene behind him and get back to fortifying the staircases or whatever the hell he thought he was doing.

He didn't walk away.

April muttered something he couldn't make out over the rush of blood in his ringing ears. Probably some curse or other. She didn't seem to be speaking to him, though, so maybe she wasn't cursing him specifically. And off the back of that, the most absurd thought he'd probably ever had. He hoped she wasn't mad at him. Hoped it desperately. Because he wasn't mad at her. And there was no freaking reason in the world he shouldn't be. She'd tried to kill him, had succeeded in killing his former friends and acquaintances, and she'd tried to get away with it all. He shouldn't care a single bit about April, but he somehow couldn't walk away.

He stepped forward, knelt on the floor beside her. From his vantage an arm's length away, he could see all the marks the island had left on her. The bruises, scrapes, scratches, mud and blood and who knows what else caking her skin and her clothing. His view was unobstructed now with the cloud from the fire extinguisher having mostly dissipated, but persisting vapors still assaulted him, sticking in his throat and making his eyes water. He thought it was the lingering cloud, at least. But was that what had caught his attention? Her physical state? That didn't make sense. The more beaten-up she was, the more of a service he'd be doing by ending it all. And nothing she'd been through compared, really, to being shot, and he'd been downright gentle with her compared to the others.

He looked up at the door she'd been trying to open in her desperation. An invisible fist slammed his gut, wrenching more tears from the corners of his eyes. Back down to her scratches. Back up to the door. She'd been trying so hard. So bloody hard. Just needed to get that door open. Just needed to shoot straight. Just needed to live one more day. And he'd made it all for naught with a simple pull of the trigger. And now she was going to die, after all she'd been though, after all the obstacles she'd overcome, all the errors and pitfalls she'd struggled through, and all the people she'd killed to do it. She was going to die in some musty, forsaken corner of some musty, forsaken hotel on some God-forsaken island. There were people who still needed to die. People who had earned their deaths with their actions, who Nick would gun down in an instant. And April Stone was no longer one of them.

He opened his mouth, tried to think of something to say before the spark left her eyes. No words emerged, only the whisper of a pained croak. What was there to say? He could tell her he was sorry, but that wasn't true, because they were fighting for the same thing, something only one of them could possible achieve. He could feed her some comforting lie, try to take the pain away, but she'd come too far, been too dedicated to her own cause to find solace in denial. He could tell her how she was wrong about being the only one like herself on the island. There was someone else just like her, someone who'd wanted something so badly he'd been willing to kill for it.

For the moment, he said nothing at all. Nothing seemed fitting. But he couldn't just sit idly by as the last moments of her life ticked away. Her blood was pooling on the floor, rich and warm. There was a chill in the air. She must be so cold. And he could fix that. Smoothly, as if he'd been waiting for the moment, he slipped off one sleeve of his hoodie, and then another. Goosebumps sprung up along his arms. He hesitated a moment, noticed something on the ground. Her gun. He grabbed it, slid it into her palm, wrapped the fingers of her hand around it. Maybe she'd drop it, maybe she wouldn't care, but it just seemed like the right thing to do. And then, leaning forward, sliding his arms behind her back, he draped his hoodie over her shoulders like a blanket, folded it in to cover her body. Blood soaked through it, through his shirt and onto his skin as he held her tight, but that didn't bother him in the least. For the moment, only one thing mattered.

"Don't be cold," he managed to choke out.
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Macha
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My life goes sort of like yours does, but funny and more drunk.
[ *  *  *  * ]
No pain.

Just weariness, and a sense of resignation.

She wasn’t sure if this feeling was comforting or terrifying.

April fought to keep her eyes open in a desperate attempt to prolong her stay in the world for a few more moments, but she knew it would end sooner rather than later. Despite her best attempts at keeping it together, blood from her wound flowed fast through her fingers, trickling down her clothes and joining the old stains- alcohol, coffee, soft drinks- of the hotel’s previous occupants. Her blood dyed the carpet a deep shade of red. If nothing else, they had that to remember her by. The smoke cloud, her half-heared attempt at a funeral pyre, had disappeared, save for a few faint wisps that lingered in the air. April breathed in, letting the remnants fill her lungs. She coughed into her hands. No blood. Why did she expect there to be blood?

Nick approached her, kneeling down beside her, refusing to put her down. He was fully visible now, no longer hidden by smoke or obscured by her poor vision. He retained his color better than the rest of the world, blotches of peach and brown mixed in with the gray. April’s eyes widened as she tried to remember every aspect of his face. Scribbling with a crayon over tracing paper. She was in limbo, delirious, freefalling into darkness. No longer thinking clearly. There were huge blanks in her head where memories should have been. She tried to visualise her family, watching at home, because it seemed like the right thing to do. She couldn’t picture their faces. It was a small mercy that she couldn’t.

Why had they been fighting? It seemed so important to her even a moment ago but it felt so pointless now. She shivered, the heat faded from her extremities. Nick must have noticed, because he wrapped her coat around her. She could no longer remember how she found herself on the floor. She must have tripped.

She thanked him, nearly silently, because her throat was too hoarse to say a word. April wished she had a poncho, to complete the scene. If she could have spoke, she would have asked him for a cigarette. Her eyes no longer stung. Her whole body felt numb. Nick held her tight as she began to feel a little warmer. It was obvious to April that he was trying to comfort her in her last moments. He didn’t need to, but he did. He had shot her in cold blood, and he was still the closest thing the island had left to a good guy.

April smiled weakly. The color came back to the world, more vibrant and alive than ever, and stayed that way until she closed her eyes.

G09: April Stone: Deceased
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Rattlesnake
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I used to be a player-hunter just like you, 'til I took a shotgun to the knee.
[ *  *  * ]
Seconds ticked slowly by, measured by the ever-fainter trembling of the body in his arms. April seemed at peace now, letting the final moment of her life trickle out. It happened gently. A cough, a sigh, the softest warm smile and he wasn't holding her any more, but cradling her corpse. The girl in his arms was elsewhere now. Wasn't there some famous line from some poem or other about Heaven being within one's grasp? Or maybe it was somewhere else she found herself, except that wouldn't be fair. You had to at least get a chance to make your case. There were explanations to be made, circumstances to consider. And someone with the literal patience of a saint to receive them.

Slowly, gently, he released his grip, watched her head fall back against the door that had thwarted her final escape. Drawing himself back, he reached out, took up a wisp of hair hanging over her face to tuck it back behind her ear, paused in thought, let it drop back down again. He paused again, just as he was about to take his feet, as something occurred to him. Doing his best not to disturb her, moving over April's still-warm fingers and staining his own with sticky blood, he felt for the magazine release on her gun. The search proved frustrating until one finger slipped suddenly into the open cavity at the bottom of the weapon. He scanned the floor in puzzlement, and was rewarded quickly in his search. Slipping each round upward and outward in turn, he pocketing the ammunition and then placed the empty magazine in front of April's feet, open top deliberately facing the hallway. Desperation was an unknown quantity, but a more measured search, he hoped, would get the message across that there was no advantage to be had in disturbing the girl's rest.

That done, he picked up his own gun and found his feet, brushing off the sudden dizziness that followed. He couldn't linger any more, not even if he'd wanted such morbid company while he waited for the other shoe to drop. He needed to gather, prepare, set everything in order for the confrontation waiting to take place in those halls, none of which involved loitering in a literal dead end with the deadlier half of his weaponry laid out behind him. Just one more moment he lingered, hesitating to let his eyes leave her huddled form for the last time. The moment passed and he turned on his heel, back towards the depths of the hotel.



Nick lifted his head, blinked his eyes back into focus, laid a hand on the pistol resting in his lap. He'd been staring down the hall, but the only intruder he could spot was a girl who was already dead. She invaded his mind's eye, forcing him to recall the way she'd stared at him so intently. He traced the expression on her face for pain, hope, fear, forgiveness, tried to listen to all she'd lost the power to say through her lips. Relived the moment their eyes met before he draped his jacket around her, the electricity between them burning the image in his mind to last until he took to his own grave.

He shook his head again, cocked his good ear to catch what the voice was saying. He'd likely missed some taunt or other, but that was just fluff. Something about a one-in-four chance of survival, and then the most dreaded, anticipated portion of the daily announcements. The list of dead was tremendously short, and half the previous day's survivors were on it. The living, this time, were listed by name, along with a short, personal message, each one catching his interest. Glen, apparently, had been on his bus for the trip, and remained both innocent and alive for the duration. Karl, it seemed, was going after troublemakers himself. No doubt Nick had made that hitlist despite the truth of it all. Next came his own name, Danya's admission of interest and admonition to keep his mind together. The last name held the greatest personal investment, but the least new information; Megan was alive, and Danya seemed to want to spice it up by implying that she might go crazy.

And then, the big bomb. The mall. Nick blinked back his surprise. Not the hotel, the most logical choice, the only remaining building that wouldn't blow your head off, but the mall. It really was a big event the terrorists were hoping for, and they were going to squeeze the final four for all the trauma they could get. He voiced a single swear, and then pushed himself up. There was no sense in delaying another moment now. Danya, it seemed, was impatient, and he didn't envy the person who had to walk in toward three entrenched competitors. There was all the reason in the world to hurry; all the world was his reason.

((Nick Reid continued in The Twilight of Our Youth))
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