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Virtue's Last Reward
Topic Started: Mar 17 2013, 01:42 AM (807 Views)
Pippin
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[ *  *  *  *  * ]
((Jonathan Roberts continued from Rout or Rally))

They had been walking for a long time. A really long time, in fact. Jonathan didn’t know how long it had been since they’d left the stream, but it must have been several hours by now, especially with the short rests they kept on needing to take. It’d have been frustrating if he’d had a destination in mind, but Jonathan had no idea where he was wandering, and didn’t truly care for that matter. What would happen if they aimed to go somewhere? What would they find there? More dead friends, more people trying to kill them, more decisions Jonathan wouldn’t be able to make. They would surely encounter that by just walking everywhere, but at least this way, there wasn’t a sense of disappointment attached. They wouldn’t have travelled searching for a place only to find nothing of any help there. So Johnny walked, not once checking the map, going wherever his feet took him.

Without encountering anyone, or anything, Jonathan’s mind began to wander. He started off thinking about all the worries and regrets that had plagued him since day one of this stupid program. These thoughts were far too familiar by now, and he wanted them out of his head as soon as possible, but there was little he could do about that. He thought of Dan, and Marley. He thought of the two strangers they had seen at the stream. He thought about Ashley and all the decisions he had made, or hadn’t made. Jonathan didn’t even bother trying to hide the distress and fear that crept onto his face whenever these thoughts crossed his mind. Ash was in just as bad shape.

Other things drifted into and back out of Jonathan’s mind. Mundane things. Things he had ignored before but, with the isolation of wandering, had returned with a vengeance. There was hunger for a start. After just a while of walking, Jonathan realised how hungry he really was. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d eaten. He had ripped open an MRE with a fervour he hadn’t realised was in him, and finished it off in double-quick time. The cold was also affecting him more, the longer they walked. Eventually, Jonathan had relented and worn the jacket that had been in his bag. Then there were the aches from sleeping on rough ground, the blisters from walking so long, the scratches he’d picked up from somewhere, and all the other pains he’d developed other the last few days. And yet still Jonathan walked on.

They had eventually reached a steeply sloped area of the valley, covered in bushes and thickets, and Jonathan had started to lead the way up it. It was difficult enough a climb to most likely deter most people, so it would work well as a resting place. They needed to stop sometime, after all, and an isolated spot out of the way was probably the best place to do so. It was seriously tiring work though, and Jonathan was forced to rest about halfway up the slope when air and breathing became hard to come by. He hadn’t noticed anybody else during his climb. Hadn’t even noticed Ash, so focused had he been on getting to the top.
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delayedMirth
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((Ashley Sydor: Continued from Rout or Rally.))

Over the past few mostly silent hours spent walking, Ashley had been struck by how empty the valley was. Not a sound except for their breathing, walking, and the occasional, subdued conversation. If she hadn't know better, Ash would've thought Jon and herself to be the only living creatures left in the valley.

Hell, maybe that was the case. Maybe there'd been some sudden, mass rebellion among the remaining students, forcing the government to detonate everyone's collars. Not exactly a likely scenario, though. It'd make for bad television.

Too many true patriots around for that to ever happen, anyway.

Ash had spent a lot of time during the walk thinking about patriotism. She had always loved her country, considering it the best in the world. It did have some faults, of course, but nothing major, nothing to shake her faith.

The Program, however, had always been something that Ashley tried to ignore. When it was on television, she'd excuse herself from the room when possible, along with trying to change the subject whenever it got brought up in conversation. She tried to bury it in the back of her mind, covered by a weak justification that there was a reason for the killing. The government wouldn't sentence a whole class of teenagers to death just to get good ratings, right?

That was a lot harder to believe when you had left behind your boyfriend lying dead on the ground a few hours ago.

Ashley's thoughts were sidetracked as she and Jon reached a steep slope. Ash groaned when she saw how high it was, somewhat exhausted from the long walk. "I think I need to sit down for a sec, Jon. This climb probably won't be easy." He didn't appear to hear her, however, starting to climb the slope on his own. Ash shrugged, sitting down anyway. It wouldn't be that hard to catch up with Jon, and she could see him just fine.

After a few minutes of rest Ashley got back up, feeling somewhat more ready to make the climb. She could see that Jon had already made it halfway up the slope. "Yo, Jon, stay there. I'll be up soon." Ash called up to him, beginning to climb.
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Namira
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[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Tas continued from Let the Dead Bury Their Dead))


After leaving the woods, Tas had walked more or less in a completely straight line until her faltering steps had led to her tripping over. From there, Tas had quite literally crawled under the nearest bush, wrapped her jacket over herself, and done her best to sleep. Exhaustion helped, but the temperature and her own thoughts did not. No sooner was she drifting off than was a slight chill gusting through the air and setting her shivering once again. She slept a little, somehow, but by the time dawn was breaking Tas still felt like crap.

Over time though, that... disgust? Anguish? Had given way to something more potent, something more dangerous than that. It wasn't that Tas didn't feel bad about killing Gerald any longer - hell those shivers hadn't all been the wind - more that when it boiled down to it, things always seemed to come down to her being Mexican. At school, at sports, and now even in the Program. That Adams... he'd just stopped short of saying what everyone knew that he meant.

'That's better than nine tenths of you, and listen to that name. Anastasia Flores. She's foreign, she's an outsider, and you let her kill one of the real Americans. You should be ashamed, you should be doing better than a Mexican.'

Suddenly, Tas couldn't take it any more, and raising that rifle of hers, she was firing and yelling - not words coming out, just an angry shouting scream. No target in mind, but blam - blam. Firing over and over, into the air, behind her, in front of her, towards the slope, where the ground suddenly turned into treacherous gorse and an intimidating slope.

Pulling the trigger, nothing happening. Tas fumbled for more bullets, reloading, that crazy scream still trapped inside of her chest, those emotions whirling around like a hurricane, needing some release, any release - the kick of the rifle and the sound of the shots somehow a minor reprieve. Maybe deafening those thoughts in her head.

Finished reloading. Without delay Tas brought the gun back up and was firing again.
~*~

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Pippin
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Jonathan hadn’t had any time to appreciate the view from his point halfway up the slope. Nor was he really in any position to. Superficial stuff like how beautiful the view may or may not have been wasn’t exactly registering on his radar right about now. Staying alive and staying safe was, along with the myriad worries and fears that were buzzing about in his head. But at his resting place, near a clump of bushes and shrubs, whilst waiting for Ash, Jonathan did look out across the valley below him. Really, even at a better time, it wasn’t the most beautiful or awe-inspiring place. The grey skies and lack of human activity made it look gloomy and depressing. A ghost valley. Fitting.

There wasn’t time to sightsee anymore, though. Ash had just called up to him, and was apparently only just beginning to climb up the slope. Well, it had been a long walk, and only pure adrenaline and a will to keep moving had got Jonathan up these last few feet. And there was still half a slope left to climb. Jonathan called back to Ash.

“Sure thing, Ash. Could probably do with a rest-“

A cracking, banging sound filled the air, drowning out Jonathan’s words. He whirled round, searching for the source of the noise, almost losing his balance on the steep slope. Grabbing hold of the closest bush, and ignoring the sudden pain from the rough branches and thorns, Jonathan scrambled behind it. Peeking out from behind the bush, he managed to locate the noise. There was someone else at the bottom of the slope. A girl, if he had to guess. He wasn’t entirely sure who, but she had a gun, and was clearly willing to fire it.

Jonathan’s mind was screaming at him to run back down the slope to Ash as quickly as possible, or at the very least to hide in the bush until the girl left or ran out of bullets. But there was something about her that intrigued him. She didn’t seem to have noticed either him or Ash. Rather, she had been firing wildly, almost at random. It was as if she was firing for the sake of it, not aiming to kill, just releasing some pent up emotion. The girl had a weapon, she would be a useful ally, and Jonathan was sure that he’d be able to deal with whatever problems she had. They would be able to work together.

Bracing himself for whatever might happen next, Jonathan stood up, put his hands to his mouth to amplify his voice, and made a leader’s decision.

“Hey! Hey, over here!”
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Ash had only made it a few steps up the slope before the shooting started. Shrieking a bit, she dove to the ground, trying to take cover as best she could.

Shitshitshitshit someone's found us we are so dead-

The firing continued ceaselessly, which the small part of Ashley's brain that wasn't reduced to complete panic found odd. If you were trying to actually hit someone you fired in short, controlled bursts, right? A short pause, then more firing.

Cautiously poking her head up, Ash spotted the source of all the noise. A girl (she couldn't tell who) who apparently had something against the sky, firing a gun wildly. She hadn't seemed to have seen either Jon or Ash, which was a relief.

I... guess she's trying to do her best Rambo impersonation?

As little sense as that made, Ashley was just glad that she wasn't actually being fired at. Hopefully the girl would leave soon, and they could get back to their previously scheduled slope climbing.

Some movement on the slope caught her eye, and Ash saw Jon... stand up out of cover and shout a greeting at the girl?

Christ, what is he thinking? You don't just stand up and shout hello when there are bullets flying through the air!

Unable to do anything at this distance, Ashley once again found herself helpless to do anything but watch as events unfolded around her and hope that one of her only remaining friends would make it out alive.
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Namira
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On behalf of Anastasia, it remained virtually as if shooting the firearm was unadulterated emotional exoneration. The screaming was identical; altogether uncooked and aboriginal. Spectacles or certainly not, this woman’s visualization was distorted, that bloodshot mist... equivalent as she reminisced sentimenting back at what time she engaged in recreational soccer and she'd overturned her excrement. Anstasia remained everyplace voguish in attendance, but the cessation of her cranium was an even-handed sizzling ball of destitute indignation.

She rotated o'er, cannon in the airborne, and was in the procedure of clasping the trigger when she observed a big cheese above her, awake on the gradient. An inarticulate silhouette, at first, refining into the skin-tight emphasis when that subsequent blam reverberated through the air. Oh fornication. She'd just- extra-marital affair.

She didn't even have to witness. She distinguished she'd market leadered them, just discerned.

Tas was producing tangible fucking virtuous development on this 'not homiciding individuals' mechanism.


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Pippin
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If Johnny had had time to think things over, he might have thought about just how imposing and massive decisions could be. They were tiny, little things in and of themselves. They took less than a second to make, less than a second to process. But the result of said decision could lead to anything. An extra portion of sweets. The breakup of a couple. Winning first prize in a contest. A dead end job with nowhere to go. The fate of an entire country. Life or death.

If Johnny had had time to think things over, he might have realised that no matter her true intentions, drawing attention to yourself in front of a girl firing bullets everywhere was not a fantastic idea. She wasn’t aiming to hurt anyone, sure. But from what he had seen, she was under a lot of stress and pressure, and wasn’t likely to take her finger off the trigger. Anything that suddenly popped into vision was a target.

If Johnny had had time to think things over, he might have remembered that decisions did not have to be made by one person and one person alone. He’d had help, all the way through this journey. Marley at first, and then Ash right up to now. Both of them intelligent people, in multiple ways. He had not needed to shoulder all the responsibility. It had just put himself, and his friends, in even more danger.

There had been no time to think before the bullet struck, though. One second Jonathan was standing, words only just leaving his lips. The next, searing pain coursed through his entire body, hiding from Jonathan the exact location of the bullet wound. He stumbled, fell. Slid several feet down the steep slope. A gorse bush broke his fall, and there he lay.

There was no time afterwards for Jonathan to think, either. Nothing he might have wanted to even crossed his mind. Not his family, not his dad, stationed somewhere far, far away. Not his best friend. All that was going through Johnny’s head was the fact that he’d been shot, he was dying, and he needed help, urgently.

Jonathan tried to shout for Ash, tried to scream for help. All that came out was a low, strangled gurgling noise. Again and again he tried, even as his vision blurred, and eventually faded to complete black.

One simple decision had been all it took.


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The next few moments were a blur. Ashley heard herself crying out as Jon fell to the ground, immediately springing up to run to him, no longer noticing or even caring about the girl who had been firing wildly, the girl that had shot Jon.

By the time Ashley reached his side it was already too late. Even without confirmation it was obvious that her friend was dead, leaving only the empty shell of the boy that had been alive, that she had talked to mere minutes ago, that was now blankly gazing at her with unseeing eyes.

Ashley's vision blurred with tears and she collapsed to her knees, staring down at Jon's corpse. She felt none of the panic or desperation she had felt in the wake of Marley's death, only a dull emptiness inside her. Maybe she had gotten used to losing friends.

What... what should I do now? I can't just leave him like this... I owe him that.

Without Jonathan, Ash probably wouldn't have been able to leave Marley's side, even after the lake became a danger zone. He had given her a sense of direction, at least for a little while. He deserved better than being left to rot on a hillside. She couldn't help him, but she could give Jon's body some dignity. Like he had done for Marley.

With a new purpose and with her mind clearer than it had been almost since the start of the program, Ashley wiped the tears from her eyes.

You're supposed to close their eyelids first, right?

Ashley did her best to ignore the fact that she was touching a corpse and did so, gently. It didn't help. His body was too still, too cold to pass for someone in a deep sleep. It was a start, at least.
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The figure went down, and someone nearby cried out, rushed towards where the shape - their companion, had been. The rage had twisted into something more, something else, a kind've sickly fear, crushed together with her frustrations.


-placeholder-

She leaves, bolting.

((Tas continued in Man is Born Unto Trouble))
~*~

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Ashley stood, took a deep breath, and tried to think of what she had to do next. Digging a grave was unfortunately out of the question, as was simply leaving Jon on the hillside. As she turned around to try and find something resembling a proper final resting place, Ash noticed that the girl was no longer there.

It was a relief, in a way. Ashley wasn't sure if she could handle coming face-to-face with the girl that had killed Jon, not now. Ash wasn't really considering revenge. It had been an accident, after all. There'd been plenty of opportunity for the girl to shoot Ash in the back, but she hadn't.

Besides, she's got a gun, and I've got a... snuggie? Wait.

Whatever happened to the snuggie, anyway? The last Ashley remembered she had been trying to sleep in it, and then Marley... Yeah. It was still lying by the lakeside, then, assuming no one else had taken it. Ashley frowned. That bothered her more than it should, given the circumstances. The one asset granted to her had been completely left behind.

Argh, focus, Ashley. That isn't important. Jon is.

About ten feet from the bottom of the hill there was a tall, solitary tree, the immediate area around it clear. It would have to suffice. Turning back to Jonathan's corpse, Ashley steeled herself. She needed to pick him up.

While the weight was a concern -Jon was smaller than Ash, but she still wasn't used to lifting heavy things- what disturbed her the most was the simple fact that in front of her was what had been her living, breathing friend. Though her mind was mostly clear, a small part of her wanted to run, and once she started running she'd never be able to stop.

She couldn't run, though. Ash had ran after Marley died. Maybe not literally, but she had retreated inside herself rather than facing reality. Jon had helped her then. She was on her own, now. If she wanted to survive long enough to see Jaz again, Ashley needed to be strong, starting now.

Shaking a bit, Ashley grabbed hold of Jonathon's corpse, lifting it off the ground. Grunting a bit from the weight, she slowly made her way down the slope, trying to avoid thinking about what she was doing. After what seemed an eternity, she reached the tree, where she gently set Jon down with a sigh of relief.

Almost done.

Next, she positioned the body so it was sitting up, leaning against the tree, then folded his arms on his chest. While in the end, Jon was still obviously dead, at least now he looked somewhat at peace. Hopefully he was, in whatever afterlife there was. "Thanks for everything, Jon. Try to keep Marley calmed down until I join you guys, alright?"

With that she walked away, leaving the slope and her friend far behind her.

((Ashley Sydor: Continued in Good Morning, Sunshine))
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