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A Beginning...
Topic Started: Nov 22 2017, 08:20 PM (1,937 Views)
KamiKaze
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I'll turn Super Saiyan and save Vale... but first, let me take a selfie.
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
Charlie had multiple Announcement Days, but only once had she actually seen a clip of the Program.

It was early in the morning while channel-surfing last year. Around six, maybe? Everyone knew what happened in those games, of fucking course, but, the second she saw it, it put things into a whole new perspective.

One girl on top of another. One hand holding a knife, plunging and plunging and plunging even when the other girl tried to crawl away, then slowly stilled. The camera had managed to get a shot of her face, both faces. One face was still, the light slowly fading from her eyes. The other was distorted, like some animal.

Charlie had switched it off. It was the only thing she could do. But that image had been stained into her memory. As she went about her business that day, the image came back again and again. Knife goes in, knife goes out. Her skin crawled each time. She remembered cooking dinner with Toni that evening, and, just for a moment, she picture the knife going in, the knife going out. Toni’s eyes, slowly fading away. She hated the thought of it. Even as she tried to sleep, the idea of stabbing someone like that stuck with her. Even now, she still sometimes thought about it.

Charlie had always been scared that one day, she or Toni would be picked. She didn’t want to die, and she didn’t want Toni to die, either. So she kept picturing it and picturing it, imagining what she’d do, and wondering if there was a way to prevent it. She even tried to look up the odds of her school being picked for the Program, and everyone assured her it was slim. And even if it was, it was “a great honor.” But she’d look it up, and look it up some more, just to remind herself that she didn’t have to go through that.

That made Announcement Day difficult for her. She kept thinking, being so sure, that this time, this will be the time she’d be taken away to die. She would just pray she was wrong, that she and her class were going to be okay.

So, she started the same ritual she had every Announcement Day. Sit down, grab onto the chair, close your eyes, and don’t open them until it’s over. It was hard to sit through, but it helped a little. It helped to breathe, too, but it was even harder.

Charlie heard the General’s voice boom across the auditorium, and, even if her eyes were closed, she still could see his face in her mind’s eye. Gray hair, blue eyes, face like a statue. She kept gripping tighter and tighter, hoping they’d pass over NSA. Please, please.

But that didn’t happen. She almost opened her eyes when she heard it. She felt her heart sink, her skin tremble. It was her school, her grade. It had to be a joke? No, it wasn’t. She continued her vice grip on the chair, as she heard noises of people shuffling in. A new voice came on, and said something about Mexico. God, she didn’t know. She couldn’t think straight, she just couldn’t.

Then, names.

Keep those eyes closed. Don’t look at their faces. Don’t look too scared. Keep that grip tight. Stay calm, try to stay calm, please try to stay calm.

“Charlotte Pemberton.”

That made Charlie open her eyes. She saw everyone looking right at her. She saw what looked like soldiers, glancing in her direction. Her vision grew dark around the edges, her head felt dizzy. She tried to stand up, hoping it was some kind of joke or dream. But it was too real. Too, too real. What breaths came out, they came out loud and ragged. She felt like she was going to vomit, she felt like she was going to die on the spot.

Slowly, she got to her feet, her legs feeling like all the bones had been removed. But, she took steps towards the designated area. A second later, and those steps became a swift stomp.
Kami's Sidestories
Charlotte "Charlie" Pemberton- Female Student #??- "Um, hey... I know a lot about meat. How much do you want to cook yours?"

They will come back. They always do. We have a place for them.
Felicia LaChapelle (SC)- Female Student #022- Attempting first-aid to the soundtrack of an Eminem song.
Miranda Millers (SC)- Female Student #024- Pranking people not quite to death with a tire iron

In Loving Memory Of Those Killed in a Mini


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Floyd was hunched over in his chair, hands clasped, eyes closed, foot tapping. For the love of Christ, would he just up and say it already?

"Floyd Malinowski."

There it was. Floyd felt a cold rumble along his spine and a retreat in his groin. He had thought about the five stages of grief, mentally skipping the first four to try and go right to acceptance. Channel his chi. Ki. Whatever energy his Mom always rambled about, he tried to harness it and achieve some serenity,to ease himself in. His heart knew he wasn't ready for what was about to be thrown at him. Mina's tits threw off his quan. Eleanor's scream let it on fire.

He had to force himself out of his chair, his chair flipping back as he did so. He sucked one of his cheaks in as he nodded his head up and down all the way outside. Floyd turned his head, looking up to see his sister in the stands, hands on her heart, tears forming. For a moment, he stood tall at the entrance, fists forming. Then he looked away from her, pushed up his glasses and letting the lights shine off them, and began walking with new resolute steps.
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[ *  *  *  *  * ]
“… Scott Osbourne.”

As soon as Scott heard his name, he let out a short bark of a laugh. Even with the abundance of Scotts in his year, there was no mistaking that he was being called on. Heads turned quickly, those who had been unaware of the name’s owner before now left with no doubt. He quickly studied the faces of those in front of him. Pity, fear, sorrow, anger. The expected. And then there were those who almost seemed to be smiling. Relief at his departure. Unexpected to everyone but Scott.

Scott folded his arms and let out another laugh, looking away from his peers and classmates and up at the big screen at the front of the hall, waiting for the soldiers to come and force him onto the bus.

He realised he was thinking about his mom, and his façade almost shattered as soon as it had started. He’d forgotten to tell her he loved her this morning. Just one of those things that slipped your mind. It happened to everybody, every now and again, a hiccup in your everyday routine. It just had to be the final slap in the face that it had happened to him on Announcement Day.

Scott felt the two soldiers grab his arms before he saw them. He didn’t put up any resistance as they frog-marched him away from the crowd. It felt like he was in one of those fables, like his story was currently being penned by Aesop himself. All this success and all this fortune and the dream of a life of luxury that he could absolutely reach, but because it had all been built on ill-gotten gains, he was going to be punished for it.

Hell. He couldn’t say he didn’t deserve it.

He was getting closer to the camera next to the door. Then the bus. Then, well. He was trying not to think about that too hard. He only had a few seconds to think of something to say, or do, the last thing his family would see in anything close to normality. He rejected the first thing that came to mind. He had missed his opportunity this morning, but mom knew he loved her. Dad did too.

Scott was bundled past the camera, and he had just enough time to face it and mouth the words ’Sorry Mom, sorry Dad’ before he stepped out of the door and into the last days of his life.
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[ *  *  * ]
"Howard Fong"

Howie let out a low squeal at the sound of his name. No. No. No no no. Why did this have to happen to him? Only a few more months and he would have been out of this hellhole forever.

But no, they wouldn't let him have that. Of course not. Howie was going to get killed by one of the same assholes who made his teenage years miserable. And when it happened, everyone in the country would see it. Across the entire United States, dumbfucks sitting on their couches would laugh at the wimpy Chinese kid getting slaughtered by a "true patriot" or whatever bullshit they'd call the murderers.

Howie realized that he could end it right here. He didn't have to lose at their game. He could go out like a bad-ass, refusing to comply and telling everyone what he really thought about their goddamned school and their goddamned country. It's not like he had a chance of winning anyway, so why shouldn't he? He'd just be dying a day or two earlier, and he'd be dying in a way that he could actually be proud of. It would be so easy.

All he had to do was speak up.












Howie got onto the bus and took his seat.
PV3 Prologue
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TV2

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[ *  *  * ]
Bridie felt a bit testy, and she had plastered her arms over her chest to work out a bit of the irate attention. Clay had forgotten today was their year anniversary so she'd picked the farthest possible spot in the auditorium from him, and that left her standing in the closest standing row to The General's face.

She cringed on his behalf at some of the disrespectful antics of her peers. Failing to walk in time. Peace signs. Inappropriate language. Loud and showy screaming crying. Indecent exposure, goodness. Bridie wouldn't have wished death on them, of course! Not by any means, but her mood had certainly soured over so few minutes, it just seemed... ugh, she didn't even have the words for it! And she certainly did not have the residual patience to puzzle a response out. She tried to tune out the foamy aggregate of her annoyance, even as it fizzled distracting-like at the surface of her grey matter. There was, after all, plenty of positive patriotism to be had! Leave it to Charlie to set a proper example, after all.

Her name was called.

'Bridie... Moss...'

Oh, her name was called! And wait, that meant... All eyes of the nation on her!

... Oh! After a stalling moment of lingering Bridie's arms immediately warped, she ironed out all traces of the insolent and improper from her body language. Every lesson from every teacher and every member of her family, proper stance, proper salute with a stiff and lightning quick meeting of hand to brow, she had it all encoded in muscle memory.

She managed to remember Pappy telling her it was the greatest honor to answer the call to serve your country. Her very first memory of life. A cherished springtime day where the skies themselves had seemed to streak with reds, whites, blues. Her breath caught, stuck in the bony pit of her throat. This was it. This was her calling. So! She answered the call with stiff back, and a stoically smiling march out the door. With idle musings and thoughts of 'death', wondering what it was that word meant (of course she knew what it literally meant, duh).

On her way out she smiled at a soldier guarding the door, her chest swelling with pride.

Said soldier, who had probably just finished manhandling one of Bridie's friends onto that very bus she was about to proudly take, nodded solemnly back. He, eyes glazed by duty, saw for a moment some young little girl, short, cute, pressing herself by the vertebrae into the model interpretation of a dutiful American citizen. He shared with her a moment of pride. Then in a moment, he forgot her.
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[ *  *  *  * ]
"Maya Spooner."

Maya silently stood up, walked her path through the auditorium, and exited without any fuss.
The Program 2.5 - Traitors

Santiago Ibarra - Butterfly Knife

Nani Clover - Plastic Scythe

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"...Henry Axford."

Henry had wondered, as he got to school this morning, whether this year would be the year. And as his name was called and all eyes began to turn to him, he concluded that... yep, there was nothing that could prepare you for it.

Henry's mind was swirling with emotions, not that any of them would end up showing up on his face. He simply gave a salute, before walking down to where he would meet his fate.

Fate permitting, he would survive that encounter.
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Clair Belvedere - Box of Condoms - Hanging back in Earth Sky From Venus
Christopher Schwartz - Macuahuitl - Catching his breath in I Jumped Out and I Pranked Him to Death with a Tire Iron

The afterlife
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[ *  * ]
"...Cybil Price."

His fingers twitched a short rhythm around in the air. Gazing about the room, Cybil started to move, walking along the path made for him on feet that could barely touch the ground. Full of so many thoughts that his brain bordered on tuning to static and coming back around to empty, Cybil sized up those who had come before him in line. He thought of their reactions as they filed out of the room - from visibly restrained anger to curses shouted to the air to stunned silence - and smirked a smirk he would wear along his entire parade towards the door. Steady feet marching in intangible time, shuffling down towards destiny.

Instinct told him not to look at the camera. Though Cybil had long been prepping himself for this day, one he knew deep down in his heart of hearts and deepest of dreams would come, he doubted that his father had been thinking about things the same way. Thus, no salute was given toward the lens. A customary nod in the general direction would do.

His foot was falling asleep. Cybil tried wiggling his toes to get it to wake back up, but it wouldn't budge.

The snowy static haze spreading through his foot would bring him discomfort for the rest of the day.
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Posted Image - Cybil Price: "I suppose that this was fated to happen this way." Anouncement Day, Arena-1

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[ *  *  *  * ]
"Nani Clover."

Nani's blood froze in her veins. Watching each of her classmates file out of the auditorium only solidified how real it was with every passing moment, and the moment her name left the officer's lips her body turned to cold molasses. She couldn't move anything. Her face was stiff, mouth agape and eyes stuck to the front of the stage.

This couldn't be happening. She had to be dreaming, daydreaming, hallucinating, something. She wasn't supposed to end up like this. She was supposed to do something with her life, even if she didn't know what it was going to be. The Program wasn't meant for her, not someone who had so much to live for, parents who loved her, siblings who needed her.

Seconds passed and Nani still did not move. All she could really register was the silence, the movement of heads, and the nodding from the officers. Suddenly, rough arms yanked her from her seat, and Nani felt her feet make the steps. She didn't fight it. They forced her to the exit, as tears silently streamed down her face.

All Nani would remember of that moment in the following days was how bitter the cold felt.
The Program 2.5 - Traitors

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Nani Clover - Plastic Scythe

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"Clover Dubose."

Her heart had nearly jumped out of her chest when the last name was called, and she felt a sort of relief when an entirely different girl had been dragged to her death instead. That relief was short-lived, though, as another Clover followed on the heels of the last one.

The nonstop crying that had been happening since they'd chosen her school stopped. The shock was enough to clog her tear ducts as she stared blankly at the screen. Some soldiers came over and hoisted her up by the arms, but Clover didn't make a sound.

She was still in awe.
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[ *  *  * ]
Miss Jacqueline Hastert supported another girl, a strange face she didn't even know. Her claim to familiarity was losing a dear friend to their commanding officer- Mrs. Claudia Price, distinguished for service during the Canadian Annexation- and that was all that was needed. Jackie offered comfort, offered support, as if it were her own friend.

Dani had been dragged away not a few minutes ago. Jacqueline focused on the heaving sobs of her peer in hysterics. A gentle coo of Jacqueline's hoarse voice, a soft stroke on one shoulder, Jacqueline tended mercifully to the quivering lump in her embrace.

"Jacqueline Hastert."

She wondered how Mom and Dad would react. How they would restructure the house, with herself gone.

Such thoughts were fleeting.

"Shh." Jacqueline smiled softly at the screaming girl she had to pry herself from, even as a desperate arms flailed for warmth and comfort. Jacqueline could only offer a last touch, finger to finger, fingertips, prying apart, breaking away.

"It's okay." Her smile remained until she was facing the troops, then it settled into the depths of an unreadable face, two exhausted eyes, chin held soldier's parallel.

Jacqueline left the hall with a stoic salute.
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[ *  *  * ]
"Clay Bronsen...
...... I really do like your name, son."

"Thank you so much, Mrs. Samuelson." Clay had never expected that meeting the grandmother of his girlfriend, the woman who had seen his life unfold four times and countless generations over, could be this easy. It felt right, it felt somehow natural, because it wasn't even a sense of belonging as that implied that he'd first ever felt out of place at all. Two wicker chairs, a cozily dusty patio gently baked under the sun, his warmed face half split by the shadow of a heavy striped canvas awning. Almost as familiar to him as if it had been his own patio by night and day.

"Bridie Bronsen... yessir, rolls right off the tongue." Clay blanched. Mrs. Doris Samuelson grinned wickedly at him, all three of her remaining teeth glowering like daggers through the mush that remained of her fleshy lips. Her wizened countenance aside, Mrs. Samuelson played an expert game of darts with her words. She'd pried him apart, dissecting all the way to the brainstem, not half an hour ago. Yes, he did feel amazingly insecure with his future. Yes, he did love children. He was unnerved, comfortable as he was reclining lazily in his chair, butt sunk into the firm embrace of antique craftsmanship. Surely Mrs. Samuelson was joking. But did she mean something by it? Did she have intentions? Hear wedding bells...?

"I was only kidding, son." Her mouth split open into a hearty laugh. Clay nervously followed her lead, forcing the polite chuckle. Half time to the tempo of his suddenly thundering heart, funny, there had been no forecasts of storms today.

"Well. I have no intentions... No! T-that's not to say that I never would! I'm not- but I am...! Planning to,-... I mean- Uhm... Either way that is-... I'm fine with-...! ... You know what I mean... Erm, not to, you know! ... Put words in your mouth."

"... I didn't quite follow." And she laughed again. Clay sighed. Humor, relief, catharsis, existential despair. Could well have been any of them. He scrubbed a bit of the sun's radiance from his skin, cooling away the gentle burn with a gentler touch still. "You're a ray of light through her memories, Clay, brightening all you touch. Whether you are her 'One' or not." Clay nodded. Suddenly, eagerly. He earnestly drunk up what she said, not questioning if it could have been a mere platitude or otherwise. It was a refreshing change of pace, to say the least. To be able to wear his metaphorical stutter proudly, without checking over his shoulder and under his shoe for the oppression of his own shadow. His own doubts that he'd done wrong, messed up somehow.

He could reach out, beyond himself. Literally, his arms began to hang, splaying over the cool curve of the armrest so his fingertips could delicately dance over a humble bush of aromatic, small white flowers.

"The pride of our garden," Mrs. Samuelson began. "Mock-"

"-orange," Clay finished on her behalf. "Bridie's favorite. State flower of Idaho."

"Well I'll be. I'm surprised you bothered to ask her. I can count on one hand the number of folk who know little Bri's favorite smell."

"Yep," Clay murmured simply. Then he began to chuckle to the beat of a memory. "Once, she told me she'd wear the scent in her hair if anyone actually made a shampoo."

"Well...
...... Clay."

The echo finished reverberating through his skull, cavernous. Clay stared blankly, at the door that they'd vanished through: Roz, Mary, Frankie, Cybil. His cheeks were freshly spit-shone with the silence of his tears.

Bridie.

A solider from the ranks detached, began to briskly march to the still boy.

"Sorry."

Without further resistance he left.



Somewhere along the way his van passed by a small cafe tucked under the facade of a block-y, plain apartment building. Intersection of Smith and Amsterdam. He glanced up briefly, recognized the chalk dust caked board in the window, advertising the marble cake it always did.

Bridie's favorite. Sitting in that cafe was a small wreath of dusky-scent mockorange, handpicked by Mrs. Samuelson from her own garden, assembled by Clay, intended for the girl now lost somewhere a million miles away. Small comfort that he would at least be following her.
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Dakota knew as soon as they started reading out the names of her classmates. She knew that she would be called up just like everyone that had gone before her.

Some of them had put up some resistance while some of the just accepted it with dignity. Dakota knew what was expected of her, she had mumbled her way through enough national anthems in her time. She had sat and listened quietly as they had been taught about how enlightenment had been brought to the native peoples of America by the barrel of a gun and the bayonet attached to it.

Her role was to stay quiet and take it all without question. She knew this because she had been taught it by her tribe and reinforced by her environment.

This one time though it didn't matter, she was dead anyway. That was why everything came forth at once in the most succinct point she could manage.

"Fuck!"

Still she followed the example that had been set out for her and walked out of the hall. Head bowed, broken.
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W A H
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
“… Joel Blackwell.”

JB had to be honest, here, he didn’t realise his name had been called out for a good few seconds after the fact. Nobody called him ‘Joel’. His friends called him JB, his older bro called him JB, his mom called him JB, even most of the teachers called him JB. He was JB! The clown, the lovable goof, the guy who had ‘is a joy to teach’ written on each of his report cards! Joel Blackwell sounded like some sweater-vest wearing nerd with a prized fedora collection. Or the main bad guy in an action film, the guy who owned a secret base on an old disused oil rig, who was defeated when his own planet-smashing laser got blown up! A loser, basically, which was NOT something JB was!

So he stood there, hands shoved into his pockets, bouncing on the balls of his feet slightly, until he realised there were a couple of Big McLargehuge soldiers, each with biceps as big as JB was, coming towards him. Then the penny dropped. He let out a little gasp of realisation, spun on his heel, and walked towards where everyone else had gone, hands still buried in his pockets. If anyone had been listening to him, rather than the giant face on the screen, they would have heard him humming under his breath.

JB reached the camera next to the door. He grinned at it, and gave his best attempt at a salute. That was what a bunch of his classmates had done, right? He guessed that was what you were supposed to be doing, but a bunch of people decided they wanted to be boring poor sports.

Because this wasn’t them really being selected for the Program, obviously. Nah, this was just some, like, test! Like a fire drill! Except it was to see who could be the most patriotic, rather than the least apathetic about a loud noise! He’d heard stories about this sorta thing (at least he thought he had, and hadn’t just dreamed it all up this time), of other schools bringing in a bunch of soldiers as a kind of intimidation factor, to drum the America Da Best rhetoric into their heads. He just had to brace the snow and ice for a while, then he could get back to a nice warm Maths class and snigger whenever the answer was ‘69’.

JB blinked in the cold air and saw the bus with the blacked-out windows sitting right in front of him.

Wait.

Wait, hang on-
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[ *  *  * ]
Patience had never been a virtue of Theodora Smalls’.

Belinda Smalls had spent a good hour that morning curling her daughter’s hair into perfect loose ringlets and working magic with a make-up brush. It was Announcement Day after all, and while Theodora tried to look her best every day, on no occasion was it more important than right this minute. But even with the effort put into her appearance, it was all she could do to resist running her fingers through her hair, chewing on her artificially bright red lips, or tugging at the end of her skirt. When their school was chosen, her heart had started racing at a mile a minute, and she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. But as the assembly continued to trail on and on, and classmate after classmate – some she knew, some she didn’t – was led out of the room, it wasn’t fear or panic that consumed Theodora’s being, but boredom.

They’d chosen so many already, and the arbitrary order with which they were listing everybody meant that Theodora had no way of gauging when – or even if – her name would be called. If not, she’d be able to go home and cheer on her friends while they proved their worth as Americans. And if they did–

“Theodora Smalls.”

She’d almost – but not quite – zoned out when her name was barked across the room. With a skip in her step, she followed the same path dozens of her peers – and hundreds of her fellow citizens – before her had done.

She gave the camera a bright, pearly-white smile. She wanted her parents to see how well she was coping (and would continue to cope) with this newfound life change. They’d arranged to go for milkshakes and burgers with her that evening. It was a treat she didn’t give herself enough.

There were tears streaming down Theodora’s face as she was led from the auditorium and out into the cold morning air.

She’d never been happier.
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The Program 2.5
M22 – Nicholas Rogers – Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
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