TV Epilogue: Heroes

MurderWeasel
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 27th, 2013, 5:11 am #1

They told her not to fall asleep. That was not a good sign.

The ride in the helicopter passed in the blink of an eye. Karen did not remember large chunks of it. Someone turned to look at her and asked her a question, and she answered it. She did not know what she had been asked. She did not know what she had said.

When they landed, the men lifted her and set her in a wheelchair. She struggled to stand. They told her to stay put. She did not like being in a wheelchair. She knew what it meant. It meant she was in trouble. It meant she was hurt. She had seen her brother go through this, so she knew that things might never be the same again.

The man with the scar was there, sometimes. So were the others, in and out of her vision and consciousness. They wheeled her past a group of people, and the people took pictures of her. She knew this because there were bright flashes of light, the sound of camera shutters. They shouted at her, but she could not focus on what they were saying. She could not pick out distinct faces from the mass. Someone leaned down to her ear and whispered, "Smile," so she did. The people with the cameras cheered and took more pictures. The constant flashes were making her head hurt even more.

"She's smiling," someone said. It was stupid. They could all see what she was doing. Karen had never liked meaningless talk. Normally it rated no more than mild bemusement or exasperation, but this time her reaction was a flash of intense anger. She wanted these people gone. She wanted them dead. Her backpack was missing. She looked around, trying to figure out what had happened to it. One of the men was carrying it. Her weapons were gone, even those she'd had in her pockets. That was good, because she realized that she didn't really want anyone dead. Something was wrong with her, and more than anything else she was scared. This wasn't living. She felt like a different person, like she was outside of herself watching some stranger take control.

"It's okay," someone said. The voice was quiet and close to her ear. "We're almost inside. You'll be fine."

She wanted to believe it. The people were shouting. The helicopter's rotors were still turning, blowing her hair all around and making a loud noise which suddenly jumped through her subconscious filters and assaulted her with a strength almost physical.There was too much, too much noise and too much light and too much going on, and she couldn't focus on anything or tell what was going on amidst the sensory whirlwind.

It was so much that she didn't notice she was being pushed inside until the chair gave a little bump as it was pushed over the threshold and a door clicked shut behind her and most of the noise faded to a dull echo in her head. She couldn't say if the quiet murmurs of sound were merely quiet and distant, or if they had been cut out entirely and were only being supplied by her mind. Whatever the case, they soon faded to nothing.

Her chair rolled across tiled floors, and she looked at the fluorescent lights above, all clean and none flickering the way the lights in the halls at school had been wont to do. The walls were in pale colors, peach and beige and pastel pink. The air smelled chemical in that vague way that came with cleaning solution. Karen had spent enough time in hospitals to recognize one immediately. Another bad sign: healthy people didn't go to hospitals.

She wondered who would sit at the foot of her bed.

The people around her fell away, one at a time, until it was just her and two of the men from the helicopter. They took her down an elevator, past rows of rooms and through several hallways. Karen was unable to remember the path they'd traveled. She couldn't begin to orient herself. Her shoulders hurt. She could feel blood dripping down them. Her shirt was slightly damp, with blood or sweat or most likely both. Someone had bandaged her right hand. Taking deep breaths hurt. Everything hurt.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. She'd done what they'd asked. That meant she was supposed to go free, and this was not freedom.

She closed her eyes and tried to think, but it was nearly impossible to focus long enough to string together coherent thoughts. Time was acting strangely; on the one hand, it seemed the trip, which might have been fairly short in reality, was interminable, but on the other her journey took the form not of a linear narrative but of scenes only thematically connected by their location. One second she would be looking into a room at an old man sitting up in bed, and then she would blink and be passing a room with chairs and tables covered in stacks of magazines. The only constants were the chair and the bright light and the click of wheels on linoleum.

When she finally blinked to find that they had stopped, a pretty young white woman with short blond hair and blue eyes was waiting. They were in an examination room. The two men lifted Karen up and set her on the table. There was a long piece of white butcher paper spread on it, but when Karen shifted, a few drops of red appeared on it. The young woman was wearing a stethoscope, a white coat, and nice clothes. She frowned.

"The coat needs to come off," she said. She turned, opened a drawer, and pulled out a pair of scissors.

"Hang on," one of the men said. "We don't want to wreck it."

The woman frowned more deeply. She looked ready to object. The scene was staying constant now that Karen wasn't moving, but even though she could hear the conversation in full, she could derive little meaning from it.

"It's important," the man said. He stepped up next to Karen, and reached out. She flinched a little when he touched her arm, because his hands pressed against hidden bruises. He slowly eased her right arm out of the sleeve of her coat, then the left. That took a while, because the bandannas were still tied on, nice and tight. When the coat came free, the man pulled them loose in one smooth motion, leaving them in a pile on the table. He picked them up. The other man helped Karen scoot over, so they could collect her coat. She wanted to take it back. It hadn't been out of her reach since she'd left school; she could remember removing it only when she had first bandaged her shoulders. She didn't trust that she'd ever see it again if the men left with it.

She didn't say anything. The man folded it roughly and then he and the other man left. The woman's expression lightened a bit. She focused on Karen for the first time.

"That's better," she said. "It's okay. I'll make sure you're okay."

Karen didn't say anything. The woman came close. She was still holding the scissors. She was tall and moved with confidence, like some of the popular girls at school.

"My name is Doctor Helen Moreau," she said. "I'm going to make sure you're okay. I've been briefed on what you've been through, and I've seen the tapes. I just want to make sure nothing's seriously wrong."

"Your name is Doctor Moreau?" Karen asked.

The woman looked started for a moment, then laughed. It was a light laugh, not forced.

"Uh, yes," she said. "I'm a little surprised you've seen that. A lot of people your age don't watch old movies."

Karen didn't say that she'd read the book. Moreau leaned over and went to work, snipping the turtleneck free. She moved carefully, slowly, using her hand to steady Karen but never applying any real force, and despite being uncomfortable having someone in such close proximity, despite the light pressure on her bruises that caused prickles of pain, Karen felt herself relaxing a little. This was not like with her brother. They were treating her as if she was fragile, yes, but not as if she might die at any moment. The air of urgency and fear that had permeated the emergency room was absent from these proceedings, and there was only one doctor here and nobody had even said the word surgery yet, so just maybe it would be okay after all.

Doctor Moreau winced visibly when Karen's shirt came off, though she tried to hide it. Karen winced too. She could only see the front, but it was bad. Her arms were blue and purple and yellow with bruising, to the point where it seemed almost as if her natural skin color was the aberration. Her upper left arm sported two parallel cuts, thin and scabbed over. Her midriff was also badly bruised, discolored in a line where the paddle had impacted. Her chest was covered with dried blood. It had soaked into her undergarments. It was not her blood.

"You've been through a lot," Moreau said. She tried to keep her tone neutral. Karen said nothing. Moreau leaned over, inspecting Karen's back. It seemed like a second later that she stepped back, putting some things away in the drawer. She turned back to Karen.

"What's wrong?" she said. "You look like something's wrong."

"What happened?" Karen said. Nothing seemed amiss to her, but the feeling of the room was darkening rapidly. Moreau frowned, and Karen realized she had no recollection of the woman taking the tools she was now stowing out, or of what, if anything, they had been used for.

"I think we should get you some more specialized treatment," Moreau said.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 27th, 2013, 5:18 am #2

A bevy of tests followed. Karen was checked out by more doctors, and they seemed to be taking the proceedings a little more seriously. She had a few more lapses, and while they became slightly less frequent and lengthy even in the brief time she was being examined, she grew more cogent of the fact that they could represent something a lot more serious than some temporary attention issues.

The doctors thought so, too. They told her that she had a fairly severe concussion. They told her that she'd lost some memories from immediately prior to the trauma, that she was blanking out because she was having some trouble forming new ones. They told her that her emotions were going crazy for much the same reason. They told her all this and more, often in technical terms she could barely comprehend. She was lost in the explanations, struggling to separate what really mattered. In the end, a few things stood out.

They told her it wasn't going to kill her. They told her it wasn't permanent.

Her shoulders were bandaged again, this time with the shallow wounds professionally cleaned and closed using something they called liquid bandage. Her face was much the same. After the staff was done with her, the wounds did not look so bad. They told her that the bruising had been more serious than the bleeding, and even that was not truly dangerous. They promised her that nothing would scar.

Karen was not able to leave the wheelchair. She could not even stand under her own power, let alone walk. They told her she was fatigued. They told her she would probably be a lot better after a few hours of rest.

She had a private room in a quiet branch of the hospital. It was small, sterile, white. They set her on the side of the bed and gave her a robe. She got changed into it, eventually, with some help from Doctor Moreau, who had remained nearby throughout the entire process. They finally told her she could get some sleep. They said to rest up, because she would have things to think about when she awoke. They said they were all very excited about her future.

Karen nodded. She was wary. She did not trust these people. She did not believe that they had her best interests at heart, but at the same time she was entirely dependent on them. This all filled her with a slightly fuzzy apprehension, but she just could not puzzle through it enough to come up with anything she could do about it.

She knew that she needed rest, badly, but she thought that it might be hard to fall asleep. She was wrong. Five minutes after everyone left, Karen fell into a deep slumber.

She did not have any dreams, or at least, she did not remember any when she awoke.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 27th, 2013, 5:21 am #3

Some time later, Karen was roused by a tap on her shoulder. She opened her eyes. A fat man was looking down at her. He was wearing a suit. His tie was red. His smile was too wide. His teeth were very white.

"Good morning, Ms. Ruiz," he said.

Karen did not respond. Her head hurt. She felt exposed. The robe was thick and soft, not like most hospital robes, and securely fastened, but the fact remained that this man had entered and woken her up. She was lying in bed, blankets crumpled around her, head on a pillow. Her vision was blurred and her head hurt, and she couldn't tell what came from her injuries and what was merely the result of being woken suddenly. She was disoriented, and that was now synonymous with mortal danger in her mind.

She felt like she needed a gun. It was strange to not have her Glock within reach. She felt a flash of fear and anger, but held them in check. It was a struggle, but she knew on a rational level that this man did not represent immediate physical harm. He was dangerous, surely, but not in the way people had been on the island. It was important to stay in control. That was the way to stay safe.

Karen pulled herself up into a sitting position, trying to ignore how her arms and torso protested the movement, the shifting of weight against bruises. She tried not to flinch, instead taking a deep breath and forcing her vision into focus. The man looked to be on the later end of middle-aged. His hair was black and short, his face wide. He wasn't quite hefty enough to have a double chin. His clothes were well-fitted, not concealing his form but flattering it a little bit, drawing the eye away from his waist.

"Good morning, Ms. Ruiz," the man said again. His voice sounded a bit less cheery. "It's not actually morning, really. The game just ended."

Karen looked around the room. Things had changed since she'd closed her eyes. There was a closet, and its door was open. A few robes hung inside. Her backpack was on the floor. The cane sat beside her bed. There was a window, and afternoon sunlight streamed through it. The air was odorless, free of the chemical scent she'd noted elsewhere in the hospital. She had no idea how long she had been asleep. She could see two doors besides the closet: one that seemed to be the one the man had come through, judging by its position, and one which surely led to a bathroom. She could not see any cameras. They were probably hidden.

"The winner should be here very soon," the man said. "He's in better shape than you. He's going to talk to the press. You'll get your turn later."

The man was sitting in a chair. The wheelchair was against the wall. Karen felt a little bit better. She felt like she might be able to stand up. The man was holding a clipboard. It was angled so she could not see what was on it. That was a bad sign. There was nobody else in the room, but the door out was closed. She suspected there would be other people outside, if not right there then close enough to turn up in a hurry.

The man was looking at her. He watched her look around, followed her gaze. Initially, he seemed curious, but it became clear that his patience was wearing thin as his eyes narrowed a little. Karen realized that she hadn't said anything yet. People were often put off by her silence. She couldn't tell whether this was a situation where that could become dangerous for her, but she assumed it might be. She couldn't think of anything to say, though.

"Do you want to know who won?" the man asked, perhaps somehow guessing what was going through her head, perhaps just hoping to force a reply with a direct question.

"No," Karen said.

She knew, now, that it was a boy. It didn't really matter. Her friends were dead. She had murdered most of them. She figured it was unlikely that Vincent had made it off the island. He'd been too willing to throw himself into fights, too quick to play to the audience rather than his own safety. Most likely, she would never have any reason to care who had survived.

The man raised an eyebrow at her. Then, a moment later, he chuckled.

"You're something else," he said. "I could've sworn you were just acting during the game. We see that sometimes."

Karen said nothing. The sense of danger had passed. This was now just a communication.

"I'm one of the show's producers," the man said. "My name is Daniel Coley, but you can call me Dan if you want."

This time, the silence stretched only a few moments before Coley broke it. He seemed to have decided that he could fill in any pauses made by Karen's silence.

"I see you're not feeling very social," he said. "Maybe we can have a more pleasant visit some other time. I can keep this short and sweet for you.

"Basically, we need to work out a contract. I'm not sure if you know how this works, but there's a lot of money in our little show, and right now you're a star. We have a few formalities to take care of, but you'll see your fair share of it, I can guarantee that. You're a very big deal right now."

He turned the clipboard around, revealing a thick stack of documents. Karen tried to focus on the one on top, but the print was small and her sight was still blurry from a combination of sleep and lingering head trauma. Coley appeared to notice, and chuckled. Karen did not like his laugh this time. She did not like that he found her predicament amusing.

"These are documents of emancipation," he said. "We've got some good precedent here, cooperative judges. Basically, these release you from your parents' custody and grant you more adult rights, even though you aren't eighteen. You just have to prove that you can make a living for yourself, and trust me, you can. We give these to everyone who comes out of our show and may, ah, prefer not to return to their original living situations."

The sugarcoating did not conceal the meaning of his words. Coley was politely telling her that her parents didn't want her back.

It wasn't a surprise. She'd known from early on that her actions would mean the end of her relationship with her family. She had murdered ten people on national television. Like she had told Jhamel, she was fairly sure that her family would have had to move to avoid facing repercussions for her choices. They probably hated her now, even Aunt Elizabeth. They probably thought her a psychopath, just like the rest of the world. She'd thought she was prepared to accept that she would never see them again, but hearing it like this still hurt. She wanted a chance to explain, to tell them why she'd done what she had, but she knew that it wouldn't help. They wouldn't care that she'd been scared. They would care about the facts, and the fact was that Karen had murdered ten people to live, and that she did not regret doing so.

"You just need to sign here," Coley said. "Unless you have any objections."

He held the clipboard out to Karen, indicating a line. His hand also held a pen. Karen took it from him, removed the cap, then paused.

"What else does this mean?" she asked, tapping the paper.

Coley chuckled again, and again Karen did not care for the sound.

"Nothing," he said. "I know you may be suspicious, but please trust me when I say we're not going to fuck you over. You're making money for us, Ms. Ruiz. Right here, right now, just by being alive you are making money for us. We could jack you around on a contract, but if you challenged anything you sign today we'd stand no chance in court. You probably shouldn't be signing anything, but the sooner these things get taken care of, the sooner we can get back to making sure we all get the best deal out of this we can. We want you to succeed, Ms. Ruiz, because that will mean our success as well."

Karen eyed the paper. What Coley said made sense, but that did not mean she felt comfortable blindly signing it. Coley waited a moment, then sighed and reached into his pocket. Karen couldn't see what he did, but thirty seconds later the door opened and Doctor Moreau entered. She shut the door behind her, quietly, which meant there might still be other people waiting in the wings.

"We need a witness anyways," Coley explained. Doctor Moreau smiled at Karen, who did not return the expression. Still, she felt comforted by the woman's presence. While it was obviously a ploy designed to quell her uneasiness, it was still effective. Moreau was someone who'd been on her side from the start. Karen didn't think that had been an act.

"It's just emancipation papers, Karen," Moreau said. She sat on the bed next to Karen, close enough to be a comforting presence without invading Karen's personal space.

Karen hesitated another few seconds, then signed the paper. Her signature was loose and sloppy to the point of being nearly illegible, a far cry from her generally serviceable handwriting, but neither of the others seemed to mind. Both signed on other lines. Coley dated everything.

"There," Coley said. "That wasn't so bad, was it? Welcome to the adult world. You can now control your own property and resources, which brings me to the next matter."

He flipped the emancipation paperwork over, revealing the next document in the stack. Karen was more awake now, but the writing on these new sheets made no more sense than the blurs had before.

"These documents discuss your financial resources as they relate to SOTF-TV," Coley said. "Winners are entitled to the rights to their images and royalties for the use of their likenesses and such, to a point. I won't bore you with the technicalities, but suffice to say we've got the rights to everything already produced, with you getting a minor cut. What these papers offer you is a larger chunk of that profit, in exchange for licensing your image for other projects in the future, which you will also receive a generous share of the proceeds from. It allows you to negotiate your own deals with other corporations, cut endorsements, whatever, and the profits from that will be all yours, except if our brand is involved, in which case we'll be the ones getting a cut. It's a symbiotic relationship that we've had great success with in the past."

Moreau shifted a little. Karen stared at the writing.

"We're offering you more than typical," Coley continued. "You were a presence, one of the most visible people this season. Right now, you're big, and we want to capitalize on that. Like I said, we all stand to make a lot of money here."

"How much?" Karen asked.

Coley smiled and named a figure Karen's entire family couldn't have made if they worked at their jobs full time for ten years.

"And that's just to start," he said. "You sign this, that's yours on the spot. I'd say you'll see ten, fifteen times that in the next few days. More when the DVDs come out, when you cut merchandising deals, when they put you in video games. You'll be set."

Karen glanced at Moreau, who merely nodded. She then looked back at Coley, who was smiling. He seemed pretty sure of himself.

"What's the catch?" Karen said. The pain in her head was making itself known again, threatening to drown out all other thought, a dull throbbing behind her eyes. She didn't want to be dealing with this now, but doubted they would leave her alone until everything was settled.

Coley's grin didn't falter.

"Nothing serious," he said. "Your contract with us is voided if you decide to become an outspoken protester of our show. You can say whatever you want about your time on the island, but you start calling for us to be shut down and you stop making half as much. I don't think you'll have too much trouble keeping your mouth shut, though."

Karen considered that for a moment.

"Well?" Coley asked.

"I want something else," she said. Her voice was quiet but firm. It was taking a lot of energy to stay focused, but this was important. It was an idea that came to her in a split second, an intuition more than anything else, but since as it flitted across her consciousness it assumed an air of vital importance. Coley and Moreau were both looking at her now, both suddenly paying a lot more attention than they had been a moment ago. Coley looked like he was trying very hard to keep his good humor after she'd pulled him off script. Moreau was unreadable.

"We can talk," he said. "We can always negotiate further after you sign the initial contract."

"No," Karen said. "I want this before I sign anything else."

Moreau's lips quirked up at the edges, just a hint. Coley looked a good deal less impressed. Karen took a deep breath, then turned to look out the window. It was a nice day outside. The sky was blue and clear, free of the haze that would have hung in the air back in Detroit. She did not know what state she was in, let alone city. In fact, she could only deduce for sure that she was in the United States by the fact that legal documents were in play.

"What do you want?" Colely said. "We can see if it's something we can do."

Karen tried to force herself to focus. This was important. It was the most important thing she had to do, because it was the only way she'd be able to rest easily.

"I want a contract," she said. "It will say that I am never to be put back into your program, and that none of my family will be either."

Moreau's lips had formed a full-on smile now. Coley just seemed stunned. For a few seconds, they were frozen in a tableau, the only motion Karen's eyes flicking between the faces of the other two. Slowly, Coley's returned to an expression of general bemusement.

"I don't see why you'd want that," he said. "Nobody's ever been put back on the island. Once you win, you're done. I can't recall ever going back for family members of a winner, either."

"Then this will be easy," Karen said.

"Easy, but pointless," Coley said. "You're asking for reassurances because you're ignorant of how we operate here. I don't want to waste either of our time, or the time of my lawyers, with flights of fancy."

"I want that contract," Karen said. She let her voice drop and flatten now, let it assume that same tone she'd used the few times she'd spoken to opponents on the island. She locked eyes with Coley, and she realized, as he adjusted his tie and glanced away, that he might actually be afraid of her. Here he was, sitting across from a girl who had murdered ten people in the last half week, and now he was definitely off script.

The silence dragged. Moreau's smile was gone. Karen kept her gaze fixed on Coley, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then finally composed himself a little. He took a breath and let out a half-chuckle and forced a smile back to his face. When he spoke, his tone was smooth and conciliatory.

"We can get that for you," he said. "It's silly, but we can get it for you after you sign the contract."

"Before," Karen said.

For a moment, Coley looked like he was going to shout at her, but instead he took a deep breath, stood, and said, "I'll be back in half an hour. Then we can get things settled."

He nodded at Moreau, and they both left the room. Moreau gave Karen a little wave. The door fell closed behind them, leaving her alone again.

Karen closed her eyes, considering for a moment letting the fatigue overtake her again, but instead forced herself to alertness after a few seconds. She reached out and grabbed the cane from beside the bed, then used it to pull herself upright. She stood beside the bed for a time, trying to make sure she could keep her balance. She was definitely still not feeling particularly good, but since waking her memory had seemed fairly stable, at least. Her emotions were still a mess, rolling and shifting as she considered the exchange, but she could force them to the back of her attention. She was struck by a brief burst of nausea, and with it came a flash of remembrance, a recollection of the hill where she had awoken covered in blood, trapped under Jhamel's headless corpse.

She thought she was going to be sick, but the feeling passed. Using the cane for support, Karen made her way to the bathroom. Inside, she locked the door, used the toilet, and then looked around. There was a towel hanging up beside the shower, alongside another robe. Karen slipped out of hers, trying to ignore the places where it was stained by dried blood that had flaked off her skin, trying to ignore the sickly bruises covering her body, and stepped into the shower, not bothering to slip out of her undergarments. They were in need of a cleaning too, and she wasn't convinced that there weren't cameras here, as well.

She turned the water on hot, then took the shampoo and conditioner and just sat on the floor of the shower, knees pulled to her chest, letting the water pour over her. The drops stung and ached where they hit her back, slightly too hot and painful on her bruises and skin, but she stayed silent. The only noise came from the spatter of droplets on tile and skin. Her bandages were waterproof, fortunately. After a time, she shampooed, applied conditioner, and toweled herself off as best she could, coughing a little in the steam. She'd forgotten to turn on the fan, so the mirror was entirely fogged. She didn't bother clearing a spot. She put the fresh robe on, leaving the dirty one lying on the floor along with the towel. Using the cane for support once again, she hobbled back into the room and returned to bed.

There was a clock on the wall. Karen hadn't noticed that earlier. She wasn't sure how long it had been since Coley and Moreau had left, wasn't sure how long she'd taken getting cleaned up. She was still somewhat damp, and shivered a little, even though the air was warm here. She pulled the covers over her, and that helped a little, though her hair still dripped on her shoulders.

Five minutes later, Moreau and Coley reappeared. They had a contract all ready, and Karen signed it, and she signed the other paperwork they gave her, too. She wasn't entirely sure what all of it was, and she didn't trust it, but her energy and confidence had abandoned her and she was pretty sure they wouldn't try to pull anything too terrible over on her. When they left, she lay back on the pillow and closed her eyes, and even though she had only been awake for a little over an hour, she fell into a deep sleep once again.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 27th, 2013, 5:23 am #4

The next time Karen awoke, the door was opening once again, but at least this time she managed to come to consciousness before someone was right beside her. She expected to see one of the others back again with some new piece of paper for her to sign, or maybe some more medical tests. Instead, the figure who entered through the door was the man with the scars, the man from the helicopter. He'd been there during several parts of her examination, but Karen had not given him much thought. He was familiar, but it was only now, in this new context, that she remembered where she knew him from.

She had seen him on TV, on the news, she thought, not so very long ago. Karen didn't avoid the news, but she didn't seek it out, either. A few times a year, however, it was inescapable, updates cutting into everything, video of ceremonies and interviews with all kinds of people, and this man had been the focus of that hype machine, the same one that was surely shifting into gear again even now.

He'd come through a season of this too.

"Hey, you're up," He said. "I've been by a couple of times, but mostly they wanted me to just shut up and let 'em work." He stopped for a second, nodded. "I'm Jared. Your mentor. You probably don't remember, but I was there when we brought you off the island."

Karen blinked a few times and rubbed some gunk from her eyes. Like last time, she was aware of some pain. For a moment she was overcome by worry out of nowhere: had they been drugging her? She knew that painkillers could affect judgement, and wondered just what she had agreed to earlier. She felt clear headed, though. She felt aware. She was feeling more herself, which was a relief after everything else.

"I remember," she said, forcing herself to pay attention to the situation at hand. She tried to smile again. It felt a little flat. "Thanks."

Jared seemed a little sheepish for a moment, shuffling his feet; she was struck by how young he looked. Early twenties at best. It shouldn't have been a surprise, of course; he'd only come through this a few years ago, and must have been around her age at the time.

"Welcome... though, it kind've occurs to me I never really actually spoke to you that much. Too busy trying to keep your teammates in line—but, ah... that's not what I came here to talk about." He stopped again and glanced to the side, before heaving a big sigh. "I'll be honest: I'm not really great with this emotional bunk, but I've been where you are right now, and if you need... well, what I'm saying is that I get it. That's all."

This time, Karen's smile came easier. She could relate to not being too great at emotional expression, at least in these circumstances. She could also believe that Jared knew what she was going through. She hadn't ever watched the show, but she had a loose recollection from all the press coverage, or maybe just a hunch based on what little she'd observed of him, that he hadn't come through it with his hands clean either. A week ago, sitting in a room with a killer would have made Karen very uncomfortable. Now, it made her feel more at home, certainly more so than spending time with doctors and businessmen. Here, there was a bit of common ground.

She tried to think of something to say, not really because the silence was awkward but because she was curious about this man and didn't want him to leave right away, which was quite a possible outcome if he really was anything like her. She tried to think of a subtle way to indicate that he could stay for a bit, and came up dry. She'd never been good at small talk, so she fell back on the subject that was probably on both of their minds.

"I thought they might leave me," Karen said. After a beat, she gestured at the bed. "Sit?"

Jared frowned.

"If they'd even thought about doing that I..." he trailed off, shook his head, and sat down at the foot of the bed. "I'd have raised hell. There were a couple murmurs about it when you got to like... seven or eight, and I called it what it was: bullshit. You don't tell someone there's a ticket off and then snatch it away for 'drama'." When he scowled, the mass of scar tissue on his cheek twisted horribly. "In the end, I just told 'em that half the reason ratings were so high were 'cause of you, and if you took away the thing that had got you going, they'd alienate the fans. You have to talk 'moneyese' to get through to any of those boneheads."

"Thanks," Karen said again. She tried not to think too hard about that. Her life had been in the hands of people who were every bit as untrustworthy as she'd expected. In the end, they'd gone with what they'd promised, but probably only because it had been the most economically viable option. If it had been cheaper, she'd quite likely have been left to continue to fight, and she'd known even at the time that maintaining her pace in the long term was not a viable option. She'd chosen to gamble, and she'd won, but right here was a reminder that in the end it had been a bet.

She didn't want to consider that too deeply. To her slight surprise, she realized that she did not have to. Confronting unpleasant truths had been required to survive for the past few days. Now, they could be brushed aside until later and it wouldn't hurt. Death was not around every corner.

It was just another little thing that had changed, another thing that she'd have never considered before being selected. She felt her face fall for a moment, and saw a flicker on Jared's face. He was observant, that was for sure. Rather than delving too deeply into her own feelings, Karen fell back on one of her older tricks from school, hoping to divert any concern he might otherwise feel obliged to express by cutting in with a question. People could usually be counted on to talk about themselves some, given the opportunity.

"What was it like for you?" she asked. No need to be more specific: she figured, with a man like Jared, whatever he naturally said would likely be the most interesting result anyways.

Jared laughed, a short bark that didn't have a lot of humor in it.

"Sucked. Completely sucked. Made the best of things, but... I spent the best part of a week with my face torn open. Lay in a pool of my own blood for hours, cause I was too scared to move—and they call it amazing 'cause I got the jump on some people by doing it. What a joke, huh?" He shrugged. "I was just doing what I had to, not thinking people would like me for it."

That was something to consider. Karen had assumed, prior to her release, that she was unpopular. Her conversation with the executives had revealed that she was apparently at least notable enough to be worth some money. The thought that people might idolize her for her actions, however, was extremely disconcerting. Karen was well aware that she had not made moral decisions. She had done what she had to, just like Jared said he had. That was not something to be celebrated.

Karen just nodded. Jared surely knew that she could relate, and she didn't need to say anything that might come across as judgmental. She was in no position to moralize to him; he didn't seem cruel, and he'd gone to some personal effort to see her life saved.

"Course... there's the other side of the coin—it's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about, actually. The TV execs, they don't want people, they want characters, they want personalities. You'll get a couple of interviews, a chance to have your say... and then they'll go ahead and present you however the heck they want. You are gonna be their bad guy, 'cause it's a hell of a lot easier to make someone into a villain than it is a hero. It sucks, but... you have to remember that you are who you are, not who they say you are, you know?"

Again, that gave Karen something to think about. Then again, she didn't think it would be that difficult for her. She'd chosen her path, after all, and she had come to terms with what it might mean for her future. She knew that many people would hate her for what she'd done. She was likely to be widely reviled, by all except a few. Maybe that was even where any popularity she had sprang from. Certainly, she'd lost a lot personally. She knew she would probably never be able to rekindle relationships with the people who had been important to her.

Being alive made that okay.

"I think so," she said. "Did they call you a villain?"

Jared laughed again, but this time it was fuller, more genuine.

"They like to call me a 'survivor', which translated means 'Too much of a dick to be a good guy, not enough of a dick to be a villain.' Good moneyspinner for them—you can present it both ways, double the revenue." He shook his head with a wry little smile. "They're making a movie of my season, wanted my input on the script. I said I didn't care, I had another gig. This gig."

Karen nodded again. She still couldn't quite wrap her head around being a public figure. She had probably signed away rights to all sorts of things. More than likely, her image would be making the rounds for a long time. She wasn't exactly thrilled by the prospect. She had always enjoyed a comfortable level of anonymity, and now she was known across the country, maybe even the world. She wondered what it would be like to go to the supermarket and know that the people looking at her all knew she had killed ten teenagers. Then again, maybe she was rich enough now to pay somebody to shop for her.

That was another thing that would take a lot of getting used to.

The scarred man was quiet for a few seconds. The room was quiet and still, but there was no feeling of pressure, and when he once again spoke it seemed to be because he had more to say, not out of any need to fill the gaps.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that when you've got a whole bunch of people saying you're one thing or another thing, it's easy to lose track. You wouldn't think that right now, but seriously, things blur after a while. You just gotta remember... if you look out there in five or ten or however many years, and there's Karen Ruiz the movie or 'Team Deathmatch' the DVD or something like that... the Karen Ruiz they're talking about is just a character. Not you. They don't know you. You do."

What Jared said made sense. It even cast some of her experiences on the island in a new light. She'd known that many of the others were playing to the cameras. Had they internalized that idea, of acting and being a character? Was that why they had died?

Karen had not been acting. That was what made it tough. She had never really lost hold of herself. Jared probably understood that. She could use what he said, though. Nobody else knew what went through her head. In a way, nobody else knew her at all, and it had probably always been that way. All she was hearing was that nothing would change in that status quo.

She could live with that.

"Thanks," she said, once more.

Jared nodded, then rose, groping in his jacket pocket and producing a small rectangle, which he handed to her.

"My card," he said, by way of explanation. "If you need advice on dealing with anything that comes up... well, chances are I probably went through it already." He moved for the door, then paused, hovering alongside with one hand on the frame. "Don't be a stranger. Or do, if you prefer; you don't owe me anything.

You don't owe anyone anything."

And he was gone.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 27th, 2013, 5:23 am #5

After Jared left, Karen sat for a time. She wasn't tired anymore, at least not enough for her fatigue to overcome the soreness she still felt. Her medication was probably starting to wear off. Maybe it had run its course hours ago. She wasn't sure. Nobody had offered her more. Hopefully that meant she didn't need it.

Her emotions were no longer so erratic. Anger and fear and sadness still came in flashes, but she could now control them better. She was not feeling good, and she was not feeling normal, but she at least felt mostly like herself. That was a start. Karen had a life to reconstruct now. She had a future to consider. Finding some center was important for that. She was slowly coming to accept that she'd made it, that it had all paid off in the end.

She sat and thought for a while, not really following any train of musing to any notable conclusion, and then there was a knock at the door. It didn't have a lock. Karen didn't say anything. A few seconds later, the person knocked again, and upon receiving no answer opened the door a crack and peeked in. Seeing Karen awake and upright, the newcomer entered.

She was a short, heavyset woman, not old but definitely past her youth. She was dressed in a clean, formal beige suit, and wore a minimal silver necklace and stud earrings. Her blond hair was short, and her eyes dark blue. She was wearing a bit of makeup, smartly applied. She examined Karen intently, closing the door behind her.

"Hello, Karen," she said. Her tone was passably warm, if a bit detached. She smiled a little. "I'm Susan Crawford. You may have heard of me."

Karen had not heard of her. Her expression must have communicated that, because Crawford's face fell a little. Still, she moved up and sat at the foot of the bed. Karen shifted her legs away from Crawford and sat up a little straighter.

"I was the mentor of Green Team," Crawford said. "I'm also against SOTF-TV, rather strongly. I wrote a few books about it. Have you read them, by any chance?"

"No," Karen said. She did not say that she had largely attempted to ignore SOTF-TV until she was chosen. It had always struck her as nothing more than a way to lose sleep, a thing that felt bad and wrong but not in any way that lent itself to change. Karen had been baffled by the fascination in the show her classmates had evidenced.

"You should check them out," Crawford said. "They might prove interesting to someone with your... perspective."

She chuckled a little. It sounded forced, even to Karen.

"You're probably wondering why I'm here. I mean, here specifically, but also why I chose to involve myself in the show, since I hate it so much."

She looked to Karen, who did not reply. Karen wasn't sure what angle Crawford was working. She didn't particularly care. The woman seemed like she'd turned up with a script in mind, and like she wasn't about to let Karen's disinterest in following it stop her from speaking her lines.

"I was surprised when they offered me a spot. They know I don't care for them, and they aren't stupid. I'm sure they brought me here to make fun of me, and I know that some people will do so. I know that some people who look up to me have been horrified by this, that they feel I've turned my back on our cause. I accept that. If one more person listens to what I say, though, if one more person turns against this travesty, then it will be worth it. The more voices there are speaking out, saying this is bad, the more likely someone is to eventually stop it. It won't be quick, but there will be a reckoning. The bastards who brainwashed our country into thinking murder is entertainment will be punished."

As she spoke, Crawford seemed to lose focus on Karen. Her gaze wandered to the wall, and her speech grew more impassioned. Her left hand curled into a fist. Karen's face was hurting, a slight stinging tingle under the bandages along the left side, where the boy had hit her with the gun. She thought he might have been on the Green Team. It was difficult to remember. She'd picked up at least one green bandanna, certainly.

"It will all come crashing down," Crawford said. "The more people speak up, the sooner that can happen.

"My sister was taken, you know. Erin Crawford, Season Twenty-Eight. Third to die. She got caught an hour into the version, but didn't die for four more. It was very slow, but you can find the highlights online. The guy who got her, he made it another day. A lot of people were surprised and upset he didn't last longer. I'll never understand why the crazy ones get so far, how some of them even make it out."

She blinked a few times, wrinkled her nose, and then turned to look at Karen again. The hint of a smile was back. Her eyes focused on Karen, flicked over her face, seemed to size her up.

"But you, you're not crazy, are you? I watched you. Everyone did, once you got started. Before the game, most of the mentors thought you were the weak link in the Purple Team. They looked at your file and said you'd die first. They asked Clayton how he felt about you, and he just smiled at them. Then you started killing.

"I don't hold it against you. You're a victim, you know. Just as much as anyone else, you suffered because of the nation's lust for bloodshed. You didn't fight like someone who enjoyed it. You didn't make things take longer than they had to or toy with anybody. I'm sure they'd thank you for that."

Karen doubted that was true.

"You were interesting, different. You're something the nation hasn't quite seen before. Karen, you do know you're in the public eye now, don't you?"

"Yes," Karen said. Crawford blinked. She looked almost confused, as though by speaking Karen had thrown her off her step. She quickly recovered and continued.

"Yes. You are. People want to know more about you. They want to know who you are, why you did what you did. You said you didn't want to die. People can relate to that. You didn't... enjoy your time on the island, did you?"

"No," Karen said.

"Of course you didn't. Nobody could." Crawford's voice had turned motherly, but with an edge of condescension. "You can tell people that. You have clout. Right now, you're probably one of the biggest surviving symbols of the show. If you make noise, you can make a difference. You can change the world. You didn't want to, but the fact remains that you murdered ten kids. Why not do something to make up for that, find a little redemption?"

Karen opened her mouth, but Crawford kept talking.

"I know that those families will never forgive you, but maybe you'll be able to sleep at night if you do something. Maybe you'll be able to look yourself in the mirror. You've given up a lot to get here, and now you can actually make those kids' sacrifices mean something. You can make people, the fans of this so-called show, listen to you in a way I was foolish to think I could. You can save far more lives than you took."

"I sleep fine," Karen said.

"What?" Crawford had that look again, the one that told Karen the conversation was not going how she'd expected.

"I don't feel guilty," Karen clarified. "I'm not going to do what you want."

Crawford's expression changed quickly, sliding through disbelief straight to outrage. Her voice had a quiver to it, but nothing more.

"Really?" she said. "You're going to throw all those lives away, so, what, you can make some money?" She nearly spat the last word. "That's what matters to you? Those other kids were just as scared as you. They had every right to live, just like you did. You're telling me they died just so you could cash in?"

"Yes," Karen said. She shouldn't have, probably; her mood had swung again, though, and she felt a surge of annoyance at this woman who came and tried to tell her she was a good person and then recoiled in horror when Karen told her the truth. Karen could tell that she'd been sized up as a tool, found attractive, and that what she wanted hadn't figured into that calculation. It was pragmatic opportunism, a form no different from that of Coley and the producers, just towards a different end.

"Why?" Crawford's voice no longer held more than the barest shred of self control. Its volume had increased, nearly to a yell, but it still seemed like she was trying to hold onto some self control. "Tell me that, at least. Why won't you do the right thing? Why not do something good?"

"It's not my fight," Karen said. "If I help you, I get nothing. Maybe they have me killed. I spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. Nothing changes. That's not what I want."

Crawford looked aghast. It didn't stop her from speaking. She was yelling, now.

"Fine. Fine, if that's all you care about. I thought someone who lived through it might have a little perspective and empathy, but I guess that's too fucking much to ask for from a sociopath."

She stood, took two steps towards the door, and then turned back to yell at Karen some more.

"I was wrong about you. I should have known I was wrong. Only a monster could murder ten kids and walk away from that. If you'd had a fucking shred of decency in whatever passes for your soul, you'd have let that boy kill you—no, you'd have killed yourself. You're just some animal, trying to take all you can and damn whoever gets in your way. Well, you'll get what you want. I can only pray that one day, when you're old and alone, you'll realize it doesn't mean anything. All you've ever brought to the world is pain and suffering, and that will be your legacy. Someday they'll put scum like you on trial, and I hope I get to testify and send you to the chair."

Crawford waited, breathing heavily, looking at Karen. Karen stayed silent. She met Crawford's gaze, and she gave the woman a little smile.

"Fuck you," Crawford snarled, and stormed out of the room. She slammed the door behind her.

Karen sat for a while, trying to get her feelings back in order. Mostly, what she was left with was a lack of reaction. Crawford had gotten her riled up a bit, but with the woman gone, that slid away and left her feeling alright. It was, she realized, because she had been telling the truth. Crawford had been the same as Jhamel, and probably so many others: she had made the assumption that Karen had somehow not been aware of the moral ramifications of her choices, that she had gone ahead with something she would never have done had she been in her proper senses, that now she surely felt some need to redeem herself and cleanse herself of her sins on the island.

Redemption was a strange concept to Karen. At its heart, it either implied a need for forgiveness and approval from others or a need to restore personal self-regard. It was, she suspected, the result of people acting without thinking, doing things they could not mesh with their own self image. It was a strange thought to her, that someone would do supposedly good things to try to wash away their bad. It felt like an easy out, a way for people to cut themselves a blank check for misbehavior as long as they later felt bad and tried to atone. It was a scary worldview.

She let those thoughts go and tried to think a little more about what came next. It was still a bit hard to imagine. In the end, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep some more, but it was a while before she was able to drift off.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 27th, 2013, 6:02 am #6

When next Karen woke, she was pretty sure it was night. The light coming through the window was faint and diffused. She could not read the clock. There was a hand resting on her head. It was warm and a little dry. For a moment, she blinked, trying to force her double vision back to normal. Her head did not hurt as badly now, and she hadn't had any lapses since her first few hours here, but she was still disoriented. Still, she managed to avoid letting her breathing quicken too much as she tried to take in what was happening.

There was a boy standing there, above her. He was tall and blond and Karen knew who he was. He was holding a bouquet. Karen tensed. He set the flowers down on the end table beside her bed.

"For you," Mason said. "Get well present."

He walked over to the one chair in the room, against the wall about five feet from the bed. Karen's backpack was resting on it. Somebody must have moved it there from the floor while she slept. Her cane was leaning against her bed. The closet door had been closed. Mason pulled the chair over next to the bed, dislodging the backpack, which landed heavily. The chair's legs made a light scraping sound on the floor. It was dark, for the most part, the only light besides that from the window coming from the bathroom, the door to which was open just a sliver. Karen must have left that light on earlier, after her shower.

Mason settled into the chair, leaning forward so his elbows were propped on his knees.

"I told you I'd see you again, chica," he said.

Karen pushed herself upright so that she leaned against the head of the bed again, in the same position she'd taken during each of her other meetings. She watched Mason the whole time. This felt strange. She was thrown by his sudden appearance, thrown by what his presence meant. It was easy to remember him. She could recall very clearly why she hadn't shot him.

He'd been crying. He'd been crying and raging at the world, and she'd seen him and had nearly shot him in the back of the head but had hesitated because, at that point in time, she'd still believed that she was only killing people who posed threats to her, and Mason had clearly been harmless.

She didn't know what was more disturbing: that she would have shot him without a second thought a day later, or that she had clearly misjudged just how dangerous a person he was.

Karen took a deep breath and rubbed her right eye, wiping a bit of gunk on the covers without really thinking about it.

"I'm surprised," she said, voice flat. Was he expecting her to greet him warmly? They hadn't parted on particularly amicable terms, but the world was different now. They weren't opponents anymore.

Mason had a look in his eyes as he watched her, and a little smile on his face. He didn't look very happy, though.

"About what? Me living?" he said, leaning back against the backrest. "Makes two of us, I guess. Never got to see if your theory about the teams was real or not."

For just an instant, his voice was wavering like it had back on the island. Karen thought he might burst into tears, and didn't really know what to do about it. It passed.

"In the end, I'm all that's left," he said. "Other than you."

With that last word, his eyes focused, gaining some intensity. Karen just watched him. He was working up to something here, building to a point, just like everyone did. Karen had always known that people didn't talk unless they were getting something out of it, and Mason, like many others, seemed to use verbalization to help himself sort things through and find understanding.

He locked eyes with her. The intensity was still there, and Karen didn't like it. She became aware that she'd been staring.

"Nothing to say?" Mason said. "Guess you didn't talk much on the island. Why the fuck start now?"

He scooted the chair closer. Karen backed up and away, as much as she could, more on instinct than anything else. She dimly felt the covers slide off her, but she was far too focused on Mason to pay it any mind.

"They offer you endorsements and merchandising rights and all that shit?" he asked.

"Yes," Karen said. For about half a second, she was still too off guard to realize that he was probably fishing for her to return the question. In truth, she didn't care what they'd offered Mason, which of them had gotten a better deal. She wasn't that concerned with any of it, but it was only polite to fake, so she added, "You?"

"Beretta wants to make a custom set of handguns. Call 'em Mase-93R's. Corny, if you ask me," Mason said. As he spoke, he kept his focus on her, eyes never straying from hers. Karen held his gaze for a couple moments, but glanced to the side every few seconds. She didn't do well with this sort of thing, this kind of intense personal conversation. She couldn't tell if Mason's eye contact was expressing passion or if it was some kind of challenge, and she wasn't sure what either would merit as a response.

He looked focused, like he was making some kind of decision.

"There's shirts, basketballs," he continued. "Someone bought the rights to my run. Might make it into a TV miniseries."

He followed that up with a bitter laugh.

"Let's hope HBO doesn't pick it up. They'll throw in a bunch of inexplicable sex scenes."

Karen was probably supposed to laugh. She didn't think it was all that funny, but humor had never been her primary coping mechanism. She didn't change her expression. Mason shook his head. He looked disappointed.

"You have all the conversational skills of a chunk of concrete." He took a breath. "Don't you want to know why I'm here?"

"Not really," Karen said, not as strongly as she wanted to. Was it obvious that she was lying? The question had been hanging over her since he'd turned up. Now, though, Mason was offering her the answer. Karen didn't trust that. He wanted her to care why he'd come, and that meant she might be better off if she didn't. She glanced to the side, ever so quickly, taking stock of her surroundings: cane by the bed, backpack on the floor, flowers on the end table. Karen shifted a little. Her body was still sore and sluggish. The aftereffects of the painkillers were probably still dulling her reactions, or maybe she was just slow because her muscles were so stiff.

Mason stood. He tilted his head to the side, and it gave a little pop. Karen managed not to wince.

"It's simple enough, anyway," he said, looking down at her.

He was tall, she realized. It hadn't been so evident on the island, but Mason stood well over six feet.

"There's ten people's lives you got to answer for, way I see it. Ten kids in the ground."

Karen's eyes widened. In that moment, she knew she'd been right to worry. Mason was relaxed, loose. Karen was tense, wound up too tight. This was not the right way for the situation to go. She realized that she should have seen something like this coming, should have prepared, and yet it had never even crossed her mind that someone could react like this after all they had been through.

"I just wanna make sure you do," Mason said. Karen blinked once.

They moved at around the same time, but Mason was faster and in a better position. Karen made a grab for the cane, the only object close at hand. Her fingers brushed it but couldn't quite grasp it, instead knocking it over to skitter across the floor. Mason managed a bit better, yanking the pillow out from behind her. His other hand grabbed her by the shoulder. Karen tried to break free, but Mason was stronger and in a better position, and he was able to force her down, pinning her neck to the bed. Karen opened her mouth, belatedly realizing that screaming for help was an option with a realistic chance of success now, but Mason brought the pillow around and forced it down on her.

It took Karen only an instant to realize that her breath had been cut off. She hadn't taken a good breath before, either, hadn't seen this coming. Mason had to know he wouldn't get away with this. Karen was almost certain there were cameras in here, or at least along the route he'd taken to her room. People would know that he was the last one to visit her. There would be no doubt what had transpired. This was not the island. Mason's actions would have consequences for him, maybe drastic ones.

To her horror, the possibility came to her that he might not care.

She tried to kick, to jerk her head loose, but she couldn't get a breath. Her arms weren't in a good position to claw at him. Her fingernails weren't long anyways. Her head was pounding, from the bruises but also from the burning slowly building in her lungs. She could feel her heartbeat in her ears, in her neck, a pounding getting faster and faster and still not bringing any air to her brain.

Karen had held her breath a few times when she was younger, just to see if she could. She'd never made it past a minute, and had always known that no matter how much it might sting or tingle, there was always a rush of air coming at the end to clear her head and bring things back to normal.

Now, there was no relief coming. Her lungs didn't feel like they were burning, even though that was what she'd always heard suffocation described as. Instead, she felt a pressure, like she needed to both inhale and exhale and the same time, and very badly. She went limp for a moment, then threw her full weight against Mason again, trying to take him by surprise, but he just held on. It was becoming difficult to think. She wasn't strategizing well.

"How's it fucking feel?"

The words were distant, just at the edge of her hearing, muffled by the pillow but still audible through the pounding in her ears.

"This feel right? Was this fucking worth it?"

The world was fading to black. She'd closed her eyes against the pillow, but there was a deeper darkness there at the edges now, creeping in. Karen was trying to push harder, but her limbs weren't responding as well as they had even seconds ago. She couldn't focus. There was pain, all over, from her bruises and from her head and most of all from her lungs. It was still that horrible pressure, and now it felt like there was no way it would ever be better, no way it ever had been better.

The darker black crept in further and further, and she couldn't even struggle right anymore.

Then the blackness was complete.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 28th, 2013, 5:28 am #7

Light flashed into Karen's vision, bright as day by comparison to that deep black she had become lost in. Air flooded into her lungs, just like when she'd held her breath when she was younger, so much air she didn't know what to do with it. She sucked in a massive gulp and coughed, choked.

"Ah... God. I can't... I just fucking can't."

Mason was sitting on the chair again. His face was buried in his hands. He was mumbling to himself. Karen didn't care. She coughed and sputtered, and each breath lessened the pressure crushing her chest just a little, but it was still there and she couldn't possibly breathe quickly enough to erase it. The pounding was still there in her ears and head and chest. She was sweating profusely, and now the cold that brought was becoming apparent to her.

The wait until her breathing returned to an almost stable level seemed to exist outside of time. Mason sat and sobbed, and Karen took deep breaths, and she wiped at her face and found tears running down her cheeks. She propped herself up against the head of the bed again. The covers had fallen off entirely somewhere in there, and the robe left her legs exposed from the knee down. She could feel goosebumps forming. She groped around the bed with her right hand, stopping as she realized that not only was she not finding what she was looking for, she wasn't even quite sure what she was seeking.

The whole time, she watched Mason. She was tense again, but the adrenaline was pumping hard. If he made another move toward her, Karen thought she'd throw herself off the side of the bed and take her chance trying to make it to the door. Jhamel had been nothing compared to this. She had, for the first time, found a way she wanted to die less than any other way. The specter of that pressure chilled her.

Mason was looking around the room, unfocused, his eyes brushing over things without his gaze ever centering. Finally, when Karen's lungs hurt less and when her eyes were clear of tears, he focused on her face once again, and his own features shifted a bit as he seemed to return to reality.

"So..." Mason said, then let out a strange little chuckle that drowned whatever he'd been trying to say. A second later, he recovered enough to get words out. "What... uh... what now?"

Karen straightened herself up. She wasn't sure if he was mocking her at first, but he looked genuine. She had no idea how to respond, how to deal with this. After a while, she said the first coherent thing that came to mind.

"I guess... we move on."

"That's it?" Mason sounded almost incredulous. Silence reigned for a few seconds. Karen didn't dare break it. After a brief pause, Mason gathered himself together.

"I guess I'll see you around?" he said.

Karen nodded.

"See you around," she said. She had a crazy impulse to tack on a "No hard feelings," but she didn't.

Mason didn't say anything else either, just stood, gave her a little half wave, and left. He didn't look back. Karen slumped against the bed frame. She was shivering, still soaked in sweat, but now she felt hot. For a long time, she just lay there, half expecting Mason to come back and take another shot at her or for someone else to come crawling through the door with a gun, ready to attack her.

Nobody came.

After a while, Karen stood. She stumbled to the bathroom and ran the cold water, splashing it over her face, washing the tear tracks away. Some clarity returned, and she became acutely aware of her headache. The bandaging on the left side of her face hadn't been disturbed, and while she half wanted to prod at the wounds to make sure nothing had been torn, she didn't.

After a few minutes of staring in the mirror, Karen made her way back into her bedroom. She shut all the doors and turned on the light and picked up the cane and sat down on the bed. She ran her hands over it, twisted, and sure enough it came apart with a few turns. Her hands shook more as she slid the blade out, letting the body clatter to the ground. The sword was light and sharp. She looked at it for a little, and then she picked the rest of Kathy's cane back up and screwed it together again.

Karen used it to give herself some support as she stood this time, no longer feeling much of the adrenaline that had propelled her to the bathroom minutes before. She pushed the chair back into its rough original position, and hefted her backpack, pausing as she found it oddly full and weighty. Instead of putting it on the chair, she carried it to the bed. Sitting back down, she opened the backpack and let its contents spill out.

Somebody had rifled through it, clearly. Through the tears and bullet holes, Karen could see that something large had been stuffed in. She pulled the black fabric, and out came her coat. The colorful bandannas were once again tied around the left arm, and the whole thing felt cleaner. The bloodstains seemed to be gone. Karen could see some darker, thicker spots at the shoulder. Somebody must have gone in and patched the rips.

She shook the coat out, and the Glock dropped from it.

Karen jolted. The gun lay there, on her bed. She was surprised to see it. She'd figured the cane could have been a simple oversight. She suspected that the producers might think her dangerous, given the way Coley had acted around her. Leaving her with weapons was risky. What if, like Mason, she'd gone past the point of caring what happened to her?

She picked up the Glock, feeling its familiar weight. It wasn't as heavy as it had usually been on the island, and as Karen released the clip, she saw why.

There was only one bullet loaded. She'd fired all the others. That bullet had been floating around loose in her pocket, though. Someone, for some reason, had loaded it into the clip. She slid the clip back into the Glock, then pulled the slide, chambering the round.

What were they playing at? Were they hoping she'd attack someone and get gunned down? Would that sort of publicity be good for the producers? Were they expecting, perhaps, that she would shoot herself instead, rather than live a life where someone like Mason might come after her at any time to try for revenge?

Karen pulled the slide again, ejecting the bullet onto the covers. She picked it up and rolled it between her fingers, then flicked it away. It landed on the floor and rolled noisily out of sight under the heater. She could hear it clunk against the wall.

She put the Glock back in the backpack, noticing as she did that Kathy's journal was in there too. Everything else was gone. Karen let the backpack fall to the ground by the bed, and dropped her coat on top of it, and lay back down and pulled the covers close around her. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but she wasn't tired at all.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 28th, 2013, 5:46 am #8

After that, things got a little easier. A few days later, and Karen was in even better control of her feelings. There were still flashes of temper, but they were less common. She still did not remember what had happened in those last few minutes on the island, but they showed her tapes of it. She only watched them once. She was allowed to rest and recover. She was given good food.

Things came a little bit closer to normalcy. Karen kept the Glock in her backpack, out of sight. She kept the cane by her side, even though she barely needed it for walking. Her bruises hurt a little less every day, and every day they faded more. Most of the bandages came off.

There were people available to assist her. They told her that they were there to help her manage her image and assets. They told her that she'd cultivated a real persona while on the island, and they suggested that she could capitalize on it. People didn't know very much about Karen, they said, and that kept them interested, but giving them everything they wanted would burn through that interest very quickly. People liked mystique, they said, liked having something to argue and wonder about. They suggested that Karen be a little bit reserved, that she not make herself too directly present. She let them know that that would not be a problem.

It was fortunate, she decided, that she hadn't been acting. It made it easier to be who people wanted her to be, because all she had to do was act naturally. She wondered how other survivors had handled their sudden fame, whether they'd had a harder time with it.

She answered a few interviews and sat in on a few ceremonies. For the most part, she didn't say anything. Her assistants tried to make her wear a fancy, strapless black dress to her first appearance, but she convinced them that it wouldn't mesh well with everything else the public knew about her. In the end, they let her wear her coat, bandannas still tied in place.

Mason was at many of the events. Karen didn't go out of her way to interact with him, simply maintaining a level of passably cordial formality, though this took a bit of work. She felt like there was some unfinished business hanging over them, something that still needed to be done or said, but she couldn't figure out what it was. She'd been left guessing at her own motives in talking to Mason after their first meeting, and had been left in shambles after their second, so she decided that she wouldn't start things up again without a very clear idea of what she hoped to achieve. It was easier that way, especially since they were unlikely to have much contact after her time in the care of the producers ended.

By her request, they brought her a large stack of science fiction novels, and she spent most of her free time reading. The books were all brand new, or close enough that Karen couldn't tell the difference, despite the fact that many of the books had been out of print for over a decade. She did not feel entirely comfortable with them; she was used to older, beaten books—books with a hint of lingering odor, with creased pages and battered edges. She had to hold the new books carefully to avoid breaking their spines. She did not complain, though, because they found things by most of her favorite authors, sometimes unearthing books she'd never seen before. She made it through The Shockwave Rider in two days.

There were other things to attend to. A particularly lengthy interview from a fan site was conducted through text, one which posed a number of completely inane questions alongside some that actually displayed a bit more depth and curiosity than most of the other stuff she'd been asked. With the okay of her advisers, Karen opened up a little bit more in her replies. She felt better about communicating in writing, where she could check her answers to make sure they were what she meant to convey, though it was difficult figuring out what tone to take. She had no idea what anyone would take away from it, or even what sort of person would be interested in reading something of the sort. She didn't really care. She was by and large honest, and she'd learned pretty well by now that that typically just upset people.

She also had a few personal errands to finish up. She wrapped Kathy's journal up in some newspaper, and then in brown wrapping paper, and asked that it be mailed to the girl's parents. She wasn't able to give a name or address, but her assistants assured her it was somewhere in the producers' files. Karen realized that she knew very little of what Kathy's life had been like outside of her passion for books, beyond that her mother had driven a dented silver SUV.

She hoped they'd want the journal. It was really impossible to say. Karen couldn't really relate to their situation. She hadn't lost anyone close on the island, except by her own hand.

The days blurred together. She was moved from the hospital to a hotel. It was a tall building with marble floors and fake plants, staffed with men in suits. There were security guards around, Karen was assured, but they were never anywhere she'd actively notice them. Everything was clean and shiny. Her room was totally odorless. The first day, a maid came and made the bed and changed the towels and emptied the trash, so the next day Karen requested that that service be discontinued. Her room was big and empty. There was a cabinet full of alcohol, and a menu for room service, and a note from the producers saying that she could order whatever she wanted. Everything was incredibly expensive. She could've eaten lunch at school for two weeks for the price of a single dinner at the hotel.

Some nights, she sat alone and ate what they brought her and read. The food was always good, but eating it made her uneasy. Most nights, there were functions to attend. Various people communicated with her through a telephone in her room. The producers were serious about capitalizing on her image. She ate with some past winners, and found little to discuss with them. She was introduced to businessmen and magazine editors and politicians and people in the entertainment industry, all of whom congratulated her and acted like they understood her and wanted to be friends, even though it was clear she made most of them nervous or disgusted. She signed papers authorizing all sorts of different companies to use her name and image, and in return they gave her large checks.

Two days after she was installed in the hotel, her assistants decided that she was ready to receive some of her fan mail. Most of it was handled digitally, but some people still mailed her physical letters, and it was these that she was presented with. It was a large box, overflowing with envelopes. They had all been opened already. This, it was explained, was to remove anything particularly hateful that might have been said, and to ensure that nothing dangerous had been sent her way.

Karen spent an afternoon reading through the letters. Most of them were fairly banal. Most people simply offered congratulations or wished her luck with her life. Others expressed appreciation for her actions on the island, usually focusing on her efficiency and tactics, both apparently somewhat uncommon. One woman told Karen that she was a good role model for young Latinas, that her success was an inspiration. Three men proposed marriage.

Karen asked that she no longer be forwarded fan mail.

She also became aware of the impression she'd made online, as she was presented with some comments from fans of the show regarding the season. She had apparently been rather polarizing. She found out that she had killed some fan favorites during her time. Many of those who saw the show as drama and cared about individual storylines were not particularly happy with her, as she'd cut many contestants' time short in a less than climactic fashion, even after the producers had helped things along with judicious cuts and musical arrangements.

Fans of action were also lukewarm in their reception, with some complaining that only about half her kills had come through anything approaching legitimate fights. A good number of people referred to her as a coward and condemned her penchant for ambushing her opponents. A fan petition called for a future rule offering release not for volume of kills, but for quality.

Fans of the show's strategic side, on the other hand, were by and large pretty satisfied with her actions and tactics. Some of them had ideas for ways she could have handled specific situations better, ranging from the decent to the outlandish. Almost all of it was stuff she'd have never come up with. There was speculation that her survival might result in a number of emulators in future seasons, and there was a lot of debate over how successful others would be in following her methods, and in whether such a development would be good or bad for the show.

Karen learned that she had earned a number of nicknames. Most of them basic and often alliterative; people called her "Killer Karen" or "Reaper Ruiz". She could not tell if it was with admiration or hatred or irony. The moniker that stood out most to her, however, was one of the simplest: "Rainbow".

She stopped wearing her coat when she wasn't doing something official.

Wherever Karen went, people treated her with respect, recognition, and a bit of unease. Those not directly connected to the producers and the show seemed unsure how to handle her, as if afraid that she might explode into violence at any moment. It made it difficult for her to interact, because she could never be entirely sure if people were being honest with her or just telling her what they thought she wanted to hear. Her beliefs about people's reasons for interacting were reinforced time and again; almost nobody talked to her unless they wanted something or thought they could benefit from her association in some fashion. She occasionally contacted Jared, just to listen to someone who wasn't working an angle.

A week and a half after she'd been released from the hospital, Karen got hold of a young woman who apparently was handling her resources for her. They had a long conversation, and Karen made sure that most of her assets were in low-risk places, savings accounts and government bonds and the like. She also saw to it that a good-sized chunk was set aside in a separate account.

She took some of this and paid off the remainder of the debt her family was under. This, too, was handled by assistants. Karen didn't know the details, and didn't particularly want to. She put the rest of the account into her aunt's name, and had a letter sent informing her of this. She made sure that there was no return address, and did not check to see if any of the money was withdrawn or spent.

Slowly but surely, the attention began to wind down. Karen was no longer spending most of her time in photo-shoots or interviews or dinners. Her bruises faded entirely, and, as promised, her injuries did not scar. She slept better at night. The show's executives had less time to spend milking her image, because they were busy preparing for the next season. Season Sixty-Five had been a spectacular success, they told her, drawing in some of the highest ratings in the show's history. It had been acclaimed critically as well, and so it was imperative that they follow it up with another strong showing. They had to tread a fine line, replicating some of the high points without ending up as nothing more than a repeat performance. One luncheon, Coley wandered by her table and asked her if she was absolutely sure she didn't want to participate in another season, since she'd made it out so easily last time and could really solidify her legacy if she did it again. He laughed and said he was just joking of course. Karen did not laugh with him.

There was still a lot to be done, more advertisements, more brief interviews, and more money for it. Karen was not particularly interested in the process. She had plenty of money to last her a lifetime and beyond, and more and more preferred to let her affairs be handled by the producers.

She was offered the opportunity to go back to high school, but said no. It was difficult to imagine being in that environment again. After what had happened to her brother, she'd spent a few months as an uncomfortable center of attention. That had blown over, but there was no way she'd ever be able to blend in now, not back in Detroit. Going somewhere else for a year and a half seemed pointless, especially since she didn't need a diploma to make a living. The producers handled things, and she officially dropped out. They said that she should consider getting a GED if she wanted to go to college, and Karen said that she would consider it.

She received more business proposals, some of them things she agreed to after consulting with the producers, some of them outlandish. A pornography company suggested that she could make a lot of money if, after her eighteenth birthday, she signed on with them. At that, she came closer to losing her temper than she'd been since the days immediately following her head injury. She told her assistants not to even bother informing her of future offers in similar veins.

And, after a time, Karen came to realize that she couldn't spend the rest of her life in a hotel, hopping from one meaningless social function to another. She started looking for places to relocate to. She was fairly sure that it didn't pass unnoticed, but the producers didn't say anything. She was still making money for them, and she had largely cooperated, so what would they care?

Once, when Karen was thirteen years old, she had caught an old movie called The Silence of the Lambs on television late at night. Her parents had been out somewhere, her aunt asleep, her siblings staying with friends. She'd initially taken an interest in the movie because its protagonist was a young woman who seemed more competent than a lot of what she saw from female leads in films. Quickly, however, the violence and horror had taken over. Karen had wanted to turn it off, but hadn't, because she needed to know how it ended.

And of course, the last scene had done nothing to dispel her fear. She'd never seen the movie again, but the image of Hannibal Lecter hanging up the phone and melting away into a sea of people, anonymous as anyone else, had terrified her. It had confirmed what she had always suspected: there were monsters out there in the world, and they looked just like anyone else, acted just like anyone else, ate and played games with children and passed undetected every single day.

It was strange that now that had become a comforting thought.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 28th, 2013, 5:55 am #9

San Diego, California
The girl showed up suddenly one day, but she seemed like she could have always been there. She was set up in a condominium on Beryl Street, only a few blocks from Mission Beach and the boardwalk. It was a nice place to live, solidly middle class, comfortable and reasonably spacious. The jasmine plants that grew along the walkway smelled sweet, and made up for the lack of a real lawn. It was nondescript, without anything about it that really stood out as interesting or unusual.

That could also be said about the girl. She stood at about average height, and while she was fairly skinny, she didn't cross over to emaciated. She looked reasonably healthy and fit. She kept her long, black hair tied back most of the time. She wore a bit of makeup, but it was never really enough to draw attention to her. She had a plain face, one that rarely drew a second glance. She wore simple clothes, semi-fashionable and functional for the weather, usually in pastel colors. Sometimes people's eyes would linger on her a moment longer than usual, as if they were trying to piece something together, but if she noticed she would just give them a little nod and keep walking. Without anything else to get a fix on, that was the extent of the impression she made on those who saw her.

Most people assumed that she was a student. She was about the right age, and there was no shortage of young Hispanic women studying in the state universities. It seemed about right, especially since she came off as a little shy and often had her face buried in a book. She never caused much of a stir, never gravitated towards the city's social hot spots or seemed particularly interested in getting involved with any organizations or causes. She was never seen around with boys, or really with anyone, though she was polite and social enough when strangers wanted to engage in small talk. Her accent was slightly unusual, tinged with something almost closer to an East Coast way of talking than that usual among the Californian immigrant population, but she politely brushed off questions about her origin on the rare occasions they were asked. She spoke infrequently enough that it was rare for someone to even notice.

Every morning, shortly after the sun rose, she out on shorts and a tank top and went jogging on the beach for thirty minutes to an hour. Sometimes, she would stop in one of the little restaurants along the boardwalk or the pier and have breakfast. She always paid in cash and tipped twenty percent. She did not drive, and so went grocery shopping several times a week, walking or taking the bus and carrying a few bags home at a time.

Sometimes she went shopping in thrift stores, buying clothes and old science fiction novels. Most of the time, she spent most of the day at home. She read a lot, and she learned how to cook, making most of her meals from scratch. She ate healthy food, by and large, preferring simple recipes.

She answered the door carefully on the rare occasions when people knocked. She did not invite her neighbors inside when they came to greet her, and she turned away solicitors and proselytizers. Often, she didn't even unlatch the chain, speaking to visitors through the gap. There was a dresser to the right of the door, and she usually kept one of her hands near the second drawer from the top, hidden from sight unless she opened the door all the way.

Every so often, she would disappear for a few days, leaving early in the morning to catch a taxi from somewhere else in the city and carrying a large duffel bag. She'd come back later and resume her routine as if nothing had happened.

She rarely volunteered her name, but on occasions where it was socially inevitable she introduced herself as Carol Ortiz.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 28th, 2013, 6:02 am #10

One night, she was walking home after dark, having been out later than usual doing some shopping. She was four blocks from home when she noticed something: a person was following her. A young man. White. Wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Flicking a cigarette away. He had not been behind her for long. She was sure of this, because she was very aware of her surroundings. He stood out. He was wearing a hat and sunglasses, even though it was dark out, and this led her to the conclusion that she was probably going to be hassled. Her heart rate rose a little. She shifted her bags so that she had better access to the large purse she carried whenever she wasn't jogging. It was a somewhat chilly night for California, and she shivered, even though she was bundled up in a light pink sweater.

The man picked up his pace a bit. A few months ago, she would have hurried up, maybe even broken into a full run. She would have been stricken by panic, a need to find safety at all costs but with no understanding of how to go about it. She would have looked for a place to hide, or a place with people in it. She would have been terrified. Now, she slowed down and turned and looked straight at him.

"Can I help you with something?" she asked. Her voice was flat. She tried to sound bored.

He paused. For a second, she thought he might give up and turn around or maybe just walk right by, find something better to do with his time or look for another mark. He was young, she saw, no more than a few years older than her. He was nervous. She could see that even around the glasses. That made her a little bit more concerned. If he was nervous, there was a bigger chance things could go poorly. He might panic and resort to violence. As it was, she was taking a leap of faith in assuming he only wanted to rob her.

He took a few steps closer. She took a few steps back. She knew that the sidewalk behind her was level and clear for at least a hundred feet, so there was no need to worry about tripping. She looked at his glasses, but couldn't make out his eyes behind them. This was making her more nervous again, and just for a second she wondered if maybe he wasn't a simple mugger. His right hand was in his pocket. His pants were baggy, but not baggy enough to hide a gun.

She didn't have to wonder what he was concealing for long. He flicked out a switchblade, opening it smoothly and flashing a forced smile at the same time. She didn't make any quick moves. She didn't think she had to, not yet.

"Don't shout, miss," he said. "I want your money and any jewelry. Nice and quick."

She reached her hand into her purse, brushing past a book and a solid chunk of metal, trying not to show her relief. This wouldn't be so bad after all. He wasn't close enough to stab her without taking several steps, even if she stood still. She wondered if he realized that. She was a little surprised that he seemed so unconcerned with the proceedings now that the knife was in the picture. He wasn't looking around, wasn't aware of anything except her and the knife in his hands. If anyone else had been around, he could have been in a lot of trouble.

Using her right hand, she tugged her wallet free and tossed it to him. He caught it with his left hand, his mouth creasing into a frown for a moment, and she had a quick flash of worry that she'd pushed things too far, had acted a little too rashly. Maybe she'd been wrong to assume him more confident now that he was armed.

He slipped her wallet into his pocket. The smile did not return.

"And jewelry," he said.

"I don't have any," she said.

"Let me see." He took a step closer. She took a step back. The grocery bags were making movement a little challenging. She wondered if it would be better to drop them or throw them if she ended up needing better mobility. She could reach into her purse in less than a second either way.

"I don't have any," she said. His frown deepened for a second, then disappeared. He nodded at her, took two steps back. Somewhere in the distance, a car was approaching. She could hear the engine. The man took a deep breath, looked like he might have something else to say, then took a few steps away. He folded his knife up slightly clumsily, slipped it back into his pocket, and took off running. She took several steps backwards, then turned and broke into a jog herself. Her heart was pounding, her breath a little ragged, but she didn't feel that scared. It was strange. She didn't think about it too much, just focused on getting home.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered what he would think when he opened the wallet and found a bus pas, over five hundred dollars in cash, and no forms of identification whatsoever.

She reached her home, unlocked the door, and slipped inside. She was shaking a little, but a few deep breaths put that to rest. She locked and chained the door behind her, then reached into her purse, withdrew her Glock, and slid it into its home in the dresser.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 28th, 2013, 6:04 am #11

A few days later, in the evening, she was sitting on her couch and reading. She had a computer, but did not have a television hooked up. She'd had a stir-fry and rice for dinner. It was nice out, warmer than the past few days. It had been a good day, overall. Her jog had been nice, with a pleasant breeze from the sea keeping her cool. The beach was such a simple thing, but she always enjoyed her time there. It was hard to believe, sometimes, that she'd spent so much of her life far from the ocean. It was strange to remember what the occasion of her first visit to the shore had been.

Those memories were there, of course, but they did not trouble her particularly much these days.

She did not worry about the possibility of being mugged again, did not take any greater precautions than normal. She hadn't bothered filing a report with the police. The lost money didn't mean anything, and crime was fairly infrequent in her neighborhood. She was not too worried about repeat occurrences. It was better to just write off the minor loss, better not to attract attention.

For so many years, the thought of being threatened or robbed had been terrifying, the idea of losing so much money crushing. She'd learned the procedure for dealing with muggers young; the theory had been imparted to her by her family as a simple fact of life, a basic part of growing up in the city. After the incident with her brother, it had become a topic of conversation even more often. Even though she had feared an attack so often, on some level she had never really believed it would happen. Now it had, and the world went on, just as it did in so many other situations. In a few weeks, she'd likely forget most of it. It was already a thing that did not affect her life.

She was making good progress in her novel, edging towards the final third, when the phone rang. It happened now and again, even though only a handful of people had her number. At this time in the evening, it was almost certainly business, which she did not want to deal with but knew she should. She took a deep breath, slid her bookmark into the novel, set it down on the couch, and walked over to the phone.

"Hello," she said, picking it up.

"Hello," said a man's voice. "This is Coley. I've got a proposition for you."

She didn't say anything. He was used to this by now, so after a few seconds he went on.

"Next season's coming up soon. I know it'll mean more ad work, but I think you could make more of it, really push your image."

She said nothing. He sighed.

"We're finding mentors now. You want a spot, it's yours. It pays pretty well, and I'm sure it'll work for you in other ways. You know the drill, say a couple words every few hours, give your thoughts on some kids, talk to the cameras. Nobody'll expect very much of you."

"No thanks," she said.

"Hey," Coley said, "don't just dismiss it out of hand. You need to ride this while you can."

"No thanks," she said, and hung up the phone. He didn't call back. She went back to the couch and picked up her book and read a few more chapters, then went to bed.
The End
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
MurderWeasel
Mini Maestro
Joined: March 29th, 2010, 12:14 am

May 28th, 2013, 6:04 am #12

As was the case in V4, I'd like to take a moment while I've got everyone's attention to make some OOC comments and give a few thanks. As always, these are in random order, will include duplications, and probably are full of glaring and embarrassing omissions, for which I apologize.

To start with, it's pretty well known I'm not one for songposts, but in this case I've found something I quite like as music for the credits rolling, which feels pretty appropriate to the end of a version of TV and also ties into some of my thank-yous. It's here if anyone's interested.

As a logical segue, I'd like to get this rolling by thanking Keaka for interesting me in a cool band through a lot of the running themes and jokes in Shawn's story, which was easily one of the most iconic of the version (and, I’d say, Mini). Thanks also to every SOTF Mini member who's introduced me to music; there are so many, but off the top of my head the list includes at the very least Dan, Inky, James, Mimi, and Stef.

Moving on, I'd like to thank every person who read through this post, or any part of this epilogue bit, or any part of Karen's story. I'm always up for feedback, either by PM or in the appropriate discussion thread.

Thank you to Elena and Outfoxd for poking around the various drafts of this, and also for being killer collaborators on my end of this thing. 'foxd gets credit for Mason's bits, and Elena gets credit for Jared's. You guys made this whole thing a lot of fun, and did a great job all through TV.

Thanks to the endgamers, Acidic, Courtney, Elena, Keaka, Kitten, and Outfoxd, for putting on an excellent show and keeping stuff, for the most part, rolling smoothly. You guys did well.

Thank you to everyone who let Karen kill one of your characters (Outfoxd, Vinny, Rocky, Keaka, Kami, decoy, Iceblock, Casey, Fior, and FrozenSmoke). Without all of you, her story would've ended very differently and probably been a much less fun ride. You were each a lot of fun to work and plan with, and TV as a whole had some of my favorite writing experiences. It definitely gave me a lot more respect for the process of writing a highly-active player.

Special thanks to Outfoxd for tossing Anthony to Karen prior to the rolls. That was incredibly cool of you.

Also, special thanks to Iceblock for prewriting an entire scene with me through PMs so we could beat the deadline by churning out nineteen posts in eleven minutes.

Thanks to Fenrir for being a very excellent nemesis throughout TV. Vincent was one of my favorite characters, and I was quite sorry to see him go. You were always a real pleasure to work with, and we got to do some pretty unusual stuff, which is always a blast.

Thanks to storyspoiler, for challenging me to write a highly active player after I complained about some of the ones in other games. It was an incredibly worthwhile exercise, and taught me a lot about the challenges in doing so, while also giving me a chance to handle stuff in a slightly different way than usual.

Thanks to James for catching two incredibly out of character moments before they worked their way into the story.

Thanks to FrozenSmoke for being super cool about criticism and for always striving to improve. It takes a lot of guts to keep going even folks aren't always being entirely constructive, and I think you came up with something pretty cool in the end. I hope to see you around again sometime.

Thank you to penguin_alien, my favorite zero-posts (well, one now but it’s a phantom post) member of Mini, for actually being quite involved behind the scenes and for giving me some awesome feedback and thoughts.

Thanks to Little Boy, for establishing the SOTF-TV Blog and curating it. It was a really fun thing, and added a ton to the verisimilitude of the universe.

Thanks also to everyone who got involved on the blog, by posting or commenting or tweeting. You all were tons of fun to work with. I blew my cover in chat a couple weeks ago, so I can now spill that I was TheThingInYellow, so thanks also for putting up with that.

Similarly, thanks to the handlers who have submitted lore for the TV universe, whether it made it into canon or not. It's great to see a universe grow so much, and to see people getting involved like this. I'll pick up the pace when it comes to reviewing stuff, by the way. Thanks for your patience on that front.

Thanks to everyone who's been on Mini staff and has helped keep the site running over the years. Also, huge thanks to Elena for coming up with the whole Mini idea in the first place. I remember when you pitched it to staff, and it's so incredible to have watched it grow from a place where we have to make a third of a 42-character game NPCs to one where we can fill up games pretty consistently and have so many different, active handlers.

Thanks, finally and most of all, to the Mini community. I've said a lot that it's probably the most involved and generally positive SOTF-related community, and I think a lot of that is down to its size and the understanding that it is a place for learning and experimenting. Here, everyone reads a lot (and if you smash all the Minis and AUs together, I'm pretty sure they rival V4 in size), and is always willing to share and take feedback. I can't wait to see how everyone grows and how the next games go.

See you all next season.

P.S. The interview mentioned now exists. It can be found here.
Current characters:

The Program: V3 Prologue:
Mina Mashall - Digital Voice Recorder - Making a good impression - "I didn't know you felt so strongly about me."
Erik Bell - Jericho .941 - Having lunch - "May I?"

SECOND CHANCES: V2:
Assorted flora and fauna

SOTF-TV V2:
EW4: Jewel Evans - Chatterbox Communicator Headsets (0/5) - Online - ELIMINATED - "Scars are just reminders to be better next time."
[+] spoiler
The Program V1:
M06: Karl Chalmers - American Flag - The Mess Hall - DECEASED
F09: Nichole "Nikki" Campbell - 6 Pack of Beer (0/6) - Open Ground - DECEASED

The Program V2:
M08: Alexander Bonham - Steel Folding Chair - The Pine Stands - DECEASED
F20: Robin Pounds - Stress Ball - Mountain Track - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V1:
PRP3: Karen Ruiz - Glock 17 (0/17 +1 bullet), WASP Knife, Swordcane - Over and out - ELIMINATED - "I don't find pointless death funny."
W02: Renée Carlson - Straight Razor - The Resort Beach - DECEASED

SOTF-TV V2:
SS4: Austin White - Gold Retractable Spyglass - The World Oyster - DECEASED

Second Chances V1:
G16: Nicole Husher (thanks to TBH!) - Colt Single Action Army - The Makeshift Hospital - DECEASED

Second Chances V2:
B12: Richard Ormsby - x4 Flashbang Grenades - The Ravine - DECEASED
B22: William Lohman - Winchester Model 1897 - The Ravine - DECEASED

BR AU:
B15: Shuya Nanahara - No Weapon - The School Building - DECEASED
B20: Kyoichi Motobuchi - Bulletproof Vest - Tourist Association - DECEASED
G01: Mizuho Inada - Grenades (0/2) - Clinic - DECEASED

SOTF Evolution:
Subject C01: Samantha Reynolds - Facial Morphing - The Cove - ELIMINATED

VIRTUA SOTF:
M11: Richard Ormsby - Cowbell - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
M22: William Lohman - Hockey Stick - The Corssroads Bridge - GAME OVER
If you want an honest assessment of your character's storyline, feel free to PM me and I'll whip one up as soon as I am able.

Thanks to Bear/Frogue/Kotorikun/Ryuki for the avatar art.
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