On some level, Ian had never expected this plan of avoiding every other living classmate of his to actually work. It had been, in theory, a pretty sound strategic choice. He'd expected there to be some catch, some hidden enforcement mechanism besides his own emotions and whatever need for people he theoretically possessed, to drag him towards the action. It had taken a few days of hiding out to figure out that no such device existed.
Of course, it was as much about avoiding being found as it was avoiding finding others. For that, Ian had developed a rather successful tactic. He stayed near the edges of the areas he found himself in, and, every day once the announcements played, he rapidly made his way to the danger zone furthest from wherever the Best Kill winner of the day was sent for their prize. He then sought out a hiding place about a hundred meters on the safe side from where his collar started to beep, and lay low. He'd entertain himself and pass the time by imagining the artwork he could have created, or by telling himself stories, trying to remember the old movies he'd always loved.
It was a quiet way to exist. He supposed that probably flew in the face of all that SOTF was meant to be. Once, a long time ago, he'd heard some whispers about how in the older versions, random kids had been executed to teach others a lesson. He figured that there was a good chance that if such encouragement were needed again, he would be first on the chopping block. It was troubling, but not as much as it perhaps should have been. He was always aware of the collar around his neck, but the death it promised him was one which would at least be relatively quick and painless.
Every so often, when the pangs of hunger rolling through him became sharper than usual, or when the water from his bottlesnow tepid and discolored refill from taps in buildings or from collected rainwatertasted particularly foul, he would look off towards the danger zones. It was funny. He could almost visualize the exact borders, the invisible walls beyond which his passage would spell death. In those unpleasant moments, he would become almost tempted to cross over.
Something held him back.
At first, he told himself it was only temporary respite. He told himself that, sooner or later, he'd take the plunge and that would be the end of things. But the only things that really pushed him in that direction were petty annoyances, and every day his classmates were felled by the dozens, and the terrorists blew collars but only those of the actual wannabe revolutionaries. There was no reason for Ian, of all people, to be alive when two thirds of those on the plane with him were not, but he was. It was hard for him to imagine it being any other way, really. It was hard to bring to mind some image of when his time would finally run out.
Not that those in control were making it entirely easy on him. The area was being drawn closer and closer, first with the loss of the woodlands, and then with them corralled into a small sector on the north-western coast. It became ever so slightly more probable for others to stumble upon Ian, but at the same time the numbers of those left to do so dwindled. He couldn't figure the math, but he figured he was in worse shape, but not too greatly.
And now, the announcements were coming again, and Ian had made his way towards the docks in preparation. He thought it likely that the shipping yard would be targeted, and almost on a whim he had decided he wanted to take a closer look at them before they were forever barred. He could find a hiding spot nearby afterwards.
The wood of the docks was old and splintered and it creaked beneath his feet. It felt solid enough, but he could tell that it floated upon water; keeping his footing steady required a little more effort than he was used to. His eyes flicked between the path in front of him and the ocean off to the side. Seattle had ocean, of course, but this was different. It seemed wider, somehow, without a massive city behind him. The world was such an open place.
He was so enthralled that he didn't even hear the girl stepping onto the dock behind him until it groaned with her third step.
((Stephanie Chan continued from It Looks Good on Paper))
She was short, slender, carrying a rifle. Her steps were off, somehow, and it took him a second of blinking to realize that she was limping a bit. Her pants were stained with blood, and he could see what looked like a slipshod bandage beneath a hole in them. Under normal circumstances, or whatever passed for normal in the game, Ian might have felt pity for her. He might have wondered at what she had been through to bring her to this point, what she had faced and lost. As it was, he just opened his mouth.
She was pointing the rifle straight at him.
Ian tried to say something for a second, only then realizing that he hadn't used his voice in nearly a week. He coughed. She tensed at the sound, eyes widening, and Ian slowly and cautiously raised his hands.
He'd been thinking, somewhere in the back of mind, that if he could just keep this hiding gig going, could just keep moving from place to place and not getting caught out, then somehow maybe he could make it home. Hope was a bitch. Time had built up his rationalizations, to the point that though he'd never dare actively admit it he'd almost felt it a sure thing, and now, now here was this girl pointing a gun at him and he was almost helpless.
She opened her mouth, and it looked like she was struggling with words just as much as he was. Finally, though, she seemed to muster her strength and force some out.
"Have you seen Katarina Konipaski?" she said.
"No," Ian croaked.
They just stood frozen like that for a few seconds afterwards. It was awkward, and Ian felt like maybe he should make a joke or something, find some way to lighten the tension and get the girl to lower the gun, but as he thought about it he realized that he had a name to put to her face and it was a name he'd heard on the announcements once or twice. There was not a lot going on for Ian to focus on, so the announcements stuck in his mind very well. And maybe the right choice, staring down a killer who was looking for a bigger killer, would be to be polite or at least inoffensive and hope she'd ignore him and let him live and go his own way, but instead, almost on a whim, Ian took three quick steps which escalated into a run as he lunged for her.
It seemed like she was, if anything, more surprised than him by this development. She stumbled backwards, and her injured leg gave out, causing her to topple to the ground. Ian wasn't really sure what he was planning to do when he reached her, but she still had that rifle pointed at him and it gave out a crack and a surge of flaming pressure burned through Ian's left knee. They'd only been standing about twenty feet apart at the start, with probably a bit over half that distance covered when she fired. Ian managed to make it the last eight feet to her in two huge strides and a sort of hop before dropping prone himself, landing almost on top of her.
The girlStephaniewas scrambling, trying to pull herself away or maybe to ready her rifle for another shot. Ian didn't care. He didn't feel the pain yet, but he knew it was coming. There was anger, too, but it was muted. He almost felt like he was watching himself as he tugged the rifle free of her grasp and levered himself up above her and smashed the butt into her head. She was probably screaming or shouting or trying to defend herself. He couldn't really tell. He brought the rifle down again and again and didn't stop until her movements ceased.
G068, Yuan Stephanie Chan: DECEASEDIt was only in the aftermath that Ian realized that the silence had been broken by something more than the pounding of wood and metal against flesh and the cries of pain. Somewhere in there,the morning announcements had started playing, right on schedule. He tried to listen, but the agony of his leg was really making itself known now. He glanced down at his knee. This was a mistake; by and large his knee wasn't even there anymore, just a mass of pulped muscle and bone fragments.
He began to scream around the time Danya was starting in on the danger zones. He didn't want this to happen. He didn't want to see this, didn't want to be crippled, didn't want to be on this island, didn't want to have killed a girl. He certainly didn't want to die.
There wasn't much to be done for that, however. His collar was beeping, slow and steady, just warning beeps at first, the same sort he'd faced when he scouted out the edges of the danger zones. There was no way he'd make it out in time this time. In some weird way, he couldn't help feeling this was personal. He could imagine some fat technician laughing at how he'd finally gotten caught, had outsmarted himself into this situation and now would blow up, and if it had seemed comfortingly quick before, now all he could focus on was the seconds ticking down, the terror churning his stomach and making his jaw clench and his hands shake. His leg felt like it was on fire. He didn't want to die.
He tried to drag himself into a better position, to at least get away from the mess he'd made of the girl. After a moment, his eyes fell on the rifle, discarded to the side when it was of no more immediate use to him. Slowly and painfully, he was able to force himself to a standing position, using it as a crutch. He was unsteady on his feet and felt weak from the blood loss. As he walked down the deck, the slight movement threatened to send him sprawling with each hop-step. He left a trail of splattered red behind him. The creaking seemed to mock him, to laugh at his suffering. Still, he made progress, even though he knew he'd never get clear in time.
He just kept moving, step after step, and at first he was in time with the slow beeping of his collar, but then he was unable to match his pace to the acceleration of the electronic noise. He made it to dry land, but that was about all that could be said for his accomplishments.
He was still standing, still pushing forward, when his time finally ran out.
B064, Ian Valmont: DECEASED