((Aaron Hughes continued from Altering the Deal))
The time was coming. They were in the residential area, in an abandoned house. Aaron had collected an assortment of random objects as they went, all things that looked like they could be used for something. It didn't matter that he had no true escape plan, no grand device. All that mattered was that they keep chasing one elusive thing after another. Soon, they'd get to the medicine, the drugs. Aaron was going to frame that one carefully, pass it off as making sure nobody else was lost. He'd play off the casualties they'd already experienced.
Really, he was hoping for some heavy sedatives, or, better yet, something nice and lethal. He'd have to get rid of Aileen and Charlie at some point, and it would be better if they weren't putting up a fight. The night before the finals might be a good time. He'd just have to find some excuse. Maybe get Aileen to do it. Act like he wasn't worried, they'd all be fine, and trust her contrary nature to get her to insist they take care of their wounds. Then it was just a matter of making sure the right drugs went to the right people.
That was getting way ahead of himself, though. For now, he was about to have to mitigate damage. The announcements were coming. He was going to have to explain.
The voice that greeted him was a surprise. It wasn't Danya's. He didn't know what to make of that. Presumably, Danya was either personally involved in the attempt to deal with the rescue, or he'd been evacuated to a safer location to deal with the compromised security. Whatever the case, this meant that the terrorists would be off balance. If he'd still been planning to get out, this would have meant something, perhaps.
As it was, Aaron tried to harness his confusion, to channel and repurpose it towards other ends. He was going to have to be confused and upset here. That would be what Aileen and Charlie wanted. He'd act for them, just like he'd been doing. Just as soon as it was announced. It'd be any second. Any second.
There. The list of names. And on it, Bounce. That was a shock. It meant they'd definitely gotten away, though. Bounce was too smart to fall for something that wouldn't work. She'd dragged Alice along too, no doubt, given the proximity of their names. That was good. Aaron was glad to hear that some of his few friends had survived, despite his feelings towards their behavior on the island. In fact, a large portion of the competition had just been removed form play in one fell swoop. Good.
He was trying to distract himself from those niggling little doubts. He'd had a chance to leave, but he couldn't have taken it. It would have killed him. Yes, this was best. He hadn't messed up. It was all according to the plan.
"Fuck." Aaron slammed his palm down on his leg as the announcement ended. "There was nobody there. I went there, and I didn't see anyone."
He ran his hands through his hair, yanked on it lightly, twisted it. A little pain was good. It'd make his affected voice sound less artificial. Things might be getting really bad here. It was a good thing he had the only gun in the group. Aileen was threat number one, with that hammer. Charlie was the more peaceful of the two. She was a secondary concern if it all went sour.
"I... fuck. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't see anyone, and... they're all dead. Bounce and Alice and... fuck."
Good. That was the way to play this. He was to be pitied. They'd see he was sorry, buy his feigned contrition, and then they'd move on. They'd comfort him for the loss of his friends. Maybe he'd pretend to let Aileen lead for a while. That would go a long way towards placating the girls, and would also explain their total lack of progress towards escaping. It didn't matter how much time they wasted, not now. All that mattered was that Aaron survived it.
(Charlie DuClare continued from Altering the Deal)
Well it'd be nice to put a hand on his shoulder and make a sad face and say Hey man, I know how you feel, but she didn't, she didn't, she was alive and well and she was everything electric, she was letting the grin spread wider, wider, cause when you told her They're all dead she told you,
Hey, no, no no, you don't know that! We don't know anyone's dead cause- and here she had to stop for a second, - cause think about it! If it'd worked, what'd they be saying? They'd be saying the exact same thing as now.
Lest you think this was some amazing momentary insight, remember it's not. Remember she had two or three eternities to mull this over while the announcement played, and then another for good measure while Aaron clawed at his hair and spoke in his weepiest voice. She had time, she had time.
It's okay. It's okay, it's real. It worked. And here she actually put a hand on his shoulder, cause dude was about to write a poem and put it on his livejournal if someone didn't cheer him up soon, You wanna know why there's this other douchebag reading the announcements? Cause Danya's just gotten his ass kicked by the CIA or whoever it was, and now he's losing his shit and he's too mad to string a sentence together.
Play that image in your head, ten times twenty times a hundred. Wonder for a second if it'll ever stop being funny.
And hey... I get what happened at the beach, don't worry about it. You saw the boats, you thought it was too risky for us, you chickened out... As if compensating for a certain unnecessary risk he'd taken earlier. Dude, whatever. You're a pussy, but it's okay. I forgive you.
So there it was.
She saw that he'd been lying. And it didn't end the world.
Didn't even make her skip a beat as she was practically dancing, whirling in her head and jumping so high, pirouette and arabesque and don't give a single fuck about what he said and what he tried to tell you, because he's just some scared boy who doesn't know any better and never will.
And here he was on the verge of tears and here she was gliding along smiling shining weighing nothing at all. And you try and say he took her hope away.
Hey, come on, let's go. Grabbing his wrist and nudging in the right direction. Rescue might still be going on, they might be coming back, they might need help, I don't even know. But I'm going, and you're coming with.
And Aileen, oh my God, you too, I- fuck, I don't know why we didn't just listen to you in the first place, it was- yeah, you're way smarter than me, and you're pretty cool and- let's get you rescued, yeah? We going.
And she sprang towards her rescue and all things alive and beautiful and glimmering with wonder marched behind her.
(Charlie DuClare continued elsewhere)