A long pause. The boy stared at her, she stared at him, hand still out. She resisted the urge to swallow, to betray any sign of her nerves and her agitation. If he attacked now, it could all go to hell; if she hadn't been able to...
"Anyone ever tell you you're dramatic as fuck?" Garrett asked her.
Belle didn't look at him, but the flash of anger dispelled her anger and left her feeling oddly at ease again.
"Anyone ever tell you they'd rather have broken glass shoved into their ears than hear your
voice?" she asked.
"Still waiting on that cigarette." He paused for a moment. "Belle."
"God damn it, Garrett," she snapped. "Would you just-"
And then she broke off, because the boy in front of her had grabbed her hand. Her eyes flickered back to him; he had a sudden look of confidence in his eyes, or at least less of fear.
He started to speak. And then Garrett cut him off.
No. No no no, it was too fast, they'd already but a bounty on her, they didn't have a reason to come, why would they, she was already in enough danger as she was, and the one girl Belle had faced had been using a bow and arrow and this was so
much worse, this was trained soldiers with guns, and it didn't matter how long she'd trained or how good she was, there was no way she could walk away from-
Someone cleared their throat. Belle and the others looked up. Liz was standing at the top of the stairs with the boy she'd gone in to talk to. Her throat looked worse from this distance--she'd really done a number on herself. Was that what they'd all have to do to break out?
"We need to go back to the tunnels. Or at least I need to go back to the tunnels. If they're going to kill me, I should be in the tunnels. There are radio relays there--I can break them without getting blown. If enough relays go, the entire tunnel becomes a blackout zone."
"I can't--I can't go fast. I'm injured. If someone could carry me to the tunnels, I'd appreciate it."
Liz was going to keep fighting. Liz intended to create a safe zone on the island.
Well. Okay, then.
"What are you using to break the relays?" Belle asked. Liz held up her gun; Belle, remembering their conversation in the tunnels, shook her head. "No, bad idea, your gun only has twelve rounds in it. Anyone have a gun with more than twelve rounds? If so, you're trading with Liz."
The boy she'd been talking to--huh, she didn't even know his name--stepped past her without a word, and offered Liz his gun. They traded, and without further ado he lifted her into a fireman's carry and went striding towards the grand doors he'd just slammed open.
"If I find you offed her, I'll hunt you personally," she said quietly. He didn't even look at her; just kept walking towards the doors.
They'd need to move fast, now. Liz would be setting the pace of the group.
"Alright," she said shortly, swinging the netgun off her shoulder. She looked betweene everyone, remembered Garrett didn't have a weapon, and surrendered hers. "This is yours," she said. "It's a net gun with two shots left. Make'em count." Her eyes flickered back. "Garrett, you'll have to struggle to keep up, I hope you can handle it. Stick to the rear, net anything that looks like it's gonna hurt us. Jeremy, stick close to Liz, make sure they're okay."
Her mind was racing, her heart was pounding, she felt exhilaration and terror and fear and wonder all at once. They were going to try and protect Liz from the same highly-trained sons of bitches who'd landed them here in the first place. The prospect gave Belle that same giddy thrill she'd experienced while fighting Garrett or shoving that girl down the mountain--that knowledge that she was acting and she was acting for the better.
I'm trying, Master Xiang. God, I'm trying.
"Please, don't g-go with her!" Madeleine stammered. "Sh-she's just going to get you killed. Can't you see it?"
Belle, moving about, rallying the others (boy from up top, Jeremy, right? And Garrett) froze and turned back to Madeleine, who was now blocking the door, and the boy she'd just met and who'd looked so angry now was getting away. Her immediate instinct was to strike the girl--they didn't have time for this, they didn't have time for hesitation or fear. If Madeleine wasn't with them, that was too damn bad.
Madeleine sounded desperate and Belle had promised herself she'd listen.
"Maddy," she said slowly, and thought with a pain of Machete--Machete, who'd been killed by some Japanese boy whose name she didn't even remember. "Maddy," she repeated, and she was thinking of Jackie who had died by the hands of a girl who'd gone off the deep end but also because Belle hadn't listened
"You're not wrong," she said. "We might die." She paused, took a deep breath. "Hell, odds are good we will
die. I don't know if we're outnumbered, but they'll definitely be better armed then we are."
Let them face that, they deserved that much. Helping Liz was extremely
dangerous; if they felt they should walk away, they should have that chance.
She just wanted to make sure they didn't feel that way.
"Liz is going to create a safe zone," Belle said loudly, so that Garrett and Jeremy could hear her. "Far as I know, that's never happened before. She's breaking the game, and she's putting her life on the line to do it." She shifted, keeping her eyes locked on Maddy. "I've seen people die already, so I know it's..." She searched, then shook her head. "There isn't a word," she said softly. "It's just wrong."
God, she didn't want to die.
"But they want us to keep killing each other until only one of us is left alive," Belle said. "The people who are hunting Liz want us to murder each other." She shook her head. "They expect us to die. For all but one of us, they've left us no choice but
She tapped the collar around her throat--eternal reminder of the hell into which they had stepped. "I intend to get out of here," Belle said. "I intend to take Liz's plan and break my collar and break my game and live through this, because that's the only way anyone wins. But...but if I have to die?" Belle turned her gaze solidly into Maddy's eyes and tried to communicate the full breadth of her determination. "If I have to die, I'd...I'd rather die fighting the people who are fucking responsbile
She glanced back to Garrett and Jeremy, and then turned her eyes back to Maddy. "If you feel the same, come with us."
No more time for talk. The enemy was on the island, death was in the air, and Mirabelle Nesa, stepping out the doors and after Liz Polanski, had never felt more alive.
(Mirabelle Nesa concluded in The Gully