It had been going so well. Aaron had smashed his forehead into Ivan's. That was how people in movies broke deadlocks. It was how a hero managed to wiggle free. It turned out it hurt the giver and the recipient, but that was to be expected. Aaron was pretty sure he wasn't even suffering from a concussion, much less a cracked skull. He'd be fine. He just had to pull things together, had to finish these two off.
Then Ivan was punching him in the face, again and again. It was worse than Aston's gun. This was repeated trauma, ominous crunching sounds. Aaron had been so very sure that he had once read that the face was an awful place to punch people, that doing that messed up your knuckles something fierce. Apparently, Ivan had not read the same books. The pistol clattered to the ground, planned feints entirely forgotten. The battle's terms had just shifted. It was no longer just about killing Ivan quickly. Now, what mattered was surviving and getting some distance.
Aaron got free, got space, and his hand instantly shot to the small of his back, searching for Aston's pistol. This was it. Game over. He'd have to remember Ivan, bill his family for the inevitable plastic surgery, maybe. He'd have to make sure someone regretted what had happened here. There would be hell to pay. There would be a reckoning.
There was a shot, just as Aaron's hand came back around, just as he prepared to fire the gun. Something in his upper arm was burning. His fingers stopped responding. For a second, he desperately tried to retain his grasp on the weapon, but it wasn't enough. The gun thudded to the ground. The girl. He'd assumed she wouldn't be so willing to take a risk. He'd assumed she was down for the count. That had been a mistake. Alright. She was first, then. He had one more gun. He'd shoot her, then shoot Ivan, and
The butt of the shotgun smashed into Aaron's chin, clacking his teeth together. Something might have cracked. He was too busy groaning in pain to tell for sure. He bounced off the wall, just in time to catch the gun coming back the other way. His vision exploded into lights. Again and again, the blows came, and Aaron couldn't fight back, couldn't do anything. This wasn't right.
Ivan was winning.
He was saying something, again and again. Aaron heard only ringing. The gun slammed into his stomach, but he didn't have time to vomit. One more blow to the head, and he was staggering, teetering at the top of the staircase, tilting so precariously. He tried to speak. He tried to apologize, to beg for mercy, to come up with some sort of bullshit to avoid what he finally realized was coming, to buy him time to make a plan to turn this all around.
The shotgun blast tore through Aaron, sending him toppling down the staircase. There was pain, but there was also anger and regret. This was wrong. He was supposed to be the one who lived. He'd had it all planned out. Until half an hour ago, he'd held the island in the palm of his hands. Eleven other people. It shouldn't have been a problem to kill them, not for someone like him. He'd managed and outlived a team. He'd had a plan. He'd been unstoppable.
And now, now he was falling, and he was bleeding everywhere, and he was dying, and it was all because of dumb luck, random fortune, a roll of the dice. It might have been beautiful, were it happening to anyone else.
He should have taken the boats. That was what he finally realized, as he bounced off a step. He should have caved, should have succumbed to Aileen's pressure. No, she should have tried harder, should have dragged him and Charlie. This was all her fault. It always had been. She'd bungled the escape plans. She'd talked too much. She'd alienated the recruits. She'd held him back every step of the way, kept him from becoming what he knew he could have been. At least, in the end, he'd paid her back. He'd paid everyone back, everyone but Ivan and Tabi.
He'd just have to hope they got theirs soon enough.
It was always possible this fall wouldn't be fatal. He might be able to stand up, to fire one more shot. That was how it went in movies. He'd land, and then he'd make a speech, and his death would be dramatic.
He impacted the foot of the steps, and the resulting blunt force to the head knocked him unconscious instantly. It only took about thirty seconds after that for him to bleed out, due the hole the shotgun blast had torn in his chest and back.
B003, Aaron Hughes: DECEASED
7 STUDENTS REMAIN