Claudia Ingenuius (Girl #6) stood behind a building in the border between zones H-6 and H-7. She had been on the go since she first got out of that hovercraft a few hours ago. Her thought processes had been fairly simple so far: run for it, and don't die. Of course, that was a poor example of her character, but Claudia needed to be safe before she went and hatched any plans.
It was no secret that Claudia openly opposed the Hunger Games and all they stood for. She had even submitted columns in the school's paper that were subtle digs towards the current state of the Capitol. Those who were on her side, so to speak, found it pure brilliance, and those who didn't see the error in the Capitol's ways simply saw a little entertaining piece of text. It was the perfect way for her to truly assess where each student's loyalties were. However, she was supposed to collect the statistics for her column tomorrow at the end of the month. But apparently, fate had other plans for her.
Claudia looked around. It was still horribly dark out, but the moon had shifted in the sky. The clouds had also cleared up, providing a small amount of extra light, but it was still dangerous to go around in. Claudia had been searching for somewhere to hide out in, but her search had been fruitless so far. It was a rather odd thing to think, considering she was in a city full of buildings. But Claudia didn't trust them; they were all too big, and could easily hide another student. Not that she distrusted everyone in the class, but Claudia really didn't want to see another human being until she had her priorities set out.
In reality, Claudia was suffering from an emotional turmoil of sorts; she was experiencing a kind of survivor's guilt, even though as far as she was aware nobody had died yet. It was more or less that she didn't want to see somebody else, because for all anybody knew, they could both be the last person they saw before dying. Claudia didn't want to live with the knowledge that she could be the last person that someone she had grown up with saw. She just wouldn't be able to live with herself. And right now, keeping cool and collected was vital, in more than one way. The first was obvious - if Claudia was running around, wailing like a recently decapitated chicken, then she would get her brains blasted out in no time, provided that there were students willing to play, which she believed to be highly obvious; they were all impulsive teenagers wanting to get home, at the end of the say. The second was that she didn't want to give Dew the satisfaction of knowing that she had been broken. So even if Claudia felt like breaking down into a sobbing ball, she would stay strong, and not let anything show. They had another thing coming if they thought that they could break her easily.
However, the same couldn't be said for Claudia's classmates. This game also served another purpose besides mindless execution; it was a judge of character. And depending on what each person's reaction was to this situation was vital to their survival. There would be those that would break down crying. There would be those that would band together with others for security and comfort. There would be those who remained stoic and collected, like Claudia. And then there was the fourth type of reaction. Those who would kill. And not just out of a panicked self-defence, either. Stone cold, pre-meditated murder. Claudia could imagine a couple of people that would end up like that, but at the same time, she could also classify them into one of the other categories. It was now more than ever that she wished she knew her own class better.
Suddenly, a scream sounded out, the sound echoing around the streets. Claudia tensed up. It sounded like a girl's. So she was probably right about her theory of some students willing to kill. But she had no lead to go on, so it was completely ambiguous as to whom the identity of the killer belonged to. However, the scream on its own told Claudia that no killer had a gun at least. Well, not yet, anyway; there was no doubt that someone would be killed for a better weapon in the near future. She looked at her own duffel bag. It was still sealed shut; she didn't want to expose her weapon out in the open for two reasons. The first was that it would be entirely a stupid idea to do it out in the open; anyone could pick her off as she grabbed the weapon. The second was that she didn't want any cameras looking in on her, meaning that she would prevent the Capitol from turning her discovering her weapon into glorified exposition. Not to mention it had the effect of tormenting those who were watching. The bags were randomly thrown to the students, meaning that nobody knew exactly what Claudia had in her bag. Dew of course had a list, but she wouldn't be sure until Claudia opened it. Which meant that she was probably tormenting them by not looking; she had an equal chance of it being something hindering to her survival, and for her bag to contain the ultimate game changer.
And those overlooking this game would have a hard time finding out which one it truly was.
Lalla Ammonius (Girl #2) walked closer to the rear end of the group of students. She was roughly walking in line with Olympia Petillius (Girl #7). Three more students walked in front of the two best friends: Arria Cassius (Girl #4), Geta Oppius (Boy #9), and Donatus 'Don' Platorius (Boy #10). All of them were from varying social groups, but were all friends through one common interest: the drama club. They had all attended the school's drama club since pretty much day one, and had grown closer through that. Lalla supposed that it was because they could just be themselves there; on the stage, social class didn't matter. All that mattered was portraying the character and scene. It was especially good for Lalla, considering how her father had such a high-profile job, being a member of the prep team for District 1. As such, Lalla was one of the richest, if not the richest, student in the class. That had caused distance to be put between her and the other students, and had also built up her reputation as a stuck-up rich girl. But the members of the drama club didn't care about any of that.
It was still dark out, but the slightest hints of colour were starting to gradually appear in the black, starry sky. It wasn't much; maybe just the odd streak of dark blue here and there. In a couple of hours, though, the sun would be up, making it easier to see exactly what was around them. Part of Lalla wanted to see everything around her, and at the same time, she didn't want to see. The tall, grey buildings would be the last thing that all but one student would see. And then again, Dew also indicated that there could just as easily be no winner.
Lalla took a deep breath, and focused on the darkness ahead. She needed some sort of distraction. Otherwise it would all be just too much for her, and she didn't want to think about what would happen when she reached her limit. Her duffel bag's contents kept clattering around in an almost rhythmitic manner. Another thing to take her mind off the horror. But she was only kidding herself here; there was no way to almost forget about the situation. No way.
She swallowed, and had her attention brought to the collar around her neck once more. That was another aspect of this thing that made it all the more horrific. This collar, this tiny, choking collar, had the power to blow Lalla's head off on a whim. Basically, if she put one foot out of place, blam. No more Lalla. She took a trembling breath, trying to not imagine how her head being ripped from her body would look. No. Just too horrifying.
Returning her attention to the street around them, Lalla found that she had fallen behind a little. She quickly sprinted back up to the rest of the drama club, to her relief. Being alone in here would end up being a really bad idea, especially in Lalla's mind. Being alone meant that you could easily be picked off if ambushed by another student. Being with a friend meant that you had a better chance at surviving. But that all depended on how reliable the friend was. Some friends would eagerly sacrifice themselves for someone they cared about, whilst others would abandon if things turned south. Lalla glanced at the drama club, and wondered for a moment which type of person they would be if they encountered another student.
Suddenly, Arria, Don, and Geta stopped in their tracks. Olympia also slowed down, and Lalla did the same. What was going on? She looked at Olympia, who seemed to have gone pale. The boys were trembling, and Arria was remaining impassive, but tense. Then Lalla saw what they were looking at.
Claudia stared at the crowd of students that had just appeared in the middle of the road. She would have tried to make a run for it, but it was clear that they had seen her. So now she was in a staredown with her own classmates, wondering if they were going to attack her. The people she grew up with, attempting to take her life. The idea was just absurd beyond all comprehension.
She took a step forward, and one of the figures - a girl, by the sound of it - let out a frail whimper. Clearly she was afraid, and fit into two of the main reaction categories pretty nicely. But Claudia didn't know about the others; any one of them could have a wild-card reaction. She had to play it carefully.
"Hey," she said as nonchalantly as possible. However, her voice caught slightly, meaning it came across less smoothly than she wanted.
"Claudia?" a voice said, and one of the students stepped forwards. It was Arria Cassius, head of the drama club. She was okay enough, even if Claudia didn't really get on with the clique's pro-Games views.
"Yeah, it's me," Claudia replied, stepping towards Arria. There was quite a height difference between the two, meaning that Claudia was almost having to look down at Arria. "How are you guys doing?"
"You're seriously asking that question?" Arria said quizzically. "We're in a deathmatch where only one comes out. What could be okay about that?"
"Nothing," Claudia said. "And between you and me, I don't really plan on actually following the game's rule of killing to live." She paused for a moment. Why was she telling Arria this? Perhaps it was because they were both study partners in Literature class. Or perhaps it was due to that one time Claudia helped Arria out when the latter had a boyfriend that was coming on to her rather suggestively. Claudia had broken the slob's nose. But they had drifted apart over the past couple of months, so Claudia didn't even think about Arria when getting out of the hovercraft.
"Yeah," Arria said. "I don't want to kill any of my classmates either." She shrugged, and avoided Claudia's gaze, clearly upset. "It's too cruel and unfair."
"You mean exactly like the Hunger Games?" Claudia couldn't help but make that remark. It was a low blow, she knew that, but it was also aimed at Dew. Since it was obvious that they would be listening on on everything the students said.
"We're still doing this, Claudia?" Arria said with a wry, weary smirk. "Chances are we'll be dead in just over two days from now, and you're still making digs at the Games?"
"Well yeah," Claudia said. "They're sort of the reason we're in this mess in the first place."
"True." Arria paused for a moment, and looked hard at Claudia. Claudia looked at Arria's face. She had pale skin, with narrow eyes and a sharp nose. She wasn't particularly pretty, but had a brash sort of charm about her.
"So what are you guys doing anyway?" Claudia asked, breaking the silence.
"Mostly just avoiding everyone else," Arria replied evenly. "Oh, and also trying to not die."
"Smart move," Claudia replied, before letting out a light laugh. Arria laughed also.
"Heh, look at us," she said. "It's the end of the road for us all, and we're joking around. God I miss when we were best friends."
"Me too," Claudia said wistfully. It was true that she missed being close to Arria, but at the same time, having no major connections in the class made this whole thing just that little bit easier to bear. "Me too."
There was a brief moment of silence between the students; a natural pause in the conversation. Arria seemed to be in thought about something. Claudia, however, was simply awaiting a response; surely harmless conversation like this wouldn't ruin the reputation she was aiming to build up.
"So, uh," Arria finally said. She shifted from one foot to the other. "I have something to ask you, Claudia."
"What?" Claudia replied.
"Well," Arria said. "I was wondering if you'd like to join us. We could, you know, survive together. And I'm sure between us at least one of us is bound to have a useful weapon for protection. So, what do you say?" Claudia said nothing. She simply stared at Arria, contemplating it. She hadn't considered an alliance, so this was a new development for sure. But if this was anything like the Hunger Games, then there could easily be a traitor in the alliance, compromising the safety of everyone. And with firearms in the mix, it would be a recipe for disaster. And being in a group would mean that Claudia was buying into the game by choosing certain people over others. She wasn't going to let it seem as if she was playing along in any way. And there was also the added fact that they might be the last people she would ever talk with if she joined up with them. And besides, the answer had been in Claudia's head from the minute that Arria asked.
"I'm really sorry, Arria," Claudia said. "But I'm going to have to refuse."
"What?!" Arria said, shocked. "Why?! You can trust us, Claudia. And we're friends!"
"I know all that," she said. "But that's exactly why I don't want to: I don't want to risk seeing one of my friends die. It would be too much to bear." In reality, that was nothing more than a half-truth, but Arria didn't need to know that.
"Oh," was Arria's response to that. "So, I guess this is it?"
"I guess so," Claudia said. She gripped Arria's hand, and shook it. "Best of luck to you out here."
"Same to you," Arria said, smiling boldly. "Try not to get yourself killed too soon."
"Likewise," Claudia replied. She stepped back from Arria, who was welling up with emotion, and waved at the other members of the drama club. Claudia then turned right, and walked down the street that headed in that direction, leaving them back there in the darkness.
Silence soon became the only thing Claudia heard, and part of her was glad for that. It meant that there was nobody around to interfere with her. And that also meant that she had a sense of privacy. Her bag slammed against her thigh, and she cursed softly under her breath. Oh, right. She still needed to see what was in there, and assess her chances of living until sunrise. She looked around the street. The road stretched on for a little longer. The street was lined with uniform grey buildings that were all at least seven floors high. And there was also a slightly ajar manhole cover on the pavement to Claudia's left. She barely recalled anything from the Games that took place here, but she was certain that it led to an underground network of tunnels. She walked over to the rusted metal disc, and pulled it off its cover, exposing the hole below. Claudia looked around once more, ensuring her solitude, before stepping into the hole.
To Claudia's surprise, there was no ladder, and it was a straight drop downwards by about six feet or so. She landed on her back, and her bag cushioned her head as it slammed downwards. Taking a moment to regain herself, Claudia looked up. The moon was shining directly down into the hole, illuminating the upper half of Claudia's body. It was all very beautiful, but out of place given the situation. She managed to sit up, and crawled back towards the wall of the tunnel, leaning against it.
Claudia took a deep breath before putting her bag on her lap. Now, she was going to find out what she had been given. Slowly, she grabbed the zipper, and pulled it. The noise echoed around the empty tunnel, but nobody was there to hear it. Once it was open, Claudia reached in past the other supplies, and felt something long, hard, and cold. She pulled it out of the bag, and looked at it. Her eyes lit up with a gleeful spark.
Normally, in this situation, a student would revel in obtaining a double barrel shotgun as their weapon, as it was the most effective way of ramping up the body count. Claudia, however, was overjoyed for a different reason.
This weapon had enough power for her to use it to actually fight against those running the Battle Royale.
And so, Claudia sat there, holding the weapon, and began to devise a plan. A plan that hopefully would ensure more than one student getting out alive.
TIME ELAPSED: 03:27
TIME REMAINING: 68:33
PLAYERS ELIMINATED: 2
PLAYERS REMAINING: 28