Every 12 hours, the announcements for The Program occur.
"What we need is a new angle."
Brigadier General David Adams was resplendent in full uniform, boots polished to a mirror sheen, every medal pinned to his chest gleaming. His hair was tucked underneath a peaked cap, and he was perfectly clean shaven. Adams looked every inch the soldier, which, it had to be said, wasn't much like him.
But when you were speaking to The General, you smartened up, or you didn't keep your rank for long. Even somebody as favoured as Adams knew not to push his luck. Seated behind a desk, himself in uniform, the iron-haired man did little more than raise an eyebrow.
"The Program is good for us - heck the Program is GREAT for us, but the problem is, it's getting stagnant, and we're making mistakes."
"Mistakes which are your responsibility, David," The General's tone was, as always, stern. He sounded stern even when he was giving you a compliment - and he always called everyone by their first name.
Adams hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "Yes, sir, it's my responsibility, but there's only so much we can do with helicopters and snipers. We can't have birds in the air all the time sir, and even if we did, people would just start taking potshots at them. We need something better, and I have an idea, sir."
"Doubtless you do, David."
There was a long pause as Adams tried to work out whether he was being dismissed. His superior's lined face was almost impossible to read. After a while, Adams went for it. "I've been working with some technical staff, and we've come up with something new. If I may, sir?"
The General inclined his head the tiniest amount, and Adams produced a roll of paper from the inside of his uniform jacket, stepping forward to spread it across the desk in front of the other man. After a few moments, The General glanced back up to Adams.
"Well? What am I looking at, David?"
"It's a blueprint, sir, a schematic. The collar fits around the necks of the participants. If they start making trouble, like last time, then we can send a signal to remotely detonate the explosives. If we had this last time, no need to spend five minutes getting a bird into the air and letting Mr. Blake run his mouth, just press a button, bam, done."
"I see. What's this in the corner about ah... danger zones?"
"A herding mechanism sir, to keep the contestants on their toes. The Program is supposed to be seek and destroy - this way if we get another case of people deciding to sit in the same place for hours and days on end, we can make the area a dangerzone and force them to bug out. If they stay in the zone, then their collars blow, end of problem."
"Hm. Well, it appears that you have this in hand, David."
Adams saluted. "Thank you sir. Our current preparations are going well. I don't anticipate any trouble."
The General held Adams' gaze for an uncomfortably long time.
"See to it that there isn't. Dismissed."
It would be perhaps a redundancy to say that Patriot High took Announcement Day seriously. Nobody that knew what was good for them didn't take it seriously. In this school though, the occasion took on an extra degree of ceremony, mostly derived from the faculty, a large majority of whom had spent more than the mandatory decade in the military. Patriot had always had strong ties with the military, Announcement Day was an excuse to bring out the old uniform and polish up the black boots.
If it weren't for the fact that the tightly marshalled rows of people standing in the yard were obviously teenagers, the school would have looked like a parade ground. In silence - for some tense, for others rapt, for a tiny, foolish minority, bored... they waited.
In front of the rows of students, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors, a huge screen was set up, almost billboard sized. Behind them, mounted on a toward, was an extremely powerful projector. All schools were provided with that equipment. Couldn't have the image of the country's great leader be indistinct on the screen, after all.
And a mere moment later... The General appeared on screen. The man never seemed to age, looked the same to some of the teachers who had been supervising these Announcement Days for ten years. Grey haired. Implacable, with cold blue eyes that seemed to look straight through everyone there.
"Good afternoon, America. This is your General speaking. For some of those listening, this will be your first Announcement Day. It will not, in all likelihood, be your last. The Program does not discriminate against natural ability, wealth, or ethnic background. The sole aspect it tests is your patriotism. It is the ones with the most burning desire to fight for America that reach furthest. Boys. Girls. Do your country proud."
"The school for the forty-third version of the Program is Patriot's High of Milwaukee, Wisconsin."
The words were proclaimed with all the finality of a death knell.
The soldiers were present in a matter of minutes, again putting the lie to The General's broadcast being 'live'. Even so, the student body had somewhat bigger things to be concerned with. In short order, the lottery had selected the Junior year, and soon enough, names were being read out - the world's deadliest roll call. There was little protest from the crowd. Some of the teachers appeared glum, most took it with their sturdiest patriotism. Most of the students were just relieved it had been a different year. The Juniors... most were terrified it would be their name to be called out next, them to be dragged out of the lines and marched into a waiting bus.
Shy of fifty names, the observant amongst those being herded onto the bus may have heard a commotion, shouting.
They definitely all heard the gunshots.
Adams was ... in a difficult mood to describe. On the one hand, something had gone quite badly wrong. On the other hand, this was a particular wrong-going that he'd anticipated ahead of time, had prepared for... wow, it must have been around the time of the fifteenth version. He was a little bit surprised it had taken this long to happen. Maybe it was just fate that it had come hand in hand with his pitch about the Program getting stale.
He drummed his fingers on his desk, piecing together the speech he was about to make, half his mind on the announcement that even now, The General would be proclaiming across the nation. Adams had come up with the idea for that one, too, but he'd never had quite the same... gift for oratory as his superior. Meh, he was happier being an 'ideas guy' anyway.
Adams glanced up. In the doorway was one of the technical staff, a thickset man named Charrell who looked like he'd be more at home putting someone's eye out with a screwdriver than crafting with it. If it hadn't been for Charrell and company though, the Program wouldn't even have made it off the ground.
"Yeah. What's up?"
Charrell saluted, the slightest flicker of irritation passing over his face. He was a stickler for protocol. Adams knew it bothered him that a Brigadier General didn't really care about that kind of thing. That's why he kept doing it.
"The kids have all been collared, sir. We've run a field test, and they're fully operational"
"Awesome. Cameras operational?"
"We have coverage of almost the entire valley. There are a few blind spots in the trees, but we have every approach monitored. They won't be able to smuggle anything into those areas."
"And if not... that's what danger zones are for. Did you check those out, too?"
"They're still working fine sir."
"Good, good... all right then. Take a break Charrell, I'm going to go wake up the sleeping beauties."
As the students of Patriot High stirred, they would find themselves each handcuffed to a desk. Row upon rows of them were inside a large tent, at the front of which stood a stage. On said stage, leaning against a lectern, was one David Adams, who stretched, stifling a yawn. His blonde hair was mostly concealed under a red beret, set at a jaunty angle, and he was dressed in casual fatigues. Adams did not, in truth, look like one of the highest ranking officers in the US military.
The more kids that woke up, the more the murmurs and confusion started up. The last any of them remembered, they'd been on the armoured bus. Had they been gassed into unconsciousness? The hubbub rose, louder and louder, whispering giving way into talking into shouting-
The chatter stopped dead. One of the desks to the front of the room now had a jagged hole in it.
Adams smiled pleasantly, lowering his pistol.
"Next time someone pipes up, I'm gonna shoot them. If they're lucky, I won't aim for their kneecaps. We clear?"
He paused. Nobody spoke. "...Trick question. You win this time. Frankly kids, I'm kind've ticked off right about now, so I'm gonna cut the standard spiel short. You might be pleased to know that a couple of your buddies were none too happy about being picked for Program and decided to make, ah... let's call it a scene. I don't like scenes, not outside of plays."
"So we killed 'em. Because that shit does not fly with me, understand? Of course... that's not the official story. The 'official' story is that from now on, the number of kids in the Program is equivalent to the number of traitors we caught without help from informants. So you see, in a way you're actually making history."
"But what am I saying... that's not gonna matter to you, most of you will be dead in a couple days. Sorry, spoilers."
Adams stretched again, seeming to relish it.
"Anyhow. In a little while, you're gonna be put into a lovely, picturesque valley. You'll have a daypack with a randomly assigned weapon, as well as some handy equipment and supplies. All very nice and team-building. Kicker is, this exercise doesn't end until all but one of you is dead. Do the math. Everyone minus everyone else, equals you."
"You may or may not have noticed your trendy little necklaces. We call 'em collars. Now... look, but don't touch. If you try to screw around with them, they'll explode. You catch you doing something you shouldn't be. They explode. You stay in a place that we tell you not to stay for too long, and they explode. If you find yourself with nasty anti-American ideas to share with us... yup, they explode. Behave yourselves, and we won't have any trouble."
"I'll keep you posted via PA system and loudspeaker on the dead, who knocked them off, and any danger zones - those places we want you to clear out of - every 12 hours or so. If you're struggling to make it through the day... just think that my sweet, sweet voice will be there at the end of it."
"Do it for America kids. ...Hell, do it for yourself, if you don't want to die. End result's the same. See you... well, one of you, on the other side."
Two cannisters, spewing white, noxious gas, rolled in through the open tent flap as Adams pulled a mask on over his head.
Everything went dark.
The First AnnouncementEdit
Day One (September 18, 2025): 20:00 PM
Weather: It's a chill night. Minimal cloud cover doesn't make for a pleasant atmosphere in the outdoors. The wind isn't heavy, but the occasional gust cuts like a knife.
Perhaps half a mile or so outside the valley was the military's camp, a forest of pitched tents and temporarily erected canvas, a number of parked vehicles, some of them filled with equipment. A chopper stood on a makeshift landing pad, fuelled up and ready to take to the air at a moment's notice.
David Adams sat in a trailer, boots propped up on a panel, probably touching things that he shouldn't have been. The wall opposite him was covered with screen after screen, a live feed of a selection of the valley's cameras. It had been a lot easier to keep track of what was going on in the compound, but that had been... too contained, too boxed in, too orderly. It made it difficult for people to relate to the environment, drew the mind away from the "Jeez, that could be where I live" type of mindset. For the valley... they needed a hell of a lot more cameras, and the pine stands for one had been an utter nightmare to even attempt to keep track of. But... they'd managed, more or less, and the new technology should make things easier.
"Sir, the announcement is due."
Adams looked around to see Charrell hovering in the doorway, then slowly nodded.
"All right... here's your baby at work. I just hit these buttons to make them a danger zone, right?"
The heavy-set engineer nodded. "Yes sir, I've labelled each of them to indicate which area they correspond to."
"Thanks. It's appreciated," Adams yawned and sat up straight, taking hold of his head in both hands and then cricking his neck with a disconcertingly loud crack. "Let's get this show on the road."
Across the valley, strategically placed systems came crackling to life, to the accompaniment of an off-key humming of 'Born in the USA'.
"Hi boys and girls of every age! Have I got news for you! Death, drama, high action, comedy! ...Okay to be honest I'm pretty much only gonna tell you about the death. What? I don't have time to sit here and give you a play by play, all right?
Step right up Dylan Walker as the first person to score themselves a kill in this version. Pro tip guys; just cause they've got different colour skin doesn't mean they can't kill you. Dylan did for Brigid Paxton, and... pro tip number two; just cause you have a bad weapon, doesn't mean you can't pick up a rock and wreck someone's skull with it.
Next down was Caleb Smartt, who got caught in a crossfire and shot clean in the head. Nice shot, uh... holy shit her name is actually-"
There was a moment of quiet, as the shuffling of papers was heard, and a muted call of 'Hey!', followed by a quiet but audible - as if spoken away from the microphone 'Her name is America - how freaking funny is that?'
"Ahem. Sorry. Technical issue. Caleb was shot by America Fox, again proving pro tip #1, and then directly leading to pro tip #3; even if you're not engaging with someone, they can engage themselves with you.
Anyhow, that's all for now... apart from a very special moment from our sponsors. ...Nah just kidding, here are some places that'll make you explode if you don't leave pronto. The Scorched Ruin, and The Crag Cabin.
Happy hunting, kiddos. Remember that it's not the destination that matters, but how you get there."
The Second AnnouncementEdit
Day Two (September 19, 2025): 8:00 AM
Weather: The day is bright, with the sun making a rare appearance. In the right places, there might even be the ghost of some warmth. However, with the wind picking up, it's doubtful that any heat will be retained for long.
Donny Parr, for the fifth time that morning (he'd counted), was running a diagnostic on the collars. They were working. They'd been demonstrated to work. They were functioning in exactly the same way as they had done for every single test they'd ran (apart from the one's where they hadn't worked). But no, apparently it was even more imperative that they continue to make checks now that a couple of the collars had been blown up, in case there was some kind of chain reaction. Parr called it busywork, but he wasn't the man calling the shots here.
Which was... well, it stung. Parr could lay claim to maybe a third of the work in developing the collars, and had just about half the conceptual credit. The rest had been almost entirely Robin Charrell, which had been enough for him to be put in charge of the technical running of this version of the Program. Whilst Parr didn't begrudge him that, he felt it was a little unfair that he was just 'one of the crew' when he himself had played such a large role. Besides, Charrell didn't even really like the responsibility of being in authority... he preferred just to tinker. However, Adams had decreed, and what Adams decreed, others jumped to make happen.
And speak of the devil there was Charrell, eyes squinting out - more or less the only thing visible that wasn't beard on his face.
Parr shook his head. "Nothing irregular. There was that spike with the DZs but y'know, within parameters."
Charrell nodded. "Sorry for making you do this," he said apologetically. "I'd do it myself but..."
Parr sighed and folded his arms. Yeah, he got it. Charrell was a hands-on type of guy and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect. His position meant that he wasn't allowed to be hands on, so he gave orders to perform the obsessive checks that he'd have done if he'd had the opportunity. Though... in Parr's opinion it was still busywork. Not one of the extra checks had turned up anything; he could see checking a couple more times after the detonations, but five in a morning? Urgh.
"How's the big man?" Parr asked, changing the subject before he inevitably started to rant. "Cooled off any?"
"I don't know. He's locked in his trailer."
Parr glanced over that way. "Great. Hope he doesn't get trigger happy with those buttons..."
For the second time that version, there was a humming, crackling noise as the PA came online. This time, it was accompanied by no singing, no jokes, no upbeat humming. For five solid seconds, silence.
"So... I feel like my glowingly chipper demeanour has got some of you folks getting the wrong idea about who's in charge here. A few of you, maybe, the wrong idea about who I am.
It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't be a big deal, and I shouldn't get wound up that a bunch of punk kids don't seem to get that 'Brigadier-General' is not in front of my name for show.
But I do. Cause when I get a punk kid like... say... Marley Jenkins mouthing off about my credentials, I get mad. And you know who has his hands on the 'blow you up' buttons? It's me. And I don't believe in second chances.
So I shouldn't need to impress upon you guys who I am, but apparently that rank isn't good enough for you. I served. I earned those stars, and I run this Program because I was asked to by the leader of our country.
Let me make this perfectly clear; you're here to stay. There is a class of your peers in between you and making it out. You either fight, or you die. There is no going out like a hero, there is no making a statement. If you fuck around, I'm just going to straight up kill you, and I will do it with an honest to god smile on my face, knowing that a real patriot's chances just went up that little bit more.
This game has rules. If you don't follow them, then you're not sticking it to the man. You're irritating me, at best, and then getting your head blown off. The next time waving your dick in front of the cameras seems like a good idea, I would strongly advise you to reconsider.
You are not going to get another warning."
There was a long silence, maybe fifteen seconds, the hum of the systems the only indication that the announcement hadn't concluded.
"All right, enough of that. You guys picked up the pace a little overnight, good job.
Becky Long then ... okay, this one is going to require a little mental gymnastics. She kicked Erin Underwood onto something sharp. Sharp enough that it didn't end well for young Erin. I'll leave you to put two and two together.
Dan Orvall took a walk in a danger zone. He died. There's a moral in there somewhere.
Damien Stone and Brian Callison tag teamed Yumi Nunes , though we're giving Stone the main credit for that one. And for the record, no, we don't mean that kind of tag teaming. We mean they teamed up to murder her. Minds out of the gutter, kids.
That's all for now. Danger zones are wiped and here are the new ones: The Lake and Woodsman's Shack. Haul ass, I don't really feel like wasting more valuable technology on stupid kids."
The Third AnnouncementEdit
Day Two (September 19, 2025): 20:00 PM
Weather: The light has faded, but fortunately so has the slight wind. The valley's air is very very still, but equally, remains cool. It's likely to be another chill night.
Adams sprawled listlessly on the rough mattress on his trailer's floor. He had a bed, strictly speaking - but that was in the back of the 'command tent' (which had almost become a full fledged building at this point), and going there would've involved rather more communication with irritating subordinates than he was prepared to swallowed. Adams had ordered the mattress in as soon as he realised that the junior officers were deliberately camping out in said tent in the hopes of corralling him with all manner of inane ideas. It was easier to just steer clear than it was to be diplomatic about telling them to fuck off.
Today had been... not Adams' favourite day in the history of the Program. Decent number of fatalities, that wasn't the issue. It was more... the manner of them. It flagged up an issue with the collar and danger zone system that he hadn't considered. One part overestimating the apparent intelligence of the contestants to not blunder, one part underestimating their determination to knock themselves off. Irritating, but any new innovation with the Program always had a few teething problems. They'd just have to work out a solution next year. Maybe like, a pre-recorded message telling them not to be morons...
The Brigadier-General sighed and sat up. Time for him to quit slacking. This was a tough job, tougher than most would give credit for... but he supposed some of the previous announcers hadn't committed to watching as much of the thing first hand as possible. Sloppy, Adams called that. Without the necessary context it was a lot tougher to... ah but now he was procrastinating.
He picked himself up and walked over to the mic, hit a couple of buttons.
On the air.
Little aplomb, this time, just a brief hum and Adams was talking.
"Sometimes kids, I wonder how many of you would have died inside five years of making it out of high school, considering how many of you idiots have managed to get yourselves wiped out. The rest of you still living; good job, you've got more intelligence than the average lemming. Unless of course you subsequently die in a stupid way, in which case consider your non-lemming status revoked.
Got that? Good.
Garritt Baker got into a bit of an... altercation with Chris Brooks. Garritt tried to run, but Chris wasn't having any of that, and chased him down and stabbed him in the stomach. Pretty ruthless, Chris, especially seenas Garritt took a good long time to bleed out. Sleep on that one.
Nancy Morris then had the awesome idea of walking into a danger zone. In case anyone was wondering; yes, this is still fatal. Brace yourselves because not long afterwards, Tori Gavlik did pretty much the exact same thing. And guess what? Josephine Luu screwed up and got stuck in one. Holy crap guys - is DANGER zone not enough of a clue for you? They are dangerous - as in, fatally dangerous. Announcements are important, listen to the damn things!
Next up, Robin Pounds became our first contestant to double her money when she took another bad day out on Zora Spencer and splattered her brains across the ground. ...Sorry honey, that rumbles you doesn't it? Ah, fair's fair...
Oh, and finally, after a promising start, Miss America herself - Clara Fox lost her footing and then lost her life. Terrain's treacherous kiddies. Keep an eye on where you step.
Otherwise, here's what we're gonna do; your numbers have gone down a bit, so here's the big one. Lake's clear, but... I'm DZing The Clearing, Pine Stands, Woodsman's Shack and Stone Circle. I'm feeling generous so I'll give you a little bit of a grace period to get out of there... so long as you're moving in the right direction. My advice? Run like your little asses are on fire before I pop your heads like balloons.
The Fourth AnnouncementEdit
Day Three (September 20, 2025): 08:00 AM Weather: In a word; dreary. It looks set to be a miserable day, with thick grey clouds overhead, intermittent gusts of wind and the odd bout of freezing cold drizzle.
Adams set his hands on his hips and surveyed the layout of the dartboard. Triple twenty, starting promisingly, bullseye, which had been accidental, and finally one that had missed the board altogether but lodged in the wood it was mounted on. He usually played better than this, was a dead-eye, but ... things were preying on his mind. It was tough to stay focused when you were trying to keep track of over a dozen kids, and in the dark at that. The night vision filter he'd insisted installed on the cameras helped considerably; Adams was glad that he'd put his foot down when the pencil-pushers had groused about the budget he was demanding. Without the eerie green glow they'd have been relying on the kids to keep themselves lit up. They'd had night vision much of the rest of the time, in the past, it just became more important than ever when the contestants were wearing mechanical leashes.
He huffed, went to retrieve his darts, and there was a knock at the trailer's entrance. Adams turned, dart in hand to regard his visitor, hovering in the doorway. Brown haired, balding, kind've weasel-looking- ahhh, right. Charrell's sidekick. Porr? Parr, that was it.
"What is it, Lieutenant?"
Parr saluted. "Call for you, sir."
Great, another bureaucrat trying to get their dirty paws involved in things, no doubt. "I'm pretty busy, Lieutenant."
The technician shifted from foot to foot. "Ah... it's on the satellite link, sir. It's The General."
Adams paused. "...Keep an eye on things."
Tossing the dart to the floor Adams stepped out into the dismal morning.
The PA's activation was heralded with humming - tuneful, this time. Until, at least, one picked up on the melody. Adams was humming 'Old MacDonald'. Two whole verses worth of it, in fact.
"...he had a cow, ee ay ee ay oh.
Morning kiddos. If you're still alive to hear me then it's time for a big ol' 'congratulations' from Uncle Sam. Overnight we officially passed the halfway mark of this little game of ours. That's right - you've outlasted better than fifty percent of the field, so either you've got the right idea or you're luckier than most. Here's a tip for you though, before you get too excited; luck can only carry you so far. I've buried a lot of lucky men. I've buried fewer ruthless ones.
Anyhow - first not to make the grade yesterday was Stephanie Moon, when she took a walk in the lake. Next time I really hope the lottery doesn't hit a school for the clinically depressed, almost as many of you have offed yourselves as been killed, dammit.
Maxim Senders learned at the hands of Brian Callison that if you're going to have a tearful reunion, it's best to watch your back, lest said reunion become even more tearful. Callison notches up another, Senders sputters out.
Not to be outdone though, Callison's partner in crime notched up one for himself when he wasted Amanda White, who to be honest was doing well just to get that far. Broken arm, people, you could learn a little from her. Not too much though, Damien Stone did kill her, after all.
Next down the line, one I wasn't sure which way to go with, but in the end we called it a suicide - sorry Callison - Felicia LaChapelle tested our lovely collar technology. It works. i.e. yes it explodes if you pull it. Don't do that. They are expensive.
Aaron Chalmers took a smash to the head from Anastasia Flores relatively early in the time period, and looked to be out of the woods but them head injuries are tricky things... full marks for perseverance, kiddo - but you were close and no cigar. Eventually it did for him.
And the timing meant that whilst elsewhere she was having a bit of a bitchfit - has to be that time of the month - our Anastasia scored a double kill when she took out Jonathan Roberts. Spicy little thing, ain't she?"
Seventeen between you and your ticket out of here. Mull on that.
Oh, and DZs are clear, apart from the Stone Circle. Joining it, we have the Scorched Ruin, Meandering Stream and Crag Cabin.
Hope you got those. I'm not saying them twice.
I'll see you in twelve."
The Fifth AnnouncementEdit
Day Three (September 20, 2025): 20:00 PM Weather: Although the rain is no longer a factor, the thick cloud cover over the valley has not dispersed. Rolling banks of grey obscure the moon, it's going to be an exceptionally dark night.
Charrell had never seen Adams with such a lack of humour on his face.
The Brigadier General stormed into his trailer and slammed the door behind him.
Adams looked straight ahead for several long seconds, eyes staring, but seemingly not seeing.
He glanced down. Hit the button for the intercom.
"The game's proceeding apace, patriots. If you're still alive to hear me right now, then guess what? You're one of the last dozen contenders left in the field. Twelve brave soldiers, out to prove they have what it takes to show their country their teeth.
You've come a long way. Some of you have got that ruthless edge. Some of you, I'm surprised made it this far. Know this though; you can't be the underdog forever. You can't dodge what this game is about forever. Sooner or later, you're going to be backed into a corner. Sooner or later, you're going to have to make a choice between living, and between dying. There's a fork in the road, and only one of those paths leads to survival.
So, make a choice.
'Course, she'll be delighted to discover that right after she took off, Lenny Osborne decided to shove Alexander Bonham off a ledge. Not a pretty sight, I'll tell you that for free... Well, not like you could pay me, but you get the picture.
Anyway, for everything I said earlier... well, you know who gets the idea? You know who gets how that choice works? Robin Pounds. Bailey Williams had the gun, had the upper hand, and had all the time in the world... And Ms. Pounds showed that killer instinct and walked out alive.
Rounding off, Damien Stone did his bit for his country by knocking off Anastasia Flores... not before he took a beating though, and taking advantage, along came Dylan Walker. No prizes for what happened to ol' Damien when that hellraiser arrived. Not brave, Dylan, but smart, I'll give you that.
Danger zones... current ones are clear, but now, The Town, Lake, Mountain Track, The Slope, and The Clearing come with explosion warnings.
Signing off. Outlive two classmates and you're final ten, remember that."
The Sixth AnnouncementEdit
Day Four (September 21, 2025): 08:00 AM Weather: The clouds remain heavy over the valley as a new day dawns. Off in the distance, they grow darker, with occasional flashes of lightning in the afternoon. The wind is intermittent, but when it hits, it hits hard and cold.
Brigadier General Adams had not left his trailer since the last announcement. Nobody had been in to disturb him.The call from The General had everyone on edge. There were rumors, of course, rumors based on the idea that The General was displeased for some reason or other. That much was clear, and so it was the place of everyone working on The Program to hope it had nothing to do with them.
Had they known the truth, they surely would have been relieved, but Adams would almost have preferred being the direct target of The General's ire. At least then he could have done something about it.
It had been a long time since Adams had laid boots to ground on campaign, but that was a fire that never quite died. His country's victories were his victories, and not just because he was one of the top advisers to The General. And, in the same way, its defeats were always personal.
They had the firepower and the troops to take on the world, but not quite all at the same time. South America, The General told him during the call, was important. Most of the troops were staying. Just, a few countries, those that were particularly virulently against freedom... they'd have to wait a little.
They were pulling out. Adams couldn't remember the last time those two words had been said in seriousness regarding the American war machine.
And here he was, out in the hills, waiting for a couple kids to finish killing each other. The Program was his baby, and he was very committed to it, but it just wasn't the same with distractions like these weighing on his mind.
So, just this once, the sooner it was done, the better. Adams leaned forward and flipped the switch, ready to give his last official broadcast to the children in the valley. At least they didn't seem like the sorts to stall for too long.
"Good morning, America." The voice of the Brigadier General once more thundered through the valley, which was otherwise still and silent in the cool grey morning. "Once more, we've whittled our little cadre of patriots down to four. It's time for that final battle, the good old last stand.
"But first, it seems only fitting that we take our traditional moment of remembrance for those who fell before.
"Lenny Osborne stumbled into the wrong gathering, and ended up getting gunned down by Dylan Walker. I'd make a joke about that, but there's a lot more coming and I don't want to blow my best material too soon.
"Dylan Walker showed her true colors yet again, displaying great patriotism by heroically shooting her ally, Frank Callahan, in the back. Our cowardly little Rambo then winged Shawn Bowe-Crooke on a potshot, and it proved enough to finish him off.
"Somewhere in there, Ashley Sydor finished dying from the beating Frank gave her.
"Seizing the opportunity to cause more chaos and become our traditional late-game one-woman-army, Dylan Walker courageously jumped into a cabin and strafed two wounded kids, putting an end to Chris Brooks and Rebecca Long.
"So that just leaves the survivors. In the name of a level playing field, I'm going to provide a little recon, so you all know who you're up against. I've got a few little personal words of inspiration for each of you.
"Dylan Walker, how's it feel to be the last 'tan' girl standing? I mean, you've been shot, chopped up, all kinds of good stuff, and you're still going. I can admire persistence, and you've sure managed a body count, but do you think you can keep it up when the fight's close to fair? When you don't have a football player watching your back around the non-crippled kids?
"Louisa Bloom, you think you're such a little rebel, don't you? Have you even thought about the consequences of your actions, or are you too busy reciting shitty poetry over dead friends? Every time you've done anything, you've made it worse for everyone else, so we'll see if you can actually man up and at least use your selfishness to your own benefit.
"Kyle Williams, forever in the shadow of others, what comes now? You've done so well at finding other people to guide you, to pull you back and control you. Could you ever shake that off and really make a name for yourself? If it's you and Louisa, one of you will have to die if the other's going to live.
"Audrey McKee, how's hiding and avoiding fighting working out for you? You managed to avoid codependence, but, really, what else can you say? You're a bit pragmatic, I'll give you that, but I can't help but suspect you'll face the same Melinda Schenn did when she came down from her tower.
"The four of you should all proceed to The Town as promptly as you can. Only one of you will be leaving it.
"Brigadier General Adams, signing off.