Ms. Leticia stared intently at the screen from her safe area in the viewing room, barely flinching as Tara brutally murdered Ace. It seemed almost as if she were out there watching it up close, because of the residual smell of Brooke's blood, though it had been cleaned already.

The red telephone for high priority calls rang loudly from the desk, and she jumped.

Composing herself slightly, she stared at it in trepidation. Because the Program had already started, it had to be...but she hadn't done anything wrong! Why would he call her now? Everything was going fine!

She picked up the phone carefully, as if handling a poisonous snake.

"Who is it?" she said, trying to hide the tremor in her voice. She already knew who it was.

"Don't play games with me, Leticia."

It was the voice of the most powerful and feared man in the United States.

President Laurence Calder.

"Oh, yes, I'm sorry, Sir. To what do I owe the honor of this call, Sir?" she fluttered. Her heart was pounding so hard she was surprised the President didn't hear it. Then again, maybe he did.

"I am calling because I hear that you managed to lose authority for a brief time."

She cursed under her breath. Those guards would have to be punished for their interference. See how they liked their own kids in Battle Royale.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, I'm sorry, Sir. It was taken care of, Sir, it won't happen again."

"Hmm. I also hear that you not only managed to lose authority, but two students."

"W-What do you mean, Sir? It is the Program, isn't it, Sir?"

"Don't be foolish, Leticia!" His voice exploded in her ear, and she had to hold back a little shriek of fright.

"You know exactly what I mean! I know you're not stupid. You lost two students before they were outside. That means two less students for America to see die. I don't want to waste money on Battle Royale without full satisfaction."

"I'm s-so, so, sorry, Sir. But one of them was killed by another student, at least, I only killed one, Sir."

People who displeased the President tended to disappear.

"Are you talking back to me?" His voice was dangerously calm.

"I'm sorry, Sir! I didn't mean to, Sir!"

"If there are any more problems during this Program, I will send Skyling to replace you."

"With respect, Sir, Skyling isn't good enough. True, she did oversee the first American Battle Royale, the one with the Japanese former victor, but that was many years ago, Sir. She's old and her reflexes are going, Sir. And she shot one of her students in the first American Battle Royale."

"But she didn't kill the student. That leads me to believe she may be more capable than you."

Leticia clenched the phone so hard it almost cracked.

"I understand, Sir. I will perform my duties, Sir, there will be no more problems."

"Good. Because I want replacements for Girl #18 and Girl #10. Go get them. Now."

She dropped the phone and ran, the President's laughter echoing through the room.

….

"Bye, Janice. Later, Penny. Goodbye, Keisha. Have a nice day, Lucy."

Violetta Brooks, more commonly known as Viola, waved a cheerful goodbye to her friends and set off on the short walk home. It had been a pretty good day at her school. She'd gotten a B+ on her math test and climbed the big oak tree higher than anyone else in recess. Although there had been the issue of the school bully, Frederick. Apparently he didn't like people who scored higher than he did on tests. They'd both gotten into trouble for aggressive behavior. She didn't like people who were mean to her.

"Mom! Dakota! Starry! Bo! I'm home!" she called, walking up her driveway. There was no sound from the house. That was weird, with three siblings besides her and two foster siblings the noise was usually unbearable.

"Alexandra? Beck?" she said, her hand on the doorknob. Something smelled really bad, she could tell through the letter slot. Maybe Mom had cooked something abominable, and everyone left the house because of the stench.

Chuckling to herself, she fished under the doormat for the keys. But when she stuck the key in the lock, the door swung open. It had already been unlocked.

"Okaaaay, that was creepy," she said, taking a cautious step into the house. "Hello? Anybody home?"

It smelled terrible now. Like somebody died. The smell was a lot like blood, like when Beck punched her and gave her a bloody nose. Maybe somebody had gotten hurt, and they all left for the hospital.

She turned a corner into the kitchen, and saw six bodies on the floor.

"Noooo! Noooo!" she screamed. "Noooooooo!"

The unmoving bodies were covered in blood and bullet wounds. Viola's mouth moved silently, unable to form comprehensible words.

Mom...lying there, an arm draped over baby Bo, trying to protect him even in death.

Dakota and Starry...clutching each other, mouths open in the silent screams of the dead.

Alexandra and Beck...curled into balls, so unlike their usual hostile selves.

They were dead. They were all dead, like her father when she was four. A car crash. Accidental. But this definitely wasn't accidental.

A hand went over her mouth from behind, and she kicked straight up behind her.

A man collapsed, writhing in pain, and she ran for the door. Tears blurred her vision, and she smacked into the doorframe, getting a bloody nose for the second time in her life.

"Stop her! She's getting away!" yelled the man, his own eyes watering.

Two more people broke from their cover and ran for Viola. Her nose bleeding, the pain overwhelmed her for a moment, and they successfully grabbed her, putting her in an armlock.

"What- what did we do?" she sputtered, trying to twist away. "Why did you do this to us?"

One of them kneed her in the stomach. "Be quiet."

"We have lots of money! If you wanted to steal it, you didn't have to kill them!" she sobbed.

She was punched in the ribs. "Shut up. Where the hell is Leticia?"

"If you're taking me for ransom, my father will track you down!" she lied. "You'll all die! You better leave me alone!"

She was punched again, so violently that she had to gasp for breath. "This is your last warning. Be quiet."

A beautiful woman walked into the room, ignoring the blood she was stepping in. She was holding a rag, and from the pungent smell and the current situation, Viola knew it had to be chloroform. Hadn't she watched enough detective movies?

"Please! Please let me go!" she screamed, thrashing, every movement sending jarring waves of pain down her immobilized arms. "Let me gooooo- agh!"

She slumped, the rag taking effect. Her red hair flopped listlessly in the blood on the floor as she was dragged into a large body bag.

"Sorry, dear," Ms. Leticia told the bag. "Only doing my job. Now I've got one more to go."

"Aw, come on, Tate! I don't wanna go outside! Stop it!" Jeanette Isabella Pikes complained as her friend manhandled her onto the high hill near her house.

"Tate Race, put me down this instant! I might get a tan or a sunburn!"

"Yeah, sure, Jittery. You'll get sunburned in the middle of fall."

She pouted. "I hope you get attacked by rats and then whipped to death. Hey, look at that cloud! It looks like a book! I wonder if rats would eat books, I mean if they were really hungry and there was nothing else to eat, it's only paper. I'm sure a book wouldn't eat a rat, though, except like in that one movie, I forget what it was called, but remember the book that ate things? I wonder if you could rip apart a book with a whip. Paper's pretty fragile, right? I mean, just think of Traysee's diary, we sure ripped that up easily, but she deserved it, since she was obsessing over her makeup and how we mustn't disturb her while she was putting it on- Tate? Tate? Why are you ignoring me? You're so mean! I hope you get burned at the stake!"

"Jeanette Isabella," he said, "Hush. Just look around. Isn't it nice today? It's not too hot, is it? The sun's behind a cloud."

The cloud moved, displaying the sun in all its blinding brilliance, which seemed most attracted to Tate's curly hair.

He swore, and moved to the left. The sunlight obligingly followed him.

"What the hell? Jittery, stop laughing! Why are you-"

He suddenly clapped his hand over her mouth, and pulled her low to the ground. Before she could try to protest, he pointed over the side of the hill.

Three men and one beautiful woman were walking up. That wasn't alarming by itself. But coupled with the two body bags they were dragging, one of them occupied, was enough to scare Jeanette Isabella into silence.

"Just great! We have to walk all the way up this hill pulling Replacement Number Eighteen, after we already went to Replacement Number Ten's house, and she wasn't there," one of the men griped. Jeanette Isabella didn't know what that meant, but it sounded disturbing.

"And we had to kill the father and sister, which I don't mind, but it's more paperwork to fill out. And the mother, the you-know-who, she got away!"

Her mouth dropped open. Surely they didn't mean they killed her own family? Father and Traysee? And how did her mother get away? Tate's fists were clenched, and he was muttering all the swear words he could think of.

"And now we've got to kill the boyfriend too, which means more paperwork!"

Despite everything else that was happening, Tate's face turned scarlet.

"And now they aren't there. You scared them off. Great job, Louis."

"No, no, don't worry," said a voice that sent chills down Jittery's spine. "They're right up there now, listening to every word. Here, give me that."

"Perhaps this isn't the most romantic setting for it," Tate whispered, "But I really like you, Jitterbug."

Her mouth dropped open.

And a hole was blown in Tate's chest.

He fell over backwards, tumbling down the hill, leaving a bloody trail. His limbs flopped in every direction. Jittery couldn't stop screaming.

If the whole scene had been a movie they were watching, Tate would have made fun of it. He would have said, "Yep, cliche as always. Boo-hoo, the newly discovered boyfriend dies dramatically by the evil killers, giving the lovely female main character the spirit to defeat the evil killers. Oh, and the main character is always brunette. In movies, the main character girls are always brunette. Blaugh. Let's watch a different movie." Jittery would have laughed and laughed.

Jittery happened to have brown hair. She considered herself at least averagely attractive. Her best/boyfriend had just been killed.

But she didn't have the spirit to defeat the evil killers. All she could do was cry as she was taken away. Apparently, stories don't always have good endings.

Poor Violetta and Jeanette Isabella. Ms. Leticia cares more about herself than them and their families...until her Remorse Side comes in. Reviews are more radiant than the sun.