I'm done with trying to have it all, and ending up with not much else at all.

Kendall Ledet, 32, Citizen of Lansing, Michigan

Joshua stares at me expectantly.

"I know, I know…" I bury my face in my arms, feeling the coolness of the table against my chin. The light streaming in from the large glass windows feels accusing. "I messed up. But I can fix this, sir. I can."

His voice is deep. "We've worked on this for four years now, Ledet. It's our fifth year in the running and you came this close to messing up. Do you know how many peoples' lives you could have ruined?"

"I didn't mean to share the document," I hiss.

He throws up his hands in a blend of anger and disgust. "But you did, Ms. Ledet. You're young – that's why I hired you. For a friendly face to welcome the kids. But… maybe this was a mistake."

"It's no mistake, not at all," I rush to assure him. Joshua might have the face of a kindly grandfather with his laugh lines and spectacles, but I've seen what lies under his mask. Rage, apprehension, lust, greed, hunger. I can't afford to have the mask lifted again. I need to keep the pot simmering – but not boiling. "It was an error of my own self. Nobody else's. And I take full responsibility, sir, I do."

Joshua sits back in his chair, folding his arms over each other. "I trust you, Ms. Ledet."

"With all good reason." I smile warily. "With all good reason. You're my business partner, Mister, my equal-"

"Business partner!" he seems to find this hilarious. "Equal! I am your superior, Ms. Ledet, and you will refer to me as that."

My breath lets out in a sigh of defeat. "Fine. Superior. But, sir… don't you think we should have some outside consultancies on this change? I mean, advertising… that's big. Anybody could stick their nose into our business."

Joshua nods slowly. "I've considered this, and I've decided to let you meet up with them. Haven't we discussed this? They're due to drop by in just twenty minutes to share their views on the matter."

"Will you ask most of the questions, or shall I?"

"Me?" Joshua laughs. "I'll be long gone by then. I'm going to Compton until you have the fresh batch of kids ready, Kendall." It's the first time he's used my first name, and it doesn't go unnoticed. His eyes grow hard, steely. "I've given you my plans. All you have to talk about with those kids are their thoughts on advertising. Everything is set up. I can meet you in Detroit in two weeks."

I bite my lip, stuck between wanting him to stay so I have a backbone, and wanting him to leave so I can prove my responsibilities.

My mouth speaks before my brain can.

"Have fun in California, Joshua."

Twenty minutes later Joshua's gone and I'm pacing around the meeting room, glancing occasionally out the window and through the door, waiting for the four to show up. No doubt they'll be confused.

But as soon as they trickle in, their eyes full of clarity and hands swinging carelessly, it occurs to me that really, maybe they're not confused; maybe they're just tired of all the pandemonium.

I feel as if I should run over each child, if I can call them that.

The first to win was Colton, a tall, lanky boy hailing from Massachusetts. Mature-looking, with scruffy speckles of a beard dotting his face and a severe glare, it was no surprise when he himself turned out to be a bit of a brute. But a soft-hearted brute. After he won, he opened up to me. Thought me of something as a friend, something he'd never had before. The oldest of the bunch, too.

Second to win was Sierra, a bumbling wild card with fire in her eyes and rage boiling in her veins instead of blood. Her hair was a pinkish blue color, and she smirked an awful lot. I feel like she wasn't even affected by killing children. Then again, she might have been hopped up on heroin the entire time, so it all evens out. I don't like her much. She's bitchy and sarcastic rolled into one.

Third comes Elle, another one who isn't my favorite. She's too pristine for my tastes. Pristine, pretentious, and parrotlike, that's her. She ran away from a family that was loaded. I mean, she came here with Swarovski on her wrist and Gucci sneakers on her feet. She's down to earth when she likes, but she's also very argumentive. The perfect stereotype of a spoiled rich hag.

The most recent to win, and to be honest, my favorite, is Kenny. He's a lot more shy than the others, but the most violent when he gets fired up. He came from a broken past with nothing but the threadbare bag on his back and a whole lot of sorrow. He's shy most of the time, drowned out by the louder personalities of Colton, Sierra, and Elle. But I think he's okay with that, for some reason.

"Why are we here?" Sierra's the first to speak, loudly chewing a wad of blue bubblegum. Her hair – pink this time – hurts my eyes.

"I was getting a pedicure," Elle complains, but she's smirking.

"Sit down." They all comply without a word. Elle reaches for a bottle of Fiji water in the chilled cooler in the center of the table. The other three stare at me expectantly. "Joshua wanted me to call-"

"Joshua?" Colton's eyes flash – he's not a fan of Joshua, like many others. If there's anything that the old man has done besides eat sandwiches made of dollar bills and take baths in gold, it's made lots of enemies.

"It's… not bad." I smile uneasily. "He wants to ask your guys' opinions on… advertising the Game. More than usual."

It's Sierra who blinks first, a scowl darkening on her face. "As if a newspaper ad wasn't enough?" She complains loudly. "What more can you do, send out flyers to families with kids who wanna get away?"

"It's not just the kids wanting to get away," I say, trying to avoid her question, but she's on a roll, like always.

"It's screwed up my life enough as it is," Sierra proceeds with a glower, daring me to remind her that running away was the best thing she's ever done, "and I don't think you should advertise it even more. What do you need, more kids to harm?" Her tone is icy.

If there's a point to be made, Sierra will be the one to do it, even if she doesn't believe in it. She loves arguments. I feel as if she continued on the drug-free lifestyle that we've prepared for her and toned down the hair dye, she'd make a stupendous lawyer.

"You know that's not the case and that's the end of it," I say snippily, turning to the other three. Kenny shrinks under my gaze. Colton stares at me placidly. Elle sips her Fiji water. "What do you three think?"

"No doubt there'd be extra kids," Elle says in a high-pitched voice, "So what would you do with the excess?"

"Therapy," I reply, shrugging. "Even if all they want is a game… Joshua and I don't necessarily support their cause. We're pawns. Yes, Colton, not even Joshua is the big cheese here. There's bigger forces above us, and we need to comply to what they want. But we want the other kids who came here with big hopes and dreams to be able to fulfill them – safely. Too many kids in the Game, you've got a problem. So we send the excess to therapy to help them pull through whatever troubles they're going through."

"That's confusing," Colton observes.

I nod, closing my eyes briefly. "I'm aware. It makes sense for Joshua, though, so…"

"And I still can't believe," he interjects quickly, raising an arm to silence me, "that Joshua isn't the biggest guy in whatever force you guys are working for. I mean, who can be bigger than Joshua?"

"Many people, I'm afraid," I say, trying to hide the pain in my voice. "He's got the money, but it's others who have the ideas. Like I said… pawns, guys. Pawns."

Sierra has been silently brewing while Colton and I have been speaking, but now she pipes up again. "I personally think," she announces, her voice packed full of wavering honesty, "that advertising is a great way to get kids for the Game, and an excellent technique to give therapy to the rejected scum."

And then Kenny speaks up, his deep voice strong and faithful.

"It's almost better to be rejected than to have to live throughout the Game, isn't it?" he says mournfully. "We all know the effects. We've all lived through it."

"It's only the fifth time around, guys," Elle interjects before he can say anything else. "This Game is still new. The idea is still fresh. Why not advertise, this early on?"

"It's settled, then?" My question hangs in the air. "Websites, commercials, newspaper ads… they'll all be done as soon as possible. More kids can come. We can help more kids… except for the chosen ones."

Simultaneously, they all give a small smile, some more false than others.

"Now…" Elle pokes her small nose up in the air, searching. "Now that we've been talking smack about him behind his back, where is Joshua?"

"Compton." I frown. "Big drug trade going on there. Lots of profits to be gained – both cash money, and blood money."

And they disperse with that one bit of information, satisfied. As they should be. After the Game, which each of them won in their own special sort of way to please my superiors, they've been living in the lap of luxury. Colton in a basement corridor, saying that the coolness helps him think. Sierra near a window, loving the gossip that floats in. Elle on a penthouse suite – fitting, for a girl of her pretentiousness. And Kenny, in his simple apartment on a random floor, saying that he never needed very much.

In a way, our foundation has only helped runaways. Depressed, suicidal, struggling to breathe in a sea of mental issues and troubles. We've given them new life.

They were broken – take Sierra for example, dabbling in drugs and alcohol and all things illegal. We've eased her off that. Now she's… still feisty, but at least she's not dangerous. With Kenny it was violence; with Elle it was hatred of her parents; and with Colton, depression. The victors of the Game have won more than a lottery would ever have given them.

But for the other kids? The ones who lost their Game?

We've destined them to a fate worse than death.

And I hate that I can do nothing to help them.

A/N: Fear and Loathing by Marina and the Diamonds.

Lol look who it is. It's me. Back at it again with another stupid story, eh? I said I was done with SYOT's. And I am. This isn't a SYOT. Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot by starting up a new AU story where I'll only accept like 10 tributes, and where my schedule is so stressful and busy (soccer, school, people) but whatever. Be warned right now of sporadic updates and no promises. The format's gonna be different, there will be less tributes, it's a modern AU, everything is different in this story. And, yeah, shitty A/N but all the details are on my profile, really.

Anyways, I'm Kelly, what's up, form and stuff is on my profile. I guess I'm a decent writer and 'legend' in the word of some ( jalen), so make your tribute good and I'll accept it, simple as that.

By the way, the current victor's blog is therunawayshg . blogspot . com - go check it out, get a feel for what I'm doing.

And before I bid adieu, the basic outline of the story is this:

Kids from all over receive an ad online or in the news describing a series of games with riches. They all have different motivations – running away from their families, escaping bad situations, etc. Some will never make it to Detroit. Some won't get accepted to the Game, flung into therapy sessions instead. This truly is a battle for the chosen ones. And the one thing they have in common? They're all runaways. Somehow, though, none of this ever gets caught. The kids never speak. Then again, how could they? They're helpless.