Hey everyone. Just writing this to say thank you for taking the time to read this. Constructive criticism is always welcome, so if you think you see something when reading this that you think could use improvement, feel free to let me know. Reviews are always welcome, but there are just two things I want you to keep in mind when reviewing: First of all, I don't accept flames. Constructive criticism I'll take; insults or bashing, I will not. Second, don't give me ANY ideas for plot events, new characters, or anything else that could drastically change the plot. As with all my other stories, I have this outlined from beginning to end and I know exactly what's going to happen in it, and nothing you say will convince me to change what I've planned.

Oh yes, one more thing: as this is a direct sequel to the first Strong to Save, I'd recommend reading that before this. I'll do my best to summarize the events of the first one, but it still might not make complete sense. (That and this chapter alone will spoil huge parts of the first one's ending)

But for now, that's it. Thus commences Strong to Save II

--- --- ---- --- --- --- ---- --- --- --- ---- --- --- --- ---- --- --- --- ---- --- --- --- ---- ---

"Grr…why me?!"

He was running through the long, empty halls of the Marvel. His heavy breathing and pounding footsteps were the only sounds that could be heard throughout the entire lifeless vessel. And even though he was all by himself on the massive cruise ship, there was something very unwelcome and disturbing about it...almost like there was someone else there.

"I can't take any more of this!"

He ran one corner and was scared half to death when he saw someone staring at him. It was a fifteen year-old boy with bleached blond hair, and his eyes had a very menacing glare to them. He had one hand over his heart, but it looked like he was in a lot of pain trying to keep his hand there.

"Evan!" he yelled. "But you're…"

Evan slowly moved his hand from over his heart, revealing that a knife had been thrust into his chest. Fresh blood was still pouring from it.

"Ahhh!" he yelled as he jumped back. He turned away from Evan and started running, only to find another person was standing there.

This person was a teenage girl. Her gaze was equally as hateful. But unlike Evan, she didn't need to cover anything creepy or disturbing; her whole figure was enough to bring nightmares. She was covered in seaweed and almost looked like something from a horror movie aimed at children. And yet, there was something much more sinister about her.

"Shannon!" he yelled. "No, it's…"

Evan and Shannon both closed in on him, not once blinking, not once stuttering, not once doing anything that made them seem human.

He tried running, but he was trapped and surrounded from both sides. There was no escape for him.

"Please, no!"

Then Evan and Shannon were upon him.

-

"Auuuuuuuuuuuugggggggh!" Pat shouted in terror as he shot up. He was breathing heavily and was drenched in sweat. Both factors were obvious to the extent that he felt as if he had just completed a marathon. However, he deduced that he had actually just went through a nightmare, based on the fact he was sitting up in his bed.

Pat let out another deep sigh of relief. He ran a hand through his bowl-cut brown hair and looked over at the digital next to his clock. It told him it was roughly 1:30 in the morning. The gentle rocking of the boat on the water helped calm him down a little.

Taking a deep breath, he crawled out of his bed and opened the door to his room. Despite the fact that he did it very quietly, he still inadvertently surprised the two children sitting right outside his door-one boy and on girl- and caused them to jump.

"Pat, is everything all right?" the girl asked.

"Yeah. I'm fine. Hey, you guys haven't seen anyone around here, have you?"

The two (who were actually Pat's night-watchers) looked at each other with a puzzled look before the boy told him, "No. I haven't seen anyone."

"Neither have I," the girl added.

Pat let out a sigh of relief. "Sorry, I just had this weird dream and…never mind."

With that, Pat started walking away from his room and into the black, empty halls.

"Wait, where ya going?" the boy asked.

"I'm just gonna make sure everything here is all set," Pat answered without turning around. "You know, just checking to see if anyone's causing any trouble."

Pat was tired of being stranded on this cruise ship. What started as a family vacation for him and everyone else on board turned into tragedy when a storm struck and killed all the adults. Then things only got worse once the two oldest survivors, Evan and Shannon, began competing for power when they realized just how little trust they had for each other. Somehow or another, both ended up killing the other, as well as directly and indirectly killing some of the other children on board. The ship had most definitely had a bloody history in just the course of a week or so.

Now Pat was the oldest one (and he was moderately young, considering the two oldest before him had been fifteen and sixteen years old) left on the ship, and he was basically forced into trying to keep everything in order. That, and the fact he somehow had a part in manipulating the falls of Evan and Shannon was something that made everyone convinced he'd be all the better of a leader. (He wasn't so sure he actually believed that, though)

"I don't think I can take this much more…" Pat weakly said to himself as he started walking away, leaving his two "guards" sitting right outside his door, both a little confused at this sudden impulse.

After walking for only a minute or two, Pat thought he heard something in the long, deserted halls. He froze and started scanning the whole area around him, but the dark made it a challenge to see anything. After looking for a few moments, he simply shrugged the noise off and continued his walk.

Several seconds after Pat was out of earshot, a voice whispered, "Whew. That was close."

"No kidding," said another voice.

"I thought we were done," input a third.

"All right, all right, whatever," said the fourth and final voice. "He's gone now. Anyway, you guys all know what you're supposed to be doing, right?"

"Yeah," whispered one of the three others.

"Good. I think we can…"

That last sentence was cut off when the group heard someone breathing heavily behind him. The fourth one turned around and promptly reached out and tried to grab something in front of him, hoping that he would snag the shirt of whoever was listening in on them. As predicted, he was able to grab onto someone and bring them in.

"Ah!" yelled the voice of the caught boy. "Don't hurt me! I wasn't…!"

One of the others put their hand around his mouth to make sure he didn't wake anyone. With that, the screams in horror were quickly changed to unclear mumbling. It was followed up with one of the others whispering,"Oh, please. It's just Clark."

-

The next day was very cloudy, but there were a few spots for the sun to peek out. The ocean seemed calm enough, and everyone on the ship seemed like they were starting to settle in more and accept Pat as their new leader. As it had been for the past several days, the boat was idly floating in the middle of nowhere on the open sea.

Pat, however, wasn't as cheery as all of his "followers". While they were in the arcade or swimming at the pool or talking with some of their friends, he was sitting at a table in the café all by himself, just munching on some cereal from one of those tiny boxes that wouldn't even fill a four-year old up. The table he was sitting at was plain and bolted to the floor, and right next to it was a large window that gave a clear view at the ocean. Under normal circumstances he probably would have thought it was a nice place to sit and eat at, but today he had bigger concerns and couldn't really focus on any of the nicer things.

He really didn't think he had what it took to be a leader. As far as he was concerned, he was just a regular kid who was only able to outsmart two teenagers who were thirsty for each other's blood, and he even needed some help to do that. But despite him saying he wasn't leader material, everyone insisted that he was the smartest one on the ship and should therefore be the one who led everyone.

Pat truly didn't think he had it in him, but no one would listen. And ever since then, he had been busy, making sure everyone was keeping calm and that no one was plotting anything that could potentially be dangerous. Being the avid reader that he was, he brought several books with him when this adventure was still a "vacation", but now he hadn't had time to read any of them.

While he was in his own world thinking about everything he would've liked to do but now couldn't, a girl sat down right across from him at the table. She was eating an apple and hardly looked more pleasant than he did. She had short blonde hair and a pretty face, and she seemed to be a year or so younger than Pat.

"Hey," she said. It wasn't very clear whether or not the upbeat tone to her voice was either forced or authentic.

"Hi, Nicole," he dryly welcomed as he continued eating his cereal.

"How's it going?"

"Not bad. You?"

"Ohhh, you know."

There was a bit of an awkward silence before she started again. "Can you believe it's already been a week since Evan and Shannon died?"

"Heh, it feels like it's been a month," Pat sourly remarked. The stress of managing everything had been getting to him lately, and now he was becoming slightly more irritable.

"You think so?"

"Yeah. Ever since you guys asked me to lead this ship I haven't really been able to relax. You know, I never even wanted to be the leader."

"But Pat, you're the oldest one here!" she said as if she was trying to explain something important that he, for some reason, just could not understand. "And after how you made Evan and Shannon…"

"People just want to use that as an excuse because they wanted someone else to be the leader instead of themselves," he grunted. The tone suggested that he was blaming everyone on the boat for being in the predicament that they were trapped in now.

Nicole sighed. "I know it's a hard job. I really feel bad for you."

It was at this moment Pat realized that he had been whining about his job for some time, and he quickly snapped out of that mindset. Even though he didn't want to be the leader, he refused to be a weak and complaining one. Not only was he worried that he'd make himself look bad and pathetic, but he didn't want to make anyone else feel scared and that things wouldn't be okay. If he thought it was difficult managing things now, he could only imagine what a nightmare it would be like if everyone saw him looking scared and instantly assumed the worst was going to happen.

"Yeah, it's got it's tough points, but I can manage," Pat answered, now completely out of his negative state. He was trying to convince both Nicole and himself that everything would be all right and that there would be no problems.

"You sure? Because I could help…"

"Nah, it's fine. Really. The only kids left on here are good ones. I can keep'em under control."

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"Even though Evan and Shannon couldn't?..."

"Well, I'm not either of them, am I? Sorry, but Patrick Teriques isn't like those guys," he proudly reminded her, even though he wasn't sure he was as "ready" to be a leader as either of the two teens before him were.

Nicole was surprised at his sudden rebound. She always held respect for Pat and felt bad for him because of all the stress he was under. Like him, she was fairly smart, although she wasn't nearly as much of a bookworm. She was much more social and wanted to be around everyone, especially those who didn't look like they had anyone to talk to. (one of the reasons she decided to sit down next to Pat)

"No, I guess not," she said as she threw her apple into a wastebasket as if she were sinking a hoop.

"Niiiice," Pat remarked when he saw the throw. For the first time all morning, he let out a slight grin.

"That's what happens when you play basketball."

"You play?"

"Yeah. Why, do you?"

"Pfft. You kidding? I couldn't hit a baseball to save my life!"

"Well, you'll get better if you keep trying," she encouraged, completley ignoring the fact that there was no way to practice or improve his skills. She followed up by standing and telling, "I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to get another apple."

Pat looked a little nervous. "You sure? I don't know how much longer those are going to last."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we've been stuck out here for a couple weeks now, right?"

"Yeah. So?"

"I don't know how much longer our food is going to last. We've gotta be close to running out by now. Either that or a lot of it's gonna go bad."

"Oh, yeah. What are we gonna do when that happens?"

"I think we still have enough for a little while longer," Pat answered. He deliberately tried side-stepping the question so he wouldn't have to answer what they would do if they were to ever run out of food. The thought of what would happen if they ran out of food wasn't something that Pat wanted anyone to worry about…yet. He had calculated that there would be enough for a good while longer, and he hoped to be rescued by then. Unfortunately for him, nothing in the past week had indicated that such a thing was going to happen. In fact, he had no idea when they would get rescued...if ever.

"Yeah, I just hope everyone'll be all right," Nicole cryptically said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean after what happened to Evan, Shannon, and Dan, and Nikki, and Kate, I hope no one else is going to d…"

"Just stop it!" Pat scolded as he pounded his fist on the table. Any trace of being cool-headed abruptly disappeared and he started acting like someone had just insulted someone or something very important to him. "No one's going to die. That's the one rule I'm going to follow through on. Absolutely no one is going to die before this whole thing is over."

"All right," Nicole said, not entirely sure that she believed what Pat said.

"Seriously, why would you say something like that?!"

"Pat, I don't think everyone is going to have it in them to make it through this! Think about all the little kids. They're probably scared to death about seeing a bunch of people die around them, and…"

"Don't talk like that!" Pat pleaded, now sounding more desperate than angry. "Please. Everyone's scared enough as it is. We don't need stuff like that now."

"All right, all right. Hey, how exactly are we going to get rescued, anyway?"

Pat was trying hard not to lose his temper. "Will you please just let me get everything straight? If I knew how we were gonna get off this stupid boat, don't you think I would've told everyone by now?!"

"Fine, I'm sorry," Nicole said. Her tone suggested that she didn't think she had done anything that Pat should be angry with her about.

"It's fine, really," Pat answered. He looked down and found that he hadn't even finished his cereal, despite the small amount he had. He groaned and got up to discard it into the trash. "I'm gonna head back to my room, all right?"

"Sure."

Pat turned away without another word and walked out of the café. He slowly trotted over to one of the staircases that would take him back to his floor. On the way up, he ran into two familiar faces: a boy with spiked red hair named Andy, and a girl with long blonde hair named Erika.

"Hey, guys," Pat tried to say cheerfully.

"Hey, Pat," they said in unison before passing him.

They, too, had helped Pat overcome Evan and Shannon before. Unlike Pat, they weren't really the brains of the operation; they were more of the "doers".

After that brief meeting, Pat continued walking to his room. When he finally got there, he used his key card to open the door and quickly walked in.

His room was a bit cramped, as were all the others. He walked into a corner and slowly sat down. He then tightly wrapped himself up into a ball and put his head between his legs.

"Ugh, who am I kidding? Nicole's right. Running out of food, and we're no closer to getting saved now than we were when Evan and Shannon were leading us. What am I gonna do?"

He was silent for a few more seconds before he lowly moaned, "I can't take much more of this…"