Season 1 Finale
Laid in her makeshift bed, Tessa feels her body lightly being jostled by a warm pair of hands, whispering her name to gently awaken her. Despite the room being mostly coated in the dark and her eyes struggling to stay open for more than a second at a time, Tessa recognizes Natalie’s voice and asks what’s going on. “Charlie’s missing” Natalie whispers, the words being enough for Tessa to stop stretching and begin trying to wake up as quickly as she can.
“Missing in what way?” Tessa asks, hoisting herself to her feet and following Natalie to Charlie’s empty sleeping bag. “I woke up and realized he wasn’t in bed like everyone else” Natalie replies, “I have no idea where he is.” Thinking over her options, Tessa nods and walks over to Rick, waking him up as there is something urgent to get to. “Natalie, I need you to stay here and let the others know what’s going on when they wake up, alright?”
“What is going on?” Natalie asks, the latter request falling short, “do you know where Charlie is?” Handing Rick his bag and a rifle, Tessa tells Natalie that she has an idea of where he could be. “He was pretty sick last night and he said he was making a trip to that platformed you guys climbed to for medicine” Tessa replies, “he’s probably still down there.” Her eyes shifting, Natalie cocks her head back and shakes it in disagreement.
“There wasn’t any medicine in there” Natalie responds, “just an empty crawl space with a bunch of blankets and towels.” Concerned at this new revelation, Tessa chooses to look on the brightest side available, suggesting he just went up there and fell asleep. “He’s probably still in there” Tessa says, “we’ll go over and bring him back.” Throwing on their heaviest coats, Rick and Tessa make off for the tunnels and instruct Natalie to keep the group in the house.
“So he was burning up with a fever and you just let him roam through this place alone?” Rick asks, Tessa replying that there wasn’t much else she could do. “He’s a stubborn bastard, he won’t listen to people when they tell him not to do something” Tessa admits, “even if I told him not to go, he wouldn’t have listen to me.” Knowing Charlie to be as stubborn as Tessa tells of him to be, Rick finds himself unable to side with Tessa, believing that she had some responsibility.
“If it were me, I know I would have gone with him” Rick replies, “even if he wasn’t sick… I wouldn’t want anyone wandering down here alone with what we know is around here.” Hanging her head, already feeling bad enough for having allowed Charlie to travel alone, Tessa pushes her worry aside in favor of being hopeful that there can be a resolution found.
“Just up ahead” Rick says, calling out the ladder and shouting Charlie’s name. “We’re gonna have to go up there” Tessa says, handing Rick her flashlight before beginning to climb up. Once at the top, Tessa catches her flashlight from Rick, who holds his in his teeth as he joins her above, looking through the cramped crawl space littered with everything from blankets to decade-old mattresses sprawled out with reckless abandon.
Covering his nose, Rick struggles to keep from the wretched stench festering in the small spot whilst Tessa struggles to keep from throwing up. “There’s something seriously wrong if he chose to take a fuckin’ nap here” Rick says, continuing their journey to get this experience over as fast as he can. Using a ruler to knock away cobwebs or any other element standing between them and their destination, Rick peers around corners to find more of what he’d already been seeing.
“This is disgusting” Tessa says, no longer able to hold her stomach at bay any longer, throwing up on a moldy, balled-up blue towel. “Head back down” Rick directs, telling Tessa to leave the rest to him whilst she takes a breather. Doing as directed, Tessa thanks Rick and heads for the exit, leaving the elder man to navigate the horribly degrading space on his lonesome, still finding no traces of Charlie.
At the very last second, Rick spots something drawn on the walls at the very back of the narrow slot. Taking interest in what it has to offer, the man braces the smell and leans in, shining his flashlight over a weird pattern of sorts, almost like a map. Arrows pointing in two directions, an abundance of lines are paired with numbers seemingly drawn at random. Taking one final glance at the artwork, the man spots a circle with one large ‘Y’ in the middle, nodding at the sight of it.
“Nothing” Rick says, climbing back into the tunnels and staring down either remaining direction. “Where could he be?” Tessa asks aloud, “it’s not like we found anything special down here.” Choosing not to gloss over the idea of other points of interest in the tunnels, Rick responds with the fact that Charlie may have found something that caught his eye. “We’re just gonna have to keep looking” Rick concludes, staring off into the darkest depths of the tunnel yet to be explored.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“I’m ready for this whole thing to be over” Rena says, the smile on Marlhy’s face as she packs her bag serving as the symbol of shared hope. “What’re you gonna do when you get back home?” Marlhy asks, setting up the ball for Rena to do as she pleases with it. “I don’t know” the girl replies, not having given the idea of returning home without the cash prize much thought.
“I didn’t really get that far in my planning” Rena replies, admitting that she hopes to just be able to move on and start something new. “Maybe anchoring the news” Rena replies, the suggested course of action being vastly different from her previous life of dancing for tips. “Well I look forward to you telling me all about how shitty my little town is” Marlhy replies, zipping up her bag as Rena provides her best anchor impression.
“Just don’t touch the weather report” Michael jokes from the back of the room, “the last thing we need is you guiding us into a thunderstorm because it was supposed to be a sunny day.” Rolling her eyes, Rena asks Michael if he’d truly prefer the Barrow weather to a thunderstorm, which forces him to wave the white flag. “I’ll give you that one” Michael responds, “but only on the grounds that it’s better than being shot at by cannibals.”
“Speaking of which” Austin says, lacing up his rubber boots in preparation, “what happens if we run into those fuckers again?” Looking around the room, the group waits for the first suggestion, which ultimately comes from Rena.
“We’ve got their guns and a swimming pool’s load of snow to bury ourselves in” Rena begins, the confidence not exactly shooting through the roof. “We survived once working with what we had” the girl confidently proclaims, “we’ll do it again if we have to.”
“We got lucky the last time around” Austin counters, “we shouldn’t be confident that we’ll get away with some kind of plot-armor a second time because we lived through the first.” Tilting her head, Rena becomes consumed by an interest in what caused Austin to take such a turn personality wise.
“You put Mike over your shoulder and carried him away from dying multiple times” Rena sets up, asking “why’re you so pessimistic all of a sudden?” Pulling his laces with force, Austin smirks at Rena, telling her that he is surrounded by a group of people that can’t appreciate how good they have it. “Tell me this isn’t about you not getting your way” Rena requests, Austin accepting it by responding with certainty that it is, indeed, deeper than that.
“How can you not see what we’ve got right in front of us?” Austin asks, his voice growing harsher as the annoyance of abandoning what he perceives as a massive win continues to mount on him. “We’ve got a building, food, water, shelter and a fucking radio!” Austin shouts, his arms flying outwards in anger as nearly everything he mentions is guaranteed here in a way that it isn’t at the town.
“All we need to get the hell out of here is electricity, which shouldn’t be that hard to figure out!” Austin proclaims, “but instead, you all wanna go hiking and leave this behind because you saw something pretty!” With that, Austin stands up and begins packing the little he chooses to carry with him on the venture. “We’re in the middle of the arctic tundra in the farthest place from civilization in the entire country, how is anything supposed to come easy for us?” Rena asks.
Waving her off as another voice without value, Austin replies that they have something guaranteed here that isn’t guaranteed down there. “You may look at me like I’m pissed off at ‘not getting my way’, but there is nothing down there that we don’t have in here” Austin replies, the vitriol showing in his voice the longer it speaks. “The food may be stale, the water may not be endless, but it’s more than what’s down there.”
Choosing that line to walk off on, Austin leaves the cabin and aims for the gate as the remainder of the group finish their packing. “Nothing?” Michael asks, looking towards Rena, catching her attention like a fly in a web. “What do you want me to say, Mike?” Rena asks, finishing up with her bag as Michael requests any counter argument to hopefully solidify their hope in this journey into the unknown.
“Second guessing yourself?” Rena asks, beginning to grow annoyed with the aiming of concern or fault in her direction. “Not at all” Michael replies, “he’s just got a few good points.” Strapping her bag over her shoulder, Rena walks for the front door and passes by Michael replying, “everyone’s got a few good points.” Buttoning up his coat, Michael calls out to rena, asking “what’re our points then?”
Stopping at the sound of the question as her hand is on the handle, Rena glances over her shoulder in Michael’s direction before pulling the door open and exiting the cabin. Looking across the room from him, Michael lifts his eyebrows at Marlhy, who stares at him with the same well-masked look of worry at what their decision will result in. Shrugging at him, Marlhy pulls her bag over her shoulder and walks for the front door, leaving Michael to an empty living room to finish up.
“And you just let him?” Warren asks, his aggravation at Tessa’s oversight showing it’s colors with every word. “Why the fuck would you do that?” Natalie asks, her curiosity taking a much less aggravated stance than Warren’s. “I wasn’t thinking!” Tessa replies, “I kept waking up, my mind wouldn’t stop running and Charlie even being sick caught me off guard. It all happened so quickly!”
“Even then, you didn’t think about a sick guy going down into the tunnels in the middle of the night even once?” Warren asks, the answer of ‘no’ from Tessa only further driving him crazy. Choosing to stop while he’s ahead, Warren throws his hands up and takes himself out of the equation, his place being taken by a calmer, less finger-pointing Harper, who’s finally recovered enough to sit up and hold a conversation.
“None of these questions solve the issue we’ve got on our hands” Harper says, “what we need to start doing is figuring out where he went so we can go get him.” Pointing out that they have yet to explore most of the tunnels, Rick suggests they split up in both directions and look for anything that stands out. “Perhaps he went up to the crawl space, saw no medicine, and went to wherever it was he thought he found it” Rick concludes, the group being less than convinced.
“There was nothing more than whatever the fuck that smell was when we were up there” Natalie replies, curious as to why he thought there would be medicine there in the first place. “Maybe he dreamt it up?” Warren asks, adding himself back into the picture, “maybe he connected the dots between needing medicine and knowing of a weird place in the tunnel and drew a line to the other?”
“That’s delusional” Rick replies, brushing it off before Harper questions whether or not that matters. “Sure, it’s delusional… But if he was sick, is it really so difficult to assume he was suffering from delusions?” With that question raised, Liz adds in the question of what specifically got him sick. “I mean, there are the obvious things… Especially in the arctic, but nothing that I can think of that would cause delusions.”
“Either way, the question was raised so let’s not throw it off the table just yet” Rick states, “he was in the tunnels, so let’s figure out where he went in the tunnels.” Climbing to their feet, the group gets their gear ready and ventures back into the depths below the home, readying themselves for round two. “Natalie, Warren and I will take the tunnel southbound” Rick directs, “Tessa, Liz and Harper will head north.”
Splitting in their separate directions, Tessa and Rick embrace and head off on their paths, being sure to split on good terms in case events take a horrible turn. With the lightbulbs continuously threatening to blow out at any moment, the eery feeling that elicits the response of nerves tingling in the hands surrounds the tunnel with each jolt of the flashlight, the cavernous limestone tunnel walls experiencing their first true splash of light in decades at the group’s hands.
Silently marching from their observation point into whatever rests behind the partially-submerged walls of the ghost town, Rena and her group plow through the snow as more falls onto them from the heavens above. Her concerns only raising the longer the group goes without speaking, Marlhy questions Michael and Austin what they’re planning to do when they get back home.
“At this rate, invest in a fireplace” Michael replies, finally having enough strength to fight forward on his own as Austin tails just behind as a precautionary measure. “What about you Austin?” Marlhy asks, the first ten seconds of silence being enough to convince Marlhy to look behind her, watching Austin staring into the sky for an answer. “I’d like to just make it home to start with” Austin responds, his continuously pessimistic attitude beginning to ware on the group.
Despite being the source of it, Austin understands his role in the tense air and makes an attempt to lighten it. “I’m gonna invest in some fire wood for the fire place I already have” the bitter man replies, getting a brief chuckle out of Michael, which gives him the right of passage to openly laugh himself. Sharing humor, Michael and Austin ask what Marlhy plans on doing when home comes around.
“At this rate, I’d just like to be able to sleep in my own bed” the girl replies, the thought of such an familiar commodity being in reach acting as a delight. “What I wouldn’t do for that” Austin responds, praising the thought with the hope that the town will actually have beds waiting for them. “Even if it has nothing else, I’d be content with having an actual mattress to sleep on for the first time in ages!” Austin exclaims, finally loosening up his depressing grip on the future.
“What do we do when we get there?” Michael asks, ready for the town to serve as nothing more than their stepping stone to freedom. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to see something from the top of that clock tower” Rena replies, “but the best thing would be if we were able to settle in for a day or two if we need.”
“We can’t just keep going from place to place on less than a day of rest, Rena” Marlhy replies, citing the callouses and blisters beginning to form beneath their feet. “The rubber may keep the snow out of our boots, but they don’t keep them from being cold” Michael adds in, suggesting they remain in the town for a few days whilst they regroup. “I’m fine with settling in for a few” Austin responds, “what? I don’t!” he furthers once noticing Rena glancing over her shoulder at him.
“I may not be completely on board with this town, but I’m not shutting it out” Austin says, going as far as to suggest the town be a fair place for them to lay low and recoup. “I just thought we had a better chance making contact with someone back at the station than we do of walking our way to safety” Austin concludes, “I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”
Every snow-fighting step brings the group closer to the vacant town, and the light snowfall above only increases their hope. “Just keep pushing” Rena says through gritted teeth, her feet aching from the walk, but her mind solely focused on the town as the end-all be-all for the moment.
“I fucking hate the things” Warren says, shining his light back and forth, allowing the limestone to reflect the light in a semi-entertaining way. “Can you keep the light forward?” Rick asks, the group using Warren’s flashlight as their lightsource to preserve their own. Before Rick an finish making his request, Warren directs the group to slow down and look off to the side, his flashlight having stumbled upon a hole in the wall leading into the unexplored.
“That’s new” Natalie responds, a confident “you’re welcome” originating from Warren, who takes over the lead by flashing the light into what rests beyond. “It’s another tunnel!” Warren says, almost excitedly before Rick points out it being much more narrow than the one they’ve been navigating. “I don’t think he would-” Rick begins, cutting himself off when he notices something plastered on the wall beside the opening.
“I’ve… I’ve seen this before!” Rick exclaims, Natalie recognizing it as well from the crawl space. Together, they clue Warren in on the circular symbol with the bold ‘Y’ in the middle as having been scrawled out at the end of the crawl space from earlier. “Why is that important?” Warren asks, Rick stating that there was a path drawn along with it, pointing them in the direction of something yet unclear.
“Has this gone from a rescue mission to a treasure hunt?” Warren asks, “can we please focus on finding Charlie?” As his hopes are made clear, Warren finds his voice to be dulled beneath the actions of Rick climbing through the gap and into the hole. “Where the fuck are you going?” Warren asks, refusing to take Rick’s hand and join him in the hole.
“I’m not going in there!” Warren replies, immediately left alone in the tunnels as Natalie jumps at the opportunity. “If there’s any place Charlie would have gone other than the crawl space, it would’ve been in here” Rick responds, watching Warren shake his head. “You don’t know that for a fact!” the man replies, his statement falling on deaf ears as Rick extends his arm towards Warren once again.
“Come on, Warren!” Rick calls out, continuing to hold his hand as Warren aggravatedly bobs his head, refusing to listen to his better judgment. Now sharing the tiny space, Natalie takes the lead as the lack of space at her sides makes it nearly impossible to allow someone else ahead. Turning on her flashlight, Natalie leads the group further down the tunnel, both she and Rick going in blindly having forgotten the details of the crawl space’s map.
Calling out each direction they take as a way of being able to retrace their steps, Natalie continues forward, making the call to head down which path she likes the most. “Wait up!” Rick shouts, pointing out the footprints barely visible in the dirt below. “Follow those!” Rick declares, feeling like they’re getting closer with each claustrophobic breath they take.
As they venture further into the depths of Barrow barely explored, the sneaky feeling of something being off begins to set in for Warren, who grows adamant that they ease their pace. “We don’t even know if these are Charlie’s” Warren points out, “we could just be lurring ourselves into a fucking trap.” Scoffing, Natalie tells Warren to take it easy, knowing the worrying to be finding its way to him.
“Just t-” Natalie stops, her advice to Warren being halted when she comes to an abrupt stop, stumbling across a sight she never expected to find. Before her, chowing down on human remains beside a dead flashlight is a singular gray wolf, blocking the path from venturing any further. “Stay still” Rick warns, pulling his rifle over his shoulder and sneaking the barrel past Natalie as the wolf takes notice of their presence.
“Stay very, very still” Rick repeats, placing his eye towards the stock and placing his finger on the trigger lightly as the wolf adjusts its position. “Everyone relax” Rick says, the words intended to be his final piece of advice before action is taken. Leaning low to the ground, ready to pounce, the wolf growls at the sight of three fresh meals and begins slowly inching closer.
With a deep breath, Rick sends whatever air he held in his lungs through his lips and slowly squeezes the trigger, following the wolf with every step. In the narrow, stone catacombs, Rick sends off one shot, the bullet ripping through the barrel and the sound ripping through the air. As if it were a bomb with a carefully-plotted aftermath, the gun lets off a devastating shockwave, ensuring the sound travels the entire course of the catacombs just as the wolf prepares to pounce.
Calm and still, the stairwell of the partially-submerged clock tower rings with the sound of shattering glass as Rena and her group throw their packs inside before climbing in themselves. The first to hop through, Rena stands beside the window helping her remaining group members inside before scaling the staircase to the very top. Hoping for a promising result, the group ascends the stairs as if the top of the tower were presents on Christmas morning like they were kids again.
Catching her breath at the top, Marlhy becomes the first to complete the ascent as everyone else follows closely behind, in awe of the view they find greeting them at every angle. Amidst the expected gasps and simple wonders of the sights from so far above, Austin’s voice commands the most attention, his wonder at the level of their sights taking a backseat to the larger finding the group had been hoping for since they began their journey.
“Can you see it?” Austin asks, pointing past the debris of snowfall as the remainder of the group huddles around him for both warmth and guidance. “Past the snow, a few miles out!” Austin says, his enthusiasm beginning to grow the more people stammer over their words, finally starting to point it out. In the distance, seemingly lively by the view of a few warm lights beneath the dark midday sky is a small city just next to the north point of the Pacific Ocean.
“Is that Peard?” Marlhy asks, recalling the name of the nearest town from the initial flight into Barrow at the very start. “Yeah!” Austin excitedly shouts, “It is! It is!” The tension completely shriveling away to make room for the rush of excitement, the air becomes warm and welcoming once more, embraces and high fives being given across the room as the first true glance of hope appears.
After a few hours, the group begins settling into an abandoned apartment complex by boarding up the windows and making themselves a small, tidy camp. “I’m gonna go see what I kind find in the rest of this place” Rena says, electing to do a little exploration now that camp had been set up. “I’m coming with you!” Austin exclaims, hopping up from his makeshift pillow mattress on the floor.
“I’d like to know where I’m sleeping too” Austin mutters, giving Rena a fist bump before climbing down the stairs, leading Rena into the depths of the building. “We should start by seeing how far we can get before we hit snow” Austin suggests, hoping the interior remains untouched from the elements scaling its walls. Descending the stairs further and further, the pair eventually hit the bottom, Austin’s hopes of the interior being intact being answered in the intended way.
“You take that side, and I’ll take this one” Austin exclaims, cautiously entering one section whilst Rena begins scouting through her own. At random, Rena selects a door to open and just goes with wherever the wind takes her, stumbling upon a living room filled with children’s toys just scattered across the floor, almost as if they weren’t intended to be left behind when they were.
Looking down at the toys completely left to fall victim to the elements beneath her feet, Rena chooses to pick one up and inspect it. Taking a wooden box car into her hand, she notices the age on it from the worn down coat of paint and the overall era the toy would have been sold in. Turning it upside down, she reads off the manufacturer and the car’s model, only to find herself surprised to find the year ‘1985’ included in its tag.
With nearly thirty-five years between it’s make and her inspection of it, the car is only one of the countless toys scattered around the room manufactured in at least 1988 or prior. Realizing herself to be in a room literally frozen in time, Rena glances up at the walls to find the building itself being just as frozen in time as the toys. Whilst her eyes shift from one side of the room to the next, a semi-folded piece of paper lying on a bookshelf catches her eye and pulls her in.
Reaching for it, Rena reads the first line out loud, the way it is written giving it the appearance of a legal notice to the former resident of the space. Continuing to read the opening paragraph, her attention is stolen by Austin calling for her from outside the apartment. “What’s up?” Rena asks, meeting the man in the doorway as he insists that there’s something she needs to look at.
Following the man into his ventured residency, Rena finds herself led into the back-most room, confronted with a heavily corroded metal hatch in the corner. “What is this?” Rena asks, looking towards Austin, who lacks an answer other than a ‘heavy metal door.’ “How do you know it’s a door?” Rena asks, the question sounding silly in nature without being aware of its simple, part-of-the-floor design.
“It may look like just a weird spot, but there’s a lock in the corner right there” Austin replies, pointing out the generic, key-shape lock hidden well. “I don’t know where it leads, but it’s not in the other complexes I checked” the man exclaims, suggesting its intention to specifically serve this room.
“Let’s see if we can find a key” Rena says, leaving Austin to check the office space whilst she enters the rest of the home. Rusting away and suffering the effects of being buried beneath the heavy, Barrow snow taking its toll on the metal contraption, the handle remains operable, leaving the missing key as the only thing between the pair and whatever rests inside, intentionally buried beneath hundreds of pounds of manufactured metal.
“We don’t wanna draw attention to ourselves” Tessa instructs, aiming the flashlight closer to the ground, aware of the direction they follow leading back into the force that attacked Rena’s group. Whispering to each other only when necessary and remaining close to the outermost wall to give themselves a slight advantage if the need to escape presents itself, Tessa and her fellow survivors pass by drawings plastered against each side of the tunnel.
“Look for anything fresh” Tessa whispers, making it clear that some of the writings are newer than others, making sure to be cautious when darker, more legible depictions are found. “What about that?” Harper points out, spotting a set of numbers written in black marker assorted in a weirdly specific way. “That’s not all” Liz whispers, checking both directions before slowly walking up to the writing, pointing out a massive hole made in the ground.
“That leads somewhere!” Harper whispers, her words sounding both worried and joyous at the same time, but her eagerness to leap into the hole making the joyous force seem more genuine. “You sure?” Tessa asks, watching Harper bite down on her flashlight and prepare to scale down into whatever rests below. “Come on!” Harper whispers, assisting the girls into the hole with her before leading the charge forward, following the straight passage forward.
“Do you guys see the light underneath there?” Harper asks, pointing out a long strip of light along the ground just ahead. The hole being so naturally causes causes the depth perception of anyone walking through it without light to take a complete turn, therefor making the presence of the light both fortunate and forboding. “What is it?” Liz asks aloud, watching Harper become annoyed, throwing away any concerns in favor of quickly getting the answer.
Pleading with her to slow down, Tessa forces herself to follow Harper, who now quickly walks towards the light, ready to confront whatever resides on the other end. “Harper, wait!” Tessa grunts, the sound of clattering on the lighter end only further fueling the headstrong girls’ need to know as the lightsource comes closer.
“Harper!” Tessa whispers one final time, reaching for the girl’s shoulder as she reaches for a doorknob and pushes the door in, allowing the light to flood into the hole. Slightly blinded by the sudden brightness taking over their vision, the girls pull their arms over their faces before slowly lowering them, finding the answers to the questions they had been asking throughout their exploration, only for an entirely new set of questions to take effect.
With her arms now lowered to her side, Tessa walks further ahead of Liz and past Harper, looking at what remains for her to see. “Ch-” Tessa begins, stumbling over what to say as the figure directly in front of her brings a massive rush of deja vu. “Chris?” Tessa finally asks, her face scrunching up in a loss for words as the host of the long-debunked game show stands with the same expression towards her.
“How?” Tessa begins, “what?” she follows, the man she hasn’t seen since he supposedly left the region on the initial day standing before her, looking just as healthy as he did then. “What is this?” Harper asks, her questions only beginning to mount in her mind as she looks at the clean walls draped in electronics. Caught in the spurt of the moment, Chris looks at the girls in surprise, only able to respond with the first six words that come to mind.
“You’re not supposed to be here…”
“Guys!?” Rick calls out, following Tessa through the cavernous maze in hopes of stumbling across their lost group. After a few minutes of squeezing through cracks and climbing over fallen stones, the pair find the end of their pathway, discovering a railway system buried deep beneath the ground. With the faint glow of a flickering yellow light, Tessa and Rick follow the rail system south, the feeling of claustrophobia disappearing inside the spacious tunnel system.
“Why would they build a subway system in Barrow of all places?” Tessa asks herself, Rick answering her question by suggesting Barrow as the perfect place for such a need. “No roads in or out of the town, only way out above ground is through the sky, why not a way to leave under ground?” Rick replies, admitting that he’s confused as to why they would have sold the city if they were amidst a project of this size.
“You’d think they would have held off on selling it if they were trying to up it’s value” Rick concludes, Tessa offering the possibility of having run out of the funds for it. “Maybe, but this wouldn’t be the first time the producers didn’t give us the full truth” Rick replies, leading Tessa down the left tunnel of a fork in the system. “Why this way?” Tessa asks, Rick telling her that if they keep taking the left-most tunnel, they just need to remember to follow the right on the way back.
“That’s smart enough” Tessa replies, getting a laugh out of Rick, who spots the reflection of a warm light just ahead. “It’s probably another flickering lightbulb” Tessa replies, following Rick as the elder man picks up his pace, eventually overhearing footsteps in the near distance, only further fueling their hurry towards the light. After a few moments, Rick and Tessa catch their sights on their lost group, reuniting with the few familiar faces they have left.
Having grown closer than just a group of random competitors from various parts of the world, the warmth they have in their hearts for each other triggers their instincts to immediately dish out hugs. “Now that we’re back together, let’s figure out if we can find where these tunnels lead” Charlie says, propping a small bag of necessities over his shoulder before continuing to lead the surge southbound.
“Any chance there’s a train somewhere down here?” Natalie asks, surveying the glistening stones to each of their sides. “If there’s a train anywhere down here, they either finished the station at some point or were really careless with their investments” Rick replies, with Warren adding in that they’d get a pretty good answer if they did happen to find one. “The place has been vacant for a while” Liz says, “I saw some snow back a few yards. Probably a hole in the walls leading outside.
“Think there are any more?” Warren asks, Natalie acknowledging that it is highly likely taking into account the decrepit nature of the tunnels as they currently stand. “Let’s not spend too much time looking for answers we haven’t asked the questions to just yet” Rick warns, “Especially when that army back there may have much more knowledge about these tunnels than we do.”
“Hold up!” Natalie calls out, bringing the group to a sudden stop when she notices something out of the corner of her eye appear through the flicker of the overhead lightbulb. Questioning what she saw, the group watches her cautiously walk to the other side of the tracks and disappear into the dark unknown. Calling her name, the group watches her reappear briefly upon another flicker of the light, holding onto a ladder going into some unknown space above.
“Anyone wanna check it out with me?” Natalie asks, the group hesitant to take her up on her offer other than Charlie, who excitedly joins her in the darkness and offers to head up first. “I don’t think we should be looking to go somewhere we shouldn’t be just yet” Warren calls out, his concerns muffled with charlie vowing to call for help in case he sees something he isn’t too fond of.
Halfway up the decaying metal stepping post, Charlie grabs onto one of the bars and accidentally pulls it off, watching it drop back to earth and collide with the rail, making a horrific clanking sound that pulsates through the group’s ears. “Sorry!” Charlie shouts, continuing his ascent with much more caution. “Ah, fuck!” Charlie says, shaking rust off of his hand after cutting it on one of the bars.
“I’m good” Charlie says, finishing his climb and pulling Natalie up soon thereafter. “You guys good up there while we check out the rest of the tunnel?” Rick asks, watching Charlie give him the thumbs up. “You know where to find me!” Charlie calls out, turning on his small, nearly pointless flashlight and ventures further into the crawl space. “Well that solves that” Rick mutters, continuing in place of the pair in leading at the front of the group.
“We can’t just leave them up there” Tessa replies, “The talkies don’t work and they have no clue what they’ll find up there.” Looking back, Rick takes a second to think about their options, eventually questioning whether anyone would like to volunteer to stay back and wait for them. “We can’t just stand around without knowing where this place leads” Rick responds, with Warren adding in the fact that they’re unsure of whomever else has access to the tunnels.
“If they want to split off, fine… Best of luck to them” Rick continues, “But we’re putting ourselves in danger if we don’t figure out what the hell this place means for us.” Looking around, Rick watches Tessa hang her head in disappointment, but without a logical counter to reply with. Neither Liz, nor Warren are excited about the idea, but they’re more than aware of the truth lingering behind Rick’s unpopular stance.
“I’ll stay back” Liz says, telling the group to keep moving until they find something. “You’re sure?” Tessa replies, watching the brief second of assertion on Liz’s face, convincing the group to do whatever it is that they need to do. “If I see anything come from up north, I’ll head up to Nat and Charlie” Liz concludes, “You all just stay safe.” With a nod, the trio navigate tunnels, unable to argue against splitting up when the opposition is a possible advantage over the elements at play.
After nearly ten more minutes of following the tracks, Warren notices a chill raining over him, different from the remainder of the tunnel they’ve traversed already. Before he can voice his findings, Tessa spots a splash of natural light plastered against the limestone walls just ahead. “Do you guys see it too?” Tessa asks, with Rick taking his hand and placing it against her shoulder, keeping her from continuing forward with his fingers pressed to his lips.
“Wait, wait!” Rick whispers, watching the light of the dark night sky, as ironic as it is, stand out from the darkened shadows only briefly lit by weak, yet valiant lightbulbs. Upon voicing his concerns, Rick and the group notice something intruding on the light’s turf, stumbling closer into the tunnels and further shielding the tunnels from Barrow’s natural, chilly night sky.
Taking the lead, Rick arms himself with the rifle over his shoulder and sneaks forward, keeping himself in the darkest parts of the tunnel in hopes of surprising the light itself. As Rick continues forward, he spots the light source, which presents itself as a massive rip in the side of the tunnel. The stone that formerly made up a sturdy tunnel support being weathered down by the cold nature of Barrow, now appearing as a rip-like entrance into the tunnels interior.
Marching onwards, the rip grows more noticeable, and the light of the night sky comes into view, that view being obstructed by the shadowy figure that stands in its way. “Stop!” Rick shouts, immediately putting a halt on the figures movement, it’s face and any other descriptive features hidden. “Who are you?” Rick asks, watching the figure struggle to remain perfectly still, instead shaking from side to side and moving its feet a few inches to keep itself supported.
“Do I need to ask you again?” Rick calls out, watching the legs of the figure begin to tremble with greater force with each second until they finally give out. Dropping to its knee before falling completely forward, the figure slides down the dirt slope and is unloaded onto the tracks. “Don’t fire!” Tessa shouts towards Rick upon the figures initial collapse, running towards its body upon its collision with the ground.
“Who is it?” Rick calls out, watching Warren turn the body onto its back as Tessa removes its hood, revealing it to be a blue-lipped, bloody-nosed Harper struggling to speak. “Rick, we need to go back now!” Tessa shouts, directing Warren to help her carry the wounded woman back to the cabin. Taking over for Tessa, Rick takes Harpers arm over his shoulder and tells her to run back to the group and get them to help speed up the process.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Come on, it’s just up ahead!” Rena shouts, her lips quivering as the falling snowflakes gently drop from the heavens and melt on her lips. Within the next thirty minutes, the group finally reaches the locked gates of the long-abandoned radio tower, tasked with yet another goal. “How do we get in?” Rena calls out, watching Austin toss his bag to the ground and begin climbing up the freezing metal fence.
Upon reaching the top, Austin scales down and eventually gives in, his strength depleting to the point where he relinquishes his grip, plummeting to the ground. “You good?” Marlhy shouts, Austin, clearing the snow from his boot and giving himself a much needed chance to stretch, insisting that he’s never been better. Up to his feet, Austin walks up to the front door and reaches for the handle, unsurprised to find it still locked by its prior inhabitants.
“Grab a rock or something” Marlhy instructs, watching Austin extend his arms and admit that the idea would be perfectly sound if only there weren’t ten feet of snow between his feet and the ground. Performing a quick glance for anything of use, Austin shouts “fuck it!” and returns to the door, taking his lightly gloved hand and giving the window a right jab. “Motherfucker!” Austin shouts, his hand feeling the effects as the glass remains perfectly intact.
“The glove is too much padding!” Rena shouts, promoting Austin to turn towards her and shouting “No shit!” before unwrapping his hand and dropping the glove to his feet. With a quick breath, Austin lays in a second right jab, shattering the glass and splitting his hand open on all four of his knuckles. “Son of a cunt!” Austin shouts, clutching his hand to his chest as his opposite reaches for the inner handle.
Finally gaining entrance, Austin vanishes into the building, scanning the immediate entry for anything of use. Reaching into abandoned coat pockets and shuffling through whatever remains from the last time it hosted human life, Austin finds nothing of value and opts to look further within the building. Eventually, whilst walking into the main living quarters, Austin spots something shocking directly outside the large set of windows.
Hurriedly rushing for the end of the front room, Austin presses both hands on the glass, his excitement leaving him uncaring of his blood running down the window. His sights scream of something completely unexpected, that being a completely abandoned town just under a mile away, the roof of each building blanketed in enough snow to hide it from anyone viewing it from directly above.
With this newfound burst of hope, Austin scatters throughout the room, looking anywhere he can immediately see for a set of keys. Ultimately, when taking a moment to catch his breath, the still-wounded survivor spots a set of keys resting on a small table beside a bland gray chair. Taking them into his possession, Austin runs out of the building and up to the gates, trying a few keys before finding the correct piece of metal, allowing him to pull the gate open.
“Inside, inside!” Austin calls out, closing the gate behind the group and locking it up once more, following them into the structure.
“What the hell happened?” Natalie asks, placing a warm cloth over Harper’s lips in hopes of the blue in them fading off. “We just found her there” Rick replies, his arms folded as he watches over the resting woman, “We didn’t know who she was until she dropped.” Sat in a chair beside Harper, Tessa suggests that the bigger question that should be asked is why Len wasn’t with her.
“They went out together?” Warren asks as he, much like most of the group, had forgotten about Harper and Len being tasked with returning to the cape before it burned down. “I mean, I mentioned it before we went into the tunnels… I don’t know how we could have just completely missed that over the course of a few hours” Natalie replies, rubbing Harper’s arms in hopes of the friction serving as a worthy amount of warmth.
“So Len is still out in the tundra for all that we know, and we still have no fuckin’ clue where the rest of those tunnels lead?” Warren asks, admitting that this is all becoming so clustered. “This isn’t a game anymore” Liz says, “people are getting hurt.” Her hands on her thighs, Tessa suggests that this has never been a game. “The producers lie to us, set up this hut, feed us all this bullshit and we’re supposed to believe this isn’t some fucked up joke?”
Truly committed to the idea that the game has been over for a long time, Tessa admits that she’s under the belief that it’s time to take another approach to what this is. “The cameras were fake, the mics were fake, it was all fake” Tessa says, her voice growing louder with every point. “They’re not watching us!” Tessa continues, now leaning forward in her chair, “The cape burned to the fucking ground and they have clue! We’ve been on our own since the beginning!”
Angered, Tessa gets up from her chair and paces around the center of the room, every eye in the group other than Harper’s firmly focused on her. “They’re not coming down unless someone pushes the button, and clearly by the fact that we haven’t heard from them since the start, that hasn’t happened!” Leaning against the wall beside the tunnel entrance, Rick admits that he’s completely on the same page as Tessa.
“I’d like to think I’m gonna walk out of here with a million bucks, but I’m starting to think we’d all be lucky enough to walk out of here at all” Rick says, his stance speaking volumes. Stunned at the one man originally suggested as the least ‘group-first’ competitor of the bunch admits defeat, the group begins to suggest that there really has been a ridiculous war between the survivors for absolutely nothing but further suffering.
“Len’s dead” Harper mutters, her confession acting like a meteor crashing into an ocean, sending a forceful shock traveling throughout the group like a tsunami. Shocked at the statement, most remain in denial, suggesting Harper get some rest as if her confession was made from exhaustion. “I’m not tired” Harper says, struggling to get the words out without fighting through the great pain in her jaw.
“He- d-died in- in the shack” Harper says, the struggle in her efforts doing more than enough for the group to understand her clearly, even if they wish not to. “Get some rest, Harper” Natalie says, “We’ll figure this out later” as she tucks her in. “If Len’s dead, that means this really isn’t a game” Warren says, Rick’s inclusion that it at least isn’t a legal game doing all the convincing necessary to finalize the group’s turn of focus.
“So this really is a fight for survival now” Tessa says, looking at the group as they stare at her, worry renting space in their eyes just as much as a determination to survive does. “I say we figure out how to get the fuck out of Barrow now” Tessa says, the heads of each competitor lifting, their spirits held high now that the unknown is acknowledged, and the goal of finding their exit strategy becomes the center focus.
“How the fuck could we have missed that?” Michael asks, looking out at the abandoned city as if it were a gift on Christmas morning. “It was covered in snow, how do you think we could have spotted it?” Austin asks, still mystified at the now proven ability to completely miss a city in the snow-covered Arctic. “Is that the new goal now?” Marlhy asks, burying herself beneath a pile of coats and blankets whilst the rest of the group huddles around the fire place.
“There’s no electricity in here, which means there’s no radio” Rena says, “at least there’s a chance of finding help down there.” Looking at Rena as if she had three heads, Austin directs her to look out at the city again. “The place is covered in snow” Austin says, “the fifteen story-tall building down there might be thirty stories tall under fifteen stories of snow. No one’s living there.”
“Just because no one’s living down there, that doesn’t mean no one is out there at all” Marlhy replies, suggesting the possibility of researchers using the town as a place to camp out. “It could be where the producers are” Michael adds in, his alternative theory reminding the group of the reason their blood was boiling for an entire day. “Either way, it’s worth a shot” Rena says, “the only food in here is expired packages of noodles and really stale cereal.”
Looking to each other as if hoping someone would speak up and suggest they hold off for at least a day before venturing out into the tundra again, the group silently remains seated in their respective spots. “Fine, I’ll say it” Austin says, “I think we’ve got a better shot at getting help in here than we do down there.” Disappointed at having to say it because of how intriguing the town below is, Austin forces himself to look towards the most beneficial route, which the radio remains as.
“I’m not saying we don’t go into town if we can’t get the radio to work, I just think we need to start with where we are right now” Austin concludes. Looking around the room, Austin notices a more hesitant look on Rena’s face than the others, opting to single her out and suggest she voice her concerns. “I think we’ve got what we need to survive for right now, but not much longer than that. We can’t live on expired canned foods and other processed shit forever.”
“Why would the town be a better solution?” Austin asks, wanting to clear out any future discussions right now whilst they still have the choice. “I’m not saying the town is better or worse, but there’s not much we can get out of this place at this moment” Rena replies, “I’d rather fight to get into town while we’re strong enough than wait for whatever fuel we have left to completely run out.”
“We don’t have the strength right now, Rena” Austin replies, “We’re exhausted, cold, hungry and we can’t forget that we’ve got a stubborn, headstrong dickhead with a concussion.” Sitting up from his rest on the couch, Michael tells the group not to let his ‘boo boo head’ get in the way of making the right decision. “Dumb jokes aside, we only have two choices and we’re gonna need to choose between them sooner or later” Michael begins, leaning forward with his hands folded.
“We either take a shot at getting help through the radio waves in a station that we already know doesn’t offer much, or we take a risk heading ut for a town in hopes of finding who the fuck knows what?” Upon making the two sides clear, Michael throws his hat in the ring of staying at the tower for the night and heading into town when the morning comes around. “I second that choice” Rena joyfully replies, looking towards Marlhy with Austin’s answer already being obvious.
“You know I’m right, Marlhy” Austin says, watching her squint her eyes with her thumb to her lips. “I don’t even know what you’re looking to do, Austin” Marlhy replies, reminding him that no one had any clue where to go once the button was pressed. “We haven’t known what we’re doing in ages… We’ve just been coasting off of whatever happens to pop up since that cannibal town bullshit” Marlhy concludes, sitting back into her seat, knowing the gravity of her decision.
Upon thinking it over, taking a few looks at both the station and the town from her seat, Marlhy chooses to side with Rena and Michael, thinking of the town as a safe haven. Hanging his head, Austin gets up from his spot on the floor and heads for one of the back rooms to call it a night. “We’ll all head out when we wake up” Michael says, laying out the groundwork for what they do next, grateful to simply have some direction in where to go next.
Sleeping on the floor of the cabin, Tessa hears groaning coming from the bathroom, keeping her from falling asleep whilst the rest of the group is out like a light. Assuming it to be nothing, Tessa turns over and puts her shoulder over her free ear until the sound of someone placing their hands onto ceramic catches her attention. Recalling what shrugging something off did for her last time, Tessa climbs to her feet and starts walking towards the bathroom.
Knocking on the door quietly, Tessa asks the occupant if everything is alright. Without a verbal response from inside, Tessa knocks once more, this time a little louder than the last. Again without anything from the other side, Tessa prepares to knock for a third time until she hears the locks turning in the door, unlocking it. Taking this as an invitation inside, Tessa slowly opens the door to find Charlie leaning over the sink with the look of sickness on his face.
“Are you alright?” Tessa asks, wondering if it’s a simple spurt-of-the-moment sickness or a bug that he’s beginning to feel the effects of. “I think so” Charlie replies, taking a seat on the lid of the toilet whilst admitting that he’s getting nauseous and feels like he’s burning up. Reaching into the medicine cabinet, Tessa pulls out a small cup and fills it with water, handing it to Charlie and watching him struggle to swallow the small bit he takes in.
Asking what happened, Tessa listens to Charlie describe how it felt like sand paper was going down his throat. “I don’t know what else to do” Tessa replies, moving aside as Charlie waves her away, telling her that he found some medicine in that nook he and Natalie investigated earlier. “I’ll head down there and see what I can find” Charlie says, refusing Tessa’s offer to go down instead.
“If it’s a bug, I need to stay active to keep any effects away Charlie replies, “just get me a flashlight and I’ll be back in, like, twenty minutes.” Pulling one from the coffee table, Tessa hands it to the man and watches him shake his head a bit before descending into the tunnels. Without anything else to do, Tessa returns to her spot on the floor and looks to get some rest before returning to the tunnels the following day.
Walking through the tunnels, Charlie feels the illness begin to make an attempt at overtaking his strength, forcing him to stop for a second and lean against the limestone wall. Taking a few breaths before unbuttoning the first few buttons on his shirt, Charlie mutters to himself that he’s almost halfway there, and that he just needs to suck it up and keep moving.
As he rests, he begins to feel his balance throw itself off, with his heart pumping faster, as if it were ready to burst out of his chest. After what feels like the matter of only a few seconds, Charlie finds himself standing in place, no longer leaning against anything, clouded by darkness. “Where the-” Charlie begins, his flashlight having been switched off. Noticing this, he flips it back on to find himself stood in a small, catacomb-like chamber as if he were just transported there.
Looking at both ends, Charlie feels himself growing dizzy, unable to collect his balance, falling against the walls as a result. Unlike the tunnels, the catacomb walls are very narrow, close together in proximity with enough room to just barely walk through whilst standing up, all made from the natural rock as if the pathways were just dug into and forgotten. “Hello?” Charlie calls out, his voice echoing back to him, bouncing off the walls with no answer.
Calling the names of his group, Charlie wanders deeper into the catacombs, his flashlight beginning to dim as it slowly loses its power. With his strength depleting, Charlie falls into one of the walls and drops to the ground, unable to feel much from the impact, instead being surprised at his need to catch his breath amidst the sickness. Now beginning to panic, Charlie calls for his group once again, this time with a frantic tone, wanting desperately for help to arrive.
“I need you!” Charlie shouts, the will to let out the shout for assistance forcing him to throw up where he lays, head pressed against the sandy, stone floor below him. “Please!” Charlie says, his words bouncing back and forth again as his light finally dies out, burying him beneath the total darkness beside his own throwup. Realizing that he’s as good as dead if there’s no one there to hear his pleas, Charlie fights through the desire to cry in hopes of clinging to life.
“Help me!” Charlie screams, his voice reverberating throughout the corridors to such an extent that he can hear it travel for what sounds like miles. “Anyone?” Charlie mutters to himself, his hands pressed against the ground as the remaining moisture on his lips collects sand from beside his face. “Please” Charlie whispers, closing his eyes as he tries to cover his whimpers, the tears beginning to squeeze through his eyelids.
Just inside the cabin, Tessa sleeps soundly on the floor just below Harper, completely oblivious to Charlie’s suffering in the bowels of the Barrow tunnels. Whilst doing so, Natalie wakes up from her slumber, hours having passed since Charlie’s initial groans had awoken her. As Natalie’s natural wakeup call marks the start of another day, it serves as a grim marker for the true span of time Charlie unknowingly spent blindly navigating the endless chambers.
Stretching as if she spent the night at a wondrous resort, Natalie quietly walks over to the coffee maker and begins preparing a pot whilst staring out at the Barrow landscape. Upon completely brewing, the coffee pot lifts into the air and pours Natalie a cup of one of Barrow’s last remaining gifts, allowing her to break a smile at the peaceful-looking sight of Barrow, completely unaware of the realizations that have yet to come.
“Stop groaning” Michael says, telling the three wanderers behind him to brace the cold for a little longer, noting all the progress they’ve made to get back to camp. Dropping to the ground, freezing cold and ready to give up, Rena feels the snow grace her face and notices an almost warm feeling to it. “Come on, Rena!” Marlhy calls out, lifting the woman up and noticing her lips to be turned a faint dark blue.
“Michael, we need to hurry” Marlhy says, noticing the snow to begin feeling warmer than the wind threatening death upon them. Perhaps warmer than the air hitting them in the face every five seconds, the snow only further melts inside the group’s boots, soaking because of the warmth of their feet and leaving every step to hold an unpleasant squishing noise.
“Oh, motherf-” Michael begins, stopping midway through his remark before using the strength he has left to start sprinting for the cape. “Oh, no fucking way!” Michael shouts, nearly every cabin on the cape being rendered charred and uninhabitable. “What the hell happened!?” Austin shouts, hurrying into the cabins left standing to find them as vacated as the day they arrived in the tundra just over a month ago.
“What the fuck happened!?” Austin shouts again, the lack of anyone able to answer his question sending shockwaves of blistering anger coursing through his veins. Catching up to the men, Marlhy and Rena survey the cape, noticing every one of their homes having burned to the ground they were built atop. “Who could’ve done this?” Marlhy asks, baffled at the question of whether or not the cannibals could have caught up to them that quickly.
“No” Michael says, “there’s no way!” as he rummages through the cabins still left standing. “Get inside!” Michael shouts, directing the group into Rick’s old cabin and slamming the door shut behind them. Wrapping whatever blankets they can get their hands on around them, the foursome look through the window at the damage left behind by the group, now missing in action as far as they’re concerned.
“Did the fire do this?” Rena asks, beginning to irk Austin, who tells everyone to stop asking questions they clearly don’t have the answer to. Across the lake, Michael notices a light on in the cabin, realizing that at least part of the group is still around. “Okay, so we rest here for a little while and then we go meet them over there, right?” Marlhy asks, discouraged once Michael shuts down that idea the second it’s made.
“The cape is different, at least we had twelve cabins for twelve people. They get to us over there and we’re completely cornered” Michael replies, his point not serving as a popular one, but a fair point nonetheless. “If we stay here, we’re all be cornered anyway!” Marlhy argues, her counterpoint serving as a fair rebuttal. Not having any of the possible arguments, Austin tells the cabin to hush down and figure out what to do that doesn’t put anyone in jeopardy.
“When we were flying into Barrow on that first day, I remembered spotting a radio tower out near the edge of town. Maybe we can follow into the next town over?” His suggestion leaving little to be desired, Austin’s only main oversight is the lack of ability to travel miles beneath the bone-chilling temperatures. “We won’t make it half a day out there, Austin” Rena says, warming her lips by breathing warm air into her cupped hands.
“We don’t have to go directly from here to the next town” Austin suggests, “We’ll catch some rest in the building like a waypoint.” Feeling stupid for having missed it on the first time it was suggested, Michael makes one further suggestion that interjects the group with a newfound hope as if the lightbulb went off in his head at the drop of a pin.
“If it was a radio tower, why don’t we just radio for help?” the leader by committee at the start of the competition suggests, his proposal splitting the journey nearly in half. “If there’s a road from the next town over, we’ll call them for help and explain what’s going on!” Marlhy says, finishing the proposition on Michael’s behalf. “So it’s settled! We’ll get some rest, warm up and start heading out in the morning!”
Michael’s declaration of intent serving as enough fuel to keep the group fighting through the night, the remainder of their immediate future hangs in limbo, waiting to be uncovered like the snowy tundra beneath the supports of their cabin. Off in the distance, lacking any electricity or sign of life, the radio tower waits for its presumed visitors to stumble across what it has to offer, which the group goes to sleep dreaming includes a lifeline offering a return home.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Come on, Len! Keep fighting!” Harper says, clutching her internally wounded fellow survivor towards an almost completely submerged ice fishing shack beneath the surface. Gently placing Len down on the snow, Harper hurries towards the shack door and begins digging the puffy white clouds away from the entrance to their only source of hope for surviving this cold front.
Pulling Len up to the shack, Harper drops inside and pulls Len in after her, leaning him against the wall, leaving him to groan in pain as he hits the floor. Apologizing, Harper looks around the shack for anything that could be of use, only to find very little food or protection from the cold other than the shelter itself. “Come on, there’s gotta be fucking something!” Harper shouts, her anger becoming more visible as she punches the shelter wall.
Drained of energy, Harper drops against the wall and slowly slips down, taking a seat directly beside Len. “Bad day?” Len jokes, his breath growing fainter, made even more obvious than his struggles to breath by the lack of strong white gusts of air coming from his mouth and nose. Worried for his well being, Harper lifts up his shirt as he struggles to cough due to the immense pain, joking through it by suggesting Harper take him on a date before rounding for second base.
Giving Len a brief chuckle, Harper’s light hearted smile is wiped off when she notices deep purple bruising around Len’s ribcage. “Is it bad?” Len asks, his voice growing weaker as Harper struggles to contain her worry, the cold still flirting with her skin making it difficult to do so even if she tried. “It’s… It’s not good” Harper replies, watching Len turn his lips into a smile as he tilts his head back, looking towards the shack ceiling.
“This is where I’m gonna die” Len says,, making peace with his imminent demise as Harper assures him that she’ll get him out of there one way or another. “You can’t promise that” Len replies, doing whatever he can with the little strength he has left to make sure Harper doesn’t hold herself responsible. Working up tears as she tries to convince Len that he’ll make it out of here alive, Harper is stopped when Len places his hand to her cheek and tells her not to worry.
“Look at me” Len requests, watching the salty tears run down Harper’s face as the man fighting for his life amidst the tundra demands she not blame herself. “I couldn’t stop it!” Harper says, reminding herself that she just stood back in fear while he fell. “If you went down with me, we would’ve both died” Len replies, assuring Harper that he’d much rather Harper keep her life than die in an empty attempt to save his.
“You jumped off a cliff to save me. Whether I die here or not, I wouldn’t have made it here if it wasn’t for you” Len says, telling her that everything’s going to be alright. “Why are you so calm right now?” Harper asks, shaking her head from one side to the other as she reminds him of how badly he’s hurting. “We all die someday, Harper… I’m not scared of it knowing I get to figure out what comes next” Len replies, his valiant refusal to fear death only bringing more tears.
“We’d be out there for almost a full day, there’s no way we can do that until this wind stops” Warren replies, shooting down the suggestion that they head out on a search and rescue mission right now. “The longer they’re out there, the more likely it is that they won’t come back” Natalie replies, her concerns falling on deaf ears when Rick points out that sending anyone out in this weather would result in even more lost souls.
“So we’re supposed to just let them freeze out there?” Natalie asks, growing annoyed at being outnumbered with lives at stake. “I don’t like it anymore than you do, Nat... But our hands are tied here” Tessa states, sinking into the couch as defeated as anyone else would be. “This is bullshit” Natalie says, knowing how much of a risk it is to send anyone out during the cold front, but angered at the fact that they have no say in the matter.
“So let’s figure out what we do when the cold front lifts” Charlie suggests, offering to go out with someone to look for Harper and Len. “I’ll head out with you” Rick offers, Natalie and Warren having previously declared their intentions to search for Michael’s group. “Tessa and Liz can stay here and figure out how to get that stupid fucking door open in the meantime” Charlie says, making the claim as a joke until those unfamiliar with it start asking questions.
“What’s the mystery behind this door again?” Liz asks, only having heard about it by Natalie in passing hours prior. “Not a door, but a wall” Charlie replies, his humorous correction falling on deaf ears. “Wrong time, buddy” Warren whispers, patting him on the leg and nodding as the question is repeated. “Whatever it is, it’s big enough to hear your own echo” Charlie replies, not knowing much other than what he can overhear from the other side.
“This fucking tundra” Natalie mutters, getting up and walking to the bathroom, dissuaded by nearly every result today. Without Natalie, Rick does his best to keep the needs of the group in check, “Let’s try to get this door open before the cold front slows down, and then we can switch courses” the newly group-centric man suggests, waiting to make anything official before he gets assurance from those around him.
“Any idea what it’s made out of?” Warren asks, the suggestion of wood, unclear if for comedic purposes or if it was meant as a genuine answer, coming from Liz. “Any idea what kind of wood?” Warren follows, smiling towards Liz in an almost sarcastic way. No further responses incoming, Warren takes a few steps back and starts letting the faucet in the sink run, getting the water piping hot as he looks for a bowl.
“We dampen the wood and take a hammer to it, we’ll have this son of a bitch open in no time” Warren says, lugging a color of hot water across the living room, having been unable to find a bowl of all things in the pantry. Handing sponges to the group and telling them to focus on the center, Warren walks deeper into the home in search of a hammer as the floor beneath the feet of the remaining group becomes soaked.
“This is not how I thought this game would go” Len says, trying to laugh despite the pain not letting him do so without repercussions. Looking beside himself, Len notices Harper staring forward blankly, not speaking, almost as if she were having a silent battle with herself. “If I’m gonna die here, can you atleast-” Len begins, halted by Harper, insisting that she’ll die before she lets Len die in the corner of a tucked away ice fishing shack.
“I’d prefer it if you didn’t” Len replies, watching Harper insist that she’s not letting him drop dead alone in the middle of a game show that shouldn’t even be happening. “Harper, I want you to listen to me” Len says, taking the woman’s hand and holding it in his own, almost at peace with the inevitable. “None of us get a say in when we die. I just want to decide how I go, and I’d rather it not be in silence” Len says, his words slowly shattering Harper’s heart.
“You can’t die” Harper replies, the hopes she says aloud in hopes that they’ll miraculously come true being continuously pushed away by a man already knowing his fate to have been sealed. “I’m certainly not making it out of here” Len replies, watching his counterpart silently nodding, almost as if she thought she was speaking in that moment. “How’re you gonna get out of here? This box?” Len asks, changing the conversation so Harper doesn’t have to.
Thinking about it for a few seconds, her cold hand slowly being warmed by the palm of the increasingly weak friend beside her. “I’m gonna carry you to someplace warm, and we’re gonna fix you up” Harper replies, watching the intention to correct her train of thought fade away as Len simply displays his smile. “Somewhere warm sounds really nice right about now” Len replies, his intended laughter being noticeable enough for him not to have t extend too much effort.
Naming off things that give off warmth like hot chocolate and a campfire, the man’s voice grows weaker than it was fifteen minutes prior, though his faint exuberance brightening up the walls of the dark shack. “I remember when I was a kid” Len begins, looking at the walls opposite him as he reflects on his childhood. “My grandparents always made me these little hot chocolate mugs in the winter, and we’d drink them while we watched the snow on our back patio.”
“Those were simpler times” Len says, fighting through the pain well enough to adjust his position. His face flushed with the onslaught of hills to climb and only highlighted by his skin’s red reaction to the bite of the cold air, Len’s smile lights up the shack, and momentarily takes the pair away from the nearest events. “I miss those times” Len says, tilting his head and using the back wall of the shack to recall the memories of his childhood.
“I’m sure they weren’t without their faults, but I miss when times were simpler” Len says, “I wish we had a way of knowing how nice they were before we lost them. Had a way to become numb to what we know now.” Looking at the man, nodding in agreeance, Harper tells Len that everyone is in the simpler times without ever knowing it. “I guess it sometimes just feels like a lot because we turn it into a lot, y’know?”
Looking at her, Len nods and responds with a faint “yeah” and a smile. Cupping his hands together in his lap, the whipping snaps of the wind just outside do nothing to keep Len from thinking of warmer times. Daring the pair to remember the troubles of the world within fingers reach from them, the wind continues to snap and crack at them, it’s efforts falling shorter than it’s fear-inducing cliff dive hours prior.
Awoken from her desperately needed slumber beneath her mountain of blankets, Rena hops out of bed and walks through the front door, taking a few glances in each direction at the camp. The distance being hidden behind thick white blankets of falling snow and a heavy fog, the well-masked glimmer of a flame just close enough to visible appears nearly a mile away.
Within moments, the sound that broke through the heavy winds, waking her up ring directly in Rena’s view, signalling the onstart of war. Eyes open as if they were being held back from closing, Rena hurries through the door and wakes up her group, telling them that they need to leave right now. “They’re here?” Michael says, the lingering effects of his concussion still keeping him from quickly putting two and two together.
“We’ve gotta go, come on!” Rena shouts, throwing on her puffy jacket and tossing her backpack over her shoulder as she leads the group out of the door. Rested enough to pick up the pace, which has become necessary to keep up with the windspeed, the group starts running off to the radio tower, trying to pull one over on mother nature. Little does the group know, one of mother nature’s many jokes is showing new residents how well the natives have acclamated to the violent change in weather.
As if they were pulling a car stuck in park, the group desperately marches forward, only for a jumble of arrows to embed themselves in the snow just feet ahead of them, acting as a warning shot. “Surrender now or we’ll force you down!” the group storming after the foursome shouts, sending off another round of arrows, all being pushed in the opposite direction in which they were fired, yet managing to come within inches of the competitors every time.
“Surrender now and make this easy on yourselves!” the hunters call out, sending off a final round of warning shots to no success. “W’re done asking!” the hunters shout, watching the group scatter away from unpredictable arrow storms hurling themselves with reckless abandon. Splitting from the group, Rena and Marlhy dive into piles of snow strewn about on the ground as the evade falling death, whilst Michael and Austin limp towards safety.
“Now!” the burly man in charge shouts, having his community heave molotov cocktails forward, looking like the heir apparent to Tom Brady as the wind takes them ninety yards. As some bottles explode on contact with hard enough snow to shatter glass, others simply drop into the snow and slowly empty as time goes by. “Down here!” Austin shouts, shoving Michael to the ground behind the cover of a massive rock as Austin covers him in snow.
“Stay hidden!” Austin says, brushing off Michael’s demands to keep moving by telling him to trust what he’s doing. With Michael hidden, Austin emerges from the rock staring at Michael as if he were killed before continuing to scurry away. Running up to the middle of the cape, Rena and Marlhy take cover behind the recently malfunctioned Neptune Box and catch their breath, watching arrows fall from the sky as if they were a Greek god’s tears.
“Get ‘em!” the harsh-toned leader shouts, sending his troops after the girls whilst he focuses on puncturing every orifice of the escaping Austin. Reaching into the broken insert of the Neptune Box, Marlhy looks for whatever can pull them out of this corner they’ve taken cover in as time begins running out. Just off to their side, the blood of one of the community members splatters upon the snow at their feet, as the hunter drops dead just behind the box.
From across the lake, Tessa uses the rifle displayed on the wall to buy the girls extra time after overhearing the roaring horns. After another two hunters drop dead, the raging community begins to take notice, ordering their hunters to fire at the house. “We’d appreciate getting that wall down right about now!” Tessa shouts, listening to Warren rain down blows upon the splintering wood.
Sending off further shots, Tessa spots Rena and Marlhy through the scope as they retrieve a cloth bag of small guns from deep within the Neptune Box’s chambers. Despite the fall of Neptune City around them, Marlhy and Rena fight on behalf of it, outmanning the hunters and dodging their arrows, with their bows being no match for a modern war zone’s best friend. Running from the middle of the cape, Marlhy and Rena dodge more raining arrows and continue matching fire.
Keeping up with the overwhelming soldiers, Marlhy and Rena take further cover beneath and behind the fallen cabins. Continuing to fire shots from the other side of the lake, Tessa hears the work of the core behind her begin paying off, with the sound of damp wood bouncing off laid concrete. “We’re in!” Warren shouts, leading the remaining competitors into the depths of the home below.
Calling for Tessa, still solely focused on evening the odds at the cape, Rick swallows his pride and tells the group below not to go far. Running into the bedroom of the home, Rick takes his prior experience with firearms and knows exactly where to look for them. Ripping the frame off the closet door, Rick pulls a hidden rifle from within, opting to join Tessa in bringing the fight to whatever threatens the men and women they were forced to leave behind.
“You’ve gotta go, Rick!” Tessa says, comforted in the man’s guarantee that he is not going to leave her out to dry. Pulling off a few shots of his own, nearly every one of them hitting their mark, Rick takes aim for the figure in charge and pulls the trigger, only able to graze the top of his head. “Charge forward!” the leader shouts, using his fellow community members as shields in a refusal to take any further gunfire himself.
“I don’t wanna waste ammo” Tessa says, firing off the savages threatening Marlhy and Rena as the girls pick out enough time to advance onwards. Sliding down a hill, Austin covers his head, bracing for impact as arrows fall into the snow just ahead, forcing him to slide away in order to dodge them. Looking up, Austin spots a singular molotov ripping through the skies just over him, directly in his line of sight.
Digging his hands into the snow and pushing forwards, Austin keeps the pace of his descent increasing until the molotov shatters directly behind him, leaving a spray of flames in its wake. Sliding to the bottom of the hill and taking a few rolls in order to do so, Austin climbs to his feet and keeps running, the wind decreasing in speed and allowing him to stand a fighting chance.
Hidden beneath the puffy white snow, Michael watches through the small hole in his covering as the hunters hurry past him, almost completely forgetting he was still there. As he watches, one of the horde of hunters drops to the ground beside him at the behest of a bullet from across the lake. Placing his finger to his lips and hushing down the hunter, barely clinging to life as her face meets his, Michael prys from her hand two molotov cocktail bottles and a lighter.
The lone man completely behind the community, Michael climbs from his snowy white cover and lights the two bottles up. “‘Sup fuckers!” Michael shouts, launching the bottles at large pacts of the group, setting them alight and forcing them to the ground. “Retreat!” the leader shouts, running away from the battle and leading whomever remains alive back into the abyss, intending t live to fight another day.
Following after Austin, the remaining three in the group begin their descent, reuniting with the man mostly responsible for getting them out alive amidst an arrow gravesite. “Come on!” Marlhy shouts, spreading the wealth of firearms to the members of the group still in need of it, their ammunition-short rifles no longer needing to be their only lifeline with an alternative coming into play.
Across the lake, Tessa and Rick fire off a few final shots before returning to their group and descending into the echo chamber that rests below the home. “What is this place?” Tessa asks, listening to the sound of water droplets colliding with the stone below. “It’s not a basement, I’ll tell you that” Rick replies, walking into the dark cavern only illuminated by the light in the living room of the cozy home above.
“It’s almost like it’s not fair sometimes, y’know?” Harper says, going on about how many turns life can have that are only done to make the lives of people that go through it worse. “I laugh at it sometimes, because no one ever really cares about what happens, it’s a joke to them” Harper admits, referring to the world as one selfish whirlpool of self-aggrandizement. “I’m tired of people calling for change and saying they care, and then being convinced by the same lies we’ve always been fed!”
The wind outside beginning to wind down, Harper barely notices it, continuing to rant about the state of the world and the people within it. “It makes you question yourself sometimes. Like we begin to wonder if we’re the only ones seeing these things happen.” Looking above at the sight of the darkened sky, watching the snowflakes violently fall off to the side and out of sight.
“Maybe I’m just looking too far into things… Maybe it’s not as complex as I make it out to be” the girl admits, waiting for the wind to stop snapping so she can pull Len to safety. Breathing a sigh of relief and laughing at the heavens, Harper tumbles out of her train of thought to lean over and tell Len that the winds are finally calming down. Staring at her with a glassy look, Len sits there silently, waiting for the final touches to be put on controlling the actions of the heavens.
Playfully elbowing him in the arm, Harper waits for a smile, only to find his head drop down, staring at the floor with the same glassy gaze. Calling for the man and lightly shoving him, Harper begs for a response to no use. “Len, we’re almost out of here!” Harper says, the tears beginning to run down her face, this time without being stopped. The instant shock wearing off, Harper breaks down with her head on Len’s chest, apologizing for not making good on her promise.
The wind having finally stopped, though having taken its sweet time in doing so, Harper climbs out and sits in the snow, looking to the cliff that caused this. Alone, without food, water, or protection from the elements, Harper just lays onto her back and hopes she’ll wake up, and everything will have been returned to normal. Occasionally accompanied by the sound of rippling winds, Harper rests there with her eyes closed until she decides that waiting to die isn’t good enough.
With her bare hands, Harper covers the shack beneath snow, effectively turning the shack into Len’s coffin and burying him. Once sealed, Harper ventures out into the tundra and awaits the sweet release of death to claim her as its own. Bracing herself against the frigid temperatures, Harper walks for a few minutes before spotting a space hidden behind a small amount of snow a few hundred feet away from her.
With her frozen hands, Harper digs the snow away from the spot and notices the entry to an a space located deep underground. Stumbling inside, Harper steps on a pile of loose rocks and falls to the ground, sliding down a path of dirt before dropping a few more feet to sturdier ground. Groaning in pain as the numbing sensation of her fingers stiffening guides the bruising of her back being ran into the ground throughout her body.
Climbing to her feet, Harper begins following the dark and empty tunnel system until she spots a light just around a corner not far ahead. With whatever strength she has, Harper waits for whomever controls the light to put her down, only to bring herself to a stop, her eyes widening as she sees it turn the corner. Her eyebrows raising as the warm light graces her face, Harper drops to the ground, staring at the wall beside her as hurried footsteps inch closer to her.
Having remained awake throughout the night, sitting at a small table in the corner of her quarters, watching for Marlhy and Rena’s return with her replacements, Tessa grows antsy. “When the fuck is the sun gonna come up?” Tessa mutters to herself, fighting the urge to fall asleep as her head rests against the palm of her hand for support. Throughout the sleepless night, she can hear the sounds of dragging in the snow, writing it off as the other competitors cleaning up the campfire.
Staring out into the polar night, Tessa feels the need to sleep constantly trying to pull her in, only for the necessity to greet Rena and Marlhy back to keep her going. Fluttering her eyes just to have something to focus on, Tessa gives up on the observation she’d spent roughly two hours devoting her time to in favor of grabbing a quick cup of coffee.
Pressing the button to start the machine, Tessa walks over to a tiny set of drawers and picks out a blank white mug. The barebones lack of a message or design mirrors the look in the woman’s eyes, continuing to stare out of the window from afar, hoping to catch the sight of four competitors appearing over the horizon. Before long, a few minutes pass without Tessa even realizing, prompting her to turn around and begin the process of hoping coffee will make the task easier.
Much to her surprise, the coffee machine has yet to warm up, and furthermore, had not even powered on in the first place. Assuming that, in her daze, she had simply not pressed the correct button, she corrects her presumed mistake to no avail. Pulling the machine forward to check the cord, still plugged in much as it was the day prior, Tessa begins to wonder whether or not the power for the cape had gone out.
Wiping her eyes in an attempt to fight off the tunnel vision, Tessa braces against the cold through her front door and behind her cabin home. The wind bringing more of a bite than it usually tends to, Tessa wraps the puffy sweater tightly around her body as the generator appears around the corner of her cabin. Untouched, Tessa finds nothing unusual about the machine, baffled by the true reason for the electricity being completely out.
Turning around to return to her home, accepting that coffee will not be an option tonight, she notices something more off about the cape than she originally thought it to be. Despite all the questions surrounding the fake cameras and microphones, Tessa wonders why this terrible feeling, one worse than the uncertainty of their current predicament, looms over her like a dark cloud on a sunny day.
Marching back to the front of her house and continuing her march into the center of the cape, Tessa notices the campfire still raging, having yet to be put out. Having assumed one of the three would have taken care of it earlier, Tessa marches to one of the cabins, Liz’s to be specific. As soon as she sets her sights on the wooden cabin, Tessa notices a thick black smoke rising into the air behind the locked door.
Hurrying forward, Tessa begins pounding on Liz’s door, shouting her name loudly in hopes that the woman inside will hear her. “Tessa, what’s wrong?” Liz asks, wiping her eyes and emerging from Warren’s cabin with him right behind. “What’s going on?” Rick shouts, walking through his front door before noticing the same thick smoke that caught Tessa’s attention, immediately realizing what the issue is.
“Fire!” Rick shouts, hurrying to the cabin and kicking the door in, sending the loose wood flying into the structure as the raging inferno inside becomes clear. “Oh shit!” Tessa shouts, looking to Warren and Liz, instructing them to get buckets from the lake and start dumping it on the fire. Doing as told, Warren and Liz fight off the timid temperatures in their scurry to the edge of the cape, whilst Tessa and Rick do what they can to lower the flames.
Picking up snow from the ground and chucking it into the cabin, Tessa and Rick fight off the horrifying heat, wiping off sweat as they desperately try to persevere. “Holy shit!” Warren shouts, he and Liz returning with two buckets just in time to look directly at the opposite side of the cape. Turning around to confront the pair’s sights, Tessa and Rick find their hopes depleted as they realize that every vacant cabin from the night prior had been set ablaze in an attempt to burn the cape down.
“Gather your shit” Rick shouts, repeating the order even louder when Warren asks for clarification. “Grab what you need, we need to get moving now!” Rick repeats for a third time, the conclusion of his instruction just barely beating the Neptune Box, which goes off for no reason, blaring off into the dark night sky, and acting as a beacon centralized on the home of every visiting competitor.
“Come on, let’s go!” Rick shouts for a fourth and final time, finally spitting enough motivation to the trio to start packing up their belongings and begin hitting the road. Grabbing a few changes of clothes, a few basic survival necessities and a few other minor emergency tools, Tessa returns to the center of the cape with the three and aim for the cabin across the lake.
Kicking up snow in the direction they aim to take, the four group members take a moment to look back at the cape, watching it slowly burn to the ground beneath the dark, starry sky. “Wait! What about Rena and all of them?” Tessa shouts, looking towards Rick, trusting him to know what he’s doing marching them out of the cape. Without missing a beat, Rick tells Tessa that the four can handle themselves, and they’ll know where to find them when they get back.
Returning to the fight against the elements, Tessa and the rest march onwards with the raging fire behind them serving as the perfect backdrop to their daring escape. Leaving the cape behind, moving on to fending for themselves in the rugged, frost-bite inducing environment officially turns what was once a game into a fight for survival, with the only lifeline to the outside world resting in the hopeless hands of people that sat back and let it happen.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“What the fuck is that!?” Harper says, forced out of her sleep by the sudden, shocking and pulsating sounds of the Neptune Box going off a few miles out. “Do you hear that?” Harper asks, watching Len’s eyes dash open, realizing exactly what it is and where. “For the second time tonight?” Harper asks, watching Len tilt his head and make for the exit to the tent.
Standing out in the open, looking towards the cape before gazing at the sky, Len asks Harper how long they had been asleep. “I don’t have a watch, I don’t know” Harper replies, watching Len stare out at the completely dark night, looking at it as if it shouldn’t exist. “What’s your problem with the sky, Len?” Harper asks, letting out a stretch as she joins her counterpart outside of the tent, beginning to notice something feeling off.
“It’s been dark for a really long time” Len mutters, scanning the sky for any signs of light, with a sunrise being due for any moment, only to show no signs of arriving. “What does that mean?” Harper asks, her breath leaving a thick white cloud in her sights as Len begins voicing his worried concern. “I think we’re starting to get that eternal darkness thing the producers were talking about” Len declares, realizing the sunrise that is due to come, almost certainly won’t.
“So we’re just in the dark for the next however fucking long?” Harper asks, watching Len’s sights refuse to leave the sky. “It’s two months. And the answer you’re looking for is ‘yes’” Len replies, placing his hands to his hips as the realization of being at the start of a sun-less two months becomes a nuisance. Before long, Len’s sights remove themselves from the sky and return to the direction of the cape, hearing the Neptune Box continue to sound off.
Suddenly, the blaring alarms of the cape’s namesake raises a few decibels in pitch, becoming less of an alarm and more of a squealing, nails-on-chalkboard. Making his dumbfounded confusion audible, Len climbs to the top of a snow bank, trying to get a better look at what is causing the god awful screech. Doing his best to look, the issue of what’s going on with the cape becomes secondary, as a new issue solely of Len’s concern takes priority.
Falling to his hands and knees, Len notices the reverberating sounds of the Neptune Box beginning to shift the snow currently supporting his weight. “Stand back!” Len shouts, spotting out Harper ready to climb atop the snowbank and putting an end to it immediately. Turning around to question what he could be falling into if the snow bank collapses, Len’s calm demeanor takes a shift when his horrifying discovery comes to life.
Speechless with his mouth agape, Len carefully turns back to face Harper once he notices the steep, snow-covered cliff sixty feet below serving as anything other than his safety net. “Harper, move away from the slope very carefully” Len instructs, asking the woman not to ask questions, and instead just do as told. Carefully moving back, Harper watches the snow at the bottom of the slope begin to ruffle, the support beneath Len becoming less supportive by the second.
Slowly crawling forward, Len attempts to get himself in position to slowly slide down the sled-like formation of snow to safety, only for the massive chunk of ice supporting the slope to begin shaking rapidly. “Watch out!” Len shouts, realizing the shaking of the slope only grows in pace the longer it goes on, watching the slope give way as Harper disappears over the edge of the cliff.
Screaming out the man’s name, Harper is helpless to do anything more than watch Len sink below the lip of the cliff, dropping near-seventy feet below with the chunk of ice he stood on seconds prior, disappearing beneath the all-encompassing soft blanket of white. Carefully crawling over to the new beginning of the cliff, Harper looks down to notice Len having completely vanished, with the only remnants of the glacier-like support being a small chunk unsubmerged.
Looking around for a way to reach Len, Harper quickly realizes that the only method of reaching Len is by taking the hard way down. Looking back to the lake, the direction of the cabin and the direction of the cape, Harper screams for help for the obvious lack of response. Feeling the cold winds dashing across her face with no remorse, Harper acts on her instincts alone, standing to her feet and taking in a deep, heavy breath.
Glancing down at the sea of puffy white below, Harper closes her eyes, refusing to let any fear of heights dissuade her. The exhilarating sensation of the cold, bitter wind scratching away at her skin, Harper feels the warmth of her blood circulating, taking her mind off of the fear of what rests far below in the underbelly of Barrow. Ready to accept whatever comes next, Harper lunges forward and says a quick prayer on her way down, plummeting to the soft tundra below.
Her hair flying uncontrollably with wherever the wind elects to take it, Harper watches the lip of the cliff quickly overtake her as seconds turn into minutes. Finally, Harper crashes into the thick coating of white, disappearing beneath the surface and coming to a stop entrenched in darkness. The hardest part out of the way, Harper gathers her bearings, the impact having taken some of her breath away, and begins crawling her way out of her frozen grave.
Finally back to being able to see the starry night, Harper smiles and catches her breath before remembering why she took the journey down. Shoveling out whatever snow she can find, the frightened girl, desperate to ensure her fellow competitor doesn’t freeze to death, digs for ages where she thinks Len to have landed. Stopping for a second to compose herself, Harper overhears the largely muffled sounds of someone desperate to grab her attention.
Burying her hands into the snow, doing whatever she can to unearth the man clinging to hope to live another day, Harper finally begins to her the cries for help become clearer. “Keep shouting, Len!” Harper calls out, refueling Len with the hope he needs to keep expending his energy until he feels her gloved hand scrape the snow away from his skin. Mostly uncovered, Len claws his way out with his pins-and-needles feeling fingers with assistance from his hero.
“Can you walk?” Harper asks, swiping the rest of the snow off of him as he struggles to find the strength to even sit up. “Ah shit, it hurts. It hurts” Len calls out, his back having been royally screwed up from the fall. Whilst the wounded man tends to his injuries, Harper desperately looks around in hopes of uncovering anywhere worthy of settling into.
“Come on, Len!” Harper calls out, putting the man’s arm around her shoulder and helping him to his feet, taking into the groans of pain as he puts even more pressure on his already battered body. “You can do this, Len. I believe in you, you can do this” Harper assures, partially walking on behalf of the man as they near a formation in the rocks offering them enough shelter from the freezing winds for at least the night.
Refusing to waste any time to stop, Michael pauses the midst of their escape to unload his latest meal into the snow, staining it a mixture of red and brown. “I’m fine, let’s keep moving” Michael replies to Rena’s verbal concern, looking towards Marlhy, who follows the group whilst walking backwards, keeping her rifle pointed straight in case the sight of a massive angry butcher appears over the horizon.
“We can’t go back to camp” Austin says, “I’m not gonna put everyone else at risk like that.” Looking towards Rena, Austin notices a pain-ridden glimmer in her eyes, telling her that he knows something’s wrong. “I’m pressing the button” Rena replies, the words bringing Austin and Michael to a stop, whilst being the first things said to get Marlhy to turn away from the ghost town behind them.
“You can’t leave!” Michael says, forcing his words out despite the awful effects of the concussion making him want to simply pass out. “Can we not forget that you almost got butchered and eaten? Like… literally butchered and eaten…” Rena says, looking to Marlhy, and making sure to remind everyone that she had to kill two people. “Thank you for using the proper reason” Marlhy replies, showing her gratitude for Rena not outright calling her a heartless murderer.
“You did what you had to do, Mar” Rena replies, “And I think we all need to get the fuck out of here before something else goes wrong.” Looking at the three competitors surrounding her, Rena hopes for the thought of winning one million dollars to not have already consumed them. “We can’t stay here. This is not what we signed up for, and one way or another, we’ll all most likely be killed if we don’t leave” Rena says, watching the trio hang their heads.
“I know it’s a big deal, but look around you. Just fucking look!” Rena shouts, watching everyone look at the effects the game has already had on each other. Austin carrying a near-helpless Michael sporting a white shirt stained with his vomit, and Marlhy aiming a gun at nothing in case she needs to take another life. “Okay” Michael says, the first to relent and accept that the game is no longer worth competing in.
One down, Rena looks to Austin and waits for his response, hurt when his depressed nod of compliance is the only thing he can muster to respond with. Finally, her gun aimed to the ground, Marlhy puckers her lips and tilts her head, keeping eye contact with Rena as she inconspicuously pushes her head forward, giving Rena the confirmation she needed to get on the way.
Nearing the landing strip, Rena pauses for a second and turns towards the trio, taking in a deep breath and flashing them a smile. Within moments, Rena looks to the group and places her hand over the button, watching the three follow her lead. “In it together until the end” Rena says aloud, pushing her hand down with her departing brothers and sister and officially taking herself out of the equation.
“That’s it” Marlhy says, the pain she expected to resonate through her words being replaced with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that the trials and tribulations have finally been put to rest. “And now we wait” Rena says, unsure of what to do next other than take a seat in the soft snow, setting the tone for the other to follow suit, sitting in a small circle, waiting to be plucked out of the game like any other defeated chess piece.
Woken up by the thunderous sounds of someone pounding away at the front door, Natalie jolts in her chair whilst Charlie drops to the floor. Hushing him down, Natalie leaps over his prone body laid out on the floor and hurries to the door, staring at the face of Tessa through the peephole. “What are you guys doing out here?” Natalie asks, watching Tessa and co. rush into the living room and make a break for ay source of warmth they can find.
“The cape burned down!” Tessa replies through her struggle to rip off her puffy coat. “What are you talking about?” Charlie asks, looking across the lake at the black smoke rising into the sky, splashing the cape like a smoke signal for all to see. “What the fuck happened?” Natalie asks, walking away from the window as Charlie remains looking out, watching Tessa hastily explain that they all went up when they were asleep.
“That’s what happened, but I’m asking you how it happened” Natalie repeats, watching Tessa throw her arms out as she collapses onto the couch, unable to give her the answer she was looking for. “This is ridiculous” Charlie says, walking up the four and almost losing his composure whilst he stares them down. “You’re telling me all of our shit went up in flames and burned to the ground, and you’ve got no fucking clue how it happened?” Charlie calls, Natalie holding his arm to calm him down.
“I don’t know what you want me to say” Tessa admits, “I’d been waiting for Rena and Marlhy to get back and noticed the power was out. That’s when I realized something was off.” Ready to flip out knowing everything he owned was set alight across the lake, Charlie gives up on the frustration and sinks into a chair, wallowing in the knowledge that his belongings were one with the embers now.
“Where’s Harper and Len?” Warren asks, using a towel to wipe away the hot water from his face as Tessa, Rick and Liz realize they had never returned to the cape. “You never passed them?” Charlie asks, Natalie adding in the possibility of having possibly seen them on their journey over. “No, we haven’t seen them since they left” Rick says, his worry mirroring the worry of the rest of the group, knowing Harper and Len to still be out in the tundra with no way of knowing what had happened.
“What do we do now?” Warren asks, his exhaustion turning itself into anger as he notes that Rena and Marlhy didn’t return with Michael and Austin either. “Hold up, Michael and Austin didn’t come back?” Natalie asks, further throwing fuel onto the flames of confusion as yet another problem slowly uncovers itself. “So our home burned to the ground, we’re missing half our group, and the sun ain’t coming back for two months?” Charlie asks, sadly unsurprised at how much had gone wrong.
Hitting the hammer on the head with his first two concerns, Tessa finds herself unable to get past the final note. “Are you talking about the darkness thing the producers were saying?” the woman asks, her eyes taking the trip to the other end of the home as Charlie points to it, pointing out the lack of sun despite it currently being fifteen minutes until noon.
“I thought the long night wasn’t for another month?” Warren says, leaping from his seat and running at the clock. “Guys, it’s February 5th” Charlie says, noting how much their bodies have been thrown off. The wind only gaining in speed as it slams against the window like a baseball, the creepy feeling that this is starting to turn sour quickly is only aided by the missing half of the game.
“So what now?” Rick asks, standing in the doorway of the bathroom as everyone else bows their heads, unable to conjure up a worthy response. “Oh you fucking bastards” Rick says, turning to walk through the door as Liz starts to tell Rick to ease on the name calling, only for the eldest man of the group to lose it. “Shut up, Liz. You know damn well Michael and Austin wouldn’t out there if it wasn’t for you crying wolf!” Rick shouts, watching Liz burst from her seat.
“I wasn’t lying you fucking jerk!” Liz retorts, walking up to the man and getting in his face. “At least I’m not a selfish asshole trying to sabotage the game for the rest of us!” Liz concludes, ultimately crossing the lines of what is an isn’t acceptable, stumbling upon ground she is perhaps better off leaving untouched. “Hell, how do we know you didn’t start the fire, huh?” Liz asks, pointing the wrong finger, realizing such almost immediately.
In a way he has yet to react with, Rick stares at her with disgust, mouth slightly hung as he shakes his head at her and storms through the front door. Not one to agree with, or even necessarily like Rick, Tessa notices the hurt expression of being betrayed to be nothing shy of genuine, ultimately choosing to quickly throw her boots back on and rush through the door after him.
“Rick! Stop!” Tessa shouts, running after an angered man heading back into the direction of the cape. “Fuck off Tessa, go back inside!” Rick shouts, having suffered experiencing the straw that broke the camel's back, and no longer in the mood to talk as a result. Reaching out for his arm, Tessa pulls back when the man quickly turns around and tells her to leave him alone and go back to the kids.
“I don’t give a fuck whether or not you entitled pieces of shit like me or not, but to think I’d burn down the cape to win a stupid fucking game is where I draw the line.” Ready to turn around and walk away, Rick can’t help but be drawn back into Tessa, who stands there silently, unmoving and waiting for Rick to continue, willing to listen. “I don’t know what your generation has, but mine has values. I hesitate to believe you all, but I would never take the cheap road to win anything!”
In most cases, the people of Rick’s age that Tessa would have met outside of Barrow would have said much the same, but their declarations of what they value in life never appeared as sincere as Rick’s did right now. A man that doesn’t care to be liked or appreciated, but instead, caring about the way he is viewed as an individual. He may not be the most compassionate, but the value he holds higher than the rest is his dignity, and purposefully setting the cape alight goes against all of that.
“Now seriously, fuck off!” Rick shouts, knowing the cabin is the only feasible source of warmth, but unwilling to share it with individuals suspecting him of such a disgraceful act. Continuing to walk off as the remaining competitors stare at the pair through the window, Rick watches Tessa run in front of him, cutting him off from the rest of the wasteland before wrapping her arms around him and catching him off guard.
Surprised by this action, Rick stands there, just staring at Tessa as she hugs him, hoping for her actions to serve as the apology on Liz’s behalf. “I’m sorry for what Liz said” Tessa says, throwing a verbal apology in for good measure, “You didn’t deserve that.” Knowing most people would have just let him walk off and deal with his pain alone, Rick finds the sincerity in Tessa’s apology in the same way she found sincerity in his declaration of innocence.
Finally taking the hint, Rick returns the favor, hugging Tessa back and thanking her for the apology. After a few seconds, the pair break the hug, and Tessa asks Rick to rejoin the group in an effort to get the other half back safely. Starting to feel the effects of the cold only growing harsher as time passes, Rick nods and tucks his arms together, returning to the cabin beside Tessa, ready to find a solution.
“Where the fuck are they?” Marlhy shouts, hushing herself down when she recalls the cannibals possibly hunting them down. “It’s been like an hour!” Marlhy continues, looking towards Rena as she feels the bite of the cold traveling down her shirt whilst she paces for warmth. “Guys, if they don’t come soon, I’m gonna take Michael back to the cape” Austin says, watching Michael refuse the plan, assuring everyone that he’s still well enough to wait for the producers.
“Well if they don’t get here soon, we’re all gonna freeze to death” Marlhy says, standing to her feet and readying her rifle in case anyone happens to appear over the horizon. “I’m getting pissed off” Rena says, trying to persevere through the cold that had managed to turn her entire face numb within the first fifteen minutes of waiting. Her legs trembling with anger, Marlhy grits her teeth, continuing to stare off at the sky in hopes of spotting the lights of a plane nearing close.
“Where the fuck are they!?” Marlhy shouts again, kicking the metal pole the red button sits atop in frustration, quickly becoming shocked when the post easily topples over to the ground. “Fuck, did I break it?” Marlhy shouts, the desire to leave now that their fates have been sealed driving her to wanting nothing more than to get out of the tundra. Without responding, Rena reaches down and picks up the post, immediately noticing something horribly off about it.
“What?” Marlhy asks, “Is it broken?” Turning the post upside down to reveal an empty end attached to nothing, Rena replies in the most despairaging way. “It’s not plugged into anything” Rena replies, watching the sour expressions on everyone’s faces turn into ones of immediately grief as the woman easily pops the red button off the top, revealing it to have been nothing more than a prop.
“The button doesn’t work?” Austin asks, immediately one-upped by Rena, insisting that not only does the button not work, but that it was never real in the first place. “Wait, so they’re not coming?” Marlhy asks, watching Rena depressingly shake her head. “So you’re saying we’re still stuck here?” Michael asks, watching Rena look at him, holding the pole in one hand and the button in the other.
“I’m saying we can’t get out!” Rena replies, watching the dread come over the faces of Austin and Marlhy, whilst Michael retires to the notion that there truly is no escape from Barrow. Dropping to her knees, Marlhy watches Rena take a seat in the snow once more, ready to give up. Fighting his way to his feet with the will to live still very much intact, Michael begins brushing Austin off, heading for the cape.
“Michael, you need to rest” Rena says, watching the man turn around and bark at her that she needs to get off her ass and keep fighting. “If these asshole aren’t coming for us, then you need to choose whether you lay down and die or fight to live!” Michael shouts, throwing up almost immediately thereafter. “Michael, we need to get you some help” Austin says, watching the man he’s trying to look out for turn around and snap back at him.
“Didn’t you fucking hear me?” Michael asks, “It’s OVER! They’re not coming!” Staring at the distraught trio he’s just about ready to leave behind to freeze, Michael fights through his injuries and tells the group the way it’s going to be from now on. “We’ve got uncivilized cannibals hunting us like wolves, and we’re just sitting on our asses. So either get up and let’s go home, or sit here and die… Either way, I know what I’m doing!”
Pushing Austin away, Michael begins walking back to the cape, leaving behind the rest of the group to decide for themselves. Shrugging his shoulders towards the girls, Austin hurries over to Michael and helps support him on his journey back to the cape. Looking to each other to make the decision for them, Rena and Marlhy both decide to keep the fight going, standing to their feet and catching up the men, returning to camp as the stakes get raised even further.
A frustrated sigh as she drops Warren’s bedsheets and takes a seat on a chest beside his bed, Tessa hangs her head having gone throughout the available quarters without finding the cause of the Neptune Box. “Satisfied?” Rick asks, his arms folded as he walks through the front door, leaving the three remaining camp members to speak amongst their findings to themselves. “Don’t mind him, Tess” Liz says, taking a seat beside the woman, whose face is covered with loose hairs she doesn’t bother to swipe from in front of her eyes.
“Whatever set it off, we know what we got out of it, so let’s start off by working with that” the optimistic girl calls, ready to return to the same page as everyone else. Angered by the situation, Tessa sits there fuming, letting herself sit in the aggravation as it continues to boil. “We know enough to work with what we have, so let’s-” Warren begins, stopped when Tessa rushes from the chest and punches one of the many cameras protruding from the wall.
Partially splitting her hand open on the hard plastic lens, Tessa immediately holds her hand, having instant regret for her action as Liz grabs a towel to cover the open wound. Whilst Liz tends to Tessa, Warren looks down at the camera, noticing the remaining shell having just popped off the wall. Reaching down to pick it up, Warren spots something far out of the ordinary. “Hey guys?” Warren calls out, looking at the wall where the camera was once mounted and noticing a distinct lack of cables.
Furthermore, the back of the camera is nothing more than a hollow shell, the lens being just a piece of the presentation. “I don’t think this is a real camera” Warren declares, handing the piece to Tessa, who finds his statement to hold water almost immediately. Without hesitation, Tessa asks Warren to point out another location to any random camera, following his finger to the corner of the room. “Tessa, don’t hurt yourself!” Liz calls out, worried for the girl’s health and well-being as she uses a small bookshelf as a stepladder.
Reaching into one of the corners, Tessa administers little force in pulling this second camera from the spot, finding the exact same thing. “It’s a fake” Tessa calls out, walking over to the other side of the room and reaching for another camera, only to find a similar truth. With their eyebrows narrowed, Warren and Liz join in on the witch hunt, easily popping camera shells from different spots of the room, ultimately coming to the conclusion that each and every camera is nothing more than a phony.
Storming out of Warren’s quarters and dashing across the cape to her own, Tessa reaches into the corner of her bedroom space and pops off another camera shell. Before long, every fake camera in her quarters, as well as Liz’s, is uncovered. “What the fuck is going on here?” Rick asks, walking into Tessa’s quarters as if he were watching mental patients look for parts of the walls made of cheese.
“Rick, go check the camera’s in your quarters” Tessa says, Rick immediately asking why as Liz confirms from a few yards away what Tessa had been assuming. “I think the camera’s are fake” Tessa says, watching Rick’s look go from one of confusion to delusion. “Give me that look, I don’t care. Try to pull the cameras off your walls, tell me if they’re hollow on the inside” Tessa directs, watching Rick walk off to his quarters once more.
Reaching to the wall beside his front door, Rick pops off one shell before doing the same to numerous other camera shells scattered throughout his quarters. “Same thing?” Warren asks, standing in Rick’s doorway as he holds a stack of the fake cameras in his hand. “Tessa! It’s the same thing with Rick!” Warren shouts, he and Rick watches Tessa walk into the center of the cape, stopping beneath the pitch black sky, barely visible beside the wimpy campfire.
“Tessa?” Warren calls out, slowly walking towards the fire as the woman stands there, lost in watching the flames begin to burn brighter. Calling for the woman once again, Warren watches the woman partially disappear behind his near completely-white breath, as the cold bite in the air begins to leave its mark on the competitors. Walking up to the girl and standing beside her, Warren places his arm on her back and drops his head, fearing any amount of words would do nothing more than make everyone feel worse.
Watching from just outside his quarters, Rick begins to slowly walk to the fire, watching Liz take a seat beside the still-standing Tessa. Before long, Rick stands beside Warren, meeting his eyes for a moment before nodding and taking a seat. Between Rick and Liz, Warren and Tessa remain standing, with Tessa asking what this is all meant to mean. “Maybe we’re not supposed to know” Rick says, his words lacking spirit, but being full of an unexplored aspect of the endless possibilities.
“Maybe there are some things around here we’re just not meant to understand” Rick repeats, shaking his head before dropping it, accepting what is and losing himself in the fire. “Why would they have fake cameras everywhere?” Liz asks herself, hands folded as she wonders how they’re still filming them. The loss for a conclusion leaving the group speechless, Tessa and Warren take their seats, just staring into the fire.
“There’s no way they can be filming us, right?” Tessa mutters, the trio around her searching for any alternatives. “I haven’t seen a camera crew since we landed” Rick says, Liz adding in that none of the microphones are working either. “There could still be cameras hidden around, right?” Warren asks, an out-of-character pat on the back from Rick as the elder man shakes his head giving him all the response he needs. “I tried one of the cameras buried in that pile of rocks… Just more of the same” Liz replies, the hope of the group being drained as they begin to feel like they’ve been deceived.
“What now?” Liz asks, her gaze at the fire being removed as her eyes take the turn onto Tessa. His head still down, Warren spots Rick look towards the designated leader as well, leaving the ball in Tessa’s court to do what she will. Her eyes refusing to unlock from their staring contest with the open flames, Tessa feels the warmth in front of her storm across her face in random patterns. Her cheeks feeling the warmth before it skips the side of her eyes and hits the middle of her forehead, the uneven sensation leaves Tessa feeling more drained than before. “Now we figure out what’s real and what’s not” Tessa remarks, the tone in her voice making it clear that she’s not pulling punches in this declaration as the fire remains burning heavily.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
Squirming on the floor as their hands and feet are tied, bound to rusted metal pipes lining the shack lobby, Austin and Michael are helpless to do anything other than watch the large man prepare his station for dinner. Turning his head to look at Austin a few feet behind him, Michael eyes a side door they can easily escape through if they can manage to wriggle free. Without drawing attention to himself, Michael runs the ropes around his wrists over the edge of the pipe behind him, trying to rip through the twine as if his life depended on it.
“We have plenty of food back at the camp” Michael calls, “You don’t need to resort to cannibalism to survive.” Laughing from the station, the man assures the pair that they’ll find their way to the cape eventually. “You won’t run out of food for a while, so we’re not going to rush into things we’re not ready for” the man calls out, assuring Michael that he’ll meet up with his friends eventually. Continuing to struggle with no success, the ropes he is tied up with being too strong to free himself of, Michael calls out in a tired desperation that they don’t need to do this.
More laughter coming from portions of the building out of his sight, Michael frustratedly gasps for air as he ups the effort of breaking from his restraints. “Hey!” one of the natives from behind him shouts, kicking him in the back of the head as they notice his efforts to escape, thwarting his own final remaining lifeline. Suddenly, emerging from his station near the back of the building, the man crouches down beside Michael and tells him that everything will work itself out.
“You don’t need to do this” Michael repeats, the man looking down before asking his captive where he thinks all the other survivors were. “I don’t think you understand what we’ve had to do here” the butcher says, “The things we’ve had to experience in order to survive when the white man forced us into hiding. You just don’t understand it.”
Looking at the butcher, Michael shakes his head, admitting that he can’t imagine the first thing the survivors have had to go through. “But the fight you have is not with us, or our friends. You’re punishing the wrong people for the crimes of someone else” Michael explains, assuring the butcher that events don’t need to unfold like this. With his hand patting Michael on the shoulder, the butcher silently nods his head as Michael shakes his own. “It does have to be like this, okay? It just does” the butcher replies, assuring Michael that he knows how scary it must feel.
“You know you’re gonna die, and you know exactly how. I can’t imagine how that much feel, but it needs to happen.” Biting his lip and trying to break free of his restraints, Michael finds himself on the receiving end of a harder kick to the back. “It’s scary, but it’ll all be over soon. I’ll promise you that” the butcher says, patting Michael’s shoulder before returning to his station to put the finishing touches on it. Looking back to his fellow captive, Michael shakes his head as Austin hangs his, the two continuing to look for any way out they can manage.
“Let’s set up a camp” Harper exclaims, the water from her shower earlier having iced over into her hair as she walks off to the side of the lake with Len. Retrieving the small tent set up from her bag, Harper walks up to Len and helps him clear enough snow to get the poles into the ground. “I’m getting really tired of this three hours of daylight shit” Harper says, laughing with Len as they toss whatever snow they can take in their hands a few feet away.
“It’s only gonna get more aggravating in a few weeks when the sun never pops up at all” Len exclaims, watching Harper playfully tilt her head back and growl at the sky. “Why can’t you be normal for a little bit?” Harper asks the stars, Len jokingly mocking the ghost town in a playful voice. “The planet won’t let us! It would be geographically inconsistent!” Len replies, laughing with Harper as they finally begin reaching the frozen soil.
“You’re such a nerd” Harper says, looking at Len with a smile as her acquaintance meets her with a similar look. Taking the conversation onto a more serious note, Len asks how long Harper expects the group to remain civil with each other. “I’m not sure” Harper replies, admitting that her hopes for everyone to get along until the end are more unrealistic than anything else. Looking at Len before continuing, Harper bites her lip to cope with having to admit what she doesn’t normally like even having to think about. “We could all get along until the end of the game, I just don’t have high expectations of everyone being fine splitting one million dollars twelve ways.”
Whilst Harper begins freeing a second spot, Len stops, looking at Harper until the woman turns to face him, waiting for him to say what he wishes to. “I’ll make you a deal” Len begins, watching Harper sit on her feet directly opposite her fellow competitor. “I’ll stand in your corner as long as you stand in mine. I’ll make you that promise right now.” Finding a trust in Harper he doesn’t have a clear view of in most of the other competitors, Len takes a swing and hopes for it to pay off. “I don’t like the idea of not having someone in this game that I can trust, and you’re the only one I want to be able to trust unconditionally” Len admits, watching a smile come across Harper’s face before she buries her head.
“You’ve got a deal” Harper replies, crawling on her knees to the middle of the spot and holding her hand out. Smiling, Len shakes her hand and returns to freeing up space for the tent. Burying his hands in the cold wintery mix, the sensation of the slush in his gloves, running through his fingers is unable to phase him. Instead, the handshake symbolizing a warm alliance in the cold ghost town of Barrow is all he can think about, the thought of being lucky the only thing occupying his head.
On the other side, the well-hidden smile of Harper knowing that she truly isn’t alone in the tundra is all the warmth she needs to fight through the hassle of setting up camp. Without telling the other, both Len and Harper contain their own joy from each other well. The bitter air entering their lungs is no match for the pleasure of knowing that they truly aren’t alone in the wasteland. This alliance changing the game for the both of them, Harper and Len dig with a purpose, ready to settle in for the night in the new landscape their simple handshake ushered in.
High stepping through the snow, Rena leads Marlhy closer to the abandoned trailer park, barely able to spot a small little village off in the distance. “You need a rest?” Rena calls out, watching Marlhy shake her head, wiping the small snowflakes falling from the sky from her hair. “You should start putting those locks in a ponytail” Rena calls out, watching the smile on Marlhy’s face accompany the excuse that no elastics are strong enough to do the job.
“I’m sure we can find something” Rena says, the silent nod from Marlhy putting a sudden end to the conversation. Without much to follow it, Rena looks back down at her tracks and thinks quietly to herself, the quick turn into silence not going unnoticed by the girl tailing behind her. “You’re wondering how I knew that about you” Marlhy exclaims, watching Rena turn towards her, reminding her of the conversation about Rena’s approach a few miles ago.
“It’s not like it’s written on your face or anything, it’s just obvious by how you act” Marlhy explains, “You’re clearly into Tessa, you’re just more into the hookup idea than a fully-fledged relationship. It’s not difficult to see that.” Tilting her head down as her steps become slower, Rena continues to think quietly to herself as Marlhy begins to catch up again. “It’s not a bad thing” Marlhy explains, reminding Rena that it doesn’t make her a bad person or anything along those lines. “If anything, it’s a smart move. You know people need to start dropping off to make surviving out here for a year worth it, and the possibility of one of those people being Tessa would keep you from having something long-term with her.”
“It’s selfish” Rena says under her breath, not noticing Marlhy shrug her shoulders as she begins walking beside her. “The game is selfish. Either the selfish people win because they’re selfish, or the selfless people win because the selfish people were too selfish… That’s how it was designed.” Usually one to look on the brighter side of the conversation, even when the sky is darker than some evil hearts, Marlhy’s upbeat personality never refuses to acknowledge the truth in the less-than favorable approach.
“Should I want something long-term with Tessa?” Rena asks, watching the girl curl her lip as Rena goes on about whether people have to play selfishly to win. “If there’s anyone you can put money on to be the most difficult to get to bow out, it would be Tessa… So the card’s aren’t immediately stacked against you” Marlhy begins, thinking it over for a second as she swipes the snowflakes from her hair once again. “But whether or not you should play this game selfishly depends on how well you think the selfish people in this game will do. They overcome, you’ll lose… They lose their shit, you’ll win. It’s a coin toss most times, and this doesn’t seem much different.”
Pausing for a second, Marlhy begins to speak once again with the best unbias advice she can offer Rena. “The way you win this game varies, the best thing to do is play the game your own way. You either let it take you where it pleases, or you force the game to adapt to how you play. It really is up to whatever you choose.” Smiling at the woman beside her, Rena nods and looks back to the trail, finally walking up to the abandoned trailer park and looking for a gap to walk into.
Squeezing through a tight slot with Marlhy not far behind, Rena begins to feel the same uneasy buildup in her gut that Liz mentioned just before they left. As they walk closer in, thus farther away from their point of entry, Rena and Marlhy both feel a sweat starting to come on, the bitter cold serving as no help towards putting an end to it. The further they travel, the lighter the snow begins to feel beneath their feet, lending credence to being concerned.
“Mike! Austin!” Rena shouts, calling for the two men in hopes of a response, only to be answered by her words being echoed back to her. Calling for the men again, Rena stands directly in the center of the trailer park whilst Marlhy looks through whatever campers she can squeeze into. Calling one more time, Rena hears no response the sweat now starting to run down her neck as if it were water being poured over her head.
“Marlhy, they’re not here” Rena calls out, arming herself with the gun over her shoulder as Marlhy concerningly calls for Rena’s company. Without second thought, Rena rushes to Marlhy’s spot a few campers over and storms into the main room, watching Marlhy stare at a shattered kerosene lantern. “It’s still warm, Rena” Marlhy says, picking up a steamy piece of glass, “There was at least someone here.”
Standing idly, watching Marlhy dig through the broken glass as if it were going to read off her fortune, Rena mentions the old ghost town just over the horizon. “If they’re not here, they might be down there” Rena says, instructing Marlhy to keep pushing. “We don’t know who else is out here, so keep your eyes peeled” Rena says, squeezing through tight corridors made from the trailer remnants before popping out into the open, the girls charge forward, eyes firmly set on the vacated town.
“This makes no sense!” Rick shouts, pacing around the campfire whilst Warren leans against his quarters. Still on the logs around the fire, Tessa remains staring into the bright orange glow of their only source of warmth, whilst Liz folds up and simply takes whatever warmth Barrow can afford her with. “Why would they put us in some reality show and not be filming us? Isn’t that the whole point!?” Rick shouts, waiting for an answer that doesn’t come.
“Why the fuck are we all just shutting up right now? Am I missing something?” Rick calls out, questioning whether or not his age, thus his lack of understanding modern technology is to blame for his confusion. Looking towards Warren in hopes that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice, Rick’s head drops when his response comes in the form of a silent shoulder shrug. “Seriously, what the fuck is going on here!?” Rick shouts, “Why am I the only one so up in arms about this!?”
“You’re not” Liz replies, “you’re just the only one losing your shit over it.” Throwing his arms in the air, Rick asks why no one else is. “Because losing our shit over this isn’t going to fix anything” Warren replies, capturing Rick’s attention as if he were a bottle rocket breaking the sound barrier, “It doesn’t change where we are, it doesn’t change what we’re doing, and it doesn’t answer either of those questions.”
“So we just sit around and do nothing?” Rick asks, watching the group remain stood in silence as he slowly loses his grip on what is and is not part of the game. “There’s nothing else we can do, Rick” Warren admits, “If you haven’t noticed, there’s no producer around to ask why the fuck they lied to us. So we don’t have much of a fucking option.”
“Well we need to do something about this” Rick shouts, finally catching the attention of Tessa, who turns her head around and shouts a few decibels louder than Rick. “What the fuck do you wanna do, Rick? Who the fuck do you expect to answer your questions? What the fuck do you think the point of all of this is, exactly?” Standing from her seat, Tessa sprints up to Rick, telling him to shut up and act like his age for once.
“I’m tired of you acting like a fucking kid, crying over spilled milk. And I’m sure as shit tired of you acting like a needy little pissant. So go find your fucking answers or shut the fuck already!” Taken aback by Tessa’s hostility, Rick slowly walks into his quarters and closes the door behind him, leaving Tessa stood at his doorway, the attention of Liz and Warren fully placed on her.
Looking to the ground and taking in a deep breath, Tessa walks for her cabin and tells the two remaining competitors to keep the fire going. Left to their own vices, Liz and Warren look at each other, the only competitors remaining at the cape, smiling to each other to make sure the blistering anger flooding the camp like a virus has no chance of getting to them.
“You still going at that thing?” Natalie asks, sat on the couch watching Charlie try to run the door down with his shoulder alone. “You’ve been going at it for twenty minutes, give it a rest before you fuck up your shoulder” she calls, walking Charlie to a chair before handing him a bottle of water. Waving off the water, Natalie places the bottle in his lap, assuring him that the door will still be there in another twenty minutes.
Returning to her seat and finding her place in her book, Natalie stops for a second and looks to Charlie, thinking about something for a second before thinking better of it. “Do you think we should want to know what’s behind there?” Charlie asks, catching Natalie off guard before she admits that there’s no simple way of knowing.
“I know we’ve already made our own conclusions, but I wouldn’t put it past the producers to purposefully lead us to this place just to keep the show moving along” Natalie admits. “Think about it, Charlie… They put a big metal box in the middle of the cape just to get us to go on a wild goose chase. Is it really unbelievably for them to leave a spooky door in some off-the-grid cabin in the middle of nowhere?”
Thinking it over for a second, Charlie admits that he’s firmly in the camp of them not being meant to be in the cabin. “There’s no cameras here, we haven’t found a mic yet. If we’re meant to be here, there’s no footage for them to use” Charlie says, making a strong case for the path they’ve taken being genuine. Shrugging her shoulders, Natalie repeats the original question once more.
“Do you think we really want to know what’s in there?” the woman asks, watching the thoughts flutter through Charlie’s mind as if he could legitimately see them written in the air. “I guess only time will tell” Charlie replies, firmly believing this cabin was an accident, but not confident enough what resides here is something they want to dirty their hands for.
“The only way to know is by getting it open and taking it from there” Charlie exclaims, smiling at Natalie as if he were silently begging for this conversation to end. Taking his cue, Natalie returns her eyes to her book, finding the spot she left off on after a momentary gaze at the empty keyhole in the door right beside her.
“We can work something out” Michael calls, his exhaustion at being cracked over the head and trying to do whatever he can to break free beginning to take its toll. “Biologically, humans aren’t as full-hearty of a meal as you’d think” Austin calls, “You’re all much better off with a bag of apples than one or both of us on your plates.”
Emerging from his station and leaning over the counter as he puts the final touches on his preparation table, the man tells them to stop worrying about trying to reason with them. “What’s going to be done is not going to change” the man states, “you’re better off saying your final prayers and reflecting on everything you did or didn’t do.”
Shutting his mouth and looking towards the sky, Michael bites his lip and jolts forward in frustration, eating another forearm to the back of the head for his efforts. “You’re not understanding the full picture!” Michael says, the sound of metal slamming onto harder metal coming from the back stations as the man emerges once more.
“Eating us won’t keep you from starving, it’ll only delay the inevitable!” Michael shouts as the man rounds the corner once more. “That’s it, I’ve had it with you” the man says, his voice powerful as he unties Michael’s arms. Punching him in the back of the head, the man lifts Michael up and throws him over his shoulder. “You’re not worth cleaning the table over!” the man utters, indicating that he’s getting the job done now rather than later.
“No!” Austin shouts, “We’ll shut up, just don’t do this!” he continues, eating a strike to the back of the head. Doing his best to fight through the sickness and daze of a likely concussion, Michael squirms in the mans arms, being run into the corner of doorways and the side of walls for his actions. “You’re making a mistake!” Michael shouts, his exhaustion and injuries allowing him just enough power to let out a burst of adrenaline.
Trying to get the situation under control as Michael is thrown onto the table, one of the survivors fires their rifle into the ceiling, letting out a pop that rings through the ghost town. “No!” Michael shouts, fighting off the man and two other starving survivors, eventually biting the man’s arm and drawing blood. “Pile of shit!” the man shouts, wiping the blood with his hand, and using the same hand to slap Michael across the face, dropping him to his knees.
“Get him on the table!” the butcher shouts, watching Michael, now bleeding from the lip, be hoisted onto the near-clean metal table, and strapped to the sides. “No, please!” Michael shouts, his desperate pleas for mercy falling on deaf ears as the butcher puts the finishing touches on his knives before walking them over to the man that is soon to serve as the community’s dinner for the evening.
“Drop your weapons!” a voice calls out from the dining room, with a second voice ordering anyone within eye sight to put their hands in the air. Some doing as told whilst others refuse to obey, instead choosing to stand with a menacing look directed towards the two women. “Oh thank god!” Austin exclaims, watching Rena and Marlhy hold the twenty-something people at gunpoint.
“Where’s Michael?” Rena asks Austin, who points them in the direction of the backlot. Looking to join the butcher in his kitchen, Marlhy stops at the sight of a captive Michael being walked back into the dining room, the butcher using his body as a human shield. “Cut them loose” Rena demands, watching the smile on the butcher’s face as he assures them that they will not be doing that.
“Cut them loose or I’ll make sure none of you are left to do that” Marlhy orders, her stance taking prominence over Rena’s, though still not enticing the butcher. “Do you even know how to use that thing, girl?” the butcher asks, slowly walking closer to the woman with a knife to Michael’s throat. “They’re cannibals!” Austin cries out, watching Marlhy look back towards the butcher with a smile of her own.
“Is that so?” Marlhy asks, noticing the butcher growing rather comfortable with closing the space between himself and the two armed women. “Well then” Marlhy exclaims, firing off two quick shots at the only armed members of the small community, killing them instantly, and splattering their blood along the booths and windows. Stunned at the quick turn of events he finds himself witnessing, the butcher puts an immediate stop on his forward progress.
“Now you have dinner, so give us our friends back” Marlhy says, the hold of Rena’s being almost nonexistent as she realizes the double-murder she just watched take place. Lip quivering as Marlhy demands they hurry up, the butcher relinquishes his grasp on Michael, allowing him to stumble back into the arms of Rena. Just ahead of them, a malnourished child unties Austin, who takes with him the guns of the fallen natives.
“If I ever see you again, I’ll make sure I kill every last one of you. Do you understand me?” Marlhy says, making sure her lead goes not only recognized, but feared by the individuals she has just declared the enemy. “We’re not gonna let you get away with this” the butcher says, his words coming through gritting teeth. “Enjoy that chick’s calf muscle, I’m sure you’ll get over it sooner or later” Marlhy says, the last competitor to walk through the front doors of the shack.
“Marlhy, what did you just-” Rena begins, the sudden shock wearing off as Marlhy interrupts her, telling her to just keep walking and not stop until they get back to camp. Following their own footsteps, which find themselves stained with drops of red from Michael’s lip every few steps, the foursome return to their cape beneath the dastardly night sky, accepting that their game has now become a fight for survival on the surface of the frozen, ghostly tundra.
“Are you going to tell us why we can’t go home?” Michael asks, warmed by the firepit offering a lifeline beneath the frosty night sky. Staring at the man calmly sat with the large gun nonchalantly resting against his knee, Michael eventually gives up on asking questions he knows full-well he will not get the answers to. Growing impatient with his yet undetermined fate, Austin’s leg starts bouncing, his anxiety keeping him from noticing the slothing of snow his ruffling feet creates.
Staring up from the fire, the unnamed man with a gun aimed at the pair stares at Austin, watching his eyes stare daggers at the fire. “Nervous, kid?” the man asks, asking a second time to finally pry Austin’s sights away from the bright shade of orange. “You’ve got us held at gunpoint and we have no clue why, should I not be?” Austin replies, watching the man’s humored smile as he returns to tending to the flames. Without response, Austin tucks his arms together and looks back to the fire, caught off guard when the man gives him a legitimate answer.
“You shouldn’t be if you’re not with them” the man replies, offering the conversation a new route to take that had yet to be uncovered. “With who, exactly?” Michael asks, eyes bolting open as if he caught a glimpse of something otherworldly and didn’t know what to make of it. Smirking as if he had seen this kind of thing happen prior, the man sets down the open soup can he holds over the fire and cups his hands together, dropping them into the space between his legs. “Who do you think?” the man asks, hoping the response of his captors will afford him all the information he seeks. “Our... group?” Austin asks, watching the man’s eyes roll before he asks what he is referring to when he says ‘his group.’
“The twelve of us out by the cape?” Michael asks, his uncertainty offering his presumed innocence a level of genuinity. Squinting his eyes and taking a glance at the pair, trying to find something to pair with their soaking-wet clothes and disheveled appearances, the man stands from his seat and keeps the gun pointed at them, though feeling slightly less inclined to need to use it. Almost as soon as the man stands up, the sound of a small amount of bells jingle in the air, with the man ordering them to remain seated or become hunted down.
Not wanting to anger the man with the large gun, the two stay put, somewhat beginning to share the unspoken inclination that they may be finding themselves on a similar point of view. After a few moments, the man returns with four other people, all sharing the same invested look as each other. One by one, the five take seats surrounding the pair of men and size them up. “Tell us why you’re here” one of the unnamed women ask, watching Michael begin to calm down, feeling more at ease with what’s unfolding.
“We’re a part of this game show” Michael starts off, noticing the eyes of the man begin to soften. “We all signed up for this in some way or another, and eventually twelve of us were selected to take part in it, so they shipped us out here when it was time to start the show.” With the rest being obvious enough to piece together, Michael stops and awaits the reaction of the people around him, hoping for something more along the lines of forgiving and understanding.
“I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, you just have to ask me the questions you want answers to” Michael replies, making it clear that both he and Austin are more than open to telling them whatever they wish to hear. As the tension that filled the air prior like smoke from an out-of-control fire begins to lift, Michael and Austin watch the man in front of them place his gun atop the snow and slide them the soup can, offering them whatever was being cooked as a sign of solidarity.
Accepting the offer, Michael allows Austin the first bite and asks for anyone to ask him what they wish to know.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Can we all take a second to breathe and talk like we’re civilized, please?” Tessa asks, watching the crowd of the remaining campers, minus Liz and Warren, collect their bearings and try to fan the flames of their raging anger. “We can’t be sure she’s telling the truth” Rick says, caught with the sharp, yet resonant demand to ‘piss off’ from Marlhy, who tells him to quit with the bitter-pill mentality.
“It doesn’t matter what she saw, what matters is that she was telling the truth when she said something else was here, and we have to believe her until something else proves her wrong.” Not liked, Marlhy’s stance soon becomes the only logical approach when no other sensical options are made available. “With that being settled, what do we do?” Tessa asks, hoping for an answer to flutter from the small pockets of the room to keep her from having to dawn the cape of the group’s leader.
Despite the seconds feeling like hours, nothing emerges from the near-full group of voices. With a deep breath, Tessa accepts her new role and gives Rena and Marlhy a radio and the other gun, sending them off on a mission to find the men and bring them back to familiar ground. “Shoot to kill?” Rena asks, watching Tessa’s face drop, having hoped the task of what to do would have concluded with the original order.
“Shoot if you need to, not under any other circumstances” Tessa replies, watching Rena give off a brief smile before walking off with Marlhy as the remaining group members stand around, waiting for whatever comes next. “Let’s just get a fire going” Tessa directs the stragglers, “Let’s have something ready to eat when they get back.”
Wedging regular spatulas and kitchen spoons in the crack of the door, Len tries prying it open and Harper emerges from the bathroom. “Still going at it?” Harper asks, just barely getting the words out before the wooden spoon snaps in half, the piece remaining in Len’s hand being tossed across the room like a defective match. “Easy!” Harper shouts, noticing the frustration on the man’s face as he slides his hand down it, annoyed and defeated.
Feeling sorry for him, Harper takes a seat beside him and jokes about the door frame being spoon-proof, lifting his spirits slightly as knocking on the front door signals the end of their stay. “Hey” Harper says, welcoming Natalie and Charlie into their home for the night, the pair not making it through the doorway before they notice Len staring intently at the source of his defeat.
“What’s up with him?” Natalie asks, setting her bag down on the sofa as Harper informs the pair of what Len has begun to theorize. “I know for a fact that there’s something more than just a coat closet behind this!” Len replies, feeling his findings were lacking their true resonance. “No little closet just spits your words back at you with an echo” Len repeats, making room for Natalie, who lets out a simple scream into whatever rests behind, hearing her shouts matched by whatever remains out of sight.
“It’s definitely not a coat closet” Natalie says, immediately siding with Len’s theory. “He thinks it’s a cave” Harper adds in, immediately setting buyers remorse over the girl as she looks to Len, not reassured by his lone shrug. “Whatever it is, we’ll try to get to the bottom of it” Charlie says, assuring Len and Harper that they’ll do whatever they can to give this theory an answer.
One minute later, Harper and Len share a quick hug with their successors and leave for the camp, leaving the cabin to Natalie and Charlie to make themselves at home for the frigid night. In the distance, through the think air, Len and Harper spot the starting of the camp fire on the cape, readying themselves for whatever warm welcome awaits them at the end of their journey.
“And none of you knew about this?” one of the unnamed men asks, watching the genuine expression of surprise come across the faces of both Michael and Austin. “We knew when it happened” Austin admits, “But they never told us why!”
Looking down with disappointment, thinking about the lies the producers fed to their competitors, the men and women feel spited once again. “I’m so sorry” Michael says, offering his condolences at the knowledge he’s now been granted. “They’ve been planning this for years, as much as we might want to, we can’t blame you for what you weren’t aware of” one of the women admits, telling them not to hang their chins for it.
“Once the world went to renewable energy, our days relying on the pockets of oil up here were numbered” the original man admits, forcing himself to acknowledge the value of Barrow dropping every day the prices of oil became less relevant. “Once we were low enough, the city became cheap enough to be private property. Low and behold, it’s fate as such was written.”
Told of the city being purchased, the native inhabitants of the land of what was once Barrow being forced out of their homes, and the land being turned into a symbol of decaying American entertainment, Austin and Michael are horrified in what they’d signed up for. The competition they arrived into the tundra desiring to win and survive in, being nothing more than an obstacle course built off the backs of thousands of people displaced by greedy millionaires with an addiction to ratings.
Being presented as a genuine competition, the series built its base at the expense of unfortunate people. In a way, the suffering of the innocent individuals uprooted unjustly made the genuine competition feel ironically synthetic in hindsight, leaving the disgusted pit in the stomach’s of Austin and Michael to grow the longer the nights grow. “Why did they let you stay here?” Austin asks, watching the man bow his head down and fight his own inner conflict silently. Watching this transpire, Michael and Austin wait patiently, watching the man nod at random intervals, trying to convince himself that the two men can be trusted with secretive information.
After a few tense moments of battling the pros and the cons of such a choice, the man tells the two competitors that the conversation can be had another day. Knowing they aren’t trusted blindly by the people surrounding them at every side, Michael and Austin quietly nod themselves, acknowledging their understanding of where their place lies.
“So what are you going to do with us now?” Austin asks, keeping his eyes down with his head as Michael places his directly on the man. “I know we aren’t immediately trusted, but if we don’t go back to the cape, the rest of the group is going to start getting paranoid.” Positive that the group can figure out their own places if necessary, Michael argues otherwise. “Look, you don’t have to trust me, but you do need to hear me out if I have a differing opinion” Michael says, taking a stand for himself and the group. “You scared away one of our friends down there, so they already know they’re not alone” Michael says, beginning to figure out the chords he needs to play to bring the man around. “It’s only a matter of time before they come down armed to the teeth and start assuming you had some nefarious hand in us disappearing.”
Looking to the rest of his unnamed community, the man takes a moment to consider the different angles his next decision could force being taken. Sucking in a breath before spitting it out into the flames, letting his breath join the smoke in their dance into the sky, the man stands to his feet and straps his gun over his shoulder.
Hand squeezing around the doorknob in await of some amount of give, even just a sliver, Charlie finds himself further engulfed in his boundless wonder of what Len is so desperate to uncover. “Is it really that hard to get open?” Natalie asks, handing Charlie a sandwich having to make do with what remains in the home. “Thank you first of all, and yes it is for the second” Charlie replies, feeling around the sides of the door in hopes of feeling any give yet unnoticed.
Taking a seat on the arm of the sofa, Natalie watches Charlie’s eyes grow close, finding something off. “I’ve never seen that look before” Natalie says, watching Charlie admit the reason being having never seen something like this before. “What’s off about it?” Natalie asks, only for her question to be answered in the form of a correction. “It’s not what’s off about it, it’s what it is” Charlie says, getting one over on Natalie.
“Doors have weak points, often in the center, but there are some trick doors that have a weak point moved somewhere else as a diversion” Charlie says, “This has neither.” Scouting it out for a few more seconds, a realization comes over his mind, leading him to a glass cup in the kitchen cabinets. Placing it in the direct center of the wall, Charlie listens closely, a sharp smile coming over his face as he realizes what they’re so flabbergasted by. “This isn’t a door” Charlie says, “it’s a wall!”
Sticking her neck out as if she believed she heard him wrong the first time, Natalie asks him to be a little more specific. “How much more specific do you want me to be?” Charlie asks, “It’s a wall, we’re trying to open a wall!” Returning the cup to the kitchen and heading for the shower, Charlie thanks Natalie for the sandwich and heads into the still-misty bathroom. As the door closes behind him, the jittering mechanisms of the bathroom door seem to act as an unintentional beacon in Natalie’s head.
Staring at the wall, the girl stands and walks towards it, refusing to take her eyes off the doorknob. The water now running, with the creaky pipes making that impossible to miss, Natalie looks around the room for a moment before grabbing a hold of a thick, hard-cover book. Holding her breath to get the most out of her shot, Natalie swings the book down and takes off the doorknob, shattering the illusion-causing pieces of metal from their place as they collide with the floor.
Getting to her knees and placing her eye against the open slot where a key would normally be inserted, Natalie spot a faint yellow light off in the distance, small enough to be a convincing mile away. “What are you, little guy?” Natalie whispers to herself, captivated by the sight before it disappears, blanketing itself with the darkness of its immediate surroundings, and returning whatever could have been seen to it’s natural, dark habitat.
Sitting in her quarters, alone and desperate for Michael and Austin to roll around the corner at any moment, Tessa thinks to herself all that will change in the coming months, especially when the sky goes dark and stays that way for over two months. The ground will grow harder, the temperature will drop even further than it does now, and exit from the region will be almost impossible. Suddenly, the shifting of the ground and the blaring screams of the Neptune Box strip Tessa of her situational confliction and pulls her towards the middle of the cape.
Joining the group as Rick opens the giant metal chunk, Tessa watches him pull free a bottle of lighter fluid and a small blowtorch. “What the hell is that for?” Liz asks, voicing the group’s own confusion as they already had enough matches to keep a fire burning. “Guys, it’s obviously in case we run out of matches” Rick says, his theory shut down immediately as Warren points out that they would have offered up firewood if the case was concern over whether or not they could start a fire.
“Maybe there’s firewood in there and we just have to get it” Liz says, trying to keep from playing devil’s advocate against the court of public opinion. “There’s a more important question we need to start asking” Tessa says from the back, asking who triggered the Neptune Box. Looking around at each other, the group starts the slow, burning process of pointing fingers and making outlandish accusals. Rick suggests that Liz is working with the producers, whilst Warren suggests that Rick is keeping something for himself. As the finger pointing grows further and further out of hand, and Rick begins to start blowing up more than the rest, Tessa takes the split-second opportunity and slaps Rick across the face, sending a line of spit dashing through the air like the smoke following a bullet out of a gun.
“Everyone calm the fuck down!” Tessa shouts, looking at a stunned Rick with a hand plastered against his cheek, partially buried into the snow at Tessa’s feet. “Get up or I’ll hit you again” Tessa says, asserting her dominance over Rick, who wastes no time in climbing back to his feet. With a finger aimed for Tessa, Rick makes the first move to talk back to the woman responsible for laying him out like a bedsheet, only to find himself backing up into his place as the cold stare of Tessa assures him that she will not hold back punches.
Having seen what happens when you attempt to overtalk Tessa, Warren and Liz patiently await further instructions, wary to get on her bad side. Tucking her shirt back into her pants in the spots they were pulled from with the extension of her arm on the slap, Tessa looks at the trio before her and comes upon a decision. Taking the fire starters out of Rick’s hands, Tessa looks at the three and says that she’ll check all of their quarters and figure out who truly set off the Neptune Box. “What?” Rick asks, “That’s a complete invasion of our privacy!” the man argues, watching Tessa’s nose become close enough for his eyes to see it twice.
“Do you have something to hide, Rick?” Tessa asks, watching the man pull his head back to offer himself as much space as he can get. “No, I just don’t-” Rick begins, his concerns buried where they were uttered when Tessa replies “Good” and moves on to check his quarters first.
“I’m getting really sick of the early sunset” Marlhy says, doing her best to keep up with Rena as the latter finds an easier time navigating the snow-covered terrain. “The less daylight we have, the less we can get done” Marlhy mutters, overhearing the slight chuckle from Rena, who tells her it’s only going to get worse when the sun doesn’t come back up.
“Let’s just hope we’re ready for it when it comes around” Marlhy mentions, her optimism challenged when Rena tells her not to get her hopes up. “We’re all competitors” Rena reminds the girl, “If there’s an opportunity to fuck someone over, there’ll be people that take it.” Wanting to argue the prediction, Marlhy finds it more suitable to tuck her head down and return to silently fighting off the fluffy clouds of soft snow from making residence in her boots.
Taking notice of Marlhy’s silence, Rena flips the conversation to another topic, still wanting to find something to fend off the raging winds threatening to silence them. “Why are you so optimistic?” Rena asks, turning to look at the girl for a moment, long enough to notice her head bob up as if the question were Marlhy’s beacon. “I mean, I can’t guarantee it isn’t all an act, but-” Rena begins, almost immediately corrected by Marlhy assuring her the opposite with a simple “It’s not.”
Taking notice of the girl’s simple but assertive manner, reading it as a reason to take the topic to be much more than surface level with her, Rena redirects her course. “Well regardless of that, this isn’t the environment where you find it commonplace” Rena says, turning to look at the girl, whose attention is firmly grasped. “Why are you so different?” Rena asks, watching the girl smirk and tell Rena it’s the exact opposite of why Rena is who she portrays.
“What do you mean?” Rena asks, watching the girl manage to start catching up to her. “You’re not looking for friendships-” Marlhy begins, inserting “or relationships” to draw Rena in a bit further, “-Because you’re still aware that this is a game, and the less you know someone, the easier it is to watch them walk away.”
“What does that have to do with the way you and I act differently?” Rena asks, making a point she either would regret pointing towards or enjoy depending on how introspective she is. “You put on a front because you normally like to make connections, you wouldn’t be so open with people if that weren’t the case…” Marlhy says, looking to the gaze of Rena moving elsewhere, indicating to the girl that she’s found the right track. “I always look for the best way of thinking… And that doesn’t change regardless of what I do or what I’m doing entails” Marlhy concludes, watching Rena smirk and shake her head.
“I don’t think you really know me” Rena suggests, pausing for a moment, as if forgetting why she and Marlhy find themselves trekking through the snow. “Don’t I?” Marlhy asks, turning around in front of Rena to remain eye-to-eye, “So you’re not looking at Tessa as just a fling?” Her smile diminishing, Rena can feel Marlhy’s words as if they were crawling to her skin, navigating through her billions of nerves as if they already knew the layout of the network as a whole.
“I guess the question is what you plan on using her for once you two get cozy” Marlhy says, turning around and returning to her journey as Rena stands alone for a few moments, watching Marlhy walk off and staring at herself as if she were gazing into a mirror. Eventually, she frees herself from the grip Marlhy had on her before following after the girl, returning to the duties she finds herself on call for.
Hosting roads so frequently walked they remain the only paths not buried by numerous feet of snow, the small little camp a few miles off from the ghost town of Barrow, Alaska hosts a small, bordered-off seafood shack, covered and protected by whatever remnants of the homes forced into vacancy long ago. “How did you take this place over without being caught?” Austin asks, following the large man as he and Michael remain surrounded by his allies. “Your producers never cared to make things look pretty. Once they set things up the way they wanted them, they didn’t come back for a second look” the man says, only further draining the optimism in Michael and Austin of anything redeemable resonating from the producers’ camp.
Prying free a loose board from onescrew, the man leads Michael and Austin into a dimly-lit, small and cramped shack storefront with roughly twenty people remaining inside. “You’ve all been here for-” Austin begins, cut off by the man who repeats the same as before. “Since they forced us out… Yes” the man replies, taking a seat beside two dirty and malnourished children. The sight of the children with their ribcages near-showing, Austin crouches before one of them and asks, “How you doing, little guy?”
Chuckling, the man silently shakes his head, which is more than enough to capture Austin’s curiosity. “What? What’s funny?” Austin asks, receiving the news from one of the other unnamed community members that the child, just below five feet tall and weighing almost one hundred pounds was, in all actuality, seventeen years old. Surveying the boy for a few moments as the near-adult silently watches on, Austin notices the terrible shape of his knee and hip joints, the tendons damn-near being visible through the skin.
Looking throughout the hall, Austin moves his lips as if he were attempting to find whatever words felt appropriate for the time and place, eventually giving up and returning to Michael’s side. “What happens now?” Michael asks, watching the large man stand from his seat and nonchalantly walk behind the counter. Looking to each other as if to ask what they should be expecting next, Michael and Austin watch the man emerge from beneath the counter with two large butcher knives.
Brows lowered as if to ask what this is meant to symbolize, Michael and Austin await a verbal response as the knives begin to ring throughout the front. Small sparks flying from the sheet metal from time to time, the man concludes his efforts and tells the men that it’s time to take back what’s theirs. Not a moment sooner, the unnamed community behind the pair of competitors attack them from behind, striking them in the back of the head and shoving them into the walls and countertops.
“What the fuck!?” the men shout, overpowered by the numbers disadvantage as multiple people team up to restrain the pair of men, now forced to a seat on the floor. “When you landed here, you became just as guilty as they did” the man says, telling them that the group needs to do what’s best to survive. “What the fuck are you talking about!?” Austin says, fighting to get the words out as the unnamed natives try to force his mouth shut.
“We’re starving and we can’t risk your producers knowing that we’re here” the man says, gently caressing the side of Michael’s face with the larger, much sharper knife. “What are you doing to us?” Austin shouts, his jaw being the only part of him stronger than the restraints of the unnamed group, which resort to trying to beat him into silence.
“Isn’t it obvious to you?” the man asks, “We’re gonna eat you.” With this letter of intention, Michael and Austin stop trying to host a conversation, instead opting to up their struggles in hopes of breaking free. Despite knowing their individual inferiority when compared to the two captives, the large man chuckles at their will to break free, holding enough confidence in the group members to keep their hold on them as he prepares the butcher’s station.
“No!” Michael shouts at random intervals, matching Austin’s silent struggle, putting a pep in the large man’s step. Outside the shack, beneath the darkening sky and the light snow fall, the baron town remains peaceful. The decrepit shack with the appearance of a vacated storefront acts as the only source of noise or light in a small town once full of them. The screaming of desperation to break free fighting the snow for supremacy of direction above the ground, and the utter will to survive a perfect symbol of the fight to do much the same the small town had been hiding for decades before.
“It all just feels really off” Charlie says, pacing around the group comprised of everyone other than the crew remaining on the opposite side of the lake. “How do we know she’s not just faking it?” he continues, asking for an answer from anyone, only to find a lack of outright proof against it. “I get she has a reason to fake it, but I’ve been proud to be able to read people pretty well, and that kind of fear isn’t one you just come up with” Austin says, putting his support in Liz’ camp.
“And you, Warren?” Charlie asks, looking towards the kid, noticing his look of uncertainty. “Listen, I’m not stationing myself in either camp” Warren replies, “I’ve never just believed someone at face value when there’s no immediate necessity to…” Looking at the kid, Charlie thanks him before he can get a chance to finish, halting himself as Charlie continues his point. “...However, I’ve also never outright refused to believe them if there wasn’t an immediate necessity to either.”
“So what do you lean towards?” Charlie asks, watching Warren admit that if it all turned out to be just a feined attempt at scaring the campers off, she would have had him completely fooled. “She’s either the world’s greatest actress, or someone that was afraid for her life and doesn’t need people calling her a liar for it” Warren says, standing from his seat and walking over to his quarters, going to check on Liz.
“Anyone else?” Charlie asks, looking around the camp before Rick speaks up, suggesting that it was all a ploy to spook them. “Coming from the guy that wanted to screw us out of dinner the other night” Austin says, stirring up drama between himself and Rick, with the latter shouting at him to say something to his face if he’s got a problem. “I’d knock your ass out, but I’m afraid I’ll get a faceful of booze breath, old man” Austin says, angering Rick and getting him to stand to his feet, walking towards Austin and getting into his face.
“Rick, get back” Michael demands, trying to pull Rick back, and earning a strike to the bridge of the nose for his troubles. “What the fuck?” Austin shouts, watching Rick walk back over to him before a piece of firewood flies off from the side and decks Rick across the head, laying him out. “Try that again and I’ll put you in the ground” Warren says, walking over to retrieve the wood he threw like a pitcher in the bottom of the ninth in the World Series.
“Play nice or I’ll make quick work of you, got it?” Warren says, standing over Rick as the older man clutches at his head, trying to stop the bleeding from the gash over his eye. “Tell me you understand what I’m saying to you!” Warren repeats, his voice growing louder and more affirmative with every repeat. Doing nothing more than nodding, Rick watches Warren walk back to his quarters and toss the firewood onto the stack with the rest.
The group speechless, not wanting to say something that can stir the pot again, simply stands around waiting for someone to break the silence. “Fuck it!” Rick shouts, punching the ground and storming to his quarters as Austin sits on a rock, hands over his face as the tensions in the group begin to rise as they had originally expected to do. “I’m calling it a night” Natalie says, walking back to her quarters and leaving Michael and Austin to talk everything over.
“You saw something at the trailers back there, didn’t you?” Michael asks, earning all the confirmation he needs in Austin’s simple gaze upwards to him. “What did you find?” Michael asks, watching Austin fold his hands and look off, not wanting to answer the question. “Listen, you can choose to tell me or not” Michael says, watching Austin glance over to him out of the corner of his eye, the orange fire reflected off his glassy pupils. “At the end of the day, if I really wanted to know what you found down there… All I need to do is make the trip” Michael concludes, giving Austin the chance to take the floor.
“Come on, man... Let’s not be enemies here” Michael pleads, trying to convince Austin to come clean, only to be met with further silence. Dropping his head, having retired to the notion that Austin was going to keep his findings secret, Michael takes a breath before standing up and walking towards his quarters. “I found a lantern” Austin says, not wanting to end tonight having made an enemy out of the only person at the cape he feels he can trust the most.
“Why keep a lantern a secret?” Michael asks, turning around with his arms extended. “It had the year ‘2012’ engraved on the bottom” Austin replies, watching Michael’s face develop an intrigued gaze. “Okay, you’ve got me hooked. What else did you find?” Michael says, returning to his seat with his arms rested atop his thighs. “That was it” Michael replies, the frustration at his lack of success appearing more evident than before. “I tried to find something else that felt off but I just missed it” Austin continues, angered at the result.
“You’re gonna go back looking for it tomorrow, aren’t you?” Michael asks, watching Austin look up to him, having given into the idea that Michael’s probably gotten his answer before Austin himself can even think of the question. “I was gonna use the cover of looking for the figure” Austin admits, watching Michael smile and nod. “Not a bad plan, to be fair” Michael replies, watching Austin snap a twig in half and chuck both pieces into the roaring fire.
“So what happens if you find something?” Michael asks, clarifying that he means finding proof of the figure or something out of place. “If I find the guy, at least we’ll know that Liz was right. If I find something else out of place, at least we’ll know the producers didn’t tell us everything we needed to know.” Looking towards each other, Austin assumes that Michael’s silence is his way of telling him that he’ll be joining Austin on the journey the following day.
“We’ll leave at dawn, not a moment sooner, not a moment later” Michael says, standing up and returning to his quarters before he spots Rena, Tessa and Marlhy returning from the cabin. “You’re back!” Michael shouts, walking with Austin back to the trio and welcoming them home. “Find anything?” Michael asks, informed by Rena that the cabin is fully abandoned, and the next steps are to get a strange door open.
“Austin and I are heading out to the trailer park tomorrow morning, Liz said she saw a man there and it wasn’t Warren or I” Michael says, ringing alarm bells in the girls’ heads. “Don’t worry, we’re gonna head down there and see for ourselves if we can find something while we’re out. Just send two guys out to take over for Harper and Len while we’re gone” the man concludes. “Are you sure it wasn’t one of the producers?” Tessa asks, watching the men shake their heads. “By the sounds of it, she called out for him thinking it was Warren until she figured out that it wasn’t. He didn’t respond to anything” Michael replies, bringing the spirits of the group into a crater.
“Everything’s gonna be fine, we’ll get to the bottom of this. Let’s not start worrying” Austin says, assuring the trio that everything will be under control soon enough. “Until then, let’s get some sleep and be ready to take on tomorrow morning” Michael suggests, offering to take the first watch of the group. With that, the pairing splits up and goes their separate ways, moving into their quarters and getting some rest in anticipation of the following day.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Natalie, you wanna head out with Charlie to the cabin?” Tessa asks, walking off with Natalie’s agreeance and meeting Michael and Austin as they ready themselves to leave. “You’ve got everything you need, nothing holding you down?” Rena asks, laughing as the pair give her a simple thumbs up before wishing them luck and getting a start on their journey.
“What now?” Rena asks Tessa, watching the woman shrug her shoulders and turn to look out at an empty cape, most of the residents still asleep. Walking off to her quarters, Tessa retrieves a notebook from a chest and writes something on it in dark permanent marker. “Harper or Len must be up, let’s see if they can get this from afar” Tessa exclaims, leading Rena to the lake and taking a seat beside it. “What are you doing?” Rena asks, reading the note informing those on the other side that Natalie and Warren are on their way.
“We’ll give it about ten minutes and hope they see it” Tessa says, patting the ground beside her and offering Rena a seat. Without much else to do, Rena obliges and joins Tessa in her staredown with the opposite part of the lake, the cabin on the opposite end more clear on the sunny morning than it usually is hidden behind fog. “How much longer until someone drops out?” Tessa asks, trying to find something to kill the time with.
Looking to Rena, Tessa notices her intent thought, proving the effort of trying to pick the upmost likely answer of them all. “Natalie” Rena replies, disappointing both Tessa and herself. “I think Natalie can hold for a really long time!” Tessa says, though initially not making a choice of her own, she does make it clear that she isn’t going to rest in “Natalie first” camp. “I never said she couldn’t” Rena says, watching Tessa look towards her before suggesting that she may not want to.
“I get she’s got this idea that this is all suspicious and everything, but there’s still a million dollars on the line” Tessa says, reminding Rena that if there’s nothing else, the pair sat beside the coastline will always be in her corner. “I like her, I think she’s great” Rena says, “I just worry she’ll get so suspicious that she’ll just call it a day and move on.”
Approached with an argument she has no solid defense to, Tessa accepts the choice and moves onto predicting Liz as the first one out. “If Austin was right about that look he saw on her face, I’m pretty convinced she’s not long for this game” Tessa says, finding a common agreeance with Rena, who picks Liz as her back up option.
Remaining seated beside each other, the pair talk about their plans once they make it out of Barrow. “If I walk out with the money, I’m gonna find something other than stripping to do” Rena says, turning to Tessa with a smile and suggesting that she’ll look for something with fewer handsy clients. “I can imagine that kind of change would be nice!” Tessa replies, fist bumping the woman and figuring out an answer of her own when Rena brings the question back around.
“Not sure yet, I don’t really have any reason to stop what I’m doing right now” Tessa replies, admitting that she likes her line of work, she just hates the bosses she works beneath. “So start up your own techno-fixer thing and be your own boss” Rena replies, watching Tessa shrug at the idea and take a moment to consider it. “Where do you come from anyways?” Rena asks, surprised when Tessa’s accent-less reply of Georgia comes around. “So why aren’t you calling soda pop and shit like that?” Rena asks, pondering over all the possibilities.
“I was born there and moved to New York shortly thereafter. I moved back down a few years ago” Tessa replies, watching the eyes of Rena light up with glee. “What part of New York?” Rena asks, her glee erupting into outright joy when Tessa replies with ‘Manhattan.’
“Fucking exact same!” Rena replies, the dark unknown of seemingly everything revolving around the game being made alright with the light fun, even if for only a few minutes. “At some point we probably bumped into each other and never even knew it!” Tessa says, watching Rena’s face light up and suggest it was unlucky to go through most of their collective lives not knowing each other.
“All of that time lost talking about what we’d do in year-long game shows!” Tessa says, one-upped with Rena’s assurance that the time missed not discovering mysterious cabins was a bigger loss. “How about all the people that wouldn’t have assumed we were fucking as soon as they met us?” Tessa adds, watching Rena’s smirk coincide with a head tilt. “What?” Tessa asks, assuming Rena to inevitably be getting somewhere.
“Listen, I’m not saying we would’ve fucked each other’s brains out had we met sooner…” Rena begins, looking at Tessa and making sure to stare her in the eyes and she moves forward. “...But regardless of whether I would have met you or not, you would’ve gotten a free dance if you walked into my place of work.”
Flattered and slightly more willing to test the waters, Tessa nips the conversation in the bud before it can get a chance to move any further, suggesting that Harper and Len have had more than enough warning. “Oh!” Rena says mockingly, “We were just getting to the good stuff!” earning a smile from Tessa, who humorously replies, “If you want to get to the good stuff, don’t push it on me too soon!”
Despite meant as a joke, both women take in the words for a moment and realize that it came out much more sexual than it was initially intended to be. “Just forget I said that” Tessa requests, turning to return to the cape before spinning herself around once more with Rena’s assurance that she will not. “Cool” Tessa says, nodding with a smirk on her face as Rena gestures with finger guns behind her.
“This it?” Michael asks, pointing out a rundown camper in the middle of the lot. Assured in his theory from the man tailing him, Michael climbs into the camper and surveys the room, looking for the fabled lantern. “Where is it?” Austin asks, rushing over to the stand he returned it to having discovered it to have gone missing. “Michael, I swear I left it right here!” Austin says, watching the man take a seat and drop his gloves to the floor.
“Listen, I’m not going to call you a liar… But unlike most other things, a kerosene lantern doesn’t just get blown over” Michael replies. Watching the man frustratedly rearrange the room as if he were looking for the perfect setup, Michael sits back and takes in the effort on display, trying to gage its genuinity. “I know you’re thinking that I’m crazy, but-” Austin attempts to reply, only for Michael to interrupt him with quite the opposite.
“Unlike most others, I like to look at things from a logistical standpoint” Michael says, making sure that Austin is following along. “I believe you because you had no reason to suggest something that specific… It didn’t benefit you in ay way as far as I can tell.” Breathing a sigh of relief, Austin’s mind is returned to Austin’s words as he switches gears onto another topic. “However, I’m also starting to believe that Liz was also right” Michael replies, “As if you’re missing a kerosene lantern, that must mean someone else has a kerosene lantern. And I don’t think any of us would know where to find one.”
Coming to the quick realization that Liz was correct, Austin switches his focus to finding the figure now haunting Liz at the mere mention of it, determined to get to the bottom of this. “So what do we do now?” Austin asks, watching Michael stand up and return his gloves to his hands before making for the front entry. “Now we start looking” Michael says confidently, disappearing through the front before Austin follows soon after, making it a point to remain as close to him as he can.
“Damnit!” Len shouts, beating the hefty metal door in with the crowbar after another failed attempt at prying it open. “It’s not gonna budge” Harper says, resting her head against the back of the chair she sits the wrong way in. “I’m starting to become increasingly aware of that” Len replies, blowing the hanging hairs out of his face with his hands depressingly rested against his thighs.
“Give it a rest, let’s save our energy for the walk back” Harper says, patting Len on the shoulder for his efforts before going over to take a shower. “There’s something about this fucking thing, man” Len mutters to himself, fuming at the idea that he can’t break into it. Dropping to the floor and putting his head as low to the ground as he can manage, Len tries to take a peek at whatever remains behind.
“Fuck this thing!” Len shouts, his anger subsiding for a moment as he tries to hear something through the onpour of water. “Harper!” Len shouts, hearing the water turn off, and the woman, her nude body covered by nothing more than a towel, as she walks into the living space to see Len making friends with the floorboards. “What are you doing?” Harper asks, doing her best to keep the towel wrapped around her as Len explains that he thinks he heard something inside.
“It was probably a water tank or something, Len” Harper replies, met with assurance from the man that it wasn’t a noise as much as it was a voice. “What do you mean by ‘a voice’, Len?” Harper asks, doing her best to keep the towel covering her privates as she huddles as close to the ground as she can. “Yes, playgirl, a voice” Len replies, handed a smack over the back of his head for his efforts.
“Motherfucker!” Len shouts, listening intently to his words being spit back at him as they bounce off of something hardened and unrelenting. “It’s an echo, I’m hearing an echo!” Len exclaims as if he were a kid unwrapping presents on Christmas day. “You had me hop out of the shower to tell me you were talking to yourself?” Harper asks, watching Len turn towards her with the intent of replying before freezing like bad connection.
“What?” Harper asks, watching the man smirk with wide eyes as he points the end of his crowbar towards Harper’s breasts fully fallen out of the towel. “Well, Madam ‘D cup’, the fact that my echo’s bouncing around down there like a bouncy ball means that this isn’t just a closet or a basement.” Nose scrunched at the fun poked as she pulls her towel over her chest once again, Harper tells Len that it could still be just a really big basement.
“One that rings through like you’re screaming into a train terminal?” Len asks, assuring Harper that something massive is hidden down there, only kept from them by one aggravating door. “I’m getting back in the shower” Harper replies after a moment of thinking about the gravity behind Len’s statement, ultimately not wanting to wrap herself up in a blanket of hope that could end up being for nothing.
“Find anything?” Austin asks, annoyed at the decisive ‘nope’ from Michael, having seemingly stammered through trailer cabins throughout the entire day for nothing. “Hey, Austin!” Michael shouts, calling the man over and pointing out something on the side of one of the trailers. “It may not be ‘2012’, but will ‘2009’ do?” Michael asks, pointing out the wording to reveal the date of the final year of the 2000’s.
“It’s still far and away more recent than the mid-90’s” Austin replies, leaping from the trailer and marching over to the next, getting the chance to see it up close for himself. “I guess your theory of the producers feeding us horseshit’s been proven” Michael says, confident that Austin’s been working along the correct lines.
“It may not be a lantern, but it’s definitely as much proof as it would have been” Austin says to himself, climbing into the trailer and surveying the interior for anything out of place. “Holy shit, we’re idiots!” Michael shouts, walking over to a dining table and picking up a newspaper with the date ‘January 15th, 2014’ on it. “All we had to do was pick up a newspaper?” Austin asks, already knowing the answer, just wishing for something that makes him less of an idiot to fall into his lap.
“So what now?” Austin asks, looking for their new approach now that their biggest concern has been answered for. “Well I’m not gonna wait past dark for this guy to just show up and kill us” Michael replies, insisting the pair begin to pack their things up and prepare for the ride home. “Don’t move a muscle” a voice calls out calmly, holding the two men at gunpoint with a sawed off shotgun, demanding they follow him.
Looking to each other as if to question whether or not the other is seeing this too, the pair eventually give in and follow the man, going with the flow with little choice in the matter.
“Tessa!” a woman calls out, pulling the woman towards Marlhy as she stares at the ceiling in her quarters, awaiting the woman’s response. “You alright, Marlhy?” Tessa asks, watching the girl point towards the ground and a hole in the ceiling where the camera once was. “The camera in my ceiling just slammed into the ground for no reason” Marlhy says, picking up whatever she can and handing it to Tessa to evaluate.
“Is this normal?” Marlhy asks, assuming Tessa’s tech-savvy mind would help her better understand what’s going on. “No, it most definitely is not” Tessa says, fascinated by the camera and completely thrown off by the lack of a port to plug a cable into. “Did I break it?” Marlhy asks, unable to understand most of what Tessa is referring to. “No, I don’t even know why it was up there… This-” Tessa begins, quickly silencing herself as she comes to a sudden realization.
“This isn’t a real camera” Tessa says, picking up a pair of nail clippers and doing what she can to pry the tool open. Suddenly, with less effort than she was using prior, the top of the camera pops off and the sound of the Neptune Box going off sweeps the pair off their feet, startling them before they figure out what was going on.
“What happened?” Liz shouts, watching Marlhy follow Tessa to the box as she reaches into the compartment. Inside is a note a case of four radios, all connected to the same frequency with a massive box of batteries to follow. “Fucking sweet!” Charlie says in excitement, peering over Tessa’s shoulder to read the note. “Holy shit” Charlie says, his amusement immediately killed off as Tessa’s eyes wander off the paper, and her focus stares off in the direction of the trailer park.
“What’s wrong?” Liz asks, the enjoyment of the group being put on halt as the eager reveal of what the note reads begins to hover over everyone. “What does it say Tessa?” Rena asks, watching the girl turn towards her with a look of immediate fear. Walking over to Rena, Tessa hands her the note and breaks for her quarters, leaving Rena to read the short statement off to the residents of the cape.
“Rena?” Marlhy calls out, watching the woman glance over at the group as she finishes her brief read to break some news. “Congratulations on another completion. Here is a four pack of radios with enough battery life to last the full calendar year. It seems you’ll need them, because… SURPRISE! You aren’t truly alone here. Happy hunting!”
With the words being read beneath the sky turning into nightfall, Rena looks over to Tessa with a bag draped over her shoulder. “Tessa, where are you going?” Rena asks, storming off towards the girl determined to get back to Austin and Michael. “You can’t go out there, it’s gonna be pitch black out in a few minutes!” Rena shouts, pleading with Tessa to calm down and think things through.
“Tessa, you need to stop” Liz calls out, the tremors in her voice apparent enough to bring Tessa to a halt in the spot in which she stands. “You don’t wanna face whoever’s out there” Liz continues, watching Tessa turn towards her with her eyes narrowed as each individual in the camp that once called Liz a liar have no such comments to be made further. “What was it that you saw back at the trailers, Liz?” Tessa asks, watching the girl’s eyes flush with fear as the feeling of horror begins to enrapture her all over again.
“It just stood there, it didn’t answer… Didn’t even acknowledge me. All I saw was his back and I knew it didn’t seem…” After a pause drops her head, Liz speaks freely without care of how the group may choose to see her. “It didn’t seem human” Liz says, “All I needed was to see it’s back and I knew something was really bad.”
With this revelation unfolding upon the group, Tessa mutters aloud that they all just let Austin and Michael walk into the den of a monster with open arms. Looking around without any voice of hope or inspiration coming around the corner at any point, the group remains silently stood in the center of the cape, staring out at each other as the sun falls beneath the horizon, blackening the sky.
Harshly awoken by the feeling of an unusually rough mattress, Michael gives in trying to fight for a comfortable position in favor of starting on work as the sun begins to rise. Joining Tessa and Austin in stowing the firewood in whatever cover they can find, Michael wishes them a good morning and asks about their sleep. Placing the blame on their early wakeup call as per usual, Austin and Tessa help form a line, tossing the spare wood to each other as if it were a conveyer belt.
From her own quarters, Liz emerges into the center of the cape, cutting off the line between Tessa and Michael and stealing one of the chunks of wood, rolling it beside the firepit. “We’ll keep that there for tonight’s fire” Liz says, ultimately suggesting that they go out looking for firewood today. “We’ve still got some deer curated, we’re set for the next few nights… What we need right now is a way to keep feeding the fire once we run out of firewood” Liz states, suggesting a few people head out to the vacated town and bring back whatever flammables they can find.
“It’ll take more to keep the fire going than one block of wood will, but it’s our best bet” Liz admits, reminding the trio just how sparse wood is found laying around in the arctic circle. “I’m up for it” Austin says, volunteering to bring Warren and Natalie along. “Harper, Len and I will head out to reach Rena and Marlhy in a little bit” Tessa continues, heading off to wake them up before she is approached by Michael, who asks to speak to her privately.
Walking to the coast and away from whatever can be found, Michael asks Tessa in secret what she thinks about Len. “I think he’s a guy trying to win a bunch of money, why do you ask?” Tessa replies, watching Michael become conflicted, as if he were trying to figure out whether or not to hide something from her. Having seen that look from many people before, Tessa steps out ahead of the man, telling him to tell her, in full, what he is thinking. “It’s nothing” Michael replies, “I’m probably just over-reacting.”
The response not good enough for her, Tessa refuses to forget about it, telling Michael to tell her exactly what he was intending to. Worried that he’ll say something that jeopardizes Len’s place in the group unrightfully, Michael looks around to make sure the pair are alone and away from any audio or visual equipment before responding. “When you guys went for the fire last night, I figured I’d bring all of your bags back to your rooms. I figured it was the least I could do after what you guys risked to get across the lake.” Pausing for a second to take another glance backwards, a sort of paranoia showing, Michael turns back around to face Tessa, telling her to keep this a secret.
“When I picked up Len’s bag to bring it into his hut, this orange bottle fell out of one of the side pockets. I picked it up and took a quick look at it, but before I could read anything, he ripped it out of my hands and took his own bag into his hut.” Obviously surprised at what Len was hiding, Tessa’s even more confused when Michael admits that it took the appearance of a medication bottle. “I don’t know what medication it was or what it was for, but those bottles are the only one’s I’ve ever seen look like that” Michael continues, admitting that he believes Len is hiding it from the group.
“Have you seen anything off about him?” Tessa begins, rattling off a few things it could be ranging from a required medication to a drug addiction. “I don’t think it’s required, he wouldn’t be able to get it refilled out here” Michael begins, hinting at the notion that he’s not supposed to have it. “Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel like he would need it unless he had a supply stashed away somewhere. And while I know we were allowed to bring some things, I know meds aren’t one of them” Michael concludes, visibly distressed.
After a few moments of silence, both competitors trying to pull explanations from their minds, Michael tells Tessa not to worry too much about it. “He hasn’t murdered you guys yet, so that’s a good sign. Let’s just treat this like it’s nothing when we’re around him until the time to ask him comes along. If I see anything else out of place, I’ll let you know.” With that, the two return for the cape and both Len and Harper eagerly await getting on the journey back to the cabin. “Ready to head out?” Tessa asks, grabbing the bag from her doorway and joining the trio in beginning their venture, winking to Michael on the way as he gets together a party to head into town.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Wake up!” Rena shouts, practically rolling Marlhy over on the couch as she hands her a cup of coffee. “I thought the coffee machine wasn’t working properly?” Marlhy says, managing to string together one coherent sentence as she wipes the exhaustion from her face. “I didn’t say it would be good coffee” Rena replies, holding her cup up and clinking it with Marlhy’s before taking a swig as she walks onto the cabin patio.
“Anything during the night?” Marlhy asks, watching Rena turn around and rest her elbow on the dining table. “Yeah, someone came in while you were sleeping and I tied them up and stuffed them under the couch. Sorry, did I not tell you?” Rena sarcastically replies, earning an unamused grin from Marlhy, who refuses to buy the statement for anything, but does check beneath the couch in case Rena is as crazy as she can seem at times.
“So what now?” Marlhy asks, watching Rena peer out at the camp on the other side of the lake. “Tessa and the others will come for us and try to figure out what to do next. After that, who knows?” Rena replies, unable to see anyone through the binoculars, assuming most are still asleep. “Who do you think the person that lived here was?” Marlhy asks, genuinely intrigued by the concept of not being in Barrow alone, though also amused at the idea that the producers were spying on them.
“If I had to put money on it” Rena begins, scanning the room quickly in search of something out of place, “I’d say it was a producer. I think we caught them off guard and they had to vacate to keep from jeopardizing the game.” Wiping away her eyes and tilting her head down, trying to keep from looking too far into the sunlight, Marlhy ponders the wonder of what happens when people start getting greedy the longer the game goes on. “What do you mean?” Rena asks, with Marlhy reminding her that whomever is left ends up splitting the money.
“Some people aren’t going to be happy with having to take less money because more people stuck around” Marlhy says, reminding Rena that it still is every competitor for themselves. “Eventually, when we’re close enough to the end, it’ll start being a burden to have too many people left. Fewer people means more money for everyone else.” With that, Rena nods and returns to her spectating of the cape, trying not to let Marlhy’s assumption of the game affect her spirits.
“Let’s talk about something else, okay Mar?” Rena asks, saying enough for Marlhy to stop whilst she’s ahead, allowing Rena to continue her lookout in peace. Watching the girl take specific interest in trying to spot anyone or anything on the other side, Marlhy begins to take her own guess as to the reasoning behind Rena’s fixation. “What do you think about Tessa?” Marlhy asks, addressing the elephant in the room, unknowingly putting a smile on Rena’s face, who responds with a simple, “she’s cool.”
Figuring that she’s captured Rena on a hook, Marlhy digs a little further, trying to gage the level of interest that Rena takes in the topic. “You like her?” Marlhy asks, smiling as she notices the girl begin to blush, not wanting to go too into specifics in hopes of not blowing the little cover she has remaining. “I said she’s pretty cool” Rena replies again, noticing a prying smile on Marlhy’s face in the reflection of the girl in the window. “Yeah, I guess she is pretty cool” Marhly replies, watching Rena nod without vocal response, playing it off as best as she can.
Despite having her sights fixated on what remains across the lake, Rena can feel Marlhy staring daggers into her back, trying to tease her as far as she can before it stops being funny. Rather than continue the joke, however, Marlhy drops the metaphors and leaves nothing to the imagination, asking Rena what she thought about Tessa outright. “It’s clear that you’ve got eyes for her!” Marlhy says, watching the grin come across Rena’s face despite her best efforts to conceal it.
“Everyone in the camp has already figured it out, hell, I’m pretty sure the both of you notice it too” Marlhy says, watching Rena turn towards her with her eyebrows raised, pointing out an internal concern. “What are you afraid of?” Marlhy asks, standing from her seat and taking a moment to gain her balance, touching onto the floor with the original feeling as if she were at sea, rocking back and forth. “I’m not afraid of anything” Rena starts, watching Marlhy take a seat beside her and join her lookout party. “I didn’t come here to find the love of my life, I came here to win money” Rena says, immediately countered by the question of why she can’t have both.
“Because it’s a game, that’s all it is at the end of the day. The more people that drop, the more money we all get. I don’t want to let anything get in the way of that if it doesn’t have to.” Knowing that the statement made makes anyone sound like an asshole, Rena brushes off the concern in favor of using it to remind herself that the game at hand doesn’t spare room for people that let their feelings get in the way of winning. “It’s not like I want to push people away, but if I’m going to be here for the next year, I need to remember what I’m up against.”
Looking at Rena at trying to gage what the girl truly feels, Marlhy asks whether or not she would try to persuade Marlhy to leave the game if she had to. “It’s not like I hate you or anything, Mar… But I’m sure you’ve seen it happen all the time too” Rena begins, handing the girl the binoculars. “People go in to win, they start jelling together as a family and it impedes their better judgment. And in this fucking place, losing your better judgment can get people killed, and that’s not what I signed up for.”
Disliking Rena’s outlook on the competition, Marlhy ultimately accepts that Rena’s coming from a genuine place, and not one harboring malicious intent. With the sun finally fully rising above the horizon, the two girls finally earn a few moments in the warm light, allowing it roll across their skin like warm water. “I’m not going to sabotage anyone or try to push them out of the game” Rena says, watching Marlhy turn towards her, less judgmental than she very well could have been.
“I don’t want to jeopardize my place in the game or anyone else’s. But if I don’t keep reminding myself that this is a game, I’m gonna forget about it and it’s going to cost me everything” Rena concludes, watching Marlhy nod to her and place the binoculars to her face, staring out at the cape.
Not feeling like it to the phased skin, the sun above makes the baron wasteland feel like a sauna despite the temperature still being below freezing. To most, it would be a rare winter day with more sunlight than usual, but for the competitors in Barrow, it’s like an oasis just begging to be recognized as such. Beneath the sauna-like sunlight, Austin, Warren and Liz traverse through the near knee-deep snow in an effort to reach the long-vacated central residency.
“Most of what’s left is probably stripped and pulled already” Warren calls out, making it clear that the producers cannot be trusted to make the game as easy as it would appear to be. “Everything we do is more difficult than it we thought it would be, so I wouldn’t expect this to be any different” the kid continues, earning a smirk from Austin. “Of course, they’re gonna do what they can to defy our expectations, but that doesn’t mean they thought everything through” Austin replies, reminding Warren that, regardless of what remains in the home, most of the wood-comprised homes can be burned with their materials alone.
“Anything you find, literally anything, can and will be burned” Austin declares, making it clear that the group will not drop their group campfire tradition without a fight. “I’m fully on board with that!” Liz exclaims, fist-bumping Austin as Warren nods in compliance, giving in and letting his hopes rise just a slight amount. Fighting through the snow and refusing to acknowledge the cold after being exposed to it for long enough, the group fights through until a grouping of buildings can be spotted in the distance metaphorically calling their names.
“Just over there, keep pushing!” Austin shouts, knowing the annoyance of lugging whatever they return to camp with, but comforted by the warmth it will bring everyone at the cape. Kicking up the snow beneath their feet and fighting their way through the fluffy snowfall, the trio finally reach the vacated lot and climb within the first abandoned shack front they can stumble across. Though not offering much warmth, the intact windows and isolated walls offer a good enough reprieve for the group to take a seat and get whatever snow they can out of their clothes.
“It’s all still intact!” Warren shouts with enthusiasm, the group having forgotten about the aforementioned fear in the excitement of being freed from the tundra’s environments. “We got a fuckin’ break!” Liz exclaims, standing up and laying a firm high-five into both Warren and Austin before settling down on the couch. “Alright, let’s gather our bearings for a little bit. We’ll figure out a plan and take it from there” Austin states, laying out the groundwork and letting Warren and Liz get situated.
A busy body, Austin deviates from the group, opting to check out the rest of the home, finding very little worth in the remnants. “I’m gonna go check out some of the other homes, keep the blood circulating, y’know?” Austin says, assuring the group that he’ll be back in a couple of minutes to put together the next few steps. Through the rear entry, Austin begins a walk through the group of homes, all scrunched together with some slots of space offering very little room to maneuver through.
After few squeezes, Austin finds himself staring down a decrepit trailer with a broken front door, almost pleading for the man to avoid it and move on. As curiosity takes over and the reliance on instincts kicks in, Austin makes the slow ascent up the stairs and into the run down trailer cabin. Scattered around the room are what remains of the previous tenants, ranging from shattered plates and bowls to overturned furniture.
Despite not noticing much out of place at first, Austin catches the sight of the sunlight above reflecting off of something in the corner of his eye. In the corner of the room, a kerosene lantern with a gold finish sits unharmed upon a rundown nightstand. “What are you doing here little guy?” Austin asks himself, walking over and picking it up, initially singing his hand on the heated golden finish.
After managing to grab it by a cooler side, Austin realizes the distinct differences between the lantern and what remains of the remainder of the property it finds itself within. Trying to inspect the lamp, Austin notices a few tiny words engraved on its bottom. Despite the appearance of being nothing more than a manufacturing label, Austin takes a hard interest in the number “2012” at the very end.
“I thought they said this place had been abandoned since the mid-90’s?” Austin asks himself, realizing the producer’s story of events doesn’t line up with the proof in his hands. Figuring this may not be the only piece of a bigger puzzle he needs to solve, Austin looks around the room, flipping furniture and looking through dormant papers in hopes of spotting something else out of the ordinary. “Damn it!” Austin mutters to himself, looking at the mess he further worsened without results worthy of the effort.
Calling it a day on the search, Austin walks over to the front door to leave before looking back to the lantern and returning it to its original position. Once returned, Austin leaves the home and returns to the group, catching his breath and telling them of the plan. Once on the same page, the trio begin to start moving, and Austin keeps his findings secretive, choosing to withhold the information for now whilst he does his best to further inspect it later on.
“Miss us?” Tessa asks, knocking at the door and reuniting with Rena and Marlhy and taking a seat wherever one is available. “Find anything?” Len asks, resting against the couch and letting out a sigh of relief as the plush of the cushion makes up for the tension in his back. “We couldn’t find anything” Rena admits, “We looked everywhere but there was nothing to be found.”
“No one came in the night” Marlhy adds in, watching the disappointment start to loom over Tessa’s face. “Not many would live out there without proper shelter, so unless he’s got a hut out there, he’s gone and he isn’t looking to come back.” With that declaration, Marlhy convinces herself that the future of this cabin lies in the decision of whether to take it for their own or not. “Well it’s not as clean-cut as that” Harper replies, reminding everyone that Barrow still falls under the jurisdiction of the United States.
“If whoever owns this place comes back, this is still their cabin” the girl states, reminding everyone that this is still a game more than it is a test of survival of the fittest. “Until he comes back, though… This place belongs to us” Harper adds in, returning the hope to the group. “How do we know this isn’t another one of those challenges from the producers?” Len asks, noting that this could all be something for them to figure out.
“If this was one of their side missions, the Neptune Box would’ve gone off by now” Rena states, “if this was the work of the producers, they’ve would’ve left something for us to figure out.” Looking around the room, it takes Rena very little time to find someone thinking on the same wave length when Tessa speaks up. “The only reason the producers have side missions is so the whole game won’t be us just trying to do nothing and survive. They know some people will start going out of their way to solve the side missions, so it keeps the story moving along and makes for good TV.”
“So trekking around a lake four times doesn’t make for good TV?” Len asks, only to watch Marlhy walk towards the front door and open it, waving her hand around the air as if to point something out. “No cameras, no microphones” Marlhy declares, “they didn’t mean for us to find this place. They had to vacate it before they started influencing the game.”
“Then why would they let themselves get caught?” Harper asks, a result of her trying to recall loose ends to tie up. “My theory is that this place was for one of the producers to keep an eye out for us from afar. I don’t think he expected us to notice the light from so far out, and when we did, his cover was blown” Rena says, pulling the group together. “Listen, this place has running water, a hot shower, solar electricity and I’m pretty sure there’s a boat in that closet over there” Marlhy exclaims, telling the group that this place can be their safe house over the next year.
“I’m on board already” Rena says, finding Harper coming to an alliance with the pair that have spent more time in the home than anyone else at the cape. Looking to the man resting on the couch, Rena patiently awaits his response, excited once he stands up and walks over to the two, bumping fists with them in place of a handshake. “Tessa?” Rena asks, watching the woman tuck her hands in her pockets and come to an agreement, keeping the home in possession of Neptune City.
“Now for the main course” Rena begins, pointing the four towards the locked door off to the side of the room. Walking over to it and pulling on the handle to show everyone the way it’s been locked, Rena tells the four that there is something inside to help them through the game. “It’s locked from the inside, so whatever’s on the other side must have been important to whoever was here” Rena says, correcting Harper when she suggests it to be an empty basement.
“No, I was thinking of something more along the lines of an emergency failsafe” Rena says, suggesting that whatever remains beneath is crucial towards the game. “If we get in there, we might have a better idea of what the producers are thinking with this thing” Tessa suggests, standing behind an effort to gain access to whatever rests beyond their sight.
Still sorting through the rubble of what remains left behind, Liz gathers the lighter objects such as wooden boards and plastic containers into big garbage bags. “All of this junk and not much of it can be carried across the fucking tundra” Liz mutters to herself, angrily toppling heavier furniture over as they litter her way. Sifting through old newspapers and plastic bags, Liz gets the feeling that something is out of place, but can’t figure out how to put her finger on it.
Scanning the room of the mostly-intact trailer cabin, Liz pokes her head into one doorway after another hoping to find something that doesn’t look like it belongs. “You good in there, Liz?” Warren asks, pounding on the trailer door to make sure the slamming of furniture was just that. “Yeah, just looking for something I could’ve missed’ Liz replies, turning into a darkened room and becoming mesmerized by it.
Entering through the doorway and feeling the air grow colder as she walks further on, her eyes grow accustomed to the lack of light well enough for her to notice something bright at the end of the room. Seemingly muffled by something in front of it, Liz walks carefully, making sure to avoid tripping over anything laying dormant in the middle of the floor before reaching out. The sensation of something soft and flimsy allows Liz to assume it to be a blanket, allowing her to reach for a corner and yank it down, allowing a flood of light to bathe the room like never before, blinding Liz for a few seconds.
“Holy shit!” Liz shouts as her vision returns in full, scared shitless by the sight of Warren looking in at her, having taken notice of the blanket coming down as he walked by. “What’s up with you?” Warren asks, jokingly shaking his head and walking off with a smile as he lugs a bedsheet or flammables over his shoulder. “Apparently a lot” Liz mutters to herself, regaining herself before returning to the interior of the home and walking into the living room. “Okay, Warren. Knock it off” Liz says humorously, watching the figure in the living room staring out at the front door.
“Warren, fuck off” Liz says, awaiting a response that still fails to come as the figure remains stood, idley staring at the door. “Warren!” Liz calls out again, this time louder than before to no response, beginning to worry the girl, who’s now begun to grow anxious. “This isn’t funny, Warren!” Liz shouts, walking towards the figure with the intention of pushing him away, only to stop in her tracks with the sound of Warren’s voice shouting back to her from a few trailers away.
“Warren!?” Liz shouts, this time louder than any other call she’s made before awaiting a response from either the figure before her or the voice across the camp. Without hesitation, Warren asks, “What!?” from a few homes away, his voice distinct and clear enough for Liz to realize that Warren is not the man standing in front of her. With her eyes bolted open, knowing the head of the figure before her does not match that of Austin’s, Liz takes her chances in hoping that the figure did not hear her before hurrying for the opening in the previously-blackened room and leaping from it, leaving behind her collectibles.
“Warren!” Liz calls out, running away from the trailer as if she were Wiley Coyote before rushing into the young man and hurrying into his arms. Curious as to why she was calling him, Warren asks what she needed before Liz tells him that they are not alone at the camp. “What do you mean there’s someone in there?” Warren asks, splitting his focus between Liz and the trailer in which she had just come from as the girl does her best to adequately explain herself in spite of the fear rumbling through her body.
“Stay here, alright?” Warren demands, calling for Austin and telling him to look after Liz as he storms towards the trailer. Refusing to take the front entry, Warren climbs through the window and charges out of the room. “Hey motherfucker, what are you-” Warren shouts, fully expecting to storm at some random freak only to find an empty living room with nothing other than Liz’s bag of collectibles dropped into the corner of the room.
Calling for the girl, Warren shouts as loud as he can that there’s no one inside the trailer, baffling the girl and surprising Austin, who doesn’t take to the idea that Liz would be on to fain something as outlandish as this. Cautiously returning to the trailer, Liz is followed by Austin, walking around the corner to the front door of the cabin and joining Warren in his search for the mysterious wanderer. “There’s no one here, Liz” Warren repeats, looking in each room and guiding his flashlight around to no use.
“I swear” Liz says, pleading with the two to believe her when she says that he was standing directly in front of the doorway. “Calm down, we’re not calling you a liar” Austin says, putting his arm on Liz’ shoulder in an effort to calm her down as he looks to Warren for any sign of this figure. “As much as I’d like to say it looks like someone was here, all I can see is Liz’ trash bag” Warren says, admitting that the signs of a mystery man don’t exist.
“I’m telling you, he was here!” Liz says, standing in the place of the silent figure pleading with the two to believe her. “Liz, we’re not calling you a liar!” Austin say as Warren pulls Liz into his arms to calm her down, noticing the pupils in her eyes dilated, clearly indicating her fear. “We’re just looking for something to say he was here before we go back to the camp. They won’t believe something on face value without a reason, alright?” Austin asks, assuring the girl that they know she’s telling the truth.
“Let’s head back with what we have and we’ll come back tomorrow to look for him, okay?” Austin says, leading the pair out of the trailer with Liz’ findings draped over his shoulder. Both men knowing the fear in Liz’ eyes, voice and movements to be genuine, Austin and Warren look to each other with widened eyes, telling each other that they need to figure out what Liz saw before it comes back to bite them.
Fighting through the snow to return home as the sun begins to set, the trio depart the trailer park and leave behind whatever can be left to return for another day. Scattered in no particular order, as if they were just dumped in their spot and abandoned, the trailers sit lifeless and empty, just waiting for a reason to be put to use. Amidst the messy order of trailers, one broken and battered one stands out from the rest when seen directly above, sticking out like a red button in a sea of blue lights. Within the broken trailer, the sound of clicking resonates and the flicker of a flame burns from within it, fighting off the darkness of the night sky as the moonlight engulfs the seemingly vacated tundra of Barrow.
“Why are we out here?” Liz asks, wiping her eyes as she meets with the rest of Neptune City in the center of the cape. “Who remembers what the producers said on the first day of the game?” Rena asks, looking around the camp at the half-asleep competitors in hopes of an answer coming from any of them. “They said we’d be tracked by the cameras and mics” Rick replies, asked why that would be as a follow up question.
“They weren’t following us with the cameras, they had these in place instead” the man responds, offering a good enough explanation for Rena to continue. “They flew out of Barrow on the first day, right? Does everyone remember that?” Rena asks, watching most of the group agree. “Well we just went down to where we found the broken camera” Tessa says, butting in and informing the group that there was a light over in the distance. “So someone was awake across the lake, big deal…” Charlie replies, only to be reminded that the producers stated that the area was completely abandoned.
“Why would there be someone, literally anyone, on the other side of that lake in the middle of the night?” Tessa asks, earning nothing of note unlike the last time a question was raised. “So what do you want us to do?” Charlie asks, reminding both girls that the only way to the other side of the lake is either by going through it or climbing the glaciers around it. “Going to investigate isn’t exactly the most feasible plan” Charlie concludes, finding common ground with Michael, who admits that such a journey would be too risky.
“We don’t have a boat, the ice may not be thick enough to support us all, and we don’t even know if they’ll still be there once we get across” Michael replies, acknowledging that it just isn’t going to happen. “Well we need to figure something out” Natalie replies, marching towards the center of the group and admitting that something feels completely off about this game. “We’re forced to survive in the most remote part of the U.S through a year of the freezing cold” Warren exclaims, humorously telling Natalie that nothing feels remotely normal about this.
“Listen, this isn’t exactly what we all expected it to be, and I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that” Harper says, draped in a few blankets, but taking the stand in the cold on behalf of the group. “But there’s one thing we can be sure of about that light, if it was actually there, and that’s the fact that it might have some things we don’t have.”
Upon the realization that there is a limit on exactly how long they’ll be able to last on the supplies afforded to them, the group grows to believe that investigating the place may be within their best interest long-term. “Even if we don’t go over to figure out what was there, we should go to get what we might end up needing later on.” Upon that statement, Harper manages to find the group coming into agreement that the long-term needs to be addressed in the coming days.
“Let’s try to get some sleep, and we’ll figure out what to do tomorrow morning” Harper states, allowing the group to retire to their quarters as the plan is seemingly laid out. Before long, Natalie approaches both Rena and Tessa as they retreat to their separate homes, asking if she can talk to them in private. Returning to the lakeside shoreline, Natalie informs the group that she hasn’t found any cameras or microphones in this spot, meaning that they’re free to talk without fear of it ending up being overheard by the wrong ears.
“Why would we worry about what they hear?” Tessa asks, lost as to what Natalie is trying to get across. “Listen, I’m not going to pretend like I’m completely unphased by this game, but something feels completely off.” After saying this, Natalie watches both Tessa and Rena look towards each other, coming to a non-verbal agreement. “We figured as much, we just couldn’t really put our fingers on why” Rena admits, only to be informed of a possible explanation from the woman before her.
“Listen, they dumped us into a baron wasteland and supposedly have enough cameras and microphones and hit our every move. They don’t stay on sight in case an emergency breaks out, they refuse to tell us anything about what happened here, and they force us to eliminate ourselves if we need help. It just doesn’t add up.” Calming the woman down, Rena takes in the information Natalie is providing and states that there’s no way to prove why they’ve taken the aforementioned tactics. “It all feels weird and loopy, I get it… But there’s really no way of knowing what’s going on” Tessa admits, watching both girls struggle to come to the acceptance that they have to go with the flow in order to find out anything more.
“It’s obviously strange and there have been some massive oversights, but until we know more, we’re still stuck on an eternally-cold cape without any way of contacting anyone outside. We’ve got no other choice than to endure what comes next” Tessa says, coming to an agreement with the girls, telling them to return to this place if they need to stay off the record. Walking back, Natalie separates from the pair as Rena pulls Tessa aside, telling her to keep a secret.
“I didn’t want to say this outright, but I found something yesterday afternoon and didn’t know what it was…” Rena begins, pausing for a second as Tessa stares at her, waiting for further information. “...I think I figured it out now” the girl concludes, walking off course with Tessa and pulling her into a small cave just a few yards away from the main camp. Looking into the black depths, both girls spot a red light, blinking every few seconds, seemingly without any purpose.
“What is that?” Tessa asks, looking towards Rena, who pulls the light out and hands it to Tessa, leaving her to inspect it. “I didn’t know at first, but now I’m starting to wonder if it was supposed to be a beacon” Rena states, asked about why there would be a beacon just beside their camp. “Again, I don’t know, but Natalie is onto something” Rena admits, looking at Tessa and making it clear that she isn’t happy about what her gut feeling about this game is.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“So who’s going out?” Michael asks, looking at Rena, Tessa and Natalie all raising their hands, volunteering amongst a few others. “We don’t want to lose too many of you in case we’re separated for more time than we’d like to be, so let’s have Tessa, Rena, Harper, Len and Marlhy head out. The rest will stay here and keep up the camp.” Following the designations, the group splits off to prepare for their own separate tasks, with Michael having taken the charge as the group’s defacto leader.
“Find a good path yet?” Rena asks Tessa, helping her pack a few things in her bag for the trip. “There’s a stretch of hard ice a little over a mile out” Tessa says, “it should help us avoid the glaciers.” Nodding, Rena continues to help pack necessities into Tessa’s bag before getting sidetracked a bit, with her eyes wandering elsewhere. Looking to her side to notice Rena staring off with a random jar of pickles in her hands, Tessa takes a moment to figure out what Rena’s staring at before teasing her by asking how the view is looking.
“Oh, shit…” Rena says, her cheeks blushing as she gets back to helping pack whilst the pair drops their focus of the glance in favor of more pressing issues. After a few minutes, the pair had finished packing and move onto joining the rest of their group out in the middle of the cape. “We ready?” Rena asks, watching the three coming along salute her as if she was their captain. Handing Len one of the rifles and a few bullets, Michael tells the group to stay safe and not get themselves into trouble.
“That’s all you’ve got for us?” Rena jokes, getting a smile out of the man, who tells them to simply come back safe before returning to the group, watching Tessa and company depart. Later in the night, the five begin talking as the night looms overhead, prompting them to turn on whatever headlamps they’ve got. “Why does it feel like we’re on a mission?” Len jokingly asks, assured by Tessa that they pretty much are in the grand scheme of things. “So what do you guys do for a living?” Rena asks, looking to kill time as they near the edge of dry land.
“Therapist” Harper says, noticing everyone’s eyes immediately lock onto her, whilst Rena makes the passing comment that it does check out. “What makes you say that?” Harper asks with a smile on her face, genuinely intrigued by the idea that she had already been figured out. “Half asleep, you saw us all on the verge of asking whether or not something fishy’s going on here and put an end to it” Tessa says, humored as Len adds in that she then sent everyone to bed.
“I’d be more surprised if you didn’t solve problems for a living” Rena admits, bringing a soft chuckle over the group as they continue the merry go-round of occupational reveals. “Barista” Len replies, earning the opposite response from everyone around, with Rena turning to look at him with a scrunched up face. “What’s that look for?” Len asks, playfully insulted by the notion that he couldn’t look like Starbuck’s finest. “I would’ve thought of you to be a theater guy” Tessa replies, now baffling the man, who asks how old she originally thought he was.
“Nineteen” Rena replies instead, breaking Marlhy into laughter as Len wipes off his ears, asking if he heard her correctly. “I thought you’d be one of those guys in theater” Rena reiterates, earning a reminder from Len to never have him entrust her with reading people. “Eye, eye, Captain!” Rena replies, saluting Len, who jokingly flips her off in response as the turn comes across Marlhy.
“Junior sales associate” Marlhy replies, earning neither a surprise or satisfied reaction from anyone. “What is that?” Len asks, pushing a few chuckles out of Rena. “Don’t you laugh, you were thinking the same thing!” Len says, pointing towards Rena and keeping her at bay, only to make her laugh even harder as she reluctantly admits to that fact most likely being true. “I sit at a desk and talk to people” Marlhy replies, “I don’t know much more about it, so I’m probably not very good at it” the girl concludes, putting a smile on everyone’s faces.
“It’s a good thing you’re competing for a million bucks!” Harper exclaims, met with further affirmation from the girl in question that the timing is just perfect. “It’s nice to know I;ll get fired and still be richer than I would have been!” Marlhy adds in, keeping the spirits high. Continuing the trek as if they were a bunch of friends walking home from the bar, the group makes their way across the icey lake and finally approach the other side.
“What did you do, Tessa?” Len asks, with Rena butting in with a few humorous elbows as the group behind the two all bow their heads and leave the two to their own vices. “What’s up with you guys?” Rena asks, having noticed the party of head-hangers behind them all giggling at having been spotted. “Nothing, just leaving you both two it” Harper says, getting a few laughs from the other two as if they were children hiding an inside joke from their parents.
“What is it that you’re leaving us to?” Rena asks, laughing at the sight of the three competitors acting like children, giggling at the slightest detail. “Just ogle at your girlfriend, don’t mind us!” Marlhy says, getting the group to laugh as Rena and Tessa both stare back with their mouths dropped. “We’re not a couple!” Tessa comically replies, only for Len to humorously mock the claim, “Just a couple of besties, right?” again eliciting a roar of laughter from everyone other than the central figures.
“Well, we’re not a thing” Tessa replies, though unshaken at the idea that such a thing could be believable. “Oh come on, you’re telling me you’ve never noticed her staring at your ass the past one-thousand times she’s done it!” Harper exclaims, watching Tessa laugh it off, turning around returning to the journey ahead. “Oh my god, she has!” Len exclaims, noticing that response like he’s seen it hundreds of times. “You’ve caught her staring! You’ve absolutely caught her staring!” Len shouts, bringing the entire group into laughter as they continue on their voyage.
Looking over to the girl beside her, Rena watches Tessa turn towards her, smiling out of the corner of her mouth, which becomes more than enough for Rena to look away, offering the typical red-faced, hair-over-the-ears pull and everything to Tessa’s amusement.
“They shouldn’t go out further than half a mile, it’s just too far for them, alright?” Michael asks, handing Rick one of the two rifles whilst handing both Natalie and Warren a rope. “I want you out there no longer than you need to be, alright?” the man says, getting the point hammered home to the trio before sending them off in hopes of bringing a few bucks back to the camp. Walking off, the man bumps into Austin, who asks him if he still had his map on him.
Pulling it free from his pocket, Michael and Austin glance over the land pictured, with Austin pointing out a small shape out in the Arctic colored in the same shade as the ice. “What about it? It’s just more ice” Michael says, only to take a second glance when Austin asks him to name a time he’s ever seen a perfectly round patch of ice in the middle of the ocean. “So, what am I supposed to be looking at?” Michael asks, following Austin along as he states that this little circle is in no way a piece of ice, regardless of what the map key would like to suggest.
“It’s still not even as small as this cape, why are you interested in it?” the man asks, with Austin assuming it could reveal something important enough to sound off the Neptune Box. “I didn’t see it when we all went for the dip the other day, which means that it’s pretty far out… But I know there’s a place with a few boats somewhere near the coast. If we can get a boat, we can figure out what it is” Austin suggests, assured that Michael will think about it.
“Let’s talk about it again when the other group comes back” Michael offers, “I don’t want too many people away from the cape at once, let alone setting sail for a voyage.” Returning the map, Austin pats Michael on the shoulder and walks off to his quarters, leaving Michael to help Liz and Charlie prepare for the night’s fire pit.
“What happens when we run out of firewood?” Charlie asks, with Liz hinting at the grouping of homes down by the shoreline. “I’m sure we’ll have a ton of stuff in there to make due” the woman replies, with Michael reminding everyone that they’d have to head out in groups to gather all that they could.
“We’ll just ask them” Charlie says, caught by surprise when Michael starts shaking his head in disagreement. “What’s that for?” Charlie asks, sort of upset at the outright refusal. “This is still a competition” Michael reminds, “Everyone that drops is another share we don’t have to split with.” Upon remembering the terms of the rules, both Charlie and Liz look towards each other in concern.
“That’s going to be what splits the group up” Liz mutters, admitting that the biggest threat to the group is the people within it. “Listen, most people have sort of forgotten about that by now, so let’s just keep it this way” Michael replies, “If we start losing people, we’re not going to have enough to make it to the end of the year.”
“So just pretend like everything’s alright?” Liz asks, watching Michael nod and place his finger to his lips, seemingly coming to an agreement that the trio are to remain silent about it all.
“Suck it up, we’re almost there!” Tessa says, joking with a very chilly Len before spotting a small, dark cabin stationed at the bottom of one of many snowbanks. “Come on!” Tessa calls out, riding down the hill on her side before catching her footing on the ground and marching towards the front door. “Hello?” Tessa says whilst knocking as hard as she can, trying to do all that she can to get the attention of anyone hiding within.
“We don’t mean to be a bother, we’re just kind of in this weird position and we were hoping you could help us!” Tessa continues shouting, with other group members looking through the windows whilst Rena walks around to the back. “If you’re in there, we’re not going to hurt you. We’re going to try to break a window to get in, please take this chance to make it clear that you’re in there before we do!”
Without response, Tessa nods to Marlhy and gives her the go-ahead to shatter a window. With the rock in her hands, she halts for the brief second that it takes for Rena to open the front door, explaining that the back door was unlocked and she couldn’t find a light switch. Entering the home, the group stammers around a few pieces of furniture in search of anything mirroring a lightswitch on the wall. “Found it!” Len exclaims, flipping the switch and turning on the patio light, only to illuminate the room with the switch beside it. “So much for first time luck!” Len exclaims, disappointed but putting aside the humor in favor of figuring out what this is.
“Well we know it was definitely the light we saw yesterday” Rena exclaims, pointing out the hard yellow coating the walls that isn’t seen in typical lightbulbs. “Where does someone even get electricity from out here?” Tessa asks, looking beyond pockets and corners in hopes of finding anything on the residents. “We also know there was someone here last night” Marlhy admits, “now it’s just a matter of who it was.”
Scanning around and clearly seeing the signs of somebody having recently taken residency, the group decides to look around, trying to figure out who it was that managed to capture the twelve in his or her sights. “Whoever was here last hasn’t been around at all today” Rena calls out, pointing out an open bottle of orange juice left on the dining room table. “I guess they must’ve left when they noticed us watching” Tessa replies, picking up the bottle and dumping it in the trash before moving onto the rest of the home.
“There’s really not much to look at here” Len exclaims, scanning through empty shelves and staring at pictures scattered along the walls with the generic photo included in the sets unchanged. “Whoever was here didn’t plan on staying long” Len replies, only for that idea to be challenged by Harper, who suggests that it wasn’t mean to be a permanent residency.
“So is this one of the producers?” Rena asks, only for Marlhy to hold up a pair of binoculars left at the windowsill. “Whoever it was, they were definitely watching us” the girl replies, handing the tool to Rena and stating that they haven’t ever truly been alone here. Scanning the immediate area to notice any footprints from earlier in the dy having been snowed over, Tessa suggests that two people stay behind and wait for whatever could come back while the rest alert the others.
“I’ll stay” Marlhy offers, soon followed by Rena, whilst the rest prepare to return to camp. “If you need us, start a fire. We’ll see it from the other side” Tessa states, telling both girls to stay safe. “Don’t get in trouble, alright?” Tessa asks, patting Rena on the arm before joining Len and Harper on the long journey back to camp. Leaving the two behind to await whatever fates decide to come of them, Tessa marches forward, looking back at the cabin for the final time tonight before returning to the path, openly welcoming whatever lies ahead.
“Find anything worth noting?” Michael asks, watching Warren and crew come back empty handed. “Nothing?” Michael asks, surprised that the last two hours yielded no results. “You wanna go take a shot at it?” Rick asks, aggressively handing Michael the gun before walking off to his quarters. “What’s his problem?” Michael asks, watching Warren and Natalie walk past him shaking their heads, signalling to him to drop it entirely, only for their efforts to be thwarted by the group’s leader, walking after Rick and telling him to address his problems.
“Fuck off, prick!” Rick shouts, surprising Michael, who would have expected more from the eldest competitor from the bunch. “We let a buck get away” Warren replies, passing it off as if it were a big deal. “So what? We’ll hit out on it tomorrow, it’s no big deal!” Michael replies, walking over to Natalie and asking for her account of what actually happened. “It’s nothing, just drop it, alright?” Natalie replies, only for Michael to refuse that explanation, regarding it as not good enough to warrant dropping the conversation entirely.
Walking after the girl and trying to call her name to get her to turn around, Michael pulls her by the arm until she’s properly facing him, politely asking to know what happened on the trip. Hesitant at first, Michael assures the girl that what is said will stay between the two of them, easing her into opening up. “Rick suggested that we sabotage the group” Natalie replies, putting a surprised look on Michael’s face, only for it to slowly fade away the more he recalls the kind of situation everyone is in.
“He wants to get as many of us to drop as he can” Michael replies, knowing the reasoning for why, but yet to understand why Rick would wish to stoop to that level. “The dude’s an asshole” Natalie replies, firmly cementing herself as a part of camp Warren. “He asked both of us for our opinions, but Warren was the one that really stood up and said ‘no’” Natalie replies, leading to Michael taking a glance at Warren across the camp, seeing more maturity in the youngest member in the camp than the oldest.
“Please promise me that this’ll stay between us?” Natalie asks, clearly concerned that the information given will be enough to ruin her in Rick’s eyes if mentioned. “You have my word” Michael replies, knowing that staying in everyone’s good graces is a necessity to winning in this game. “Can you talk to Warren?” Natalie proceeds to ask, “Make sure he’s okay?” With a nod and a pat on the back, Natalie walks off and leaves Michael to it, returning to the firepit.
“You alright, man?” Michael asks, walking up to Warren with his hands tucked in his pockets, watching the kid aggravatedly stomp the snow off his boots and wipe it off of his jacket. “Yeah, just pissed off” Warren replies, less anger showing in his voice than there is frustration. Watching the kid eagerly rip off whatever layers he’s found himself soaked in, Michael tells Warren that it’s a simple argument. “You’re gonna get those all the time, it’s nothing to start losing sleep over” Michael says, watching Warren turn to him, smiling off the comment.
“If you want to think that, go ahead… It’s your funeral” Warren replies, surprising Michael, who asks for clarification. “Dude, we’re in a game. Who wants to split a million bucks with people when they can fuck them over and take them out of the game?” Upon hearing the question and realizing the truth behind it, Michael hangs his head, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before people start hiding and storing away whatever they can manage to get their hands on.
“Don’t get me wrong, Mike… I don’t want to see that happen” Warren begins, finally having peeled off his soaked jeans, “But there’s a difference between hoping for it and expecting it to come around eventually… And I’m the second one.” Watching the kid search through a chest for something warm and dry, Miichael feels back that a kid who just recently graduated high school has to worry about being stabbed in the back trying to survive in the arctic circle.
“Alright, I’ll let you get to your business” Michael says, telling Warren to take it easy before returning to the middle of the camp, where he notices three people returning from the other side of the lake. “Welcome back!” Michael shouts, welcoming Tessa, Len and Harper back with open arms. “Where’s the rest of you?” Michael follows up, assured that they’re alright, just waiting for whatever skipped town the night prior to possibly return.
“They’re safe, they have what they need to defend themselves, we’ll touch base with them tomorrow morning” Tessa says, quickly assuring Michael that the camp is safe to find refuge in for tonight. Returning to the fire, Tessa, Len, and Harper all drop most of their gear on the spot and join the camp. Figuring they’d let them enjoy the heat after a day of traversing the tundra, Michael picks up their bags and returns them to their respective quarters before finally reaching Len’s bag.
As he picks up Len’s bag to return it to his room, a small bottle falls out onto the snow, shining a bright orange with the fire’s reflection bouncing off in clear detail. Picking it up, Michael reads the label on the front before it is ripped from his hand by Len, who takes both the bottle and his bag back to his quarters, locking himself in there for the night. Thrown off by the strange encounter, Michael stands in his place, looking out at the rest of the camp all oblivious to what just went down.
Figuring he’d leave it at that and let Len do whatever he wishes to, Michael walks over to the fire and takes a seat beside Tessa and Liz, embracing the warmth beneath the black sky. Despite trying to find comfort beside the fire, Michael cannot help himself to do anything other than take a glance back at Len’s cabin, where he notices the man staring at him through the small window beside his front door. Bizarre, the sight is enough to drive Michael to turn around and return his sights to the fire, no longer wishing to take another glance back.
Dressed up from head to toe in heavy clothing, combatting the brutal winter chill in the air stands a man at the entry to a runway awaiting a plane in the distance to land. Accompanied by a camera crew following his every move, the man stands with earmuffs shielding him from the roar of the plane’s engine as it finally touches down on the runway. With the motors slowing down before finally coming to a full silence, the plane’s cabin door flies open and allows a small stairwell to slowly descend onto the tarmac. From the plane emerge twelve normal people, six men and six women, all dressed in just as heavy clothing as the man awaiting their official arrival does.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen” the man states, the smile on his face as the crowd cheers at the sound of their initial introduction. “My name is Chris Joseph” the man introduces himself, “I’m known for my more exuberant concepts, but on this ground, you will know me as the host of the next year of your lives.”
Ready to tackle the ground below them, the twelve competitors bite rapidly at the challenge soon to be laid out in front of them, eager to walk away with the big prize. “This is Barrow, Alaska” Chris states, holding his hand out towards the vast, snow-covered former town, vacated by it’s prior inhabitants. “What was once the northernmost town in the continental United States is now the center stage for a game I like to call ‘Project Neptune City’” the man says, watching the cheering erupt again. “Some of this town’s beauties include nearly forty straight days of endless daylight, nearly forty straight days of absolutely zero daylight, and three-hundred and sixty-five days of continuous temperatures that never surpass forty degrees fahrenheit. You will endure all of it… At least, if you want to win, that is.”
Having not been made official to the competitors before, the confirmation that this journey is a ‘last man or woman standing’ challenge brings the competitors to their feet. “The rules are simple, pay attention, because they will only be stated once” Chris begins, laying out the groundwork as the crowd listens in eagerly. “For the next three-hundred and sixty-five days, you will fight with nothing more than the clothes you came here with to survive. Scattered throughout the playing board are tools you will find use in, and can choose to share with the group or keep for yourselves. If you wish to leave at any point, or are physically unable to continue to compete, you will be air-lifted out of the board and will leave with nothing. Whomever is left at the end of the three-hundred and sixty-five days will split one million, untaxed dollars in cash.”
Louder cheers than any other before, Chris wishes everyone luck as he officially unlocks the main gate, allowing the players onto his game board. “You will be filmed with cameras scattered throughout the camp, all with their own microphones and everything at all times in the day. Good luck, and may the best men or women win!”
With the final quote, Chris pulls open the gate and watches the core twelve members of the group rush into the board, hurrying into the frost-bit wasteland in hopes of staking a claim for one million dollars.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Please state your name, your age and your occupation” a voice asks, alone with one of the competitors in a tent threatened to be blown into the Arctic by the rapid winds. “Yeah, sure. I’m Tessa, I’m twenty-five and I am an electrical engineer” the woman says, sat with her legs together and the palms of her hands against her thighs. “And why have you come to compete in Neptune City, Tessa?” the cameraman asks, watching the woman, smiling at the idea of returning home in one year’s time with one million dollars.
“Well, the student debt I’ve got is nothing new to a lot of people. This would help me not only erase that from my ‘to-do’ list, but it would also give me the chance to do everything I’ve wanted to do.” Leaning forward and focusing the lens, the camera man asks her to list a few of her goals. “Well, I’d like to start a family some day” Tessa begins, smiling to herself, “It’d be nice to actually afford that.”
“That was great, Tessa. Thank you” the cameraman states, calling in the next person into the tent as Tessa returns to the frost-covered landscape. Around her at all sides is the stone-like dirt ground, with one side hosting the ice-covered Arctic Ocean. “Sort of breath taking, huh?” another woman asks, walking up to the woman taking in the sights of the unusual scenery. “I guess it’s really nice to look at, huh?” Tessa states, shaking the woman’s hand and asking for her name.
“Rena, and you are?” the woman asks, formally introducing herself as Tessa does much the same. “I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other” Rena states, making light out of being stranded in a frozen wasteland. “Everyone gather around” Chris shouts, standing in the middle of a circle and watching as the core survivors take a seat around him. “First I want to congratulate all of you on making it into the full twelve, give yourselves a big round of applause!”
Following the claps and cheering, Chris informs them that all of the pre-production material has been filmed, and now the final thing left to do is get into the game. “If you travel half a mile inland, you will find yourselves twelve separate tiny homes. They’re all stocked with things such as basic medical supplies, toilet paper and three weeks of food. As far as we’re concerned, this is the final time we will meet before the end of the three-hundred and sixty-five days. I just want to take this time to wish you the best of luck, and may the best men and women survive the year!”
Departing from the group, Chris tells them that the journey to the cabins will officially commence the second the plane he and his camera crew board leaves the ground. Gathering their things and grouping up into pairs, the competitors stand in place, watching the plane door close behind Chris and his crew. Motors powering up, the plane begins its slow ride to the end of the runway before leaving the ground and soaring into the sky, officially signalling the start of the next year of life for those left behind.
“Let’s get movin’ ladies and gents!” a man with a puffy coat on shouts as he leads the charge of the twelve wanderers towards their remote base of operations. “Your name’s Michael, right?” Rena asks, reading off the name tag on his puffy coat as he turns around and smiles at her. “Michael Tarvaris, it’s nice to meet you all” Michael replies, repositioning the bag of supplies on his back.
“Which one of you have some stories to tell?” a man by the name of Austin calls out, hoping for something to fill the air of the walk. After a few seconds of looking towards each other to be the first person to come up with something, a woman from the back of the group starts calling out how she managed to get on the show. “Nice to meet you, I’m Austin” the man says, shaking her hand and introducing himself. “Harper, it’s nice to meet you” the woman replies, the man noticing her red cheekbones, but unsure if it’s from her blushing or the cold beating against her skin.
After hearing about her run in with a producer on a random New York street, the remainder of the group begins to speak up with their own stories, breaking the ice one new face at a time. Finally, the twelve competitors reach their destination, finding a baron, gravel-covered lot with twelve little cottages, one for each of the lot. Walking into hers, Tessa drops her bag on a chair off to the side of the room and looks around, marveling at the detail gone into caring for the interior.
Eventually, after enough gazing at her new residency, Tessa looks into one of the corners of her ceiling and notices a moderately sized black ball carefully placed. After scanning it for a few seconds, she quickly realizes it to be one of the many cameras littering the campsite, eager to get a first-hand look at any raucous encounters to be had on the frost-bitten retreat.
“Pretty cute, huh?” Rena asks, catching Tessa’s attention as she walks into the living space. Caught off guard by her presence, Tessa simply responds with, “you look great” to get Rena blushing. “I meant less about me, and more about the house…” Rena replies, embarrassing Tessa as she turns her head away, puckering her lips whilst Rena laughs. “It’s cool, I appreciate it” Rena continues, easing Tessa’s worries before asking about the home again.
“It’s… It’s nice” Tessa replies, stammering over her thoughts as Rena leans against a bannister, watching Tessa race across her mind over what to say next. “Yeah, it could be a little less perverted… But it’s not bad for the most part” Tessa replies, taking her focus from the one camera overhead to look for any others scattered throughout, hidden from view.
“Yeah, no one’s getting off without millions of people watching the process” Rena jokes, watching Tessa turns towards her with her mouth slightly agape. “Such a shame, huh?” Rena asks, humoring Tessa as the woman in the center of the room stares on, shaking her head and brushing off the comment. “Guys, check it out!” a voice cries from the middle of the town, drawing the residents towards him.
Emerging from her home, Tessa follows Rena towards the middle of the camp, where a younger man stands beside a massive metal box that most people wrote off as nothing upon first glance. “What’s up, kid?” an older gentleman by the name of Rick asks, immediately hit with a not-so-subtle reminder from the younger man, insisting that he has a name. “It’s Warren, not kid” the man states, watching Rick’s facial expression turn apologetic.
“What’s up, Warren?” Michael asks, taking a laminated piece of paper on Warren’s behest and reading it aloud to the group. “This contraption is called ‘Neptune’, and it will gift you imperative tools to use at your disposal upon checkpoints, which will be captured once progress has been made in the game.”
“What progress? I thought we just had to get through the year?” a woman by the name of Liz exclaims, searching for answers in the following paragraphs with everyone else. “You will soon come to realizations within the game. Upon reaching those realizations, you will have earned yourselves a checkpoint, and thus, a new tool. Happy hunting.”
Looking around for a new perspective on the addition to the game, everyone is left with no more answers than what they already had. “If at any point, you no longer wish to take part in the game, you may return to the airport gate and press a big, red button to signal for help. A plane will arrive and return you to the Alaskan mainland, and you will be eliminated from the competition.” Looking around, the group reassures themselves in their own ways that they are truly alone here, in the frozen cape that is Barrow.
As day turns into night, and the group finally starts taking comfort in their new settlement, a fire burns in the middle of the cape, surrounded by the twelve competitors ready to take on the first nightfall of their new lives. “What about you, Natalie?” Warren asks, looking over to a woman off to the side of the camp, staying quiet and kept to herself. “What would you do with that big bag of cash?” Rena asks, restating the question.
“I don’t know… Maybe… Invest it?” the woman replies, met with a divisive response, some on board with the plan, and others skeptical of that approach. “The real question now is, stock or real estate?” Michael asks, gladly put in his place as Rick reminds him that investments aren’t specific to just one or the other. “I’d probably wait for the right time, just strike when the oven’s hot” Natalie replies, finding more nods in approval than before.
“Smart girl, I like it” the guy beside her says, holding up a bottle of beer and cheersing the girl, putting a warm smile of acceptance on her in the process. “What’s your plan, Len?” Michael asks, turning the conversation into the man’s to keep running. “A clean million?” Len asks, humored by the thought of such a prize being possible. “That would set me for life” the man replies, knocking back the rest of whatever is left in the bottle, pleased with his answer.
“I’d try to flip it” another woman states, offering another approach yet to be touched by the group. “And how’re you gonna do that, Marlhy?” Warren asks, somewhat mocking the woman’s vague approach. “Start a business” the woman replies, straight-faced and stood firmly beside her approach. “Scan a market, figure out what’s set to grow and start moving” Marlhy concludes, met with a possible answer from the one man yet to be recognized.
“Pro wrestling’s ready to boom” Charlie says from off to the side, earning a mixture of laughing and consideration. “It’s becoming less cartoonish and out-there than ever before… And people are starting to get it” the man says, unable to convince those refusing to follow his point, but pulling a few others on board with what he’s getting at. “Alright, I’m heading in for the night” Austin says, bundled in an assortment of blankets and making his way for his cabin to a chorus of groans from the remaining camp members.
Throughout the night, as the fire starts to burn out before inevitably being replenished, the competitors retire to their quarters one by one. Eventually, only Tessa, Rena, Michael and Austin remain surrounding the fire, not wanting to let the fun of their first day in Barrow die out with a whimper. “Where’d you come from, Rena?” Michael asks, bringing the eyes towards the woman, somewhat flustered with the task of answering.
After a deep breath and another swig of beer, Rena replies with an occupation sure to surprise the group. “Stripper” the girl replies, surprising Austin enough for him to spit out his beer, almost choking on what remains to the amusement of the group. “Didn’t see that one coming” Michael replies, splitting his attention between hearing Rena out the rest of the way, and patting on Austin’s back to ensure he doesn’t drop to the ground before the sun comes up.
“I get that one a lot” Rena replies, rolling another bottle over to the man as the one he was recently drinking slowly spills onto the ground. “I’m good” Austin says, waving Michael off and thanking him for his help. Picking up the bottle and twisting the top off, Austin sinks into his seat and looks towards Rena, humorously telling her to continue.
Awoken by the sunlight squeezing through the blinds nearest to her bed, Tessa takes a moment to wipe the crumbs from her eyes before getting up and crashing into a small book shelf stationed beside her bed. Lunging forward to keep it from falling over, Tessa watches the two potted plants placed atop it smash into bits on the floor, dropping a small black piece amidst the mound of dirt.
Reaching down, Tessa pulls up a lone microphone, inspecting it for a second before shrugging her shoulders and drowning it in an unfinished bottle of beer. “One less thing I need to worry about” Tessa mutters to herself, putting on her clothes and walking into the middle of the cape, noticing everyone still being fast asleep. Without much more to do, the woman walks over to the hunk of metal in the exact middle of the cape and looks over it, trying to figure out what else she can get away with figuring out.
In the middle of one side, the words “Neptune City” are engraved into the machine, giving the colony its new name if nothing else. Without modern technologies or any other way of adequately telling time, Tessa is forced to accept being on her own with eleven others in a town notorious for endless days of daylight and night time. “Rough sleep?” Charlie asks, walking through his front door and joining Tessa in aimlessly staring at what seems to be overlooking everything within viewing distance.
“More like a rude awakening” Tessa replies, tucking her hands in her pockets as a warmer wind blows the her across her face behind her ears. “Same here” Charlie replies, placing a blanket over Tessa’s shoulders before stating that the rest will wake up when the light hits their eyes. “Not much else to do here other than wait for that” Tessa replies, looking over to the man, shrugging his shoulders and inviting her out to the coast.
“I hear it’s colder out there, but it’s like being on top of the world” Charlie says, waiting for Tessa’s reply before she joins him on the venture outwards. After walking for nearly a mile, the pair make it to the rock-covered coastline, etched into infamy by the single whale bone imbedded in the ground as an omad to the fisherman of the former town. “It’s quite something, ain’t it?” Charlie asks, taking a seat on a stone bench beside Tessa, looking out into the deep blue waters beneath the low sun.
“Like being on top of the world, you said” Tessa replies, gazing out at the view. “We’re currently further north than anyone else in the world” Charlie replies, attempting to add something else on, only to be interrupted by the sight of someone dressed from head to toe in a wet suit rushing into the Arctic and taking a dip. “Holy shit, Mike!” Tessa shouts, watching the man wink at her before the rest of the camp hurries after him, all dressed the same and leaping into the bone-chilling waters.
“Where did you all come from?” Tessa shouts, only to be interrupted by Charlie, who taps her on the arm and hands her a wet suit. Looking around and spotting only a few cameras in the immediate vicinity, Tessa and Charlie strip down and brace the cold to slip on the wet suit as quickly as they can. Finally covered, the pair join the ten others in the water, tossing water around as if they were children on the beach all over again.
Still covered in the wet suit, the twelve competitors march back to camp once again after their day at the beach. Returning to her quarters, Tessa is followed by Natalie, who politely asks for a second of her time. Following the girl away from the cape, Tessa begins to notice a small post that once stuck out of the ground, now resting on it’s side. “You said you were a tech engineer, so I thought you’d know if this seemed out of place” Natalie says, finally reaching the post and picking it up.
Upon her initial inspection, Tessa notices the top clearly being the lens for a camera, but figures out that there is no cord to go along with it. “I don’t… I don’t get it” Tessa admits, pointing out to Natalie that something’s off. “It’s strange to you too, right?” Natalie asks, handing the woman the wooden post and allowing her to get a closer look. “This is clearly a camera” Tessa says, endlessly spinning the post around, “but it’s not plugged into anything.”
“There’s no other camera’s out here that I can see” Natalie states, watching Tessa put the post into the air and slam it against the ground, splintering the wood before doing it a few more times. Finally, the post snaps in half, and Tessa pulls a loose string from the center of the split. After an additional little tug, Tessa feels something inside click before the blaring horn of Neptune calls the competitors to it’s attention.
Racing back to the middle of the cape, Tessa and Natalie find the group pulling a note free from a small slot in the machine. “This is Neptune City, and it appears that you’ve discovered the most obvious clue in the game thus far” the note reads, putting the group on notice. “You have reached checkpoint number one, and for that, you are to be rewarded accordingly” the note goes onto say, allowing Warren to pull from the slot two rifles with a few extra cases of bullets.
“Why the fuck do we need those?” Harper asks, listening in whilst Mike reads the rest. “Remember what you did to earn these rifles” the note concludes, “All further checkpoints will be reached through moments of enlightening like this.”
“So what now?” Liz asks, “We just wait to stumble upon something else?” Taking a second to think about these checkpoints, Tessa comes across a realization. “The game wants us to find out more about it” the woman blurts, capturing the eyes and ears of everyone around. “It’s giving us rewards for learning more, so it wants us to keep trying to figure out what’s happening here.”
“If anything, that just makes it even more confusing” Marlhy argues, finding many of the members of Neptune City in agreement. “Listen, they called this a game before they left… Not a competition. Hell, we’re on a fucking game board!” Tessa exclaims, figuring out that the quest to survive the next year is just another challenge in a bigger game. “If our main goal is to make it to the end of the year, these puzzles are our side missions!” Austin says, finally following Tessa in her line of thinking.
“Why wouldn’t we just stick to the main mission, then?” Natalie asks, assured that the side missions are meant to make the main mission easier. “We’ll run out of food eventually…” Tessa begins, walking over to Warren and taking one of the rifles, “...Now we’ll have a way of finding more.”
Looking up at the sun, Tessa moves onto suggest that they could get a bunch of coats one day, or a generator, or a phone. “Anything to make getting to the end of the year easier, we’ll eventually get from this box” Tessa concludes, finally having pulled the group into an easier understanding.
“So now wh-” Rick begins, only for he and the rest of the group to be interrupted by the second rifle firing off into the distance, taking down a buck in the process. “Jesus!” Harper shouts, the group watching Len turn and correct her. “Nah, my name’s Len” the man jokes, pulling the rifle over his shoulder and walking off after the animal.
“You could’ve gotten us all killed!” Rick shouts, “no I wouldn’t” Len replies, effortlessly putting Rick in his place. “Well, we’ve got dinner plans for tonight” Tessa exclaims, watching the group turn their heads towards her, leaving her to shrug and ask what the group is giving her the unamused look for.
Slow cooking the buck over the open fire, the group sits around beneath one blanket after another, just trying to tuck the fabric as close to their bodies as they can. “So if this is a game to them, are they the players or are we?” Natalie asks, leaving the answer up to the group to decide. “While I’d like to think we’re the players, this kind of thing only leads me to believe that we’re only as good to them as pawns are in chess” Rick says, admitting his low hopes for their place in the game being taken seriously.
“Pawns can hold all the power with the right place on the board” Rena says, bringing the group’s hopes high for a moment. “We may not be the most important piece in the game, but we can sure win it like any other can” the woman concludes, reminding everyone to never overlook their own importance. “If this truly is like a game, we’re all just as important to the overall story as each other. When one goes, we’re not losing anything we can’t make up for… It’s just a matter of whoever is left that has to take on what the last person left off.”
Once the night has fallen, the group retreats to their beds without the knowledge of how long it will be until the sun rises. In his quarters, Warren gets himself ready for bed until he hears a knock at the door, opening it to find himself approached by Natalie, who looks at him, confused for some unknown reason. “What’s up, Natalie?” Austin asks, letting the woman in as she takes a seat on one of the chairs.
Struggling to find the right words to say, Natalie eventually gets around to asking Austin if he feels like something is off. “What do you mean by ‘off’?” Austin asks, trying to better understand what Natalie is concerned over. “This whole ‘game’ thing, it just doesn’t feel like we know everything” Natalie admits, further confusing Austin, who assumed the group had already established that.
“No, I don’t mean the prize box, I mean the whole game” the woman explains, stating that she feels like something is off about this whole thing. “Why would they just give us all these things and ditch us?” Natalie asks, watching Austin fumble over reasons that make sense. “I mean, out of literally everywhere, how could they have thousands of cameras and mics just waiting for us? It doesn’t make sense!” Natalie says, acknowledging that she thought the circumstances would be different.
“What are you trying to get at?” Austin asks, desperately trying and failing to find common ground with the girl, visibly worried. “Are you saying this isn’t a game? Are you saying they’re still here? Are you saying they’re controlling our minds? What are you trying to tell me?” Austin asks, running over every conceivable thing the girl could be thinking. “I think this is a test” Natalie suggests, watching Austin’s eyes narrow as he drops his head and rubs his neck.
“What kind of test, Natalie?” Austin asks, frustrated with himself for failing to grasp what the girl is trying to get at. “I don’t know, I just know this isn’t how I thought this game would work” the woman explains, met with agreeance from Austin, who admits that it took a turn from what he was envisioning as well.
“Listen, Natalie… I’m not going to pretend like I’ve known you all my life, because it’s only been a few days. But it seems like you’ve got a small bit of paranoia, and if that’s the case, don’t stress yourself out.” Taking a seat beside Natalie, Austin tells her that whatever comes next in this game entails everyone. “Whatever you go thorough, we go through. There’s no two-ways about it, okay?” Austin says, watching the girl look up at him and smile, nodding in compliance before thanking him and getting up to leave.
“Natalie?” Austin asks, calling out for the girl and reminding her that she can come to him if she ever needs anything else. “Don’t hesitate to ask, alright?” Austin says, watching the girl nod and leave, allowing him to continue his routine as she returns to her quarters.
Trying to get what sleep she can before she is rudely awoken by the sun again, Tessa tosses and turns in her sleep before she is awoken by the sudden touch of a hand on her shoulder. “What the fuck?” Tessa asks, looking up at a startled and apologetic Rena, not meaning to have scared her as badly as she had. “Can I talk to you for a second?” the woman asks, giving Tessa a minute to get her clothes on and follow Rena out towards the location of the post in the back of the camp.
“What’s wrong?” Tessa asks, huddled beneath a pile of blankets and following the woman to the edge of the frozen lake just beyond the blank pit. Looking out into the distance at the behest of Rena, Tessa looks where the woman’s finger points to notice a small light on, just barely able to be seen in the distance. “I thought the producers said this place was abandoned?” Rena asks, looking on with Tessa as what appears to be a figure stops in the center of the light.
Noticing the hesitation, the two women look as the figure seemingly notices them, walks over to something and turns off the light, leaving the opposite end of the lake completely darkened once more. “I wasn’t the only one that just saw that, right?” Rena asks, assured from Tessa that she wasn’t alone, the two women continue to stare out, waiting for any other sign of life that could be incoming.