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.