“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.