“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.