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.