“Guys!?” Rick calls out, following Tessa through the cavernous maze in hopes of stumbling across their lost group. After a few minutes of squeezing through cracks and climbing over fallen stones, the pair find the end of their pathway, discovering a railway system buried deep beneath the ground. With the faint glow of a flickering yellow light, Tessa and Rick follow the rail system south, the feeling of claustrophobia disappearing inside the spacious tunnel system.
“Why would they build a subway system in Barrow of all places?” Tessa asks herself, Rick answering her question by suggesting Barrow as the perfect place for such a need. “No roads in or out of the town, only way out above ground is through the sky, why not a way to leave under ground?” Rick replies, admitting that he’s confused as to why they would have sold the city if they were amidst a project of this size.
“You’d think they would have held off on selling it if they were trying to up it’s value” Rick concludes, Tessa offering the possibility of having run out of the funds for it. “Maybe, but this wouldn’t be the first time the producers didn’t give us the full truth” Rick replies, leading Tessa down the left tunnel of a fork in the system. “Why this way?” Tessa asks, Rick telling her that if they keep taking the left-most tunnel, they just need to remember to follow the right on the way back.
“That’s smart enough” Tessa replies, getting a laugh out of Rick, who spots the reflection of a warm light just ahead. “It’s probably another flickering lightbulb” Tessa replies, following Rick as the elder man picks up his pace, eventually overhearing footsteps in the near distance, only further fueling their hurry towards the light. After a few moments, Rick and Tessa catch their sights on their lost group, reuniting with the few familiar faces they have left.
Having grown closer than just a group of random competitors from various parts of the world, the warmth they have in their hearts for each other triggers their instincts to immediately dish out hugs. “Now that we’re back together, let’s figure out if we can find where these tunnels lead” Charlie says, propping a small bag of necessities over his shoulder before continuing to lead the surge southbound.
“Any chance there’s a train somewhere down here?” Natalie asks, surveying the glistening stones to each of their sides. “If there’s a train anywhere down here, they either finished the station at some point or were really careless with their investments” Rick replies, with Warren adding in that they’d get a pretty good answer if they did happen to find one. “The place has been vacant for a while” Liz says, “I saw some snow back a few yards. Probably a hole in the walls leading outside.
“Think there are any more?” Warren asks, Natalie acknowledging that it is highly likely taking into account the decrepit nature of the tunnels as they currently stand. “Let’s not spend too much time looking for answers we haven’t asked the questions to just yet” Rick warns, “Especially when that army back there may have much more knowledge about these tunnels than we do.”
“Hold up!” Natalie calls out, bringing the group to a sudden stop when she notices something out of the corner of her eye appear through the flicker of the overhead lightbulb. Questioning what she saw, the group watches her cautiously walk to the other side of the tracks and disappear into the dark unknown. Calling her name, the group watches her reappear briefly upon another flicker of the light, holding onto a ladder going into some unknown space above.
“Anyone wanna check it out with me?” Natalie asks, the group hesitant to take her up on her offer other than Charlie, who excitedly joins her in the darkness and offers to head up first. “I don’t think we should be looking to go somewhere we shouldn’t be just yet” Warren calls out, his concerns muffled with charlie vowing to call for help in case he sees something he isn’t too fond of.
Halfway up the decaying metal stepping post, Charlie grabs onto one of the bars and accidentally pulls it off, watching it drop back to earth and collide with the rail, making a horrific clanking sound that pulsates through the group’s ears. “Sorry!” Charlie shouts, continuing his ascent with much more caution. “Ah, fuck!” Charlie says, shaking rust off of his hand after cutting it on one of the bars.
“I’m good” Charlie says, finishing his climb and pulling Natalie up soon thereafter. “You guys good up there while we check out the rest of the tunnel?” Rick asks, watching Charlie give him the thumbs up. “You know where to find me!” Charlie calls out, turning on his small, nearly pointless flashlight and ventures further into the crawl space. “Well that solves that” Rick mutters, continuing in place of the pair in leading at the front of the group.
“We can’t just leave them up there” Tessa replies, “The talkies don’t work and they have no clue what they’ll find up there.” Looking back, Rick takes a second to think about their options, eventually questioning whether anyone would like to volunteer to stay back and wait for them. “We can’t just stand around without knowing where this place leads” Rick responds, with Warren adding in the fact that they’re unsure of whomever else has access to the tunnels.
“If they want to split off, fine… Best of luck to them” Rick continues, “But we’re putting ourselves in danger if we don’t figure out what the hell this place means for us.” Looking around, Rick watches Tessa hang her head in disappointment, but without a logical counter to reply with. Neither Liz, nor Warren are excited about the idea, but they’re more than aware of the truth lingering behind Rick’s unpopular stance.
“I’ll stay back” Liz says, telling the group to keep moving until they find something. “You’re sure?” Tessa replies, watching the brief second of assertion on Liz’s face, convincing the group to do whatever it is that they need to do. “If I see anything come from up north, I’ll head up to Nat and Charlie” Liz concludes, “You all just stay safe.” With a nod, the trio navigate tunnels, unable to argue against splitting up when the opposition is a possible advantage over the elements at play.
After nearly ten more minutes of following the tracks, Warren notices a chill raining over him, different from the remainder of the tunnel they’ve traversed already. Before he can voice his findings, Tessa spots a splash of natural light plastered against the limestone walls just ahead. “Do you guys see it too?” Tessa asks, with Rick taking his hand and placing it against her shoulder, keeping her from continuing forward with his fingers pressed to his lips.
“Wait, wait!” Rick whispers, watching the light of the dark night sky, as ironic as it is, stand out from the darkened shadows only briefly lit by weak, yet valiant lightbulbs. Upon voicing his concerns, Rick and the group notice something intruding on the light’s turf, stumbling closer into the tunnels and further shielding the tunnels from Barrow’s natural, chilly night sky.
Taking the lead, Rick arms himself with the rifle over his shoulder and sneaks forward, keeping himself in the darkest parts of the tunnel in hopes of surprising the light itself. As Rick continues forward, he spots the light source, which presents itself as a massive rip in the side of the tunnel. The stone that formerly made up a sturdy tunnel support being weathered down by the cold nature of Barrow, now appearing as a rip-like entrance into the tunnels interior.
Marching onwards, the rip grows more noticeable, and the light of the night sky comes into view, that view being obstructed by the shadowy figure that stands in its way. “Stop!” Rick shouts, immediately putting a halt on the figures movement, it’s face and any other descriptive features hidden. “Who are you?” Rick asks, watching the figure struggle to remain perfectly still, instead shaking from side to side and moving its feet a few inches to keep itself supported.
“Do I need to ask you again?” Rick calls out, watching the legs of the figure begin to tremble with greater force with each second until they finally give out. Dropping to its knee before falling completely forward, the figure slides down the dirt slope and is unloaded onto the tracks. “Don’t fire!” Tessa shouts towards Rick upon the figures initial collapse, running towards its body upon its collision with the ground.
“Who is it?” Rick calls out, watching Warren turn the body onto its back as Tessa removes its hood, revealing it to be a blue-lipped, bloody-nosed Harper struggling to speak. “Rick, we need to go back now!” Tessa shouts, directing Warren to help her carry the wounded woman back to the cabin. Taking over for Tessa, Rick takes Harpers arm over his shoulder and tells her to run back to the group and get them to help speed up the process.
= Neptune City is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Come on, it’s just up ahead!” Rena shouts, her lips quivering as the falling snowflakes gently drop from the heavens and melt on her lips. Within the next thirty minutes, the group finally reaches the locked gates of the long-abandoned radio tower, tasked with yet another goal. “How do we get in?” Rena calls out, watching Austin toss his bag to the ground and begin climbing up the freezing metal fence.
Upon reaching the top, Austin scales down and eventually gives in, his strength depleting to the point where he relinquishes his grip, plummeting to the ground. “You good?” Marlhy shouts, Austin, clearing the snow from his boot and giving himself a much needed chance to stretch, insisting that he’s never been better. Up to his feet, Austin walks up to the front door and reaches for the handle, unsurprised to find it still locked by its prior inhabitants.
“Grab a rock or something” Marlhy instructs, watching Austin extend his arms and admit that the idea would be perfectly sound if only there weren’t ten feet of snow between his feet and the ground. Performing a quick glance for anything of use, Austin shouts “fuck it!” and returns to the door, taking his lightly gloved hand and giving the window a right jab. “Motherfucker!” Austin shouts, his hand feeling the effects as the glass remains perfectly intact.
“The glove is too much padding!” Rena shouts, promoting Austin to turn towards her and shouting “No shit!” before unwrapping his hand and dropping the glove to his feet. With a quick breath, Austin lays in a second right jab, shattering the glass and splitting his hand open on all four of his knuckles. “Son of a cunt!” Austin shouts, clutching his hand to his chest as his opposite reaches for the inner handle.
Finally gaining entrance, Austin vanishes into the building, scanning the immediate entry for anything of use. Reaching into abandoned coat pockets and shuffling through whatever remains from the last time it hosted human life, Austin finds nothing of value and opts to look further within the building. Eventually, whilst walking into the main living quarters, Austin spots something shocking directly outside the large set of windows.
Hurriedly rushing for the end of the front room, Austin presses both hands on the glass, his excitement leaving him uncaring of his blood running down the window. His sights scream of something completely unexpected, that being a completely abandoned town just under a mile away, the roof of each building blanketed in enough snow to hide it from anyone viewing it from directly above.
With this newfound burst of hope, Austin scatters throughout the room, looking anywhere he can immediately see for a set of keys. Ultimately, when taking a moment to catch his breath, the still-wounded survivor spots a set of keys resting on a small table beside a bland gray chair. Taking them into his possession, Austin runs out of the building and up to the gates, trying a few keys before finding the correct piece of metal, allowing him to pull the gate open.
“Inside, inside!” Austin calls out, closing the gate behind the group and locking it up once more, following them into the structure.
“What the hell happened?” Natalie asks, placing a warm cloth over Harper’s lips in hopes of the blue in them fading off. “We just found her there” Rick replies, his arms folded as he watches over the resting woman, “We didn’t know who she was until she dropped.” Sat in a chair beside Harper, Tessa suggests that the bigger question that should be asked is why Len wasn’t with her.
“They went out together?” Warren asks as he, much like most of the group, had forgotten about Harper and Len being tasked with returning to the cape before it burned down. “I mean, I mentioned it before we went into the tunnels… I don’t know how we could have just completely missed that over the course of a few hours” Natalie replies, rubbing Harper’s arms in hopes of the friction serving as a worthy amount of warmth.
“So Len is still out in the tundra for all that we know, and we still have no fuckin’ clue where the rest of those tunnels lead?” Warren asks, admitting that this is all becoming so clustered. “This isn’t a game anymore” Liz says, “people are getting hurt.” Her hands on her thighs, Tessa suggests that this has never been a game. “The producers lie to us, set up this hut, feed us all this bullshit and we’re supposed to believe this isn’t some fucked up joke?”
Truly committed to the idea that the game has been over for a long time, Tessa admits that she’s under the belief that it’s time to take another approach to what this is. “The cameras were fake, the mics were fake, it was all fake” Tessa says, her voice growing louder with every point. “They’re not watching us!” Tessa continues, now leaning forward in her chair, “The cape burned to the fucking ground and they have clue! We’ve been on our own since the beginning!”
Angered, Tessa gets up from her chair and paces around the center of the room, every eye in the group other than Harper’s firmly focused on her. “They’re not coming down unless someone pushes the button, and clearly by the fact that we haven’t heard from them since the start, that hasn’t happened!” Leaning against the wall beside the tunnel entrance, Rick admits that he’s completely on the same page as Tessa.
“I’d like to think I’m gonna walk out of here with a million bucks, but I’m starting to think we’d all be lucky enough to walk out of here at all” Rick says, his stance speaking volumes. Stunned at the one man originally suggested as the least ‘group-first’ competitor of the bunch admits defeat, the group begins to suggest that there really has been a ridiculous war between the survivors for absolutely nothing but further suffering.
“Len’s dead” Harper mutters, her confession acting like a meteor crashing into an ocean, sending a forceful shock traveling throughout the group like a tsunami. Shocked at the statement, most remain in denial, suggesting Harper get some rest as if her confession was made from exhaustion. “I’m not tired” Harper says, struggling to get the words out without fighting through the great pain in her jaw.
“He- d-died in- in the shack” Harper says, the struggle in her efforts doing more than enough for the group to understand her clearly, even if they wish not to. “Get some rest, Harper” Natalie says, “We’ll figure this out later” as she tucks her in. “If Len’s dead, that means this really isn’t a game” Warren says, Rick’s inclusion that it at least isn’t a legal game doing all the convincing necessary to finalize the group’s turn of focus.
“So this really is a fight for survival now” Tessa says, looking at the group as they stare at her, worry renting space in their eyes just as much as a determination to survive does. “I say we figure out how to get the fuck out of Barrow now” Tessa says, the heads of each competitor lifting, their spirits held high now that the unknown is acknowledged, and the goal of finding their exit strategy becomes the center focus.
“How the fuck could we have missed that?” Michael asks, looking out at the abandoned city as if it were a gift on Christmas morning. “It was covered in snow, how do you think we could have spotted it?” Austin asks, still mystified at the now proven ability to completely miss a city in the snow-covered Arctic. “Is that the new goal now?” Marlhy asks, burying herself beneath a pile of coats and blankets whilst the rest of the group huddles around the fire place.
“There’s no electricity in here, which means there’s no radio” Rena says, “at least there’s a chance of finding help down there.” Looking at Rena as if she had three heads, Austin directs her to look out at the city again. “The place is covered in snow” Austin says, “the fifteen story-tall building down there might be thirty stories tall under fifteen stories of snow. No one’s living there.”
“Just because no one’s living down there, that doesn’t mean no one is out there at all” Marlhy replies, suggesting the possibility of researchers using the town as a place to camp out. “It could be where the producers are” Michael adds in, his alternative theory reminding the group of the reason their blood was boiling for an entire day. “Either way, it’s worth a shot” Rena says, “the only food in here is expired packages of noodles and really stale cereal.”
Looking to each other as if hoping someone would speak up and suggest they hold off for at least a day before venturing out into the tundra again, the group silently remains seated in their respective spots. “Fine, I’ll say it” Austin says, “I think we’ve got a better shot at getting help in here than we do down there.” Disappointed at having to say it because of how intriguing the town below is, Austin forces himself to look towards the most beneficial route, which the radio remains as.
“I’m not saying we don’t go into town if we can’t get the radio to work, I just think we need to start with where we are right now” Austin concludes. Looking around the room, Austin notices a more hesitant look on Rena’s face than the others, opting to single her out and suggest she voice her concerns. “I think we’ve got what we need to survive for right now, but not much longer than that. We can’t live on expired canned foods and other processed shit forever.”
“Why would the town be a better solution?” Austin asks, wanting to clear out any future discussions right now whilst they still have the choice. “I’m not saying the town is better or worse, but there’s not much we can get out of this place at this moment” Rena replies, “I’d rather fight to get into town while we’re strong enough than wait for whatever fuel we have left to completely run out.”
“We don’t have the strength right now, Rena” Austin replies, “We’re exhausted, cold, hungry and we can’t forget that we’ve got a stubborn, headstrong dickhead with a concussion.” Sitting up from his rest on the couch, Michael tells the group not to let his ‘boo boo head’ get in the way of making the right decision. “Dumb jokes aside, we only have two choices and we’re gonna need to choose between them sooner or later” Michael begins, leaning forward with his hands folded.
“We either take a shot at getting help through the radio waves in a station that we already know doesn’t offer much, or we take a risk heading ut for a town in hopes of finding who the fuck knows what?” Upon making the two sides clear, Michael throws his hat in the ring of staying at the tower for the night and heading into town when the morning comes around. “I second that choice” Rena joyfully replies, looking towards Marlhy with Austin’s answer already being obvious.
“You know I’m right, Marlhy” Austin says, watching her squint her eyes with her thumb to her lips. “I don’t even know what you’re looking to do, Austin” Marlhy replies, reminding him that no one had any clue where to go once the button was pressed. “We haven’t known what we’re doing in ages… We’ve just been coasting off of whatever happens to pop up since that cannibal town bullshit” Marlhy concludes, sitting back into her seat, knowing the gravity of her decision.
Upon thinking it over, taking a few looks at both the station and the town from her seat, Marlhy chooses to side with Rena and Michael, thinking of the town as a safe haven. Hanging his head, Austin gets up from his spot on the floor and heads for one of the back rooms to call it a night. “We’ll all head out when we wake up” Michael says, laying out the groundwork for what they do next, grateful to simply have some direction in where to go next.
Sleeping on the floor of the cabin, Tessa hears groaning coming from the bathroom, keeping her from falling asleep whilst the rest of the group is out like a light. Assuming it to be nothing, Tessa turns over and puts her shoulder over her free ear until the sound of someone placing their hands onto ceramic catches her attention. Recalling what shrugging something off did for her last time, Tessa climbs to her feet and starts walking towards the bathroom.
Knocking on the door quietly, Tessa asks the occupant if everything is alright. Without a verbal response from inside, Tessa knocks once more, this time a little louder than the last. Again without anything from the other side, Tessa prepares to knock for a third time until she hears the locks turning in the door, unlocking it. Taking this as an invitation inside, Tessa slowly opens the door to find Charlie leaning over the sink with the look of sickness on his face.
“Are you alright?” Tessa asks, wondering if it’s a simple spurt-of-the-moment sickness or a bug that he’s beginning to feel the effects of. “I think so” Charlie replies, taking a seat on the lid of the toilet whilst admitting that he’s getting nauseous and feels like he’s burning up. Reaching into the medicine cabinet, Tessa pulls out a small cup and fills it with water, handing it to Charlie and watching him struggle to swallow the small bit he takes in.
Asking what happened, Tessa listens to Charlie describe how it felt like sand paper was going down his throat. “I don’t know what else to do” Tessa replies, moving aside as Charlie waves her away, telling her that he found some medicine in that nook he and Natalie investigated earlier. “I’ll head down there and see what I can find” Charlie says, refusing Tessa’s offer to go down instead.
“If it’s a bug, I need to stay active to keep any effects away Charlie replies, “just get me a flashlight and I’ll be back in, like, twenty minutes.” Pulling one from the coffee table, Tessa hands it to the man and watches him shake his head a bit before descending into the tunnels. Without anything else to do, Tessa returns to her spot on the floor and looks to get some rest before returning to the tunnels the following day.
Walking through the tunnels, Charlie feels the illness begin to make an attempt at overtaking his strength, forcing him to stop for a second and lean against the limestone wall. Taking a few breaths before unbuttoning the first few buttons on his shirt, Charlie mutters to himself that he’s almost halfway there, and that he just needs to suck it up and keep moving.
As he rests, he begins to feel his balance throw itself off, with his heart pumping faster, as if it were ready to burst out of his chest. After what feels like the matter of only a few seconds, Charlie finds himself standing in place, no longer leaning against anything, clouded by darkness. “Where the-” Charlie begins, his flashlight having been switched off. Noticing this, he flips it back on to find himself stood in a small, catacomb-like chamber as if he were just transported there.
Looking at both ends, Charlie feels himself growing dizzy, unable to collect his balance, falling against the walls as a result. Unlike the tunnels, the catacomb walls are very narrow, close together in proximity with enough room to just barely walk through whilst standing up, all made from the natural rock as if the pathways were just dug into and forgotten. “Hello?” Charlie calls out, his voice echoing back to him, bouncing off the walls with no answer.
Calling the names of his group, Charlie wanders deeper into the catacombs, his flashlight beginning to dim as it slowly loses its power. With his strength depleting, Charlie falls into one of the walls and drops to the ground, unable to feel much from the impact, instead being surprised at his need to catch his breath amidst the sickness. Now beginning to panic, Charlie calls for his group once again, this time with a frantic tone, wanting desperately for help to arrive.
“I need you!” Charlie shouts, the will to let out the shout for assistance forcing him to throw up where he lays, head pressed against the sandy, stone floor below him. “Please!” Charlie says, his words bouncing back and forth again as his light finally dies out, burying him beneath the total darkness beside his own throwup. Realizing that he’s as good as dead if there’s no one there to hear his pleas, Charlie fights through the desire to cry in hopes of clinging to life.
“Help me!” Charlie screams, his voice reverberating throughout the corridors to such an extent that he can hear it travel for what sounds like miles. “Anyone?” Charlie mutters to himself, his hands pressed against the ground as the remaining moisture on his lips collects sand from beside his face. “Please” Charlie whispers, closing his eyes as he tries to cover his whimpers, the tears beginning to squeeze through his eyelids.
Just inside the cabin, Tessa sleeps soundly on the floor just below Harper, completely oblivious to Charlie’s suffering in the bowels of the Barrow tunnels. Whilst doing so, Natalie wakes up from her slumber, hours having passed since Charlie’s initial groans had awoken her. As Natalie’s natural wakeup call marks the start of another day, it serves as a grim marker for the true span of time Charlie unknowingly spent blindly navigating the endless chambers.
Stretching as if she spent the night at a wondrous resort, Natalie quietly walks over to the coffee maker and begins preparing a pot whilst staring out at the Barrow landscape. Upon completely brewing, the coffee pot lifts into the air and pours Natalie a cup of one of Barrow’s last remaining gifts, allowing her to break a smile at the peaceful-looking sight of Barrow, completely unaware of the realizations that have yet to come.