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This story is rated PG-13.
There is some language or violence that may not be appropriate for people under thirteen years of age.

Episode 1 Part 1: Let's Get This Show On the Road!

(Chef Hatchet is making the introduction) "In the previous season of the Total Drama series, Total Drama Action: Fourteen good-for-nothin' teenagers came to the old abandoned Film Lot in Toronto, Ontario, to compete for thirteen long, miserable weeks in various death-defying, humiliating, and disgusting challenges. What drove these maggots on, through thick and thin, motivating them every step of the way? The grand prize of one million dollars, that's what!

"They were eliminated one by one, until only two remained: Former Goth Boy, and High IQ Girl. These two battled it out hard in the finale, dodging alien ships, racing through burning buildings, and even singing and dancing. But in the end, Goth Boy won three out of the five challenges that day, and walked away with the million moolahs!

"As you all know, there was a little, ah…mishap at the end of the previous season shortly after the finale, and our original host was fired, along with our beloved producer, Mr. Clark. So, I've been summoned to take the place of BOTH these men! That's right; I'm now Chef Hatchet: chef, host, AND co-producer of this show! … YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? (Pauses). Good. I thought not.

"Now, due to said mishap, our show was temporarily shut down for a serious investigation by the Mounties. So, we had to wait patiently for the last two years, while our show was cleared by the law. Once they finally gave it back to us, we randomly selected a handful of the cast to return for this here third season. That's right…randomly. No biase, no favoritism. Nope. None at all…

"Now, fourteen of the original twenty-one contestants will be comin' back for another round of torture! As you all know, it's time for the most heart-stopping, most dramatic, most not-boring season of them all: Total Drama World Tour! These unlucky contestants will be traveling all around this green earth, battling it out in challenges all over, from familiar lands such as Canada and the US of A, or in locations all the way on the other side of the planet! Having to sing and dance in every episode, this season is probably gonna be just as much of a kicker as the last one!

"In addition to all this, we'll be doubling two key factors of the show: The first is the new grand prize! Instead of just another ONE million dollars, these punks will be at each others' throats for TWO million dollars! That's right; double the money, double the funny! But the contestants don't know that…yet. The other thing is that we will be bringing in some brand new suckers, ready for torture beyond their wildest dreams! But not like last season, either! We're not just bringing in two new contestants, but FOUR! Yes, you heard me right! FOUR newcomers will join our originals, and together, that makes eighteen young souls who are ready to take on the world…literally!

"As I wait at this airport for these ungrateful little teenagers to get their scrawny little behinds over here, you might wanna get ready yourself! So keep that clicker by you at all times, get comfortable, and go to the bathroom if you have to, because you are NOT gonna be moving at all during this episode…RIGHT? GOOD! So sit back, shut up, and get ready for the brand new season of…Total…Drama…World Tour…season two!"

...

Chef Hatchet, standing out on the massive runway of the airport, casually tapped his foot as he awaited the arrival of the contestants. He held two of the shiny, silver briefcases; one in each hand. He returned to the camera to keep the camera man interested.

"So, before the maggots get here, I just thought I'd inform of how exactly we managed to get them. As you can imagine, we weren't able to hold onto them for two whole years, so we had no choice but to let them return to their average, insignificant lives. But, when the time came to do the show, we had to skip the qualification test and go with Plan B: Fib. So, we sent notices out to fourteen of our - er, I mean, your - favorite contestants, telling them that they were invited to come to a three-day Total Drama Convention, where there would be die-hard fans, paparazzi, Q and A's, and even a chance to meet the original twenty-two punks from the very first season! We knew that they wouldn't be able to resist that. So, for future notice, that's why they'll all seem a bit confused once they get here."

Then, as if on cue, the dirty old blue and white bus pulled up with a screech of its tires and a pop of its engine. The greasy, dented doors swung open with a creak, and the first returning contestant stepped out. Almost instantly, it took off once again, leaving the lone contestant standing before Chef.

Matthew, with a large, bulky backpack on, glanced up at the bright, shining sun. Right off the bat, Chef noted the multiple differences with the kid who had won the first season. First of all, the original pair of sunglasses that he never took off before, a cheaper, plastic pair with large, thick black lenses, had been replaced with a pair of shiny, more professional-looking aviator sunglasses with gold rims. The bright sun reflected off the lenses of his new shades, giving a gleam to his eyes. He wore a fairly average outfit; a light-blue Quiksilver shirt, with khaki shorts and white sneakers that looked like they were ready to fall apart. He was also noticeably taller, and his brown hair was much longer, having fallen past his ear lobes. In addition, the warm, friendly smile that was so characteristic of him was absent, only replaced with a stern, firm look.

Before he spoke, he inhaled deeply, then exhaled softly. "Ah, back on international television. For a while, I had forgotten what fame was like."

"Yes, quite…Hee, hee." Hatchet chuckled.

"So…where's all the photographers? The autograph hounds? Hasn't it started yet?"

"Oh, it'll start real soon…"

By that point, the bus had returned to the same spot, and its two new passengers stepped off, holding hands. Rachael and Mark both had their own duffle bags, and were smiling.

"Hey, Chef!" Mark called cheerfully. "Haven't seen you in ages, man! How's it goin'?" He raised his fist for a fist bump.

Chef, always there to kill a good mood, simply glared at him.

Mark hardly fazed by the response, dropped his offered first and instead turned to Matthew, "Hey, Matthew! Haven't seen you in ages, man! How's it goin'?"

"Fine." They both bumped knuckles. Matthew then hugged Rachael.

"Hey, Matthew." She greeted.

"Hey. Wow, you look nice." Matthew replied, noting the blue dress she was wearing.

"Yes, I wanted to look my best during the close-ups."

"Speaking of which, where are the cameras?" Mark asked.

"Besides that one?" Matthew pointed right at the camera that was currently filming them.

"Oh, they'll be here soon, alright. Take my word for it."

"Awesome! I hope it starts soon! I can't wait to party!"

The bus came back once again, and John was the next to come off, wearing a regular outfit: white, long-sleeved, ironed, button-up shirt with a black tie and blue jeans. His slick black hair was combed neatly, and he had that plain look in his blue eyes.

"Man, never thought that being involved with this show would pay off one day. Hey, guys."

"Hey, John." Mark replied. "Never thought I'd see the day you wear average clothing instead of your usual, 'Man in black' get-up."

"Like I said, I've been freed. Ever since last season, I've turned a new leaf. I'm sure that the magazines will eat it all up." He then turned to Matthew. "Matthew."

"John; my fellow season-winner." Matthew added with the slightest of smirks.

"True that. I don't know about you, but I've chosen to take good care of my fortune. Most of that money is already safely stored away; I wasn't ready to waste a million big ones, like most guys my age would, eh?"

"You got that right." Another voice said from behind. They turned to see Mary step off the bus before it sped off again.

"Hey there, hon. Looking handsome."

"Right back at ya, beautiful."

John and Mary embraced and shared a kiss.

"Never thought you were the kind to wear a dress?" John gestured to her rose-red dress.

"Well, I do like to look my finest in front of the media. Who wouldn't, really?"

"To me, you look your finest every day." John chuckled.

They leaned in for another kiss, but were suddenly and abruptly interrupted by a piercing cry ringing out from the bus.

"AUGH! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF!"

The five teens wheeled around quickly in surprise, only for their reactions to immediately turn to annoyance and slight loathing, at the sight of the familiar prom queen leaping from the bus, a small rat scurrying after her.

"WHAT IS THAT RODENT DOING ON THE BUS? I HATE RATS!" Lauren roared.

"Ah, it's just ma pet rat, Stewey! He won't hurt ya!" The bus driver called.

"YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE THIS REPULSIVE THING ON THAT BUS!" She then gave Stewey a massive kick, sending the rat flying right back into the bus.

Lauren, with several purses on her arm, turned to face the others.

"Ugh. Stupid, no-good b…beast." She brushed off her ankle. This brought the other teens' and Chef's attention to the ridiculous-looking shiny black high-heels she was wearing. Of course, those were only the tip of the iceberg; she was wearing the most gaudy and expensive dress imaginable. It was a long, flowing dress with several different colors, such as white, yellow, green, and red lining the dress in horizontal lines. It was studded with diamonds all around the shoulders and neck area, with only a single strap going around the back of her neck. Her bright blonde hair was in a long ponytail, and she had a silver tiara on her head. The makeup was noticeably smoother and better-applied than usual, and there was glitter all around her eyes. Her eyelashes were long and perfectly straight, Her fingernails and toenails had bright red nail polish on them. Despite all odds, her earrings were even longer and more exotic than before. If the others didn't know any better, they would've thought that the dangling, diamond earrings with studs of emeralds had once belonged to the queen of England herself.

"I can't wait for this thing to start; I haven't been in front of cameras since my swimsuit photo shoot for Star Stalker Magazine two weeks ago!"

Several pairs of eyes rolled.

Lauren turned and grabbed several massive, leopard-print roller suitcases, each one wobbling on its own wheels.

"So?" She asked, placing a hand on her hip.

"So…?" Matthew replied.

"Where's all the paparazzi? I want to see my die-hard fans! All of the little people!"

"They'll be here soon!" Chef told her, the obvious annoyance in his voice.

"SOON? How soon? I want them here NOW!"

"Just shut up!" Chef roared. "And if you don't, you'll regret it, you little priss!"

Lauren stamped her foot, wobbling slightly as a result due to her high heels. But she ultimately kept quiet.

Then the bus returned yet again, by now sounding its worst. When the doors opened, a friendly voice called out, "Hey guyyyYYYAAAHHH!"

The greeting was interrupted when the ever-clumsy Jessica, barely taking one step, stumbled on the bottom step and fell face-first into the ground.

Naturally, her good-natured companions walked over to help her up, but she simply shrugged it off and casually brushed some of the dirt off her blouse.

"Whoa, that was a misstep. I guess that redefines the term "faceplant." Hey, guys! How's it going?"

"Uh…fine." Rachael replied. "Yourself?"

"Oh, fine, thank you. I'm still alive."

"Miraculously." John mumbled. Beside him, Mary giggled.

"So when do the originals get here? Will they be here before the media? 'Cause I'm looking forward to meeting Lindsay and LeShawna. They always seemed like the coolest."

Chef chuckled at the memory of those two girls, particularly LeShawna.

"Yeah…those two were handfuls, let me tell ya."

Had it not been for the creaking of the bus's doors and the zoom of the engine approaching and then receding, the others would have never been aware of the next contestant's arrival. As always, Samantha was glued to her cell phone, fingers flying across the keypad as she rapidly texted her friends (or, at least they thought were her friends).

"Samantha." Mary greeted, only to no response (unsurprisingly).

Samantha acted as if she hadn't heard her (which she probably hadn't).

But Mary was always one to try to start a conversation, so she was persistent. "So…anything new?"

Nothing but the ratter-tatter, click-clack of the keys.

John nudged Mary, then winked. "Let me handle this. Hey, Samantha?"

No answer…

"What kind of phone is that?"

"A Verizon Droid, model 2010. Got it at the electronics store a few blocks from my house for only $89.99. Costs only ten bucks a month to text. Had it for four months, and I've named it Skippy."

"I see."

Mary looked back at her boyfriend, naturally shocked. "How…?"

"With these kinds, you just got to know the right subject to talk to them about."

Samantha heard this indirect insult, and stopped texting. The sudden, abrupt end of the clacking of the keys made the others aware that she had actually lost concentration on the phone for whatever reason.

She looked up at John with a slight scowl, then casually pressed her finger against the phone's screen. What exactly she did was unseen by the others. With several swift movements, she activated one of the special features she had downloaded onto the phone.

"I'm sorry, John. Say that again?" She held the phone up noticeably higher, and slightly closer to the former Goth boy.

"Uh, I said…"

"SHUT UP!" Bellowed an irate mechanical voice from the phone, silencing John, and making everyone flinch.

"Whoa! What the…?"

"SHUT UP!" The phone yelled again.

"What is…?" Mary attempted to ask.

"SHUT UP!"

"It's called 'The Shut Up App.'" Samantha replied with a smug grin. "A nice little gadget that tells you to shut up whenever you say something to it."

"Seriously? That's really…"

Matthew was interrupted with the "SHUT UP!" once more.

"Where'd you get…?" Jessica started.

"SHUT UP!"

Samantha slid her finger across the screen once more, turning off the app.

"On the Internet. This is one of the most popular apps ever. And I can see why." [*]

The others were absolutely speechless. The victor for now, Samantha returned to her rapid texting.

Matthew shook his head, still pretty stunned at the fact that something like that even existed.

"The strange, unexpected world of technology." He muttered.

John nodded his head in agreement.

Then the bus pulled up once again, carrying the eighth contestant.

The entire bus shook and rattled as the next contestant rambled through it, each footstep pounding on the metal floor. As he stepped onto the final step, the bus actually leaned over to that side. The moment he stepped off, the bus flung right back into its regular, non-slanted position, but with such great force that the bus driver's head smashed against a window, cracking it.

The bus driver's yelp of pain right after was drowned out by the large, jolly contestant's bellowing greeting.

"HEY, GUYS! How's it going?" James asked loudly.

There was a responding chorus of "Hello" or "Hey" from the other contestants.

"Oh, it's so cool to see you all again!"

He then swiped up Matthew and John in bear hugs.

"What's up, John my man? Hey, you're not wearing black anymore! Have you dropped the whole 'doom-and-gloom' charade?"

"Uh…yeah…" John winced as James tightened his grip slightly, then turned to the other unfortunate victim.

"Hey, Matt! You've gotten taller! And after, what, six days?"

"James, it's been two years."

"Really? Wow, it's like they say; 'Time flies'!"

Matthew's eyes rolled, along with a heavy sigh, which went unseen and unheard by James and John, along with his following mutter. "But not fast enough."

The three boys then heard a loud sneeze, followed by a heavy inhalation of breath, then a clearing of a throat. They all turned to see the tenth contestant to step off the bus: Isaiah.

The geek hadn't changed much. He still had the curly hair, although it was now much longer and more abundant. In fact, it was almost like an afro of curly, light-brown hair. His glasses, the perfectly round, Harry Potter-like glasses were still the same. And, as always, his face had absolutely no expression as he looked around at the other eight contestants.

"Hey, guys." He finally wheezed.

"Hey, Isaiah. How've you been?"

"Fine, thank you very much. I'm pleased to announce that the level of bullying against me at school has dropped significantly since I left the show."

"Really?" Mary asked.

"Yeah. Guess they all got more respect for me, or something. I'm kind of like a celebrity now or something. People have been asking me about my time on the show and things like that. I guess I was just born to be famous."

A scoff sounded, but the geek didn't hear it.

"I'm glad to attend this convention, and I can't wait for it to start. I've already practiced a nice little speech for the cameras. You wanna hear a sample of it?"

Before anyone could respond, the bus arrived with contestant number eleven.

Almost immediately after the next contestant revealed herself, there was already a negative vibe in the air. Several contestants glared at the familiar FemiNazi, who only stuck her nose up at them.

Madison stepped off the bus in her glorified, pompous demeanor. She glared at several of the guys, as well as Mary and Rachael, but exchanged a brief nod with Lauren. Her arms crossed tightly over her chest, she strutted over to the group with noticeable reluctance. She paused in front of the camera, giving it a few sexy poses, before she returned her attention to the approaching bus.

The twelfth returning contestant had a fairly more pleasant entrance, but one just as dull. The ever-silent Nicole slowly stepped off the bus. She had had little interaction with most of the others over the course of the first two seasons, and suddenly being thrown back into the show with them was definitely very awkward.

"Uh…hi, guys."

One plain 'Hello' from Rachael, and a more friendly, 'Hey' from Jessica was all she got. The cheerleader swallowed nervously, then slowly walked over to the group, standing next to Mark and Rachael. She looked down at the ground and casually flicked her foot, kicking a small pebble away.

After a brief, awkward pause, the bus pulled up for the twelfth time, carrying the thirteenth contestant. The next contestant stepped out. Almost instantly, the redhead was recognized…even if she didn't recognize the others.

"Hey, thanks again, Mr…"

"Call me Eddie." The bus driver said to Suzie.

"Uh, OK. Thanks, Mr. Eddie."

She stepped off the bus as it sped off, and looked around. "Oh, hello everyone!" She said in a friendly tone.

After a slight chorus of responses, she looked around. "Total Drama Convention? This looks like an airport to me."

"We already know this." Madison stated with a scoff.

"But she's got a point; why would all this be happening here?" Isaiah asked Chef; the first time the host had been addressed in a while.

"Oh…you'll see."

"Oh, hello Chester!" Suzie called to Chef.

"It's 'Chef,' girl. Get it right!"

"Oops, sorry!"

She turned to the other contestants.

"Hi, guys! Mason! You…were voted off first in season one, right?

When Matthew figured out that she was talking to him, he sighed and shook his head.

"It's 'Matthew.' And I won the first season."

"Really? Oh, cool! How much did you get?"

"A hundred grand, remember?"

"Well, a hundred is grand, but it seems kind of…low, doesn't it?"

"Oh, boy."

Fortunately, Matthew was spared further interrogation with the arrival of the fourteenth, and final, contestant.

The doors of the bus creaked open, and Matthew was pleased to see none other than his girlfriend, Violet. She was wearing a purple dress with no shoulder straps, black lining along the side, a ribbon on the back where she had tied it tighter, and fluffier, frillier fabric around the chest. On her feet were black high-heels. Her hair was, as usual, long and straight, with only the single black headband in it. While her appearance made her look very fancy and extravagant, her warm smile and friendly expression gave her a more humbling appearance.

She strode over to the group, exchanging greetings and hi-fives with the other contestants. When she reached her boyfriend, she looked down at him and greeted him.

"Hey, babe."

He slowly looked up at her, his aviators gleaming slightly in her face. He cracked a smile.

"Good to see you again. Looking as beautiful as ever."

She smiled, and the two quickly shared a hug. He slowly fell into the embrace, his eyelids closing slowly and calmly. After having been away from each other for so long, it felt good to be back in her warm, loving embrace again. Especially after…

Just then, the loud tweet of a whistle sounded, ruining the good moment (and not to mention, several of the teen's ears). The source of the sound was none other than Chef, holding the clean, stainless steel whistle between his lips. Once he was done, he let it fall out of his mouth, dangling on the string around his neck.

"Alright, worms! Listen up!"

"Whoa, Chef, dude." Mark calmly and cooly replied. "What's all this 'Listen up!' crap? We're at a TDC, not some kind of military class."

The ex-marine was in the party guy's face in an instant. "I said to listen up! That also means to shut up! I'm giving the orders around here!"

Mark was quick to oblige.

"Now that you're all here, I might as well tell y'all the truth…"

"Whoa, wait a second." Mary interrupted. "What do you mean by all of us? We're still missing…seven people."

"That's because not all of you are supposed to be here! Just the fourteen of you!"

"But…isn't this convention supposed to feature all of us?"

"That's what I'm trying to explain to you! Let me take this one step at a time, darn it! Now, here's the deal: First off, you all know perfectly well about…the incident, at the end of season two."

"Duh. How could we forget?" John admitted, with a shiver.

"Those guys were over six feet!" Rachael added.

"Yeah, yeah. Anyway; after that, we had to cancel the show due to the investigation that the police had to go through with."

"Yeah, so?"

"I SAID LET ME FINISH! Now, when I say cancelled, I mean as in temporarily.

He paused and let the obvious implication sink in.

"What are you saying…?" Nicole started.

"What I'm saying, is that now, after two long years, the investigation is finally over, and the show has gotten back on its feet. We needed a new host and co-producer, but I was quick to oblige. So the show is fresh and ready to go again!"

"Don't tell me…" Isaiah stammered.

"Oh, I'll tell you; there ain't no 'Total Drama Convention'! I made that all up!"

"WHAT?" Exclaimed all fourteen teenagers, even though they all already knew what was coming.

"That's right; we knew y'all couldn't resist another chance at fame, so we came up with that idea just to get you back here!"

"Oh, crap…" John muttered as the obvious implication set in.

"You don't mean…" Isaiah started.

"I knew it." Matthew muttered under his breath.

"That's right! You suckers have just been suckered into season three!"

Chef was besieged by all of the roars, yells, complaints, and whines of the contestants.

"But I have to go star in a new teen movie in three weeks!" Lauren exclaimed.

"I was planning to go to Europe this summer!" Mary protested.

"I don't want to do this, eh! I've already won a season!"

"QUIET DOWN, ALL OF YA!"

Once they did so, he resumed.

"Now, as you can tell by the airport, we are, in fact, returning to the Total Drama World Tour format! And you fourteen have been selected to be a part of it!"

"No way, Jose! I ain't doing this!"

"You don't have much of a choice, worm. You all signed a contract when you agreed to the very first season."

"Still, that was for the first season!" Isaiah exclaimed. "We never agreed to a third season!"

"Actually, you did. See, after the popularity of the show skyrocketed with the original series, we knew that we would definitely be able to do more than just one season. So we had the contracts modified, so that, in return for getting to be on this show in the first place, you willingly agreed to participate in this sub-series of Total Drama for as long as necessary! Here, I'll read this bedtime story to you!"

And with that, Chef reached behind him and whipped out a stack of papers no thicker than the average phonebook, the sheets held in place by three staples in one side. He opened it and started flipping pages. As he did, murmurs of disgust rippled through the teens.

"This is outrageous!"

"You can't do this to us!"

"I'm calling my parents!"

Then, Chef finally reached the page he was looking for. "Says right here, on the final page, number 298, paragraph 5. Ahem. By signing this legal document, you hereby agree to partake in the show Total Drama for as long as the show's producers may request. You agree that, every season of the series you are asked to participate in, you will do so. Even if you quit the competition, you will still be kept at the residence of the contestants whose participation has been terminated, as well as those who failed to qualify for the season, until the next season, or until the series ends."

And with that, he put the pages back into place and tossed it behind him.

"It was all in plain black and white, and you punks agreed to it with the few strokes of your pen, pencil, feather quill, or whatever you kids use to write with these days!"

"Fine! I'll just quit!" John declared. "The contract said that I'm allowed to do that, right? Besides, that 'residence of the contestants whose participation has been terminated' is sure to be better than doing this again!"

"Oh, come now; you would just throw away a chance at the grand prize?"

"In case you forgot; I already won a million dollars!"

"Oh…but the stakes are much higher this time around. See, for this season, we've decided to DOUBLE the amount of money you'll be fightin' for!"

A collective gasp arose from the cast.

"That's right; one million dollars? Out the window. It's TWO million dollars now! Anyone else care to turn that down?"

This time, even John was silent. There was a thump, and several people turned to see that Mark had fainted.

"Besides, you punks should be more grateful; again, it's just the fourteen of you! The other seven hardly even know about this yet!"

"But why'd you guys turn them down?" Rachael asked.

"They weren't interesting enough! We'd seen enough of the two tough kids, and the nerd and the bookworm. Jock boy was a good villain while he lasted, but he was upstaged by sexist over here!"

At Chef's gesture towards Madison, she responded with a rather…unfriendly gesture.

"The same with Little Miss Gymnast. And, of course, that one kid who I can't think of a good, cruel nickname for…"

"Jeremy?" Violet asked.

"Yeah, that kid!"

"What was wrong with him?"

"Anyway, so it's the fourteen of you. However…we are going to be continuing the ever-classic tradition that was started with the original World Tour. We're going to be adding to the drama, by bringing in some newbies!"

The reactions afterward were considerably mixed. Several, such as Madison and John, were not quite happy with the idea, while most of the others simply seemed unsure or worried. However, all of their mumbles and whispered comments to each other were interrupted when the bus arrived one last time. The doors slowly opened.

Chef turned slightly so that he was facing both the camera and the contestants. "As you all at home just heard, we are, in fact, adding four more new faces to this game! And here they are! New kid number 1: He's a 14-year old with a love for the arts! Theatrics, painting, you name it! The kid's probably a descendant of Shakespeare! It's Louis!"

The sound of the newcomer's fancy boots on the concrete, a light tapping sound, was only the tip of the iceberg for his unusual, and shocking, appearance. Louis was quite a handsome kid, well-built, and with a firm, strong posture that reflected a sense of confidence. He had a perfect tan, with a hint of olive, and his piercing green eyes were the brightest, most unique eyes any of the contestants had seen since John's eyes were first revealed. His hair, of course, was the eye-catcher. It was perfectly straight, and a fine copper color, while his bangs, gelled into a pinwheel, had golden blond in the tips of the pinwheel. He had a warm, friendly smile, and his overall appearance easily depicted him as a unique, sophisticated individual.

He stopped for a moment, paused, and looked around at the other contestants for a while before he finally spoke.

"Hey, everyone. How's it going? I'm Louis."

There was an initial chorus of responses, as many of the contestants got a good vibe from this different newcomer. Most of them were surprised; newcomers were general so hyper and ecstatic to be on the show that they were stuttering and unable to express their joy enough. But Louis seemed so unusually calm, so collected, so cool.

But, inwardly, Louis was very much like that. Ironic, too; he had prepared a whole, grand introduction speech for this moment, but now he couldn't get a single syllable out. All he could say were basic introductions. He still maintained his complexity, and showed no signs whatsoever of being nervous. He took a few steps forward and stood with the rest of the group. He failed to notice several of the girls, such as Nicole and Jessica, staring at him with hints of dreaminess in their eyes.

A few seconds passed by with everyone staring at him. Finally, Lauren asked, "What's with you?"

"Hmm?" He replied calmly, looking over at her.

"You're just so…quiet! No great introduction speech or something to glorify yourself?"

"No speeches for me, just quotes." He replied softly. "Being a lover of the arts and great minds of our time, I absolutely love to quote some of my idols, or even people that I've never heard of."

"…What?"

"How about this: Speeches are like steer horns – a point here, a point there, and a lot of bull in between." As he said the quote, his voice, a regularly calm and soothing tone, changed drastically into an omniscient, strong voice that wasn't necessarily loud, but certainly reflected a sense of authority and power.

While Lauren gasped in disgust, a majority of the teens, even Chef, couldn't help but snicker at the clever line.

"Evelyn Anderson, a German journalist, said that." Louis finished.

"Anderson, huh?" Mary replied. Then she added, "After such an introduction, I can hardly wait to hear what I'm going to say."

"Ah!" Louis replied. "Another Anderson quote! Nice one, Mary." He gave her a smile of approval.

"Why, thank you."

"Alright, enough quoting famous people, kids! Time for the next newbie! Everyone, please welcome Ethan!"

The next newcomer stepped off the bus. He seemed to be almost the exact opposite of Louis in so many ways. For one, something about his presence seemed to ward off the good vibe Louis gave everyone; his stare was cold and dull as he glanced at his fellow competitors. They didn't know what to think of this one; his expression was totally blank. Similar to Louis's eyes, his were a bright color, only blue instead of green. His hair was also a stand-out feature with its bright, blood-red hair. Unlike the previous newbie's perfect tan, Ethan had a paler shade of skin, almost to the point where it seemed unhealthy. He was fairly lean, but slightly lanky.

A few uneasy second passed. Then his hard face slowly transformed so that he seemed more welcoming. A slight smile slowly spread across his face. It was apparently supposed to be a friendly, greeting smile, but it still had hints of something else in it.

"Hello, everyone. It's nice to be here. Believe me, I'm excited to be on this show with you all."

Still a little unsure, several contestants responded awkwardly with general greetings such as "Hey."

He took a step off the bus, paused, then looked around again. His eyes seemed to widen. "What? Jennifer and Daniel aren't here?"

"Nope." Chef replied. "They were both good villains while they lasted, but they're outta gas now! Time to make way for some new villains, hopefully."

"Ah. Always taking the ratings into consideration, eh?"

"You got it."

"Good."

No more competition. He thought.

With that, he joined the group. Out of the corner of his eye, he glanced at Madison, who didn't notice. His face tightened at the sight of her.

...Except for her.

"O…K…" Chef stuttered. Even he couldn't help but shiver at the cold presence of this one. He shook it off, then resumed with his job. "Anyway, here's the third newcomer! At 15 years old, this next contender for the win is an animal lover, who probably loves animals more than human beings, and even more than herself! It's Anna!"

The next person to step off the bus was a lanky girl with skin equaling the pale complexity of Ethan's skin. She had dark brown eyes. Once again, a stand-out feature was her hair, which was red, with streaks of orange (A/N: What's up with all the newbies having strange hair? XD). However, the truly unique feature was her outfit: a fox-ear headband in her hair, accompanied by a fox tail behind her. This drew the attention of many of the teens, raising many eyebrows. She had a gangly, goofy, awkward appearance, and several couldn't help but snicker lightly.

"Hey, guys! OMG! I'm on Total Drama! The world can see me right now!" She immediately ran up to the camera. "Hey, everybody back home! Wish you could be here right now, with me, on the show! And Peppy, Stewey, Denise, Amy, Richie, Brita, Buster, Blackie, Goldie, and Charlie, I miss you guys!"

" 'Peppy'?" Matthew asked.

" 'Buster'?" John asked.

"Are those…real names?" Nicole asked, puzzled.

"Yes, silly!" Anna turned back to the group. "They're my pets' names!"

A general, "Oh," rippled through the cast.

"Dogs?"

"Yes, two…and a parakeet, two cats, three iguanas, one guinea pig, and a tortoise!"

Glances were exchanged, several jaws dropped, and all eyebrows were raised even higher.

"Alright!" Chef remarked, interrupting the strange greeting. "We've gotta hurry up, 'cause we're running low on time here! We'll introduce the next contestant, and then we've gotta take off! Anyway, so she's a 14-year-old whose mother is from Ireland, but she herself is…" Chef paused, then seemed spit out the next word. "…American." A noticeable look of disgust was on his face as he said the word. "Meet Eryn!"

They all looked back at the bus, and waited for the girl to emerge. But the doorway remained empty.

After a few long seconds, Chef grew visibly annoyed, and repeated, "Meet Eryn!"

Still nothing.

"Grr…I SAID, MEET ER-!"

Suddenly, a blood-curling scream shot out from the bus, causing everyone, especially Chef, to jump. A moment later, the bus driver, Eddie, a large, burly man with a four o' clock shadow (a somewhat stereotypical depiction of most bus drivers) tumbled out the door, beaten-up and twitching. A moment later, a blur shot out above him, flying through the air. When it first hit the ground, the cast could clearly see the phenomenon that was Eryn. She had blonde hair and brown eyes. She was stunningly beautiful, but had that wild and crazy look in her eyes. She landed on the ground hands-first, performing a perfect handspring, then rolled over and jumped right up to her feet. She looked down at the pathetic, slumped form of Eddie.

"Hey, come on! I didn't hit that hard! I told you that I could be a little unpredictable at times!"

"Un…unpredictable! You crazy hose-beast, you knocked out my gold tooth!"

"At least it's not real gold, right?"

"Actually, it WAS!"

"Oh..heh, heh. Well, hey! My uncle has an eye made of gold! My second cousin has a boob made out of gold! So you should be more grateful!"

She then turned around and finally noticed the cast. "Oh, hey guys! I'm Eryn! It's so awesome to finally meet all of you!"

She took a step forward, and everyone almost instantly cowered in fear, clinging to each other for dear life as the psycho started to approach.

"Whoa, whoa guys! What's with the group hug? Is there a chill in the air right now? I guess it's that time of year again!"

"Uh…Eryn, is it?" Ethan asked.

"Yep! That's me! You can also call me 'E,' 'Error,' or 'Psycho Hose-Beast Who Will Knock Out Your Gold Teeth If You're A Bad Bus Driver,' though!"

"Um…right. Anyway, you said it's that time of year again? But it's May."

"May, as in 'May…be we're having global freezing this year'!"

Blank stares.

"You know, we had that whole global warming scare last year, maybe it'll be global freezing this year!"

There was a pause, in which both sides of the rather illogical and one-sided argument were silent.

"Hey, anyone wanna see me be able to lick my own elbow?" She then immediately grabbed her own right arm and started to drag it closer to her face, her tongue sticking out and stretching unusually long towards her elbow.

As the others watched in absolute astonishment, Chef could only roll his eyes. "I knew we made a mistake bringing an American onto the show."

"Hey! I can't really reach my own arm right now, so do you think that one of you could spare your own arm? Hey, you, Isaiah! Come here!"

"AAUUGGH!"

A mad chase began to ensue around the runway, with Isaiah scrambling around to get away from the psychotic teenager. Eventually, objects, such as bags of luggage, or the luggage itself, began flying around, and chaos was ensuing.

"Uh…OK, we'd better sign off for right now!" Chef declared to the camera. "It won't be too much of an irregularity in the first place…" He had to duck to avoid a can of cologne flying by. "…these introductory episodes are generally in two parts anyways! So, uh, will Napoleon be able to outrun the crazy chick? How will the newcomers interact with the veterans? And what will the first challenge, and first location be? Find out next time on Total…Drama…World Tour!"


Episode 1 Part 2: Into the Blue

After a few minutes, Chef had finally managed to take control of the situation that had unfolded when they last left off. When Eryn found out that she was able to lick her left elbow just fine, she left Isaiah alone. The luggage strewn about had been picked up, and Chef was dusting himself off.

"Anyway, welcome back to Total Drama World Tour! We have just quarantined – er, contained the situation here, and are ready to get back on schedule!"

"After that, I'm considering quitting this show before it's even begun!" Isaiah exclaimed.

"Anyway, worms, it's time for you to meet a very special thing: your new home for the season!"

"Oh, God!" Lauren exclaimed. "That broken-down piece of junk?"

"That pathetic excuse for a plane?" Mary agreed.

"That sad, wannabe aircraft?" Madison added.

"It's called the Total Drama Jumbo Jet! And it's MINE, so you better not say another word about it unless it's a compliment!"

After a pause, Chef continued. "And besides, I've made a very special addition to it that should really guarantee it looking much better and more pleasing for all of ya!"

"Oh, did you finally fix that rusty door?"

"Or fill in the holes in the hull with something besides wood?"

"Or clear it out of vermin?"

"NO! Just shut up and see for yourselves!"

And with that, there was a loud chugging, interrupted every now and then by clunking, as well as the sounds of an engine that was already dying. They looked up as the Jet approached, looking the same as it did before. Smoke shot out from the engine, bolts fell loose, and it sputtered and choked as it approached.

"Oh…dear…"

It pulled up next to the group with a final chug and screech. It didn't take a rocket scientist to determine that there was absolutely nothing different about the Jet since the original season.

"You're kidding, right?" Rachael asked doubtfully.

"Nothing's changed!" Lauren screeched.

"Yes it has, idiots! Look closer!"

The contestants scanned it, catching every detail, but saw nothing different. Finally, Louis caught the detail.

"Oh dear God."

"You see something different?" Matthew asked.

"Yep." The Shakespearean then slowly lifted a finger and pointed at it. Soon, their gazes followed it, and saw it.

"You're kidding." Rachael said again, only not as a question this time.

Sure enough, the one "addition," was the fact that the large orange image on the side of the Jet, originally of the first host, was now replaced by Chef's own image, complete with a pilot's outfit.

"He's no better than you-know-who." Mary whispered to John, who nodded in agreement.

"That's right! My beautiful face on the side of this proud vessel will surely reflect pride, authority, power, dignity, pride…"

"Uh, Chef dude? You said 'pride' twice."

"THAT'S BECAUSE PRIDE IS MY NUMBER ONE TRAIT! YOU GOTTA PROBLEM WITH IT?"

"SIR, NO SIR!" Mark yelled back.

"GOOD! Anyway, it's time to get moving. We're running late as it is. So get on if you want to become a teenage double millionaire!"

Within less than a minute, the eighteen teens all scrambled aboard, and the large host slowly pulled the main door shut, sealing it with a twist of the handle.

As Chef started to walk away, Nicole quickly asked, "Uh, Chef? Aren't you going to, like, give us a tour of the plane, or something?"

"Ya'll know this show well; you should know where everything is! The first-class area, the economy-class area, the cafeteria, the Confessionals, all that stuff. If you need a little help, there are diagrams and maps of the Jet all over. Oh, and I almost forgot: the galley and my quarters. Both of those two are strictly off-limits! You know why?"

Everyone knew why, and no one dared to speak.

Well, except for one.

"Why?" Suzie piped up.

Chef was in her face almost instantly. "BECAUSE THOSE ARE MY QUARTERS! IF I EVER CATCH YOU IN THERE, YOU WILL BE IMMEDIATELY THROWN OFF THE PLANE LIKE HOME-SCHOOL WAS LAST SEASON! Clear?"

"SIR, YES, SIR!" Everyone replied simultaneously.

"Good. You all have your luggage with you, so you should have spare clothes on you, right?"

His response was a series of quick nods from everyone.

"So you have more than enough time between now and our first destination to change out of whatever fancy clothes ya'll have one right now, and then unpack, settle down, get to know each other a little better, and worry about what torture you will be forced through today. Any more questions?"

For a few moments, no hands flew up. Then, one in the back did. It belonged to the newcomer, Louis.

"What is it, Drama King?"

"Will we be doing the whole musical thing again this time around?"

Almost instantly, there was a flood of mixed reactions. Several of the contestants groaned at the realization that this was possible, while a few others rolled their eyes. Others looked back at Chef with eager eyes, hoping for confirmation that they would, in fact, be doing it.

"As a matter of fact…yes. We will." Even Chef himself seemed repulsed by the thought, even as he said it.

The various looks exploded into vocal reactions.

"Are you kidding me, eh?"

"No! I hate singing!"

"Yes! This'll be awesome!"

"PIPE DOWN, MAGGOTS! All of ya!"

Once it was quiet, he continued.

"Yes, we will be singing and dancing and all that good stuff again this time. Believe me, I hate this as much as most of you probably do, but I didn't have a say in it. The producer, the remaining producer, said that it brought in ratings. Serious ratings. So it stays."

"But you said that you're the co-producer." Nicole piped up. "So don't you have a say in it?"

"The other producer has had more experience, and has been the producer much longer than I have. Originally, Mr. Clark was the head producer. But you all know what happened with him. So the other one was next in line as the wiser and the more superior, so I have to do what she says.

"Anyway, so as far as the musical thing goes, I will promise you only one song per episode. It's the least I can do since I hate it just as much as you do. You know what the bell sounds like, and all that other stuff. So, if there are no more questions, I've got to prep for our takeoff."

And with that, he turned and walked away, towards the cockpit.

Lavatory Confessional

John – (still looking extremely peeved) Yeah, I'm still angry about being forced into this, eh. True, it's a lot of money, and I am with my girlfriend, and we'll be going all around the world and seeing stuff that most kids my age only wish they could see…but I still don't think it's worth it. Do I sound like an arrogant, ungrateful jerk? Argh! Mary told me that I needed to work on my downhill attitude if I'm ever going to be like a regular kid again, eh. That's gonna be hard, considering how peeved I am! Especially with the fact that we have to SING again! Seriously, eh? OK, I know I have an awesome singing voice and all, but I just don't really like to sing. (Sighs) Well, if it'll keep me in the game, so be it.

Rachael – This is gonna be awesome! Traveling all around the world! I hope we get to go to Romania! My ancestors, at least on my mother's side, came from there! And the singing! I love to sing! I think I have such a great voice!

Mark – (pumping his fists into the air) YES! Woo-hoo! This is gonna rock! World Tour, baby! And this time, I'm in it to win it! Woo!

Louis – My heart is still pounding. I seriously just cannot believe that I was accepted! I'm glad to be here, hanging with all of the originals, and traveling all around God's green earth on a grand adventure! This'll be just like The Odyssey! Plus, it should be able to give me some spare time to catch up on my reading! (pulls out a leather book bag, reaches in, and pulls out a handful of thick books) I've got It, Cemetery Dance, Fever Dream, The Tell-Tale Heart, Pride and Prejudice…

Nicole – (Sighs) Yeah, I'm the quiet girl. I was barely in season one, and I wasn't even in season two. People probably still say, "Who's Nicole?" when talking about me on this show. I feel like a nobody. (Pauses, looks down at the floor) But I'll prove them wrong. This nobody can become a somebody…not to mention a rich somebody!

Madison – This season is going to either be easier or harder than last time. Last time, there were way more idiot boys around than women. I was a lock for the million…but then Mary and Violet had to go and ruin it all! Those fools still don't know what they were doing. But this time around, I've got way more women up against me. That can be both good and bad. Good, because we could easily form a female alliance and wipe out the male opposition. But once they're all out of the way, then it's just us girls. And some of the girls I'm up against are hard. Yes, there's an idiot, a clumsy stooge, a mute, a whiner, an animal-lover, a cell-phone-a-holic and a freak show, but there's also friendly Rachael, popular Violet, and intelligent Mary. This season will definitely be more of a challenge to me. But I say…Bring it on.

Lauren – This new Confessional is DISGUSTING! …But I guess I might as well use this one, as opposed to the one in the Cockpit with (gulps) that man.

Isaiah – This is gonna be sweet! Traveling around the world is pretty cool! I may get a chance to use my multi-lingual skills and impress everyone! I speak (starts counting on his fingers) Indian, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese…

Mary – I feel fairly confident this time around. I've definitely made up for my past mistakes, and, while I did make it to the final five of last season, I didn't go too far in the first season, so people can't be saying that I'm a Duncan or a Courtney and have totally hogged the camera up until now. So I think that I'll do well this time.

However, it's John that I'm worried about. Saying that he's mad to be here is an understatement. He's enraged. He feels betrayed. I mean, being the nice guy that he is now, he doesn't want to try to go for the win again, when he's already done so, and he really wants someone else to have a shot at the money, but he feels obligated to be here. I mean, can you really blame him? He doesn't just want to walk away from a free world tour, and a chance at being two million dollars richer. I just hope that it doesn't affect his attitude towards the others. He's just on the verge of fully transforming from the dull Goth boy that he used to be; I don't want him to become bitter again because of this. (Sighs)

Isaiah – …Latin, ancient Greek, Egyptian, French…

Anna – I can't believe that I'm actually here! Me! On Total Drama World Tour! This is a dream come true! I'm gonna miss my animals though (starts to sniff). Don't worry, guys! I'm gonna win that two million so that I can build a bunch of animal reservations, to help animals just like you!

Eryn – It's so awesome to be here! We get to see the world and sing and dance, too! Oh, how about this? (starts singing) Eryn's on a plane, flying around the world! As we see the sights, her fury will be unfurled!

Jessica – I'm so excited to be here! I finally get another chance at proving that I'm not a complete loser! I am so sick of it, it's like, people say that it's a miracle that I can walk! But you know what…(gets up off the seat and leans in closer to the camera) I'm gonna prove them wrong! Starting today…(starts to sit down, but ends up tripping on her coincidentally untied shoelace and falling down off-camera) Ow!

Samantha – (simply sits there, texting wildly on her phone)

Anna – I guess one of the main reasons I wanted to be here was so that I could meet…Isaiah. He's so…hunky! In his own sort of way, of course. To me, he could be even more valuable to me than the two million. I hope I don't sound like a Sierra right now. I figure that if he ever found out how I feel about him too early, he might be creeped out. So I'm gonna make sure that I get to know him a little better before I try to make my move.

Suzie – This is gonna be great! I'm totally gonna win! People underestimate me and say that I'm an idiot! But I'm not! I happen to speak four different languages! That's right! Four! (holds up four fingers) And they are American, English, Canadian, and British!

James – Me? On the third season? Traveling around the world? Singing? Dancing? And the chance at two million bucks? AWESOME! Bring it on, Chef man! I'm ready to take home the prize this time around!

Violet – I really don't know how I'll fare this season. I've done good in the last two seasons…maybe too good. I mean, hello? Final three in season one, and final two in the last season. The viewers are probably gonna slam me for being too upfront and for being on the show too long. You know, give someone else a chance? I personally don't mind how long I last. As long as I'm in the same season as Matthew again, and get to see the whole world for free, I'm perfectly content. And I'm sure Matthew will say the same thing.

Matthew – (still wearing his Aviators, shoulders sagged, head hanging and staring down at the floor of the Lavatory. He sighs, then slowly lifts his head and looks at the camera, tightening his face before he speaks) People may call me greedy for saying this, but I don't care. This time around, I'm in it to win it.

End

As the contestants started to settle into their new home, there were already some various interactions occurring between them.

Naturally, they all wished to "settle down" in the first-class area. And they made sure to take in the extravagance of the lavish first-class section.

"Ooooh! These seats are so comfy! I could get used to these!" Lauren mumbled as she reclined into one of the yellow seats, leaning back for a nap.

"This is fit for Air Force One, dudes!" Mark exclaimed as he jumped up and down on one of the couches.

"Oh, my daddy's been on that plane."

"Seriously?" Almost all eyes turned to Lauren, talking with her eyes closed.

"Yeah, meeting with the President…"

"Which one?" Nicole asked.

"Well, it sure wasn't that terrible one they have now. I think maybe that guy who got…nah, he wasn't assassinated. He was almost assassinated."

"You mean…Reagan?" Matthew asked in shock.

"Yeah, him."

Lavatory Confessional

John – Pfft. Show-off.

End

Louis stood before the round aquarium in one wall.

"Hmm…nice specimens. I do recognize the Fugu Blowfish."

Before he knew it, Anna was at his side. "Like fish much? I do. I love them."

"They're more amusing to me than some others. Always gliding around, so calm and peaceful one second, and then dashing off like lightning the next. They're fantastic to view up close, but not in this sad little cage."

"I know. It's torture. I despise things like this!"

"Quite." He then turned and silently shuffled away.

"Hey, sweet!" Eryn called. "This bar's got everything!"

She threw open one of the wooden cabinets behind the fancy bar setup, revealing the rows and rows of beverages. From soft drinks to simple waters, lemonades to iced teas, even…

"WHOA! They got Red here!" Eryn quickly removed a bottle of Red Wine.

"Uh, is that safe?" Ethan quickly asked.

"Yeah, you think that Chef would know better than to let a bunch of teens drink!" John said, already diving behind a chair at the sight of the bottle in Eryn's hand.

"Hey, some of us are over the age of 18! We can drink!" Eryn then proceeded to grab the bottle cap.

"Uh, the drinking age is 21."

"Oh, heh, yeah, well…not in Ireland!"

There was the immediate pop of the cap flying off, and everyone dove for cover as it shot into the ceiling, bounced down to the ground, then bounced again and hit the wall, flying back and destroying a spare wine glass on the side. The fizz drizzled out of the mouth, streaming down Eryn's hands.

"Oh, come on, guys! My mom let me drink this all the time at parties and stuff!"

She then whipped out a glass, with an upside-down dome base, a long elegant stem, and a cup lined with fine diamond-like patterns, and started pouring.

Everyone screamed and cowered in fear as the red liquid started filling up the glass. "Oh, come on! I've been drunk only once! And even then I was just a little buzzed…I wonder why they call it 'buzzed' in the first place? Maybe it's because…Oh, hey! Look at this!"

Eryn stopped pouring and placed the bottle back on the counter. She looked over at the remains of the glass destroyed by the bottle cap, and saw the cap itself. It had ridged edges, and was golden. The label of the wine was written in fine red on the top, and the underside was silver with the smell of wine in it. Eryn scooped it up and sniffed it once. "Ah! This bottle cap is so cool! It's gold, and red! My two favorite colors, along with clear! Maybe I should call you Jeffrey!"

She then put it in her pocket and started pouring again. Everyone screamed and cowered in fear. But one person had a plan.

"Uh, excuse me, Eryn?" Ethan said as he walked up. "Could I have a look at the bottle cap you have there?"

"His name is Jeffrey!"

Ethan remained the least bit startled by her outburst. "Fine. Jeffrey."

"Sure!"

She removed it and placed it in his pale hand. It slowly clasped around it, holding it between his index finger and thumb.

"Hmm…this is a nice one. I think it's…uh-oh."

"What?" Eryn asked from behind the counter.

"I…I…a…a…aa-CHO!"

Ethan's sneeze – a strange, brief sound; not like regular sneezes – jerked him off his feet and sent the bottle cap flying from his hand. It started bouncing down the aisle, moving farther and farther away, heading for the cargo hold.

"JEFFREY! I'M COMING, JEFFREY!" Eryn immediately leapt over the counter, knocking over her wine glass and ruining the carpet, and started somersaulting down the aisle after Jeffrey.

Ethan got up off his knees and lightly brushed himself off. He casually slid behind the counter and placed the bottle of red wine back in the cabinet. Instead, he removed a large, 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper, along with a handful of the elegant glasses.

"Alright, she's gone. Now, anyone want some good, non-lethal drinks?"

Lavatory Confessional

Nicole – Wow. Just…wow.

Mark – That new guy Ethan was good! He might not be so bad after all!

Violet – That was pretty smooth on Ethan's part. It was cool of him to do that. When I saw that wine, I was about to freak.

End

As Ethan started generously serving everyone some glasses of Dr. Pepper, he was met with mixed reactions. Most people, naturally, thanked him and took their glasses. A few still had suspicious looks, or were just plain shocked at his display of ingenuity.

"I'm impressed, Ethan my man! That sneeze practically sent you into the ceiling!"

"I know." Ethan said as he filled Mark's glass.

"How did you learn to fake such realistic sneezes, dude?"

"Eh, I've been in a few plays in my time." Ethan handed the party boy his glass.

"Awesome!"

As he left, his girlfriend was next in line.

"Wow…Ethan. That was cool of you." Rachael said as she was next in line for a drink.

"Why thank you. I just knew that combining that girl and wine would be like water and oil."

At Rachael's giggle, he was quick to add, "Just ask my uncle. He lives in the Gulf right now."

She stopped giggling. "Oh. Sorry to hear that."

"Eh, it's not your fault." He finished filling the glass and handed it to her, along with a smile and a wink.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – (leaning back casually, arms behind his head; sighs contently) Ah…This shall be a piece of cake. I'm glad that everyone else wants to use the toilet confessional; that way they won't be able to hear me from outside if they're next in line. I can't have that; it would ruin everything.

Chef Hatchet – I'm listening.

Ethan – Well, duh! That's the idea! And you are the reason everyone's talking in the toilet instead!

Chef Hatchet – Really? They…nobody likes me? No…body…(starts tearing up)

Ethan – Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now, venting here. Shh! Just go back to your piloting!

Anyway, that bit back there with keeping psycho from getting drunk? Eh, I figured I'd do one nice thing for everyone. But don't expect Mr. Nice Guy from me this season. Why? Well, here's the deal: I'm the new guy. Everyone expects the new guy to be an antagonist. It's so typical. Well, I don't want them to suspect me. I had to do that to make up for my bad entrance. I didn't mean to seem so…sinister. But I won't be doing anything else like that. I don't want to be Prince Charming like Ale-handout last time. That sucker was good…but that's what singled him out.

This is the true strategic option that guarantees me success. You don't make it obvious that you're evil right off the bat like Heather, or Peter, or Duncan. You don't be the whiny, annoying, cheating kind like Courtney. You don't be the all-out manipulative like Justin. You don't be a sudden new-leaf villain like Madison. And you don't be a charmer like Alejandro. You be…under the radar. You lay low. Be the kind of guy that the camera just swoops over, or even ignores altogether. You be an Ezekiel. And that's how I'm going to be. I'll sneak my way to the top without anyone else knowing it.

Chef Hatchet – My God! That's brilliant!

Ethan – Yes, yes, thank you. Now shut it!

Of course, if necessary, I can form an…"a-word", if I have to. You know what I'm talking about. I'll just need to find the right people. The kind who are sheep that follow your every move and every command. Large enough and firm enough, it won't be hard. You see, in this kind of game, your opponents are like roaches: you crush some, and the rest will scatter.

Oh, and one last thing: I lied about my uncle living in the Gulf.

End

John was sitting in one of the window seats, arms folded firmly across his chest, a dull look on his face, staring out the window at the airport around them as the plane sat motionless. He sighed heavily, ignoring all of the conversation and whatnot going on.

His girlfriend, after taking a glass of Dr. Pepper from Ethan, noticed John sitting out away from all the hubbub.

"Oh, dear." She muttered before walking over. Carefully sliding into the seat next to him, she nudged his shoulder. "John?"

A grunt was her response.

"Look, I know you're upset. I can understand it perfectly."

"I feel betrayed, eh. I mean, I like being here with you, I just…"

"I know. I get it. Would you have rather been one of the seven who didn't get to come back?"

"Maybe."

"John…"

"Would you?"

"Huh?" Mary was taken aback by the sudden and unexpected move of being asked her own question.

"I said, would you? Would you have wanted to not be part of this?"

"Of course not! I'm glad to be here! I want to see the world, and you should, too."

John simply turned and looked out the window again.

Mary sighed a defeated sigh and shook her head.

Both she and John turned at the sudden jolt of the Jet. There was clattering, and then the low sound of an engine starting up, its hum growing louder and louder, more and more consistent. Then there was the sound of the intercom's beep, moments before the booming voice came on. "Alright, maggots! Buckle up! We are beginning our takeoff, and it will be approximately 11 hours before we reach our destination! Secure all loose items, put all backseat trays in the upright position, and blah-blah-blah."

The intercom clicked off, and Mary turned and looked at John again, still sitting with his arms folded and staring intently out the window.

She hung her head briefly, then shook it, then looked back up at John. He was still unmoving. She figured that she didn't want to sit next to this for almost half a day, and that he needed his alone time.

She slowly stood up, then paused, then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Just think about it, OK?"

She then slid out of the row, moving to another one.

John did not move his head at all, or even flinch. But there was the faintest hint of a tear sliding down his cheek as he continued staring out at the moving runway.

Meanwhile, a certain dramatizer was already sitting comfortably in his seat, with his seat belt fastened and his legs crossed casually. He reached into his bag, on the floor at his feet, and rifled around in it until he found what was he looking for: a book. And a big one at that, with a yellow, perfectly square piece of paper stuck between the pages as a bookmark. He opened the book, removed the bookmark, and began reading.

As the Jet began to take off, one girl nearby saw that, surprisingly, the seat next to him was available. Glancing around quickly, she stole for the seat. She stood next to the seat, slightly leaning over him for a moment. She happened to steal a glance down at the spine of the thick book he was reading, and caught a glimpse of its title: The Ice Limit. [1]

After a few moments, she forgot that she was staring, and it was Louis who had to interject.

"Hello, Nicole."

"Oh, uh, hey, Louis."

"Are you looking for a seat?"

"Um, yeah."

"Please, take this one."

"OK!" Nicole replied quickly, a little too loudly. She slid into the seat next to him, and buckled in. Louis placed the bookmark back in the book and put it aside.

"So, uh…what's that?"

"Oh, this? The Ice Limit. A bunch of people on a ship called the Rolvaag go on an expedition to the southernmost tip of Chile to retrieve the world's largest meteorite."

Nicole was briefly stunned by the brief summary. "Um, OK."

"It's just one out of many books written by these guys. Preston and Child. Masterminds. True fathers of the literary arts of our time. They've written many New York Times bestsellers together, and to me, they surpass the works of others, like Crichton, or even Stephen King."

"Ah."

"You read any books?"

"Nah, besides the ones my English teacher makes me read. I hate books."

"Typical English class books? Romeo and Juliet?"

"Tell me about it. I think that's something that old Shakespeare came up with on the toilet…if you don't mind me saying." [2]

Louis issued a warm chuckle. "Ha-ha. Not at all. I actually think criticism is as necessary as praise. And that was a clever little joke of yours, about the toilet."

"Thanks. Sorry if I'm insulting what you love. I'm just not a book type, you know?"

"Indeed. We are all different types. Just like with criticism and praise, different stereotypes are necessary for the world to function. Without it, we would be a perfect, but dull and monotone, society."

"Wow…that's beautiful. Did you make that one up on the fly?"

"Yes. Yes I did, actually."

"Nice."

"Thank you, thank you."

Nicole couldn't help by giggle briefly and blush, while Louis simply smiled.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – Yeah, I've noticed a lot of girls all ogling over me. I'm honestly surprised. I've never considered myself to be hot. …Hm, maybe I'm not, as they say, "hot." Maybe it's just my demeanor. My sophistication and love for the arts must be it. Ha! And the unintelligents back at school says that nerds never make it! Take that, simians!

Nicole – Louis…he's just so…so…charming. He's so clever and witty, almost like a guy out of a Shakespeare novel! Maybe that's his game. But he's so cool that way! Would I mind…hooking up with him? Of course not! But I'd have a one in (counts on her fingers) … six chance in getting him, out of all the other girls here who aren't already hooked up. And I don't think I'm much of a candidate. After all, who likes the mute girl, eh?

End

Meanwhile, down in the cargo hold…

Large crates and old supplies were being thrown around like they were in a hurricane. A blur was moving through the shapes quickly and noisily. A certain blonde was rummaging through the cargo hold, searching desperately for her lost bottle cap.

"Jeffrey! Jeffrey! Where are you? I can't lose you now! You're so beautiful! And I've had you for so long! Don't worry! I will find you eventually!"

As she searched, a rat nearby found Jeffrey. It sniffed the cap and, detecting the delicious scent of wine, picked it up in its little mouth and scurried along. Eryn happened to see it dash by her feet, and when her eyes locked onto the golden object between its teeth, she went ballistic.

"GIVE ME BACK MY JEFFREY, YOU RODENT!" Eryn picked up a wrench nearby and started chasing down the furry little creature, which picked up the pace easily.

Lavatory Confessional

Eryn – OK, so I have tendency to name inanimate objects, but I can't help it! It's fun! And it gives me friends when life won't! And the inanimate objects are so much nicer to me! Once, I had a sock named "Mrs. Jenkins." She was a purple sock owned by my great-grandmother's brother-in-law's nephew's best friend! She was so cool, until my little brother's stupid cat Sonic went and tore her up! I got me a new fur hat that day.

End

Eleven hours later, a majority of the contestants were asleep in their seats. The only ones who weren't were Mark, Matthew, Ethan, and Louis. Mark was hyped up on the soda and was chatting excitedly to a barely-listening Rachael, who tried her hardest to pay attention to her boyfriend, only for drowsiness to kick in. Louis was busy reading his novel, while Nicole slept next to him. And Ethan and Matthew had dates with the confessionals.

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – (Sighs heavily, still looking depressed) Yeah, you're all probably wondering why I'm not the happy, cheerful, outgoing guy who won Season One. Well…(scratches the back of his head) I had an, uh, incident about a year ago. I'd rather not talk about it. All I'll tell you is that I'm in it to win it this time, and make up for that incident. Like I said, don't expect an easy-going guy this time.

End

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Like I said, if I need an alliance, I need individuals who are easy to sucker into an alliance, but will stay with me to the end. I need someone like…Mark. Cheerful, happy-go-lucky, popular, slightly dimwitted, ready to take on any challenge, ready to win. I'm sure he wouldn't mind an alliance. But I might not be able to trust him to not be able to tell his girlfriend or other close friends about it. But otherwise, he'd be perfect. There's also John. He's an extremely strong competitor, and will take any challenge without objection. But…he's clearly not in the game due to being tricked into it like he and the others were. So he's out. Madison, Samantha, Lauren…all of their popularity ratings are down the tubes. This is going to be tougher than I thought. But I will strike an alliance, sooner or later. But it's not going to be easy.

Chef Hatchet – It'll sure as heck be easier than trying to fly this baby for eleven hours straight! She's a beauty, but it can be tiring! Imagine what 24-hour pilots go through!

Ethan – OK, you're right there, but this offers a reward. This has a benefit! So I'm more determined!

Chef Hatchet – Suit yourself.

End

Shortly after the twenty-eighth minute of the eleventh hour, the intercom buzzed loudly. "Alright, worms! Wake up, buckle up, and get mean! We are descending into our first location…Hawaii! We will be landing shortly!"

Most of the contestants took their time stretching, yawning, and then doing as instructed. All seat belts were fastened and the trays were put in the upright positions. As the Jet slowly landed, the teens all looked outside at the passing scenery. The palm trees, the pristine white beaches, the blue surf. It was everything they imagined it to be. In the distance, several volcanoes rose high into the sky.

"Whoa…" Mark gasped in shock.

"It's like…totally awesome." Isaiah agreed.

When the Jet finally screeched to a halt, the soft beeping of the seat belt sound turning off sounded, and they all started to rise from their seats. Most of them turned and started heading down to the bow end of the cabin, to the small door in the side of the Jet where they would disembark.

When they reached the elimination ceremony room, where the door was, it was already open, with a long escalator heading down into it. They all started to head down.

Ethan, hanging back at the very end of the group, stopped dead in his tracks when he heard a very faint, and very familiar sound.

"I…found Jeffrey! I killed the rat, and I got him back!"

Ethan's acute sense of hearing was able to detect the extremely faint voice, while the others ahead of him couldn't. He swung around and saw the hatch in the floor, off to the side from the set of wooden bleachers. The hatch led into the cargo hold, and he knew Eryn's voice when he heard it. He quickly raced over to it just in time to meet the psycho blonde as she was climbing up the ladder, holding Jeffrey triumphantly in her hand.

"No you don't!" Ethan hissed, snatching the cap out of her hand and tossing it back down into the hold.

"Ack! I'm coming, Jeffrey! …Again!" She immediately fell back off the ladder and chased after her precious cap once again. Ethan wasted no time in slamming the trapdoor shut, and turning the lock.

At that moment, Jessica, the last person on the Jet, turned around and saw him crouching over the closed trapdoor.

"Ethan? What are you doing over there?"

Ethan didn't waste any time coming up with a plan in a millisecond.

He let out a massive cough, followed by several shorter ones. He continued his coughing fit for a moment before speaking. "I…(cough, cough) felt a dreadful (bl-hack!) draft coming from this thing, and I decided to (wheeze) close it. But there must be (ack) something in the air here that's making my (cough, cough, cough) allergies act up again! (Blargh!)"

"Oh, poor thing. Here, let's get away from this trapdoor."

"Yes, hrm, let's."

Ethan got to his feet, and Jessica was quick to put an arm around him and lead him away. He couldn't help but grin.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – (Chef is noticeably absent in the background) I can't believe that they fell for that one! After I already established my strong ability to make the most genuine-sounding of sneezes, coughs, and so on. Yeah, that girl is a threat, not necessarily to the game, but to our safety. Couldn't risk it, you know? Knowing this game, she'll be considered eliminated by the end of the day!

End

As the two of them reached the top of the escalator and set foot on the first step, Jessica happened.

To this day, neither of them found out how it happened. No one did, even after thoroughly reviewing the camera footage.

All that can be said is that they both ended up tumbling down the escalator, each hard, moving metal step at a time. And the fact that the steps were moving down in the first place made the fall even faster and harder. Both Jessica and Ethan screamed in shock and confusion, then terror, and then pain, as they both hit the ground with a smack in front of the fifteen other contestants and Chef.

Jessica, used to this all the time, was barely injured. But with Ethan…well, let's just say that after the fall, there was much more red on him than his hair.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – (Now holding a blood-stained white rag to his nose) Ack! That stupid klutz! No one does that to me! NO ONE! Urg…note to self: Never let that girl help me around again. This time, I'm not acting. However…I do feel that this will earn me some sympathy from the others, so this could be good for me.

End

A few of the contestants glanced back at Ethan, blood still trickling from his nose, before looking back at Chef.

"OK, kids! Let's all do a head-count…"

Chef pointed at all of the teens' heads and mouthed the numbers to himself. He stopped at seventeen.

"What the…we're missing someone! Where's that psycho?"

Everyone else looked around, and realized that Chef was right; the psycho blonde was nowhere to be seen.

Off to the side, the guilty Ethan snickered and grinned; covered up by a cough and the rag over his mouth.

"Well…knowing that girl, we're all better off without her, eh? Especially for today's challenge. We'll just say that she's still back on the Jet, and we can go."

And with that, Chef led them all to a massive speedboat docked just a few minutes' walk from the runway, which the eighteen of them had boarded. He took them out into the middle of the ocean, where they were now on a massive floating barge. There were three massive holes in the side of it; docking bays for the three yellow submarines that were right alongside the barge.

"Alright, kids! Here's your first task! Here we are in Blue Hawaii! The crown jewel of the Pacific! The vacationing spot of a lifetime!"

"The location of the finale last season?" Ethan asked, his voice nasal with the rag.

"Yes, yes it is. Anyway, so here's the deal: We've managed to seal off this massive, three-mile-wide circular area in the middle of the ocean just for us! We've marked the perimeter with buoys, so you know when you've reached the edge of the course. Anyway, you will split into three teams, at your own choice, where you will board these submarines…"

"NOOOOOO!"

Even Chef jumped back in shock at the sudden and spontaneous outburst. The contestants all dispersed from the source of the sound: Mark. The regularly calm and relaxed optimist was wide-eyed and biting his nails.

"NO! No submarines! You can't put me on a submarine! We'll get the bends! We'll get attacked! We'll sink! We'll DIE!"

"What's the matter with him?" Chef asked loudly.

"He's afraid of submarines, remember?" Rachael reminded the host, going up to Mark.

"No…no…"

"Mark, listen. It's part of a challenge. We have to do this."

"No! I'm not doing this!" Mark insisted. "I'll quit! I'll go back to the plane now! Someone, anyone? Can someone give me a ride back to the runway?

"If you don't shut up right now…"

"NO! I will NOT shut up, because I am going to DIE! Don't you get it!" Mark quickly raced up the nearest camera and threw his face against it. "MOM! I hope you're hearing or seeing this right now! I'm gonna leave you all the useless junk in my room! Give it to the Salvation Army or something! It's no good to me now! I had an awesome time here, and I'll never-."

There was a loud CLANG. The tirade was interrupted, and the others all cringed. The cringing turned to shock when they saw that Chef had done the same thing that had been done to Owen last time; hit him in the head with a frying pan.

"Alright, now that we've got that settled…" Chef tossed the pan away. "As I was saying, so you will split into three teams of your picking, man your subs, and head down into the ocean. Don't worry; it's only about 500 feet deep at maximum. But you guys will have to scan the ocean floor for treasure chests!"

"Treasure chests?"

"Oh, boy. Talk about imagination."

"Hey, we're running low on ideas here, punks! Give us some slack!"

"Yeah, right."

"OK…so, the chests will have numbers on them matching the ID number of your sub. Only matching chests will be allowed. You may use your sonar, your lights, or your eyes to find it. When you find it, you must use the sub's mechanical arms."

Chef gestured at one of the nearby subs, where the teens noticed the arms for the first time. One on each side, both at the front of the submersible, they were long and very spindly. They were covered in gears and wires, with gaps between appendages like a skeleton. And the claws at the end were like a four-fingered hand; three fingers on one side, one on the other. As if on cue, the arms started moving around, controlled by an intern inside.

"Inside, at the head of the controls, are bracelets that one of you must attach your own arms into. Basically, they're like a kind of sling, or long glove. You fit your arms into them, then move them around. The arms follow your arms' movements, right down to the fingers. You use them to grab the chest. The first team to retrieve their chest and return to their appropriate docking bay wins the first-class area from here to the next destination. The other two teams stay in the economy-class section. Got it?"

After the consensus of nods, Chef replied, "Good! Now, pick your teams! But first let me say this: Due to the absence of the hose-beast, we must have two teams of six and one of five. Now go!"

Almost instantly, Matthew and Violet were together, as were Mark and Rachael with them (with Rachael having to drag Mark's slumped form over).

"Alright, the old alliance back together!" Violet exclaimed.

"Except Jeremy." Matthew added curtly.

"Hey, guys? Can I join your team, too?" James asked as he came up.

"I don't know…" Matthew replied, regarding him with disapproving eyes.

"Of course you can." Violet quickly agreed.

"Cool, thanks! This is the winner team right here! Woo-hoo!"

Off to the side, a bunch of the girls were all standing in a group.

"I'm all for a girls-only team!" Madison declared.

"Me too!" Lauren added.

"Me three!" Suzie agreed without thinking much of it.

"Me four." Samantha added, never looking up from her phone.

"Uh, I guess it's OK." Jessica agreed. "But can we let Louis join?"

The girls glanced over at the Shakespearean, who was still glancing over at Nicole, who was teaming up with John and Mary.

"No way!" Madison steamed.

"But he's hot!"

"And we'll have him all to ourselves; no other boys!"

"Please?"

"OK, fine! You! Drama King! Here, now!"

Louis barely even turned around before he felt a bunch of hands swarm him and pull him over to the group.

"You're with us now!" Lauren chirped happily, bouncing up and down.

"Uh, OK. Great. Heh-heh…"

Nicole, over with John, Mary, Isaiah, and Ethan, sighed.

The last one left, Anna, looked around nervously and realized that she was alone. She slid over to the team with John and the others, and asked Isaiah, "Hey there, Isaiah? Mind If I join you guys?"

"Uh, sure. We've got room for one more."

"Awesome!" She exclaimed, officially joining the team.

"OK, so we've got our three teams! The team with all the couples in it, you'll be team one! Team with all the girls, team two. And the last team is team three. You have two minutes to get into your submersibles and prepare for the challenge."

"OK, here we go." Matthew sighed as the team approached the submersible.

Off to the side, Violet glanced at him worriedly.

Lavatory Confessional

Violet – OK, what is up with Matthew? I know him, and he loves nautical stuff like this! He should be overjoyed that we're in Hawaii, going in submarines, on a treasure hunt! And the way he almost turned down James from the team…something's wrong with him. And I intend to find out what.

End


Episode 1 Part 3: Yellow Submarines

The three teams had all settled in their submersibles. Each sub was approximately ten feet by ten feet wide, and five and a half feet tall on the interior, but was mainly a torpedo shape on the exterior. The overall vessel was nearly twenty feet long. Each had a massive propeller on the stern, on a swivel setup that made it turn side-to-side. There were three portholes on each side, as well as a square viewing glass on the front. Beneath each one were landing struts, much like a helicopter. Each was a bright yellow, with thick black stripes above and below each row of windows, as well as the ID number in black.

After the teams had settled in, Chef's voice boomed over the radios of each sub.

"Alright, deep-sea wannabes! Here's the gist: You've all got a time limit of three hours to search for your chests. The controls for the subs are very simple: There are two red joysticks on the control panel, at the front, or bow, of the vessel. The one on the right moves the vessel up if you press it forward, down if you press it down, side-to-side if you move it side-to-side, and diagonally if you move it diagonally. The one on the left moves it forward, back, turns it, and yadda-yadda. I explained how the arms work. One person needs to pilot the sub. One controls the arms, one mans the radars, and the rest can do diddly-squat! But it's advised that those left over scan with their eyes, look through the windows for the chests. If you all encounter each other…DON'T YOU PLAY BUMPER-SUBS OR YOU'LL ALL BE SLEEPING WITH THE FISHIES! CLEAR?"

None of the contestants knew how to talk back with a radio, so they just kept silent.

"Good. Now, you may all begin. The ignition is right there on the control board. Look for it. Now like I said, first team to find their chest within the time limit and manages to bring it back to the docking bay gets to stay in the first-class area to the next destination. The other two don't. Inside your chests are certain…hee, hee, rewards. You will get to keep these rewards if you successfully find them and return them to the surface. Now have fun, happy subbing…whatever. I hate givin' farewells as much as I hate given' introductions."

The radio clicked off, and the subs' respective and self-proclaimed pilots quickly took action.

Team One: Matthew, Violet, Mark, Rachael, and James

Matthew immediately jumped on the controls and turned the ignition.

"Hang on everyone!" He declared. "We're going in!"

He turned the key, and the sound of the engine started up with a whine and a hum. There was a noticeable look of displeasure on his face.

"If Chef knew his nautical know-how, he would know that submarines aren't started like cars." He shook his head in disgust.

There was a jolt as the cables fastened to the sides of the sub detached, and it fell a few inches to the water. It slammed on the surface, causing everyone to move around a little. Rachael held onto the unconscious Mark as the vessel shook, then looked up in terror and rolled over as James nearly fell on her.

"Oof! Be careful there!" He yelled back.

"Sorry; can't help the impact."

They all glanced out the portholes and could see the white wash turn to bright blue water as it swirled around the portholes, engulfing them. Bubbles flew up past it in streaks, and the water, along with the vessel itself, eventually grew steady.

Matthew, at the controls, remained steadfast. "I've been on all kinds of seagoing vessels many times in my life. I've got a sailor's stance. Not to worry, everyone. With me at the wheel…er, joysticks, we will have victory."

Violet glanced at him uneasily, stunned by his competitive attitude.

He then pulled the left joystick back and slowly started to guide the sub backwards out of the docking bay. Once they were clear of the barge, he slowly turned it to the left, twisting the vessel slowly to the right, swinging around until it was facing the open sea.

"The great blue. An unknown galaxy on our own planet." Matthew inhaled deeply, then exhaled with satisfactory. "I feel more at home here."

With that, he slowly eased the left stick forward, moving it slowly through the blue. The bubble streaks now moved at an angle past the portholes. Rachael watched as several fish swam by.

"Wow…on the surface, barely a minute in, and it's already beautiful."

"Quite. Hawaii is one of the world's most beautiful vacation spots. I know it was Elvis's favorite. Mine too."

He then slowly started to pull the right stick back, moving the sub down into the water deeper. The swirls vanished, replaced by nothing but water. It started to turn into a rich shade of navy blue, slowly growing darker and darker as they descended. The sun's light was already growing faint…

"James."

"Yes, captain?"

"I want you to man the sonar."

"I'm honored!"

The large teen lumbered over to the small, dark green screen. He placed his hands on the side of it and peered closely at it.

"I'll explain the concept of sonar to you. Now, the screen itself is dark green, right?"

"Right."

"Good. And there should be a shape in the dead center of the screen, that is a light green color, right?"

"Yep. It's shaped like our sub!"

"Exactly. That it us. There should also be a thin, light green line tracing circles around the screen, stemming from us. That is the tracker to detect if anything large or significant is in the area. When it detects something within the radius, there should be a beep, and the object will flash onto the screen in the shape of whatever it's shaped like, and the size will be its size compared to us. It will only appear when the line moves over it. That shows where it is in relation to us. Understanding so far?"

"Crystal, cap!"

"Good. Are there rings around us, growing larger and larger as they move further away from us, as well?"

"Yep!"

"Those are the various distance zones. The different distances an object can be. Now, if these chests are built accurately, they should have some metal in them, in the form of handles or a padlock. That should be enough to give off the magnetic signal that the sonar detects. When it beeps, focus on the object on the screen and tell me what it is. What it's shaped like, what its size is, where it is in comparison to us, what direction, what distance, and if it's moving towards us or away from us. Got it?"

"Eh…I think so."

"It's a simple job. Imagine what technicians in the real things have to go through! These are toys compared to those babies. So go ahead and watch. It may get boring after a while…"

"Not to worry! I brought snacks! Look Bars, anyone?"

"I'll take one."

He handed one to Rachael.

"I've also got Three Musketeers, Butter Fingers, Hersheys, Crunch…"

"He's prepared." Matthew muttered with a slight smile. "Violet."

"Yes?"

"You're the only other person available. Rachael has to watch Mark, I assume?"

"Yes." Rachael replied over the Look Bar she was chewing.

"Alright. You will man the mechanical appendages."

"Got it." Violet crawled over to the bracelets, which looked very much like nets.

"You don't need to put them on yet, but be prepared when we find our chest."

"You got it."

"Chef already explained how they work. It's really easy."

"Yep."

"OK, sailors. You've all got your assignments. Now let's win this challenge!"

The last bit of sunlight vanished as they slowly descended.

Team Two: Lauren, Jessica, Suzie, Samantha, Madison, and Louis

Team Captain Madison was at the controls. She had Suzie watch the sonar, telling her to listen for the beep and watch for the "flashy thingy," and Louis would man the arms.

"Ugh! This space is cramped! My high heels are killing me in here!"

"Relax, Lauren my friend. This will all pay off soon. I'm perfectly capable of this joystick nonsense. We will find the chest."

"Ah…the ocean. The final frontier." Louis sighed, glancing out the porthole at the wildlife that fluttered by. "We've reached the longest deserts, scaled the tallest mountains, and trekked through the densest forests. We have even discovered distant galaxies. But we are still not yet familiar with the deepest trenches in the ocean."

"Really?" Suzie asked.

"Yep.

"Well, you think it'd be easy."

"I'm sorry?"

"Trenches…in the ocean?"

Louis looked back at her with a blank stare.

"I get wet in the bathtub!"

Louis was confused, then realized what she meant and facepalmed. "Ugh…not drenches, Suzie. Trenches. They're deep pits in the ocean. Deeper than Mt. Everest is tall."

Suzie gasped. "Pits? You mean like Chad Pitt?"

"Ugh…"

"That's Brad Pitt, moron!" Lauren shot back.

Suzie did not seemed fazed by the insult. "Oh, but he's so hot, isn't he?"

"I know, right! He's totally adorable!" Lauren agreed, leaning back and swooning at the very thought of him.

"Remember, in that one movie, when he was a Greek guy who killed a bunch of people?" Jessica added.

"Yeah! So…yummy! He'd probably drink the blood of whoever messed with him!"

"He would make an awesome Dracula!"

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – I don't mind the company of ladies, but these nut jobs…I can't stand it! I swear if I don't get away from the "Brad Pitt is a hottie!" stuff, I am going to lose it! And it takes a lot to make me lose it.

Madison – Yeah, those girls are annoying. But not to worry; they are all perfect candidates for an alliance. But just an alliance; nothing more! Why else do you think I'd con them into joining me this time? Chef said just this once…right? Gaah! I can't stand the thought of being on the same team as these dunderheads!

Samantha – (Simply sits there, texting)

End

Team Three: John, Mary, Anna, Isaiah, Ethan, and Nicole

Mary was at the controls of the sub, and volunteers Isaiah and Anna were at the sonar and arms, respectively.

"So…what do you think we'll find in our chest?" Anna asked Isaiah, who was leaning over the monitor.

"Who knows? I would like to say treasure, but knowing Chef, and this show? Probably a bag of peanuts or something lame like that."

"Ah…Well, it could be something good."

"Maybe…in a million years."

Anna couldn't help but laugh; a wheezing, strange sound that made Isaiah cringe.

"Ah-ha-ha-ha! That's hilarious!"

"Uh…yeah."

"He's right, eh. Knowing Chef, he's either cheap, or just plain mean to us, or both. He couldn't care any less if we risk our lives over a can opener or something."

"Risk our lives?" Anna asked, stunned. "This is dangerous?"

"Of course!" Mary, John, and Isaiah yelled back simultaneously.

"There's structural failure!" Mary explained.

"Or sharks, eh!"

"Or the bends!" Isaiah added.

" 'The bends'?"

"A scenario where, if a submarine rises from deep water too fast, nitrogen bubbles form in the bloodstreams of everyone inside. It kills you in hours."

"Wow…"

"That could explain why Mark is so terrified of submarines. I can't really blame him. Perhaps a relative got the bends, or something like that."

"Yeah, that could be it."

"My uncle's wife was once on a submarine that went down in the Pacific."

"Really?" Anna's eyes widened.

"Yeah. Power failure, they were down there for almost three whole days. They were running low on supplies. Another sub had to come and detach their battery to make them lose weight, and float to the surface."

"Wow."

"Yeah…"

Off to the side, a certain red-head leaning against the back wall glared at him.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – (Still empty except for Ethan) I was able to pass off that my uncle lives in the Gulf, and yet she buys that? I think that sounds like a load of bologna. I'm not believing it one bit. I have a feeling that she's got a little something for him…the way she was all ogling over him. Maybe that could be used to my advantage…

Still, I'm not happy to be on this team. But it's better than being over with the lovebirds and the jolly giant.

End

Team Two: Lauren, Jessica, Suzie, Samantha, Madison, and Louis

"How about Orlando Bloom?"

The loud beeping brought the redhead's attention, not to mention the attention of everyone else, back to the screen. She looked at it, and could see something huge.

"Oh my God! There's something huge here!"

"Where?" Madison asked without looking away from the viewport.

"Uh…off to the right – no, the left! The left, and up a little."

"So…northwest?"

"Uh, sure!"

Madison muttered something not nice, then slowly moved the left joystick to the left, turning the sub a few degrees port.

"Is it more in front of us now?"

"Uh…"

BEEP!

"Yes! It is!"

"Good. Describe it."

"Um…it's huge, I can tell you that…"

"How big?"

"It's way huger than us! It's like…the size of the plane! Maybe bigger!"

"For real? We've got something serious here."

"It's got a couple of sticks poking out of its top…and one from the front…"

"You mean…masts?"

"Casts? Who has a broken limb?"

"Ugh! You idiot! Never mind! What you're seeing is a ship! We've found us a shipwreck. We're sure to find something in there."

"Thar she blows!" Louis declared, pointing out of one of the portholes.

They all moved over to the portholes, some crowding around the single porthole Louis was at. Of course, at the bottom where they were, the water was dark and murky. But Madison had noticed the two floodlights on top of the submersible before entering. She glanced down at the control panel, scanning for something that would activate them.

She reached over for a red button and pressed it.

Almost instantly, everyone was thrown back against the stern wall of the submarine as the speed doubled. The whirring of the propeller grew louder as it spun faster, sending them through the water like a bullet.

"Ack! Slow us down! Slow us down!" Jessica screamed.

"I can't handle high underwater velocity!"

Louis was the one who scrambled to his feet and over to the control panel. Finding the red button Madison hit, he hit it again, slowing it down and sending the other five occupants sliding forward some.

As several of them groaned or rubbed their heads, Jessica sat up and looked over at Samantha. Barely fazed by the incident, she was even still sitting perfectly upright, texting on her phone. She had simply slid along with the change of velocity, never losing concentration.

"Don't you ever get tired of that thing?" Jessica asked incredulously.

No response.

"Ah, forget it."

Meanwhile, Madison crawled over to Louis.

"I'll be fine taking the wheel now, thank you very much."

"Fine."

"And the light switch is here."

He lightly pressed a square, yellow button, which lit up white when he pressed it. Outside, bright light bathed the area around them as the floodlights were activated. Almost instantly, gasps arose from inside at the sight of the massive ship, now fully illuminated.

Its wood was dark and worn-down. Long drapes of dark green seaweed covered the sides, and massive holes dotted it here or there. Several windows for the massive rear cabin were still intact, as was the anchor on the side and several of the masts still standing up, with slight torn fragments of sail on them. One mast was toppled over on the deck, hanging suspended over the side.

An eerie silence descended upon the submersible and its crew.

"Well, it's a good guess that that's where we'll find our chest. Hang on."

And with that, Louis slowly pushed the left stick forward, at the same time guiding the right stick backward, lowering them down slowly to level with one of the larger holes in the hull, just large enough for them to enter.

"It's not big enough! Turn around!" Lauren screeched.

"Quiet, please. I'm concentrating."

"It's no good! We're gonna crash and ruin our sub!"

"I said to be quiet, if you please. I need to concentrate…"

"YOU IDIOT!" Lauren leapt forward and pounced on Louis, knocking him fully into the left stick, also pushing it slightly to the right. The sub gained speed and, with the change in direction, was now speeding straight for the murky wall of wood.

A collection of screams sounded from inside the sub as it was on a collision course…

Meanwhile, back on the Jet…

"Jeffrey! Jeffrey, where are you! Don't worry, Jeffrey; I shall find you! That evil new guy won't be able to keep you from…AHA!"

Eryn finally located the bottle cap, underneath one of the rungs of the ladder.

"There you are!" She exclaimed happily, with a "Mwah!" as she kissed it hard. "Now, let's get out of this place. It's a good thing I have feral night vision."

She ascended the ladder and reached the trapdoor.

"Hey, guys? It's me, Eryn! I found Jeffrey…again! And it was that no-good Ethan who tossed him down here; on purpose! I-."

Her ranting was stopped cold when she pounded on the trapdoor. It didn't budge.

"Huh…?"

She grabbed it and pressed harder. No movement.

"Um, guys? Anybody?"

She started bashing her head up against it, with no success in opening it whatsoever.

"Argh! Why! Won't! You! Open!" She yelled, a bang in between each word.

Finally, she gave up and slid back down the ladder into the depressing cargo hold.

"OK, no problem! I'll just find another way out of here…I'm gonna be…just…fine. (Gulp)"

Back in the ocean…

Team Three: John, Mary, Anna, Isaiah, Ethan, and Nicole

"I'm telling you, we're going around in circles, eh!" John exclaimed.

"John, trust me. I know what I'm doing."

"I hope so, 'cause I don't know how to drive one of these things! How are we supposed to find this chest anyhow? How long has it been?"

Off to the side, Ethan sighed. "Sixteen minutes, and counting."

"This is nuts! What if we even find a chest, but it's not ours? That'll be humiliating!"

Almost as if to answer, there was a beep.

"We've got something!" Isaiah declared.

"Oh, great! What is it, eh? A penny someone dropped in the water?"

"No…it's a shape about as big as us. It's also torpedo-like…it's got two triangle-like appendages, one sticking out of each side…"

"Does it have a thin frame? But a tall rear end?" Anna quickly asked.

"Yes!"

"Is the rear end kind of a crescent-moon shape?"

"YES!"

"We've got ourselves a Bruce, guys."

"A what?" Ethan asked dully.

"A shark." [1]

The mixed reactions exploded instantly.

"Ah, terrific! We're all gonna die now, eh!"

"AUGH! Prepare for attack! We're dead!"

"OK, OK, just gotta stay calm…stay calm…maintain course…"

"Guys, guys! Chill! It's nothing to worry about! You can't be stuck on Jaws movies and garbage like that. Sharks are actually very harmless. They're much more likely to run than actually attack. You're more likely to get hit by a falling airplane part in the beach than be attacked by a shark!"

"Did you have to mention that, seeing as though we are on a plane this season?"

"Oh…well, sorry. But you get the idea!"

"It's closing…thirty yards." Isaiah said weakly and nervously, his hands shaking.

"Sharks are not dangerous…"

"Twenty…"

"They will not attack unless attacked first!"

"Ten…"

"Just stay calm and don't instigate it, and…"

"It's hereeeeEEYAAAH!"

Isaiah, and all of the others, were thrown around when the sub was suddenly jerked to the side violently by the ramming of the massive shark's nose into their side. Ethan, scrambling to stay in one place, glanced out the porthole and was greeted by a cavern of dark, lined with razor-sharp white steak knives.

"Mayday! Critical alert! Hit the deck!"

"We've got to fight, eh! We're gonna die!"

Ethan looked over at the mechanical arms, which Anna had "abandoned" in the impact. He raced over to them and started to fasten them on…

Team One: Matthew, Violet, Mark, Rachael, and James

"OK, so we haven't seen anything visually. James? Anything?"

"Uh, nothing cap-."

BEEP!

"Wait! There's something!"

"Good. Describe it."

"It's small, that's for sure. It's got a shape the bulges in the middle, but grows smaller at the top. It's got a perfectly square bottom…"

"That's it!" Matthew exclaimed excitedly. "It has to be the chest! I'm activating the floodlights!"

Matthew hit the yellow switch, illuminating the seafloor around them.

"ETA?"

"Excuse me?"

"Estimated Time to Arrival? When are we going to reach the chest?"

"Uh…"

BEEP!

"OK, it's a bit to the right…oh, you're going away from it!"

Matthew wasted no time in turning the left stick slowly to the right, turning the sub at a nearly 80 angle.

"OK, it's more in front of us…still to the right."

Matthew cranked it a little more.

"OK, good! Now it's…"

"There!" Matthew exclaimed.

James and Violet quickly looked over Matthew's shoulder, out the viewport. There, illuminated in the pool of light, was the wooden chest. A single purple strand was draped over it, crusty and hard. On the front of the chest was a large, black 1.

"That's it, alright." Violet confirmed.

"What's that on it?"

"Probably coral. Violet, two arms!"

"Uh…we have only two arms."

"No, Violet. It's a term that pirates and naval soldiers use to say 'Man the arms!'"

"Oh. OK."

Violet went back over and strapped into the arms.

"OK…decreasing speed a few knots…"

Matthew slowly released pressure on the stick, slowing the sub to a crawl.

"Good…good…there!"

Matthew let go of the stick, stopping the sub altogether. He then slowly pulled the right stick down, lowering the sub until it landed softly on the ocean floor, sending a small cloud of dust rising up around the struts.

"OK, sweetheart. When you're ready."

Violet grabbed hold of the handles at the end of the braces, and slowly moved her arms. Outside, the thick mechanical appendages started to whir to life, moving with her physical commands.

"OK, OK down." Matthew instructed.

Violet casually lowered it down, inching the claws closer to the chest.

"Easy does it…you're almost there…GOT IT!"

Violet's eyes widened when she heard the last two words.

"The claws are on it! Now quick, move the left hand a little to the left, and the right one right…"

She did so, slowly moving the claws down to the sides.

"Good…now down slowly."

She did as instructed.

"OK…stop!"

She stopped instantly.

"Grasp. You're at the handles."

Violet started to squeeze, applying pressure to the handles. The four claws on each appendage slowly clamped down, grabbing the rusty metal handles and lifting them up.

"Great! You're doing great! Now lift!"

She raised the arms with ease, the mechanical ones taking care of the chest. As it rose, muck and sand rose around it, and the purple strand…moved.

James looked further down, and saw something.

"Uh…Matthew?" He uttered in a nervous, high-pitched, squeaky voice.

Even the bold competitor's eyes were wide with fear and shock. "I see it."

The purple strand, which traced around over the back of the chest, led into the seafloor. It was a bright, mushy pink on the underside, with dozens of little holes lining it, that slowly came off of the chest as it rose: suctions cups.

"Oh, sh-."

There was a massive cloud of dust and murk as something burst from under the bottom. As the dust swirled around all of the viewing windows, the occupants of the vessel squinted hard through it to see…

…a massive, red orb with a black center greeted the main viewport. Everyone screamed in terror and Matthew leaned back in shock as the mess cleared, revealing the massive octopus that had a hold of their chest. And they had a hold of it.

"Oh, dear."

Just then, all three submersibles heard the familiar sound on their radios. It was the simplest, calmest, most soothing sound they could ever hear. Yet they all couldn't have hated it any more.

Ding-ding!

Chef's voice followed. "That's right, kids! We're watching your actions from the hidden cameras, and we know it's perfect time for a musicaaaaaal numbeeeeeerrrr!"

"NO WAY!" All seventeen shouted back in fury and rage.

"Sorry. If you don't sing, you know what happens. You get disqualified, and do the big splat as soon as we start flying. Now let's hear it!"

Musical Number – Yellow Submarines

Matthew: In the first

Task of them all

We really need

Some serious gall

For we dive

To search for chests

And that's a real strive

But we must win

So here we are

And we are all in

Our very own

Our very own

Submarine!

All: We are all in yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

We are all in yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

Louis: Here we are

About to crash

Into a

Big old wall

I sure hope

We do not die

(Instrumental)

All: We are all in yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

We are all in yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

Yellow submarines

Mary: Heads up! Prepare for impact! Hull damage! Batton down the hatches!

Madison: You idiots! Now we're gonna crash and die while singing! Swing around, Romeo! Swing around!

Louis: As you wish, madam! (Louis grabs the left stick and pulls it back, twisting it to the left hard, just in time to avoid the wall and go straight into the hole)

Louis: As we sail

Into this wreck

I sure hope

Lauren, Jessica, Suzie, and Madison all echo: We sure hope

That we won't wreck!

Girls: That we won't wreck!

'Cause I want

Girls: 'Cause we want

To find our chest

Girls: To find our chest

And get back

Girls: And get back

And finish the quest

Girls: Finish that quest

All: We are all in yellow submarines…

(At this point, Mark finally awakens)

Mark: Huh? Sub-submarines? I'm in a submarine? Why are you guys singing?

A yellow submarine…

Mark: Ack! An octopus? OH, GREAT! We're all gonna die!

Yellow submarine

Mark: Stop this ride right now! I wanna get off!

We are all in a yellow submarine

Mark: I'm too young to DIE!

Yellow submarine

Yellow submarine

Mark: Mooooommmmmyyyyy!

We are all in…a yellooooow

Submarine!

Yeah!

End Musical Number

"Wonderful, kids! Now you can go back to trying not to die. Hatchet out."

Almost instantly, the fun and loose atmosphere inside the three subs vanished.

"WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO? You guys let a squid attack us while I was out? What were you thinking?" Mark exclaimed. "Now we're all gonna die a suction-cup death! WHY?"

"Shut up! I need to…argh! Concentrate!"

Matthew fumbled with the joysticks, cranking the left one back hard to back out of the squid's grasp. But the tentacles were already lashed around the sub, covering the portholes and wrapping around the struts. Matthew jolted the right stick forward, trying to raise them, but it was no use. The ock had them, and was not letting them go anywhere.

"What are we gonna do?" James exclaimed, equally scared.

"Mark! Calm down, please?"

"I can't hold onto the chest much longer, Matthew!"

Matthew didn't hear any of the hubbub going on inside the sub. He was only focused on the gaping maw before him, stuck to the viewport, and lined with dozens, almost hundreds, of razor-like teeth, and an endless blackness within.

Team Two: Lauren, Jessica, Suzie, Samantha, Madison, and Louis

"Wow! Nice save back there, Larry!" Suzie complimented.

"Thank you." Louis returned despite the incorrect name.

"OK, so whether or not this is real or something Chef put here, it's almost surely a lock that we'll find it in here…but where?" Madison asked no one in particular.

"That, my dear friend, is the question. Think of the most obvious place…something…"

"AAAIIIEEE!" Lauren screeched suddenly, causing all hands to fly up to cover ears.

"Ouch! Lauren, cut it out!"

"What's that!"

She pointed nervously out the port porthole. All eyes followed her shaking, manicure finger to see a skeleton right next to them.

All the other girls gasped and looked just as scared.

"Oh, that's nothing to be afraid of, ladies."

"Oh, really?" Suzie asked doubtfully. "How do you know, Leech?"

"I'm getting a sonar reading off that. In order for that to happen, the sonar wave has to bounce off something either magnetic or a living organism. That's neither."

He pointed out the porthole nearest him.

"See those small metal dots in the hips and shoulder? Rivets. They're meant to hold the bones in place."

Lavatory Confessional

Jessica – Wow! Louis is good!

Madison – Really, Chef. That couldn't have been more pathetic.

End

"Aside from the skeleton, I'm getting another strong reading on something else in here…it's just as large as the skeleton, and…"

BEEP!

"It's near. Everyone keep an eye out for…"

"How are we supposed to see anything? It's so dark you couldn't see your hand behind your face." Suzie interrupted.

"That's what the floodlights are for…"

"But there's all kind of debris and junk lying around!" Lauren added.

"She's right about that one." Jessica agreed. "We have to find a way to better navigate.

At this, the cell-phone-a-holic glanced up. She stopped texting for a moment, then closed the keypad of the phone, swirled it around, and slid her fingers across a few times, activating a special app.

"What are you doing?" Madison asked when she stopped texting. "You…you actually stopped texting."

"I have a special night vision app on my phone. This should help out a little." She then held the phone up to one of the portholes. All the girls crowded around her shoulder to see it. Sure enough, the screen was nothing but a thick, light green and black interpretation of everything outside the porthole.

"With this, I can zoom in and out. And it's also infrared. Chances are there's something in there with heat. So if we find the chest, we'll know it."

Even Louis's eyes widened.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – Is there nothing that cannot be accomplished with today's technology?

End

They slowly moved through the wreck, nonchalant and taking their time scanning with eyes, sonar, and Samantha's phone.

But then the voice interrupted them.

"Attention all undersea worms! You've got exactly three minutes left to return! And it's an estimated two minutes just to get back to the surface…so you all have one minute left, chest or no chest!"

With the click of the voice, Team Two was enraged.

"Ah, great! How are we gonna find the chest now?"

"We just did." Samantha declared subtly.

"WHAT?" Everyone else in her sub exclaimed.

"It's right there."

She pointed at a small, bright green object on her screen, a little off to the side between a cluster of barrels and a slanted beam. It was the shape of a chest.

"That's it, alright! Let's get it!"

"Louis, turn around!"

"Turning 90o degrees to port." Louis turned the joystick to the left until the sub had swiveled around and was facing the direction of the chest. Now with the floodlights on it, Louis could just barely see it. The chest, sitting among the murk.

"About fifty seconds, ladies." Louis reminded them before jumping over to the mechanical arms and throwing his own arms into it. He wasted no time in moving them around frantically, but carefully and expertly. He brushed aside a few pieces of debris, wooden planks, and a couple barrels. He had to grab the beam with the claw of the left arm and throw it aside to fully reveal the chest.

"Twenty-five seconds!"

There was the chest, caked in mud. Louis advanced toward it, grabbing both handles with the claws and clamping down. He pulled it back up to them, hugging it against the sub.

"OK! Ladies! One of you come and get it! I can't hold this because I need to return to the controls!"

Madison raced up and slid her hands into the braces just as Louis pulled his own out. She grasped the handles at the end and maintained a firm grip. Louis dashed to the control board and grabbed the joystick, wheeling it around to face the hole in the side.

"Ten seconds!"

"Relax! We'll be out of here in five!"

Louis jolted the left stick forward and thrust the sub forward through the ship, kicking up algae and mud. They headed straight for the hole, already seeming like a gleaming light. As they flew past, they hit the skeleton dangling from the rafters, snagging it by its arm. No one noticed.

They burst through the hole in the hull, knocking off a few fragments of wood from when they scraped the edges. Almost instantly, Louis released the left joystick and slowly pressed the right one up.

"OK, beginning ascent!"

"Scent? I don't smell anything, besides Lauren's perfume." Suzie bumbled.

"Sigh…"

Team Three: John, Mary, Anna, Isaiah, Ethan, and Nicole

"AAAUUUGGGHHH! We're all gonna die!" John exclaimed. "I don't want to be eaten by a Jaws!"

"I told you, Jaws is overrated! Sharks are our friends!"

"Tell that to 'Bruce' here!"

"We need to stay calm, people! We'll live through this!" Mary insured them.

"Attention all undersea worms! You've got exactly three minutes left to return! And it's an estimated two minutes just to get back to the surface…so you all have one minute left, chest or no chest!"

"Come on! What are we gonna do now, eh?" John exclaimed again.

"What do you think?" Ethan asked plainly, as if the answer was obvious. "We return. No use finding the chest now."

"But the shark!"

"Someone needs to use the mechanical arms!"

"I'll do it!" Anna volunteered. Everyone was stunned by her volunteering to fight an animal. "If it really does want to attack us, then we have to defend ourselves! And I promise not to hurt it!"

"Fine. Just get it off our a-."

"I will." She interrupted John by a split second, saving them the vulgarity. She strapped into the mechanical braces, and started moving them around. Almost instantly, the shark caught the movement in its eyes and swam over to it, taking a break from chomping up the yellow hull. It started to latch its jaws around the right claw…

"Argh! Sorry, Brucey!"

Anna then jerked the left appendage arm, flexing her claws at the same time. That way, the sole finger stuck out. She guided it so that it pressed into the shark's black bead of an eye. The mighty fish instantly released the sub and started thrashing around wildly.

"It's let go! Get us up!"

"On it!" Mary flicked the right joystick up, and the sub propelled upward. Up and away from the sad scene below it.

Lavatory Confessional

Anna – Oh…I feel so bad doing that to a poor, innocent shark! I hope you'll forgive me, Brucey!

End

Team One: Matthew, Violet, Mark, Rachael, and James

"Come on! Full thrust! Reverse it!" Matthew grunted as he yanked the joystick back, tugging against the squid's grip.

"Pressure failure!" Violet declared. "And I don't know how much longer I can hold on…"

"We're dead now! We are all officially dead now! SOMEBODY SAVE US!"

Mark, in his tirade, ended up crashing into Matthew. Rachael, right behind him, attempting to catch him, also flew into Matthew, pushing the captain into the controls. The collision forced him down on both of the joysticks. Subsequently, they started moving into the mouth of the squid, and at the same time, trying to move up against the teeth.

"Argh! Get off of me, you psycho!" Matthew exclaimed, heaving up and knocking the terrified party-goer away. "I'm trying to save us here!"

He thrust the joystick back again, and pressed the right one back a little, descending to medium level. This was a window of opportunity, for the squid had been so shocked by the jolt of it rising up so hard, as well as pressing into it so fast, that it let go of them with its mouth. The sub pulled out completely, and Matthew wasted no time in slamming the right joystick up. They pulled up so fast, the single tentacle released the chest.

"Yes! We're free, everyone!"

In the sub, sighs of relief were breathed. Violet relaxed her grip a little, but still held onto the chest. James jumped for joy (literally), and Rachael had finally tackled Mark to the floor and managed to subdue him.

"Die…die…die…" He continued chanting.

"Oh, Mark." She shook her head in disbelief as she kept her arms wrapped around him.

A couple minutes later, the three subs had all successfully docked at the barge, and the seventeen teens exited them in various ways. Most fled from the vessels, glad and lucky to be alive. One (Mark) had to be thrown out, and a few others (Louis, Ethan, and Matthew) were calm and nonchalant.

"Alright, let's see what the damage is! Team One, you actually managed to get attacked by a giant squid…and LIVED! AND got away with the chest! You guys were pretty good."

"So? Do we win?" Matthew asked eagerly.

"I'll get to that. Most of you arrived simultaneously, so I'll let another factor determine it. Now, Team Two: You managed to infiltrate an old shipwreck and retrieve your chest as well! Very good! But you didn't have to go and criticize our props department!"

"We can't help it."

Chef growled disapprovingly before continuing. "And Team Three: You were the only ones to not bring back your chest. It's clear that you guys suck, and won't be staying in first-class."

The members all hung their head, except for John and Ethan.

"Eh, I knew we'd lose anyway, eh."

"The other teams, you may open your chests and enjoy the prizes within!"

Chef then tossed two keys, one labeled "1" and the other labeled "2" to the respective teams. Matthew eagerly caught the Team One key and was quick to open their chest. The terrible smell that arose from within, sending the others on his team into a coughing fit, didn't affect him in the least. He eagerly reached in and pulled out the reward…

"A novel?"

"With…your head on it?" Violet asked.

"What is…?"

"Chef Hatchet's Published Manifesto?" They all exclaimed simultaneously.

"Oh! That's where that got to!" Chef walked up to them and pointed at the thick, orange book in Matthew's hands. "This is a fine book, it is! She'll tell you all you need to know about toughening up and facing life!"

He walked away, satisfied, leaving Matthew and his team alone with their "prize." Matthew's hands were shaking, and his eyes bulging.

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – F***! What a g****** waste of time! Stupid son of a b****! Damn that stupid Chef and his motherf****** manifesto!

End

"Uh, this key won't open our chest, Chef." Louis said plainly after jimmying the key roughly in their team's chest's lock.

"Hmm. Lemme see."

Chef analyzed the stuck key for a moment, then looked up at the front of the chest, just above the padlock, and brushed away the muck.

He and all of Team Two gasped in shock.

The chest had a big black "3" on the front.

"This is Team Three's chest! Not yours!" Chef declared. He then snatched the key away from Louis's frozen fingers, picked up the chest with one hand, and chucked it at Team Three. "Here you go, maggots!"

The chest flew and clobbered an unsuspecting Isaiah.

"ISAIAH?" Anna cried in fear.

Lavatory Confessional

Isaiah – (With a bandage wrapped around his head) That stupid Chef! He needs to watch where he throws big wooden chests, GOSH!

End

As Anna tended to Isaiah, Mary took the Team Three key Chef also tossed them and opened the chest with it. Inside, they saw none other than a massive, medium-rare rib-eye steak.

"Wow, eh! Finally the sucky challenge pays off!" John exclaimed as he snatched up the steak. "We may be staying in Loserville tonight, but we'll feast like winners!"

Mary could only smile as her boyfriend's spirits were lifted.

"Alright, enough talk! You can enjoy your prizes, but in terms of who gets first-class...it only seem fair that it goes to Team One, since they were the only team that actually won their chests for themselves!"

"OH, YEAH!" James exclaimed enthusiastically. "We won!"

"Alright!"

"Yes!

"Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!" Matthew exclaimed, sharing a hi-five with James and pumping his fists in the air. "Yes! Sweet victory! In your faces!"

"Hold up, Mr. Winner; get this: You'll all be going to tonight's elimination ceremony tonight!"

"WHAT?" Everyone exclaimed simultaneously in rage, shock, and confusion.

"Yep. But don't worry; you don't have to vote for someone in your team. You can vote for anyone, 'cause it's a free-for-all. Anyway, we'll all head on back to the Jet, and you'll have a while to make your choices."

Later…

As the Jet took off from the runway, someone was still attempting an escape.

"Augh! How am I gonna get out of here?" Eryn exclaimed to herself. She ran up against the wall, sliding her fingers up and down across the cold metal wall, feeling the surface. "There must be another entrance! For the baggage! A cargo door, or some…aha!"

Her fingers found the gap between the door and the rest of the hull. It was a massive, rectangular door sideways in the wall. Given the Jet's crappy architecture, it was already fairly detached from its hinges.

"OK! Now I just need something…something, something, something!"

Eryn started flying through various suitcases and crates, searching for something that could…

"YES! Thank you!"

A wrench, large and in good condition.

"This will be perfect!"

With that, Eryn raced over to the door, found the rivets holding it in place, and started working away on them.

"I should be out of here soon! You hear that, Jeffrey? We're gonna be free of this dark, depressing place with the rats that always steal you!"

The first rivet clanked away under the mighty wrench…

Meanwhile…

The seventeen other contestants all sat on and around the bleachers. Chef stood on the small, makeshift stage. "Alright, kids! Ya'll know how this works! I call your name, you're safe and receive a Barf Bag full of deeeeelicious airline-issued peanuts! So, without further ado, let's begin!

"The Barf Bags go to…ah, darn it."

"What?"

"I'm gonna have to refer to you all by name for this one. Darn it. I hate referring to you punks by name."

"Deal with it."

"Fine! Matthew, John, Mary, Isaiah, Anna, Lauren, Suzie, Samantha, Nicole, Violet, Louis, Rachael, and James!"

As he rattled off names, the Barf Bags went flying, where all the respective recipients caught them.

"Now…down to the four who actually received some votes!"

The remaining three all looked partially nervous. Madison's eyes widened, and she chewed her nails nervously. Jessica also had fear in her eyes and was shaking. Only Mark was relaxed, leaning back in his seat next to Rachael, a hand on hers. Ethan was fairly complex, but noticeably rapping his fingers lightly on the wooden seat next to him.

"…Jessica!"

The clumsy girl held out her hand, only for the Bag to hit her in the face. "Ow!" She cried as she fell backwards in between the wooden rows.

"And…Ethan!"

"Thank you." Ethan replied as he caught his.

"You two…an unlikely and unsuspected bottom two: Cheerful Optimist Boy, and Evil Sexist Girl."

"Bite me."

"One of you two has seen their last…well, not to mention their first and only, day in Total Drama World Tour! One of you has just joined the honorary First-Voted-Off Club! Requirement: Be the first voted off! Ain't that right, Miss Prom Queen? Napoleon?"

"I told you I'm out to redeem myself!"

"Same here!" The bandaged Isaiah shot back.

"Whatever. Now, enough chat! The final Barf Bag of the day goes to…

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…Madison!"

Almost instantly, multiple reactions went up. Several, such as Violet and Rachael, immediately protested. Louis and several others seemed more upset with Madison staying. She simply smiled smugly at them as she caught her Barf Bag.

"No!" Rachael cried, grabbing Mark's hand. The optimist himself was stunned, but it quickly turned to a smile.

"Rach…it's OK." He assured her.

"No! It's not! You've just been voted out first!"

"Yeah! This is a load of bull!" Violet agreed.

"Eh, those are the rules." Chef admitted, shrugging.

"Guys…don't worry about me." Mark said as he stood up and turned around to face the crowd. "I put up a horrible performance today, you know, almost getting us killed and stuff…I think I deserve this. Besides; I've made it far enough in both seasons. It's time for someone else to go far. Like you, babe."

"Me?" Rachael asked incredulously, tears still streaming from her eyes.

"Yeah! I've been on longer than you in both seasons so far; I know you've got what it takes to win! I'll be watching and rooting for you from…well, wherever we losers go to."

Rachael sniffed, and Mark wiped several of the tears away. "Thanks, Mark."

"No problem."

They immediately embraced, to a rise of "Aws" from the group behind them.

A few, however, rolled their eyes.

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – Voting for Mark? Eh, not an easy choice, but it was necessary. Yes, he's my friend and all, but hey; he almost cost us the game, not to mention our lives. In this show, the game is the most important thing.

Madison – All of the girls on my team were about to go berserk and vote for each other! But then someone came to us and told us to vote Optimist off. That was clearly the superior choice. Popular, funny, good at the game…except for today, of course, according to the input of one of his teammates.

James – Yeah…Sorry, man.

Ethan – I eventually found out about what Mark did in his team's submarine. I wouldn't ever want to have that on my team. I was gonna take my informant's word for it, and I knew to get a large enough group of people to vote him off. He's everything a contestant needs to win this game. He's too big of a threat otherwise, and he was bonkers in this challenge. I'm glad that my plan worked perfectly. Those dysfunctional girls were easy to sucker into voting off a nice guy like him!

But still…I received a vote. I need to stay on high alert, and try to discover who it was that voted for me. I need to remember that I've still made a bad first impression on some, and it's going to affect me.

End

Mark finally pulled away from his embrace with Rachael, and took a step back. He then looked past her at the crowd, and gave the peace sign. "Peace out, everybody!"

"Bye, Mark!"

"Happy landings!"

"Try not to die, eh."

Mark turned and walked towards Chef.

"Strap this on, kid. You've already wasted enough time as it is." Chef explained as he roughly pushed the parachute into his arms.

"Um, OK…" Mark fumbled with attaching it to his body like a backpack. "Can you, uh…just give me a second to-."

Chef responded with a swift kick to the backside, sending the unsuspecting teen flying straight through the open door, screaming the entire way down.

"Ha! I LOVE doing that!"

Mark tumbled straight down alongside the metal hull, the wall of gray rising up past him as he tumbled…

Meanwhile…

After a long period of time, a massive, rectangular metal slab was suddenly kicked from its place in the side of the Jet, with several rivets flying around it. Shorty after, a wrench followed it.

Eryn stood in the hole where the slab had been, holding Jeffrey in her hand.

"OK, JEFFREY!" She yelled over the wind, which blew her clothes and blonde hair wildly. "IT'S TIME TO MAKE A BREAK FOR IT!"

She then placed Jeffrey between her teeth and clamped down tightly (so much so that the ridges dug into her tongue), then swung out and grabbed onto the ridges above where the door had been with both hands. Her legs were blowing back towards the tail of the Jet, but Eryn held on tight.

"MK, HEFFREY!" She yelled between her teeth. "WE'RE HALMOST…"

Not even the psycho could have seen what was coming, but she felt the hard, meaty smack of something about her size, and larger weight, slam against her from above, hitting her right in the face as she tried to look up. Her cry of pain was muffled, and her hands slipped from the side of the Jet. Before she even knew what had happened, she was now free-falling.

"ACK!" Eryn screamed, attempting at a normal scream. However, the moment she opened her mouth, Jeffrey slid right in and down her throat.

"Wa-ACK! COUGH!" She coughed and gagged as he slid down, but ultimately slid past without killing her.

"ACK! JEFFREY! NO!" She cried in horrified realization, clutching her stomach worriedly. "I WILL SAVE YOU!"

She then glanced up and over herself at what had hit her: Mark.

"Oh, hey Mark!" She called happily and normally, as if they were talking over tea. "What's up?" (Author's Note: Please forgive the pun)

"Oh, nothing much. Just got eliminated, though."

"Really? You? That sucks."

"Tell me about it. Serious downer. You?"

"Oh, I've been locked in the cargo hold!"

" 'Locked'? Someone locked you in there?"

"Yeah! It was that no-good new guy, Ethan! He grabbed Jeffrey and threw him in there, then locked the trapdoor behind me!"

"Wait…so you're telling me that Ethan is evil?"

"Yep. Now, if you don't mind, could you get that thing deployed and keep us from dying?"

"Oh, right…wait, how do I work this thing?" Mark cried, starting to grow frantic as he grabbed the various strings.

"Pull the left one first, then the right."

"The left first?"

"Right."

"The right first?"

"No, the left, then the right."

"Right?"

"No! The left!"

"Wait!"

"What?"

"I just pulled them both simultaneously…and…"

He showed her the two strings he held in each of his hands; both pulled completely off of the parachute.

"Oh…"

"Well, at least we're over water, right?" Eryn asked cheerfully.

Both teens then burst into screams, one of terror and one of laughing, as they both tumbled straight down to the Pacific.

Back in the Cockpit, Chef faced the camera as he expertly flew the Jet.

"So, there you have it, folks! What a shocking double-elimination! So, where will our next destination take us? Will Ethan strike an alliance with anyone, or will his true colors ever be revealed? Find out next time, in an all-new episode of Total…Drama…World Tour!"

Votes

Matthew: Mark

Violet: Madison

Mark: Madison

Rachael: Madison

James: Mark

Lauren: Mark

Jessica: Mark

Suzie: Mark

Samantha: Mark

Madison: Mark

Louis: Madison

John: Madison

Mary: Madison

Anna: Ethan

Isaiah: Ethan

Ethan: Jessica

Nicole: Ethan

Overall:

Mark – 7

Madison – 6

Ethan – 3

Jessica – 1


Episode 2 Part 1: These Towers Are Two Tall

"Last time on Total Drama World Tour: Our contenders, after a long, two-year break, returned to the show once more, and took off on the trip of a lifetime! Eighteen passports. Destination: One million dollars!Our first stop was Hawaii! The contestants, split into three teams, had to go into small submersibles and dive into the great deep blue: The Pacific Ocean. There, they had to find the hidden treasure chests, each containing their various treasures.

"It was one heck of an adventure down there, if I do say so myself: Shipwrecks, skeletons, sharks, giant squids…and a whole lotta drama! Tensions were high, arguments and anger rose, and Optimist went psycho due to his sub-a-phobia, or whatever it's called. Thus, he earned his passport a stampin', and was sent packin'! But the real twist came when the newcomer psycho girl was locked in the cargo hold by the scheming new guy, Ethan! She managed to break out, only to be knocked right off the plane by the falling Party Boy, after yours truly had to escort him out! Both took a tumble, making last week a double elimination!

"Who will be voted off this week? Where will our challenge be? What will our challenge be? Find out right here, on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

...

Since the events of the previous week, Matthew, Violet, Rachael, and James had all been relaxing in the first-class area.

Well, some of them.

Rachael couldn't get over Mark's elimination, and was over on the sofa, still sobbing lightly into her hands. She had actually gotten better in the few days since it happened; previously, she had been crying uncontrollably. Violet had long since given up attempting to console her, and had just let her tire out. Fortunately, she had eventually resorted to venting in the Confessionals.

Cockpit Confessional

Rachael – MARK! Why? …(Sob, sniff) I just don't understand why so many people would vote you out! You were an awesome guy, and still are! (wipes away several tears) I know you want me to be strong…I remember what you said. I'll win this for both of us, I promise!

Chef Hatchet – (In the background, rubbing his forehead with one hand and sighing in exasperation) Hey, flying a plane here, girl! Give me a little slack!

Rachael – Well, you're the one who insisted on us first-class passengers having to use this Confessional instead of the other one in the first place!

Chef Hatchet – Yes, because the Lavatory is reserved for the losers down in economy-class!

Rachael – This isn't the Titanic; we don't have to separate the classes anymore!

Chef Hatchet – Not in the rest of the world! Here, it's different! Deal with it.

James – This is sweet! Winners of the first challenge, what a deal! I could get used to this!

Matthew – We had better keep winning; but if we did lose, at least it would spare more carpets from getting soaked up and ruined by Rachael's tears.

Chef Hatchet – She's staining the carpets? Aw, man! Those are hella expensive!

Matthew – I know!

Violet – This is great and all, but I still believe something's wrong with Matthew. He shouldn't be so smug about winning. It's too much to simply call team spirit like with James…

End

Matthew sat in one of the seats, reclining back and with one of the glasses in his hand, full of sizzling Dr. Pepper. James sat opposite him in a seat that was struggling to stay in one piece.

"Ah…I tell you, James. This is the life, eh?"

"You said it! I could get used to winning like this all the time!"

"Couldn't we all? Especially for the losers in the economy-class area right now. Sucks to be a loser."

"I know, right?"

Both boys shared a jolly laugh over their sick, competitive jokes. It was a moment before James introduced some sense into the situation.

"You know…you could be a little nicer to them."

"Yeah…"

"I mean, they could win, too."

"But then why didn't they? Exactly." He answered before James could respond.

"Well…"

"No wells. They lost, we won. That's all that's important." Matthew ended it with a sip of his Dr. Pepper, the glass resting between his fingers. James looked on incredulously.

Farther behind them, Violet was sitting at the conference table, playing Solitaire with a deck of cards that was already kept in the first-class area. She heard Matthew's comments and glared over at him.

Economy-class…

One contestant's screams were beyond annoying and exhausting to all of the others.

"Ugh! I'm sitting on rust! This is repulsive! I didn't get any sleep last night, or the night before that, or before that!"

But for once, someone agreed. "Tell me about it, eh. For once, I actually agree with her. I mean, this place is danker than a tank."

"John, we mustn't be so negative."

"How can we not be negative? It's been, what, three days? Three long days of staying with the rats, dripping water, and safety harnesses!"

"We can't have it all." Louis reminded him. "Besides, this is what transportation was like for the Pilgrims to Plymouth back in 1612."

"But these benches are made of plywood!" Suzie complained, rubbing her backside discontentedly.

"Not plywood, Plymouth!"

"Potty-Mouth? Who's a Potty-Mouth?"

"Argh!" Louis slapped his face in frustration.

"Not the sharpest tool in the shed." Nicole muttered, to which Louis looked at her and grinned slightly.

"Augh! How do I get out of these things? It's stuck again!"

They looked over at Jessica; she was stuck in the safety harnesses, again. One was wrapped around her torso at a slanted angle, and the other was round her neck, with her right arm bent in it, stuck between her neck and the harness.

"Oh, dear." Ethan muttered, grabbing one harness and sliding it over her arm, pulling the other off her chest.

"Thanks."

"No problem." Ethan grinned.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – I don't know who's worse: Whiny Lauren, or dim-witted pea-brain Suzie! I can't stand either of them, and could not live with being on the same team as them! I just hope that those aren't official team arrangements…

Ethan – I've got to stop being nice! Being nice is not my forte! I need to focus on forming my alliance…but that's hard to do on my team. I've got Napoleon, Animal-Lover, Goth boy who hates being here, Perfectionist, and Mute Girl. Not easy. Argh! I wish I was on that other team with all the girls! …Er, not for that reason, though! Because all of those girls are perfect sheep! They would be the perfect alliance! Maybe not a team, but definitely a good alliance for post-merge.

Mary – Yeah, our spirits are down right now…but we need to toughen up! We'll win sooner or later…right?

End

Just then, the contestants all heard the voice booming over the intercom.

"Alright, fruitcakes! Wherever you are, report to the elimination area effective immediately! Hatchet out."

"Finally!" Lauren exclaimed. "Let's get out of here!"

Like a bullet, she was out the door, with everyone else behind.

Matthew, leaning in his seat, heard the announcement and opened one eye.

"Ah. The next challenge awaits."

Matthew sat up, pulling the seat back into place, and stood up, stretching and straightening out for a few moments as James and Violet walked past. He finished off his drink and placed it on the bar, sliding his fingers along the elegant counter as he walked off.

Violet stopped and looked back, seeing Rachael still on the couch.

"Oh, dear." She hurried over to her friend. "Rachael, honey, come on. We've got to go now." She put an arm on her friend's shoulder.

"Oh…I don't know how I'm gonna do! Maybe I should just quit now to be with Mark…"

"No! That's crazy talk, Rach! Mark told you that you are going to win this, and that's what you're going to do! Now get up on your feet, and let's go win us a challenge!"

She grabbed her friend and lifted her off the couch. Rachael barely had her feet on the floor to keep herself up as Violet guided her over to the door.

A few minutes later, all sixteen contestants stood in a massive group in the elimination area, in front of the stage, with the door to their right, and bleachers to their left.

Chef stood in front of them, arms behind his back.

"Now…it's time for our second challenge! Can you believe that we've already lost two competitors in one day?"

"I'm not as surprised by the fact that we lost two people, as I am with who we lost." Violet stated with a shake of her head, still in disbelief.

"Yeah…but it makes all the more drama! See, I knew that changing the format to you guys voting again would make it better!"

"You made that choice?" James asked.

"Heck, yeah! I'm the host and co-producer now! I make a lot of the decisions, but mainly those centering directly around the show itself. And personally, I always hated the idea of the viewers voting. See, they know what goes on on-camera; i.e., the stuff that some of you guys ain't supposed to know! You know, Confessionals and stuff like that!"

Off to the side, Ethan nervously tapped his foot once on the metal floor.

"So, they could go and vote off, say…Prom Queen over here!" Chef jerked a thumb towards Lauren.

"Hey!"

"Just because she was evil when the rest of you didn't know it."

"That wouldn't be the only reason, eh." John muttered. Ethan and Mary heard, and both chuckled. Fortunately for them, Lauren didn't hear it.

"With you guys voting, you make the choices based on what you know. It can affect some of your friendships, and even relationships! More drama, more ratings!"

"What are you saying? I'm not evil! I'm a little angel!"

"You never know. With this show, anything can happen." Matthew shrugged. Lauren glared at him.

"True. Anything…hee, hee, hee…" Chef chuckled evilly.

"So what is the challenge? Where are we going?" Nicole asked, looking around.

"Oh…you'll see…you'll all see…"

"Yeah, shouldn't we be landing right about now?" Ethan asked nonchalantly.

"Oh, glad you asked that!" Chef exclaimed delightfully.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – (Once again, the confessional is empty save for Ethan) (Sigh)…I never, ever, should've asked that.

End

"You'll be landing…right now!"

Suddenly, the contestants felt the floor give out from under their feet. The whooshing of air was all they heard as everything flew up around them. Before they all knew it, they were falling through the newly-opened trapdoor. Blue sky was all around them, with a few clouds for them all to fall through, and the Jet above them was flying away, growing smaller and smaller.

"AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!"

"NOOOO!"

"HELP!"

"I CAN'T DIE LIKE THIS! I HAVE PETS!"

"It figures, eh."

"John! How can you be so…so casual?" Mary asked incredulously as they fell. She arched her body and dipped at an angle to fly closer to John.

"I knew we'd die sooner or later on this show. It's so typical. I mean, our challenges would kill regular people; we're just freaks. Besides, we've seen interns die; why can't we?"

"Hey! Who are you calling a freak, Goth Boy?" Lauren shrieked.

They both ignored the Prom Queen.

"There was no way we could know that we'd free-fall to our deaths on this show! What IS it with you?" Mary asked, now enraged with John's attitude.

"Chef is glad to be rid of us. Remember how willing he is to throw knives at people, or push people off cliffs? Now we're all gonna die, eh. And die hard."

Then, incredibly, they heard the sound. Even in mid-air, it still registered clearly.

Ding-ding!

"OH, NO!" Rose the general cry from the group of falling teens.

The Jet swooped overhead, Chef in the door with a megaphone. "Hear that, kiddies? Time for our song!"

"NOW?" Violet roared. "We're about to DIE!"

"They did it last season, ya know! You can do it, too! And, maybe, if you sing, you'll live! So just sing!"

Musical Number – Die Hard

John: Remember when we first met Chef Hatchet?

That old man thinks we're a racket

He would easily just go and kill us

Without second thoughts!

And now here we are, in the air

Our deaths, to him, will only seem fair

We really shouldn't make such a big fuss

It would be for naught!

It only makes perfect sense now

We knew he'd kill us, but the question is how?

And now, we have the answer

Drop us down to earth!

We're gonna die!

Ethan, James, Matthew, and Isaiah: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die as hard as we can!

Mary: You really shouldn't be so pessimistic!

You need to start being a little realistic

Chef wouldn't just go and kill us

It would be a total lawsuit!

Lauren: Yeah!

Maybe he's got a big cushion

Something soft for us to land in

You should start to be more serious

It would end the show to boot!

John: But you need to get a grip, woman!

There's no denying our lives will end

It's time to face the facts now and stop lying

We're gonna make a big splat!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die as hard as we can!

John: This is the end!

Goodbye, cruel world!

Ethan: This is the end!

Goodbye, good world!

James: This is the end!

Goodbye, sweet world!

Matthew: This is the end!

Goodbye, dull world!

Ethan: So here we are at the very end

That is a truth we cannot bend

I never thought it would all end this way

But I guess it will

Chef finally got sick of us

I'm so mad that I could cuss

But I am kept at bay

But still…

We are gonna die on national TV

I wish the cameras could just leave us be

'Cause this will not be very pretty

That much is for sure!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die hard!

John: We're gonna die!

Boys: Die!

Die!

Boys: Die!

All five: Die as hard as we can!

John: This is the end!

Goodbye, cruel world!

Ethan: This is the end!

Goodbye, good world!

James: This is the end!

Goodbye, sweet world!

Matthew: This is the end!

Goodbye, dull world!

John: It figures, eh.

End Musical Number

"Very good, maggots! Now, go ahead and pick up where you left off."

And with that, Chef flew off and into the clouds…literally.

The contestants immediately picked up the screaming once more, flailing and tumbling towards the ever-approaching ground. Looking down, they could now see tall buildings and streets. A city. There were even bustling groups of people below them. Soon, the peaks of most buildings had risen around them…

The sixteen teens then felt the stinging, blasting sensation of cold water as they landed. Their world became confusing and disoriented as it swirled up around them, a mix of swirling blue and muffled sounds. After struggling to find which way was up, they all popped up on the surface, gasping like fish.

"UGH! This water is below freezing! Where are we, Antarctica?"

"I thought Hell would be hotter than this…" John muttered as he poked his head above the water.

"Aren't you ever grateful?" Mary asked with disgust.

"Who cares? We're alive!" James cheered. "YES! It's good to be alive!"

"Wow…we seriously lived…I just can't believe it…" Rachael rambled.

"Falling…falling…falling…falling…falling…" Madison was repeating, cradling herself in the fetal position in the water.

"Ha! I knew that Chef would have something for us to land in!" Matthew exclaimed. "But where the heck are we?"

"I know." Isaiah muttered in shock, looking up with the most bewildered look on his face.

"Well? Spit it out!"

"Look up there…" Isaiah raised a shaky finger out of the water and pointed up. Most of the contestants followed his gaze, and similarly, their eyes widened and jaws dropped.

Farther away from them, but still towering enough for their shadow to fall on them, were two crystalline towers. They were twin towers; both exactly the same, wide at the bases and growing thinner towards the top, climaxing in pinnacle antennas. There was a skybridge between them, and the towers themselves were of a silvery color that glowed in the sun. The shadow of one was draped over the teens in the pool of water.

"Do you know what those are?" Isaiah exclaimed as he already started climbing from the pool of water, onto some nearby rocks. The others followed suit.

"I know." Matthew replied. "The Petronas Twin Towers."

"Precisely, my friend! We're in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Yes!" Isaiah pumped his fists into the air, his wet shirt clinging to his soaking body, and his hair a flattened mess. Specks of water clung to his glasses. It was quite a hilarious sight; as messed up as he was, he was still celebrating.

"What are the Twin Towers?" Suzie asked dimwittedly. "Weren't those, like, destroyed by plane-."

"NO!" Isaiah shot back quickly, interrupting her. "These Twin Towers were constructed much later." He then went into an intelligent-sounding, narrative voice. "Constructed from 1992 to 1998, these two buildings together were the tallest in the world, surpassing Chicago's Sears Tower. In 2004, they were upstaged by the Taipei 101, but still remain the third-tallest building in the world. They have approximately 88 floors and are approximately 1482.6 feet tall, or 451.9 meters. They are a popular destination for skydivers, building-climbers, and other thrill-seekers." [*]

"That's right! And you are today's thrill-seekers!"

The contestants, some still in the water and some on the perfectly-situated rocks around them, looked over as Chef walked up.

"Welcome to Malaysia! As Napoleon here pretty much already laid it all down for ya'll, there's really no need to explain any more. But he's right; today's challenge will involve these here Twin Behemoths in the sky: The Petronas Towers! These landmarks are ours to use just for this one day, and we can do whatever we want with 'em for our liking and filming…as long as no one dies."

The last comment sent nervous glances through Chef's audience.

Half an hour later…

The sixteen teens, and Chef, were standing on a large wooden platform that had been crudely and poorly attached to the antenna of the east tower. It was square, with a hole in the middle for what little remaining part of the pinnacle of the tower to go through. There were long, thick wooden beams underneath that went from the bottom of the platform into the side of the thick antennas, and did not look securely attached. Most of the contestants even swore that they could feel the platform swaying in the wind.

But that wasn't the worst part.

The contestants were all staring, wide-eyed, at the long tightrope stretching from their platform all the way to a similar, matching platform attached to the opposite antenna on the west tower. Chef stood before the tightrope, a bundle of balancing poles on the floor next to him, and the smuggest of grins on his face.

"No…way!"

"Now we're really gonna die hard!"

"My heels will never fit on that flimsy little rope!"

"I'd like to express some concern over the safety of…"

"All of your stupid questions' are answered by what you see, punks! Two huge, matching towers and a free day to have them to ourselves? You think we were gonna miss out on this? As if! So, you will be tightrope-walking from here to the other tower. You may use a balancing pole if you so wish, but be careful; the poles were expensive!"

Lavatory Confessional

Violet – Jerk.

Isaiah – Cool! Malaysia! This is awesome! I've always wanted to study the intriguing architecture of the Petronas Towers…well, now I'll get to study them, alright. In a way I never would've wanted to! Heh, heh…gulp.

Matthew – Tightrope-walking between two of the tallest buildings in the world? Bring it on!

Lauren – (One bare foot up on the sink, and a high-heel shoe in her hand) See this? This will never be able to balance on that skimpy excuse for a tightrope! I can't do this!

John – We survived falling once; let's see if there's a children's water park beneath this.

End

"Wait, Chef!"

"What is it, Drama King?"

"What are the team arrangements for this challenge? Or is this just a free-for-all?"

"Oh, yeah! I almost forgot…see, your teams are the same ones that you all picked last week!"

"Say what now?"

"You're kidding, right?"

"I just didn't tell you that those were official arrangements! Yep, your teams based on last episode's pick are the three official teams for this season! I just told you that would be a one-time arrangement so that you would be more randomly mixed, because you wouldn't care who you were with, thinkin' it was just for one day. So you could be stuck with your worst enemy, for all we know, and now you're with them for the whole season!"

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – Man. That guy is good.

End

"Now quit your whining and get with your respective teams! Take a few minutes to come up with a team name."

"This is a load of bull!" John exclaimed. "I didn't want to be on this team all season!"

"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" Mary asked angrily, putting her hands on her hips.

John quickly went on the defensive. "Ah! No, eh! I didn't mean it like that!" He then leaned closer to her. "I just can't stand Napoleon over there. He's a little creepy, eh."

"What do you…?" She looked over at Isaiah, who was leaning against the antenna of the tower. He slowly brushed his fingers along the slick metal, then sniffed his fingers. "Hm, the paint is growing a little dry."

She leaned in to John. "I see what you mean. Just try to deal with it, alright?" She gave him a quick, reassuring pat on the shoulder. "At least you're not over on that team."

She gestured over to the girls' team, where a heated debate over the name was going up.

"I'm telling you, 'Team Glamour' is the best name!" Lauren protested.

"And I'm telling you, it should be 'Team Dominance'!"

"What about Team Amazon?"

"Uh, Suzie? That name has been used already."

"I think, maybe, it should be Team-."

"SHUT UP!" The girls yelled back in Louis's face.

"And…Time's up!" Chef declared. "Team names?"

"Team Victory II!" James and Matthew simultaneously declared over on their team. "As an homage to the original Team Victory," Matthew explained, "only we will actually win more challenges, unlike those pathetic losers from last season."

"Team Madison." Madison promptly declared before the others could even say anything.

"What?"

"It's the superior choice. Trust me."

"Fair enough!" Chef declared before anyone else could protest.

Meanwhile, the members of Team Three were still torn.

"This is ridiculous!" Mary explained. "We need more time."

"How about Team Rabid?"

"Or Team Clever?"

"Just say Team Sahara and get on with it." Ethan declared.

"Team Sahara? Ooooh, that has a nice tune to it." Nicole agreed.

"Eh, it sounds good to me."

"Fine." Chef quickly interjected. "You guys are Team Sahara. OK, now that we've got all that settled, it's time to get on with the challenge. Team Victory II, you're up first. You can all choose which person goes first."

"I'm not going until you tell us what safety arrangements you've made to properly insure the non-lethality of this task." Violet declared.

"Fine. Crybaby. If you must know, you'll all have to wear these parachutes." Chef then pulled out an example, which looked exactly like the one Mark had to wear before…

"You will wear these, and if you do start to fall, deploy it to save your life. You will drift softly, slowly, and safely to the ground below. That 'safe' enough for ya?"

"Relatively."

"Good. I'm glad to hear it. Now send someone up!"

"I'll go."

Matthew approached Chef, taking the offered parachute and balancing pole, and stood at the start of the tightrope. He held out the pole, taking a few moments to position it just right. It wobbled for a moment, so he straightened it out. Behind him, Chef tapped his foot.

"Anytime…"

"I know." Matthew shot back quickly. He inhaled deeply, then took his first step onto the rope.

"Oh, I almost forgot!" Chef called after him. "The forecasts predicted winds at roughly thirty miles per hour today!"

Matthew stopped dead in his tracks, one foot on the rope, as he heard the distinctive rushing of wind kick up as if on cue. He quickly brandished the balancing pole, straightening out.

"Whoa!"

The others watched in mute astonishment as Matthew started to tilt. But he managed to pick up the balance and place his other foot on the rope carefully. He slowly took another step forward, swaying briefly. Then another step.

"Don't want to lose…don't want to lose…" He continuously muttered to himself with each step.

Before anyone else knew it, he was halfway across.

"That's it, Matthew! Don't stop!" Violet called after him.

Matthew didn't acknowledge his girlfriend, but instead simply stared straight forward, continuing to move towards the end.

"My God, he's actually doin' it!" Chef exclaimed in shock. "We thought he'd fall after the first step, especially considering how heavy that parachute must be…"

Matthew's eyes widened, and he paused suddenly. He gulped at the realization that the pack was heavy. Or maybe it only seemed to get heavier…

Matthew shook it off and continued moving, now three quarters of the way across.

He took several steps more, now finding himself just three steps from the end. Everyone was watching nervously. Matthew, with a new resolve, did the unthinkable: He dropped the balancing pole and leapt the remaining distance. However, in doing the jump, he took one foot off the rope completely to lean back, so that he would gain more momentum. However, just as his remaining foot started to lift up off the rope, a gust of wind kicked up, and the foot slipped halfway through. Thus, the jump was not nearly as high or long as he hoped it would be, and he was falling before he even began to jump.

Everyone, even Madison, gasped in shock, then horror, when they saw him start to fall past the rope.

"MATTHEW!" Violet called in fear.

Matthew's mind was racing fast, evaluating his situation in less than a millisecond. Looking up, he could see the platform's edge right there, in front of his face. Then, a moment later, it was above him, rising away from him. Only at the last second did he reach up with his right hand and manage to grab onto the edge of the wooden platform. He kicked his legs wildly as he dangled, then swung his other arm up to grab hold as well. He could hear the collected intake of breath from the others behind him. He was holding on with only his palms, but he had a solid determination. He started using his upper-body strength to lift himself up onto the weak, old wooden platform.

To everyone's immediate shock (and relief, for some), Matthew actually managed to pull himself up onto the platform completely. Almost instantly he leapt to his feet, tore the parachute off his back, and chucked it down into the chasm, where the pack fluttered to the ground below.

"YEAH! Boo-yah! How's that for determination? I just defied death! Take that Chef, and your stupid 30 mile-per-hour winds!" Matthew was jumping up and down eagerly, pumping his fists into the air.

Several of the contestants laughed at this, while Chef looked both horrified and angry. "You…you stupid, cocky little brat! You just ruined a good balancing pole and parachute! I told you to take special care of that equipment, dang it! You know what? I'm gonna automatically declare you disqualified from this challenge for that!"

"WHAT? You can't be serious!"

"I can, and I am. I'm the host; so you do whatever I tell you to!" Before the fuming Matthew could reply, Chef spun around to the others, who were mainly staring in disbelief. "I make good on my word, and that little stunt was an outrage! So that point does not count!"

Most of Team Victory II groaned in frustration, but Violet glanced back at Matthew. One millisecond of a glance at his face at that moment, and Violet never looked at Matthew the same way again.

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – (everything he says is a long string of bleeps)

Violet – (looking suspiciously at the sink, which is dented and battered severely) What could've…? Never mind. Yeah, it's Matthew. Something's seriously wrong with him. I mean, I know that what Chef did was totally unfair, but Matthew shouldn't care this much about the game. Why is he acting so competitive? I hope that I can clear this up with him soon…I never want to see his face like that ever again.

End

"OK, Team Madison; you're up next! Send over one member!"

"I'll do it." Almost instantly, the team's self-elected leader grabbed a parachute, picked up a pole, and advanced towards the rope. The various members of her team didn't know whether to be concerned or hopeful were she to fail.

Madison took a step onto the wavering rope, unfazed by the sudden rush of wind. She was just as determined as Matthew had been, but now knew what to avoid, and how to not make the same mistakes Matthew had. She swallowed nervously, then took another step forward. She slowly weighed out the balancing pole when it started to tilt. She lifted one foot up and balanced precariously. She heard a few gasps behind her. She slowly put the foot back down and took two more quick steps.

And then, quick as a wink, it happened. Madison didn't know what happened, whether she got scared, lost her balance, or if it was just the wind. All she remembered was falling to the side, the pole slipping from her hands as she started to tumble.

She could've sworn she could actually hear some cheers above her. But she had to ignore it for now. Grinding her teeth nervously, she reached to her side and felt around the parachute as the wind whistled around her. She eventually managed to find the two ropes, and quickly pulled the left one first, then the right. She could hear the whooshing sound, followed by the sharp tug as she jerked up quickly, then the feeling of resistance as her speed decreased suddenly. She grabbed onto the straps as she floated the rest of the way down.

They all watched when the white parachute finally deployed, and Madison floated down gently to the ground. They could see her hit the ground, followed by the parachute covering her. Squinting hard enough, they could see the enraged girl tear out from under the chute and look back up at them.

Chef walked over to the massive antenna at the center of the platform, where there was a small speaker attached to a long wire, similar to a typical radio. The wire ran down beneath the platform, beyond where anyone else could see it.

Chef pressed a small black button on the side and spoke into it. "Yo, girl! Can you hear me?"

He released the button, and after a moment, Madison's voice shot back up at them. "You jerks! Now I'm stuck all the way down here! What do I do now? How can I even talk to you right now? Where are you?"

"Listen up! I'm communicating with you through a small radio that's attached to your parachute pack. You probably can't see it, but you can still speak to me through it. This is how I'll communicate with you suckers down there!"

"OK, so what am I supposed to do down here?"

"Just sit tight! We'll send our helicopter down to pick you up and take you up to the platform that you were heading for! Oh, and by the way, you didn't score any points for your team."

"Oh, gee, ya think? I'm pretty sure I had that figured out for myself!"

"I know. I just like reminding you of your failures."

"Why you stupid little-."

Chef quickly pressed down on the button on his speaker again, cutting off Madison's rude message.

"OK, so while she's getting picked up, it's time for Team Sahara to send someone over!"

A few seconds passed, and no one said a word. After a moment, however, Isaiah buffed out his chest, trying to look manly and tough, and boldly said, "I'll do it!"

He walked over and took the parachute Chef handed him. Isaiah studied it for a moment, a confused look on his face.

"Wait…so there's actually a radio in here?"

"That's what I said, smart one!"

"So…that's the reason you want us to take such good care of them?"

"Yep."

"And it's why you disqualified Matthew for ruining it?"

"Bingo."

"Oh, yeah, sure!" Matthew yelled across the chasm. "Now you tell me!"

"Shut up, kid!" Chef yelled back. "I'm still mad at you! Just zip it and watch!"

Chef then grabbed the nearest pole and handed it to Isaiah, who had just finished putting on the parachute. However, the moment Chef placed the pole in Isaiah's hands, he almost instantly buckled under its weight.

"Augh! Gosh, how heavy is this thing?"

"It's not that heavy!" Matthew yelled across. "I was able to carry it across! Madison was able to carry it across! So you should be just fine!"

But Isaiah still wasn't convinced. Several of the others truly knew that it was too much for his weak, skimpy frame. His knees were shaking, and he was already sweating.

"Isaiah…you can't do this." Anna told him immediately.

"No! I can! It's been one of my dreams to see this fascinating architecture; what better way to really get closer to it than putting your life on a tightrope walk between them?"

"Isaiah…that doesn't make much sense."

"I don't care! I'm doing-."

At that moment, Isaiah started to take the first step onto the rope. However, he missed the rope completely, as he wasn't even looking where he was going. His deep, raspy scream immediately followed as he tumbled down. As far as the others could tell, he wasn't making any effort to deploy his parachute. And one girl in particular noticed this instantly.

"ISAIAH!" Anna screamed down after him. Without even thinking, she jumped after him, much to everyone's shock.

"Wow…now there's an obsessive fangirl." John muttered.

Chef actually had a brief bit of concern in his eyes. However, the contestants soon found out why.

"Aw, man! She can't die! She's one of the newbies! Newbies are major drama-bringers, and we've already lost one!"

Down below, Anna was dipping down to fly closer to Isaiah, who was still panicking and screaming wildly, flailing his arms and legs.

"ISAIAH! DEPLOY YOUR PARACHUTE!"

"How?"

"Like this!"

Anna then reached over and grabbed the two strings one each side of his parachute. She pulled the left one first, then the right. The white chute shot up, jerking them both up briefly. Anna grabbed onto Isaiah for dear life, since she wasn't attached to the parachute like he was.

"Anna, what are you doing? Why did you jump down after me?"

Anna, still clinging tightly to Isaiah awkwardly, answered. "I could see that you were too panicked to deploy the parachute. I didn't want to watch you die."

"How did you know that…"

"It says on your online bio that there have been multiple significant instances in your life where you could've solved the problem with the slightest bit of common sense, or the answer was staring right at you, but you were too panicked to think."

"Really? Like what?"

"Well, there was the time that you started a fire in your school's chemistry lab when you were a sophomore, and you happened to be at the desk right next to the fire extinguisher. But you were so scared you didn't know what to do, and you got a burn in the second degree on your right arm."

"Uh…that's…right. How did you…?"

"Like I said, your online bio."

"But…I've seen my online bio; it's not that detailed."

"Oh…well, maybe it was the bio in your own fan club on the Internet, which I happen to be the President and founder of."

"Oh…huh."

Lavatory Confessional

Isaiah – It was cool of Anna to save me like that…but how does she know so much about my personal life? That incident scarred me forever; and there weren't even many people around when it happened, since it happened right in the middle of sick season! It was kept away from all the papers, and everyone else swore they'd never say anything about it! How did she know all of that stuff about me? Oh, God…I hope she's not a…(gulps nervously) Sierra-type.

Anna – Yeah, maybe I creeped Isaiah out a little back there. I really should tone it down a notch. It's a good thing I didn't mention the time that his aunt's cat attacked him, and on the counter next to him was a box of fresh cat nip, but he instead simply ran around the house until there were scratches all over his face. Or this one other time where-.

End

The two members of Team Sahara finally fluttered down to the ground, landing near where Madison was. The parachute fell on top of them, and they both fumbled around a moment before Isaiah tossed it off. Much to his surprise, Anna was still clinging to him.

"Uh…Anna? You can let go now."

"Huh? Oh! Sorry." She quickly let go of him, and Isaiah brushed himself off.

"Enjoy your flight, lovebirds?"

"What? We're not lovebirds! Gosh!"

"Yeah! And besides, you shouldn't be making fun of animals as cute as lovebirds! Have you ever seen one?"

"You think all animals are cute, weirdo."

"For your information-."

The argument was cut short when a massive thumping approached them, kicking up wind and drowning out all other sounds. The three teens, shielding their eyes, turned around as the familiar, red and yellow-striped bubble helicopter slowly touched down. A fairly well-built intern, about five-six, with long blonde hair, blue shorts, and a white, sleeveless shirt, was piloting it.

"Hello, kids!" He yelled over a speaker in the helicopter. "I'm Carl, the intern who's in charge of taking you back up to the top of the tower!"

"Carl, huh? Fine." Madison mumbled quickly.

She climbed into the cockpit next to the friendly intern, who smiled.

"Enjoy the trip down?"

"Bite me."

"No, I wasn't being sarcastic! Really; it's a thrill to parachute down. At least, on this show, if you're not doing it after being eliminated. It's kind of an adrenaline rush."

"Maybe, but it also means I lost the challenge! Just get me out of here!"

"Wait! What about us?" Anna called to him.

"Yeah! There's not enough room for all four of us!" Isaiah agreed.

"Oh, you can just grab onto the landing struts! And hang on tight!"

"That's encouraging." Isaiah muttered.

"Hey, at least we do get a ride back up." Anna replied.

"But what if we let go?"

"Just hang onto me! I've got a strong grip!"

Isaiah raised an eyebrow. He opened his mouth to speak, but Anna was already sitting on the landing strut, grabbing on tightly. "Come on! You don't want to be left behind, do you? Do you?"

"Ugh. Fine."

Isaiah walked over and sat down next to her. His still-sweating palms gripped the metal strut tightly, so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.

The helicopter slowly started to lift up, and there was a brief jerking motion that nearly made Isaiah fall over. He felt a hand grip his shoulder and pull him back up.

"Whoa! Uh…thanks, again, Anna."

"I told you; hang on tighter!"

"Alright, fine! Gosh!" He squeezed the struts even harder, his fingernails digging into his palms as they were wrapped completely around the metal pole. By now, they were well above the ground, at least by eighty feet. The sleek, shiny, metal and glass facade of the East Tower rising up past them…

Meanwhile…

Chef's radio crackled, and he picked it up and pressed the button. "Hatchet here. What is it, Carl? Over."

"I've got the three kids and am heading up. Over."

"Roger that. You know where to drop them off. Over."

"Yes, sir. I do. But one question, sir? Over."

"What might that be? Over."

"Do we have to keep saying 'Over' like this? Over."

"YES! We do! Because I happen to LIKE saying it! And you will too! Over!"

"Copy that, sir. Over and out."

As Chef placed the radio back in his pocket, he turned back to the contestants.

"OK, so here's the rundown as of this point: Even though that animal-lover girl didn't even get her turn yet…we're just gonna go ahead and say that her jumping off like that counts as falling off, so neither her nor Napoleon scored any points for Team Sahara. So, as of right now, four people have gone, and no points are on the board yet. Team Victory II, you're up next! Send over another member!"

After a few long moments, Violet slowly stepped forward. Without a word, she donned the parachute, grabbed the pole, and stood before the long rope.

"That's it, Violet! You can do this!" Rachael called encouragingly.

"Yeah! Go Violet!" James added.

"Don't screw this up, Violet!" Matthew yelled over. "I could do it, so you can, too!"

Violet took a deep breath, then slowly stepped onto the rope. She seemed to do surprisingly well, as her steps were long, quick, swift, and graceful. Once or twice, she started to stumble. But ultimately, she made it across without any long pauses.

"And with that, High-IQ scores the first point! Team Victory II now has one point, while the others have zilch!"

"YES! That's what I'm talking about!" Matthew cheered. "Nice work, Violet!"

"Thank you. It was actually pretty exhilarating."

"OK. Team Madison: Your turn again!"

All of the members refused to even say anything. Everyone took a step back…except for a certain cell-phone-a-holic.

"Ah! And Cell Phone Girl steps up to the plate!"

Samantha didn't even move.

"Samantha! Go!" Jessica encouraged.

Samantha barely lifted her head as she walked right over. With one hand still texting, she reached down with the other and picked up a parachute. She put it on, and resumed her texting. She then started walking right down the middle of the rope with no pole.

Everyone gasped incredulously.

"No pole?"

"She's nuts!"

"She's not even looking where she's going!"

"She's dead."

Samantha continued her dull, unfazed walk across the swaying rope. She was just at the point of no return, the dead center of the rope, when the unthinkable happened. The wind kicked up, and the small screen of her phone, with her forming messages on it, froze. Samantha did the exact same, stopping dead in her tracks. The screen shook for a moment, lines of thick static stretching across it. Then, a white box appeared, with two cursed words in it.

"No…service?" She squeaked.

"Samantha! Why'd you stop?"

"What's wrong?"

She repeated the last two words again, in a drastically different tone.

"NO…SERVICE! I've gotta get off this stupid rope!"

And, with that, she let herself lean to one side and fall off the rope. The moment her feet left the rope and she started free-falling, the whit box disappeared, and a smile returned to her face.

"Ah! That's better."

She then resumed texting.

"HEY! PSYCHO GIRL!" Chef called down to her. "YOUR PARACHUTE!"

With one hand, she pulled the left string first, then the right. She already had her other hand back on the phone by the time the chute was fully deployed.

As she floated down, eyes never straying from her phone, Chef shook his head. "Kids and their toys these days…OK, so Team Madison is down two players with zero points. Team Sahara, you're next! And you better make good with this next one; you've also lost two players."

"Game on." Mary said firmly as she walked over.

"Are you sure you can do this, eh? I never pictured you as the physical type." John admitted.

Mary, parachute strapped on and pole in hand, turned to her boyfriend. "Oh, really? Watch and learn."

She then began to walk across the rope. John actually raised an eyebrow at how quickly she was moving, and how agile she seemed. He couldn't help but crack a brief smile.

Lavatory Confessional

John – Man! That girl never ceases to amaze me. That's what I love about her; she's so many different things in one person! She can be an intelligent-talking, perfectionist type one second, and then the world's greatest tightrope-walker the next!

End

John, as well as the other various members of Team Sahara, watched in astonishment as Mary reached the halfway point in under thirty seconds. However, she started to sway nervously when the wind was kicking up, much more powerfully than before. She barely managed to keep both feet on the rope, to the point where it was swaying wildly.

"You call these winds thirty miles per hour?" She called back to Chef.

Just then, the real source of the "wind" arrived: The helicopter, with Madison, Isaiah, Anna, and Carl all onboard. Its propellers sent strong gusts against Mary and the rope.

"No! No! Stop!" Mary yelled helplessly, moments before she finally lost her footing.

John watched in fear as his girlfriend fell, then sighed with relief when he saw her parachute deploy. As she fluttered safely down, he leaned over to Ethan.

"I didn't learn anything, eh. Did you?"

"Besides how to fall off a rope? Nope." Ethan replied. Both boys snickered.

"And with the perfectionist's tumble, Team Sahara still has zero, with three people down, and three to go! Next up is Team Victory II…again. Either friendly girl or chubby has to go."

"Oh! I'll do it! This'll be fun!"

James, with all of his enthusiasm, failed to notice the general chorus of snickers and giggles behind him.

"Er…actually, on second thought, I dunno about that, kid. Maybe you should just sit this one out."

"No way! I want to have fun, and prove that I can do this! Just gimme a chute and a pole!"

Chef sighed. "Fine. It's your funeral."

James strapped on the pack, raised the pole, and then started charging towards the rope.

"COWABUNGA!"

Lavatory Confessional

John – That James isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, eh.

Lauren – Was there any way at all for us to not see what was coming?

Rachael – Poor James. His enthusiasm just got the better of him.

End

Almost instantly, James' cry of "Cowabunga" transitioned into a long, hi-pitched scream of pain. He had missed the rope with his first step and fell…only for the rope to be caught between his legs.

Everyone behind him cringed as he continued to scream in pain, which eventually turned to moaning as he slowly bent over.

"The pain…the pain…"

"Hm. He didn't break the rope! Isn't that a mirac-."

Just then, there was a loud snapping sound, and the rope gave way. James immediately plummeted straight to earth, barely managing to reach up with one hand to pull both strings, one after the other, and deploy his parachute. James was still groaning in pain and clutching where it hurt when he landed.

"O…K…that looked like it really hurt." Chef stated. Most of the contestants could only nod, still staring down incredulously.

"Well, uh, we've gotta fix the rope right now…so just talk amongst yourselves until we get this whole thing sorted out. And just a rundown: The score is now one to zero to zero, Team Victory II's favor. Team Victory II is down to only one person, while Team Madison is down to four people, and Team Sahara has three people left." Chef then turned to the cameraman. "Will someone else actually be able to score another point, or will they all fail miserably and take the tumble? Which team will win this challenge, and which teams won't? Find out right after this!"

After a moment, the cameraman lifted up his head. "And…we're good."

"Good! Now get on the horn with Carl!" He tossed the radio to the cameraman. "And tell him that he needs to get his little birdie up here so that someone can properly fix the rope! Tell him to pick up the other kids first."

Several of the girls started conversing almost instantly, forming their own little tight huddle.

"There's no way in the name of fashion that I can do this! My heels won't get a good grip! And what if one falls off? These cost, like, three hundred dollars!" Lauren complained again.

"Where'd you get them?" Jessica asked, looking down at the fancy shoes in fascination.

"They were a birthday present from my mom. I never asked where she got them, because I don't care. I consider them to be my seventeenth finest pair, after the other sixteen: Three that are fine brown leather with studded diamonds, two that are a ruby red, one that's fine Egyptian cotton…"

"Oh! Egyptian cotton is so cool! I have a blanket made of that, and it's so comfy!"

"I have curtains, towels, and two pairs of socks made out of it!"

"I wonder what the difference is between Egyptian cotton and regular cotton, anyway?"

"Well, duh! It's from Egypt!"

"So…why don't we just call our own cotton American cotton?"

Louis, off to the side, groaned. Even though he didn't have to be near them, he couldn't escape their loud, high-pitched, excited voices and nonstop chatter; the platform was too small, and their conversation easily dominated over all others. Louis walked over to the antenna and started banging his head repeatedly against the metal.

Meanwhile, a certain redhead was off to the side. He happened to notice Louis's dismay over the girls' nonstop, irrelevant, and annoying chatter.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – So, they go from talking about hi-heels…to talking about different names of cotton. And I'm stuck with this, for an entire season. I'm going to go nuts! I seriously…cannot stand this! Just the very thought of it…it…ARGH! (starts banging his head against the sink repeatedly)

Violet – (staring at the sink and scratching her head) Is it just me…or is this thing even more banged-up than it was before?

End

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out; Louis is the only guy on that team, and he can't stand the girls that he's with. Similarly, I can't stand the team I'm with due to hardly any of the members being worthy, or willing, of an alliance. So, of course, I was willing to lend a hand in a way that would benefit both of us.

End

As Louis was banging his head, Ethan silently strode up to him. Louis wasn't even aware of the redhead's presence until he heard the clearing of a throat.

The Drama King stopped the head-banging and looked up.

"What do you want? Can't you see I'm kind of busy right now?"

"I couldn't help but notice your…ah, predicament. I'm willing to help you out."

"Ha! The only way you can help me out at this point is if you either throw me off this building, or…"

"Offered to switch teams?"

Louis perked up instantly. "You…seriously would?"

"Yes. I have much more patience with annoying girls. After all, I have three younger sisters."

"Wow! That would be awesome of you, dude!" Louis exclaimed eagerly.

"No problem. Now, we just need to get Chef over here…"

Both boys suddenly gasped in shock when the huge man was already there, towering over them.

"I couldn't help but overhearing your little chat. What's all this about swapping teams? I don't usually allow something this irregular."

"No! Please, man! I'm begging you! I have to get off this team!" Louis pleaded.

"And why should I be nice to you?"

Almost instantly, Ethan took a firm hold of Chef's arm and dragged off to the side, away from everyone else. With unbelievable strength, he yanked Chef's huge head down to his own, and leaned in so that his mouth was next to Chef's ear in an instant.

"Listen closely, Major Pain. You've heard my Confessionals; you know what I'm up to. I told you that I could bring serious ratings to this show. If you know what's good for you, and the show, you'll allow this swap. Trust me; me mixed in with those girls will make for some big drama. More than you can imagine. It will draw in ratings like a magnet. So just let me and Louis switch, or else you'll regret it."

He released Chef, who stood back up. Ordinarily, the mountain of a man would've been enraged at being treated like such, but he took Ethan's words into consideration. He tapped his chin in thought for a moment, reflecting on all the promises that Ethan had made in the Confessional since the season began…

"OK, deal! You two can switch!"

"SERIOUSLY? YES! THANK YOU!" Louis cheered enthusiastically, jumping up and down like a giddy school boy. He turned towards Team Sahara almost instantly, and greeted them with open arms (literally).

"Hello, my new team!"

"And hello, Team Madison." Ethan said with a confident smile as he approached them.

Meanwhile, across the chasm, everyone else (at that point, consisting of Matthew, Violet, James, Samantha, Madison, Mary, Anna, and Isaiah) could also hear the exchange, mainly due to Louis's loud and enthusiastic cheers. And a certain someone was not pleased with the swap.

Lavatory Confessional

Madison – Rats. I cannot believe that Chef actually allowed this! I didn't mind having that Louis on my team, but this guy? There's something about him…I'm sure most of us still have his arrival well in mind. I have a feeling that he's up to something. And in this game, you always trust your gut.

Louis – YES! The miracle that I was praying for all this time! The universe ISN'T out to get me! YES! Thank you, Ethan!

End

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Is this a good team? Pfft. No. But, is it a potential strong, post-merge alliance? Yes. And besides; I'm confident that many challenges this season won't involve completely physical challenges, like today's. And if it is a challenge that mainly focuses on determination, mental strength, or psyche, then I'll be sure to motivate this team enough to win it, or at least avoid having to send someone home. That's the advantage to there being three different possible outcomes for a team in each challenge this season. You either win it, lose it, or lose it and have to boot someone. Overall, it's a fairly clever strategy, but one that balances on a lot of "ifs." Still, I'm confident in succeeding. Nothing will stop me.

End

"And we're on in four…three…two…!" The cameraman silently pointed at Chef, the sign that they were rolling.

"And welcome back to Total Drama World Tour! We've finally managed to get the rope fixed, and we're ready to pick up where we left off! But first, I need to inform you all of something very important: During the commercial break, I decided to allow two of these punks to switch teams! That's right, being the kind and courteous gentleman I am, I agreed to let Louis move over to Team Sahara, and Ethan to Team Madison! So…yeah. Nothing really different for either team; still just another guy on each team, and it won't affect their status in the challenge…yet. So it's Team Madison's turn, once again!"

Chef turned to the team, now consisting of only Lauren, Jessica, Suzie, and Ethan.

"Send someone up!"

"I'll do it." Jessica said, with a look of firm determination on her face.

"Oh, boy." Ethan mumbled, rolling his eyes.

Jessica walked up, oblivious to the snickers and chuckles behind her as she took her parachute and pole. The moment she walked off, Chef burst into a laughing fit.

"Oh, man! This is gonna be just as good as when Fat Boy did it!"

Jessica raised the pole and took a step…

…only to miss the rope.

The same basic routine: She fell and screamed for a short while before she deployed her parachute. As she started to fall, she could only do one thing: Curse herself for doing it again all while free-falling for several hundred feet.

"NO! DARN IT DARN IT DARN IT DARN IT DARN IT!"

Lavatory Confessional

Jessica – (Nearly sobbing) I can't stand it! I want to prove to people that I'm not a klutz! Everyone remembers me as "Clumsy Girl," or "Klutzy," or "Miss Three Left Feet" on this show! I'm sick of it! Oh, I wish there was a way I could redeem myself!

End

"And with the Klutz's fall, Team Madison is down to three! Team Sahara is up next!"

Without a single word, John stepped forward, snatched a parachute, put it on, and walked up to the rope.

"Wait up, kid! You forgot your pole!" Chef said to him, holding out one of the balancing poles.

John simply turned and looked back with a grin. "Watch me, eh."

And with that, John did the same thing that Samantha did: He walked right out onto the rope, no balancing pole save for his own two arms.

Once again, there was a rise of gasps behind him.

"He's dead."

Across the way, all of those who had either made it across or failed watch with incredulous looks, even Madison and Matthew had to raise their eyebrows. Mary watched with a fearful look, eyes wide. She was nearly to the point where she was about to start biting her fingernails.

But John remained completely nonchalant and casual as he walked across, his movements swift, synchronized, and perfect. Whenever the rope swayed, he swayed with it. He slowed down when the winds really kicked up, then picked up the pace once they died down. He maintained his dull look, eyes straight ahead and locked on the end.

Then, before anyone else knew it, he was at the end. He nonchalantly removed the parachute and dropped it at his feet.

After a moment of pause for it to sink in, there was a burst of cheers from both sides, even from rival teams, in congratulations to his incredible feat. Mary immediately ran up to him and hugged him.

"John! That was amazing! No pole or anything! That was just…incredible!"

"I'll say!" Isaiah agreed. "That was awesome! That was reminiscent of the great French tightrope-walker Philippe Petit!" [1]

"It was nothing, eh. Really."

"And, for once, a point has finally been scored again!" Chef declared. "Team Sahara is now on the board, and tied with Team Victory II for the lead, with one each! Team Madison is still in the dust with zero!"

This earned more cheers from the two tied teams, and glares from the members of the losing team.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – (Wiping sweat off his brow) Phew! Did you see that? MAN, am I glad that I made that switch! Not only with the multiple failures on my old team, but now someone actually scores a point for this team? As incredibly as John did! This was the best choice ever! Hello, first-class!

End

"OK, so Team Sahara still has two members left! Team Madison has only three. So, Team Victory II…or should I say, the only remaining member of Team Victory II? You're up!"

Rachael swallowed nervously and closed her eyes.

Remember what Mark said…I can do this. I can do this…

She slowly approached Chef and grabbed a parachute, followed by the balancing pole. She approached the rope.

All the members of Team Victory II across the way watched nervously as she paused, closing her eyes, sighing, saying a quick, final prayer in her mind. She slowly opened her eyes and took a step. She gasped as she seemed to hang in midair for a second…then realized that she had stepped onto the rope. One foot was ahead of the other, and she was holding the balancing pole just right.

Not daring to look down, she took another step forward, then another. Before she knew what she was doing, she was going at a remarkable, considerably fast pace. Even John raised a stunned eyebrow at the sight.

And then she was on the other side.

There was a long pause before the eruption of applause.

"And with that, all members of Team Victory II have crossed, with half of them actually making it! Their final score is 2!"

"Rach, that was amazing!" Violet congratulated her friend.

"Thanks…I don't know what happened." She replied, clearly amazed at herself and still maintaining a calm demeanor. "I just got out there and…did it."

"Well, you just keep 'doing it' like you did, and we'll win!" Matthew said, albeit curtly, but encouragingly nonetheless.

"Time for Team Madison! Who's up?"

"I'll do it!" Suzie said.

She ran up and snatched one of the poles and parachutes. She held the pole in one hand, dragging it along the wooden platform, and the parachute in the other, holding it by one of its straps.

"Wait…how do I put this parachute on again?"

"Like a backpack." Ethan said to her, rolling his eyes.

"Ugh. I hate school."

Then, before she knew it, she was falling; as she had been walking along while talking, looking at the parachute in confusion, without even looking where she was going.

Ethan simply facepalmed as she fell, screaming, before the parachute deployed.

"O…K…" The stunned Hatchet slowly stuttered. "I…guess that counts. Team Sahara…you're next."

"I'll go…if you don't mind?" Louis said to Nicole. "If you want to go first, it's…"

"No, no. Please do."

"Alright."

Louis casually approached Chef, donned the parachute, and accepted the pole.

"Don't worry; I had to do something similar for a play I was in."

"Except that was probably no more than ten feet off the ground!" Lauren shot back. "This is over 1,000 feet, you idiot!"

"All in good time. It's just a matter of balance and precision. In fact, the very thought of losing your balance is in the mind. You just distribute your weight evenly, and before you know it, you're…"

And then, he was on the other side.

"…across." He gave the remaining three a sly smile, having crossed the long rope while finishing that conversation, and not even faltering in his balance or speed.

"Whoa." Nicole murmured.

"The score is tied once again! Team Sahara and Team Victory II both have two points, and the former still has one member to go. Team Madison, or should I call ya, Team Failure, you'd better pick up the pace and send someone up! If one more person fails, you automatically lose this first challenge. So, who's it gonna be?"

"I nominate Lauren." Ethan said nonchalantly.

"What? No!" She cried back in protest. "I nominate Ethan!"

"One of you's gotta go. And when you gotta go, you gotta-."

"OK, shut up." Ethan hissed. He then turned to the prom queen, grabbed a handful of her hundreds of earrings, and yanked her close.

"Ow!"

"Shut up and listen to me. You said you want to redeem your poor performance last time, right?"

"Right, I guess. Quit pulling on me!"

"Shut up and keep it down. Now, you want to last farther, right?"

"Duh!"

"So, if you want to do that, you'll have to prove yourself a worthy teammate. To do that, you must do…this…challenge. Capiche?"

"I…I guess so."

"Good." He then released her earrings. "Now get up there and show them who's boss!" He yelled in an encouraging, enthusiastic voice. "You can do this, Lauren!"

She glared back at him as she approached the rope, taking the balancing pole and parachute.

"I told you, I can't do this in my hi-heels!"

"Then take 'em off, girl!" Chef muttered, clearly as annoyed as everyone else there.

She hesitated for a moment, then slowly reached down and removed one boot, then the other. Tossing the overpriced brown boots aside, she approached the rope in her bare feet.

"You don't even wear socks?" Louis asked in slight disbelief.

"Well duh! Socks are so lame and overrated."

And with that, she took the first step onto the rope. She swayed briefly, but maintained her footing, whimpering and nearly sobbing before she even began. When the other foot left the safety of the platform and touched down on the rope, all of her weight rested on that rope.

And that was not comfortable for her bare feet.

"Oh…ow! Ow, ow! Augh! This thing's digging into my feet!"

"Just ignore the pain and focus on the game! You can do this!"

"Oh…"

She lifted one foot and took another step, with the platform still at an arm's length away.

"Ow…OW!" She cried with a fourth step, as she accidentally shifted all of her weight onto that foot, and dug it into the rope.

"AUGH! I can't do this anymore!" She then tossed the pole into the air and started to pivot on her left foot, thus scraping its sole hard against the rope, which resulted in a…

"BURN!" Lauren screamed as she jumped back towards the platform. However, at the moment she pressed off of the rope, the balancing pole came back down and impacted right on her head, thus cutting off her jump. She practically fell straight down, with only one hand managing to grab onto the edge. But even then, such a loose grip (with only three fingers and the top half of her palm) didn't hold well, and her hand slipped right off.

As she plummeted, her scream was cut off by the deployment of her parachute. She jerked once, then started to fall slowly. And the first thing she did after saving her own life…

"What? A plain old white parachute? Couldn't you afford a polyester-cotton pink parachute like my cousin has?"

Lavatory Confessional

Lauren: (holding both feet up on the seat with her and rocking back and forth in pain like a baby) Never…physical…challenges…again.

End

"And that settles it for Team Madison! Even if your final member, Ethan, were to cross now, there'd be no way you could win. It's now down to Team Sahara and Team Victory II. The fate of this tie rests with one person."

"After you, Nicole." Ethan said with a sly smile.

But Nicole was anything but willing to go. "Oh, I don't know…"

"I'm sure you'll do fine. At least better than Samantha, Jessica, James, Suzie, and Lauren did."

"But…I…"

"Your online profile says you're a cheerleader; thus, you must have some athletic abilities, correct?"

"Well…yes…"

Lavatory Confessional

Nicole: OK, so when I was a freshman, I tried out for the gymnastics team. I failed the qualification test. I was devastated; it had been my dream as a little girl to be a gymnast in high school. So, for the rest of the year and the next year, I practiced twice a day, with my own courses and routines set up, ready to try again. But, in the meantime, I was at least able to become a cheerleader, which still involved some athletic abilities and was a way of perfecting my gymnastic skills. Before I could try again, I auditioned for this show. Let's hope all that practice pays off. Heh, heh…(gulp).

End

Nicole, with the parachute on, slowly approached the rope. Chef held out one of the poles.

She didn't take it.

For a few long moments, she simply stood there, staring at the long, impossible rope before her. Chef grew impatient.

"Anytime, girl! You gonna take your pole, or not?"

Nicole then slowly turned her back on the rope, and those across the chasm. She was facing the only person left: Ethan.

She sighed, took a deep breath, slowly exhaled it, then closed her eyes.

Several more moments.

Then she leapt into the air backwards, flipping around and landing on her hands just at the edge of the platform, before the rope. She took a millisecond to orient herself and where the rope was before shoving off into the air again. She flipped again and landed on her feet, both side-by-side, perfectly on the rope. She didn't hesitate to continue leaping up, flipping, landing on her hands, then jumping again, landing on her feet even further ahead on the rope, and so on.

By the time she finished her incredible routine, and landed on the other side, perfectly flat on her feet, all jaws had slammed to the floor.

Lavatory Confessional

Violet: (Wide-eyed and jaw dropped)

Mary: (Wide-eyed and jaw dropped)

Chef Hatchet: (Wide-eyed and jaw dropped)

John: (Wide-eyed and jaw dropped)

Isaiah: (Wide-eyed and jaw dropped)

Samantha: (Still texting)

End

"Oh…my…God."

Then the rupture of applause from all sides, even from rival teammates. If Nicole even heard any of it, she didn't acknowledge it. She just stood there, her head down and breathing heavily, as if she was still at the starting line and nervous to begin. After a few moments, she looked up at the crowd congratulating her, and a smile slowly formed on her face.

Lavatory Confessional

Nicole: I guess all those years of practice did pay off, even though I didn't get on the team.

Louis: Wow. Did you see that? I mean, seriously! That was one of the greatest physical feats I've ever seen! Risking life and limb by doing a bunch of backflips on a rope, over a thousand feet in the air with no balancing pole? I mean, yeah, she had a parachute on…but still! That girl is nuts. In the good way.

End

"Team Sahara wins the first challenge!"

The six members of Team Sahara all loudly cheered their team's name and joined together in a six-way hi-five.

"They have won the advantage for the second half of the challenge. Whichever team loses this time will be sending someone home." Chef then turned to the camera. "Which team will win this time? Which will semi-lose? And which team will have to boot one of their own? Find out next time, on…Total…Drama…World Tour!"


Episode 2 Part 2: Para-wailing

Following the wrap-up of the first challenge, the contestants had all gathered on the platform on top of the East Tower. Some were still hurting from the previous challenge. Especially James, who was still clutching his aching groin.

"The pain…I'm never tightrope-walking again…owie."

"Really, my friend, you should be more grateful that you're even alive. After all, you did break the rope." Ethan commented.

"You shouldn't be talking, redhead." Madison growled. "You were the only one who didn't even do the freaking walk!"

"It's not that I didn't do it, it's that there was no point in me doing it. After Lauren fell, we had already lost."

"Still…" Madison started, then slowly quieted down when she realized it was a losing battle.

Lavatory Confessional

Madison – That guy thinks he can fool me, but he can't! He weaseled his way out of doing that challenge, and I know it!

End

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Could I have won the challenge if I had to do it? Yes. Definitely. I am more skilled than one such as Madison may think. But I knew that there was no way that Lauren could do it. So, I spared myself from having to make the meaningless effort with the old "ladies first" trick.

End

"Alright, worms! Enough complainin'! Now here's the deal: Your second task for today is parasailing! One famous recreational activity that draws many people to these towers is leaping off the top of 'em, deploying some parachute thing, and trying to reach a marked area on the ground, without splattin'."

"Parasailing." Louis summarized in one word.

"Exactly. Your task will be similar to that. Each of you must jump, one by one, off this platform, and deploy your parasail. You will have to steer, jerk, and twist this way and that to try to land in the target area."

Chef gestured down to the ground below them. On the massive plaza below, there was an orange circle with a diameter of about 100 feet, with a barely-visible red dot in the middle, which was no more than 10 feet across.

"That's your objective. The closer you are to the bull's eye, the more likely your team is to win. The team whose member is closest to the center by the time everyone's jumped will win Invincibility from tonight's vote. That leaves the other two teams. Whichever one of those teams whose member is the second-closest to the bull's eye will get second place: You don't win first-class, but you don't have to boot someone. And then, of course, ya'll know what that'll mean for the team that comes in dead last."

Chef chuckled wickedly, which sent nervous glances around among the cast.

"No way am I doing that!" Isaiah instantly exclaimed. "I enjoy being here, I really do. Tightrope-walking is one thing, but jumping off this majestic piece of architecture is something else! Don't you know what happened to Pierre Pascal?"

"Who?" Nicole asked.

"A famous French base-jumper who attempted to do what we're doing now for a similar competition. He jumped off, and a sudden gust of wind caught him during his descent and slammed him into the face of the tower, like WHAM!"

Isaiah capitalized on the sound effect in his last word with a swipe of his fist through the air.

"Upon impacting into the façade of this grand building, the lines of his parachute were tangled up, resulting in the parachute itself becoming a big mess of a bundle. And, of course, when the parachute is all bunched up, it no longer slows your descent, and simply becomes more dead weight."

He dramatically let the implication sink in before he added the finishing sentence.

"So, needless to say, he plummeted straight to the ground, and…"

"Yikes." Nicole said with genuine fear in her eyes.

"I know. And it's true." [1]

"Well, I don't care about no fancy-pants Frenchie base-jumper years ago! I care that you kids do this challenge NOW, and don't chicken out because some mime couldn't do it!" Chef declared.

Chef paused a moment to enjoy the fruits of his effort: The contestants all cowering at his outburst.

With a grin, he continued. "Now, for winning the first challenge, Team Sahara wins the special advantage. Wherever each of your members may land, you automatically get 30 feet cut off of your overall distance from the center of the bull's eye. That should really help you if you're, like, 40 feet off or something."

"But what if one of them lands only 20 feet away or something like that?" Madison asked with concern.

"Well, in that case, we simply halve that distance. We don't want them to win by landing less than 30 feet away. Again; whoever hits the bull's eye, and I don't mean within the 30 feet in the middle, I mean the center! The smack-dab middle of the whole thing! Whoever lands there instantly wins the challenge for their team, regardless of how many people are left."

"Alright, fine!" Matthew said quickly. "Now let's just get on with this already! We wasted enough time with each and every person doing the tightrope walk!"

"True that, whiner, true that." Chef agreed. "And you are right; we're taking up too much time for one half-hour show. So we've decided to, as always, add a twist!"

Lavatory Confessional

Violet – On this show, hearing that word "twist," you instantly get a chill up your spine.

Nicole – "Twist" has "death" written all over it.

Isaiah – With this show, saying "twist" is another way of saying…

Nicole – Or maybe it's "lethal."

Isaiah – "Maim."

Nicole – Or "Emergency Room."

Isaiah – Or "life insurance."

End

"The twist is this: All of those who actually made it across the tightrope do not get to participate in the base-jumping challenge!"

"What?" John exclaimed.

"That's not fair!" Violet agreed.

"Hey, life ain't fair sometimes! And you know what I do when life ain't fair?"

He paused, daring someone to respond.

"I SUCK IT UP AND DEAL WITH IT!"

After most of the contestants recovered, got back to their feet, or removed their hands from their ears, he continued. "So, IQ Girl, Crybaby Girl, Goth Boy, Silent Girl, Romeo, and Whiner don't get do it."

"Fine. As long as I get to do it; I'll crush the competition!" Matthew exclaimed.

"Who do you think 'Whiner' is, smart one?"

"What? But I didn't score the point! You specifically altered the rules and declared my crossing invalid just because I dropped your stupid pole!"

"I didn't say all those who scored the point; I said all those who crossed it. Period."

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – (Tearing around the inside of the Confessional, bashing his fists into the walls, the toilet seat, the sink, and everything he says is bleeped)

End

Matthew gritted his teeth hard, face turning red, fists balled so hard his knuckles were white like a polar bear in a blizzard. Chef ignored this and continued.

"So, besides those six, the other ten of you are candidates to win this task for your team. So get to it! This time, however, the order in which each team goes will be decided based on how many members of each team are eligible to go. In this case, Team Madison has the most, with every player on their team able to do the challenge. So they'll go first. Send someone up!"

"Let me do it." Madison immediately stepped forward before anyone could object. She took one of the parasails from Chef and put it on. She looked down at the target area, pausing for a brief moment as she realized how great of a fall it was, and this time, she had to jump off.

Then, before she knew what she was doing, she had stepped off and was falling.

Madison regained her confidence as she was freely falling, the air whooshing past her. She quickly deployed her parasail when she neared the halfway mark of the tower. It shot out and extended to its full length, rippling in the wind as it did so. She kept her eyes locked on the target area below her, angling it to steer her more towards the center. She approached the ground ever so slowly.

"Come on…come on. Give me the victory!"

Just then, she could feel the parasail give in to the gust of wind that slammed her just then. It yanked her up a few feet and sent her spiraling to one side.

"What? No, no! Stop!"

She tried regaining control, but to no avail. The wind was sending her dancing around like a puppet.

Back on the platform, Chef chuckled in amusement. "Thank Mother Nature for keeping those winds consistent!"

Madison continued failing to regain control, and before she knew it, she had hit the ground, skidding along for a bit before she collapsed, the parasail crumbling to the ground in front of her.

She slowly started to stand, but before she could do anything further, she felt someone rush up to her. Carl, the intern who had piloted the helicopter. She noticed that he was holding six flags under his arm, each one on a small, one-foot tall pole, and the flags themselves were pink. Each one had the name of one of their team members written on it.

"Stop! Don't move!"

"Ugh. What is it?"

"I need to record your spot, your distance from the bull's eye."

And, with that, he took the flag with Madison's name on it and shoved it into the rubber that the target area was made of. He then pulled out a retractable, mechanical ruler and measured it. Madison looked down at the flag, then at the incredibly long line of measuring tape.

Then, after reaching the dead center of the bull's eye, Carl did a quick mental calculation, his lips moving as he spoke silently to himself. He then whipped out the walkie-talkie and said quickly into it, "Forty-two feet! Repeat, forty-two feet and seven inches from the bull's eye!"

The voice of Chef Hatchet crackled back, "Alright, got the first score. And what a terrible score it is, too! That girl sucks."

"Hey!" Madison yelled.

Back at the platform, Chef switched off the walkie-talkie and quickly jotted the score down on a chalkboard that had been placed on the antenna of the East Tower. There were three vertical columns on it, one reading "Team Madison," one saying "Team Sahara" and the third saying "Team Victory II." In each column were the names of every single member of the respective teams. Next to Madison's name under the Team Madison column, Chef wrote "42 ft."

"Alright, who's next?"

After a few moments of silence, Jessica approached.

"Oh, boy." Chef muttered as he handed her the parasail.

She approached nervously, at first reluctant to do the challenge. As she accepted the parasail and started to put it on, she glanced back at the others, checking to see if anyone was watching her.

Samantha was still texting. Mary and Anna were talking, as were Louis and Nicole, Rachael and Violet, Isaiah and John, and Matthew and James. Ethan was sitting down, a hand on his chin, contemplating something. Lauren was doing her nails. Suzie was staring ahead blankly, not really focused on what was going on. She knew that they were simply ignoring her because they knew what the outcome would be. They knew that she was just the klutz who could never do any-.

Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted when a tremendous force slammed into her backside, sending her flying off the edge. She didn't even realize until much later that Chef had kicked her off due to his growing impatience. By the time she realized this, she was already too close to the ground for comfort. She quickly fumbled with the pack, pulling the strings to deploy. The parasail burst from the pack and extended, moments before she reached the ground. Her fall was halted, and she scraped against the ground fairly roughly, but not nearly as hard as it would've been had she been just two seconds short.

By the time she stood up again and regained her senses, she realized one horrible thing: She wasn't even on the target area. She had fallen straight down so long, that by the time she deployed her parasail, she was still barely alongside the tower and quite far from the target zone further ahead.

Needless to say, when Carl approached her, he took one look at where she was standing, and didn't even both measuring it, but simply placed a flag where Jessica stood, then radioed up to Chef.

Chef didn't need to be told, and didn't hold back his laughing fit.

"Ahha-ha-ha-ha! That girl didn't even reach the target area! What a miserable failure! Oh, yeah… OK, so, hopefully, your other members will do better! Who's next up?"

Samantha stepped forward, never deviating from her cell phone for even an instant. She took the pack, put it on, and dully walked right off the platform. She was even texting as she free-fell for several seconds. Then, after sending her message, she used one hand to pull the string and deploy the parasail. She then resumed texting.

Everyone could only watch in shock and disbelief as she basically just hung there, texting away, and letting the wind carry her wherever it so pleased.

"Humph. That stupid girl." Chef muttered. "She's just gonna blow right over-."

Just then, she landed.

In the target area. Not too far from the bull's eye.

"Well, I'll be! She ain't that far!"

Down below, Carl immediately placed a flag where she was (not hard to do, considering that she was too preoccupied to move anyway), then measured the distance.

With wide eyes, Carl quickly yanked out the radio and reported, "Twenty-one feet!"

"Twenty-one feet?" Chef repeated. "Well I'll be! Not bad for a cell phone-obsessed girl. Next!"

"No way am I doing that!" Lauren immediately whined. "It's bad enough that I have to actually jump off, but the landing could break my high-heels!"

"Oh, good! A volunteer!" Chef declared.

"What? NO!"

Suddenly, she felt a tug on her long, dangly earring that yanked her head back.

"Ow!"

"Listen up, Lindsay Lohan. You may not want to do this challenge. You may not want to risk breaking your high-heels. You don't want to break a nail, or lose a ring, or scratch your earring. I know your kind, so don't begin to say 'But.' But you do want to win, right? You said yourself that you want to prove that you can win this time, right?"

"…Well, yeah…"

"Well, you're not gonna prove anything to anyone unless you get your little butt into the game and actually try to win. Not everything is going to be handed to you on a silver platter. You're not at home anymore, alright?"

"…Al…alright."

"So do it." He then released her earring and gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "If you please."

With a glance back at the redhead boy who had just given her the pep talk of her life, she slowly turned back towards Chef and started to approach him, removing the parasail from his stiff, unmoving hand as he, and everyone else on the platform, stared at Ethan with a look of shock and disbelief.

Lavatory Confessional

Violet – Well, I guess my respect for the new boy just went up several notches.

Isaiah – Man! Did you see that? Did you hear that? That guy Ethan was incredible! It's time someone finally told her off!

Matthew – As angry as I am right now, I have to admit; that was absolutely hilarious!

'End

Lauren put on the parasail and, without another word, leapt off the platform. Once her feet left the solid platform, however, she once again did what she was best at: Using her high-pitched vocal chords. Her scream rang loudly all the way down, even somewhat after she pulled the chords and deployed the parasail, heading down and whirling around once to land approximately 32 feet from the bull's eye.

After that, it was down to only two members of Team Madison: Suzie and Ethan.

"Alright, who's next?"

"After you, Suzie." Ethan said politely, along with a gesture.

"Sure, Edward. But, uh, how do I do this again?"

"Oh…it's easy." With a sinister grin, Ethan slowly escorted her over to the edge and took a pack from Chef. "See, all you have to do is put this on like this…"

He started to apply the pack as a demonstration.

"And then, you-WAUGH!"

Before he could continue, a large boot connected with his backside and sent him tumbling over the edge. Soon, a particular large host man was on the floor laughing.

"Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-HA! Man, that never gets old!"

When met with glares and shocked expressions, he immediately went on the defensive.

"Hey, no one ever said who was officially the next one up, eh? He just put on the pack and stood right at the edge, so that was good enough for me."

Ethan, caught off-guard, continued tumbling down alongside the face of the building, trying to get his bearing back. He finished slipping one arm through the other strap of the pack, securing it firmly to his body. He then reached behind him and pulled the chords. The parasail shot out, fluttering in the wind, and sent him on an angled descent…

…slamming right into the face of the building.

All of the others up on the platform, even Chef, cringed at the impact far below.

"See! See, I knew it would happen!" Isaiah exclaimed. "Just like Pierre Pascal! I knew it would happen to somebody!"

The crumpled parasail started tumbling down with Ethan, who rolled around and tried to fix the lines as he fell freely through the air.

"Come on! No, twist! Argh!" He jerked and yanked, spinning some around and tangling some up even more.

Then, just ten feet from the ground, he managed to fix it. The last of the lines untangled, and the parasail ballooned up to its full extent just in time. He glided for a second before he skidded along the ground, stopping inches from the border of the target area.

When Carl radioed up the report, Chef had to gather all of his self-control to avoid another uncontrollable laughing fit. "Not even in the ring. Another automatic disqualification from the challenge. That leaves only you, girl."

After a few moments of silence, Suzie looked around her, then pointed a finger at herself. "Me?"

"No, Marilyn Monroe. Yes, you!"

"Oh, Marilyn Monroe! Cool!"

"Just get up here, take a parasail, and go."

Suzie approached, scratching her head as she tried hard to remember what it was that Ethan had tried to tell her.

"OK, so I put it on like this…"

She started to slip it on.

"Then, I…I what?"

She turned around to ask the others this question, and, in doing so, had her back to the edge. At that moment, another powerful gust kicked up. It was enough to knock the relatively light girl right off the edge.

"What the…noooooo!"

As she tumbled through the air, she slowly turned around to put her back to the building rising up past her. As she fell, she felt around frantically for the chords on each side of the pack. Finally finding them, she said aloud, "Wait…what do I do with thes-."

At that moment, she pulled them out to get a better view of them, and deployed the parasail.

After a shudder and a brief scare, she found herself in control of the parasail. She turned it once, aiming more towards the bull's eye, before she landed.

Carl ran up with the measuring tape and flag.

"She hit at 52 feet away, sir. Over." Carl reported as he placed the Suzie flag into the ground.

"Hey, Cam? Can you at least help get this big parachute off me and get these lines untangled?"

"Sorry, girl." Carl replied with a smile. "My job here is to record the distances, report them to Chef, and put the flags in place. Besides, you're a smart girl. I'm sure you can figure it out."

And with that, he walked off.

"So, with the closest record of 21 feet, courtesy of Cell Phone Girl, Team Madison is currently in the lead. Team Sahara, you're up! And remember, ya'll have an advantage this time: Half distance of whatever you get. So, who's up?"

"Advantage or not, there's no way that I'm doing that!" Isaiah declared.

"Why not, Isaiah?" Anna asked worriedly.

"Because, as I said happened to Pierre Pascal, and as we all just saw happen to Ethan, there's no way that I'm doing this!"

"Aw, come on." Mary encouraged. "You're one of the only ones that can even do it for this team! You've got to try, and try hard!"

Ding-ding!

"What?" John asked, stunned. "But we already did a musical number!"

"I know, but this here is a musical reprise. Same tune, different lyrics. And this is to insure that everyone who didn't sing in the first one does sing this time. 'Cause ya'll remember what happens to those who don't sing."

Chef's grin and chuckle served as a grim reminder of that fact.

"Ah, they forgot that rule completely last time." Matthew reminded them all, particularly Chef. "Why should we have to worry this time?"

"Because, unlike my predecessor, I have a long memory. A long memory. Now, besides all of the boys, Perfectionist, and Prom Queen down there, everybody else has to sing this time! Now let's cut the talk and get to the music!"

Musical Reprise – Try Hard

Mary: Remember when we first started today's task?

Ethan asked why he bothered to ask

Even though the answer was obvious

That Chef would drop us!

And after we all fell through the air

And when you found out just exactly where

We had landed, you were so joyous

So now don't make a fuss!

And you were so excited to be here

So now don't go weakling on us, dear

Because now that we are all here now

You're doing this task!

You've gotta try!

Violet, Rachael, Nicole, Madison, Suzie, Jessica, Samantha: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Mary: You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Mary: You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Mary: You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try as hard as you can!

(Mary puts on the parasail and leaps over the edge)

Anna: No one knows this place better than you

And there is one thing you have to do

And that is to jump off of this here edge

And land on the bull's eye!

And I know that you must be really scared

But all of the tempers that have flared

Would make you want to jump off of this here ledge

And this is why!

Because if we win today's challenge

The prize that we get is worth the cringe

And if we really are the victors

It's first class all the way!

You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Anna: You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Anna: You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Anna: You've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try as hard as you can!

(Anna puts on the parasail and jumps off)

Isaiah: So here I am at the very edge

This task we must do is really full-fledged

Injury or death to all those who fail it!

Just like that Pierre Pascal

But now that I really must do it

There's no point in throwing a fit

Not even the slightest, smallest, little bit

Time to face it all!

There is no way to wonder now

Why I'd ever do this or how?

'Cause now my team really, really needs me

And I can't let them down!

I've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Isaiah: I've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Isaiah: I've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

All: Try hard!

Isaiah: I've gotta try!

Girls: Try!

Try!

Girls: Try!

Isaiah: Try as hard as I can!

All: Try as hard as you can! Yeah!

(Isaiah puts on the parasail and jumps off, cheering)

End Musical Reprise

"OK, now that all the singing's over, let's tally up the results of Team Sahara. Perfectionist landed…42 feet from the bull's eye. So, taking off 30 feet off, she's got only twelve feet, which is the new record! Animal Lover landed…53 feet away, so we trim it down to 26 feet."

"But 26 feet isn't half of 53! Technically, it should be 26.5." Matthew protested.

"Yeah? Well we don't care about all them little numbers like that, so you can zip it! So, as for Napoleon…he landed…"

Chef snickered.

"…Ninety-nine feet from the bull's eye! Ha! He sucks!"

"Ninety-nine feet?" John exclaimed. "That's, like, right on the edge, eh!"

"Exactly."

"But…but…"

Meanwhile…

Down below, following the report by Carl, Isaiah, met with the glare of Mary, grinned sheepishly and shrugged.

"Hey…at least I tried, right? Heh, heh…gulp."

Meanwhile…

Back up on the platform, John facepalmed himself.

"Alright, so the current high score is for Team Sahara, with 12 feet. Team Victory II, which is really only Chubby here, you're up! You gotta beat that girl's score if you wanna win this challenge!"

With that, James nervously approached. He paused for a moment as he faced Chef, with one of the backpacks, similar to the original parachutes, outstretched for him. James slowly reached out for it and took it with a trembling hand. Strapping it on, he looked back at his team. Violet and Rachael gave him the thumbs-up, and Matthew was also giving a hand gesture as well…only this one was directed at Chef, who wasn't looking at that moment, and was a rather rude gesture.

James slowly turned back to the edge of the platform. He leaned over and looked down at the massive target area below him.

He took a final, deep breath. He knew that it all came down to him now. This jump, this performance would decide whether or not his team survived another week, or if one more of them would be voted off. He had to at least beat Mary's score to earn first place for his team, or at least get somewhere in between Mary's and Samantha's scores for second place.

He turned towards the others and walked away from the edge. Another inhalation.

Then he turned around sharply and, without a bit of hesitation, charged forward.

"I'm not gonna wimp out this time!" He declared as he ran forward, bounding over the edge. As he continued to move forward, he started to descend. Just when his forward projection was almost completely zero, he deployed the parasail. In a moment, his descent was slowed significantly, and he was moving down towards the ground at an angle, drawing closer to the ground and the target.

As he drew closer, he started to drift off to the side.

"No…come on…" He started jerking the ropes of his parasail to the side so that he would turn more to the left.

"Closer…closer…."

Just then, a gust of air hit him, swooping him right up and rippling through the parasail, causing it to puff up like a balloon as it fully absorbed the air.

"No! Must…get…closer…"

But the wind continued lifting him up higher, raising him farther up above the ground. He looked down and saw that he was now on a direct course for the bull's eye.

Except that it was nearly fifty feet below him, with ten feet between him and it.

He grabbed onto the strings with both hands and pulled them tight, straightening it out. At the same instant, he tried to throw his body down and have the weight pull against the wind.

At that moment, his weight did contribute…

…to the ropes breaking.

The ropes all snapped at once, in perfect unison. The snapping was followed by the three-second long, high-pitched scream, and then the loud thud as he slammed into the ground, burying himself within a foot of the earth's crust.

Everyone, both on the platform and on the ground, cringed again with a collective, "Oooooh."

Carl nervously approached the hole and looked down into it. The back of the large teen looked back up at him, a soft groaning coming from within.

Carl swallowed nervously, then looked up from where James had landed: Right in the center of the bull's eye.

He held up the radio.

"Uh, Chef sir?"

"Yeah, Carl?"

"I think he's alright. And I think you can see where he landed from up there."

"I sure can!" Chef then let go of the button and whirled around to face the others. "Wouldn't you know it? Chubby broke the strings, and landed right in the smack-dab middle of the bull's eye! Team Victory II wins!"

A cheer arose from the other three members. Hi-fives and hugs were exchanged, as all of the other contestants hung their heads in defeat.

"And, with the second-highest score, Team Sahara comes in second. And ya'll know what that means for Team Madison?"

But all members of the aforementioned team were not there. The six of them stood around James's crater, along with Carl, Mary, Anna, and Isaiah. Carl's radio buzzed, and Chef's voice repeated the results into it for everyone to hear.

"Sorry, wimpies over on Team Madison! Looks like you're gonna be sending someone home…tonight. See ya'll back on the Jet!"

Later…

In the aftermath of the task, James had been taken to the infirmary with nothing but a dozen cuts, scrapes, and bruises, along with a black eye and broken nose. He lied down on the couch in first class (which noticeably bent heavily under his weight) as Rachael attended to him.

Down in the over-crowded economy-class, the mood was dark and heavy. Especially for the six unfortunate members of Team Madison.

After a long, awkward silence, Jessica, tracing one finger around in circles on the wooden bench, said to Samantha and Lauren sitting next to her, "So…who do we vote off tonight?"

Samantha, naturally, didn't respond. Lauren returned a simple shrug. Jessica nodded and resumed with her finger-tracing.

The other three members were out and about around economy-class. Madison was sitting in the cafeteria, brooding over her team's loss and the stupidity of her teammates. Suzie was off making a Confessional. But one certain redheaded boy was nowhere to be seen.

Lavatory Confessional

Suzie – So, nobody's told me who we're voting tonight. I really don't know who to vote for. But I think that I need to stick with Marilyn. She is the team captain, after all. She probably knows what's best for-

(The door opens slightly, and a small piece of paper flies through the crack, landing on the sink in front of Suzie. The door quickly shuts again.)

Suzie – Huh? What's this? (She picks up the paper and reads what is written on one side.) "Vote for me tonight, Suzie. Trust me. It is all part of the plan. Signed…Madison." Huh! Well, I don't know who this "Madison" is, but I guess she wants us to vote for her tonight. And this has to be from her. I mean, it clearly says "Signed, Madison." OK, well, I guess I know who I'm voting for tonight!

End

Jessica and Lauren finally decided to leave the dank, dripping, and silent economy-class area and head into the cafeteria. As they walked along, Jessica repeated her earlier question.

"So, who should we vote for tonight? We can't just sit around and wait for something to happen."

"I know, I know." Lauren replied. "Normally, I wouldn't want to talk to you lower people, but I have to agree with you. And besides, I think that you and I are really on the front lines tonight."

"Really?" Jessica's eyes widened. "Why would you say that?"

"Well, look at the facts. I, being the highly-acclaimed and prestigious woman that I am, already have plenty of money. And people know that. They just can't handle my level of class. And you…"

"…are a klutz." Jessica finished.

"Very good, darling! But you see? We both have a reason for being voted off."

At that moment, they walked into the cafeteria.

"Look, there's Madison." Lauren gestured. "Let's ask her."

"Why?"

"Duh. She's clearly the leader of the team. And she's not stupid, like Suzie. She knows what she's doing. Come on, let's see what she thinks."

They approached the brooding blonde, who lifted her head up at the sight of her two teammates.

"Before you say anything, I know that you're here to ask about who I think we should boot tonight, right?"

"Ye…yes. That's right." Jessica replied. She and Lauren slowly slid into two seats opposite the table from their team's self-proclaimed captain.

"Well, if you truly want my intellectually superior opinion, then I want that stupid Suzie gone."

"Suzie? Why Suzie?"

"Well, look at her! She's dumber than a lamppost. That could really cost us in more mental challenges, or she could go and give away any strategies we may have. She's clearly a weaker player, and has to go."

"You're sure?" Lauren asked.

"Look, just stay with me during this game, and I can guarantee that the three of us will be going to the merge."

"Promise?" Jessica asked.

With a roll of her eyes, Madison replied, "Yes, I promise."

With that, the two girls got up and walked away, leaving Madison alone once again. She rested her head in her hands once more and stared at the wall, contemplating what she had just told them. What she had just planned. And what she was still yet to do.

As she looked off into space, she was unaware of a pair of eyes watching her from the other end of the cafeteria hall. The person's eyebrows furrowed as he evaluated the conversation the three girls had just had, and he slowly vanished into the shadows.

Later; 25 minutes to Barf Bag Ceremony

A certain texting girl had not moved from that same spot since they first arrived back at the Jet, and no one dared to sit next to her, for fear of going crazy from the rapid click-clacking of the keys, the beeps, the ringtones, and the loud vibrating sounds.

But, after a while, someone took full advantage of the relative distance between her and everyone else, and slid over next to her. The person leaned in close to her, whispering in her ear.

"Hey. Vote for Klutzy Girl over there tonight, got it?" The person said blankly with a gesture at the nearby Jessica, sitting several feet away and gazing thoughtfully out the window.

Samantha continued texting. There was a pause. A beep. Then more texting.

"Hey, did you hear me? She's too clumsy, and could cost us a serious physical challenge. Just vote for her, alright?"

A vibration. More texting.

"Hello? Are you listening to me?" The person hissed. She feared her whispering getting too loud, and enough for others to hear, but was truly losing her patience with Samantha.

"Am I getting through to you?"

A brief pause. Samantha shifted ever so subtly, and resumed texting.

"Ugh! Forget it." And with that, Madison threw her arms up, got up off the wooden seat, and stormed out. Samantha never even budged.

About ten minutes later…

After sitting on that wooden bench for almost several hours straight, Samantha finally got up, her eyes still locked on the small, handheld device, and walked off into the hall towards the Confessional. As she entered the Confessional, someone was watching her from behind the pink, torn, raggedy curtain.

Lavatory Confessional

Samantha – (As she is texting) I just needed a quieter, more confined place for me to do my texting. That's all.

(Cell phone beeps)

Huh? A text from an unknown number? Hmm…it says, "Vote Madison." That's all. Hmph. Well, whoever it is, they've just taken full advantage of the one surefire way to get a message to me. And I've got to give them credit for that.

End

From behind the same curtain, just a spitting distance from the closed door of the Lavatory Confessional, a certain someone slowly closed their cell phone and twirled it around casually in their hands, a sinister grin on their face.

Only two more to go. The person thought with a slight chuckle.

Later; 10 minutes to Barf Bag Ceremony

As Jessica was leaning up against the cold, hard, wet metal wall, in a fruitless attempt to get some good rest before the elimination, her only male teammate walked up to her.

"Having a nice nap, Jessica?" He said politely, with a genuine smile on his face.

"Ugh. Not really."

"Oh, good. Then I'm sure I won't be intruding onto your tight schedule too much. May I please speak with you?"

"Uh, sure." Jessica slowly started to lift herself up, wincing as her back ached in the process.

"Allow me." Ethan carefully took hold of her hand and slowly lifted her up, just in the right way so that her back didn't hurt as he did it.

"Thanks."

"No problem."

Ethan led her down the hall, through the cafeteria, and into the elimination area. It sat completely dark, awaiting use in just ten minutes. The many large tiki statues had their eyes on the two teens as they entered. The bright orange curtain on the stage at the far end was the most luminescent thing in the room as it reflected some of the light from the cafeteria.

"Yeah? What is it, Ethan?"

"I'm sure that you, uh, spoke with Madison earlier today? You know, after the challenge?"

"Um, yes I did."

"I thought so. Was it just you and her, or was anyone else involved?"

"Well, Lauren was with me."

"Ah. And what exactly did she tell you? No need for me to ask what you spoke about; we all know what's on everyone's mind right now."

Jessica swallowed nervously, knowing now that he knew exactly what their conversation was about. She found herself wondering why she was so nervous about telling him when it didn't even involve him.

"She…said to vote for Suzie tonight."

"Suzie? Why her?"

"That's exactly what I asked her. She said it's because Suzie's…well, uh…"

"Not the sharpest knife in the rack?"

"Well…yes."

"I thought so."

"And Madison said that could cost us future challenges."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Look, I understand that you look up to Madison, being the person that the team is named after and all, but you must learn to think for yourself. Which is exactly why you should understand who we really need to vote for tonight."

"Who's that?"

"Madison."

Jessica was taken aback, and shuddered briefly at the thought. "Oh, no. We can't do that. She's…she…we need…"

"No, she's only making you think that you need her. She's trying to brainwash you all into becoming her cronies. Her minions. Her empty-minded, fully dependent drones."

"Cronies? I'm not a crony!"

"Exactly. You want to be your own person, right?"

"Of course!"

"Then join me in voting for Madison. Trust me; it will be the best choice you make tonight."

"But what if she isn't…?"

"Oh, she'll be voted out. Don't you worry about that, my friend." Ethan smiled, his white teeth gleaming in the darkness like the Cheshire Cat. "I've already convinced several others to do the same. Trust me." He put a hand on her shoulder. Its unseen presence in the dark felt cold and clammy, and not too reassuring. "It will all go according to plan."

"Oh…OK. If you say so."

"You won't regret this. I promise."

And with that, the feeling of his hand dropped off her shoulder. It took her a few moments to realize that he had already disappeared into the darkness. She swallowed nervously.

Barf Bag Ceremony

The six members of Team Madison all sat on the old, wooden bleachers in the elimination area. Chef stood on the stage nearby, with the platter of Barf Bags on a small pedestal in front of him.

"Alright, Team Madison weaklings! You've all cast your votes, and the decision has been made! When I call your name, get ready to catch your disgusting, grimy, vomit-filled Bag with equally disgusting and poorly-priced peanuts within, because you're safe! Now, the first Barf Bag goes to…Lauren!"

"Yes!" The prom queen cheered, only for the Bag to hit her in the stomach. "Ow! Watch where you're throwing that thing!"

"Samantha!"

The texting girl barely noticed as the Bag hit her in the shoulder.

"Ethan."

Ethan smirked and held out a hand, which caught the Barf Bag before it could hit him in the face. Ethan pulled the Bag closer to him and, as he started eating the peanuts one by one, he winked at Chef. Chef scowled back before continuing.

"Anyway. Next is…Jessica!"

The klutz breathed a sigh of relief, only for the Bag to hit her in the face and send her toppling back behind the seat.

"Two of you are left! Madison, the girl that this team is named after. And Suzie, the stupidest person ever to compete on this show!"

The redheaded girl looked around at the others before she pointed a finger at herself. "Me?"

"Both of you received some votes against ya. But, in the end, one received more than the other. Tonight, the final Barf Bag goes to…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…Suzie!"

"Who?" The Barf Bag then hit her in the chest. "Ouch." She groaned, arms wrapping around herself.

"WHAT?" Madison roared, jumping to her feet. "You fools voted for me? Me? ME? Your team leader! The person your team bears the same name as! The person who is smarter than any of you, always has been smarter than any of you, and always will be smarter than any of you? How could you? Oh, I promise you all, this is the biggest mistake you have ever made! And when I find out who voted for me, I'll-."

As most of the others on the bleachers cowered in fear at Madison's explosive tirade, a large hand mercifully wrapped around her mouth, with the other stuffing a parachute in here hand. Then the same hand that was around her mouth proceeded to give her one powerful shove that lifted her off her feet and sent her flying right through the open door. As she fell away, everyone could barely hear the receding scream.

"NOOOOOOOooooooo…"

It grew fainter and fainter until there was no scream left to be heard.

As several others sat up, either from their cowering or recovering from being hit by Chef's Barf Bags, one member was fully satisfied by the result.

Cockpit Confessional

Chef – (At the controls) That was some ceremony, eh?

Ethan – You said it, my good host friend. (Turns to the camera) I knew that it would all work out. I'm sure that all of you watching back home saw most of my tricks on camera. That's good, because I want my fans to become fully aware of how I operate. I don't use force, or persuasion, or threats. I use clever little tricks. Taking advantage of Suzie's stupidity was child's play. Sending a text message to Samantha wasn't so hard. But you've got to be a real smooth-talker like me if you want to do something like convince Jessica by playing nice. Or, maybe a little more than nice, if you know what I mean.

Chef – What about Prissy Fit Girl?

Ethan – I had a feeling that she wouldn't be one to listen to me after how I treated her during the challenge. I felt it best to just stay away from her. Besides, by that point, I had convinced everybody else on the team except for her and Madison, so there was really no point in trying to convince her as well. If not for the sole purpose of it being a true landslide victory. That can be good, and definitely feels good. But in my opinion, as long as you get the job done, even by the slightest hair's width, then that's good enough.

Chef – You, kid, are brilliant!

Ethan – I know, I know. There's a new guy in town. And he's going all the way to the end!

End

"Now we have a real competitor!" Chef declared to the camera facing him in the cockpit. "How will Ethan handle his team of ditzy girls now that he has total control over them? Will Chubby be able to get back in the game and face another life-threatening challenge? And will we ever find out what the deal is with Whiner Boy? Find out next time, on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

Voting Confessionals

Ethan – (Holds up Madison's passport with a smug grin, and stamps it). Once upon a time, you were a formidable competitor. But you have lost your touch, and it's time for someone else to take your place. Farewell, my fellow strategist.

Suzie – Well, you asked me to vote for you, so…(stamps Madison's passport). Good luck with your plan!

Lauren – Madison is right. Suzie's an idiot. That could be even more of a disadvantage than Jessica's clumsiness. (Stamps Suzie's passport)

Madison – (Stamps Suzie's passport) Like I said…dumber than a lamppost.

Samantha – (Still texting with one hand, grabs the stamp with the other hand and stamps Madison's passport)

Jessica – (Biting her fingernails nervously as she glances between Suzie's passport and Madison's passport) Oh…what do I do…what do I do? The logics that both of them used were really good…Madison is the team leader…But there's something about Ethan that just seems so…so…correct! (Quickly stamps Madison's passport) Oh, I hope this doesn't come back to haunt me! (Runs out of the Confessional)

Voting Results

Ethan – Madison

Suzie – Madison

Lauren – Suzie

Madison – Suzie

Samantha – Madison

Jessica – Madison

Total Votes

Madison – 4

Suzie – 2


Episode 3 Part 1: How do You Spell Mississippi?

"Last time, on Total Drama World Tour: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here, our contestants got to familiarize themselves with some of the local architecture, by tightrope walkin' and parasailing off the top! There were falls, there were failures, there were even some flat-out drops, smacks, and rope-burns to the crotch!

"Some of the highlights include: Newcomer Ethan giving Prom Queen the pep talk of her life; the first season winner throwing fits and getting cocky and abrasive; and an incredible win by Chubby to claim victory for Team Victory II for the second week going!

"That night, Ethan worked fast, quietly, and efficiently to organize a coup to eliminate the team's self-proclaimed leader, the sexist Madison. She was given the boot, and swore to make the others pay…even though she didn't get a chance, heh-heh.

"Now, we're three down, fifteen to go. Last time, you strapped on your safety harnesses and made a prayer before taking a leap of faith. Now, put on your poncho and don't get seasick, 'cause we're going through our own kind of water park! Who will win? Who will lose? And who will be the next voted out? Find out here, on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

...

Matthew was reclining in one of the luxurious first-class seats, with a glass of Dr. Pepper in the cup holder.

"Ah…this is the life, eh pal?"

"Sure is, dude!" An equally relaxed James replied.

Just then, the stewardess approached.

"Cookies?" She asked politely, with a platter of chocolate chip cookies.

"Don't mind if I do." Matthew then proceeded to grab an armful and start casually eating them, switching between the soda and the cookies.

"Man, winning feels good. And it's all thanks to you, my good friend." Matthew complimented.

"Why thank you. Say, could I, uh, borrow one of those?"

"Sorry. You're gonna have to get your own."

"OK. Hey, miss! Wait up!" James instantly jumped out of his seat and started after the stewardess.

Meanwhile…

Economy-class, just one level below, was overcrowded again. The five members of Team Madison and the six members of Team Sahara still sat uncomfortably on the wooden seats. Even Lauren was too tired to complain.

However, one person was not at all upset about the terrible accommodations. She was far too scared from the previous elimination ceremony. Jessica was still shaking from the sight of the enraged Madison, vowing revenge on those who caused her to be violently removed from the plane.

A certain redhead next to her noticed her unease and scooted closer.

"Jessica…I can tell that you're upset about something. It's evident in both your body language and the fact that you're the only other person here who doesn't look the least bit exhausted by our rustic living quarters."

"Yeah…I'm just worried."

"About what? Madison? Did she scare you?"

"I'm not going to lie. Yes. She did. She scared me a lot."

"It's OK. You don't have to worry anymore; she's gone."

"I know…but she was just so…terrifying."

"You voted for her, didn't you?"

She took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly before answering. "Yes."

Ethan casually put his arm around her. "Don't worry. You did the right thing. Just stay with me, and I'll keep you safe from elimination."

"You…you will?" She looked up into his eyes, which reflected his calmness and complexion.

"I promise."

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Yeah; if she doesn't kill me first. If she pulls something like she did back in Hawaii, then she can kiss that million bucks goodbye!

End

Louis, sitting across the way, observed Ethan's smooth actions and shook his head.

"That poor girl…his seed is being planted in her mind well."

"Huh?" Isaiah muttered next to him.

Louis leaned in close. "Just look at that newcomer, Ethan. He's so…sly. That grin…those eyes…I don't trust him."

"Well, you're not on the same team as him, so why are you worrying?"

"I just want to keep an eye out for him. You know, as a post-merge threat. I'll bet that he was the one behind Madison's elimination."

"Then thank God that he's here!"

"Well, yes." Louis chuckled.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – Like I said, I still don't trust Ethan. Yes, he did help save my sanity when he offered to switch teams…but I feel that that could have very well been his attempt at winning over my trust. I originally didn't have much to suspect…but Madison was really in charge over there. She had the entire team under her thumb; she even had the team named after her! Most of the other people on that team are weak-minded or just plain stupid It could have only taken a mastermind to get rid of her in her own domain…

End

"Alright, kiddos! We'll be heading into our next location soon! So head on into the cargo hold, and wait for me there!"

"Ha!" Mary dared to yell back at the voice over the intercom. "You think that we're gonna fall for that again? And I mean literally, fall for that? We're not stupid, you know!"

"Do what you wanna do…but just remember one thing: It's two million bucks on the line. Take it or leave it. If you must know, I'll be down there myself. You'll be in a boat before you're dropped out. Just like in the Big Apple last time. That good enough for ya?"

Mary didn't respond, but got up and walked out with all of the others.

A few minutes later, the remaining fifteen contestants were all in the cargo hold. Sure enough, there was the same massive boat, with the outboard motor, steering console in the center, and the rubber covering. They all managed to squeeze in, and Chef pulled out a remote control. He pressed the large red button in the center of it, and the trapdoor instantly opened up. The teens all held on for dear life as the boat instantly plummeted straight down, the air whooshing around them.

Then, suddenly, there was a massive splash, and the boat jerked violently as it settled onto the water. One unfortunate girl ended up slamming her face into the side from the impact.

As all of the teens lifted their heads, they saw that they were indeed on a massive river, with a great skyline towering on one side. There was bustling activity all around. Cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. There were many boats along the shoreline.

"Cool!" Nicole said. After a pause, she added, "Where are we?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Birthplace of Rock and Roll, and The Home of the Blues! We are in none other than Memphis, Tennessee!"

"Alright!" Matthew cheered, sharing a quick hi-five with Louis. "I've been here before! This place is awesome!"

"All of the great musical artists that we know today had their starts here." Louis added. "Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley."

"Great balls of fire!" James exclaimed. "Elvis?" [*]

"Of course. This is practically Elvis city."

"Nice!"

"Enough talking about music! Let's get down to the task. And I'll say it right now: The task does not involve being in Memphis for too long."

A collective sigh of disappointment came from the teens.

"The real challenge is about where we are right now! And I mean this exact spot. We are currently riding on the Mississippi River; the third longest river in the world!"

"Technically, we are not on the Mississippi River." Isaiah chimed in, once again using his matter-of-factly voice.

"What? What are you talking about, kid?"

"This little area that you coincidentally landed in is a small section of water that is adjacent to the main river, mainly as a parking area for boats and other vessels. This is called the Woof River."

"You're kiddin', right?"

"I kid you not, sir."

Just then, a massive hand swooped down and grabbed Isaiah by the collar of his shirt. Before he could even say anything, the annoyed host launched him out of the boat and into the frigid waters.

"Isaiah!" Anna called in shock. She turned around to face Chef. "You jerk!"

Then, in a lightning-like motion, she kneed Chef right in the groin. As the mountain of a man slowly bent down in pain, issuing a high-pitched wail, Anna instantly dove off the side of the boat and swam towards Isaiah.

"Isaiah, hang on! I've got you!"

"So…cold…"

Anna grabbed the shivering form of Isaiah and held him close as she started kicking back towards the boat, with the other thirteen teens all staring in mute disbelief at the sudden absurd situation. Anna reached the boat, and gave one quick heave that launched Isaiah back onboard. She then pulled herself up.

"Are you OK?" She said as she leaned over Isaiah.

"I was…I was just…stating the facts."

"I know, I know." As she bent down over him, she glared back at Chef, who was slowly recovering from the blow.

"Oh…What happened?" His voice was still slightly cracking.

"The pain must've taken that much of a toll on him; he can't remember." Mary whispered.

"Um…" Ethan started. "You were just about to explain the challenge, and how it had to do with the Mississippi River. You happened to fall when your knees gave out, and hit your crotch." Ethan shot a quick glance at Isaiah after he finished.

"Oh, right." Chef stood up, knees shaking slightly. "Age must be catching up to me. Well, anyway: Each team will get a boat, similar to this one. They're all parked right over there."

Chef gestured to the side, and they all saw three boats that matched the shape and design of the large one they were in. One was yellow, one was pink, and one was blue.

"Each team will ride in their boat upriver, in a long, watery race. You will race from here, Memphis, all the way up to St. Louis, Missouri! No stops, no breaks; it's one long, wild ride. Along the way, you will face many obstacles: Rough waters, rocks, other vessels, and, of course, each other. When you arrive in St. Louis, you must stop along the shoreline as close as you can to the famous St. Louis Arch. All of your teammates must scramble out and haul your whiny little butts to the great landmark. The first team to have all of its members touch the base of the Arch wins first-class and Invincibility. And then second team gets no win, but no elimination…and, well, you know how it goes for the last team."

He let the implication sink in before continuing.

"Now, you will all have a few minutes to get into your boat and prep up. Team Sahara gets the blue boat. Team Madison gets the pink boat. And Team Victory II gets the yellow boat. Oh, and one more thing: Don't put the engine on full blast for too long, or you just might wear it out. That's pretty much the part that can determine who wins and who loses. It's all strategy, and about how much you evenly space out each burst of speed."

"What about fuel?" Isaiah asked, earning a subtle but stern glance from Ethan.

"Don't worry about that; all boats are filled to the brim. Now hurry up and get to your boats!"

"But…aren't you going to take us to them?" Lauren asked impatiently.

"What? You afraid of water?"

"Well, I do have a condition…"

With that, Chef's mighty hand came down once more and grabbed Lauren by her ponytail.

"OW! You big jerk, let go!"

But this time, no one was there to help as Chef gave her a mighty fling and launched her from the boat. She screamed through the air before landing. However, instead of the splash that everyone expected, there was instead a metallic slam. When everyone looked, they saw that she had an even more painful landing spot: On a nearby buoy.

"Ohhhh…" Lauren groaned in misery before sliding off and into the water.

"Anyone else got a problem with it? Hm?"

"No, sir!" Everyone simultaneously yelled back.

"Good! Now get swimmin'!" And with that, Chef whipped out a small, shiny whistle that reflected the sun's light. He took a deep breath and blew on it, creating a screech that was far more horrifying than nails on a chalkboard.

The fourteen in the boat were quick to oblige, leaping over the side and into the water, swimming fast towards their respective boats. As Ethan swam by the buoy, he put his arm around Lauren's stomach from behind and back kicked the rest of the way to the boat.

Matthew was the first onto Team Victory II's boat. "Come on, guys! Let's go! We've got a race to win!"

He was quick and fairly harsh as he helped Violet and Rachael in. But then their fourth member came up.

"Hey! A little help here?" Matthew asked when he had trouble pulling James up. However, even with the combined help of the two girls, it proved difficult.

"Come on! Pull harder!" Matthew gave one fast, hard tug and managed to suddenly pull James right up…only for him to land on and crush Matthew.

Meanwhile, Louis and John together helped Mary, Isaiah, Anna, and Nicole onto the Team Sahara boat.

"Oh, geez, this water is cold!" Nicole exclaimed. "Isn't it, like, June?"

"Mid-June, yes." Louis added. "I didn't think it was that cold. Once, I had to stand on a glacier in Southern Alaska for over an hour."

"Really?" Her eyes widened.

"Yes. Without a jacket. That's why I always have this trench coat on me. If you'd like…"

"Uh, sure."

"Here." He discarded the black coat and handed it to her.

"Thanks."

"Not a problem."

Nicole smiled at him, and Louis returned the smile.

Off to the side, Mary shook her head. She then turned to John. "How come you never give me a jacket when I'm cold?"

"I never wear a jacket myself, eh."

"Alright, worms! Enough talking! Select a helmsman, and hang on tight! These things can go pretty fast."

Almost instantly, John stepped up to the wheel for Team Sahara. "I had to pilot a crazy spaceship to win the last season; I can handle a boat."

"I'll drive." Matthew declared. "I have also had experience with boats."

On Team Madison, most of the other members were backing down. Lauren used her injury excuse, Suzie said she didn't know how, Samantha was too busy texting, and when Jessica volunteered, everyone instantly snubbed her.

Thus, only one choice was left.

"Fine." Ethan muttered before stepping up and taking hold of the wheel.

"Teams, start your engines!"

After the three engines roared to life at the hands of the helmsmen, Chef started counting.

"And five…four…ah, screw it; just go!"

With a loud blow of his whistle, the three boats instantly rocketed off, shooting up a jet of water in their wake.

After a moment, all three teams heard a scratchy voice come in.

"Hey, maggots!"

"What the…Where's that coming from, eh?" John asked, looking around.

"Right here, doofus." Chef's voice replied.

All six members of Team Sahara looked down and saw a small speaker on the dashboard.

"I'll be talking to ya'll by this throughout the race. I'm currently talking to all three of you at once, actually."

"Well, what is it?" Matthew asked impatiently.

"All three of you are heading the wrong way. You're going south. Unless you plan to go to New Orleans instead, then you better turn your butts around!"

Almost instantly, Matthew spun the wheel hard to starboard, sending them spinning around a full 180 degrees. Rachael and Violet held on for dear life, while James barely moved. Just as they started heading straight again, they saw Team Madison's boat dead ahead of them, heading straight for them.

"Matthew! Look out!" Violet yelled.

But Matthew simply gripped the wheel harder and kept his course.

"MATTHEW!" All three of them yelled simultaneously.

Just then, Team Madison's boat swung out of the way just in time, veering to port. As Team Victory II's boat sped past, their wake shot right over the five occupants of the pink boat, soaking all of them.

"UGH! My hair!"

Ethan shook the water out of his red hair and glared at Matthew, who grinned back as they sped off.

"I knew that they would turn first." Matthew explained. "If I kept confident and stayed with the course, they would give in and turn first. I couldn't afford to make a sudden turn and risk losing our head start."

Meanwhile, as Team Madison's boat swung around and gave chase to Team Victory II's, Team Sahara's boat was still heading the wrong way.

"John! Turn around!" Mary cried.

John quickly spun the wheel to port, turning sharply. Anna, Louis, Nicole, and Mary all managed to hang on. But one person didn't.

"AUGH!" Isaiah's long, raspy scream was cut off by a splash.

"ISAIAH!" Anna instantly leapt off the boat for the second time and started swimming towards him. The others all noticed instantly and turned around.

"Darn it! John, turn around now!" Mary ordered.

"Who put you in charge, eh?"

"Just do it! You know how it is; all members of the team must be present when we cross the finish line!"

"Fine." With a mutter under his breath, John eased up on the throttle and slowly turned around, coming right back to the two teammates in the water.

"Are you OK, Isaiah?"

"Ugh…I'm sick of always falling in. But why did you jump in again?"

"I wanted to see if you were OK, that's all."

"Um…thanks?"

As the boat pulled up alongside them, and Mary and Louis helped them in, John looked back at the two quickly-receding boats.

"We've lost a huge lead, eh."

"Well, let's get going then!" Mary urged.

John was quick to oblige, as he opened the throttle once more.

"Here we go again…and dang it; hang on this time, will ya?"

Isaiah made sure to get a firm grip on one of the handles along the inside of the boat's gunwale before John instantly turned the wheel and sped on after the other two.

Standing alone in the massive boat off to the side, Chef was rubbing his knees with a worried expression on his face.

"I'm not that old…am I?" He nervously asked one of the cameramen.

"Um, Chef sir? We're still rolling."

"Oops. Um, ahem. So there you have it! The third challenge of the season begins! Who will win? Who will lose? And who else will fall out of their boat before the day is over? Find out when we return…to Total…Drama…World Tour!"

He stood in the usual sign-off pose, arms in the air dramatically. After a pause, he hissed, "OK, you can cut now."

"Uh, sir…we still have about six minutes before the commercial break."

"What? Oh…" Chef glanced back at the camera. "Dang it." He quickly assumed a cheesy smile to catch himself on the rebound. "Um…alright. So, we're not going anywhere yet! So…uh, let's check on their progress so far!"

As the cameraman gave the thumbs up and switched the viewers' POV, Chef wiped some sweat off his brow.

"You know, you could'a told me that we had more time." He muttered to a nearby intern with a buzz cut blonde hairdo, a white tank top shirt, and a clipboard in hand.

"Um, sir? I didn't even give the signal to sign off."

"Really?"

"I think that age might actually be getting to you, sir. Not being able to tell time correctly is a major sign."

"It is?" Chef slowly turned away, his lower lip quivering.

...

"Yes!" Matthew cheered proudly as he looked back. "We're making great time! We're ahead of Team Madison, and Team Sahara is way back there! If we just keep a steady pace, we can make it!"

"Just remember what Chef said; if you work the engine too hard, it'll overheat."

"I don't need to worry about overheating, thank you very much." Matthew shot back at Violet. "I'm not putting this on full blast; I'm not stupid. It's a little over half speed."

"You're telling me that this is half speed?" Rachael asked incredulously as she clung to the railing for dear life.

"You bet."

James looked back at Team Madison's boat, not too far behind them.

"Just don't slow down, buddy! They're at a good speed too, and that Ethan guy looks determined!"

"Well, I'm even more determined." Matthew said with a glare at Ethan's direction. "The newcomer thinks he's better than the winner of season one, eh? We'll just see about that."

A few hours later…

"Matthew, buddy? They're not any further behind." James informed him blankly.

"I know, I know!" Matthew, gritting his teeth, turned and looked back at Team Madison's boat once more. They were still at the same distance. Or were they just a little bit closer?

"OK, it's time to do something. Hang on, everyone! I've got an idea!"

He started to slow down.

"Matthew, Team Madison's boat is gaining on us!" James reported.

"I know, I know! That's the idea! Now hang on as tight as you can!"

Everyone grabbed onto the railing, and Matthew was constantly looking back and forth between where they were going and how much closer Team Madison was getting. Soon, they were just a few yards off. He could already see Ethan's arrogant grin.

Matthew looked forward again and could see another boat approaching slowly from the front; a large paddlewheel boat. He grinned. "OK, this is it!"

Matthew instantly slammed the brakes, and everyone was lifted in the air for a moment, due to having a death grip on the railings they were grabbing onto.

Almost immediately, Ethan saw the enemy boat instantly draw much closer at an alarming rate.

"Edgar! Watch out!" Suzie cried.

"My name's Etha-AUGH!" Ethan swerved hard to the left, barely scraping the side of Team Victory II's boat.

"Phew-WAUGH!"

He saw the new civilian vessel suddenly coming right at them, with a loud horn blaring as they drew closer. He frantically swerved to the left again…only to crash right into another buoy and spin out of control.

All five of the boat's occupants were screaming in terror as they held on for dear life, the vessel still spinning wildly. As it slowed down, they could see the Team Victory II boat speeding away, fast becoming a small dot in the distance.

Ethan shook his head, recovering from the dizziness, and glared at the receding boat.

"Clever, I'll give him that. Hang on, everyone! I'm going to gun it!"

The four girls barely had time to get a firm grip on something as Ethan put it on full speed, roaring off through the water and giving chase to their rival craft.

"Ethan, be careful not to overwork it too much!" Jessica warned.

"Yeah, yeah. I know. But I don't plan to go at full speed for much longer. Chances are, they'll see us gaining, and they'll go full speed, too. Then I can slow down, and not put it at full speed for too long. But with that arrogant jerk at the wheel, they'll most likely keep going at top speed to get away. Maybe then, their engine will overheat!"

"That's a brilliant plan, Ethan." Lauren complimented.

"Thank you."

"Wait a minute…" Jessica started. "Where's Team Sahara's boat?"

They all started looking around, only to see that the other boat was nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile…

"Let's go, already!" Mary yelled. "We're already behind everyone else! John, speed it up!"

"I'm trying to keep it at a consistent speed, alright? If we go too fast, the engine might overheat! Remember what Chef said?"

"Forget what that old man said! He probably said that just to make this thing last longer, so that there could be 'more drama' and 'higher ratings' and other stuff like that. Just gun it a little more, please? Look, you can't even see the other boats!"

They all followed Mary's gesture ahead of them, only to see that it was, in fact, true. With the exception of a fishing boat and a jet-ski that flew by, there were no other vessels in the area at all, let alone either of their opponent's boats.

"This is bad." She muttered, shaking her head. "And it's all your fault!"

She spun around and stuck a finger in Isaiah's face.

"My fault?"

"Yes! You were the one who fell out of the boat!"

"Hey, don't stick a finger in his face!" Anna said as she quickly came between Mary and Isaiah.

"Don't tell me what to do, Mrs. Green! You jumped in after him and delayed it even longer!"

"Mrs. Green? I'm not one of those tree-hugger types! I'm just an animal-hugger type."

"Animal-hugger, tree-hugger, same difference! I have just about had it with you two! I've lasted the last five hours on this smelly old boat with you; if I have to listen to you narrate about one more bird that passes by, one more fish that swims past, or one more insect that flies into my mouth, I'm going to scream!"

Off to the side, two other teammates were sitting back and enjoying the show.

"This is just like when I was stuck on that girl's team." Louis commented to Nicole, shaking his head. "I understand her pain completely."

"It's getting a little boring, though." Nicole commented. "It's just been the same banter back and forth for a while."

"Quite." Louis yawned, stretched his arms out, and then lied down for a nap. "Let me know if we either get to St. Louis, or if they start a fight."

"Will do." Nicole returned with a smile.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – Ah, it's good to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show…especially since I'm not the one at the center of it anymore.

Anna – Mary thinks she's so special, just because her boyfriend won the second season and she's such a perfectionist about everything! And she needs to get her facts straight: Tree-huggers are in love with inanimate objects that have no life, no soul, and no heart. Those are the kinds of people who hijack ships just to prove a point. But we animal lovers…we are one with our animal kin! Animals are alive! They have feelings, too! And we wouldn't go breaking the law just to make a statement! …Well, except for that one time where I set the vet's office back home on fire because my dog was scared of the long needle. I'll tell you, that doctor was a quack! He didn't know how to properly insert the needle! He had it coming!

End

Matthew glanced at his watch. "It's been several hours, already! Where the heck are we?"

"I think I saw a sign back there a while ago that said New Madrid." Rachael reported.

"Really?" Matthew asked. "Excellent! We're already halfway there!"

And then, at that moment, something horrible approached. All four teammates saw it, and instantly stopped what they were doing and stared at it. Matthew slowly let up on the accelerator and stared in horror.

"No…way." Violet muttered.

"A…fork." Matthew stuttered. And then: "A…FORK!"

Ahead of them, splitting neatly in two opposite directions, was a fork in the river.

"Chef didn't say anything about a fork." James remarked.

"This is terrible!" Rachael agreed.

"Which way do we go?" Violet asked.

"The left side has always been my favorite side." Matthew stated blankly. "We go left."

"Um, shouldn't we take a vote rather than base the decision on which side is your favorite?" Violet questioned.

"A vote? That will take too long. And we're wasting enough time as it is. Every second we sit here and wait is a second more that Team Madison is using to catch up with us."

"He has a point." James agreed.

"Thank you, James." Matthew replied. "So we go left."

And with that, Matthew hit the accelerator once more and turned the wheel to the left, tearing off down the fork.

They were unaware that, not too far behind them, Team Madison was catching up.

They soon came to the very same fork, and stopped.

"What's this?" Ethan asked.

"Um, it's a split in the path, idiot." Lauren answered.

"Well, I know that." He shot back. "But…Chef didn't say anything about a split in the path."

"He probably just wanted to make it harder on us." Lauren replied.

"Of course he does. That's his one purpose in life; to make us miserable." Jessica agreed.

Meanwhile…

Back in Memphis, Chef overheard the conversation on Team Madison's boat.

"You got that right, clumsy."

He turned around to face the intern.

"Alright, Phil. Is the bar set up?"

"It's all ready to go, sir."

"Good. I'll prove that I ain't old."

He reached up and grabbed the bar with both hands, squeezing the cold metal tight.

"Look here, camera guy! If I was old, could I do fifty pull-ups like so?"

He then grunted, closed his eyes, and put all of his strength into his arms.

He barely budged.

"Huh? Humph. I just haven't done it in a while, that's all!"

He tried harder, but still couldn't find the strength to lift himself up. He started groaning, grunting, and making other strange noises as he tried to pull himself up.

"Just…gotta…get…one."

He tried with all of his might to pull himself up, but still just couldn't do it.

"Um, sir? Maybe you should take five for a while." Phil suggested.

"No! I can do it! I am not old!"

And then, suddenly, the bar collapsed, giving in to his weight and breaking apart from its already poor setup. Chef slammed to the ground, the metal bar still in his hands.

"Oooooh…"

"Donut, sir?" Carl offered, walking up to Chef with a pink cardboard box in hand.

"Ah, fine." Chef grabbed a pink frosted sprinkled donut and started munching away on it.

Back on the River…

"So…which way do we go?" Ethan asked, turning to the others with a slightly fearful look. Even he was not prepared for something like this.

"We go left." Samantha spoke up, drawing everyone's attention to her. She was still glued to her phone.

"Left? Why?"

"In the amount of time it took you guys to insult each other and ask meaningless questions and make pointless statements, I went onto the Internet with my phone and looked up a map of the Mississippi River. We go left at the giant fork, and it will take us right to St. Louis."

Ethan slowly turned around and looked down the left side. He concentrated for a moment, and then saw it: The faintest trace of a large wake, dissipating in the water as it rippled lightly and spread out.

"Samantha's right. And not only that, but the other team has gone left, too. So we have no choice. Hang on, everyone!"

As they grabbed onto something sturdy, Jessica commented to Samantha.

"Wow, Sam. What would we do without you and your phone?"

There was no response.

Later…

"Uh, Matthew?" Violet called. "I really think you should ease up on the engine now. You've been going at full speed for almost ten minutes!"

"Ten minutes surely can't be enough to short out the engine! This is a big boat! And besides, Team Madison is probably right behind us!"

The other three all looked back, and saw nothing.

"Nope. There's really nothing behind us."

"Look, Matthew. All I'm saying is that-."

Before Violet could go any further, there was a sudden, loud, and terrible clunk! The whole boat shook violently for a moment, throwing everyone off-balance.

"Oh, no…"

"It can't be!" Matthew roared furiously. "After only ten minutes?"

He looked back, and after another quick clunk, a faint plume of smoke started billowing from the engine at the stern of the boat.

"No, no, no, NO!" Matthew shouted, bashing his fists into the dashboard repeatedly.

"Calm down. It's just overheated." Rachael reasoned.

Suddenly, it chugged and clanked again, and several small pieces flew off. The smoke grew darker and larger.

"Overheated engines don't do that!" Matthew shot back.

"This is bad…the engine is toast!" James reported. "And not the good kind of toast, like French Toast, or with the sweet butter and jelly spread all over it…"

"Guys, we need to focus! Now, we're stuck in the middle of the Mississippi River, more than halfway to the finish line, and now our engine gives out! Stupid Chef, too cheap to afford a decent engine!"

Suddenly, the familiar voice cracked over the radio. "It's called a budget, kid. Look into it."

"Argh! What are we gonna do?"

Matthew stormed up to the engine and violently kicked it.

"This could not possible get any worse."

Suddenly, there was the sound of a distant buzzing. It grew louder and louder, becoming even more familiar to the four occupants of Team Victory II's boat. And then it was at its loudest, when it sped past them and kicked up a massive spray onto them. Matthew spun around, teeth gnashed, as the other boat sped right by.

"Payback time, losers!" Lauren called back, just as they sped out of earshot.

"Oh, yeah! Well you wanna know what I think?" Matthew yelled after them.

"Matthew, save it." Violet said, putting a restraining hand on his balled fist. "They can't hear you."

"What are we going to do?" He exclaimed in fury. "Our engine is shot! And it's surely just a matter of time before the other team catches up to us! And then we'll be in last! And we'll have to kick someone off! And that someone might be me!"

He started biting his fingernails in nervousness.

"And it had better not be me!" He said angrily to the others.

"Calm down, Matthew. We just need to fix this engine." Rachael stated plainly.

"Yeah, except none of us know anything about fixing engines!"

"I think I might be able to help ya out there, laddy." A strange voice called.

The four teammates all turned around to see a small, green, wooden rowboat not a yard away from their boat, which they could have all sworn was not there a moment ago. There were tackleboxes, nets, and fishing poles inside it. A single figure sat on one of the wooden slats inside the boat, hunched over and with a fishing pole in hand. The figure was entirely covered by a yellow poncho, draped down over its whole body, with dark, slick, black boots on its feet, and a yellow fisherman's hat on its head. Its voice was perfectly neutral; they honestly could not tell if it was a man or a woman. The voice was high, old, and scratchy, with the faintest hints of a pirate accent thrown in there, plus some Irish.

"What seems to be the trouble?" The figure said, not even looking up from its intent fishing. Right away, they noticed that the fishing pole didn't even have a line on it; it was just the bare pole. And yet the figure was deeply concentrating as if there really was a line, and a big fish was about to come along any second now.

Matthew chuckled half-heartedly. "Nothing you can help us with, old man."

"You'd be surprised."

They exchanged awkward and confused glances.

"Well…" Violet started. "Our engine here broke down on us, and we need to get back into the race or we'll lose." She explained flatly.

"Broke down, eh? Well, let me see."

The figure then tossed the bare pole right into the water and slowly turned around, standing up and wobbling briefly as the tiny boat rocked under its weight. The collar of the coat and the brim of the hat were both pulled over its face so much, they couldn't see anything. But the figure could apparently see just fine.

"Hmm…"

It wobbled again in the boat.

"Aha! I think I see the problem now! Hang on; I'll be over in a jiffy!"

It sat down again, grabbing the two small oars, and started frantically paddling over to their boat. It was barely three feet, but it took the figure at least a whole minute to even turn around.

Matthew rolled his eyes, and then leaned over to James and whispered, "This is crazy. How can an old coot in a wooden boat that doesn't even have a motor possibly know anything about outboard motors?"

"Like I said, you'd be surprised, laddy."

Matthew was caught off-guard by the fact that the figure actually heard him, and remained silent as the figure finally made it.

The figure stumbled briefly, then clambered aboard their boat. It walked over to the engine, kneeled down, and leaned in close to inspect it.

"Hmm…Hmm…Mm-hm. Hmmmmmmm…"

Then, without another word, it stood up and walked back over to the side. It leaned over into its own boat and fumbled around in the loose objects for a moment.

"I've seen this before." It reported. "And I know just what it needs. Ah, here it is."

It leaned back up, a giant wrench in hand. It turned around and started back over to the engine.

"You think you can fix it?" Violet asked nervously.

"Of course I can."

It stopped just in front of the engine, holding the wrench delicately in both hands as it started to kneel down. "Carefully…easy…"

Then, without warning, it raised the wrench high above its head, leaning back far before it brought the wrench down on the engine with a mighty SLAM!

"Are you crazy?" Matthew cried out.

But, before he could say anything else, the engine sputtered, and then roared to life, leaving all members of Team Victory II wide-eyed.

"Oh." Matthew said quietly. "Wow. Um…thanks, I guess?"

"Like I said, laddy." It said, turning to him. "Don't be deceived by appearances."

"I get it now, sir."

"Good." It started to turn around. "Oh, and one more thing…"

Then, suddenly, it flung the wrench away, flying through the air before it landed in the water with a loud and quick splunk! The figure then grabbed its own yellow coat with one hand, and the hat with the other, and ripped them both off, sending the discarded yellow garments fluttering away in opposite directions.

Then, in a clear, young, and feminine voice, she finished. "It's ma'am to you."

The four teens in the boat were absolutely stunned at the sight of the familiar redheaded teen.

"ERYN?"


Episode 3 Part 2: Slippery When Wet

"ERYN?"

"Yep, it's me! In the flesh! Right in front of you! Right now!"

"But…how?" James asked, still stupefied at the sight of her.

"Yeah! Last time we saw you, you were tumbling into the Pacific Ocean with Mark!" Violet reminded her.

"Which reminds me; what happened to Mar-?" Rachael started, with a nervous, almost anxious look on her face as she started to ask the question. But she was interrupted suddenly when Eryn continued anyway.

"Hey, I was lost at sea once for nearly eight days after my uncle-in-law's private yacht went down. I had to survive on ice cubes and one can of Red Bull the whole time! I learned how to fish with my teeth, and how to float on my back for several hours to conserve energy!"

"So…you made it to shore?" Violet asked.

"But what about-?"

"Yep! Hawaii wasn't that far behind us. I eventually managed to make it back here to the States, and I figured I'd return to my home here in the Mississippi!"

"You live on the Mississippi?" James asked incredulously.

"Well…anywhere in the good ol' US of A is my home! I'm what you would call a tumbleweed that just goes wherever the wind takes me!"

"More like poison ivy that won't go away." Matthew muttered.

Just then, they heard a loud chopping sound above them. The five turned and looked up to see the red helicopter circling overhead. Carl was in the pilot's seat, Chef Hatchet beside him.

"What? What is this!" Chef shouted on the bullhorn from above. He then tossed down a rope ladder and slid right down onto their boat, causing it to dip to one side suddenly under his added weight, nearly sending the five teens stumbling to the deck.

"What are you doing back, Daughter of Hitchcock? You were officially eliminated!"

"Uh, technically speaking, I was locked in the cargo hold by that no-good redheaded jerk Ethan, and then happened to be knocked off just after I got out when Mark fell out after he was officially eliminated. Not me, no."

"See, about that…whatever happened to Mark after-?"

"See, I was just an added bonus elimination that day. I wasn't voted out, I didn't quit, and I didn't lose the challenge. So, technically, I'm still in the game and am now returning from being AWOL."

Chef sighed heavily, putting a hand on his forehead. "Well, you are one of the newbies, and you seem to be a good ratings magnet…"

"So, do you want this to go all day? 'Cause I once engaged in a heated verbal debate with a congressman that lasted for almost 18 hours. I won after that guy finally peed his pants because he couldn't hold it in any longer."

"Alright, fine! You can return from your 'AWOL-ness.' But you go on this team; they're down the most compared to the other teams."

"Thank you, Chef!" An exasperated Matthew exclaimed as he tossed his arms up. "Finally you do something good for us for a change!"

With a glare back at Matthew, Chef continued. "So, uh, whatever. Just get on with whatever ya'll were doing."

And with that, he stretched a hand up and grabbed onto the rope ladder. But as he stretched, his eyes widened and he quickly placed his other hand on his back.

"Ah! My back! My back…"

He mumbled to himself discontentedly as the helicopter pulled up, dragging him up with the ladder as it soared off north up the river.

"Well, you heard the man; let's go!" Eryn enthusiastically cheered with a fist pump.

"Yeah! I'm all for that!" James agreed, doing a similar fist pump.

"For once, I agree with the Psychopath. Let's get going." Matthew turned around to grab the wheel once again, starting up the engine.

"Wait. But what about your boat, Eryn?"

"My boat?"

The five teens turned around to the spot where the old, beaten-up fishing boat had been moments earlier. It was gone.

The four original teammates all slowly let their gazes return to the redhead, who simply grinned evilly in return.

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – "Daughter of Hitchcock" isn't enough to describe that girl. She's more like the Kin of Michael Myers or something! But hey, as long as it's another teammate to help even out our odds…I'll take it.

James – It's cool to have a new teammate and all, but…(leans in close to the camera and whispers)…that girl freaks me out. A lot.

Rachael – Why wouldn't anyone listen to me? Mark! I hope you're out there listening right now! Because, if you are, then that means that you are alive and can hear me! I know that you survived too…right? OH, MARK! I MISS YOU!

Eryn – I honestly wasn't expecting to run into this show again – OK, for the show to run into me again – but if it gives me another shot at the moolah, then who am I to argue against it? But I can't help thinking that I was in the middle of something when they found me – or, I found them. Something important…

End

"Enough of this time-wasting chit-chat!" Matthew yelled out. "Let's just get going before Team Sahara catches up to us! If we can get far away enough, they won't see our trail and might go right!"

And with that, Matthew started up the engine and sped off, racing through the waters once again towards St. Louis.

Meanwhile…

"Ugh! This is taking forever!" Lauren complained once again. "It's too darn humid out here! Can't you go any faster?"

"Look, I think we've gone far enough." Ethan declared. "They've clearly fallen way behind. Besides, I don't want to burn out our engine the way they did."

"How much farther to St. Louvre, or whatever it is?" Suzie asked.

"Well, first of all, the Louvre is a museum in Paris. Our destination is St. Louis."

"Isn't that the name of some guy over on the other team?"

By this point, Ethan already had a faint red spot on his forehead from the numerous facepalms.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Sure. The one time she actually remembers someone's name, and it's a guy on the other team! Maybe Madison was on to something…that girl could be a bit of a loose cannon. A blabbermouth. I might have to deal with her in the only way possible…

End

Meanwhile…

"What? Say that again, you harpy!"

"OK, I'll say it again; who cares about porpoises?"

"How can you say that? Porpoises are so cute and friendly and smart…"

"There's over a billion of them! They're not 'endangered,' they're just overrated! And if they're so smart, why don't they just evade fishermen's nets?"

"Guys…?"

"They're not that smart! Even dolphins can't be a Stephen Hawking!"

"All I'm saying is that they're overrated and overprotected. It shouldn't be a crime to kill an animal."

"Uh, guys?"

"Oh, no you di'in't! That is it!"

"What? What are you gonna do? Call the birds of the air to poop on me? Call the fish in this river to jump up and hit me in the face?"

"…Uh, girls?"

"I don't need to call on a fish for that!"

"Oh, bring it!"

John shook his head as he tried unsuccessfully to plug his ears. His girlfriend and Anna had been going at it now for almost two hours. And now, here he was, at a fork in the river, and he couldn't get their opinions on which way they should go.

John, in desperation, turned to Louis and Nicole. Both were sitting down against the gunwale and watching the heated argument in fascination. John then looked over at Isaiah, who had his head hanging over the side as he vomited into the water again. Whether or not it was from the seasickness, or some of the disgusting facts Anna had told them about sharks' mating seasons a few minutes ago, John didn't know.

He slowly turned back around to face the fork ahead of their boat. He looked back and forth between the left and the right. He hadn't studied a map of the Mississippi recently, he couldn't call Chef for help (knowing that he likely wouldn't help him anyway), and he didn't dare try to raise his voice over the voices of the angry girls.

He turned back one last time at his five teammates.

Then he grabbed the wheel and slowly started to turn to the right.

"…Aren't there some sharks you can call on to attack me?"

"Don't be stupid; there are no sharks in the Mississippi River! Sharks cannot live in fresh water!"

"Ha! You're wrong there, Anna-mal!" Mary taunted. "Carcharhinus leucas – AKA, the Bull Shark – has been known to prosper in fresh water!"

"Well, OK, but that's just one! And there hasn't been a serious attack in fresh water anywhere in this region since 1916! Who's the stupid one now?"

Suddenly, there was a jolt in the boat that shook all six of its occupants and sent them tumbling to the deck.

"Whoa!"

"What the heck was that?"

John, who barely managed to stay standing by clinging to the wheel, regained his footing and slowed down the engine. He did a quick 360 of their surrounding area, but saw nothing.

"I don't know…It was so quick. Just a quick slam."

Anna slowly pulled herself up by grabbing onto the gunwale, and looked out into the water. She scanned the murky surface for a moment, then saw something.

"Hey, guys! I-I see a shape down there!"

Louis, Mary, and John all quickly moved over to the port side where Anna was and peered into the water, while Isaiah and Nicole curled up in fetal positions on the deck.

"Where, eh?"

"I…it was right there! It was a large, gray shape! It flickered away into the murk!"

"Well, what was it?" Louis asked.

"Yeah; you're the animal expert." Mary added snidely.

"I…I think I might know. But it can't be. There's no way it could be. It's impossible."

"What?"

Just then, they all heard a feminine scream behind them. The four swiveled around quickly in the direction of the other two teammates.

"What? What is it, Nicole?" Louis asked nervously.

But Nicole simply gave them a blank stare.

"Uh, that wasn't me."

"Huh?"

She then jerked a thumb over to Isaiah, who was kneeling at the transom of the boat. He had his hands on his cheeks, and his mouth wide open.

John and Louis shook their heads, while Anna was unfazed and looked even more concerned.

"Isaiah, what is it?"

"LOOK!"

He pointed out into the water behind them.

All five heads followed his finger's direction, and were absolutely horrified at what they saw.

A fin.

A large, thick, dark gray dorsal fin, slicing through the water towards them from a distance.

"No…freakin'…way."

"What was that you said about Bull Sharks and fresh water, Mary?" Louis asked nervously.

"It can't be!" Anna quickly stated. "I mean, sure it's true about Bull Sharks and fresh water…but they never come this far up-river! And look at that fin! It's huge!"

"I hate to say it, but she's right. A fin that big can only mean that the shark itself is at least twenty-five to thirty feet long."

"I guess we're gonna need a bigger boat." Isaiah muttered.

"Let's get out of here!"

John turned around and scrambled back to the wheel, hitting the throttle again.

"Go, John, go!" Mary screamed.

The boat sped off, putting some distance between them and the fin. However, the fin noticeably started gaining speed once it realized that they were speeding up.

"It's going faster! Keep going!"

"But I don't want to blow out the engine…"

"Just go!" Nicole screamed at John.

John slowly put more pressure on it, and their speed increased. All the while, the incredibly large fin followed them, racing along impossibly fast…

Later…

"OK, we've got about an hour left until we reach St. Louis, according to Samantha's phone update." Ethan reported.

"This is great!" Jessica eagerly cheered. "We're totally ahead of the other two teams, we don't have that much farther to go, and we haven't hit a single speed bump along the way!"

Suddenly, there was a terrific boom alongside them. By the time they turned to face it, all they saw was a massive geyser of water shooting up next to them, towering at least 15 feet above the surface.

"What the heck was that?" Lauren screamed in terror.

Just then, another explosion went off on their right side, sending another jet of water into the air. This time, some of the water fell back down and soaked several members of the team.

"Augh! My hair!" Lauren screeched again.

"What's going on here?" Suzie screamed.

Meanwhile…

As the helicopter hovered high above the ground, its two occupants looked down at the unfortunate boat on the river. Chef held a small, black box in his hands, and was repeatedly pressing a small red button on it from time to time.

"Hee, hee, hee!" Chef giggled. "Man, I am so glad that we managed to convince the governor to block off this section of the river so that we could lay down our mines. Now this is fun!" He pressed the button once more, setting off another explosion below.

Sitting in the helicopter alongside him, Carl grinned. "I'm sure it is, sir. By the way, where did you get the idea for mines in the river?"

"Oh, you know, from that TV show?"

"Which show, sir?"

"That one show with the kid with yellow hair, and his scientist dad, and the Indian kid, and the little dog…"

"That show?"

"Yeah? What of it?"

"Well, sir, that show aired back in the 60's."

"What? That's ridiculous! I saw it on the tube just the other day!"

"That must've been on the 'Golden Oldies' Channel,' sir. Nothing but old shows 24 hours a day."

"What? NO! I ain't old! I am not old!"

"If I may give a more younger-generation suggestion, sir, why don't you make them do that musical number now?"

"That…that's a good idea! I'll do that right now!"

Chef then reached over and grabbed the speaker and detached it from its hook, its long cord bouncing as he yanked it out and held it to his mouth, pressing the button on the side.

"Alright, kiddies! I feel that you've gone long enough without doing a very important something!"

"NO!" Matthew yelled back on Team Victory II's boat. "You have got to be kidding!"

"I kid you not, kid. 'Cause only kids kid, and I'm not a kid, let alone a kid who kids. Got it, kid?"

"OK, shut up!"

"No, you shut up! You will once you hear this!"

Then, on all three of the boats' speakers, came the all-too familiar sound: Ding-ding!

"Now start singing!"

Musical Number – The Mississippi River's Not For Me

All members of Team Madison: The Mississippi River's Not For Me!

Ethan: The bombs

Jessica: The rocks

Lauren: The other boats, there's obstacles galore

The danger here is to great to bear, I can't take it anymore!

All members of Team Sahara: The Mississippi River's Not For Me!

Mary: This girl's babbling (points at Anna), this guy's falling (points at Isaiah)

I am on my last nerve!

If that shark does catch up to us, then they'll get what they deserve!

All members of Team Victory II: The Mississippi River's Not For Me!

Matthew: We blew out our engine, we've fallen behind, we cannot afford to lose!

If we don't get back in first class again, I'm gonna blow a fuse!

All: The Mississippi River's Not For Me!

We're racing along without a break, our patience is wearing thin!

If not for two million dollars at stake, we'd all just up and give in!

The Mississippi River's Not For Me! The Mississippi River's Not For Me! The Mississippi River's…Not…For…Meeeeeeeeee! Yeah!

End Musical Number

"Very good. Now get on with it, punks! Hatchet out."

After replacing the speaker, Chef turned to Carl.

"So, you still think I'm old?"

"Quite frankly, sir, I do."

"Well, then. I'll prove to you that I ain't old!" Chef thought nervously for a moment, his eyes darting around the inside of the helicopter. His eyes landed on the steering mechanism.

"Well, if I was old, could I do this?"

He then reached over in front of Carl and took hold of the wheel, startling the intern. He then pulled as hard as he could and jerked it back, suddenly braking the helicopter's acceleration and causing it to bank up sharply into the air. Soon, it was pointing straight up, and starting to turn upside-down.

"I learned how to do this in Saskatchewan!"

"AH! Sir! I really don't think that-."

But it was too late. The helicopter was already upside-down in mid air, and Carl started screaming in terror.

"Man! I feel young already!"

Just then, he started to feel a splitting pain in his head.

"Doh! My head!" He took one hand off the wheel to grab his aching temple, and thus lost concentration of controlling the chopper.

It started to fall straight down, tilting a little and falling at an angle.

Both men were screaming hysterically as it started to fall, and both flew up and hit the ceiling from the acceleration of its fall.

Meanwhile…

"Look, over there!" Ethan shouted to his team as he raised a finger and pointed it straight ahead. "Up ahead! I see buildings!"

"Is there a mall?" Lauren asked quickly.

"I see several highways…and a bridge…"

At this point, there was much more to see than what Ethan was describing. There were clusters of buildings, as well as flocks of people on both sides of the river, on the bridge, among the buildings. Several were on small pleasure boats cruising up and down the river. Some took notice of the boat with five teens in it, moving at an unbelievably fast pace, and raised their cameras.

And then they saw it. Before Ethan himself could point it out, the massive, towering, silver steel structure rose sharply from behind a bridge, gleaming in the midday sun.

"The St. Louis Gateway Arch." Ethan gasped in awe. "It's so…beautiful."

"Yeah, yeah! Stuff it and speed up! We have to get there first!" Lauren reminded him loudly as she leaned in close.

"Chill out, Princess. We're way ahead of the other teams. The last thing we need to worry about is-."

"There they are!"

Ethan and the four girls all turned around sharply to see an all-too familiar craft approaching from behind. There were four familiar faces in it, all glaring at them.

"It's Team Victory II!" Suzie shouted, earning several brief, dumbfounded looks from her teammates once again.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – (Face in one hand once again) Ugh…I will never understand that girl. What, does she have selective stupidity or something?

End

"Wait! Why are there five of them?" Jessica asked no one in particular.

Ethan squinted harder as the boat approached. To his horror, he saw that, sure enough, Jessica was right; there was a new fifth face in the boat. And, even before he saw the face, he recognized the blonde hair, blowing in the wind.

"No…way."

"Come on, Matt! Faster, faster!" The psychotic teen cheered enthusiastically.

"I'm going at top speed!"

The boat was shooting through the water, almost like a torpedo, as it zeroed in on them.

"Edward! They're gaining on us! Do something!"

"I'm about to! Hang on!"

Ethan gunned it, instantly accelerating and matching the rival team's boat. But Team Victory II had managed to close a great amount of distance, and was almost literally right on their tail.

"Come on! COME ON! FASTER!" Matthew yelled, pounding his fists against the wheel as he pushed the throttle harder.

"Isn't there anything we can do?" James asked nervously.

"Here, let me try!" Eryn said. She reached behind her and pulled out a wrench, just like the last one.

"Where the heck did you get that?" Rachael asked through a spray of water on all sides. "Didn't you toss that thing into the water?"

"No time for questions! Just hang on!" Eryn yelled. She then put the wrench in between her teeth and scrambled over to the controls, standing next to Matthew.

"What are you doing?" He asked as he gripped the wheel with white knuckles.

She pulled the wrench from her teeth and grinned evilly. "Ah! I see the solution!"

She then raised the wrench high above her head.

"NO!"

Matthew dove out of the way just before she brought the wrench down, grabbing the acceleration lever and thrusting forward with all her might, pushing it even harder against the full blast position.

She leaned back, then threw herself forward, putting all of her weight into the wrench as she heaved against the lever again.

This time, it snapped right off.

Before anyone could snap at her, the boat shot forward like a rocket, sending all of them flying backwards and hanging onto the gunwale for dear life. Eryn herself almost flew right out of the boat, had it not been for Violet reaching out at the last minute to grab her wrist. Eryn, meanwhile, was cheering and laughing maniacally as she hung suspended over the edge of the boat, flapping in the air like a flag.

The members of Team Madison could only watch as the other vessel suddenly shot right past them, creating a massive wave of a wake that cascaded up over them, swooping over them completely and drenching them.

The boat rocketed across the river, half of its hull not even on the water, before it hit the shore. It was instantly launched into the air, soaring over the heads of several stunned spectators, heading straight for the Arch.

And then it hit the ground, a loud and sickening grinding of metal screeching across the area as it hit and slid along the ground, sparks and pieces of debris flying. All five occupants were hanging onto it as it slid along, finally coming to rest just at the base of the magnificent Arch.

All members of Team Victory II might as well have been knocked out, as they were hanging halfway over the sides of the boat, eyes half-closed, mouths half-open, scraped and bruised. Only one member took notice of their new location, and instantly perked up.

"We're…here? We're here! We're here! Hey, you lazy sloths, wake up! We're right at the Arch!"

Matthew instantly grabbed Violet and Eryn, the two teammates nearest to him, and started shaking them.

"Wake up! We're at the Arch! Get up and touch the base before the other team gets here!"

"Huh…wha?" James muttered.

"Get up, dude! Get up! We have to win now!"

"Win? Tell me, Santa…if we win…do we get…ice cream?"

"Yes, yes we do!" Matthew yelled, clearly losing his patience.

"Oh, goody! Ice-y cream." James slowly staggered to his feet and started to lift himself over the side, only to fall out and slam to the ground. His left hand fluttered down and hit the base.

"That's one! Come on, ladies, get up!"

"Matthew? What happened?"

"It's not about what happened, it's about what's going to happen! Get up, Rachael! NOW!"

He then grabbed Rachael and started to drag her to the side. He helped her up over the side and laid her down against the base of the Arch.

He then turned back and started to grab Eryn's wrist.

Her eyes flew open, and a cheesy grin appeared on her face. She lashed out and grabbed his own wrist with both hands, and proceeded to flip him up over the side and slam him down against the metal base.

"OW! What was that for, you freak?" Matthew groaned from below.

With a giggle, she replied, "No one touches me, alright. Except for my parole officer, my mom, and any of my inanimate objects, OK? But if it's lifting people that you need, then I'm the man – er, girl – for the job! This one time, I flipped a sumo wrestler in Tokyo because-."

Matthew cracked his head to the side just in time to see Team Madison's boat finally beach on the shore. He could faintly see the redheaded boy Ethan jump out and start to help his female teammates out, and together, the five of them started dashing across the grass towards the Arch.

Matthew quickly turned back to her. "OK, no time to talk, just grab Violet and get her down here!"

"Aye-aye, captain! One brainy girl coming up! Er, down."

Eryn then leaned over and grabbed a moaning Violet by her shoulders. She then turned and leapt out of the boat, pulling Violet with her. She stood next to the base and eased up her grip on the barely-conscious Violet. She placed one of her own hands on the metal, then grabbed Violet's wrist with the other and placed it on the base as well.

"YES! We touched the base first! We win!" Matthew declared enthusiastically, just as the five members of Team Madison came running up.

"Awwwww, nooooooo!" Lauren moaned in agony, collapsing to her knees. "I wanted to go in first-class!"

"Argh!" Ethan groaned in fury, stomping his foot. He glared daggers at Matthew, who shrugged and grinned back at him. His gaze then moved to Eryn, who responded with an even harder glare that made the redhead briefly shiver before she turned the other cheek.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Great. Just great. Not only did we lose…again, but now that psycho freak is back! She's surely already spilled the beans about me being "evil." This presents a whole new challenge for me…

Lavatory Confessional

Eryn – Yeah, that Ethan kid is so going to pay for what he did to me. Maybe not soon…but eventually. You'll see. And so will he.

End

Just then, they heard a chopping above them. The ten teens all looked up to see the familiar small, red helicopter circling overhead. It slowly touched down on the grass nearby, sending a wave of wind at them. Most of them raised an arm to cover their eyes, and the grass was blowing in ripples beneath their feet.

Chef Hatchet stumbled out of the helicopter, noticeably dazed and holding his head with one hand.

"Ohhhh…"

"Chef, sir…" Carl muttered from the pilot's seat. "Please, from now on, let me fly this thing."

"But…I flew it all the time in season one!"

"Yes, I know. But that was back then. When you were younger."

"I'm telling ya, I ain't…Ah, forget it. What's the point?"

"Hey! Cut the banter, Chef man! You need to declare us as the winners now!" Matthew urged.

Chef spun around to face the impatient teen. "Do I, now?"

"Yes, you do. After all, you're the new host now. It's your job to state the obvious."

Chef sighed deeply. "Fine. It appears that we have our winners of the third challenge: Team Victory II. Yay."

Matthew instantly burst into a fit of cheering once again, doing fist pumps and hip thrusts, while his teammates all lied on the ground in exhaustion.

"Enjoy your victory…jerk." Chef muttered. He then turned to Team Madison. "Now, I'm sorry to say this, but your team has lost…sort of."

"Huh?" Suzie asked.

"It appears that the other team is nowhere to be found. And I think it's pretty obvious to say that they ain't gonna be catching up any time soon. So it's pretty safe for me to declare you, Team Madison, as our second place team today. You do not have to face elimination tonight!"

"Yes!" Jessica cheered. "Isn't that great, Ethan?"

"Super." He muttered.

"What good is staying if we can't stay first class?" Lauren whined.

"Apparently, one of the members of that unlucky team is going to go by that standard tonight, when they choose who to boot. The plane'll be landing in the nearby airport soon. I'll take ya'll back there now." He turned back to the helicopter. "Carl, you follow the tracking device in their boat and find out where the heck those kids went."

"Yes, sir."

Carl then reached out and closed the door left open by Chef before he slowly took off again.

Later…

"Faster, John! Come on!"

"Mary…he's been chasing us for over an hour now, eh!"

"That is one persistent shark!" Nicole stated.

"It doesn't seem to be going any slower or any faster…it's just…following us." Anna observed.

"So? What does that mean?" Mary asked, clearly annoyed and frightened at the same time.

"It means that something's not right here…"

Just then, they heard a loud motor and chopping sound above them. They all looked up just in time to see a familiar red object suddenly fly in from downriver and hover over them.

"Hey! Isn't that Chef's helicopter?" Louis asked.

"Yeah, it is!" John replied. "HEY! DOWN HERE!" He yelled out.

All the other members of Team Sahara followed suit, waving their arms in the air and shouting to catch the helicopter's attention.

Much to their happiness, the chopper slowly began to descend until it was just over them.

"Hello down there, kids! This is Carl!" He yelled down through the bullhorn. "Remember? The intern from last week?"

"Yes! We remember!" Mary called back. "Just help us and do something to get rid of that shark!"

"What shark?" He then looked back and saw the dorsal fin pursuing them. "Oh, that?" He called back down. He then reached under the seat and pulled out a small remote control device with an antenna sticking out. He pressed a button that had the word "Off" underneath it.

The kids watched in mute amazement and shock as the fin's speed slowly started to decrease. The wake it was creating started to vanish and diminish, until, finally, the fin sat perfectly still in the water.

"What the…?"

Then the fin rose straight up out of the water. Almost immediately, the fin cut off. Beneath the gray triangle, where they expected to see the mass of the shark's body, there was simply a few black rods. It rose higher, and they saw the full shape: A long, hollowed-out, torpedo-shaped mass of black steel beams, with only the one fin on top and a motor in the back.

"Yeah…that was another booby-trap that Chef had us lay down, for any team that chose to go the wrong way."

While the contestants were stunned at the revelation of the fake shark, the last three words in Carl's sentence snapped that shock and brought in even more confusion.

"THE WRONG WAY?" All six of them simultaneously yelled back.

"Yep. If you turned right at the fork, then you went the wrong way. St. Louis is to the left. Both of the other teams went left, and as of now, have made it to the Arch. So, sorry; you guys came in last place and will have to eliminate someone tonight!"

A series of groans and yells of "Come on!" arose from the team.

"Sorry." Carl shrugged, sounding more genuine in his apology than Chef would have. "Just head on back to the fork, turn left, and head on up to St. Louis. You can't miss it. I'll follow you there. Once you arrive, I'll take you to the airport where the Jet is."

As John slowly got back to the wheel and started to turn around, he could only imagine how the elimination was going to go. He slowly turned around and looked at several of his teammates.

Already, Mary and Anna were glaring daggers at each other.

The six members of Team Sahara sat on the bleachers in the elimination area. John and Mary sat next to each other, in the front row. Anna and Isaiah sat at the top of the bleachers, opposite John and Mary. And Louis and Nicole sat in the middle, caught between the two pairs of glares as Chef walked onto the stage.

"Alright, worms! Here's the deal: There are six of you, but only five of these deeeee-licious Barf Bags filled to the brim with nearly-expired peanuts. Each of ya'll will head on down to the Lavatory, one at a time, where you'll find six passports and a big, red stamper. Stamp the passport of who you want to see kicked off of this Jet. And whoever does not receive a Barf Bag must put on this parachute, jump out, never come back, and yada-yada. So, let's get to it. Animal Lover, you're up first!"

Lavatory Confessional

Anna – That Perfectionist Mary is so darn annoying! I could not believe her! I was appalled at her total disrespect for the Animal Kingdom! (Grabs the stamper and raises it high into the air; pauses for a long moment)

Mary – As if it wasn't obvious enough…(roughly stamps Anna's passport)…not only is she annoying and damaging to your ears and brain, but she contributed to our loss by jumping in to save that pathetic little geek. She has to go. Now.

Isaiah – (Grabs the stamper, nervously glances around the Confessional, then quickly stamps Anna's passport) I'll bet you're probably shocked. Yeah, I know. (Leans in close and whispers) But that girl freaks me out. A lot.

John – Mary kept telling me that it has to be Anna. And I can see that. I mean, not only is she annoying and all, but she was ready to start a fight with my girlfriend. Plus, she jumped out of our boat back in Memphis. (Shakes his head) But… (grabs the stamper and stamps Isaiah's passport) If it weren't for Isaiah falling out in the first place, she wouldn't have had to jump in after him. Plus, he still freaks me out. A lot.

End

Chef Hatchet was leaning on the pedestal with the five Barf Bags, drumming his fingers on its surface impatiently, until Carl finally approached and held out the six passports.

"And we have our results! When I call your name, you get a Barf Bag and are safe. The first ones go to…Louis and Nicole."

Both Louis and Nicole cheered briefly, hugging each other before they each grabbed a Barf Bag.

"Next, is…"

Mary glanced at John nervously, then turned back to Anna. The Animal Lover sneered at her.

"…Mary."

The sneer instantly turned to an expression of shock as Mary grinned back smugly, receiving her Barf Bag.

"Only three are left. The next one that I will call is…"

Isaiah was nervously biting his nails. Anna was fiddling with nervously with the fox ears on her head. John was casually shifting in his seat.

"…Isaiah."

"YAY!" Anna cheered and swooped Isaiah up in a bear hug.

"Um…Anna? You know that he called my name, right?"

"I know!"

"Ugh…OW!" Isaiah suddenly yelped when the Bag hit him in the face, due to him being unable to catch it with his arms pinned down.

"And now, our bottom two."

Anna perked up and, realizing her own situation, let go of Isaiah. She glanced over at John, who didn't turn back to face her. He was shaking in his seat. His calm demeanor that he had before Isaiah received his Barf Bag was completely gone.

"Anna and John…this here's the final Barf Bag. And it goes to…"

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"…Anna!"

"What? NO!" Mary screamed in outrage. She glanced back at Anna, who caught her Barf Bag in delight. "This is absurd! This can't be! You guys voted out John?"

"Well, no offense, Mary…" Louis started nervously. "He did kind of lose the game for us."

"What are you talking about, Romeo?"

"He chose to go right at the fork. That's kind of how we lost."

"We were already about to lose! It's because of those two geeks! You guys are fools! You…"

"Mary!"

Mary spun around angrily to face who had called her name, only to see that it was John.

"Mary, it's alright. And he's right. I did choose to go right."

"But John, it wasn't all your fault…"

"It's OK. I kinda figured that my time to go would come soon. After all, I won the last season, didn't I? It's someone else's turn now. Like you. I know that you can go far on your own, eh. I'll be watching and rooting for you back…er, well, wherever I'm from."

As a single tear escaped her eye, Mary cracked a weak smile. "Thanks, John."

They embraced, holding each other tightly for a long time.

"Ugh!" Chef groaned from over on the stage. "Is every elimination going to go like this one? Come on! We don't have enough time for all of this moochy-smoochy-poochy love fest-ness!"

Chef stormed off of the stage, grabbed John by the back of his shirt, and yanked him right out of Mary's arms. As he threw him back, he stuffed the parachute into his arms right before he flew out the door. His scream of sudden terror and shock could be heard by all, but grew fainter and fainter as he fell.

"Well. Glad that's taken care of!" Chef proudly declared. He quickly looked down at his watch. "And with almost one minute to spare! So, how will John's elimination affect the already-boiling tension in Team Sahara? How will Eryn's return aid – or ruin – Team Victory II? And, most importantly, who will bite the dust next? Find out next time, on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

Remaining Voting Confessionals

Louis – Yeah, Isaiah and Anna did really screw us up early on…but it was John who made us go to the right and instantly lose any chance of winning in the first place. And besides that, he is a strong competitor. You know, winner of the second season and all that. (Stamps John's passport). Sorry.

Nicole – Yeah…John's a nice guy and all, but he did lose the challenge for us in the end. Sorry, John. (Stamps John's passport).

Anna – (Hand still holding the stamper high in the air; she sighs) But… (brings it down on John's passport) …While Mary's as annoying as heck, that boyfriend of hers is always backing her up. Plus, he's already being a little mean to Isaiah. Oh, yeah; he also totally made us lose today.

Voting Results

Isaiah – Anna

Mary – Anna

John – Isaiah

Louis – John

Nicole – John

Anna – John

Total Votes

John – 3

Anna – 2

Isaiah – 1

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John

Epilogue

Miraculously, John had managed to strap on his parachute while he was falling, and quickly deployed it. He looked up one last time at the Jet as it soared away into the night sky, leaving him behind. He hung his head and sighed.

Then, while his head was down, he noticed where he was about to land.

"What? No, no, NO!"

He frantically kicked and flailed, trying to make his parachute move in any way possible. No luck. He plunged straight into the frigid waters of the Mississippi River.

"Ack! No!"

He tried desperately to unhook the lines as the massive white parachute slowly fluttered down on top of him. He ripped one line off, only for his hand to be thrust between two more. He found himself caught, and the white cloth started to envelop him.

"NO! Someone help! Help m-."

The parachute landed in the water, the wetness instantly clinging to it and soaking it all up. It started to squeeze and tighten around John. He tried to kick and get out of it, but it clung to him and started to tangle up even more. He began to lose his ability to stay above water…

Then, suddenly, he heard a ripping sound. He managed to turn to his left, and saw a massive spear puncture right through the wet parachute. Its jagged end then pulled back against the tear and split it open even more. Then it pulled out, and a hand reached in through the hole. Before he could react, the hand grabbed his shoulder and pulled him through the hole. He was amazed by the hand's strength as it lifted his whole body up and flung him down onto a solid, wet surface.

His eyes widened for a moment, then he shook his head as he started to sit up. He saw the figure kneeling next to him, the spear in one hand. It was wearing a massive yellow poncho that completely covered its entire body, and a matching yellow hat that covered its head. It raised the spear high into the air again. John cringed briefly, but then saw it come down on the remaining lines attached to him, severing them all.

John looked around, and saw that he was now in a small, wooden fishing boat.

"Uh…thanks, eh."

"Not a problem at all, laddy." The figure replied. Its voice was gruff and thick, sounding a bit like both a man's and a woman's voice.

The figure stood up, tossing the spear aside, and grabbed the remaining lines dangling over the side. It heaved them all off the boat and into the water, where the fully-soaked parachute was slowly starting to sink.

"What might you be doing, parachutin' from the sky into the water?"

"Well, you see, it's a long story, eh."

"Oh, I've got plenty of time, I do."

"Well, I've actually gotta, you know, try to find a way to get home."

"Ah. Well, if ye be needing a place to stay until you can get on going, I can give ye the spare room in ma house. Just down the river there."

"Um…thanks?"

"Not a problem, at all, laddy."

The figure turned and bent down as it picked up two wooden oars nearby. As it did, John caught a glimpse of blonde hair, flowing from beneath the hat.

"Um…what should I call you?"

"Oh, just call me Erika."

"Erika, eh? Huh…"

"What be yer name, boy?"

"John."

"Ah. A fine name."

"Do I…know you from somewhere?"

The figure slowly turned around and looked at John. In that moment, John could see right between the collar of the poncho and the brim of the hat, and saw the face. It was a pale face, with two wide, excited eyes and a big, toothy grin. That grin was not one of regular happiness or excitement; it was one of insanity. One that he had seen only once before.

John's eyes widened.

Lavatory Confessional

Eryn – Ooooooohhhhhhhh, yeah! Now I remember that really important thing that I was in the middle of doing when the game came crawling back to me! I was helping my cousin Erika with fishing! See, my cousin, Erika, lives just along the Mississippi River. All of my other relatives say that I have her looks. I probably do, since we both look exactly the same. She was probably my closest living relative after I fell into the Pacific, so I just thought, "Hey, why not drop by and have a visit while I'm AWOL and travelling the world?" Ha, ha…yeah. So, I was spending a couple weeks with her, fishing like she always does, and I borrowed one of her ponchos and one of her hats and one of her old fishing boats full of a bunch of her fishing gear, and that's what I was doing today when they ran into me! So, yeah. Erika, if you're watching this right now on that old 1950's TV you have back at your house, I just wanna say sorry for leaving without telling you where I was going.

Oh, and I almost forgot; it's a really freaky thing that John happened to be the one who was eliminated tonight. I just really hope that he didn't land in the water or anywhere near her house. You wanna know why? It's because…(leans in close and whispers to the camera)…my cousin Erika has a huge crush on John! She thinks he's super cute! (leans back out) Yeah, and when my cousin finds a guy that she has a crush on, she has a tendency to keep them hostage in her old boathouse for however long she wants. So, again, I just hope that you didn't do something stupid like land in the River, John! OK, bye!

End


Episode 4 Part 1: I Think We're Still in Kansas

"Last time on Total Drama World Tour: The Mississippi River. It was a long, wild, wet, and weird journey for our cast. The three teams had to race down the river in boats to St. Louis. While Team Victory II and Team Not-Madison were at each others' throats, Team Sahara fell behind due to Napoleon fallin' overboard at the beginning…oh yeah, and Animal Lover jumped in after him to save him.

"The whole way, Season One Winner refused to slow down the boat, and blew out their engine. But they had a little help from a strange local, who was then revealed to be The Psycho American girl, back from her tumble into the Pacific. She then rejoined the game and joined their team, and even helped them get a sudden boost of speed that placed them at the finish line just before Team Madison, scoring their third victory in a row.

"All the while, Team Sahara had to endure the arguing of Animal Lover and Perfectionist, leading to Goth Boy John, who was driving, to turn their boat down the wrong way when they came to the giant fork in the river. This resulted in him being booted from the game later that night.

"Will Team Victory II ever lose a challenge? How will Mary survive being on the same team as her new mortal enemy for another day? Find out, here, on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

"MAN! I love winning!" Matthew declared as he sipped down his fourth can of Dr. Pepper. "That will be all, Emily."

The flight attendant nodded and walked off. Matthew then set the empty can on the seat next to him and raised his hand, snapping twice.

"Marco! A shoulder massage, pronto!"

Almost immediately, the burly, blonde intern with the unibrow stepped up and started giving Matthew the massage he requested.

"Hey, can I have a massage, too?" James asked from across the way.

"Of course, my good man. Franco! You heard him!"

Just then, a second intern, the dark-skinned intern who was just as muscular as Marco and wore an outfit similar to his, swiftly strode over and began giving the larger contestant a shoulder massage as well.

"Aaaaaaah. THIS is the life." Matthew declared.

"I couldn't agree more." James agreed.

Suddenly, there was a crashing behind them. Both Matthew and James spun around to see Eryn behind the counter, having just smashed another expensive-looking bottle of champagne, and collecting the cap from it, holding it up next to her first bottle cap.

"Oh, look here, Jeffrey! I found you a new friend! We'll call him…Ray! And maybe I can find you a couple more, and give them new names, like William, and Johnson!"

Cockpit Confessional

Matthew – Even with that weird psycho freak on our team now, I'm not going to drop my optimistic attitude. I mean, seriously! Things could NOT be working out better! We've won three times in a row! We've won every challenge to date! We are unbeatable!

Chef Hatchet – Never say that, kid. You'll jinx yourself.

Matthew – You know I don't believe in that mumbo-jumbo, dude. It's all just a bunch of bologna.

Chef Hatchet – Suit yourself.

End

Sitting in economy-class for the third straight week, Lauren had finally given up on complaining, and was now lying sideways on the ground underneath the wooden slat, curled into a fetal position and sucking her thumb. Occasionally, some of the others heard brief moans of "need…pampering. Need…luxury…," aside from gurgles and throaty moans.

But, on the side opposite the curled-up, drooling, disgraceful mess that was Lauren, there were deep, hard, bitter feelings on the other side. The tension was so thick that even Chef Hatchet wouldn't have been able to cut it.

Mary was sitting at the far end of the bench, away from the other four members. She had her head in her hands, even though she had long since finished sobbing. Now, the feelings of sorrow had long since been pushed to the back of her head, now replaced with a quiet, unyielding anger. She dared not look in the direction of two particular geeks on her team, knowing that her anger would only grow worse.

Literally caught in the middle, sitting between on one side of Anna and Isaiah and one side of Mary, were Louis and Nicole. Nicole glanced at the brooding Mary, while Louis stole a side glance at Isaiah, twiddling his thumbs awkwardly, and Anna, who copied Isaiah's movements.

Both sighed.

Lavatory Confessional

Mary – I've refused to believe it. It's just…not real. I mean, John was such a nice guy and a strong player. And they voted him out! Argh! (smacks herself in the forehead) I cannot stand that animal-loving freak! It's all her fault! And Isaiah! Both of them! I mean, I can tolerate Louis and Nicole, but those two I can't. Not one bit. I mean, I'm the smartest person here now, and probably the sanest. As much as I'm against doing things that might make me look like a schemer, I have no choice: I'm gonna have to form an alliance with Louis and Nicole to get rid of those two losers and avenge John. Plus, it will undoubtedly help the team more to drop the dead weight.

Louis – I just don't know. Let me tell you, that vote was tough. And I know that Mary probably hates us now, but that's the way the game is played. Personally, I was leaning towards Anna, too. But I'm thinking ahead. John's already won a season, and we haven't. I just hope that voting out one of our strongest players doesn't come back to bite us.

Nicole – So I guess last week's vote pretty much split the team right in half. Now there's Team Isaiah/Anna and Team Mary. And I'm gonna have to choose one! And I hate choosing sides! Well, at least I'm not the only one. I'm glad that Louis is in the same position as me. Maybe, while he's making the decision for himself, he can help me decide, too.

End

On the other side, just a few feet from the still and tense half of economy-class, one person in particular was already fast at work, sitting in the thinking pose with his head resting on the back of his hand, bending forward, staring at the filthy floor as he was deep in thought.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – We barely lost last time, and I have a feeling we may not be so lucky this time. Even with John gone on the other team, I still wouldn't get my hopes up. I'm pretty much the only good player on this team, both physically and strategically. Well, possibly besides Samantha. When she's told to do something – as long as it doesn't separate her from her phone – she does it, and does it pretty well. On the other side, I've got the female Tyler, the Prom Queen, and the new Lindsay. I'm not sure which is worse. Well, Jessica's been like a loyal dog to me since Madison left, so she's good to keep around for a vote. That leaves Lauren and Suzie. Assuming we lose, that is.

End

"Alright, punks! Listen up!" Chef's voice called as the usual routine began again.

Louis leaned over to Nicole and muttered, "I'll bet it won't be long before he runs out of names to call us."

Nicole giggled.

"I SAID SHUT UP, WORMS!"

The sudden and loud response stunned everyone in economy-class, causing them all to jump briefly, with the sole exception of Louis.

Louis simply raised an eyebrow and replied, "No you didn't."

"What was that, Romeo?"

"You didn't say 'Shut up.' You said 'Listen up'."

"Same difference, you slug!"

Louis leaned close to Nicole once more. "That's three more." She giggled again.

"SHUT UP OR I'LL DECLARE YOU AUTOMATICALLY ELIMINATED, YOU LITTLE TROLL!"

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – "Troll?" OK, I'll give him that one.

End

"Now, as I was saying before our little playwright down here interrupted me, we're nearing our next destination. And I should warn you all now: The airport we're landing in is actually abandoned."

"What?" Jessica squeaked.

"Yeah. It's been empty for about seven years now. So, obviously, there's been no proper maintenance, and the runway may be a little…bumpy."

Almost as if synchronized, the ten occupants of economy class buckled in. Lauren crawled out from under the bench and strapped into her seat.

Up in first-class, Matthew sighed. "Well, time to rejoin the rat race. Marco, that will be all for now."

"Uh, yeah. Same with you, Franco." James added to his own intern.

The two burly men nodded briefly, then walked away down the hall side-by-side.

"What do you think the challenge will be this time?" James asked nervously as he buckled in. "I mean, last week was pretty crazy. You know how many times I almost got seasick?"

"No, and I would prefer not to." Matthew responded as he connected his own seatbelt. "As for your question, all I can say is that if it's suicidal or otherwise dangerous, we all know who to turn to."

As if on cue, there was a loud BANG! Matthew turned in his seat, and James lifted his head up to look over Matthew's seat.

One of the lamps on a nearby table had clanged to the floor, and the canvas cover was now covering the head of a wild blonde.

"Hey, look at me! I'm bright! HA! Get it?"

Matthew and James, briefly stunned, looked away and looked back at each other.

"Point taken." James agreed.

Within about 15 minutes, the Jet landed in the airport. Despite what Chef had warned, the Jet actually had a relatively soft landing, with few bumps and jolts. When the cast exited the Jet and stood in a group before Chef Hatchet, most took a quick once-over of the airport. It was run down, dark, dirty, dilapidated, and looked like the kind of place where hobos would live.

"Dude, Chef. What was the big deal of telling us that we'd have a bumpy landing?" James asked immediately. "I didn't feel a thing."

"Yeah, same here." Isaiah commented. "And we were in economy class!"

"Well, I couldn't resist the chance to get ya'll hyped up and thinking you weren't getting off without some sort of traumatic head injury." Chef then laughed at his own joke, unlike everyone else.

When Chef realized that no one else was laughing, he cleared his throat and continued.

"Well, anyway. Welcome to Kansas, United States of…" Chef paused and swallowed. "…America."

"AMERICA! WOO!" Eryn cheered enthusiastically.

"Really?" Ethan asked. "This is the fourth location of the season, and our third time being in America! What is it with visiting America so much?"

Chef groaned, signaling his similar distaste of the situation. "I know, I know. It's not my decision. The producers say we're a little tight on the budget right now – still suffering from what happened at the end of last season – and we need to limit our travelling to North America for a while. And they consider America to be more interesting than Canada. Can you believe that?"

"No." Ethan replied.

"At least someone else here is sane."

"So, Chef. What's the challenge today?" Anna asked.

"I was just about to get to that. Now, first off, the challenge is not taking place at this here airport. Now all of ya'll hop onto this trailer over here…" Chef gestured behind him, a little further down the dilapidated runway, to where a familiar white trailer with rows of seats, attached to a matching white golf cart, sat in wait. "…and we'll head off to our next challenge."

Lavatory Confessional

Lauren – I was glad that the challenge wasn't at that filthy airport! It looked like the kind of place that my uncle would live. He's one of the poor people.

End

So, within a few minutes, all 15 contestants had climbed aboard, with Chef getting in the golf cart. They slowly began to putter out of the airport, past the run-down buildings, and finally, off the cracked, bumpy runway. They instantly started riding more smoothly, riding along on soft, short grass, heading further out into the massive plain of nowhere that the airport sat in.

Looking back at the airport, Violet shook her head. "I wonder why that airport was abandoned."

Luckily for Chef, none of the contestants caught his brief snicker after Violet's unanswered question.

After a ride that lasted about an hour and a half, the cast arrived at their destination: The middle of nowhere. The airport was nothing more than a dark speck on the horizon behind them, and nothing else could be seen for miles around.

The one object that was near now was a massive trailer, sitting perfectly alone in the middle of the field. It was white, with several windows on it and a large green-and-white striped canvas over the door. It was pristine and shiny, obviously brand new.

"Now we are truly on our own. Deep in the southwestern corner of the state, far from any cities or any form of civilization, is where your next challenge is!"

"Wait…away from any form of malls?"

"Bingo, girl."

"NOOOOOO!" Lauren screamed.

"Now, as I was saying before Banshee here screamed: Your challenge today is going to be one of endurance. Rather than a mental challenge, a teamwork challenge, or even a deadly physical challenge, the concept of today's challenge is relatively simple. All you have to do is maintain some form of physical contact with this trailer. There's no time limit. If at any time you take your entire body off of the trailer, you are out. Last person standing wins the challenge for their team. They win team immunity, and, as a bonus, the winning team will vote for one of their members to win an individual reward. That person will receive none other than the luxurious trailer itself, and will get to take it home at the end of the season, or whenever that person is eliminated from the game. Any questions?"

Louis raised a hand. "What about, er, the basic necessities? Food? Having to use the lavatory?"

"None of that. It wouldn't be much of an endurance challenge if we hand-fed you wimps and gave you a port-o-potty to use now, would it?"

"Could you possibly be any crueler?" Violet asked.

"Wanna bet? You have 10 seconds to get in position."

The 15 teens scrambled over to the trailer to take up their respective positions, most of them quickly stretching and preparing for the challenge ahead.

"All right. On your mark…get set…"

Everyone had a hand on the trailer, except for Samantha, who instead had her butt against it as she leaned on it, preferring to use both hands to continue texting.

"This challenge is ON!"

There was no whistle, no starting gunshot, or anything. Just the slight sound of the breeze and the rustling of the short, brown grass as silence descended upon the plain.

After a few seconds, the silence was broken by Chef once more.

"It's too quiet out here, and the challenge has barely begun! I think we need to start this challenge off with a bang, if you know what I mean."

"OK, but can I please get some water to clear my thro-."

"NO!" Chef yelled back. "Now get started!"

"What can we sing about?" Mary asked.

"Just think of something and quit complaining! Now hurry it up, you slowpokes!"

"I've got it!" Violet spoke up, right before…

Ding-ding!

Musical Number – Big Chef Man [*]

Violet: Big Chef man! Why must you be so darn cruel?

Ethan: Big Chef man! Why do you always lose your cool?

Anna: Well you ain't so big. You only act tough, and stuff.

Matthew: Well you're torturing us, Chef man.

In these crazy tasks.

Lauren: I want a drink of water, but you barely let me ask!

Isaiah: Big Chef man! Why must you be so darn cruel?

Nicole: You know you're not so big.

Everyone: You only act tough, and stuff.

{Musical interlude; Louis playing the harmonica, with everyone else tapping their hands against the side of the trailer in unison to the rhythm}

Rachael: Big Chef man! Why must you be so darn cruel?

Everyone: You know you're not so big.

You only act tough, and stuff.

Jessica: Well, we really want a new host.

One that'll treat us right.

One who doesn't abuse us.

And listens to our plights!

James: Big Chef man! Why must you be so darn cruel?

Everyone: You really aren't so big.

You just act tough, and stuff.

Louis: Well, we really want a new host.

One that'll treat us right.

One who doesn't abuse us.

And listens to our plights!

Mary: Big Chef man! Why must you be so darn cruel?

Eryn: You know you ain't so big.

Everyone: You just act tough, and stuff.

You really ain't that big.

You just act tough…and stuff!

End Musical Number

"How's that?" Violet asked with a smug grin.

There was no response from the fuming host, whose eyebrows were furrowed hard, his teeth biting down hard on his lower lip, and his face seething red.

"You…little…"

"Think about it!" Louis interrupted. "You wouldn't want to reuse an old insult now, would you?"

"You..little…dwarf."

"…'dwarf'?"

"THAT'S IT! YOU HAVEN'T EVEN SEEN CRUEL!"

Chef spun around sharply on his heels and started walking back to the golf cart.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm leaving. I'm leaving you little twerps out here on your own, while I go back to the airport and enjoy the luxury of first-class on my Jet."

"Wait." Ethan called out. "If you leave us alone, how will you know whether or not any of us get off of the trailer?"

"Oh, that's what the interns and camera crew are for."

Chef gestured in one direction, and the teens followed his gesture. Sure enough, there were six interns: Carl, whom they recognized from the challenge in week two; the intern with the long brown hair and orange bandana; the massive, dark-skinned intern; the intern with the blonde hair, khaki shorts, and white tanktop; and the two tall, burly interns who had given Matthew and James massages earlier, Marco and Franco. Marco and Franco both held boom microphones on long rods, the large intern held a spotlight, the tanktop intern held a clipboard, the bandana intern held a camera, and Carl was sitting in a fold-up chair.

"They'll watch you while I'm gone. Carl, you're in charge."

"Yes, sir."

"Aw, man! Why does he get to be in charge?" The bandana intern whined.

"Shut up, Phil." Marco muttered. "All you do is complain."

"I've been on this show longer than anyone else! I was in the very first season, remember?"

"What about me?" The large intern spoke up in a deep voice. "I was in the first season, too!"

"Not until the very end, Steve."

"But I'm the fan favorite!" The tanktop intern interrupted.

"Only because you suffered so much abuse in those Aftermath shows, Bill." Phil replied.

"ENOUGH!" Chef roared at the six interns. "Carl is in charge, and that's final! And keep your eyes on those losers at all times."

"Yes, sir." Carl replied diligently, earning glares from several other interns.

"Good." With that, Chef climbed back into the golf cart, started it up, and disappeared over the horizon in a few minutes.

"Darn it." Matthew muttered. He turned and noticed the person nearest him: Suzie.

A grin grew on his face.

With one hand still firmly on the trailer, Matthew reached into his pocket and slipped out some spare money he had in his pocket: a 10-dollar bill, to be exact.

Whistling casually, he crumpled it up and tossed it away.

Matthew glanced back to see Suzie's head turn sharply as her eyes followed the valuable piece of paper. Once it hit the ground, it unfurled slightly. Her eyes widened.

"Um, Matthew? You dropped some money."

"I did?" Matthew asked in a fake surprised voice. "Oh, dear. Do you think you could get it for me? I'll pay you."

"You will? Oh, boy!"

On the other end of the trailer, Ethan caught wind of their conversation as Suzie's voice rose quickly. He made out the last few comments, and his eyes widened in fear.

"SUZIE, NO!"

It was too late. The redhead eagerly bolted for the bill, completely taking her hands off of the side of the trailer and practically diving to snatch it up.

"And she's out!" Carl declared, pointing a single finger at Suzie, lying on the ground on top of the piece of money.

Several others now heard the commotion, and had looked over towards the first person eliminated from the challenge.

Off to the side, another redhead facepalmed angrily.

"Ha! I've outsmarted you, Matthew! This is my money now! You know what they say: Finders keepers, losers weepers."

Ethan facepalmed again, while everyone else who had witnessed the event simply shook their heads.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – I know the perfect quote from Shakespeare to describe that girl. Ahem. "Her beauty and her brain go not together." Cymbeline, Act I.

End

As Chef drove across the empty plain – the trailer, the group of teens, and the group of interns barely visible in the distance behind him – he cranked up his radio.

"…yes, we are receiving the latest weather updates here in Elkhart. It appears that, over the course of the next three days, the entire area of southwestern Kansas will be seeing some very strange weather. Tomorrow, better have that ice ready, because we'll be seeing extreme temperatures of slightly over 100 degrees Fahrenheit all day. Then the day after that, an extreme storm will hit, with rainfall of nearly one inch, along with a strong chance of lightning and thunder, along with winds of nearly 40 to 50 miles per hour. And the day after that, there will be a tornado warning out for the entire region. So if you're a tourist, you need to get the heck out of here. And if you're a resident, then you might consider going to see some of your out-of-state relatives for the next three days, because this will be something out of a bad Roland Emmerich movie."

Chef switched off the radio, grinning and chuckling evilly to himself.

"Oh, yes; those delinquents haven't even begun to see 'cruel' yet."


Episode 4 Part 2: Storm Stories

4:37:42 in and counting…

With the exception of Suzie, not a single contestant had let go of the trailer. The 14 teens, noticeably exhausted, were not the only things that were clinging on to something. Most of their shirts and/or blouses were sticking to their skin due to the extreme heat wave. Some could even see the area around them being slightly distorted by the waves of heat, and the sun continued bearing down on them.

Matthew sighed heavily, bullets of sweat sliding down his forehead.

"Oh…man…We…were wrong about Chef…"

"I…I co-couldn't agree moooooore…" Violet replied, stretching out her "more" as she wiped her sweaty brow with an equally sweaty sleeve.

"My glasses are so steamed up, I can't see anything." Isaiah added.

"Here, let me clean them!" Anna quickly offered.

Before Isaiah could even respond, Anna swiped his glasses away, breathed heavily onto them, and started wiping them off. However, she soon noticed that all she was doing was spreading around the sweat already built up on the glasses. There were numerous drops of sweat still spattered all over the lenses.

"…Oops." She turned sheepishly back to Isaiah. "…Sorry."

Isaiah swiped them away and rubbed them off on his sweat-stained shirt before he placed them back on. He blinked once, then twice. He looked at Anna for a brief moment before he turned away, shaking his head in disgust. Just then, he noticed something, and actually looked at her again.

His eyes widened.

"Um…Anna?"

"What?"

Isaiah then gestured his one hand towards the wall of the trailer behind Anna…

…where her hand had been moments earlier.

"You held my glasses with one hand, and rubbed them off with the other."

"Huh?" Anna then turned around and saw the wall. She raised both of her hands, looked at her sweaty palms, and looked back at Isaiah with equally wide eyes.

"Oh, sh-."

Just then, a loud bullhorn sounded, and Anna covered her animal ears with both hands. Isaiah, one hand still on the trailer, slammed his head against the metal wall to cover one ear, while covering his other with his spare hand.

A few feet away, Carl held the familiar red bullhorn, after just pressing the button on the outer side of the handle. He then let go of it, pressed the button on the back of the handle, and spoke into it:

"Anna has broken all bodily contact with the trailer. She is now out. Score is now 5 to 4 to 4, with Team Sahara and Team Madison down by 1, and Team Victory II taking the lead."

Just around the corner from Isaiah and Anna, Mary leaned out and saw for herself. She facepalmed.

Lavatory Confessional

Mary – Yep, that girl just cost our team a potential win. This will only make it easier for me to form up an alliance to get rid of her. And when she's gone, if Napoleon doesn't straighten out his game, he'll go next.

End

Mary slid back along the white wall, moving past James and Samantha, until she came upon Louis and Nicole, where the former was describing his favorite novel – which he was holding in one hand and reading from at that moment – to the latter.

"…and then the entire SWAT Team is completely taken out, and the creature gets away completely unharmed."

"Wow! Seriously? A whole team of, like, 30 guys?"

"Yep. And don't forget; the two curators were also killed."

Nicole shook her head, then looked up and noticed Mary.

"Oh, hey Mary."

"Hey, guys." Mary responded. "I'm sure you both just heard."

"Yeah." Louis replied, shaking his head and closing his book, stuffing it into his back pocket. "Let me guess: Isaiah had something to do with it?"

"I don't know. I didn't see. But the point is, she's now out, and Team Victory II is in the lead. This is just like last week. Those two were the main reason that we lost last week, because of something they did early on."

"But we don't know if Isaiah was involved." Nicole defended. "And even so, he's still on the trailer, isn't he?"

"Still." Mary continued, lowering her voice. "The bottom line is, clearly Anna and Isaiah are the weakest links of this team physically. They've been holding us back; Anna especially. Isaiah himself could be better, but if all Anna is going to do is obsess over him, then clearly she must go first. I know that I'm kind of on the outs with the team right now since John left, but I'm sure you two will understand my logic. You're both smart."

Louis and Nicole glanced at each other briefly. Nicole gave the questioning look and mouthed, "Should we?"

Louis shrugged.

"Look." Mary continued, drawing their attention back to her. "I know that you guys probably think that I hate you and all because you voted out John. And, yes, I was upset that my boyfriend was voted out. But in my experience, I've learned not to dwell on the past."

"But that's technically what you're doing right now." Louis replied. "You're still upset about our team's loss last week, which you believe was the fault of Anna and Isaiah."

Mary was briefly caught off-guard. "Y-yes, I guess that is true. But the point is, I'm not dwelling on that; I'm learning from it. They caused us to lose, but we spared them and voted out John. And yes, he made that mistake that ultimately caused us to go the wrong way…"

"And be chased by what we thought was a giant man-eating shark." Louis added.

"Yes. That, too. But we voted him out, and he's gone."

"'We'?" Louis asked. "You voted for him, too?"

Nicole gasped.

"What? No! I did not vote for John. I guess I mean 'we' as a team. A majority of our team voted him out, and it's as plain as that."

Mary paused, wiped off her brow, and continued.

"The point is, they've caused us to lose once. Now, they're halfway done with drawing us closer to losing again. Anna's already out, now Isaiah's surely next. What I'm saying is that we'll surely face a repeat of their little screw-up last week. That's what I mean when I say we learn from the past."

"Ah. That reminds me of a famous quote." Louis interjected, before he cleared his throat and recited in his deep, dramatic voice: "If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it."

"Exactly." Mary agreed.

"Very well, Mary. I have to agree with you; Anna and Isaiah are holding us back. If we lose tonight – the key word being 'if' – then Nicole and I shall vote with you against Anna."

"Thank you both very much. You won't regret this."

Mary turned around, placing one hand onto the trailer before removing the other, and walked away.

Lavatory Confessional

Mary – See? It's that easy. We're on a team of five right now. Anna and Isaiah can be tighter than the Gordian Knot for all I care. All I need is 3 out of 5 votes against Anna. And who knows? It's obvious that Isaiah is creeped out by Anna's behavior. I have the ability to make this a perfect victory; a landslide vote of 4 out of 5 against Anna. But I figure that she'll be hanging around Isaiah too much, even when she's out of the game, for me to get a chance to talk to him. Even if she's not, she'll probably pounce right onto him if she saw me coming anywhere near him. So, for now, I must keep it at a close 3 against 2. Taking a chance, but a worthy chance.

Louis – That was quite an exchange. I must admit, I was pleased with Mary's way with words. She handled it quite well and ultimately won me over and convinced me. I feel that she's truly my intellectual superior on this show, along with Violet, and I must respect her for it.

Nicole – (Rubbing the back of her head nervously) So…I guess this means I'm voting for Anna.

End

Matthew was standing next to one of the larger windows of the trailer, looking around at the people near him. Violet was a few feet away on his left, while Lauren, Samantha, and Isaiah were on his right, spread out along the one wall of the trailer that they were against. Lauren was nearest him, standing as far underneath the awning as she could to stay out of the sun.

The metaphorical light bulb went off in his head.

Violet watched as Matthew started to slide along the wall of the trailer, advancing towards the prom queen.

Great. What's he up to now?

Matthew approached Lauren, wiping off his brow yet again as he started to speak.

"Man, this heat is something else, isn't it?"

"I'll say!" She replied in her usual whiny voice. "Even my tanning bed at home isn't this hot!"

"Yep. It's not good for a pretty lady like yourself to be out in this heat." Matthew smirked as he said this.

"I'll say!" She repeated. "And I don't even have a decent mirror! I can't see anything in these windows!"

She turned around once again and peered hard against the glass window behind her, but couldn't see much of her own reflection: Only the interior of the luxurious trailer within, taunting her even more.

She turned back to Matthew. "I need an honest answer, Matt. Is my mascara running? Is my hair starting to get unruly? Is my sweat ruining my makeup? Is anything wrong with my face?"

Everything is wrong with your face. Matthew thought sarcastically before he donned a fake worried look and replied out loud.

"Oh, dear. Is that what all of that is?"

"All of what? All of what?"

"There's long streaks of black running down from your eyes. Oh, and some parts of your hair are all frizzled and sticking out! And your whole forehead is sweat-streaked! Oh, it's awful!"

"All of that? Are you sure? But I've been under this awning the whole time!"

"Well, I'm sorry. The shade hasn't helped much."

"NOOOOOO!"

Lauren leapt out from underneath the awning, tearing her hand away from the side of the trailer, and dashed over to the camera crew nearby, collapsing at Carl's feet.

"I'm out! I'm out! OK? I admit it! I'm out of the challenge! Just get me some decent shade, air conditioning, a mirror, and my makeup bag! PLEASE!"

"Just a second." Carl then lifted up his bullhorn, sounding the loud alarm once again, before speaking into it. "Lauren has broken all bodily contact with the trailer, and is out! The official score is now 5-4-3, with Team Victory II still in the lead, Team Sahara still down by one, and Team Madison now down by two!"

"OK, your announcement's over, now PLEASE give me a MIRROR, NOW!"

"OK…" Carl took off his aviator sunglasses and handed them to Lauren. She held her hand behind one of the lenses to avoid any transparency, and so she could only see her reflection.

Aside from some drops of sweat on her face, there were no mascara trails, and no frizzled hair.

"What the…? YOU!"

She spun around and furiously raised a finger at Matthew. "YOU lied to me!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"There's nothing wrong with my face!"

"Actually, everything's wrong with your face, sweetheart." Matthew replied with a wink.

"I'M GONNA KILL YOU!"

Lauren started to charge, only for Marco to hold her back.

"Now, now, settle down." Carl scolded her. "Those who are out of the challenge cannot approach the trailer and the remaining participants again. It's the rules."

"Fine. When this challenge is OVER, you're DEAD!"

Matthew waved at her and grinned.

5:48:02 in and counting…

"…and that's how I saved an entire flock of seagulls in under 60 seconds."

By now, Isaiah was sitting on the dry ground, sweat on his palm threatening to make his hand slide right down the side of the trailer and fall off. He was exhausted, steaming hot, and ready to scream after listening nonstop to Anna's animal stories. Even though she was farther away from him, all the way back with the group of interns and the few eliminated contestants, she still spoke loudly enough to thoroughly annoy him as much as if she was right next to him.

"Oh, and then there was the time I was lost in the Serengeti for about 5 days. It was amazing…"

Nearby, a certain contestant happened to notice Isaiah's uncomfortable predicament. He soon got another idea, and approached casually, checking up and down the wall they were on to see if anyone else was nearby. Only Violet, who was asleep and leaning against the trailer wall further behind him, and Samantha a few more feet away, stuck on her cell phone as always, were nearby.

"Hey, Isaiah. Enjoying your girlfriend's horror stories?"

"She's…not my girlfriend…and I am not enjoying this at all! It's bad enough that it's too hot for me to handle, and I'm exhausted out of my mind, but now I'm being mentally tortured by her nonstop words!"

"Gee, why not just let go of the trailer and be out?"

"Are you kidding? Then I'd be forced to go over there to where she is, and be even closer to her! Besides, if I gave up now, the rest of my team would hate me for it and vote me off!"

"Oh, I see what you mean, pal. Hmm…" Matthew then turned his head away and put a hand on his chin, pretending to be deep in thought. After he got an idea, he turned back to Isaiah, whose slippery, sweaty hand had already slid further down the wall of the trailer.

"OK, I've got it."

"What?"

"I know how I can help you to get out of this challenge and get away from her."

"How?"

"Well, here's the deal…"

Matthew leaned closer to Isaiah and started whispering in his ear. Anna continued on with her story, yelling across the way and not seeming to care about the rival competitor whispering into Isaiah's ear. As he drew closer and closer to the end, Isaiah's eyes widened and a slight grin appeared on his face.

"So, how does that sound?"

"Great! Man, I'll totally owe you one for this!"

"No problem." Matthew replied with a sinister grin.

"OK, let's do it."

Matthew straightened up, and Isaiah slowly stood up as well, preparing for the oncoming exchange.

"And there I was: Surrounded by fifteen or sixteen of those rabid monkeys! Oh, they were all so cute!"

As Anna continued on, now more absorbed in her own story than Isaiah or anyone else was, Matthew slowly raised one hand to his mouth.

"Ah…ah…AH…AAAAHHHHH-CHOOOO!"

And with that, he unleashed a fairly convincing fake sneeze, aimed right at Isaiah's hand.

Isaiah jerked his hand away instantly, clutching it tightly with his other hand.

"Ah, gross! Dude, that's disgusting!"

And with that, the bullhorn sounded again.

"And Isaiah is out!" Carl declared. "The score is now 5-3-3! Team Victory II still leads strong with five members, while Team Sahara and Team Madison are both down by two!"

Hearing this, Mary tore around the corner, her hand flying along the trailer wall, until she saw for herself that Isaiah was off, and being taken away.

"WHAT? You idiot! What happened? What got into you?"

"Don't blame me!" Isaiah said with a cough. He raised a finger at Matthew. "He sneezed on me! You know I can't stand germs!" Isaiah then turned to Carl. "You wouldn't happen to have any hand sanitizer, would you?"

"ARGH!"

Matthew looked briefly at the infuriated Mary before looking back at Isaiah. Isaiah briefly turned back to him, and Matthew flashed a quick thumbs-up. Isaiah returned it, under the cover of pretending to be cleansing his hands with the sanitizer Carl gave him.

Just as Isaiah stepped under the many umbrellas that the six interns and three previously eliminated contestants were standing under, a certain tail-and-animal-ear-wearing girl rushed up to him.

"So, as I was saying…"

"Uh, hey, Franco!" Isaiah hollered.

The dark-skinned, burly intern looked up at Isaiah as he approached.

"What do you want, kid?"

Isaiah quickly strode up to him, Anna right on his heels. "So, uh, my friend tells me you're an expert massager."

"…they all reared back, preparing to pounce…"

"Yeah, I am. But I only give massages to members of the winning team. And currently, there is no winning team. So I'm on break."

"I know, I know, I get it."

"…and then five of them charged me, and I jumped up over them, and they crashed into each other…"

"Well, according to my informant, you know of a special pressure point in the shoulder, right?"

"The one that, if pinched just right, just hard enough, will knock the body completely unconscious with no possible way of awakening for about 3 hours. I know that one. What about it?"

"…even though they tried to attack me, I couldn't leave them there for lions to eat! So I started nursing them all back to health…"

"Could you, er…" Isaiah jerked a thumb back at Anna. "Get me out of this?"

Franco took one look at the babbling animal-lover, and shrugged. "Eh. If it'll get her to shut up."

Isaiah quickly turned around and closed his eyes. He could hear Franco crack his knuckles behind him. Then he felt the strong hand on his right shoulder. A pinch. And then blackness.

"And then…Isaiah? ISAIAH?"

8:39:57 in and counting…

Over the course of the next three, as the heat rose drastically, the remaining 11 contestants started to dwindle down. James, Jessica, Rachael, and Violet all dropped out in that very order. Only Matthew, Eryn, Ethan, Samantha, Mary, Louis, and Nicole remained.

"And with that, the score is now 3-2-2!" Carl declared after Violet dropped out (she had still been asleep, and had fallen over and lost contact with the side of the trailer). "For the first time, Team Victory II is no longer in the lead! Team Sahara now leads with 3 members remaining. Team Victory II and Team Madison both have only 2 remaining!"

"YES! Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!" Mary cheered. "FINALLY, we're in first! Not so hot now, are you Matthew?"

Matthew, farther down the wall from Mary, scowled at her before turning away.

"Guess it's just you and me now, huh Eryn? Eryn?"

Matthew looked around for the psychotic blonde.

"Oh, great. Don't tell me she's…"

"UP HERE!"

Matthew craned his head back, and his jaw dropped when he saw none other than Eryn herself, up on the roof of the trailer, her legs wrapped around the antenna and hanging upside down from the wires.

"Look at me! I'm so high right now!"

"In more ways than one." Matthew muttered. He then yelled up, "Just don't lose contact with the trailer! We can't afford to lose!"

"Can't afford to lose? Why? How much does it cost? I'm sure I can cover it with a quick trip to the bank and back!"

Matthew facepalmed.

Meanwhile, Louis and Nicole were still having a pleasant conversation on the other side of the trailer, with Mary nearby, relaxing in the shade now that the sun was on the other side of the trailer.

"So…what do you plan on doing with the money if you win?" Nicole asked casually.

"Well, I was planning on using some of it to help out my family. They're not in the best financial situation right now. And, of course, some of it would help fund my tuition and hopefully get me into the school of my dreams."

"What school is that?"

"Juilliard School in New York City, New York. It's a performing arts conservatory, and is generally considered one of the finest performing arts schools in all the world."

"Wow."

"Yes. I hope that my time on this show, plus all of my years of practice and experience, will boost my chances of getting accepted. They're very tough, you know. Their acceptance rate is almost always below 10%, especially in recent years."

"How much is that?"

Louis chuckled. "My good friend, the question is not how much; it's how little. In 2009, the school accepted only 8% of all applicants."

"I'm still not sure how mu – er, how little – that is." Nicole replied.

Louis smiled. "OK, here's a better one: In the year 2007, approximately 2,138 people applied, and only 7.58% were accepted. Do you know how little that is?"

"Sorry; I was never very good with math." Nicole replied nervously, biting her lip out of slight embarrassment.

Louis laughed again. "Oh, that's quite alright. I myself am not a man of math. But I don't do the math myself; I simply go onto the Internet and look up these statistics. That's how I remember so many specific numbers so well."

"Oh." Nicole said with a nervous chuckle.

"Anyway; 7.58% of 2,138 applicants is equal to only 162 accepted."

Nicole's eyes widened. "Oh…wow. That must be a tough school to get into."

"It certainly is. But I'm quite confident that my chances are as good as anyone else's."

"So…is that all you planned to do?"

"Originally, yes. But you see, the original application form sent out said that the prize would simply be one million dollars. Myself, as well as all the other newcomers, were just as shocked as you were when we heard Chef announce that the prize was actually two million dollars. Do you know how much more I can do with that? I could benefit my family, fund my tuition, and still have some left over."

"And what would you do with that?"

Louis paused for a moment, deep in thought.

"Oh, perhaps I would just share it with some of my closest friends. Including all the friends I've made here on the show."

"Really?" Nicole asked, stunned. "You'd…really do that?"

"To quote the great Elvis Presley…" Louis then assumed his deeper, stronger-sounding quote-reciting voice, with a slight hint of the famous Elvis tone in there: "What good is fame and fortune if you don't have friends to share it with?"

"I see." Nicole replied, smiling."

"Elvis said that to his best friend, George Klein, after he gave him a brand new car for his birthday."

Lavatory Confessional

Nicole – Louis is so nice and charming. Especially when he uses that quoting voice of his. I wonder if, by any chance, he might've been referring to me when he said "friends I've made here on the show." I mean, I would love to share some of that money, but I wouldn't count on it…

End

"Well, I think we won't have to deal with this heat for much longer." Louis said, raising a hand over his eyes as he looked towards the sun. "It's almost completely set. Where's Chef's torturous hot weather now?"

Before either of them could continue on, there was a sudden rumbling above them. Louis and Nicole raised their heads in the opposite direction, and, for the first time, noticed that the completely empty orange sky was no longer completely empty. Dark clouds were gathering in from the east, rolling towards them and gaining fast on the sun and turning the orange sky black.

"Uh-oh…"

"Alright, men! Prepare to put on your ponchos! And get that equipment's waterproof coverings on now!" Carl commanded. Almost in perfect unison, the six interns put down whatever equipment they were holding and donned raincoats and ponchos, preparing for the sudden shift in weather. Afterwards, they picked up all of their various cameras, microphones, and boom rods, and began donning transparent coverings similar to their ponchos, to protect the equipment.

"You're freakin' kidding me." Mary exclaimed.

"I wish I was." Carl replied with a shrug.

James approached the tall, blonde intern and casually tapped his shoulder.

"Um, Carl? Where are our ponchos? We'll need protection, too."

"Sorry, kid. Chef didn't give me any other coats. There's some umbrellas over that monitor that are good for protecting from both the sunlight and the rain. But if the winds start kicking up, you better hold onto those tight, and don't let them blow away."

James turned back to the other eliminated contestants, who had equally worried looks on their faces.

"First incredible heat, and now RAIN?" Eryn exclaimed from her perch. "AW, YEAH! This'll be like the perfect storm, only even perfect-er!"

"Anything that's perfect in her book is certainly not perfect for us." Matthew muttered again.

Meanwhile, another determined contestant headed over to the one other remaining member of his team.

"OK, Samantha. It's you and me. Your teammates let me down. Don't let yourself do the same. Got it?"

Naturally, only some soft typing was his response.

"Good."

Within a few minutes, the clouds were now directly over them. The sky was blotted out, the sun long gone, and the rumbling still continuing.

"Well, this is definitely going to be interesting." Louis commented.

Then there was a massive thunderclap. A bolt of lightning shot across the sky, and rain started to pour down hard.

"Oh, GREAT!" Mathew exclaimed. "Rain. Wonderful!"

Just then, there was a blood-curling scream from the other side of the trailer, tearing through everyone's ears, prompting almost everyone to cover their ears hard with both hands.

The scream came from Samantha, now tightly gripping her phone in both hands.

"THIS RAIN WILL KILL MY PHONE! I HAVE TO GET AWAY FROM HERE!" She screamed, releasing all bodily contact with the trailer wall and tearing around the corner, dashing back to the group of interns and eliminated contestants. She dove underneath the nearest umbrella, which had James under it, and knocked him out of the way to protect her phone.

"Out of my way! My phone must be protected!"

"Your phone isn't even waterproof?" Jessica asked incredulously.

"No! This phone was cheaper than the waterproof model." She admitted sheepishly.

At that moment, Carl's bullhorn sounded once more.

"And with that, we have a three-way dropout!" He declared. "In addition to Samantha, two people broke all bodily contact with the trailer to cover their ears when she screamed!" He announced, visibly shocking everyone else. "Matthew, Nicole, and Mary! You three are out!"

"WHAT? NO! That's not fair!" Matthew protested.

"Oh, quit complaining." Mary muttered as she walked past.

"Yeah! She's right, you know!" Eryn agreed from above the trailer. "It could be worse. It could be raining, lightning, and thundering!"

"It is raining, lightning, and thundering." Matthew replied blankly.

"And that's just the way I like it! It's a real shocker!"

Matthew facepalmed.

"Repeat: Matthew, Nicole, and Mary, move away from the trailer."

Grumbling to himself, Matthew pulled his shirt up over his head and walked off towards the others.

"Oh, no." Nicole uttered. "I…I didn't even realize…"

"It's OK." Louis replied. "I'll admit that it was quite loud. I barely managed to hang on."

"But you're the only one left now. You sure you'll be OK?"

"I'll be fine." Louis replied with a smile. "Um, but do you think you could perhaps take my book for me?" He held out the blue novel to her, holding it in one hand and covering it from above with the other, his back against the trailer's wall. "It is, after all, my favorite novel."

"Uh, sure!" Nicole agreed. She took the novel from him, holding it close to her body and covering it with both hands. She looked back at him one last time before turning and running back to join the others.

"And just like that, we are now down to our final three, in a three-way tie! One person remains on each team! Eryn for Team Victory II, Ethan for Team Madison, and Louis for Team Sahara! This is it! Whoever drops out next, their team will be facing elimination! Whoever is the last person standing shall win this challenge, first-class, and the trailer itself, for their team!"

"Alright! This trailer is MINE!" Eryn declared.

"In your dreams, redhead!" Ethan shot back.

"Why are you talking about yourself like that?"

"What? I'm not, idiot!"

"You're a redhead, too, aren't you?"

"Well, yes I am, but tha-."

Ethan's response was drowned out by a sudden burst of thunder, and another lightning bolt flashing and illuminating the entire area.

Within a matter of seconds, the rain was pounding so hard that it felt as if it was ripping through their clothing. The rushing and howling of the wind drowned out any sound that any of them might have made, as well as severed any form of communication between the three remaining contestants and the group standing off to the side, barely able to hold onto the few umbrellas that remained.

"It is as if the heavens are raining down all their tears of sorrow upon the earth!"

"This is no time for theatrics, Shakespeare!" Ethan shot back.

"What?" Louis replied loudly. "I didn't say anything!"

Ethan, after a brief pause, looked up at the crazy redhead clinging to the antenna on top of the trailer, with one hand over her heart as she looked up at the sky dramatically.

"Oh, brother." He muttered just as another loud thunderclap sounded.

Just then, there was a sudden scream from the group under the umbrellas. The large intern, Steve, was pointing worriedly off into the distance.

"Is that what I think it is?"

Everyone else followed his gesture, and at first, saw nothing but darkness in the distance.

Then, with the next powerful flash of lightning, everyone saw it: While everything else was briefly illuminated, they could see a large, dark funnel in the distance, twisting and twirling, writhing powerfully with its base kicking up a massive cloud of dust and debris on the ground.

A tornado.

"A real tornado?" Ethan roared. "You have GOT to be kidding me!"

"I…I didn't think Chef was telling the truth!" Carl stuttered. "We have to get everyone else away from here, NOW!"

"Everyone 'ELSE'?" Ethan exclaimed. "What about us?"

"The show must go on!" Louis stated.

"He's right!" Carl agreed. "Besides, Chef'll have my head if he hears that we abandoned the challenge and ruined the episode just because of what he'd call 'one little windstorm.'" He turned to the group around him. "We have our own golf cart! We'll hook it up to the trailer left behind by Chef, and have Phil, Steve, Bill, Marco, and Franco take you all back to the abandoned airport! I must stay here with the final three!"

"NO!" Ethan exclaimed in fury. "Forget it! I'm going, too!"

And with that, Ethan released his grip on the trailer and ran over to the group, glancing back in the direction of the tornado just as another lightning flash illuminated it.

"Alright, then! Team Madison is facing elimination! It's down to Team Victory II and Team Sahara for the prize! Everyone else, onboard NOW!"

In a few minutes, the 13 contestants and 5 interns had climbed into the trailer, with Phil driving the golf cart and Bill sitting in the passenger seat beside him. A majority of the equipment and umbrellas were packed in the very back of the trailer.

"We're all set here, Carl!" Phil reported. "But how are you and the other two gonna get back?"

"We've got the ATV here! It's just enough for the three of us!"

"What about the equipment that we have to leave here?"

"Tell Chef that the tornado picked it up! Just go!"

Carl gestured frantically toward the horizon in the direction of the airport, urging the group to leave. They complied, and the golf cart started up, taking off as fast as it could towards the distant shelter with its 18 passengers.

Carl turned back to the final two contestants, still clinging fiercely to the trailer. He glanced back at the tornado, which approached slowly and menacingly.

His eyes wide with fear, he decided to try to divert the attention back to the game.

"Alright, Louis and Eryn! We might as well make this a bit interesting, and hopefully take both of your minds off the tornado! It's time for a reprise of the song from earlier, with just you two! Banter back and forth competitively with the lyrics, and…whatever! Go!"

Ding-ding!

Musical Reprise – Hey There

Eryn: Hey there, boy!

Why don't you let go right now?

Hey there, boy!

Why don't you let go right now?

Mother nature's mad

And if you don't, that's bad!

Louis: Well, I don't want to go home, girl!

Don't want to go now!

I want to win that million dollars

But I just do not know how!

So there, girl

That is why I will not let go

I don't care if it's bad!

If I let go, I'll be mad!

{Musical Interlude: Louis playing the harmonica, Carl tapping his feet as he shivers, Eryn repeatedly spinning around on the antenna, doing the splits, standing on her hands, etc. Louis eventually manages to scale the wall and stands on top of the trailer with Eryn, openly challenging her.}

Eryn: Hey there, boy!

Why don't you let go ri-ight now?

Hey there, boy!

Why don't you let go ri-ight now?

Louis: Because if I-I lose

Then I'm gonna have the blues

I'm gonna win for my te-am

Maybe then they'll all love me

Then we'll all stay in first class

How nice that will be!

That's why, girl

I will never le-et go

I said you can't break me

Because I'm too tough-

Eryn: ENOUGH!

I'm gonna win me this game!

Either this way o-or that

I'm gonna beat you so bad

You'll be my doormat

Louis: Let go, girl!

You cannot possibly win!

Eryn: We'll just see about that

By the way…LIE FLAT!

End Musical Reprise

With that, Eryn instantly threw herself down, lying flat on the roof of the trailer and covering her head with both hands.

"Huh?" Louis asked, shocked by the last two lyrics. He spun around to look behind him…

…just as one of the remaining umbrellas, picked up by the wind, flew right into him and lifted him up off his feet, sending him flying backwards and off the roof of the trailer to the ground below.

He lied on the ground, looking straight up at the dark sky, still blindly stunned by the sudden impact and brief flight. Then, after a few moments, he realized that he had lost.

"And there it is!" Carl declared, riding around to the other side of the trailer on the red ATV. "Eryn has won the challenge, immunity for her team, and the reward of the trailer for herself after the season! Now let's get out of here!"

Louis was forced to put aside his disappointment and shock as he scrambled to his feet and ran over to the ATV, jumping on behind Carl.

"But wait! What about the trailer?" Eryn called from up on the roof.

"Forget it for now! Let's just get out of here!"

Eryn turned around and saw the tornado now only about a hundred yards away, its force enough to pick up all of the remaining equipment and carry it away. One of the folding chairs flew by and barely grazed her.

"Fine! YAA-HOO!"

She leapt off the roof of the trailer, doing several somersaults in mid-air until she landed on the ATV right behind Louis, wrapping her arms around him from behind.

"Let's get this show on the road!" She cheered.

Carl revved up the ATV and sped off, tearing across the open field, away from the trailer, and towards the distant airport.

Only Eryn dared to look back at the receding trailer one final time…

…moments before the tornado was upon it, lifting its massive bulk up off the ground, swirling around the towering funnel and ripping it apart.

Back at the Jumbo Jet, after Carl relayed the results of the challenge to the rest of the cast, there was a mix of cheers and groans. Team Victory II eagerly greeted its latest champion, followed by Violet and Rachael hugging while James and Matthew exchanged a hi-five.

"YES! FOUR times! We're unstoppable!" Matthew cheered.

Over on Team Sahara, Louis shrugged.

"What can I say? I did not duck fast enough. I'm sorry."

"Oh, it's OK." Nicole encouraged him. "At least we didn't come in last place."

"True." Isaiah added. "You gave your best out there, dude."

"I guess he did." Mary added, with an unseen glare from Anna as response.

"And there you all have it." Chef declared. "Team Madison is going to elimination once again! We're taking off in half an hour. Be at the elimination area in one hour!"

Later…

As Lauren turned away from the redhead and walked down towards the lavatory, Ethan saw Jessica head off into the cafeteria. With a slight smirk, he headed off after her.

She stopped at the corner of the table that was farther from the economy-class area, her back to him although she was well aware of his presence.

"Let me guess; you're gonna tell me who we need to vote for?"

"I just got done spreading the word to Lauren and Samantha. It's Suzie."

"Suzie, huh? Let me guess; because she was the first person eliminated, and she was eliminated over such a stupid trick by Matthew?"

"Precisely. You're getting so good at this." Ethan walked up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"But…you were the one we depended on for the win." She said, turning her head slightly towards him. "Shouldn't you be to blame?"

"Excuse me?" His hand dropped. "You're trying to blame me? In case you've forgotten; there was a tornado heading straight for us."

"Still…Louis and Eryn didn't give up because of that."

"Eryn's a psychopath. And Louis…heck, he was probably just trying to impress Nicole. I'm not trying to impress anyone, except myself. Anyone with common sense, a sane mind, or no infatuation with a teammate would've remained there any longer when it was clearly so dangerous. At least I had a credible reason to let go. Suzie let go over a few cents. Are you honestly willing to keep such a dimwit over me? Me? The guy who's promising to take you to the end?"

A long pause. Then a sigh.

"Well…I guess not…"

"You need to know not. Jessica, I like you. You're loyal. You're by far my number one ally here. Lauren would've given up if we were forced to hold onto a wall of mud or something, and Samantha would've given up if it required losing her cell phone. You've got no hang-up over anything so trivial. That's one thing we have in common. You're probably the second-best player on this team."

"You…you really mean that?"

"Of course I do, Jessica. You and me, together, are gonna go far." Ethan slowly regained his menacing grin, and put his hand back on her shoulder. "Suzie." He reiterated.

And then he was gone.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Most of what I said to her was true. In terms of loyalty or lack of some kind of trivial hindrance, she is definitely the second-best member of this whole team. But her clumsiness is still a setback. Just not as stupid as a cell phone, or breaking a nail, or being just plain stupid. Nevertheless, I will take her as far as I need to. Which, if all goes according to plan, won't be long.

End

Later, at the elimination ceremony…

"Team Madison, you have all cast your votes and made your decision! I have with me only four Barf Bags. Four for four, none for one. When I call your name, receive your Barf Bag and…whatever. The first three Barf Bags go to…Ethan, Jessica, and Samantha!"

They all caught their Barf Bags in rapid succession, leaving only Suzie and Lauren.

"And we're down to one Bag, two hags. The final Bag goes to…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"…Lauren!"

As the prom queen caught her Bag, the realization actually managed to sink in with the ditzy redhead.

"…What?" She spun around to face her teammates. "But Edward said it was Lana going home tonight!"

"Yeah, well, there ain't no Edward and there ain't no Lana, so you're outta here!"

Chef tossed the parachute to Suzie, who nearly fell over from the impact. She slowly stood up, putting on the parachute as she dragged her feet across the floor towards the open door.

"But…But…"

"Butt it is!"

And with that, Chef delivered a swift kick to her backside, sending her flying out the door.

Ethan, with crossed arms and a raised eyebrow, turned to Jessica, who was too nervous to eat any of her peanuts.

"And with that, Team Madison is at the lowest of the three teams with four members! Will the rumored relationship between Shakespeare and Silent ever happen? Will Team Victory II win every single challenge this season? Find out some of these answers, not necessarily next time, but later on, here on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

Voting Confessionals

Ethan – Time to go, ditzy.

Jessica – (To herself) He thinks I'm second-best…Oh, sorry. Yeah, like Ethan said, it has to be Suzie.

Lauren – Anything to save myself. Bye, Suzie.

Samantha – (Types on her phone, then holds it up to the camera. It reads: "Suzie.")

Suzie – Edward told me that Lana's attitude is too much for the team to handle, so it's time to go bye-bye Lana!

Voting Results

Ethan – Suzie

Jessica – Suzie

Lauren – Suzie

Samantha – Suzie

Suzie – Lauren

Total Votes

Suzie – 4

Lauren – 1


Episode 5 Part 1: Viva Las Vegas

"Last time on Total Drama World Tour: The desolate plains of Kansas. We were down to 15 kids, and the challenge was simple yet painful; hold onto a trailer as long as possible, and last one standing wins. Sounds easy right? Heh, heh. WRONG!

"Through the unbearable heat, exhaustion, wind, rain, thunder, lightning, and even a tornado, tensions and drama were high! Some of this drama included but was not limited to: Cocky winner boy tricking dimwit Suzie into dropping out first by using some loose change; Perfectionist attempting to form an alliance with Shakespeare and Silent Girl; and an epic clash between the Shakespeare fanatic and the psycho redhead in the midst of a storm, which the latter won. As a result, Team Victory II won yet again, and on Team Madison, ditzy Suzie was given the axe.

"Who will go home next? How much longer will it be before Team Victory II faces their downfall? Will the scheming redhead's alliance stay strong? And what's our next location? Find out today, right now, on Total…Drama…World Tour!"

"I'm telling you, we have got to bring back this team's morale!" Ethan declared, pacing back and forth with one hand behind his back and another clenched into a fist. "We've lost two members now. Two! And so far, that stupid Team Victory rip-off has been sitting in first class every single week! How much longer do we have to put up with this? Sitting on these rotten, filthy old benches? Having water drip onto us from the ceiling? Rats skirting between our feet? Cold, hard, unforgiving metal and wood as our beds? I say that there is only ONE solution!"

There was a pause as he slowly glanced at each and every one of the other eight occupants of economy class, members of his team and the opposing team.

After a pause, Jessica piped up. "We win?"

"WRONG! …Well, kinda, yes." He shook his head and mentally kicked himself at the mistake. "But I was thinking more along the lines of 'We ensure that Team Victory II loses'!"

"He's right." Mary agreed, standing up and moving next to him. "It doesn't matter which of us wins, as long as Team Victory II loses! Then we can finally even this thing out a little! Every time Team Victory II wins, it's another one of us gone! Do we want a member of Team Victory II to win?"

A collective "No!" was shouted out by Jessica, Lauren, Anna, and Isaiah.

"Thank you, Mary." Ethan concurred. "Now, while I am not necessarily the strongest advocate for an alliance between two whole teams, it is inevitable in this particular instance. Either Team Madison and Team Sahara join together against Team Victory II, or we will all be whittled away, and all five of them will be the top five!"

"But what difference does it matter?" Nicole asked. "Haven't we already been trying to beat them for the past four weeks?"

"In a way, yes. But for the last four weeks, we've been going about it the wrong way. We've been looking out for ourselves, trying to ensure that our own team wins. Now all we need to do is shift the focus a little: Rather than focusing entirely on our team winning, we focus on their team losing."

"You…don't mean…?" Louis started.

"That's right, my good sir: Sabotage."

"It's evil…but necessary." Lauren admitted.

"All those in favor?" Ethan asked.

The hands that went up almost immediately were those of Ethan, Lauren, Samantha, Mary, and Anna. A few seconds later, the hands of Jessica and Isaiah followed with slight reluctance. Only two people decided to stay firm and keep their hands down.

Lavatory Confessional

Ethan – That little "vote" just decided who is and who isn't willing to be loyal to me. Looks like I know which two people to get rid of first at the merge.

Louis – I just do not endorse such a barbaric act at this juncture. I can understand their reasoning for it, but I do not share their emotions.

Nicole – (swallows nervously, tugs on her shirt collar) I have that horrible feeling that me and Louis not raising our hands is gonna come back to bite us in the butt. That Ethan kid really is starting to scare me…

End

In first class…

"Attention all slimeballs!" The speaker sounded off loudly, interrupting the casual nap of the winning team's only two members. "We will soon be landing in our next destination, which, for your information, is still in America."

"Again? Dang it, even I'm getting sick of this continent." Matthew grumbled.

"So am I, kid, but you don't see me complaining, do you?" The voice responded. "Now, as I was saying, we'll be landing in…"

Just then, the plane started shaking wildly and bumping up and down. The cucumbers slid off of James and Matthew's eyes, and loose objects started falling and rolling around on the soft, carpeted floor.

Rachael and Violet, sleeping in another chair and one of the couches, respectively, were jolted awake from their otherwise peaceful naps as well.

"…never mind. We're landing right now! So buckle up!"

"Nice timing." Matthew grumbled as he sat up, pulled his seat back into the upright position, and buckled the seat belt together. James did the same.

"Still in America, eh? I wonder where, though." James mused.

"Well, we've been gradually moving west since the Mississippi." Matthew noted. "First Mississippi, then Kansas…We're probably gonna stop somewhere in the Midwest, or maybe the West Coast."

"Oooooh! California? I hope we stop in San Francisco!"

"I doubt it'll be that far. And what's so great about San Francisco anyway?" Matthew asked with a raised eyebrow.

Before James could respond, there was another sudden and loud crash as the plane shook wildly. It sounded as if something large and heavy had just broken off.

"What was that?" James asked frantically as he struggled to get his seat belt over his bulk and fasten it.

"I don't know, but it doesn't sound like anything new." Matthew commented as he rolled his eyes.

Later…

After the chaotic semi-crash landing, the 14 remaining contestants all disembarked from the Jet into a blazing hot Nevada sun, surrounded by a busy and crowded airport. Almost instantly, the heat began taking its toll.

"Oh my GOD!" Lauren exclaimed. "Why is it so hot out here? My makeup will be ruined! The mascara stains will take hours to rub off!"

"Where are we, anyway?" Ethan grumbled. "The Mojave?"

"Close, but no cigar. You are all now officially in Sin City itself!"

"San Andreas?" A clueless James asked.

"Vice City?" Matthew added.

"NO! The REAL Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada!"

Almost instantly, a chorus of cheers went up.

"ALRIGHT! Las Vegas is the place!" Isaiah cheered. "I've always wanted to see all of the replicas of world monuments! The pyramid, the sphinx, the Eiffel Tower…"

"Las Vegas. While somewhat crude in its style of entertainment, it is without question one of the world capitals for plays and stage performances of the highest level. What a stop!" Louis said with a smile.

"Sweet! I'm gonna hit the town!" James cheered with a pump of his fists.

"Oh, you will all get a chance to see the sights…" Chef paused to chuckle evilly. "…But not for too long, because if you do stray off for sightseeing, you'll find yourselves sending someone else home! Today's challenge is another treasure hunt! This time, you'll be searching for your team's lost item somewhere in downtown Las Vegas! There is no time limit; only whoever finds the item first, second, and last!

"You will all receive one clue to your hidden items in the form of a riddle! The answers to all three riddles is some structure in Las Vegas, where your item will be hidden either inside, outside, or near."

He then reached into his pocket and pulled out three rolled-up pieces of paper, each tied neatly with red bows, and approached the teenagers, handing each one to a representative from each team: Matthew, Ethan, and Mary, respectively.

"You may use whatever transportation methods you are able to use: Walking, taxi, or even piggybacking each other. But you must think hard about these riddles, and that's just the beginning. Some of these places may be foreign to those who have never been to Las Vegas before, much less ever been to one of these places. So you all either need to find yourselves a map or hope that one of you is a Vegas expert. Any questions?"

Almost immediately, a hand shot up from Matthew. "What exactly is the nature of these items?" There was an obvious tone of sarcasm in his voice as he clearly remembered the similar hidden prizes in the first challenge.

Chef caught the obvious sarcasm, and was prepared to strike back. "You'll find out when you find them, now won't you?"

"That's not the answer I was looking for." Matthew retorted.

"Well too bad, because you ain't looking in the right place! Are there any other questions from anyone else, that don't involve your own selfish desires?"

After a few silent seconds, interrupted only by a grunt from Matthew, Chef responded, "Good. Now, here are the walkie-talkies ya'll will be using in the challenge. Each team gets two walkie-talkies, and you may use them as you please. If you choose to split your team into groups, you may do so. I recommend, however, no more than two groups; one per walkie-talkie, you know. These can be used to communicate with members of your own team, as well as myself back at the Jet and members of the other teams if you wish. Team Victory II's channel is 1. Team Sahara's channel is 2. Team Madison's channel is 3. And my channel is 4. When you have located your team's item, you press the red button to send off a signal indicating so, or you may simply report it as a spoken message if you so wish.

"Now that that's out of the way, there's only one thing left to do before we start your challenge…"

Ding-ding!

Musical Number – Viva Las Vegas

James: Bright light city gonna set my soul

Gonna set my soul on fire!

Matthew: There's a secret item hidden somewhere out there

So get those stakes up higher!

Ethan: There's the key to immunity hidden out there

They are all hidden, but where, where, where?

James: It's too bad we don't have much time to spare!

All: Viva Las Vegas!

Viva Las Vegas!

Louis: How I wish that I could spend all 24 hours in this city

Because all the lights are so bright!

James: And all of the girls are so pretty!

Oh, there's black jack and poker and the roulette wheel!

All you really need are some nerves of steel…

Matthew: We're not here to gamble so get real!

All: Viva Las Vegas!

Viva Las Vegas!

Eryn: Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashing

And your talent for washing

People's hopes down the drain!

Lauren: Viva Las Vegas

I've seen it a million times

And every time it is so fine

It's so strange but, I want to see it again!

Ethan: We're gonna head for the goal

No matter what the toll

Louis: Even if we waste all of our time

If we end up losing

I'll remember that our journey here was still sublime!

Matthew: Time to give it everything we've got

Lady Luck please let our chance stay hot!

James: Since we're in Vegas it's worth every shot!

Team Victory II: Viva Las Vegas!

Team Sahara: Viva Las Vegas!

Team Madison: Viva Las Vegas!

All: Viva!

Viva!

Las Vegas!

And so the musical number ended, and Chef Hatchet turned to the 14 teens once again.

"Just follow the yellow arrows on the tarmac and you'll head straight to the nearest terminal. You'll find the nearest exit on your own, I'm sure, and from there, you can use whatever mode of transportation you can acquire to get through the city. You will receive no hints and no assistance from me or the camera crew. This is all you.

"Alright, and the challenge begins, right…NOW!"

The three teams dashed off, following the yellow arrows on the ground and heading for the nearest terminal.

Team Victory II…

Matthew unrolled the paper that Chef had given him. As the team ran along (with James noticeably falling behind and trying his hardest to keep up), he read the clue out loud.

"I have four sides and three sides. I'm the oldest structure in all of Las Vegas. I'm the only building in Las Vegas that has a pet. Once you discover what I am, you will get the point."

"OK." Matthew started, jumping straight into the challenge. "So we're looking for the oldest structure in Las Vegas. Oooooh, what is it? What is it?" He was already slapping his forehead in frustration.

"That's not the kind of question any of us might know, is it?" Rachael asked doubtfully.

"We need to find tourist information and ask them."

"Didn't Chef say getting help was against the rules?" Violet asked nervously.

"No, he said that getting help from him or the camera crew is against the rules. We can use any other resources, including the local tourism businesses!"

Team Sahara…

As the five members of Team Sahara made it out the nearest exit and off towards the taxi cab queue, Mary read their clue.

"More gambles happen here than in any casino. I appear regularly on TV. I'm every pirate's dream and nightmare; dream for the treasure and nightmare for the haggling. We've got two Ricks but no Rolls. What am I?"

"Wow. This sounds tough." Nicole commented worriedly as they approached a yellow Ford Escape.

"We've got to really think this one through, guys." Mary declared firmly as she pulled open the passenger-side door and slid in. Isaiah slipped into the middle row, with Anna instantly sliding beside him, and Louis and Nicole took the back row.

Mary turned to her teammates.

"Anyone got some spare cash?"

"I've got some." Isaiah quickly reached for his wallet and withdrew a Jackson, passing it to Mary, who handed it to the cabbie.

"Where to?" The driver asked as he put down his Stephen King novel – The Shining – and received the bill.

"Uh…" Mary turned frantically to her teammates.

"Down the strip!" Louis ordered firmly.

"Traffic's pretty rough down there at this hour." The driver commented. "Hope you don't have to be where you're going in a hurry."

"Don't worry; we've got time." Louis reassured, before sharing a wink with Mary.

The Escape pulled out and onto the road, heading down towards downtown just as Team Madison came rushing out, with Ethan reading their clue.

"I reach high into the atmosphere. To find that which you seek, you must climb up me and jump into the sky."

"'Jump into the sky'?" Jessica asked incredulously. "Any ideas?"

She turned back to the rest of her teammates. Samantha was still rapidly texting away on her phone, her speed of texting increasing as the service was sharper and faster in the crowded area, while Lauren was still a bit captivated by the sights.

She turned back to Ethan.

"Got anything?"

"Well, reaching high into the atmosphere implies something that's obviously very tall. So we gotta look for the tallest buildings, or maybe the tallest building, in Las Vegas."

"So we're heading downtown?"

"Bingo. Taxi!"

Ethan waved down the nearest taxi as it approached.


Episode 5 Part 2: Vegas Shenanigans

Team Madison…

The taxi cab came to a slow stop in a parking lot, at the base of a massive white tower that shot straight up into the sky, so high that the four teens could barely see the top without straining their necks. It consisted of three legs branching into one halfway up, then spreading out once more towards the top, where a saucer-shaped area was at the top, with a spire on it.

“Here we are.” The female cabbie said in a gruff, deep voice. “The Stratosphere tower, hotel, and casino.”

“Definitely the tallest building in Las Vegas.” Ethan said. “And…‘I reach high into the atmosphere’…Atmosphere…Stratosphere.” He shook his head. “Makes perfect sense.”

“So where do we find our item? It said we must climb up it…” Jessica started.

“…and jump into the sky.” Ethan finished.

“Jump into the sky?” The cabbie repeated. “You must be talking about the SkyJump. That’s one of the four thrill rides offered at that place. You basically just climb up it and bungee-jump to the ground.”

“BUNGEE-JUMP?!” Lauren screeched at the top of her lungs.

In an instant, all four teens were launched out of the cab by the strong driver, whose ears were still ringing from the outburst. With a disgusted look in Lauren’s direction, the cab peeled out, burning rubber in the parking lot as it turned a corner and drove on out of sight.

“Nice going, loudmouth.” Ethan muttered as he stood up and wiped off the seat of his pants. “We could’ve learned some more information from her.”

Jessica stood up next to Ethan and shared his glare at Lauren. Samantha, still sitting on the ground, was texting away.

“What more could we have learned?” Lauren asked defensively. “We know what building it is, where exactly to find the item, and how to find it! What more do we need?”

“Oh, gee, I don’t know…PRICES. HOURS OF OPERATION?” Ethan roared. “Those are crucial, too!”

“Oh, don’t worry about money. I’ve got plenty.” She fished out her wallet and waved it at them as she stood up.

“You better have enough.”

“I think she does.” Samantha spoke plainly as she continued texting.

Everyone stopped and stared at her. She was still rapidly texting, and staring at her phone, but it was clearly her voice.

“I found out all of that information in 7.5 seconds.”

She finally stopped texting, stood up, and held the phone out for all to see. On it was the SkyJump official website, displaying all that they needed to know.

“It’s open all 7 days a week. The hours are 10 to 1 A.M. on Sunday through Thursday, 10 to 2 A.M. on Friday and Saturday. Each jump costs $109.99, plus tax. The price increases for the various DVD packages, merchandise, etc.…”

The rest of the team was wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

“Samantha…y-you’re a genius!” Ethan finally stuttered.

For the first time that day, Samantha smiled and pulled the phone back, returning to her texting.

“I know.”

Team Victory II…

The team had gotten into a taxicab after a few minutes of waving one down, and Matthew jumped into the passenger seat and was in the driver’s face in a moment.

“What’s the oldest building in Las Vegas?”

“That’s, uh, the Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park.”

“English, please.”

“It’s an old fort up North, a mile away from downtown. It was where the first settlers…”

“We don’t need a history lesson, just take us there!”

“Alright, alright, fine. Cash?”

Matthew turned to his teammates.

“Anyone got a-?”

A Ulysses was tossed at him in a crumpled heap by an annoyed member. He barely noticed the roughness of the gesture and snatched it up, handing it to the cabbie as they sped off.

In the back seat, two seats behind the driver, the girl who had just tossed the bill to Matthew had her arms folded firmly, a dark, brooding look on her face, and her head turned out the window to keep her eyes off her boyfriend.

Lavatory Confessional

Violet – I have just about had it. Something is wrong with Matthew. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: He’s gotten so much worse. He’s almost acting like…like P-…Ugh. I can’t even bear to say his name. But I have to do something.

End

Leaning over the seat in front of her, looking past James and at the back of Matthew’s head in shotgun, Violet leaned over close to Rachael, who sat next to her.

“Rach.”

“Yeah?” She leaned in close to her friend as Violet whispered in her ear.

“You’ve noticed it, haven’t you?”

“That Matthew’s starting to act…like a jerk?”

“That’s a nice way of putting it. A very nice way. We need to do something.”

“Like what? It’s easy enough to say that we need to do something, but what can we do? And how?”

“We can talk to the others. James and Matthew are really tight, so I’ll talk to James. The moment you can get Eryn to calm down long enough to listen, talk to her and-.”

“Oh, I’m already talking to you.”

Both girls sat upright as Eryn’s head appeared out of nowhere and was between them in a heartbeat.

“Haha! Gotcha, didn’t I?”

“Can you, uh, keep it down?” Violet asked, glancing over at Matthew, who was still too focused on the road ahead of them.

“Like this?” Eryn ducked lower in her seat, nearly slumping out of it and with half her body off the seat.

She giggled then sat up straight again.

“Don’t worry, I get it. Your sweetheart’s acting like a jerk and you wanna do something about it.” She whispered to them. “What do you propose to do with him? And I’m not talking about marriage, FYI.” Another impish giggle.

Violet, too concerned with the matter at hand to be annoyed, pondered over this for a while.

“There is…one…solution…” Violet stumbled to find the words.

Rachael’s eyes widened slightly as she got the implication. “You don’t mean…throwing a challenge, do you?”

Violet seemed to think about it with some deep thought. Eventually, she shook her head.

“No?” Eryn asked.

“No, I don’t know. I mean, I think that might be too harsh. In this game, throwing a challenge could be suicidal.”

“True.” Eryn agreed. “Look at the last team that was named Team Victory.”

“But at the same time, all of these constant wins are really getting to him. The more we win, the harder his fall will be.”

“So…what do we do?”

Violet thought for a while. She glanced first at Matthew, then at James, then at the cabbie.

“Hmm…OK. I say we just play this challenge normally.” She responded.

“Normally?”

“We don’t throw it. We just play it as if this conversation never happened. See where the chips fall. If we win again, I’ll have to have a serious talk with Matthew. Serious.”

“But that gives us permission to play as if we wanted to win?” Eryn asked eagerly. “Like, if I knew something right now that would help us in the challenge, should I say it?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“OK-ee Dok-ee.”

She spun around in her seat and threw her arms around the seat in front of her, wrapping her arms around Matthew from behind while putting her head up right beside his.

“HEY MATTHEW!”

“WAUGH!” He shot up in his seat, his concentration shattered by the sudden grab and yell. After the initial shock settled down, he angrily grabbed the girl’s hands off of himself and threw them off, spinning around to face her.

“WHAT?!” He asked angrily.

“We’re going the wrong way! Tee-hee!”

“What? Are we?” He glanced at the cabbie, who shot a look back at Matthew and shook his head for no.

“We’re on our way to a Mormon Fort, right?” Eryn asked.

This time, the cabbie responded. “Yes. The Old Las Vegas-.”

“That’s just it.” Eryn interrupted him. “We’re going the wrong way.”

“But the clue said ‘the oldest structure in all of Las Vegas.’” Matthew repeated.

“Yes, it did. But what about the rest of it? Four sides and three sides? Having a pet?”

“If you have any other suggestions, now would be the ideal time to hear them. Downtown’s getting farther away.” Matthew glanced out the window as the buildings around them grew smaller, and the large buildings drew farther and farther away into the distance.

“Think about this. What’s the oldest structure in Las Vegas?”

“I said that already.” The cabbie, noticeably getting as annoyed as Matthew, responded. “The Old-.”

“No, no, no, no, no, no. That’s the oldest structure here, in Las Vegas.”

“Yes…isn’t that what the clue means?” Matthew asked in a frustrated tone.

“No. What it means is the oldest structure represented here in Las Vegas. There’s one structure, located in downtown, that’s a replica of a structure that makes the Mormon Fort look like a baby. The original version isn’t in Las Vegas, but it’s thousands of years older than the Fort, Las Vegas, Nevada, or any of the United States!”

After a few moments, the implications set in.

“A replica…the oldest structure that’s replicated here in Vegas…” Matthew pondered. Then his eyes widened.

“THE LUXOR!” He and Eryn shouted simultaneously.

“Cabbie, turn around now! Change of plans. We need to get to the Luxor ASAP!”

“Luxor, sure thing. Let me just hit the nearest turnoff up ahead…”

“What’s the Luxor?” James asked cluelessly.

Matthew spun around. “It’s the replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza in downtown Las Vegas. And it fits the description perfectly! Four sides and three sides. Four sides at its base…”

“…and three sides on each side.” Eryn finished.

“And it has a pet. The replica of the Sphinx out front!”

“It all makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it?” Eryn asked with a grin. “You’re lucky I figured that out before you all ended up in some Fort a mile away from town. We would’ve lost for sure!”

Satisfied, Eryn leaned back in her seat. James looked at her stupefied, while Matthew shook his head.

Rachael and Violet, in the back, shared a nervous glance.

No turning back now.

Team Sahara…

The cab was stuck in the middle of rush hour traffic. All around them, horns honked, advertising trucks for casinos, hotels, and quality booze surrounded them. There were people wandering the sidewalks in all attires, from Elvis impersonators to homeless drunks.

In the driver’s seat, the driver was taking full advantage of the dead halt traffic to read his novel intently. He had already flipped three pages, and the light was still red up ahead.

“This. Is. NUTS!” Mary exclaimed in frustration. “How are we ever gonna win with this traffic?”

“This gives us all the more time in the world to ponder our clue.” Louis replied.

“Well, does anybody have anything? We could pass by it in two seconds right now and we wouldn’t know!”

“Well, it said that it’s not a casino…” Anna started.

“…so that rules out most of the major structures, attractions, and businesses around here.” Isaiah added.

“Most of the casinos are connected to hotels. I can guarantee you that every hotel in Las Vegas has a casino in it somewhere, so we can pretty much rule out everything in that category, from the Luxor to Mandalay Bay.”

“But it has to be some kind of a…tourist attraction, or something.” Mary replied. “It said that plenty of gambles happen in it. And that bit about pirates and treasure?”

“Initially, that would imply Treasure Island.” Louis stated, gesturing out the window to his left as the familiar structure, complete with two pirate ships in the pools out front, passed by as they bulldozed through the intersection. “But, of course, that’s a hotel and casino.”

“OK, so that only makes it worse. What could it possibly be?”

“I’m curious about the ‘Ricks and no Rolls’ clue.” Nicole added softly. “I mean, what could that mean? A concert hall? A…Uh…”

“It might not necessarily be a reference to Rick Astley.” Isaiah added. “They could put that in there to throw us off.”

“And even then, it said ‘two’ Ricks.” Anna reminded them. “So that rules out Rick Astley.”

“And no Rolls. So obviously it’s not him.”

Then the cabbie spoke up as they swerved around to pass a slower car. “You know, I do a lot of these kinds of things. Riddles, crosswords, Sudoku…Mind if I help?”

“Please, be our guest.” Louis said politely.

“Well, I won’t give it to you straight-up. However, I will give you hints in the form of other riddles and questions. As long as you can get them right, I’ll tell you when you’re getting warmer. Deal?”

“Why make it even more complicated for u-.”

“Absolutely.” Louis interjected, interrupting Mary’s denial.

“Alright. So I’ve been thinking…Treasure obviously implies two things in particular, right? What are the two most iconic symbols of treasure?”

“Gold and diamonds?” Anna asked.

“Gold and silver.” Mary corrected, with a snide glance at Anna, who sneered back.

“Yeah. Gold and silver. And the whole Rick clue…I think I know of the one and only place in Las Vegas that’s run by two Ricks. They both have the same last name as the first name of the star of Indiana Jones.”

“Harrison Ford?” Isaiah asked.

“Yep.”

“Rick…Harrison?” Mary put the two together.

“Yep. There are two Rick Harrisons in Vegas that I know of, and they both run one business.”

All five of the teens, getting the obvious clue, responded in perfect unison:

“GOLD AND SILVER PAWN SHOP!”

“That’s right! The store on that annoying but highly-rated TV series ‘Pawn Stars.’ I mean, it’s just a guess, but…”

“‘Just a guess’? It’s perfect! That has to be it!” Mary exclaimed excitedly.

“Well, you know the way there I assume?” Louis asked.

“Of course. It’s on the edge of downtown, right across the street from the Stratosphere.”

“Lead the way, my good taxicab driver.” Louis said, leaning back into his seat with a satisfied grin.

“Sure.”

The cab continued down the street, drawing closer and closer to the edge of downtown…

Team Madison…

After pooling together all the money they had on them (plus Ethan’s watch and some of Lauren’s jewelry), they managed to gain access to the Stratosphere tower. They waited through a long line and a boring safety lecture, before they finally found themselves at the ledge next.

“OK, which one of you kids is going next?” The attendant asked, the harness all ready to go.

Ethan quickly glanced at Samantha and Lauren, the former texting away and the latter biting her long nails nervously.

“Ladies first.” Ethan grabbed Lauren by the wrist and pulled her forward.

“What? Wait!”

The attendant already started strapping her into the harness. She looked back at Ethan with a wide-eyed stare.

“Look, I know that you could never grab it yourself, and we only have four shots at this. I just want you to scan the entire wall on your way down; search for it. Search for it, do you understand me? You don’t have to grab it if you want, but please just do your best and look for the dang thing! When you get back up here, tell me what you saw and where it is, OK?”

“Uh…sure…” She gulped and looked down over the edge.

“There. Finished.” The attendant said curtly. “Get ready and jump whenever you want to.”

Lauren looked back at Ethan one more time. He nodded at her, then gestured at the drop below her.

She stepped over to the edge, looked down, gulped once more…

Then, suddenly, a brief gust of wind came up, and that did it.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!”

Team Sahara…

Louis looked out the window to his right as the massive tower loomed up above him. He thought he could barely see a small form leap off of a ledge higher up, one long cord attached to it and tracing back to the ledge it had departed from.

“That’s the Stratosphere?” He asked as he looked back at the cabbie.

“Correct-o. And…here’s the pawnshop!”

They turned right and pulled into the small parking lot, with all members of the team crowding to the left side of the cab to see the building. It was a small building with the massive vertical marquee reading “Gold and Silver Pawn.”

“Wow. I actually get to see it in person for the first time!” Nicole commented.

“The place is usually crowded, but considering that you’re here for a reality show, I think they’ll see you to wherever it is you need to go.”

“Surely.” Mary agreed.

“Thank you very much for your help.” Louis thanked.

“Sure thing, pal.” He replied.

With a final wave and an extra tip to the cabbie, the five teens exited the cab and walked up to the sidewalk leading past the front door of the building. Louis opened the door and held it open, allowing his teammates to get in. But just barely.

The store, as the cabbie predicted, was packed. People of all shapes, sizes, races, and age were everywhere, moving in slow lines past glass cases, items on the wall, and some were talking to employees who displayed some special items.

They ran up to the nearest employee: a large, middle-aged man with short brown hair and a lazy look in his eyes.

“Can I help ya?”

“Hi, we’re, um, from a reality show called ‘Total Drama’…”

“Oh, so you did figure out the riddle.” The man commented, raising an eyebrow. “They told us that you kids were too stupid to figure it out, so we wouldn’t have to worry about meeting you…”

Several pairs of eyes rolled.

“…but you’re actually here. Well, um, OK. Hang on.” He turned to the side and yelled across the store. “Hey dad!”

“What is it now, Corey?” A man just as large, and much older, balder, and with only a slight beard, came over to the team.

“The kids from that reality show actually made it.”

Rick Harrison Jr. looked at the five teens, eyeing each one of them ominously. “I’ll be darned. Nice to meet you, I’m Rick Harrison.” He stuck out his hand for quick handshakes with each of the teens.

“Oh, we know who you are.” Louis commented, still struck with meeting him in person.

“So, you came for this, did you?” He reached down behind the counter and withdrew a small brown box with a single gilded latch on the front.

“That’s our item?” Mary asked eagerly as she started to reach for it.

It was jerked away.

“Uh, I beg your pardon, but you’ve seen my show, haven’t you?”

“Of course!”

“Then you know what I do for a living.” He placed the box back down. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?”

The implication sank in. The two men grinned.

“Name a price.”

“Son of a-.”

Team Victory II…

The cab screeched to a halt in the massive parking lot, the replica of the Sphinx already behind them. Matthew was the first to bolt out, followed slowly afterward by the other four members of Team Victory II. Violet tipped the cabbie before climbing out, and the car sped off.

He stared up at the massive structure before them: The Luxor. Standing 365 feet into the air, it was an ideal replica of the pyramids, black all around and with windows lining its sides.

“‘You will get the point’.” Matthew quoted from the clue.

He slowly looked up even higher, staring hard at the top of the pyramid.

He thought he saw something.

“Hey, does anyone have some binoculars or something?”

Two seconds later, Eryn whipped out a pair and handed it to Matthew, who took it nonchalantly, too focused on what was at the top.

“Um, where did you…?” James started to ask, but was stopped when Eryn simply looked at him, grinned, and shrugged.

Matthew slowly turned the dial on the top over to the left, adjusting the focus. The blur slowly transitioned into a crystal-clear image…

“Is that…?”

He peered hard at the object at the top of the pyramid. It came into focus

“IT IS!” He shouted out.

“It’s what?”

“It’s another stinkin’ wooden chest! Just like in Hawaii! At the top of the dang pyramid!” He lowered the binoculars. “How can we possibly get up there?”

After a few seconds, everyone turned to Eryn, standing innocently with her hands behind her back.

“Can I help you?”

“Would you happen to be able to know a way up there?”

“Hmm…” Eryn slowly walked up, hands still clasped casually behind her back, as she inspected the base of the pyramid. She knelt down and looked straight up the slope of the pyramid’s wall towards the spire at the top.

“Hmm…Mhm…Ah. Perhaps I might be able to…”

She then slowly stepped back, cracked her knuckles, stretched back and popped her back, then crouched down, one leg bent perfectly in a ninety-degree angle at her knee, while her left leg stuck out straight behind her, palms on the ground firmly, tongue sticking out to the side.

Then she bolted. With an unbelievable increase in speed, she dashed as fast as she could, racing straight towards the pyramid. As she approached, she jumped up, grabbed James’s shoulders with her hands and leapt up onto him to get an extra boost. With a final movement, she propelled herself forward off of him, landing one of her feet directly in James’s face and kicking off, sending him flying backwards and to the ground with an “OOF!”

Matthew looked back from the unconscious James to Eryn, flying through the air, and landing on the side of the pyramid, her fingers splayed out and bent, digging into the side of the building, her feet on their tiptoes, pressing firmly against the building and preventing her from sliding down. Without hesitation, she started scampering up the wall like a lizard, unbelievably fast and with an unbelievably tight grip.

Matthew’s look of shock turned to a look of satisfaction, and a grin spread across his face.

“Ho, ho, yes. We’re definitely gonna win.”

Team Madison…

The rope retracted inch by inch, until finally, the trembling, babbling form attached to it was visible once again. The attendant helped her to stand on her feet just long enough for him to undo the harness, before he let her drop into the arms of her teammates before her.

“Lauren, are you alright?” Jessica asked with noticeable concern.

“Uuuuuuuhhhhh…” She moaned.

Ethan moved in, lightly brushing Jessica aside.

“Lauren, what did you see? Lauren!”

“Uuuuggghhhhh…”

“Lauren, listen to me!” Ethan grabbed her by the shoulders and started shaking her. “What did you see? Did you see it?”

“Uuuhhh…” She slowly rolled her head up to look at Ethan. “…On…on the…”

“Yes? Yes?”

“On the…side…of the…”

“Alright kids, come on! Hurry it up! I don’t got all day, and there’s a line waitin’!” The attendant interrupted impatiently.

“LAUREN! Answer the question now!”

“On the side…of the building…halfway…down.”

“Good!” Ethan turned to Samantha. “You’re next. I want you to corroborate the location of our item, and fast!”

Samantha didn’t respond vocally, but stepped forward to allow the attendant to start attaching the harness to her.

Team Sahara…

The five teammates were all huddled in a group, pulling out every last crumpled-up dollar bill and piece of change that they could find in their pockets and wallets.

“OK, so what’s the tally?” Mary asked in a hushed whisper, glancing over her shoulder at the grinning man at the counter.

“Uh…475 American dollars and 62 cents.” Nicole replied.

“WHA-.”

Mary’s shout was interrupted when Louis quickly placed a hand over her mouth.

“It’s not hopeless yet.”

“Yes it is!” Mary retorted in a harsh whisper. “Have you seen this show? Do you see how this guy works? A person asks for 500 dollars for something, he’ll take it for 100! He’s so ridiculously cheap! So if we ask for something for 500 dollars, he’ll give it to us for 2,500! We’ll never get it with only 475 dollars!”

“And 62 cents.” Nicole added.

“Don’t let him know that we have so little.” Louis replied calmly. “We’ll just fool him into thinking that we have a lot more. A lot more. I’ve dealt with hagglers like him. I know how to handle him. Nicole, you keep the money relatively contained. If he gets a long enough amount of time to look at it, he could add it all up himself. OK?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll make the first move.”

The group broke, and Louis turned and walked up to the counter. Between the two men was the counter and the box sitting on top of it.

“So? What’s your price?”

“Oh, good sir, I regret to inform you that we are quite short on cash as it is. Let’s just say that we have barely over the two-digit range. Barely.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but until you name an exact price, I can’t name a price of my own.”

“Hmm…” Louis turned back to his teammates. “What do you say to…100 dollars?”

Rick took a deep breath, looked down slightly, and shook his head. “Sorry, but it’ll have to be a little higher.”

“Why so, good sir?”

“Why so? Have you seen our economy?”

“Well, considering that I live in Canada, no.”

“It ain’t doing so hot. And, you know, in such an unstable economy, we need to do all we can to earn as much money as possible and lose as little money as possible. You get what I’m saying?”

“Of course, of course. So what do you suggest?”

“500.”

Louis turned back to Mary. She looked at him, the frantic look now turned to a look of frustration as she mouthed, “I told you so.”

Louis looked back. “500 is…quite much. Please, sir. Why not…200?”

“500.”

“300?”

“500.”

“OK, OK…450?”

“500, kid. Oh, and by the way…how are you raising your price by 100 every time, even though you initially made it out to be that you only had 100 dollars to offer?”

“Um…” Louis looked back to his teammates, whose expressions were just as blank as his amount of answers.

He turned back. “OK, OK. You’ve caught me. Our amount is 475, and that’s the truth. Just please bring it down to 500.”

Rick smiled. “You see, I was kinda willing to give you the box if you would just tell me the honest amount up front. But since you lied, I’m gonna have to keep it at 500. But it’s a shame, though…You know why? Because I’m a huge fan of you guys, as is Chum. Speaking of which…Hey Corey, where’s Chum?”

“He went to get some fried chicken.” Corey replied with a chuckle.

“Oh, well that’s too bad. He would’ve loved to see you guys. He’s your biggest fan.”

Even in the midst of the defeat, Louis perked up at this new revelation.

“Big fan, you say?”

“Sure.”

“Hmm…and would you say that, right now, Total Drama is one of the most popular reality shows that’s ever existed?”

“I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely popular.” Rick shrugged.

“So…wouldn’t you agree that memorabilia from this show will soon have a very large and very generous market?”

“Ah, I suppose so…Why?”

“Then perhaps we can add something else to our total amount.” Louis turned and gestured at his teammates.

“Take a look at some of the people on the same team as me. Mary and Isaiah, two of the most popular contestants in this cast, both of whom have competed in all three seasons so far. And how about myself and Anna? We’re two of the newcomers. This is the only team with more than one newcomer on it, and I’m sure we’ll both be quite popular too. And don’t forget Nicole over here.”

“Nicole? Who’s that?”

Off to the side, Nicole briefly shook with shock, then her shoulders sagged as she facepalmed, more out of shame than annoyance.

Although this sight noticeably upset Louis, he shook it off. “Um…anyway. I’m willing to give you a fully-autographed package, featuring all five of our signatures. Five of Total Drama’s contestants, from one of the series’ episodes! Think of the implications! When this episode airs, people all over will be begging for those autographs! And they’ll surely pay high, handsome prices.”

“Hmm…It does make a lot of sense. I guess it’s a good thing Chum isn’t here; he’d ask for all those autographs.” Rick and Corey chuckled.

“So? Is it a deal, my good sir?”

“Maybe. I just need one more thing…to seal the deal.”

“Alright. What might that be?”

“You five, right here, right now, have to agree to split the two million dollars with me if one of you wins.”

“WHAT?!” They all exclaimed.

“You heard me.” Rick grinned. “Fifty/fifty.”

Mary facepalmed. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me! This is just…ridiculous! You’re basically asking for ONE MILLION DOLLARS just for that box?!”

“One million, 475 dollars and 62 cents.” Nicole corrected.

“WHATEVER!” Mary shot back. “I say no way! No. Way.”

“Then you guys just might be sending one of your own out the Drop of Shame tonight.” Rick said with a shrug. He placed a hand on the box and started to pull it away.

“Wait!” Louis called out. “Let us think it over, as a team. Please?”

“Eh, I’ve got nothing better to do. Plus, this is rather fun.”

From nearby, Corey pulled his cell phone away from his ear and grinned at Rick. “Hey, dad. You’re gonna love this: I just called Chum and told him that they’re here, and he flipped out. He says he dropped his chicken and jumped into his car the moment I told him who it was. He’s on his way back right now.”

Somewhere else in Vegas…

“MUST. MEET. TOTAL. DRAMA. CONTESTANTS!!!!!!!” Chumlee roared as he sped down the street, the wind whipping his hair after blowing off his hat.

Back at the Pawn Shop…

“Uh-oh.” Rick said in a voice that betrayed no real fear or concern. He turned to the teens. “Might I recommend making a choice quick, before Chum gets here. If he meets you guys, he’ll never let you leave.”

Team Madison…

Even as she was brought up, jerking up, then bouncing back down slightly as the rope was pulled in inch by inch, Samantha could still focus on her phone and her phone only.

As she was unstrapped, Ethan approached her.

“Well? What did you see?”

No answer.

“Samantha!”

Nonchalantly, she turned her phone around to face Ethan. On it was a picture that she had taken on the way down. It was fairly blurry, but still unmistakable: A dark, square object attached to the white façade of the building, apparently by crude duct tape. She then flicked her fingertip across the screen, moving to the next picture, taken on the way up: The same object, slightly more in-focus and recognizable: A black box, with the duct tape running across it to keep it attached to the side of the building.

“O…OK. Nice work, Samantha.”

Ethan turned to the remaining member of his team.

“Jessica? Please do the honor of being the first member of the team now to actually try to retrieve it.”

“Me?” She asked in shock. “Retrieve it? But it’s duct-taped to the building! How can I get that off?”

“You wait until they start to pull you back up, then reach for it. Grab onto the edges, hook your fingers under it, and then pull.”

“OK, but what if I pull too hard, and it falls off, and I lose my grip?”

“Then we get back down to the base of the tower and get it. It’s impossible to lose it now, we just need to get it in our hands.”

“OK…I’ll try.”

Jessica stepped up as the attendant prepared the harness.

Ding-ding!

At that moment, a familiar gruff voice crackled on over all three teams’ walkie-talkies.

“Musical reprise time!” Chef shouted.

Musical Reprise – Hurry Up

Isaiah: The time we have is a-tick-tockin’ by

Yeah, tick-tockin’ by so fast

We don’t have much time left to make this deal

And we don’t wanna come in last!

Matthew: We’ve got this in the bag and we can’t lose it now!

To win once more, that’d make me so proud

Ethan: We’ve got to get that box, and you (points to Jessica) know how!

Matthew, Rachael, and Violet: Hurry…up, Eryn!

Team Sahara: Hurry…up, Louis!

Jessica: How I wish that we had more

More time and more people for this jump!

‘Cause rather than take on this big risk, I’d prefer to jump into a dump!

Matthew: Oh, just come on, Eryn, pick up the pace!

It’s so important that we claim first place!

Jessica: I just hope that I don’t land on my face! (Jumps off screaming)

Team Sahara: Hurry…up, Louis!

Team Madison: Hurry…up, Jessica!

Eryn: I love Las Vegas with their tall, tall buildings

And its tingling feelings

That those lights put in your soul!

I can see the whole city, and boy it looks so pretty, oh, so, so pretty

If you could see it from up here, you’d never be the same again!

Louis: We’ve got to make our choice now, gotta get us that box, if it costs us our very last dime!

If we wind up broke, but up in first-class, it’ll be worth all of our time!

It’s now or never, so let’s just say yes

No other option will I suggest

Trust me, Mary, it’s for the best, so…

Team Sahara: Hurry…up, Mary!

Team Madison: Hurry…up, Jessica!

Matthew, Violet, and Rachael: Hurry…up, Eryn!

Team Sahara: Hurry…

Team Madison: Hurry…

All: Up, right now!

End Musical Reprise

“Great job, all ya’ll!” Chef replied over the walkie-talkie. “But…”

“‘But’?” Matthew shot back with a hint of anger and shock mixed together in his voice. “What do you mean, ‘but’? We sang, didn’t we?!”

“Er, not all of ya.”

“Huh?”

“It’s time now to declare the first person in this season eliminated due to No-Singing Rule!” Chef declared.

“WHAT?!” Every single contestant roared back.

“How?”

“Who?”

“This is ridiculous! Everyone sang, so what gives?”

“Again, not everyone.” Chef replied flatly. “I am aware that one member of everyone’s favorite winning-streak team failed to sing even once.”

“But…but…”

The walkie-talkie slipped from Matthew’s hands as his eyes widened in realization. He spun around and looked past Rachael and Violet.

At James.

He was still lying on the ground, out cold from when Eryn accidentally kicked him in the face.

“No…JAMES!”

“Bingo, bright boy! Chubby is OUTTA HERE!”

“NO! It’s not fair!” Matthew shot back. “He was knocked out! It wasn’t his fault!”

“The rule does not exempt people who are ‘knocked out,’ as you say. Regardless of why or how he was unable to sing, the fact is that he failed to sing. So, by Rule #371 of the Total Drama handbook, James is automatically eliminated!”

“NO!” Matthew, Rachael, and Violet all shouted back.

“You’ve got to give him a second chance!” Violet insisted.

“James, wake up! WAKE UP!” Matthew roared, grabbing his larger friend by the shoulders and shaking him. “I said MOVE IT!”

Just then, a familiar golf cart came speeding up to the team in the parking lot. They all looked up and saw Carl in the driver’s seat.

“Sorry, guys. Boss’s orders; I gotta take your friend out of here and back to the Jet.”

“JAMES! WAKE YOUR FAT BEHIND UP!” Matthew roared.

His eyelids fluttered, and James uttered a sound that was a mix between a gargle and a groan.

“Urckgh…huzzwhuh?”

“JAMES! You were out cold when we did the musical reprise! You didn’t sing!”

“I did a zing?”

“YOU. DIDN’T. SING!”

The golf cart was now directly behind James. Carl stepped out and lightly brushed Matthew aside. Kneeling down next to James, Carl spoke in a much more soothing voice.

“Come on, there, big fella. Let’s head on back to the Jet, OK?”

“Diz we won?”

“Everything will be explained when we get back, just get in the golf cart.”

“Ogay.”

Matthew stepped back and watched in pure shock, his breathing sped up significantly as James was slowly helped up to his feet and eased into the passenger side of the golf cart. Carl walked around to the driver’s seat. With one last glance back at the two girls and one guy, he shook his head and started up the cart.

Just as it turned around and began to speed off out of sight, Matthew unleashed another roar of fury.

Team Sahara…

“Alright, we have very few options left, friends.” Louis reported. “I’ve seen this show. He’s not going to give up. He knows that he has us under his thumb, and we have no leverage here. I say we agree to the split.”

“And I say you’re nuts. If I were to win, I’d never split it with him. He’s filthy rich already!”

“Regardless. What matters is right now. And right now, we need to avoid coming in last place.” An idea struck. “Seeing as how you’re the only one who refuses to agree to the split, how well do you think you would fare in the face of elimination?”

Her look of anger flushed out completely as fear took hold. Her eyes went wide. “What?” She replied in a squeak.

“Yeah!” Anna added. “If we lose today because you don’t want to agree to some deal with an old man…”

“Hey!” Rick yelled.

“…you’ll pay the price.”

Mary swallowed. She glanced at Louis, who looked back at her with an unreadable look, with barely detectable tones of seriousness. She didn’t dare look at Anna, who now had an evil, greedy look in her eyes, obviously enjoying the idea of voting off Mary. She glanced at Nicole, who looked once at Louis, then back at Mary. Isaiah did the same.

“Ugh…fine.”

“Excellent.”

Louis turned back to Rick, tapping one finger casually on the glass countertop.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, good sir.”

“OK, great. So let me see that money, and you can get this box.”

“Of course.” Louis placed the crumpled-up bundle of cash on the counter, sliding most of it over towards Rick. Rick responded by sliding the box across the glass towards Louis.

“A pleasure doing business with you.” Rick said with a grin as he pocketed the money.

Just then, Chef’s voice crackled back over the walkie-talkies.

“Attention, all contestants! It is my pleasure to announce that a team has emerged victorious at long last!”

“YES!” All five members of Team Sahara cheered, jumping up and down, hugging, and sharing hi-fives all around.

“Congratulations to our latest winner…TEAM VICTORY II!”

Silence fell over the five rejoicing teams.

“…What?” Isaiah replied in a squeaky, half-hearted voice.

“In a split-second victory ahead of Team Sahara, the psycho blonde managed to retrieve Team Victory II’s item from the top of the Luxor pyramid first! Congratulations on avoiding having to vote out one of your own tonight, Team Victory II and Team Sahara!”

“YES! OH, YEAH! UH-HUH! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! BOO-FREAKIN’-YAH!” Matthew cheered out in wild celebration, his anger and sadness over James’s sudden exit dissipating in a second.

Groans arose from the other two teams, accompanied by hanging heads and sagging shoulders.

“Argh! Again? Really? Really?!” Ethan roared out in fury, smacking his forehead repeatedly.

Just then, Jessica finally came back up to the ledge, clutching the box in her hands.

“Hey, hey guys! I got it! I actually managed to get it!”

“Oh, congratulations, Jessica. We came in last.” Ethan muttered, shaking his head.

Her look of excitement and pride in her accomplishment vanished. “What?”

“Team Victory II won…AGAIN.” Lauren explained, clearly just as infuriated as Ethan.

“Oh…” Jessica hung her head, looking down at the box she had just retrieved. “And right after I finally did something right…”

Team Sahara...

“Oh, come on! This close?! THIS. CLOSE?!” Mary roared. “They STILL beat us?! What does fate have against us that allows us to lose every single time?! WHY?!”

“Hey, at least we came in second, right?” Nicole offered as half-hearted comfort.

“She’s right. Let’s just accept the fact that at least we didn’t lose completely. That’s what’s important.” Louis agreed.

“Hey, sorry to interrupt your moment here, but you guys might wanna peel out. Fast.” Corey advised. “Don’t forget; Chum is on his way, and determined to meet you guys.”

“Right. No time to wallow in our sorrow. Let’s go.” Louis quickly added.

And with that, the five teens trudged out the door.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – So here we are again, facing elimination. For the first time, I find myself truly torn between who to vote for. On the one hand, we have Lauren: Annoying, whiny, complaining, very rarely doing something to help the team, and, most recently, getting us thrown out of a taxicab. On the other hand, Samantha: Often does little to nothing, but is surprisingly talented with that phone of hers. That’s twice now she’s managed to use her phone to help us in the challenge; first in the Mississippi, then here in Vegas. Of course, her greatest strength is also her weakest disadvantage: Anything goes wrong with the phone, she drops it, or “EEK! There’s no service!”, and she becomes just as much dead weight as Lauren.

Naturally, I got rid of dead weight such as Suzie to better improve our team’s chances of winning. I got rid of threats like Madison in preparation for the merge. I guarantee you now that the merge is probably about three, maybe four episodes away, if we’re lucky. Voting off Samantha could weaken our team further, while voting off Lauren would be eliminating a non-threatening player while strengthening our team.

So, who’s going home tonight? Well, of course, I’ll tell Lauren to vote for Samantha and Samantha to vote for Lauren, for all of the respective reasons mentioned above. But in the end, it all comes down to who me and Jessica vote for. It’s gonna be tough, but…

End

The four remaining members of Team Madison sat on the bleachers once again, all except for the lone male looking nervous. Jessica repeatedly crossed her legs, uncrossed them, then crossed them over the opposite way, while Ethan leaned back with his hands behind his head. Samantha, as always, was dutifully texting away, while Lauren was nervously glancing between the mountainous man on the stage and the platter of Barf Bags beside him.

“Team FemiNazi, you have lost once again, for the second time in a row. You all know the drill, you cast your votes, you receive a Barf Bag, the person who doesn’t gets to take a funny fall. So…let’s get on with it!”

A few minutes later…

“The votes have been cast. The first Bag goes to…”

Ethan and Jessica shared a glance.

“…Ethan.”

Ethan caught his Bag, then gave Jessica a slight grin of reassurance.

“Jessica.”

“Samantha and Lauren. It comes down to the two of you. Both of you can be completely useless. You…” He pointed at Lauren. “…are a whiny and annoying little witch, while you…” He pointed at Samantha. “…are willing to drop everything if you lose a bit of your precious reception.”

Lauren, naturally, gave a scoff of offense while Samantha simply shrugged.

“Whichever one of you it is, I’d sure hate to be you taking this particular fall. As we continue moving west, we’re moving out over the desolate Nevada desert. It’s sure to be hot down there, and anywhere from 5 to 10 hours to the nearest form of civilization…by foot.

“So, while I’m sure it was a tough choice, the final Barf Bag goes to…”

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“…Samantha!”

The texter held a single hand out to catch the Bag, while the other hand remained tapping away on the phone.

The prom queen was, to say the least, devastated.

“WHAT?!” She screeched, causing Chef, Ethan, and Jessica to cover their ears. “BUT, BUT YOU CAN’T!! YOU NEED ME! YOU NEED MY GLAMOR! YOU NEED MY PERFECT TASTE OF FASHION! YOU NEED…YOU NEED…”

“You need to get out of here.” Ethan said firmly. “At least Samantha’s phone obsession can come in handy from time to time. You’re just garbage.”

She nearly exploded, her face turning red and a single vein bulging in her forehead. Her fists clenched tightly, her over-expensive nails digging into her palms.

“WHY YOU DIRTY FILTHY SCUMMY LITTLE…”

Her rampage was cut off when Chef, standing behind her, grabbed her by the shoulders. Her rage instantly vanished as her eyes widened with fear.

“WAIT! NO! CAN YOU AT LEAST WAIT UNTIL WE’RE OVER A CITY? …Or at least California?”

Chef spun around and prepared to throw her out the door.

“ACK! NONONONONONONO!”

“Oh, relax, kid. I wasn’t about to throw you out without a parachute…”

“You better not have.” Lauren muttered.

“You’ll get a parachute, alright…that you must share with our other victim tonight!”

At that moment, James, ushered out from behind the stage’s curtain by Carl, trudged up to the door, parachute in hand.

“I guess this is really it, isn’t it?”

“You better believe it, fat boy.”

And with that, Chef grabbed James by the shirt collar and heaved him out the door (albeit with quite some effort), also releasing his grip on Lauren and tossing her out as well.

“Enjoy the desert!” He shouted down after them.

Lauren’s shrill screech and James’s deep roar both shrank away rather quickly as they flew out the door and fell away from the Jet, tumbling down towards the steaming desert below.

“Phew!” Chef muttered as he wiped his brow. “There goes the most annoying one.” He turned to face the camera.

“Will Team Madison be able to pick up the pace and regain momentum, or will they be the next Team Victory? And what will become of Matthew and his relationship with the rest of his team now that his closest friend is gone? Find out next time, on Total…Drama…World Tour!”

Voting Confessionals

Lauren – Well, Ethan told me that he and Jessica will vote for Samantha, since her obsession with that phone could cost us another challenge like it did in Kansas. So, see ya later, text-a-holic! (Stamps Samantha’s passport)

Samantha – (Stamps Lauren’s passport)

Jessica – Ethan said that he really had to think it over, but he ultimately decided on Lauren instead of Samantha. To me, they’re both pretty bad, and as long as I’m not the one up for elimination, I’m fine with it. So… (Stamps Lauren’s passport)

Ethan – Like I said, the merge isn’t probably for a good three or four more episodes. I would prefer to take at least two other teammates with me to the merge, and we have a better chance of doing that with Samantha than with Lauren. (Stamps Lauren’s passport)

Voting Results

Lauren – Samantha

Ethan – Lauren

Jessica – Lauren

Samantha – Lauren

Total Votes

Lauren – 3

Samantha – 1

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John, Suzie, James, Lauren

Epilogue

“So, what exactly is the deal with these boxes?” Eryn asked in curiosity, turning the box around several times in her hands as she inspected it.

“I don’t know, but as long as it got us invincibility, I don’t care.” Matthew said as he reclined in one of the large yellow chairs. “Besides, Chef said he’d tell us when to open it.”

Just then, Chef’s voice came over the intercom.

“Alright, everyone! It’s time for the grand reveal! You may each open up the boxes that your team retrieved today!”

“Oh, boy!” Eryn shouted in excitement, instantly flipping open the gilded latch and tossing the lid open.

A single spurt of purple paint shot out, splattering all over her face.

Down in economy-class, a similar action happened to both Mary and Ethan, respectively.

A very satisfied laugh tore over the intercom.

“CHEF!” The three teens roared.

Gold and Silver Pawnshop…

Corey had just finished straightening out the money from the shop’s latest deal and sorted it into the various drawers of the nearest register when a set of tires screeched outside.

In an instant, the glass door was flung open, and a panting, sweating, fast-talking Chumlee burst in.

“To…To…Tota…Total…Drama…cast? Where…?”

“Gone.” Corey said flatly, without even looking up from the register.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”


Episode 6 Part 1: Silence is Golden Gate

“Last time on Total Drama World Tour: Our three teams were sent on a VERY wild goose chase that sent them across, up, down, left, right, around, and through Sin City itself; Las Vegas, Nevada. They drove down freeways, climbed pyramids and observatories, negotiated with ruthless pawn shop owners, and gave it their all. “But, despite all odds and efforts from the other two teams, Team Victory II pulled off yet another win, courtesy of that psychotic nutjob, who has a talent for climbing up pyramids. But their victory came at a severe price; due to being the only one to not sing in the musical reprise, that 315 pound bag of joy James was given the shaft, alongside Prom Queen when Team Madison had to boot one of their own, resulting in the season’s second double elimination. “We’ve got yet another highly-populated, crowded, and crazy destination ahead of us that just might put Vegas to shame after all. Where are we going? What will the challenge be? Find out, right here, right now, on Total…Drama…World Tour!”

Economy-class…

“Your move.” Louis said casually.

Ethan stared at the board hard, trying to evaluate his position. There was, of course, a Rook on A-4 that was ripe for the taking…but then his Knight would be dead, courtesy of Louis’s Bishop, crouching in wait…But if he didn’t move the Knight now, he wouldn’t get another shot at the Rook.

With one calm movement, he lifted the horse up and casually knocked the Rook off the board, placing it down in its place. Louis picked up the dead Rook and placed it alongside his other late soldiers in the game.

“Just as I expected.”

Then, before it was even began, Louis’s next move was over. His Bishop had taken out the Knight.

Likewise. Ethan thought with a grin.

After Ethan casually moved a Pawn two spaces forward, Louis began positioning his Bishop so that it could intercept Ethan’s King.

Ethan, seeing this, finally moved his all-important King up and to the right by one spot.

Louis grinned as Ethan tried to evade him so obviously, and his Bishop continued the pursuit.

“So, got any ideas for a strategy?” Ethan asked casually.

“Why, yes…I’m going to chase your King all over this board if I have to, but you’re still going to lose sooner or later.”

“That is a good one, but I was talking about the game.” Ethan moved his King up and to the left. Louis’s Bishop mirrored him.

“Oh…well, what can we do at this point in the game? I mean, while we’re still separated into teams? These challenges more recently have involved the teams being separated from each other, so there’s not much we can do to…sabotage Team Victory II, if that’s what you were thinking.”

“I was thinking that. Exactly, I might add.” Another move up and to the left. The Bishop pursued him.

“Emphasis on was. I think now, the strategy has just changed.”

“Changed? How so?”

“Clearly, Team Victory II is unstoppable. Whether it’s Matthew’s blind determination or Eryn’s unpredictable moments of godplaying, they’re the ultimate team. At this point, all we can do is play along.”

Another flanking movement by both pieces.

“Play along?”

“Play along.” Ethan repeated. “Let them win all they want. But the fact is, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. You get what I’m saying?”

“I…I think so.”

“The more they win, the more over-confident they get in themselves. Right?”

“Of course.”

“Well, if we play along and lead them all to believe that they truly can’t be stopped, they’ll develop a false sense of security. At some point in time, I guarantee you, they won’t even be trying anymore.”

“And your point is?”

“Fool them, my friend. Fool them. Lead them on.”

The King was now nearly on the opposite end of the board. Louis’s Bishop was right behind it.

“They win, we lose, they win, we lose…the monotony of the pattern will be drilled into their minds so that they become automatons. Just when they’ve lost any belief in the very idea of losing…just when they’ve fallen into the charade set up by us and by themselves…we strike.”

And then, before Louis even knew it, Ethan’s King struck out and knocked Louis’s King off the board.

“Game.” Ethan said smoothly.

“WHAT?” Louis yelped, startled. He glanced back and forth between where his King had been and where his Bishop was. “But…But…Oh, curses! How did I not see that?”

“Our strategy must be like this game of chess, my friend.” Ethan stated. “We let them chase us all over the place with their constant wins. Make them think we’re on the run, that we’re at their mercy, lead them through a constant pattern…and then strike. It will be a true Checkmate.”

Louis, after accepting his loss, looked back up at Ethan, who was now grinning.

“The Checkmate is coming, my friend. The Checkmate is coming.”

First-class…

Matthew was sipping his umpteenth Dr. Pepper with one hand, and holding a chocolate-chip cookie in the other.

“Ah. This is the life, eh James?”

No response.

“James?”

Matthew turned his head to the left at the seat next to him. It was empty. He looked straight ahead at the two seats across from him and facing him, one of which was almost always occupied by his large friend. For a moment, he thought he could actually see the pressed-down area in the middle of the seat from where James’s weight had been not too long ago.

“Oh, right.” He took another long, thoughtful sip. “No one to enjoy the fifth victory in a row with.” A bite of the cookie. “You know, I kinda miss his…his…oafiness.” He swallowed the portion of cookie. “He was a bit klutzy and dimwitted, but he was still…fun, to have around.” He glanced up at the seat across from him, still empty.

He sighed.

30 minutes later…

It was not long before the Jet began to descend, with the drop in altitude and the lifting of the cloud cover drawing all attention to the nearest windows.

Below them was a massive city, with several larger islands here and there, and a massive bay both inside and around the city. There was a particularly clustered area nearby with numerous tall buildings, including one that looked like a very thin pyramid.

“Hey! This place looks familiar! But I just can’t put my finger on it…” Nicole started, scratching her head as she looked out the window.

“Isn’t that the Golden Gate Bridge?” Jessica added, pointing to the all-too familiar red bridge nearby.

“It sure is!” Isaiah confirmed. “And look! There’s the Bay Bridge, and the TransAmerica Pyramid, and Alcatraz, and…”

“SAN. FRAN. CISCO?! AMERICA AGAIN?! BLARGH IT ALL!” Ethan roared in fury, slamming his fists into the metal wall. “WHY?! WHY!? JUST WHEN I THOUGHT OUR STOPS IN THIS COUNTRY COULDN’T GET WORSE! LIBERAL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! HOMELESS CENTRAL! VAGABOND NATION! CRAZY CITY! WHY?!?!?!”

“San Francisco.” Matthew said flatly. He shook his head slightly, and his mouth was caught between a flat line and a crooked grin. “Figures. If you had just held on for one more episode, James, you’d be where you wanted to be.”

“That’s right, ladies! You’re in the one, the only, the nutty, San Francisco, California! We’ll be landing shortly, where a bus will take us to our next location for today’s challenge!”

Several hours later…

The bus finally arrived, and when the doors opened, the 12 teens were all too eager to throw themselves out onto the pavement and into the fresh air, landing just outside the bus doors in a pile.

“UGH! FINALLY!” Ethan muttered.

“That traffic was horrible!” Mary commented.

“Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Ontario have got NOTHING on this place.” Rachael chimed.

“I’ll never understand why James wanted to come here.” Matthew muttered.

Then Chef stepped out of the bus, casually stepping on a few of the teens, which elicited crunches, cracks, and groans from the group. The towering man approached the red railing nearby, placed both hands on it, and looked out over the bay below him. He inhaled long and deeply through his nose, then exhaled slowly out his mouth.

“Ah. San Francisco. You gotta love it and hate it at the same time.” He turned around to face the teens, most of whom were finally getting to their feet. “Welcome to San Francisco’s main attraction: The Golden Gate Bridge. We are standing at the base of the Bridge’s north tower. This is where the first half of your challenge will be.”

As he spoke, three of the interns stepped off the bus, each carrying a coiled-up bungee cord with metal hooks at the end, each with three curved prongs. They walked past him up to the red railing and began latching the hooks onto the railings, then looping the cords around the railing once to secure it.

“Oh, no! Not more bungee-jumping!” Jessica cried.

“You better believe it!” Chef shot back. “For today’s challenge, you will be pushing yourselves to your physical and mental limits, and will do so utilizing two of San Fran’s biggest landmarks! First, each team will select one member to be the bungee-jumper, where you will jump off the side of the bridge towards the bay below. On the surface of the water just below the bridge are three buoys, each marked with each team’s flag. Attached to said buoys are a ring of keys that each of you must retrieve. Once you retrieve the keys first, you must then jump back down and retrieve three wooden oars, and then retrieve the yellow bundle that is also on the buoy. That bundle is an inflatable raft. Once you have successfully retrieved all five items, the three teams must use the rafts to travel across the bay to that island!”

Chef pointed out across the bay towards a small, familiar island further inland, surrounded by water. Several large, blank, dull, and gray structures were situated in the center of the island, with a lighthouse peaking on one side and a water tower on the other.

“Alcatraz Island itself. You must paddle all the way to that island, and from there disembark and head into the bowels of the abandoned prison itself. Somewhere in there is a cell that will have your team’s logo next to it. You must unlock it using one of the keys on your key ring. First team to unlock their cell wins. The second team to do so wins…second place. And you know the drill for whichever poor saps come in third. “So, you each get one minute to decide which one will be the bungee-jumper. And here’s a heads-up: Whoever is the bungee-jumper is automatically in charge of the key ring, cannot participate in the rowing, and is the only one who can unlock the cell.”

Over on Team Victory II, Matthew was quick to assume command once more.

“OK, so I think it’s quite obvious who our bungee-jumper should be.”

The other three members all gave him blank stares in response.

“You mean…you don’t know?”

“Um, we’re looking at you, aren’t we?” Rachael responded.

“What? No! I was talking about her.” He jerked a finger in Eryn’s direction.

“Moi?” Eryn responded, pointing a finger at herself.

“You’re crazy enough, aren’t you? You held onto a trailer in the middle of a tornado, you climbed a pyramid, I’m sure you can bungee-jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.”

After a pause, Eryn shrugged. “Eh, why not?”

“Good. Just be sure to take good care of those keys and don’t lose them.” Matthew added with a glare.

“Oh, don’t worry about them. I can take my time naming each and every one of them on the way over!”

Over on Team Sahara, Mary took on a similar role as Matthew.

“OK, so we can rule him out.” Mary declared right off the bat, pointing at Isaiah.

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“Oh, thank heavens!”

“Wait, why?” Anna asked, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at Mary.

“Oh, no. Please…” Isaiah started.

“Do you want me to spell it out for you? He’s weak! He can’t do it! And besides, you just heard him say ‘thank heavens’ when I said he can’t do it. That means he doesn’t want to anyway!”

“Yes, yes, please. I don’t want to. Now can we get on with-?”

“I still take offense to that comment, missie! What, are you gonna rule me out next because I’m an animal-lover?”

“I’m tempted to. You’d be worried about accidentally hitting a fish with our oars as we paddle across the bay.”

“Well who’s gonna do it? You? Little Miss Perfect?”

“Why I ought to…”

“Enough.” A voice cut in.

Four of them looked at the one who had uttered the single word.

Louis stood firmly aside from the others, arms crossed and glaring at the two girls. “Look, if we’re ever going to get anywhere as a team, we’ve got to learn how to cooperate. Correct?”

“That’s what I’ve always been saying!” Mary jumped in. “But this animal freak keeps stepping in and-.”

“Look at you, Miss I-Always-Have-To-Criticize-People!”

“I said enough.”

Louis didn’t even raise his voice, but just the sheer power in the way he said the word was enough to silence them both.

“The fact is, if either of you are the bungee-jumper, the other will surely be criticizing the other nonstop and throwing off their concentration. So it can’t be either of you, and we already know it won’t be Isaiah. I’ll do it.”

“You sure?” Nicole asked, slightly worried.

“Of course. I have to set an example. Hopefully then, the rest of my teammates will see how they should be participating in a task if they ever need to do so.”

And on Team Madison, a similar situation took place.

“OK, so I’m just gonna make it very clear right now; I’m gonna be the bungee-jumper. Complaints?” Ethan declared.

The only response was Jessica’s quick shake of her head and Samantha’s texting.

“OK, good. But that means that I can’t paddle, so I have to trust you two to be fast with those oars, OK? We have only three people left; we can’t afford to lose again. Got it?”

The only response was Jessica’s quick nod and Samantha’s texting.

“OK, good.”

“TEAMS! You made your decisions?”

Three nearly-simultaneous “Yes’s” responded.

“I shall be the bungee-jumper for Team Sahara.” Louis reported, stepping forward.

“I’m the bungee-jumper for Team Madison.” Ethan similarly stated.

“And IIIIIIIIIIII’M Team Victory II’s jumpeRRRRRRRRR!” Eryn sang out.

“O…K…” Chef replied, a little stunned by the spontaneity of the last response. “So jumpers, hook yourselves up and be ready to jump on my go.”

5 minutes later…

“Alright! Jumpers ready?”

“Ready on Team Sahara!”

“Ready on Team Madison!”

“Team Victory II is OK to go!”

“On your mark…” Chef raised his starting pistol. The three jumpers, who had been standing on the safe side of the red railing before, now climbed up onto the bar, crouched like tigers waiting to pounce.

“Get set…” He pulled the pistol’s hammer back, slipping one finger around the trigger.

“GO!” He pulled the trigger, the shot rang out, and the challenge began.

“COWABUNGA!” Eryn roared as she leapt off.

“Alack, there lies more peril in this dive than in 20,000 swords!” Louis declared as he jumped.

“Here goes nothing!” Ethan declared, slipping off and tumbling down.

As the three jumpers fell, the three buoys became visible just underneath the bridge. Each was a red cone, bouncing back and forth on the waves, with the bell constantly ringing. And, sure enough, lined up around the base of the buoys were the five items, attached to the body of the buoy by Velcro straps.

Right off the bat, Team Victory II was off to a good start. On her first jump, Eryn extended her right hand and managed to slip a few fingers around the key ring. When the rope jerked back and sent her flying up, it allowed her to easily yank the key ring off the buoy, the keys rattling in her hand as she did so.

Once Eryn was level with the bridge and her teammates, she held up the key ring proudly, rattling it much like one would rattle keys to entertain a baby.

“I GOT ‘EM! I GOT THE KEYS!”

“Throw ‘em over!” Matthew ordered.

At the very peak of her bounce, just before she began to fall back down, she launched the keys across the gap. The ring landed right in Matthew’s hands, and he was quick to wrap his fingers around it and jerk it away from the edge of the railing, bringing it to safety at last.

“Awesome. Keep it up!” He yelled back to her.

Eryn gave a thumbs-up and devilish grin just before she fell back down out of sight.

Meanwhile, over on Team Sahara, Mary and Nicole were acting as the catchers and waiting for Louis to toss them the key ring. Off to the side, the other two teammates were sharing yet another awkward moment.

Isaiah was standing at the very base of the north tower, looming high above him so much that it made his neck hurt looking up at it.

“Whoa. Look at this quality architecture. Seventy-five years old, and still as beautiful and architecturally sound as ever.”

“Whatcha doin’?” Anna asked casually, popping up rather suddenly beside him.

“Ah!” Isaiah yelped from her sudden appearance. “Uh…not much. Just observing the fine modern wonder that surrounds us. Probably something you wouldn’t be interested in.”

He tried to turn his attention back to the structure, but Anna wasn’t going to let him get away.

“You’re right. But you know what I would be interested in?”

After a few awkward seconds with no response from Isaiah, Anna continued anyway.

“Seagulls! Oh! And look up there! There’s a great big flock of them now!”

As Isaiah was already looking up to admire the Bridge’s architecture, he couldn’t help but glance over to the side briefly enough to see the flock she was referring to. Sure enough, a group of about 20 seagulls was passing over the Bridge at that moment.

“Ah…seagulls. So sleek and graceful as they soar through the crisp, salt-watery air, aren’t they? Just listen to the sounds the make.”

For a very brief moment, Isaiah couldn’t help but listen to the squawking of the birds overhead. Indeed, it was a sound that fit in very well with the environment, and actually drew his attention away from the Bridge and the challenge for the moment…

Then, in an instant, a steaming white substance landed right on his face, mostly on his left eye and left cheek.

“AAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Nearby, Nicole glanced back at the sound of Isaiah’s scream, only to see what the cause was. With a grin on her face, she shook her head and turned her attention back to the railing just as Louis bounced up and tossed the first oar to them. She extended both hands and caught the piece of wood, setting it down alongside the key ring.

“Ugh. The very sound of him annoys me.” Mary muttered.

“You gotta admit, though; that was pretty funny.” Nicole added with a chuckle.

“Yeah. But those two holding us back in nearly every challenge isn’t. Look, I’m not trying to be a constant downer or anything, but I’m just focusing on the important fact: The longer those two are on our team, the better our chances of losing are. You get what I’m saying?”

“I…I think so.”

“Good. Listen, Nicole…” Mary walked up to Nicole and, in a briefly surprising gesture, put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry if I come across as mean, controlling, nit-picky, or whatever. But you can understand where I’m coming from, right?”

Nicole looked at the hand on her shoulder, then back at Mary. “Yeah.”

“Good. I just want what’s better for the team, you know? And, in all honesty, I think that you, me, and Louis…”

“CATCH!”

Mary stopped in mid-sentence and ran back up to the railing just in time to catch the second oar as Louis tossed it to them. She easily caught it and laid it down on the ground alongside their first oar and the key ring.

“As I was saying. You, me, and Louis together would make a great team. All we need to do is deduct two…er, variables from the equation. Right?”

“I guess so.” Nicole shrugged and glanced back at Isaiah, still running around in circles with the steaming white substance on his face, screaming uncontrollably, while Anna tried unsuccessfully to calm him down. “Oh, you’re definitely right.”

“I know. Let’s just at least try to get through this challenge, though. But if we lose…then we make our move. OK?”

“Alright…”

“And Team Victory II has retrieved all five of their items first!” Chef declared. “You may now inflate your raft, lower it and the oars down into the water, and then use the bungee cord to slide down to the raft. Once all of your members are inside, you may began paddling.”

“SWEET!” Matthew cheered. “Let’s go, everyone! Stat!”

“Alrighty!” Eryn replied. She then grabbed the red handle on the side of the yellow bundle and gave a quick, firm yank. The raft instantly opened up with a loud hiss as it began to inflate.

“Darn it!” Mary muttered. She ran back up to the red railing and leaned over it. “LOUIS! Hurry it up! Team Victory II is already getting ready to start rowing over to the island!”

Her response was Louis’s form bouncing right back into her line of vision, the third and final oar in hand.

“I have only one item left, and then we can catch them!” He yelled as he tossed the third oar across the gap to Mary.

Over on Team Madison, a similarly-panicked reaction appeared.

“Argh! You’ve got to be kidding!” Ethan roared. At that time, he was bouncing back up with the first oar in hand, and tossed it across the rail. As Samantha was too preoccupied with her phone, Jessica had to catch it just as she caught the key ring. And, naturally, it did not turn out too well for her.

“We’ve got to hurry up or we’ll lose…AGAIN!” Ethan shouted just before he fell back down.

Meanwhile, Team Victory II was in the process of putting their raft together.

Once it was completely open, Matthew turned to Eryn, who still had the rope attached to her. “Alright, Eryn. Untie the rope and let it drop down to the surface of the water, then take the raft down with you.”

“Yes, sir, captain, sir!” Eryn said with a salute. In a few moments, she slipped off the rope, and threw it over the rail, and jumped over the rail with one hand holding the rope and the other clutching one of the raft’s side handles, sliding down out of sight.

All three of her teammates, with one oar each, ran over to the side and watched as she slid down, the small dot of Eryn and the small yellow blob of the raft eventually reaching the water. They could faintly hear her voice shout back up to them.

“…K! …ome down!”

“Alright, follow me, ladies!” Matthew declared, taking hold of the rope and leaping over the side like a SWAT officer.

“Whatever happened to ‘ladies first’?” Violet asked sarcastically as she jumped down after him, with Rachael right behind her.

Soon, all four members of Team Victory II were in their raft, and all but Eryn had an oar at the ready.

“Alright, Violet and Rachael on the port side! I’ll take the starboard! Eryn, take a seat in the stern!”

He was met by three blank stares.

“Argh! Violet and Rachael, on the left side, I’ll take the right, Eryn sit in the back!”

Now he was met by three simultaneous “Oh”s, as the other teammates took their positions.

“And Team Sahara has all five of their items! Head on down, green team!”

“YES!” Mary cheered. “Anna, Nicole, and Isaiah grab an oar!”

“BLARGH!” Ethan roared as he bounced back up with the second oar, tossing it to Jessica. “We cannot lose again! WE. CAN. NOT.” He bounced back down again to grab the third and final oar.

As he reached the bottom and took hold of the third oar, he glanced out towards the inside of the bay and evaluated the situation while upside-down. Team Victory II, obviously, had the advantage of a head-start, while Isaiah was just sliding down the rope and settling in Team Sahara’s raft. Louis sat at the bow of the raft with the key ring twirling on his right index finger, a fierce determination in his eyes.

“And shove off!” He ordered. Mary, Isaiah, and Anna all began paddling furiously, Isaiah and Anna on the port side and Mary on the starboard side.

Come on, Louis. Ethan thought to himself. Drive your team to defeat those jerks.

Then he bounced back up with the third oar, and soon with the raft.

“Alright, and off you go!” Chef declared.

“Let’s go!” Ethan ordered. He picked up the raft and leapt over the side, still clinging to the bungee rope and the oar with one hand, the raft with the other, and the key ring between his teeth. He soon reached the water and set the raft down, settling in and dropping the oar and key ring.

“COME ON DOWN!” He yelled back up.

Soon, both Jessica and Samantha had accompanied him in the raft, an oar in each of their hands (or, in Samantha’s case, an oar in one hand and a cell phone in the other).

“OK, Samantha takes the port, Jessica takes starboard, and I’ll sit in the front. Now let’s GO!”

With a full effort from Ethan and Jessica and a half-hearted effort from Samantha, the final team began to chase after the other two. Ethan had to concentrate hard to ignore the environment around them, not the least of which included a massive, clunky, rusted fishing barge that chugged past them, briefly tossing them up in its wake…

Meanwhile, up on the very same barge…

The worker in a gray, dirty, stained old poncho and matching hat jumped back as another net unloaded its payload of wet, slimy, flopping fish.

“EW! Gross!”

“Quit yer whinin’ down there, McCain! Get to work!” The captain called from the bridge a few levels up. “I don’t pay ye to fuss about a little fish and salt water!”

“My name is McLean, you bumbling idiot!” He shouted back up. “Don’t you know who I am?!”

“I don’t care if yer Stevie Wonder. Ye get to work haulin’ them fish, or I’ll haul ye over the side! Got that?”

“…Ugh. Yes, sir.”

As the worker named McLean began hauling still-flopping fish, he sighed in sad recollection of how much better his last job was…

Episode 6 Part 2: Lost my Heart in San Francisco

Team Victory II…

“Alcatraz Island dead ahead!” Matthew called out, while he, Rachael, and Violet paddled furiously.

“Wonder if we’ll get to meet Clint Eastwood?” Eryn asked excitedly. “Or Sean Connery!”

“Or Santa Claus.” Matthew muttered as he continued paddling.

Team Madison…

“Nuts!” Ethan roared in fury. “They’re getting away!”

“Well, that was kind of obvious.” Jessica replied half-heartedly. They both have more people than us, by a considerable margin…”

“Well, maybe, if SOME of us put a little EFFORT into it…” He turned back to Samantha as he said this, but she, naturally, didn’t hear him.

Then a single thought popped into his devious little mind.

With one hand still furiously paddling, he took out his cell phone with the other and sent a quick text to Samantha.

“Ever been to Alcatraz before?”

Samantha paused for a moment, her phone whistling as the message came in, then she rapidly responded.

“no”

“Well, I have. And doesn’t the reception here in San Francisco kinda suck?”

“kinda”

“Well, let me tell you this, and I swear it’s the truth: The reception on Alcatraz is sooo much better than anywhere else in this whole city. Trust me.”

Ethan closed his phone and put it back in his pocket, waiting with a crooked grin as the message arrived on Samantha’s phone. Her wild clicking stopped, her eyes widened, and the phone dropped into her lap.

With all her might, she began furiously paddling, nearly causing Jessica and Ethan to fall over from the sudden increase in speed. The two managed to regain their balance and join in, gradually gaining on Team Sahara…

Ding-ding!

Musical Number – Ode to San Francisco

Ethan: Being born in the province of Saskatchewan
Much farther than those borders I would never have gone
When I see this place, I can’t help but stammer
I would rather beat myself with a hammer

I expected what kind of place this city’d be like
I must get out, even if I have to hitchhike

Louis: I remember the twister in Kansas
But I never, ever could have imagined this
All the bustle, culture and the hustle
Just seeing this is worth all the pain in my muscles
Being here is worth all of those dangerous bungee dives

I’ve never ever felt so alive

All: San Francisco, what a place
Not subtle, it’s in your face
San Francisco, show your teeth
Moving at a rapid pace
Yeah! Yeah!

Matthew: San Francisco sure is like no other
But as a destination, to me, it’s just another
When you’re in a place like San Francisco
It’s worse than being at a drunken Russian disco

Your first time here sure is an unforgettable day
But that won’t stand in my way!

All: San Francisco, what a place
Not subtle, it’s in your face
San Francisco, show your teeth
Moving at a rapid pace
Yeah! Yeah!

What city can compete with you?
None else can, and that is the truth
Can’t wait to say goodbye to you
Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait…

Mary: Maybe later, we can see all the sights
But for now, we must keep up the ongoing fight
Keep up our chins up, and keep the fire strong
We have been in economy-class for far too long

I really don’t think San Francisco’s worth all that jazz
So onward to the end
To Alcatraz…

All: San Francisco, what a place
Not subtle, it’s in your face
San Francisco, show your teeth
Moving at a rapid pace
Yeah! Yeah!

San Francisco, what a place
Not subtle, it’s in your face
San Francisco, show your teeth
Moving at a rapid pace
Yeah! Yeah!

San Francisco, what a place
Not subtle, it’s in your face
San Francisco, show your teeth
Moving at a rapid pace
Yeah! Yeah!

End

By the time the ridiculously long musical number had ended, Team Victory II had already reached the shore of Alcatraz Island.

“Alright! Onward to victory!” Matthew declared as he jumped out, landing up to his ankles in the water along the rocky shore and pulling the raft further up onto the shore with all his might.

Violet, Rachael, and Eryn were quick to jump out with him and follow him along the shore, up to the nearest path leading up to the desolate structure on top of the island.

“I’ve read up on this place before!” He announced as he ran up ahead of the others. “Follow me to the cell blocks! We’ll start with A and work our way down!”

At that moment, Team Madison reached the shore, prompted on by Samantha’s boost in paddling after Ethan mentioned the better reception. She even jumped out with Ethan and helped pull the raft, and Jessica, to the shore.

However, the moment both of her feet were on solid ground, her heart sank.

Her bars had dropped to half of a single bar.

“ETHAN!” She roared, without even looking up from her phone. “YOU LIED! THE RECEPTION HERE SUCKS!”

“I know. One more thing about this island that does.” He replied with a smirk. “You can stay here with the raft. You’ll just slow us down. Jessica, come with me.”

And with that, the pair raced up the dirt path towards the building.

Team Victory II…

Matthew dashed down one hall, turned a corner, and stopped for a moment, taking in the sights with awe as his three teammates caught up to him.

The massive hallway spread out in both directions, a wide space between the cell doors of B-Block and C-Block on either side.

“Broadway.” Matthew whispered.

“No, silly. Alcatraz, San Francisco!” Eryn replied. “This isn’t New York!”

“Broadway is the name that the prisoners gave to this particular corridor. The widest and most exposed in the entire building.” He informed her, with brief annoyance turning back to excitement. “This would be a great place to start looking.”

He turned to his teammates and gestured his finger in two different directions. “Rachael, Violet: Head down that way. Eryn, come with me and we’ll look this way. If anyone sees the cell with the logo on the door, give a holler.”

The two pairs split up and ran down the massive hallway in opposite directions.

At that moment, the single pair representing Team Madison entered the corridor, with Ethan looking up one way and Jessica down the other. Each got a glimpse of the other team’s members as they ran off.

“They’re already splitting up and searching. We shouldn’t follow them, or else it’ll look like we’re following their lead. Let’s go this way!” Clamping a hand down on Jessica’s wrist, he led her on through the prison towards B-Block.

Soon, they arrived in the center of B-Block. Ethan did a quick 360 around the area, then snapped his fingers. “This is the section of B-Block from where three inmates successfully escaped in June of 1962. This’ll be an ideal location to start looking. You head that way, and call my name if you see our logo. I’ll look down this way.”

And with that, they split up as well.

Team Sahara…

The team finally arrived, alongside the empty raft of Team Victory II and Team Madison’s raft, with a frustrated and fuming Samantha sitting inside, desperately trying to get some reception on the Rock.

Mary was still stunned to see the latter already there, so closely on the heels of Team Victory II.

“Remind me again how the heck those three sped ahead of us like that?” She asked as she and Louis jumped out and pulled the raft, with their other three teammates, to the shore.

Louis simply shrugged.

“Never mind it. Let’s go.” Taking Nicole’s hand, he helped her out of the raft before turning and heading up the dirt path, Mary right behind them.

Anna tried to offer similar help to Isaiah, only for him to ignore her hand, stumble out on his own, and run past her while calling for the others to wait for him.

The five soon arrived in D-Block, glancing around in many different directions.

“This place is huge!” Nicole exclaimed. “How will we ever find it?”

Just then, there was a whining over the prison’s ancient PA system, and the familiar, gruff voice of Chef Hatchet soon bellowed: “And, big shock, Team Victory II has won YET AGAIN.”

In the brief pause after he finished this sentence, the familiar cheering of Matthew could be heard echoing down the halls from somewhere in the distance.

“So Team Madison and Team Sahara, ya’ll’d best hurry it up! One of you will claim second place, and another will claim…you know, dead last. Which means one of your members will subsequently claim elimination. So get movin’!”

“Well, in answer to your question, Nicole: How will we find it? Fast. You and I will take this corridor. Anna and Isaiah, take that corridor. Mary, you head down and search C-Block.”

“WHAT?! Me and Anna?!” Isaiah started to protest.

“Let’s go!” Anna yelled out, grabbing Isaiah by the arm and dragging him down the corridor alongside D-Block. Louis and Nicole ran down the opposite direction, while Mary ran towards C-Block.

In another section of the prison, Ethan and Jessica took an equally frightened note of this new announcement.

“DAAAAAAANG IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” Ethan roared, his fury echoing back and forth down the halls, even shaking the cell door’s bars. The key ring shaking nervously in his hand, he dashed through the halls, glancing side-to-side rapidly at the cells passing on both sides, keeping both eyes peeled for the team logo.

Suddenly, with a powerful shock, Ethan felt himself slam roughly into an unseen object with a meaty smack and a dull clunk. After the initial impact against his forehead, his vision flashed back, then flashed on and off repeatedly like a flickering light as he crashed to the unforgiving, cold concrete floor. As he was too stunned to even issue an “Ow,” he heard the other person’s moan of pain in its entirety. And it was familiar.

“Jessica…you…idiot…” He mumbled, still trying to sit up with one elbow below him to prop him up, and another hand on his forehead.

“Oooooh…S…sorry…”

As Ethan leaned to one side and shook his head, he glanced up momentarily. Against the dull gray and green, he thought he saw a flash of pink. He lowered his head, paused, then looked up again.

As his vision settled down and the spots vanished, the image slowly but surely formed before his eyes: The Team Madison logo, crudely taped across two of the bars on the door of the nearest cell to his right.

“The…the logo!” He called out weakly, to himself more than to Jessica. “This cell!”

Mustering all his strength, he slowly staggered to his knees, then climbed to his feet, stumbling forward a couple feet until he slammed into the bars, instantly clinging to them with both hands…

…which resulted in him dropping the key ring just inside the cell door.

Even after the clang sounded, it took him a few moments to realize that the key ring was missing from his hand. He looked down and saw it, about six inches inside the cell. A few more seconds, then the panic set in.

Still clinging to the bars, he allowed his body to drop down until he was crouching. He warily let go of one bar, a sting of pain shooting through his head again, and reached between the bars into the cell, fingers extended as he desperately reached for the key ring.

He had to stretch just a little further…

Then his index finger and middle finger touched the ring. Using the top joints of each finger, he hooked the ring and jerked his arm back, pulling the ring through the gap in the bars.

Now clenching the key ring more firmly, he pulled himself back up using the cell door’s bars, until he was level with the lock, just next to the pink logo.

Fumbling with the key ring for just a moment, he awkwardly slid the single key in through the hole…turned it once…

…then fell backwards as the door suddenly swung open, his weight pulling it open and shocking him so much that he fell backward and landed right on top of Jessica, who was still lying on the floor. She gave another “Oof,” while he, once again, remained silent.

Then the voice blared across the intercom once more.

“And Team Madison has unlocked their cell door! Team Madison is finally no longer the losing team! Congratulations to the three of ya. Team Sahara, so sorry, but you must face elimination again for the first time in three episodes. See ya at the elimination ceremony!”

Normally, Ethan and Jessica would’ve been quick to celebrate their victory, but both were still stunned from the collision.

Ethan, however, managed to crack a faint smile, and his whole body relaxed.

Then, a muffled voice from underneath: “Efan, can you pleafe get off of me?”

Later, at the elimination ceremony…

A very divided and very frustrated Team Sahara sat in the bleachers of the dreaded elimination area in several small groups. Louis and Nicole sat in one corner on the top row, while Mary sat alone on the opposite end of the top row, glaring down at the bottom row. Anna and Isaiah sat on the bottom row, and the latter only allowed the former to sit near him because he was too depressed to notice her. However, for once, Anna wasn’t necessarily enjoying sitting next to Isaiah either, as she looked just as scared for her chances.

“Alrighty then, losers! If it’s any consolation, at least ya’ll gave Team Madison a break. So whichever of you make it back to economy-class by the end of tonight, be sure to ask ‘em to thank you. As you know, there are only four Barf Bags here tonight, and five kids who would like to have one. One of you, of course, will leave this Jet with nuthin’ but a parachute and broken dreams. When I call your name, claim your Barf Bag. “Louis and Nicole!”

The two shared sighs of relief and a smile as they caught their Barf Bags.

“Now, the three of YOU…”

Chef pointed one at a time at Mary, Anna, and Isaiah.

“…all received votes tonight. Two of you received the exact same amount of votes, while one of you received more votes than the other two combined. Thus, that person is out. So tonight, the last two Barf Bags simultaneously go to…”

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“…Mary and Anna!”

“WHAT?!” Anna screamed ferociously, despite a Barf Bag hitting her in the forehead and bouncing off. Mary, although slightly stunned at first, received hers with a satisfied grin.

“YES!” Isaiah cheered. “You guys actually came through for me!” He jumped up to the top row and gave Nicole and Louis a bear hug. “Thank you both so much! Thank you!”

“Isaiah?! What are you doing?! You just got voted off!”

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t handle it anymore.” He confessed as he started to step down the bleachers towards the open door. “Mary presented a legitimate point. I have been slowing my team down far too often and far too drastically.”

He took the parachute out of Chef’s hand and strapped it on. “Eliminating this team’s greatest weakness, even if it is myself, is the greatest thing I can do to restore my honor.”

He walked right up to the very precipice of the open door. Turning back one final time to face Anna, he threw in one final sentence.

“That, and I just can’t stand you anymore.”

And, before Anna could even respond, he was gone.

Voting Confessionals

Louis – Isaiah, I’m only doing this because you asked me to. (Stamps Isaiah’s passport)

Nicole – I was already convinced enough by Mary, but for Isaiah himself to come up and ask me to vote for him, this one really is a slam-dunk. (Stamps Isaiah’s passport).

Anna – As if it isn’t obvious enough. (Stamps Mary’s passport).

Mary – Should I even bother? …Eh, I love doing this. (Stamps Anna’s passport).

Isaiah – This may be shocking, but I honestly can’t tolerate Anna anymore, I’m holding my team back, I can’t tolerate Anna anymore, I’m the team’s weakest link, I can’t tolerate Anna anymore…did I mention that I can’t tolerate Anna anymore? (Stamps his own passport).

Voting Results

Anna – Mary

Mary – Anna

Isaiah – Isaiah

Louis – Isaiah

Nicole – Isaiah

Total Votes

Isaiah – 3

Anna – 1

Mary – 1

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John, Suzie, James, Lauren, Isaiah


Episode 7 Part 1: The Object

“Last time on Total Drama World Tour: The players were dumped into one of the craziest locations in one of the craziest cities in one of the craziest territories in one of the craziest countries in this crazy world: The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, United States of America. They had to take a gulp and do a bungee-jump off that big ol’ bridge, grab a key, and paddle rafts all the way to Alcatraz. Simple, right? Heh, heh…WRONG.
“Animal Mother managed to get on Napoleon’s nerves once more with her never-ending Dr. Doolittle stories, only solidifying his alliance with Perfectionist to get the creeper off his back. Meanwhile, Team Victory II – BIIIIIIG shock – went on to win yet…another…challenge. And, all the while, redheaded schemer kept his right-hand girl clumsy relatively out of the loop about his plans.
“In the end, it was, surprisingly, Team Sahara that came in last and had to send away one of their own. In a shocking twist, it was Napoleon who was voted out by Shakespeare, silent girl, and Napoleon himself, both to get him away from animal lover and in an effort to finally end the source of the conflict between animal and Perfectionist, as well as to eliminate the team’s weakest link. But will it work? …Most likely not.
“And FINALLY, after four straight episodes in this crazy country, we’re finally going to another continent. Where will our plans take us next? And who will be voted out tonight? Find out, right here, right now, on Total…Drama…World Tour!”

Even in the luxury of first-class, Rachael couldn’t help but cross her arms and shiver slightly at the sight of the location below them and around them.

“Geez. Just looking at this place sends a chill down my spine.”

“Not for me.” Matthew declared, as the built-in heater for one of the reclining seats kept him warm. It was even causing his plate of chocolate chip cookies to grow warm, with some of the chocolate slowly melting. “I don’t care if we’re over Alaska or all the way up at the North Pole. As long as we’re here in first-class, we’re good to go.”

“I was in the North Pole once.” Eryn quickly interjected. “I had a team of sled dogs to lead me through the treacherous terrain, but one by one, they all died off. I thought I was gonna die for a while up there, but I managed to survive for 6 days. You wanna know how? Huh? Do ya?”

“Ugh.” Matthew pulled the pillow out from behind his head and covered his face with it as Eryn began rambling on about another one of her famous stories.

Economy-class…

The wind was whipping almost violently through several cracks in the metal plates, resulting in most of the occupants shaking their knees and chattering their teeth.

“W-W-W-Where are w-w-w-we?” Mary chattered in a tone of frustration barely detectable through the shaking. “N-N-North P-P-P-P-P-Pole?”

“I-I-I-I-If it’s Al-l-l-l-laska, I’m gonna l-l-l-l-lose it.” Ethan muttered, equally frustrated and equally frigid.

“I j-j-j-j-just wish that we c-c-c-c-could find a w-w-w-w-ay to get w-w-w-w-warmer.” Jessica chattered back.

“Th-th-th-th-the only th-th-th-th-thing I could sug-g-g-g-g-gest is b-b-b-b-body heat.” Anna offered.

“Are y-y-y-y-y-you c-c-c-c-c-c-crazy?” Mary shot back.

“What the h-h-h-h-h-h-h-heck? It’s w-w-w-w-w-w-w-worth a t-t-t-t-t-t-t-try…isn’t it?” Nicole replied.

She glanced around at all the others, but none did or said anything to respond until she looked at Louis.

The drama king looked at her, paused for a moment, then shrugged and held out his arms.

With a wry smile, Nicole moved closer and wrapped her arms around him, with Louis returning the gesture.

Ethan looked at the two, then jerked his head back towards Jessica. Jessica looked at the two with a slightly jealous look before looking at the redhead.

After a moment, Ethan finally spoke up. “F-f-f-f-f-fine.”

Jessica was quick to follow suit, moving closer to Ethan while Ethan moved closer to her.

Anna looked back and forth between the two couples, then at the spot where Mary was sitting…

…a moment earlier. Before Anna knew it, Mary had rushed over to Samantha – who was more focused on her phone than the cold, and wrapped her arms around her, not daring to look back at Anna.

Who was now completely alone, with three pairs of people around her gradually getting warmer.

She sighed in between chatters.

Lavatory Confessional

Anna – (Still chattering and shivering, but not as much) I knew it’d be w-w-w-warmer in here! But m-m-m-m-man, it sucks now that Isaiah’s g-g-g-g-gone! He was the closest thing I had to an a-a-a-a-ally, and now I know for a fact that Mary’s been talking to Louis and Nicole behind my b-b-b-b-back. She’s still gunning for me, and I know she’s gonna take it to the end if she has to. And it’s no s-s-s-s-secret: If Louis and Nicole have to choose between her and me, they’ll probably break for her side! And then I’m T-T-T-T-T-TOAST!

End

The intercom whined again, though it was barely audible over the wind in economy-class.

“Alright, freaks! We are preparing to land. When the Jet comes to a step, haul your butts outside as fast as you can!”

“But don’t w-w-w-we even get c-c-c-c-coats?” Nicole asked, still shivering in Louis’s arms.

“NO!” Then the speaker went dead.

“L-l-l-l-l-land?” Mary asked skeptically. “W-w-w-w-w-where?”

They all looked out the windows to see if they could locate any structures or plausible places to land, and after a few moments, it emerged off to the right out of the snow.

A runway, rather short and with some snow scattered across it. About a hundred yards off, there was a fairly large compound of dark, dull buildings with only a few lights dotting them.

20 minutes later…

The contestants were all huddled in a close, shivering group with chattering teeth and knocking knees. There was considerably less wind outside now that they were stopped and no longer in the air, but they could still feel the cold flakes in the air against their faces and hands. In addition, it was painfully bright outside due to the sun reflecting right off the white snow, forcing most of them to squint. Only Matthew, with his dark Aviators, was spared, though even he couldn’t help but squint a little.

“I have an announcement to make!” Chef declared, standing before them in his signature blue parka with orange stripes, and having to raise his voice slightly due to the wind. “For the first time in four episodes, we are no longer in America!”

“F-F-FINALLY!” Ethan roared.

“For our next, non-American challenge, we are stopping here, in beautiful, scenic…Antarctica!”

Ethan’s excitement died down with the wind.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – Seriously?

Mary – You’ve got to be kidding.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Great...just great…the ONE place that I hate almost as much as America, and now that’s where we are. Joy.

End

“Although we are not in America, the only place we could hold our challenge just so happens to be American property, though long abandoned, of course.”

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Figures.

End

“This…” He gestured to the compound behind him. “…is the United States National Science Institute Station 5…also known as U.S. Outpost #32. It has been abandoned since the winter of 1982, when all of its 12-member crew inexplicably vanished. To this day, nobody knows what happened, since there were no survivors.”

“Wow. That’s originality at its finest.“ Matthew muttered. “Come on, I know that you’re totally ripping off The Th-.”

“YOUR CHALLENGE…” He interrupted. “…is to search the remains of this compound for clues as to what happened to the crew. There are ten clues hidden throughout the compound, which shall be specifically marked as such. The clues will help you better piece together what really happened here, 30 years ago. The team that finds the most clues will win first place, the team with the second-highest amount of clues comes in second…and you know the drill. “Lastly, before you begin, you must have these.”

He gestured to the approaching golf cart, driven by Carl, with a small, white, flat trailer behind it piled up with strange objects that consisted of two tanks put together with a harness on them and a hose extending from one tank.

“These special, state-of-the-art slime shooters!”

“Slime shooters?” Mary asked skeptically, an eyebrow raised.

“A sticky, gooey substance that’ll easily slow down whatever it hits, kinda like mud or syrup. This will undoubtedly help you in the challenge.”

“How?” Rachael asked.

“That’s for you to find out! Now, there are only six here, and there are 11 of you here, so you’ll obviously have to divvy them up among yourselves. Two per team. Ya’ll’ve got five minutes to do that, strategize, and whatever before you must enter the compound. No one comes out until the challenge is over. Understand? Good.”

The three teams split up, each taking two of the slime shooters.

Team Madison…

“Alright, I’ll take one for sure.” Ethan stated as he slipped his arms into the harnesses, buckling the front strap in front of his waist and taking hold of the hose, with a trigger underneath the end. He picked up the other and turned to face Samantha and Jessica, realizing painfully that he had to choose between them.

Clumsy Jessica, or couldn’t-care-less Samantha.

“Ugh. I’m probably gonna regret this…”

He handed it to Jessica.

“Put this on. I’d rather give it to someone who has more motivation.” He emphasized the last word and glanced at Samantha, who didn’t seem to notice.

Team Sahara…

“Alright, who wants one?” Mary asked as she strapped on her own slime shooter.

“I’ll take it.” Louis declared, stepping forward to take the device. As he buckled in, he leaned in close to Mary. “And I think it best to keep you and Anna separated in this challenge. Agree?”

“Well, duh.”

“Good. You go with Nicole, and I’ll go with Anna. Deal?”

“Deal.”

He straightened up, turned to the other two girls, and repeated the last sentence to them, leaving out the part about separating Mary and Anna. But that didn’t stop Anna from glaring at Mary, who did her best to ignore it.

Team Victory II…

Matthew and Eryn were already suiting up, with no objection from the others.

“Alright, so we’ll obviously have to split up again…who’s it gonna be? Violet?” He looked at his girlfriend.

“Actually, I think I’ll go with Eryn.”

“Awesome!” Eryn replied enthusiastically.

“What?” Matthew asked, eyebrows lifting and slight shock emerging in his voice.

“We have to keep the two with the slime shooters separated, for equal protection, right?”

“W-well, yeah…”

“Good.” She cut off firmly. “Then you’ll go with Rachael. It’s settled.”

Before Matthew could interject an order, Violet and Eryn turned and headed off down towards the compound’s main entrance, following Team Madison and Team Sahara.

After a brief pause, Matthew followed, Rachael alongside him.

A few minutes later…

The three teams had entered the compound and split up. Already, most of them had stopped shivering and chattering, as it was, surprisingly, considerably warmer inside the compound.

After a few moments, as some expected, the intercom system suddenly whined to life. “And remember one thing: This challenge is ongoing. It absolutely will not stop until all 10 clues are found.”

“Do you have an intercom system for EVERY location we happen to be in?” Ethan asked in an annoyed tone.

“Chef Hatchet, over and out.” And the intercom whined again, then shut off with a click.

Ethan shook his head and looked at Jessica, who simply shrugged.

“On a side note, though: Don’t you feel a little bad about Samantha being completely on her own? And without a slime shooter?”

“Let her survive on her own, without any help or effort from her teammates.” Ethan responded harshly. “She’s not willing to help us, we shouldn’t be willing to help her.”

“But…she helped us in San Francisco.”

“Only after I had to trick her.” He retorted.

Jessica didn’t want to continue the argument any further.

Louis and Anna…

The two newcomers moved through the halls silently, looking around carefully to spot anything that looked like a potential clue.

However, after a few moments of silence, Anna finally spoke up.

“Louis…is it OK if I ask you a little something?”

“I guess so.” He said without looking back. He knew what was coming, and he tried his best to think of several different responses for anything Anna might ask him in relation to either Mary or what had happened with Isaiah. In between thoughts, he took in some more of the environment. Passing by on their left was obviously the kitchen, with glass cabinet doors, metal countertops, and a gleaming metal refrigerator, among other things…

“I know I’ve been kind of annoying recently…”

“You think so?” He asked, his tone making it impossible to tell whether or not he was being sarcastic.

“I know, this whole thing with me and Mary…and Isaiah thrown into the mix…Did he really ask you and Nicole to vote for him?”

“‘Do you want the official line or the truth?’” He responded after peeking in through a doorway into a smaller room with two beds, a desk, and a television set.

“Huh?”

“David Petraeus’s response when asked about the September 11 Benghazi attack cover-up and scandal.”

“…Oh…” She didn’t know quite what to say to that.

“Anyway. The answer to both is yes. He came to us, and us alone. Quite vehemently, I should add.”

“Really?”

“Yes. He really wanted to leave…”

He finally turned to look back at Anna. He could already tell from the sad gleam in her eyes what that last statement implied to her, and he felt it would be better to make her feel less guilty.

“…but it was more because he felt he was slowing down the team. Not because of you.” He finished.

“Oh.” She said again.

Louis turned away, just as they rounded a corner into a room with a small sign that read “Infirmary.” He wasn’t sure if he had improved the situation or just made it worse.

Something, something in his gut told him that it was, unfortunately, the latter.

Matthew and Rachael…

As the two friends moved through the silent, ominous halls at a casual pace, Matthew tried to get his mind off of Violet’s firm decision to not be teamed up with him in this challenge. But the more he tried to forget, the harder it became to do just that. He didn’t want to look back at Rachael, but in the back of his mind he knew, deep down, that if anyone else knew what Violet was thinking, it was her best friend.

This was going to be hard.

Matthew swallowed nervously, cleared his throat…paused for a few more seconds…

“…Hey, Rachael?”

“Hm?”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Matt.”

She had replied in a tone of voice that seemed friendly enough, almost as if she couldn’t detect the subtle hostility from earlier.

“…Is something wrong with Violet?”

“Wrong with Violet?” She repeated dubiously. “No. Not that I can see.”

“Are you sure?” He dared not look back at her. What her voice couldn’t tell, he feared her brown eyes would.

“Yeah.” There was another pause. Then, suddenly: “I’d be more curious as to whether or not something’s wrong with you.”

The impact of this statement was somewhat diminished by what Matthew thought was a sudden flicker of movement above him and to his right. He jerked his head up and glanced up at an air vent on the wall, right below the ceiling. He stopped so suddenly that Rachael nearly bumped into him.

“Matt?”

He continued staring, slowly moving his head to the left to look up and down the entire corridor.

“Matthew, I know I worded that a little harshly…”

His concentration on looking for the movement briefly drowned out her voice.

“…thew? Matthew?”

He shook his head, pushing aside the memory of the ominous movement enough to turn back to Rachael and return to the conversation.

“I’m sorry. Could you say that again?”

“Which part? The part about being curious as to what’s wrong with you?”

“Yeah. I mean…what do you mean?”

“What do I mean? Have you looked at yourself recently? Your behavior? Your way of speaking to others? It’s so…so…not you.”

“I…still don’t understand what you mean.”

Just then, he thought he heard something. A brief whoosh of movement to his left. He turned to face it, but saw only nothing, except the door to a room marked “Laboratory #2,” with several glass cases of equipment, some shattered or scattered around the room, as well as several metal operating tables and a few sinks.

“Do I have to spell it out for you?” Rachael asked, obvious annoyance in her voice.

“Uh…sure.” Matthew responded, still glancing around the lab.

“You talk to your teammates much more harshly, you consider the challenges more important than your friends, you put winning above all else, you rub our victories in other people’s faces…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

He finally forgot about the movement and the sound, and turned back to Rachael.

“Really?” Genuine bewilderment in his eyes.

“Yeah. It’s been pretty obvious, dude. From the start of the season, you’ve been this way. And although I’d suggest a complete 180, you’d first have to explain yourself.”

As they rounded a corner, they came to a door that looked older and was made of wood rather than metal. The sign read “Kennel.”

“Alright, alright…I guess now’s better than never.” He sighed as he entered, Rachael behind him.

They moved into a thin, wooden hallway, with support beams under the ceiling and low over their heads. On their right was the wire fence that ran from the floor to the ceiling, separating the interior of the kennel from the hallway. The floor had hay on it, and there were wooden beams running along the middle of the wire fence. Matthew moved over to the old wooden door and lifted the rusty metal latch, poking it open with the nozzle of his slime shooter, and looked in cautiously before he finally resumed.

“Well, it’s not like it just happened out of nowhere, you know…don’t think of this as an excuse or anything, but there is a reason that I’ve been acting so…competitive.”

“That’s a nice way of putting it.”

“Anyway. It started in August of 2010…my first day back at school after Total Drama Action had ended…”

As Rachael passed in front of the wide-open kennel door, a sudden, unseen force wrapped around her, a single tentacle going around her mouth to silence her, then yanked her back inside as silently as possible.

Matthew, completely unaware of her disappearance, continued giving his ever-crucial and shocking spiel, unaware that he now had no audience.

Mary and Nicole…

“I just can’t understand why he’d want to vote himself out! If it was all because of Anna, then we could’ve just voted her out, and he’d have another shot at the money!” Mary exclaimed.

“Well, like he said, maybe it was for something more than just Anna…”

“I guess so. And if that’s true, then I really did gain some more respect for him…”

Nicole turned around briefly as she thought she heard something. It was a strange slithering sound, along with a brief whoosh of fast movement. She first looked directly behind her, then up at the ceiling cautiously. She thought she heard a low, metallic rumbling above her…

“…but then again, he was right: He really was the weakest link, along with Anna. So I guess it really should’ve been a no-brainer…”

Then, out of nowhere, Nicole felt a sudden presence drop down and wrap several times around her mouth. An unseen, slimy appendage cut off her ability to speak or make any kind of noise, and before she knew what was happening, she was yanked up off the floor and through an air vent in the ceiling directly above her, where it was too dark to see what had taken her.

“…and I take it by your silence that you agree.” Mary finished, not even daring to look behind her as she continued on down the hall, unknowingly alone.


Episode 7 Part 2: What Goes There?

Matthew [and Rachael]…

“…And ever since then, I was determined to redeem myself. I swore that if there was ever another season of Total Drama, I’d do everything to return. And if I did successfully return, I would stop at nothing to win. I guess that’s why I’ve been acting like such a jerk.” He sighed. “You can understand that now, right?”

He finally turned around, and saw that Rachael was nowhere in sight. His eyes widened.

“Rachael?”

He started speed-walking back down the direction he had just come from, glancing frantically in every doorway he passed by.

“Rachael?! Where are you?! This isn’t funny!”

He turned another corner, not even sure if he had turned that corner before or not, and looked down the hall.

“RACHAEL!”

A terrifying roar responded, booming down the halls and seeming to shake the nearby boxes and shelves that lined the walls, the doors shaking in their frames and the metal banging.

Matthew raised the nozzle and backed up slowly, keeping his eyes locked on the hallway ahead of him. It was happening all too fast. His emotional instability after recounting his sad story, his shock and slight anger that Rachael had disappeared, and now fear at whatever that sound was. He couldn’t think straight.

Then, suddenly, there it was.

He didn’t know how to describe it, other than a massive brown, bulbous mass with a few small crevices on the side that was facing him, which he assumed were the eyes as they stared straight at him. Then, an extra round part that stuck out of the front – presumably the head – twisted slightly like an inquisitive dog would look at something strange, as it looked straight at him.

Then, suddenly, another large crevice opened up below the eyes – the mouth – as it bellowed another booming roar at him. The metal walls rattled, and the lights shook from above. Then the creature started racing towards him. He couldn’t see any feet moving underneath it, and for all he knew, it was sliding along the floor as if on wheels.

With a roar of fear and blind anger, Matthew aimed the slime-shooter and fired at the creature as it approached, a jet of green sludge shooting out surprisingly fast and flying at the creature. He watched as the thin, straight jet impacted against the creature’s face in a massive splatter, drops flying against the walls, onto the floor, and even against the ceiling as it covered the monster’s face.

Matthew stopped briefly as he watched to see the monster’s reaction. It, too, had stopped charging at him, as if it was immobilized.

But then, an appendage extended out of the creature’s right side – a spindly arm with two sharp claws at the end – and wiped the slime away with one movement.

Then it roared again and resumed its charge as if nothing had happened.

With a cry of pure fear, Matthew turned and dashed down the hall, turning a sharp right at the nearest doorway, which led into a radio room – equipment lined the walls with its many dials, switches, and dark lights, some panels mysteriously torn up and with wires hanging out, gauges crooked in their places. But there was another door across the room, and Matthew bolted through it. He entered a backroom with a few piles of boxes and crates, and another door leading into another long hallway. He turned back and looked through the radio room to the other hallway. Although he could not see the creature, he could definitely hear it.

He turned and ran into the other hallway, turning to the right so that he was now heading the opposite direction that he had been running before. He heard a crash of glass and other objects in the radio room, accompanied by a roar.

Without even thinking, he ducked into another room. This appeared to be a storage room, with piles of old, dusty boxes and shelves lining the walls. It looked even older than the rest of the compound.

As he glanced around the room, his eyes fell onto what looked like a replica of the slime-shooter he was wearing now, although it was slightly bigger, the hose was thinner, and it had a few rust stains on it. There was also a small flame symbol on the side, and “Flammable” in several different languages.

A flame-thrower? It couldn’t be.

He paused for thought. They were ripping off that movie…

Yep. It probably is.

Glancing over his shoulder back outside the room, he quickly discarded the slime shooter and lifted the flame-thrower off the wall-mounted hook it was on. He strapped it on just as he had strapped on the slime-shooter, bringing the nozzle around to the front of him just as he heard the creature drawing closer.

Samantha…

Samantha was wandering aimlessly around the compound, mostly focused on her texting but with an occasional side glance through a door or around a corner whenever she could.

Then, still texting, she stopped dead in her tracks. She thought she heard something besides her own footsteps and her phone’s click-clacking. She finally gave the texting a rest and looked up at the ceiling, then around her ominously. Then she heard it again: It initially sounded like a deep, metallic groaning, but had a quality to it that sounded strangely…alive.

She hadn’t heard it at all before while she had been searching the compound, which had been about half an hour or so by now. She hadn’t even heard or encountered any of the other contestants. But now, suddenly, she realized how alone she truly was…and how unsafe she now felt.

With the phone still clutched tightly in her hand, she backed up against the nearest wall and slid along it slowly, glancing up and down the hall warily. The groan sounded again, seeming to come from down the hall. She soon reached a corner, and dashed around it as quickly as possible. As she ran, she thought she heard the sound at a distance behind her, sounding less metallic and throatier, as if coming from a wild animal. She dared to steal a glance behind her..

…and the brief flash of that horrible thing instantly filled her mind just as the massive beast filled the hallway…

And then, with a sudden impact, she felt herself slamming into something. With an “Oof!” from herself and the unseen person, they both crashed to the floor.

“ARGH!” The other person groaned from on top of her. “What is it with me crashing into my own teammates and landing on top of them whenever we’re running through the metal hallways of an abandoned American structure?!”

“Hey, at least it wasn’t me you crashed into…” Jessica commented as she grabbed Ethan’s hand and pulled him up.

“Yeah…true.” Ethan shook his head and looked down at Samantha.

“What the heck was that all about?” He asked. “What were you running from?”

“…Th…Th…THAT!” She pointed behind herself as she craned her head back to look…

…and found herself pointing at an empty hallway.

“What?” Ethan looked where she was pointing. “That shelf, or that pile of boxes?”

“No, I swear! I saw…I saw…”

“Saw what?”

“It was horrible. I saw it for only a second, but it was big, disgusting, and it roared at me.”

“It roared at you?” Jessica asked incredulously.

“Yeah. It was some kind of creature.”

“You saw it, too?” Another voice added in.

The other three all turned to see Matthew approaching, his slime-shooter still attached to his back. But the leader of the most successful team looked visibly shaken, his hands trembling and eyes still fairly wide.

“For once, I can agree with her. I saw it as well.”

“Oh, don’t tell me that you’re starting to crack, Mr. Over-Confident?” Ethan asked.

“Call it what you want, but I saw it. I’ll admit, I would’ve normally shared your skepticism. But I swear, that roar terrified me so that I couldn’t even think straight. Then when I actually saw it…It was too overwhelming. I tried firing my slime-shooter, but it hardly did anything to it. Fortunately, I found this…”

He briefly lifted the nozzle.

“…hanging on a wall hook. It’s a flame-thrower.”

“A what now?” Jessica asked with fear ringing in her voice.

“Yep. Watch.”

Matthew then aimed straight up and gave the trigger a brief squeeze, sending a ball of fire into the air above them, illuminating the room brighter than normal for a moment, and with the heat slightly increasing before dying down. Jessica yelped and jumped back, while Samantha cringed from where she was lying on the floor.

Ethan, with a single hand in front of his forehead and half-shielding his eyes, looked at Matthew with the most unreadable expression.

“Thanks for the demonstration.”

“It scared that thing right off, whatever it was. Animatronic or not, it was something I didn’t want following me.”

“If that’s what you claim to have seen, then it must’ve been one of Chef’s cheap animatronic props. He was obviously implying the presence of a ‘monster’ or something, and he threw one in to scare us. Don’t be fooled when – and if – you see it again. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“But…it was so big…and so loud…” Samantha stuttered.

“And so is Chef. But you don’t see us running away from him all the time and crashing into others, do you? Good.” He finished before she could even respond. “Now if you two want to keep running around shouting ‘wolf,’ then that’s fine with me. I’m gonna leave you two to do whatever you please, but before I do, I want to ask you…”

He pointed at Samantha.

“Did you find any clues?”

“No…”

“Then get back up and go down that hallway. Jessica and I will double-back and search again down this area.”

And with that, Ethan turned around and brushed past Jessica, who stayed behind for only a moment longer before she turned and followed him.

Samantha, still in a state of shock, turned around to where Matthew had been standing behind her.

The former season winner was now gone.

She turned back to look down the hall where her two teammates had left, only to see that they were gone as well. She slowly climbed to her feet and turned around, creeping towards the corner where the creature had been just a moment earlier. After a pause and a deep breath, she peeked around the corner…

…and saw an empty hallway.

She sighed with relief.

Then, before she could do anything else, she felt a slimy presence wrap around her mouth and her stomach, lifting her right off her feet and into total blackness.

Ethan and Jessica…

“Some people…” Ethan muttered, shaking his head. “First she shows no effort whatsoever, then when she does, she sees things. I don’t know what’s wrong with that girl, besides her addiction to texting. And then Mr. Undefeatable finds a real freakin’ flame-thrower?! Are you kidding me?!”

“Ethan…what if there really is something roaming around in here?” Jessica asked, her tone conveying a slight worry.

“Please. Even if it is something, like I said, it’s probably just an animatronic.”

Jessica still had more to say, but just the way Ethan firmly declared that last statement made it clear that he wanted that conversation to end.

They turned into the nearest doorway and entered the Rec Room. There were several old, arcade-style video games lined up, with a ping-pong table in the middle of the room. There was a small TV on a stand in the corner, several chairs and couches lined up against one wall, with nightstands between them and a lamp standing on each. There was a bookshelf in another corner, and through another, larger doorway that led into a smaller section of the room, there was a bar with a line of stools in front of it, and even some wine glasses neatly lined up on the counter top. There was a small light fixture hanging from the ceiling, with three light bulbs contained underneath a stained-glass rectangle with intricate designs in it, hanging directly above the pool table. There was a door leading outside on the opposite wall, with a single, long window running along the wall.

“So…do we have a game plan?” Jessica asked, determined to keep talking so as to keep the encounter with Samantha out of her mind. “You’ve been making some good pep speeches over the last few days, talks of sabotage and whatnot, but with no action. Do you plan on making your move soon?”

“Of course I do. I already had some vague ideas gradually forming in my mind…but then Matthew finds a flame-thrower.”

“So…whatever plans you had are now completely ruined?”

“NO!” He shouted, but not with anger – with happiness, punctuated by a strangely delighted grin on his face. “They are accelerated, my dear Jessica! It’s perfect! I now know exactly how I can strike at him. Exactly how I can end his diabolical reign over this game!”

“How’s that?”

“I’m not sure if I should tell you…” He paused, putting two finger on his chin and glancing upward, half in thought, and half at the rather fancy light fixture above the pool table. “Ah, what the heck. I will.”

Then…

Ding-ding!

Then, only the speaker system in the rec room whined to life, and Chef’s voice crackled on.

“Musical number! But I want this one to be just the two of you, and you, redhead, are to use this to explain your evil, grand master plan. Got that? Good!”

Musical Number – Be Prepared

Ethan: I know that you’re naïve and clumsy
To you, that’s the only downside
But dumb as you are, (rears his head in close to Jessica’s face) Listen to me!
You’re part of the plan I have in mind

It’s clear from your constant questions
That of my plans, you’re not yet aware
So to tell you of all my intentions
I suppose that would only be fair

So prepare for the chance of a lifetime
Prepare for news that is so fine
The grand culmination will meet realization

Jessica: What do you mean?

Ethan (annoyedly taps her cheeks): Just let me sing
I know this sounds morbid, but you’ll be rewarded
When at last I make my big move
And just so you can say that you’re aware

Be prepared!

Speaking Interval with instrumental music

Jessica: “Sure, I’ll be prepared…for what now?”

Ethan: “For the coup d’etat!”

Jessica: “The who-de-haw?”

Ethan: “The overthrow! The takeover! The complete, sudden, brutal, and startlingly effective seizure of control and power over something from someone!”

Jessica: “Oooooh…I still don’t get it.”

Ethan: “You idiot!” (runs up to her, leaning in close and causing her to shrink down) “I’m going to dethrone the most powerful player in this game and take his place!”

Jessica: “OK, I get it now…but how are you going to do that? Matthew’s so determined, so tough, so serious…and now he’s got a flame-thrower…”

Ethan: “I’m well aware of that. But everyone has a weak point. And I’m going to hit Matthew’s very precisely.”

Jessica: “How? What’s his weak point?”

Ethan: “His heart!” (pounds his own chest)

Jessica: “His heart?”

Ethan: (pounds Jessica’s chest, knocking her backward with an “Oof!”) “His heart!”

Jessica (recovering from the blow): “Oh, OK…how exactly will you do that?”

Ethan: “You’ve asked enough questions, and I’ve given enough answers. Only I can know the precise details. If I were to give you all the details now, it would put the entire plan in jeopardy. But while I can’t give you the specifics, what I can tell you is that when it happens, I shall kill two birds with one stone. And when I do, the final two, will be me and you!

Jessica: “Yay!”

Returns to Musical Number

Jessica: It’s great that I will be protected
By a leader so brave and so bold

Ethan: Of course, naturally, you’re expected
To do everything that you’re told
Before I can rise up to my throne
Before my grand reign can truly be
Before I can make this game all my own…
(Spins around and roars at Jessica) YOU CAN’T GET ANY FURTHER WITHOUT ME!
(Jessica screams and tumbles to the floor)

So prepare for the move of the season
Prepare for the greatest treason
Precise calculations
Evil deviations
All of this waiting
Was simply the baiting
For my plan so clever
So evil
A tremor
Will shake up this entire game
Yes my brains and ambitions are bared

Be prepared!

Jessica: Of your plans and intentions, I’m aware

Jessica and Ethan: Be prepared!

End Musical Number

Almost as if on cue with the end of the song, there was a sound like an explosion next to them, directly beside the pool table, as the entire floor suddenly shot open. Shards of wood and other materials went flying, and through it all, an unusual black shape moved through the brief tower of debris. Ethan and Jessica spun around to face it, Ethan raising the slime-shooter instinctively.

“What in the world?!” He shouted, as the pieces of debris settled down all over the floor.

“I told you!” Jessica shouted back.

Standing before them was a strange, humanoid creature, all black. It was about seven feet tall, with long, sharp fingers at least twice as long as a human finger, and with a face that resembled a cross between a human skull and Ghostface, slime and other kinds of ooze dripping out of the eyes and yawning mouth. A tuft of wild, unruly, and dripping hair on top of the head completed the outrageous picture.

Although he still didn’t consider it a threat, Ethan couldn’t help but stare it at as he lowered the nozzle, outright disgusted by its appearance.

Then, with a quick motion, its head split open right down the middle, and a third arm shot out of where the head had been.

His brief expression of shock and fear vanished in an instant.

“Oh, come ON! Really, Chef?!” He shouted up to the ceiling. “Are you THAT unoriginal that you steal the exact same look and MO as the creature from The Th-.”

His rant was cut off as the arm grabbed him around the neck. Though not tight enough to cut off his breathing, it still had a firm grip on him. Both of his hands grabbed the creature’s hand and attempted to pry it off, to no avail.

It roared again.

“JESSICA! DO SOMETHING, YOU IDIOT!”

Jessica, shaking off her own horror, weakly aimed her slime-shooter as it started swinging Ethan around the room like a baseball bat. First, it slammed him straight through the green light fixture, smashing it with a powerful crash as the shards flew in all directions. Two of the light bulbs sparked, briefly flashing blue, then disintegrated. He screamed in pain and fear now as he realized how real the threat really was.

Jessica pulled the trigger on her slime-shooter, but the creature had started to turn at that moment, swinging Ethan into the path of the slime.

He could only feel the wet gunk splattering all over his legs and backside, and screamed. “JESSICA, YOU FOOL!”

“Sorry!”

It then swung Ethan around again, bashing him against the video game console at the very end of the row. It brushed him harshly along, using his body to knock over all the games like giant dominoes, a new sharp pain with each hit.

“OW! OW! OW! OW!”

It then smashed him into the bookcase, breaking it apart and sending books flying everywhere.

“OW! JESSICA, I SAID DO SOMETHING!”

“I’m trying!” She aimed again and fired, but only hit the creature’s back, not doing any damage whatsoever.

“AND YOU’RE – OW! – FAILING!”

The creature swung him right into the long window, smashing the glass and allowing the frigid air to burst in with a powerful WHOOSH! and a shattering of glass. It then proceeded to drag him through the rest of the window, smashing away the rest of the intact glass and letting a long, thin stream of snow blow in through the newly-opened hole. It then pulled him out, lowered him slightly, then dragged him across all the neatly lined-up nightstands, and every single one of their glass lamps.

“OW! OW! OW! OW! OW!”

It swung him around again, bashing him through the remains of the light fixture, before stumbling through the large doorway and into the bar. It then swung him across the bar, smashing and/or knocking over all of the neatly lined-up glasses, each with a light tinkling of glass as he dragged over the counter-top. Then, like with the window, it lowered him just enough so that he was level with the stools, and dragged him roughly through those, banging hard against the metal and even dislodging some from where they were bolted to the counter.

“OW! OW! OWWWWW! O-OW! BLARGH! JESSICA!!!!!!”

“I can’t help it! All I can do is be clumsy!”

Then she thought about these words for a moment.

“Be clumsy? …BE CLUMSY! THAT’S IT!”

“YOU – OW! – JUST NOW REALIZED – OWW! – THAT YOU’RE CLUMSY?!”

“No! I mean, I know how to beat this thing!”

She fired again, aiming this time at the creature’s feet.

“I can beat my own being clumsy by making IT be clumsy!”

She was careful to not only hit its feet, but spread the slime around on the floor around it, creating a puddle of the slippery, sticky liquid.

Her plan, surprisingly, began to work, and the creature noticeably began to slip around in the slime, as well as its own slime that continued dripping from its face. It started to slip right back into the main area, alongside the pool table. Then, finally, just as it was next to the table, between the table and the newly-broken window, it lost its balance and slipped, falling straight to the side and finally releasing Ethan. The redhead screamed, and cried “OW!” one more time as he smashed through the still barely-dangling remains of the light fixture, flew over the table, and into the hole in the floor from which the creature had emerged, vanishing into darkness. The creature fell straight onto the pool table and smashed it clean in half, billiard balls flying into the air. Jessica cringed and raised the nozzle to protect herself as the heavy balls flew in all directions, some smashing into the floor at her feet, some hitting the walls and creating dents.

And one fell into the hole and hit Ethan on the head.

“OW!”

Jessica slowly lowered her nozzle, aiming at the wrecked pool table, and approaching cautiously as the dust and the billiard balls settled.

The creature was motionless, lying directly between the broken halves of the table, slime still slowly dripping from its head, the third arm that had been flailing Ethan around flopped over like it was broken.

Jessica then moved over to the hole in the floor.

“Ethan?”

A low sound – a gurgle mixed with a moan – responded.

“I can’t see you down there…so I’m gonna lower this nozzle down for you to grab onto, and I’ll pull you up. OK?”

“Uh-huh.” The voice responded.

“OK.” She knelt down on the floor and lowered the nozzle into the black hole, waiting for a few seconds before feeling a brief tug on the unseen end of it. She then saw a single, pale hand reach up out of the blackness and grab onto the nozzle higher up.

“OK, now hang on!”

She then threw herself back with all her might, and just barely managed to lift Ethan out of the hole. He was covered in cuts and bruises, and as soon as he landed right next to her, his arms instantly wrapped around his stomach as he rolled around in pain.

“Ooooooh…God, everything hurts. Everything…”

“OK, let me just help you up…” She softly put hand on the side of his stomach and the other on one of his arms, starting to lift him up.

“OOOOIIIIEOOOOWWW!” He bellowed. “NO! OW! NO! THAT HURTS! THAT HU-U-U-URTS!”

Out of shock at his shouting, she dropped him, his head banging against the floor.

“OOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWW!

“Sorry, sorry!”

“Uuuuugggghhhh….”

Eryn and Violet…

“…and then I was like, ‘So you think you can fit in that?’ And she was like, ‘Oh, I know I can fit in that!’ And the whole time, that stupid alarm is going off, and the world is practically spinning all around us. And then…”

Just before Eryn could reach the punch line of her latest story, a sound suddenly went off. They both stopped dead in their tracks, Eryn’s chatter ceasing as she raised her slime shooter and looked around cautiously. It was an unusual sound. It sounded almost like a growl and a roar mixed together, with a metallic echo to it. The walls even seemed to shake from the intensity of the roar.

Eryn glanced around wildly, shaking the nozzle of the slime shooter in all directions.

“What was that? What was that?!” Violet asked nervously.

“I don’t know, but I guess there is something in here!”

“Oh, come on…you don’t really believe that, do you? It’s obviously a set-up for the challenge.”

“That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.”

“What do you mean?” Violet asked.

“Remember Total Drama Reloaded?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, those crazy creatures were used as set-ups for the challenges, but they still packed a serious punch, didn’t they?”

Another deep, metallic groan as the walls shook.

“Well, yeah…some of them, anyway.”

“Exactly!” Eryn exclaimed. “So whatever that thing is, I’m not taking my chances!”

Just then, the ceiling in front of them suddenly burst open, allowing for a massive, slimy shape to drop down in front of them. It was mostly green, but with a slimy brown and yellow liquid dripping off its body. It was a strange, bulbous shape, but with numerous tentacles waving around from all sides. It had a single long neck sticking out the front, with a head that looked like a wolf’s head, though obviously deformed. The eyes were black and seemingly lifeless, and its teeth were long, yellow, and threateningly sharp. It had two long, bulky arms sticking out of the top, with three thick, clawed fingers on each. It then issued a noise at them, not quite like the earlier noise, but with more of a whining and scratchiness to it, nearly unbearable in how high-pitched it was.

“Wow. Really?” Eryn asked, more in bewilderment than shock or anger. “This is totally just like that dog creature from The Th-.”

Once again, the creature’s roar silenced the accusation of plagiarism, and it started waving its tentacles around more fiercely, several whipping towards them. One smacked Eryn across the face with a wet slap.

“Oh HECK no! OH NO YOU DI’IN’T!” She roared, aiming her slime shooter and firing.

The green jet splattered all over the creature, covering its head and several tentacles. It screeched again, its head twisting and turning as if in pain or confusion.

But even then, it began moving towards the two girls slowly.

“Uh, oh crap! This doesn’t seem to be working!” Eryn declared as she continued unleashing the spray of slime, squeezing the trigger harder as if more slime would shoot out.

Violet looked back at the hallway behind them, in the direction they had previously been coming from before the creature attacked.

“Looks like we’re gonna have to backtrack!” She responded.

“You go first, and keep an eye out for anyone else!”

As Violet turned and headed back down the hall, Eryn slowly started walking backwards, unleashing the consistent trail of slime even as the creature followed her. Violet then reached a T-intersection, with the perpendicular hallway branching out in either direction. She looked to the left and saw nothing, but when she looked to the right she saw two other contestants.

Louis and Anna…

“So you don’t like Shakespeare?”

“Yeah, sorry.” Anna admitted reluctantly.

“Oh, don’t be. You’re definitely not the first.” He smiled.

“I do like the Crocodile Hunter, because contrary to his title, he treats the animals with such respect and care, and shows the world how beautiful they are, not dangerous.”

“Now there’s some common ground for the both of us.” Louis replied. “I myself enjoyed Steve Irwin as a child. Although he has not been gone from this world for long, it’s safe to say…‘Now he belongs to the ages.’” You do know that quote, don’t you?”

“I’ve heard it somewhere. Didn’t someone say that, like, after JFK was shot?”

Louis chuckled. “No, I’m afraid. You’re off by about 100 years. 98, to be exact. Edwin M. Stanton said it, shortly after Abraham Lincoln was declared dead.”

“Ah.”

Then, suddenly, they saw another figure further down the hallway. Louis instantly recognized it as Violet.

“Louis! Anna!”

“What is it?” Louis asked, picking up the pace as he approached, Anna right behind him.

Before Violet could answer, the screech and roar sounded off to the side. Louis and Anna, finally arriving at the T in the hallway, turned and looked.

Both of their jaws dropped in awe.

Eryn was now about 15 feet away and still backing up slowly, the distance between her and the creature decreasing gradually.

“Whoa! What IS that thing?!” Anna asked in horror. Louis could only stare in pure shock, eyebrows raised.

“I don’t know, but it’s resilient, resistant, and persistent!” Eryn informed them, backing up alongside Violet, with all four of them now side-by-side. She finally released her trigger, and looked at Louis.

“Louis, on my go, aim and we’ll fire together! Maybe two blasts will drive it back a little! Alright?”

Shaking off the shock, Louis raised his nozzle. “You got it.”

“OK. On three. Ready? THREE!”

They both pulled the triggers and fired, the twin jets hitting the creature just below its hideous wolf-like head. It screeched and flailed its tentacles and head around wildly, but its massive body began inevitably sliding backwards from the force of the jets. It continued roaring even as it moved away from its intended prey.

While Eryn and Louis continued firing, Violet glanced down the hallway to her right, opposite the direction Louis and Anna had come, and saw a staircase about 30 feet down, leading up to a higher level.

“Hey, guys! There’s a staircase over there! Let’s head up!”

“Right behind you!” Anna agreed.

“Alright, just give us a few more seconds to drive it back!” Eryn replied.

Violet and Anna raced ahead to the staircase, pulling themselves up two steps at a time until they reached the door at the top. Anna twisted the doorknob and threw it open, helping Violet in and then waiting for their two friends.

“Guys!”

“Louis! Eryn! Come on!”

After a few more seconds, they could hear Eryn yell, “OK, go!”

Soon, both of them appeared at the foot of the stairs, racing up as fast as their heavy slime-shooters would allow. Louis came up first, with Eryn taking up the rear. As soon as she was through, Violet slammed the door shut.

“Alright!” Eryn cheered, pumping her fists in the air. “We drove it back down the hall, and there’s no way it can follow us up here! It’ll never fit up that staircase or through the doorway! We’re totally safe now!”

Then, there was a sudden crashing sound behind them, just outside the door. Eryn and Louis spun around, the former staying close to the door while Louis backed up just behind Anna.

“What in the world?” Eryn asked, inching closer to the door and slowly moving to open it.

She glanced back at Louis, who nodded and held his nozzle ready.

Eryn nodded back, then pulled the door open, quickly aiming out the door.

There was nothing there.

“What the…?!” She leaned out over where the staircase had been, as the entire staircase was now wrecked. Splintered fragments of the steps hung down from their places or were scattered on the floor below. The handrails were broken in several places, only a few segments still firmly in place.

“Huh. Well that’s weird.” She closed the door and turned to face them. “It destroyed the staircase, but it’s not out there now.”

Then, all of a sudden, the floor burst out right underneath Eryn, the blonde disappearing in a shower of debris with a shrill shriek of shock and fear. Once she fell out of sight, her screaming could still be heard, accompanied by a “No! No! NO!” before she was silenced.

“OH MY GOD!” Anna screamed.

Then the floor started breaking open ahead of them, almost like a submarine just below the surface of the water, with a large ripple tearing through the floor and heading straight for them.

“RUN!” Louis screamed.

Anna, Louis, and Violet all turned around, but the ripple was already upon Anna, pulling her under the floor.

“NO!”

Louis, hearing her scream, managed to spin around and kneel down, grabbing one hand and keeping her from falling through. He struggled with all his might, but the unseen force down below continued pulling, and the animal lover’s hand slipped right out of his. Her wide, fearful eyes were the last thing to vanish into the darkness.

Louis shot up to his feet, staring at the hole below. The roaring and screeching sounded again, and the floor started collapsing again. He backed up and started to turn around, but then suddenly felt the floor vanish under him as well. With a final yelp, he plunged into the darkness as well.

Violet continued on, sprinting down the hall and not daring to look back. She could hear the sound of the exploding floor following her, but didn’t want to check on whether or not it was closer or further. She turned down every corner, dodged into every doorway, weaved in and out in any way she could to escape the unseen force. But no matter where she went, she felt that it was inevitably drawing closer…

Mary [and Nicole]…

It had been a while now since Mary turned around casually and, quite shockingly, found that Nicole was gone. Although she practically backtracked through the entire compound, she couldn’t find Nicole or any of her other teammates. The slime-shooter held up protectively at all times, she was now desperate to find someone else, anybody else, in the building besides her.

She stopped dead in her tracks when she thought she heard footsteps approaching, but she couldn’t tell from where.

“Hello? Louis? Nicole?”

She turned a corner, and almost collided with Violet as she came racing down the hall, pivoting sharply on her left foot and dashing down the hall that Mary had just come from.

“Whoa! Violet, wait! What’s going on?!”

“JUST RUN!” She yelled behind her.

Mary then heard a strange crashing sound, dragging on as if in slow-motion. She turned and looked down the hall that Violet had just come from, and saw the floor breaking away all down the hall, as if something was tearing it out from underneath.

Eyes wide, Mary stumbled backwards a bit before turning and running. She dashed for the nearest door that she saw, which was marked “Laboratory #1.” As she entered, she stole a quick glance behind her and saw – to her horror – that the shape had not turned at the corner where Violet had run, but was continuing straight for her.

While looking back, she crashed into an operating table, tumbling to the floor as metal tools clanged and banged to the floor all around her. She scrambled to her feet and dashed through, weaving between other operating tables, counters, and shelves of glass test tubes and microscopes.

She entered another doorway and stopped.

It was a dead end.

Turning around to face the oncoming creature, she backed up against the wall and aimed her slime-shooter.

It drew closer, entering the first part of the laboratory…

She fired, the jet of slime soaring over the floor and falling through the newly-forming hole in the floor, falling down onto whatever was underneath.

Just as it entered the backroom she was in, a few feet from the wall she was backed up against, it stopped soundlessly.

Mary, breathing slowly and heavily, lowered the nozzle and approached the edge of the destroyed floor. She peered in through the gaping hole, trying to see her pursuer through the darkness.

She tried, but just couldn’t make out any shapes…

Then, with a quick jerking force, the floor burst out from under her, and she felt something slimy wrap around both her legs, pulling her down into the hole faster than the gravity would.

Ethan and Jessica…

Although it took him about twenty minutes to fully recover from his beating, with Jessica knelt beside him and holding him the entire time, Ethan was finally back up on his feet, stumbling awkwardly through the halls with Jessica helping him keep his balance. Surprisingly, she offered some pretty steady support, and hadn’t yet tripped or fallen onto him, or something along those lines.

They soon entered a rather bare room with benches lining the walls and a single door, with a small, single, square glass window on it looking out into the bleak, desolate landscape around them. Jessica leaned up against it and looked out. She could actually see the landing strip in the distance, with the Jet sitting idly in the middle of it.

“I’ll bet he’s sitting in first-class with a steaming cup of cocoa and cookies or something.” She muttered.

“Probably.” Ethan mumbled back.

Then they heard rapid footsteps approaching. They both turned and looked out another doorway into an adjoining hallway…

…and Matthew entered the room, flame-thrower at the ready. He lowered it when he saw them.

“You guys see anything yet? Any clues? Any others? Any creatures?”

“No. No. Yes.” Jessica answered, neatly in order.

“Really? Where was it?”

“It nearly mauled me to death in the rec room.” Ethan grumbled.

“Oh, yeah. You don’t look too good.” Matthew commented.

A sudden, startling roar from further down another hallway alerted them, and Matthew quickly raised his flame-thrower, creeping towards the doorway that Ethan and Jessica had come in. Just before he could leave the room, Violet stumbled in and landed right in his arms, causing him to drop the flame-thrower.

“Violet! What happened?”

“Oh…Oh my…It…” She was nearly out of breath from exhaustion and fear, and unable to articulate more than three words.

“Violet, what is it?” Her boyfriend asked again, noticeably more worried.

“It…horrible…chase…Eryn, Anna…and Louis…gone…”

“It got them?” Matthew asked fearfully. “All three of them? How?”

“It…breaks through…the floor…it’s under…the…floor…”

“Under the floor, is it?”

“Yes…coming…for us…It got…Mary…but it’s…coming back.”

Matthew sat her down gently on the nearest bench and went out into the hall, glancing to the right from which Violet had come running in. He listened carefully and, after a moment, could hear the sound of crashing and smashing approaching.

Glancing around the hallway, thinking of a plan as fast as he could, his eyes settled on a nearby shelf, piled with crates and other equipment. The shelf itself, made out of metal, looked fairly heavy on its own…

“Ethan! Jessica! Give me a hand here!”

A groan responded, followed a few seconds later by Jessica’s voice. “He’s pretty beat, remember?”

Matthew glanced back in the room, and saw Ethan also sitting on a bench, leaning back against the wall with a dazed look on his face.

“Oh. Right. Well then, you come help me!”

Jessica followed him out and went up to the shelf alongside him.

“What do we do?”

“Help me drag this thing into the middle of the hallway, about 10 feet from the entrance to that room. If this thing tears the floor out from underneath, then how about we give it a little more than it bargained for?”

Jessica understood, and grabbed the other side.

“OK, ready? Heave!”

They both put all their strength into it and started dragging it into the middle of the hallway, turning it around so that its width nearly blocked off the entire corridor.

“Alright, that’s good!” Matthew squeezed out from between the shelf and the wall, moving back towards the other room, with Jessica right behind him.

“Jessica, get Ethan. We’ve got to get both of them out of this room!”

As Matthew helped the exhausted Violet to her feet, Jessica helped Ethan up off the bench. Together, the two of them dragged their partners out of the room, moving down the hall opposite the direction of the newly-placed roadblock. Matthew leaned Violet up against one wall, while Jessica leaned Ethan up against the opposite wall.

“OK, now you two just stay here.” Matthew told them. “Jessica, stand next to me and get your slime-shooter ready.”

“Do you really need my help? I mean, a slime-shooter like this is pretty useless compared to your flame-thrower…”

Behind them, the last word struck a very sensitive cord in Violet’s mind. But through her exhaustion, all she could do was repeat the word in a soft whisper.

“…flame-thrower?...”

“It’s better than no help.” Matthew replied, not hearing his girlfriend’s mutter.

“OK.”

Matthew and Jessica – two rivals but now united – stood side-by-side, both nozzles aimed in the direction of the shelf.

They waited, tightening their grips and holding heir breath as the crashing drew closer.

Then, through the shelf, they could see as the ripple in the floor appeared around the corner further down the hall, turning sharply as it headed straight for them and the roadblock they had placed between them.

“Ready…ready…wait for it…”

The floor then fell out underneath the shelf, which dropped immediately like a rock, weighed down by all of the heavy equipment on the already-heavy frame.

It sounded below the floor with a loud slam, a crash of metal against meaty flesh, and the ripple stopped instantly with a painful roar.

“OK, NOW!” Matthew commanded.

He and Jessica fired their fire and slime blasts through the hole in the floor, down onto the unseen monster. The flames and the liquid would’ve hit their mark, had it not been for the relatively protective cover of equipment and the metal frame of their obstacle. It gave the creature just enough time to move out of the way of their blasts.

As the two of them continued firing, Ethan stirred and watched as the flames continued shooting out of Matthew’s nozzle. He glanced over weakly at Violet, who was staring with wide, horrified eyes…

…the plan…

Through his pain and weakness, the single thought registered.

My plan…It’s now or never…

Mustering all his strength, he pushed himself off the wall and stumbled forward towards his teammate and his rival. He shuffled his feet along the metal floor, slowly moving up to stand directly between them.

Knowing he had to provide a cover for what he was about to do, he started raising his nozzle as if to join in, then issued a long “Ooooh…” and stumbled backwards and to his left, colliding with Matthew and – in a quick, swift, and obscure movement – used his nozzle to catch Matthew’s and knock it up and back behind him.

The jet of fire shot up into the air above them, blasting off the ceiling and spreading out in all directions, instantly redirecting the heat so that all four of them felt it. Jessica glanced up, saw the flames, and threw herself to the floor for cover. Even as Matthew fell, his finger still instinctively clutched the trigger – just what Ethan was hoping for.

As he fell completely backward, the nozzle was no longer pointing straight up. It was now pointing behind him.

Violet could only stare in mute horror as the wall of fire that had previously been above her was now coming down towards her. Then, just as she began to react and drop to the floor, the flaming stream was upon her. Fortunately, she had moved just fast enough to duck under it, but the flames still enveloped her for a brief moment that seemed to last for hours. No part of her caught on fire, but that didn’t matter. She might as well have been engulfed from head to toe in the fire that surrounded her. She then hit the floor, the fire shooting above her just inches from her face.

And the entire time, from the moment she saw the fire above her to the moment she hit the floor, she issued a long, shrill, horrified scream that was – almost too perfectly – mostly drowned out by the roar of the monster and the sound of crashing somewhere nearby. At the end of her scream, she completely blacked out.

Matthew sat up in a brief, dazed stupor. He had no idea what had just happened, as he didn’t even see Ethan crash into him. He looked around him and saw only the fire that had engulfed the hallway and Ethan slumped over on the floor a few feet behind him, and Jessica a little further away, at the entrance to the smaller room with the benches.

Then he heard a crashing sound and looked behind him.

The floor further away in the opposite direction was now caving in. Although the flames blocked his view, this quickly swallowed up his unconscious girlfriend in a few seconds.

Scrambling to his feet and turning around, he took aim with the flame-thrower and fired again, but the floor continued to cave in as it drew closer.

He looked back over his shoulder, but saw that the floor all the way down the hallway behind him was already gone, so he was cornered.

At the same time, Ethan was beginning to climb to his feet too, now on his knees beside Matthew. “What happened?” He asked, rubbing his head and continuing the charade that their collision was an accident.

Thinking quickly, he glanced up and saw the long bar of light hanging from the ceiling above him, its white glow encased in a plastic rectangle. Raising his flame-thrower’s nozzle, he jerked it up into the light and smashed one end of it, severing one of the two cords that held it up and sending that end swinging down from the ceiling like a pendulum. Matthew moved aside out of its path, but the unsuspecting Ethan wasn’t so lucky.

The light smashed against the back of his head with a light crash, shards of glass and plastic flying everywhere in the midst of a brief burst of sparks. The redhead collapsed and fell forward, slamming facedown against the floor.

“Sorry, bro.” Matthew muttered half-heartedly.

He then reached up and grabbed onto the hanging light, hoping that the cord would just be enough to hold him, and pulled himself up off the floor just as the unseen creature broke away the last of the floor where he had been standing just moments earlier. Ethan’s unconscious form fell into the abyss amidst the flames.

Matthew held on with all his strength, glancing down at the hole then back up at the cord attached to the ceiling, with four screws surrounding the spot where it was connected. But already, the metal plate that the screws were in began to break free, dust breaking away in small bursts.

The growl of the creature sounded below.

Matthew glanced around frantically, his eyes settling on the entrance to the smaller room. He saw Jessica standing in the doorway, nozzle out and looking down into the hole where a hallway had been a few seconds earlier.

“Ethan?!” She called worriedly. “ETHAN!”

Matthew paused for a moment, then swung his legs forward, then back, causing the entire light fixture to swing with him like a swing at a playground. He swung forward again, aiming for the doorway, then back for the final time. Putting all his effort into it, he swung forward and flew through the air towards the doorway. He barely managed to land it at the very edge of the hole, right next to Jessica. In his panic and struggle to keep his balance, he grabbed onto Jessica’s shoulder and pulled himself forward. However, his weight pulling on Jessica caused her to tumble forward and fall right into the flaming pit with a shrill scream.

Then, a moment later, the light fixture finally gave way as the metal plate broke free, sending the bulk of the light falling into the chasm right on top of Jessica, silencing her scream with another crash.

Matthew leaned out of the doorway and observed the chaos around him. The floor of the adjoining hallway was completely gone, the walls and ceiling were on fire, and all of the other three contestants and the creature were gone.

And, aside from the roaring and flickering of the flames, it was completely silent.

He backed away from the doorway, feeling safer as he moved away from the gaping hole. He looked back at the other doorway in the room, and saw a staircase leading down, snow and ice forming the walls below the level he was on. With a final glance back into the ruined hallway, he turned and went down the staircase. He could feel water dripping onto him from the ceiling as the nearby fire spread and began to take its toll on the snow and ice. Judging from the sudden decreasing of manmade structures around him, he knew he was heading into the basement. As he reached the door at the base of the staircase, he thought he heard an explosion sounding from behind and above him.

He reached the door and turned the knob, giving it a firm push. It didn’t budge. After pressing against it with his whole body, it finally swung open. He found himself standing in a massive ice cavern, with the floor, walls, and ceiling all made of snow, water now dripping down freely in multiple areas. There were pipes running along the walls and ceiling, and another staircase, leading even further down, was carved into the snow to his right. Ahead of him on the lower level, there was the entrance to a tunnel that seemed to be sloping upward as it went further.

He turned and headed down the ice staircase, but underestimated how slippery it really was. His foot swung outward in front of him, and he instantly lost his balance. With a brief yelp of surprise, he slid down the staircase and slid a few more feet at the bottom before he slowly came to a stop. Sitting upright, he shook his head.

As he staggered to his feet, nearly slipping again on the ice, he heard a low rumbling sound behind him. He spun around to face the direction of the sound, slowly sidestepping towards the tunnel at the opposite end.

Just as he was halfway across the room, there was an explosion of snow, ice, and sound as the ice staircase was destroyed from the inside. It was so close that the force of the blast sent Matthew flying across the room, his flame-thrower falling free and tumbling across the room from him. Matthew was lying sideways on the ground, and slowly turned around and sat up straight. When the debris settled, there was a whole new creature towering before him, unlike anything he or the others had ever seen before. It was about 15 feet tall, with a thick, trunk-like body that had a curled tail sticking out the back, and a single foot – shaped like a dog’s, but with webbing between the clawed toes – sticking out from the front and the right. There was a bulky, humongous human-like arm sticking out of its left, fist clenching and unclenching, while its right arm was long and spindly, with two sharp claws at the end that snapped together like a pincher. Its head was like a human head, but its mouth was massive and had an extended snout like a dog would, its teeth massive and threatening. It was mostly brown and pale tan, with red, brown, green, and yellow liquids streaming down its body. Its roar was like a screeching cat, a lion’s roar, and a wolf’s howl. It lowered its massive head, beady eyes staring down the snout like the barrel of a gun, and locked onto him.

Matthew started scooting backwards slowly, glancing sideways at his flame-thrower, just barely out of reach.

The creature saw what direction he was looking, roared again, and a tentacle burst out of its stomach, flopping down right next to Matthew, separating him from the weapon.

Matthew threw himself to the left at the impact of the tentacle, landing next to a few metal barrels with an unlit lantern on top. He glanced up at the barrels for a moment, and his eyes locked onto the glass of the lantern. Glancing back up at the creature, he slowly climbed to his feet and reached for the lantern.

It roared and shrieked again, several more tentacles shooting out of its body from the front and sides, dancing around menacingly.

Lantern in hand, he slowly shuffled back to the right, moving closer to the tentacle that was blocking his flame-thrower. At the same time, he dared to inch just a bit closer to the monster, which also began to move towards him.

Then, with a quick movement, he raised the lantern over his head and threw it with all his might forward and down, aiming at the single foot sticking out of the creature. It hit right on, and the glass smashed onto the foot with a small crash.

The creature hissed loudly, its blocking tentacle lifting up and waving for a moment before it swung the massive arm at Matthew from the side.

Matthew, anticipating this, ducked and rolled under it as it swung over him, then scrambled over to the flame-thrower. Without even bothering to put it on, he raised the nozzle, put a finger around the trigger, and fired.

The stream of fire hit the creature instantly, catching it by the side and the human-like arm, as well as the tips of several tentacles. It shrieked again, though this time out of pain rather than anger.

Picking up the flame-thrower by the strap with one hand while clutching the nozzle with the other, Matthew turned and dashed for the ice tunnel, stopping at its entrance to give the creature one final blast of the flame as he strapped it back on.

The flames shot up along the creature’s front, engulfing the crushed foot, the spindly arm, and the head and remaining tentacles. The creature was now totally engulfed in flames, roaring at him and flailing wildly in all directions…

…then the creature exploded, sending Matthew flying backwards into the ice tunnel and bringing down the walls and ceiling of the ice cavern all around it.

Matthew struggled to get to his feet as massive chunks of ice plunged down into the room, just a few feet from where he was. He turned and started struggling up the slope, hoping that it would lead him outside.

Meanwhile…

At the Jet, in the temporary control center for this particular challenge, Chef nearly exploded himself when he saw this unfolding on the monitor.

“WHAT IN THE NAME OF JOHN CARPENTER IS THAT?!”

Carl, sitting in the chair next to him, instantly flew to the side and collapsed to the floor, his chair falling over with him, at Chef’s outburst. The remote control flew from his hands and clattered across the floor, stopping a few feet away

“DID THAT THING JUST EXPLODE?!” He turned to Carl. “DID THAT THING JUST EXPLODE?!”

“Um, it would…(gulp)…appear so, sir.”

“HOW DOES THAT THING JUST UP AND EXPLODE LIKE THAT?!”

“Well, that’s why I was so quick to move it away whenever he shot a blast of fire at it. You see, the materials we used to produce the skin and ooze of the various creatures contains a highly flammable component…”

“THEN WHY THE HECK WAS THERE A FLAME-THROWER IN THE PLACE TO BEGIN WITH?! WHY WOULD YA’LL LEAVE A FLAME-THROWER FOR ONE OF THEM PUNKS TO FIND IF THOSE CREATURES ARE FLAMMABLE?!”

“We…We didn’t leave it there, sir. It must’ve been left over from the production of the film that they shot here. They used real flame-throwers for that picture, sir.”

A metaphorical storm cloud over his head, Chef facepalmed and leaned back in the chair.

“Ugh. Well, I guess we should go get him and the rest of those turds and bring them back to the rest before-.” He lifted the hand up just enough to glance at the monitor again.

Carl had just managed to climb to his feet when another roaring outburst sent him flying backwards again.

“WHAT IS THAT?!?!?!”

From where he was lying on the floor, Carl glanced at the monitor that the furious host was pointing at, and saw the building above the ice cavern collapsing, falling in on itself as well as falling into the ground beneath it.

“IS THAT CRAP COLLAPSING?!”

“Well, the explosion took out the entire basement, and those air vents run through the entire compound, so the force of the explosion and the collapse will undoubtedly start a chain reaction that will…um…(gulp)…cause the whole compound to collapse?”

Chef’s scream at that moment could be heard all throughout the Jet, right down to Rachael, Nicole, Samantha, Eryn, Anna, Louis, and Mary, as they sat on the bleachers at the elimination area as instructed. They all lifted their heads up at the sound, and some cowered.

Meanwhile…

Matthew finally reached the top of the tunnel, emerging into the cold air just as the sun began setting over some mountains in the distance. He turned and looked back at the compound.

His jaw dropped, and the flame-thrower’s nozzle fell from his hands. Although he had heard the crashing and the booming, and felt the shaking the entire time he was in the tunnel, he didn’t expect this.

The entire compound was gone, most structures either collapsed in on themselves or destroyed by explosions. Burning wreckage dotted the camp, some fires freshly put out by the snow.

His knees buckled and he collapsed to the snow, breathing a huge sigh of shock and relief at the same time.

Just then, he heard the whirring of a motor behind him, and turned to see Chef and Carl pull up in the white golf cart with the trailer from earlier dragging behind it.

And the former looked extremely mad.

“BOY, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?! GOING AND WRECKING THIS WHOLE COMPOUND, I OUGHTA KICK YOU OUT OF THIS GAME!!!”

Too tired to argue, he simply shrugged. “I was just fighting off the creatures that you obviously sent to hunt us down. Am I right?”

The fuming Chef reached down and, with one hand, tore the flame-thrower from Matthew’s back, both straps breaking as he picked up the weapon and tossed it as far as he could into the snow.

“Get up and get in that trailer. As furious as I am, I can’t deny that you won the challenge for your team, fair and square.”

“Really?” His eyes widened. “So, the whole thing about finding clues…?”

“Obviously, that was just a set-up. The real challenge was to outlast the others. Whichever team with the last person standing won, and yadda-yadda-yadda. Now get in that trailer! We gotta find your girlfriend, redhead, and clumsy!”

And so, with Matthew in the trailer behind them, Chef and Carl drove through the wreckage, weaving in and out of large pieces of debris, until they saw a single figure in the snow, waving her arms around frantically and shouting.

“It’s Jessica.” Matthew told them.

The cart moved in, but even as they drew closer, she still seemed rather distressed, waving and hollering until they were right next to her. Once they got out, she ran up to them, eyes wide and voice exhausted.

“I’m so glad you guys are here! Ethan and Violet, they’re not doing so well!”

“What?” Carl and Matthew asked, both noticeably concerned while Chef simply raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah! They’re both over here! Hurry!”

She turned and gestured for them to follow, dashing through the wreckage to a flat area, a burning piece of wreckage a few yards away and snow on the other three sides. Lying down on the floor were Ethan and Violet. Ethan was unconscious, but still breathing, while Violet was wide-awake. She was lying flat on her back and staring straight up at the sky, her eyes wide and her chest rising and falling rapidly as she took short, gasping breaths. Her hair and clothes were singed, the smell of smoke still drifting off of her.

Matthew, at the sight of his girlfriend, instantly lost it and dashed up to her, throwing himself to his knees next to her as he picked up her head and looked into her eyes.

“Violet! Violet, it’s me! Matthew! What’s wrong?”

She continued breathing rapidly, looking straight ahead and not saying anything or giving any acknowledgement that she heard him.

“Violet, are you alright?”

Matthew then reached over to pull her closer to him, and in grabbing her left arm, he felt an unusual presence on her arm that didn’t feel like her normal, smooth skin. Leaning over her to look at her arm, he saw it: A terrible burn mark, originating at her elbow and running up and down the length of her arm, stopping just above the wrist and just below the shoulder.

His eyes widened and, for a moment, he thought he felt moisture welling up in his eyes.

“Oh, God…Oh, God…She’s been burned.”

Carl knelt down, maintaining a much calmer appearance as he inspected the burn.

“It doesn’t look that serious. I mean, it may look bad, but I’ve seen my fair share of burns. This might barely be first-degree, but that’s it. Not fatal, and probably not scarring for life.”

“But that’s not the point!” Matthew shouted back, his voice cracking. “Her worst fear is fire! Just being around it makes her panic! She’s having a panic attack!”

Carl glanced at Violet, took note of her rapid breathing, then glanced up at Chef.

“This doesn’t look good, sir. He’s gonna be fine…” He gestured at the unconscious Ethan, with Jessica kneeling next to him and holding him. “…but she needs to get out of here. Like, right now. She needs medical attention.”

“Oh, God…Will she…?” Matthew couldn’t bring himself to finish.

Carl returned a wry smile. “We’ve got a medevac on standby, so she’ll get some good treatment. She’ll make it…but unfortunately…”

Chef finished. “Anyone who is removed from the game for medical reasons is permanently removed for the duration of the season.”

It took all of 1.7 seconds for Matthew to respond.

“I don’t care. And she probably doesn’t care either. She needs help, and she needs it NOW!”

Carl nodded and speed-walked back to the golf cart, picking up a radio and holding down the button on the side.

“Yeah, Phil?”

“Phil here, go ahead, Carl.” The voice crackled back.

“Yeah, call in the medevac. A contestant out here is burned on the left arm and panicking like crazy. Time to lift her out of here.”

“Uh, roger that, Carl. Radioing in the medevac right now.”

Within a few minutes, the medevac arrived with surprising speed and efficiency, lowering the gurney down on a steel cable, with the harnesses loose and hanging down on the sides. Carl and Chef, forcing Matthew aside, lifted Violet up off the floor and placed her on the gurney, grabbing the straps on each side and securing her onto the gurney. Once that was done, Chef gave the thumbs-up to the pilot. He returned the gesture, and the gurney slowly started rising back up to the open door on the side, with two more medical personnel ready to pull her in. Once she was inside, the door slid shut and the massive red and white helicopter took off, thumping away into the whipping wind and snow, disappearing over the mountains.

Matthew, steel kneeling near where Violet had been a few minutes ago, was shaking as his arms slowly slid across his own stomach. He leaned over and started choking out some brief sobs. His head hung low, shaking side-to-side as he tried to cope with the reality of what had just happened.

Carl looked at Chef, then back at the sobbing teen with a noticeable look of sympathy. He glanced back at the host, then gestured with his head at the trailer. Chef nodded.

Carl knelt down next to Matthew, offering some half-hearted condolences as he slowly pulled the teen to his feet and guided him back to the trailer.

Chef looked back at Jessica, glancing back and forth between Matthew and Carl, and Chef.

“Are you sure Ethan’s gonna be alright?”

“Carl is our chief medical expert here. Like he said, redhead is just knocked out. That’s all. He’s sleeping like a baby and he’ll wake up in a couple hours. And when he does, you can tell him that the two of you earned your team second place for the second time in a row.”

Despite Chef expecting a reaction of happiness at this news, she simply shook her head. “Does that matter? Did you not just see what happened? Is an elimination really necessary now?”

“You better believe it is. The sooner I can get rid of you all and end this season, the better. Hey, just be grateful that it’s Team Sahara sending someone home and not you, alright?”

Jessica looked back down at Ethan, his head slumped against her chest, then back up at Chef with a sour look.

“Fine.”

A few hours later…

Team Sahara, for the second time in a row, sat on the bleachers of the elimination area, the frustration even greater than before, though it was somewhat diminished by the shock of what happened to Violet earlier in the day. Nevertheless, they realized that soon, one of them was going to follow her. As usual, Mary and Anna sat alone and opposite the bleachers from each other (with Mary on the front bleacher at the far right, while Anna sat on the top bleacher at the far left), while Louis and Nicole sat next to each other, caught figuratively and literally in the middle of the obvious animosity between the two girls. Both tried their best to look away from both of the rivals, not wanting a single glance or catching of the eye to betray whom they had voted for. As expected, both girls had approached them separately and pleaded their case. It was obvious enough that Mary would vote for Anna while Anna would vote for Mary, and the two of them were the tie-breakers. More desperation was clear on Anna’s side, while Mary resorted to a calm, but firm approach, simply stating the facts and – in particular – reminding Nicole of the agreement they made back in San Francisco, with Nicole being forced to tell Louis about it for the first time since then. Louis betrayed no emotion, no fear, and no anxiety, while Nicole couldn’t help but display some nervousness. Even though she knew for a fact that she and Louis were safe, she couldn’t help but fear the reaction from the girl she and Louis had agreed to vote for.

“Alright, Team Sahara. For the second time in a row, it is time for one of you to face the ultimate judgment. Three Barf Bags, four losers. Now let’s get on with it!

“Louis!”

The Shakespearean caught his Barf Bag, then shared a brief glance with Nicole, who smiled back at him as she expected her name to be called next…

“And Mary!”

“What?” Mary responded in shock, the Barf Bag flying at her seconds later. She instinctively blocked with her hands as it bounced off her wrist, and she lowered her hands again. “What?” She repeated.

The smiles vanished from Louis’s and Nicole’s faces, and expressions of shock filled in.

The bottom two was Nicole and Anna. Which meant that Nicole had to have received at least one vote…or more.

A few beads of sweat had already formed on Nicole’s brow. Louis glanced at her nervously, then back at Chef and the final Barf Bag.

“Nicole and Anna…shockingly, it is down to you two. One of you, fortunately, did not receive enough votes to be eliminated. The other, unfortunately, received three. In a landslide vote, the final Barf Bag goes to…”

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“…Nicole!”

The cheerleader sighed with relief, her whole body instantly relaxing save for her arm, as she reached out to catch the Bag. Louis copied her reaction, and patted her shoulder reassuringly as she set the Bag down.

“Yeah, I lied.” Chef revealed. “Nicole didn’t get a single vote, actually. Mary got the one vote. But I had to make the bottom two more interesting, or else it wouldn’t have been a surprise, right?”

Louis, Nicole, and Mary, brought back from the brief shock to the reality of who had just been eliminated, all winced, bracing for the impact of Anna’s explosive reaction.

But, surprisingly, there was no rage. She simply dropped her head, gazing at the floor with a disappointed sigh.

Lavatory Confessional

Anna – Eh, what can I say? I expected it. I mean, with Isaiah gone, I was definitely the weaker link. As I predicted, they went for her side. I’m really not that shocked. And if anything, I’m kinda glad to go. After all, it just wasn’t the same for me after Isaiah left. Maybe this is the karma I deserve, and hopefully the kind of thing that will start to redeem me in Isaiah’s eyes.

End

The animal lover got up and trudged down the bleachers, towards Chef and the offered parachute. Strapping it on, she slowly trudged up to the door…

…and as it opened, the blast of cold air instantly shook her out of her depression, and she began chattering and shaking again. At the same instant, a sudden fear swept over her with the wind, as she remembered where they were, and what this meant for where she had to jump.

She was about to parachute down to the coldest and most remote continent on the face of the earth.

“Whoa! Wait a minute! You don’t seriously expect me to jump here, do you?” She called back.

“Better believe it.” Chef chuckled, cracking his knuckles.

Then, much to Anna’s surprise and unexpected comfort, Louis and Nicole both stood up.

“Wait, Chef. This isn’t right. You can’t seriously make her jump down there.” Louis agreed firmly.

“Yeah.” Nicole added in. “She could die down there!”

Before Chef could respond, the one person they all least expected to speak up did just that.

“I have to agree. It’s too cruel.” Mary chimed in quickly and heavily.

Chef and Anna were both taken aback by the sudden display of generosity by the very people who had just voted Anna out. She couldn’t help but crack a crooked smile at her former teammates, realizing that perhaps the feelings weren’t so hard after all…

…then, suddenly, she felt a great force slam against her backside, and she tumbled out the door and into the cold, whipping wind.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

“I hate sappy moments.” Chef muttered as he closed the door.

The other three simply stared in shock, mouths agape and eyes wide.

Voting Confessionals

Louis – I heard both sides of the argument, and the choice is quite clear. (Stamps Anna’s passport)

Nicole – Louis and I agreed…and besides that, I do have to honor the commitment I made in the last challenge. (Stamps Anna’s passport)

Mary – (Silently stamps Anna’s passport)

Anna – (Sighs) I have a terrible feeling that I just didn’t plead my case enough, and Mary’s got too much sway with the others to make them want to vote for her…but what else can I do? (Stamps Mary’s passport and tosses it aside)

Voting Results

Louis – Anna

Mary – Anna

Nicole – Anna

Anna – Mary

Total Votes

Anna – 3

Mary – 1

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John, Suzie, James, Lauren, Isaiah, Violet, Anna


Episode 8 Part 1: Great Scots!

“Last time on Total Drama World Tour: The three teams finally wound up in a place other than…America. That’s right, for the first time since Episode Two, they left those horrible states behind…in favor of the single most desolate and emptiest continent in the world: Antarctica! “From there, the contestants were dumped into a creepy, abandoned research outpost, with the task of finding evidence of what exactly happened to the mysteriously-vanished crew of 12 who used to work there. “Little did they know, they were being pursued by the thing, or things, that caused their disappearances in the first place, now targeting them! One by one, they were picked off by the horrible beasts until only two remained: Whiny winner for Team Victory II and klutzy for Team Madison. In the end, against all thinkable odds, Team Victory II won AGAIN. However, they suffered their own kind of defeat when one of their own – IQ girl – was struck down by a panic attack after being surrounded by her worst fear: fire. Medically evacuated from the game, Team Victory II finds themselves down one more member even though they won. “But the fun didn’t end there. Another elimination was still set to take place, which befell the losing team: Team Sahara. It really was a no-brainer, as Animal Mother was voted off by a landslide vote, sending her off to catch up to her crush and making the first of our newbies to be officially eliminated. “There’s a lot in store for this next challenge! What might it be, you might ask? That is certainly the million-dollar…or, in this case, the two-million-dollar question. You’ll be on the edge of your seat from the action, the suspense, the chaos, and above all…THE EPICNESS. Get ready for this fantastic new episode of Total…Drama…World Tour!”

Matthew tried to relax. But even after his fourth straight can of Dr. Pepper, he couldn’t get over it. His mind was a swirling wreck. He wasn’t quite sure what he was feeling. Was it anger? Sadness? Regret?

He tried to find companionship in his teammates, but then he realized that only two were left. The two he could’ve related to the best, and the two who were most willing to talk to him – James and Mark – were gone. His girlfriend was gone. There was only the psychopath (by comparison, he would’ve had a much better chance talking to a brick wall) and Rachael, who had been dramatically distanced from the others ever since Mark’s elimination in the first place. Even after he had tried to express his feelings and tell her his story last week, he still just felt empty and distant.

He truly was alone.

He sighed, and lazily lifted the can up to his mouth for another long gulp of soda.

For once…victory isn’t so sweet anymore…anymore…

“Alright, potholes! We’re nearing our next destination, so head on down to the elimination area to prepare for landing, and await my arrival: I’ve got a big announcement for ya’ll!” Chef’s voice declared loudly.

After the voice left the intercom, Matthew sluggishly pulled himself out of the chair, spilling some soda on the chair’s right armrest. He trudged past the bar, tossing the can into the nearby trashcan.

At that moment, Eryn leapt out in front of him from out of nowhere.

“Hey there, boyo! Why so down? Why so blue? Why so…so…unlike you?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.” He muttered.

“Oh, come on…tell Eryn about it! Eryn is great at talking to people! Come on…you know you want to…”

“I’m fine, Eryn. Thanks for your concern.” He wandered off, leaving Eryn behind scratching her head.

Lavatory Confessional

Matthew – It’s, like, impossible to describe. I just want to cry it all out, but I can’t. I just…I’m devastated. She’s really…gone. And not just that, but the way she left. What a horrible way to go out. I just wish…I could do it all over again. She was right…Violet was right…Rachael was right…They were all right…I was wrong…

End

The entire cast had gathered in the elimination area, preparing for the landing, and were sitting on the wooden bleachers when Chef’s voice came over the intercom.

“As I said earlier, we are now nearing our destination. Just go ahead and take a look through the door at the beautiful lake below us.”

“Lake? Oh, for the love of God, are we over the Great Lakes? Michigan? Back in America?” Ethan asked angrily.

“Oh goodness, no!” Chef quickly replied. “Just get up and see for yourselves.”

“Fine.”

The nine teenagers all got up off the bleachers and approached the door. Louis was the first to arrive and look down.

“Oh, my!” He exclaimed.

Soon, all nine of them got a glimpse of the beautiful sight below them. A massive lake, surrounded on all sides by endless rolling green hills. The lake itself was extremely long, stretched out so far that they couldn’t see one end of it. On the edge of the lake was what appeared to be a large, ruined structure…

“Wait…Is that what I think it is?” Louis asked incredulously.

“What? What is it?” Nicole, next to him, asked.

“That castle down there! That’s Urq-“

Suddenly, the entire Jet jerked hard to the left, and before they knew it, they were sliding straight down towards the door. Louis, Nicole, Ethan, Eryn, and Rachael all fell out in one large group, screaming wildly as they fell against each other and tumbled out the door in a human crush. Only Matthew, Samantha, and Mary remained behind at first.

“Whoa!”

Matthew fell straight to the door, but grabbed onto the doorframe and held on. Mary tried to turn around, but slipped and fell face-first to the cold metal floor. She then slid backwards straight towards the door. She smacked into both of his legs, knocking them both out from under him and sending his face falling straight into the floor, jolting his grips on the doorframe loose. He fell screaming after the others.

Mary herself managed to grab onto the doorframes as well, trying desperately to pull herself back up. She then looked straight up and saw Samantha, lying on her back on the floor, sliding straight towards her. Samantha, unlike Mary, was not trying to do anything to stay on the Jet or avoid the door. She simply continued her texting on the phone, texting blindly as she slid towards Mary.

“No, no, SAMANTHA, NO!”

But the oblivious Samantha slid into her like a cruising human missile, smashing right into Mary’s face and sending both of them tumbling down after the others…

…landing right in the frigid waters of the lake below them.

Only then did Samantha finally make a move; raising her right hand up into the air as high as she could to keep her phone above the water. She rose to the surface in half a heartbeat, gasping before realizing that she had succeeded in keeping her phone dry.

“Oh, thank God it’s dry!” She shouted in relief before she raised her other hand out of the water and resumed texting just inches above the waterline.

“Oh, yes.” Mary agreed sarcastically with a roll of her eyes. “God forbid that your phone get wet.”

Just then, there was the familiar chopping sound, and a massive wind kicked up that sent ripples across the surface of the lake, blowing the contestants’ hair and causing many of them to raise their hands over their faces.

The red bubble helicopter swung in low overhead, with Carl in the pilot’s seat and Chef Hatchet in the passenger seat, leaning out with the red megaphone in hand.

“Now how’s that for a morning wake-up call?” He laughed. “Welcome, one and all, to our next location: Loch Ness, Scotland!”

“SAY WHAT?!”

“That’s what I was trying to tell you.” Louis resumed. He raised one arm out of the water and pointed at the massive ruins nearby. “That’s Urquhart Castle, one of Loch Ness’s most famous landmarks.”

“Forget some stupid castle, isn’t this where one of the world’s most ferocious monsters lives?” Nicole asked worriedly.

“Ha!” Ethan laughed. “Do you honestly mean to tell me that you believe in that nonsense? No dinosaur lives in this lake, it’s all a big joke!”

“Whether or not you may believe in the Loch Ness Monster, that’s not what this challenge is about. Swim over to shore so that I can explain the next challenge to ya’ll.” Chef finished.

“But why not just explain it right here?” Mary asked. “Why make us swim all that way just to hear an explanation when you’re right there?!”

“Uh…See ya!”

And with that, the helicopter veered upward and flew off to the shore, soaring over the ruined castle and landing just beyond it.

“Darn it! One of these days, we need to do something to him…” Mary muttered.

Nicole turned to Louis, who happened to turn back to her at that moment.

“You…you don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster, do you?” She asked, almost half-ashamed now that she had revealed her fear.

“My dear, there are many things in this world that just can’t be explained. Whether it’s cryptozoology, such as the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, or whether it’s the magic bullet in Dealy Plaza on November 22, 1963, this world is full of mysteries that, in my mind, are better left unsolved and left alone.”

“So…does that mean we should get out of the water ASAP?”

“Definitely.”

The first eight teenagers quickly started swimming towards the water-level grassy knoll just in front of the castle, while Samantha remained behind, texting away. However, her texting was interrupted when a strange wake suddenly rose, barely lapping the bottom of her phone and lifting herself up a few inches into the water, then falling back down again.

“YIPE! What in the world?!”

She quickly went into panic mode and lifted the phone up once more, looking around frantically.

In the direction that the wake had originated from, she thought she saw something. She couldn’t tell, but all she saw was a dark spot in the water, just below the surface, that vanished in an instant.

Within 30 seconds, she swam faster than any of the others and was ahead of the group, being the first to reach the shore.

The nine teenagers were soon standing on the grassy knoll, shivering uncontrollably and trying to get dry. Chef Hatchet then started down the hill towards them, with Carl right behind him.

“There ain’t no time for shiverin’! Get up here already so I can explain the challenge!”

“A-a-a-again, w-why not j-j-just explain it h-h-here?” Mary asked through chattering teeth.

“Move it!”

Mary cursed under her breath before she and the other eight teens trudged up the hill, dripping wet the entire way until they finally arrived at the main entrance to the magnificent castle.

“Good! You finally made it, slowpokes! Now, as Drama King stated earlier, this is, in fact, the amazing Urquhart Castle. One of the key landmarks of Loch Ness and built sometime after 1229 A.D., it is over 700 years old. It is also famous for being one of the top locations for Nessie sightings! Not relevant to the challenge, but a fun fact to know. This will be the main location for the challenge today! “What is the challenge, you might be wondering? Well, it’s a resurrection of an old fan favorite: The war challenge, first introduced in the previous season! I’m sure Perfectionist here, being the only one present who participated in that challenge, remembers what that ordeal was like, eh?”

Most eyes turned to Mary, who shuddered. Whether it was from still being cold and wet or in brief remembrance of the disaster that challenge had been, it wasn’t quite clear.

“The viewers went crazy over the madness, chaos, and destruction brought about by that episode, and it was ranked among the most popular challenges in Total Drama history! So we’re bringing it back…with some slight modifications. First of all, in order to better accommodate the format of the challenge, I must make my big announcement: The three teams are no more!”

“THE MERGE?!” Everyone exclaimed.

“Well, not quite. Consider this a…semi-merge.”

There were confused looks all around.

“Like I said, in tribute to the original challenge, this one will, once again, feature teams. Just not the original three teams. This will be the last team-oriented challenge of the season, then it’s a free-for-all!”

“So what are the teams?” Nicole asked.

“Once again, as an homage to the original war challenge…Guys vs. girls!”

At this announcement, there were several sighs of relief, mixed with a few groans of agony.

“Guys vs. girls? Really?” Ethan asked. “Come on! They double us in numbers! That’s not fair!”

“Now hold on, ‘cuz I’m not done!” Chef snapped. “Those aren’t the only factors in the teams of this challenge. As Perfectionist might remember, the previous challenge was also used to settle a behind-the-scenes dispute between cameramen and interns, and the two gender-based teams chose which of those two groups would be their armies for the challenge. Here, it’ll be the same deal, on a much, much lesser scale.”

“Oh, great. What’s the behind-the-camera conflict about this time?” Mary asked. “Who gets beaten up more testing the challenges?”

“Nope. This one is a dispute among the interns, but it’s not about who gets hurt more. It’s about which group is more popular!”

“…You’re kidding, right?”

“Now behind me are the six remaining interns for this show.” Chef turned and gestured to the main entrance to the castle, from which emerged the other five interns besides Carl. They split up into two groups of three, with each group standing on one side of Chef Hatchet.

“On my right are the ‘Classic Interns.’ Phil, Steve, and Bill.”

The orange bandana intern, the large, dark-skinned intern, and the intern made famous by the original TDA Aftermath, all waved at the contestants before Chef continued.

“These three in particular were made famous by the first two original season, with Phil prominent in Total Drama Island as the main intern of the season, and reappearing in Total Drama Action alongside Steve as a sort of dynamic duo. Bill here became an instant fan favorite for his many appearances in the original TDA Aftermath show. And on my left…”

The three tall, burly interns all stood tall and looked from Chef at the contestants. Alongside Carl, who strongly resembled Bill (except he was much taller), were the burly blonde intern Marco and the burly dark-skinned intern Franco.

“…are the ‘Second Generation Interns,’ who all made their debuts in the original Total Drama World Tour, distinguishable by their disgusting resemblance to the original host, and all of them being rather tall and somewhat intimidating.”

Chef turned back to the contestants.

“These two halves of the intern group have been debating over which is better and more popular with the fans. So, between these two groups of three, you will be choosing which ones will aid you in the challenge today as your fellow soldiers. “First, we’ll decide with a coin toss. In respect to common chivalry, the ladies will go first – or only, in this case – and it shall be one of them who will make the call in mid-air. Girls, choose which one of you will call it.”

“I’ll do it.” Eryn quickly declared before anyone could protest.

Chef then pulled out a common coin, with one side bearing his face, and the other bearing that unforgettable, grinning face of the previous host.

“My face is heads.” He declared. “Call it!”

He then flipped it up into the air, the gold coin spinning wildly in mid-air. At the very height of its trip, in that brief moment when it hung suspended in mid-air, Eryn shouted out, “TAILS!”

It fell back down, bouncing off the grass once, then clattering to a stop. Chef’s face looked back up at them.

“Wrong! Guys win first pick of the group of interns!” Chef then turned to the men. “Choose your group.”

Ethan turned to Louis and Matthew. He looked first at the latter, but Matthew was staring blankly off to the side, a long, despondent look on his face. Ethan turned to Louis.

“What do you think?”

“Well, he says we’re choosing ‘fellow soldiers’…I think we should choose them.” Louis gestured slightly at the three burlier men.

Ethan glanced back at them, then at the so-called “classic” interns, then back at the burly men.

“Agreed.” Ethan turned to face Chef. “We’ll take those three!”

“Alright. Carl, Marco, and Franco, go join the men. Girls, you get Phil, Steve, and Bill.”

After the guys and girls had clearly separated, and their respective interns joined up with them, Chef continued.

“And with that, here are the positions that you receive with each.”

“Positions?” Rachael asked.

“Offensive and defensive. This is a slight modification from the original version. Whereas previously, both teams were simply attacking each other with equal ground and equal settings of two castles, we’ll now have this be arranged like your average football game: One team will simply try to defend what territory they have, while the other must press forward and try to capture more territory. The girls and classic interns are on defense. Your base of operations is none other than this battle-scarred castle. The nine of you will fight off any attacks and try to keep your castle under your control. Gentlemen and second generation interns, you are on offense. You do not have a base of operations; your goal is to press forward with all you’ve got and try to take control of the castle from them. You have three vehicles.”

Chef gestured to the coastline nearby, where, in addition to the red helicopter, there was also a slick yellow speedboat in the water and the familiar white Jeep on the shore.

“From water, land, and air, you can make your assault.”

“Question from the crowd.” Eryn raised her hand with a grin on her face.

“What is it?” Chef asked, noticeably annoyed.

“What is it that we’ll be assaulting each other with?”

“Why, paintball guns, of course! Lots and lots of paintball guns! Girls, yours are on several racks throughout the castle stronghold, and there is also a massive, anti-aircraft/watercraft turret located on the second floor of the main tower, AKA the Grant Tower. Men, your weapons are stored up primarily in the boat, with a few additional weapons latched onto the Jeep. Each vehicle is equipped with its own turret; one on the back of the Jeep, one on the boat, and one on the helicopter. In addition, the helicopter is equipped with three, and only three, paint missiles. Those are powerful suckers, so don’t waste ‘em. “You will be attacking each other like crazy with paint, paint, and more paint. Not to worry; there’s plenty of paint, and enough to last at least a whole day. The men can win by either driving the girls out of the castle or by getting all six girls to declare surrender. The girls can win by either destroying all three vehicles or by getting all three guys to declare surrender. “So that’s the gist of it! Ladies, gentlemen, and interns, take your positions, gather up your guns, and let’s get this paint-fest underway! The challenge starts whenever you’re all ready!”

The two teams split off in opposite directions.

30 minutes later…

The six girls and three interns stood on the half-open second floor of Grant Tower, with the red wooden platform beneath their feet and the railing between them and the wide-open drop down to the lake’s edge below. On it, just as Chef said, was the massive turret and single chair for the gunner to sit in. On both sides of the turret were metal shields to protect the gunner. Against the wall opposite the ledge were five racks of weapons. From pistols, to rifles, to shotguns, to machine guns, to grenades, all with fully-loaded magazines of paintballs and dozens upon dozens of bags of paintballs on standby.

“Wow. Chef sure wasn’t kidding.” Rachael commented as she picked up a paintball Mac 10 in one hand and a paint grenade in the other.

“Some of these look so…real.” Nicole commented.

“Not to worry, kiddo.” Phil commented. “We thoroughly inspected each and every one for 14 painstaking hours, and made sure that absolutely, positively, not a single one is a real gun or potentially harmful weapon.”

“Yeah.” Steve added. “After the incident with the bank challenge last season, that became a bit of a problem.”

“Don’t forget the flamethrower ordeal last episode.” Eryn gleefully reminded them.

“Ugh. I blame that on the tough guys.” Bill spat. “They’re lazy and think they’re all that because they’re so buff and dress so…so…”

“Never mind that. The point is, we need to get a strategy together.” Mary stated firmly, quickly taking command of the group as she attached a belt with two holsters on it, each containing a paint pistol. “First, we need to scout out this entire castle. Our main base of operations, of course, is this tower. But clearly, the expanse of the castle itself is massive. We should cover as much ground as possible. Like Ethan said, we have the numbers advantage, so let’s use that as much as we can. There’s nine of us here, so let’s split off into three groups of two and one group of three. One intern in each of the groups of two, and the group of three can be all girls. OK? Good. Let’s move out and take up positions evenly spread out from each other. The group of three can stay here in the tower, to guard the weapons and the turret. The rest of you, spread out among the castle grounds.”

By the time she had finished, she had the holsters and two handguns around her waist, a belt of paint grenades strapped diagonally across her torso, and a paint shotgun in her arms, with a belt of ammunition for that particular gun strapped down her torso opposite the grenade belt. Everyone around her was speechless and slack-jawed at her speech and sudden rise to the top.

For a few moments, no one said anything. Then Mary spoke up once more. “Come on, I said move out!”

The group was quick to comply. After forming up into their respective groups, they gathered up weapons for themselves and moved out. The groups were: Mary, Nicole, and Rachael; Steve and Samantha; Phil and Eryn; and Bill and Jessica.

Steve and Samantha were quick to take up their position at the main entrance, just in front of the bridge over the moat. Steve loaded up his semi-automatic pump rifle, then turned to Samantha.

With only a single pistol at her waist, she leaned against the wall and continued texting.

Steve shook his head as he pumped the first round into the rifle and flicked off the safety.

Bill and Jessica, meanwhile, set up shop at the opposite end of the castle from Grant Tower. Bill set up a .50-caliber machine gun propped up on two detachable legs, while Jessica slung one rifle over her shoulder and held a pistol in each hand.

Lastly, Phil and Eryn were positioned in the middle of the castle at the edge of the lake, opposite the main entrance. Eryn had at least five pistols on her, loaded into waist holsters and chest holsters, with one in her left hand and a belt of grenades also around her, with one grenade at the ready in her hand. Phil, with his single paint shotgun, made sure to keep a good distance from her.

Meanwhile, the three guys and their three interns gathered at the group of vehicles alongside the edge of the lake, where, similarly to Mary, Ethan was quick to take charge.

“OK, so clearly, we need one intern and one contestant per vehicle. Three teams of two, evenly-divided and evenly-gunned.”

“Yeah, but that’s not the only advantage you’ll have due to picking us.” Carl said with a grin.

“It’s not?” Louis asked.

“Nope. In addition to my expertise in professional piloting, you’ll also get these.” He then reached behind himself and withdrew three walkie-talkies. “Since we’re in the more modern setting, with vehicles and such, we have a more modern form of communication. One for each vehicle.”

“Awesome!” Ethan was quick to swipe them, dispersing them to Louis and Matthew while keeping one for himself. “Alright, so let’s assign teams. I’ll take the helicopter with Carl, and we’re Alpha Team. The boat will be Beta Team, and the Jeep is Echo Team.” Ethan turned to Marco and Franco. “Who drives the boat?”

“That’d be me.” Franco responded in a voice that was slightly higher-pitched than was expected.

“Alright. So who’ll go with Franco and Beta Team?”

Ethan glanced at Matthew, remembering his past experiences with watercraft such as the submarines and the riverboats, and knew the choice immediately.

“Matthew?”

He stared blankly at the shimmering water nearby.

“Matthew.” Ethan repeated, slightly louder.

“Huh?” Matthew shook his head, then looked at Ethan. “Oh, uh, yeah, sure, whatever.”

“Fine. Louis, you’re with Marco and the Jeep. You’re Echo Team.”

“Excellent.” Louis stated. His enthusiasm then dissipated when he glanced at the Jeep and saw the massive gun on the back.

“Um…but I…heh-heh, have a confession to make.” A tone of shame was now detectable in his voice.

“Yes? What might that be?”

“I…I’ve never fired a firearm before.”

A pause.

“Louis…these aren’t real.” Ethan stated flatly.

“I’m well aware of that. I mean, I’ve never fired any type of weapon. Not even a toy gun, such as paintball guns like the ones we’ll be using.”

“You’re serious?”

“The closest I’ve come was prop guns in the occasional modern-themed play at my school, like when I portrayed Tony Montana. But that’s it.”

Ethan facepalmed.

“OK, OK. So we’ll have to give you a crash course.” He turned to Carl. “Gun please.”

“What kind?”

“Something simple. A pistol.”

Carl went to the helicopter’s cockpit and withdrew a single pistol. He placed it in Ethan’s outstretched hand, and Ethan turned back to Louis, slapping it into his hand. He then walked around behind Louis, placing his hands on Louis’s shoulders and pointing ahead of him.

“See that tree up there?”

There was a single tree about 70 feet away, just on the edge of the waterline.

“Yes?”

“See that small, dark round spot on the trunk?”

Louis squinted. “…Yes. Yes, I do.”

“OK, see if you can hit that dark spot.”

“Gee, Ethan, that’s a pretty small target for such a distance. He’s a first-timer for Pete’s sake.” Carl commented.

“Um, how do I aim with this?”

“Line up that small ball-bearing sight at the end of the barrel directly in the center of the gap between this fold-up apparatus here.” Ethan reached over and flipped up the rear sights on the pistol’s barrel. “Get it?”

“Yes, yes I understand.”

“Aim like that. The bullet will go right where the dot at the top is.”

“Alright.” Louis slowly raised the pistol, his right hand clenching the trigger and his left hand clasped at the bottom of the stock.

“You know, Ethan, some of these weapons are more advanced…scopes, laser-sighting…”

“I want to test his bare aiming skills. His skills and his alone. What good are those advanced aiming apparatuses if the person can’t shoot worth-.”

Louis fired the first shot. It was short quip of a sound, and the pistol recoiled slightly.

“Woo! That…that’s what it feels like, eh?”

“Congratulations, you just fired a gun…” Ethan held out a hand to Carl. “Binoculars.”

A pair was placed in his hand, and he raised them to his eyes. Adjusting the knob on top slightly, the enhanced image came into focus…

…the red splatter of paint was directly in the middle of the dark spot.

Ethan’s hands trembled slightly as he lowered the binoculars.

“Well? How’d I do?” Louis asked innocently.

“You…hit it dead-on.”

“Seriously?”

“Try again. Keep…keep shooting.”

Louis shrugged, raised the pistol again, and took aim.

Three more shots. Ethan raised the binoculars…

…only for them to drop from his hands and clatter to the ground the moment he saw the target. The paint was still within the boundaries of the small dark spot, barely larger than a fist 70 feet away.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Oh, yeah. I just found my new biggest asset in this game.

End

“Louis…LOUIS.” Ethan stuttered.

“Yes?”

“You’re seriously a first-timer?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve never fired a gun before? Not even a toy gun?”

“Nope.”

“And that right there is your first time shooting?”

“Yes.”

Ethan turned back to Carl, Marco, Franco, and Matthew. With the exception of the latter, they were slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

“Louis…you’re incredible! Every shot hit right on the mark! Every single one!”

“Hmm. Well I’ll be. I just discovered another hidden talent. And besides that…the feeling of the gun jerking in my hand with every shot, the ring of the shot, the sight of the impact on the target…’tis a sensation like never before. It’s…it’s…”

He turned to the others. A rather rare and devious grin appeared on his face.

“…invigorating.”

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – I used to think guns were savage tools of death and destruction, but my stance has now been reversed! Just the feeling of my finger wrapping around the trigger, squeezing it, hearing the shot between heartbeats…It was…It was…liberating. Invigorating. Rejuvenating. (Grins evilly at the camera)

End

“OK, enough of that, let’s get up and moving so we can get ready! We need a game plan.” Ethan declared. “Gentlemen, let’s split up and mobilize. We’ll discuss potential strategies over the walkie-talkies. Now let’s move out!”

The three groups split up. Marco jumped into the driver’s seat as Louis climbed into the back, placing both hands on the handles of the turret with a look of almost hungry excitement on his face. Franco jumped down into the boat and started up the engine, with Matthew heading to the stern and similarly taking hold of the turret there, looking less excited. Lastly, Ethan jumped into the helicopter as Carl started up the propellers. The gun in the helicopter was lower and aimed out the passenger-side door, so Ethan turned sideways to take hold of the handles with the triggers on them, placing one foot on the landing strut to stabilize his posture.

The three vehicles spread out. The boat turned around and sped off towards the center of the Loch, while the helicopter rose up into the air. The Jeep sped off inland, putting some distance between it and the nearby castle.

From the helicopter, Ethan switched on the walkie-talkie and instantly resumed command. “Beta Team, come in!”

“Yeah.” Matthew’s voice replied half-heartedly over the walkie-talkie.

“Good. Echo Team, come in!”

“Here!” Louis replied.

“Alright. I think we should take turns with the attacks. You know, use our weapons more sparingly. That way, while one group takes time to reload and prepare for the next onslaught, the others can go. Who wants to go up first?”

“I’ll go!” Louis volunteered. “Marco will drive up to the bridge at the front entrance, and after an initial wave of gunfire from the turret, I’ll attempt to move in through the main gate.”

“Excellent. You’re learning pretty fast.”

“Why, thank you.”

The walkie-talkies switched out, and Louis placed it down on the passenger seat of the Jeep.

“Alright, Marco. Head for the bridge. When we’re within 100 feet, move at an oblique towards the moat. I’ll unleash the first rounds, then you’ll turn around and move at a flank directly parallel to the moat for the second round. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

Louis grabbed the massive belt of neatly lined-up paint cartridges and inserted one end into the slot on the right side of the turret. He pressed it further in until he heard the loud click of the first shot falling into place. He then grabbed the lever on the left side and pulled it down, delivering the first shell directly into the barrel with the loud cha-chik!

The Jeep came down the grassy hill overlooking the castle, the bridge now in their sights. Marco turned the wheel slightly to the left, moving at a more diagonal angle to the bridge.

Louis swiveled the turret around and took aim just as he finally saw the two guards standing on opposite sides of the massive door, across the moat from him. One was the massive, dark-skinned intern whom he remembered Chef identifying as Steve, and the other was…Samantha, still texting on her phone obliviously.

Louis grinned. This shall be a cinch.

Steve perked up as the sound of the Jeep’s engine gradually grew louder, and he saw the vehicle fast approaching, the massive gun in the back.

“Whoa!” He yelled out, raising his semi-automatic. “Hey, hey, girl! Get ready, they’re coming!”

Samantha barely moved, aside from her fingers flying across the keypad.

Just as the Jeep approached, Steve started firing away, repeatedly pulling the trigger guard out and re-pumping the rifle again and again after each loud shot rang out. The first two were complete misses, with the third nailing the Jeep’s right headlight.

In retaliation, Louis opened fire with the turret. The shots rang out in rapid succession as the spent cartridges flew out of the barrel, the chain of unspent shells whipping along as it was continually used up.

The shots rang out, first striking the wall about 15 feet to Steve’s right. He turned as he saw the splatters of paint rapidly appear in quick succession on the wall next to him, the centuries-old stone being tainted with the bright colors. He instantly ducked as the paint line soared over his head, moving past him and straight through the main door. Samantha nonchalantly dropped down and sat on the grass, her back against the wall, the paint soaring over her head as well.

Steve stumbled back up to his feet and raised the rifle, firing four more shots. Two rang out as they ricocheted off the side of the Jeep, its white surface now splotched with a blue spot and a green streak.

As the Jeep drew closer, it turned around sharply. Louis tightened his grip on the trigger to avoid flying off as the Jeep spun around, kicking up clods of grass and dirt. Soon, the castle was now on the Jeep’s left side. Louis swung around and took quick aim, opening fire once more. This time, however, he aimed much lower and aimed more precisely at Steve himself. The large intern only fired off one more shot before he was taken by the line of fire. Four large splotches appeared on his jacket in his central stomach, knocking the wind out of him and sending him back against the stone wall.

He slowly sank to the ground just as the Jeep was directly across the moat from him. Louis unmercifully opened fire once more, turning the turret to keep it trained on Steve’s slumped form. He fired off six more shots that pelted the already-wounded intern, causing him to double over and fall face-first to the grass. His rifle dropped from his hands and clattered about two feet away.

Just as the Jeep was in front of Samantha and past the bridge, Louis let go of the turret and threw himself off the back of the Jeep, landing on his side and rolling across the grass three times before quickly jumping to his feet. As he started running towards the bridge over the moat, he reached behind his right shoulder for the AK-47 slung around his shoulder. He pulled it forward and took hold of the trigger with his right hand and the magazine with his left hand. He dashed across the bridge and made it to the main entrance, all while Steve was still keeled over on the ground, moaning in pain.

Louis was now inside the castle, the Grant Tower rising up on his left, and grassy hills with outer walls rising up ahead of him and to his right. He swung around and looked in all directions, prepared for anything.

But he wasn’t prepared for Eryn.

The cackling blonde leapt out from behind a wall, her Mac 10 blazing as she laughed a demonic laugh. Louis spun towards her, then ducked just as the paintballs soared over his head, splattering the wall just behind him. He rose and fired at her, several shots impacting her stomach and chest. She coughed and bent over slightly, but raised the gun again and continued firing anyway, now aiming straight at Louis.

Louis leapt to the side as the shots rang out, and he slid across the grass like a professional baseball player. He held the gun up as he slid and continued firing, only for Eryn to race straight toward him. She jumped up and over the first few shots, did a somersault in mid-air, then landed directly in front of Louis.

Louis was now staring down the barrel of the Mac 10, eyes wide.

“Oh…”

“Sorry, buddy. Nice try, though. I give you a 7/10 for the effort.”

In that moment, a shot rang out directly beside Louis’s face, kicking up grass, dirt, and paint in a purple blast. Eryn and Louis both looked up and saw Phil, standing on top of the wall beside them, aiming down at Louis.

“Nice job there, girl. Let me at him!”

“No way!” Eryn shouted back. “This one’s mine!”

In that moment, Louis saw his chance. Without hesitation, he took aim and fired, first aiming down at her shins and moving it upward rapidly, the shots traveling up the length of her body and smearing her all over with paint from head to toe.

Eryn’s body jerked wildly from the impacts, and she even dropped her own gun. By the time one shot hit her chin, she was already falling backwards. Louis quickly rolled aside as shots from the top of the wall rang out in his direction, then jumped to his feet, spun sharply on one heel, and tore off for the main entrance in a hasty retreat.

Just as he ran through the main door, he remembered the large intern and was quick to raise his gun and aim to his right. Sure enough, Steve was still there. He had just pulled himself back up to his feet and was popping his back, his gun behind him, when Louis emerged. He looked down at Louis and, realizing the vulnerable position he was in, his eyes widened.

Louis took quick aim and fired.

The brutal crotch shot instantly elicited a high-pitched shriek from the mountainous man, who dropped his gun and bent over, tumbling to the grass once more.

Louis then spun to face Samantha, who was still texting away.

Louis shook his head, then turned and ran down the bridge. The Jeep was on a hill in the distance. Louis cupped one hand over his mouth and shouted out, “MARCO! Emergency pick-up, now!”

The intern heard him and was quick to speed back. Just as he neared Louis’s position, he turned hard to the left and swiped past Louis, who managed to grab onto the side and hang on in a truly no-nonsense getaway.

As a last-ditch effort, Phil emerged from the main entrance and fired away with his machine gun, only for the Jeep to already be gone. A single shot barely clipped the rear bumper, smearing a yellow stain on it.

“Nuts.” He muttered.

“Nuts is right, you idiot.”

“Huh?” Phil turned around…

…and Eryn’s foot was instantly between his legs. He too instantly squealed in an unmanly voice, dropping his gun and collapsing to his knees.

“Nice going, moron. You let him get away. I told you that he was MINE. I’ll say this once, and once only.”

She then knelt down and grabbed Phil by his long, brown hair, pulling his face close to hers.

“When something is mine…IT’S MINE. Got it?”

He nodded furiously, with a very high “Uh-huh” as his response.

“Good.” She released him, and he collapsed to the side.

Glancing over at him, Steve groaned.

“Just like the good old days, eh Phil?”

“I wish, Steve.”

While waiting for word on Louis’s raid, the helicopter now hovered fairly low over the surface of the lake, the boat directly beneath it.

Ethan looked down at Matthew, slouching over in his seat, head in his hands.

With a groan, Ethan raised the walkie-talkie.

“Matthew, come in, Matthew.”

Nothing. Ethan leaned out and, squinting hard, noticed the discarded device on a seat across from Matthew.

“Oh, for the love of…Carl, doesn’t this thing have a rope ladder?”

“Rolled up right under the passenger seat, sir.” The pilot responded.

“Good.”

Ethan reached down under the passenger seat and withdrew the rolled-up ladder. Shaking it out and letting it roll down to its full length, the bottom end hung about four feet off the deck of the boat, just in front of Matthew. Securing the two hooks on his end to the landing strut and snapping them closed, Ethan began climbing down.

He jumped down to the deck when he was on the last rung, and he stood in front of the pouting Matthew, arms folded angrily.

“OK, look. I know we just merged and we’ve only been on the same team for about…”

A quick glance at his watch.

“…seven minutes, but I’ve gotta talk to you.”

Matthew muttered something that sounded like “Sure.”

Ethan sat down next to Matthew, sitting up straight and firm, providing a polar opposite to Matthew’s demeanor.

“Look, I understand that you’re upset over what happened to Violet. Yes, it’s a tragedy. She was a great girl, a great competitor, and that was probably the worst way ever to leave the game. But dude, you’ve got to straighten up. There’s still a game to be played here, and we need you.”

“Mmph. But I’ve already played this game enough. I won a season, sat out a season, and then I returned and made a jerk out of myself in the final season. What more can I do except give up?”

Ethan slammed a single finger over Matthew’s mouth, accompanied by a harsh “SHHH! I don’t want to hear that ever come from you again, do you understand? Not for the rest of this challenge. You can quit on your own time, but for right now, you’re on a team with me, and to quit would undoubtedly cost me and Louis the challenge. Would you rather do that – go and screw over two more people after you leave – or stay behind and give it a fighting chance? The last one would probably redeem you a little more. You get what I’m saying?”

Matthew slowly raised his head and looked at Ethan. He then looked at the gun ahead of him, then slowly hung his head again. “I don’t know. I just…don’t…know.”

“Look, think of it this way. Wouldn’t Violet want you to keep going?”

“Not the way I have been going. Blowing people off, like my friends and teammates, putting the game ahead of everyone else?”

“Well, that’s just it. To keep going now with a whole new leaf would be much better than quitting without redeeming yourself, right?”

“Even if I could turn over a new leaf, how could I possibly do well? My morale is at an all-time low, my mind is a wreck, and I have no determination. No motivation.”

“Two million dollars?”

“Is nothing to me now.”

Ethan snarled softly and briefly turned away.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – ARGH! I’m sitting there, and he’s giving me nothing to work with! NOTHING. I’m right next to him, and I, like, literally, want to strangle him! But it was that very burst of violence in my mind that gave me my last, and surely most effective, idea.

End

“Alright, alright. I’ve got an idea. You’re angry, right?”

“Yes. Very much so.” Matthew’s head rose slightly, just enough for his open hands to clench into fists. “I’m angry at myself, more than anything else.”

“OK. So what you need to do in order to get motivated is to get angry. Channel that rage and fury and put it into the challenge.”

“How? I mean, I’m not mad at the girls, I’m not mad at the interns, I’m not even mad at that castle they’re in. How can that help?”

“OK, stand up.” Ethan got to his feet and placed his hands on Matthew’s shoulders, pulling him up to his feet. He led him over to the turret, drawing Franco’s attention. Ethan placed Matthew in front of the gun, took his hands, and placed his hands on the turret’s handles, with the buttons for firing located on top of each handle.

“Take hold of this gun, feel the handles, feel the triggers on each handle. When we go into battle, you will aim this gun at the castle. Anywhere, I don’t care. Aim at their guns, aim at them. And when you do…”

He grabbed Matthew’s head and made him look straight at him.

“…look into their eyes. Look straight into their eyes, and picture yourself. Imagine that, wherever this gun aims, you are firing at yourself and yourself only. Imagine that you’re shooting at the image of yourself before Violet’s elimination. The side of you that you hate, you are destroying. Do you understand?”

Matthew’s head slowly turned back to the gun. His hands tightened on the handles, and he slowly moved the turret up, swiveled it slightly to the right, then to the left.

In that moment, Ethan saw a look spread across Matthew’s face. It was not a look of anger, nor a look of uncertainty, nor a look of enthusiasm like Louis had exhibited. It was, above all else, a look of determination.

Ethan grinned, knowing that he had done his job.

Just then, Ethan’s walkie-talkie buzzed with a burst of static. After a moment, Louis’s broken voice came over.

“…-than! Ethan! Do you read?”

Ethan quickly lifted the walkie-talkie off his belt and answered.

“Alpha Team here, status report, Echo Team.”

“I tried, sir. But I could not gain full access. I managed to temporarily incapacitate one of their interns before I entered the main chamber. But I was driven back out.”

“Driven right out? What happened?”

“Eryn happened, sir.”

“Ugh.” Ethan groaned. “Alright, Alpha Team and Beta Team are returning to the shore. You can give us a fill-in there, and then we’ll shift over to the next wave.”

“Yes, sir.”

About ten minutes later, the three vehicles reconvened on a grassy hill far from the castle. Louis, Marco, and the slightly paint-splattered Jeep were waiting. Louis filled them in entirely on his initial assault, taking out Steve, entering the castle, being cornered by Eryn, indirectly saved by Phil, and escaping with another shot at Steve.

“…So, in a sense, I was doomed. Had it not been for the dysfunctionality of the duo, I would’ve been forced into surrender. I was in over my head.”

“No, no, you did fine. You got an initial feel of the castle and we know what we’re up against. If anything, that was a scouting mission. You did good, and it’s time to rest. It’s our turn.”

“‘Our’?” Matthew asked.

“Beta Team and Alpha Team will work together on this. This shall be our first true assault on the castle, working together from the sea and the air.”

“Oh.”

Ethan placed a hand on his shoulder. “Just as I said. Imagine that you’re shooting at your past self.”

Matthew raised his head once more and looked straight at Ethan, nodding.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – As you can imagine, giving pep talks and encouraging people is generally not my thing, especially when I actually mean it. But in this case, I had to make an exception. Just for this one challenge, I have to put up being on the same team as him. And anything I can do to empower him and give our team more of a fighting chance, I’ll do it. Besides, this only serves as a win-win for me. Not only is this creating a force to be reckoned with that will undoubtedly carry our team to victory this week, but if he truly does improve dramatically and become a true threat once more, that will surely prompt the others to vote him off once it’s a free-for-all game. This is two birds in the hand for me.

End

The helicopter and the boat were now underway, speeding off towards the castle and closing in.

Along the way, Ethan took note of one of three massive missiles hanging on the underside of the red helicopter. It was about five feet long, but no more than three inches across, and with three tail fins on the bottom. A single red ring circled around the circumference of the missile directly in the middle of its length. While standing outside the helicopter earlier, he had taken note of the other two missiles and their matching rings: The one around the middle missile was blue, and the one on the left side of the helicopter was green.

“Carl, what exactly are the capabilities of these three missiles here?”

“Oh, boy. Those are the big guns.” Carl replied with a slightly nervous chuckle. “And I mean THE big guns. They make that machine gun there look like a bean-shooter.”

“And these are the only three we have?”

“Yes. They are too powerful for anymore. The other downside is that they can’t lock on target or be piloted towards a target in any way whatsoever. All we can do is aim the helicopter itself at the target and fire the missile. Its trajectory in alignment with that of the helicopter’s should take it right to the target.”

“And then?”

“That target might as well be made of paint, sir.”

“Excellent. We must save these for when we really need them.”

“Which might be right now, sir!” Carl replied anxiously, leaning over to look out the windshield at the castle. “We’re here!”

Eryn looked up as she heard the familiar buzzing of motors in the distance. She saw the two vehicles first, and a grin spread across her face.

“Ah…Action.”

She then straightened up, cupping both hands over her mouth and issuing her birdcall.

“KA-KAW! KA-KAW! KA-KAW!”

In the Grant Tower, the three girls perked up. Mary first looked in the direction of the call, then out towards the lake. She saw the two vehicles approaching, and glared.

“Finally. They’re giving a little more effort. And so will we.”

She turned to Rachael. “You! Get on that anti-aircraft gun, stat! You’ll take the chopper.”

She then turned to Nicole. “You! Gather up some weapons and follow me to that top level! We’ll shoot at the boat.”

Both girls nodded and proceeded to do as they were told.

Eryn turned towards the opposite end of the castle and repeated the birdcall, alerting Jessica and Bill.

“Showtime.” Bill said firmly. He attached the round magazine to his paint-tommy gun, then took aim. Jessica mimicked with her sniper rifle.

The two vehicles closed in, the boat directly beneath the helicopter. When they were within 100 yards of the castle, Ethan stuck his hand out the window and gave the signal with a single flick of his hand, then sticking out his thumb and jerking it to the left. Down in the boat, Franco responded by veering the boat more to the left, approaching at a 45-degree angle just as Marco and the White Jeep had approached from the front earlier. The helicopter, meanwhile, veered more to the right, aiming for the Grant Tower.

Within 50 yards, the anti-aircraft gun was already blazing. Explosions of paint went off all around the chopper, but Ethan was unfazed. He simply maintained his position, one leg placed on the landing strut and the other inside the chopper. He leaned forward against the gun, grabbing the handles.

“Eat my paint.” He muttered before he opened fire.

The round barrel with six holes at the end started rotating rapidly as the shots rang out. The paint traveled up the length of the Tower, starting at the base and traveling up towards the second level ledge. When it reached the enemy’s gun, he stopped and kept it trained on the massive weapon. The paint erupted against the metal shields on both sides of the barrel, and Rachael ducked to avoid several close shots as she herself continued firing.

Meanwhile, the boat was now at heading at an oblique towards the castle, and Matthew took aim. Staring down the sights something fierce, Ethan’s words echoed.

Imagine that you’re shooting at your past self…

With that, the paint started flying. Matthew kept the trigger pressed down and shouted a battle roar as he fired. The paint peppered the side of the castle, and he fired wildly out of rage rather than particularly aiming at anything.

Positioned at the opposite end of the castle from the Tower, Jessica and Bill took careful aim at the boat. Bill fired first, unleashing dozens of rounds on the boat. They mostly struck the forecastle deck just in front of the windshield, with several drops splattering the glass in front of Franco. He instantly perked up and looked in the direction the shots were coming from. He saw the two crouched figures.

“Sir! Over there!” He shouted, pointing in their direction.

Matthew, barely hearing him, turned in the direction he was pointing while the gun continued blazing. With another roar, he swiveled it around and aimed straight at them, gun blazing.

Bill managed to duck just as the paint started striking their location, while Jessica wasn’t so lucky. Four shots struck her, with two on her stomach, one on her right shoulder, and one on her forehead. She yelped and stumbled backwards, her sniper rifle discharging a single shot as it fell from her hands. Bill stood up and looked back at her, sprawled out on the ground, only for a single shot to nail him in the back of the head, sending him spinning around and flying forward, sliding across the ground face-first and getting himself a mouthful of grass.

“YYYYYYYYEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!!” Matthew cheered triumphantly as he saw his two successful impacts.

From the helicopter, Ethan took note of Matthew’s success, chuckled, and briefly lifted up his walkie-talkie.

“Nice shot there, Beta Team. I’ll get you a pack of DP just for that one alone.”

A single shot struck the inside of the chopper, exploding pink paint on the ceiling above him. He quickly resumed firing, aiming at the anti-aircraft gun. However, the helicopter was already nearly above the Tower, and he was unable to lower it any further. In the last few moments, he took some shots at the two girls on the very top, only for them to duck under his line of fire as the helicopter soared overhead, barely 10 feet above them.

As Mary swung around to face the helicopter, her hair blew wildly in its wake. She raised her paint shotgun and fired three more shots, with one impacting near the tail rotor of the chopper.

She quickly leaned over the railing and looked down at Rachael on the second floor.

“Rach! You holding up? You hit?”

“No, I’m fine. I don’t think we did much damage, though.”

“Hang on!” Nicole shouted, drawing Mary’s attention. She was pointing up at the chopper, now sideways as it slowly turned around.

“They’re coming back!” She declared.

“They’re coming back!” Mary repeated to Rachael. She ran over to the other edge of the top level, cupped her hand and shouted as loud as she could across the length of the castle. “THEY’RE COMING BACK FOR A SECOND WAVE! GET READY!”

“I see ‘em!” Steve shouted from the main entrance. He aimed his semi-automatic and started firing, pumping, and firing again. The helicopter was now facing towards the center of the castle and closing in. He had just emptied his rifle’s chamber as the chopper swung over him and flew over the castle once more.

Ethan’s gun was blazing as he opened fire on the groups in the center of the castle. He first aimed carefully at Eryn, who returned fire with the Mac 10. The shots from Ethan’s mini-gun streaked across the ground towards her, and at the last moment, Eryn lowered the gun, grabbed Phil, and held him directly in front of her.

“Hey! Wait! What are yo-OWALBLARGHERCK!”

He was instantly taken by a line of paint, streaking straight up his body and with three shots to the face. He jerked and twisted in her grip before passing out cold. Eryn dropped his slumped form, lifted up her gun once more, and fired some more rounds as the chopper flew past, veering to the right to take aim at Jessica and Bill.

“They’re coming this way! Watch out!” Bill shouted, crouching and taking aim with his tommy gun. Jessica finally managed to fire her own shots, squeezing off three rounds as it soared past them.

As the helicopter flew over them, it continued straight ahead, not showing any signs of turning around. The shots died down, and the thumping of the propellers dwindled off into the distance. The boat trailed them, its humming motor also dissipating as peace settled over the castle once more.

The battle was just beginning.


Episode 8 Part 2: Apocalypse Later

Back at the grassy knoll, the three boys and their three interns stood around in a circle, looking down on the map of the area (also provided by Carl), and with Ethan’s booming voice matching the tracing movements of his finger along the map.

“OK, so the last two attacks did some damage, but not enough. We need to cover more ground. Clearly, infiltration units have not been successful. What we need is for one team to cover the castle and keep them distracted while the infiltration unit sneaks in from another angle besides the front entrance. Louis, are you up for sneaking in again?”

“As long as I can try another, preferably more subtle angle, of course.”

“Excellent.” Ethan turned to Matthew. “You’ll accompany him on this trip. You’ll take the castle from the waterfront to distract them. Zig-zag back and forth in front of the castle, circle around and fire as many times as you need to, but do anything to keep their attention away from Louis. Understand?”

“Perfectly.”

“Very well. Now move out. If you need any assistance, call me for backup.”

Back at the castle, Mary had met up with Rachael and Nicole, and the three of them stood on the second level of the Grant Tower.

Rachael, standing against the railing and with one hand shielding her eyes from the sunlight above, she looked back and forth several times, then turned to the others while shaking her head.

“Nothing. No motors approaching, no propellers chopping…they’ve been gone for…how long now?”

Nicole looked at her watch. “Forty-five minutes, give or take.”

“They’re planning something.” Mary muttered, one hand crossed over her chest and the other stroking her chin thoughtfully. One foot tapped up and down casually. “Clearly, they’re coming up with some kind of strategy. I think we should take advantage of this brief period of rest and gather up more guns. You two, gather up as many guns as possible that you can carry on you. From rifles, to shotguns, to pistols, to grenades. Anything. Rachael, be prepared with that anti-aircraft gun, but also be prepared to jump off and fight on your own, OK?”

“Sure thing.”

Mary brushed past them and exited the tower, racing out towards the middle of the castle grounds.

“Hey! Everyone out there, you’ve got new orders! Head back into the tower and gather up as many guns as you can! Those boys have been gone long enough! They’re planning something huge, and we need to be ready for it!”

By the time she had finished her speech, Phil, Eryn, Steve, Jessica, and Bill had already heard her, and were already returning to Grant Tower. They all started to race past her, but she grabbed Steve by the arm and stopped him.

“Where’s Samantha?”

Steve silently jerked a single thumb back towards the main entrance. Mary leaned over and could barely see Samantha, standing beside the massive entrance, one foot back against the wall, and the other on the ground. And her phone was in her hand, as always.

Mary muttered under her breath before she let go of Steve’s arm and ushered him on.

After Steve ran off, she slowly looked up towards the sky.

She heard something.

Speeding along at nearly 60 knots an hour, Matthew held onto the handles of the machine gun firmly as the wind whipped against his face, his hair and clothes blowing wildly in the wind, and the water spraying lightly against him and Franco. He kept his gun trained on the castle as it approached on the left, the tower looming on the far right side.

“Easy…easy…”

The castle was now directly beside them.

Matthew swiveled the gun around, took careful aim, and began unloading the chain of bullets.

Even before he started shooting, he could see that, almost too perfectly, four girls and all three interns were standing on the second level of the tower, standing at the armory and gathering up more weapons. The anti-aircraft gun was unmanned.

Perfect.

He leveled the gun out and continued blazing away, the shots peppering the wall and moving rapidly towards the figures in the middle of the platform. He could see them all turn around and start to react just as the line of rapid paint shots started pelting them.

Steve, standing on the far left side of the platform, was the first to be hit. He jerked wildly for a few seconds before collapsing, his rifle blazing as he went down and his finger gripped the trigger tightly out of panic. The next two hit were Jessica and Phil, both similarly peppered and jerking to the ground, Jessica falling forward and Phil flying backward. By this time, Eryn had ducked and avoided the line of fire, with Nicole next to her taking the next few shots. Eryn stood back up, raised her Mac 10, and fired away. Matthew could hear several shots hit the interior of the boat behind him, but he continued firing regardless.

Rachael was next. A few shots hit her in the stomach, but she managed to dive behind the protective shield of the anti-aircraft gun before she could be seriously hit. Bill tried to duck, but in doing so lowered his head into the line of fire. Three shots pelted his face and sent him flying backwards into the weapons rack behind him.

All seven figures were down or out of sight except for Eryn, who continued firing. Matthew was just past the tower as she leveled out to get a good shot at him. He ducked instinctively, and a single shot splattered the left handle of the gun behind him.

“Franco, hard-a-starboard! Hard-a-starboard!”

“Yes, sir!”

Franco jerked hard to his right, pulling the wheel down and continuing to spin it with his two hands until it stopped with a sudden jolt. The boat veered to its right, nearly tilting sideways at a 45-degree angle. Matthew held tight as it veered, then slowly leveled out as it began a straight path again, this time with the castle on the right.

“What on earth is going on here?!” Mary roared, rushing through the doorway and into the Grant Tower.

“…Oh…My…God.”

She saw six of her comrades strewn about on the floor, covered in paint, paint splotches on the wall, and one of the weapon racks knocked clean over, with Bill inside it. She saw only Eryn, standing at the railing, with her Mac 10 blazing and insults hurling out of her mouth, and Rachael, crawling into the seat of the anti-aircraft gun.

She ran up to the latter.

“Rachael, what happened?”

“It was…ow…a complete surprise attack. Matthew came blazing by in the boat. He just sped by from right to left…”

She traced a finger over the area of the lake in front of the castle, from right to left.

“…and his machine gun just tore us all up…except for her.”

“YOU THINK YOU SO BAD, HUH!? YOU THINK YOU BAD?! WHY DON’T YA COME BACK HERE AND EAT SOME OF THIS!?” Another blast of gunfire.

Mary facepalmed, then turned back to Rachael. “OK, well, just get this gun ready. I’ll try to wake up the others.”

Rachael nodded and lifted her behind into the seat, taking hold of the triggers for the gun. Mary stepped over and grabbed Nicole by the shoulders.

“Nicole! Say something! Get up!”

“Uuuuhhhh…Mary?”

“Nicole, get up. We have to keep fighting.” She then dropped Nicole and went over to Jessica. “Jessica, get up!”

Then Eryn shouted out. “HE’S COMING BACK!”

Mary and Rachael both looked up just in time to see the boat speeding back across the lake, now heading in the direction it had first come from.

“He’s coming back! Rachael, ready that gun! On second thought, everyone else stay down!”

A series of groans responded.

Mary pumped her paint shotgun and ran up to the railing alongside Eryn.

“Eryn! Get behind the anti-aircraft gun’s shields with me! We’ll fire from back there!”

Matthew swung the gun around and took aim.

Mary and Eryn, leaning out from each side of the gun’s shields, aimed their Mac 10 and paint shotgun, respectively.

“OK, Rachael! Fire!”

Rachael started unloading, one loud, booming shot after the next. Several of the heavy shots impacted in the water in front of the boat and behind it, geysers of water and paint together shooting up. Several shots successfully impacted into the boat, paint blasting off the side and causing Matthew to duck.

“OK, Eryn! Start shooting with me!”

And with that, the shotgun and Mac 10 started unloading as well, the buzzing of Eryn’s rapid-fire occasionally interrupted by the single loud blasts of Mary’s shots, pumping of the gun, and successive shots over and over again.

“Augh! ACK! FRANCO, SPEED UP!”

“I’m going at top speed right now, sir!”

Then a single shot from Mary’s shotgun exploded inside the boat, between Franco and Matthew. Paint splattered on Matthew’s left side and Franco’s back, startling them both.

“WAUGH!” Matthew ducked behind the shields of his machine gun while Franco ducked down below the windows surrounding the wheelhouse on all sides. But even as they sped away, Matthew continued firing.

Soon, the boat was out of firing range for the anti-aircraft gun.

“OK, Rachael. That’s enough. Eryn, up to the railing!”

Mary and Eryn dashed out from behind the shields, bounded over their fallen comrades, and ran up to the wooden railing, leaning out over it to get off some more shots at the boat.

Soon, just as the boat appeared to be leaving the castle area for good, it started at last to turn to the left.

“Unbelievable! He’s coming back!”

“The guy’s got some nerves.” Mary muttered as she shook her head. She spun around and ran up to the nearest body.

“Bill, get up. NOW! Phil, Steve, you too! GET. UP.”

Meanwhile…

The Jeep pulled up silently, crawling to a stop on the far side of the castle, the eruptions of gunfire from Grant Tower on the opposite end from their position. Louis leapt out of the back and walked up to the passenger side. As he pulled out his newest weapon of choice – a paint version of an M16 assault rifle – he looked up at Marco.

“Marco, pull away and find some trees or shrubbery to take cover behind. I’ll give the birdcall when I’m in need of an immediate pickup, or if you see me emerge from the castle obviously in distress, then come charging in like the cavalry. Understood?”

“Crystal, sir.”

“Good. Also, I may instead request pickup from Alpha Team instead. If you see the helicopter fly in and fly off with me on the rope ladder, you’ll know then that I’m safe, and you can follow us out as well.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Jeep slowly pulled away, maintaining a low speed to avoid creating too much noise. Louis turned and looked up at the grassy hill looming steeply above him, the castle wall on top. But he could just see one particular area of the wall that was lower than the portions on either side of it.

Slinging the rifle around his shoulder, he began ascending the steep hill. He could faintly make out the yelling mixed in with the rapid gunfire on the opposite side of the castle. Just as he reached the top of the hill, he could hear the approaching motor of Matthew’s boat. He turned to the right and saw the boat, with paint stains all over, speeding out from behind the castle and continuing on before starting to turn around for another run.

Louis then put both hands on the wall above him and slowly lifted his head over it. He did a quick scan of the small hill inside this area of the castle.

Nothing.

He quickly leapt up over the lowered part of the wall and landed in a crouched position, M16 at the ready. He did a quick double-take, looking to the left and the right. Still nothing. He began dashing across the hill and down towards the center of the castle, running at a half-crouch.

When he reached the center of the castle, he turned to his left and looked towards the main entrance. He saw a figure barely protruding on the left side of the entrance, one knee sticking out as that foot was against the wall. He also saw the head, lowered down as it looked intently at the phone in the person’s hands.

Louis sighed and shook his head before continuing on.

As he continued towards the other side, he could faintly hear frantic commands being yelled out by a familiar voice.

“…et up. NOW! Phil, Steve, you too! GET. UP.”

They must still be in shock over the first attack. Louis thought. Perfect.

Soon, he approached the Tower. He quickly ran up to the steps leading to the first doorway. He reached into the belt strapped around his waist and pulled out the first paint grenade. He quickly loaded it into the M203 grenade launcher attached underneath the rifle’s barrel. Similarly to the grenades featured in the original challenge, fired by an M79, these grenades were specially equipped so that, several seconds after the explosion of the outer shell, the second and inner half exploded and unleashed dozens of smaller paintballs in all directions. Double the power in one hit.

Louis loaded the grenade in and quickly raised the rifle to his chest. He peered up through the door and saw that it led to a spiral staircase. It would be nearly impossible to shoot it straight up through there. He would have to wait for Matthew to make his next pass, then dash up the staircase, fire from the top of the stairs, then race back down for a retreat.

Leaning against the wall, closing his eyes, he took a deep breath.

Meanwhile…

Matthew finished rolling up his sleeves, crunching up his especially paint-covered left sleeve. He swiveled the gun to the left and carefully took aim, the Grant Tower falling into his sights.

While he was alongside the castle, he took a close look at the areas of the castle interior that were visible from the water.

For a moment, he saw no signs of anyone else in the castle but the eight on the platform in Grant Tower.

Then, in a brief instant, he saw the familiar figure leaning up against the wall near the doorway into the Tower.

Louis.

Matthew quickly raced up to Franco at the wheel.

“Franco! Is there some rope around here?”

“In that box over on the port side, sir.”

Matthew ran over to the long white box, knelt down, and threw the lid open. Sure enough, there was a coil of rope. He pulled it out and began to unravel it while walking back to the gun. He took one end and wrapped it several times around the first trigger, then pulled it across and wrapped it around the other trigger. He then took some of the slack rope and gave it a slight tug.

Several shots went off as the triggers fell under the tightened rope.

Matthew quickly released the rope and crouched down, backing up against the portside wall closer to the castle. He held the rope in his hands and looked up at the gun.

“Franco! Let me know when the Grant Tower is aligned with the gun’s barrel!”

“Yes, sir…NOW!”

Matthew tugged on the rope, pulling both triggers and setting the gun blazing.

Back in the Tower, Mary heard the shots and spun around. She could see the boat returning, the gun firing away.

“He’s back! Open fire!”

By now, several more members had managed to get up off the floor. Now, it was Eryn, Mary, Bill, Steve, and Phil up against the railing firing their weapons at the boat. Nicole and Jessica were still in a daze on the floor, and Rachael ducked behind the shields of the anti-aircraft gun.

The wave of gunfire from the Tower continued, just as the line of fire from the boat’s gun continued. Matthew shrunk a little and covered his head as the shots blasted on the window just above him and the other side of the hull just behind him. Several of the heavier, larger shots, such as the ones from Mary’s paint shotgun, made loud THUMPS on the boat’s portside.

Louis watched as the boat passed by, and he heard the wave of gunfire start pouring from the second level of the Tower. Taking a deep breath, he turned, dashed up the first few stairs, ran through the doorway, and bolted up the circular flight of stairs until he was just at the top, overlooking the platform where five people stood at the railing, two lied on the floor, and one hid behind the anti-aircraft gun.

That one was Rachael, who turned sharply to her right as a shot zinged past, and she looked right into Louis’s eyes.

Louis, without second thoughts, raised his rifle and fired about a dozen rounds at her, hitting her in the stomach and chest, winding her and knocking her off the seat. Due to the constant blasts from their own weapons, none of the five even heard it.

Louis quickly turned to the five figures on the balcony and began to open fire, starting from the far right and moving left in a rapid line. They were so unprepared that he even had time to move back from the left to the right one more time. Bill went down first, then Eryn, then Steve, then Phil, and, lastly, Mary. All five whipped wildly, their weapons blazing aimlessly in the air as their arms jerked, before all five tumbled to the floor.

The subsequent wave of moans and groans of agony was, in this particular challenge, music to Louis’s ears. He then took careful aim at the area between the two massive weapons racks – one of which had been lifted up back into its place after Bill crashed into it – and placed a finger on the larger trigger of the grenade launcher. Almost instantly after he pulled it, he ducked down so quickly that he nearly tumbled down the stairs.

He just barely managed to get his head below the floor of the second level when the blast of the grenade went off, sending a wave of paint in all directions that mostly covered Rachael, Steve, Jessica, the two weapons racks, and the gunner’s seat of the anti-aircraft gun.

He dashed down the spiral staircase and quickly began racing back towards the spot he had entered the castle through.

Back in the Tower, the shock was setting in, alongside stinging pain from the paint.

Naturally, Mary was the first to get up.

“Ooooh…I should’ve-ACK-known!”

“Known who-what-now?” Eryn asked in a daze, her eyes spinning.

“IT…WAS…AN…AMBUSH!” Mary roared in fury. She spun around and dashed towards the spiral staircase and looked down over the railing just in time to see a figure dash out the doorway.

Just then, the second blast from the grenade went off. Sounding more like a firecracker, it burst and unleashed dozens of smaller paintballs, resulting in a series of rapid patters in all directions as the paintballs flew. Mary herself was hit by nearly fourteen, and she doubled over against the metal railing on top of the spiral staircase, her chest and head hanging over the stairs while the rest of her body remained on the other side. Gravity slowly set in as she slunk backwards, dragging down the railing before crumbling to the floor.

Yet another series of groans arose from the painful blast.

Just then, the familiar thumping of propeller blades became audible. Mary managed to brush off the pain and craned her head up and around to look in the direction the helicopter approached.

Sure enough, there was Ethan sitting with one leg outside the door, propped on one of the struts.

“Do these guys have no SHAME?!” She roared. Fighting off the pain, she swung her gun up and took aim.

“Augh! No!” Ethan roared before ducking behind the safety of the machine gun. A single massive blast of paint fired straight through the open door and through the open window on Carl’s side, with Carl barely avoiding the hit himself.

“Wait! Stop!” Ethan yelled into the helicopter’s microphone, projecting his voice out on the speakers for the entire team to hear. “I do not come to fight you further! I come to offer you a chance to-.”

“STOW IT! WE WON’T SURRENDER!” Mary fired three more shots. The first, once again, flew clean through. The second impacted just above the open door. The third hit the strut.

“Surrender now and we won’t have to continue bombarding you!” Ethan roared. “This is your last cha-“

“I. SAID. STOW. IT!”

And with that, Mary began firing shot after shot after shot at the helicopter.

“Argh! Confound it!” Ethan muttered. He turned to Carl. “Get us out of here on the double! Fly over the castle itself, though; we need to pick up Louis.”

“Yes, sir. The rope ladder’s under the passenger seat, sir.”

And with that, the helicopter, which had been continuing on a steady path towards the Tower, veered hard to the left and began flying along the length of the castle. Mary fired one more shot before the top of the Tower came between her line of fire and the helicopter.

“ERBLARGH!” She roared in fury, her scream echoing down the castle.

As the helicopter sped along, Louis made it to the top of the hill, and was just about to jump over the lowered wall area when he heard the blades. He spun around just in time to see Ethan hook the two hooks on one end of the rope ladder to the strut, then drop the rest of the ladder. It rolled out easily, dropping to its full length with the bottom tip just five feet off the ground.

Louis jumped up onto the wall, slinging the rifle around his left shoulder and stretching both hands up into the air as the ladder approached. He managed to catch the third rung from the bottom, instantly sealing a tight grip as he was whipped off his feet and into the air. The helicopter instantly lifted higher up away from the ground as it began its trip back to base.

From behind several larger bushes, Marco saw the helicopter approach the castle and leave with Louis in tow. As per his orders, he fired up the engine and sped off after it, leaving the castle behind.

Later…

“ARGH!” Ethan roared in fury. “This is ridiculous! We completely destroyed them! We took them all by total surprise, in ambush, with a coordinated distract-and-destroy attack, and they STILL refuse to surrender!”

“It was only one try.” Matthew added. “I’m sure that if we keep beating at them like this, it’ll eventually work…”

“No. No! They know now how we work! We distracted them using you, and then delivered the real blow through Louis. They understand now; they’ll never fall for the same trick again! I was counting on the shock and power of it all in one sweep to be enough…It’s either stubbornness, stupidity, or they have something else up their sleeve.”

“I have a suggestion.” Louis interjected.

Both Ethan and Matthew looked at him.

“I had this idea in the back of my mind for some time. If careful, meticulous planning failed to convince them to surrender, then perhaps we should take the more…barbaric route.”

A grin appeared on his face.

“Barbaric?”

“We tried the stealthy, intelligent approach. Perhaps now we should, er, as one would say, ‘go all-out.’”

“‘All-out’, eh? How so?” Ethan inquired, raising an eyebrow.

“In a style reminiscent of a blitzkrieg, or a kamikaze. We throw ourselves at them with every single thing we have. Every bullet, every bomb, every missile, every gun. We bombard them endlessly. All three of us at once. That’s sure to wear them down much more than a careful ambush. And, like you said, the type of ambush we just performed cannot be duplicated now that they have experienced it once.”

“Hmm…cruel and harsh, but determined…I like it.” Ethan stated, cracking a similar grin. “Alright, so we’re gonna go all out and hit them at once with everything we’ve got. No retreats, no breaks. We keep hammering away at them until we run out of ammo or until they surrender. Matthew, you in?”

“Sure.” He muttered.

“Oh, and one more thing…” Louis started.

“Yes?” Ethan asked.

“Can we…play some music?”

Ethan looked at Louis like his head had just turned into a watermelon.

“Music?”

“Why not? You know, Robert Duvall style!”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Did I hear a mention of music?” Chef’s voice crackled over the radio.

Ethan was the first to answer. “Uh, no, Chef. Louis was just…”

“I just wanted to play some Wagner, that’s all. It would undoubtedly make the experience more enjoyable.”

“And I say you’re nuts.” Ethan replied.

“Actually…” Chef interrupted. “…that sounds like a fine idea. Provided we can avoid a lawsuit, I’m sure that would bring in the ratings. Paintball wars, machines, castles, and music! Besides, I’m sure that, if you do put on your very own soundtrack voluntarily, I could use that as an excuse to get you dolts out of doing a musical number.”

“Change of mind; let’s do it.” Ethan said in an instant.

“Same!” Matthew agreed.

“Alright, that sounds just fine…but why?” Louis asked.

“Are you kidding? You’re the one who suggested it, and now you’re asking why we should do it?” Ethan asked.

“No, not that. Why, Chef, would you be so willing to negate a musical number?”

“Because, between you, me, schemer, whiner…and this show’s millions of viewers, I can’t stand those blasted musical numbers. You know from the original season that I thought it was a stupid idea. And I’m sure that any bit of music brought in by the contestants themselves would be good enough to convince the producers to let the musical number slide just this once. Get my drift?”

“Of course.” Louis replied with a smile. “Over and out.”

Placing the walkie-talkie in his belt, Louis looked at the others. “Anything else? No more objections?”

Nothing.

“Good. Now let’s get this attack underway.”

Meanwhile…

Back at the castle, all of the members had finally managed to get back on their feet, although many of them now had bandages around their heads, arms, legs, or torsos. Most of them now could only afford to hold one gun, and the gun couldn’t be too big for them to successfully handle. Only Samantha, still hopelessly preoccupied with her phone, was completely clean.

Since the successful decoy and ambush, Mary had strictly ordered for the entire group to remain separated into pairs, but now with different arrangements: Phil and Jessica, Bill and Samantha, Steve and Nicole, and Rachael and Eryn on the second level of Grant Tower. Mary had finally gone to the top level of the Tower and staked out a post there, acting as the watchwoman and with three weapons nearby for immediate use: Her original paint shotgun, a paint Uzi, and a paint version of a .357 magnum pistol. The shotgun was in her hands, the pistol in a holster at her waist, and the Uzi on the floor against the wall.

“See anything yet?” Eryn asked from her seat in the anti-aircraft gun.

“No, not yet!” Mary replied. She glanced out over the length of the castle grounds and could locate two of the three pairs staked out at opposite locations of the castle: Steve and Nicole, located at the middle of the waterfront-side wall, and Phil and Jessica, located at the far end of the castle, opposite from Grant Tower. Although she couldn’t see them, she assumed that Bill and Samantha were still at their posts at the main entrance.

She then looked up, past the castle walls, and out at the shimmering lake surrounding the castle on two sides. There were slight ripples on the surface, and the glare from the sun in one area was too much for Mary to look at too long. She glanced out towards the right, with the larger area of the castle below her line of sight, and the area that the vehicles always retreated to in the distance. From up here, she could just barely make out the three dots in the distance – two on land and one in the water – that were the boys’ vehicles. They had remained in the same location for nearly 45 minutes, since she first staked out her post on the top floor. Since the failed ambush, there had been barely any signs of activity in their camp.

I hope the strategy they’re taking so much time to come up with right now is a darn good one. Mary thought sinisterly. It has to be in order to get us half as bad as they got us before.

Just as she turned her attention away from the three dots, she thought she saw one move. She flicked her head back towards their location.

They were still in their places.

Shaking her head, she looked back down about halfway, her eyes staring aimlessly at the rock wall opposite the Tower from her, with her other two teammates below her, waiting anxiously for the next move.

So…boring…

Meanwhile…

“Everybody ready?” Ethan called out over the helicopter’s whirring blades.

“Ready!” Louis replied from the Jeep.

“Ready!” Matthew replied from the boat.

“Interns?”

“Ready, sir!” Carl replied from the pilot’s seat.

“Ready, sir!” Marco replied from the driver’s seat of the Jeep.

“Ready, sir!” Franco replied from the wheel of the boat.

“Is the music player hooked up?” Louis asked.

“Sure is.” Ethan confirmed. “Let’s roll!”

And with that, the three vehicles all took off, on a direct course for the castle.

“When we’re within 100 yards, start the music!” Louis said to Ethan over the walkie-talkie.

“Roger.”

Meanwhile…

Mary let out a long, tired yawn and stretched both arms out, her fists clenched. She arched her back slightly, barely cracking it. Just as she lowered her head, she opened her eyes and thought she caught something.

Snapping her head back up, she focused on the area where she had seen movement.

Sure enough, it was the three dots. They were growing slightly larger and larger as the seconds passed, and she could just barely make out a buzzing sound.

She leaned over the railing, peering harder in the direction of the three dots. Now, among the monotone buzzing, she could make out a loud chopping sound.

They were coming.

Leaning back once, taking a deep breath, and then leaning forward against the railing, Mary screamed it out as loud as she could: “THE BOYS ARE COMING, THE BOYS ARE COMING! ALL HANDS TO YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! GRAB YOUR GUNS! BE PREPARED!”

And with that, everyone in the castle instantly went on high alert. Guns were raised, safety switches were flicked off, bolts were cocked, magazines punched in, and sights adjusted.

Eryn leapt onto the anti-aircraft gun, while Rachael held up two paint pistols and went up to the railing on the second level. Mary herself raised the paint shotgun.

Soon, the three objects were more clearly discernable from one another. Mary could clearly see the red helicopter, the white boat, and the white Jeep, all moving towards them in a flanking formation.

“And…NOW!” Louis yelled over the walkie-talkie. “Ride of the Valkyries!”

“Boy, oh boy. Francis Ford Coppola much?” Ethan joked as he pressed the “Play” button on Louis’s music player.

And with that, the track started, violins starting off, accompanied by brief horn blasts.

And then the familiar tune of horns came in.

The music was at its fullest volume, and all in the area – in the vehicles and the castle – heard it instantly.

Mary’s eyes widened. “You have GOT to be kidding.”

“GENTS, OPEN FIRE!” Ethan roared.

And with that, three machine guns started blazing, all aimed at the castle. At the front of the castle alongside the waterfront, Steve and Nicole took their aim at the boat, only for a blast of gunfire to come between them and sweep to the right, instantly taking Nicole out while Steve ducked.

The Jeep slowly started turning to an oblique as it approached the far end of the castle, with Phil and Jessica opening fire. Louis had to duck behind the protection of the very gun he was firing, blasts of paint bursting all around him. Nevertheless, he continued firing even as the location of the two gunners moved to his right, with the nearest corner of the castle wall eventually coming between them and him. Immediately afterward, he was faced with a new challenge: Bill, at the main entrance. The younger intern aimed his paint tommy-gun at him and started firing away, with Louis returning fire while ducking behind the barrel of the gun. With one hand on the trigger, he reached into a nearby small crate and withdrew a single paint grenade. Raising it to his mouth and biting the pin off, he launched it at the main gate.

Bill looked up just in time to see the grenade coming down, and his eyes widened.

“GRENADE!”

He spun around the corner and dashed inside the main entrance, taking refuge behind a fragment of wall.

Samantha stayed put.

Bill peeked out from around the wall just in time to see the grenade hit the ground, bounce once, and roll right up to Samantha’s feet. He ducked back behind the wall, clenching the tommy gun tightly with both hands.

The blast went off, and paint flew in all directions. Bill even thought, for a moment, that he could feel the wall behind him shake.

He waited for a few more seconds after the blast died down, then slowly peeked his head around the corner.

There was a massive stain on the entire ground just to the left of the main entrance, the paint stretched out across the grass, down into the nearby moat, and all over the wall. He slowly moved out even further, afraid of what had become of Samantha.

He instantly saw the paint-covered figure – a conglomerate of many different colors of paint, soaked all over the entire body – lying sideways on the ground, feet towards him, paint-covered phone still clutched in one hand. She was out cold.

Bill sighed, then looked back out across the moat.

The Jeep was nowhere in sight.

Before he could do a scan of the immediate area, the sound of propellers suddenly right over his head caused him to instinctively duck. He raised the tommy gun and spun around in a crouched position, only for the helicopter to veer to the right, more inward, and disappear over the top of the wall.

In an instant, Mary saw the helicopter closing in on Grant Tower. She raised her shotgun and fired two quick blasts. Rachael, seeing Mary shoot straight up, backed up towards the center of the platform and raised both pistols, emptying six shots from each in the few seconds that the helicopter was directly over the Tower. Ethan returned fire with his machine gun, firing straight down in a line across the platform and moving towards Rachael. She ducked out of the way at the last moment, and the shots clipped one of the weapons racks.

And then the helicopter was past the Tower, soaring out over the water. Mary spun around with the shotgun and squeezed off four more shots, pumping the gun rapidly after each shot.

Rachael, assuming that the helicopter’s departure signified the end of the immediate danger, lowered both guns and dropped both magazines to load in some fresh ones. Mary, keeping her eyes locked on the departing helicopter, lowered her now-empty shotgun and pulled out her pistol, pulling the top of the barrel back once to load in the first shot.

At that moment, the boat sped right past the Grant Tower, and Matthew opened fire on the platform first. Rachael, taken completely by surprise, was hit with several shots and fell to the floor. Mary spun around at the sound of new gunfire and, seeing the boat, raised her pistol and started firing. Eryn jumped in at this point, taking aim with the anti-aircraft gun (which was unable to aim high enough to hit the helicopter earlier) and opening fire.

The power of the massive weapon stunned Matthew as it peppered the boat around him. However, it was when one of the shots from the weapon finally hit him – striking him on the right side of his chest – when he learned the full power of the anti-aircraft gun. He instantly flew backwards, tumbling to the deck below and slamming up against the wall. Franco ducked down as several shots whizzed over his head.

And the music played on.

The helicopter, seeing Matthew’s diversion of the girls’ attention, instantly swung around, with Ethan readying the machine gun once more. It turned to the right, moving further out across the lake while gradually turning so that the castle was alongside it. During that time, Ethan began firing without even aiming, just determined to fire at the girls while they were still shooting at Matthew. A majority of the shots flew high and struck the wall above and behind the anti-aircraft gun. There were hardly any successful shots before the helicopter straightened out and the Tower was no longer in his sights.

Once it straightened out, it was on a direct path for the Grant Tower.

“Hey, Carl!”

“Yes, sir?”

“How about using one of the missiles now?”

“Are you sure, sir? We have only three…”

“Yes, I’m sure! Just take careful aim at that second level platform! If we can just deliver a clean hit to that location, we’ll take out a majority of their weapons, three of their best players, and their single largest and most powerful gun. So make this one count.”

“Yes, sir.”

And with that, Carl slowly eased the joystick forward ever so slightly, sending the helicopter on a slight decline, the tips of the struts barely pointing straight at the Tower.

“OK…easy…easy…”

Carl maneuvered the joystick barely to the right, leaning the helicopter more towards the Tower.

“Alright, it’s straightened out! Hold on!”

Closing one eye and taking a deep breath, Carl reached for the first of three red buttons, lined up side-by-side on the control board. He pressed the one on the far right.

There was a metal clank as the two metal clasps holding the missile to the helicopter’s underside opened, releasing the powerful payload. A single jet of fire shot out from the bottom of the missile, propelling it forward.

“It’s away!” Carl declared, instantly pulling back on the joystick and causing the helicopter to rise sharply into the air.

The missile sailed straight towards the Tower. Rachael was still on the ground, and Eryn was behind the shields of the anti-aircraft gun. Mary was the only one who saw the incoming projectile.

“MISSILE!” She roared. “ERYN, INCOMING MISSILE! OPEN FIRE!”

“Huh?” Eryn leaned out from behind the shield and instantly saw it. “Oh, boy! Here we go!”

She straightened back into position and began unloading the ammunition in the general direction of the missile. Several shots ricocheted off the side of the missile, but eventually, one shot scored a direct, successful hit on the very tip of the missile’s nose.

The missile instantly exploded, a powerful boom and a mid-air blast of red paint accompanying it. The paint cloud grew and hung in mid-air for a few seconds before dissipating, the drops falling down mostly to the surface of the lake below, with only a few actually reaching the shore.

“WHOA!” Eryn cried out. “Now THAT was cooooool!”

As the helicopter leveled out and turned to the left, Ethan looked down just in time to see the dissipating red cloud.

“What?! NO!” He slammed his fist against the barrel of the machine gun. “No impact! They shot it right down out of the sky!” He spun around towards Carl. “Carl! Spin around for another shot!”

“But sir, if we just keep shooting them straight at the platform like that, it’ll be the same result all over again! We either have to fire from a different angle, or wait until they’re distracted.”

“GEARGH!” Ethan roared.

Meanwhile, back on the castle grounds, the white Jeep emerged from the brush that it had temporarily hidden behind, and was now speeding straight towards the bridge leading across the moat.

Bill, having returned to the main entrance and attempting to wake up Samantha, heard the approaching motor and looked up.

“Augh! You again!”

He raised his tommy gun and started firing away. The Jeep veered a hard right, and Louis began firing away with his machine gun. Shots peppered the wall to Bill’s right, racing across the stone and right past him, splattering over his mid-torso. The gun whipped up towards the sky, rounds firing straight up, as Bill collapsed. As the Jeep sped past, Louis whipped out one more grenade, bit off the pin, and launched it.

Bill groaned, his eyelids fluttering, and he began to prop himself off the ground with both arms, in a push-up position, when the grenade rolled right across the grass and came to a gentle stop directly under his chest.

His eyes widened.

“Oh, fu-.”

Just as the Jeep began to turn the corner around the castle’s far sidewall, Louis heard the explosion behind him. A grin spread across his face.

The Jeep turned the corner sharply, and Louis looked up at the wall he had climbed over earlier. He saw the barrel of a sniper’s rifle sticking out, propped on top of the lowered area of the wall.

Almost immediately as the Jeep came into sight, Jessica perked up and took aim.

“There they are!” She yelled to Phil, about 15 feet down the wall from her. He raised his new weapon – a grenade launcher – against his chest and ran over to where she was. Leaning out and looking through the lowered area, he too saw the approaching Jeep and aimed his weapon through the hole.

“OK, fire!” He yelled.

He and Jessica began opening fire, with the steady, carefully-paced snaps of her rifle shots intertwined with the occasional hollow-sounding THUNP of Phil’s grenade launcher.

Louis continued firing even while the sniper’s nest was still considerably ahead of him rather than alongside him. He saw the first explosion of paint about 20 feet ahead of the Jeep and slightly to the left. Soon after, another explosion was just behind the Jeep, a few feet from the rear bumper.

“They’re launching grenades, sir!” Marco’s deep voice reported.

“I know!” Louis responded as he fired. “These folks mean business!”

Louis took blind aim at the hole in the wall where they were and laid on the trigger. The chain of shots rang out, causing both Jessica and Phil to duck behind the wall on each side.

Seeing that both of them were hiding and had stopped firing, Louis held down the trigger with one hand as he reached for a grenade with the other. He bit off the pin with his mouth, spit it out, then waited a few seconds until the Jeep was just about lined up with the hole, higher up on the hill above them. Making sure to not let go of the trigger, Louis yelled and launched the grenade with his other hand. Both hands free, he grabbed onto the machine gun firmly with both hands and took a more steady aim.

Jessica and Phil cowered behind the walls as the paint continued flying through the hole, preventing either of them from getting a good vantage point.

“Reload! Reload!” Phil yelled, quickly grabbing another grenade and fumbling to get it inside the barrel. Jessica pulled out the magazine from her sniper rifle and reached for a new clip.

Just then, they both heard a dull thump on the grass between them. They turned and looked down at the ground just below the hole in the wall.

It was a grenade.

Jessica was the only one who had a moment to react, clumsily throwing her body to the left just as the explosion went off.

The blast sent Jessica even further to the side, sending her tumbling right down the hill and the rifle flying from her hands. Phil, who was much closer and still standing when it went off, was sent flying straight up into the air, screaming a most unmanly scream as he did. He just barely flew up and over the top of the wall, and was at the very peak of his flight when he regained his sanity for a moment and saw the Jeep speeding away.

Despite the rather dangerous situation he was in, he still managed to concentrate long enough to take aim from in mid-aid, pointing his grenade launcher directly at the driver of the Jeep. He pulled the trigger just as he started to fall back down.

He hit the top of the hill just outside the wall, the impact sending the grenade launcher flying from his hands, and started rolling down the steep incline, through several bushes and past small trees, until he hit the gorge below, out cold.

Jessica tumbled down the less steep grass hill, hitting the ground further inside the castle. Her impact was much softer, and she was still conscious. She slowly started to crawl to her knees. Just then, her rifle, which had been bouncing down the hill after her, bounced into the air one more time and came down right on her head, the butt of the rifle striking right in the middle of her crown. This stunned her and flattened her out on the ground, freshly dazed and barely awake. She barely managed to lift her eyes up to the ground just in front of her when her rifle finally clattered to a stop, landing sideways on the ground a few feet in front of her. Its sideways impact was enough to discharge one more shot, and with the barrel pointing right at her head, the shot nailed her in the forehead and knocked her out instantly.

Louis saw the explosion clearly through the hole in the wall and even over the top of it, and cheered when he saw the damage it had done. Although he had seen the intern flying into the air, he didn’t see the man take aim with his grenade launcher one final time.

Thus, both men were caught completely off-guard when an explosion of paint suddenly went off in the passenger’s seat of the Jeep. Louis threw himself to the floor of the Jeep’s bed, and Marco was knocked unconscious, his entire right side splattered with purple paint.

Louis lifted his head up, both hands protectively on top of his head, and he looked at Marco. His head was hanging down in front of his chest, the seatbelt being the only thing that kept him from slumping right out of his seat.

“Marco?”

No response.

“MARCO!”

Louis leapt to his feet and ran over to Marco, kneeling down and grabbing him by the shoulders, shaking him furiously to wake him up.

After a few long moments of shaking and with no response, Louis looked up in the direction the Jeep was heading.

Straight for the water.

Louis’s eyes widened as he suddenly realized that, despite being unconscious, Marco’s foot was still pressed firmly on the gas pedal.

Louis knew that, with the distance closing fast, he had time for only one quick action. He leaned forward just enough to reach the release button on Marco’s seatbelt and pressed it, sending the strap flying back across his torso and releasing him. He slumped forward onto the wheel, blaring the horn. Louis looked back up and saw barely 10 feet left before the Jeep reached the water. He placed his hands firmly on his hips, one on each of the pistols he had holstered at his sides, and he threw his body sideways out of the speeding car just before it reached the edge.

With some of the Jeep’s forward momentum still lingering, Louis rolled across the grass several times before stopping just inches from the edge of the cliff. He looked up as the Jeep soared like a missile over the cliff’s edge and slammed into the water, kicking up a massive, misty sheet. Within a few moments, water was rushing into the driver’s area, swirling up the splattered paint in a purple cloud just below the water’s surface. Just as Louis thought, the water kicked up into Marco’s face, combined with the jolt of the impact and the blaring of the horn, was enough to wake him up from his daze. He looked around in confusion for a moment before realizing where he was and what was happening. He quickly jumped out of the flooding cab and started kicking away from the sinking Jeep as the white vehicle slipped beneath the surface. The machine gun was the last thing to go under.

Louis sighed in relief just as a sudden burst of gunfire sounded behind and above him. He covered his head again and rolled behind a nearby bush. He turned and peeked through the bush in the direction of the gunfire and saw that it was the large intern, Steve, firing a Mac 10 paintball gun through the hole in the wall. However, after a few seconds, it was clear that he was not firing at Louis. Louis looked back out onto the water and saw that it was Beta Team. The boat sped by and slowed down just enough for Matthew to grab Marco by his shirt collar and haul him slightly out of the water before the boat sped off again. Several paint spots appeared on the starboard side as it sped away.

Louis realized now that Steve had not seen him. He glanced back up at the intern, who stopped firing for a moment and continued staring at the boat. Then, with wide eyes, he disappeared back into the castle. Louis spun around again, and saw that the boat was turning to the left, coming around for another round at the castle.

With no one watching the hole in the wall, Louis saw his chance once again. Slowly standing up and leaving the safety of the bush, he crossed the gorge and started ascending the hill towards the wall.

Steve ran right past Nicole, who spun around and struggled to keep up with him as he returned to the waterside wall. Returning to his vantage point, he placed the base of the gun’s stock on top of the wall to steady it and took aim.

“The boat’s coming back around! Get ready!”

At that moment, Nicole arrived at the wall and fumbled with her AR-15 paintball gun.

“OK, fire!”

Steve began unloading with his gun, while Nicole fired a more carefully-aimed shot every three seconds or so. Matthew responded by unleashing a round of machine gun fire. Both Steve and Nicole ducked as the shots tore over their heads, and they waited until he stopped.

“OK, he’s reloading! Fire!” Steve ordered.

However, just as Steve and Nicole rose up above the wall once more, they were suddenly hit by an unexpected threat. While Matthew reloaded his gun, new crewmember Marco instantly rose up from behind the gunwale, handguns in each hand and aimed very precisely. He unloaded four shots in rapid succession from each gun, totaling eight shots altogether. The two on the wall were taken by surprise, and it was by sheer luck that Nicole was the only one hit. Five of the eight shots hit her, and since her head was the only part of her body that was visible over the wall, all five shots were painful, firm, and more than enough to knock her out. Steve, seeing her suddenly collapse next to him, realized the new threat and ducked back down behind the wall, muttering under his breath.

Just as the pistol shots ended, Matthew had completely reloaded and started firing again, keeping Steve pinned down behind the wall even longer.


Meanwhile, the helicopter was beginning to come around for another hit, Ethan’s machine gun mirroring Eryn’s as they blazed back and forth at each other. Soon, the helicopter was out over the water and heading straight for the Grant Tower.

“OK, Carl. Ready another missile.”

“Now, sir? What are we going to do differently in order to insure that this one doesn’t explode in mid-air?”

“I’ve already got that covered.” Ethan then raised the walkie-talkie. “Matthew.”

“Yeah?”

“Status report.”

“Echo Team is gone.”

“Gone?” There was a slight hint of worry in Ethan’s voice.

“An explosion distracted Marco and sent the Jeep flying into the water. We pulled Marco onboard, but Louis was nowhere to be found.”

“Was he still in the Jeep?”

“I don’t know. I barely saw it sinking just as we arrived to save Marco.”

“If Marco got out, then Louis got out, too. He probably stayed on land.” A blast of gunfire sounded in the background over the walkie-talkie. “What’s happening to you right now?”

“Marco just took down Nicole, and I’m using the machine gun to keep the big intern behind a wall. We’re midway through the castle right now.”

“Good. Focus your attention on the Grant Tower. We need a distraction in order to fire a missile.”

“You got it. Franco!”

“Yes?” Ethan heard the intern reply in the background.

“You heard the man, let’s go! Grant Tower is our target.”

“Yes, sir!”

Ethan grinned as he slipped the walkie-talkie back into his belt.

“Just hold off for a while, Carl. Let Beta Team do their thing.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ethan watched as the boat drew closer to the tower, Matthew already aiming his gun at the looming structure, Marco mimicking him with two handguns.

Eryn heard the motor buzzing below and slowly tilted the gun down just as the vessel sped into view.

“Thar they blow!” She roared just before she started firing away. Rachael took aim with her pistols and continued firing as well. From her vantage point high above the others, Mary took careful aim with her shotgun and fired a single shot.

The blast hit Marco right in the chest, sending him flying across the boat and slamming into the opposite wall with a deep grunt.

Mary pumped the gun and took aim again, this time focusing on Matthew as he fired the machine gun. She closed one eye and slowly started to squeeze the trigger.

Just then, something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She opened her other eye, released the trigger, and looked up.

It was the helicopter, bearing down on the tower and the second missile aiming straight at them. She could just barely make out Carl and Ethan in the cockpit. Ethan was pointing straight at the Tower, and she read his lips as he shouted a single word: “Now!”

Wasting no time, Mary swung the gun up and aimed at the windshield directly in front of Carl’s face. She pulled the trigger.

Just as Carl began squeezing the trigger for the blue missile, a sudden blotch of paint exploded onto the windshield directly in front of him. He panicked and jerked the throttle hard to the left, at the same time squeezing the trigger. As a result, the missile fired nearly 45 degrees to the left of the Tower, missing the platform entirely and barely scraping the outer wall of the Tower. It impacted into the wall to the left of the door leading into the Tower, instantly creating a blue explosion that engulfed the entire area and even shook the Tower. Mary stumbled to the side and clung to the railing with one hand while her other hand held the shotgun. Rachael tumbled to the wooden floor while Eryn nearly fell out of her seat.

In the middle portion of the castle, Steve both heard the explosion and saw the blue blast out of the corner of his eye. Turning towards it, he saw the wave of blue paint rising up over the hills and the walls at the base of the Tower. Snatching Nicole’s rifle out of her hands and slinging it over his shoulder, he raised the Mac 10 cautiously and jumped to his feet, racing towards the explosion.

Louis, clutching both pistols in each hand, stopped dead in his tracks as he heard rapid and heavy stomping nearby. Ducking behind a wall, he barely peeked around just as Steve went charging by, heading off towards the Grant Tower.

Louis had already passed by several other scenes of destruction, most noticeably the unconscious forms of Phil, Jessica, Samantha, Bill, and, regrettably, Nicole. He knew now that only four remained, and the odds were finally tilting in their favor.

Raising the guns, he slowly slid out from behind the wall and trailed Steve.

Steve ripped around a corner and slid to a stop as his jaw dropped.

There, in front of him, surrounding the door leading into the Tower, was a massive blue spot. It was everywhere. From the ground beneath his feet to the wall towering up above him. The green grass and gray walls were replaced with pure blue.

“My God…” He muttered.

The last thing he heard was the clicking of a gun’s hammer just behind him.

Louis fired two shots simultaneously from each of his pistols, sending four bullets out in total. The revolving chambers each spun around to slip a new bullet into the barrel. The four shots, at point-blank range, struck the intern in the back of his head and sent him tumbling to the ground with a thud. The two guns that he had on him clattered to the ground, skittering away from him.

Two shots gone from each, four shots left to go each. That meant he still had eight shots and three targets left.

This would be easy.

He slowly slipped inside the doorway, blue paint dripping all around him.

“DANGIT! NO! NO! NOOO!” Ethan roared, banging his head repeatedly into the helicopter’s door.

“I’m sorry, sir. I tried. I just didn’t expect that blast so suddenly…”

“Never mind it.” Ethan hissed, cutting off the apologetic intern. “We still have one left…”

Ethan turned and glanced down at the Tower. The three girls were scrambling to reload their various weapons, and Mary was already taking aim at the helicopter despite how high up they were. He heard the report of her paint shotgun, and the shot presumably missed; no impact was heard or felt.

Ethan saw how high they were above the ground…how high…

A sudden look of realization came over his face as a fresh new idea hit his mind.

“I’ve got it!”

“What, sir?” Carl asked.

“I know how we can successfully strike them with our last missile!” Ethan spun around to face the pilot. “Carl, I need you to bring this thing as high up as you can, then do a straight nosedive towards the Tower!”

“A…a nosedive, sir? In a helicopter?”

“Yes! Just do it!”

“As…as you wish, sir.”

With that, Carl pulled back on the throttle, moving the helicopter even higher up into the air.

Down on the Tower, Mary squinted as she struggled to keep sight of the helicopter that was rapidly rising higher and higher above them.

“They sure are rising.” She muttered. “Either we really scared them off, or they’re planning something.”

She turned to face her two teammates on the platform below her.

“Rachael! Eryn! Be ready! They’ve got something else up their sleeves!”

“Here they come!” Rachael yelled, pointing up into the sky.

Mary spun around and looked up. She could see the distant, barely discernable dot slowly growing larger, the red color becoming clearer as it drew nearer. It was approaching at a rapid pace that could only be achieved by a head-on course.

She finally understood.

“They’re coming straight at us from above!”

“What?!” Eryn yelled. “Dang it! I can’t raise this thing straight up!”

“And they know that!” Mary yelled back. Cursing under her breath, she raised the shotgun straight into the air and began firing. Rachael did the same with her weapons.

All three girls were unaware of the single boy slowly ascending the metal spiral staircase, his head emerging just above the floor as he did a quick scan of the area. He glanced up and saw the helicopter approaching from above. Seeing how it easily distracted all three girls, he raised his pistols and took aim, pointing the barrels first at Rachael.

After a pause, he pulled the triggers once. Two shots rang out, firing together to sound as one. They struck Rachael in the back of the head, and she crumpled to the floor. Anticipating Eryn’s reaction, Louis lowered the pistols and took quick aim just in time for Eryn to spin around and look at the fallen Rachael. Knowing how strong and dangerous she was, Louis fired two shots from each pistol just to be safe. Eryn never even had the chance to look up before the four shots struck her in the chest and head, sending her tumbling out of her seat.

Mary, up on the top level firing her shotgun rapidly, never even heard the much lesser shots down below.

The helicopter was closing in on the Tower. They were now within 50 yards, and gaining speed.

“Steady! Steady!” Ethan yelled as he clung to the metal frame for dear life, gravity pulling him slightly forward. Carl gripped the throttle tightly as the helicopter continued its downward path.

“And…NOW!”

Carl didn’t even hesitate this time as he pressed the button, releasing the third and final missile. It shot straight down from underneath the helicopter, on a beeline for the platform of the Tower below. With the missile free, Carl pulled back on the throttle with all his might, leveling out the aircraft and sending it flying straight forward, the top of the Tower just about 20 feet below them.

Mary fired off two more shots before she saw the missile heading straight for the Tower. She instinctively ducked, throwing herself to the floor of her platform and covering her head. She heard the missile race past and, a second later, explode. The missile struck directly on the anti-aircraft gun in the middle of the platform, sending the shockwave in all directions and knocking all loose objects, including Rachael and Eryn’s unconscious bodies, flying back against the walls. The entire Tower shook from its power, and Mary could both hear and feel the splatter of sticky liquid as the green paint exploded all over the interior of the Tower. Louis, having seen the missile approach, ducked down into the staircase just below the floor right before the impact, sparing him from both the shockwave and the paint.

After a few long moments, with the boom of the explosion fading away into the distance and the paint settling down both inside and outside the Tower, Mary slowly lifted her head up and peeked down over the railing.

The entire second level, and a vast majority of the Tower’s interior, was now green. The weapon racks and most of the weapons were scattered in all directions, slammed up against the walls, and covered by the thick green coat. Among the debris were her last two teammates, Rachael and Eryn. She made the mistake of assuming that they had been knocked out by the blast, and not by an unseen intruder who was now just one level below her.

She was the last one left.

Mary looked back up at the helicopter as it seemingly flew away from her.

“OH, NO YOU DON’T! COME BACK HERE AND FIGHT YOU COWARDS! I’M STILL STANDING, SEE THIS?! I’M STILL IN THIS GAME, AND I WON’T LOSE ANYTIME SOON!”

She punctuated this series of statements with three wild shotgun blasts in the direction of the fleeing vehicle. After a few moments, it began to turn around and come back.

“YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! COME GET SOME MORE OF THIS!”

Just as it closed in on the Tower, she ducked down to avoid the line of machine gun fire from Ethan, returning fire with two shots. It rushed over her, and she spun around to keep it in her sights.

Seeing Mary turned in the opposite direction, Louis seized his opportunity and dashed up the stairs, emerging on the green second level and racing across the platform to the staircase across from him, which led to the third level and to Mary. He quickly slammed up against the wall, hiding directly underneath Mary and out of sight. He flicked the revolving chambers of his two pistols out and reconfirmed what he had thought before: He had only one shot left in each.

Flicking the two chambers back into place, he raised the two pistols and began his final ascent up the stairs.

Mary fired five more shots as the helicopter flew past, then slowly circled around once more.

“Come on, don’t you leave yet! I’ve got plenty of shots here, and you’d better believe that I’m gonna use them all!”

Louis heard this threat as he reached the halfway point of the stairs. Hearing the series of blasts above him stop suddenly, he made sure that the rest of his steps were much softer, so as to not alert Mary to his presence.

The helicopter was now turning around, but not heading straight for the Tower. It was still hovering over the water, turning now so as to keep the castle parallel to it rather than in front of it. Mary, unfazed by this, continued firing.

Louis was now just at the top of the stairs, and he finally raised his head up above the wooden floor to see Mary, at the opposite end of the platform, back to him, as she fired away.

Taking a long, soft, deep breath, Louis rose up the last few steps and walked onto the wooden platform, pistols raised and slowly lowering to aim at Mary’s head.

“Come on, come on…come…on…” Mary took aim with her shotgun once more, barely able to make out a certain redhead behind the machine gun inside the helicopter.

Louis was right behind her, pistols aimed directly at the back of her head, the tips of the barrels a few inches from her skull, the final shots ready to be used.

Another loud blast nearly broke Louis’s concentration as Mary fired once more. Louis took full advantage of her brief moment of recoil and pulled the two triggers.

All that Mary felt at first was a powerful sting of pain in the back of her head; in two different places, to be exact. Both of her arms jerked up, the shotgun flying from her hands and tumbling down over the railing. She let out a sound that resembled a cross between a gasp and a sputter, and her entire body tensed up for a moment, stretched out like a rope with no slack. Then, losing all control of her body, she fell forward and right onto the railing before her. Her entire top half hung over the railing, and it didn’t take long for the rest of her body to follow behind her as she flipped forward and over the railing, plummeting down off the Tower, off her perch, and into the cold waters of the lake below. She landed on the water stomach-first, a loud smack sounding as two waves of water kicked up on each side of her, her arms and legs outstretched as she floated in the cold waters.

It was over.

Louis exhaled a long, well-deserved sigh of relief as he slowly lowered the two empty pistols. Once both guns were down at his sides, he relaxed his hands and let go of the two weapons, which clattered to the wooden floor.

For a few long moments, Louis was lost in a daze of all that had just happened, and still slowly accepting the fact that it was finally over.

His thoughts were finally broken when two sounds – one chopping and one buzzing – caused him to raise his head and look out over the lake. The helicopter and the boat slowly approached the Tower, all guns finally silenced. Instead, the only sound he heard was the distant cheering of his teammates.

“You did it!” Matthew cheered.

“At last! We won!” Ethan yelled.

Just then, a familiar gruff voice crackled over the walkie-talkies held by both Ethan and Matthew.

“Congratulations to the guys!” Chef declared. “Against all odds and despite being heavily outnumbered, the three of you have pulled off a victory! You three are now invincible in tonight’s ceremony, while the six girls will have to vote off one of their own! Boys, head back down to the front gate of the castle and cross the bridge; a golf cart and trailer will be waiting for you to take you back to the Jet. Interns, round up the girls and their interns. When they all wake up, tell them the news. Tonight, one of the girls will be taking that unforgiving drop!”

Later…

The nine contestants, a majority of them covered in paint or with several bandages on their bodies, sat on the bleachers in the elimination area. However, the three males in the group noticeably had lighter expressions, and one redheaded boy was leaning back casually, hands behind his head and one leg crossed over the other.

Chef finally arrived onto the stage, holding a platter with eight Barf Bags.

“And so, after much sweat, paint, and…more paint, the guys have emerged as the victors and are invincible. So here you go.”

With that, he picked up three Barf Bags and tossed them simultaneously to Ethan, Matthew, and Louis.

“Now things get interesting.” A grin spread across his face. “Four of ya girls have received votes against you, with one ultimately receiving the majority necessary to see you voted out of the game. The first two Barf Bags go to the only two vote-free girls tonight…Rachael and Nicole.”

Rachael and Nicole caught the Bags with sighs of relief.

“Next, with only one vote each, are…Mary and Jessica.”

Jessica whispered a relieved “Yes” as she caught her Bag, while Mary caught hers and wiped off her sweaty brow.

“Eryn and Samantha. The two of you have all received some significant votes against you. Eryn, let’s face it; you’re a psycho. You’re definitely a threat in challenges while an asset in team challenges such as today.”

Eryn smirked.

“And Samantha…you text too much! That’s simply all that can be said.”

Only the click-clacking of her buttons responded.

“So, the final Barf Bag goes to…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…Eryn.”

“Woohoo!” Eryn cheered, pumping her fists into the air as she caught the final Barf Bag.

“Finally!” Mary commented with a glare.

“Good riddance.” Matthew added.

Without a single word, Samantha rose and continued texting with one hand while she extended her other hand to grab the parachute out of Chef’s hands. She slipped it on, never once taking her eyes and fingers off the phone as she casually walked right out the door and fell straight down. Not a single scream was heard.

Voting Confessionals

Ethan – Mary was definitely the most formidable opponent in the challenge today. Dare I say it? She was even more dangerous than Eryn. (Stamps Mary’s passport)

Samantha – (Stamps Jessica’s passport)

Louis – Eryn, as always, was a force to be reckoned with. She almost finished me off back there. I’d prefer to never go through that ever again. (Quickly stamps Eryn’s passport)

Nicole – Louis told me all about how nuts Eryn was. While she was a good teammate, Chef did say that this would probably be the last team-oriented challenge ever, so that now makes her a threat instead of an ally. (Stamps Eryn’s passport)

Eryn – (Holds up Samantha’s passport) She’s the only one who did nothing whatsoever to help! (Stamps it furiously) Well…besides that idiot Phil, but I can’t vote for him. So… (Tosses Samantha’s passport aside)

Jessica – I’ve heard Samantha’s name thrown a bit between the other girls, and Ethan never came down to economy-class to talk to me about it…so I’m just gonna jump on the bandwagon here. (Stamps Samantha’s passport)

Mary – ARGH! (Stamps Samantha’s passport repeatedly) WEAK! USELESS! DISTRACTED! ANNOYING!

Matthew – Eh, she’s pretty annoying. (Stamps Samantha’s passport)

Rachael – Mary and I talked it over. Sorry, Sam. It’s time for you and your cell phone to hit the road. (Stamps Samantha’s passport)

Voting Results

Ethan – Mary

Samantha – Jessica

Louis – Eryn

Nicole – Eryn

Eryn – Samantha

Jessica – Samantha

Mary – Samantha

Matthew – Samantha

Rachael – Samantha

Total Votes

Samantha – 5

Eryn – 2

Jessica – 1

Mary – 1

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John, Suzie, James, Lauren, Isaiah, Violet, Anna, Samantha


Episode 9 Part 1: Everyone’s Coming to East St. Louis

“Last time on Total Drama World Tour: The contestants came one step closer to the big merge at long last, with a bit of a semi-merge that served as an homage to one of our previous season’s challenges: The paint war! “It was a war of the sexes once again, with the guys against the girls, battling it out over Loch Ness and the historic Urquhart Castle! They had helicopters, boats, Jeeps, anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, grenades, rocket-launchers, and so much more. "Although the evil redhead’s plan to destroy Matthew’s determination and cockiness was successful, he found himself having to re-encourage him so that the boys could win the challenge, with Drama King dealing the final blow to Perfectionist in a manner that would make Al Pacino proud. “At the Barf Bag ceremony, Cell Phone Girl’s antics finally got the better of her, and in a very split vote, she received just enough for her and her phone to get the boot. “We’ll be heading back into that dreaded 50-state country once again for this week’s challenge, and our first completely individual, post-merge challenge! Who will win? Who will be voted off this week? Find out, right here, right now, right away, on Total…Drama…World Tour!”

“I don’t know how you can be so quiet and dull over there, man!” Ethan called over to Matthew after moving his Rook across three spaces, taking Louis’s pawn. “You’ve been in here eight times! If I had been in here that many times, I’d never be bored!”

“You only say that because you’ve got me cornered again.” Louis muttered, quickly moving his Queen over in preparation to take Ethan’s Rook.

Matthew heard his new fellow occupants’ responses, but didn’t acknowledge them. He simply sat in the chair and stared out the window at the long expanse of trees and buildings below, all with a long, massive river winding between them.

Despite his faked annoyance, Ethan was grinning devilishly. His advantage over Louis in their latest game of Chess was the perfect disguise for what he was really satisfied about.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Yes, yes, YES! It worked even better than I could’ve hoped! Our team won the challenge last week, and apparently being back in first-class was enough to bring back Matthew’s painful memories, and sink him right back into his depression! This is PERFECT! Now, when we move into the REAL completely individual challenge, he’ll be dead weight that will skid out on burned tires, crash, and BURN!

Chef – I’ll admit, kid. I’m able to put my annoyance behind me to acknowledge that you have got to be the cleverest, dastardliest, evilest competitor we’ve ever had! I still can’t believe that you managed to pull off what you did back in Antarctica!

Ethan – I know, right? I didn’t think it would work. And after realizing that I was stuck on a team with him, I worried that either my encouragements wouldn’t work, or it would work so well that it would pull him out of his depression. But you see? Everything works out eventually.

End

Economy-class…

For the most part, the five girls sharing economy-class could only sit separately and reflect on their own thoughts (except for Eryn, who was sound asleep despite this being her first time in the filthy compartment).

For the first time since Antarctica, Rachael was contemplating the possibilities of what Matthew was about to say to her before she had been taken by the monster. She had forgotten all about it due to Violet’s shocking removal and the last challenge’s intensity, but this time in economy-class, reduced her to spending her time quiet and alone. Her best friend, Violet, was gone. Her only other former teammate down here was asleep. She didn’t really know Jessica or Nicole that well, and she didn’t think Mary was the kind of person to ask for help about this.

She sighed, wishing more than anything else that she knew what had happened to Matthew.

Nicole was also lost deep in thought, with the main object of her musings also being a boy, and a former teammate.

Since the season began, she had spent all her time in economy-class with Louis, drawing closer to him than to anyone else on her team, or even in the entire series up until this point. From all of their conversations on everyday topics, to him giving her his trench coat back in Tennessee, the memories just came flowing back, one at a time, making the loneliness all the more unbearable. The strange thing was, despite being rather beautiful and a cheerleader at school, she had never felt this way about a boy before. Never.

She sighed in frustration, cursing herself for never actually trying what she had wanted to try before, and waiting until it was too late, when they were now separated by class.

Jessica, like Rachael and Nicole, was also upset by being separated from her only remaining male teammate. Ethan had taken her under his wing all this time, up until now. Fortunately, she had made it. Just as she had hoped, it was now down to only her and Ethan. All the other members of Team Madison were gone. And now, the merge was upon them. Now Ethan would have to keep her and stand by her, as she was the only ally he had left at this point. But it was this thought that led her into her other fears. What if he had been working on alliances with others, such as Louis and Nicole? Or Matthew? What if he didn’t need her anymore? Would she be able to ask him these questions during the next challenge, or would she never get the chance?

She sighed to cover up her own nervousness and fear.

Eryn sighed in her sleep.

Mary sighed in frustration at all of the sighing going on around her, too tired to actually speak up.

“Alright, primates! We are approaching our next destination! And just to let you know now; yes, it is in America once again.”

Except for Eryn, who just woke up at the sound of Chef’s voice, all of the other girls perked up when they thought they heard a roar of frustration coming from up above them. It sounded faintly like Ethan.

“As I was saying, our next location will also be just a stone’s throw away from a location ya’ll may remember from earlier in the season. So head on down to the elimination area to await disembarking!”

When the final eight met up in the elimination area, Nicole moved over towards Louis rather quickly.

“Hey, Louis.”

“Hello, there.” Louis responded. “I hope you were doing alright in economy-class.” He said with a look of regret.

“Not as good as you were doing in first-class.” She responded with equal regret.

“I’m so sorry that I couldn’t invite you up to economy-class with us, but the other two occupants didn’t think it was such a good idea.

“Really?” Nicole asked.

“Well, one of them, anyway. The other was so quiet and distant that he didn’t respond at all. The other vehemently opposed it.”

Nicole was too stunned by the mention of such an act of kindness that she didn’t even glare at Ethan. She simply just looked at Louis. “Why, Louis…thanks for the thought. Just the fact that you asked about it…means a lot to me.”

Louis returned the smile. “Trust me: As soon as I can, I’ll ensure that you can join me and the others in first-class very soon.”

Nicole finally turned away, but only to hide her blushing.

Chef finally arrived, emerging from behind the curtain on the wooden stage nearby.

“Alright! We’re here! We are directly above our location, and it’s time for all of you to drop out…literally!”

The reactions, as expected, were quick, combined, and outraged.

“You can’t be serious!”

“We have to jump now?!”

“But it’s already dark out! What is it, like, 7:30?”

“No way!”

“Not happening!”

“SHUT UP! Now, it’s all part of the challenge. As I speak, we are flying over the adopted sibling of one of America’s most famous cities. Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, directly below us is East St. Louis, Illinois!”

“East St. Louis? Seriously?”

“Yep! Obviously not as big, famous, or successful as its big brother. A vast majority of East St. Louis has been rendered uninhabitable, empty, and/or ruined by crime, riots, and a massive fire in 1976. The whole place looks like it was evacuated or cleaned out by a zombie apocalypse. And, in the dead of night, it’s the perfect place for the next challenge. Now, as I said, you will all be parachuting out of her and into the abandoned areas of the city. Marco and Franco here…”

He gestured to the two burly interns, who each held four backpacks in their arms.

“…will be passing out your parachutes. Attached to each are a few handy-dandy devices. One is a tracker that will both allow you to see where other contestants are in relation to you, and to allow you to be seen by others. You can either turn it off and become invisible on the radar, but also remove your ability to see others, or you can leave it on and use it to your advantage. All eight of you are marked by red dots. No way to identify who’s who, you’ll just have to find out for yourself when, and if, you run into another person. There’s also a walkie-talkie for communicating with other contestants and myself. And, lastly, since we just can’t get enough of paintball-related physical comedy, you will each be given a state-of-the-art paintball gun, complete with a scope equipped with a red laser dot for maximum accuracy, and ten clips of thirty shots each, for 300 shots in total before you completely run out of ammo. “Your task is rather simple. Hidden somewhere in this abandoned wreck of a wannabe city is a briefcase, marked by a green dot. Inside is a timer, set to go off in 10 hours. Your task is to find it within that time limit and bring it back to the rendezvous point, which is specifically marked on your trackers by the yellow dot. Bring the case there, where Carl will be waiting in the helicopter, and you win Invincibility. Along the entire way, there are three other objects hidden throughout the area that are also marked by green dots. These three objects are additional advantages that can help you find the case and get around the area better. But, like with the red dots marking all of you, you have no way of knowing which green dot is which. “You can choose to team up with others and share Invincibility, or you can go solo. But the bottom line is that someone must bring that briefcase back to the rendezvous point before the timer is up, or else it’ll explode.”

“It’ll what now?” Jessica asked in fear.

“You heard me. Ten hours, and KABOOM! “Now, it’s time for ya’ll to start jumping out. We’ll let each of you go one at a time, with lengthy intervals between each jump, so that you’ll all be spread out over a considerable distance throughout the city. Regardless of whether or not you want to team up, you must jump out separately. “Ya’ll’ve got 30 seconds to strap on your parachutes, and I’ll start pushing you out one-by-one as we circle over the area.”

Without questioning, the eight teens began to strap their respective parachutes on, slipping their arms through the straps and bringing the two buckles around the front to snap them together.

In the brief amount of time they had while Chef waited impatiently, several obvious alliances were quickly formed.

“Alright, so we’re still good to take this one together, right?” Jessica asked Ethan, trying to disguise the nervousness in her voice.

“Yeah, sure. If we can find each other. Once we do, just do as I say, and we’ll be alright.”

“OK.”

“But until we find each other, here’s what I want you to do…” He then grabbed her shoulder and leaned in close, whispering the next phase of his plan into her ear.

And, on the other side of the group…

“Hey, uh, Louis?”

“Yes?”

“You wouldn’t mind, um, teaming up?”

“Of course not, Nicole. And, like I promised; if we win, you can share first-class with me.”

“Oh, thank you so much!”

“Not a problem at all.” He smiled in response.

“Alright, time to get going!”

Then, in the blink of an eye, Chef threw open the nearby door and grabbed the nearest contestant: Matthew.

The former season winner, naturally, screamed as he fell the entire way down.

Chef clapped his hands together several times, then glanced impatiently at his watch, waiting for 30 seconds before grabbing Rachael and throwing her out, with yet another scream. He repeated this process until all eight teens were gone. He shut the door, laughing with sick satisfaction.

Mary…

Mary, being the last one thrown out by Chef, quickly pulled the two cords one at a time, sending the parachute flying out and breaking her fall as she drifted down to the ground. As soon as Mary reached the ground, she quickly removed the parachute and knelt down as she unclipped the three devices. She clipped the walkie-talkie to her belt, placed nine of the clips for the gun in her pockets, sliding the tenth into the gun, then slid the gun around her arm by its strap, and took the tracking device in her hands.

She stood up, switching the device on. Almost immediately, the red light on top began blinking on and off. In the center of the screen was the red dot marking her location. All around the red dot were green lines forming shapes such as squares and rectangles, representing a bird’s eye view of the buildings around her. She looked up, then back down at the device, walking down the empty street ahead of her. She saw the dot slowly moving among the green lines.

Just then, a voice crackled over all the walkie-talkies, including hers.

“Assuming that all of you have now reached the ground, there’s a few more things that I need to go over. If you come within radar range of the briefcase but cannot see the green dot on your screen, your device will start beeping. The beeps will be closer together and faster as you draw closer. The same thing goes for the rendezvous, only your device will vibrate as you draw closer, the vibration getting harder as you draw closer. But other than that, you are on your own now.”

Mary switched off the walkie-talkie before continuing on. She was going to be handling this one entirely on her own. No alliances, no teammates, nothing.

Louis…

“Alright, so I’ve just got to either find the briefcase, or Nicole, or both.” He said to himself, picking up the devices and the weapon before continuing on.

Lavatory Confessional

Louis – This is my first time being in a completely individual challenge, so I might as well explain: Whenever I’m alone and deep in thought, I tend to talk to myself as if there was someone else listening. It soothes me and allows me to calmly sort through my thoughts.

End

“OK, so where to first?”

He picked up the device and looked at the screen. The red dot marking himself was the only thing around, but when he looked a little more closely at the edge of the top right corner of the screen, he thought he saw a small sliver of red. Quickly running forward and to his right, he saw more of a red blip come into view. Sure enough, it was another red dot.

“OK, now, hopefully, that’s Nicole.”

He moved alongside a long line of buildings to his right, moving swiftly but cautiously in case it wasn’t who he thought it was. The red dot on his screen moved painfully slow, while the other dot seemed to be moving away from him.

“Good. At least I can get a good look at them from behind and see who it is without them seeing me.”

He turned a corner on his right and headed down another street, flanking the other dot without gaining any ground on it. He soon reached another street and made a left, turning to follow the dot from directly behind.

He finally lifted his head and looked straight ahead, and thought he saw a figure in the distance. He glanced around until his eyes settled on an alleyway to his left. He ducked inside so that he wouldn’t be seen, and glanced down at his tracking device.

The red dot was suddenly gone.

“Huh?”

He poked his head around the wall and looked down the street again.

The distant figure was now gone.

“They must’ve turned off their device.”

Checking the clip in his paintball gun, Louis held it at the ready in one hand as he edged out from the alleyway and crept along the wall, constantly glancing all around and taking note of his surroundings.

He thought he saw a flicker of movement in a fourth-story window across the street from him, and cautiously aimed his gun.

But it was just a torn fragment of curtain, blowing lightly in the wind.

He shook his head and continued on, listening intently as he continued scanning the area. The fact that it was already night out and just getting darker certainly didn’t help to calm him down.

He continued on awkwardly along the street, unaware that the person he was looking for was already looking at him, from approximately 30 feet up.

The figure leaned out the window, gun at the ready and keeping a close eye on him through the scope of the gun. The red laser dot was situated directly on the back of his head, but it made no difference. The plan was not to attack other contestants, but to simply follow them. Looking back now, it truly was an ingenuous plan. Switching off their own device to render themself invisible on the radar, and using someone else’s radar signal to draw closer to other players and advantages without detection.

The figure grinned as they moved through the building, mirroring Louis’s movements and direction.

Flawless.

Eryn…

The crazy blonde was already prancing around in a half-crouched position, throwing herself around corners with her gun ready as if there was going to be someone around it.

“The hunter moves silently through the 21st century jungle, constantly aware of all her surroundings.” She narrated in a deep voice that had hints of a fake Australian accent in it. “Fully aware of the fact that a predator or prey could be around any corner, or behind her, or above her, or below her…” As she rattled off the list of directions, she aimed her gun up each one, first next to her, then behind her, then above her, then below her at her feet.

“Which one will emerge, and which will remain hidden in the shadows, God only knows…”

As she continued her dramatic narration, she was completely unaware of a figure that was just beside her, separated by the old brick wall of the building to her right, following her through the interior of the building. The partner of the one who was following Louis was using the same strategy, though trying their hardest not to trip on any holes in the floor or loose furniture as they continued to stalk the unsuspecting contestant.

Matthew…

Matthew looked up and down the street as he made a left turn, the tracking device indicating that there was nothing – absolutely nothing – within range.

“Great.”

Of course, in the back of his mind, he didn’t care how the challenge turned out. Even after his boost of determination last week, that fire had now burned completely out. He was back to his depression mode, and this time, there was absolutely nobody around to comfort him. Nobody around for him to tell his story to.

Then, suddenly, he was aware of a presence behind him. He couldn’t hear it, and nothing appeared on his screen, but he could just feel someone behind him.

He turned around rather slowly, not reacting as if it was a threat.

Sure enough, there stood Rachael.

“Hey, Matthew.”

“Hey.” He muttered.

“Well, I kinda doubt that there’s any monsters waiting to snatch us up here.”

“Oh, there’s not. I know for a fact which John Carpenter movie he’s ripping off for this one, and it’s not a monster movie.”

Rachael half-heartedly chuckled. “OK, so do you want to tell me your story now? It’s all I’ve been thinking about since last week. I think it’s time you finally told someone else other than an empty hallway.”

“O…OK.”

Ding-ding!

They both looked up and around them.

“Seriously?” Matthew asked, half in annoyance and half in anger. “I mean, seriously?”

A voice crackled over their walkie-talkies.

“I’ll make it so that this is a solo song for just you and you alone, boy. No one else will hear it except for your friend here. And it’ll at least make this story entertaining. So get on with it!”

Musical Number – My Story

Matthew: My dear friend, oh Rachael
You know I was a gentle man
My dignity made me oh so proud

My dear friend, oh Rachael
You know I was so much better than
The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd

But after the show’s end
Only two short years ago
I returned to my hometown and school

I tried hard to defend
My faith and my fortune although
The kids back home were suddenly so cruel

My story
My story
The story I must tell

How my life
And glory
Turned into a living hell

They asked for some
Of my grand prize

And then when I said no
They began to terrorize

They mocked and jeered
For those two years

And then fulfilled all of my deepest darkest fears

The blows and the dark threats
Put me under this deep dark spell
A desire to win the prize again

I fell into a deep debt
Determined to escape from Hell
To redeem my life and earn back all my friends

Speaking Interval with Instrumental music

Rachael: “My…My God. They turned on you because you wouldn’t share your prize money?”

Matthew: “That, among other reasons.”

Random Voice in Matthew’s Head: “Hey! It’s the Christian cheapskate!”

Rachael: “But…but everyone? Even your closest friends?”

Matthew: “My friends…”

“You like what we did to your car, Matt? Looks like you’re gonna have to spend some of your precious money just a little more!”

“…My classmates…”

“Oh, did you ‘lose’ all five of your textbooks? Those things cost about $80 bucks apiece, but I’m sure you can afford it now.”

“…the jerks down the hall…”

“Why’d you have to turn down my girlfriend when she asked for some money, huh?”

“…everyone in school wanted some money. I kept telling them that I couldn’t do it, not for anybody.”

“Can your God prevent THIS?”

“They turned on me. They started insulting me, insulting my family, insulting my religion, they started trashing my car in the school parking lot, they stole things out of my backpack, they beat me regularly. You name it, they did it.”

“You should’a just given us some of the money. Then maybe your arm wouldn’t be in a cast. I’m sure that cost a lot more than we were asking for.”

Rachael: “Oh, Matt. I’m…I’m so sorry.”

Matthew: “There was no one left to turn to. No matter who I tried, nobody would hear me out. My parents and other adults in my life were little help. They just told me to ignore it. They just said that it would go away if I ignored it. But for two straight years, long after the money was put away, they still just wouldn’t let up. My parents couldn’t pull me out of the school, no matter how much I asked. The only feeling I ever felt after that was anger. Pure and simple anger. I channeled my anger through a determination to earn back my popularity. I prayed so hard that there would be another season of Total Drama, and that I would return so that I could win an even larger amount of money. Then I would have enough to share and make them respect me once and for all. I never thought it would happen, but when it did, I realized that my goal was in sight. I wanted nothing more than to win, and nothing and nobody would stand in my way.”

Returns to Musical Number

Matthew: My story
Sad story
My efforts were for naught

My drive for
Pure glory
Was far worse than I thought

Now I don’t want to win
Now I fully give in

After all I’ve done, I’d
Ra…ther…DIE!

End Musical Number

Rachael and Matthew were left staring at each other, neither one wishing to speak due to how emotionally drained they both were.

“Matt…I don’t know what to say.”

“That’s OK. I do. I’m done.”

“You’re done?”

“I’m not even going to try in this challenge. I’m not outright quitting. That would make it worse. But I’m just going to sit back, relax, and wait for the challenge to end. Either in 10 hours, someone will win or that bomb will go off. But either way, it’ll end with me vulnerable at elimination tonight.”

He then turned his own gun around and held out the handle to Rachael.

“Take it. You need it more than me.”

“Matt…”

“Please. You’re my last true friend left in this game. There’s no one else I’d rather help out. And here…”

Holding the gun under one arm, he slipped off his parachute pack.

“You can take this. I severed the cords connecting the parachute itself to the pack, and all of the magazines for my gun are in here. I’ll keep my walkie-talkie and tracking device, though the latter will be off so that no one can run into me. The walkie-talkie will let me know when the challenge is over.”

Rachael looked at the outstretched pack, then back at Matthew. The look in his eyes eliminated any desire she had to reject his offer. With a hint of regret and sadness in her own eyes, she took his pack, slipped all of her own magazines into it, then put it on.

“Thanks, buddy.”

After a moment, she held out her arms and gestured for a hug, waiting for him to accept it rather than herself force it on him.

He looked at her, paused for a long moment, then slowly approached and embraced his friend.

“Thanks, Rachael. For everything.”

“Take care of yourself out here, buddy.”

“I will.”

After a few more seconds, they finally separated. Rachael stepped back, then slowly turned and started to head down the street.

By the time she looked behind her again, Matthew was gone. She looked at her tracking device.

Her own red dot was the only thing on the screen.

Episode 9 Part 2: Escape from East St. Louis

Nicole looked down at the tracking device again, and saw a green dot above and to the left of her own red dot. A single block of green lines representing the massive apartment building ahead of her presented the one obstacle between her and the object. There were no beeps yet, but she was still considerably far away.

Switching out the tracking device with the gun, she started running down the street, first turning left, then right again until she came around to the front of the massive building. The red brick masonry was worn away, cracks ran all up and down the walls with moss growing out of some, and most of the red had turned to a sickly gray. There was a single door perched at the top of a small set of stairs.

She looked at the device one more time to confirm that the green dot was inside. It was directly ahead of her, but a little bit to the left. She continued along until she came to a large, rusty, white garage door. Now she was directly aligned with the object.

Still not a single beep.

OK, so it’s clearly not the case. She thought with disappointment. But it’s still an advantage. Whatever it is can’t hurt…

She looked all up and down the length of the door, wondering if she could open it herself or if she’d have to go inside through the front door and around to the garage inside.

She knelt down and grabbed the handle firmly with both hands, pulling up as hard as she could. It creaked and groaned under her grip, and she thought she saw it start to budge and lift up, but before she could make any more progress, she had to let go with a gasp.

She straightened up, pressing both hands against her back and cracking it after being in that uncomfortable position.

She took a few quick breaths, then knelt down, grabbed the handle, and lifted up again, using her weight to pull up on the handle. The door slid a little further in its frame, and she could clearly see a space forming between the door and the ground.

Just then, she heard footsteps.

With a yelp, she released the handle, pulled out her gun, spun around, and leapt to her feet all in one movement.

A startled Louis held his hands up in front of her.

“Whoa, take it easy there. I was just about to ask if you needed any help.”

“Oh.” Nicole blushed again, but didn’t try to hide it this time since it was due to embarrassment. “Sorry.”

She slipped the gun back around her shoulder, then gestured to the garage door.

“There’s an advantage on the other side of this door. It’s not the case, but I figured I might as well find out…”

“I was thinking the same thing. I followed the green dot, then saw yours intercept the dot when I was halfway to it. I had hoped it wasn’t anyone else. Now let’s get this door, shall we?”

He stepped over to the handle and knelt down. Nicole knelt down next to him and placed both hands on it. He did the same, and Nicole paused for only a moment when one of his hands lightly touched hers.

“Ready? And heave!”

They both pulled up with all their combined strength, groaning as the door creaked and shifted in its frame, but lifted up slowly but surely.

“Keep going! It’s working!” She called out excitedly.

Soon enough, the door was up above their heads. The taller Louis gave a final shove with the palms of his hands and threw it up into its frame, locking it in place and allowing them to enter the garage directly.

What sat in front of them was quite a sight to behold.

“Oh…My…”

“God.” Nicole finished.

It was an old, early 80’s, white Cadillac. It had a rather normal, but fancy appearance – right down to a gilded bird figure on the front of the hood – except for three obviously out-of-place features.

Chandeliers.

Two chandeliers, each welded onto metal rods on each of the front corners of the hood. The third feature was a rather large disco ball hanging from the rearview mirror.

“You have GOT to be kidding.” Louis stated with shock. “Are you SERIOUS?”

“I know, right?” Nicole agreed. “This isn’t just ridiculous in its own right, but its unoriginal!”

Just then, a voice burst over the walkie-talkies.

“And two VERY ungrateful people have just found one of the advantages! Repeat, one of the advantages has just been discovered by Louis and Nicole. Let’s just say that they may be able to get around a lot quicker and easier…and in style.”

“Seriously, Chef?!” Louis spat into his walkie-talkie. “Isaac Hayes is rolling in his grave right now!”

“Either take advantage of your discovery, or leave it for someone else to use.”

Then the voice crackled out.

With a sigh of frustration and annoyance, Louis put the walkie-talkie back on his belt. “Well, I guess we should get in. I’ll drive.”

With a brief hesitation, Nicole approached and opened the passenger’s side door, slipping onto one of the white seats as Louis slid into the other, both pulling their doors shut.

The keys were already in the ignition. As Louis turned them and started the engine, they suddenly felt the rear end of the car start to lift up on its modified suspender system with a mechanical whirring.

“Huh? What?” Nicole looked behind them.

“And that’s the icing on the plagiarism cake.” Louis muttered.

And so, with the two occupants leaning forward slightly due to the slant from behind, the car pulled out of the garage and stopped for a moment in the middle of the street.

“Which way should we go?” Louis asked.

“Well, I came from down there…” Nicole pointed to the left.

“And I came from down that street.” Louis said as he pointed to the street directly ahead and slightly to the right of them. “So I guess we should go this way.”

And with that, they turned right and started down the new, unexplored area of the city…

…Unaware that, in their brief pause to decide the direction, their unseen pursuer had slipped into their trunk and was now a stowaway.

Rachael…

Rachael was running down the street as fast as she could, determined to follow the three dots that were moving away from her in unison farther above her and to the right. But no matter how fast she ran, the single green dot and two red dots were too fast, clearly moving in some sort of vehicle.

“Nuts.” She muttered to herself, lowering the device and looking around at the desolate buildings around her.

She sighed, debating whether or not she should continue trying to follow the three or if she should go off on her own way.

Finally making a decision, she continued on while hanging more to the left, turning down between yet another long row of empty buildings.

As she walked along at a smooth pace, her racing thoughts eventually died down and were replaced with the one she was trying to forget.

Matthew.

His shocking and rather sad story had definitely struck a chord with her, and she now felt nothing but remorse and sorrow for her friend, as well as regret for the few ill thoughts she had of him prior to his revelation. She couldn’t stop thinking about the last things he had said to her, how the former season winner, the one who had been more hell-bent than anyone else to win this game, was now suddenly giving up.

It had all happened so fast. She just didn’t know what to think anymore.

She looked down at her screen again…

…and was startled to see another red dot suddenly behind her and to her left, just within the green lines of the building next to her.

She put the device back on her belt and swung around, taking up both guns in each hand. She faced the direction that the dot had been, and was looking through one of the many broken windows into the pitch-blackness of the building’s interior. She leaned to one side to see if that was just the interior or a dark figure, and saw no movement.

She slowly approached at an angle, guns at the ready.

Just then, she thought she saw a flicker of movement in the window.

Panicked and frightened, she unleashed a barrage of shots with a battle cry of fear. The shots mostly went through the window, though some splattered bright colors on the dull, broken glass and the concrete around it.

She finally stopped shooting and watched, waiting for more movement. She considered looking at her tracking device, but didn’t want to leave herself distracted and vulnerable.

She then thought she heard the sound of a brief clunk inside the building, as if something had fallen over…or been knocked over.

She was now facing the large set of double doors in front of the building, one hanging halfway off its hinges with several holes in the rotted old wood.

She was breathing quickly, trying to keep her composure as her mind raced again.

After a few long minutes of no movement, she slowly approached the doors, guns held up at all times.

Just as she stood in front of the doors, they both blew apart and flew off their hinges, a roar sounding as the figure leapt through them and onto Rachael. She was knocked backward and flew to the ground, both guns flying out of her hands.

The figure quickly picked her up and spun her around so that she couldn’t see who it was, pinning her arms behind her back.

Then she heard a strange, ominous, “Shhhh.”

She then felt a strange pressure on her right shoulder, followed by a quick and sharp squeeze.

Then blackness.

“That’s a nice trick that Franco taught me.” Eryn commented as she clapped her hands together. “Now, what do we have here?”

She looked first to her right, then her left.

“Oooooh, my, my, my. You have a lot of guns, don’t ya?”

She stooped over and picked up both guns, then lifted the pack off of Rachael’s back and peeked inside.

“OOOOOOOH, goody! All these fresh, unused clips! This’ll be perfect!”

Putting on the pack herself and sliding one gun over each shoulder, she held her own gun in one hand, and reached down with the other to switch off Rachael’s device.

“So you won’t mislead anybody else.”

She then grabbed Rachael by her shoulders and dragged her over to the side of the building she had burst out of, placing her by the ruined doors.

“Sorry to do this to you, but you’re not my teammate anymore. And once it’s the merge, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Sorry, hon.”

With a light tap on Rachael’s cheek, Eryn straightened up, turned, and started down the street in the same direction Rachael had been going.

And still completely unaware that the entire incident had been witnessed, and said witness was still following her.

Mary…

Mary turned around a corner, racing as fast as she could with total excitement.

The green dot was directly ahead, just around the corner of this old building.

She couldn’t believe her luck, considering that one of the green dots had already been reached by Louis and Nicole. The lack of beeping signified that this was obviously not the case, but an advantage nonetheless.

She rounded the corner and found a small carport, the rusted metal ceiling suspended by a pole at each corner. Underneath the carport was the familiar white golf cart, with the long trailer and rows of seats attached behind it. The roof of the trailer, however, had noticeably been removed.

“Alright. Better than nothing, I guess.”

She slowly approached the golf cart, casually glancing back down at her screen.

She froze.

A red dot had just appeared, on the top left corner of the screen, and closing in on her position.

Thinking fast, Mary switched off her device, then crawled underneath the golf cart.

The blonde perked up at the sight of the green dot, but proceeded cautiously when she saw the red dot that had been right next to it suddenly vanish.

“The hunter is closing in on a key advantage, but must beware of the potential predator lurking around near it. As a lion stalks a gazelle’s water hole, my opponent is stalking my advantage.”

Within about half an hour, she reached the green dot, with her own gun at the ready and the other two still slung around her shoulders. She didn’t take time to inspect the golf cart, and simply spun around with her gun aiming wildly. She leaned over and inspected the many rows of seats in the trailer, then walked all the way around the cart and trailer, standing on her tiptoes to look at the roof of the cart.

Nothing.

“Hmph. I suppose the predator is really just a prey, which ran off in fear and cowardice at the very scent of my approach.”

Eryn then slid into the golf cart’s seat, reaching over to turn the keys and start the ignition.

In that brief moment, the click of the key turning covered up the clicking of the paintball gun that was pressed against the back of her head.

She never even saw it coming, and blacked out instantly.

Mary lowered the paintball gun as Eryn slumped over, her head falling against the steering wheel, and the large, pink splatter covering the back of her head and staining her blonde hair.

“The hunter should’ve been more aware of her surroundings.” She muttered.

She grabbed Eryn’s unconscious form and lifted her out of the cart, setting her down against one of the carport’s support beams.

“And where did you get all these guns?” She asked mockingly. “You must’ve taken out at least two others to get these…so I guess only five remain.”

She slipped the three guns under her arms. She then slipped the pack full of clips around one arm. She lightly tapped Eryn’s cheek with the tip of her own gun’s barrel.

“Sorry, psycho. You’re not winning today.”

And with that, Mary climbed into the already-started golf cart, setting the three newly-acquired guns and the pack of ammo on the seat next to her and the floor in front of the passenger’s seat. She pressed her foot against the gas pedal, pulling out from underneath the car port and turning down the street, the trailer dragging behind her.

However, just as a germ may jump from one person to another, the one who had been pursuing Eryn was now tailing Mary, hanging on to the very back of the trailer and dragging along as she moved down the street.

Jessica did her best to keep quiet, her gun slung around her shoulder, and her walkie-talkie and switched-off tracking device clipped to her belt. She wanted to pull herself in and hide as quietly and quickly as possible.

As she felt the cart making another turn, she put all her effort into it and heaved herself up and over the edge, tumbling behind the nearest row of seats and quickly taking a crouched position. She slowly peeked out from around the seat and looked at Mary.

She was still facing ahead, focusing on the road ahead of her.

Excellent. Now I just need to wait until she finds the case, or another advantage, or another person…or whatever.

Relaxing and sitting down, her back up against the wall of the trailer, she looked up at the peaceful night’s sky above her, the tops of buildings passing by on both sides.

Louis and Nicole…

The newly-acquired Cadillac slowly crept to a stop next to the ominous wooden building looming above them. The fact that it was made out of wood – albeit aged, rotting wood – was the one thing that distinguished it from the other bland, dark buildings surrounding them.

Nicole looked down at the tracking device’s screen. The green dot was to their left, inside the building.

“Yep. It’s in there. And no beeping, so this has to be the final advantage.”

“Should I wait here?”

Louis paused, looking up at the building, then back at Nicole.

“Sort of. Wait inside the doorway, so that you can keep an eye on both me and the car.”

“OK.”

Checking both of their guns, they exited the car and headed up to the building. They ascended the four wooden steps, each one creaking and groaning under their weight, until Louis reached the top. He nudged the wooden door, and it swung open without resistance.

“Alright, wait here.”

He then slipped inside. He first moved to the left, past a massive staircase leading up to the second floor and a landing directly above him. The room he entered was fairly bare, with a rotting, broken-down piano against the opposite wall, and a chandelier with several missing crystals above him. He moved through the room, taking note of the few windows that passed by him on the opposite wall. He moved to the far corner, where another doorway awaited him.

The tracking device said he was getting closer.

He went through the next doorway, and found himself in a kitchen. There was a rusted refrigerator on the far side, and between him and the fridge was an oven, a stove, a sink, and several cupboards.

According to the screen, the green dot was somewhere in this room.

Moving rather frantically, he started opening the cupboard doors one-by-one. He had to jump back as one came off its hinges entirely and clattered to his feet. He kicked it aside and moved on. He opened the stove, then the oven, and saw nothing. Then he came to the refrigerator and swung the rusty door open after a brief tug.

There, on one of the racks, was a handheld tape recording unit that looked like it was from the early 90’s or late 80’s. He quickly reached in and grabbed it. He pressed the “Open” button, and the lid popped open to reveal a tape that was already inside.

“Nicole!” Louis shouted as he turned and ran out of the kitchen.

Nicole, hearing her name, met Louis at the far end of the first room, between the chandelier and the entrance to the kitchen.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a tape-recorder. I found it in the refrigerator, which, last time I checked, is not the place for such a device. There’s already a tape in here, so let’s listen.”

Louis held the device up between his head and Nicole’s, pressing the “Play” button.

“Alright, you lucky contestants.” The familiar, gruff voice crackled over the old device. “Congratulations on finding this advantage. It may be smaller than the other advantages, and seemingly not as useful. But this here tape is, in fact, the best advantage in the entire challenge: Directions from this here building to the location of the case you are seeking.”

Louis’s eyes lit up. “Jackpot.”

“First, exit this building and turn left. Head down that street past the first two four-way intersections. At the third intersection, turn left. Head down to the next intersection and pass it. At the second intersection, turn right. Head down that street until you, once again, reach the third intersection. Make another left. At one of the corners of the next intersection you come to will be the building containing the case. From there, your tracking device should help you find the case. Once you have the case, assume the same direction from which you came when you arrived at the intersection, and turn right. Follow that street down to the rendezvous point. Good luck, and hurry up! That case might not have much longer.”

“Did you, like, memorize that or something?” Nicole asked with a chuckle.

“A bit, but we can rewind it and play it again.” He reassured her. “Now let’s get back to the car.”

Just as they turned and started towards the main entrance, a figure suddenly appeared around the corner, gun trained on them.

“Not so fast.”

Both Louis and Nicole reacted, raising their guns as Louis slipped the tape recorder into his trench coat pocket.

The figure barely stepped into the light of the nearest window, revealing itself as the familiar redhead.

“I want that tape.”

“Sorry. But we found it. You’re just going to have to accept defeat and try following us.”

“Oh, no. You see, I have been following you. I have been right under your noses this entire time. You carried me right to this location, in the trunk of that disgusting car you took.”

“Seriously?” Nicole asked with disbelief.

“Seriously.”

“I knew that you were a dangerous player, my friend.” Louis commented. “I have honestly been expecting this moment for quite some time.”

“With good reason. But now comes the time where you, and you, and the rest of the remaining players, find out who the real boss of this game is.”

“Darn right about THAT!” A voice called.

All three turned suddenly when a figure burst through the nearest window, sending glass shards and wood fragments from the one beam that had been placed across it flying across the room. She rolled across the floor and leapt to her feet once she was upright, with not just one, but two guns, one aiming at Ethan and the other at her two former teammates.

“I’ll be taking that tape, and that obviously much faster car out there.” Mary declared.

“Get real, sister. You’re old news. None of your perfectionist and over-achieving efforts can match my skill.” Ethan shot back.

“I have more experience than you at this game. After all, I have three seasons under my belt to your measly one. Not even one. Half of one. That’s how much better I am than you. And that goes for you too, Louis. And Nicole, so sorry, but I have just one more season to boast about than you. I am, by far, the best player in this room, so it’s time for me to claim my rightful place at long last.”

“Sorry, but you are both outnumbered.” Louis informed them. “Nicole and I are teamed up, and I seriously doubt that the two of you will be willing to take sides, if even against us. I already have the tape, and we already have the car. So we hold all the cards in this situation.”

“Not anymore!” Another voice sounded.

All four of them turned to face the main doorway, where Jessica slipped in with her own two guns, first trained on Mary, then with one trained on Mary and one trained on Louis and Nicole.

“Eryn’s failure to observe her surroundings led to her downfall, but your making the same mistake will lead to yours.” Jessica informed Mary. “I held onto the back of the trailer as you pulled out, since I had been silently following Eryn the entire time. I watched the whole thing.”

“You actually followed her without tripping or making some other kind of cover-blowing noise?” Ethan asked, surprised. “I’m impressed.”

“Same.” Mary agreed. “But it was all for nothing. I’m not the only problem you have here. You’ve also got those two to deal with.”

“It’s all a matter of who takes the first shot.” Louis stated.

Jessica looked at Louis and Nicole. “We’ll just see about tha-AAT!”

As Jessica took another step forward, she tripped on a loose floorboard and fell forward, instinctively pulling both triggers and unleashing a barrage of paintballs on Louis and Nicole. While Nicole collapsed to the floor, Louis managed to fire back. Mary took full advantage of the distraction and started shooting Ethan, who stumbled backward as he tried to return fire.

Mary, being the only one still completely untouched and still on her feet, dashed across the room to Louis and Nicole. Nicole, lying on her stomach, glanced up and took a quick aim, opening fire as Mary closed in on her. The shots pelted her lower stomach, and Mary flew right over Louis and Nicole, flying into the kitchen behind them.

Ethan scrambled to his feet and took aim at Nicole, unleashing several shots that pelted her head and back as she ducked for cover. Louis, beside her, was crouched and flanking Ethan, firing back with his own gun.

Ethan stopped and backtracked, the paintballs splattering the rotted old wall beside him. He dashed back around the corner into the main entrance area, barely avoiding Louis’s shots.

Meanwhile, Jessica, recovering from her trip, lifted both guns and fired at Louis’s feet, knocking them both out from under him and sending him crashing back down to the floor.

Ethan heard Louis’s grunt and poked his head around the corner. He saw both Louis and Nicole, lying on the floor next to each other but clearly not giving up. He glanced around the room to look for some sort of distraction, and his eyes eventually settled on the chandelier.

The metaphorical light bulb went off over his head, and he quickly raised the gun and started firing at the single cable that held the chandelier in place, as well as the portion of the ceiling that it was bolted to. The paint completely splattered the old wood and rusted metal plate, which was already clearly weak enough on its own, but started buckling even more under the blows.

Just as Louis started to crawl to his feet, the metal plate finally broke free, and the chandelier came crashing down about two feet in front of Louis. The sudden impact and shower of glass flying in his direction startled him, and he quickly raised both arms to cover his face, not looking ahead at the room around him.

Ethan took full advantage and dashed around the corner, his gun blazing. The shots pelted Louis’s torso, arms, and hands. As his arms flailed wildly and left his face exposed, Ethan fired again and dealt some crucial blows. The drama king stumbled backward and slammed against the wall, slowly sliding down to the floor in a daze. Ethan ran around the chandelier and up to him, digging into the trench coat pocket and yanking out the tape recorder.

He then suddenly felt several painful stings on his right foot and ankle.

Ethan swung to his side and fired without aiming, his shots pelting Nicole as she shot at him, knocking her back down.

Ethan turned and limped back across the room to Jessica.

“Alright, I’ve got the tape! Get up and let’s get out of here!”

He knelt down on his one good foot and grabbed Jessica’s arm, yanking her up and helping her out of the room. They made it around the corner just as more shots rang out from behind them.

Exiting out the old door and down the stairs, Ethan ran up to the driver’s side while Jessica went around to the passenger’s side.

“I’ll drive! I hope you can at least be a better shot while we’re moving.”

“Yeah, sure.” She replied as she closed her door.

Fumbling to press the “Rewind” button on the device, Ethan quickly started the car up, glancing awkwardly at Jessica as the car rose up on its suspenders, then shook it off and hit the gas.

Just as the car passed the first intersection, Louis and Nicole came limping out of the building, watching helplessly as the car drove away.

“Confound it!” Louis cursed. He glanced back at the golf cart, realizing that it was their only chance. He turned back to Nicole. “Alright, get in.”

“What? But we’ll never catch them!”

“We don’t necessarily need to. It’s not over yet. That case is still out there.”

“But…but all those directions…”

“Like I said, I memorized quite a bit of it.”

“You said ‘a bit.’”

“Ah, but ‘a bit’ can have many different definitions.” He informed her reassuringly as he climbed into the golf cart. “Besides, memorization is a mandatory requirement for a man of theater such as myself. From scripts to monologues, I’ve come to develop quite a memorization ability.”

“Oh…OK. I just hope you know what you’re doing.” She said as she slipped into the passenger’s seat.

The golf cart took off just as Mary came limping out of the building.

“NOOOOOOOOO!” She roared at them, shaking her fist as they left her behind in a cloud of dust.

The tape had led them directly to a rather large four-way intersection, with the tracking device indicating that the case – signified by the green dot and the now-constant beeping of both their devices – was inside a café on the northwestern corner. Both left the car outside and entered the ruined café, with its chairs knocked over, table objects scattered across the floor, and the walls peeling and rotting.

“Anything yet?” Ethan called.

“No. No case, anyway.”

“Argh! How long have we been searching?”

“I don’t know…maybe 40 minutes?”

“And it took us fairly long to get here as it is! Darn it, how much longer can that case have? I don’t want to be in here if it suddenly goes off!”

“Just keep looking. We’re nearly on top of the green dot, and that beeping is faster than ever!”

“But we’ve looked under every table, behind the counter, in the kitchen, inside every pantry, cupboard, you name it! It’s not in here!”

“But it has to be…”

Jessica stopped, looking at her tracking device. Her own red dot was perfectly aligned with the green dot, signifying that she was right over it…

…or it was right over her.

Jessica slowly craned her head up and stared at the bowl-like light fixture above her.

In her own mind, that light fixture was lighting up over her head at that moment.

“That light fixture!”

“Huh?” Ethan called from behind the counter.

Jessica looked at Ethan while pointing excitedly straight up. “That light fixture! My device says I’m directly aligned with the case, and that light seems big enough to hold a case!”

Ethan pulled himself up onto the countertop and stood up, looking over at the light fixture that he was now much more level with.

Sure enough, he saw the silver corner of the case sticking up out of it.

“I’ll be darned. It IS in there.” He looked down at his grinning teammate. “Nice work, Jessica.”

“Thanks. Now come down here and give me a boost.”

“Seriously?”

“Hey, would you rather have me give you a boost?”

“Point taken.” Ethan agreed as he came down off the counter and walked over to her.

“OK, now kneel down and put your hands together.”

“Ugh. Let’s just get this over with.”

He knelt down, interlocking his fingers to allow Jessica to step there. She placed one foot in his hands and put both of her hands on his shoulders.

“OK, now up!”

Ethan straightened up as much as he could, grunting as he lifted up his ally so that she was just barely high enough to reach the light fixture.

“A little higher!” She called.

“I’m…trying!” He called, his face pressed up against her leg.

Jessica reached over into the light fixture, her fingers grasping at the protruding corner of the case. She managed to grab it and slid it over to herself. She reached in further with her other hand and felt around until she found the handle at last. Gripping it tightly, she pulled back.

“OK, I’ve got it!”

“Dah!” Ethan called out as he gave in, stumbling backwards and crashing to the ground.

“Whoa!” Jessica called out as she tumbled out of the air. She braced for the hard impact against the dirty floor, but her landing was actually relatively soft…since something else had broken it.

“Ugh…” Ethan groaned from underneath Jessica.

Straightening up slightly, Jessica couldn’t help but chuckle and shake her head as she looked down at Ethan below her.

“We’ve got to stop ending up on top of each other like this.” She joked.

“Let’s just get out of here.” He muttered.

Jessica, failing to disguise her grin, climbed off of him and held out a single hand. He took it, and she pulled him up to his feet.

“Thanks. Now let’s get to the car. It’s already facing the direction the tape was talking about, so we just need to go straight.”

Ethan reached the driver’s side while Jessica was still walking around to the passenger’s side. The tracking device still showed only their own two red dots and two green dots within range.

Just as Jessica reached the car door, she thought she heard something approaching. She turned to her left…

…and was blindsided by a barrage of paintballs as the golf cart and trailer came speeding up.

“PAYBACK TIME!” Nicole yelled as the vehicle passed directly alongside the car.

Jessica, stunned by the shots, slumped against the side of the Cadillac, the case still in her hands…

…then, just as the trailer passed right by her, Nicole leaned out and swiped the case right out of her hands.

“Louis! I got it! I GOT IT!” She declared victoriously.

“Excellent! Now onward to victory!” He cheered back.

“WHAT?! NO!!!” Ethan shouted.

But the golf cart and trailer were already speeding down the street.

“BLARGH! JESSICA, GET IN! NOW!” He roared as he yanked open the driver’s side door and jumped in.

“Ugh…” she groaned in pain and shock.

“JESSICA! IN!”

One hand on her forehead, she fumbled around with the other hand until she found the door handle. Pulling it open, she stumbled into the seat and barely pulled the door shut before Ethan tore off after their two rivals.

“They may have the case, but they don’t have the speed!” He yelled. “Jessica, I know you took a little paint, but you need to snap out of it and be ready to open fire! You got that?”

“Uhhh…”

“I SAID YOU GOT THAT?!”

“Uh…uh-huh.”

“Good.”

As the golf cart and trailer passed down the street, the voice returned to their walkie-talkies once again.

“Attention, all contestants! Louis and Nicole have the case and are heading towards the rendezvous in the golf cart! This challenge might just be wrapping up!”

“I couldn’t agree more!” Louis declared. “Nicole, bring that case up here!”

Nicole moved quickly through the rows of seats, stopping just behind the golf cart itself.

“Open it up and let’s see how much time is left on it.”

Nicole looked at the case. There was only one latch, directly underneath the handle. She flicked it open and opened the case.

There was a 12-key keypad inside, directly next to a small, thin readout with green, digital numbers.

00:04:32

“Four and a half minutes!”

“Are you kidding me?!” Louis asked, genuine fear and annoyance in his voice. “It’s already been nearly 10 hours?!”

“Well, we might still have a chance! Let’s just keep going!”

“Alright. Place that case here, on the passenger’s seat!”

Nicole shut the case and did as Louis asked.

Louis glanced behind him, as he had already done several times, and his eyes widened.

“Uh-oh.”

Nicole turned around as well.

The familiar white Cadillac was in hot pursuit, chandeliers jingling and swinging in their places.

“We’ve got company. Nicole, take all of these guns and magazines back into the trailer with you. You’re going to have to fend them off while I drive.”

“You got it.”

Nicole grabbed the pack of ammo and as many guns as she could, spreading them out on the nearest seats. She dumped the pack out onto a separate seat, the clips falling out in a pile that she quickly sorted out as neatly as possible in a bumping, fast vehicle. She took one gun in each hand, then moved to the very back of the trailer, kneeling down and setting the barrels of both guns on the trailer wall to steady them and stabilize her aim.

The Cadillac was closing in. The passenger’s side window rolled down, and two guns slid out, along with a familiar face.

With a smirk, Nicole called back to Louis, “Good news! It’s Jessica doing the shooting!”

Louis laughed. “Well, then we should do alright! But feel free to open fire any time!”

“With pleasure!”

Nicole turned back and began shooting. The shots pelted the chandelier, bird figurine, hood, and windshield of the Cadillac.

When a few larger splatters of paint obstructed his view, Ethan activated the windshield wipers.

Jessica returned fire, most shots pelting the back of the trailer.

Nicole steadied her guns and aimed more carefully for Jessica herself, firing away and pelting the right side-view mirror and Jessica’s outstretched arms.

The sudden, stinging pain caused Jessica to recoil instantly and pull back inside the Cadillac. She managed to keep her grip on one gun, but couldn’t hold onto the other. It fell from her hands and clattered to the ground, left behind as they sped on.

“Are you kidding me?” Ethan roared. “You lost one already?!”

“She hit my hand…I could barely hold onto this one. And besides, it’s empty anyway.”

“Fine, then take mine, get back out there, and continue firing! Once you’re out of ammo, let me know!”

Jessica sighed and tossed her now-useless gun out the window, taking Ethan’s gun. She took a deep breath and stuck her gun out again, this time keeping most of her own body inside the car.

She fired again, several shots whipping against the backs of the seats in the trailer, and one striking Nicole’s shoulder. She yelped and fell sideways, out of sight of their pursuers.

“Nicole?!” Louis asked with fear. “Nicole, are you alright?!”

“Yeah! Yeah, I’m good!” She grunted as she got back up to her feet. She raced back to the front of the trailer at a half-crouch, dropping the now-empty clips from both guns and inserting new ones. She returned to the rear of the trailer and positioned her guns just right…

Just then, an explosion to her right rocked the entire trailer and sent her tumbling to the floor. She instantly lost her grip on both guns, and they fell out of the trailer into the road below them. Both guns were instantly destroyed when the pursuing Cadillac rode right over them.

“What was THAT?!” She cried.

“It was an explosion!!” Louis replied. “Out of nowhere!”

The voice returned to their walkie-talkies one final time. “Good news and bad news for the four contestants who are in the vehicles in pursuit of the case. The bad news, the roads leading up to the rendezvous point are all mined. But that leads to the good news, which is that you’re much closer to the finish line. And with no time to lose. Don’t even think about stopping now. That case don’t have much longer.”

A crackle, then silence.

“Alright, just hold them off for a little bit longer!” Louis commanded.

“But the explosion made me drop both guns over the side!” She informed him, disappointment in her voice. “We have only one left!”

“Then use it! It’s better than nothing! And keep a tight grip on this one!”

“OK!”

She grabbed the one final gun and several spare clips before returning to the rear of the trailer. The Cadillac was now dangerously close, and Jessica was still firing with her remaining gun. The shots now rang past the trailer and struck within the golf cart.

Louis ducked as a single shot whizzed over his head, and another splattered over the windshield to his right, still leaving a clear view through his side.

“Nicole! A little help, please?!”

“I’m on it!”

Nicole began firing again, pelting the front right side of the Cadillac and coming close to hitting her target.

Another explosion went off behind them.

Jessica continued returning fire, then pulled back inside the car, both because the shots were getting too close and because her gun was no longer firing.

“OK, I’m out.”

“Alright. Take the wheel!”

“What?! Where are YOU going?!”

“Just do it!!”

Jessica dropped the gun and reached over to take the wheel. Ethan had his hand on the door handle.

“OK, move to the right! The right!”

Jessica turned the wheel as he told her to, moving from directly behind the trailer to alongside it, and gaining slowly on it.

“A little more…a little more…” He encouraged, his foot still pressed firmly against the gas.

Then it was directly alongside the trailer. Nicole was staring at them, fumbling to reload her weapon.

“NOW!”

He pulled the handle, thrust open the door, and leapt out of the Cadillac onto the trailer. He cleared it for the most part and landed on one of the seats.

“What?! Ethan, NO! What about me?!”

With no one left to press the gas pedal, the Cadillac quickly began losing speed, the golf cart and trailer, with its three occupants, pulling away rapidly.

Jessica sighed and released the wheel, shaking her head in frustration and disbelief.

Then, suddenly, an explosion went off directly beneath the slowing Cadillac. Jessica screamed in terror as the vehicle was thrown up into the air, flipping over in mid-air with its underside facing up, then slamming against the ground in a crash of metal and glass. The roof, hood, bird figurine, and chandeliers were pulverized, and the car skidded for a few more feet before inching to a stop. The tires continued spinning for a few moments before ceasing their rotation.

For a few brief moments, Ethan glanced back at the wrecked Cadillac…

…then sighed in relief as Jessica threw herself out the passenger’s side window, appearing to be unharmed.

“Alright. Now time for the big showdown!” He declared.

Just as Nicole spun around with a freshly-loaded weapon, Ethan was upon her and took hold of the gun. Several shots went wide, missing completely and splattering some of the nearby buildings as they passed by.

Ethan spun around, yanking the gun out of Nicole’s hands and tossing it behind him, where it clattered across the trailer floor.

Nicole leapt back and, with a yell, delivered a spinning kick to Ethan. He barely managed to dodge it, though it did clip his chin with a sharp, painful impact.

“Oof! Well, you’ve got some moves. I’ll give you that.”

“You’ve seen nothing yet!”

She then charged at him, throwing herself onto him and knocking him to the floor. Lying on top of him, she grabbed his head and smacked it against the floor several times. She then jumped to her feet, picked him up by his shoulders, and threw him across several seats.

Another explosion off to the left sent the trailer tilting to one side, half of its wheels in mid-air. Nicole wobbled and fell to the side, barely managing to grab onto the nearest seat to hang on. Ethan slid across the aisle completely from where he was already on the floor.

After a few seconds of dangerously hovering, it settled back down with a swerve. Nicole straightened up and stepped out into the aisle between the seats. She moved over quickly to the seat that she had seen Ethan land on.

He was gone.

Wondering if he fell out, she looked out past the rear end of the trailer at the road behind them. There was nothing in the road…

Just then, she felt a cold grip wrap around her ankles and yank her feet out from under her. She slammed forward to the trailer floor as Ethan emerged from underneath the nearest seat.

She struggled to turn around as Ethan casually picked her up, pinning both arms behind her back and dragging her over to the edge of the trailer.

“Sorry, but this is where you get off.” He informed her.

Unaware of the impending fate of his ally, Louis perked up as he saw a massive, circular area suddenly open up at the end of the street ahead of him. At least four other streets entered this courtyard area as well, with a massive, circular, cobblestone area in the middle of the street, which resembled a European roundabout. On his tracking device, which was now vibrating so much that he could feel it in the seat, the yellow dot was directly ahead.

Just a little bit further…

Then, suddenly, an explosion went off directly underneath the vehicle, between the golf cart and the trailer. The trailer flipped over to its side and rose into the air, sending both Ethan and Nicole flying forward, screaming in terror. The golf cart, thrown forward by the blast, flipped completely over and landed on its roof, crushing the top of the cart and skidding along. However, it soon hit a pothole and jerked to its side, sending Louis flying out of it and sliding across the ground, rolling to a stop at the very end of the street, where the circular area began.

The smoke slowly blew away, and the wreckage slowly settled down.

After a long pause, Louis slowly crawled to his feet, nearly falling over as he stumbled sideways, then regained his balance. He slowly shuffled over to the briefcase, which had been thrown forward by the explosion and landed several dozen yards away. Just as he picked it up, he heard the thumping of the helicopter blades as it settled down in the middle of the courtyard. He turned around and saw Nicole lying on the ground, also struggling to pull herself to her feet. He looked around in a complete 360, but didn’t see Ethan anywhere.

“What are you waiting for, kid? Come on and claim victory before that thing blows up!” Carl shouted.

Just as Louis started forward, he felt something suddenly fall onto him from behind, and he collapsed forward again. One arm wrapped around his mouth, while the other grabbed his right hand as it tried to pry the case free.

“I…want…that…case!” Ethan shouted.

The redhead pulled back, sitting upright with a hand still around Louis’s head. Louis flailed the case around wildly, trying to shake Ethan’s hand off. With his left arm, he shoved his elbow behind him and into Ethan’s stomach, hearing a grunt come from the redhead while his grips stayed firm. Louis leaned forward as far as he could, then jerked his head back against Ethan’s head, knocking both of them together.

He could hear the redhead groan in pain and frustration, his hands relaxing their grips.

Louis jumped to his feet and swung around, the case outstretched to deliver another blow to Ethan’s face, knocking him sideways with a cough and a sputter of spit.

He turned around to face the chopper again, but he felt something wrap around his left ankle and yank with all its might, pulling his foot out from under him and sending him free-falling straight forward, his face slamming into the dirty ground below him with a painful smack. Before he could get up, he felt a foot press firmly into his back, and another on his right arm, pinning the case just out of his reach.

He turned his head to the right with a cough and a gasp, watching helplessly as Ethan knelt down and took a portion of the briefcase’s handle from him. Ethan then stepped off of Louis and to the side, pulling back with all his might as he tried to free the case from Louis’s grasp.

Louis, now no longer pinned under Ethan’s feet, sat upright and grabbed the handle with his other hand, then pulled back on his side of the case, refusing to let go.

“Why don’t you just let GO already?!” Ethan shouted in frustration.

Louis looked at the nearby helicopter, then back at the case. He thought about the timer, which he hadn’t checked since before the mine destroyed the golf cart. It was at about a minute and a half back there…how much time could they possibly have left?

Then, with a clever idea capitalized by a devious grin, he looked back up at Ethan, pulling back as hard as he could, the toes of his feet not even on the ground since he was leaning back so much…

“…As you wish.”

Louis released the case, sending Ethan flying backwards as he instantly lost his balance. He stumbled and crashed on his backside onto the filthy ground. Louis took full advantage and pulled himself into a crouching position, from which he then leapt at Ethan, landing on top of him and taking hold of the case while Ethan took hold of Louis’s neck as he knew that he no longer held onto the case.

Even as he struggled with Ethan, Louis had to glance over at the case, which had split open after he let go. To his horror, the green digits now read: “00:00:33.”

Louis looked back at Ethan, who was holding onto Louis more out of frustration than trying to get the case, knowing that he had lost this time.

“Sorry about this.” Louis muttered with a hint of satisfaction.

Then, with an equally shocking grin, Ethan replied: “So am I.”

Then, before Louis knew how to react, he felt an unbelievable, terrible pain below his waist. A pain that exploded through his whole body so that everything else felt numb. Only now, when it was too late, did he realize the vulnerable position he had been in up to this point, and Ethan’s knee had been positioned just right.

With a half-hearted, high-pitched moan, Louis collapsed and fell to the side, rolling off of Ethan and among the dirt and grass between the broken concrete below him, dirt stains appearing on his black trench coat.

With a chuckle, Ethan scrambled to his feet and picked up the case that Louis had dropped. After glancing at the readout of “00:00:26,” he closed it and started dashing towards the helicopter, seeing only Carl as he sat in the pilot’s seat, waiting with a noticeable nervous in his eyes.

As he approached the helicopter, he didn’t even have time to react as he saw the familiar, small, brunette girl suddenly appear from behind the chopper, paintball gun in her hand and aimed directly at him.

The barrage of shots rang out instantly, pelting Ethan all up and down his torso. From his lower stomach to his neck and face, he felt the hard impact of the paintballs, accompanied by the wet, sticky splatter of the paint. The shots repeatedly hit up and down his body, traveling back and forth as she unloaded the final clip on him mercilessly.

Louis, even through his pain, struggled to lift his head up at the sound of the gunfire. For a few seconds, he put aside his pain entirely as he witnessed the unbelievable event in front of him. His former teammate and one ally for the challenge, with a blazing paintball gun and a fire in her eyes like he had never seen before, in her or in anyone.

Then, the words that she shouted next, which made no sense to Carl or to Ethan, but perfect sense to Louis, created a small smile on his face.

“YOU’RE A GUY NUMBER ONE!” She shouted in a voice that sounded very much unlike her own. “YOU’RE THE DUKE! YOU’RE THE DUKE!”

Ethan was now stumbling backwards, struggling to stay on his own two feet as her seemingly random words only disoriented him even more. Eventually, his feet finally slipped out from under him, flying up and into his own field of vision as he fell backward and slammed against the broken concrete. The paint continued splattering against him as he lied dazed on the ground.

Nicole dropped the gun and slowly went up to him, a satisfied smirk on her face.

“You’re…the duke. A guy number one.”

With a final feeling of frustration and just plain confusion, Ethan blacked out.

Nicole bent down lightly and picked up the case, turning and racing back to the helicopter. She flipped the case open and checked the time as she ran.

00:00:14

She practically slammed into Carl when she reached the chopper, shoving the briefcase into his hands.

“HERE! NOW DEACTIVATE IT! NOW!”

“OK, but before I do, you must declare whether or not you wish to share Invincibility with anybody…”

“YES! With Louis! I share Invincibility with Louis! Now SHUT IT OFF!”

“OK, OK…”

00:00:07

Carl reached over to the keypad next to the digital readout and started tapping in a six-digit code.

6

5

4

3

He was done, and looked up at a cringing Nicole.

He shrugged nonchalantly. “That’s it.”

2

1

00:00:00

The green zeros all flashed on and off repeatedly, with a high-pitched beeping sounding from the briefcase. But nothing else happened.

Just then, the familiar voice crackled over all eight walkie-talkies, as well as the helicopter’s radio.

“And the challenge is over! Nicole and Louis together have won Invincibility, and neither of them can be voted off tonight! But one of the other six of you will be! On your radar tracking devices now, an arrow will appear somewhere on your screen to point in the direction of the rendezvous area. Head there and await pick-up!”

45 minutes later…

Louis and Nicole were basking in the lap of luxury – together for the first time – in first class, sitting on one of the longer golden couches, and each with a glass of soda in hand.

“To victory.” Louis toasted.

“To victory.” She repeated.

They clinked their glasses together and took the ceremonial sips.

After a pause to swallow their drinks, Louis turned to Nicole again.

“I still just can’t believe how incredible you were back there. Taking out Ethan with such vigor and energy.”

“I just…I don’t know what came over me. But seeing as how, like you said, that whole challenge and setup was ripping off that one movie…and how that scenario with me and Ethan felt so similar to a scene from that movie, I just couldn’t help but blurt out these exact lines. It made the experience so much more…satisfying.”

“I see. But you…you’ve actually seen that movie? It’s an older one, you know.”

“I know, but I haven’t just seen it; I love it.”

Louis sat up straight, his eyebrows rising. “Really?”

“Oh, yeah! My little brother convinced me to watch it since he loved it so much, and when I finally agreed to sit through it with him…it was just a really cool, action-packed flick. It’s probably the only movie from the early 80’s that I really enjoy. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies.”

“No kidding? Same here!”

Cockpit Confessional

Louis – Be still my beating heart! She’s a Carpenter fan!

End

“Well, I guess we do have a little more in common then.” Nicole said with a chuckle.

“I guess so. A fun fact for you: Donald Pleasence, while in the Royal Air Force, was actually shot down and kept hostage in a POW camp during World War II before he became an actor. So when he filmed that scene, he thought about how the scenario of his character in the film was so similar to his real experience. So, needless to say, he channeled some quite genuine fury into his performance. One of the finest pieces of acting I’ve seen in a long time, if I do say so myself.”

“Really? I didn’t know that.”

“You learn a little something new every day.” He commented with another sip.

“Well then I guess you could say that I was channeling Donald Pleasence in that moment. When I saw what Ethan had done to you, I just wanted nothing more than to take him out and get some revenge…at the right moment, of course.”

“Well, I appreciate the effort. After all, it did win us the challenge and a ticket to the final seven.”

“It sure did. But I sure never would have made it here without you.”

Louis smiled at her, and she returned the smile.

Then, after a moment, she moved over to him and hugged him.

“Thanks, Louis.”

“Thank you, Nicole.”

Economy-class…

As Jessica was returning to the main area to sit down, she heard a “Psst!” from across the room.

She then saw, from behind the pink curtain leading to the Lavatory, the familiar redhead as he motioned her over.

Glancing over at the one other occupant of the room – a depressed Matthew, gazing out the window at the darkened city below them – she quickly moved over to Ethan. He took hold of her arm and pulled her into the Lavatory with him.

“OK, so what’s the scoop?” He asked quickly.

“I talked to Mary, and she says she’ll do it.”

“Excellent! So that’s the three of us…but we need just one more. Obviously, we can’t ask Matthew himself. Louis and Nicole both probably hate my guts now, and they’re up in first-class anyway…that just leaves Rachael and Eryn.”

“I think we should go for Eryn.” Jessica stated. “She’s more of a wild card, she’s not as close to Matthew as Rachael is, and I think I can convince her.”

“Good, but how do you plan to do that?”

“Just trust me on this.”

She gave him a wink that left him briefly unsure of what to say or do next, and before he could respond, she left the Lavatory.

Later…

In the elimination area, Jessica finally found Eryn, back to one of her favorite old habits.

“Hello there you little rusty screw! I think I’ll name you Dave! And you, little black bolt, I’ll name Jimmy!”

“Hey, uh, Eryn? You got a moment?”

“Huh? Oh, hey there, Jessica! Yes, Dave, Jimmy, and I all have a moment. I hope you’ll forgive them for eavesdropping on whatever juicy elimination information you want to tell me.”

Jessica was stunned; by Eryn’s befriending of inanimate objects or the fact that she knew she wanted to talk about the elimination, she didn’t know which. Nevertheless, she shook it off and continued on.

“So…who do you plan on voting for tonight?”

“Duh. Ethan. That miserable jerk. This is my first chance to finally vote for him since he got me booted off in the first episode! And he came pretty close to winning today, didn’t he?”

“Well, yeah…But here’s the thing…”

“If you’re gonna try to convince me to not vote for Ethan, then good luck. And yes, I know that you two have an alliance.”

Jessica was stunned once again, and this time, she had to ask.

“How…?”

“Trust me. I know things.”

“Um…OK…but at least hear me out?”

“Meh. I’ve got nothing better to do. And who knows? Maybe you’ll convince me.”

“OK. So, here’s the deal. As of right now, Ethan’s relatively under the radar. To most people, anyways, he’s not much of a threat. And there’s no real reason to vote him out.”

“Speak for yourself.”

“But here’s the thing…”

Jessica looked around ominously, then leaned in closer.

“And this is totally off the record. Ethan has no idea that I’m saying this. But I know that he’s planning on turning on me. I just know it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“And I have something up MY sleeve. He doesn’t see it coming. I doubt he even knows that I know what I know.”

“Oh! I wanna know what he doesn’t know that you know!”

“Oh, you will. Soon…very soon…everyone will know.”

“Ooooooh. You plan on spilling the beans on something?”

“Something that happened a few weeks ago. Something he did. It was very clever, very precise…and very evil. It was downright despicable. When I found out that he did it, I was disgusted. But I decided to keep quiet. And now, his betrayal in this last challenge has convinced me that it’s only a matter of time before he completely turns on me, so I might as well reveal this one last secret before that happens. But trust me: When I tell everyone what he did, everyone will hate him. They’ll want to vote him off the first chance they get.”

“It sounds pretty good to me.”

“I know. But for the time being, I want to eliminate the people who are big threats in this game. People I can’t eliminate by spilling dirt on. Someone like Matthew.”

“Hmm…” Eryn tapped the rusty bolt against her chin, clearly deep in thought… “OK! I’ll do it! But you’ve gotta promise me that you’ll get Ethan eliminated sooner or later?”

“Oh, not just Ethan. Several people.”

“OOOOOOOOOH! Juicy! Dramatic! I like it!”

Eryn held up her hand eagerly, and after an awkward pause, Jessica gave her a hi-five.

“OK, I’m in.”

“Good.”

And with that, Jessica turned and left the elimination area. The look on her face looked like a frown crossed between a smile. She had succeeded for Ethan this one last time, but soon…very soon…she would make good on her plan.

At the elimination area…

“Alright, escapees! This is it! The elimination ceremony that will decide the final seven! There are six Barf Bags, and one of you will be empty-handed within the next 30 to 50 seconds. “The first Barf Bags, of course, go to Louis and Nicole.”

The happy pair caught their Bags, sharing a victorious hi-five.

“The next Barf Bags go to Mary and Jessica.”

Two more Bags went flying, and both were caught.

“Rachael and…Eryn.”

Rachael caught hers, and the psycho caught her bag with a “Woo-ho!”

“Ethan and Mathew. It is down to the two of you. And this is the final Barf Bag. And tonight, it goes to…”

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“…Ethan!”

“Phew!” Ethan exclaimed as he wiped his brow with one hand and caught the Bag with the other.

Matthew, who had already been hanging his head, kept his head down with a sigh.

“Matthew. You’re out of here at last. For the first time ever, you are facing elimination. How does it feel being humbled?”

“It…feels…good.”

Everything else went silent at his response. Chef’s grin vanished instantly, and several of the girls put a hand over their mouths.

He lifted his head and, in a display that shocked everyone, smiled for the first time since Antarctica.

“I’m finally free. At long last, I have found the redemption I needed. It wasn’t the redemption that I came seeking, it’s not the redemption I wanted, and it’s not the redemption I deserve. But, mercifully, it happened. Now, perhaps, I can be forgiven of the way I acted earlier in the season. To all the people I jeered at and mocked. To all the people I got eliminated by winning so much. To all the people I treated like dirt, just as I had been treated. And, now that my story has been fully told and revealed, I can hopefully reconnect with Violet and ask for her forgiveness.”

He stood up and calmly approached the frozen Chef, taking the parachute from his hands, putting it on, and approaching the wide open door.

He stopped and took one look back at the seven teens behind him.

He smiled and waved.

“Thank you, Rachael, for listening to my story. Thank you, Eryn, for being a good teammate like Rachael. And thank you to the rest of you who voted for me tonight, along with myself. Thank you…for setting me free.”

And then he was gone.

Seven jaws were on the floor in the wake of his departure, with the one whose mouth was still closed leaning back and shaking her head.

“What…just happened?”

Rachael simply shrugged. “I’ll have to tell all of you later.”

Voting Confessionals

Ethan – I hope that, whatever Jessica said to Eryn, it worked. Or else this’ll be for nothing. (Stamps Matthew’s passport)

Jessica – (Silently stamps Matthew’s passport)

Eryn – I’m impressed. Jessica did a really good job of convincing me. And this is only for the sake of her fulfilling her promise that she’ll get that no-good jerk Ethan kicked off soon. So…sorry Matt! (Stamps Matthew’s passport)

Mary – I have to acknowledge a true threat where a true threat exists. Any chance I can get to put the target on someone other than me is a rare opportunity that I must take full advantage of. (Stamps Matthew’s passport)

Louis – He put up quite an effort in the challenge today. He nearly defeated me. (Stamps Ethan’s passport)

Nicole – Gunning him down with all that paint wasn’t satisfaction enough. This is for Louis. (Stamps Ethan’s passport)

Rachael – It’s a tough choice. I’ve heard Matthew’s name thrown around a lot, but even after what he told me, I just can’t bring myself to vote for him. I’ll just go for the other name I’ve heard a lot of tonight. (Stamps Ethan’s passport)

Matthew – (Sighs, then stamps his own passport)

Voting Results

Eryn – Matthew

Ethan – Matthew

Jessica – Matthew

Mary – Matthew

Matthew – Matthew

Louis – Ethan

Nicole – Ethan

Rachael – Ethan

Total Votes:

Matthew: 5

Ethan: 3

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John, Suzie, James, Lauren, Isaiah, Violet, Anna, Samantha, Matthew


Episode 10: YK2

“Last time on Total Drama World Tour: The merge was solidified in the season’s first completely free-for-all challenge. The final eight were dropped into the ruins of East St. Louis, where they had to find and return a briefcase set to explode in 10 hours. The former season winner-turned-ruthless-competitor finally opened up to his girlfriend’s best friend about the reason for his sudden competitive nature: Torture back at his home town from the jerks at his school when he refused to share some of his dough from season one. Realizing that, in more ways than one, money truly was the root of all evil, he threw in the towel and waited the challenge out ‘till the end, when Nicole managed to surprise Ethan and win the challenge for herself and Louis. “Ethan, despite betraying his right-hand girl Jessica in the challenge, was successful in convincing enough people to vote out Matthew at that night’s elimination ceremony, putting the former champ through his first – and last – elimination ever. “It’s the final seven, and we’re that much closer to the end of this game. Who will win today? Who will lose? And who will fail to keep their pants on? Find out right here and right now, on Total…Drama…World Tour!”

First-class…

Louis was reclining in one of the luxurious chairs, a glass of water in the cup-holder next to him and a half-eaten steak on the small folding table in the aisle on his other side. In his hands was another book, by the same two authors that he always read, entitled Fever Dream.

He was so entranced by the action scene he was in the middle of reading that he didn’t hear or see Nicole walk up beside him.

She cleared her throat, then said, “Hey, Louis?”

Louis, broken out of the intense scene, casually turned to face her as he set the book down. “Yes?”

“Um, I was just wondering…you’ve got a lot of books there…” She gestured with her head at the pile of books on the opposite seat, scattered around in no particular fashion.

“Yes. Yes I do.”

“Well, I was just wondering…Could I…have one?”

“You’d like to start reading some Preston and Child?” He responded with slight shock mixed with happiness.

“Yeah. You really seem so fascinated with them, so I figured I might as well, um, give it a try.”

“Oh, absolutely!”

Closing the book completely and setting it aside, he moved quickly over to the pile and started sorting through the titles.

“For starters, I would recommend either Relic, Thunderhead, or Cabinet of Curiosities. In terms of chronology, they are the earliest books in the series, but are also perfectly capable of being stand-alone novels. If you’re interested in starting a slight mini-series, then you should read Brimstone, as it’s the first in a trilogy. Oh, but do avoid Cemetery Dance like the plague; it’s horrible.”

“My. I don’t even know where to start.” She chuckled. Then, after a pause and a glance over the titles, she settled on one. “I guess I’ll take…Thunderhead.”

“OH, excellent choice! Here.” He picked up the book and placed it in her hands. “You should enjoy this one.”

“Thanks. I hope so.”

Lavatory Confessional

Nicole – OK, so I’m not too big on big books. I’ll admit, I’m probably not gonna finish this or even like it that much…but I figured it’s the best way to connect with Louis and start sharing some common ground. I just hope to use this to my advantage so that one day, very soon, I can…finally…tell him…(Sighs) This will be a lot harder than I thought.

End

Economy-class…

“So what’s the plan?”

“Well, I know we can completely rule out any chance of getting Louis and Nicole on our side ever again. They know my tactics, and Louis is a particularly strong player. As if that’s not bad enough, they make an even stronger team. However, the fact remains that, now that Matthew’s gone, there are two other people in this game who make even stronger players and are our new biggest threats.”

“Who are they?”

“Mary and Eryn. Mary has determination like never before, and Eryn…”

“And I’ll name YOU Stevie, and I’ll name YOU Avagantamos…and YOU…”

“Point taken.” Jessica replied.

“Plain and simple. One of them wins, we target the other one.”

“Got it.”

“Attention, final seven! We are approaching our destination, and will arrive in approximately five minutes.”

“And where are we NOW? Chicago? Miami?”

“If you would actually take a look out the window, you’d see for yourself, idiot!”

All seven contestants leaned over to look out the nearest windows, and saw a long stretch of snowy mountains below them.

“OK, so the Appalachian Mountains, right?”

“No. It’s not in the United States, and it’s technically not in any country…it’s directly between two countries.”

“Say what?” Jessica asked with skepticism.

“Just buckle up and prepare for landing.”

Then, as if on cue, the entire Jet started jerking and shaking, loose objects tumbling all over the place. The five contestants in economy-class started buckling in, while Louis and Nicole were quick to fasten their seat belts in first-class.

They all continued watching as the Jet soared over and between mountaintops, snow gleaming white on their tips, and the Jet struggling to level out as it aimed for a small, isolated runway nestled between the mountains.

Soon, the Jet gave one quick, powerful jerk as it hit the runway, tires screeching as it struggled to slow down on the very short runway.

Soon, the jerking and bouncing stopped.

“And we have landed! Disembark now.”

The seven contestants all unbuckled their seatbelts and headed for the elimination area, stepping out into the environment around them. Most were rather shocked to find that, despite the snow surrounding them, it wasn’t nearly as frigid as they thought it would be.

“Where are we?” Nicole asked.

“Welcome to the Karakoram Mountain Range! Located directly between China and Pakistan, and the location for today’s challenge!”

“The Karakoram Mountain Range? I remember that name…” Mary commented. “That’s where…”

She slowly turned around, facing a particularly large mountain that towered behind them in the distance. “…K2 is located!”

The other contestants followed her gesture and gazed up at the massive mountain.

“Wow. The second-tallest mountain in the world, now in plain sight.” Mary mused.

“That’s the second-tallest mountain in the world? It’s just not as impressive in person.” Jessica responded.

“A true natural wonder, indeed.” Chef agreed. “But that’s not where the challenge is, so…TURN BACK AROUND AND PAY ATTENTION!”

The seven teens were quick to comply, snapping to attention at the sudden roar of the mountainous man’s voice.

“Now, this here…hee, hee, is gonna be a…bare-all challenge…HAHAHA!”

The contestants were rather puzzled at his noticeable giggling and burst of laughter, as if he had just told an inside joke to himself. But none dared ask what it was about.

“This here is a challenge that was…brp, scrapped in the original season, since our first host didn’t want to do it. But now that I’m running the show here, I decided that it could be done. This was a challenge that was used in the marketing of the original season, along with a few others that were completely scrapped and/or slightly modified in the final product.”

“You mean…like those challenges listed on that crappy online virtual flipbook?” Mary asked.

“Exactly. Good thinking there. That there flipbook, of course, was…er, is, an abomination. But if one good thing comes out of it, it’ll be this challenge.”

Then Mary’s eyes widened with realization.

“Oh, no.”

A few heads turned in her direction.

She slowly turned and looked back up at the mountain in the distance.

“…Oh, NO!”

She spun back to face Chef, eyes wide with fear.

“K2…‘bare all’…was scrapped from the original season, but advertised in the atrocious online flipbook…This…This is the challenge where we have to climb K2 in our undergarments, isn’t it!?”

As the horrifying realization dawned on them, Chef finally burst out laughing, doubling over and clutching his stomach as he continued laughing hysterically. “It…TEEHEE…It…BWAHA…SURE IS! HAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!”

Lavatory Confessional

Mary – It can’t be happening. This canNOT be happening!

Nicole – Oh…dear. I can’t believe it.

Louis – I don’t know what will be worse; the cold from such lack of clothing, or the pure embarrassment.

Ethan – (Shrugs) What more can you expect? I intend to dominate this challenge anyway.

End

As the horror set in and simmered, Chef managed to regain his composure with a few more chuckles and snivels. “As Perfectionist here…(sniff)…explained quite plainly, that is, in fact, your challenge today. Although you won’t have to actually climb K2 – let’s face it, THAT would be suicidal – you will have to climb a fairly tall mountain wearing only your undergarments. It’s a rather straight-forward challenge, and perhaps the simplest one you’ll have all season.”

“Simplest and most embarrassing.” Jessica commented.

“It’s a very basic challenge: All you have to do is reach the red flag first, by following a trail of yellow flags. Whoever reaches it first wins, and can share Invincibility with one other person if they so choose. The mountain we’ve selected is approximately 400 feet high, which is the equivalent of a 40-story building. Its layout is just right so that there are plenty of ledges where you can get a decent hand- and foothold, and make it all the way to the top without the use of any tools or being in danger of falling or anything. “Now, considering that this is probably gonna be a rather awkward situation for most of you, there is one alternative: If you really don’t want to endure the long, hard, cold climb with very minimal clothing, you can choose to opt out. Completely drop out of the challenge and be flown back down in the helicopter courtesy of Carl, where you will not only be allowed to put the rest of your clothes on, but even a nice warm parka! Not that it’s very cold out here on its own, as is evident, but once you hit that snowy mountainside…whooee! Or, if you don’t want to do it at all, you can simply return to the comfort and…heh, heh, privacy, of the Jet without anything having to come off. “So. Do I have any volunteers to sit this one out?”

There was a very long and very awkward pause as seven heads slowly looked back and forth between each other, waiting for someone – anyone – to raise their hand or signify their surrender first.

But after what seemed like a whole solid minute, no one volunteered.

Chef’s grin widened. “No chickens? That’s good. I like to see some bravery. Guess ya’ll really want that two million dollars, eh? You’re willing to brave the climb and the cold snow and the humiliation, not just in front of your fellow competitors, but in front of millions of viewers, with probably a lot of fanfictions coming true or forming freshly in their minds at the very sight of-.”

“I can’t!” A voice called out.

Six of the competitors and Chef all turned, in shock, to face Nicole.

With the slightest sound of a sob being choked back, she repeated, “I can’t. I drop out!”

“Aha! I KNEW that speech would work! Alright, so Cheerleader is a Chicken! A Chickleader, eh? Chickenleader! HAHAHAHA!”

“I think that’s quite enough.” A voice suddenly shot back.

Chef stopped his laughing and his demeanor changed in an instant, glaring daggers at the young, overly-dramatic teen who had said that.

“Hmph. Anyway, the other six of you can take a few minutes to…heehee, get ready.”

With a final cackle, and a final glare from Louis, Chef brushed past them and went into the Jet.

Amidst the general mumbling of discontent from the other contestants, Louis turned quickly and moved over to Nicole, who had crossed her arms firmly under her chest and was trying a little too hard to turn her head away from the others.

“Nicole…”

“I’m sorry. I just couldn’t do it.” She shook her head, still not looking at Louis. “I hope I didn’t let you down or anything…forcing you to do this on your own…”

“Not at all. In fact, I think you deserve this. Considering you won the last challenge, it’s about time you took a break. And if you’re not comfortable with this, then that’s just fine.”

“I would...I would just feel so…so…insecure.”

Louis paused for a moment, trying to think of what he could possibly say now. He was already in dangerous territory, so he didn’t want to overstep his boundaries. He thought carefully about what he should say next…

“I’m sure you would’ve done just fine.”

Nicole didn’t respond, and still looked away.

He was struggling with whether or not he should say the one last thing he wanted to say. He opened his mouth, ready to say it…

…then closed his mouth, turned, and walked away at a rather brisk pace.

He returned to the other five contestants, where only two had actually gotten ready.

“I still can’t believe you’re so willing to do this.” Jessica said to Ethan, standing in his red and black boxers.

“I don’t care either way how people look at me. All I care about is winning this thing.”

“See? THAT’S the spirit!” Eryn cheered, standing in her rainbow bra and panties. She patted Ethan rather hard on the back, knocking him to the ground with an “Oof!”

“I still can’t believe they’re actually making us do this.” Rachael muttered, shaking her head in disgust.

“I guess now we know why this challenge never did appear in the original season.” Mary added with a disgruntled sigh. “But we won’t accomplish anything just standing around like this.”

Then, in a rather quick motion, she lifted off her shirt and stooped down slightly to remove her pants.

Louis couldn’t help but turn away, blushing slightly.

“Looks like I’m not the only crazy girl here after all! Tee-hee!”

“Can it. Or I’ll take you out like I took you out in the last challenge.” Mary retorted as she tossed aside her shirt and pants.

“Wait, what? That was YOU?! Why you little…”

Ethan, after getting up and brushing the snow off himself, turned to face Jessica, who was still wearing her clothing.

“Well?”

She sighed. “I don’t know if I’m gonna do well in this challenge or not…it’s bad enough we have to be in our underwear, but now we have to climb a mountain? You know me…”

“Do you want Invincibility, or not?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want first-class, or not?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want me to share these two things with you when I win?”

“YES.”

“Then do the challenge! I don’t care if you don’t win, since you probably won’t. But if you at least give it some effort, then I’ll share the prize with you when I win. If you drop out now, then I fly to the next destination completely solo. Got it?”

With a final sigh of frustration, Jessica replied, “Fine.”

She was rather quick about removing her pants and shirt, but unlike Louis, Ethan didn’t look away.

Had Jessica not been so preoccupied with trying to cover her pink undergarments, she might have noticed as one of Ethan’s eyebrows rose rather quickly.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – That Jessica…so clumsy, so naïve, such dead weight…and not that bad-looking.

End

Within the next few very awkward minutes, the remaining contestants had finally stripped down, leaving two boys and four girls standing around in their undergarments waiting for Chef to return.

Soon, instead of the man himself as they expected, a loud voice came blaring out of the Jet’s speaker system several dozen yards away.

“Alright, skinny-climbers! Now that ya’ll are…heehee, ready, it’s time for you to get moving! On that there mountain to the right and ahead of where the Jet is now, you should see the first yellow flag. So get to it!”

“What, you mean that’s it? We just start?” Jessica asked in shock.

“Like I said, it’s a straight-forward challenge! So…as I said…GET TO IT!”

To punctuate this repeated command, the sound of an air-horn blasted over the speakers, causing all of them to turn and run towards the nearest flag, covering their ears as they did so.

Almost immediately, there were two contestants at the head of the pack: Mary and Ethan. Although the Perfectionist was the first to reach the yellow flag and quickly tore off for the next one, Ethan was right behind her. Louis maintained a steady third, Rachael in fourth, and Jessica and Eryn back in fifth and sixth.

As Jessica struggled to pull herself up the first 20 feet of snowy rock, she saw Eryn hanging a few feet above her casually.

“So, you plan on telling me the plan?” She asked with a maniacal grin.

“Excuse me?”

“What you told me last week. That you have something big to spill on Ethan and other people. I really wanna know! Why else would I deliberately hang back here at the back of the pack? That’s whack!”

Jessica cringed, remembering her promise and her deal. “Well, I really don’t want to risk it getting out…”

“Oh, come ON! I’m, like, the Clint Eastwood of keeping secrets! You can trust me!”

As if to further demonstrate the last statement, she held a hand out to help Jessica up.

With a very slight pause, Jessica reached up and took it. Eryn quickly helped her up and over the first ledge, where the second yellow flag was waiting.

“OK, fine.” Jessica did a quick once-over behind herself, then up ahead. There was no one else behind them, and the nearest person ahead of them – Rachael – was already solidly out of hearing distance.

“OK, fine. But you’ve got to swear…”

“On my life, on my family, pinkie, cross my heart, hope to die, JUST TELL ME!” She demanded more with excitement than anger.

“Alright.” With a sigh, Jessica proceeded to tell Eryn the whole story. As she progressed, reaching several punch lines along the way, Eryn’s eyes widened with fascination and eagerness, almost like a small child.

Lavatory Confessional

Jessica – (Still in her underwear) Ugh. So I told Eryn all about it. I just really hope she keeps her promise. If even one letter, one syllable, gets out…Ethan will have me for dinner and dessert.

Eryn – (Still in her underwear as well) WHOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAA! Can you say J-to-the-U-to-the-I-to-the-C-to-the-Y? JUICY! I can’t WAIT for her to spill that spiel to everyone else! The look on Ethan’s face will be PRICELESS!

End

Back on the Jet, Nicole was trying her best to enjoy the benefit of waiting on the Jet: Being in first-class for a little more. But even then, she still couldn’t get over the shame of choosing to opt out of the challenge. She sighed and glanced out the nearest window, which, coincidentally, gave her a good view of the few contestants who were at the back of the group and still within sight.

But she couldn’t see Louis anywhere.

Sighing again, she reached over and picked up the book she had borrowed from Louis. She flipped over to the first page, and reluctantly began reading it.

Ethan grunted as he heaved himself up over the next ledge, where the third flag was waiting. As he straightened up, he glanced up the next hill where, about 15 feet up, he saw Mary still climbing ahead of him.

Cursing under his breath, he ran up to the incline and began climbing.

“Ah, the view is nice from up here in first place!” Mary called back down. “Wish you could see it!!”

As Ethan muttered again, he couldn’t help but glance up at Mary, directly above him.

With a naughty grin, he chuckled. “The view from down here is just as good, sweetheart.”

With a gasp, Mary turned around to look down at him, and saw that he had been staring at her backside from below.

“Very funny, creep. I’m taken, remember?”

“Oh, I know. And I’ll soon be taken as well…by first place!”

“We’ll see about that!”

Then, with a swift kick of her bare foot, she knocked a clump of snow off a ledge and down onto Ethan.

Hearing the loud shuffling above him, he glanced up just in time for his field of vision to be completely filled with snow, as white as Mary’s underwear. The snow pummeled his face and caused him to lose his balance, tumbling backwards off the ledge and back down to the third flag.

Sitting up straight in the snow and coughing as he brushed the snow off himself, he couldn’t help but steal another glance up at Mary, who was concentrating on her climbing once again.

He grinned again.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Seriously; am I the ONLY one enjoying this challenge? Oh, yeah. I’m one of only two guys here, and Louis is just too fancy to admit to his teenage impulses just yet. Hahaha, man…maybe this is one challenge where it’ll be worth it whether I win or not.

End

Grumbling and cursing, Ethan ran back to the wall and started climbing again just as he heard a familiar voice behind him.

“Oh hey, Ethan! Saw that Mary dumped you…without you two even being together! Tee-hee!”

“Oh, it’s you again…weren’t you at the back of the group?”

“Yeah…But temporarily. I’m so sorry, but you’re gonna have to settle for third!”

Up until that point, Ethan hadn’t dared to look back at Eryn, even as they carried on a conversation. However, he suddenly felt the rush of movement and turned to his right as Eryn scaled the wall past him like a monkey, moving with a speed and agility that he had never seen before.

“So sorry!” She called back down to him from the top of the ledge as she ran up the nearby path, following Mary.

Ethan, with his mouth agape, looked back down behind him, then back up at the path Eryn had run down. There was no one else in the area, yet she had blasted through the course and up four spots in a matter of minutes.

As he reached the ledge, turned to his right, and started up the snowy path, a thought crossed his mind: Now it’s between our top two targets. He glanced up and barely saw the two figures in the distance, ascending up the not-so-steep path.

May the best one win.

Rachael was panting heavily as she stumbled awkwardly up the path to where the fourth flag was waiting. Although she hadn’t had to climb up anything for the first time since the challenge began, the long trek up the gradually increasing path wasn’t too easy, either. On top of that, she saw multiple footprints in the snow leading up to this point, only reminding her once again how far behind she was. Only Jessica was behind her now.

She turned around a corner, where the flag and another person came into view, leaning against the nearest rock wall to take a break. He was noticeably exhausted, bent over and breathing in and out slowly. She knew it wasn’t Ethan, as this person was wearing light gray boxers instead of red and black.

As she approached, she couldn’t help but take a break herself. And she figured she might as well start a conversation with the man that she hadn’t really had much interaction with since the season began.

“Hey, Louis.”

Louis turned to face Rachael, starting to control his breathing in a more casual manner. He nodded politely.

“Rachael.”

“Did you see any of the others?”

“No. Eryn blew right past me like a bullet. Last I saw, she was trying to catch up with Mary, and Ethan’s trying to keep up with them. Is Jessica far behind?”

“Very.”

“Ah.”

The small talk certainly didn’t help, and Louis was trying his hardest not to look at Rachael, with her green bra and matching panties. Trying a little too hard. And Rachael noticed.

With a slight chuckle, she shook her head. “If it bothers you that much, I really don’t mind if you look. I’m sure Mark wouldn’t. Heck, he’d be all over me right now. But what else can you expect from a challenge like this?”

“Oh, I understand. But, you see…it’s not that I don’t want to be caught looking at beautiful girls…it’s that I don’t want to be caught looking at OTHER beautiful girls.”

“‘Other’ beautiful girls? You mean…you have a girlfriend?”

“Um, not exactly.” Louis took his one hand off the wall and straightened up, pressing both hands against his back until he heard a satisfying crack, accompanied by a groan. “A girl that I am quite interested in. But I don’t know exactly how to progress with this situation.”

“What exactly is the problem? You don’t know her well?”

“No. We’ve gotten to know each other quite well as of recently.”

“Is she reluctant about the idea of a relationship?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Are you?”

“Aye, there’s the rub. I’ve never been in one before. A relationship.”

“Ooooh. You’ve never had a girlfriend.” Rachael smiled half-heartedly. “I see.”

“Yes. So I don’t know quite how to handle it. I think she might like me, but I just…Argh. This is where I start feeling less like myself, and more like a lost, wandering soul.”

“Well, would you like me to give you some advice, you wandering soul?” She chuckled.

Louis responded with a smile of his own. “That would be satisfactory. You and Mark do seem to be quite happy together.”

“Yeah. And he’s not even my first boyfriend. But he is definitely my best. OK, so where do I start? …OK, first I need to know who the girl is.”

“Oh.”

Louis looked over Rachael’s shoulder at the corner that they had come around. No sign of Jessica. He glanced back up the wall that they had to scale next, and saw no sign of anyone else.

“Alright. I’ll tell you.”

Lavatory Confessional

Rachael – Oh, ho, ho, ho. So that’s who Louis likes, eh? To be honest, I’m not really shocked. But nevertheless, I feel I had some good advice for him.

Louis – It felt strangely comfortable to open up to Rachael. I’ve hardly spoken a word to her since this show started, and already she’s giving me wonderful advice and treating me like a true friend. How I wish I had been on a team with her instead of the dysfunctional Addams Family that was Team Sahara.

End

As Ethan struggled to keep up with Eryn, who was gaining on Mary, as Rachael and Louis continued the climb with the former giving the latter relationship advice, and with Jessica struggling to stay in the game, they all soon heard the familiar sound.

Ding-ding!

“WHAT?!” Ethan shouted. “Are you SERIOUS?!”

“As always!” Chef’s voice sounded over the loudspeakers. “Now sing!”

“You know what?! NO!” Mary shouted. “You’re forcing us to climb up a snowy mountain in the bare minimum amount of clothing possible, and you want us to sing from all the way up here?! NO!”

“I agree with her, for once!” Ethan shouted back down. “You let us skip out of a musical number in Scotland, and come to think of it, the last three episodes featured songs that were either non-existent or restricted to a select few amount of people. Give us another free pass!”

“And who do you think you are?”

“Your contestants! The drama-causers! I say we all stage a protest and not sing a single thing! You can’t eliminate all of us! That would end the show quicker and in a very boring and anti-climactic way!”

Chef and Nicole, back on the Jet, both gasped.

“How…how dare you!” Chef shot back. “You’re gonna threaten me with that?!”

“It seems like a legitimate threat to me.” Eryn chimed in.

At that moment, all six climbers had stopped, and were looking back down at the Jet idling on the runway, waiting for a response.

None of them moved or said a word.

Then, finally, another sigh over the speakers. “Fine. Ya’ll win this round. But here’s the switch-off: If anyone drops out NOW, they’re automatically eliminated from the game!”

“DEAL!” Ethan shouted back before anyone else could say anything. He then quickly resumed with his climbing, his verbal victory over Chef giving him a new burst of motivation.

Back down towards the base of the mountain, one contestant was noticeably disappointed by this new development.

Lavatory Confessional

Jessica – Great. Just when I was getting ready to drop out. I thought that I had given enough effort for Ethan to spare me, but then he forces me right between a rock and a hard place.

End

Ethan was hauling himself up the next ledge by nearly two feet with every grip, climbing higher and higher until he finally reached the ledge, and the fifth flag.

Sure enough, Eryn was now solidly in view, just 20 feet ahead on yet another path. However, this path ran to the left of the flag and at a nearly 50-degree incline up the mountain. The journey was even taking its toll on the formidable psycho, who was still struggling to keep up with Mary. But Ethan was starting to gain on Eryn. He then glanced up at where the path, having turned completely around, was now going in the opposite direction at a higher elevation. On this higher path, he saw Mary continuing on, and seeing his goal so close gave him not only more motivation, but an increased ego.

“Hey, Perfectionist!” He called up to the first place-holder. “I’ll bet when this episode airs on international TV in front of millions of other people, it’ll be the first time John’s ever seen you like this, right?” He laughed at his own joke.

Literally caught between the two, Eryn interjected. “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! He went there! HE JUST WENT THERE!”

However, unlike the previous encounter between them, Mary didn’t respond with anger or disgust. She simply turned around and grinned.

“Actually, no.”

Eryn, once again, couldn’t help but intervene. “Wow. The good girl’s been naughty over the last few years, eh?”

Now it was Ethan’s turn to be shocked. His pace slowed down slightly as the look of shock set over his face, but he continued his path nonetheless.

“And don’t think victory’s within reach just yet, redhead! This girl’s got plenty more surprises for you!”

Just then, Mary felt her left ankle, as it moved forward, hit a very thin line stretched across the path. Before she could even trip and fall to the ground, she heard the loud rumble above her, and as she was halfway through her fall, she felt the snow pile on top of her from above. She was covered with a jolting cold feeling, in addition to the weight of the snow itself. She hadn’t even had time to yelp in pain.

Then, naturally, the voice came back.

“Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention. The fifth flag is the halfway mark, so once you reach that, you start hitting booby-traps left and right! They’re kinda spread out at first, but there’s more and more of ‘em as you get closer! Enjoy!”

Ethan, seeing Mary’s hindrance, saw his chance at reclaiming first place. But Eryn was still ahead of him, heading up the first path. He then stopped and glanced up at the wall beside him, to the right. He was just a little behind Mary’s position, and the wall was about a 20-foot climb.

Looking back at Eryn, he turned and started scaling the wall.

When Eryn finally rounded the corner and started up the next path, even she was stunned to see Ethan suddenly ahead of her, leaping over Mary as she struggled out of the snow pile.

“Whoa! Did you teleport or something?”

“I might as well have! But don’t feel bad, girl!” He turned back to face Eryn with a devious grin. “At least you can claim silver…or in your case…rainbow! And Mary over here, instead of bronze, will be claiming white! HA!”

“Looks like someone’s a bit too excited…but I can’t blame you for not having experience with this kind of thing.”

Even from halfway under the snow, Mary couldn’t help but chuckle at this joke.

“Nice one!”

“Oh, shut it! You can insult me all you want after I win!”

Just as Mary threw herself out of the snow and got to her knees, she felt a powerful smack against the back of her head as Eryn used her for an extra boost. Her foot shoved Mary’s head back down into the snow with an “Oof!”

“Oops! Sorry!”

Cursing to herself, Mary pulled her face out of the snow and scrambled to get back to her feet.

She finally reached the end of the path, where the sixth flag was waiting. She now found herself facing a massive gorge that stretched out about 100 below her, and the cliff across the way was about 50 feet. There was a series of small, snow-covered pillars filling in the gap as stepping-stones, and she saw Ethan on the fourth one, with Eryn on the second.

“You’ve GOT to be kidding. This isn’t safe!”

“We already covered that!” The voice reported. “The bottom of that gorge has been safely packed with fresh snow up to 30 feet high, so that if you fall in, you’ll simply land in soft snow and not on anything hard enough to cause serious injury.”

“Yeah! And besides, you only live once, so YOLO!” Eryn called out as she hopped over to the next platform.

Mary facepalmed, then took a deep breath and lightly stepped onto the first one, which was a few inches from the cliff edge. But the distance between each pillar varied, and the next one seemed to be about two feet away.

“Son of a…”

Mary then leapt over the distance and landed, though briefly stumbled back and almost lost her balance on the slippery snow.

Further ahead, Ethan glanced back and saw Mary struggling while Eryn gained ground.

“Nuts.”

He then turned to face the next pillar, barely a foot away. He stepped back for the slight jump…

…and in the next moment, a dark gray blur fell from the sky and obliterated the pillar. Ethan was so stunned from the impact that he fell backwards, narrowly staying on the top of his own pillar and avoiding the chasm behind himself.

“WHAT IN THE-?!”

He scrambled over to the edge and looked down, where he saw an anvil lying among the crushed rock and other remains of the former pillar.

“CHEF!”

“Just go slow and low with the flow, yo!” Eryn called as she bounded past him.

Ethan jumped up and leapt to his right, where the nearest pillar was almost four feet away.

Then, finally, Eryn reached the other side. Ethan was still about four pillars behind, and Mary was only about seven pillars from the starting area.

“This is gonna take a while.” He muttered.

Jessica was panting and gasping as she finally reached the third flag. After she told Eryn her dirty little secret, the psychotic blonde had torn ahead and left her in the dust. Louis and Rachael had also gained some serious ground, and she truly was all alone.

She leaned against the pole and sighed in misery. She couldn’t drop out now, and she feared that even taking a break would anger Chef and lead him to consider it as dropping out.

She didn’t know how much longer she had to continue on pleasing people. First Ethan, then Eryn, and now even Chef. She was tired of being everyone’s slave, and she was determined to make her own stand.

Glancing up at the mountain before her, still no sign of the others, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, then exhaled slowly before opening her eyes.

She then started up towards the fourth flag.

Soon. Very soon.

Soon, Eryn, Ethan, and Mary had all cleared the pillars. The seventh flag was at the other side, so only three remained.

However, yet another path stretched out ahead of them at a steep, 70-degree incline, making another 180-degree turn further up and continuing up the opposite direction, crossing over the same gorge that was lined with the pillars. Eryn was still in the lead, with Ethan in hot pursuit.

“WHOOOOOO! BAAAAABAY! Havin’ me some fun tonight! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! Everythin’s alright!”

“Save it for when you actually reach the red flag, sister! I’m still in this!” Ethan called.

“Oh, are you?”

Then, as she ran along, she stooped down and stretched out one hand in a cupped motion, scooping up a clump of snow and molding it together with both hands as she ran along.

Then, just as she made it to the corner, she used the moment of turning in Ethan’s general direction to launch her snowball. It plowed into Ethan’s throat, stunning him and causing him to stop running briefly.

“HAHA! Eat snow!”

As she ran up the new incline, she passed right over where Ethan was standing in shock, and kicked a clump of snow off the edge and onto him.

“Why you miserable little…”

Ethan picked up the race again as he brushed the snow off his throat, shoulders, and head, dashing around the corner (nearly slipping in the process) and continuing up after Eryn.

Soon, they reached a rather narrow bridge that stretched across the same gorge from earlier, only at a higher elevation. However, as soon as Eryn reached the bridge, she immediately noticed the slight discoloration of the snow on it. It had a more blue appearance to it, and also appeared flatter and firmer. She could already tell, just by looking at it, that this bridge was lined with ice instead of snow.

She turned around to face Ethan, who was still far behind down the path.

Maybe I’ll just keep this knowledge to myself. She thought with a devilish grin.

She then started out across the bridge at a very casual pace, not too slow so as to alert Ethan that something was wrong, but not too fast so as to lose her balance or walk in an awkward manner that would also alert Ethan.

She was about halfway across when she heard Ethan call out, “Hey! What’s the matter, first place? You too afraid of heights to keep up the pace? That’s fine. Be a slowpoke and play it safe, but I’m charging past!”

And, with that, Ethan dashed across the bridge, not even bothering to slow down. Thus, it took barely two seconds before Ethan suddenly felt the ground become very slippery under him, and he quickly lost his balance.

“WHOOOOOOOAAAAAAAA!” His feet swung out from under him as he landed flat on his back and slid across, still moving forward until he smacked right into Eryn’s legs, knocking them out from under her and sending her tumbling backwards, landing on top of him.

“ARGH! Not AGAIN!” He roared from underneath her.

She quickly rolled off of him and sat up straight, putting one hand out in front of her and the other at her side to steady herself, while Ethan was still recovering from the pain of the fall.

Eryn stumbled to her feet, then continued shuffling along. Meanwhile, Mary had just rounded the corner of the path and was on her way to the bridge.

Ethan tried to get to his feet from the sitting position, but slipped and flew forward. Eryn turned back as she continued on and saw Ethan still struggling. With a grin and a cackle, she left him behind.

Mary had just reached the beginning of the path and slowed down once she realized that it was pure ice. She looked ahead and saw Ethan, lying flat on the ice as he struggled to pull himself up.

He stuck one foot out to his side and tried to stabilize himself with his other hand, but put too much effort into his push and stumbled to the left…

…right off the bridge.

“NOOOOOO!” He screamed as he fell off, swung around…

…and managed to grab onto the edge of the bridge with a single hand. The edges of the bridge were solid rock, so he managed to maintain a firm grip. But not firm enough to pull himself up.

“Agh! No! Help! Please!”

He turned to the side and saw Mary approaching. “Mary! Please! I beg of you!”

He looked down below him at the gaping chasm below. Even though Chef insisted that it wasn’t deadly, he still didn’t want to drop out of the challenge.

“Mary! PLEASE!”

The perfectionist finally reached the struggling redhead and stopped, a hand on her hip.

“And why should I help you?”

“Please! It’s not in your nature to leave someone behind like this, especially in such a precarious predicament!” He insisted. “I’ll…I’ll bargain with you! We can team up and take down Eryn together! She’s too fast and too crazy for either of us to handle, but both of us…JUST PLEASE!”

Mary glanced at him, then peered over the edge at the gut-wrenching drop below him. She could see back down to the areas where they had already been, including the two yellow flags on each side of the gorge, and still saw no sign of anyone else.

She sighed.

“Fine. But you’ve got to promise me two things.”

“Fine, FINE!”

“First, you’ve got to stop making innuendos about me. About any other girl is just fine, but me, no. Got it?”

“YES! Got it! What’s the second?”

“You’ve got to stop staring at me.”

With a slight blush, he lowered his eyes from where he had been looking a moment ago.

“Sorry.”

“Good boy.”

She knelt down and held out a hand to him. He swung up and took it with his other hand. With a slight grunt, Mary pulled back with as much strength as she could, inching Ethan back up onto the narrow bridge. Once his waist was over, she stood straight up and lifted him up onto his feet so that he was level with her.

As he shook off the fear and anxiety, he looked right at her. “I knew it wasn’t in your nature to do something so treacherous.”

She shook her head, making the fatal mistake of closing her eyes as she did so.

In that brief moment when her eyes were closed, she felt a sudden, powerful force against her chest that shoved her backwards, and she flew right off the bridge. She never had a chance to get a grip on the bridge as she fell, tumbling through the air.

It wasn’t until she was halfway down, falling past the tops of the pillars that they had jumped across, when she finally realized her situation. Out of fear, agony, and anger, she screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Back up on the bridge, Ethan grinned maniacally. “But it’s in mine.”

And with that, he turned and started moving – at a much slower and cautious pace – across the bridge.

Just as he was about to make it across, he glanced down at the ledge on the starting side of the pillars and saw Louis and Rachael arrive. They both looked around, as if in shock or looking for something, before Louis saw Ethan and called up.

“Hey! Ethan! Did someone fall around here or something? We heard a scream!”

“Mary tried making it across the pillars but made a jump that was too far for her! There was nothing I could do! Just be careful on those things!”

He looked away from them and back up at the path he was focusing on, hiding yet another grin.

He finally made it across the path, back from the slippery ice onto thick snow. There was the eighth flag, at the end of the bridge. Only two remained.

He saw Eryn climbing up the wall just a few feet from the flag. There was yet another yellow flag at the top of the wall, about 50 feet above where Ethan was standing now.

Cracking his knuckles, he ran up to the wall and started power-climbing like never before.

Eryn glanced down below her and saw the redheaded boy finally back in the race, gaining on her.

“Oh hi there, Ethan! I hope you enjoyed your little act of treachery back there?”

“Oh, can it! She was a threat, and even you know that!”

“Maybe…but that was pretty cruel.”

“And clever.”

“Maybe…but not as clever as THIS!”

She then reached into her bra and pulled out a clump of snow that she had been storing in there. Quickly lumping it into more of a ball shape, she launched it down at Ethan. He saw it coming just in time to face downward so that only the back of his head was covered in snow.

While he wasn’t looking, Eryn quickly reached into the other cup and pulled out yet another clump of snow, wadded it up, then launched it.

Thinking it was over, he chuckled.

“I’ll admit. That IS a clever place to store-.”

He lifted his head back up and got a face full of snow. With a grunt, he lost one grip and his foothold, slipping and briefly falling backwards before tightening his other grip and holding on with all his might.

“HAHA! You should’ve expected more than one! It’s not like I have a single-cup bra or anything! Genius!”

She turned and began climbing again, while Ethan struggled to find another place to hold on with his other hand. After he found a small crevice, he felt around the cliff wall below him with his feet until he found a small ledge to place them on. With his feet and hands stabilized, he quickly wiped the snow off his face and brushed it off the back of his head before continuing, grumbling as he climbed up.

“It’ll take a lot more than snow to stop me, sweetheart!” He called up.

“I know!” She replied with equal confidence.

She was now about 10 feet from the top, but noticeably slowing down. Ethan’s confidence was restored once again, and he began pulling himself up with more strength in each pull than ever before.

She barely managed to pull herself up over the cliff edge just before Ethan made it behind her, reaching out to grab one of her feet and just barely missing. With another curse, he pulled himself up a few more feet and made it over the edge, climbing to his knees. He looked ahead and saw Eryn leaning against the flag pole, her back to him, bending over noticeably as if exhausted.

“Getting tired, sweetie?” He asked as he approached her.

Then, in an instant, she tightened her grip on the pole, reached over and grabbed it equally as tight with her other hand, then threw herself forward with a battle cry. Due to her firm grips, she swung right around the pole in a perfect circle. As she did so, she extended both legs and started swinging them rapidly. At that time, Ethan was so close, and the motion was so quick, that he didn’t even have time to move or react at all.

Her legs impacted right in the middle of his stomach, winding him instantly and driving his body backward with a gasp, a sputter, and a cough all at once. His arms were caught between clutching his stomach or flailing wildly as he stumbled right back towards the edge.

In one quick, smooth motion, she slid to a stop on the pole and ran up to him as he approached the edge. Just as his feet were balancing on the edge of the cliff, she grabbed him by the wrist with one hand, while her other hand pressed up against his chest and pushed him back, hanging him off the edge of the cliff and only keeping him from falling by holding onto his wrist.

As Ethan recovered from the shock and pain of the sudden and powerful blow, he looked straight into the eyes of the psychotic blonde who had just taken him to the cleaners in one motion.

Despite the anger or intensity he would’ve expected, she maintained her ever-crazy grin.

“Bet that’s the first time you’ve ever seen a hot girl in her underwear on a pole, eh?”

With a nervous chuckle of fear, he finally found himself at a loss as far as the innuendos went. He simply turned his head back slightly and looked at the cliff below him, the piled-up snow 50 feet away.

He turned back and chuckled nervously again.

“I suppose it isn’t in your nature, either?”

“Nope.”

Ethan sighed for a moment.

“But I can make an exception.”

She then released his wrist, letting him fall backwards off the cliff into the snow below.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Eryn cackled maniacally, then turned and started up the path off to the right, which led up to the very pinnacle of this particular mountain, where the red flag was waiting at the top.

...

Rachael and Louis had just made it across the pillars, and Jessica had made it past the fifth flag, when the voice roared over the loudspeakers again.

“Attention, contestants! The challenge is now over! Eryn has made it to the tenth and final flag first, and has one Invincibility!”

“YEAH! WOO-HOO! Victory!” She called from the top of the mountain, one hand holding the flag pole while the other was clenched into a fist, pounding repeatedly against her chest as she did an Indian call.

“And do you wish to share your prize with anyone?” The voice called out.

“Hmm…” She thought as she stopped pounding her chest and put one finger to her chin. “There are so many choices…NAH! I’m going solo!”

“And there you have it! Eryn is keeping the spoils all to herself! So the rest of ya’ll will have to stay in economy-class…except for the one unlucky sucker who will be going home tonight. You can stop your uphill trek now, and wait for Carl to pick you up via helicopter. Enjoy the rest of the time here in this scenic area…because one of you will have to get real familiar with this area very soon.”

With an evil laugh, the voice crackled out.

At the dining area, Ethan perked up as Jessica, with a blanket wrapped around herself, entered the room.

“Where’d you get the blanket?”

“Eryn gave it to me when I went up to tell her about the plan.”

“So what’s the update?”

“She agreed. And I figured, since you and I aren’t in such good standing with the other three, I asked if she could pass along the word to Louis, Nicole, and Rachael. She and Rachael are former teammates after all, and the fact that she won today gave her a bit of influence over the rest of us. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask for her help in spreading the word.”

Ethan was noticeably shocked at first, but his shock transitioned to a satisfied smirk.

“Now THAT is good thinking. First you come up with the idea of that ‘conversation’ we held for Mary to eavesdrop on, and now you use the challenge winner’s influence to further our cause. You’re really starting to use your head now rather than hitting it on the ground.”

Just then, they heard the sound of a familiar voice in a very poor imitation of an owl.

“Hoo-whoo! Hoo-whoo!”

They both looked around, puzzled as they tried to find the source of the sound.

Then Jessica caught a glimpse of a familiar figure underneath the table.

“Um, Eryn?”

“Yeeees?”

“We can see you. And there’s no one else around. So you don’t need to hide and use bird calls like that.”

“Sorry.” She apologized as she emerged from under the table. “I guess I’m still stuck in Scotland mode, eh?”

“Never mind.” Ethan interjected. “So what did the others say?”

With a slight glare at Ethan replaced by her usual grin, she continued. “I convinced Rachael pretty easily. Louis and Nicole, however, were tougher nuts to crack. After all, not only were they on a team with her, but they also revealed that they were in a sub-team alliance with her.”

“Really?” Ethan’s eyebrows rose again.

“Yep. Back before the merge, they teamed up against Anna and Isaiah when those two were seriously holding the team down. Mary was pretty much in charge over there after John left.”

“Figures.”

“But I used that to my advantage! I used my head too, you see. I convinced them that Mary was secretly plotting her revenge against them for voting out John back in Episode 3!”

“You’re kidding? That’s even more brilliant!”

“Why thank you, you devilish redhead. Now, as I was saying, once I used that little falsification fabrication, I managed to convince them. It’s gonna be a landslide!”

Then, in a surprising show of camaraderie, she raised her hand in the air for a high-five. Overrun with excitement at the news of impending success, Ethan and Jessica both met her hand in mid-air for a three-way high-five.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Completely shove aside our old rivalry, Eryn’s BRILLIANT! Coming up with a lie like that to get her last two remaining teammates to turn against her?! It’s PERFECT! I would’ve been just satisfied with Rachael’s fourth vote securing us a slim majority, but a landslide is all the sweeter! Hope you like China, Mary! HAHAHAHA!

End

“Alright, would-be scalers!” Chef called out from the stage in the elimination area. “Six of you have pushed yourselves to the limit, physically and psychologically, six of you bared quite a bit in this challenge, and six of you showed just how brave you really are.”

With every emphasis on the phrase “six of you,” Nicole shrunk a little bit in her seat, squirming uncomfortably.

“But now, despite six of you having the courage to satisfy most fanboys and fangirls on national TV, one of you must go tonight. So the first Barf Bag, of course, goes to Eryn!”

“Victory!” She cheered as she caught her Bag.

“Next up…Rachael and Jessica. “Plus Ethan and…Nicole, surprisingly.”

Nicole glared at him as she caught her Bag.

“Louis and Mary. You two are the last ones left, and…”

He paused, putting one hand on his chin while the other held the final Barf Bag. Then he just shrugged.

“Meh, I can’t think of anything else to say, so I’m just gonna throw it to Louis.”

“Wait, WHAT?!” Mary roared.

“Yeah, it was a bit quick, I know, but when you have to do this over a dozen times…”

“I’M OUT?!” She spun around to face the others. “What happened?! Louis! Nicole! Our alliance!”

“But there’s one thing that, although it’s extremely repetitive, never gets old.”

Chef then quickly approached Mary, slapped the parachute into her hands, dragged her across the room, then tossed her out the door. “That.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooo…”

Her scream still echoed throughout the room long after she was gone.

Voting Confessionals

Ethan – (As he stamps Mary’s passport) It’s the sweeeeet…sweeeet, sweet victory…YEAH!

Jessica – I’m just glad that Ethan’s finally starting to be impressed with me. (Stamps Mary’s passport).

Eryn – Sorry, hon. But you just couldn’t keep up. (Stamps Mary’s passport). This is why coming in third in such a challenge is such a dangerous thing to do.

Louis – I’ll admit, having to sit through Eryn’s wild attempt at convincing me and Nicole was tough…but then she throws out the idea that Mary’s planning a backstabbing because of what myself and Nicole did to John. And now that I think of it, she could be right. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? (Stamps Mary’s passport).

Nicole – Eryn was pretty convincing, and Louis seemed to agree with her. So…(Stamps Mary’s passport).

Rachael – Even though she was my teammate, it was tough to decide between three people: Mary, Louis, and Ethan. They’re all big threats in this game, and I’ve known Mary for the longest time out of those three. But…(Stamps Mary’s passport)…that allows me to expect more out of her than those guys. Sorry, Mary.

Mary – I’m really in a pinch here. I really wanted to vote for either Ethan or Eryn. Eryn’s the biggest threat by far, but is invincible tonight. And I really want to stick it to Ethan for pushing me off that bridge like that, but in the long run, that would be a wasted vote. He’s controlling this game, and if you can’t beat them, join them. They tried to keep me out of the loop, but I overheard that conversation between him and his clumsy crony about what to do tonight, and I heard one name thrown back and forth a bit. So I’m just gonna go ahead and vote for Louis. (Stamps Louis’s passport). After all, you know what they say: “When #1 is out of reach, go for #2.”

Voting Results

Eryn – Mary

Ethan – Mary

Jessica – Mary

Louis – Mary

Nicole – Mary

Rachael – Mary

Mary – Louis

Total Votes:

Mary: 6

Louis: 1

Elimination Order: Mark, Eryn, Madison, John, Suzie, James, Lauren, Isaiah, Violet, Anna, Samantha, Matthew, Mary

Episode 11 Part 1: Dumbbells of Notre Dame

“Last time on Total Drama World Tour: Our final seven contestants were faced with an old challenge that had been originally proposed for the first season, but rejected and stored in our top secret confidential archives. Now that this season is under new hostship, I managed to get the challenge brought out for that episode. The challenge was none other than climbing up a snowy peak near K2, wearing nothing but their undies! “It was embarrassing and difficult, so much so that silent cheerleader bowed out before it even began, while everyone else stayed in. The race for first place was a close one between three fierce competitors: Psycho, redheaded step-schemer, and perfectionist. They constantly passed each other up, outsmarted each other, fell for each other’s tricks, and shouted insults and innuendos like it was an episode of Glee. “But eventually, redhead managed to get the best of perfectionist and threw her off a cliff. But it wasn’t enough to defeat the blonde beast, who then threw him off a cliff and claimed first place. “Using his connections, and with a little help from his right-hand klutz, and some very unexpected aid from the psycho, redhead managed to successfully eliminate the perfectionist, whom he saw as the biggest threat without immunity that night. She was sent packing, much to her chagrin. “For this episode, we’ll be heading back to civilization. And not just civilization, but a classic location from the original World Tour. Same old country, same old city…different challenge. Buckle up and don’t lose your balance! This is the final six of…Total…Drama…World Tour!”

“Alright, everyone! We are making our descent into our next location. The good news: It’s civilization.”

A chorus of cheers and other positive responses rang throughout economy-class and first-class.

“The better news: It’s not America.”

“YES!” Ethan shouted out triumphantly.

“You’re probably wondering where we are, then. I would say, but if you look to your left, the nearby landmark should make it rather obvious.”

Naturally, the six teens moved to whichever window was nearest and peeked out.

The Eiffel Tower loomed below them, glistening in the sunlight.

“Paris! Cool!” Jessica exclaimed.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. Such rich history and culture, so high-class, so sophisticated…” Louis started.

“…and so romantic, isn’t it?” Nicole added with a slight chuckle and a glance at Louis.

He glanced back at her with a smile. “Yes, I suppose so.”

Only one other occupant of the room took notice of the brief exchange between the two, and scowled from behind them.

Cockpit Confessional

Ethan – Argh! It’s so frustrating! I know that Eryn is the biggest threat in this game now that Mary’s gone, and as such, I must devote all of my intelligence, all of my determination, all of my effort into eliminating her ASAP. But that Louis and Nicole…No alliance in this game or on Earth is more powerful than a relationship. And even in his own right, Louis is a threat. I know now who my number 2 target is once the psycho is out. And it won’t be easy.

End

After the usual routine – the Jet’s landing, arrival at the airport, and transportation from the airport to the location of their challenge – the contestants found themselves in a more distant part of Paris, away from the famous Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Instead, they found themselves surrounded by a group of smaller, plainer buildings than the elaborate architecture of downtown. However, they stood before the one structure in the entire area that truly stood out.

A pair of twin stone towers rising out of the famous cathedral, with the spire in the back and statues lining the façade.

“My God…” Louis stammered. “Notre Dame de Paris. Truly a majesty of architecture, faith, and historical significance. It’s far more beautiful in person than I could have ever imagined.”

“That’s right, everyone! Consider today’s episode to be a ‘blast-from-the-past’ conglomerate, as just about every aspect of the challenge, format, and location is based off a previous challenge. For the first time this season, we are returning to a location that was previously used in the original season. But we’re going nowhere near the Louvre this time around. Nope! Today’s challenge revolves around this beauty of a monument, tourist attraction, and popular filming location. “Today’s challenge will, in a way, have one thing in common with the previous challenge. In this challenge, you will get to make a choice right off the bat. There are technically two challenges taking place, side-by-side, in this cathedral. One is a challenge similar to a challenge that we’ve already done in this season: Tightrope-walking! Those who are brave enough to dare undertake this task must cross a series of tightropes strung between the two twin towers and to the massive spire at the east end. First person to complete a full circle around all three checkpoints without falling off at all will win Invincibility. “The second challenge is based off a challenge from the original season: The scavenger hunt for clues hidden throughout the cathedral. You must use your knowledge – assuming you’ve got any, that is – of this old church and decipher the clues, which will eventually lead to the final hidden message declaring you the winner. There are exactly five clues to be found in the cathedral, plus the final message declaring your victory, which is also hidden. First person to find the final message will also win Invincibility. “In the event that only one of the challenges is won by the end of the two-hour time limit, then that sole winner will get to choose one other person to share first-class with them. But one way or another, first-class will either have two occupants by the end of the day – or zero. In the event that no one wins, then all of you are equally vulnerable in elimination tonight. “You all have 30 seconds to make your decision and choose your challenge. Like I said, once the challenges begin, you will all have two hours to complete the challenge. Start making your decision…now!”

With little to no objection from the contestants, they all split off into separate groups to prepare for the challenges.

“Alright, so you’re obviously not the most physically talented person here.” Ethan informed Jessica. “And my brains are much better-suited for the scavenger hunt challenge. Plus, I know a thing or two about this old cathedral. So you and I will work together to find the clues. Got it?”

“Sure.” Jessica obediently replied.

“I don’t know about the whole scavenger hunt thing, but I think the tightrope-walking would take much less time. And besides, you remember how well I did in the tightrope-walking challenge in Malaysia.” Nicole told Louis, off to the side.

“Ah, I do remember. But as you just proved, you are far more physically capable of such a feat than I could ever be. And, of the six of us, I am probably the most knowledgeable of this place. I would be far more comfortable – and safer – doing the scavenger hunt.”

“Oh…but I don’t want to have to do separate challenges. I want us to stick together. We have to win Invincibility together.” </