Friday, February 19, 2010

Survivor: the Initiative Episode 14

Survivor: the Initiative episode 14
What it Takes to be a Hero

Day 39

On their final evening at their camp, Battle Star and MAULER had eaten all of their remaining food, saving only a few pieces of fruit for breakfast. There hadn’t been a lot of stores left; some gathered fruits and nuts, and a few pieces of fish they had caught. They had enjoyed their final fire, barely speaking a word to each other the entire night. They had both slept little, too cold to sleep on their own but unwilling to cuddle into each other, not without a girl between them at least.
As morning came, they destroyed their shelter with a few blows and blasts and watched the meager lean-tos they had been using collapse in on themselves. Then Battle Star put on his costume and mask, full hero regalia this time, and polished his shield; he wanted to look good for the jury. MAULER dusted off his fully charged suit. At the last minute, though, he chose not to wear it to the tribal council, and went instead in his dirty clothing and his unkempt beard. When Battle Star questioned him about it, MAULER simply stated that he wanted to win. Battle Star laughed, shook the hand of his opponent, and told him he was up for the challenge.
And with that, the two men, one white and one black, one a trained hero and the other a former villain, walked into their final tribal council, to face a jury of their peers in what would be votes for their success or failure.


Jasper Sitwell nodded to the two men and then brought in the jury. He told them they would all have an opportunity to question the two final contestants, one at a time, before casting their final vote for the sole survivor, and the winner of the competition. Then Jasper sat down, ready to eagerly watch what would then unfold.


The power-inhibiting collar still tightly around his neck to block his emotionally-charged and reactive powers (and what a relief!), Fletcher Traynor looked over the final two with disdain. He was the first member of the jury, and, thus, had had the most time to reflect on the game, to watch the tribal councils with tonight’s vote in mind. As the game had gotten farther in, Fletcher had experienced the gamut of emotions. He’d been angry, bored, apathetic, and even cheerful at times. And as the ranks had thinned further and further, he’d been more and more excited to see who would make it to the end. And now here he was, in the final tribal council before the final two. He pretty much knew who he was going to vote for already, but now was his chance.
Fletcher looked at Battle Star. “There was a time in the game when I was pretty angry at you. You were our tribe leader, in action if not in title, and you let me be isolated and estranged the entire game. When Brother Nature kicked me out of the tribe, you didn’t try to stop him. I want you to tell me why.”
Battle Star nodded. “It wasn’t anything personal, kid. When I first got in this game, I was pretty bitter about all of us being required to register as heroes. I mean, there’s this mix of bad guys, former heroes, and guys like you with no experience that no one has ever heard of. I was mad. I wanted all of us, especially kids like you and Gomi, to have to figure yourselves out. I wasn’t here to be your parent. I never disrespected you, I just wanted you to be able to fight your own battles. If you are ever gonna make it as a trained hero, that’s what it’s gonna take.”
With pursed lips, Fletcher turned to MAULER. “Early in the game, you approached me for an alliance. I believed you were sincere. Later, I learned that you had offered the same deal to at least three other contestants. I want you to explain to me why you should get my vote after your deception.”
“Ah, laddie, i’ tweren’t nothing personal. I realized at the beginnin’ o’ the game that the men’s tribe had a bunch’a loners an’ misfits on it. When no cohesive alliances were formin’, I took it upon meself to try and form connections with each’a ye. Twas my hope at that time that I’d get meself through the early parts’a the game. Turns out, that strategy didnae help me all that much.”
Fletcher nodded at Jasper. He was ready to cast his vote.
Biohazard voted for Battle Star to win.

Oliver Osnick took a deep breath and centered himself, pushing the crazy deep back down in him where he belonged. Since he’d been kicked out of the game (he refused to see it any other way), he’d been heavily medicated. He was beginning to realize that in his life, if he was ever going to be a successful hero, a successful person, a capable human being, then he would have to stay on meds and in therapy. The government could take his arm, he guessed, but they could also give him the tools he needed to have everything he wanted. Success, a career, a family. This was his way out.
In an effort to be imposing, Ollie raised himself up on his long spidery legs, mentally controlling them through the harness he’d designed. He truly was brilliant, and he knew it.
“My questions for both of you are the same. I want to hear the worst mistake you made in the game, and I want to know what you would have done differently if you had the chance.”
MAULER thought, and answered quickly. This was easy for him. “Although this may make him a bit angry, my biggest mistake was aligning meself with Sandstorm. He had plots to try and take out the powerful opponents in the game, and I thought that gettin’ rid’a the tougher competitors, like Battle Star and Valkyrie, would serve me in the long run. It turned out that Sandstorm’s strategy an’ motivations nearly destroyed me own game play. No offense intended ta ye, Sandstorm.”
Battle Star took a bit longer to answer. “This is still hard for me to admit. My biggest mistake was in allowing myself to get so depressed and despondent. My usual fighting spirit was gone for days, and I felt sorry for myself for the first time in years. I should never have done that.”
Ollie felt a wave of annoyance at Battle Star’s answer and changed his vote at the last minute.
Steel Spider voted for MAULER to win.

Smoothing his ancient brown (but now clean) robes over his legs, and taking a moment to adjust the rope sash that cinched about his waist, Derwyddon, the ancient and conflicted druid, smiled. He still hadn’t cut his beard. He still wasn’t settled within himself. He didn’t know what lay ahead for him, and he was only beginning to learn that maybe that was okay. Maybe he didn’t need to know that a divine path lay ahead of him. Maybe it was all right to just live life and see what was to come next. He prayed he was strong enough to find faith in himself.
“MAULER, where do you see yourself in five years? What are your plans? And how would winning this game influence that?”
“Ach, but I’ve given that a lot of thought these last few days. I’ve spent much’a me life failin’ and tryin’ ta get the right things in the wrong ways. After me son was born, it took some time for me tae learn that my time is measured by the growth of me boy now. I want to be a hero. I want to make my Daniel proud. Winnin’ this game, it’ll show me and my boy both that I’ve got what it takes to make a new life. In five years? I want tae be a hero, servin’ me country, and I want tae be a stable presence in my son’s life, tae be the dad he deserves.”
“Battle Star, same question to you.”
“Honestly, Derwyddon, I just don’t know. I want to serve my country. Eventually, I want to settle down and have a family. But I don’t have plans. I don’t know what will come next for me, but I hope to be ready for it.”
Derwyddon considered the answers, and he easily decided which plan he respected more.
Derwyddon voted for MAULER to win.

Tony Trainer pulled his sandy grit armor tight about himself, tight against his frame. Someone could fire a bazooka at him and it wouldn’t penetrate his armor. Tony knew that things were bad for him at this point. He was on the jury, but he felt like he was the one being judged. He’d come into this competition so cold, so calculating, so… arrogant. He had a lot to learn about himself yet, and he would be, hopefully, far far away from the public eye when that happened. What would this do to him, to his family, when this show was broadcast? When the whole nation, the whole world, knew he was a murderer? What would that do to his future? What was next for him? He didn’t know and he was truly scared to find out the answers.
Tony turned to the two men, both of whom had been his primary allies in the game. MAULER had just stated that allying with Tony had been his biggest mistake, but Tony couldn’t find it in himself to be angry or bitter. It just… was.
“Both of you were my allies. Both of you learned in time that you couldn’t trust me. I’d like to know why. Why is it you found me untrustworthy?”
Battle Star locked eyes with Tony, who quickly looked away. “I quit trusting you because you lied to me and kept things from me. Trust is given until broken, then it has to be earned back.”
MAULER looked at the other jury members as he spoke. “I didn’t trust ye, Sandstorm, because ye were deceiving and a bit scary. I—“
Tony, annoyed, cut him off. “You knew my plan when you allied with me. You were then, and you are now, just trying to distance yourself from me so that the other jury members won’t judge you. Let me tell you, that cowardly approach doesn’t get my respect or my vote. You want to fight me, you do it head on.”
Sandstorm collected his breath, then voted for Battle Star to win.

Samantha Parrington fingered the sword hilt on her belt, her blade safely sheathed at her side. She stood in her full Asgardian regalia, her black skin suit with the impressive metal bra shells, her hair was pulled back in pigtails. She looked every bit the Viking warrior woman that she was meant to represent. And she was proud to be so. She was learning to accept her nature, the immortal warrior combined with the fragile yet strong mortal. Samantha truly felt she could face anything. And she was so thrilled to reconcile with her parents after this game, to rebuild that part of her life that had been void for so long. She was grateful for the chance she’d had to be in this game, and for the things it had taught her about herself.
And with that, she narrowed her eyes at her two competitors. Two of the most worthy competitors of the game, so far as she was concerned, but she wasn’t about to let them off easily. It was Valkyrie’s nature to challenge, provoke, and boat-rock. Tonight would be no different.
“MAULER, on what planet do you think the public can forget everything about a person and only focus on the present? Do you think that anyone will ever forget that you were a mercenary-for-hire? That you committed criminal acts for money? That you stole the very armored suit you wear into battle? That it took you years to choose to be in your son’s life? That you’ve been in prison and battled the nation’s heroes for profit? Do you really think that just because you are declared a ‘hero’ that we can forget what you’ve done?”
MAULER cleared his throat, taking a moment to focus, his nostrils flaring so as not to show his anger. “Valkyrie, I knew ye’d have the toughest one. Look, I dinnae expect anyone tae forget where I come from. In fact, I dinnae want them ta. I want to remember what happened to me so that I know what I dinnae want tae go back ta. I’m nae proud’a the things I’ve done. I chose not tae wear my armor tonight for one reason. I dinnae want ta be considered for a vote based on my past or based on me powers. I want to be voted on me own merits.”
Valkyrie considered, then laughed, just to unsettle him. Then she turned to Battle Star. “You consider yourself a leader and a hero. You fault yourself for weakness. I fault your game play itself, Lemar. You told Biohazard moments ago that your approach was to let the men on your tribe fend for themselves. If you are such a great leader, would they not have been better off with your guidance and instruction? If you have so much to offer, why have you not offered it?”
Battle Star stared past her and into the fire. “I—the answer to that is not one I care to admit. I don’t trust this new Initiative program. I felt like anyone getting involved in it deserved to suffer a bit, I suppose, like I had. I stood out against the program, and I was arrested and convicted for it. Guess I’m not as confident as you expected, hm?”
Samantha thanked them both, then moved to vote.
Valkyrie voted for MAULER to win.


With her energy form tightly wrapped into her containment suit, Voletta Todd turned her form toward her former competitors. When she felt the bitterness and frustration wash over her, she didn’t try to hide from it as she would in the past. This game had taught her many things about herself, but one thing she knew is that she had to stop herself from feeling like she wasn’t human. She may not have a body, but she had her mind, she had emotion, she had goals and wishes and hopes and desires. She had been thinking that her experience must be rather like someone who lost a limb, who became paralyzed, or who lost their sight. Voletta had lost her whole body! It had taken her years to cope, but she knew she had it in her to be a better person.
Voletta looked at the two men sitting before her. Unshaven, unshowered, in clothes that were unwashed. Their motivations, their goals, their very characteristics, were laid bare before her. And she had already made her decision. There was no reason to prolong their pain, though part of her wanted to take a poke at their human souls like the others had.
“I will not make the both of you squirm. I have no questions. My decision has been made.”
Ion voted for Battle Star to win.

Angela Cairn felt a wave of elation pass through her being, and she couldn’t contain it. The emotion washed off of her and over the others, lightening the incredibly tense mood in the room. She watched Battle Star smile at her emotional relay, a soft smile on his lips. MAULER looked a bit surprised to be feeling so happy, and she was glad to give them the gift of peace in this moment.
“I… feel.” She allowed a smile to cross her face, and her teeth gleamed in the fire light. She smoothed her wings out behind her. “For the years after my transformation, I did not allow myself to feel. Instead, I absorbed the pain of others, relishing in their misery so that I wouldn’t have to feel my own. But today, I feel. I embrace my own feeling.”
Angela locked eyes with MAULER. “Brendan, from you, I sense fear. The greatest emotion I ever sensed from you is fear. You mask it with bravado, determination, and inattention, but it is fear that drives you. I want to ask you now, what is it you are afraid of? I have wondered this since the first moment I met you.”
MAULER’s face paled, and he looked away. “I—I’m afraid, I’ll admit it tae ye. I’m afraid’a failin’. I’ve turned out tae be a failure me entire life. I’m afraid I’ll fail at this, too, just like I have on everythin’ else.”
Angela nodded, and she knew he spoke the truth. She avoided the temptation to take this fear from him and replace it with calm. This needed to be MAULER’s battle to fight.
Angela turned to Battle Star, a man she’d grown to care for, maybe even love. “Lemar, from you, I have always sensed pity. Pity in yourself. The under-riding, subconscious emotion that seems to rule all of your actions and mindsets. I feel that you often excuse yourself for these reasons. That you often feel the world owes you something. Why is this, Lemar? What does the world owe you, and why?”
With her enhanced hearing, Angela could hear Battle Star’s teeth gritting, and she felt the anger roll off of him. Its intensity startled her slightly. “Angela, I care for you, but you are wrong. It isn’t self-pity you are sensing, it is… well, it’s a standard that I hold myself to. It’s a drive to prove to myself that I’m better than what I think I can be. And you have no right to use your powers and pick me apart like that. That should have nothing to do with your vote.”
Angela looked away from his angry gaze. Then she picked up her pen and thought. Who should she vote for? She had her answer in moments, and she cast her vote, guarding her emotions for once.


That night, Jasper Sitwell had gathered the seven votes and sealed them away. He’d bid the contestants farewell, and they had been ushered off back to America, where they would be entered into the training camps for the Initiative. And then he’d sat back while the first season of Survivor: the Initiative had been broadcast to the general public. The 16 heroes-in-training (who were now trained) had played out the dramas and challenges of their competition in Slorenia before all of America. The show had been an absolute hit. The public had thrilled at watching these super-powered individuals battling it out for the honor of being the sole survivor.
And now, here at a beautiful and opulent tribal council shelter, before an audience of thousands, Jasper, dressed in a tuxedo, stood with his date on his arm. The beautiful Silver Sable had agreed to accompany him from the premiere, and she still made him sweat, but never had he had such a woman on his arm.
Jasper saw Battle Star and MAULER, both out of costume now and dressed in elegant clothing, sat next to each other. Both men had changed, had come into their own. Jasper knew both men would make fine heroes in the service of their country.
The other contestants sat nearby with a few exceptions. A few had washed out of training. Brother Nature hadn’t lasted a month, and had voluntarily returned to prison. Sandstorm had been tried for his crimes and was serving out his time. Biohazard had returned to Project: PEGASUS in an attempt to get his powers under control. Derwyddon had simply disappeared one day; they’d awakened and he was no longer in camp, and no one had been able to find him since. Tempo had joined some mutant cause and was on the run. And Phantom Blonde had decided to retire to a civilian life, realizing her lack of powers didn’t serve her well in the Initiative. But the other two men and six women were gathered here, ready to see the contests results, and prepared to enter the service of their country when all was done.
Jasper felt the anticipation move through the room as he read off the votes one at a time. Battle Star, MAULER, Battle Star, MAULER, Battle Star, MAULER. A three-three tie with one vote left to read.
And with the cameras recording and the heroes watching, Jasper addressed the group with the final vote.
“And the winner. Of Survivor: the Initiative. Is.”
A collective breath.
“Brendan Doyle. MAULER!”
Jasper smiled as Doyle stood up, whooped into the air, then turned and gave an uncharacteristic hug to his competitor, Battle Star, who seemed genuinely happy for Doyle. Doyle then shocked them all by leaping down into the audience, rushing across the room, and scooping up young Daniel Doyle in his arms. Jasper saw tears streaking down Doyle’s face as he spun around and around, his son in his arms.
Redemption, Jasper thought to himself, couldn’t be granted by the public, couldn’t be given by registering as a hero, couldn’t be won by serving time in jail. And yet at this moment, in Jasper Sitwell’s eyes, Brendan Doyle was a man redeemed. Redeemed in the one place it mattered: in the arms and eyes of his son.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Survivor: The Initiative Episode 13

Survivor: the Initiative episode 13
Three’s a Crowd

Day 37

Pushing himself forward with his mental control over his armor, Brendan Doyle, MAULER flew over the Symkarian forest and lake, his suit fully charged in the solar rays. He felt good. Alive. He felt better than he had in years. He was one of the final three! When this show broadcast, he would be a world famous hero, whether he won the game or not. The name of MAULER, the name of Brendan Doyle, the former mercenary, the former criminal, would be a household name. And everyone would know he was Daniel’s dad. He’d make his kid proud. At this moment, it didn’t matter that Brendan hadn’t showered in weeks, or that he hadn’t slept in a nice bed or that he hadn’t eaten a good meal. He had only two days left in Symkaria, and he knew he could potentially win the game. He stood every chance.
As Brendan skimmed his armor over the lake water, trailing a hand in it, he thought about the jury and how they would place their votes. He hoped that Sandstorm still respected him, despite Brendan’s betrayal, but he knew that all of them trusted Sandstorm the least and knew him the least. He’d had early alliances and friendships with Biohazard and Derwyddon, and Steel Spider would probably vote however Derwyddon did, unless those two still weren’t getting along. Valkyrie and Ion both didn’t have any love for Brendan, but he hoped to appease them with his final speeches. He could actually pull this off. He could do it.
And if history held true, he would win the final immunity. He’d won before, now he just needed to hold that trend.

With her wings spread wide and her clawed fingers stretched to the sky, Angela Cairn, Nocturne, stood in the early morning light and felt the cool air wash over her. She had never cared particularly about this game, this competition, or frankly about being a hero in the Initiative program itself, but she had to admit a sense of exhilaration at reaching the end of the game. She felt good for two reasons. One, the game was nearly over (and she could shower soon!), and two, she had found herself again. She felt like Angela again, not just that stunted creature she had been for so long. And, she had to admit, a small bit of pride swelled within her at the potential of winning this game. There would be a high amount of honor that accompanied the victory, and, though honor was never something she had sought out, Angela did like the idea of being crowned the winner.
Angela closed her eyes and stepped from the tree she’d been standing on and into the air. With her wings softly straining, it was enough to keep her aloft. She just stood there, barely moving, reaching out with her emotional sensing abilities, and felt the calm and confidence radiating out of her. Her heightened senses picked up the sounds of the birds, the breeze, the burrowing animals, the lapping of the lake water on the shore, the sounds of the early morning forest. She willed her prehensile hair to spread out behind her and felt it cascade down her back.
This. This was the creature she had become.
Angela felt a smile across her face, and she wondered at this new life she’d been granted.

Lemar Hoskins, Battle Star, ran his finger over the blunt edge of his shield, then looked out across the landscape. This was it. The final competition in preparation for the final tribal councils. After a lengthy month full of failed alliances, difficult challenges, a rough time making things work, and even an uncharacteristic bout with depression, Lemar had made it to the end of the competition. And frankly, he wasn’t sure how to feel about it.
When Lemar thought about the competition, he felt a wave of confusion and frustration pass through him. Sixteen super-powered individuals, all from vastly different walks of life and with vastly different power sets. Who was he to say who could or could not be a hero? Who was he to say that even he had the right to be a hero?
Lemar knew his recent history prior to the game had not been his proudest. He had made a public stand against the government’s registration act. He’d been incarcerated because of it, had brought shame to his family, and had besmirched his own name and reputation. He wanted a second chance. He hadn’t felt that this game was that important. It was a game! But wouldn’t a victory give him greater recognition as a hero, and allow him to clear his name even faster?
Lemar stood and felt a resolve pass through him. Somehow he’d made it to the final three. He was now determined to be the sole survivor.

The three final contestants walked through the foggy morning toward the hilltop, looking impressive, Jasper Sitwell had to admit. Battle Star, strong and stoic behind his shield. MAULER, flying through the air in his polished armor. And Nocturne, flying forward with confidence radiating out of her. Jasper explained that they would be going on a hike that would last the majority of the morning. At each mile marker, they would gather a small heroic idol that represented each of the contestants they had voted out thus far. They would then toss those gathered idols into the fire at the final destination, where the three of them would undergo the final immunity challenge. Jasper could sense the hope and determination from each of the contestants, and he could tell that they each wanted to win.
As they picked up the idol representing Gladiatrix, the first contestant voted out, Nocturne commented briefly on what a strong-willed woman Robin Braxton was and how she came on way too strong in her tribe at the beginning. Nocturne laughed that they’d only had room for one super-strong warrior woman in the tribe, and Valkyrie had seen to it very quickly that Gladiatrix didn’t stay around.
Nocturne grew strangely quiet when they retrieved Tempo’s idol. Battle Star asked her about Tempo and if she’d been difficult to vote out, and Nocturne frowned, saying that Tempo had reflected an air of cold determination and a sense of being prejudiced like no one she’d ever seen. She said that of all those voted out, Tempo may have needed this game more than any of the others, but that her stand-offish nature and bullying attitude had estranged her from the others.
They soon came to Brother Nature’s idol, and Nocturne sensed the strong reactions from both men toward this former competitor. Brother Nature, Battle Star explained, was crazy, pure and simple, and had the emotional capacity of a child. MAULER laughed, patting Battle Star on the back, and wondered out loud how different the game would have been with that lad going to the end.
The Phantom Blonde, Nocturne commented, was spoiled, self-centered, and not even super-powered, but her alliance with powerful competitors had almost allowed her to stick in the game for a long period of time. Nocturne recounted how Valkyrie had surprised them all by announcing that only worthy competitors should be in the game and had turned on her ally. One of the many game-changing moments. MAULER laughed about how Blondie sure was a looker, though.
All three of them recounted the fifth tribal council and how shocking it had been to have to vote two contestants out. Battle Star recounted how difficult it had been to vote Free Spirit out so early in the game, and how if he’d known about Sandstorm’s true intentions earlier on, then things would have been much different. MAULER talked about voting out little Gomi, and wondered what had ever become of that strange lad’s even stranger lobster, which had apparently gone missing.
Ah, Number Nine, MAULER commented. He said he’d been so surprised to see how much attention she’d thrown on him after the tribe reshuffle. Nocturne talked about Number Nine’s struggles with memory and inner self, and how she seemed at war with her very nature. They all took a moment to wish Number Nine well on her path, and hoped she would find happiness.
Then they passed the icons representing members of the jury, six in all so far, and the trio knew that one more of them would be joining the jury this evening. Biohazard, who had never been able to seize control of his acidic powers. Steel Spider, whose struggles with his own mental health led to multiple challenges in the game. Derwyddon, who had struggled repeatedly with his own faith in his gods and in himself. Sandstorm, who had struggled to find his own path to heroism through varying levels of villainy. Ion, whose hatred of self and of her own nature had tainted her every thought and action. And Valkyrie, who had found herself so confident and flawless as a god, but so imperfect as a human.
This, their jury. The peers and fellow competitors that would be judging them.
It was then that they arrived at the final immunity challenge.


As the contestants watched, Jasper Sitwell showed them the virtual reality programs they would each be using to upload their minds and skill-sets into, a very high tech piece of government equipment. They would each be assigned a set of random computer-generated super heroes, a group of four for each of them, and that they would be each be briefed briefly on their assigned teams. Then they would each be uploaded into a complex scenario, where they would be required to take down a group of vitual villains and rescue a group of virtual hostages. They would each be required to command their own teams, who would only follow their orders, and they would be scored on their initiative, their timeliness, their resourcefulness, and their success rate. The contestant with the highest score would win the final immunity competition.
The three contestants were uploaded into the virtual reality system simultaneously, and each were briefed on their randomly selected teams. Battle Star was placed on a team that included the Mandrill, the Scarlet Witch, and Frog Man. Nocturne’s team consisted of Slyde, Tigra, and the Fixer. MAULER’s team included Ghost Rider, Red Zeppelin, and Firestar. In time, the virtual teams were uploaded into the hostage scenario: five members of the Serpent Society (King Cobra, Rattler, Fer-de-Lance, Coachwhip, and Anaconda) had staged a bank robbery, and had taken a group of stages. The police had surrounded the bank and the heroes had been called in to save them. The three contestants had no idea what each of the others were doing with the same scenarios.
MAULER immediately ordered his team to storm the bank building. As he burst through the windows with Red Zeppelin and Ghost Rider at his side, he took out Rattler with a burst from his blaze cannon while Firestar and Ghost Rider contained the female snakes in circles of fire. But King Cobra proved too difficult for the heroes and managed to kill not only four of the seven hostages, but Red Zeppelin as well. MAULER exited the scenario with a heavy heart, his mind reeling on what he could have done differently.
Nocturne had a much different approach. She’d asked her teammates to hang back while she stood outside the bank and pushed a wave of calm over the entire building. Once she was positive the criminals had calmed themselves sufficiently, she’d been prepared to go in and negotiate the hostages’ rescue, but her teammates, feeling discounted and impatient, had stormed the building. Slyde, Tigra, and the Fixer rescued the hostages with Nocturne rushing behind them to aid in the battle.
Battle Star took a few minutes to talk to his teammates, briefing them on their battle plan. He ordered the Scarlet Witch to turn one of the wall’s invisible, allowing him to scope out the situation inside. He then ordered the Mandrill to coat the building with pheromones, allowing the monkey-man to take control of the female villains inside. With that done, he and Frog-Man rushed in through the window and quickly took down Rattler (Frog-Man’s kick to the head) while Battle Star wrestled King Cobra for the gun. Though the rescue took longer than in the other scenarios, there were no casualties and all the skills of the various heroes had been used.
Having received the highest ratings, Battle Star was declared the winner of the final immunity competition.

Tribal council was a very different experience this time around. The seven jury members entered and viewed the proceedings. Jasper explained that no one could vote for Battle Star, and that he would be selecting who would join him in the final two, as MAULER and Nocturne’s votes would simply cancel each other out.
Battle Star asked both of them to give him their final reasons why they should be in the final two with him. He listened as MAULER described wanting to be a good father to his young son, and wanting to prove to the world that he had changed his ways and was a true hero-in-training now. Nocturne gave a strangely short speech about trusting Battle Star’s judgment.
When Battle Star selected MAULER as his competitor in the final two, Nocturne quietly and easily left the area and smiled at the others as she had her torch extinguished. She continued to radiate calmness to the others are she left the room.
Jasper announced that the final tribal council would take place the next morning.
Battle Star and MAULER locked eyes, shook hands, and headed back to camp.

Thank you for reading this, the penultimate episode in Survivor! Next issue it is the big jury vote and the winner is finally declared! Please post your votes for WHO you want to WIN (not who you want out). No immunity this round, vote as you will. :D

The final two:

Battle Star (Lemar Hoskins)
MAULER (Brendan Doyle)

And our jury:
Biohazard (Fletcher Traynor)
Steel Spider (Ollie Osnick)
Sandstorm (Tony Trainer)
Ion (Voletta Todd)
Valkyrie (Samantha Parrington)
Nocturne (Angela Cairn)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Survivor: the Initiative episode 12

Survivor: the Initiative episode 12

Day 34

Lemar Hoskins, Battle Star, looked out at the other three contestants who remained in the game with him. It was evening, and the light over the Symkarian trees was dimming, with the light from the campfire they sat around chasing away the shadows of the forest that were fighting to take over for the night. Here they were, the final four. And, as far as Lemar could tell, they were more put together and comfortable than they had been the entire game.
“We’ve come a long way to get here. I could never have predicted this final four. A big black guy with a shield, a white lady with a sword, a winged multi-racial former cop, and an armored Irish-American. All from different walks of life, with different skills, different origins, different power sets. We’ve all had the chance to learn more about ourselves in this game, and to learn who it is we associate with. Not only that, but when this show airs, we’ll all be exposed to the public. But we can’t forget the reasons that we signed up with this program in the first place. For our own reasons, we all want to be heroes. Legal, certified, deputized heroes. And it is very difficult to remember all of that when we are caught up in this series of survival, challenges, and vote-outs.”
Lemar stretched his back and continued. “I have friendships and alliances with all of you. I admire all of you. I would be proud to be on a military team with any of you. And I hope we can all keep in mind that this competition, this game, is just that. It’s training for our future as heroes.”
MAULER, sitting in his boxer shorts across the fire from Lemar, smiled. “Aye, brother, I consider ye a friend as well. I’m glad we never crossed paths in my wayward days as a mercenary or a criminal. I’m proud to know ye now.”
Lemar nodded carefully. He appreciated the compliment and the condolences, but he would always be skeptical about someone who’d been a criminal at one time.
Unbidden by him, Nocturne turned toward Lemar. She kissed him on the cheek and nestled in closer to him. This was the first time she’d shown affection toward him in front of others. Lemar noticed Valkyrie, in her human form, smiling, and noticed MAULER looking shocked. “I admire your strength and your convictions, Lemar Hoskins. I am glad to know you.”
Lemar laughed now. “All this mutual approbation going on around here. Your turn, Valkyrie, tell me what a great guy I am?”
Valkyrie, so much nicer to look at in her smaller form now that she could choose to go back and forth between them, smiled smugly, her arms around her legs as the fire warmed her. “I can’t find a single negative thing to say about you, Battle Star. And that is a high compliment indeed.”

“I want you to know me, Lemar Hoskins. I want you to know my story.”
“Angela, I do know you. I—“
Angela Cairn, Nocturne, interrupted Battle Star. She was cuddling with him next to the fire. It was late at night now, and very dark, and MAULER and Valkyrie had already returned to their respective lean-tos. “Not in that way. You know the being I am now, and you know the being I was. But you don’t know my story. You don’t know how I became who I now am, the woman you now know.”
Battle Star, yawning into the night, patted her back. “I want to know you. Please, tell me your story.”
And so, with her voice a melodic trill, and with her emotional powers sending out waves of calm and comfort, Angela told her story. She told of her upbringing as a child of mixed races. She told of her constant need to prove herself self-sufficient and independent. She told of her enrollment in the police force and her gruff nature and work to prove herself better than all the men. She told of losing her friend and lover to a deadly mass murderer, and how it haunted her afterwards. She told of her transformation in the mutate-machines into the creature of the night, Nocturne. She told of her years spent hiding from herself and drinking the pain of others. And she told of her recent rebirth into this new confident being she had become.
As she finished, Angela noticed that her emotions had changed. She was no longer radiating comfort and calm, instead she was just feeling. No drawing in of emotions, no letting out. Just being. Juts comfortable. She felt tears come into her eyes as she realized that this was the first time in several years when she had been content to just be.
Battle Star rubbed her back and held her close. “Thank you for sharing your story with me,” he whispered. “I’m glad to know you, Angela Cairn.”
“And I you, Lemar.”

Day 35

Samantha Parrington, Valkyrie, in her immortal warrior form, drew her blade and slashed it through the air at Battle Star, careful that only the flat of the blade would strike him, and she was pleased when he parried the blow with his shield. Before he could move at her with strength that nearly matched her own, Samantha pushed into his shield with all of her strength and upset his footing, knocking him to the ground.
Samantha then turned and felt a startling wave of fear wash over her. She immediately recognized this as Nocturne’s powers. Fighting off the fear and steeling herself, Samantha scanned the trees and skyline for her attacker, but couldn’t find her right off. Nocturne’s natural ability to hide in her surroundings would serve her well. But Samantha did see MAULER, swooping down at her with his boot jets, his electric shock weapons primed and ready to fire.
Shaking off the nauseating fear, Samantha propelled herself toward the lake, and she felt the fear leave her as she got out of range. She knew MAULER was flying up behind her, but she refused to turn to see him. As she got within fifty yards of the lake, she could see it through the trees, and she heard MAULER’s weapons crackle, ready to fire. A thrill of exhilaration ran through her as she jumped behind a tree just as the electric burst came forward, striking the ground where she had just been standing, setting several small plants on fire and causing the dirt to explode upward. Valkyrie came out from behind the tree and saw MAULER landing directly in front of her. Then she turned to see Nocturne gently landing on the ground behind her. From a third direction, Battle Star came rushing out of the trees.
All of them were smiling.
Valkyrie laughed out loud. “Thank you for the sparring match, my friends! It is good to be back!”

Brendan Doyle, MAULER, was thrilled that there were only a few days left in the game. He was tired of living in the woods. He knew it was for a good cause and he knew it was all toward the meeting of his goals, but he was sick of being hungry, cold, and tired. And even more, now he longed more than ever to be with his son, Daniel, full-time. Brendan knew he would have to be smart it this time. No kidnapping or running off, no jail time. He would have to become a legitimate registered hero and then he could start the court battle for his kid. His brilliant, beautiful boy. He’d do it right. He’d be the dad that Daniel deserved.
That two-and-a-half days he’d got to spend with Daniel had been the best Brendan had ever had. Playing with his kid during the day, flying over the woods, telling him stories, holding him at night. It had been incredible. And then to, with Daniel’s help, win the immunity challenge! Daniel would have quite a story to tell all the kids back at the foster home. It gave Brendan just the charge he needed to make it through the end of the game. The boost in energy he had to have.
The game. Brendan needed to stay focused on the game. He figured he had played pretty smart most of the way through. His strategy at the beginning of the game had been to ally with all of the outcasts of the tribe, and he figured that would be what would pull him through, a leader in his own alliance. But that had all fallen apart because most the men on his tribe had been stark-raving crazy! Then he had formed that alliance with Sandstorm, and that partial one with the doting Number Nine, but both of those had crumbled to ashes around him. He had only made it this far in the game, he figured, because he was just a little less unstable than everyone around him.
Brendan figured he could win the game against Valkyrie and Nocturne both, assuming he could get a few more immunities, and assuming he wasn’t voted out first. He would have the jury votes to win the game, he knew it. He just had to find a way to get rid of Battle Star. A way that wouldn’t make the rest of the tribe mad…

Day 36


At Jasper Sitwell’s instruction, the four remaining contestants took their places at various corners of a complex construction that was designed to test their balance, memory, efficiency, speed, and agility. Jasper instructed the contestants to work through the complex challenge as quickly as possible. He explained that they would have to rely on their own merits to get them farther in the game. After balancing on a series of beams and ropes, each contestant would have to work their way over a series of steep walls, using only a few small handholds to get across. Then they would be required to memorize a complicated series of numbers and letters, after which they would have to go back across the course and write them down. Each contestant could go back and forth across the course as many times as necessary, but the first to correctly replicate the code would win immunity and be guaranteed a spot in the final three.
When the contest began, Battle Star and Valkyrie broke out at a dead even on the balancing portion, but both had to start over multiple times, their large frames not conducive to balancing. Nocturne flitted over the balance portion and easily maneuvered over the steep walls, with MAULER not far behind her, she using her wings to support her and he using his armor’s hydraulics. When the duo reached the memorization pattern, MAULER used his suit’s systems to easily record the sequence. After returning to the beginning, he was able to replicate it easily while Nocturne struggled to write it down and the other two were only just reaching the pattern.
MAULER was given the immunity necklace again, blowing everyone’s minds.

Valkyrie, Battle Star, MAULER, and Nocturne took their seats at tribal council and watched as Biohazard, Sandstorm, Steel Spider, Derwyddon, and Ion took their places on the jury bench, there to silently observe in preparation for the upcoming final vote. There was a bit of tension in the room as the jury reflected different emotions toward the surviving contestants. Anger, frustration, hope, annoyance. Jasper noted all of this as he began his questioning.
“Nocturne, there seems to be a shift in mood around camp the last few days. What do you attribute that to?”
“Jasper, there has indeed been a shift in mood. For those of us still in the game, we have learned more about ourselves and, I think, as a result, grown more comfortable in our own skins. When you add the visits from our family members earlier this week, I think I can speak for all of us when I say we have had a boost in confidence and self-assurance. We are all feeling better, and it is a wonderful thing.”
“Better than what? MAULER?”
“Well, better than the dark an’ depressing moods we’ve all been in of late. The rain went away and so did our poor attitudes, it seems.”
Jasper cleared his throat. “Valkyrie, do you find it more difficult to vote out your fellow contestants as you get farther into the game?”
“More difficult? No. As difficult, yes. But as Battle Star recently reminded us, it is less about the game itself and more about being a hero in the end. My vote tonight is simply towards who is the least deserving to be a hero.”
Jasper smiled. “Blunt as always. Let’s get to the voting.”
The first vote was for Valkyrie. This was from MAULER, who didn’t care who left at this point, and who made this decision based on whose departure might upset the jury the least.
The second vote was for Valkyrie. This was from Battle Star, who didn’t want Nocturne to leave yet and couldn’t vote for MAULER.
The third vote was for Nocturne. This was from Valkyrie, who found Nocturne least deserving of being a hero of the remaining contestants.
The fourth vote was for Valkyrie. This was from Nocturne, who was voting along with Battle Star.
Valkyrie laughed good-naturedly when the decision was read. She stood straight as Jasper extinguished her torch and turned to the others. “It’s about time you got rid of the biggest contestant in the game!” She walked away, laughing, leaving only three in the game.

And here we are, with only two votes, and three episodes, left! Thanks to those of you who have stuck around this far! The episodes get shorter (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) as the contestants get fewer, and all the final plans are in place to see this series wrapped up. Due to random selection, the contestant who has immunity, and a guaranteed spot in the final two is…. Battle Star. That means you can only vote out one of the other two contestants. This will be an interesting final two!!! Can’t hardly wait.

Battle Star (Lemar Hoskins—immunity)
MAULER (Brendan Doyle)
Nocturne (Angela Cairn)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Survivor: the Initiative episode 11

Survivor: the Initiative episode 11

Day 31

Jasper Sitwell instructed his five guests to sit behind the assembled partition while he attended to his business. And then he walked into the camp of Camp Rogers. What a mess! He’d been monitoring this place through the cameras, but it looked even worse in person. The pieces of their wooden shelter lay strewn about from where they had been crushed by Ion’s blow several days before. Instead of anyone trying to rebuild the shelter, they had just used pieces of it to burn, or to build small lean-tos. Jasper knew morale had been low, but this was ridiculous. Jasper clicked his tongue. He saw the various places around the camp where MAULER, Battle Star, and Valkyrie (er, Samantha; that little mess had to clear itself up soon) had been sleeping. Three separate little camps. Ion didn’t need to sleep, and Nocturne probably slept up in the trees or something.
It took a few minutes for one of the contestants to return to camp. It was MAULER. Jasper instructed him to find and gather the other four contestants, and in another fifteen minutes the five remaining contestants stood before him. Battle Star. MAULER. Ion. Valkyrie. Nocturne. This was it. The beginning to the penultimate challenge of the game. Three more tribal councils, then they would finally have a winner.
As Jasper addressed the five contestants, he noticed how weary they all looked. This game had been rough on them. On all of them.
“We’re going to do something we haven’t done before in our past Survivor competitions. We’ve brought one of your loved ones here to camp, and they will be living with you here at camp for the next two nights. On the third day, they will be competing with you in the new immunity challenge.”
Before any of them could react, Jasper signaled for the five family members to come in. He wondered what impact the presence of these individuals would have on their loved ones.
5 year old Daniel Doyle, his tiny frame in shorts and a Spongebob shirt, his red hair messy, walked out tentatively, looking around in surprise. When MAULER saw his son, he rushed forward and scooped him up with a whoop of joy. “Danny, m’lad!” They spun around a few times and Jasper couldn’t help but smile.
When the portly Venessa Johnson walked out, the married sister of Ion, she smoothed her blue silk dress over her ample stomach. Jasper smirked that she’d chosen to wear a dress here in the first place. Though he could not gauge emotional reactions from Ion’s emotionless face mask, Jasper saw Ion’s form draw back a bit, and then he saw the two sisters stand uncomfortably close together, their eyes on each other.
Battle Star stepped forward to hug his father, Andrew Hoskins, a strong black man with a full white beard. The two held each other for a long moment, and Jasper heard Andrew whispering to Battle Star how proud he was of him. When the two broke the hug, Jasper noticed a confidence in Battle Star’s jaw that hadn’t been there for the last several days.
Frail-looking Samantha Parrington melted into tears at the sight of her mother, Malicia Parrington looked ridiculous in a stylish safari outfit, her wrinkled face appraising her daughter with a long look. Malicia eventually put a hand on Samantha’s shoulder, and Samantha melted into her mom’s arm in a long hug.
Finally, Jasper’s gaze drifted to the elderly, yet strong, Alma Cairn, a diminutive Native American woman in her late 60s. She walked forward toward her daughter, Nocturne, without seeming to see her. Jasper watched as Nocturne flitted backward and seemed to consider running away, then turned to her grandmother instead and gave her a large hug.
Jasper walked away in silence. These contestants had plenty to worry about in the coming days, and much yet to learn about themselves.

Day 32

“Why on Earth did you come here?” Dr. Voletta Todd, Ion, looked at her sister Venessa, sitting there freezing next to the fire. “Why, after all these years, would you even want to talk to me?”
Venessa, rubbing her hands over her shoulders for warmth, snorted. “Voletta, you were always so self-righteous. The entire time we grew up, you thought you were better than me. I hated you for it, but I love you for being my sister. You could refuse to talk to me when you were in jail and refuse to contact the family when you weren’t, but this was my chance to finally talk to you. To see you face to… face.” Venessa stumbled over that last word, remembering that Voletta didn’t have a face.
“I avoided you for a reason!” Voletta felt her emotions swelling out of control once again.
Venessa, still shivering, snorted again. “For what? So your family couldn’t be reminded of how you left us after high school and refused to talk to us? So we couldn’t be reminded of how much you hated us for holding you back, for being the little country bumpkins who had embarrassed you?”
Voletta felt her annoyance spike sharply. “I was too much for that town! I had to get out!”
“And you couldn’t even come home for holidays? Call on birthdays? Even—“
“And what?” Voletta pushed away the frustration she felt at herself for reacting so emotionally. “Be pulled back into the trap of our upbringing? Squander my looks and intelligence in trade for canning peaches?”
Voletta was shocked when she saw a few tears seep out onto Venessa’s cheeks. “Voletta, what did leaving ever get you? You missed Dad’s death. You missed my wedding. And we—we never got to help you after your… accident.”
Voletta felt a mix of shame, regret, sadness, anger, and fear all at once. She resisted the urge to will her body suit forward and hug her sister. In a softer voice, she asked, “Venessa, why are you here? Why did you come here?”
Venessa looked up into Voletta’s eyes, or at least the holes in her mask. “I’m here because you are my sister and I love you.”

“You kept my earring. You took it, didn’t you? Even while you let me think you were dead all those years. You kept my earring.”
Angela Cairn, Nocturne, felt waves of compassion rolling off of her mother. Not anger, not bitterness. Just compassion, tinged with sadness. “Mother, I—I was a different being back then. I was in a sorry state. After I was transformed, all my determination, all the strength of character I had grown up with, it was gone. It was just swallowed up by my sadness at losing Jackie. I had nothing but pain at the time. And I literally didn’t know how to cope. Yes, I took the earring. I wanted a bit of connection to my old life.”
Alma smoothed a wisp of white hair over her ears and then returned to preparing the fish they’d caught over the fire. Alma didn’t look up. “You don’t seem so sad now. Your confidence, it has returned?”
Angela nodded, willing her wings to fold in behind her. “Yes. I had another transformation. You always taught me about the animal totems, mother. I was reborn in the images of creatures of the night, but those creatures seem to have found the moon shining light on the land below. My life, my path, seems more illuminated and less murky now.”
Alma set the fish aside and sat back. Angela had always been impressed at this lithe woman with her strong bones thick. Alma looked at her daughter, never flinching at her new appearance. “I have always loved you, my buffalo child. I have always raised you to embrace all of your heritages. And you have always been strong enough to forge your own path. I am proud of you, my daughter.”
Angela let the love wash out of her and into her mother. She opened her arms and embraced her mother, feeling the love wash right back into her.

Lemar Hoskins, Battle Star, had never much cared for his father. Lemar had always been a big kid. He was 6’6’’, taller than his dad’s 6’4’’. Lemar had been a bit wayward in his youth and his dad had been too strict and never around enough. And when Lemar had joined the United States Army, Andrew, instead of being pleased, had been upset that Lemar didn’t want to stay and simply take over the family business. His dad, the underachiever, who thought college was a waste of money and refused to see potential in anything.
All that had changed after Lemar had become a wrestler and, eventually, Battle Star. Andrew had suddenly started trying to contact Lemar again, to let him know how proud he was of him, how much he wanted to be a part of his life. Lemar had always suspected that that had more to do with Andrew’s divorce from Lemar’s mother than any actual desire to change. But at least he’d shown an interest.
“I’m proud of you, son.” Lemar looked over at his father, so small next to his 6’6’’ frame, and laughed. “I mean it. Don’t you laugh at that. Lots of boys want to hear their daddies say that.”
Lemar laughed again, and reached into the lake to wash his mask out with the water. Boy was he ready for a shower and a washing machine. “Dad, I’m glad you are proud, but you’ve told me that like 12 times today alone.”
“Well, making up for lost time, I suppose. I should have been more supportive of you all along. I always knew you would be a hero.”
Lemar wasn’t sure if his dad meant it, but he knew it felt darn good to hear it. And with that, he felt the last dregs of his depression drain away.

Day 33

“Samantha, darling, what is it? What’s wrong?”
When Samantha Parrington, Valkyrie, had awakened, she had tried hard not to stir so that her mother, Malicia, could sleep in longer. Malicia was in her early sixties and, despite being in good health, should not be in the Symkarian woods sleeping for three days. Since their shelter had been destroyed, and since Samantha had found herself unable to change into Valkyrie, Samantha had been sleeping in a small constructed lean-to by herself, wrapped in her meager clothing and large fronds. With her mother there sleeping by her, she had at least been warmer. But Samantha, in thinking about how she’d acted as a teenager toward her parents, in thinking about how her mother had come here to support her, had found herself in tears and her crying had awakened Malicia.
Wiping tears from her eyes, she explained to Malicia everything she had been feeling, and what her experience on the show had been like. How she’d been hiding out in the body of the immortal Valkyrie for months, and how she was now stuck as a human. Malicia listened attentively, uncharacteristically holding her daughter close to her and letting her cry it out.
“Samantha, sweetheart, your father and I have always made you the most important thing to us. Whatever you showed interest in, we’d spend money learning everything we could about it. Karate, ballet, democracy in the Soviet Union, helping the homeless, feminism. We didn’t do it to pry or to be terrible and annoying parents. We did it because we love you and want to be an active part of your life. And when you started embracing this side of your life, becoming the Valkyrie more and more, well, your father Reginald and I worried that we would lose you. We wished for you to find some way to balance your two lives. To be our little girl and the woman who saves the world all at once.”
As her mother spoke, Samantha felt the strength well up inside her again for the first time in days. She stood up abruptly, gripped the hilt of her sword, which had laid invisible at her waist, and pulled it free from its scabbard. And just like that she was transformed into the woman warrior once again. Samantha, feeling the strength of the Asgardian wash over her, threw back her head and laughed.

Using his cybernetic control over his suit, Brendan Doyle, MAULER, tilted his head downward slightly and moved his armor toward the ground. He’d taken his son on a flight over the Symkarian lake, and had delighted as his boy laughed and hooted for joy in his arms. Brendan had loved this blood of his blood and kin of his kin the first moment he’d laid eyes on him. He’d loved him before he’d even seen him. But he hadn’t known how to be a father back then. He’d tried to kidnap his own son, and only Spider-Man had helped him realize he wasn’t fit at the time to be a parent.
Brendan set his son down on the ground and little Daniel went running, punching his fist into the air. “That was so awesome!” Brendan pulled his helmet off and laughed at his son, running after him. This past three days with Daniel had been perhaps the best he had ever experienced.
“Oh yeah, ye think that was fun, wait’ll I toss ye in the water where the sharks can get ye!”
Daniel squealed and rushed off with Brendan right behind him. “Silly, there’s no sharks in a lake! It’s not salt water!” Amazed at how a five year old could know this, Brendan laughed and chased his son across the woods. When he was finished with his military training, nothing would stop him from keeping this little boy with him full time. His mom had been out of the picture for a long time now. No more foster care for Daniel. He would be with Brendan, and that was that. He’d win this whole game, get the fame, and raise his son to be the best man, the man Brendan never was.


Jasper Sitwell brought the contestants and their loved ones into the arena and explained that each Survivor contestant would be blindfolded and would have to rely on the directions of their loved ones to get from one end of a maze to another. The five family members took their positions on pedestals above the maze, and the contestants were blindfolded, a special device being used to block Ion’s sight.
As the challenge commenced, Nocturne flitted about confused, overwhelmed by all the emotions and noise surrounding her. Battle Star and Valkyrie seemed to have a difficult time hearing the voices of their elderly parents. Ion was highly uncoordinated with her sight stunted. MAULER proved highly effective in the challenge as Daniel’s excited, soprano voice called out instructions to his dad, getting him through the maze in record time.
After Jasper placed the immunity necklace around MAULER’s neck, he instructed the others to say goodbye to their loved ones and meet him at tribal council.

As the four members of the jury, Biohazard, Sandstorm, Derwyddon, and Steel Spider, entered to watch, Jasper turned toward the five contestants and began questioning them.
“Valkyrie, I can’t help but notice you have gotten control of your powers again! What happened and how are you feeling?”
Sounding like her old self, Valkyrie responded. “I’m feeling more myself than ever before. My mom’s visit just helped me put things in perspective, and I was able to overcome the emotional barrier that has been blocking me for the past several days.”
“For the past few days, the five of you have had the opportunity to have a loved one at camp with you. Nocturne, what was it like having your mother around with you? Did it change the game?”
Nocturne nodded, a small trill escaping her lips. “Yes. We’ve all been taking care of ourselves recently, and we were even less connected with our family members here. We simply spent the time with our own family and stayed away from each other. It was a welcome break, and incredibly healing for all of us, as I can tell by the emotions I am reading.”
Valkyrie interrupted. “Which reminds me, there is something I’ve been keeping from the group. The morning I woke up stuck in my human form, it was Ion who destroyed the shelter. She threw a small fit and smashed our shelter in upon itself. I thought we should all know.”
Jasper gave Ion a chance to respond, sensing the building tension within the group now. “I could lie and say it was Valkyrie, attempt to swing more votes to my side of things, but I can’t lie. That would be dishonorable. Yes, it was me. I apologize to each of you, and I’m very sorry that I haven’t worked to rebuild the shelter.”
After hearing the various reactions to this, and questioning MAULER, Battle Star, and Ion about their family visits, Jasper moved directly into the voting.
The first vote was for Ion. This was from Battle Star, who was furious about the shelter’s destruction.
The second vote was for Valkyrie. This was from Ion, who was annoyed that she’d been exposed in tribal council.
The third vote was for Ion. This was from MAULER, who wasn’t all that angry, but could tell which way the votes would go.
The fourth vote was for Ion. This was from Nocturne, who disliked the angry bitterness radiating off of Ion.
The fifth vote was for Ion. This was from Valkyrie, who had no use for her former ally any longer.
Jasper extinguished Ion’s torch and she turned, with the head of her containment suit held high, and floated out of the area. Jasper reminded them that only two tribal councils remained.

Thank you for your patience in getting this episode out! The last two episodes (almost done!!!) will be broadcast on Mondays, as my schedule and commitments have shifted a bit lately. Voting will close on Saturday night, and votes can be Emailed to me at, sent on facebook, or posted here. Thanks to those who have stuck their way through this series!
For the purpose of this episode, I created the characters of Andrew Hoskins and Venessa Johnson, and I provided a name for Nocturne’s mother. The character Daniel Doyle (though seen only as a baby) and the character Malicia Parrington already existed.
In our next episode, due to random selection, MAULER gets immunity again (that’ll make a few of you happy). I always use a random number generator online to determine immunity; Megan can verify!  Somehow we ended up with two boys and two girls at the end.

Battle Star (Lemar Hoskins)
MAULER (Brendan Doyle—immunity)
Nocturne (Angela Cairn)
Valkyrie (Samantha Parrington)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Survivor: the Initiative episode 10

Writer's note: In the last episode of Survivor: the Initiative, Battle Star won immunity, then subsequently received two votes in tribal council, from Derwyddon and Sandstorm. This was a simple mistake on the writer's part. Please trade those votes from Battle Star to Valkyrie, following the same motivations, and everything is all better. We can now start fresh with episode 10! :D
Survivor: the Initiative Episode 10
Everything old is new again

Day 28
Samantha Parrington, who, until recently, had been known as Valkyrie (before she'd been trapped in her mortal form as she had been for the past three days), looked around the decimated camp. The shelter had been smashed by Ion three days before, and Samantha hadn't told anyone who'd done it. And since then, no one had done anything to fix the shelter. It'd been raining too much, for one thing, but no one really seemed to care. But Samantha knew it was still eleven days until the end of the game, and she, for one, was sick of sleeping in the open. But she couldn't well fix the shelter herself. She sighed in frustration and kicked at one of the loose boards that had previously made up their shelter.
Samantha smoothed her hands over her hips. In this form, she was over a foot shorter, and over three hundred pounds lighter, than in her Valkyrie form. Valkyrie wasn't fat, just... robust. She reflected back to her earlier days. One thing this competition was doing was making her learn more about herself. When she'd been a young woman in her twenties, she'd been focused, primarily, upon defying her parents in whatever ways she could. She'd needed so badly to assert her independence from them, doing things just to spite them. Her parents had thrown a party for the Hulk, of all people, in a bizarre effort to win public favor, and Samantha had been transformed by the Enchantress into the Valkyrie, and had fought the Hulk. What did that say about her? From a young woman seeking her own voice to an immortal warrior woman battling the strongest man on the planet, all in a matter of minutes. She still didn't know quite what that said about her. But she thought she needed to figure it out if she was ever going to master her transformations and truly be a hero, something she really wanted now.
As she walked down the path to the small lake near their camp, Samantha reflected upon the resolve she'd found within herself in the past few days. She was no longer crying, that was a relief. Now she just had to keep that resolve through the coming challenges. She would figure this out. She would.
"An' what's a pretty lassie like ye doin' walkin' by yuirself?" Samantha turned to see MAULER, stripped to his boxers with his beard unkempt and down to his chest, walking up behind her with a broad smile on his face. "Surely ye'll be wantin' some company on yuir walk."
Samantha sighed again. "Mr. Doyle, you are welcome to walk with me, but please keep your annoying flirtations to yourself. I didn't notice you flirting with me when I was Valkyrie."
MAULER laughed loudly. "Well, ye weren't nearly as... approachable in that form, were ye?"
Samantha couldn't help but laugh back. "I guess not. But I'm still the same person. And I'm not interested."
MAULER laughed. "Don't let me bravado throw ye off. I'm here for game reasons only. I know better than tae get involved with the woman who could kill me quick."
"What game reasons?"
"I'm thinkin' we're both bein' in need of new alliances now."

"So you were lying to me the whole time."
"There's a big difference between lying to someone and not telling the whole truth."
Lemar Hoskins, Battle Star, grunted at Sandstorm's response and tossed another rock in the water. "You never told me you weren't black, even when I assumed you were black. You never told me you'd killed people. Lying is still lying if you leave the truth out."
Sandstorm rolled his eyes and shifted positions. "Kay, so I lied. I got bigger things to worry about. Kinda going through an identity crisis here."
"Join the club. What do you want, Tony?"
Lemar waited for several moments for Sandstorm to answer. "Our alliance, does it still stand? Cause despite my lies, I still really want to win this game."
And Lemar then told his first lie of the game. "Yeah. Sure, kid. Our alliance is still on."
After Sandstorm left, Lemar sat at the lakeshore for another two hours by himself. He saw Valkyrie, or Samantha as she now asked to be called, come and go. No Ion or Nocturne, but they'd been pretty scarce anyway, even after Nocturne had kissed him. He just sat there. And found that he didn't care about this game at all anymore. Not the challenges, not the vote. He'd won immunity the day before on reflex. He didn't like the competition, he didn't like his opponents. Heck, at this point he didn't like himself. He knew he needed to make a choice. He either needed to drop out, or to be in it to win it. But for now he didn't want to choose. He just didn't have it in him.
"Laddie, ye are seemin' more an' more down an' out. Ye need tae snap out of it." MAULER, in his boxer shorts, sat down next to Lemar.
"Brendan, I kinda want to be alone right now."
MAULER smiled that over-confident smile of his. "Laddie, just ye listen. I know when tae cut my losses. I think it's time for a new alliance for the two of us."

DAY 29
Voletta Todd, Ion, floated high in the sky, where she'd spent much of the past few days. She was furious with herself for losing her temper and destroying the shelter, and even more disgusted with her teammates, especially Valkyrie, for scorning their own humanity. She no longer cared to try heroism. She no longer cared to try getting her human form back. She no longer cared about scientific pursuits, or anything else that had ever given her meaning. She simply had lost her will. She now wanted nothing more than to cease existing altogether, and she knew of no way to end the existence of a being composed of ionic energy. She cursed her very existence, her very sentience, and allowed the breeze to carry her further out over the woods.
Voletta cursed to herself when she saw Nocturne flying past. Then she cursed again. How had Nocturne found her here, when she just wanted to be left alone? Voletta had shrunk her energy field to the size of a mite of dust. But Nocturne, she must have used her emotion-sensing ability to find Voletta, who was clearly giving off a strong sense of emotions at this point.
Nocturne slowed. She couldn't quite see Voletta, who was practically invisible, but she somehow knew where she was. Voletta wasn't so obtuse that she hadn't noticed the change in Nocturne, who had come across so much more confident in the past few days. Voletta didn't know what had changed, and she didn't care.
Nocturne spoke then. She spoke! Voletta had rarely heard her utter even a word. Even a sound. "Ion? It's me, Angela. I've been looking for you the better part of the day. Such... pain I sense from you. I wanted to offer to help you as you once offered friendship to me."
Unable to hide, Voletta willed herself back to "human" size. The amount of space a human would take up, though she was a weightless mass of energy. "What do you want, Nocturne?"
Nocturne's voice trilled slightly. "I... I wanted to offer to help. I am willing to take your pain from you. I can store pain now. It doesn't hurt me any longer."
Voletta's voice shook despite herself. "You want to... to take my pain. Why?"
Nocturne answered with an unexpected confidence. "Because I can."
Ion felt a stirring of strong emotions from within her. Again, emotions she wasn't prepared to confront, emotions she didn't know she had. "No! How dare you!" Voletta tried to cool the anger in her voice. She calmed herself. "Listen, I understand that you are trying to help. But you must try to realize that my mind, my personality, and my... emotional reactions. They are all I have left. They are the only humanity I yet possess. Please, leave, and let me brood in peace."
Nocturne trilled again. "Yes. But please understand, the rest of us, we don't know what it is like to be you. And we have emotions as well. Your unique state of being doesn't stop others from having difficult experiences."
As Nocturne flew away, Voletta thought that if she had the ability, she might cry.

"I like you, Lemar Hoskins. I like your confidence, and I enjoy the goodness that is in your soul." Angela Cairn, Nocturne, approached Battle Star with her new self. She wasn't yet sure how to react to the new being that sat before her. He was so empty inside, so despairing. It was a startling change from the being she had come across before. She laid her head by his shoulder as he sat by the lake, and ignored the smell of his unwashed body. She willed her hair, which she could control as she could her arms, legs, and wings, and stroked his back with it.
"Wait a minute, lady." He expressed protest, but didn't react with any movement in his body and no change in his emotional reaction. "You come on to me all strong. You kiss me, cuddle up next to me. Then you up and disappear from camp for several days. What do you want from me?"
Angela thought of the best way to answer. "Friendship."
"Yes. I find myself in need of friends."
Battle Star huffed. "Not a late game alliance."
Angela lifted her head and gave him a confused stare. "No. I've cared little for this game since the beginning. I just need friends. Before my transformation, I was a competitive, rational mind. I feel my old self returning more prominently now."
Battle Star smiled, and Angela felt a tinge of mirth from him. "Well, you sure talk a lot more now."
Angela leaned in on his shoulder and was content to sit in silence for a time.

DAY 30
When the six remaining contestants arrived at the immunity challenge, a few miles from their usual camps, they were surprised to see an ornate pavilion in front of them. And when they entered, they were even more shocked to see thousands of Symkarians in the stands cheering for them. It had varying reactions on the contestants, seeing fans cheering their names. Fans! Cheering! The dirty, disheveled would-be heroes stood in shock, surprise, excitement, and embarrassment, all at varying levels. When Jasper introduced the gorgeous Silver Sable, head of the mercenary elite of Symkaria, the Wild Pack, the men in the stadium stood a little straighter and sucked in their stomachs. Silver Sable, dressed in gorgeous silver leather, nodded at the contestants, then announced to them, and the crowd, that the contestants would be facing off in a duel against hand-selected members of her Wild Pack.
When Silver Sable gestured at a side gate, the six selected mercenaries rushed into the stadium, looking powerful, regal, and heroic. She announced that some of them were on loan to her for this specific competition. Windshear flew above the stadium, using hard air constructs to walk down from the top to the base, to the cheers of the crowd. Pulsar flew through the crowd, changing her light sources to various colors and dazzling the room. On the other side of the stadium, Lightbright cascaded over the crowd, spreading warmth and light over the audience, who applauded at the good feelings they were left with. On the ground, Sabra entered the room with multiple cartwheels and acrobatics, showing her strength and agility. Fin charged in, his giant green fin standing off his body as he charged through a brick wall that had been set up for that purpose. And lastly, Vibraxas used his vibratory powers, with tight control, to shake a section of the stadium, knocking some of the audience members out of their seats as they laughed.
Jasper explained that the contestants on both sides would be equipped with a piece of battle armor they would be required to adhere to their abdomens (Ion and Pulsar would be equipped with special ones that would adhere to their energy forms). They would then spar with each other. Once a contestant's armor was struck three times, they would be out of the challenge. The contestant to last the longest, or to defeat their opponent the fastest, would win immunity, and the challenge would showcase their skills in battle. Sandstorm versus Vibraxas. Battle Star versus Fin. Ion versus Pulsar. Nocturne versus Lightbright. Valkyrie versus Sabra. MAULER versus Windshear.
With the crowd cheering, the six contestants lined up against their opponents in the Wild Pack and prepared to engage in the challenge. Jasper and Silver Sable announced go, and the 12 opponents leaped into action. On the ground, Valkyrie, still in her human form, drew her blade, but Sabra delivered three quick blows to the armor shell and Valkyrie was the first disqualified. Nocturne and Lightbright flew across the stadium, pulsing each other with waves of emotion, and Nocturne successfully evaded Lightbright's blasts of heat and light with her wide wings; they couldn't seem to lay a hand on each other. Feeling free to use his offensive weaponry against the armored Windshear for the first time in the competition, MAULER used his laser and blaze cannons in his aerial battle, but found it difficult to get past the hard air shields in the air. They danced and flew at each other through the air, and MAULER received the first blow to his armor within three minutes of the battle. Battle Star and Fin quickly got into a brutish struggle of super strength, each holding the other's arms back, their foreheads touching as they strained, unmoving, across the field. In a shocking turn of events, Sandstorm, who surrounded himself with a powerful shell of grit armor, was blasted apart into sandy particles with a vibratory blast from Vibraxas, who quickly zapped the battle armor three times and disqualified Sandstorm. The most bizarre battle, however, turned out to be Ion and Pulsar, who zapped each other with waves of energy, neither doing any harm to the other.
After fifteen minutes on the field, Battle Star and MAULER had been eliminated as well. After several more minutes, Pulsar found a frequency that allowed her to contain Ion in, and she quickly defeated her opponent. Nocturne, who had been evading Lightbright successfully for several minutes, was declared the winner as she'd lasted the longest on the field.

After welcoming in the three members of the jury, Biohazard, Steel Spider, and Derwyddon, Jasper sat down the six remaining members of the game. He felt waves of confidence-inspiring emotions washing off of Nocturne, who sat with a grin on her face and the immunity idol around her neck. Jasper smiled at the remaining players in the game, wondering who would end up winning.
"Today you got your taste of combat. When you become heroes for the Initiative, you will be pitted against foes in the defense of your country, you will train against others. Today, you were pitted against someone whose powers were meant to counter yours, and some of you fared very well. Don't worry, as you'll have much more training before you are deployed. Sandstorm, what did that combat feel like today? Did you enjoy it?"
Sandstorm shrugged. "I didn't not enjoy it. I didn't know what to expect, and that Vibraxas guy kicked my butt much faster than I would have expected. I guess it is good to learn lessons like that."
"Valkyrie, did seeing any of your competitors in battle change your thinking about the game at all?"
"No, not at all. I have gotten to know these folks pretty well. I am embarrassed to not have my own powers under control still, and to have been the first one out, but I know these five are all worthy competitors."
"Nocturne, with immunity, you are guaranteed a spot in our final five. How will you be basing your vote this evening, knowing you are safe?"
"I am glad to be safe. I have found newfound desires in me to win this game, and I am glad to be sure of a few more days. Alliances are fractured among us. Tonight's vote will be with what I hope is the majority."
Jasper then commenced with the voting.
The first vote was for Sandstorm. This was from Battle Star, who no longer trusted his one-time ally.
The second vote was for Sandstorm. This was from Ion, who was clued in to this vote by Nocturne.
The third vote was for Sandstorm. This was from MAULER, who needed to distance himself from his former ally.
The fourth vote was for Sandstorm. This was from Nocturne, who was voting along with Battle Star.
The fifth vote was for Valkyrie. This was from Sandstorm, who, sensing his own defeat, cast one last vote at an opponent.
The sixth vote was for Sandstorm. This was from Valkyrie, who was voting along with Battle Star.
As Jasper extinguished his torch, Sandstorm looked toward the group and stoically said, "I still have a lot to learn about myself. I apologize for my deviousness up until now." And then he walked off to join the jury.

Thank you for participating in this, our tenth episode. Only a few left to go, and somehow we have more women than men left! I apologize for the delays over the holidays. Illnesses and travel stopped me from getting things done sooner. We should be back on schedule now until the big finish. Bit stuff planned for all five characters!
Next episode, which should be back up on Thursday (regular time; voting won't close til Wednesday night), due to random selection, MAULER gets immunity. That means you can vote for any of the other four. See you then!

Battle Star (Lemar Hoskins)
Ion (Voletta Todd)
MAULER (Brendan Doyle--immunity)
Nocturne (Angela Cairn)
Valkyrie (Samantha Parrington)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Survivor delayed

With the holidays, I need a week off from writing. Feel free to vote on episode 9 for one more week. (I will also address the voting snafu that Angela pointed out. :) )


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Survivor: The Initiative Episode 9

Survivor: the Initiative Episode 9


Day 25

Voletta Todd, Ion, continuing her strategy of trying to make herself valuable to the team, brought in an ionic field full of plucked fruits from the tops of the forest trees. Voletta was proud of her performance in the game thus far. She’d been a quiet, steady presence on her various teams. She’d been valuable around camp, valuable in voting, and hadn’t really made any enemies. Indeed, she’d tried to befriend many of them, though those strange alliances were not really valid; Biohazard was gone now, and Nocturne was rarely seen away from Battle Star’s side in recent days.
Voletta set the fruits in a stack by the fire. The Symkarian wilds had little to offer in the way of fruits, only bitter, shelled things, or so Voletta was told (as she couldn’t eat at all and thus hadn’t tasted the fruits). Voletta looked around the camp and saw that it was empty, which surprised her. She was the only one that didn’t sleep, and her six teammates had all been sleeping. She’d only been away from camp for an hour, and here she was, alone now. No wait, someone was still in the shelter. Who was that?
Voletta floated closer to the ramshackle wooden shelter, covered in fronds and ferns to keep out the rain. It had stormed heavily all night, and there seemed to be only a brief reprieve this morning. There was a woman in the shelter, sleeping. It clearly wasn’t Nocturne, in fact it looked more like Number Nine, who’d been gone for days. When Voletta stepped into the shelter, the woman she didn’t recognize sat up and screamed. Voletta flew backward in a panic.
“Noo! NO!” The woman looked at her arms, examining them. Voletta suddenly realized this was Valkyrie, though in a smaller, less muscular form. “Not again! I am not this woman anymore!” As Voletta watched, the woman stood and pushed her way past Voletta and out of the shelter. “Out of my way!” The woman then closed her eyes and seemed to focus inwardly on herself, her face showing great strain. She opened her eyes and panic flashed there. “NO!”
Voletta stayed a distance away. “Valkyrie? Is everything okay?”
“No! It’s not okay! I turned back into my human self again! I didn’t will the transformation, it just happened in my sleep! And—and now I can’t change back into Valkyrie! What’s wrong with me?”
Voletta felt a number of emotions course through her. Annoyance at Valkyrie’s tears. A bit of concern for her longtime ally. But mostly, overwhelmingly, a deep-seated swelling of fury. It was like a dam broke inside her and a river of unresolved emotions washed forward. With a furious scream breaking from her, Voletta unleashed a wall of ionic energy at the shelter, collapsing it in upon itself, destroying it completely.
With a cold fury, Voletta turned around and saw Valkyrie uncharacteristically cowering there before her, looking frightened for her life. “How dare you.” Voletta was practically whispering. “How dare you tell me of the curse of being human. How dare you lock yourself in an immortal form and hide your human self from us. How dare you tell me there is something wrong with you.”
And with the realization that something in her had shifted beyond repair, Voletta willed herself to fly away.

Lemar Hoskins, Battle Star, was frustrated. He’d come down to the lake shore for a bit of solace. He’d awakened earlier than his tribe mates, earlier than all save Ion (well, she didn’t sleep anyway) and walked down here. He’d had barely a moment to himself in the last several days. What, with all the drama up at camp leading up to Steel Spider’s departure, with this new bizarre “relationship” he found himself in with Nocturne, with the constant pressure of trying to make it in this game weighing on his shoulders… he just needed a few minutes to himself. The rain had stopped for a short time, but now it was steadily falling again. Lemar sat nestled against a large tree trunk to keep himself dry, but it was cold, and with each drop of rain, he felt his spirits fall a bit farther.
“Brother Lemar, may I have a word?” Lemar saw Derwyddon standing a few feet away, his brown robes soaked and clinging to his form. Lemar sighed. He shrugged and slid over slightly so that Derwyddon could sit next to him.
“Geez, old man, you must be freezing.”
Derwyddon didn’t look at Lemar. “I rarely feel the effects of nature upon my form. It is mine to command the elements, not to be subject to their fickle nature.”
Lemar rolled his eyes, then steadied himself. “What’s up?”
“Brother Lemar, several days ago I asked you of your motivations, and you expressed to me that you were meant to be a hero. I wondered how you came to that resolve.”
Lemar was confused. “I don’t know that there was some moment that I suddenly decided it was for me. Life just led me down that path.”
“Life. Not fate? Not god?”
“Look, Derwyddon, I believe I make my own fate. Whether or not a god exists, and I believe there is one, I still think I’m in charge of my own path. I’m not on some scripted path of events that I am meant to complete.”
Derwyddon looked at him now. “I have lost my faith that my path is being directed. I once felt compelled to be here. Then, recently, I felt it was my duty to see the wrongs done to my brethren, such as Steel Spider, righted. But now that wayward youth is gone. I have not been able to determine who in our camp is the poison among us. And I find myself overwhelmed with memories of my past failures. Brother Lemar, I am… weary. And, as modern mortals put it, depressed. I no longer know my place, and I no longer know my path.”
As a fresh wave of annoyance washed over him, Lemar turned away to look at the lake, riddled with pinpricks along the surface where the drops of rain were hitting. “Sounds to me like you never knew your path to begin with.”
And not for the first time, Lemar wondered if he ought to just throw in his hat and go back to jail.

Day 26

As the rain poured down around him, Brendan Doyle, MAULER, sat in his armor. He hadn’t taken the armor off in two full days now. It was uncomfortable, and he knew that he reeked, but it was easier than dealing with the cold and the rain. And it gave him an automatic mask. No one could read his facial expressions and reactions when he had his helmet on.
Things around camp were a mess. The rain was pelting them so hard they couldn’t get a fire going. Their shelter had been shattered into pieces and no one was saying how. Valkyrie had changed into some hottie blonde who kept crying all the time. No one had seen Ion and Nocturne in over 24 hours, and Battle Star and Derwyddon were so depressed they barely did anything at all.
But, Brendan noted to himself, that was pretty much exactly how he and Sandstorm had wanted it around camp. Everyone miserable and not trusting each other. Everyone infighting. Their two biggest threats, Battle Star and Valkyrie, who were primarily threats due to their strength of character, were now off the playing field. And Brendan felt safe simply kicking back for a bit and ignoring the game for a day, giving in to his own self-pity for a time.
Brendan looked over at Sandstorm, who had used his grit armor to create a solid rain guard around him; Brendan was guessing that Sandstorm could do that for all of the team, but he knew that wasn’t part of his ally’s strategy for sure. Sandstorm smiled, though there was no joy in his eyes.
“You ever killed a man, Doyle?”
Brendan felt a shiver down his spine, and was glad again for his helmet. “Aye. Back in me mercenary days. Never for sport, always for cash. What about ye?”
“Dozens, at this point. But always for a purpose. Always for cause.”
Brendan looked over at the camera that was recording them, knowing there were government agents watching their every move. “I’ve changed since then, though, laddie. I’m not the same man anymore. I’m workin’ at bein’ a hero now.”
“See, I’m still the exact same guy. I’m still the guy willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”
Brendan lowered his voice, though he knew the cameras were picking up his every word. “Tony, what’re ye doin’? Why’re ye bein’ so… candid, what with the cameras right here?”
Sandstorm stood up now, and looked right at MAULER. “Because it didn’t matter that I kept my motivations a secret. The government found ways to get telepaths in my head and pull my secrets out of me. No there is no reason to hide it.” Sandstorm looked at the camera directly now. “And I’ll kill anyone who gets in my way.” Then he looked back at MAULER. “Luckily, I’ve still got allies who have my back.”
As Sandstorm walked away, MAULER felt cold dread creep through his system. He had joined an alliance with Sandstorm because it suited him, it was something he could be a bit devious about, and he liked being a bit devious. But he didn’t know then that Sandstorm was a murderer; he didn’t know that this kid was so dangerous. So unstable. He had to get out of the alliance, before he was judged by the government to be a threat rather than a potential hero. He had to get out now. Or he’d never get his kid back.

Angela Cairn, Nocturne, felt the water surround her form and it seemed to flow into her skin, into her tissues and veins and organs. The water purified her, somehow, and she felt her body changing. She lay at the bottom of the lake, where she’d been for the last thirty hours and more. She didn’t need to breathe or sleep or eat. She was regenerating. She was being reborn.
Angela had been reborn in water once before. After her initial transformation into this creature of the night the fed on the pains of others, she’d been killed and had lain in the water for several days before awakening, and finding herself a new being. She hoped her rebirth now would be as dramatic. She needed this change. She needed to be over the pains of the past, for once and for all.
Under the water as she was, Angela couldn’t scream. She couldn’t cry. And the ache in her heart had steadily decreased. She would always love Jackie Kessler, but she didn’t have to mourn her lost partner so intensely. She didn’t have to suffer so terribly and for so long any longer. She could be new. She could feel hope. Maybe she could even speak without restriction again. This new transformation would be powerful indeed, she just knew it.
Several hours later, Angela’s form rose to the top of the water. Her transformation was complete. She moved forward, testing out her wings, her legs, her lungs. Testing her new voice. She reached out with her emotional powers and realized they were somehow sharper than before. The pain was gone! The pain was gone.

Day 27

Immunity Challenge

Jasper Sitwell looked through the rain as the seven remaining contestants gathered. He immediately noted some marked differences among them. Ion floated eerily away from the group while Nocturne, looking confident instead of frightened, clutched the arm of a downtrodden Battle Star. Derwyddon looked exhausted and MAULER and Sandstorm, who were usually rather chummy, stood on opposite sides of the group from each other. But most startling of all was Valkyrie now stood in her frail human form of Samantha Parrington, looking miserable and wet. Jasper knew that these self-awareness challenges would be taking their toll on the group, but he hadn’t expected so profound an impact so soon into the challenges.
Jasper introduced the guest for this challenge, a bizarre mystic named Crimson who had briefly served with the Hulkbusters. Jasper explained that today’s challenge would be proceeded by Crimson using his mystic abilities to ferret out the true motivations of each of the contestants, to learn what would drive them as heroes, and what was driving them to be heroes in the first place. Jasper noticed a dangerous sneer on Sandstorm’s face, but moved on to explain the rest of the challenge. After their motivations were tested, each of them would be put through a difficult obstacle course, involving intense running, climbing, a swim (even though it was raining), and a series of agility tests. The individual to finish fastest would be given immunity and would be safe at that night’s tribal council.

Battle Star was just glad to be out of the rain, even if he wasn’t sure he could take another of these challenges. He didn’t recall ever being so tired, especially not since he’d had super human strength. When Crimson put his fingers on either side of Battle Star’s skull, he felt the spell delving into his very being, and he felt his feelings become exposed. When Crimson was finished, he turned to face the other contestants.
“Lemar Hoskins desires to be a hero for one primary reason: to prove that he can do it. He is tired of being in the shadow of others and wants to become a leader in his own right. But he wants to do it on his own terms.” As Crimson spoke, Lemar felt shame flush his face, and he wasn’t sure why. He knew it was the truth, but why was it so hard to face?
With a briefly renewed determination, Lemar entered the prepared obstacle course. Using his superior strength, he barreled through it and finished in seven minutes. Then the newly familiar emptiness descended upon him once again as he sat back down in the rain.

Ion, still reeling in fury at the others and at herself, wasn’t sure how these challenge hosts got into her brain; she wasn’t even sure she truly had one. Yet here she was, in her containment suit, with Crimson’s hands on either side of her helmet plate.
“Voletta Todd desires to be a hero for one primary reason: to become human again. She so hates her transformed state that she is literally willing to do anything to find her way back to being human. Having tried routes of evil, she is now willing to embrace acts of good.” Voletta was humiliated, having her secret motivations exposed to the group this way. At least they didn’t know it was she who’d destroyed the shelter. Not yet.
Given her ionic state and capacity for endurance, Voletta had expected she’d do well in the obstacle course, but she couldn’t simply fly through the portions that required running. Struggling to manipulate her body suit to follow her mental commands, it took her a full twelve minutes to complete the challenge.

With a cold realization, Sandstorm sat down and saw Crimson standing before him. He considered refusing to participate in the challenge, but knew that that would disqualify him from the game. It would be now that everyone would know his motivations, his willingness to do anything to stop the government from using humans as weapons. He figured that after this, he would be forced back to jail, and not even allowed to finish the game, and he felt sick inside. All his goals, all his hard work, gone.
“Tony Trainer desires to be a hero for one primary reason: to protect the rights of the innocent and the victim. Despite his efforts to discover his own life path, Tony has struggled to find the best ways to accomplish his mission, and he is now learning that following the path of a true hero is the way to do so.” Tony was absolutely flabbergasted at this. Could this be true? It didn’t seem like Crimson was lying. Was Tony… changing?
Tony had a difficult time focusing on the challenge. He cruised through it on autopilot, failing to use his grit armor as effectively as he normally would. With his thoughts spinning and his mind racing, Tony finished the challenge in seventeen minutes.

Samantha Parrington (she wouldn’t think of herself as Valkyrie, she couldn’t) sat shivering, wet, cold, and hungry. She couldn’t figure out how she had ended up here. Her hero self was strong and self-assured, but she’d somehow kept Samantha from being her human self for several months. How had this happened? Samantha didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t change back to Valkyrie, and she didn’t know if she even wanted to. She closed her eyes tightly when Crimson placed his hands on her head.
“Samantha Parrington wants to be a hero for one primary reason: to prove to herself once and for all that she is an individual who can make her own way in life. Not willing to rely on anyone for help or to ask anyone for advice, Samantha has spent months wrapped in her immortal form to avoid facing the pains of mortality. She fears failure more than anything else.”
With a cold, knowing dread inside her, Samantha worked her way slowly through the challenge, but her mortal muscles just weren’t up to the task of this difficult competition. She wouldn’t quit, however, and finally finished, after forty-four painful minutes on the course.

MAULER was struggling within himself to find what his own motivations were, and he felt shocked that he couldn’t say for sure. It used to be money. He wanted to think it was his son now, but that wasn’t a for sure either, that might be just an ideal. He felt a cold sweat as he took off his helmet for the first time in days and allowed Crimson to place his hands on his head.
“Brendan Doyle wants to be a hero for one primary reason: to find some semblance of happiness in his life. After years of searching for it, Brendan is subconsciously realizing that he doesn’t have anything to bring him steady or lasting happiness. He hasn’t found it in family, adventure, or self, and he is hoping that the life of a hero will bring him the happiness he has longed for.”
Filled with an embarrassed fury, thinking Crimson had called him some kind of sissy, Brendan flubbed in the immunity challenge, making a few careless mistakes that caused him to start the course over. He finished in eighteen minutes.

Derwyddon would normally be curious at meeting another mystic, but he just couldn’t bring himself to care. He knew he had a penchant for feeling low, but this was bigger, more unsettling, than his last depression. He truly didn’t care what happened to him in this moment.
“Derwyddon wants to be a hero for one primary reason: he wants to feel like his life has some purpose. Derwyddon is confused by the centuries-long path his life has taken, and he has a habit of looking for meaning in the smallest of things, attributing his faith and self-doubt to spirituality. This motivation is in contrast to his greatest fear, that his life has no meaning at all.”
Derwyddon, expecting to feel an increased amount of depression, instead felt an increased amount of apathy at hearing these words. He couldn’t will his magic to work for him, not under these circumstances. He simply stood in the entrance of the challenge for several minutes before he was told that he could sit this one out if he so chose. He chose to sit it out.

Nocturne felt the intense gaze radiating outward from Crimson as he extended his hands toward her. The flavor of this intensity was powerful. Nocturne was loving this new experience she had of savoring the flavors of positive and strong emotions, rather than just the pain in other beings.
“Angela wants to be a hero for one primary reason: to prove herself better than those around her, or at least as capable as them. This is a new motivation, one that has come after years of pains and self-recriminations. Angela now realizes that her role as a hero can be as a triumphant individual, and not only one who absorbs the pain of others to cover up the pain of self.”
Feeling more confidence than previously, due to her drinking of the intensity of Crimson, Angela pushed herself through the course and finished it in nine minutes, using her strength, prehensile hair, and wings to her benefit at all the right moments.

With the rain coming down around him, Jasper held out the immunity necklace to Battle Star, who looked less than thrilled to receive it.

Tribal Council

After welcoming in the two members of the jury, Biohazard and Steel Spider, Jasper began asking questions to the strangely changed group. “Valkyrie, there seem to be some not so subtle shifts among your group tonight. What happened?”
Jasper was shocked when she began to cry. “Our shelter, it’s gone, somehow wiped out. And the rain. And we are all just going through some p-personal things.”
MAULER jumped in before Jasper could ask another question. “There’s been a lot’a tension around camp these last few days. We’re all jest getting’ ta know one another better, I suppose, and getting’ ta know ourselves better at the same time.”
Jasper focused on Derwyddon. “Derwyddon, you seem especially miserable this evening. What is going on?”
Derwyddon refused to make eye contact and simply didn’t answer. Jasper quickly moved into the voting.
The first vote was for Battle Star. This was from Derwyddon, who was sticking to his past strategy.
The second vote was for Derwyddon. This was from Samantha Parrington, who wanted to see the sad old man finally put out of his misery
The third vote was for Battle Star. This was from Sandstorm, who still wanted his greatest competitor out of the game.
The fourth vote was for Sandstorm. This was from MAULER, who wanted to unsettle his former ally.
The fifth vote was for Derwyddon. This was from Battle Star, who couldn’t stand the mage’s self-recriminations.
The sixth vote was for Derwyddon. This was from Nocturne, who was voting along with her alliances in Valkyrie and Battle Star.
The seventh vote was for Derwyddon. This was from Ion, who was clued in to the vote by a surprisingly confident Nocturne.
With sadness, Jasper announced that Derwyddon would be the tenth person voted out and the third member of the jury. He didn’t have time to extinguish Derwyddon’s torch as Derwyddon did it himself with a gesture. He walked away with a disappointment that seemed to speak of just one more failure in a long life worth of them.

Thank you for your votes and participation! We are back on schedule this week, and this was a close vote! We are now down to six, with only a few more weeks left to go in our little competition here. There are still more shake-ups to come, and they’ll last right to the end of the game. I hope you are enjoying the series, and the character progression (shh, that’s my favorite part, if you couldn’t tell).
Voting closes on Tuesday again this week, and you can post votes here, Email, or send them on facebook. Who goes next? Due to random determination, Nocturne gets immunity next week.

Team Rogers:

Battle Star (Lemar Hoskins)
Ion (Voletta Todd)
MAULER (Brendan Doyle)
Nocturne (Angela Cairn)—immunity
Sandstorm (Tony Trainer)
Valkyrie (Samantha Parrington)