Survivor: the Initiative episode 14
What it Takes to be a Hero
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.
5 MONTHS LATER
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.