© Copyright 2009 by Elizabeth Delayne
“Okay,” Tyler said as they huddled. “The point of this challenged is to work separate, and come together as a team. They say an hour, but it’s going to take more, so don’t worry so much about time—“
”But it’s a race,” Cameron argued.
“It is,” Tyler looked at him, then the others. “But's also about brains and team spirit and involves a balancing act. We don’t want to drop anything and we don’t want to get disqualified. All I’m saying is to focus on doing your best, to do it right and as quickly as possible—“
”But without stupid mistakes,” George said, his arms crossed as he seriously considered what Tyler was saying. “I’m still going to slow you guys down.”
“They’ve got age and some weight on them. We only expect you to do the best that you can do. Besides, this is about the height of the tower, so once we get back here we’ll have to assemble what we have. That’s where the time comes in ... but as I said, the timer doesn’t tick down around here. What we build could fall over, it could be shorter—there are a lot of possibilities, right Felicity?”
Jamie looked over, surprised to find her attention out of their huddle. She watched as Thessa nudged Felicity, breaking her from her trance. Felicity jerked her head back, surprised. She looked, Jamie thought, nervous, pale. She had seemed so gung ho for this first challenge, it really surprised her.
Tyler reached across and ran a reassuring hand down her arm before he continued. “We won’t be able to see what they’re building or how height it is. Keep an eye out for your flags, they don’t necessarily hide them, but they will put them in creative places. The blocks will have a way to interlock, especially since this is a race over terrain, so don’t just throw them together. A couple of seasons ago, someone dropped the blocks because he was just carrying them.”
He looked back at Felicity, still expecting her normal rewind into past seasons, but she didn’t jump in to the conversation.
“We have two minutes left,” George prompted, his job to watch the clock.
Tyler nodded. “Make sure you figure out how to connect them. But be aware that they can separate if you’re not careful.”
“What about the flags? We have to get them?”
“Thanks, George. He’s right. Don’t forget to get your flags on your way back.”
“And don’t drop anything,” Cameron broke in with a laugh.
Tyler nodded. “Drop something, flag or tower, you’re disqualified. Whatever you build won’t count.”
Shortly thereafter, they were called to get in their positions.
Jamie put her hand on Felicity’s arm. “You all right?”
“What?” Felicity’s head whipped around and she blinked. “Yeah ... yeah, I’m fine.”
“Big deal, huh? First physical challenge.”
Felicity let out a breath, “Yeah.”
They lined up in the big circle in front of colored arrows with their name on it. Jamie’s was yellow, which meant she would be looking for bright yellow flags to guide her way.
The girl next to her, at an orange arrow, turned with smirk on her face. Was it for the camera, or her own imagination? Was she really simple enough to try and simplify her opponent to enemy?
Jamie laughed at herself. Tyler’s team had come together, each with their own agenda. Zeke’s team was no different. Some had come for fame, some for the challenge. Maybe they didn’t have a university professor, like George, but in some way they call came to watch and study, to deal in their own way with others.
And of course, some just came to win.
As the countdown began, Jaime wondered if she had what it took to win. She hadn’t really thought about the physical challenges when she’d said yes to her grandmother. She’d just ...
Their hosts counted down.
The air horn blasted.
Legs and bodies jolted forward.
Jamie headed off at a jog, a camera man on her tail. She spotted her flag up ahead, through the trees, and headed toward it. As she got through the brush, she could see that up ahead the land inclined up a mesa.
As she headed toward the next flag, she lamented the fact that she hadn’t found a reason to workout on an elliptical as Thessa had.
That she really hadn’t found a reason to work out at all.
Tyler headed past his forth blue flag. In the distance to his left he could see someone from the other team. He’d lost track of the one to his right. Hopefully it meant he was ahead.
The cameraman was still with him. He barely noticed. No matter what, the camera people followed.
He could be a showman like Zeke. No doubt he was playing to the camera ...
Tyler shook the thought. He could only be himself and let Zeke go. Right now he needed to focus.
By the time Jamie reached the sixth flag, she was at the base of the mesa, at the trail that seemed to wind it’s way up.
She stopped and leaned over at her waist, catching her breath. The camera man was still behind her. He stopped, she felt him circle her as he filmed.
She started up the path. The dirt was rocky, loose. It was nearly impossible to carry on at a jog.
She kept on moving, breathing. She reached the seventh flag and she was more than halfway up. The next one—the last one was would be at the top.
Tyler saw the eighth flag up ahead, but frowned as he came close. The sun was up, it was getting warm. He felt the sweat at his back.
Two blocks. Not enough for a base.
He would have to depend on George–the secondary base.
He stopped, turned to the camera man and reached for the water he held out. Tyler drank deep. One long gulp, then another.
The producers had cautioned them to drink water. He should have brought it up to his team.
It was too hot to take chances. When it came down to it, the staff would leave you alone, let you make your choices, and film the downfall.
No one wanted to be recorded at their weakest moment.
He stacked them one on top of the other, and wondered what was in store for the rest of them as he turned, headed back at a fast jog.
Jamie reached the top, turned looked around. She frowned when she spotted her flag.
It was planted in front of a mountain of blocks, but side by side with an orange flag. One set of blocks, two competitors.
They hadn’t said anything a bout fighting for their blocks.
She was so not a fighter.
Not for golden preschool blocks.
Jamie rushed forward, dropped to her knees and began to pull from the stack, two at a time. Tyler had been right. The blocks had as small wedge on all sides that slid together to loosely connect them. It wouldn’t hold them together, but it did add some stability.
Two, then turn them. Two more. Side by side. Two on top of each other, a square moving up and up. Turn.
Still kneeling, she’d built up to her shoulders before she heard the crunch of footsteps coming up from the opposite end of the mesa.
Then the other girl was there. They worked fast, grabbing, placing, grabbing, placing.
As she built, she wondered what the girl’s name was. She hadn’t paid too much attention during the meet and greet. She’d been thinking about Tyler. Worried about Tyler.
She needed to pay attention. Who knew when their competition would be a quiz. And she had no business worrying about Tyler.
When four, blocks were left between them, Jamie stood, brushed off her knees, then picked up her tower. Held it both hands, and headed back.
Her tower was tall. Possibly too tall.
It was going to slow her down.
She stopped, checked her watch. She knew she didn’t need to be worried about time, but she didn’t want to not worry about it. She should have checked to see how long it had taken her to reach the mesa. She wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to home base.
And the journey back was going to be slower.
Then she heard the slide, and turned just as the camera man tumbled into her. She fell to the side, and rolled.
Her blocks tumbled down the incline alone.
Tyler looked around. The production crew had assembled a number of tall curtains held up by cranes. On his side of the curtain there were two ladders. Cameron had made it back first. His tower went straight up with six blocks. Thessa jogged in just after him, her tower two by two going up twelve levels, nearly to her waist.
In the distance, he could see George. Sighed a little with relief when he saw the base George carried.
That left Jamie and Felicity.
Four of the other team members were already back, including Zeke, with his two with blocks.
Zeke, who’d had enough blocks to build an entire base.
Tyler sighed, waited with his team for the rest to arrive.
And found himself looking in the direction Jamie had gone.
"You do realize of course, with the swarm of people following us around, we're all in the safest adventure ever."
Tyler glanced at Cameron, smiled a little at his droll comment.
"I'm not worried."
"You're the only one that believes that then."
HEY! and don't forget to e-mail me if you have a comment!
Return to Unreal Table of Contents