Two years. Two years ago, a game known as Survival of the Fittest was unleashed upon the world, and the chaos that would follow in its aftermath would shake the United States of America to its very core. A group of tenth grade students from Barry Coleson High School in upstate New York boarded an airplane on its way to Paris, France. That plane would never return, and all of the students, except one, would die horrible and gruesome deaths courtesy of this corrupt game. The only survivor of the first "official" game was a student by the name of Adam Dodd, and because of the events he had witnessed during ten horrible days on the island, he would never again be the same.
For a year after that, all was quiet, and some semblance of peace seemed to return to the country. As quickly as the mysterious figure known as Mr. Danya had appeared, he vanished, seeming to take his game along with him. Although the United States government declared finding Mr. Danya and eradicating his terrorist unit a top priority, all their progress seemed to lead to was dead ends. It was as if Mr. Danya, Angelina Kaige, Elijah Rice, Shannon McLocke, and the remainder of their terrorist group had never existed.
But the country would never forget. During the first days of the original SOTF ACT, panic ensued in the country. The longer it progressed, the more resigned to the fact the Americans became. In a desperate ploy to keep peace and halt thoughts of uprising within the country, the United States government broadcast SOTF under the guise of a new game show. Its controversial actions were especially popular among teenagers, who were more desensitized to the violence unfolding before them than the parents.
But the citizens of New York, the ones who had enrolled their children in Barry Coleson High School, they would forever know that SOTF was no game show... no reality series. Their children would never come back. Still, most resigned themselves to believing that SOTF was just a game. It was just easier that way. Those who refused to believe, those who hassled the U.S. government for answers... they, too, disappeared, and people knew better than to pry too deep or ask too many questions.
And so, the horror that was SOTF ended, with the American public either not knowing the truth of the matter or choosing to believe the lies the government fed them. Things just didn't seem to make sense. If Survival of the Fittest was just a show, why were government officials so relentlessly pursuing the man known as Mr. Danya and his terrorist organization? If none of it was real, why were they going on some ficticious goose chase?
When the leads ran out, the news feeds stopped, and America returned to some sense of normalcy. Eventually, the guards were removed from the schools, and it was as if SOTF never existed in the first place. The government claimed that they wouldn't bend to common terrorists and that the citizens of the U.S. shouldn't allow things like the SOTF ACT to affect their daily lives. Basically, they claimed that by ignoring the problem, they were solving it. A terrorist's job is to create terror, after all, and if the U.S. wasn't panicking, they were failing at their job.
A year passed, and nothing happened. This tactic, as crazy as it might have sounded, actually seemed to be working. Then, one year after the original incident that incited panic and chaos across the States... it happened again. Four schools from Denton, New Jersey, set out to four respective locations on school trips, never to return. A few days later, Survival of the Fittest was once again being broadcast to every man, woman, and child across America. This game was bigger, better, faster... it seemed infallible.
Once again, America was in an uproar. The public demanded answers. Why did this keep happening? Why couldn't the government stop it? This was no reality show. During the first days of the SOTF ACT's second runthrough, the public demanded the truth from the government. The blame fell on the government's public relations team, and eventually lead to nearly all of the PR team being relieved of their jobs and replaced with new members.
Despite that, the conflicting reports, combined with a new terrorist attack, created a rift between the people and the American government. People began to distrust the government, and support for this new war against terror dropped incredibly. Despite that, the government continued to pursue Mr. Danya. The second installment of his cruel little game continued, however, and all but one of the group of students from Denton lost their lives to the program. Once again, the American government failed in its attempt to stop Danya. Two months after the end of the second game, the government managed to locate the abandoned island on which the game had been played, and along with it, the carnage and aftermath that followed the second program.
This was a large victory for the U.S. Even though they had failed to save the Denton students, they were closer to finding Mr. Danya than they had ever been before. America pushed relentlessly forward, but came to another dead end after finding the island on which the second round of the game had taken place. The American public went on with life, as it always does after a crisis, even one of these proportions. More time went by, and the event of another abduction became less and less. Finally, things were back to normal...
Okay class, so what exactly is Survival of the Fittest? No, Jimmy, it isn't that game show on TV. Survival of the fittest is defined by Webster's dictionary -- ahem, second definition, class -- as a nineteenth century concept of human society, inspired by the principal of natural selection, postulating that those who are eliminated in the struggle for existence are the unfit. But teacher, it's only animals that demonstrate natural selection and Darwinism, isn't it? No, children, it isn't. We, as humans, also demonstrate natural selection. We demonstrate evolution. Races and cultures fade from existence, and we as a society reproduce more powerful, more adaptable breeds of human. Sounds sort of creepy, doesn't it? But think about it. You're smarter than your parents. The stuff we're teaching you now, they were learning as seniors in high school -- or maybe they weren't even learning it at all. We as humans evolve. The "fittest" of the human race will go on to become doctors, lawyers, senators... people of importance. The ones who are deemed "unfit"? Well, America always needs burger flippers and trash men. Maybe my lecture seems harsh, but the point of it is this. You all need to go to school, you need to get an education, you need to become the "fittest" of society, because otherwise, you'll fizzle out of existence and never scratch the surface of history. Am I getting too deep for you all? My apologies. I'll get back on track now.
- Mr. Isaiah Thomas, Southridge High School, Grade 9 Instructor
Prologue: Highway to the Danger Zone
"Whoo!" one of the jocks from the football team shouted as he hopped onto the steps of the obviously not school-standard Southridge High School bus, "Senior trip, senior trip, senior trip!"
Even from far away, it was blatantly obvious that the school was going all out on this senior trip. It had taken four years of countless bake sales, fundraisers, cross-dressing pageants, and other ridiculous school spirited events, but finally, the 2007 Senior Class of Southridge High had managed to raise enough money for this all expenses paid senior trip. They'd raised a small fortune to fund it, but it was well worth the money. After all, it was their last chance to do something as a class, it was their last hurrah before they all parted ways and went down the different paths of life. This trip was going to be one for the scrap books, this was the place to make memories, this was an event that this year's seniors were supposed to remember for the rest of their lives.
Or not, as the case would be with some.
One of the baseballers flashed a toothy grin to his companions as he discretely flashed the bottle of vodka stashed underneath the hoodie he wore. The rather short, somewhat pudgy bi-racial man that sidled idly past the baseball boy obviously didn't notice the bottle stashed under his jacket as he walked by. Instead, Vice Principal Jorge Takamura -- a rather normal man who just happened to be a rather eccentric mix of Japanese and Mexican -- grinned widely as he observed the crowd of students that were flocking toward the line of buses parked in front of Southridge.
"Alright, alright!" Mr. Takamura shouted, "Settle down. This is it, seniors! The next time you're all together, it'll be at graduation. I'd like to congratulate all of you for coming this far! That being said, before we start boarding these buses, there are a few ground rules I want to cover. This is your trip, but this is also a school sponsored trip. I want to see everybody having fun. Nice, clean, safe, legal fun. Is that clear?"
"Crystal!" one of the boys in the crowd cackled as he tossed a condom at the Vice Principal. Takamura grimaced and searched through the crowd quickly, but couldn't find the culprit.
"Not that kind of fun," he interjected with a grin, "We've got a good group this year, we're gonna have a lot of fun. I just hope we don't have the same problem as last year where a couple peons cost everybody the trip."
Takamura frowned lightly as he recalled the events of last year's senior trip. A handful of the more troublesome students from that senior class had apparently smuggled alcohol into the cabins and in their drunken stupor had decided that it would be funny to raid some of the ladies' cabins, steal their underwear, and use it to "toilet paper", though that wasn't even the correct term to use -- the teachers' cabins. Needless to say, that trip had come to an abrupt and uneventful hault. The entire class had been rounded up the next day and sent back to Highland Beach, and senior trip had been ruined for everyone. In the back of Takamura's mind, he couldn't help but wonder of the troublemakers from this class would pull a similar stunt, or maybe even something worse.
He was quickly thrown from his thoughts. The crowd seemed to be getting a little bit restless. A lot of the seniors had begun to talk among themselves. Some were swaying restlessly from side to side. Others were yawning or looking around, and some had begun to pull out their cell phones, iPODs, and other electronic devices to entertain themselves through what they were sure would be another lecture. Instead, Takamura let out a resigned sigh and a grin.
"Let's board these babies up!" he shouted, "Make sure you fill 'em up, guys. We couldn't afford to charter too many of these things if you actually wanted to go somewhere besides the bus this year!"
Students began piling into the half-dozen buses that lined the front of the high school. Mr. Takamura, too, boarded one of the buses and took a seat up front next to the rather hard to understand Mr. Ayanami and the loud and overbearing Coach Whittenburg. He cast a sidelong glance toward the back of the bus, which had already been filled to the brim with students, and looked down toward his watch.
"We ready to roll?" the lanky African-American bus driver inquired with a grin.
"Seems so," Takamura responded, "Just how long of a ride are we looking at?" he inquired after a moment of hesitation.
"'bout two hours at most," the driver replied.
Takamura sighed quietly. His vision trailed back toward the students once more, then toward his fellow chaparones once again. Two hours with a line of buses packed to the brim with restless seniors that couldn't wait to reak havoc and destruction on the campgrounds they were heading to. He couldn't help but muse that the groundskeepers rued the day they ever offered Southridge a good deal for their senior trip. To the students, it was a weekend of cabins, late nights, and laking it. To everyone else, it meant havoc, destruction, and lots of money in repair expenses.
"It's gonna be a hell of a night," Takamura whispered to himself.
It was starting to get dark outside now. They had left Highland Beach a short while ago, and the glistening city lights were slowly disappearing from sight and being replaced instead by rows of trees and seemingly never-ending fields. The bus seemed to have quietened down tremendously since they took off from the high school. Some of the kids had gotten bored and resigned themselves to sleeping. Others were mesmerized by iPods or PSPs that they'd brought along specifically for the bus trip. Still others conversed quietly among themselves, and the only disruptions in the quiet murmur came at the hands of some of the more loud-mouthed students getting a little overexcited in their idle chatter.
"This place is really out here in the middle of nowhere, eh?" the bus driver mused with a light grin.
"Loud seniors disturb peace, best not be crowded places," it seemed like Mr. Ayanami muttered, but nobody in the vicinity was exactly sure if that was what he really said.
Whittenburg simply grunted in response. He seemed far too wrapped up in the sports column he was reading to include himself in the conversation. Mr. Takamura simply sighed and looked back at the bus full of kids once again. At least they were almost there. The truth was, as much as Mr. Takamura didn't want to be on this trip, he didn't want to be at home with his family even more. He and the wife were on the verge of getting a divorce, his kids hated him... in a way, school was his only release. His wife had threatened to change the locks on him if he chaparoned the senior trip instead of staying at home with her, but it was a chance he was willing to take for a moment of peace and quiet.
"We don't got much further now," the bus driver chimed once again, "We go through this tunnel up ahead and we're practically homefree. It's another twenty minutes tops from here."
"Great," Mr. Takamura replied wearily. He couldn't wait to get to the cabins, if only to indulge himself in a nice, much needed slumber. He wouldn't have to wait for that slumber much longer.
Man, did anyone get the number of that bus?
Where the hell am I?
What is this place?
I didn't sign up for this, man...
Several sets of groggy eyes opened up, peering warily into the grungy and run-down room they were now in. A chorus of panicked yells and aggressive inquiries flew up from the crowd of students, addressing no one in particular. The loud noises roused Mr. Takamura from his own induced slumber. He sat slumped in a chair in the very front of the room, right next to Mr. Ayanami and Coach Whittenburg. Ayanami was still fast asleep, but much to Takamura's surprise, Whittenburg seemed to be struggling around like a wild animal in the chair he sat in. It was then that Takamura realized that he, along with the other two class chaparones, were bound to the chairs in front of the room.
"Ah, ah, ah, Coach Whittenburg," a voice echoed from somewhere above the room, most likely the projection room that seemed to be upstairs.
Mr. Takamura's vision trailed up to the room just in time to see a small silver object whizzing toward Coach Whittenburg. A primal scream erupted from the Coach's mouth as the bullet pierced his forehead, effectively blowing it apart and sending blood, bone, and brain matter all over both Takamura and Mr. Ayanami. The entirety of the class, who had been in an uproar just moments before, now set in absolute, horrified silence.
"Much better, class," the voice from upstairs boomed, obviously being broadcast through a public access system of some kind, "Now that I have your attention, perhaps I can explain what's going on here. I'm sure you all have many questions, but they'll be answered in due time. Of that, I can assure you. But first, children, I'd like you to turn your attention to the large projection screen in front of you. I think my little presentation will answer a lot of those questions."
The already dark room went completely black and the old projection screen began clicking, revealing decayed images from a poorly cared-for film on the screen in front of the class.
"Serious question," the petite blonde girl laying on the floor of what appeared to be an all but hollowed out school building inquired, "What happens if we're the only two left? Neither one of us wants to die here. Are we supposed to rock, paper, scissors for it or something?"
The dark-headed boy laying beside her didn't seem to have an answer for her question. Instead, he rolled over on his other side, facing away from her.
"We'll talk about it in the morning," he muttered under his breath.
Both contestants seemed to drift off into contemplative thought for a few moments, neither of them speaking, until the boy finally rolled onto his back and propped his head up in his arms. Instead of finally answering her question, he uttered a simple, "Goodnight," to her, effectively ending the conversation she had initiated. The girl lay there for a few moments, until her attention turned to her ally, who seemed to have fallen fast asleep. The blonde slowly crawled away from her companion and reached into her issued daypack that lay on the floor a few feet away.
Within seconds, she retracted a gun from the pack and flicked off the safety on the device. She crawled back over her partner, straddling his hips as she climbed on top of him. She paused for a moment, allowing her fingertips to trace the lips of her sleeping companion, and tears began welling up in the corners of her eyes. After a moment, she pressed her lips up against the sleeping boy's, and as soon as she pulled away, she pressed the barrel of the gun against the boy's forehead.
"It's really nothing personal," she whispered quietly, "You were the best I'd had... in a long time."
Without reluctance, she pulled the trigger, spraying blood, bone, and brain matter across the floor and leaving a hollowed out shell where the boy's head once was. Just as quickly as she had pulled the trigger, the girl raised herself up off of the boy, collected all of their belongings, and exited the eerily silent room, leaving nothing but a mangled body and a pool of blood in her wake.
"Anybody recognize that scene?" the voice from upstairs inquired, "Matt Drew was quite the fan favorite among a lot of the ladies during his run on the game. Likewise, Sera Wingfield's popularity went through the roof in the moments before that scene. They were quite... intense, if you know what I mean."
The voice chuckled loudly. It was starting to sound less and less ominous and more and more giddy.
"For those of you who aren't getting the picture, please direct your attention to the front of the room once again."
A picture once again appeared on the projection screen in front of them, but this one was almost crystal clear. A fairly rotund man sat in a plush chair located behind a desk. His face could hardly be seen underneath the red baseball cap he adorned, but he appeared to be smiling.
"Welcome, welcome!" he chortled loudly, the grin never leaving his face, "Welcome, seniors of Southridge High School, to the greatest show on earth! We're getting pretty popular these days, and we'd like you all to have a front row seat... right in the middle of all the action. Won't that be fun, kids?"
Some of the students seemed to be almost relieved at the bright and cheerful voice that echoed throughout the room. Other people seemed more and more apprehensive, and still others seemed just downright confused at everything that was happening to them. Mr. Ayanami had finally began to come out of his slumber and looked around the room groggily. Mr. Takamura, however, stared on at the screen in horror. Some of the students had pieced it together as well, he could tell by the looks on their faces. Now, he knew what was happening, and now, he was scared for his own life, as well as the lives of all the students in front of him.
"My name," the voice rang out again, "is Mr. Danya."
In the back of the classroom, someone screamed. The majority of the class sat in shocked silence, still listening to what the figure on the screen was saying.
"Welcome to the latest round of Survival of the Fittest. You'll be right in the action. Hell, you'll be the contestants!" he mused with a grin.
"Is anyone in the Peanut Gallery still confused? I'll explain. Perhaps some of you have Amish households or something. For those of you raised like normal Americans, with the television ever glowing, you'll know what I'm referring to. This is our fourth time, third to be aired, Survival of the Fittest competition. The rules are going to be pretty easy to understand, so I will not be taking any questions after my explanation."
Danya cracked his knuckles on the desk as he clasped his hands together onto the top. His head tilted downwards and the shadow darkened his looks even further, the only light coming from his unusually white teeth. He cleared his throat once before he continued.
"You will kill your classmates, by whatever means, until one is standing. One daypack for each of you, with rations and your weapon-- which may or may not be advantageous-- and a first aid kit. Nothing fancy, just a couple of wraps, band-aids for those boo-boos caused from your competitor with the axe. That sort of thing. You have collars that we've generously upgraded enough to fit just a tad more comfortable than last seasons. Do not insult us by trying to remove them, we'll blow up your jugular. And that, however fun for me, hasn't brought in the ratings quite like the students' carnage of games past."
Danya paused to lift one hand ominously to point at the students locked in the room.
"You're seniors, all of you, so I expect that I won't have to repeat this little tidbit to you. I'm running the show, and by now I'm confident that there is an understanding. Do not fuck with the system. Just adapt. Plan your strategies wisely, and you might be the next Adam, or Bryan."
With an eerie smile, like the Cheshire cat, Danya waved.
"By the way, welcome back Mr. Dodd. We've been missing you."
At the back of the room, way off to one side, a visibly shaken Adam Dodd quietly spat back what could only be construed as a reflexive response.
"Fuck you, Danya."
Smirking, the large man at the front of the room continued.
"To the rest of you, the game starts now. Don't be scared, you'll die faster that way."
Danya grinned and gave a thumbs up as the air vents above the auditorium-like room opened and began pumping sleeping gas into the room, knocking out the entire student body that occupied it as well as the two remaining teachers sitting up front. The next time the students woke up, they would be on an island fighting for their lives in the most dire of circumstances. Most of them would never see one another alive again. Those that did run into one another again would probably wind up wishing they hadn't. As for the teachers? They didn't have it nearly as lucky. By the time Danya and his lackeys were finished with them, they too would be wishing they were out on that island. At least then, they might've had a fighting chance.
Only the strong survive, so play, and see if you are fit to live, or not.