The New Millennials: Running the Gauntlet
Wayne Purdy
Six teens answer a casting call to star in a new reality television series produced by the ... Show More
Genres:
Adventure, Sci Fi, Superhero, Thriller, Young Adult
Tags:
serial fiction, serial, novel, the ink-stained wretch

Brock

     When Brock woke up he was laying in his bed in the contestant’s dormitory. He was still wearing the stark white bodysuit he wore during the awful Treatment. He had never felt such pain before, never even known such pain was possible. He looked at the clock on his night table. It read 2:34 pm, but he didn’t know what day it was. Was the Treatment really only this morning? It didn’t seem possible. Surely he slept through the day and night and into the next day.

     His body convulsed with cold, and he began shivering uncontrollably. He pulled the covers around him, cocooning himself, but to no avail. He was still chilled right to the bone. Reluctantly, Brock sat up and crossed the room into the ensuite bathroom. He stripped out of the bodysuit, struggling to wriggle free from the skintight clothing. Once free of its encumbering embrace, Brock paused momentarily to inspect himself in the mirror for any lingering effects from the Treatment. His flesh was goose-bitten and there was a slight bluish tinge, specifically on his extremities and on his lips. Upon closer examination, there seemed to be small clusters of white crystals formed along the cuticles of his fingernails. He didn’t know how low his body temperature dropped but now he just couldn’t warm up. Why didn’t the blast of radiation warm me up? He wondered, without really understanding the science behind it.

     Brock knew he was physically the strongest of the group, but he longed to be more, to set a better example for the others. He turned on the shower, running the water as hot as he could stand it. He stood under the showerhead, letting the nearly scalding water wash over him, warming him, at least temporarily. He stayed in the shower until the washroom was blanketed with a heavy steam and the water ran cold. Sighing, Brock shut off the water and stepped out and onto the cold ceramic tiles of the bathroom floor. He toweled himself dry but still felt the lingering cold. He went to the chest of drawers in the corner of his room and put on several layers of clothes; pants, two pairs of socks, a Burn Robotics tee, a long sleeve shirt, and a hoodie. Even with all that, Brock still felt cold. He sat on the edge of his bed and wondered if it was all in his head all along, a psychosomatic reaction to the trauma he’d experienced.

     He removed a book from the nightstand. Unlike the others, Brock didn’t bring a lot of personal items with him to the show. His walls were left bare, there were no family photos, no mementos of any sort to remind him of the life he had beyond the one he was currently living. Truthfully, Brock wanted nothing to do with his family. The Gauntlet was his opportunity for a fresh start, and he aimed to take full advantage of it. He read the cover; it was Barak Obama’s biography. The small bookshelf hanging on the wall were adorned with the only possessions Brock brought with him; books. Brock took small satisfaction seeing the surprise on the other kids’ faces when he unpacked them from his duffle bag. No one expected a meat-head like Brock Blevins to read, and certainly not to read non-fiction books.

     What Brock never told them, never told anyone in fact, was that he didn’t read them for enjoyment. No, he read them for research. The books were all about great leaders, leaders in politics, sport, or business. He had biographies on Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Steve Jobs, Mark Messier, Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Golda Meir. He wanted to know everything about leadership. He wanted to be a leader. He just didn’t know how. He often fell short and that knowledge rankled him. Sometimes his efforts were bullying, and he regretted that. His size was naturally intimidating to others and his personality was aggressively competitive. The last thing he wanted was to be a bully, to be like his dad. Brock would never be like him. Never. Carter was the smallest and weakest of the group. He decided to take Carter under his wing, to protect him because that’s what a leader does.

     Brock heard hushed voices coming from the common room. He opened the door and saw Victoria, Carter, and Elisabeth chatting quietly on the couch, an iSpy flitted around like a curious butterfly, recording the show. He smiled when he saw them all dressed in bundles of clothing, Elisabeth even more so. She wore a toque and mittens as well as a heavily layered wardrobe.

     “What is Phase 2,” she whispered. “Did anyone say?”

     “Dr. Pauer never said. All he said was that it would be even worse than the Treatment,” Victoria responded.

     “I don’t think I could take any worse,” Elisabeth said, her voice crackled. “The Treatment was horrible. I wanted to die just so it would all stop.”

     “I wouldn't want you to die. That would break my heart," Carter said. Elisabeth turned to face hime questioningly. Carter felt his face turn crimson, and tried to change the subject. "And what about G-Pop?” Carter asked. “That’s what Dr. Pauer said to Sturm. What does it mean?”

     “I think I know,” Brock said, joining the others. Elisabeth looked up at him, startled. She hadn’t known he was in the room.

     “Sorry,” she said. “We didn’t want to wake anyone.” “It’s alright,” he said. “I’ve been up for awhile. How long was I out?”

     “The Treatment was two days ago,” Victoria said. “We’ve all been out of it.”

     “What were you saying about G-Pop?”Carter asked. “G-Pop is slang for general population. It’s a prison term. It’s the space in jail where all the prisoners are allowed to interact with each other.” Brock didn’t mention the reason he knew this, didn’t tell his friends of the several stints his father had done in jail. Mostly dear old dad was arrested for domestic assaults, for knocking Brock or his mother around, but sometimes if he’d drunk too much, he would fight just about anyone. Dad always came back with horrifying stories about his prison sentence, and Brock picked up on a lot of the slang.

     “It can’t be the same thing,” Victoria said. “We’re not prisoners. Surely we aren’t going to jail.”

     “I suppose not,” Brock said, but he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he was on the right track. His reverie was interrupted by a knock on the common door.

     Miss French didn’t wait for anyone to answer before she let herself in. She still wore the black and white maid’s outfit. She pushed a refreshment cart into the common room.

     “I’m sure you’re all quite hungry,” she said. It was the first time Brock had ever heard her spoke. She had a soft, menacing voice that seemed at odds with her role as a servant. She placed a tray of sandwiches onto the coffee table in front of the sofa and then an ice bucket filled with various sodas and bottled water. She performed this simple task with a grace that belied its mundanity, and Brock wondered if there wasn’t something more to Miss French. “Try to save some for your companions when they wake up,” she said.

     “Miss French?” Elisabeth asked. “Can you tell us what G-Pop is?”

     Miss French turned and glared at Elisabeth, unable to hide the disdain she so clearly felt for the teen. “It’s not my place to know,” she said finally. “Nor is it yours.”

     Elisabeth, suitably cowed, didn’t respond. Instead, she picked up an egg salad sandwich and took a bite.

     “I don’t like this,” Carter said. “It feels like we’re left in the dark more than we should be. And this show is way more dangerous than we’d been led to believe. Someone is going to get hurt, maybe killed.”

     “No one will die,” Brock said, “I won’t let that happen.” He knew his words were mostly empty bravado, but they were meant to reassure his friends. That’s what a leader does. Besides, he meant it. He’d die to protect his new friends.

     “I trust your meal is to your satisfaction,” Miss French said, completely ignoring the interaction between the teens. Brock got the distinct impression that she could care less about any of them, that they were annoyances to her. She wheeled her cart away without saying another word.

     “Thanks for lunch,” Brock muttered between bites of a ham and cheese on whole wheat. Carter grabbed a sandwich and took a bite. None of the teens had realized that they were so hungry. Her customer service skills may be lacking, but the meal was well-timed. Victoria chose a bottle of water from the ice bucket, but returned it once she felt how cold it was. She wasn’t ready for a frosty drink just yet. Elisabeth took another bite of her egg salad before a wave of nausea washed over her, a persisting side effect of the radiation.

     “Omigod,” she squealed. I’m going to be sick!” Hurriedly, she clasped her hand to her mouth and ran out of the common room in search of a toilet.

     “Elisabeth? Are you okay?” Carter chased after her unable to hide his concern. Victoria smiled.

     “What’s so funny?” Brock asked.

     “Nothing,” she replied.

     “What is it?” He said.

     “Have you really not noticed?” Brock said nothing, his expression blank. “Boys really are clueless. You really haven’t noticed the developing love triangle?”

     “Love triangle? What are you talking about?”

     She groaned. “Carter likes Elisabeth, Wiggles likes Carter. It’s going to be interesting to see how that pans out without someone’s feelings getting hurt.”

     “Oh that,” Brock said. “Who cares? I don’t have time for romance. It’s too much of a distraction.”

     “I bet I can change your mind,” she said, a sweet smile spreading across her face with the speed of honey dripping off a spoon. Before Brock had a chance to respond, Victoria leaned over and kissed him softly on the lips. It was soft and ended sooner than he would have liked. She pulled away from him and stood up, leaving the common room wordlessly. Brock slumped back into the couch, confused about what had just happened. Was she really serious or just playing mind games? Either way it was a distraction that he couldn’t afford.

     The common room door opened again, this time Sinclair entered. He looked around. “Where’s effrybody?”

     “Gone back to bed, I guess,” Brock replied.

     “Alwigh then. Phase 2 starts tomorra. Get sum rest. It looks loike yer first up.” He closed the door behind him with a surprising degree of care. Brock sat silently on the couch. He was still cold, but thoughts of Victoria warmed him. He just hoped they wouldn’t hinder him during phase 2. Or G-Pop, whatever that was.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 12/31/2015 10:09:52 PM
  • Ryan Watt commented on :
    1/19/2016 4:30:33 PM
    Wondering who is going to figure out first that this whole thing is just a horrible, scary, villainous trap first. Also, wondering if Brock's body temp thing might not be ... Show More
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    1/3/2016 4:52:27 AM
    Now we have a new relationship to ship: Brock & Victoria (or "Broctoria", that's their ship name) and I love how Brock tries his best to transcend the sterotypical "dumb ... Show More