In the morning, after they had breakfasted, Brett went to school whilst his mother, who had neither spouse nor partner, went to earn their daily bread. That evening, after they had dined and Brett had attended to his homework (for that was the price his mother had set for continuing her tale), Brett asked his mother to tell him more about her experience on Total Drama Island. Brett sat in his favorite chair, and his mother sat on the sofa. She took a few moments to collect her thoughts, and then she began to speak.

The rescue force arrived at the threshold, as ready as they would ever be to face whatever awaited them.

Heather had taken refuge on an upper bunk. At the far end of the cabin, Lindsay stood cowering on a chair, and her manner suggested that it was she who had uttered that terrible scream. Standing in front of the chair was an enormous black… something, rearing menacingly and displaying its gigantic mandibles. It was a large male stag beetle—harmless, but looking like something straight out of Hell. It was probably more afraid of Lindsay than she was of it, if such a thing was even possible.

"What is it? Kill it! Kill it!" Lindsay cried desperately.

D.J. was one of the first on the scene. Taking one look at the beetle, he turned to flee. Finding the door blocked by people who had arrived after him, the apparently fainthearted brickhouse wedged himself into a corner and tried to appear as inconspicuous as possible.

Most of the would-be rescuers seemed unsure of what to do. The beetle looked too large to easily crush underfoot, especially with so many of the teens wearing only sandals or other light footwear. Besides, most of the campers didn't know what those evil-looking mandibles might be capable of, and weren't keen to find out. Ezekiel's heavy boots would have filled the bill nicely, and Eva wouldn't have hesitated to pound it flat with one of her dumbbells, but those two were stuck at the back of the crowd that had gathered around the doorway.

Duncan presently broke the glass on a box containing a fire axe. Apparently, he proposed to cleave the insect with it.

He never got the chance. As Duncan moved to fetch the axe, Harold reached into his pocket and pulled out a soft pleather case. Opening it, he withdrew a shuriken. As the beetle spread it wings to take flight and Duncan began to approach with his axe, Harold nonchalantly flicked his wrist and sent his spiked messenger on its errand.

It is not clear whether Harold's shuriken would have pierced the beetle's tough outer shell; but with its wings spread, the insect was vulnerable. The shuriken skipped off the floor several centimeters behind its target, caught the beetle on the upswing, and transfixed it to the chair leg. The beetle struggled briefly, and then was still.

I'm going to have to watch this dork, Duncan thought, as he would later reveal in the confessional. There may be more to him than meets the eye.

Lindsay was suitably impressed. Hopping down from her chair, she embraced her knight in shining T-shirt. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you," she said, before planting a lipstick imprint on Harold's flushed cheek.

"Any time," Harold replied, somehow managing to sound at once smug and humble. He meant it, too. For "rewards" such as Lindsay had just given him, he would have moved mountains for her.

Releasing her rescuer, Lindsay turned, crouched down—not bending over, for her skirt was very short—and curiously inspected the late beetle. "What is that thing, anyway?"

"A stag beetle", Harold informed her didactically, "so named because the male's mandibles resemble a stag's antlers. The name actually refers to any of a number of species of the genus…"

As Harold discoursed in a professorial tone, Lindsay's interest quickly faded and her eyes began to glaze over. Her face took on the look of childlike confusion that the other teens would come to know so well.

The late-arriving Geoff interrupted Harold, who was continuing his lecture seemingly unaware of Lindsay's reaction. "Dude, I think you've lost her," the party king told The Answer Man.

Harold looked at Lindsay, possibly for the first time since he began answering her question, and seemed to deflate. "Yeah, I guess you're right," he sighed.

"Cheer up, dude," Geoff said, giving Harold a fraternal swat between the shoulders as he led the beanpole away. "She's on the other team, so it probably wouldn't have worked out anyway." When they were out of the cabin, Geoff added, "And there's no way she's making it to the merge. She's crazy hot—"

"Tell me about it," Harold interrupted, remembering Lindsay's "repayment". Her embrace and kiss had been clearly platonic, expressing gratitude rather than affection, but it had been an embrace and a kiss nonetheless.

"—but she's so dumb, I'm surprised she doesn't forget how to breathe," Geoff continued. "She'd be great for a fling. For a steady girlfriend, not so much.

"Now, Bridgette, she seems like the real deal. Courtney, too." Geoff seemed to be struck with a sudden thought. "In fact… Harold, is it?"

"Yeah."

"Mind if I call you 'Harry'?"

"To be honest, I prefer 'Harold'."

"Fair enough." Geoff's brow furrowed. "Now, where were we?"

"I think you were about to say something about Bridgette and/or Courtney," Harold informed the urban cowboy.

"Oh, yeah." Geoff rummaged through his memory for a few moments and retrieved the interrupted thought. "Anywho, I think Courtney might be more your speed. She seems like the kind of chick who might appreciate a dude with a lot upstairs."

This seemed to Harold a most fruitful line of discussion. Although he loved to play the professor, he could also be an attentive student. Geoff seemed like he would be popular with the ladies, so Harold thought he might learn a thing or two on that topic by picking the party boy's brain.

"Speaking of the distaff side of our team," Harold prompted, as he and Geoff headed back to their cabin, "What do you think of Izzy?"

"I don't really have a read on her, yet," Geoff admitted. "She seems nice, but something seems a little off. I'm not sure what. Whatever, she's obviously a real fireball. I doubt you'd be able to keep up with her. I'm not even sure I could. She is hot, though."

"Eva?"

"Eva's good. Not the prettiest face on the block, but she's got great curves. But the first time you got her mad, she'd snap you like a twig. Leave her to dudes who can take some punishment."

"And, for the sake of completeness, how about Sadie?"

"Seems like a sweet little butterball, but I have a feeling there might be more to her than meets the eye. You saw how she tried to guilt the Chrismeister into giving her what she wanted. Accusing him of having it in for her because she's fat… that's hardball. She is fatter than hell, but she's pretty enough if you don't mind that. Kind of an 'anti-Eva', if you know what I mean. And she is on the rebound, sort of. If you see something you like in her, I'd say, 'Go for it.' The worst she can do is say, 'no'. Not like Eva. She could do a lot of things worse than say, 'no'."

Geoff and Harold reached the boys' cabin and found the settling-in process in full swing. Most of the boys had claimed their beds and were unpacking, making small talk as they made themselves at home. The cabin had 12 bunk beds, so questions regarding the berthing arrangements had focused mainly on who would have upper bunks and who would have lower. The boys quickly decided that Owen should have the 11th and 12th beds to himself because Owen was huge, the beds didn't look especially sturdy, and nobody wanted an upper bunk that might collapse beneath them at any time.

Presently, Owen and Tyler heard the call of nature and went looking for a restroom, for the cabin had no toilets. Cody, meanwhile, returned to the girls' cabin to see if he might rectify an earlier oversight and chat up that cute little Goth.

In the girls' cabin, meanwhile, Heather and Lindsay's plans to grab the best beds had come to naught. Even without the Beetle Incident cutting short their scouting time, one bed was much like the next and none had a view that was in any way remarkable, so there was little to choose. As a result, the main berthing question was who should bunk with whom.

When the question of what to do with the twelfth bed arose, Izzy immediately said that the answer was obvious because there were, in fact, twelve girls.

"Who's the twelfth?" Bridgette asked, although she suspected that she knew the answer.

"Sunshine, of course," Izzy replied. "You met her. Don't you remember?"

Anticipating the other girls' questions, Bridgette explained, "Izzy has an imaginary friend named Sunshine. Apparently, 'Sunshine' is hot for Duncan."

"Whatever," Leshawna said as she tried and failed to picture Izzy making out with Duncan, for the homegirl assumed that "Sunshine's" attitudes were merely a proxy for Izzy's.

"Since when do imaginary friends need real beds?" Heather asked with a roll of her eyes.

Izzy shook her head sadly and said, "People are so intolerant."

"Be fair, girl," Leshawna admonished. "This 'Sunshine' isn't even a contestant, so by rights she shouldn't be here at all."

"Sorry, Sunshine, I tried," Izzy said to the air. "Yes, the boys probably do have an extra bunk. No, you can't sleep there. Trust me, you don't want that kind of reputation. Yes, I know you're into Duncan, but you have to be realistic. You just met the guy."

"I know, guys," Courtney said, "We could use the twelfth bed as a luggage rack. With all due respect to 'Sunshine', an imaginary girl should be just fine with an imaginary bed."

"You just don't get it, do you?" Izzy pouted. She said no more, for she could see that this was a fight she couldn't win.

"It'll be okay," Courtney reassured the grumpy redhead. "Nothing against Sunshine, but Leshawna's right. She's not a contestant. In any case, I'm sure the luggage won't bother her, and I don't imagine she weighs much, so the bed should be able to take it. But don't take my word for it. Why don't you ask Sunshine?"

Looking skeptical, Izzy said, "What do you think, Sunshine?" There was a moment's pause.

"Well, I still don't like it, but Sunshine says it's okay," Izzy grumbled with the air of one making a major concession.

Heather and Lindsay wound up monopolizing the spare bed's storage capacity because, as the camp's fashionistae, they had brought far more luggage than the other girls. They would get few chances to show off their mammoth wardrobes, though, because the producers' need to be able to splice stock footage into the episodes as filler, not to mention their plans to manipulate the editing to tell whatever story might strike their fancy, meant that the campers would be required to wear the same outfits most of the time.

After the girls had finished unpacking, most left the cabin. Some went looking for anything resembling a washroom, for purposes ranging from makeup touchups to answering nature's call. Others went looking for Chris, to see what might be next on the agenda.

Gwen was one of those who had remained in the cabin. She had one of the lower bunks, and now sat on the edge of her bed, brooding. Although meeting that guitar player had been nice, the day had thus far been mostly a string of disappointments. Perhaps the worst of these was finding herself in an elimination game. Although Gwen wasn't especially knowledgeable of the genre, she did know that such shows tended to stress social interaction, and that loners usually fared poorly.

Gwen sighed. Chris probably thought that she had "early out" written all over her. So much for becoming famous, she thought bitterly.

"Hi, Gwen."

Gwen gasped and all but leapt to her feet at the unexpected sound of a male voice in the girls' sanctum.

Recovering her wits, and embarrassed at her reaction, the Goth glared at the skinny little geek who had startled her. Noah? No, not Noah, he had bronze skin. Cody, that was it.

"Shouldn't you be in the boys' cabin?" Gwen asked caustically, her hands on her hips and ice in her voice.

"I never really got a chance to meet you earlier," Cody admitted, with his goofy gap-toothed grin. "That was a terrible oversight on my part, and I wanted to fix it."

Cody's eyes widened as he suddenly felt an iron grip on his neck, and he whimpered a little as his feet lost contact with the ground.

"Boys allowed by invitation only," Eva pronounced, her voice betraying only the slightest strain at the effort of hoisting the science geek aloft. Turning her gaze to Gwen, who was looking a little nervous at Eva's display of power, the musclegirl asked mildly, "Is this guy bothering you? Because if he is, I'll be happy to show him the door."

"And if I'm not bothering her?" Cody asked hopefully, with a nervous chuckle.

"Then I'll open the door first."

"Uh, that'll do," Gwen told the self-appointed palace guard, her expression uncertain. "I don't think we need to hurt him. Thanks, Eva."

"Any time," Eva replied. Despite her suggestion that she was inclined to throw Cody bodily out of the cabin, she lowered him to the ground and allowed him to leave under his own slightly unsteady power.

The camp was equipped with a public address system and, when the settling-in period had expired, Chris turned it on, making sure there was plenty of feedback squeal to get everyone's attention.

"Attention, campers," he announced over the loudspeakers, "Meet me in front of your cabins, and we'll continue the orientation with everyone who's still alive after that little emergency in the girls' cabin."

About ten minutes later, Chris brought his young charges to the washroom.

"Some of you have already discovered the communal washroom," the host began. "It has a few Bronze Age flush toilets, sinks and no-frills shower stalls. It does have hot water, sort of, but I pity anyone who happens to be taking a shower when someone turns on a faucet."

Lindsay raised her hand and Chris, anticipating the brainless beauty's question, said, "The 'communal' part means that you'll all be using the same facilities, so anyone who has a problem with that will just have to deal with it. Likewise, you'll have to work out the scheduling, if any, for yourselves. If that happens to involve some over the top drama, then so much the better.

"You may have also discovered that the cabins don't have electrical outlets. The washroom does, for those of you who use powered beauty aids. Likewise, if any of you have basic MP3 players or other types of noncommunication gadgets that the producers didn't see fit to confiscate, you can charge them here.

"Speaking of confiscating gadgets, if any of you managed to get anything past 'customs' that you're not allowed to have here, this is your last chance to surrender it. If you try to keep any contraband and we find out later—and with cameras recording your every move, we will find out—that will mean instant elimination, forfeiture of any prize money you may have earned, and a lawsuit. If you come clean now, though, the only penalty is to be embarrassed on national TV, and you're going to have plenty of that this summer, anyway.

"As you know, you're not allowed to have anything with any capacity for communicating with the outside world, whether it's a smartphone or a semaphore flag. So, does anyone want to take advantage of this amnesty offer? Anyone like, for instance… Courtney?"

Courtney jumped as if she'd been jabbed with a cattle prod. "Me?" she asked incredulously. "I wouldn't try to…"

The Type A half-pint's eyes widened in horror as realization hit. "Oh, gosh, my PDA! I forgot all about it! You have to believe me, I'd never try to cheat like that!"

"Sure, you wouldn't," Duncan retorted with a knowing smirk. "I know your type. You're not the first goody-goody girl with a wanton wench on the inside screaming to get out."

"That's okay, Courtney, I believe you," Chris assured her. "The producers deliberately let a few contraband items slip by so I would get to call people out. You should have seen the look on your face. It was priceless."

Ignoring Courtney's death glare, Chris asked, "anyone else?"

"That presumably explains why I still have my cell phone," Noah suggested with a bored look, refusing to be embarrassed.

"Anyone else?" the host prompted again.

There was a pause, and then Katie hesitantly raised her hand. "Uh, Chris? Sadie and I still have our iPods," she said, with all the contrition of a girl about to face the Last Judgment.

"Girls, girls, girls," Chris clucked, shaking his head in feigned disappointment. "What am I going to do with you two? You're running out of wrong feet to get off on."

Even without this reminder, the clones knew that they were on thin ice with the host, so they said nothing and just stood there, looking apologetic.

Turning his attention back to the campers as a whole, Chris said, "Okay, that should be everything that the producers missed on purpose. If anyone else has any 'forbidden fruits', now's the time to come clean.

"Yes, Lindsay?"

"I brought a pomegranate off the boat. Does that count?"

As Chris brought his hand to his forehead, Gwen sniped, "Wow, a four-syllable word. I'm impressed."

"Thanks, Glenda," Lindsay said, hearing but not understanding.

Chris' shoulders were heaving slightly, and he was making little whimpering noises. It looked and sounded like he might be sobbing, but in truth he was trying to stifle laughter.

Before Chris could finish his facepalm and answer the brainless blonde bombshell's question, Noah asked, "Did you eat any of it?"

"Part of it," Lindsay told him obliviously. "I was saving the rest for later."

"Well, then, you're in luck," the bookworm assured her. "That means you won't have to stay in the underworld year round."

"Is that a hotel or something?"

As Noah mimicked Chris' facepalm, Harold sidled over to Geoff and said, "I see what you meant."

Bridgette, not hearing Harold's comment or not knowing what to make of it, said, "What Noah meant, Lindsay, is that you don't have to give Chris your pomegranate."

"Cool," Lindsay replied with an endearing smile.

As soon as Chris trusted himself to speak normally, he instructed Courtney, Noah and the Bobbsey Twins to fetch their forbidden electronics. After they had done so and surrendered these items to an intern, Chris led the campers to an outhouse that had a general appearance of advanced decay.

"This outhouse is very important," the host said, "and not just because it's an auxiliary toilet for when you get the runs and can't get into the washroom."

Leshawna opened the outhouse door in the wistful hope that the interior would look more inviting than the exterior. Seeing something that she was certain didn't belong there, she turned to the host in shock.

"There's a camera in the potty? What kind of perverts are you people?"

"As I was about to say," Chris told the campers, expecting Leshawna's reaction but not caring, "the real importance of this outhouse is that this is where you will record your confessionals, which no elimination game would be complete without. You can go in there to record your innermost thoughts, or just to get something off your chest. Confessionals are a great way to get screen time, so don't be shy.

"Press that red button to remotely turn the camera on, and again to turn it off. That's the only control you can access, because the camera's settings have been pre-optimized and we don't want you fiddling with them."

The next stop was a large tent that housed two cots and a variety of medical supplies and equipment.

"This," Chris said, "is the infirmary. This is where you can come to get fixed up if one of the daily hazards of camp life gets you. In addition to treating things like burns, sprains and dislocations, which more than one of you will probably have before the game is over, we can remove porcupine quills, lance boils, set broken bones and resuscitate drowning victims; and we can also treat life-threatening allergic reactions, food poisoning, arrow wounds, bear maulings, recreational pummeling by the local Sasquatch (whom we like to call "Sasquatchanakwa"), snakebite from the deadly Eastern Diamondbacks that frequent these parts, accidental impalement (assuming you're not killed outright and all your internal organs are intact), bubonic plague from flea bites, West Nile from mosquito bites, Lyme Disease from tick bites, Flesh Eating Disease from horsefly bites (and if you thought that mosquito was big, Izzy, you ain't seen nothin' yet), Muskoka Meningitis from leech bites (and the lake surrounding this island is called Leech Lake for a reason)… all the everyday hazards of camp life. Totally routine stuff, really. It's so commonsensical it hardly seems worth mentioning, but Legal said we had to tell you.

"The infirmary's not set up for major surgery, though, and we've got a couple of half-liters of blood on hand, but not enough to give anyone a transfusion; so if a bear slices your arm off, or if a pack of wolves pulls out your intestines and plays tug-of-war with them, or if you're making out in the woods and a chainsaw-wielding psycho slashes you, or if one of the giant man-eating Leech Lake lampreys gets hold of you and sucks you dry, we probably won't be able to help you."

As Chris recited the litany of mishaps that were beyond the infirmary's capacity to set right, his usual bland smile gave way to a dazzling full smile of the sort that television news anchors use for major disaster coverage.

"What's a lamprey?" Justin asked Owen, who happened to be standing next to him.

"They're like leeches on steroids, except that leeches are worms or something, and lampreys are a type of fish," Owen explained, for he was a hunting and fishing enthusiast. Moreover, the blond behemoth was very knowledgeable about animals that are good to eat, which it so happens that lampreys are. "They look kind of like eels, but their mouths are really weird. They don't even have jaws." With a shrug, Owen added, "I didn't think they attacked people, though. Maybe the ones they have here are different."

Chris then led the campers to a nondescript building that was larger than the washroom but smaller than the cabins.

"This," he informed them, "is the Tuck Shoppe. Basically, it's an on-site convenience store. You can get all sorts of stuff here to make your lives a little easier. You'll pay captive audience prices, but this isn't a perfect world."

Chris led the campers away from the campsite proper, a little ways up the shore to a small building with a secondary dock.

"This," he said, "is the boathouse. This is where we store canoes, life jackets and suchlike when they're not in use, and it also serves as a general maintenance shed. You probably won't be spending a lot of time here, but a couple of challenges might bring you here."

Gwen opened the door to see what sort of gear the boathouse held, and recoiled. The place looked like a medieval torture chamber, with chains, huge hooks, harpoons, claws and teeth and other body parts from various dangerous animals that were probably trophies, things that were probably bottom fishing pots but which bore a disturbing resemblance to iron maidens, worms that were probably meant for live bait but didn't really look like familiar earthworms… and the unmistakable stench of blood, from Gwen could only guess what.

"What's wrong, Gwen?" Trent asked solicitously.

Fighting to control her gorge, Gwen replied weakly, "It's a little more 'Gothic horror' than I was expecting."

"No offense, but I thought Goths were into that sort of thing."

"Not like this. Well, the hardcore Goths, maybe," she assured him, finally starting to regain what little color she normally had. Most of the other campers were looking on with varying degrees of curiosity and concern.

Chris noticed this byplay and found it good. "Gwen's reaction," he explained, "illustrates why we will also be using the boathouse as a detention facility if any of you step too far out of line. Sadie, for example," the host added, remembering their altercation at the bonfire site.

"That explains the harpoons," Duncan quipped.

"And you think putting your teammates down will help us win… how, exactly?" Courtney asked Duncan with a glare, but the delinquent pretended not to hear.


LEAVE ALL HOPE, YE THAT ENTER

Finally, Chris led his young celebrities-in-the-making to what proved to be their final stop. The largest building in the camp, this could only be the main lodge. It was the most inviting-looking building the campers had seen since arriving on the island, and it appeared to be better maintained than the camp's other structures. It didn't hurt the campers' first impression that the sun was low in the sky, so the teens assumed that Chris had brought them here for dinner—their first meal as reality show stars.

Chris led the troupe into the lodge and, when everyone was inside, called out, "Yo, Chef, come out and meet our vic… er, contestants!" Noticing that many of the campers were now eying him warily, Chris looked up at the rafters and whistled innocently.

Inside the lodge were two long tables with bench seating. At one end was a large, rough-hewn stone fireplace with an enormous set of moose antlers displayed above. The wall opposite the entrance was largely cut away, although this opening was currently shuttered so the campers couldn't see the kitchen that presumably lay beyond. A long counter was affixed to the far wall, just below the cutout area. There was a double door to the kitchen, a swinging door for when the kitchen was in use and a lockable door for when it was not.

The cutout shutters slid aside, and several pairs of eyes widened at the sight of the camp chef. He was a tall, hulking, black ("I'm Canadian, so don't call me African-anything," he would later say) mesomorph, even more muscular than D.J. He appeared to have a shaved head, although his traditional chef's hat made it difficult to be certain. He also sported a deeply cleft chin and an All-Pro spitting gap in his teeth. He looked over the campers with a scowl, for his was a sour disposition not unlike Eva's.

Although many of the campers were taken aback at the chef's appearance, those who had been to summer camp before reacted with more aplomb, for they had known what to expect.

"Why do summer camp chefs always look like escaped serial killers?" Courtney asked rhetorically—and softly, lest the chef hear her and slip "a little something extra" into her tea.

"I don't know, why?" Lindsay replied innocently, for she was standing close enough to hear Courtney's remark.

"I was speaking rhetorically," Courtney informed the uberbimbo.

"What does 'rhetorically' mean?" Lindsay asked, struggling with the pronunciation.

"It means I wasn't expecting an answer."

Lindsay looked confused. "So why did you ask, then?"

Although Courtney was well bred and polite, she did have a bit of a temper. She was also very bright, and highly intelligent people tend to regard sarcasm as a virtual birthright, so her first instinct was to respond caustically. As she opened her mouth to fling a barb, though, she caught herself. If Lindsay was truly as stupid as she sounded, the poor girl couldn't help that, and in any case probably wouldn't recognize sarcasm when she heard it. Courtney therefore bit her tongue and said only, "I was just thinking aloud."

"Oh. Sorry, Connie."

"It's Courtney."

"That's what I said, wasn't it?" Lindsay replied, looking confused.

Courtney resolved to avoid conversing with Lindsay whenever she could do so without giving offense. The uberbimbo would probably be gone soon enough, and wasn't worth the aggravation in the meantime.

"Ahem," Chris cleared his throat theatrically, with a glance at Courtney and Lindsay. "If you gossip girls are finished…."

Chastened, the girls gave the host their attention.

Now addressing the entire troupe, Chris said, "This is Chef Hatchet, so called because… well, I don't want to spoil the surprise. In addition to preparing your meals, he's also my aide, so you'll see him doing support work at most of the challenges. He's perfect for this show because he's a real 'jack of all trades'. That means he can do the work of 20 people, but we only have to pay him one salary. That's how a low-budget show like Total Drama Island could afford a host as illustrious and expensive as me."

"Here's how it works," Hatchet said gruffly and loudly. "I make it three times a day, and you'll eat it three times a day. And I don't want to hear about 'special dietary needs'. This ain't no five star restaurant, so you eat what I give you, or you don't eat."

Bridgette raised her hand and said, "Does that mean I'll have to eat meat? I'm a vegetarian."

"Girl, did you hear a word I just said? Hatchet thundered. "'Cause I don't recall saying that I wanted to hear about special dietary needs, and that goes double for preferences! It won't kill you to stuff down a few animal byproducts!"

Hatchet's expression then softened, and his glare gave way to an unpleasantly expectant smirk. In a normal tone, he said, "Trust me, the carnivores won't have it any easier than you."

After giving the campers a moment to make of that statement what they would, the hulking chef said in a drill sergeant style, "Tonight's main course is sloppy Joes. So grab a tray, get your grub, sit your butts down, and don't give me no lip! Y'hear?"

"The teams will sit together at meals," Chris added. "Eagles at the table nearest the door, and Muskies at the table nearest the kitchen."

The campers dutifully queued up, grabbed their buns and other peripherals, and filed passed Hatchet as he doled out the sloppy Joe filling and the sides, olive drab beans and something that probably used to be potato salad.

As Noah received his portion and turned away to find a seat, Chef said, "Not so fast, Scrawny. Give me your plate." Noah did as he was bidden, and Chef gave him a second scoop of filling. Hatchet apparently intended that the skinny campers should bulk up, for he also gave extra portions to Cody and Harold in due course. Nor was this treatment limited to boys, for Hatchet likewise gave larger portions to Heather and Katie, probably because he suspected them of being anorexic.

As the queue moved along, several of the campers got the feeling that something was not quite right with the filling. Proper sloppy Joe filling consists of ground beef in enough sauce to give it a slushy texture. Chef's filling, though, had more of a semisolid texture, solid enough to require a scoop instead of a ladle, and solid enough to somewhat retain its shape on the bun. Likewise, the sauce didn't seem to be impregnated evenly throughout. All in all, it looked like Chef had used "mystery meat" instead of ground beef. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite mysterious enough.

"Is this dog food?" Tyler asked with a grimace as he and Harold took their seats, safely out of earshot from Hatchet. "Because it sure looks like it."

"It might be," the beanpole replied, warily eyeing his own sandwich. "But if it is, it could be worse, I guess."

"Worse?" Tyler repeated incredulously. "Dude, we might be eating dog food. How could it be worse?"

"Years ago," Harold explained, "the government heard that a lot of poverty-stricken old folks were having to eat dog food because they couldn't afford anything better, so Parliament passed a law saying that dog food has to be fit for human consumption."

"So you're saying it's okay to eat this slop?" Red Jock asked dubiously.

"Yeah, I guess so. It's gross, but it won't actually hurt us."

As Hatchet plopped a scoop full of "sloppy Joe innards" onto Gwen's bun, the Goth did a double take. It was surely nothing more than a trick of the light, but…

"I hate to be predictable and complain on the first day," she said, warily eyeing her tray, "but I think mine just moved."

"You have a fork. Work it out," Hatchet replied gruffly, as he plopped a measure of goop onto Izzy's bun.

"Cool! Mine just moved, too!" the redhead cried. Spreading her right hand under the tray to free her left, she snatched up her fork, held it poised high over her head in an exaggerated combat readiness pose, and exclaimed, "En garde, Sir Joseph of Sloppia!" With that, Izzy plunged her fork into the mass, which convulsed once and was still.

Izzy quickly licked her fingertip and made a "chalk one up for me" gesture, then turned to face Gwen, who was looking more than a little disturbed at this tableau.

"Camp food's not so bad," Izzy informed the Goth with a reassuring smile. "You just have to show it who's boss." The possibly unstable redhead then strode to her seat, humming the triumphal march from the end of the original Star Wars movie.

As the campers sat, warily regarded their dinners, Geoff elected to tempt the gods. Turning toward Chris, who had returned to the lodge after a brief departure, the urban cowboy called, "Yo, my man! Can we order some pizza?"

Hatchet gave no sign that he had overheard Geoff; but as the hulking chef turned away from the common area, he abruptly swept his arm in the campers' general direction. There was a metallic glint in the air, and Geoff suddenly felt a breeze where he was not used to feeling one.

The campers, looking disconcerted, looked toward the doorway. Next to the door, a butcher knife yet quivered slightly, its point embedded in the wall. Impaled upon that knife was Geoff's hat. Only now did Hatchet look in Geoff's direction, fixing the urban cowboy with a "don't mess with me" glare.

Hatchet had extensively practiced that backhand, no-look knife throw, for he was a summer camp veteran and well knew how to impress the younger generation. Nor had it truly been a "blind" throw, for Hatchet had a wider field of peripheral vision than most people and so could fix his eye on a target without appearing to do so. The campers, though, would learn none of this until much later. In the meantime, Hatchet's demonstration had the effect he desired, and it would be some time before any of the teens dared to cross him again.

The campers ate without further incident, the legendary teenager's appetite eventually overcoming any concerns about the food's uncertain origins. Conversation flowed freely as the campers got to know their teammates better and speculated on what lay ahead.

"What do you think they'll make us do tomorrow?" Bridgette asked Geoff, who was sitting catty-wampus to her.

"I dunno," the urban cowboy replied easily. "But it's the first challenge. How hard can it be?"

"You're tempting fate," warned Courtney, who was sitting next to the surfer girl, two seats down from Geoff.

Even as those Muskies spoke, a similar tableau played out at the Eagles' table, with the genre-savvy Heather warning Katie and Trent against assuming too much.

Courtney and Heather's dismal warnings, though, went largely unheeded. The consensus was that the campers would probably be eased into the game, since none of them had really wanted or expected to be in an elimination game in the first place.

By the time the teens began to return to their cabins, night had fallen. As Leshawna reached the door, she turned back to look once more at the lodge's common area. As she did so, she noticed Eva approaching, looking sullen as usual.

"Hey, what's up, girl?" Leshawna asked pleasantly.

Eva passed by without acknowledging the homegirl's salutation in any way, her perma-scowl as unchanging as a mask.

"Oh, it's going to be that way, is it?" Leshawna huffed indignantly.

That was all that the finished episode showed. The producers thought the game would seem more dramatic if it looked like the campers—especially the opposing teams—were at each other's throats most of the time, and they pegged the largely unsocial Eva as a natural to wear one of the black hats. In truth, though, this is what happened next:

"Wha—?" Eva said, as if coming out of a fog. Realizing that she had just snubbed someone terribly, she turned back to Leshawna and said, "Oh, sorry. I was lost in thought."

"A penny for them."

"Probably the same sort of thing as everyone else is thinking, wondering how we got stuck in a lame summer camp playing a lame elimination game, when we were supposed to be trying to become rock stars or whatever." With a small, sardonic smile, the musclegirl added, "I'll bet I could do a guitar smash for the ages."

"That wouldn't surprise me a bit," Leshawna said with a grin. "Just don't tell that to Trent."

As they headed out the door, Leshawna added, "Anyway, if you don't mind my saying so, you looked like you could use a friend, even if we are on opposite teams."

"I don't think it would work out," Eva replied simply.

"Why not?"

Eva sighed. "I've seen your temper. Mine's even worse—a lot worse. At least you had a decent reason for going after Noah on the dock. I'll do that for much less. I'm a little surprised that I've never put anyone in the hospital."

"'Roid Rage?" Leshawna asked uncertainly. "I've heard of it."

"I get that a lot," the musclegirl confessed, "but no, I don't take steroids. It would be a convenient excuse, but I had anger management problems before I was working out. Fact is, I started working out because I was hoping to channel that anger into something more productive. It didn't really help, but I keep working out because it turned out that I enjoy it. As for the steroids, just because I want to out-pump guys doesn't mean I want to become one." In a rare moment of whimsy, Eva struck a preening pose and added, "It wouldn't be good for my girlish figure."

"I hear you. If I had goods like yours, I'd want to keep them, too." Striking the same pose Eva had struck moments before, Leshawna clarified, "Not that there's anything wrong with what I do have."

Eva didn't actually share that opinion, but managed to bite her tongue before she could say so. Leshawna had offered her friendship; and even though Eva wasn't inclined to accept that offer, there was no reason to throw it back in the homegirl's face.

"You know," Eva said, when she had thought of something diplomatic to say, "You could be a bodybuilding champion if you set your mind to it. You've got the frame for it."

"Yeah, but I don't like to sweat. Well, not from that, anyhow," the homegirl added with a wink.

"Yeah, I saw how you were working the guys when you got here."

"You should try it sometime. You might like it."

"Sometime," Eva agreed, "but not here. It would just be a distraction. Just because this game isn't what we were expecting doesn't mean I'm not in it to win it."

"So, you're going to stick to your own team?"

"I think that's for the best. If we both make it to the merge… we'll see."

"Have it your way," Leshawna said, with a little shake of her head and a note of disappointment in her voice. "If you change your mind, you know where to find me."

"Yes, I do. You're kind of hard to miss."

"That's me, all right. Big, loud and proud," Leshawna proclaimed with a grin as they entered the girls' cabin.

"To each, their own," Eva replied.

A few hours later, the boys were in their cabin, changing into their sleepwear after an evening bull session. As Duncan removed his shirt, D.J. noticed that the delinquent's arms were covered with long, thin, straight scars, mostly on the outsides.

"Hey, bro," the brickhouse inquired curiously, "Where'd you get all those scars?"

"Knife fighting," Duncan answered matter-of-factly.

With D.J. looking like he was about to faint, Noah snarked, "Looks like you could use more practice."

"That's a great idea," Duncan agreed with a wolfish grin. "Thanks for volunteering to be my practice partner."

"No, thanks, I'm good," Noah replied as nonchalantly as he might. In truth, the bookworm was sore afraid, for he sensed that Duncan's threat was not idle.

"So, you really are as smart as you look," the delinquent said with a more genial smile, suggesting that Noah had been wrong and the threat had, indeed, been idle. In a conversational tone, Duncan confided, "Let me tell you something. If you're in a knife fight, and you get out of it without getting cut, that doesn't mean you're good. It means you're lucky."

"That one's not from a knife, eh?" Ezekiel noted, pointing to a thicker, irregular keloid below Duncan's left shoulder. "How did you get that?"

"That one's from a broken bottle."

Unsure of whether he really wanted to know the answer, Trent asked, "Have you… have you ever killed anyone?"

"Nah," the Juvenile Hall alumnus assured him. "Don't get me wrong, I could if I had to, and knife fights always have that potential, but it usually doesn't come to that. Usually one fighter gets cut a few times, can see that the other guy's better than he is, and either gives up or runs away."

"Do you ever give up or run away?" Noah asked, feeling brave again.

"I might not be around today if I didn't. It's like poker—you've got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Let's just say that I win more than my share."

Brett was confused. "Mom?"

"Yes, dear?"

"You said you were on the show, but you haven't mentioned yourself."

"Actually, I have. In those days, I was still using my first name. I started going by my middle name when I entered college, and that was before you were old enough to have permanent memories."

Although Brett knew his mother's first name, he almost never heard or saw it, so it hadn't come to mind unbidden. Thinking about it, Brett now recalled that this long-unused name did, indeed, match one of the contestants.

"So, why were you talking about yourself in the third person?" he asked uncertainly. "You don't usually do that."

"I was a different person then," his mother explained. "You made me grow up before my time. That's partly why I started going by my middle name. Besides, I think it makes a better story this way. Just humor me, okay?"

"Sure. Whatever," Brett conceded. It was no skin off his nose, and in any case he didn't want to discourage his mother from telling him the rest of her tale.

The hour was not late, so Brett's mother paused a few moments to collect her thoughts, then resumed her tale.


EPISODE #2: THE TALE OF THE FIRST CHALLENGE
Original title: The Not So Great Outdoors (a.k.a. Not So Happy Campers), Part II

The next morning, their first at Camp Wawanakwa, the campers awoke to the end of the world.

Reality show producers don't like their contestants to be well rested, because sleep-deprived people have less emotional control. Likewise, a harsh wakeup call makes people feel less rested, other things being equal. And so, at the crack of dawn, Chris played the "Dies Irae" ("Judgment Day") section of Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem over the P.A. system, at cabin-shaking volume.

Dies Irae, Dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sybilla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus.

(This day, this day of wrath
will consume the world in ashes
as foretold by David and the Sybil.)

(What trembling there shall be
when the judge shall come
to weigh everything strictly.)

Not long after, the campers, some still wide-eyed and twitchy from their apocalyptic wakeup call, filed into the lodge for breakfast. Chris was at the door to greet his young charges, his carefully practiced bland smile concealing his glee as he looked on his handiwork and saw that it was good.

Breakfast consisted of eggs runnyside up, with delicately carbonized bacon and heavy bread toasted golden-black. The beverage options were lake water that still tasted of the disinfecting chemicals, horrifically bitter grapefruit juice (the news of "Ruby Red" grapefruits having apparently never come to this corner of Muskoka) and milk that was noticeably over the hill. As the teens ate, Chris called for attention, and announced that they were to assemble in front of the lodge in one hour, to begin the first challenge.

"Some of you," the host noted, "have suggested that the first challenge won't be anything too hard. And you're right, it's not all that hard, if by "hard" you mean physically strenuous or tough to figure out.

"The problem with easy challenges, though, is that they're not good for ratings; and since Total Drama Island is a new show, we need to do something to grab the audience's attention. One way to do that is by showing a lot of female skin and feminine curves, so you'll need your swimwear. As for the other way we're going to goose ratings…"

Chris paused a few moments for dramatic effect, and then dropped the other shoe.

"You are about to find out why you had to sign all those waivers to be on the show. Your first challenge will be one of the most dangerous of all."

At the appointed time, the swimsuit-clad campers assembled in front of the main lodge. Most of the girls wore bikinis, some more revealing than others. Leshawna, Beth, and Eva, though, wore one-piece swimsuits, and Bridgette sported a short-sleeved wetsuit designed for cold-water surfing. Leshawna's swimsuit, monogrammed with an "L" above her bosom, nicely flattered her ample yet feminine frame; Eva's swimsuit might as well have been her leotard; and Beth sported a ruffled, all-covering bathing suit that would have been at home in her great-grandmother's closet.

The boys all wore standard, discreet swim trunks in various color schemes. Justin had originally appeared in a barely-there male bikini; but the sight of The Incredible Hunk wearing nothing but bikini briefs had left the distaff side of the camera crews and the intern corps (not to mention the female campers) unable to function, so Chris had ordered Justin to change into something less revealing. One of the interns, a strapping Latino lad named Alejandro, happened to wear the same size of trunks as Justin and had a pair on hand, so Justin borrowed that.

For the same reasons that the campers would be required to wear the same outfits most of the time, the producers didn't want anyone tanning over the course of the game, so a platoon of interns now slathered the fair-skinned campers with enough sunscreen to shield a nuclear reactor.

Another intern, recognizable as such by the bright red pullover shirt that all interns wore, presently appeared driving a two-seat ATV. Before settling into the empty seat, Chris said to the assembled campers, "The challenge venue is about four clicks up the trail. Alejandro and company will show you the way. And don't feed the bears." Chris and his chauffeur then headed up the trail in their ATV, leaving the campers and their intern escort to walk.

Not quite an hour later, the campers and the surviving interns escorting them arrived at the place where their host awaited them. Most of the campers were out of breath, for they had been running for their lives over the last 300 meters or so after one of the interns became bear bait. Only Tyler and Eva seemed none the worse for their terrifying sprint, for the former was a star sprinter at his school and the latter had the constitution of Wolverine. On the other extreme was Owen, who, being badly out of shape, had been severely overtaxed to the point that he dropped to all fours and yielded up his breakfast.

When most of the campers were again breathing normally, Chris said, "Okay, everyone, here's how your first challenge is going to work. You're going to dive off this cliff into the lake. Simple, right?"

The campers nodded or murmured in agreement. While diving from the cliff might be scary, depending on how high the cliff turned out to be, it seemed very simple and straightforward.

"Good," Chris continued. "To make this more interesting for the viewing audience, we've stocked the lake with psychotic, man-eating sharks—"

"Sharks are neither psychotic nor sane," Harold broke in didactically. "They don't have that kind of brainpower."

"Don't interrupt me again, Harold. Now, as I was saying—"

"I was only trying to help," Harold complained petulantly, "and it's just as easy to get these things right. Gosh!"

The host's seemingly perpetual smile gave way to a scowl. "Harold, do you want to be thrown off the cliff instead of jumping? The interns haven't had a lot of practice, and I can't guarantee their aim."

"Fine, have it your way. Gosh!" the walking encyclopedia exclaimed again, throwing his hands in the air.

"Maybe Harold just wanted to see what it took to get that pasted-on smile off your face," Gwen suggested.

"But why bother stocking the lake with sharks?" asked Noah, who wasn't the type to respect effort when a reasonably similar result could be had with less work. "Wouldn't it have been a lot less labor to just let a luckless leaper live with the likelihood of leaving the land of the living as a light lunch for those allegedly legendarily large Leech Lake lampreys? Oh, silly me, it's not like they're actually real, LOL."

"Now look, you lame little loser," Izzy replied without missing a beat, with a smile and a wink to inform Noah that she was playing along and not insulting him, "I'll allow that I like to let loose a long alliterative line as well as anyone, but just because this is supposed to be a kid's show doesn't mean we need to turn it into a Dr. Seuss routine. But if Lady Luck likes you, and you live through the 'life in the balance' leap and Leech Lake's legendary lampreys don't lunch all your scarlet life liquid and lap up the last of your lymph, you'll laugh last, 'cause I'll let you alliterate as long as you like."

Chris, forgetting that he had been about to chastise Harold for interrupting him and Gwen for snarking at him, said, "Okay, bro and bra, it's not like I wouldn't love to listen to your little alliter-off, but we're on a schedule.

"As for the lampreys, they're definitely real, but all they do is suck out all your bodily fluids. That'll kill you, of course, but it'll leave your corpse pretty much intact, and that's not photogenic enough for reality TV. If anybody does meet their maker here, the viewing audience will expect a spectacle—blood in the water, floating body parts, blood-curdling screams, desperate hopeless flailing, slo-mo instant replay, the works.

"Now, as I was about to say before we got off track, if you don't want to become shark chow, you'll need to dive into the safe zone that we've cordoned off. It's called a 'safe zone' because we're reasonably sure that the sharks haven't figured out how to get into it. If they have, well, then I guess I told you a story."

"Excuse me?" Leshawna challenged. The host's "assurances" had contained far too many qualifiers and caveats for her peace of mind.

Chris ignored the homegirl and continued. "For each one of you who jumps and actually survives, your team will receive one crate of supplies for the second part of the challenge: building a hot tub. One crate per diver means that, if too many of you chicken out or get eaten, your team runs the risk of not having enough supplies to complete the challenge.

"As a bonus, the team with the most dives into the safe zone will get carts to haul their crates back to camp for the building phase. The losing team will have to haul their crates to camp using nothing but good, old-fashioned muscle power. That'll be a lot slower, and you won't have unlimited time to build your hot tubs, so you want those carts.

"Tonight, the team with the best hot tub will get a wicked hot tub party. Tomorrow night, the team with the suckiest hot tub will be sending someone home."

All was silent for a moment, save for the host's evil stage laughter.

The campers peered over the cliff to see what they were up against, and were taken aback when they saw that the diving cliff was a good 300 meters high. To make matters worse, with the midmorning sun slanting into deep water, the campers could see that Chris hadn't been joking about the sharks. The waters outside the safe zone seemed thick with them, ranging from nasty-looking little buggers no bigger than a man to leviathans that looked like they could down a fully loaded canoe at a gulp.

"Killer Muskies," Chris announced, "Since Owen's not finished puking his guts out—"

"I'm right here!" the overexerted Owen gasped between dry heaves.

"—you're up first," Chris finished, without acknowledging Owen's protest.

Not surprisingly, none of the Muskies seemed particularly eager to take the lead. Finally, Eva volunteered Bridgette.

"I think Surfer Girl should go first," the musclegirl suggested. "She's the one who knows water sports."

Bridgette accepted Eva's charge without protest. "Fine. It's no biggie," the surfer girl said, projecting confidence that she did not feel as she peered over the cliff to gauge the distance. "It's just… an insane cliff dive… into… shark-infested waters."

Bridgette backed up a few steps, held her arms out, took a deep breath, and stood still for a moment to mentally prepare herself.

"Show us how it's done, girlfriend!" Eva called in encouragement.

Dropping her arms, Bridgette ran forward and launched herself off the cliff in good form, splashing down gracefully in the middle of the safe zone.

"Bull's-eye! Nice work, Bridgette!" Chris announced over his bullhorn, mainly for the benefit of those campers who weren't able to get close enough to the edge to see the dive. With Bridgette in the water to provide scale, the campers noted with relief that the safe zone, which looked so tiny from atop the cliff, was actually large enough that it probably wouldn't be especially hard to hit.

After Geoff and Eva made their dives without incident, Izzy took the plunge, and became the first to miss the safe zone. When she splashed down, the sharks quickly swarmed through the area. Izzy did not resurface.

"Come on, Izzy," Bridgette urged, her voice scarcely above a whisper.

Almost a minute had passed. There was still no sign of Izzy.

With the three Muskies on the boat fearing the worst, a shark breached the surface, leaping like a salmon, with Izzy astride its back like a daughter of Poseidon. Izzy and her reluctant steed splashed down and disappeared, only to breach again moments later, then disappeared and breached yet again.

"Yee-ha! Ride 'em, cowgirl!" Geoff shouted in encouragement, as the Muskie and the shark continued their duel.

After a good two minutes of this aquatic rodeo, the shark finally breached close enough to the boat for Izzy to vault safely aboard. She "stuck the landing" as gymnasts say, turned to the camera, and curtsied.

Chris next summoned Ezekiel. The homeschooled farm boy peered over the cliff, backed up a few steps, took a deep breath, and quietly recited a Biblical passage that he later identified as Psalms 23:4: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." He then took another deep breath, ran to the edge of the cliff, and completed his dive without incident.

Next up was Duncan. With a shrug of his shoulders, the delinquent jogged to the cliff edge without protest and launched himself as casually as he might. Truth be told, the only reason he didn't simply step off the cliff was because the safe zone—indeed, safe water depth—was too far away for that, and suicide wasn't really conducive to looking cool. Once airborne, though, Duncan did his best to maintain a blasé attitude, keeping his arms at his sides and maintaining a "standing" posture as best he might. (This is actually the safest way to dive from a great height, but Duncan didn't know that.) He splashed down feet first in the safe zone—a little too close to the near edge for comfort, but in the safe zone nonetheless.

When Duncan was safely on the boat, Chris announced, "D.J. You're next, big guy."

The brickhouse dropped to his hands and knees, peered over the edge of the cliff, and shuddered. "I can't do it," he said, hanging his head as he regained his feet.

"Afraid of heights?" the host speculated.

"Yeah, but that's not the real problem," D.J. confessed. "I'm afraid of the water. Have been since I was a little kid. Besides, if I jumped and missed the safe zone, I might have to defend myself against the sharks. I might even have to…" Tears began to well in his eyes. "I might even have to hurt them," the gentle giant finally managed to gasp out. "I couldn't bear that!"

"Fine. Here's your chicken hat," Chris replied unsympathetically, placing said hat on D.J.'s head. "The Chicken Walk is thataway," the host added, motioning to the trail they had taken earlier that morning to get to the cliff top. Alejandro waited patiently at the trailhead, for Chris had stationed him there on the assumption that at least one camper would refuse to dive. The campers did not know the way to the bottom of the cliff, so any "chickens" would need an escort. Later in the season, when the campers better knew the lay of the land, Chris would become more inclined to leave them to their own devices in such situations.

As D.J. began his "chicken walk", Chris said, "Courtney, you're up."

Courtney took a deep breath, ran a few steps, and arced gracefully off the cliff. Her form proved to be better than her eye, though, and she missed the safe zone, splashing down to the right and a little short.

Strangely, the sharks seemed to take no notice, even though one happened to be fairly close. They continued to ignore Courtney as she swam placidly to the boat.

After Courtney's teammates pulled her onto the boat, Bridgette asked, "Not that I'm complaining, but what's with those sharks?"

"Professional courtesy," Courtney explained smugly. "I'm going to be a lawyer someday."

Chef Hatchet, piloting the boat, overheard this exchange and informed Chris by radio.

"Note to self," grumbled the irritated host, "Next time, use crocodiles."

Returning to the business at hand, Chris called on Tyler to jump. With an enthusiastic shout, the jock of all trades took a long running start and launched himself into the air.

Tyler had very strong legs, more enthusiasm than skill, and had made little effort to learn from those who had gone before. As a result, he badly overshot the safe zone. As he entered the second stage of his descent, he could see just how badly he had misjudged the distance; for below him lay, not the safe zone, but the boat, its deck crowded with terrified Muskies.

"Incoming!" cried Duncan. He and his teammates would have taken cover, but there was nowhere for them to go. Courtney abandoned ship, but she was the only one who could do so safely. Izzy considered following Courtney's lead, but then thought better of it. The other Muskies could do nothing but await destiny.

Hatchet, piloting the boat, could not see above him, so he had only the teens' reactions to tell him what was wrong. He gunned the engines, but the overloaded boat responded sluggishly. Depending on where Tyler landed, there was a real possibility that he might have an unfortunate encounter with the propellers, but that was a chance that Hatchet would simply have to take.

Tyler splashed down in the boat's wake, barely three meters astern. Hatchet quickly cut the engines back and began to bring the boat about. The boat was close enough that, with Courtney pushing and others pulling, the Muskies were able to get Tyler aboard almost before the sharks realized what had happened.

Safely aboard, the "human cannonball" found himself confronted with a sea of angry glares. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, he thought, and decided that his best course of action was to play dumb. Tyler looked at his teammates and, as innocently as he might, asked, "What?"

"Dude, what were you thinking?" Duncan asked. "If you'd hit this decrepit little tub, you'd have gone through it like tissue paper."

"Dumping the rest of us back into the water with the sharks," Eva added.

"They're right," Bridgette said. "This boat isn't very big, and it's just made of wood. If you'd hit it, you'd have probably sunk it."

"Not to mention getting yourself killed—literally—in the process," observed Courtney, who was now back on board. "Broken neck, fractured skull, take your pick."

Suitably chastened, Tyler hung his head. "I guess I should have paid more attention to you guys' dives," he offered limply.

"Gee, you think?" Izzy asked with a sniff.

Geoff, who didn't like to see people picked on, rose to Tyler's defense. "OK, guys," he said, "I think that's enough piling on. Yeah, he could have gotten us all killed, but the point is, he didn't." The other Muskies, having made their points, let the matter drop.

At the top of the cliff, Chris had beheld the spectacle and found it good. Turning to the camera, he declared, "That is awesome television!" He then turned to face the Eagles and the remaining Muskies.

"Okay, guys," he said, "Learn from Tyler's mistake. We can't afford another boat."

Chris' failure to mention the contestants that Tyler's blunder had put at risk did not escape the teens. "Your concern is touching," Noah sneered.

"Oh, yes," Gwen sneered, as caustically as Noah had. "It's not like human life is worth anything, but we can't have anything happen to the boat."

"I'm glad you understand, Gwen," Chris responded cheerily.

"You don't care about us at all, do you?" Heather challenged.

"Do you really want me to answer that?" Chris asked with a smile, clearly enjoying the repartee.

Nobody rose to the bait, but the campers on the cliff now respected Chris less than before.

"Whatever," the host finally said, deducing that the teens weren't going to say anything else camera-worthy. "Back to business. Harold, you're next."

Harold misjudged his dive and missed the safe zone by a fair margin. The sharks swarmed, and then all was still. There was no sign of blood or struggle, but neither was there any sign of Harold.

The hour was growing late, so Brett's mother left off her tale, and suggested that he prepare for bed.


NOTES:

* Noah's assurance that Lindsay "won't have to stay in the underworld year round" because she hasn't finished her pomegranate is a reference to the Greco-Roman myth of Hades and Persephone (Pluto and Proserpine to the Romans), which explained the origin of the seasons.

* A "captive audience" is a clientele that comes to the business' location for some purpose other than to patronize the business. In this case, the campers have come to Camp Wawanakwa to compete in an elimination game, not to patronize the Tuck Shoppe, so the campers are a captive audience for the Tuck Shoppe. Restaurants located in airports or shopping malls are good examples of businesses that cater to captive audiences.

* The subheading, "Leave all hope, ye that enter" (with "leave all hope" commonly rendered as "abandon all hope") is a reference to The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, commonly known simply as "Dante". The line is the last line of the inscription on the Gate of Hell. The full inscription, from the Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed translation, translation, is:

Through me is the way into the doleful city;
Through me is the way into the eternal pain;
Through me the way among the people lost.

Justice moved my High Maker;
Divine Power made me,
Wisdom Supreme, and Primal Love.

Before me were no things created,
But eternal; And eternal I endure:
Leave all hope, ye that enter.

* Animal byproducts are things like intestines, hooves, and other leftovers from the butchering process that aren't valuable enough to have markets of their own. Chef Hatchet's use of that term, instead of "meat", is a subtle way of messing with the minds of those campers who understand the distinction.

* "Olive drab" beans are simply canned (as opposed to frozen) green beans. The unappetizing color is a side effect of the canning process, whereas freezing preserves the original color. There is a double entendre here, because olive drab is also a color inseparably associated with the Army—The U.S. Army, at least.

* The author is not familiar with Canadian law on the subject, but U.S. law does indeed state that dog food must be fit for human consumption.

* The description of Izzy's sloppy Joe as "convulsing once" after she stabbed it suggests that it was probably just the reaction any inanimate object would have to a brief, violent external force. (Of course, probably isn't the same as definitely…)

* The part of the Eva-Leshawna scene that made it into the finished episode is quoted verbatim from the canon, although the scene was moved from the serving line to after the meal.

* Duncan's knife fighting background is based on a young man whom the author met doing day labor many years ago.

* Through most of the story, Brett's interaction with his mother somewhat parallels the interaction between King Shahryar and his wife Shahrazad (Scheherazade) in The 1001 Nights.

* Notwithstanding the reasons the Storyteller gives, the dramatic reasons for her to refer to herself in the third person are (a) because the interior story isn't really about her, and there are many scenes where the Storyteller isn't present; (b) to make it easier for the reader to distinguish the frame story from the interior story; and (c) to keep the reader in suspense for a time as to the Storyteller's identity.

* Because this site's story pages don't support external links, links to music videos (if available) for compositions referenced in this story will appear on the author's profile page. The "Dies Irae" is one of these.

* Although The 1,001 Nights is a prose work, many of the component tales contain a significant amount of verse. To somewhat duplicate this feel, this story includes a number of (mostly famous) poems that fit the mood or events in the places where they appear. Most of these poems are in the public domain, but a few are recent enough to be copyrighted. In the latter case, the author believes, but cannot guarantee, that inclusion of these verses constitutes "fair use".

* The red pullover shirts the interns wear is a reference to the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk's security personnel wore similar shirts to the interns, and had similar life expectancy.

* As a unit of measure, a "click" is slang for a kilometer.

* Tyler is postulated as a star sprinter because, although the canon tends to depict him as utterly incompetent, the author's take is that he has to actually be good at something if he is not to come across as totally deluded. Certain canon references (most notably his audition tape, wherein he easily jumped high enough to dunk a basketball, only to knuckle it off the rim) suggest that his only real flaw is poor coordination. (It's not giving away too much to note that this becomes a plot point in a later chapter.) In this reimagining, therefore, Tyler is a star sprinter because… well, because how much coordination does it take to run in a straight line? It also explains the tracksuit.

* The "alliter-off" alliteration scene was originally much shorter, with only Noah speaking. A scene in Total Drama: Pacific Island, a story by TDIwriter on the Total Drama Island Fanfiction wiki (specifically, the "shirt-off", a pec-flexing duel between two ripped male characters) inspired the author to expand Noah's alliteration line into a duel scene of sorts. Chris was originally the second "duelist", but Izzy was given the role instead because it was a more natural fit for her, although Chris still gets involved.

* The sharks' reaction (or lack thereof) to Courtney refers to an ancient lawyer joke, the gist of which is that sharks recognize lawyers as kindred spirits and so will not harm them.