Grim Reality

Chapter Eight- Casualty Insurance

Day Six- 5:15 PM

"Fist of the Beast King!" It seemed like it was over. The fireball was coming right at her...

Sora opened her eyes. The lights from the arena. The sounds of the audience. Matt's cries: They had all dissipated. She found herself instead tucked safely into the backseat of a vehicle, driving into the sunset in the middle of some unknown city. Next to her was Mimi, still asleep. Two other girls were sleeping in seats behind them. Sora remembered them as Madison Taylor and Miaka Yuuki. Ahead was Tom Wallace, driving very complacently.

Sora leaned forward, so as not to wake the other passengers. "Mr. Wallace? What's going on?" she asked.

Tom was startled for a second, then looked back and acknowledged Sora,  "Oh. You're up." He said, before returned his attention to the road, "Don't worry Sora, everything will be explained once we arrive. Just relax and enjoy the scenery. You no longer have anything to worry about."

Sora leaned back in her chair. How could she not have anything to worry about?

Moore Facility- Drop-Off Area- 5:25 PM

By the time Tom pulled the Suburban into the drop-off area, the other three were awake. The four exited, only to be greeted by Tom. He cracked a smile, and started into a dialogue that sounded as scripted and phony as if they were all back on the island ready to start the immunity challenge: "Well, I'm sure you're wondering why you were taken here in the company Suburban, or as we like to call it- the minivan of death. To put it quite simply- you're out of the game. You were all eliminated from Shougai. You probably don't remember the actual battle, or only recall it as a vague dream. We did that intentionally since actually remembering the process of dying and whatever comes after that... well that could really mess you up. Take our word for it, you don't want to remember. With that in mind..." Tom turned around and pointed to the building behind him. "Welcome to Moore. This is where you'll be staying for the next eight days. It has the same amenities as you had in Beeda, only here you're able to enjoy them without the pressures of the game looming overhead. Free room and board, with no obligation. Enjoy it!"

"So... we aren't dead?" Miaka asked. Stating the obvious perhaps, but it was a surprise nonetheless.

"No. You aren't. Not anymore at least. We only told you that the losers would die. We never said that we wouldn't bring them back." Tom smiled. "It's getting a bit cold. Coming inside?"

Lounge- 5:30 PM

It was all so... normal. Takato, Kazu, and Kenta were at a table playing cards. Brock and Henry were watching television. Mousse was bugging the hell out of Li and Meilin. Nobody seemed to have any problems with their recent losses. In fact, Henry ran up to Madison and grabbed her hand.

"C'mon!" he said urgently.

"For what?"

"We've been waiting for you; we're watching Mole... the real one." Henry ran off with Madison towards the television pit. As an afterthought, he turned to Miaka. "Want to join us?"

"Um... sure!" Miaka said, following them.

Tom approached Mimi and Sora. "We're not only opening up the archives of our series, but we also have the real ones too. Dave pulled some strings and got the American Mole 2. Brock's been waiting for Madison to show up since he got here." Tom walked off, leaving the two digi-destined females to fend for themselves.

"Well, I guess I have some exploring to do! Coming with?" Mimi said to Sora, smiling brightly.

"Um. I think I'll pass." Sora didn't feel like exploring. She couldn't enjoy herself knowing that all her friends still thought she was dead. Mimi joined the others, throwing away her problems for the chance to live a week with weightless backs. Sora couldn't lift anything off her back, not if Matt was feeling the way she imagined. She walked around the room, searching for something to do, something to keep her occupied. She was unable to find anything, but something, or rather someone, found her. She almost jumped when a hand was placed on her shoulder.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked.

Sora sighed. "Yes. Please," she replied. No matter what was going on, and no matter what he had done... she could still count on Tracey.

Beeda Facility- 1st Floor Hallway- 6:15 PM

"Listen to me Matt, you've got to at least be there so we can talk." Izzy was talking to a doorway. There was no response. "I know you feel bad but we can't dwell on it." Izzy knew that sounded bad. He didn't want to underplay Sora's death, but these were crucial times. "I don't know what Tai did to make you so mad at him, but we're all going through tough times. We need as many people as we can. We're a team Matt..." Izzy continued to knock, and he continued to talk. Nothing was working.

Akane had heard the commotion from the lounge. She walked over and watched him. Izzy was up to something. Of course, there was no way of telling what. In time, Izzy gave up his fruitless quest of getting Matt to open the door. He headed for the stairs, passing Akane on the way. That's when she made her move.

"Izzy..." she whispered. Still, it got his attention, "Can I talk to you?

Moore Facility- Room 108- 6:15 PM

"I don’t know what I see in him. He’s really nice, and he looks like somebody I can trust. I just need somebody like Tracey to get through this experience, and somebody to talk to while I’m here. I wasn’t aiming to turn it into anything romantic, but it does makes me feel better, so I won’t fight it."

The rooms were arranged very similar to the design of Beeda. For simplicity's sake, the contestants had the same room number. Tracey occupied a chair while Sora rested on his bed.

"Well, at least you went out gracefully..." Tracey stopped mid-sentence, to address Tori, standing in the hallway, somewhat confused. Tracey frowned. "If this was what you thought it was, would we leave the door open?"

"Point taken," Tori said, and walked away.

Tracey shook his head and continued, "I can't believe that I did something stupid like that. You know I seriously thought that it would improve the situation? Guess I didn't know Izzy that well. Oh well. Not one of my better moments, was it?" Tracey smiled at Sora. Sora didn't respond. "I guess it's in the past anyway. Not something to dwell on. Remind me to apologize to Izzy tomorrow."

Sora finally sat up and asked, "Tomorrow?"

"I'll admit that his right hook was better than I assumed, but he's no match for Ranma."

"Oh. I guess so." Sora thought for a moment. Was this all they were reduced to now? To sit and watch as their friends succumbed to the more stronger competitors. Tracey was probably right in thinking Izzy couldn't beat Ranma; Tai, Matt, and Davis were up against equally strong fighters from Fushigi Yuugi. She decided to ponder that later, and ask the pressing question, "How do you think your friends feel? I mean the ones still alive. Do you think Ash and Misty miss you?"

Tracey laughed. "Who, those two? Those two don't give a damn about me. It's a stretch to even call them friends. Professional acquaintances is what I like to call them. They'll associate with me, but they aren't really my friends. Now Matt- he's a friend. Takato- he's a friend too. May have stabbed him in the back once or twice, but that's okay. Izzy- he's a friend. He stabbed me in the back, but that's okay because I probably deserved it. Then there's you. You're a friend. Heck, I'm still in love with you."

Sora was caught off guard. He said it so non-chalantly that it almost slipped past her. "You... you are?"

"Sure. Not that it means anything. You've got Matt. And I still say you picked good." Tracey leaned back in his chair, putting his arms around his neck, "And he's a lot better for you than I am. So it's not a problem."

"But wait a second- how many years has it been? And I thought you said that we weren't going to dwell on each other once we broke up."

Tracey finally lost his smile. "It just doesn't matter. Fact is- I love you. That's just how it is. What can I say? You were first person I've ever met that was really willing to listen to me. Everybody I've met before was always trying to unload their problems on me, and I was always willing to oblige."

"Know when to shut up..." Sora whispered. It was one of Tracey's three principles. The other two, knowing when to wise up and knowing when to suck up, weren't in play here.

"Exactly. That's why I loved those little chats we had at night. We just talked. It felt great." Sora smiled briefly, then sighed. Tracey sensed the problem, and sat down on the bed next to Sora. "I don't want you to feel threatened or worried or anything. Look, you and Matt have something good going on, and I want that to continue. You have to do what makes you happy; that's all that matters, okay? Besides, I understand exactly what my odds are with you. Probably about the same as the odds of Izzy winning Shougai. And even then, we're in completely separate shows, we live a couple thousand miles away from each other, and you'd hate living the way I do." Tracey sighed. "I'm not even going to try. You're happy with Matt, and you should stay happy with Matt. You make a pretty cute couple anyway." They both shared a brief smile. "But I just had to let you know how I felt. I would hate to live the rest of my life knowing that a girl I love doesn't even know I feel that way. I do... and you can think anything you want about it. Regardless..." Tracey leaned over and kissed Sora on the cheek, "Thanks for listening again."

Brock picked a good moment to walk by and say, "Tracey! Got a game of table hockey reserved!" After catching sight of the situation, he smiled. "Whoa... what's going on here?"

Tracey smiled and stood. "We were just wrapping up."

Brock's smile grew wider. "Wrapping what up?"

While Sora blushed, Tracey maintained his composure. "Talking. I thought you were watching Mole with Madison."

"Yeah, well we kinda were betting on who the Mole was. I said it was the real flirtatious guy... but he ended up getting executed. I need to make some money beating you in table hockey... just in case Madison's right."

"Why? Who does she think it is?"

"The videographer. Who else?"

Tracey smiled. "Well, I guess I can't argue with that. C'mon Sora- the battle of the third wheels is about to continue. You game?"

"Yeah, come on Sora! Always nice to have someone escort us into battle!" Brock smiled brightly.

Tracey pointed at Brock. "Hey, I'll have none of that. She's mine to swoon over."

Brock put his hands up in defense. "I wasn't swooning!"

Tracey maintained his smile. "You swoon over everybody, Brock." Tracey turned to Sora, "In Mole, he hit on a forty-year old."

"Hey! First off, I was just trying to convince Washu that I wasn't the Mole. Second off... she was a fashion designer and that kimono she was wearing was just to die for."

Sora smiled, and shook her head. "I think I'll let you two have it out on your own." She stood up and started out of the room, heading in the opposite direction as Brock and Tracey as their conversation waned.

"What was that woman's name anyway?" Tracey asked.

"You know something Tracey... for the life of me, I can't remember. Weird..."

Sora continued walking, somewhat uplifted after the conversation, until she realized something.

She frowned. "That didn't help me at all!!"

Beeda Facility- Lounge- 6:20 PM

Akane and Izzy found a secure location, outside the range of any eyes resting in the lounge area, or any camera lens in the vicinity. “This should be safe,” Izzy said, “So what is it?”

Akane sighed. “Look, I’m not supposed to know this. I was just minding my own business and overheard some people. I’m pretty sure that one of them was Barb Bresnick. You know, one of the AA people.

“Right… go on.”

“I told Ranma, but I know I shouldn’t have. I mean, this is big. This pretty much removes any point in the game, you know? My point is, you have to promise that you don’t tell anybody else. I need to get this off my chest, so you have to keep quiet about it.”

“What?” Izzy was getting impatient.

“Okay… remember that you can’t tell anybody.” Akane took a deep breath. “They bring all the losing players back to life.”

Izzy was confounded. After contemplating it for a moment. “Hold on a minute… how is that possible? I mean, maybe if they died by falling through the outer ring… Tim told me that negalic animide caused an instant, painless, loss of life. I could see how they could secretly find a way to revive them… but did you see how Sora died? There’s no coming back from that.”

Akane shook her head. “If I remember correctly, they have a machine. Some way to bring people back from the dead. That’s all I know.”

“But what’s the point then? Why would they put us through all this if they’re just bringing everybody back anyway?” Izzy remained skeptical.

“I don’t know. Honestly, I think they’re just fucking with our heads. That’s why you can’t tell anybody. We’re not supposed to know this, and I don’t want to find out how those guys would react if they find out that we do.”

Izzy nodded. “Okay. Thanks. I don’t know if this is what’s really going on though. Barb’s not any more trustworthy than any of the other five. Mike’s probably lied to me before, she may just be lying to Tenchi for the same reasons. Was that who she was talking to?”

“I think so.”

“Okay.” Izzy checked his watch. “I have to get going. Say, me and some of my friends are planning something. We’re going to try to stop this game. You want to help us?”

“What?” Akane was caught off guard. She had seen Izzy talking about something in private with his friends, but didn’t think it was that significant. “I don’t know. I’ll have to talk to Ranma about it. I think he wants that wish. And since he at least thinks that everybody he defeats is coming back… I hate to say it but you may be finding out the truth tomorrow.”

Izzy looked down. His match with Ranma was already looming on the horizon. “That’s why tonight’s so important.” He walked away. This could be his last night as an active member of the game. This could be his last night alive. He had to make it count.

Moore Facility- 2nd Floor Hallway- 6:35 PM

Sora was about to enter her room when she caught sight of Yolei, right across the hallway. “Psst. Sora.”


“Get in here.” Although somewhat confused, Sora obliged, and entered Yolei’s room. Yolei quickly shut the door behind her. “We need to do something about this game,” she said.

“What do you mean?” Obviously Sora wasn’t a fan of Shougai, but she had barely even spoken to Yolei since they arrived. Yolei certainly didn’t look like she was having too many difficulties during her stay.

“Did you see how Matt reacted when you got… you know?”

“No. But I’m sure he’s pretty upset about it. I’m sure they all are.”

“Well I can’t vouch for Davis or Izzy or any of the others, but Matt definitely wasn’t doing too good.”

“How do you know all this?”

Yolei adjusted her glasses and replied, “Those AA guys broadcast the matches on TV here. Kind of a test run to see if everything works smoothly. Wish they’d do more with the hidden cameras… that’s where the good stuff is.”

“Doesn’t that creep you out though?”

Yolei stared at Sora before responding, “I don’t know. I guess I’m a bit used to it. I was only in the game for three days. Then boom- Izzy’s little sis takes me to school and I’m stuck here for the next two weeks. Which is fine. I don’t have to worry about people dying, and I’m just relaxing with all the other losers. The way I see it, it’s better to be here than in the game. I didn’t have any big reason to win anyway; there’s no sense killing anyone over it.”

“You’re probably right. Now that I think about it, I’d rather be here than in the game worrying about having killed that one girl I was up against.”

“Ah… Jeri Katou. What kinda strings did she have to pull to end up with a hottie like Leomon?”

“I don’t know…” Sora quickly directed the subject back on course. “But don’t you worry about all of the people that still think you’re dead?”

“Me? Not anymore. Ken and Mimi are gone and everybody else either doesn’t care about me or is fretting over someone else.”

“How can you say that?” Sora counted on her fingers. “There’s still five of us left.”

Yolei held up a finger. “Davis is probably just relieved that Kari’s still in.” She held up another. “Kari’s most concerned about two people- Tai and TK. She’s mourning one and fretting over another.” She held up two more. “Matt’s distraught because of you, and if Tai was distraught over anybody, it would be you.” Before holding it out, Yolei stared at her thumb. She frowned for a second. “And I know that Izzy doesn’t care… I had to fight Rika, remember?”

“So? They’ve got that little brother/sister thing, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about you.”

Yolei smiled. “Brother/sister thing. That’s rich. I don’t care what they say… it’s more than a brother/sister thing.”

Sora shook her head. “You say that about TK and Kari too.”

Yolei’s smile grew even brighter. “I’m still working on TK and Kari. It’s my pet project. Give me a year. But Izzy and Rika… I never act that way around my brothers, and my brothers don’t act that way around me. There’s more to it than what they say.”

“Look, I’m not going to speculate on Izzy’s love life.” Again, Sora wanted to get back on track. “Why did you call me in here? You said you wanted to do something.”

“Yeah. I think we can solve this whole dilemma. After seeing Matt, I knew I had to do something about this. Come on…” Yolei jumped off of her bed and walked out. Sora shrugged her shoulders and followed. Whatever it was, Yolei seemed confident.

Beeda Facility- Room 209- 6:40 PM

Kari was doing some last minute tidying up. She wasn’t expecting anyone for another fifteen minutes, and was thoroughly surprised when she received a knock on her door.

“Coming!” She quickly dropped what she was doing and answered the door.

Davis was on the other side, smiling. “Hey, Kari. Party started yet?”

“Um, Davis...” Kari looked at her watch. “You’re twenty minutes early.”

Davis took Kari’s wrist and double-checked. “I really should wear a watch you know.”

Kari laughed. “You knew exactly what time it was, didn’t you?” Kari shook her head as Davis chuckled. “Get in here,” Kari said. He did so and Kari closed the door behind him.

Davis immediately took notice of Kari’s room. “Hey, your room seems… bigger than mine.”

“I thought they were all the same size.”

“Might be. Probably seems bigger because you don’t have a bunch of dirty clothes all over the place.” Kari let out a brief laugh. “That’s why I’m so glad we got single rooms this time. Between me leaving clothes all over the place and Ash’s snoring, I don’t think Ruri could have gone much farther in the race”

“Yeah. At least in this game I don’t have to share a room with Nakago.”

“Oh yeah. He didn’t try anything funny, did he?”

“I don’t think so. Not with TK around. But you know I’m really glad I didn’t see his series.” Kari walked to the TV area and picked up a DVD case, the one they were to watch that night. “If I had known what he was capable of, I don’t think I’d have made it.”

Davis took the cover and scanned it. “Why? How bad is he in the series. Does he like try to rape Miaka or something?”

Kari put a hand on the cover and pushed it down, forcing Davis’s eyes to meet hers. As soon as their eyes connected, Davis fell silent.


“And the AA stuck him with TK and I without thinking about the consequences.”

While Kari took the case and began to set the machine up for the night’s screening, Davis pondered it all. “So who was that guy I played? I heard that he was on Nakago’s side too. Is he just as bad?”

Kari stopped. Again, she stared at him. She was clearly uncomfortable discussing it. Davis was unable to discern an answer.

“It’s okay… never mind,” Davis whispered. The silence was broken by another knock. Kari quietly answered it.

“Hi Kari,” said her brother. “I just… felt like coming early.” Tai stepped in and saw Davis. “I don’t know.”

“Hey Tai,” Davis said, pretty neutrally.

“Oh. Hi Davis.” Tai returned his attention to Kari. “We can start if you want. We’ll worry about Ranma when Izzy and the Tamers get here.”

“I take it you haven’t had any luck with Matt.”

Tai shook his head while Kari continued to set the machine up. “It doesn’t matter,” Kari began, “Tasuki doesn’t show up until a little later in the series.”

“We aren’t watching the whole thing are we?”

“Not unless you want to be here tomorrow night as well,” Kari replied.

Tai continued, “We’re just watching enough to get ideas about the guys we’re going up against.” Davis sighed in relief. “…and maybe a few of the steamy episodes.”

Moore Facility- Main Office- 6:40 PM

Yolei waited in the corners. The moment was coming. She could feel it.

“What are we waiting for?” Sora asked from behind.

Shh…” Yolei shushed Sora as she saw the door open. Tom quietly stepped out, shut the door, and walked away. As soon as he was well away from the room, and out of sight, Yolei approached the door and tried to open it, unsuccessfully.

“Locked?” Sora asked. Yolei nodded. “What are we doing here anyway? It’s probably locked for a reason.”

Yolei smiled and pulled out a hairpin. “Exactly.” She inserted the pin into the keyhole.

Yolei! You don’t know how to pick locks.”

Yolei ignored Sora for a moment, until she finally got it open. “You obviously don’t have any older brothers, Sora. Come on."

Inside was a standard office. Papers everywhere, files in cabinets, and a computer on a desk. Yolei sat at the desk and began to go to work.

“What are you doing?” Sora asked, afraid of the potential consequences.

“Finding an e-mail program.”

“I thought they said we couldn’t send e-mails.”

Yolei’s eyes remained fixed on the screen, but she continued to explain. “It’s true that they set their network up in a way so that we can’t send e-mails through our computers. We can receive them however.”

“What? We’re checking Mr. Wallace’s e-mail? How will that help?”

“Nope… we can’t send e-mail, but there’s no reason that a computer set up for the private use of the Animation Alliance wouldn’t have receiving and sending capabilities. And knowing Izzy, he still checks his e-mail every fifteen minutes, regardless of whether or not he can respond to it.”


Yolei finally turned around. “What do you want Izzy to tell Matt?” she asked.

Sora looked around. This was abrupt. Still, she had to let everybody know they were alright. She hastily replied, “Um… tell him that I’m doing fine, and not to worry about me.”

“Okay… standard but effective. Let’s see here…” Yolei read off what she had been typing, “‘Izzy, this may seem a little strange, but this is Yolei. I’m not dead. None of us are. The AA is just doing all this to convince you we’re dead and mess with your brain a little. Or a lot. This is obviously a secret, so tell only those you think need to know. Make sure to tell Matt though. He seemed a little out of it. Tell him that Sora’s fine, and that he shouldn’t worry about her.’ Sound good?”

“I guess so. You know we really should get out of here. We don’t want Mr. Wallace to come back and find us here.”

“Why?” Yolei hit the “Send” button and the e-mail was off. She turned to Sora. “What are they going to do… kill us?”

Sora remained silent. Once Yolei got the confirmation that the e-mail was successfully sent, she returned her attention to her partner-in-crime. “What do you think?”

Sora smiled. It was so simple… yet it worked. “I think Izzy’s going to get an e-mail from a dead girl.”

“Damn straight!” Yolei clapped her hands excitedly. “I feel like Chisa Yomoda, he’s Juri Kato, and we’re in that fucked up Lain series!”

Sora continued to smile. This was what she needed to feel better. “Let’s just hope Izzy gets the message.”

Beeda Facility- Room 209- 6:45

The trio of digi-destined didn’t get far before Kari received another caller. As soon as she opened the door, she was met with an unfamiliar face.

Arf!” The sock puppet barked at Kari.

Kari sweatdropped. “Uh… hi.”

“Jeri’s still feeling bad about what happened, so I’m saying ‘hi’ for her.” Jeri stepped in front of the doorway.

“Kari, this is Jeri… she has issues.” Rika introduced the two formally.

Kari smiled. “Hey, who doesn’t? Come on in. Davis and Tai are already here.”

Jeri mercifully put away the puppet as she and Rika entered the room.

“Alright, the lap dancers are here!” Davis playfully shouted.

Kari looked down, covering her eyes. “That’s Davis. Just ignore him.”

“Nice meeting you,” Jeri said.

Rika glanced at the television set, already playing the first episode. “Fushigi Yuugi?” she asked, almost disgusted, “I forgot we were watching this.”

“Not a fan?” Kari asked.

“Let’s see… because of Mole, I have a grudge against Miaka and Tamahome. Because of this series, I have a grudge against Hotohori and Tasuki. And that whole ‘worshipping Suzaku’ thing doesn’t help matters much. But it’s not like I can cheer for the other side, because I have a grudge against Nakago too.”

“You still have that silly grudge against Miaka and Tamahome?” Jeri asked.

“What’d they do?” Davis inquired.

Rika stamped her foot and crossed her arms. “Tamahome messed up when he picked which Juns Miaka and I would battle against.”

Davis sweatdropped. He turned to Tai and Kari- they shrugged.

“That’s it?” Jeri started, but was interrupted by a thoughtful Tai.

“You know… Jun’s still here. I mean… Jun Motomiya. I’m not sure who Rika’s talking about. But if Jun’s right down the hall, then maybe we should get her in here to help us.”

“No,” Davis said stubbornly, “I don’t want Jun involved with any of this.”


“No. I won’t allow it.”

Before Tai could offer his reasoning, yet another knock echoed through the room. Kari answered the door for the fourth time in a span of five minutes. While she did that, Rika and Jeri made their way to a couch, and sat down next to Davis.

Jeri looked at the television. The first episode had been airing the whole time, with no audience. “So what’s going on?”

Ryo was the next to arrive, and immediately made his presence known by jumping on Kari’s bed. “Hey everybody. I’m taking a nap. Wake me up when Ryoga’s on.”

“Ryo!” Rika was initially mad, then snapped her fingers. “I should’ve thought of doing that.”

“I suppose it’s a chore for you to watch Fushigi Yuugi.” Ryo continued to lay on the bed, but still carried on his duty of picking on Rika. “After all, it is for girls.”

Rika changed the subject and said to Davis, “Hey- goggle-head number two. When’s Izzy gonna get here?”

“Don’t know. He said he was going to try talking to Matt,” Davis answered.

“It is quarter to seven though. Maybe he’s just planning to show up on time,” Jeri added.

“I hope he gets here soon.” Tai glanced at a clock on Kari’s wall. “The sooner he gets here, the sooner we can figure out a way to stop this damn show.”

Kohler Complex- Control Room- 6:48 PM

Manny and Barb heard everything. “Well I’ll be damned…” Manny muttered, then pulled out a phone. “Mike said he thought they were planning something. He put an ear to the phone. “Artie… yeah, it’s Manny. We have some, uh… students plotting in the ABC Café… so to speak.”

“Huh?” Artie was totally lost.

“‘Les Misérables,’ Artie. Don’t you have any cultural knowledge?”

“Manny?” Barb said, “You’re talking to the guy who produces ‘Spongebob Squarepants.’”

“Good point.” Manny returned to the his conversation with Artie. “We have a few Digi-Destined and Tamers who are planning something. Just stay there for now and be ready for anything.” Manny hung up and sighed. “This isn’t anything to be worried about. Yet.” He lied. Shougai was everything now. They couldn’t afford to lose it now. He turned to Barb. “What’s Izzy doing?”

Izzy?” Barb replied.

“Yeah. Artie told me Matt’s been out of it. Mike hasn’t even been able to get a confessional out of him. But Izzy… he’s supposed to be with them. It’s strange he’s not.”

Barb checked the cameras. In her heart she was silently rooting them on in whatever they were doing. But at the moment, she had a job to do. “Izzy’s in his room.”

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s… just sitting there.”

“Odd… keep watching him. Listen to him too. I’m calling Mike. This is his show, therefore his responsibility.” Manny again picked up the phone, and looked up Mike’s number.

Barb continued to watch Izzy. “Yeah. Mike?” She could hear Manny begin the conversation, “Sorry to bother you Mike but you’re right about the Digimon kids. We don’t know what they’re talking about yet, but they’re definitely planning something.”

She tried to focus her attention on Izzy. And that’s when she heard it- “Can they really be alive?”

Barb’s heart skipped a beat. That was unexpected. She looked over at Manny. He hadn’t heard it, and continued his conversation with Mike. Did Izzy really say what she thought he said. “Is this all just a hoax?” Izzy added.

What was Barb supposed to do? He somehow learned the big secret. If he was to tell his friends in Kari’s room, they could get the word out and Shougai would either be over or severely damaged. That suited her fine- everything’s set right and she stays out of the fire. Any disadvantages? None that she could see… “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” she whispered. She watched as Izzy shook his head and went to his computer.

Manny got off the phone and said, “Okay. Mike’s on notice. Anything with Izzy?”

Barb sighed. “Nope. He’s checking his computer.”

Manny sat down and leaned back in his chair. “Swell. I think I’m worrying too much. They can’t do anything, right?” Barb shrugged. “Still, this is the most excitement this show’s gotten in awhile. Too bad we can’t show any of it.”

“I don’t know… maybe we can. Didn’t Big Brother try the whole ‘contestant rebellion’ angle once?”

“Oh yeah, I think so… we’ll have to ask Henry and Dave’s buddy about it.” Barb began to relax as the conversation grew lighter. Izzy remained silent as he checked his e-mail. “Still," Manny continued, "I would kill for a good crossover romance right about now. Shougai could really use another Tracey/Sora.” Manny laughed, “Hell, at this point, it could use a TK/Sana!”

Barb changed the subject. “So who do you think it is? Dave’s friend I mean? The big old rich guy who’s funding all this?”

Manny smiled as if he’d been dying to answer the question. “You want my theory?” Barb nodded. “Michael Eisner.”

“CEO of Disney Michael Eisner?” Barb was intrigued.

“Exactly. Think about it- They’re considered an animation powerhouse. They put a live-action reality series on their network. We put an animated ripoff of the same series on a rival network and slaughter them in the ratings. Obviously, they want a piece of the pie. Dave answers to Disney, so he’s the natural in-between guy. If it’s Disney funding this, then that also explains why they’ve been so hush-hush about it- they don’t want to be associated with a series that is clearly more mature than what they’re used to. They just want the money.”

“And Disney’s certainly been interested in anime since they sat on the rights to a few of the Studio Ghibli movies. Interesting theory.” Barb smiled. “Should I type your name into the computer to see if you advance to the next round?”

“They’re alive!!” Izzy exclaimed. Barb and Manny instantly looked at the monitor.

The light-hearted mood in the room immediately grew into one of fear as Manny jumped out of his seat. “Oh my God… “ Manny shouted. “How the hell did he…” Barb remained silent as they continued to watch.

Izzy held a piece of paper and paced around the room. “But she said I wasn’t supposed to tell anybody…”

Manny turned to Barb. “Barb! How could you?!”

“How could I what??” She replied, not catching on to his accusation.

“Well somebody must have told him. And you’re the only ‘she’ that knows about it!”

“I didn’t say anything to Izzy!” Barb returned to the screen. She didn’t say anything to Izzy… she told Tenchi. And Tenchi wouldn’t spill the beans (he also wasn’t a she). Therefore she was as confused as Manny.

“We’ll talk later…” Manny reached for the phone. “Artie? Yeah… we have a security breach. Izzy found out about the McKormick.”

“Maybe he’s not talking about the eliminated contestants, maybe…” Manny glared at Barb and she dropped the argument, realizing herself that it was completely unfeasible for Izzy to be talking about anyone else.

“Look Artie- Get up to the third floor. Make sure he doesn’t tell anybody. Do whatever’s necessary. I’ll keep you posted.” Manny hung up and returned to the screen.

“What now?” Barb asked.

“Now… we see what he does with this information.”

Beeda Facility- Room 310- 6:52 PM

Izzy stared at the e-mail he had printed off. It confirmed everything Akane had told him… including the part about it being a secret. Akane said not to tell anybody. Yolei’s e-mail told him to tell Matt. This was conflicting advice. Of course, given the choice he had to make, he had to tell somebody. This was big. This was very big. He’d have to consider carefully before telling too many of the others, but right now, there was only one thing he could do.

“I have to tell Matt,” he declared, rushing out of the room.

Artie seemed to be minding his own business. Izzy quietly tried to do the same, walking past him as if he was just another person. He couldn’t help but feel that Artie was glaring at him.

Izzy almost made it to the stairs when Artie called, “Hey, Izzy.”

Izzy froze. “Hi… Mr. Elker.”

“Can I talk to you about something?”

Izzy took a breath. “Sorry… I have to go talk to somebody.”

“Um… no… I wouldn’t recommend talking to anybody else at this point.” Izzy turned back to face the AA head. Artie smiled and looked at the sheet of paper in Izzy’s hand- the e-mail. “What do you got there?”

Whatever Izzy did, he had to tell Matt the truth. Artie was clearly trying to prevent that from happening. There was no other option- Izzy had to get away from him. He pushed himself against a door and began to flee down the stairwell. “Hey… get back here!” Artie chased after him.

Fortunately, Izzy was much faster than Artie. He easily handled the four flights of stairs and reached the lounge. His heart was racing. Artie was behind him… but not by much. Izzy made a break for the first floor hallway. All he had to do was reach Room 112 and he was home-free… assuming Matt would open the door.

He reached his destination and knocked frantically. “Matt, open up!” Izzy shouted. He turned back towards the hall. Artie had reached the bottom of the stairs and was approaching. “Matt- this is important! Please for the love of God open the door!” Artie was almost there… “Matt! Sora’s not…”

“Don’t you dare.” Artie cupped Izzy’s mouth, silencing him. “Now… let’s talk about this…”

Izzy wasn’t about to talk with these people. All he had to do was tell one person he could trust. That was all. Unfortunately, Artie was making it exceedingly difficult. Izzy would have to shake him off somehow. Izzy summoned his courage and kicked Artie in the shin. Artie released his grip and Izzy ran off once more. “Bastard!” Artie muttered as he continued the chase, “You know there’s nowhere to run to!” Izzy kept running… there was still one place…

Lab Area- 6:55 PM

3323. Hopefully Artie didn’t know the code off-hand. Izzy gained access to the lab, where he could hopefully hole away until the AA called off its dogs.

Artie looked around the grounds for him. He received a call on his phone. “Yeah?”

Manny was on the other end, providing some assistance. “He’s in the lab. I’m looking up the code to get in,” he said.

“What the hell am I supposed to do when I find him?”

“Reason with him. Say we’ll make a deal or something.”

“And if he’s not biting?”

Manny paused. He didn’t want to consider the possibility. “Then we’re out of options.”

Artie took a breath while Manny retrieved the code. Artie entered it into the keypad and the door opened.

Izzy… last chance. Let’s make a deal. You can’t hide,” Artie said. It was the truth. He could hear Izzy breathing in his hiding place.

Izzy crouched down underneath a table. He couldn’t control his heavy breathing. He wasn’t used to these situations. He hadn’t been this scared in his life. Regardless, he had to stick up for what was right. “No… you can’t do this to everybody. Don’t you see what’s going on? This is wrong… and I will not stop until every person in this building knows what exactly is happening. I can’t let you do this to us… I can’t give in…”

Izzy was interrupted by two hands forcing an air mask around his mouth. Izzy struggled to get it off, but the hand held firm. His heart started to pound and his breath became increasingly staggered. He looked up just in time to see Artie use his free hand to turn a nozzle on a gas tank. The one Izzy had been shown before… within a second, he felt a steady stream of negalic animide enter his lungs. In an instant… there was nothing left for him to feel.

Moore Facility- Control Room- 7:00 PM

Barb and Manny were silent as they watched the incident on the screen. After a few seconds to let it sit in, Manny reached for the phone. “Artie? Just uh… I guess you should just leave him there for now. I’ll call everybody and tell them to come in early tomorrow. We have some cleaning up to do…” Manny hung up the phone.

“What have we turned into?” Barb uttered. She couldn’t believe what had just transpired.

Manny shook his head. Shame it had to come to this, but like he said- they were out of options. Manny crossed his arms. “Izzy… you have just been executed. You must leave the game immediately.”

End Chapter Eight

Author’s Notes
The plot thickens! I told all you Izzy-haters to just sit tight. What can I say, he’s one of my favorite characters, but I just like to mess with him, especially when it comes to dramatic exits from reality shows.

Hey- I had to get one more Traora moment in there, especially with last chapter’s revisit to Taisty.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t go off the real deal with Mole 2: AE. When I did character match-ups at the beginning of the show, Brock was matched with the flirtatious Bob… who ended up being the first one executed (for those who are currently watching it, you gotta give me credit for matching Tracey with Patrick from the get-go). Perhaps it’s also bitter irony that the videographer Brock spoke of was executed right before I finished this chapter, huh? I guess Brock and Madison both lost.

Regarding Yolei’s line (a spoof of a cute line from the movie “Dogma” about a parallel to Star Wars), there is indeed a character named Juri Kato in the anime “Serial Experiments Lain.” Jeri Katou, whose Japanese name is Juri, is one of three characters in Digimon Tamers named after three of Lain’s classmates. The other two are Reika (dub name of Riley, one of the Hypnos girls) and Alice (dub name of… Alice, the girl who popped in at the end of the series simply because the writers were obligated to name a character after Alice, since she’s more important to Lain than Juri and Reika combined).

Now, not only do you have the crossover couple to make guesses for, but Manny also introduced more guessing games. So… who do you think Dave’s friend is?

Obviously, with each passing chapter, this gets increasingly darker. Hang on to your hats, because this is where it gets good!

Chapter Nine- Brotherhood
Izzy’s death is in everybody’s thoughts as the second round begins. The Animation Alliance is forced to deal with the loss of an opponent for Ranma, as well as the dozens of questions Izzy’s friends have upon hearing the news. Rika is forced to deal with the loss of her “big brother,” and finds it unable to put it out of her mind. Meanwhile, Davis has the problem of his match with Nuriko- can he force himself to go through with it now that he knows who Nuriko really is?

Current "Shougai" Standings