Moira jolted awake, keenly aware of a sharp pain in her left temple. She kept her eyes closed. “Toby…” she whispered, reaching for him. Maybe he could get her an aspirin. Instead of being met with Toby’s shoulder, her palm connected with nothing but gritty dirt. She groaned and reluctantly cracked one eye open. Nope, not in her bedroom anymore! Couldn’t they have at least let her say goodbye to her boyfriend? She and Toby should have anticipated that the show would kidnap them again, rather than let them fly on planes or drive in cars fully conscious like normal people. At least they had made the most of their last night together, knowing they would have to leave each other in the morning. They certainly hadn’t anticipated their parting to be so abrupt, without any goodbyes.
She sat up slowly, opening her eyes the rest of the way. The pain in her head intensified. Her ankles were tied together with a rope, but they had left her hands free. “Strange,” she muttered as she picked at the knots.
Once her legs were free, she looked up. She felt a surge of instant claustrophobia. Her vision was met by nothing but leaves and branches. She looked from side to side, but only saw more of the same. She scrambled backward so quickly that she fell over into the dirt. “Oh, thank God!” she yelled when she realized that there was empty space behind her.
“Moira?” Adrian appeared from around a corner.
She jumped to her feet and ran over to him. “Where are we?”
He shrugged. “In some sort of hedge maze.”
Lily and Jesse were conspicuously missing.“Where the hell is your sister?” Moira asked. “And what about Jesse? Aren’t the three of you joined at the hip or something?”
Adrian’s expression closed. “Lily and Jesse ran off.”
“My sister and my best friend ran off together. What about that do you not understand?”
“What about their records?”
“Obviously they don’t care about that anymore.” Adrian sighed. “I can’t believe I went on this stupid show for them and now they’re gone.”
“So why’d you come back then?”
“I could stand to be waiting around my house, hoping they’d come back.”
They remained quiet for a moment. “So, down two teammates. What about Will?” Moira finally asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve been wandering for a while. I only found you because you yelled.”
“Hmm…” Moira drew in a deep breath. “Will!” she shrieked at the top of her lungs.
They heard a lot of rustling and then Will finally appeared from the opposite direction as Adrian. “Hey, there you guys are. About damn time I found you two.” He looked around. “Where’s the other two?”
Adrian shoved his hands in his pockets and glared at the ground. “They ran off together. They’re not coming back,” Moira answered.
“Good. Didn’t like them anyway,” Will said. “No offense, man, but your sister was hella annoying and Jesse was useless.”
“Hello, Promethiads!” a voice interrupted. They looked around, but saw no one. “This is your illustrious host, Chance Cagney, reporting to you from a remote location. Welcome back, those of you who are left. I offer you a choice: you may leave the maze now with no repercussions and continue as a trio…” he paused.
“There’s always repercussions,” Will mumbled.
“I heard that, Mr. Zhang. I shall let it slide this time. Now for your second choice. You may face the maze and find your two missing teammates. But be warned: you will also face the Hunters. The choice is yours, Fire People! One way or another, I will see you at the end.”
“Two missing teammates? Does this mean that Lily and Jesse changed their minds?” Moira asked.
“Not likely. Haven’t seem them in months,” Adrian said.
“Do we want to bother with new people?” Will asked.
“Might be easier with them,” Moira told them.
“Or it might be worse.”
“Adrian? You can be the decision maker.”
“I don’t care.”
“Fine, we’re going to get them.” Moira held up a hand to ward off Will’s protests. “Look, I don’t want new people any more than you do, but it might be easier if we had them. Plus, we can’t leave them stranded in the maze.”
“Okay, okay. Let’s find them,” Will conceded.
They started walking slowly, keeping an eye out for the Hunters. “So, how was your time off?” Will asked.
Moira’s face flamed. “Good.”
“Oh. I see. So you and your little boyfriend did it? Did he go all monster on you?”
Her head shot up. “What? How did you know about that?”
“I do my research on my competition.”
“Competition? Competition for the show, or competition for me?”
His eyes narrowed. “Screw you, Moira. Oh wait, Toby already did.”
“Dude!” Adrian stopped and spun around. “Can you two shut the hell up? I don’t want to hear about what Moira and her stupid little boyfriend did or didn’t do on their break. And cut out the jealousy crap, Will. I don’t want to hear that either. As much as I don’t want to be here, we need to listen for Hunters.” He began walking again.
“Well, didn’t take him very long to take back over as a leader,” Moira muttered to herself under her breath.
They turned a corner and found a boy and a girl huddled together in a dead end of the maze. They were blindfolded. “Hello?” the girl called. “Is someone there? Can you help us?”
“Behold our missing teammates,” Will said with a grand gesture. “They look like they’re going to be loads of help. Maybe they’ll cower in a corner during every task and stay out of the way.”
“We’re tied together so tight it’s cutting off our circulation, jackass!” the boy yelled. “But the second I can move again, I’m gonna kick your ass.”
“Dan, calm down,” the girl admonished sweetly. “They’re not going to help if we’re mean to them.”
“Damn right,” Will said.
“Sorry, Des,” Dan said. “Uh…can you guys help us?”
Adrian and Moira went over and untied them. They took their blindfolds off themselves and stood shakily. The girl lost her footing and collapsed into her companion. He caught her quickly. “It’s okay, Des. Just move slowly. We can take our time.”
A bullet whizzed past them and disappeared into the bushes. “No, you can’t,” Adrian said. “The Hunters found us.”
Two Hunters came from opposite side, effectively trapping the group in the dead end. “Everybody get behind me!” Will yelled. He shifted into panther form and leapt on the Hunters, clawing at them until they ran off.
“Run!” Moira ordered, grabbing the new girl’s hand and trying to drag her along.
“I got her.” Adrian grabbed the girl and tossed her over his shoulder.
Will led the way, still in his cat form. He crashed through the bushes, clearing paths where there none.
Finally, they reached the end of the maze. Will shifted back to his human form and collapsed to the ground, exhausted. “Hey, would you mind putting my sister down now?” the new guy asked.
“Huh? Oh sure?” Adrian set the girl on her feet.
“Thanks,” she told him. “I’m Desireé, by the way. This is my twin brother, Daniel.” She looked curiously at Moira, who was holding her head. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Moira offered her a small smile. “I’ve just had a raging headache since I woke up. I think they must have hit me too hard when they knocked me out.”
“They hit you?” Desireé’s eyes grew huge.
“No, I was joking. But maybe I’m having a reaction to whatever they did use.”
Desireé reached a hand out and placed it on Moira’s temple. She closed her eyes a moment, then removed her hand. “Better?” she asked, opening her eyes.
“Yeah!” Moira said in amazement. “What did you do?”
“She can heal,” Daniel answered.
“Awesome,” Will said. “So what do you do?”
“Congratulations, Promethiads!” Chance’s voice interrupted before Daniel could answer. “You found a way through the maze and found your teammates. If you head due east, you’ll find your car. You have a hotel room for the night. In the morning, you’ll have further instructions. Good luck.”
“So, now what?” Desireé asked.
“Now we go find our car, our hotel room, and get to know everyone better,” Adrian said.
TO BE CONTINUED…