The mansion stood
tall, looming over the vast landscape that was Bryan Nathanwood's
property. The property was located in Los Angeles, where it
blended in with the other gargantuan estates that lined the city.
The main difference was that this mansion was receiving visitors
today, as its owner hosted one of the most prestigious programs
in the country. News vehicles were parked outside, awaiting the
arrival of the five children who would participate in the
The first car to
arrive was that of the Meller twins, driven by Gabriel. The twins
had arrived in Los Angeles a week prior to the first day of the
program, by Gabriel's request. The two of them had spent the week
sight-seeing. "I still can't believe where here in L.A.!" Gabriel
said to Elizabeth as he pulled into the Nathanwood estate after
showing their ID and passing through the gate, "We're about to
participate in the Nathanwood Program! We are currently within
the boundaries of the Nathanwood estate!"
Elizabeth sat in
the passenger's seat, looking through the window at the lush
green lawn that surrounded a small man-made lake just to their
left. There were two high fountains in the lake that pierced the
blue backdrop of the sky. She chuckled at her brother's
excitement. "You certainly weren't this excited when we first got
"Well, I guess I
needed time to let it sink in…" He looked around at the estate,
and veered the car around the winding path towards the mansion.
"Besides, I didn't know that it was going to take place in Los
Angeles. You know how much I love Cali."
"Why wouldn't it be
held in L.A.?" Elizabeth said, "That's where his estate is
located. That's where it took place every other year of the
"Well, I never
really put those pieces together until I was explicitly told it
was going to be here," Gabriel responded. He winded through a
large oval path that surrounded a large flower garden and led to
the front of the building.
"And you're supposed to be the one who's good at putting together
the pieces. How do you expect to become an 'ace detective' like
you always were talking about as a kid if you can't even
understand simple logic?" She looked around for their space to
park the car between all of the news vehicles. She could see
numerous good-looking women standing with microphones all around
the area. "There's our spot," she said, pointing to an empty
space with a sign saying 'Reserved for Meller' in front of
"I see it…" Gabriel
said as he steered towards the open spot, "And shut up about that
'ace detective' stuff. You know that I ended that phase when we
said with a smile, "You also stopped playing with Barbies when we
were seven. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop making fun of you
Gabriel parked and
opened the door. As he stepped out of the car, one woman
approached him to ask questions, armed with a microphone
inscribed with the name of a local news station. "You're here
live with L.A. Today, as we are covering the arrival of the first
participant in the program. Sir, what is your name?"
"Um…" Gabriel was
taken aback at first, but quickly regained his composure. "My
name is Gabe Meller," he replied. The passenger's door opened and
Elizabeth walked out. Gabriel continued before she could
introduce herself, "And this is my sister, Elizabeth. We're both
going to be participants."
"Do you think that
the fact that you know each other already will help you work
together for the program?" The woman continued her questions
almost before Gabriel could finish answering her last one.
He laughed as
Elizabeth continued walking around the hood of the car and
towards the steps that led toward the mansion. "No, no," he said,
"If anything it will be difficult for me to go one day without
pulling her hair out. I'm still excited to meet new peo-"
"Come on, Gabe!"
Elizabeth interrupted, "You can't answer questions all day! We
have to get inside!" She was already on her way up the
having the spotlight on him for the moment, but he succumbed to
his sister. "She's right," he said to the reporter, flashing a
cheeky smile, "I had better get going. Thank you for the
questions." He started to walk after Elizabeth, waving to the
cameras as he turned away.
Meanwhile, back at
the gate, the second party to arrive was confirming his identity
to the guard. "I'm Christian Attenborough," the man at the wheel
said to the guard, "I'm here to drop off my brother Tristan for
the program." He pulled out his driver's license and gave it to
the man. "I also have his identification if you need it."
The guard sat in a
small white booth built into the side of the entrance. "May I see
Tristan and his identification, Sir?" he said in monotonous
cadence. He handed the license back to the driver.
"Alright," he said,
turning to the back seat where Tristan sat. "Hey, he needs you to
get out for him and show him some ID."
Tristan rubbed his
forehead a little. He was still suffering slightly from jet lag.
He and his brother had just arrived the previous night with the
plans to arrive at the estate first thing in the morning. "I
know… I heard him. Just give me a second." He turned and slid
open the door to get out of the van. He walked over to the guard,
and pulled out his student ID to hand to him.
The guard took the
ID, looked at it for a second, and nodded. "Alright, you're both
clear," he said, pressing the switch to open the gates. He handed
the ID back to Tristan, who nodded and climbed back into the
Once they were
passed the gate, Tristan piped up from the back. "Can we turn the
music back up now?" He kneeled forward, placing his shoulder on
the shoulders of the two front seats.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm on
it." Christian reached over and spun the volume knob on the
radio, allowing the power chords of the CD that they had playing
(AFI's Crash Love) to blast out. He kept driving as he and
Tristan sang along to the song.
It wasn't too long
before they approached the front of the building, as Christian
scoped the area for their spot. "Some of these reporter chicks
are pretty hot, Man," he said to Tristan, "You think I got a
Tristan grinned at
his brother. "In response to the second part of that statement,
Hell-to-the-fuck no. In response to the first, they kinda have to
be… Otherwise, who in Los Angeles gives a shit about current
events?" He sat up and spoke in a mockingly high-pitched voice,
"What's that you say? The Israel-Palestine conflict is still
raging? Well, that's too bad for them! I'm busy bathing in my
Christian laughed as he looked around a few more times before
seeing a clear strip of driveway containing a sign that read
'Reserved for Attenborough.' He pulled the van over, fitting
tightly between two similar-looking news vans, one with its trunk
open to reveal the mass of recording equipment inside.
Tristan wasted no
time in sliding open the side-door of the van and exiting into
the crowd of anchors who were surrounding his entrance. The first
man he encountered introduced himself as one of the head anchors
from FOX News. "You're from FOX?" Tristan asked the man, so as to
make sure he heard correctly.
"Yes, Sir," he
said, "What is your name and how do you feel about the excellent
opportunity you have been given as a participant in this
program?" He held the microphone in his hand out to Tristan as a
man with a camera labeled 'FOX' walked around the
Tristan ignored the
man's question. Instead, he stopped in place, looked at the man,
and pointed at the camera. "Is this going live?" he asked. He had
one hand dug into his pocket, and his back molars clamping
lightly onto his tongue when he wasn't speaking.
He turned towards
the camera and bent over so that he could get his mouth close to
the microphone. The man tried to explain that he didn't need to
be that close for it to catch his voice, but he ignored him. He
opened his mouth wide, took a deep breath, and then screamed,
"Penis!" As the reporter stood there in silence for a moment,
Tristan grinned cockily and turned away, continuing to make his
way to the entrance.
As he made his way
towards the door, it was opened by a balding man in formal dress.
"Hello, Master Attenborough. Please make yourself at home here in
the lobby as we await the arrival of the other guests," he spoke
Tristan thanked the
man and looked around the room. It was an absolutely huge room
with a large staircase going straight through the center. It was
everything that had been in every movie mansion that he had ever
seen. Endless gardens, butlers who call you 'Master,' and a
big-ass foyer with staircase jutting through the middle, he
chuckled to himself, This guy must've learned everything he knows
about being a billionaire from crappy sitcoms.
There were two
other people near the staircase. One was standing at the bottom,
while the other sat on the bottom step. The one who was sitting
down waved to Tristan from across the room.
Tristan waved back
and started walking towards the staircase. He looked around the
room some more as he walked. The room was large and white, with
an elegant chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
As he got closer to
the two people at the stairs, he could see that there was one boy
and one girl. The girl was the one who had waved to him. Not bad…
he thought, smiling, Excellent hair, pretty face, nice height…
Can't exactly judge her body while she's sitting down, but she's
at least thin.
He looked over to
the guy. He was wearing a suit and tie, with his hair combed
nicely. Overachiever, he said to himself. "Hey," he said, "My
name is Tristan. Tristan Attenborough." He climbed up a couple of
stairs and sat down behind the girl.
The girl turned
around in her seat to face him, holding out her hand. "Nice to
meet you, Tristan," she said, smiling, "My name's Elizabeth, but
you can call me Liz or Beth if you want. Anything is fine,
really." She nudged her shoulder towards the boy and continued,
"That's my brother, Gabe. You can ignore him. He's not very big
on meeting new people."
She turned back to
Gabriel, who stood looking around the room with his hands in his
pockets. "You could at least try being friendly with the guy
we're going to be living with for the next nine months," she
called to him.
around to look at Tristan. He had always believed that first
impressions could tell a lot about a person, and his first
impression of Tristan told him that the boy wasn't too concerned
with first impressions. Tristan wore a hoodie and jeans, with his
hair spiked in a random mess. "Hello," he said blandly, "Nice
Tristan didn't seem
to sense Gabriel's sarcasm. If he had noticed it, then he didn't
care. "Thank you. I spend hours in front of the mirror making it
elegantly disheveled." He ran his fingers through it once, giving
Gabriel a toothy smile.
Gabriel turned back
to the front of the room, looking at the various pictures that
were hung along the walls. Most of them were of Bryan Nathanwood
himself, but a few were simple paintings. There appeared to be a
single small clock hanging above the doorway, but on second
glance it turned out to simply be a painting of a clock. Why the
Hell would anyone want a picture of a clock? he asked
Gabriel tapped his
feet rapidly against the tiled floor. He wanted desperately for
the other participants to arrive so that they could make their
way to the dining room for the introductory breakfast. "Does
anyone know what time it is?" he asked.
into her bag and pulled out a cell phone. She flipped it open and
looked at it for a second. "It's about 10:45," she said, "We
technically weren't even supposed to be here until 11:00, so just
calm down." She placed the phone back into her bag and turned
back around to face Tristan. "He's really excited to be in this
"I can see,"
Tristan said, leaning back a little with his hands behind his
head, "So, where are you two from?"
"We're from New
York," she answered, "I'm actually kind of a Broadway nut. Gabe
always loved the coast of L.A. better, though. He had us come a
week early just so that we could go out on the town for a few
nights." She patted the seat next to her. "Come sit down here so
that I don't have to turn around to talk to you."
said. He moved up to take the spot on the bottom stair. "That's
cool about New York. I'm from Indiana, so I don't really have
much to talk about in the vein of exciting tourist hot-spots." He
looked up to Gabriel, who still had their back to them. "You two
twins?" he asked.
replied, "I just hope that no one has a hard time telling the two
of us apart while we're here." She laughed to herself. After she
finished, she turned back to Tristan, "That was a joke, just so
"I know," he said,
placing both hands beside him on the stair so that his fingers
were hanging off. He faked a laugh and smiled.
tongue out. "Well, I know it wasn't that funny…" she said,
smiling as well, "I've been using that line on absolutely
everyone who I've ever met since I was twelve-years-old."
Suddenly, there was
a loud creak heard from the front of the room as the door opened.
Gabriel closed his eyes and crossed his fingers saying, "Please
let there be two people… Please let there be two people…" He
opened his eyes to see there was only one. "Dammit!" he cursed
under his breath.
The new arrival
quickly walked over to where the three of them were sitting and
introduced herself. "Hello," she said, smiling, "I'm Vanessa."
She was wearing an elegant two-piece dress, like a piece you
would see being worn on the red carpet.
Gabriel spoke up
first this time. "Hello, Vanessa," he said, "My name is Gabe. The
two people sitting on the stairs are my sister Elizabeth and
Tristan." He and Vanessa shook hands and the others greeted her
before she walked to place her purse down at the foot of the
over to the stairs and sat down beside Tristan. "It's hard to
walk in this dress," she sighed, "But my mom would never let me
wear anything less." She reached out her hand to shake with
Tristan and Elizabeth.
"I feel your pain…"
Elizabeth sighed, "If we hadn't arrived in Los Angeles early, my
mom would probably have me in the same get-up as you, and it's
not like my brother's any better. Gabe almost wouldn't let me get
away with this." She swept her hands across her outfit. She wore
a plain but nice top, and a simple skirt.
"Y'see, I'm in the opposite situation. My brother would never let
me leave the house in anything more formal than this."
spoke up, interrupting the conversation. He was still shuffling
his feet in anxiety for the last guest to arrive. "Time?" he
laughed, "Calm down. It hasn't been more than five minutes since
the last time you asked." She pulled out her phone and checked
anyway. "But since I know you'll insist, it's 10:53."
Outside, Markus was
driving his car through the gates of the estate. He smiled as he
looked around the lavish jungle of flowers and brush that
surrounded the mansion. "I'm actually here," he said aloud,
despite there being no one else in the car, "I'm actually in the
Nathanwood Program! I was the first one accepted!"
He turned up the
volume on the car radio, which was playing "Absolutely" by Nine
Days. The time was flashing in bright red numbers on the
dashboard. "And it's only 10:53 - fashionably early. I guess I'm
going to be the first one to get here as well!"
He pulled up to the
building, in the spot marked 'Reserved for Faust.' He opened the
door in a single grand sweep of his arm, and stepped outside. He
wore a suit-and-tie and dark sunglasses. He figured they made him
look like more of a star. He stood there for a moment, shutting
the door and waiting for someone to approach him for an
The person who
approached him was the same woman who had been the first to speak
with Gabriel. "Hello, I'm Vicki Hornell, live with L.A. Today!
What is your name, Sir?"
directly at the cameraman who had followed the reporter. He
flashed a gleaming smile and said confidently, "My name is Markus
Dietrich Faust. I am absolutely honored to be interviewed." He
had bought the special teeth-whitening strips earlier in the
month solely for this occasion.
"How does it feel
to know that in just a few minutes, the Nathanwood Program is
going to be kicking off and you're going to be a participant?"
the reporter pressed, aiming her microphone towards
Markus spoke with a
clarity that suggested he had been practicing for this question
months in advance. "It feels absolutely great. It is one of the
most invigorating experiences that anyone has ever felt. Just
driving through those gates makes you feel ready to change the
world." He took a moment to crane his neck towards the door,
never once losing his perfect smile. "Besides that," he
continued, "I wouldn't say the events will start 'in a few
minutes' like that. We still have to wait for the others to
arrive, after all."
Markus could tell
something was wrong by the way that Vicki's face flushed after he
had spoken. "But sir…" she said, hesitantly, "You are the last
participant to arrive."
Markus felt as
though he had just been struck with a heavy object. "B-but," he
stammered, "It's only 10:50. The invitation we received said that
we should arrive at 11:00. I'm early!"
"I guess the other
guests were early as well, Sir…" the reporter responded. She hung
her head down as if to apologize to Markus for the
Markus looked up at
the door and started to shuffle sideways towards it. He coughed a
few times into his balled hand, realizing he had been acting
childish. "I am so sorry for that outburst," he said, backing
away from the cameraman now, "I must be going though. I can't let
the others wait any longer, you know."
He turned away from
the camera, blushing, and hurried towards the entrance. He was
greeted by the same doorman who had been there for all of the
other participants. "Good morning, Master Faust."
towards the doorman and thanked him, never stopping his
procession through the room to where he saw the other figures.
Three were sitting on the stairs - one boy, two girls - and one
was standing in a similar outfit to Markus' in front. "Hello," he
said, trying to breathe calmly, "I am so sorry that I arrived
here so late. My name is Markus."
Elizabeth looked at
Markus. "Don't worry about it," she said, "You're technically
still early. My name is Elizabeth."
Gabriel turned his
torso around and shot a cursory glance towards Elizabeth. His
eyes spoke for him, saying, Don't show sympathy to the man who
has been making me stand here and wait for the past fifteen
Still, he turned
around and tried to act friendly. At least this one's dressed
appropriately, he sighed. "Hello, Markus. My name is Gabriel." He
held out his hand to shake, as he had with the other participants
After a few more
minutes of waiting, during which Tristan and Vanessa introduced
themselves to Markus, the five children could hear a large bell
chiming. There was no clock in the foyer, but it was definitely a
chime to mark the hour coming from somewhere.
After the noise
from the bell had ceased, they saw a man walk into the foyer from
a large arched entrance to their right. As he approached the
center of the room, they all recognized him as the dean who had
been in charge of their acceptance into the program. "Hello,
Children!" he smiled, "Nice to see that you have all arrived here
on time. Punctuality is close to Godliness, or however the phrase
Gabe and Markus
smiled at the dean's comment, while Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
Tristan and Vanessa simply waved to the dean, almost in perfect
unison. The dean continued his welcome, "I assume you have all
introduced yourselves to one another?"
The crowd murmured
a collective "Yes," and the dean waved his hand toward the arched
passage where he entered the room. "Alright, then. Let's not
waste any time with more lecturing from me. If you will all
please stand and proceed towards the dining hall for your
Tristan sat down in
his place at the front of the dining hall table. The room was
everything that he had come to expect after seeing the yard and
the foyer. It was a long, thin, high-ceilinged room of a darker
palette than the foyer. The huge, newly-polished mahogany table
took up a good 50% of the space, with seemingly over a hundred
Vanessa sat down
across from Tristan. "Why would he even need all these chairs?"
she asked, "If he had this many people visiting, I doubt they
would be able to fit into this room unless they came in
single-file." It was a fair point.
"Hey, if you've got the money to pay for ten thousand chairs,
then I see no reason why you shouldn't flaunt it."
"Yeah, I guess,"
she replied, "But still, couldn't he spend that same money on a
huge, indoor pool or something?" She looked down at the empty
plate in front of her. She was sitting next to Gabriel, who sat
across from Elizabeth. Markus took the spot on the other side of
already has five of those," Elizabeth said, "Why would he waste
his money on another one if he can just buy enough chairs to seat
the entire U.S. military instead?"
As they spoke, the
dean sat down at the head of the table, a few seats down from the
children. "Alright, everyone," he said, which echoed throughout
the enormous room, "Are you ready for your meal?"
Gabriel said with the same excitement that he had in the foyer.
He figured it would probably be a day or two before he finally
calmed. The other participants nodded in agreement.
Suddenly, the door
at the opposite end of the room opened and a crowd of men holding
various meals over their shoulders rushed inside. They placed the
meals at the center of the table where the children sat and were
gone just a few minutes later, as if by clockwork.
Markus laughed, looking at the vast array of food before him.
They had a large ham on a platter, a bowl of fresh hard-boiled
eggs, a stack of pancakes ten high (complete with warm syrup),
several fruits that Markus had never seen before in his life, and
"Take whatever you
please," the dean said in a friendly tone, "Also, we made sure
that we prepared all of these foods - with the exception of the
ham, of course - kosher."
"Thank you, Sir,"
Gabriel said, reaching for a couple of pancakes and placing them
on his plate. He poured the syrup and began to cut his meal
before anyone else had even stocked their plates.
Markus reached out
for the carving knife that sat beside the ham, while Tristan
turned to Elizabeth beside him. "You guys are Jewish?" he
replied, "Our grandfather was from Poland. I'm not religious,
though." She pushed her plate out towards Markus. "Hey, cut me
some of that too," she called.
"Me too," Vanessa
said, pushing her plate beside Elizabeth's. Tristan pushed his
plate into the line as well. It didn't take too long before
Markus had carved a few pieces for everyone who wanted them. They
thanked him, as Gabriel was on his way to get seconds.
Later into their
meal, as Markus and Vanessa were busy talking about their
hometowns, Elizabeth broke into the conversation. "What's that
smell?" she said, provoking everyone else to sniff except for
Gabriel, who was too busy eating. They all smelled it as well. It
was an almost rotten smell.
durian," the dean said, pointing towards the fruit bowl, "It's in
there somewhere. Try it. It's quite good-tasting,
Vanessa was the one
to reach into the fruit bowl and grabbed a slice of pulpy fruit
that she didn't recognize. She held it up as if to ask the dean
if that was the durian, and he nodded in response. She hesitated
for a second before putting it into her mouth. "Not bad," she
"I told you," the
dean said from his seat, "The rest of you should probably eat
some as well, unless you want the smell to stay in the room for
the rest of your meal." He leaned over, grabbed a piece for
himself, and ate it. "These are actually banned in some hotels
due to their odor."
The rest of the
children took a piece as well, and continued eating their ham
afterwards. The last piece of durian was eaten by Markus, who
smiled smugly. "I have conquered the last piece of durian," he
said in a jokingly heroic tone, "You may thank me for vanquishing
the smell that has plagued our breakfast for so long." The rest
of the participants, as well as the dean, applauded.
As they finished
their meal, the men came in from the back room again to grab the
buffet platters and return them to the kitchen. The children
continued speaking to each other, laughing and joking, until they
were interrupted by the chiming din of the dean hitting his fork
against his plate.
participants," he said, as the others turned to look towards him,
"Now that we are finished with our meal, I would like to continue
with the introduction to the Program." He placed the fork down
beside his plate. "Before I start, does anyone have any
Vanessa raised her
hand. "You do not have to raise your hand, dear. There are only
six of us," the dean said, "Just ask your question."
She placed her hand
back down on the table. "Where is Mr. Nathanwood himself?" she
asked. Everyone else realized that they hadn't ever seen Mr.
Nathanwood since their arrival at the mansion, and started
looking around the room as if he were going to suddenly descend
from the sky in a golden chariot.
The dean continued
smiling. "You're getting ahead of me, dearest," he said, "Don't
you worry. That shall be answered before we continue with the
Program. In the meantime, just know that I shall be acting as Mr.
Nathanwood's representative. Any other questions?"
Tristan raised his
hand as well, before remembering that he didn't have to do so. He
laid it back down and asked, "In our invitation, we were asked
not to bring any luggage. Was there any particular reason for
that, or did you just want us to wear the same outfit for the
nine months that we're staying here?"
The dean laughed.
"Ah, Tristan. You're just as shamelessly brash as the day that I
interviewed you. All clothes and entertainment can be provided by
the Nathanwood estate. Each of your respective rooms is already
loaded with a dresser containing your standard fair - twenty
white t-shirts, ten pairs of jeans, and ten pairs of khakis. If
you have any requests, you may of course bring them to me, and
someone will be sent to purchase it."
There was a moment
of silence. "So, you're willing to buy us absolutely anything we
want for the nine months that we're here?" Tristan continued,
"Not exactly, Mr.
Attenborough. For one thing, we can't buy you anything illegal;"
the dean answered, "For another, all of you are starting off with
a one-thousand dollar budget for anything that is not clothing,
food, or directly related to your participation in the Program.
If you are lenient with your purchases, however, an extension of
this budget can be granted." Tristan sported a large grin as he
sat back in his chair.
further ado," the dean said, "Allow me to give my introduction
speech. I ask you all to pay attention, even during the parts you
already know, for this year is going to be very special. As you
already know, the program is sponsored by the world-renowned
billionaire stock market tycoon, Bryan Nathanwood, whose home you
are currently in and will be staying in for the entirety of the
"The goal of this
program is to bring together some of the brightest young minds in
the country - that's the five of you - to learn from our
respected instructors and from each other, in the hopes of using
your innovation to come up with ways to solve new world problems.
For the past nine years the program has been a great success,
finding cures for over fifteen fatal diseases and being the
source for over twenty-five patents for revolutionary
"Some of you may
know me from our interviews as a strict man. Others may know me
as being generously lax. Still others may not know me much at
all. But as you are working towards these ends, I will act as
There was a moment
of silence as the dean paused. Finally, Markus slowly raised his
hand. "Sir," he said quietly, "I hate to be blunt, but why are
you telling us this? We already know how the program works; you
even said so yourself."
The dean smiled
wider, as if he were waiting for that question to be posed -
which he was. "Well, Markus," he said, "I am telling you this
because this year there is going to be a twist, so to speak. As
your new friend Vanessa has pointed out, Mr. Nathanwood has not
made an appearance for you.
"This is because,
and it pains me to say this…" The dean's perpetual smile
disappeared almost instantly, yet somehow in a way that seemed
painfully natural. "… Mr. Nathanwood is dying of a serious
illness. He is on his deathbed. He doesn't believe that he is
going to make it through next December."
Gabriel, who was
still eating at this point, started choking on his food. Vanessa
turned over to make sure he was breathing alright and to help him
regain his composure. Elizabeth stood up in her seat. "What?" she
said loudly, "How come I didn't hear about this on the news or
something? Why weren't we notified?"
The dean remained
calm, with his hands clasped together and both elbows placed
beside his plate. "It was Bryan's idea to incorporate his death
somehow into the program for this year. He did not wish to spoil
anything for you, so we have done our best to keep any word on
his illness. He, I, and now you five are the only ones who
confused. "What do you mean, 'incorporate his death into the
program?'" He pushed the remainder of his ham away from him,
towards the center of the table. He no longer felt hungry.
"It's actually a
very simple concept really," the dean said, "Have any of you read
or seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?"
Gabriel coughed a
little in order to be able to speak after his choking fit. "You
don't mean he's having us-"
The dean cut
Gabriel's statement short, "That's exactly what he's having you
do. As the five of you proceed through the program, he will be
watching and listening from his perch through a series of cameras
and microphones that are located throughout the building. Once
the program is finished, he is going to select one of you to be
placed into his will as the heir to his fortune."
"This is insane!"
Elizabeth screamed, sitting back down, "He can't just watch us
wherever we go! There has to be some kind of law against
"Do not worry," the
dean assured, "I assure you that these are only set up so that
Bryan can make a better choice as to who rightly deserves his
inheritance. There are also no cameras in your personal bedrooms
or in any of the bathrooms. There are still microphones in your
rooms though, but again, only to make sure he does not miss
anything that would influence his decision.
to protest, "You still can't just drop something like that on us
out of complete nowhere! We should have been told earlier, like
at the interviews when we were first accepted or
"I do apologize for
not being able to tell you beforehand," the dean said, "But it
was part of Mr. Nathanwood's terms that I must not explain
anything until we were all settled down after breakfast. Even if
this all seems rather bizarre to you all, I must remind you that
this is an excellent opportunity."
Tristan raised his
arm slightly, with his pointer finger up. "Sir," he said,
"Question. If we're getting the fortune, does that mean that we
inherit his position in the stock market and as sponsor of the
program as well? Because that does seem a little above us, don't
"If you are named
the heir to the fortune, you will have a financial advisor and be
taught everything that is required for success after inheriting
his position," the dean said, "The program will be put on a
one-year hiatus, and a small sum of the money will be granted to
me to continue the Nathanwood Program for at least two years
after that. Once my sum runs out, you may choose whether or not
you want to continue sponsoring the program."
The dean stood up
in his seat and looked around the room, "I shall give you all a
moment to calm down after hearing this news and decide if you
want to accept Mr. Nathanwood's proposition. Regardless of
whether or not you wish to compete for the fortune, you shall
continue as a participant of the program. It is your choice
whether you want to take this opportunity or just let it slip
right through your fingers." As he finished speaking, he paused
with every breath, and every word seemed to have a great
It was their time
Markus stood up in
his seat. I might not have been the first to arrive at the
mansion today, he though, But like Hell I'm going to let one of
them get the first slot as a participant in this competition.
"I'm in," he said assuredly.
There was a moment
of silence as the other four children looked at one another.
Maybe they felt they would find the answer to this pressing
question in the eyes of one of their colleagues.
Then, Tristan stood
up. "Count me in, too," he said. After that came Gabriel, then
Vanessa, and then, reluctantly, Elizabeth agreed to the terms as
well. The whole ordeal lasted no longer than a minute. It was
unanimous; they were all going to compete for the Nathanwood
The dean's smile
returned, but it wasn't as bright as it had been before. "So it's
settled," he said in a voice that sounded near-whisper, "You all
accept the challenge. Remember, it is important that none of you
reveal Nathanwood's status to anyone else aside from those who
are currently in this room. If anyone needs a moment to recover
or to finish their meals, speak now. Otherwise, we will continue
with our tour of the mansion."
No one spoke as the
men from the back room returned and grabbed their empty - or
mostly empty, in Markus' and Gabriel's cases - plates to take
back to the kitchen.
The first move had
been made, and now the game could officially commence.