Theodore Wallstrom, Bradley Barron, and Tyler Jane Morrissey
A @Smarty0114, @Spooner, and @Melissa Collaboration
Bradley looked from the basketball in his hands, and up to the basket, some fifteen feet away. This had to be a joke. Or a dream. Or a nightmare. This was going to be such an epic failure. Their team was making pretty good time so far. The riddles had been easy for Bradley, and there’d been a challenge in the kitchen that had them hunting through the fridges for a clue. Which had brought them here. Brad’s personal hell.
He looked over at Teddy, then to TJ, grateful that they were the only ones about to see this travesty. Just one. One basket and Teddy can carry this challenge the rest of the way. You’re tall, this should be easy. He bounced the ball against the hardwood of the gym, once, then again, simply because he’d seen other people do it on TV and it seemed like it worked for them. He caught the ball as it came up, aimed for the basket, and launched the orange ball forward. It careened off to the left, missing the basket completely. “Think that counts?” he asked, scoffing a bit at his own terrible shot.
Tyler Jane absentmindedly winced as Bradley threw the basketball, watching it soar right past the hoop and making contact with the wall behind. So much for smooth sailing through the challenges. “Ummm,” She gently paused, looking to the staff member observing for the final word and judgement. The solemn woman simply shook her head, trying not to stifle a laugh as she wrote something down on her clipboard. Tyler Jane sighed, “Yeah, no... didn’t think so.”
They had admittedly done better up to this point than the redhead had originally expected, working together in a way that even she couldn’t have predicted. Bradley had the brains, Teddy had the brawn, and she contributed equal amounts of both. “That’s okay! Try again, you’ve got it.” She encouraged him and then turned to Theo, “No promises that I’ll do any better than him. I may dance on pointe, but I’m no point guard.”
Teddy would have lied if he said he wasn’t disappointed when Bradley had missed his first throw. Sure their team had made good headway this far but complacency is the death of winning. “You’ll do fine.” He said curtly but reassuringly, giving TJ a smile.
“Just focus your eyes at one point and throw towards it!” He called out to Bradley cupping his hands around his mouth before shooting him a thumbs up.
Bradley took a deep breath as he returned to the free-throw line. Teddy’s words floated through his head, TJ’s encouragement serving as background music. His eyes locked onto the basket and he held his gaze. Bringing the ball up, he launched it off of his fingertips. For a moment, he thought it would repeat it’s original path, but instead, it bounced off the rim, sending it shooting upwards. As it came down, it sank through the hoop, and thunked against the gym floor. His fist shot up in celebration. “Fuck yeah!” he shouted, a little high on his small victory. He jogged over to the ball and tossed it over to TJ, shooting her a thumbs up in the hopes that some encouragement might end this challenge sooner rather than later.
“Nice one Brad!” Teddy smiled and slapped the smaller teen on the back, again not knowing just how hard. “Shit… sorry man!” he smiled apologetically.
Tyler Jane sighed in relief as the ball made contact with the net, swishing musically to indicate the successful attempt. That was one less basket they needed in order to move onto their next challenge, and she was quite concerned that she wouldn’t make it there for ages. Sure, the girl had excellent hand-eye coordination, but her lack of aim was disturbing and didn’t exactly supplement the other skill well. Tyler caught the ball from Bradley and walked over to the free-throw line, trying to dribble it once, but instead, it hit her foot and careened off to the side. Well, that wasn’t exactly graceful.
The redhead lunged to grab it before it got too far away and succeeded, making an attempt shortly after. With a weak throw, the ball faltered before the net and didn’t even touch the rim of the hoop or the backboard. A complete fail. Tyler looked back to the boys, “This is a lost cause.”
Teddy shook his head “Don’t worry about it just try again…” he said trying to keep his smile up, though he was starting to get a little frustrated. Not with his teammates missing their shots but with them wasting time being self-conscious.
With a silent glance, Tyler Jane could notice that Theo’s patience was being tested. He didn’t have to bring attention to it for her to notice- she was quite intuitive in that way- and his strained facial expression seemed to say more than words. She did want to see what angry Teddy looked like, especially with his towering frame, so she just shut up and turned all of her focus to the basket. One shot after another, miss after miss until one ball decided to gracefully hit off the backboard and into the net, accompanied by an anticlimactic silence before the ball bounced off the hardwood. It may have taken more tries than she had intended, but she did it!
Teddy clapped loudly and let out a yell of support “Hell yeah! Nice one TJ!” he gave the slender girl a high-five as he passed her, being mindful to be a bit more gentle this time. He picked up one of the basketballs that was strewn about on the floor and stared up at the basket. He had never been one for sports, but this was just a simple calculation of distance and speed. The large young man steadied himself with a broad stance before lifting the ball up. He took a moment to breathe before he took the shot, his eyes following the ball as it soared in an arch finally going through the hoop smoothly. A few lucky shots later, and they were done! He quickly turned around to his team “Alright, cool let’s figure out where to go next!” he exclaimed, clapping his hands together.
Bradley, happy to be done with this extended torture, jogged over to the staff member who’d been observing them. She handed him a card with their next clue on it, a jumble of letters that were easy enough to unscramble. The two L’s really gave it away. “Looks like we’re off to the lecture hall next,” Bradley said, waving the clue card in the air as he walked back over to Teddy and TJ.
The redhead was not a runner by any means, but she broke out into a brisk jog as the team made their way across campus towards the lecture hall and their next challenge. As they arrived at the academic building, Tyler Jane gracefully weaved her way towards where their classes took place, long legs bouncing against the tiled floor. Once there, the staff member explained their challenge- they had to locate numerous puzzle pieces around the room and put them all together in order to receive their next clue.
The girl let herself catch her breath before trying to think of a strategy to complete this task quickly. She whirled around, scanning the room and attempting to get a broad view and analyze the situation before diving in. “How should we tackle this? Maybe we should split up?” She questioned her idea, not wanting to step on Theo or Bradley’s toes.
“Good idea! I’ll take the back of the room and you two split up and take the rest!” Teddy almost demanded as he moved quickly to the back of the room and started to search for the puzzle pieces.
Bradley looked over to TJ and gestured to the section of the room behind him. “I guess I’ll take this half,” he said, spinning around slowly on his heel and meandering over to the desks and chairs that awaited them. It was clear that they weren’t the first group to come through this room. Chairs were slightly out of place and the desks were crooked. Hopefully, they weren’t too far behind everyone else.
He’d hardly started his search when a flash of color caught his eye, peeking out from underneath the leg of a chair. One down, nine to go. He crouched down and slipped the puzzle piece out from beneath the chair, then stood back up and held it up for his team to see. “Found one!”
Tyler nodded, moving to the front of the room and beginning to scour for puzzle pieces. She peeked behind the pull down projector screen, which seemed like an obvious place to hide one, and immediately found a colorful cardboard segment amongst the dry erase markers. Slipping it into her pocket, she continued along the wall and spotted another magnetized to the white board, smirking as she snatched it. The redhead’s eyes darted around before landing on a poster hanging above and to the right of the board, noticing the outline of a piece hidden behind.
Although she was tall, she wasn’t nearly tall enough to reach the poster, so she took matters into her own hands and pulled over a chair until the legs met the wall. Stepping on the makeshift step stool, she delicately shifted her weight to reach behind the poster, nimbly grasping the piece before jumping down to the ground and landing softly on arched toes. “I’ve got three!” Tyler Jane announced to the boys. “How’s it going over there, Theo?”
The large guy turned around slowly walking over to the others emptying out the contents of his pockets. “I found four, I don’t think there is anything more over there.” he put his hands back in his pockets looking over to Bradley’s side of the room “Which probably means you have two pieces left on your side Bradley” Teddy motioned around with his hand. He put on a smile and rubbed the back of his head “I’m going to be completely honest you guys, puzzles are not my thing. So I’m going to have to rely on your skills here.” he let out a low chuckle.
Bradley grinned and held up the last two puzzle pieces, having found one taped underneath a desk and another had been hiding in the window blinds. “You carry us in basketball, we carry you in puzzles,” he said, walking over and depositing his three pieces with the others. He quickly began separating the pieces, and then began connecting the corners. Ten pieces weren’t too hard to fit together, and with Teddy and TJ filling in the gaps where they could, it was done in no time. Staring back at them was an image of the Cafeteria.
Tyler Jane was impressed by how quickly the boy was able to figure out where each puzzle piece went- his efficiency was second to none. The redhead chimed in once or twice when she noticed two pieces that could be joined, but Bradley was mostly able to put it together on his own. “Nicely done!” She smirked, looking at her teammates. “We only have a few more challenges, I think we might have a chance of winning this if we keep up the pace.”
Teddy pulled them both in for a tight embrace before he exclaimed “Nice job guys! Let’s get going!” he almost ran towards the door, ripping it open. “We’ll smash this!” he smiled at his team before continuing down the hallway.
Between the enthusiasm of both Teddy and TJ, Bradley was forced to reevaluate his earlier pessimism. He chuckled as Teddy tore out into the hallway, jogging behind him at a much slower pace. Hopefully, they were running towards a win. He felt like he could use one right then.
One blink, and her teammates were already racing towards the door and the next challenge that awaited them in the cafeteria. Before she followed, she glanced over to the staff member standing in the corner, who she found furiously scribbling down notes on the clipboard he was holding. By the amount it looked like he was writing, and the speed at which his pencil was moving, she couldn’t help but wonder what was so important to catalog. Tyler Jane didn’t realize she was staring until their eyes met and she was faced with his cool and calculating gaze. Without another word, she turned around and went to catch up with the boys, an unsettling feeling rising in her stomach as she trailed behind them.