"Greetings, Mr. Bennet and Mr. Summers," one of the so-called Tree People greeted us.
"Please," I responded humbly, "Call him Scott."
"I am Palín, no relation," he said, "of the Tree People."
I sensed a trap. "Funny," I said coolly. "You don't look like a tree."
"Well, we're not trees," Palín explained, "we're people of the trees."
"So, why don't you just go with that?"
"Tree People is more marketable," he replied. "So, ready for the games?" he asked putting an arm around Scott and leading us up the treetop pathway.
Scott sighed unenthusiastically.
"Aw, what's the matter there, tiger?" Palín said stopping. He grabbed Scott hard around his bicep and said, "Cheer up. You were made for these games."
I explained how Scott had been upset because he was looking forward to the other detour challenge. "I want to be mutated into looking good in sweaters," he had whined. "Winter's approaching."
Fortunately, I'm the brains of this team, so when it comes down to the decision making, I get final say. The other option was a joke. Evolution? My home school biology book says no. And besides, where would I come up with ideas for evolutionary advantages that would be original? I don't want people to think I'm just ripping off some silly comic book.
So, that's how I ended up locked in a kitchen ducking behind the counter with a pen and shield in hand as two velociraptors chugged some lager.
"I don't get the point of this game," I whispered to myself.
"You just have to stop them from drinking," a voice said, "and don't die."
"Wh-where are you? Who are you?"
"It's me, Palín," he answered. "We wired you with an audio transmitter. It makes it more entertaining for the audience if we can hear your screams." In the background I heard cheering.
I peeked back around at the velociraptors. They were still lapping up the lager. I stood up and said, "I'm going to need to see some ID." Then approached the beasts.
They watched as I walked toward them. I had my shield raised, ready to push off an attack. Once in range, I kicked the glass of lager across the kitchen.
"Did I win?" I asked as one of the raptors jumped on me, knocking me to the ground. His enormous weight held me down. I lifted the pen up as high as I could and poked at its ankle.
The other raptor seemed to watch gleefully, until it was suddenly struck by a tranquilizer dart and fell to the ground unconscious.
The raptor standing on me soon followed.
I rose to my feet and saw Palín with two bamboo-wielding Tree People. "Yeah, you won," he said. "Nice job."
Palín took me back to where Scott was waiting.
"The next game requires you to swing across to that tree over there," he pointed, "using only your tail. No hands. First one there wins."
"Okay," Scott said approaching the starting line.
"Wait," I stopped him. "He said using only your tail."
"I know," Scott replied. "I'm not deaf."
"But...you don't have a tail."
"What?" he asked shocked. "Of course I do!"
I was quite confused. "Why do you have a tail?" I asked.
"Why wouldn't I?" he shot back.
"Um, well, humans don't have tails," I explained confoundedly.
"They don't?" he asked, then proceeded to pat me on the behind. "You mean...you don't have one?"
"No," I answered, "I don't."
Scott pulled a tail from out of his pants and asked, "So why do I have one?"
"How should I know? Just swing to that tree over there and be quick about it!"
But quick he wasn't. "Nice job, sport," Palín said as Scott returned. "I think you may have set a record. A record for optic blasting the competition, that is. You took a long time, but you're the only one that finished the race. You win. One more game to go...."
"Wait," Scott said. "I need to call my father."
"Hello?" I heard his father answer over the speaker phone.
"Hey, Daddy. It's me, Scott."
"That's Major Daddy, boy."
"Sorry, Major Daddy...I was wondering, um...did you know I had a tail?"
"Of course," Major Summers replied, "Why do you think I threw you out of an airplane as a boy?"
"Because we were attacked," Scott said.
His father corrected him. "No, boy. I found out that your mother was having an affair with a Tree Person, Pal-something or other. Hence your tail. I'm a good guy, a strong man, but I mean, come on...you had a tail. And you weren't even mine. Anyone would have done the same in my position."
"But what about Alex? You threw him out too."
"Yeah," Scott's father explained, "he was just ugly."
Scott was speechless. He stood there not saying a word.
So, his father hung up.
"Nice job!" Palín said coming closer. "I just overheard your conversation, and you just won the third game: Discover a family secret."
As we headed back, I thought it seemed suspicious how we managed to win all our games. I was rescued from the raptors just in time. Scott somehow wasn't disqualified for optic blasting away the competition. And that last game...well, I don't even know if that was a real game.
But the important thing is, we won. And a suspicious win is still a win.