Meanwhile, PPJ has awoken to find himself inside the crystal island, seemingly reshaping itself at will to host the 3rd annual Taco Temple: Temple of Terror competition. There are 36 contenders, down to 35 at the first meeting after a Knights of the Red Branch member tries to strangle and Ancient and is impaled by crystal. The group splits into 6 teams (1 5-person, the rest 6). Everyone is allowed one single item of their choosing. The first test begins: each team enters it’s own door off the meeting room, and finds a central chamber with 5 halls leading off, variously traversible.
It takes different teams different amounts of time, but they all eventually realize that only 5 people of the 6 are leaving, and leave 1 member behind (except for the team with a Centurion, who refuses to believe a sacrifice is necessary and stays behind to look for the 6th way out, and the 5 person team who seems confused by the other teams’ stress). There is a sign telling them to say a series of short phonetic phrases for a language they don’t recognize as they leave. One contestant tries to race through a door without saying the phrase and is speared by crystal. They return to the central chamber and have time to heal and socialize, as well as get a second single item for the second test.
This one puts the teams into pairs of doors, adjacent to another team. There are only four corridors, but some of the teams figure out that they can access the adjacent teams’ chamber and use their exits as well if they eliminate or incapacitate some of that team. So 8 exits total for 10 team members. Unfortunately, PPJ is gunned down and abandoned by his team during this test. Thus culled, the teams return to heal and socialize further, now with some bad blood. Beware of the example on the first day, noone tries anything in the central chamber though.
The next test splits the teams again- there are 3 passages, 2 descending, 1 ascending, each guarded by a cloaked gene-modded basilisk. Some teams work together, some go their own way, but most teams end up fighting the basilisks, remembering some hints from mythology, or bypassing them (though this requires the sacrifice of an appendage to exit). They return to the central chamber and find a few extra people missing. They heal, missing limbs are replaced with cyber, and they prepare for the 4th test, each getting a new item again.
This time it’s a free for all brawl, with only 12 exits for 18 contenders. Some race for the exits, some teams try to work together, some gun others down. The exits seem to activate as contestants are eliminated, but the center of the arena is a bloodbath, and only 10 contestants make it out. As the exit, they are required to recall and recite some strange phrases they’ve been prompted to speak as the passed each previous door. The teams split into pairs based on who survived (only 5 teams remain) for the fifth test.
The teams, 1 at a time, enter a small chamber with a single exit. Most of the teams decide this is it, and race to draw down on their erstwhile friend faster than the other can. However, one team refuses to fight, and both exit successfully. 6 contestants remain for the final test. They all get 1 more item, and a lifetime supply of Taco Temple (limited to 1 meal per day). They find themselves in the midst of a completely smooth crystal floor with 6 lit alcoves along the outside. One contestant races out of the center and chucks a grav-grenade back into the middle.
Most of the other scatter, but 2 remain. 1 of them, a Mystic Crusader, uses his launch skyward to scout the terrain and gun down enemies, taking out the grenade thrower, a Wicked parkourier, and a Roxxx ganger who had all made it this far. A sneaky CFD dwarf makes it to an alcove, and finds a huge platter of tacos, and eats them as quickly as possible, and starts sneaking back to the center, feeling a pull that direction in their belly. The powerful mage Cigam also reaches an alcove and wolfs the tacos, but is spotted by the Mystic Crusader on exit and gunned down.
The MC makes it to an alcove, but is trapped inside after the sneaky dwarf successfully returns to the center and is lowered through the floor. The MC tries to eat but the small chamber fills with tacos and it seems utterly hopeless. The dwarf JT is announced as the winner, earning the million nuyen prize and transport out of Boston! The rest of the contestants are thanked for their participation, and “sent home”, though no reports of them actually being seen are accessible (but hey, it’s Boston so who knows…)