Jason stared at the crocodiles in the pool and felt the beads of sweat on his forehead. Traces of blood from the previous team were still lingering in the water.
“Let's have a moment of mindfulness, to calm our thoughts before the game begins,” a curly haired woman said. Jason had never seen her at work before, her name tag said Alice.
“How can I calm my thoughts while I’m in front of crocodiles that want to chomp on my femur for breakfast?,” Jason said.
“No need to be hostile Jason.”
“They are the ones that are hostile!” he said pointing at the pool. “All I’m saying is, that we need to get moving.”
He looked at his other teammates, who ignored his plea to focus on reality. Instead they closed their eyes and followed Alice’s command, to focus on their breath.
While they wasted their time doing their Gwyneth Paltrow nonsense, Jason mulled over what to do about the crocodiles. Jason flirted with the idea of pushing his teammates in. The crocs would be easier to handle after a feeding. But he saw himself as one of the good guys, and that was an option of last resort, say in the case they started turning on him.
While Jason sized up the strength of his teammates, a voice came over the speaker.
“Thank you for joining Amaze’s Employee Team Building seminar. I understand some of you might not be happy to leave your normal Amaze departments to join the training seminar today, but you have all been chosen for being scored low for teamwork by your peers, so don’t let that stop you from learning something new today.”
The voice sounded like Phil, who was Jason’s boss. He couldn’t believe Phil relegated him into his own game for ‘team building’ after all he did to keep the department moving for Phil.
“And, Let’s have a round of applause for the Animal Caretaking staff!”
Three workers in green jumpsuits with zeba logos walked out. Jason’s teammates clapped politely. Jason mimed a clap so as to not get his head blown off from the sniper who was most likely watching them. One of the Animal staff flipped a fish into the croc pool, and the crocs thrashed about fighting over it.
“Many of you have helped organize Octopus Game for our customers and know the format, so I’ll skip to the chase. In this stage the five of you need to use teamwork to complete the challenge. In the box we are giving you now, there is a rope, a metal bar, and fish. You can use these to complete the challenge. When one crocodile is captured and tied to the post behind you you will have completed the challenge. Good Luck, and remember there is no I in crocodile.”
Jason grumbled loudly, “And there is no I in idiot”. The others next to him stepped back and watched out for the sniper. Luckily nothing happened.
Alice spoke up, “I think I should take the position of team leader today, I gave a leadership talk at TED,” Jason scanned the faces of the 3 other teammates, looking for anyone who might take his side. They pretended he wasn’t there.
“Knock yourself out”, Jason said.
“Jason, you are the youngest person here. The group will spot a lone crocodile, and then do you think you can tie a rope around his mouth and hold onto it?”
“Well, it looks like I don’t have a choice.”
“Group. Once Jason has a noose on him, Fred and Jennifer, you grab his right side, and I’ll take the left side with Miles, and we’ll haul him up here”
Jennifer spoke up, “I can’t work with Fred. I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican.”
“We’re about to die, and you two care about who you are going to vote for in 2024, seriously?” Jason shouted at them.
“That’s enough Jason. You know we are not allowed to discuss politics at work Jen”, Alice said.
Jennifer looked sullen and didn’t say anything back.
When they looked around at the rest of the group, they saw they had another problem. Miles’s body was shaking from head to toe. So profound was his terror that the chance of him helping corral a deadly animal seemed nonexistent.
“Bro. man up,” Jason said.
His shaking seemed to get worse.
Alice looked at him sympathetically, “Miles it's ok to be afraid.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I have something for you to do,” Alice took a fish from the box and put it in his hands. “This fish, throw it into the pool.”
Miles threw it in. A croc moved in and grabbed it.
“Every minute, throw in a fish onto the far side of the pool and keep the crocs there.”
Miles stopped shaking so much, and took up his position and started throwing the fish. The crocs started fighting over them. After a while one of the crocs drifted back to their side of the pool.
“Now Jason!” Alice said.
Jason jumped in. Unbelievably the croc just floated there. He got the rope around his head and held his snout closed.
“Everybody in!” Jason shouted.
The other 3 jumped in and grabbed onto the crocs feet. They started pushing but couldn’t get any traction. The croc was extremely heavy.
“Jason, if you squat deep into the water, you will get more leverage,” Alice said.
“Jason, you need to push a bit harder.”
“I’m pushing as hard as I can!”
The croc rolled over and everyone lost their grip. Jason still held the rope around the crocs head.
“Give me the metal bar, now!” Jason said.
Jennifer handed Jason the bar. He took aim and hit the center of the croc’s forehead. The huge animal appeared to go into a stupor.
“Everybody back to it!”
With the croc now subdued, they heaved it slowly up the slope. Miles kept the other crocs distracted with the fish bait. They reach the top and tied the end of the rope to the post.
“Boom! Nailed it!” Jason said.
“Jason, you could do better with communicating with the team next time.” Alice said.
“What do you mean next time? The next time we capture a live crocodile in the workplace with our bare hands?”
Jason glanced over Alice’s shoulder at Miles who was watching their conversation. Suddenly, a crocodile lunged out of the water behind Miles, heading straight at him. A burst of water splashed up and then Miles went down in a frenzy of crocodile teeth and claws.
And then silence. The crocodile wasn’t moving. Miles rolled over and stood up. “Look! they blew up his head.” he shouted in disbelief. Jason saw a hole in the crocs head and wires inside.
Upbeat music started playing.
"Congratulations Team Eight! You have captured a crocodile through teamwork and have completed this challenge. The crocodiles were enabled with remote stun systems and you were not at danger at any point of the challenge."
"Defending against an existential threat is one the strongest bonding stimuli people can confront. In the next challenge you will be asked to perform as a team without an external threat."
Jason didn’t really care about the psychology of teamwork. Winning hadn’t diluted his anger at Alice. Why was he the one who did all the dangerous work, while being ordered around?
Guards with cattle prods led them down a hallway. They exited the Octopus Game area and entered Amaze’s corporate offices. In the hallway they saw Phil,who shouted out.
“You’re lucky today, Jason. The CEO is here.”
They were led into a TV studio where Jason heard the theme song from “Master Chef” playing. The next stage was about to begin.