Thursday, 5 May 2016

Maths Vs The Gang: Dawn of Heroes

It was a Tuesday and, as we all know, Tuesdays are boring. French and IT had dragged through the morning, then had come PE which was the type of abomination that should really have been prevented. The students of Gilliam High School in the North of England had long since resigned themselves to a life of boredom, and very little did they think could snap them out of such belief. The Science Department, located in so called S Block, had heard word of this and so were pulling out all the stops to try to add a hint of excitement to life. Christopher Rogers couldn't profess to being an expert in thrills but, somehow, he doubted inviting an old student who'd gone on to become a brilliant scientist could be counted among excitement's causes.
Chris was sat in one of the many rooms in S Blocks, watching as the scientist fiddled with the cable plugged into the side of his computer. The leaflets that had been handed out, one between two as to bring down the printing cost, declared that he was an award winning particle physicist currently working on a new radiation theory. Chris was no expert but he thought that such a person should be able to use a computer.
Around him, the class were unruly. A history trip a week before the previous year's science mocks had led to all his friends being in a different science class to him, whilst he remained in top set, bored at the ease of the work. If it's boring for you, what must it be like for the others?
The students who hadn't gone on the history trip, meaning they'd had suitable time to revise and prepare for the exam, were not your average Set One students. Half of them were also taking PE for their options and the other half probably couldn't spell PE. Chris sighed as a pencil soared over him, smashing into the fish tank and disturbing the fish.
Their science teacher, the one they all hated but Chris and his mates liked, stepped up. Mr Andrews was the definition of lanky and didn't look nearly as old as he apparently was. One of Chris' mates, Sophie, always joked about fancying him. Chris thought that was a little weird.
With a melodramatic wave of his hands, Mr Andrews called for silence. "Right, as you've probably observed, we've got an incredible treat for you today. I know there are students in the other sets who would love to be here right now, so count yourselves lucky. And remember, we need to show our visitor the Gilliam Way! Please join me in welcoming, Dr Richard Palmers."
An unamused clap went up. Dr Palmers stepped up, an equally lanky fellow with salt and pepper hair and bags under his eyes. He looked scruffy, but compared to most of the students in the room, it was neat. "Right, hello. As Mr Andrews said, I'm Richard Palmers. I thought we could begin with an experiment today, as to get your, er, attentions going. Does anyone know anything about radiation?"
"That's what you get if you're on a sun bed for too long, ain't it?" Said a girl from the back.
Chris felt his eyes rolling.
"Yes, well, technically, yes." Palmers said. "I'm talking about electromagnetic radiation. Allow me to demonstrate."
Chris' stomach rumbled. Lunch time had been only ten minutes ago but he'd been too busy helping out in Computer Science to eat anything. The result? He was currently starving. He reached into his bag and pulled out a Jaffa Cake. He knew he shouldn't be eating in a lab but he was starving. One biscuit couldn't do any harm, could it?
"What I'm about to show you will blow your minds!" Palmers declared.
Taking a bite, Chris thought, Mine maybe. I don't think the others have minds.

There was a room opposite the one in which Chris was sat where you were allowed to eat. Said room was a theory room, rather than a lab, and inside a man named Mr Jordan was teaching maths, specifically probability. Two students were sat at the back, one because he was really tall so he got in the way and the other because she felt awkward near the front. His name was Steven, her name was Sophie and both of them had finished the work before the teacher had finished talking.
"Probability," Steven began once Mr Jordan had given them the go ahead to chat by telling them get on with the work, "is so interesting."
"Is it?" Sophie replied.
"Yeah. Like, it's what quantum physics is all about, isn't it? Entropy and stuff. I watched a Brian Cox video on Entropy."
"I hate Brian Cox."
"Brian Cox hates you. He was saying that if you had a pile of sand, it had a higher entropy than a sand castle and things with a high entropy had more likely to happen and that's probability." He paused. "You already knew all of that, didn't you?"
"Yep." She said. "But it's cute when you talk quantum mechanics like you discovered it."
He blushed ever so slightly.
"You two finished the work?" For a second Steven thought that a student was talking to them. Mr Jordan was a good teacher most of the time but he did look very young.
"Yes sir." Steven said.
"Good. The extension is to work out all the routes of the probability tree."
"Already done, sir." Sophie said.
"Have you?" He replied. "Right. Okay. Er. I'll give the rest of the class a few minutes to catch up and then we'll move on."
"Sure, sir." Steven said and watched him wander off.
"How long are you giving it?" Sophie asked.
"It's easy work so half an hour."
"Sounds fair enough." Sophie said. "So, you know any other bits of quantum mechanics?"
"I memorised Planck's solution to the Black Body radiation problem."
"Do you understand what it means?"
"Not in the slightest."

In the room next to Chris', Freya was feeling increasingly awkward. She'd told the teacher, Miss Francis, that Ali had just popped to the toilet but a quarter of the lesson was gone, the practical started and Ali was still not there. Instead, Freya was now working with a girl called Sharon.
"I'm so confused." She said. "What are we meant to be doing?"
Freya didn't hear; she was too busy staring at the clock on the wall. Where was Ali? Where was Ali?
"You wishing time would hurry up?" Sharon asked. "Wanna go home?"
"No." Freya said. "Quite the opposite. I wish time would slow down."
"Well, that can be your job." Sharon said, picking up the sheet with the instructions on. "According to this, one of us is meant to roll the ball down the plank and the other is meant to time it."
Freya picked up a stop watch and clicked it on. Time began to run. She pressed the button and it stopped. "Seems easy enough. This is friction we're investigating, isn't it?"
"What?" Replied Sharon.
"We're investigating friction?"
"Is that like a type of fan fiction? French fan fiction?"
"Doesn't matter." Freya said. God, she wished she could be with Chris in the other room.
"Freya," said Miss Francis from the other side of the room where she was showing a student how to draw a results table, "where's Ali? She still at the toilets?"
"Maybe M Block toilets are closed?" Freya said. "They always seemed to be closed at lunch time."
"I don't really understand how they can close a toilet that doesn't have any doors." Sharon said. "And why did they have to take the doors off?"
"It's to stop people from smoking." Freya said.
"But students at Gilliam High don't smoke!" Sharon cried, rolling the ball up and down the ramp.
"How nice it would be to be so naive."
"What does naive mean?"
"I rest my case." Freya said, turning back to the clock. Where was Ali?

Ali was hurrying out of the Girls' Toilets and up M Block corridor. It was a damn inconvenience that S Block didn't have any toilets, but she supposed it made sense. Wouldn't want to be on the toilet when there was an explosion, would you?
Now that they'd taken the doors off, the smokers hid in the cubicles to stop their smoke from spreading. That was all very well and good but it unfortunately ensured that it took ages to actually get to use a cubicle. Miss Francis is going to kill me. If she's even noticed that I'm missing.
Ali checked her wrist watch and saw that twenty minutes had passed since the lesson had begun. She hoped against all hope that Freya had managed to cover for her, or that they had a supply or something. Supply teachers didn't seem to care if you turned up to class or not; just as long as you didn't interact with them, they were perfectly happy.
The M Block corridor seemed to stretch on for all of eternity; in fact as Ali passed the exam/assembly/dinner hall/ big space, she didn't think she could see the end. She needed to get to lesson quick and that meant only one thing. She cursed. She hated running.
Looking over both shoulders to make sure that there weren't any teachers, she took a deep breath and started running. Like everybody in their little gang, Ali wasn't exactly the biggest fan of sport and running was her second least favourite, after dance. Words were not capable of describing how much she hated dance.
Her bag bounced against her back as she legged it up the corridor, running with everything she could. She passed by displays on the walls that had been there since Year Seven yet she still hadn't read. She passed the other M Block toilets which had far too many smokers inside to actually use. She passed the other reception, for some reason Gilliam High had two, and then the rarely used conference room. The steps to upstairs S Block led to a small corridor that led overhead as she went outside for a second. Then she entered S Block proper and set off down the corridor towards Miss Francis' room.
That was when everything got weird.

Chris reached into his bag and pulled out the box of Jaffa Cakes. He was really hungry. The perfect orange foil tore and he pulled another small saucer of orangey goodness. He raised it, balancing it on his palm, observing it's wonderful shape, delicious flavour and utter perfection. Then, in his peripheral vision, he saw Dr Palmers pressing a button on the box of his radiation machine. There was a loud whirring, as energy was sucked from the mains. The lights seemed to flicker above them. Then, the lights stopped flickering. They grew brighter and brighter, the whirring growing louder and louder. The very feeling of everything around him seemed to become all the more vibrant, the touch of the desk in front of him like a thousand splinters. Everything seemed to grow further, reaching a crescendo, and then there was an explosion.
The box that Dr Palmers was playing with exploded. A wave of writhing energy- refractions of orange, green, purple, blue and black surging through the air- shot towards him. He took a bite of the Jaffa Cake, he'd be damned if he was going to Heaven hungry. Then, the wave caught him and all the other students, throwing them off their stools.
The wave continued, seeping through the walls with seemingly no difficulty. It found Ali, running through the S Block corridor and caught her, lifting her up and propelling her into a wall. She fell to the ground with a thump.
The wave continued through the wall it had thrown Ali against, reaching the classroom in which Mr Jordan was teaching probability. It grabbed hold of him, propelling him through the air and into the smart board his power point was displayed on. It smashed, showering shards of glass in every direction. The wave continued, reaching towards Sophie and Steven. He turned, ready to say something to Sophie in his final moments, but the wave reached him too quickly and he was flung across the room. Sophie took a deep breath, ready to scream, but the wave grabbed her in a refraction of blue and knocked her unconscious.
The wave had expanded from the machine in all directions, including through the wall that partitioned Chris' and Freya's rooms. Freya was still watching the clock, still wondering where Ali was when she heard the explosion.
"Stop the timer!" Sharon cried, seemingly unaware of the commotion next door.
Freya pressed the button just as a tide of black light burst through the wall and enveloped her.
Outside, S Block didn't seem any different. Just another boring Tuesday afternoon. And then suddenly every window exploded outwards, spraying glass in every direction. From that moment on, Gilliam High would never be the same again. And neither would those five students.

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