Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Winter Highlighter (part 3)

There comes a point in every adventure for a group of plucky teenagers where a scene must take place in the dining hall. Be it so that Professor Plot-Device could charge in and declare that there were trolls in the dungeons or so that a student can have their possession stolen and spark off the investigation of our beloved teenage detective. This point must come in every story of this genre and, in the linguistic cornucopia that is the subject specific terminology of a writer’s boundless vocabulary, it is known by the colloquial proper noun of ‘Lunch Time.’
Now that our heroes get to wear yellow ties that clash with the uniform and so adds the pressure of fashion based bullying to the already mountainous pile of stress and unhappiness that forms the barbaric torture system known simply as the General Certificate of Secondary Education, they got to sit in the Upper School Dining Room. The added benefit of this relocation? They now got to share with the Year Sevens as well as Year Nines and generally couldn’t sit down due to the overpopulation. Ali had Additional Maths before Lunch, whereas the other four all had History. The only benefit to being completely lonely was that she got out slightly early and so could secure them a lunch table. The Upper School had tables for six people, better suited for a group of five than an eight seater like back in the Lower School. She sat herself down, glaring angrily at a nervous Year Seven who was trying to sit down too. He ran off, carrying his eight packets of crisps and a baguette bigger than him in hands too small to pick up a pen. Smiling, Ali opened her bag and pulled out a purple folder. She didn’t have anybody to talk to so what did it matter if she looked geeky?
The purple folder had been given to Mr Phillips by the head of the Institute. It contained all the notes on the production of the luminous fluid. She liked science and, even if she had only just moved back up to the top set, she was good at it. (See Part Five or Six of Maths Vs The Gang.) She flicked open the folder and pulled out a selection of sheets, beginning to read them with a furrowed brow. It wasn’t laid out like a GCSE ISA by any means. A lot of it seemed to be useless spiel but there were some interesting points, most notably a small, black notebook sunk deep within the folder. She pulled it out and knocked off the elastic band holding it together, allowing her to flick through the pages. Her eyes straining towards the small handwriting, she began to read.
The notebook documented the early stages in the experiment. It spoke of a particle collider which blasted Thorium with protons. About twenty pages were then devoted to the preparation of that device. The next section was about the products of this experiment. The main product was Francium. Ali knew all about Francium, mainly from a jump scare video their teacher had mistakenly shown them in Chemistry once. The interesting thing about it was that, due to its extreme reactivity, it blows up in nothing more than thin air. The scientist who had kept the notes she was reading had evidently taken this into account, as the particle collider had contained a vacuum to prevent any unwanted reactions. It was then a question of how to preserve the Francium. The solution they’d come up with was the same as the one that the technicians used in Science Block; store the reactive chemical in an unreactive solution. Their solution was oil at first but then they’d moved onto the application of the produced Francium, for mining or other occupations that required peaceful explosions. Storing it in oil wasn’t ideal as it would be difficult to remove the oil at the moment of utilisation. Instead, they needed a revolutionary new chemical that could go from unreactive to reactive at the flick of a switch. In this case, the solution was a bright yellow liquid. “Oh drat.”
“Well, I say, if it isn’t an Edwardian schoolchild.” Steven grinned, taking a seat next to her. Chris and Freya were in tow, piling down into their seats.
“Where’s Sophie?” Ali frowned.
“She had to go to English or something.” Chris shrugged. “Is that, you know, the Purple File?”
“Yeah. I’ve just been reading and, oh my god. It’s awful.” She shivered and passed the notebook over to Freya for a quick inspection. “The fluid, that yellow stuff, contains particles of Francium. One drop of it, well, you remember that jump scare video we watched.”
“Did I hear a mention of Francium there?” Miss Francis, their Chemistry teacher, said. She was carrying six bottles of milk for no exact reason. “Great to see some revision going on. Let’s see your revision folder!”
“NO!” Ali cried, smuggling them away from her. 
Miss Francis frowned, her perfectly painted eyebrows rising. “What’s wrong, hm? Are you hiding something from me?”
“Nope.” Chris said. “Just, well, it isn’t revision.”
Freya turned bright red. “No, it’s, it’s…”
“Mutants and Masterminds!” Ali grinned. “It’s Mutants and Masterminds!”
“What’s Mutants and Masterminds?” Miss Francis asked, frowning even further.
“It’s like Dungeons and Dragons but for really sad people. It was Steven’s idea.” Ali turned. “Wasn’t it, Steven?”
“Yes.” Steven sighed. “It was my idea. I’m a Dungeons and Dragons fan.”
“I’ve always thought you looked like that sort of person, Steven. Bit of a Trekkie, I always thought.” She grinned at him. “Mr Coin (pronounced ‘Co-in’ - Ed) wants to run a Dungeons and Dragons club. I’ll sign the four of you up.”
“Sign me up too.” Sophie grinned, wandering up. “Hi Miss.”
“Hello Sophie. I’m afraid I’ve got some brews to make, so I’ll see you all first lesson tomorrow. Remember the homework is due.” She gave them a smile, heaved up the bottles of milk and then began to march off in the direction of S-Block. 
“Why does she have the milk?” Ali muttered. “Teachers always come through here with loads of milk.”
“Perhaps they need to inflate a cow.” Sophie frowned. “Why are you all looking so grim?”
“Ali’s been reading the Purple Folder.” Chris said. “The stuff that was stolen contains Francium.”
“That’s pretty boomy, isn’t it?” Sophie replied. “Couldn’t Steven just unsummon the oxygen in the air though? That would prevent it from reacting and exploding.”
“As much as it would do that, it would also choke us all to death, right?” Steven replied.
“No, cause, er, well, argh. Shush.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “Anyway, I’ve got news much more terrifying than the prospect of some list of subject specific terminology having life ending technology. Mrs Carpenter wants me to do my speaking exam now. Do you mind coming up and being my audience?”
Being the lovely friends they were, they each complained once about not getting a full lunch time and then grinned and followed her over towards E-Block. 
As they walked, Steven walked a little quicker to get alongside her. “Sophie, you alright?”
“Yes. Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?” She snapped.
“Well, you know, it’s the Speaking Exam.”
“So, are you okay about it?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because, you know, you don’t really have that good a track record when it comes to these things.”
“Wow.” She said. “Just wow. That was just the thing to say, wasn’t it? Thanks Steven. Thank you so much. The confidence you’re helping me build up right now, it’s really, really helping me. Thanks.”
She walked a little quicker and, although he could have kept up with her easily, he decided that maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do. He’d only make things worse, him and his stupidly big mouth. He wished he could unsummon it sometimes.
“Everything alright?” Freya asked him.
“You know when you just want the ground to swallow you?”
“I’d be more than happy to hurry it up by jumping out of the nearest window.” He sighed.
They reached Mrs Carpenter’s room and wandered in, the door swinging shut on its automatic hinge. The first thing Chris noticed, besides the open window in the corner, was a poster on the back wall reading, “Put your positive pants on!” 
“God. When did she put that up? It’s so garish.”
“Almost as garish as her highlighters.” Ali laughed. “Where even is she, anyway?”
The room was empty of all English teachers. And fans, for that matter. “Thank god! She’s lost the fans!” Steven grinned, punching the air.
“She said she needed to pop out for a few minutes. To get the iPad.” Sophie said.
“But the iPad is on her desk.” Chris frowned. “Just finished recording, it looks like.”
“Ah well. She might be getting a coffee, you know how hyper she always is. Anyway, I think she said those are your books over there. She’s marked them and everything.”
“Yay! I love Next Steps.” Freya genuinely grinned.
“Wow! Marked books!” Steven sarcastically grinned.
“Don’t be so rude. Mrs Carpenter is really good at marking our books.” Ali said. “I mean, yeah, it takes about five months at a time but still, she’s good when she does it.”
“Good job.” Chris grinned, picking up his book. He flicked through it and began sighing. “She is OCD, isn’t she?”
“Why? What’s she done?” Freya asked.
“She’s left me a sticky note saying that I need to practise sticking sheets in because my Revision O Clock isn’t exactly straight.”
“I love Mrs Carpenter.” Sophie smiled. “Do you reckon she’d mine if I stuck my USB into her port?”
“Only if you got consent first.” Steven grinned. “Ayyy.”
“So funny.” Sophie said, her face like a brick wall. She stepped around the desk and over to the open laptop. She gave the trackpad a wiggle but nothing happened. Sighing, she turned to the others. “Does anyone know where her charger is?”
“I think she keeps it in her top drawer.” Ali said. “Just that one there.”
“Thanks.” Sophie replied. If she could keep herself thinking on each individual task, she wouldn’t have to contemplate the horrible truth ahead of her. Just so she didn’t have to think about the speech itself. She pulled the drawer open and frowned. There was just a brochure and a newspaper clipping lying in it. She pulled them out and threw the brochure to Chris. “Reckon this is tomorrow’s classwork?”
It was for buying flats at a local house estate, renowned for its ugly and imperfect architecture and rampant graffiti. The newspaper article, about the same estate, referred to that latter problem. The opening lines were, “Most people don’t want Banksy to visit but the Dawson Estate is practically begging for it. The graffiti on the concrete walls of the ugly, crime wave state is renowned for its illiteracy and unartistic style. The local council spend over two million pounds a year on removing the graffiti but no sooner can the grey paint dry before a new spray paint can cover it.”
“I don’t think these are for the class work.” Freya said. “We’re not due to do this topic of nonfictional texts for ages yet.”
“Then why has she got them? She’s way too classy to be considering going to live there.” Chris said.
“Maybe she’s the Antithetic.” Ali laughed. “That would explain the Blood Brothers quote.”
Steven’s face was grave. “And the fans.”
“The fans are missing. The Antithetic had a propeller backpack. Mrs Carpenter is famous for her highlighters. The Antithetic is stealing a goddamn highlighting super weapon. Come on. It makes sense.”
“He’s got a point.” Ali said. “I’m sorry to admit it, but he’s got a point.”
“She went off school following the explosion!” Chris remembered- evidently someone read the clunky exposition in Part One. “What if she got zapped like Mr Jordan?”
“And us. We got zapped too remember.” Steven pointed out.
“Oh really?” Sophie asked. “I thought I could control probability naturally.”
“Regardless of the truth, we need to tell our conjecture to Mr Phillips.” Freya said. “He’ll know what to do.”
“Good thinking.” Sophie replied. “And if it gets me out of my exam, what a bonus.”
“Let’s go.” Freya said, hurrying over to the door. She reached to the door handle and gave it a twist but the door wouldn’t open. “It’s locked.”
Steven hurried over and gave it a tug. “Aye. It is.”
“Thanks, Steven.” Freya said. “You’ve obviously an expert on locks so your opinion really helps us.”
“But Miss never locks her door.” Ali frowned. “Don’t you remember when we were in Year Nine? Those Year Elevens stole all our exams?”
“I thought that was her attempt at a metaphor for not having marked them?” Freya replied.
“Either way it doesn’t matter.” Sophie interjected. “We’re locked in here and Mrs Carpenter is out there with the potential to destroy all North West England.”
“That doesn’t sound as dramatic as ‘Destroy the Entire World’.”  Steven said.
“That’s because she can’t destroy the Entire World.” 
“Yeah… well… shush.” Steven punctuated sporadically. He frowned. “Guys, I just punctuated sporadically.”
“What do you mean?” Chris queried bemusedly. A frown creased across the smooth arch of his forehead. “Woah. That’s weird. Sophie, say something.”
“Like what?” Sophie’s words tested the water like a child’s fat digits seeping through a rock pool. “Oh my god. That is freaky. What’s happening?”
The smart board suddenly flickered into life. As they all turned, there were bright flashes from the corners of the room. Suddenly, some harsh material tightened around their wrists, drawing their arms up and suspending them from the ceiling, their legs dangling.
“I don’t like this!” Steven vociferated with the ferocity of a ululating banshee.
The board finished turning on and revealed Mrs Carpenter, staring out at them with an evil grin across her face. “Ah. Freya, Sophie, Steven, Chris and Ali. If you’re watching this, I am right in thinking you are the teenage heroes running about this town of recent. If you survive this incident, allow me to offer you a piece of advice: Invest in proper identity guards. Five teenagers who are running around, leaving lessons early on mysterious errands and match the exact descriptions, voices and genders of the five teenage superheroes running around are the same people? Surely not! Miss realised you could probably interfere with my scheme and so Miss designed this detainment zone to prevent such an occurrence. You are being suspended from the ceiling by gigantic treasury tags, propelled from the harpoon weapons Miss designed.”
“What’s going on? I know she’s organised but this is taking the biscuit!” Ali cheekily ventilated.
“Shush. I can’t hear.” Steven hoarsely whispered, acutely tilting his head in the direction of the speakers. Above, his hands were tightened by coarse green string with sharp metal bars on either side.
Mrs Carpenter continued speaking. “You’re currently being blasted by Adverbial Quotation Matrix Engines, or AQME for short. They’ll overload you with Seriously QUizzical Internal narration Developments, or SQUID. In short, they’ll make it impossible for you to say, think or do anything without painfully irritating Internal Narration numbing your minds. I would give you five minutes before you’re completely and utterly comatose from it.” She turned her head towards the door. “Ah. I can hear you approaching. I'm conscious of time so I’ll get off now and leave you to find my trap. Goodnight Heroes. You will awaken to a new world!”
She lifted up the Antithesis' mask, placed it on her face and pulled on her propeller backpack before running in the direction of the open window.
“AH! I’m going to be killed by adverbs! This is all my nightmares come true!” Steven exclaimed with more agonised anguish than a tormented prisoner in the depths of a Soviet prison camp. “What are we going to do?”
“Chris, think of something! You’re Captain Jaffa Cake!” Ali pleaded desperately, ignoring the rhetoric of Steven’s query with the youthful abandon of an arrogant panther. 
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” Despite being the hero known as Captain Jaffa Cake, Chris felt paradoxically like the damsel in distress as he realised with crushing despair that he hadn’t a proclivity for escaping death traps. He would have, usually, conformed to his accustomed altruism and revealed the veracity of this abhorrent gospel but he did not have the chance, for the AQME in the projector grew stronger and stronger.
“What are we going to do?” 

Holy Adverbial Phrases, dear reader!

Has Captain Jaffa Cake lost his ability to save the day?
Is the Summoner finally going to learn why Stephen King really hates adverbs?
Will Tempus never get to complete her next steps?
Is the Flish going to die before finding out why the teachers need so much milk?
And will Lucky Cat ever get the chance to do her English Speaking Exam?

The answer to these and other brain numbing questions next week!
Same geek time!

Same geek blog!

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