Monday, 17 July 2017

Love, Lies And Old Allies

Previously: Chris, Steven, Sophie, Freya and Ali were once five students attending Gilliam High School. But when an ex-student named Richard Palmer gave a lecture on radiation, they were all caught up in a terrible radioactive blast. Palmer died and Physics Teacher Mr Andrews rendered comatose. Chris and friends, however, found themselves imbued with incredible powers which were quickly put to the test by the onslaught of villainous teachers.
Last time, Ali was kidnapped by the dimension travelling Dreamweaver. Whilst the others went to rescue her, she became alienated from the group and, on returning to the Earth, couldn’t help but feel like a spare part. We rejoin the adventure a short while after Ali began to play with her new friends.

Sunday Morning. Not the time to be in school. The Summoner was pretty sure there were laws against it, or at least that there should be. There was a bed, a very warm bed, that he could have been lying in at that exact moment. Instead, here he was, stood in a Science classroom with three of his friends and an angry minator. He sighed. One day he’d get a lie in.
The callout had been simple enough. Every fast food restaurant on the coast had recently been robbed, not of money or nice things like chips but of beef and milk. Every report had suggested that a five foot tall woman with the head of a bull had been behind the robberies. 
“Definitely not a bull.” Lucky Cat said. Years of Minecraft had led to her understanding the difference between various animals. “I say more a cow? Or a buffalo?”
“Beefalo!” The creature roared, spit flinging . “I am the Beefalo! And I will take back the terrible products you have stolen from my species.”
Captain Jaffa Cake looked at Tempus. “As we practised, yeah?” 
Tempus nodded. “As we practised.”
Running towards him, he lifted a Jaffa Cake shield. She jumped onto it and he gave the shield a shove, sending her slicing through the air and towards the Beefalo. The creature screamed but she reached out her hands and slowed time. Its scream became deeper, slower. The spittle flinging from its jaws seemed to pause in mid air, suspended by her temporal powers.
She increased her focus, concentrating on herself and the wall behind the Beefalo. Snapping the creature back to normal speed, she sped time concerning herself to be quicker. Then she slowed the wall behind the Beefalo right down. The effect: She seemed to hit it a lot quicker than she in reality did. Regardless, the momentum carried and the wall exploded open, delivering the two of them into the room on the other side.
The Summoner walked over to Lucky Cat and patted her shoulder. “My condolences.”
Lucky Cat frowned. “For what?”
“I think we just saw Physics getting killed.” 
Following Tempus through the hole they’d just torn in the wall, they emerged in one of the new classrooms built after the radioactive explosion a few months earlier. The walls of the room were white, the tables and stools pristine. Every surface was streamlined and complex in its simplicity. It was like walking into an Apple shop.
Captain Jaffa Cake wandered over to the Beefalo and knelt, his orange cape pooling around him as he did. “She’s unconscious, I think. Summoner, can you create some cuffs?”
The Summoner reached out a hand. A pair of cufflinks appeared in his palm. He sighed and reached out the other hand. There was a momentary glowing. The cufflinks seemed to burst, before the energy trickled into his other hand and turned into a pair of handcuffs. “There we go.”
"Thank you.” Captain Jaffa Cake said, taking the cuffs and locking the Beefalo’s hands together.
At that exact moment, the door to the room burst open. Reiteration Man, their gallant Computer Science teacher, burst through and into the room. “Ah! You got her, good work!”
He waved his hand and the wall they’d accidentally destroyed began to reform, bricks sliding into place, plaster reforming, smart board unshattering. Once it was done, he turned to the Beefalo. “Honestly, the prison is going to run out of space if we continue being as successful as we are.”
“Let's just face it, guys,” Steven said, “We are too good.”
They laughed as Sophie increased the probability of the Caretakers being lazy. As a result, when they’d last been delivering bags of paper to be incinerated to the incinerator next to S-Block, they’d left one of the large trolleys just outside the classroom. She wheeled it in and they hauled the Beefalo onto it, ready to take her down to the Cairns Cave to be secured before the police arrived.
Mr Phillips looked over the group of them and frowned. “Could Ali not make it?”
Pulling off her 3D glasses, Sophie shook her head. “Busy playing with a Ouija Board with the Head Girl.”
“She’s going up in the world.” Mr Phillips said. “The Head Girl is actually popular.”
“Are you trying to say we’re not, sir?” Steven asked.
“Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t you say the other day you still wear Doctor Who pyjamas?”
Steven nodded. “No, you’ve got a good point there. We’re not popular.”
“I don’t like the Head Girl.” Chris said. “It’s nothing personal, I just don’t she is in any way qualified for her role.”
“I’m glad you said,” Sophie said, “because if I did, it’d sound like I was jealous I hadn’t got that role.”
“Hahaha. You’re the Prefect for Sitting In The Library At Break Times.” Steven teased, prodding her.
“Says the Prefect for Occasionally Writing Articles For The School Magazine That No One Will Ever Bloody Read.” Sophie replied.
“Ahem. I’m just going to stay quiet.” Freya, the Deputy Head Girl, said, a mischievous grin on her face.
“With conversations as exciting as this,” Chris said, “no wonder Ali isn’t hanging out with us today.”

Children of the atom, students of Computer Science, geeks misunderstood and stereotyped by the teachers and students they have sworn to protect, these are the strangest heroes of all!

Sunday creaked on and cooled into the dark tidings of Monday. Chris found himself out of his Captain Jaffa Cake suit and instead in the maroon of his school uniform, wandering down All Saints’ Road towards the front of school. He headed up the small path, passing through the green gates and taking a left down the main corridor towards the Assembly Hall. As he did, he caught a glimpse of his hair in the window. Finally, his experimentations with hair spray had worked! His quiff was near perfect, just as wonderful and dynamic as it was when he’d eaten a Jaffa Cake. 
His eyes glimpsed the smart watch he’d received for Christmas and he suddenly realised he was risking being late to Assembly. He raced forward, jogging up the corridor towards the Assembly Hall. As he did, his eyes glimpsed the black arrows covering the walls and frowned. The last time he checked, even the worst elements of the school community weren’t so stupid they needed to know how to walk up and down a corridor.
“Hey! Chris!” He turned and Freya caught up with him. “Glad I caught you; better than having to go into the hall late and alone.”
“Are you alright?” He asked. “Not like you to run late.”
“Not like you either.” She frowned for a second, realising she was having to look up at him. “Have you grown?”
“I hope not.” He replied. “My mum made me go clothes shopping on Saturday. I really don't want to go again.”
“How many Christmas jumpers did you buy?” She laughed.
They approached the doors of the Assembly Hall and found about fifty students stood outside. Mr Jensen was stood at their head, guarding the doors to the Assembly Hall. “Sir?” Chris frowned. “What’s going on? Why are we all outside?”
“Head’s instructions.” Mr Jensen shrugged. “Says he wants everyone who is even the smallest bit late kept outside.”
“Oh great.” Freya whispered. “We’re late. This is singlehandedly the worst thing to have ever happened to me.”
“And we were fighting a Beefalo yesterday.” Chris muttered.

Inside the Assembly Hall, Steven and Sophie were sat next to each other about half way into the left column of the sea of blue chairs. Ali was far off on the other side, sat next to the Head Girl and Desmond Gilliam, grandson of the School’s Founder. Steven had been ready to rant about her choice to sit with them over him when Mr Deterich, the Head of their Year Group, stepped out into the space in front of the stage. 
“Matilda! Matilda!” Mr Marley cried, gaining silence. “We are ready now!”
“Good morning Year Eleven.” Mr Deterich said, running a hand through the constantly receding, greyening, thinning ginger hair that partially covered his head. “I hope you all had a relaxing weekend away from the stresses of school work. Before we begin, I just want to say that attendance to Saturday School was shockingly low this weekend. I really expected more of you to come in. Of course, interventions are put on as an optional course for you so none of you are expected to join us, however, next weekend I expect half the year group to be taking part.”
Sophie turned to Steven and raised her eyebrows.
“Now,” Mr Deterich said, “for the Assembly proper, I now want to hand over to Mrs Monty to talk about the ‘Munch Initiative.’”
“No, no!” Cried Mr Marley. “I need to talk about something very shortly first.”
He wandered over to the space Mr Deterich was stood in, just between the two columns of chairs, in front of the main stage. It was Sophie’s belief that teachers stood there rather than on the stage because they wanted to be ‘down with the kids.’ The effect was that for the shorter members of the audience, the talkers were invisible.
“After the failure of last Friday’s Attendance Scheme, I have decided to introduce a new one to replace it.” Mr Marley said. “It’s very simple. In Tutor tomorrow morning, you will be presented with a report on your attendance outlining your Attendance Target. For example, Joe Bloggs gets his report and it tells him that he has a target of missing only three sessions this term because he had good attendance last term. However, Freddy Noname had awful attendance last term so his target may be to miss thirteen sessions this term. As long as he only misses his thirteen sessions and no more, he will be rewarded with a free raffle ticket. At the end of the year, once every student in the school has three raffle tickets, will pull out a lucky winner and see if anyone manages to win an iPod Shuffle.”
An audible ‘ooh’ went up. Sophie turned to Steven and frowned. “Does that mean they’re giving us licenses to skive?”
In the audience somewhere, Freddy Noname was blushing at having his awful attendance exposed to the school.
“Thank you Mr Marley.” Mr Deterich said. “When I was your age, I skived all the time and as a result, I got a well paid and morally rewarding job as a middle manager on the forefront of defining our next generation, as well as still being able to attend both Sixth Form and University. The moral of the story: Don’t skive, kids. Right, now for Mrs Monty.”
A short woman wandered up onto the stage. She was the Assistant Principal of the School but, besides wearing a lanyard that announced as much, it was hard to say what exactly that entitled her to do.
Getting to the top of the stage, she removed a remote control from her pocket and pressed a button. From the roof, the screen began to descend. It took two minutes to unravel the whole way and, as it got to the end of those two minutes, began to unravel a little too far and pool on the floor. She flustered at the remote control, just managing to get it to rise back up into place.
For a second, the projected image was of the words ‘HDMI1 Undetected’ and then there was a flash and a picture of a dead child appeared on the screen. His head had evidently been bashed in by a large blunt instrument and he was lying on the side of a road in a pool of his own blood.
“Can anyone tell me what the cause of death for this child was?” She asked.
No reply, until a new kid on the front row raised a hand. “Was it being hit by a car?”
"Aha!" Mrs Monty cried. “That’s what you’d assume but no! Let’s see another picture.”
She clicked a button on the remote and the next slide showed an alternate angle of the kid, revealing a hand previously hidden. He was clutching a packet of crisps.
“The correct answer,” Mrs Monty said, “is obesity. This child was killed by obesity. Do you know how many children die of obesity each year in the UK?”
Rhetorical question. No answers.
“The answer is some and I find that disgusting. Do you know how much sugar there is in a bottle of Tomato Ketchup? 2800 grams! If you were to take that in granules of sugar, you’d need four Ketchup bottles to contain it all. That’s a lot of sugar. That’s diabetes in a squeezable retainer. Now, as I’m sure you all know, the Lord and Saviour Jamie Oliver has proposed a plan to avoid this.”
She clicked the remote and the next slide appeared, depicting Jamie Oliver in glowing, heavenly light. Angelic wings folded out of his back and he stood overlooking a background that looked straight from the Sound of Music.
“He suggests that we, as schools, should cut down on the amount of unhealthy food being sold in our cantines. For that reason, as of now, we are outlawing all unhealthy food in Gilliam High. Here’s a little promotional video for our Munch Prohibition.”
She clicked a button and a video began to play. It showed a packet of crisps being placed on a podium. Then, the camera man began to walk backwards, the shaking image suggesting they weren’t just zooming. Then, they stopped, showing the Caretaker now, lifting the rifle he used to shoot seagulls. Placing the butt of the rifle against his shoulder, he began to fire and the video cut to slow motion explosions as the packet of crisps was torn apart by the bullets. 
The video cut now, to show chocolate bars exploding, the rugby team tackling a nervous Year Seven carrying an ice lolly, a child having his face pressed against a glass window and his bag being torn open to reveal stashes of Cheese Strings and Baby Bels. The next shot was of the dinner ladies being fired, only to be replaced by the local Olympian, grinning and throwing Apples at people. The video ended with a Jelly Baby being placed in a Bunsen Burner. As it began to scream, a caption across the bottom of the screen read, “You will sound like this Jelly Baby if you are caught with Munch in school.”
The video ended. Mrs Montgomery smiled at her audience and then said, “The teachers will be vigilant in guarding this school from the horror of Munch. Every week, the top ten teachers to have collected the most unhealthy food will be treated with cake in the staff room. We are taking this seriously, Year Eleven. We want you to too.”
She bowed her head and then wandered down the stairs. There was an awkward silence for another two minutes as the projector screen rose again.
Mr Deterich stepped back out. “Okay then. Before we dismiss you to lessons, there’s a new member of the Gilliam Family that we need to introduce you to.”
Next to Ali, Desmond Gilliam looked terrified at the prospect of a sibling. Then he realised they meant a new teacher.
“We have got a new Executive Principal to look after the school on its journey out of Special Measures and his name is… Mr Moose. Let’s give him a cheer.”
Smoke began to pour of the sides of the stage. The curtains were hauled back. Spotlights suddenly shone across the room, building up over the stage. Stepping forth, out of the gloom, into the white shine was a man who was easily seven foot tall. He wore a pair of pale blue trousers with a brown blazer jacket that was somehow three sizes too big for him. The light twinkled across his head. Stepping out, he fixed his eyes on his audience. Despite the fact he wasn’t looking at anyone in particular, everyone got the distinct feeling that he was drilling into their souls.
“Hello.” He said, his Northern accent painfully strong. “I’m Mr Moose.”
Everyone stared at him, unsure what to make.
“I just want to say a few words before we go on this journey together.” He turned around and pointed through the far wall. “Once upon a time, I had a cousin. That cousin owned a dog. That dog was called Albert. I walked Albert once. He was a lively Cocker Spaniel and no mistake. As I walked him across the gala field just outside this very room, my daily recitation of a Shakespearean sonnet was interrupted by my sudden glance of this building. I found it a shining sentinel of education, a brilliant beacon, a glowing gateway, a stepping stone to a new and exciting future. I looked at this building and I said, I do wonder what that building is. Unfortunately, in the process of my musings, Albert escaped his leash and ran into the road, where he was immediately run over by a mosher on a skateboard. I ran over and screamed at this mosher, but he simply replied, ‘I’m a mosher,’ and kept skating. I was outraged, but more disheartened by the sight of my cousin’s poor dog, dying on the road. I knelt down and realised the dog didn’t have long to live, but the time it did have would be in immense pain. So, deciding to be a Good Samaritan, I grabbed its neck and squeezed the life out of it. I became a man that day and so, I find it very important to now be stood inside this building here, ready to turn all of you boys and girls, into men.”
Silence. Complete and utter silence.
He turned back to face the audience and pointed to the far door. “Now, destiny isn’t something that can be controlled. By definition, it's a celestial force out of the reach of the human man. When destiny comes a knocking, you better be ready otherwise it won’t help you on your way. You can’t be late for destiny, just as you can’t be late for Assembly. Unlike these rapscallions. Bring ‘em in.”
The door at the far end opened and about twenty or thirty students wandered in, Freya and Chris amongst their ranks. Mr Moose, his eyes yet to blink, waved them down the centre aisle, between the columns of chairs. “Now, these young people you see now are all disgusting. Don’t you find them shameful? They have been late to your assembly and think they can just cruise in, nonchalantly. That’s a good word. Nonchalantly. Point is, actions have repercussions. That’s Physics, that is. Their action of being late has the repercussion of making them terrible people who will never achieve anything. Looking at this lot, I bet none of them have ever got anything higher than an F in any of their exams. That’s science. Now, I know that we all hate them. I hate them too. Tell them how much you hate them. Come on. Let’s shout.”
The audience turned from looking at the parade of students to instead frowning at Mr Moose. Mr Moose stepped down from the stage with no effort at all and walked forward to the first student. Reaching out one gigantic finger, he thrust it into the student’s face and said, “You are a disgrace. A complete disgrace.”
He turned to the next student. “I hate you. You have stupid hair.”
He turned to the third student. “You’re an idiot. Your mum’s an idiot. Your kids will be idiots.”
He turned to the fourth student. “The Human Race doesn’t accept you.”
He turned to the fifth student and punched her.
He turned to the sixth student. “You’re so bloody stupid you're not even wearing the right tie! I wouldn’t trust you with anything. You make me sick. How did you even get into this school?”
The sixth student stared up at him, wide eyed. “I’m the Head Boy.”
Mr Moose ignored him and turned to the seventh student, grabbing them and throwing them to the floor. “That’s where your aspirations should be, you poisonous mushroom.”
He turned to the eight student and slapped them, but then grabbed their face between his gigantic hands. “I don’t have any bread but you’re still an idiot sandwich.”
Then he turned around and looked at the eight students he’d assaulted and insulted. “Now, I could continue but I’m very conscientious that you’ve all got a first lesson to attend. As a result of that, I’m going to return to an old maxim of mine. When in doubt, do what Jesus would do. As a result of that, I’m going to forgive each and every one of these students.”
He stepped forwards and grabbed the eighth student, squeezing them against his chest in a gangly hug. “You are forgiven. You were an idiot sandwich, but now you have the chance to prove yourself again.”
He repeated this for each of the students until he returned to the stage, clambering back up onto the top and turning to his audience. “Now, I’m going to wipe the slate clean with this school. We’re going to start again. Remember, be on time otherwise destiny will not take place. Let’s work together to build a new empire of clever students. Thank you, Year Eleven. Good luck with your A-Levels.” 
He gave a bow and then retreated back into the gloom.
The audience all stared at the stage for a very long time, the curtains pulling to a close as the smoke machines pumped for a little longer and then Mr Deterich stepped out.
“Let’s go be world beaters?”

Emerging from the Assembly Hall, Chris and Freya hurried over to Steven and Sophie. Ali joined them. “What the hell was that?” She asked. “He punched Katie!”
“You do know why he’s working here now, don’t you?” Steven asked. His parents were teacher so he got all the gossip. 
“No.” The others frowned. 
“Well, at Windgrass, his last school, he had a student who was a drug dealer. He took all the student’s drugs and disposed of them safely then went and blew up the warehouse they were getting them from with equipment he found in the science department.” Steven said. “They gave him the Best Teacher of the Year Award for it.”
“He’s a maniac!” Chris cried.
“He’s a lucky maniac. The student’s dad owned this Wholesalers. Moose can get whatever he wants, whenever he wants, free of charge!”
Ali caught sight of Mr Jensen making his way over to tell them to go their ways. “Right, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“We’re in the same lessons all day.” Freya frowned.
“Not today. You four have got trips, haven’t you?”
“Oh yeah!” Chris exclaimed. “I’d forgotten all about that.”
“What trip are we going on?" Steven frowned.
“Chris and Freya are going to the Ancient History Museum. Me and you are going with a few other prefects to visit Mr Andrews in Hospital.” Sophie said, rolling her eyes. Was she the only person who remembered anything?
“Oh great. That means the minibus.” Steven sighed, remembering the last time he’d nearly given himself a concussion in the low roofed minibus.
“Right, see you late.” Ali said and ran off.
The others made their way over to the lunch hall, where people waited to go on trips. Sophie and Steven made their way to join a few other prefects on the far side and Chris and Freya went over to where a History Teacher named Mrs Lynne was handing out small leaflets. She gave one to Freya and then checked the two of them off her register.
“I hate History.” Chris sighed. “It’s so boring. It’s literally a subject stuck in the past.”
“Wait a minute.” Freya frowned. “I don’t think you will be finding it that boring.”
“Why?”
“Look what the main exhibition is!”
Chris took the leaflet from her and read. A smile spread across his face. “Oh, that is interesting.”
“Isn’t it?” Freya said. “Time for us to know our enemy.”

The main exhibition was an exploration of the Legend Of The Camel God.