Monday, 14 August 2017

Love, Lies And Old Allies (part 5)

“That is brutal.” Chris said, shaking his head. “What’s got into her lately?”
The Cairns Cave was illuminated by large amber lamps, hanging under silver shades to give the impression of a UFO. The glow encompassed the four of them, sat in comfortable armchairs around a small coffee table in the centre of the room. 
Sophie patted Steven’s shoulder. “Are you alright, Steve? I know she means a lot to you.”
“I’m fine, just a bit upset. I don’t understand; she used to hate people like Charlotte. In the past, she would have found them so… spoilt. Hating people like that was part of the reason we used to argue so much.”
Freya shook her head. “People change.”
“Yeah. A lot quicker than we expected.” Steven sighed. 
“Did you mention it was about the Camel God?” Chris asked, watching Steven nod. “And she didn’t even react?”
“She didn’t.” Steven said. “Just said she had to go to some guitar recital of Charlotte’s and hurried off.”
“Urgh. It’s bad enough she’s abandoning her friends but team mates too? I’m going to give her a piece of my mind.” Sophie said and clambered up, heading over to the far corridor. The others called after her but she ignored them; this was a matter of principle.
The corridor led to a lift. She stepped inside and pressed the button on the wall. The ceiling above her began to retract and then her platform rose slowly. It scraped as she was rising, the sound sending shivers down her spine and a grimace to her face. She thought it might be the most horrible sound she’d ever heard. 
The lift delivered her into the lift shaft opposite Mr King’s office. She reached out and pushed the door open, stepping out into the corridor. In front of her was the assembled mass of the (currently present) Senior Leadership Team. Mr King, Mrs Monty and Mr Moose. The school’s principal was away on meetings, as per usual.
Mr Moose slowly turned on the spot and fixed his ever lasting stare on Sophie. “How did you get access to that lift?”
“Excuse me, sir?” Sophie replied, wondering if she could change the probability of the ground swallowing her.
“The lift, how did you get access to it? It requires a key to access.” His eyes widened and he turned to Mr King. “Marcus, the keys that were stolen last night, did they include a key to this lift?”
“The keys could access every room in the school and the exterior gates too.” Mr King replied. “I would admit it is quite coincidental, suspicious even, that Miss Khan here should emerge from a locked area so shortly afterwards.”
“I’m afraid Miss Khan’s interrogation here will have to wait.” Mrs Monty interrupted. “Look!”
King and Moose turned to follow the direction of her pointing finger. Walking down the corridor were a pair of Year Nines, sharing a bag of Doritos. Before anyone could react, Mrs Monty had a taser in hand, training it on the students and firing. The small threads of silver wire burst from the end of the taser and hit the student on the left. They began to fizzle and then collapsed against the floor. Before the other could react, Mrs Monty was on him, taking his bag of food and stuffing it into a red bin bag she’d pulled from her pocket. 
Mr Moose strode after her and took the students’ bags, beginning to search them and finding large bags of Haribos and other examples of Munch. “Aha. Someone thought they could cheat the system, hm?”
As Mr King hurried after them to make sure that no overly violent action was taken, Sophie increased the probability of her slipping their minds and then hit the button on the wall to her side. The platform moved back down into the Cave and the lift’s real floor began to slide across over head, hiding the secret entrance the original Desmond Gilliam had built so many years ago.
She headed back the way she’d come, wandering all the way back to the central Cave where the others were still sat. Steven stood and patted her shoulder. “Was the piece of your mind you could spare not very big?”
“Shut up.” She grinned. “And anyway, that’s not why I came back. Mr Moose was at the top of the lift. From the looks of things, someone had broken down the door of Mr King’s office and stolen his master keys for the school.”
“That’s very strange.” Chris said. “Who’d want to break into this dump?”

Ali, the real Ali, wandered into the Upper School Dining Hall. She was meant to be in ER- some believed that stood for Extra Revision, others Enrichment and a small minority even suggested Emergency Room- but her teacher was a bit of a hippy weirdo so she’d given her excuses and headed off.
Charlotte had texted her, asking her to pop over to the Assembly Hall stage. She was so eager to get there, she realised she was beginning to haze a little bit. She shook her head, feeling silly, and calmed down, instead adopting a hurried walk.
She walked down past a group of the new cooks, athletic beings with apples and nutribars in their lunch boxes, and headed through the door that led to the back of the stage. There was a door looking out onto one of the school’s gates and a group of Year Sevens were marching from the gate, through the door and down to the stage. They were carrying large crates.
Ali pulled her phone out and texted Charlotte. ‘Where are you?’ Unlike everyone in every movie ever, Ali had certain standards when it came to text talk.
“Down here!” Charlotte shouted from down the steps. 
Ali frowned and slid her phone away. A Year Seven stopped and tilted her head, gesturing for Ali to descend. Ali looked over either shoulder and then slowly walked down the stairs.

Mr Phillips walked into the central cave, nearly tripping over another pile of stones that had been laid in the middle of the corridor. “Do you think it’s rats?” He asked. “Or foxes or something?”
“What’s that, sir?” Chris asked, looking up from the Revision ‘O Clock he was filling out.
Mr Phillips sighed and laid his red bin bag down on the pool table. He walked back to the cairn and picked up a few stones. “These bloody things. Where do they keep coming from?”
“I reckon the little garden next to Reflection.” Steven said. “They have some pebbles there, around the fountain. Same colour and size.”
“Well, I shall set up a camera there to see if we can catch them.” Mr Phillips replied. “Then I’ll promptly murder them.”
“Don't do that, sir!” Freya cried. She was sat on the step that led to the raised platform B.E.S.S.I.E. was placed on, a cairns next to her. “I think they look quite nice. Artistic, even.”
“I'd agree, but they hurt my feet.” Mr Phillips said. “Honestly, this school. It’ll be the death of me. Tripping hazards down here, a thousand new policies a day and none of them work! Have you heard about this Munch Prohibition?”
“We saw the video.” Sophie said.
“Yeah, group of Year Elevens from last year made it. You’d find it funny if it wasn’t intended to be so serious.” Mr Phillips sighed. “The thing is, though, banning Munch seems to have only made it more popular. I mean, look at this bag.” He shook his red bin bag. “It’s nearly full and I didn’t even leave L-Block! It’s the Year Sevens who are worst. Bags full, they have.”
“Mr Jensen was saying that he’s been searching bags at the gate and they’ve been empty.”
“It’s true.” Mr Phillips nodded. “I was on gate duty this morning and I’ve seen it. I searched the bag of this little Year Seven earlier and there was nothing in it, not even books. Just bumped into him now and he’s got a bag of crisps so big, you could fit him in it! I asked him where he got them but he just stared at me, all gormless like he was a zombie.”
Freya frowned. “That’s very weird. How come he wasn’t in lesson?”
“Said he was on an errand for Mr Moose.” Mr Phillips shrugged and picked up a few papers from the coffee table. “I didn’t want to pry; the less I have to deal with the Moose, the better.”
“He creeps me out.” Sophie said. “It’s the way he never bloody blinks. It’s like he’s staring into your soul.”
“And he makes me feel small.” Steven added. “I mean, I know Chris does that now he’s had his growth spurt, but still.”
“This has been a really weird week.” Freya said. “Moose, Munch and mayhem! Never mind Ali and the bloody Camel God.”
“I wonder if it’s all connected.” Steven said. “I mean, it’d really take a genius to weave all that together but still.”
“I’m going to go and take a look.” Freya said, standing up and putting down her text book. “If I’m not back in twenty four hours, call backup.”
“The worrying thing,” Steven said, “is that we’re the backup.”
Freya grinned and headed out, taking the corridor that led to the traditional entrance to the base. She stepped into the lift and pulled a hook on the wall. The doors slid closed, shelves reappearing as they did and then a computerised voice said, “Lift going up.”
The walls screeched as she rose up to Mr Phillip’s classroom. The lift pulled to a stop and the cupboard doors opened, allowing her to wander out. She did just that and headed out. If I were Mr Moose, where would I be?

Ali entered the room under the stage. Charlotte, Desmond and Julie were waiting for her, alongside about ten or twenty Year Sevens. The room, which had brick walls haphazardly painted white, was filled with tables. On each of these tables were crates and boxes of Munch. Lots and lots of Munch. It was a veritable cornucopia of diabetes.
Desmond grinned. “Entrepreneurial, hey?”
Ali frowned. “You’re the ones supplying Munch.”
Julie nodded.
“But… I don’t understand.” Ali said. “Why? Steven told me you, Charlotte, were the one who pushed for a Munch Ban in the first place! Why would you want to sell it?”
“If you have a product, it makes sense to create a shortage in the market.” Julie said. “By removing Britain from the Single Market, it makes British Products more valuable.”
“But you’re the Head Girl, Charlotte!” Ali cried. “You’re not meant to break the bloody rules!”
“It’s like Gordon the Head Boy is always saying,” Charlotte said, “I’m just not a very good Head Girl.”
A group of Year Sevens wandered into the room, placing their boxes of crisps, chocolates and doughnuts onto the various tables. Two Year Sevens marched to Desmond, the first giving the second a piggy back so they could say, “That’s the last of it, sir!”
“Good.” Desmond replied. “You are dismissed.”
The various Year Sevens nodded and marched up the stairs and out. 
“What’s with the Oompa Loompas?” Ali asked.
“A workforce so we don’t overly exert ourselves.” Desmond smiled. “They’re small too, so rarely caught. Easy to forget about though; a couple of them got trapped in here last night.”
“And you’re okay with that? You’re okay with kids being trapped, terrified and alone, overnight?”
“Well, it’s character building, isn’t it?” Desmond shrugged. He turned to where Max was sat on the floor and passed him the keys on the end of the maroon lanyard. “Go lock up the gates. Then bring the keys back and I’ll dismiss you.”
Max nodded and took the keys, marching up the stairs and out of the room. Where he was sat, Ali saw several stones had been arranged in a small pile. A cairns. Her eyes widened. “He’s been down in the cave.”
“Well, of course he has.” Desmond smiled. “Do you honestly think we didn’t know about it? My grandfather opened this school! I’ve sent Max down there several times to explore; the plan was to use it to sneak the Munch in except, of course, the cave had other occupants.”
“So what? You’re going to get rid of us? Because, let me tell you, we’ve defeated dimension travelling Physics Teachers and evil Eng-“
“But you didn’t though, did you, Ali?” Charlotte said. “You were captured by Mr Coin and the others had to come save you. Do you think they respect you for that? Do you think they like you? Personally, I do want to get rid of Chris, Freya, Steven and Sophie. I’m not going to lie to you, Ali. I respect you too much. Do you know why I want to get rid of them though? Not because of some evil agenda but because I care about you. I don’t want to see you be taken for granted by them; I want to show you how special you are.”
“If that’s true,” Ali said, “then answer me this. Honestly. When you asked me to go and get those keys last night, knowing about my powers, was it because of your guitar or was it because you wanted to access the gates to fund this business of yours?”
Charlotte hung her head. “It was the business.”
Ali shook her head. “I thought I knew you.”
She turned and hurried up the steps, out into the Upper School Dining Hall. She couldn’t think clearly enough to use her powers, instead just running out into the corridor and straight into Mr Moose.
He frowned. “Are you alright, Miss… whatever your name is?”
“I’m fine.” She said. “I’m late to lesson. Just let me go.”
Mr Moose reached out and, with one gigantic hand, grabbed her collar and held her in place. “What is your name?”
“Ali Grant.” 
“Is that short for Alisha?”
“No.”
“Well, Miss Grant, you are clearly visibly upset and I’ve been told I am very reassuring.” He said, his eyes drilling into the depths of her soul. “Now, tell me what is saddening you.”
“Nothing, just…” She suddenly thought about how smug Steven would be when the five of them went to shut down Charlotte’s Munch bootlegging operation. She didn’t know if she was capable of dealing with that level of arrogance. Mr Moose, on the other hand, would be able to stop Charlotte without Steven and the others ever being involved. “You know how there’s loads of Munch around?”
Mr Moose nodded.
“I know who’s supplying it.”
“Really?” Mr Moose replied, without his usual theatrics. “Who is it?”
“Charlotte Campbell.” Ali replied. “She’s got a whole operation down in the room beneath the stage, using Year Sevens to cart it around. She even engineered the Munch Prohibition in the first place to increase the money she’d make from it.”
“How… diabolical.” Mr Moose said. “We must attend to this at once. Where did you say she was?”
“Under the stage.”
“Could you show me?” He asked. “I don’t know my way around the school just yet.”
Ali nodded and led him into the Upper School Dining Hall, down past the healthy looking cooks and through the door to the set of steps leading down. Mr Moose nodded and gestured. “Ladies first.”
“Shouldn’t you go first, sir? You’re the teacher after all.”
“I’m a gentlemen first, teacher second, Miss Grant.” Mr Moose replied.
“You told my Maths class you were a leader.”
“Metaphorically.”
Ali sighed and started to head down the stairs. Mr Moose followed her.
Charlotte looked up as she entered. “Ali! I’m so sorry. I just want us to be friends.”
“Yeah, well, I’m afraid we won’t be able to hang out any more, considering that you’ll be spending the rest of your life in Reflection. Isn’t that right, Mr Moose?”
Mr Moose stepped into the room and wandered over to the nearest packet of Haribos. He picked them up. “Not suitable for Muslims these. Or vegetarians.”
“Sir, aren’t you going to tell them off or something?”
Charlotte began to laugh. “Ali, Ali, Ali. I can’t help but wonder if Sophie had a hand in the incredible luck we’re experiencing here. You see, you’ve just talked to the only teacher in the school who is going to take our side over yours.”
“What?” Ali frowned.
“Mr Moose is my dad’s cousin.” Charlotte smiled. “A few years ago, he dealt with a drug addict and the father of the drug addict promised Mr Moose anything he wanted from the wholesalers he owned, at any time. Where did you think we were getting all the Munch from?”
Ali began to back away but Moose put his hands on her shoulders. “You’re not going anywhere, young lady. Charlotte, I would suggest you employ your powers.”
“You have powers?” Ali whispered.
Charlotte laughed. “Well, of course. There were other students in S-Block on the day of the explosion. The Camel God blessed us all.”
Reaching out her splayed hand, the Head Girl began to sing. Ali felt waves of happiness, waves of positivity washing over her. Suddenly, she felt herself transported to the previous night, stood at the mantlepiece, talking about Ed Sheeran. She smiled and forgot the troubles.
Charlotte turned to Moose. “Did she have a chance to tell anyone else?”
“No.” Mr Moose said. “But I will say this. I can hear breathing at the top of the stairs.”
Charlotte turned to Julie. “Go and investigate.”
Julie nodded and hurried up the steps.
At the top of the steps, Freya was stood, out of flux with time. It was a skill she’d really had to work on but it was worth it; it allowed her to appear invisible as her present form was always a second ahead of any hope of recognition. The only problem was that she had to keep her concentration up perfectly. 
Watching Julie race towards her was enough to make her drop her concentration, revealing her true form. She made eye contact with the Brexiteer and then darted back into the Upper School Dining Hall. Julie swore and turned into Usain Bolt. Then she raced after her.
With the Olympian gaining on her, Freya cursed. She tried to pause time but, as she’d found out long ago, her powers didn’t work directly against others affected by the explosion. 
She spotted the door to the reception open. Concentrating as hard as she could, she froze time and ran through it, trying to unfreeze time to allow it to close and lock Julie out but it didn’t work; as the Olympian, she was too fast to get trapped on the other side.
Cursing, Freya ran out of the front doors and grabbed her phone from her pocket, texting Chris. If she could get the shape shifter away from school, maybe the others could deal with Moose, Charlotte and Desmond’s Year Sevens.

In the cave, Chris’ phone buzzed. He looked down and stood. “Steven, Sophie, go and get your costumes. We’ve got a call out.”
“Can it wait? I’ve nearly finished the hardest questions in P3.” Steven replied.

“No.” Chris said, reading the words once more. Charlotte evil. Got Ali. Under stage. Hurry. He took a packet of Jaffa Cakes and bit one. There was a bright flash and Captain Jaffa Cake was revealed, huge orange cape billowing, Jaffa Cake shield on his arm. “This time, it’s personal.”

Monday, 7 August 2017

Love, Lies And Old Allies (part 4)

Mama Mia. Here we go again. My my. Isn’t this an excruciatingly bad musical. 
Ali wasn't a massive fan of musicals. They weren’t really her kind of thing, but she’d been to see the school production of Hairspray and her mum had dragged into the living room when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had been on. She hadn’t particularly enjoyed either of those experience but compared to the Abba inspired monstrosity she was watching now, she would take Dick Van Dyke and his hideous accent any day.
“What’s the matter, Ali?” Charlotte asked, noticing the dismay across her face. “Don’t like musicals?”
“It’s not that… it’s just that I’m more a Bee Gees girl myself.” She said.
On the floor, Julie looked up and said, “I totally agree. The Bee Gees are a good British band. Abba are immigrants.”
Desmond came in from the garden. “Sorry about that guys. Just, had business to attend to.”
“What business?” Ali cried. “You’re always disappearing like that but I still don’t understand what you’re doing.”
“I’m just dealing with important matters.” He said. “Needed to talk to a few Year Sevens.”
“There are Year Sevens in Charlotte’s garden?” Ali frowned.
“They’re small enough to fit through the holes between fence panels.” Julie shrugged.
“Anyway!” Charlotte cried. “I’ll go put tea in, yeah? Everyone okay for pizzas?”
“I’ll give you a hand.” Julie said, standing up and shuffling after her.
 Desmond frowned at them for a moment and then turned to Ali. “Want a drink?”
“Coke would be nice.”
 “Oh, I have plenty of that.” Desmond laughed and disappeared into the kitchen. 
That left Ali alone in the front room. She stood up and wandered over towards the pictures on the mantlepiece. Most of them depicted Charlotte at various concerts, one of her at a Christian festival, but there were a couple others of people Ali vaguely recognised as Charlotte's parents. One showed the mother with a guitar stood outside the Cavern Club, perhaps because she was never invited to play inside. The other showed the father with a small dog, a Cocker Spaniel if her memory served.
“That’s Alby.” Charlotte smiled, wandering over. “My dad’s dog when he was little.”
“Cute.” Ali said.
“Yeah.” Charlotte said. “He always looks that way in the pictures. Anyway, here’s your drink.”
Ali took the Coke and smiled, taking a sip. “So, Charlotte, done any more songs lately?”
“I’ve been working on one recently.” Charlotte said. “I’m not sure how it sounds though.”
“What song?”
“Kiss Me.” Charlotte replied, her face glowing in the late evening light. Considering how close the two of them were, Ali was surprised she couldn’t feel the glow on her skin. They stared into each others’ eyes for a minute, locked together, Ali almost entranced, feeling like she was falling and tumbling deep into Charlotte’s soul… 
“You know, by Ed Sheeran.” Charlotte added and broke Ali from the trance.
Ali found herself, for the first time, thanking the Gods she wasn’t more impulsive. “That’s, yeah, that’s a good song.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot easier if you have someone to sing it about. Actually, recently, I've been singing it a lot better than I used to.”
“I’d love to hear it.” Ali said.
“I’d love for you to hear it, but unfortunately not.” Charlotte said. “Mr King confiscated my guitar the other day.”
“No! That’s awful. Why’d he do that?”
“Well, I was in a Science lesson so I probably shouldn’t have been playing it.” She laughed. “I know where it is; in one of the music rooms. I just need keys to get in.”
“Can’t you ask Mrs Jones? She’ll let you in, won’t she?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I asked her but she said she’s got to do as the Assistant Principal says. If I could get keys, though, I’d be able to get in.”
“Where are the keys?” Ali asked.
“Last I saw them, they were on Mr King’s desk. He’ll probably give them to the Caretakers in the morning.”
“Then we’ll have to steal them tonight.” Ali grinned.
Charlotte’s mouth hung open. “We can’t break into the school!”
“We wouldn’t be; I know a secret way in, and I’ll go alone so that I have less chance of being caught.”
“Okay, but make me a promise.” Charlotte said.
“What promise?”
“Actually, two promises. First that you’ll only get the keys. There’ll be loads of guitars in the music rooms and if you spend time looking through them, you’ll be more likely to get caught. I can sneak in early tomorrow and get it then.” 
Ali nodded. “And the second promise?”
“That’ll you let me take you for a milkshake to say thank you?”
Ali smiled. “I’d like that. A lot. Right, back in five minutes. Save me some pizza.”
Charlotte saw her out. As Ali was beginning to step out of the door, Charlotte tapped her on the shoulder and bent over. “Here’s something to keep you going.”
She kissed her on the cheek and then closed the door.
Ali wandered until she was out of sight and then punched the air several times. A massive grin plastered across her face, she exploded into a purple haze and disappeared.

“Urgh.” Charlotte said, wiping her lips and stepped over to the cupboard under the stairs. She opened it and picked up her guitar, from over the slumped bodies of her parents. Then she walked back into the front room where Julie and Desmond were waiting, a group of Year Sevens laying the table.
She sat down and began to strum, not forming any particular song but just making a nice acoustic noise.
“Everything go to plan?” Desmond asked.
Charlotte smiled. “Like a charm.”

The Museum of Ancient History. A shadow seemed to pass over its walls, merging into the growing darkness of the summer night. Then, all of a sudden, there was a flare of orange and Captain Jaffa Cake landed with a roll, bouncing to his feet and slinging a Jaffa Cake into the security camera overlooking the space where his friends were about to emerge.
The Jaffaery goodness obscuring the camera’s view, Lucky Cat, Tempus and the Summoner hurried around the corner to join him. Lucky Cat waved her hand over the door and changed the probability of a visitor today accidentally dropping a wine gum, which a cleaner had accidentally swept into the small hole where the bolt at the bottom of the door slid into. As a result, the bolt wasn’t shut and the door swung straight open.
They stepped into the Celtic Hall. Tempus waved her hand through the air and slowed down time. “The guards should be frozen in whatever room they’re in.”
“Good.” The Summoner said. His hand flared and a set of blue prints appeared. Beginning to unravel the scroll, he revealed a detailed map of the museum. “We’re here and the Palmers’ Office is… here. Come on.”
They hurried out of the room and down a few corridors until the entrance to the Camel God hall roared up on their right. Captain Jaffa Cake pushed the door open and they wandered through, into the large room, heading around the side of the sacrificial temple and over to a pair of wooden doors in the far corner.
Captain Jaffa Cake gave it a push and sighed. It wouldn’t budge. To the side, there was a keypad. He turned to Lucky Cat. “Reckon you could increase the probability of me tapping the right buttons?”
Lucky Cat pointed to the screen at the top, which displayed the need four buttons to be pressed. Observing the nine keys, she said, “Captain, there are four hundred and ninety five different possibilities. I don’t think I have that much power.”
The Summoner raised a finger to his ear and said, “Reiteration Man, can you hear us?”
Sat in the Cairns Cave, Reiteration Man was leant back in a chair behind B.E.S.S.I.E., watching them on a screen whilst he ate a bowl of granola. “I’m not entirely sure if I approve of this, you know.”
“Please, sir.” The Summoner said. “We need to know our enemy.”
Reiteration Man sighed and leant forward, clicking a few keys at his desk. Then he hit enter. In the museum, the little bulb on the keypad lit green and the door swung open.
“Thanks, sir.” The Summoner said and the Gang wandered into the study.
It was a small room, big enough from for two desks and a sofa’s length between the two. A window overlooked the museum’s forecourt but they weren’t there for sight seeing. Instead, they set their attentions on the desks and the book shelves.
Books seemed to line the room, every bit of the four walls containing them apart from where the door and window were placed. The Summoner, who was a slave for a book obsessed website, grinned and ran over, beginning to prowl through the books for anything of interesting. 
Captain Jaffa Cake wandered over to the computer on one of the Doctors’ desks and raised a finger to his ear. “If you wouldn’t mind helping me, sir. I haven’t quite got to the part of my EPQ dealing with hacking computers.”
On the other end of the line, Reiteration Man sighed. Then the computer in front of the Captain became unlocked. 
“Thank you.” He said and began to search the files.
Behind him, Lucky Cat changed the probability of research being left out and several books opened on each desk. She wandered over but the vast majority of them was on the sacrificial temple, not on anything to do with being trapped.
Tempus sat down at the other Doctors’ desk and looked at the various photographs. They depicted their son beginning to grow up, from a baby to the man who’d perished in the radioactive explosion at Gilliam High. She frowned. There was something wrong with the pictures. She strained her eyes and realised. In the three photos depicting him under the age of about eleven or twelve, he wasn’t wearing the amulet he wore obsessively in all the other pictures. Although the pictures weren’t of the highest quality, they seemed to show the amulet as being green with black stripes spiralling out from the centre. There was something strangely hypnotic about it.
Raising a finger to her ear, she said, “Reiteration Man, can you do me a favour?”
“What is it?”
“I’ve got a hunch. Did Richard Palmer have any time off school when he was at Gilliam High?”
Reiteration Man opened up the school records, clicked on P and then set the search parameters to male ex-students in the correct time setting. Only about five options came up. He cycled through them and nodded. “Tempus, Doctor Palmer had a whole term off in his first year but the school allowed it because his parents insisted on his education being maintained whilst he was away.”
“Where did he go?”
“Give me a second.” He clicked the relevant box but made sure to give a spare keyboard a loud tap to ensure Freya thought he was doing something hackery. “Here we go. Went to Egypt with his parents for an archaeological dig.”
“Thanks sir." She said and turned to the others. “I think Richard Palmer started wearing an ancient artefact from the age of twelve.”
“What kind of artefact?” Captain Jaffa Cake asked.
“An amulet.” She replied. “Taken from the dig site where they unearthed the sacrificial temple.”
Captain Jaffa Cake typed ‘amulet’ into the search bar of the computer and nodded. “Well, would you look at that?”
“What?”
“The legend of the Camel God involves his banishment to an Alternate Realm.” Lucky Cat read over his shoulder. “And his physical remains were incinerated before being placed in an amulet.”
“I bet it was the amulet Palmer had.” The Summoner said. “If he was wearing it on the day of the explosion…”
“These pictures seem to suggest he wore it every day for over ten years so I wouldn’t be surprised.” Tempus interjected.
“If that amulet was hit by a radioactive blast, would that be enough to weaken the banishment? Allow the Camel God to return?”
“According to this legend,” Captain Jaffa Cake said, “his return would result in cosmic apocalypse.”
“But first it would be heralded by four messengers.” Lucky Cat read. “Four disciples of the Camel God.”
“Dreamweaver for one.” Tempus said, raising her fingers to count. “The Antithetic and the Calculator? Who’s the fourth?”
“The Beefalo.” The Summoner suggested.
“No.” Captain Jaffa Cake said, shaking his head. “She wasn’t trying to achieve anything greater than avenging fallen animals. There must be someone else.”
“Mr Moose.” Lucky Cat laughed. “His power is that he doesn’t need to blink.”
There was the sound of footsteps padding against the floor. Tempus cursed and froze the Camel God hall. She must have let her concentration slip. “We need to get out.”
Lucky Cat nodded and ran over to the window, pulling it open and looking down. There was maybe a thirty foot drop. “Steven, reckon you could summon a bouncy castle?”
“I can summon lots of pillows.” The Summoner said, shrugging and raising his hand. About a hundred pillows exploded into existence across the concrete forecourt. Lucky Cat climbed up to the window and changed the probability of her successfully hitting the pillows. Her scarves flew up behind her as she did, until she hit the pillows with a roll and leapt back to her feet. Tempus was next, slowing time as she fell so that she was able to touch the ground with infinite grace. Then the Summoner followed, his huge red cape flaring up behind him. He hit the pillows with a bump and leapt up, his cape spiralling out and hitting Lucky Cat.
“Thanks Steven.” She sighed.
Captain Jaffa Cake stood to the window sill and picked his shield from his arm, throwing it down so that the chocolate top hit the floor. Then, he leapt from the sill and flew, orange cape lifting up behind him. His feet planted themselves in the cake, Jaffaery goodness exploding in all directions but absorbing the impact of his fall.
“Let’s get going.” He said, a new Jaffa Cake forming on his arm. “We need to establish who this fourth messenger is.”
“And we need to tell Ali.” Steven said.

Ali was creeping through the Cairns Cave. The stone piles that leant their base its name were scattered throughout the tunnels and, as of yet, she wasn’t entirely sure why. She decided that she’d ask Mr Phillips to install some cameras and get to the bottom of it once and for all.
Ahead of her, there appeared to be lights on. She cursed under breath and slowed down, taking more care now not to alert anyone to her presence. She crept forward slower and quieter, peering towards the amber glow of the main room. 
Approaching the wooden frame that held up the doorway of the tunnel, she saw the cave’s only occupant. Mr Phillips himself, sat at Bessie watching something in the black and white of security footage.
She took a deep breath and then willed herself to speed. Her whole body rippled and any observers would have sworn she exploded into a haze. To her, however, it just appeared like everything around began to move a lot slower. The Laws of Physics were the same in all reference points; that was special relativity for you.
She hurried across the central cave, towards the stairs she knew led out to the staff room entrance. Her presence went mostly unnoticed, except for a selection of past papers on the coffee table that ruffled as she burst past them. Luckily, she was out of there and up the stairs before Mr Phillips could react.
Emerging in the staff room, Ali turned off her powers and hurried over to the door. She pushed it slowly open. On the other side, something moved.
She shrunk back into the wall and held herself very still, becoming suddenly aware of how loud her heart was thundering in her chest. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and wrapped her fingers around the door handle, pulling it open and stepping through the door frame. Nothing on the other side. 
She stuck her head out. A pair of Year Sevens were walking down the corridor, towards the Assembly Hall.
“Trust us to get locked in.” One of them muttered to the other.
“At least we’re not going to run out of food.” The other laughed.
“The boss’ll be well miffed if we eat his stock.”
“Yeah, but he’ll be more miffed if he finds a pair of dead bodies down there tomorrow morning.”
“Suppose. Race you to the Pringles?”
“You’re on.”
They began to run. Ali watched them disappear into the Upper School Dining Hall and then stepped out, turning once more into a purple haze. Then she crept along the corridor, passing the Upper School Dining Hall and Assembly Hall, passing the reception and reaching Mr King’s office. The door was locked by an electromagnetic clamp but she simply leant on it and it opened; that was the power of her momentum. The door swung open and she stepped in, heading over to the keys on the table. Switching her powers off, she reached out and picked the keys up. They were on the end of a maroon lanyard and placed around a large keyring. There was a large skeleton key as well as several smaller keys for individual rooms and a fob. With a ring of keys like that, you could probably enter every room in the school. She grinned at the prospect of Charlotte playing her that song and exploded into a haze once more.

Wednesday, the next morning, Chris and Steven arrived around the same time. Little known to them, there was someone watching them from the little room above the main entrance. As they walked beneath it, Chris turned to Steven and said, “I need to head down to the Cave to get my bag; I left it there yesterday.”
“I was planning to meet the girls there anyway, seeing we’ve got free periods all day.” Steven said. “I just need to go find Ali first so we can get her up to date. See you down there.”
Chris nodded and headed off to the end of L-Block. Steven, meanwhile, headed to the left, into M-Block and in the direction of the Upper School Dining Hall where Ali sat most mornings. In the far distance, he thought he saw Desmond Gilliam with a pair of tired looking Year Sevens. Frowning, he hurried along when he heard a voice behind him.
“Hey! Steven! You looking for me?”
He turned and saw Ali approaching. “Yes, yes I was actually. We found some stuff out that we wanted to bring you up to speed on. Come down to the Cave, I’ll show you.”
“I’m afraid I’m a bit busy right now. Charlotte’s doing a performance piece and I said I’d go see it.”
“Please, Ali. This is important. It’s about the Camel God.”
Ali sighed and shook her head. “I’m sorry Steven. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice but she’s my friend.”
Steven watched her run away, after Desmond Gilliam and the year sevens. “So was I.”

Ali hurried up M-Block hallway and into Upper School Dining Hall, over towards the kitchens. She took a left through a door that led up onto the stage. Padding across, she reached the stairs at the back and hurried down, towards the large room under the stairs. She looked around, grinning, it was a wonderful sight.
Desmond looked up from the Year Sevens he was attending to and smiled. “How’d he take it?”
“Exactly how we wanted him to.” Ali replied. She began to glow, her skin rippling. She stretched and twisted, creaking and cracking. All of a sudden, Ali Grant was gone, replaced instead by Julie. She smiled. “With the Gang divided and the Flish working for us, nothing can stand in our way.”
There was a pattering of footsteps behind her. She turned and saw Charlotte walking down the steps. “The Flish doesn’t work for us. Not just yet. I have the keys but not her complete trust. I believe we should tell her the truth.”
“Don’t you think it’s a little risky?” Desmond asked.
“Potentially but you know I can be charming.” She smiled. “We tell her the truth and we use the full range of her powers. You know it makes sense.”
Desmond sighed and nodded. “I suppose you’re right.”

“You know I am.” Charlotte said and turned to Julie. “Go fetch Ali. It’s time we moved the masterplan forward.”