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.”
“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?”
“Is that short for Alisha?”
“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.”
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.”