Sunday, 24 December 2017
Last Night At The Prom (part 4)
Ali grabbed Freya and the two of them exploded into a haze, racing out of the main hall and into the bar. Mere seconds after they got out, the doors of the main hall slammed shut. For a few moments, there was the sound of fists desperately banging against the doors. Then, bodies hitting the floor. Then, silence.
“What the hell’s going on in there?” Ian demanded.
“The Calculator is draining something out of the students.” Freya said. “And Mr Andrews has turned into the Camel God.”
Ali exploded into a haze for a second, and when she reappeared, she was dressed in her Flish outfit. She threw Freya Tempus’ costume. “Chris, your spare costume was missing.”
Chris didn’t say anything, just stared at the door. How could Mr Phillips be gone?
“We don’t have time.” Freya said. She froze time and then unfroze it, so it appeared that within a second, her outfit completely changed. “Let’s go find Steven and Sophie and see if we can find some other way in.”
“Sounds good to me. Chris, we’ll come back and find you.”
Chris didn’t reply.
Ian watched them wander away and then turned to Chris. “Where is Morris? Is he in there fighting the Camel God? What’s going on?”
“He’s… he’s dead.” Chris whispered.
Their hands were bound by giant staples, bent out of shapes to hold their wrists together. They were moved by the push of highlighter guns against their backs. Steven looked at Sophie. “It’s going to be alright.”
“I’ve changed the probability of our imminent escape to certain, Steven, and nothing’s happened.” Sophie said. “Nothing is going to happen.”
“The metal the staples are made of blocks your abilities.” The Antithetic said. “Another of Dreamweaver’s inventions.”
“Isn’t he wonderful?” Steven muttered. He sighed and looked at the Antithetic. “I don’t understand why you’re helping them, Mrs Carpenter. Mr Coin and Mr Jordan are both maniacs. I get that. But why are you helping them? You always seemed one of the more switched on teachers.”
“Don’t try to make me switch sides, kid. It won’t work.”
“That’s not what I’m trying to do.” Steven said, knowing full well that was exactly what he was trying to do. “I’m just confused.”
“It was either help the Camel God or rot in that cell for the rest of time.” The Antithetic said. “I think I made the logical decision.”
“Because nothing says logical like helping to destroy the world.” Sophie muttered.
“Compared to you, I’m hardly helping.”
“What?” Steven frowned.
“Do you think you’re still alive because I’m nice?” The Antithetic laughed. “If it was up to me, you’d be dead. But no. We need your powers.”
She nodded. “The imaginations of the teenagers power the Doorway Aligner to an extent, but it’s still risky because we’re not at a weak point between dimensions. We need a lot of luck to achieve this. The amount of luck that a superhero who can control probability could give us. And as for the army… they could be anywhere in the Banished Dimension, so it’d be really handy if we had a superhero who can summon things at will, wouldn’t it?”
Steven and Sophie gulped in unison.
The double doors in front of them opened and they stepped into the hall. The floor was covered in unconscious teenagers, the force of their imaginations being torn away seemingly having knocked them unconscious.
At the head of the dance floor, the DJ’s decks had been removed and replaced with large computer systems where the Calculator was stood. Huge batteries surrounded him, all plugged by a miasma of cables into the Extractor Beams. At the bottom of the computer systems, the Doorway Aligner was plugged in just inform of a pair of chairs set out with brain caps next to them.
Dreamweaver hurried over, purple coat flowing behind him, and he grinned as he grabbed hold of Steven and forced him into one of the chairs. The Antithesis placed Sophie in the other, and electrode spouting brain caps were placed on each of them.
“There we go.” The Calculator said. “Ready to activate on your command.”
From the shadows on the far side of the room, the Camel God appeared. Steven felt his heart thudding harder. The creature was gigantic and monstrous, its eyes blazing with fury. Up until that moment, the atheist in him had doubted that the Camel God could ever be real. Right now, with unequivocal proof right in front of him, he couldn’t doubt at all. “Bloody hell.”
“Mr Andrews is gone, isn’t he?” Sophie whispered.
“Yeah.” Steven said, nodding slowly. “He really bloody is.”
“Open the portal.” The Camel God said. “Now.”
The staples were removed. The machine was switched on. Steven and Sophie felt their powers being forced into action. Steven tried to focus on anything- baby elephants, novelty gnomes, even Jenna Coleman- but it wasn’t enough. The brain caps had harnessed their power and were now using it against them.
The crystals on the front of the Doorway Aligner began to glow, projecting at first pinpricks of light onto the roof. And then the pinpricks expanded, growing larger and larger until a glowing white circle covered the ceiling. There was a crescendoing hum and then a crash of thunder, as the white light turned into a portal.
Steven looked at Sophie. He had to tell her before the end but… that would be selfish. If these were their final moments, he couldn’t make it all about him. She noticed him looking. He smiled and felt a tear trickle down his cheek. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
She smiled, despite the tears rolling down her cheeks. “You’re my best friend too. I wouldn’t want to die with anyone else.”
“To be honest with you,” he said, reaching out and holding her hand, “I don’t want to die at all.”
As all conscious eyes in the house raised to look at the portal, the Antithesis’ eyes fixed on them and she felt a pang of guilt.
There was a calamitous thud as a body dropped from the portal and performed a superhero landing against the ground. Slowly, steadily, the body stood and raised its axe. On his back was a shield in the shape of an camel hump. The creature wore a helm in the shape of a camel skull. Then another soldier fell. And another. And another, until a hundred identical soldiers had landed against the floor. Then they raised their weapons and turned to the Camel God.
The God laughed and said, “Now, we shall destroy the world.”
The doors on the far side of the room burst open and Tempus and the Flish appeared.
“Would you look at that?” The Flish said. “A faceless army underneath an interdimensional sky portal. I sure haven’t seen this before.”
“Time for mindless violence.” Tempus sighed.
They burst forward and began to fight. The Flish used her extreme speed to smash through the soldiers, knocking them to the ground. As the axes swung down towards her, she froze them in midair and ducked out, unfreezing time and letting them swing into each other.
But there was too many. As Ali went to speed away, one of the soldiers grabbed the back of her costume and held her in place as the others punched her. As Tempus splayed her hand to freeze them, a club swung through the air and smashed into his hand, nearly breaking her fingers. Tempus cursed and swore, but the hesitation this caused led the others to pounce on her and pummel her to the ground.
Steven swore. There went the last of his hope.
“He can’t be dead.” Said Ian. “He can’t be.”
“He was at Gilliam High and the Camel God nuked it.” Chris replied. “I don’t want him to be. He was… he wasn’t just a teacher. He was a friend and I don’t want him to be dead but he is.”
Ian stared through the doors Tempus and the Flish had smashed through, to the hall where they were being beaten up. And watching over all of it was the Camel God, with eyes of furious pleasure. He was beginning to win.
“That thing killed Morris.” Ian said. “You can’t let it win. Chris, it’s going to kill your friends. You can’t let it win.”
“What am I going to do?” He demanded. “Go shout at it? It’s a bloody god! And I haven’t got any Jaffa Cakes.”
Ian put his hands on Chris’ shoulders. “Chris, you don’t need any Jaffa Cakes. Morris… Morris always said you were the best student he’d ever taught. The five of you were his ideal class. He felt the same way before and after the explosion. You are Captain Jaffa Cake, Chris. With or without your powers.”
Chris looked at Ian, then looked at the hall. Freya was being thrown across the room, Ali was being kicked. Steven and Sophie were beginning to scream in their chairs. The Camel God was laughing.
Chris nodded. “Okay. I know what I need to do.”
And with that, he ran, leaping through the double doors and racing to the phone box. He jumped inside and closed the door. “There’s a reason my spare costume was missing.” He muttered to himself, and tore open his shirt. Beneath, the huge Jaffa Cake emblem seemed to glow.
The door of the phone box opened and he looked out onto the army. He was as tall as the Captain, as miraculously bequiffied and as brave and confident. Sure, he might not have the muscles, but what did that matter in a brawl?
He summoned his powers, despite the lack of jaffa inside him, and felt a Jaffa Cake shield appear in his hand. He grinned and swung it through the air. The Jaffa Cake spun and spun, whistling across the room until it hit Sophie’s brain cap, bouncing off and hitting Steven’s. With them both instantly free, Steven summoned their super suits and ran to Chris’ side.
“Good to see you, Captain.” The Summoner said. He summoned Tempus and the Flish, who were pulled by unseen forces towards them.
“Good to see you too.” Captain Jaffa Cake grinned. “Everybody alrigh?.”
Tempus spat some blood onto the floor. “I’ve been better.”
“Let’s make the Camel God feel that way.” The Captain said. “Let’s go kick some ass.”
Lucky Cat increased the probability of the speakers beginning to play ‘Live With Me’ by the Rolling Stones and the Flish said, “As movie tropes go, I much prefer awesome fight sequences whilst old rock songs play.”
“Don’t we all, Ali? Don’t we all?” The Summoner said and they all ran forward.
Captain Jaffa Cake swung the first punch, knocking a soldier back and catching one of their blows with his shield. Tempus ducked under his arm and froze one of the soldier’s legs so they couldn’t move. The Flish used the frozen in place soldier as a wall, running up him with incredible speed and jumping over their head, into the crowd on the other side. As she swung punches at the speed of sound, Lucky Cat and the Summoner fought side by side. Lucky Cat manipulated the probability of the soldiers attacking her taking each other out instead. One soldier swung for her head, but missing and instead hit the stomach of another soldier lunging for her. That soldier fell forward as the fist hit his stomach, his feet flying out behind him and smashing into someone else’s face. The Summoner grinned and swung out his own fists. With each collision, he summoned a large flash card reading, ‘Pow’, or ‘Zap!’, or even, ‘Sock!’
They swirled and danced amongst the army, ducking punches and the swipes of weapons. One particularly ambitious soldier leapt into the air and flew towards them, swinging his twin swords down on them. Tempus froze him in mid air and Flish gave him a supersonic kick out of the way. As he flew through the air, the Summoner summoned a trampoline and Lucky Cat increased the probability of him bouncing off it. As he bounced off, the Captain threw up a Jaffa Cake. The soldier hit the Jaffa Cake head on, the rim of the biscuit slipped down his body and pinning his hands against his sides. The soldier hit the floor with a thud, fully incarcerated.
Finally, the entire army was unconscious. Without the Summoner hooked up to the machine, there was nothing to draw further soldiers through the Portal. Within a few minutes, the vast majority of the soldiers had fallen and those that still stood began to climb up the streamers hanging from the ceiling in hopes of reaching the portal.
“It worked!” The Flish cried. “We’ve won.”
“Not yet!” Dreamweaver cried and leapt at them.
“We’ve got this one.” Lucky Cat said and the Summoner nodded. They ran towards the purple coated super villain and ducked his first punch.
“How do you attack someone in DnD, Lucky Cat?” The Summoner asked.
“First you roll your attack.” Lucky Cat said and punched Dreamweaver in the face.
“Then you calculate your damage.” The Summoner said and kicked him whilst he was down.
“Then finally you see if you have any bonuses left over.” Lucky Cat said and in unison, they landed a punch that knocked him to the ground, unconscious.
“If you ask me,” the Summoner said, “I think that was a critical hit.”
The Calculator roared with anger and leapt over his control panel. “You won’t stop us now!” He screamed and reached into his jacket, pulling out a pocket calculator. He typed a special code into it and the device began to unfold, sprouting arms and legs that quickly unfolded until he was able to press the device against his chest. The sprouted arms and legs clipped onto his own limbs and lifted him up in a gigantic mech suit, gattling guns built into the arms that quickly began to rotate and fire.
Tempus froze the bullets in midair, picking them off and sliding them into the empty spaces on her bandolier. The Calculator screamed and began to fire harder, almost too quick for her to catch. Captain Jaffa Cake leapt in front of her at the last moment, catching the bullets with a Jaffa Cake shield, but still the Calculator kept firing.
The Flish turned and picked up an abandoned spear. She lifted it up, counted in her head, allowed her heart beat to calm and then shouted, “Out of the way, now!”
Tempus and Captain Jaffa Cake leapt to either side, opening her up to the path of his guns. At that exact moment, his magazines ran empty and he cursed, giving the Flish a chance to throw the spear. It sailed through the air until the tip smashed into the small calculator unit on his chest, knocking him to the floor.
They wandered over to where he was trapped against the floor.
“How did you know I would run out of bullets then?” He whispered.
“Average gun belt holds 300 rounds, average battling guns fires 200 rounds a minute…” She grinned. “I did the Math.”
The Camel God roared and turned to them, opening its mouth and blasting them a jet of fire. Captain Jaffa Cake and the Summoner lifted their capes, the others jumping behind the inflammable material until the billowing cloud filtered out of existence. Then the five of them stepped up and stared the God down.
“You will never destroy me! I am a god!”
“And we’re superheroes that you’ve annoyed.” Captain Jaffa Cake said. “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes right now.”
The Camel God roared and fired two blasts of its laser eyes down towards them. Tempus held up her stop watch, the bright light bouncing off the glass and reflecting back towards the Camel God who felt his sandy fur begin to singe.
The Camel God reared, its legs raging through the air and then smashing down. The Flish rushed to knock Lucky Cat out from underneath one of the legs, Captain Jaffa Cake held his shield aloft and allowed the sponge cake material to hold the leg up so it didn’t crush him.
The Summoner creating a swirling vortex above his hand and from it pulled a bazooka, but the missile it fired just clattered off the side of the Camel God without any effect at all. The Camel God laughed and blew another jet of fire. “You cannot destroy me! I am invincible!”
A blast of laser vision decimated their capes. A stamp threw them to their feet. The Summoner looked desperately at Captain Jaffa Cake. “I’m beginning to think he’s right. We can’t use our powers against him because he can just undo them!”
The five of you were his ideal class. He felt the same way before and after the explosion.
Ian’s words haunted his mind but he felt a flash of inspiration. “I’ve got an idea.” He whispered. “But we need a distraction.”
A pair of boots hit the floor to the side of the Captain’s head. He looked up and saw Mrs Carpenter. “Will this do?” She asked. “I’m sorry for helping him. It was the wrong thing to do.”
Her fans cut into life and she began to rise, racing through the air towards the Camel God. She lifted the nozzles of her acid guns and squeezed the triggers, firing the acidic highlighter fluid towards the Camel God. The fluid slapped against the Camel God’s fur, causing it to scream and rollick, backing away in pain.
“That’s our cue!” Captain Jaffa Cake called. “We were heroes before we ever got powers, guys. Come on! Let’s use what we know!”
Captain Jaffa Cake and Lucky Cat leapt towards the computer controls. The Captain began to reprogram them using his amazing knowledge of Computer Science. Lucky Cat started to enter the correct Physics equation to reverse gravity. The Flish raced around the tables, grabbing party poppers and balloons. She used her knowledge of Chemistry to build bombs that exploded against the Camel God’s body.
Tempus looked at the Summoner. “Can you think of any useful, real life applications of essay skills?”
“Not really.” The Summoner replied. “Maybe we could think of a cracking one liner?”
The Antithetic threw out treasury tags that wrapped around the Camel God’s legs, pulling them together and tripping it over, knocking it to the floor with a deafening thud. The God screamed and raised its head, a billowing cloud of fire bursting from its mouth and nearly engulfing her.
“Camel God!” Captain Jaffa Cake cried. “Consider this your reckoning! Leave our reality or be escorted out of it!”
The Camel God roared and blasted the stage with fire.
Captain Jaffa Cake dropped his smouldering biscuit shield and then nodded. “So be it.”
Lucky Cat hit the button that reversed the gravity. Carpenter flipped in mid air and hovered across the room, catching the heroes as they were dragged upwards, before zipping out of the way so that the Camel God could be sucked through the portal and back into the Banished Dimension.
The Antithetic increased the power of her fans and they flew back down to the control panel, hitting the switches and knocking the portal closed. Then the gravity returned to normal and they hit against the floor.
“He did not look happy.” Tempus whispered.
“No. It looked like he had the hump.” The Summoner replied. They high fived.
Captain Jaffa Cake turned to the Antithetic. “Thank you.”
She bowed her head. “I’m sorry for fighting against you. It was wrong.”
“I think her hamartia was her guilt.” Tempus said.
“Either that or the fact that the plot demanded her to switch sides.” The Summoner replied.
Captain Jaffa Cake shook Carpenter’s hand. “Go. Before the police get here.”
“Thank you.” She whispered. She bowed to the rest of the group and said, “Thank you.”
Then she activated her fans and flew off.
The balloon full of balloons popped and plastic sacks full of air began to rain down onto them.
“We just saved the world.” Tempus said.
“More like the universe.” Lucky Cat replied.
In the distance, there was the sound of sirens. The Summoner looked at them. “Anyone fancy shawarma?”
Results Day. Six weeks later. Around the country, teenagers were jumping into the air holding pieces of paper aloft. Online, irritating celebrities were tweeting that failing was alright, because they didn’t do well and look where they were now. Sixth Forms elsewhere were rubbing their greedy hands together at the thoughts of all the A*s and Colleges were laughing evil as they swept up all the desperate people who’d failed, swarming like vultures over corpses.
At the community centre closest to Gilliam High, a bunch of Year Eleven students (a few of whom where still hung over from the After Prom) were opening their results and reacting by doing the usual: putting their results on varying forms of social media.
Chris opened his envelope alongside Freya, and both of them stared at the list of amazing results that waited. Where Freya had nine GCSEs, however, Chris only had 8 because they hadn’t included the Computing grade he’d done a year earlier. “Another place where Mr Phillips is missing.” He sighed.
“Oh, Chris.” Freya said, patting his shoulder. “Wherever he is, he’s proud of you, you know. We saved the universe.”
“I just wish we’d been able to save him too.” Chris said, bowing his head.
Further along, Sophie and Steven were staring at their results. “I can’t believe it.” Steven whispered.
“Me neither.” Sophie replied.
“I mean surely it’s not possible.”
“I think there must be some kind of mistake.”
They both looked at each other and cried, in unison, “We passed French!!!”
They laughed in unison and Steven’s smile grew. She was so pretty when she laughed.
They began to walk over towards Freya and Chris. “Did you sign up to Sixth Form?” He asked.
She nodded. “Did you?”
“Yep.” He said. And that was good, because it meant he had another two years to win her heart.
Ali, meanwhile, was looking at her results when she heard an unwelcome voice at her shoulder.
“Hey, Ali. Could we talk?”
Ali turned and saw Desmond Gilliam, the Big D, stood in front of her. He and Julie hadn’t been arrested following the Munch events, but Ali had been doing her best to avoid them. Not very well, it would seem. “What do yo want, D?”
“I wanted to say sorry about everything that happened with Charlotte.” He said. “I didn’t realise how much of a maniac she was. I’m sorry that we mistreated you.”
“And I wanted to know if you wanted to come out with me and Julie. Go get a milkshake or somethings, so we could make it up to you.”
“That’s such a kind offer, but I don’t think so.” Ali smiled. She looked over her shoulder to the others. “I’ve got real friends to be with.”
Turning on her heel, she walked to join the other four. “Everyone happy with the results?” She asked.
Steven nodded. “My results were positive.”
“Positive test results probably aren’t a good thing.” Sophie laughed.
Their laughter was suddenly broken by Mr King’s appearance. “Can I have a word, guys?”
Chris frowned. “About what, sir?”
He led them over to the far corner of the community centre and, once they were out of earshot, he said, “We saw the security footage from Prom night. It would appear that you five are the superheroes.”
Freya froze time. The rest of the hall came to a stand still.
“Please don’t tell anyone.” Chris said. “Or we’ll be forced to take drastic action.”
“What kind of drastic action?” Mr King asked.
“We hadn’t got that far.” Chris replied.
Mr King laughed. “You don’t have to worry. When I look around this room, all I see are superheroes. Their powers? An open future, with which they can do anything they can dream of. Teenagers are amongst the bravest, most brilliant and, quite honestly, most inspiring people you can work with and I know you five will go far.”
“I don’t know.” Ali said. “The Sixth Form is only twenty minutes up the road.”
Mr King smiled and said, “Do you remember, at the end of assemblies, Mr Deterich always used to say, ‘Let’s go be world beaters?’”
“I didn’t like that very much. I always thought that it’s sending out the wrong message. It says that the world is against students, that they need to defeat it. But I think the true power of young people isn’t that they have the chance to beat the world but that they have a chance to make it better. I think, as you have proved, young people shouldn’t be world beaters. Mr Deterich shouldn’t say that. So, before you leave today, I’d like to give you my alternative phrase.”
“Which is?” Freya asked, unfreezing time.
Mr King patted them each on the back. “Let’s go be world savers.”