Dawn of Heroes
Originally Posted At: ekullbat.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/dawn
It was a Tuesday and, as we all know, Tuesdays are boring. French and IT had dragged through the morning, then had come PE which was the type of abomination that should really have been prevented. The students of Gilliam High School in the North of England had long since resigned themselves to a life of boredom, and very little did they think could snap them out of such belief. The Science Department, located in so called S Block, had heard word of this and so were pulling out all the stops to try to add a hint of excitement to life. Christopher Rogers couldn't profess to being an expert in thrills but, somehow, he doubted inviting an old student who'd gone on to become a brilliant scientist could be counted among excitement's causes.
Chris was sat in one of the many rooms in S Blocks, watching as the scientist fiddled with the cable plugged into the side of his computer. The leaflets that had been handed out, one between two as to bring down the printing cost, declared that he was an award winning particle physicist currently working on a new radiation theory. Chris was no expert but he thought that such a person should be able to use a computer.
Around him, the class were unruly. A history trip a week before the previous year's science mocks had led to all his friends being in a different science class to him, whilst he remained in top set, bored at the ease of the work. If it's boring for you, what must it be like for the others?
The students who hadn't gone on the history trip, meaning they'd had suitable time to revise and prepare for the exam, were not your average Set One students. Half of them were also taking PE for their options and the other half probably couldn't spell PE. Chris sighed as a pencil soared over him, smashing into the fish tank and disturbing the fish.
Their science teacher, the one they all hated but Chris and his mates liked, stepped up. Mr Andrews was the definition of lanky and didn't look nearly as old as he apparently was. One of Chris' mates, Sophie, always joked about fancying him. Chris thought that was a little weird.
With a melodramatic wave of his hands, Mr Andrews called for silence. "Right, as you've probably observed, we've got an incredible treat for you today. I know there are students in the other sets who would love to be here right now, so count yourselves lucky. And remember, we need to show our visitor the Gilliam Way! Please join me in welcoming, Dr Richard Palmers."
An unamused clap went up. Dr Palmers stepped up, an equally lanky fellow with salt and pepper hair and bags under his eyes. He looked scruffy, but compared to most of the students in the room, it was neat. "Right, hello. As Mr Andrews said, I'm Richard Palmers. I thought we could begin with an experiment today, as to get your, er, attentions going. Does anyone know anything about radiation?"
"That's what you get if you're on a sun bed for too long, ain't it?" Said a girl from the back.
Chris felt his eyes rolling.
"Yes, well, technically, yes." Palmers said. "I'm talking about electromagnetic radiation. Allow me to demonstrate."
Chris' stomach rumbled. Lunch time had been only ten minutes ago but he'd been too busy helping out in Computer Science to eat anything. The result? He was currently starving. He reached into his bag and pulled out a Jaffa Cake. He knew he shouldn't be eating in a lab but he was starving. One biscuit couldn't do any harm, could it?
"What I'm about to show you will blow your minds!" Palmers declared.
Taking a bite, Chris thought, Mine maybe. I don't think the others have minds.
There was a room opposite the one in which Chris was sat where you were allowed to eat. Said room was a theory room, rather than a lab, and inside a man named Mr Jordan was teaching maths, specifically probability. Two students were sat at the back, one because he was really tall so he got in the way and the other because she felt awkward near the front. His name was Steven, her name was Sophie and both of them had finished the work before the teacher had finished talking.
"Probability," Steven began once Mr Jordan had given them the go ahead to chat by telling them get on with the work, "is so interesting."
"Is it?" Sophie replied.
"Yeah. Like, it's what quantum physics is all about, isn't it? Entropy and stuff. I watched a Brian Cox video on Entropy."
"I hate Brian Cox."
"Brian Cox hates you. He was saying that if you had a pile of sand, it had a higher entropy than a sand castle and things with a high entropy had more likely to happen and that's probability." He paused. "You already knew all of that, didn't you?"
"Yep." She said. "But it's cute when you talk quantum mechanics like you discovered it."
He blushed ever so slightly.
"You two finished the work?" For a second Steven thought that a student was talking to them. Mr Jordan was a good teacher most of the time but he did look very young.
"Yes sir." Steven said.
"Good. The extension is to work out all the routes of the probability tree."
"Already done, sir." Sophie said.
"Have you?" He replied. "Right. Okay. Er. I'll give the rest of the class a few minutes to catch up and then we'll move on."
"Sure, sir." Steven said and watched him wander off.
"How long are you giving it?" Sophie asked.
"It's easy work so half an hour."
"Sounds fair enough." Sophie said. "So, you know any other bits of quantum mechanics?"
"I memorised Planck's solution to the Black Body radiation problem."
"Do you understand what it means?"
"Not in the slightest."
In the room next to Chris', Freya was feeling increasingly awkward. She'd told the teacher, Miss Francis, that Ali had just popped to the toilet but a quarter of the lesson was gone, the practical started and Ali was still not there. Instead, Freya was now working with a girl called Sharon.
"I'm so confused." She said. "What are we meant to be doing?"
Freya didn't hear; she was too busy staring at the clock on the wall. Where was Ali? Where was Ali?
"You wishing time would hurry up?" Sharon asked. "Wanna go home?"
"No." Freya said. "Quite the opposite. I wish time would slow down."
"Well, that can be your job." Sharon said, picking up the sheet with the instructions on. "According to this, one of us is meant to roll the ball down the plank and the other is meant to time it."
Freya picked up a stop watch and clicked it on. Time began to run. She pressed the button and it stopped. "Seems easy enough. This is friction we're investigating, isn't it?"
"What?" Replied Sharon.
"We're investigating friction?"
"Is that like a type of fan fiction? French fan fiction?"
"Doesn't matter." Freya said. God, she wished she could be with Chris in the other room.
"Freya," said Miss Francis from the other side of the room where she was showing a student how to draw a results table, "where's Ali? She still at the toilets?"
"Maybe M Block toilets are closed?" Freya said. "They always seemed to be closed at lunch time."
"I don't really understand how they can close a toilet that doesn't have any doors." Sharon said. "And why did they have to take the doors off?"
"It's to stop people from smoking." Freya said.
"But students at Gilliam High don't smoke!" Sharon cried, rolling the ball up and down the ramp.
"How nice it would be to be so naive."
"What does naive mean?"
"I rest my case." Freya said, turning back to the clock. Where was Ali?
Ali was hurrying out of the Girls' Toilets and up M Block corridor. It was a damn inconvenience that S Block didn't have any toilets, but she supposed it made sense. Wouldn't want to be on the toilet when there was an explosion, would you?
Now that they'd taken the doors off, the smokers hid in the cubicles to stop their smoke from spreading. That was all very well and good but it unfortunately ensured that it took ages to actually get to use a cubicle. Miss Francis is going to kill me. If she's even noticed that I'm missing.
Ali checked her wrist watch and saw that twenty minutes had passed since the lesson had begun. She hoped against all hope that Freya had managed to cover for her, or that they had a supply or something. Supply teachers didn't seem to care if you turned up to class or not; just as long as you didn't interact with them, they were perfectly happy.
The M Block corridor seemed to stretch on for all of eternity; in fact as Ali passed the exam/assembly/dinner hall/ big space, she didn't think she could see the end. She needed to get to lesson quick and that meant only one thing. She cursed. She hated running.
Looking over both shoulders to make sure that there weren't any teachers, she took a deep breath and started running. Like everybody in their little gang, Ali wasn't exactly the biggest fan of sport and running was her second least favourite, after dance. Words were not capable of describing how much she hated dance.
Her bag bounced against her back as she legged it up the corridor, running with everything she could. She passed by displays on the walls that had been there since Year Seven yet she still hadn't read. She passed the other M Block toilets which had far too many smokers inside to actually use. She passed the other reception, for some reason Gilliam High had two, and then the rarely used conference room. The steps to upstairs S Block led to a small corridor that led overhead as she went outside for a second. Then she entered S Block proper and set off down the corridor towards Miss Francis' room.
That was when everything got weird.
Chris reached into his bag and pulled out the box of Jaffa Cakes. He was really hungry. The perfect orange foil tore and he pulled another small saucer of orangey goodness. He raised it, balancing it on his palm, observing it's wonderful shape, delicious flavour and utter perfection. Then, in his peripheral vision, he saw Dr Palmers pressing a button on the box of his radiation machine. There was a loud whirring, as energy was sucked from the mains. The lights seemed to flicker above them. Then, the lights stopped flickering. They grew brighter and brighter, the whirring growing louder and louder. The very feeling of everything around him seemed to become all the more vibrant, the touch of the desk in front of him like a thousand splinters. Everything seemed to grow further, reaching a crescendo, and then there was an explosion.
The box that Dr Palmers was playing with exploded. A wave of writhing energy- refractions of orange, green, purple, blue and black surging through the air- shot towards him. He took a bite of the Jaffa Cake, he'd be damned if he was going to Heaven hungry. Then, the wave caught him and all the other students, throwing them off their stools.
The wave continued, seeping through the walls with seemingly no difficulty. It found Ali, running through the S Block corridor and caught her, lifting her up and propelling her into a wall. She fell to the ground with a thump.
The wave continued through the wall it had thrown Ali against, reaching the classroom in which Mr Jordan was teaching probability. It grabbed hold of him, propelling him through the air and into the smart board his power point was displayed on. It smashed, showering shards of glass in every direction. The wave continued, reaching towards Sophie and Steven. He turned, ready to say something to Sophie in his final moments, but the wave reached him too quickly and he was flung across the room. Sophie took a deep breath, ready to scream, but the wave grabbed her in a refraction of blue and knocked her unconscious.
The wave had expanded from the machine in all directions, including through the wall that partitioned Chris' and Freya's rooms. Freya was still watching the clock, still wondering where Ali was when she heard the explosion.
"Stop the timer!" Sharon cried, seemingly unaware of the commotion next door.
Freya pressed the button just as a tide of black light burst through the wall and enveloped her.
Outside, S Block didn't seem any different. Just another boring Tuesday afternoon. And then suddenly every window exploded outwards, spraying glass in every direction. From that moment on, Gilliam High would never be the same again. And neither would those five students.
Chris awoke and saw a square of shining light. He was momentarily blinded and so, like any normal human being, he instantly assumed he must be in Heaven. For a second, he reflected on how alright-ish his life had been and that he was glad he'd eaten in his final moments. Then he sat up and, with a mixture of both disappointment and relief, realised he was still alive. Either that, or all his mates had died with him.
The five of them were lying in identical trolley beds, arranged along the length of a discreet side room in what he assumed was their local hospital. Each of them had a plethora of cables leading from their bodies into various machines, one which measured heart beat and the other which led to a small plastic sack suspended from an IV stand. He'd watched more than enough Holby City in his life to recognise the set up, and he knew it probably wasn't good.
"Guys." He whispered. "Guys! Wake up!"
Steven rolled over in his bed, his lips fluttering. He moaned something quiet and incomprehensible so Chris sighed. It would take more than words to wake him up. Climbing out of his bed, Chris hurried over and gave Steven a shake. He moaned something again and then gradually opened his eyes. "Is it PE today?" He muttered.
Chris stepped away, over towards the others' beds. He shook Freya, who woke up immediately, and then Ali who was as groggy as Steven. Sophie was difficult to wake up but when Freya suggested they got a bucket of water, she was out of bed in a shot.
Once Ali and Steven had managed to wake themselves up, sleep still clinging to their eyes, Freya said, "What the hell happened?"
"I don't know." Sophie said. "It looked like an explosion."
"I think it was Dr Palmers' experiment." Chris said. "It looked like it blew up, sent some sort of new radiation out. We're lucky to be alive."
"That is amazing." Steven said.
They all looked at him.
"Well," he said, "it is if you ignore the life and death bit."
"I reckon we should go get a nurse or a policeman or an adult or something." Ali said. "I mean, we need to know what's actually happening. We might be contaminated. You never know."
"Don't make this into a science fiction movie." Sophie said.
Ali climbed off her bed and headed towards a door. "I'll go find a nurse."
She took a single step forwards and exploded. All of their mouths fell open. It hadn't been an explosion of fire and energy, just a swirl of purple energy and she wasn't there.
"Oh my god." Steven said. "She's been abducted by aliens."
There was a purple blur on the other side of the room and Ali reappeared, hitting the ground. "What the hell was that?" She said, her hair looking the very definition of windswept.
Chris stood up and walked towards her slowly. "How do you feel?"
"Really hot." She said, running a hand through her sweaty forehead.
"It's killing me not to make a flirtatious comment." Sophie interjected.
"Walk towards that wall." Chris said, gesturing to a wall on the other side of the room.
"Why?" Ali asked.
"Because I want to see what happens."
Ali took a deep breath and then nodded. She stepped forwards and there was once more that blinding purple flash. She hit the other wall within seconds, leaving a crack down it. She looked up, a bruise forming on her forehead. "How can I go that quick?"
"Hang on." Chris said. "Look at your bruise."
"What about it?" Ali said.
"It just formed, turned blue, turned green and then disappeared." Freya said.
"That is freaky." Ali replied.
"Freaky? It's awesome!" Steven cried.
"You are not taking this seriously at all." Chris said. "We might be aliens or something."
"Hang on." Ali said. "Let me test something."
She stood up and stepped, as carefully as possible, towards the far wall. Very slowly, she began to walk down it. She added some speed, increasing from the hobble of an old person to the crawl of a Year Seven on their way to PE. Then, as she went a little quicker, she exploded into a purple haze. They watched in terror as the haze continued around the exterior of the room. There was silence for a second and then they heard Ali's disembodied voice say, "I can't stop!"
"Damn." Chris said. "How can we stop her?"
Steven went to stand in the way of the purple haze but the very waves of force blasting out of it threw him off his feet and towards the floor. "I'm fine!" He shouted, but nobody cared.
"How can we stop her?" Chris repeated.
"I don't know!" Sophie cried.
Steven stood up, itching his head. "Come on guys, there has to be something! There has to be a solution. We just need her to slow down."
"Stop!" Freya shouted, the purple haze flying around her bed in the corner of the room quicker and quicker. "Stop!"
The haze did just that. Rather than bursting past at the speed of light, or whatever it was that she was moving at, Ali began walking again. "Woah." She said.
"Are you alright?" Freya asked, stepping forwards.
"Yeah, just really, really tired. I imagine this is what triple PE feels like." She wiped the sweat from her forehead but before she could complete the motion, she stopped. "What's happened to the others?"
Freya looked around and saw that the others were standing still. No. Not still. They were moving, just ridiculously slowly. Like movie characters in a slow motion sequence, but slower still. "Guys! Stop being so stupid." She said.
"Look at the clock!" Ali cried.
Freya turned and saw that the second hand was hanging halfway between one second and the next. Her eyes flashed towards Sophie, who was still hooked up to her heart monitor. She was sat there between two heartbeats.
"Freya," Ali said, "I think you managed to stop time."
"Oh my god." She said. "I am going to pass all my exams from now on."
"Can you unstop time, please?" Ali said. "I feel a bit sick."
"I don't know." Freya said. "Give me a second. I'll see if I can."
They both stood there. Freya closed her eyes, concentrating. Her face screwed up, her fists tightened, and she really hoped. When she opened her eyes, nothing had happened. "Oh."
"How did you stop it?" Ali asked.
"I just did. Like, I really wanted you to stop and time stopped instead."
"Do you really want time to start going again?"
"Say it like you mean it."
"Yes!" She cried, and time commenced to pass once more.
"Freya, are you okay?" Chris said, hurrying over and putting his hands on her shoulders. "It looked like you started moving at the same speed as Ali!"
"No, I didn't." Freya said. "I know this is going to sound really stupid but I reckon I can freeze time."
"That does sound really stupid." Steven said.
"I think we should go tell the nurse." Chris said.
"No!" Steven cried. "What if they want to dissect them?"
"What if they can help them?" Chris argued.
"Help them? Haven't you ever seen any movies? Authorities never want to help kids with extraordinary powers! It's like Common Sense 101."
"Life is not a film, Steve!" Chris cried.
"Guys! Calm down." Sophie said. "Look, why don't we just ask those two, seeing they're the ones with powers."
"They're not powers." Freya said. "They're radioactive anomalies."
"That is not a catchy name for a comic book TV series." Ali argued.
"I think we should tell the nurse." Freya decided.
"I disagree." Ali said. "I'm with Steven."
"Well, that was conclusive, Sophie." Steven grinned. "The final vote's down to you."
They all turned to look at her. She crawled back in herself. "Please don't look at me like that!"
"Just make your mind up already." Chris said.
She itched her head and then said, "I agree with Steven and Ali but-"
"See, what did I say?" Steven said. "Evidently, that's the only logical answer."
"Let me finish." Said Sophie. "I said I agree with Steven and Ali but I don't think this should be a democracy. I reckon if we want a really fair choice, we flip a coin for it."
"God." Steven said. "You sound like Mr Jordan."
Chris nodded. "That might be a good idea. Have you got any coins?"
"I've got some." Ali said. She hurried towards the end of her bed, where a bag was sat. She opened it and took her purse out, pulling a nice fifty pence piece out. She tossed it to Sophie who closed it in her palm. "Choose a side."
"Team Cap." Steven said.
"I'll take Heads." Chris said, rolling his eyes.
"Tails it is for Steven then." Sophie said, flipping the coin. It landed on her hand and she looked at it. "Tails."
"Best of three?"
Sophie flipped it another two times, and both times it landed on tails.
"Let me flip it." Freya said, taking it off her and flipping it three times. All three times it landed on tails. "Can we swap sides?"
"Sure." Steven said, feeling slightly cocky.
The next four times she flipped it, it landed on heads. "How's that possible?"
"I don't know." Sophie said. "It's just incredibly lucky."
"Maybe that's your super power!" Steven cried. "Maybe you're really, really lucky!"
"Didn't they just have a TV program about that?" Ali said.
"Pick a number between one and one thousand." Sophie said.
"What?" Steven replied.
"If I'm really lucky, I'll be able to guess it. So, pick a number between one and one thousand."
For a second, Steven thought and then he said, "I've chosen a number."
"442." Sophie said.
"Oh my god. How did you work that out?"
"I decided on the number before I asked the question." Sophie said. "I don't think I'm lucky, I think I can control probability. The coin kept flipping in my favour after all."
"Is it wrong I feel left out?" Steven asked.
"I don't have a power either." Chris said.
"Maybe it's a girl thing?" Ali suggested.
"Girl power!" Sophie squeaked.
"Or maybe your powers haven't developed yet." Freya said. "They'll probably turn up any second."
"Probably." Sophie said. "If I have power over probability, can't I make them hurry up?"
"What if I don't want my power to turn up?" Chris said.
"Why wouldn't you want your power to turn up!?" Steven cried. "We're flipping superheroes!"
"Steve, all I want is to be a nice, normal guy. I would also really like a bottle of water and some Jaffa Cakes. Being hit by radioactive waves is thirsty and hungry work."
"Mm." Steven said. "Jaffa Cakes. I love Jaffa Cakes."
There was a flash on the table and a box of Jaffa Cakes appeared. "Oh my God." Steven said. "I have the power to create Jaffa Cakes. That is the most awesome power in the world."
"Both of you, imagine you really want the book you're reading at the moment to appear in front of you." Sophie said.
Steven raised his hand. "I'm reading Wuthering Heights. Why would I want that to appear in front of me?"
"Just do it."
Both of the lads thought about the book they were reading, concentrating on it in hope that it would appear in front of them. For a second there was nothing and then there was a copy of Wuthering Heights, pristine and neat on the bedside table.
"I can summon things." Steven grinned. "Oh my God. I can just make things appear. That is awesome. Wow. Can I summon people?"
"If you're thinking about a certain actress," Sophie said, "stop. Now."
"Sorry." Steven grinned.
"If that's Steve's power, what's mine, then?" Chris asked. "I really hope it isn't something awful like power over boomerangs or something."
Whilst Ali tried to defend Captain Boomerang, everybody's favourite DC super-villain if you didn't consider any of the others, Chris reached towards the packet of Jaffa Cakes that Steven had summoned. He broke the seal of the cardboard packaging, tore the orange plastic and then took a Jaffa Cake out of it. He teeth slid through the chocolate lid, entering the orange Jaffa, and then he felt a bolt of energy shoot through him. "Sh-" He said, and then he was on the floor, fitting with terrible intensity.
The others leapt towards him, their First Aid training failing them at the one time they needed it. As instinct, Sophie pressed the emergency button but suddenly realised that was the last thing they needed. Steven turned towards the door, splaying his fingers, and made a baby elephant appear in front of it. He decided he really needed to concentrate when using his powers; when he'd decided to summon something heavy, he'd been thinking about a wardrobe or a treasure chest, not an elephant! Could be worse. It could be a whale.
Sophie concentrated momentarily and the alarm cut out. She'd increased the probability of a glitch in the system occurring at that exact second. She just hoped that it wasn't going to cause any problems for anyone else.
Freya hoped against all hope that time would stop and so it did, preventing the nurses from coming to interrupt them. For some reason, maybe because the five of them all had powers now, that didn't seem to affect them.
"Guys, can you think of anyway in which moving really quick might be of use right now?" Ali asked, feeling ever so slightly left out.
Before any of them could answer, there was a blinding flash and the four of them were thrown back, against the beds and against the walls. Freya's concentration slipped and the clock began to move again. A cloud of steam had formed around Chris but it slowly began to clear as he climbed from his back and to his feet. He looked around. "Guys? What's wrong?"
"I take it back." Steven said. "Compared to that, my power is really awful."
Standing before them was a man who held small resemblance to Chris. He was maybe six foot seven, his arms muscular and his jaw chiselled. His hair was even more wavy and perfect than it was normally, and for some reason he was standing with a massive Jaffa Cake, at least the size of an old fashioned dustbin lid, in one hand. His voice was a little deeper, a little more inspiring and a little more heroic, as he said, "Guys? What're you looking at?"
"Captain Jaffa Cake." Steven whispered, adding, "I want that trademarked."
"We need names."
They'd been sat in silence for maybe twenty minutes. Chris' powers hadn't lasted that long; fifteen minutes at the most, and then he'd reverted to his usual self. Freya reckoned that was a good thing; imagine trying to explain to everyone at school why someone in their group of geeks and weirdos suddenly looked like Captain Jaffa Cake! Ali had then pointed out that if they had explained the change, they'd be sent away to the British Area 51- probably called something like Lot 42 or Blackpool- to be tortured and dissected. At that point, they'd all lapsed into exam style quiet. All apart from Steven, sat in the corner playing with the elephant he'd summoned.
"Why do we need names?" Sophie asked.
"To protect our loved ones from being ruthlessly murdered or repetitively kidnapped." Steven replied.
"At least they wouldn't be being ruthlessly kidnapped or repetitively murdered." Chris said.
"If we are going to get names," Ali decided, "I don't want Steven coming up with mine. Not after 'Captain Jaffa Cake'."
"I prefer Jaffa Cake Man." Chris said.
"You're fifteen. You should be Jaffa Cake Lad." Said Steven.
"I still don't see why we need names." Sophie said.
"So our loved ones-"
"She gets that!" Freya cried. "She means why would our loved ones being in danger?"
"Because superheroes' loved ones are always in danger unless they have secret identities."
"But we're not superheroes. We're just kids with radioactive anomalies!" Freya cried.
"It doesn't matter how loud you say it," Ali said, "it still isn't catchy."
"We're kids with powers and with great power comes great responsibility." Steven said.
"I become taller when eating Jaffa Cakes." Chris said. "What kind of responsibilities come with that?"
"Come on guys!" Steven said. "We have the ability to save the world! To protect the Cosmos! To look awesome and kickass! This is everything we've ever talked about. We can't turn it away because we've got exams!"
"Our exams are very important for our future."
"There won't be a future if we don't use our powers." Steven said. "I promise you that, whilst we're in here as superheroes, out there somewhere is a super villain."
"I bet it's Ellie Wright." Sophie said.
"Or Bella." Ali said with a growl.
"Who it is doesn't matter if we're not there to fight them." Steven said. "Come on, please. We need to have names at least."
"I don't see what the harm in that is." Chris said.
"Wait till you see the Headlines regarding 'Captain Jaffa Cake'." Freya said. "Go on, Steve. Give us your name."
"You ready for this?" Steven said. "It's going to blow your tiny minds."
"It's a good job we're in a hospital; the suspense is killing me." Said Sophie, honestly not as unenthusiastic as she sounded.
"Here we go." Steven said. "I have the power to summon things so I was thinking: Summoning Man!"
"Summoning Lad." Chris said.
The others said nothing.
"Okay." Said Steven. "Maybe that wasn't my best idea. I've got another and this one includes my sidekick."
"We aren't even heroes yet. When did you get a sidekick?" Sophie asked.
"I was just meaning the baby elephant, who I'm naming Bert after the famous Theoretical Physicist."
"Albert Einstein?" Freya asked.
"No. Bert from Bert and Ernie." Steven said. "Here we go: the Summoner and Entropy Elephant."
"I don't know." Sophie said. "You don't look like an elephant in the slightest, Steve."
"Don't listen to her, Bert. The cruel lady doesn't mean it." Steve said, patting the elephant's head.
"Captain Jaffa Cake and the Summoner." Ali said. "The world feels safer already."
"If you're so amazing, let's hear your name."
She grinned. "The Flish."
"The Flish?" Steven asked.
"It's a contemporary statement trying to be both ironic and inspiring in a clean, articulate sweep."
"The Flish?" Freya asked.
"It's also a reference to a much forgotten members of the Justice League of Animals that I loved as a kid." (No, seriously.)
"The Flish?" Sophie asked.
"And it sounds like the noise I move really quick! Like a flick and a swish."
"The Flish?" Chris asked.
"The Flish." Ali said, nodding.
"It's a good job this isn't a publicly available short story. The CW would sue us to death." Steven said. He turned to Sophie. "Have you got a name?"
"Sophie." She grinned.
"It must be real hard being so funny." He said. "I mean a superhero name."
"No." She said.
"How about Probability Lass?" Steven suggested.
"What's your favourite animal?"
"How could you forget? I swear I must mention them constantly when we talk online."
"Which happens very rarely, ahem." Steven said, eyeing the other occupants of the room suspiciously. "Is it sheep?"
"Yeah. That's it."
"Odds Sheep." He grinned.
"'Oh help me Odds Sheep! Help me!'" Ali mocked. "Sounds heroic."
"Shut up Copyright Infringement Girl." Steven said.
"I like superhero names that are only one word." Freya said. "Like 'Hawkeye' or 'Deadpool.'"
"Oddjob?" Steven said, falling back in laughter for a short while. He recovered himself then said, "How about Chancer?"
"Cancer?!?" Chris cried. "'Oh, Cancer. Save me Cancer!' Doesn't sound right."
"I said Chancer but I feel you've got a point. With buildings exploding, people might get confused." Steven said. His face lot up with a grin. "I've got it. Sophie, is your middle name still Catherine?"
"Middle names don't change, Willy." She laughed.
"Shut up!" Stephen William Bettany cried. A grin grew across his face. "Shut up, Lucky Cat."
"That's dorky." Ali said.
"Shut up, Flish." Steven grinned.
She rolled her eyes. "I'm never going to live this down."
"Captain Jaffa Cake, the Flish, Entropy Elephant, the Summoner and Lucky Cat." Chris recounted. "Freya, you need a name."
"You can have Rogers." Steven muttered.
"If you make more references to that, I'll eat a Jaffa Cake and punch you." Chris said.
"That is the world's best threat." Ali said.
"Have you got a name, then, Frey?" Chris asked, grinning.
"Tempus." She grinned.
"Trust you to have a fancy name." Ali said.
"You're only jealous," Sophie replied, "because you're called the Flish."
"It's not too late to change." Steven said.
"You make it sound like it's some deathly habit." Said Ali.
"We are the weirdest sounding group of superheroes ever." Said Captain Jaffa Cake.
Tempus, the Flish, the Summoner and Lucky Cat all agreed. In the corner, Entropy Elephant did whatever it was that baby elephants do.
About an hour later, the nurses got the results of the blood tests back and declared there were no radioactive abnormalities. Sophie grinned. "What were the chances of that?"
Their parents hurriedly entered the room, running their hands through their children's hair and kissing them on the forehead. Bert the Entropy Elephant hid behind the door, with Sophie controlling the probability of someone noticing him. With no elephant based highjinks ensuing, they were quickly escorted from the hospital room to their respective cars and an orderly procession of people carriers began the long drive back to Gilliam High School's catchment area.
Chris looked through the space between the driver and passenger seats in his family car. He wasn't particularly interested in cars; his interest was in computers and technology more than anything else, but his mechanic Dad had raised him to know what was what. The radio that he couldn't hear under the nervous chatter of his mother, he knew, was digital and the big bit of glass in front of that was the windscreen. He stared through it, at the back of Freya's car. He'd been in there once when Freya's dad had brought him home from an Awards Evening that his parents hadn't been able to attend. It was a lot more comfortable than his car and, even with the passenger seat pushed backwards there was still room for his legs. In this car, he felt the very definition of claustrophobic.
Before he could think any further of it, there was a loud creaking, like a monster stalking down a haunted mansion's hall. He frowned. Surely that wasn't the right noise for a bridge? The car pulled to a stop.
"Dad? Why aren't we moving?" Chris asked, looking towards his father. His father wasn't moving. He looked at his mother; neither was she. He looked at the clock. The hand was paused between one second and the next. "Freya." He realised.
Pushing the door open, he climbed out, running along the bridge. The wind that rushed along the river had paused, meaning his hair was blown upwards and simply remained. It was very strange. He reached Freya's door only to find it was already open and she was stood on the bridge, her eyes closed, her face screwed up and her fists clenched.
"What's going on?" He asked.
"Did you hear the creaking?" She asked, not moving.
"I think the bridge is collapsing."
A purple blaze exploded into existence at their side. Ali bent over, panting. "I had a look round." She said. "One of the suspension cables is beginning to snap. Looks rusty."
"Eroded." Sophie said, ever the chemistry student. Steven wasn't far behind, riding Entropy Elephant with a sword in his hand.
"Where'd you get a sword from?" Chris asked.
"I summoned it."
"Because this is a dangerous situation."
"How is a sword going to help?"
"I don't know, but I look cool!"
"Guys, I don't know how much longer I can hold this." Freya said, beginning to shake ever so slightly.
"Okay." Chris said. "We need a plan of action. Sophie, can you change the probability of danger?"
"Give me a second." Sophie raised a hand towards the snapping cable, her fingers splayed and her efforts concentrated. She willed it to not snap with everything she had but she felt a terrible electrical shock snap through her hand. "No." She said, pulling away. "It's too much. I don't have that kind of power."
"Okay. We're going to have to work as a team." Chris said. "Summoner, see if you can summon something to help. The fire department, the police, paramedics, a crane. I don't know what. Just summon something."
"He used my name." Steven grinned, climbing off the Elephant.
"Lucky Cat, change the probability of the cars being able to withstand damage." Chris said. "And Flish, if you see anyone in immediate danger: get them out of the way."
"What are you going to do?" Ali asked, getting ready.
Chris turned back towards his car where his Jaffa Cakes were waiting. "I'll think of something."
"I can't hold this much longer." Freya said.
They all nodded.
"Oh, hang on." Chris said. "Steve, can you summon us all masks?"
Steven clicked his fingers and masks appeared on everyone's faces.
"Brilliant." Chris said. "Now, Freya, let it go!"
Freya relaxed her concentration and the universe exploded back into action. The creaking intensified and then there was a horrible noise as metal uncoiled. Chris turned and ran with everything he had in the direction of his parents' car. His lungs burnt and his heart raced but he kept going, vaulting into the air and hitting the side of the car. He reached inside and grabbed a Jaffa Cake from the open packet in the middle of his seat. He raised it to his mouth, took a deep bite and then there was a powerful explosion of energy. When the cloud of smoke wafted away, Captain Jaffa Cake was revealed. Six foot seven, wavy hair and a massive biscuit on his arm. He looked straight at his mother. Whether it was the miraculous transformation or the mask, he didn't know but he did know that she didn't recognise him in the slightest. "Don't worry, ma'am." He said, his voice ever so slightly more inspiring. "We're here to save the day now."
He turned to face the slowly unwinding suspension cable on the side of the bridge. It was maybe five or six individual iron cables coiled around each other for added strength. There was a hideous pinging sound as the penultimate cable snapped and there was just one left. He took the Jaffa Cake from his arm and flung it with all of his might. The disc spun around and around, spiralling through the air, until it hit the cable and exploded. The gooey, Jaffaery goodness spilt out and acted as a gluing agent. The cable would last a little longer.
A new Jaffa Cake growing on his arm, your friendly neighbourhood biscuit endorsement ran to join his friends.
The bridge began to tilt slightly, cracks forming in the tarmac. One or two forks of breaking road spread out from the sides. Drivers pulled their handbrakes, their cars smashing together to form a huge gridlock. Lucky Cat and Tempus leapt up onto the cars, climbing over their roofs towards the forming hole. The cars began to slide forwards regardless; teetering towards the growing chasm. Drivers and passengers desperately fiddled with their doors, trying to push them open, but the cars boxing them in prevented it.
"Tempus!" Sophie cried. "Jump!"
"Why?" Freya asked.
"Just do it!"
They both leapt into the air and Sophie threw her arms out, her fingers splayed. She concentrated as hard as she could and then a shimmering vortex of black and red energy blasted from her palms and hit the top of all the cars. For a second, chance and reality aligned and every car on the bridge became a convertible. It was a wonderfully sunny day; the roofs were down.
"Flish!" Lucky Cat cried at the top of her voice.
A purple haze exploded into existence to their side. Ali grinned, her mask slipping down her nose. "What?"
"Get these people out of their cars!" She said.
Ali erupted into a purple haze that swept throughout the cars. To Sophie and Freya, it looked like a blinding hurry of teleportation. To Ali, it was as if the world around her had slowed down. She leapt over cars, pulling people out of their seats and dragging them through the air. She tried not to go too fast; she didn't want the people to be hit with too many G-Forces or whatever the terminology was as she dragged them through the air. She continued, going into each and every car, grabbing each and every passenger. What had taken Ali a time span equal to hours appeared to everyone else to take mere seconds. With a blink of the eye, every driver and passenger on the bridge had been transported from their crashing cars to the other carriage, on the other side of the stone bollards. And now a truck was charging towards them.
They screamed, the heroes screamed, even Entropy Elephant gave out a trumpet of terror. But then Captain Jaffa Cake leapt over the bollards and ran. The crowd parted before him, allowing him to step forwards and raise his Jaffa Cake shield. The driver in the truck stared at him, completely terrified. He was going to kill a bloke holding a Jaffa Cake. He didn't know which victim was worse.
Chris took a deep breath and then the truck hit the shield. It came to an immediate stop, the back rearing upwards whilst the front stopped. The impact was absorbed by the sweet layer of wonderful Jaffaeryness. Chris stayed where he was and the truck dropped down. He let go of the Cake and walked around, tearing the door off and smiling at the driver. "Sir, may I suggest you get your breaks tested? I can recommend a wonderful mechanic."
On the other side of the bridge, the cars were still slipping forwards and the cable was beginning to snap once more. A car reached the edge of the bridge, where the tarmac had broken and was dangerously leering over the river. Tempus threw out her hand and made the pocket of time in which the cars were slipping forwards freeze. "I don't know if I can hold this for much longer!" She shouted.
"Don't worry. I've called the cavalry!" The Summoner cried, his sword glinting in one hand. "The seagulls are coming! The seagulls are coming!"
They all turned to face the direction of his other hand. It reached over the side of the bridge, in the direction of the horizon. Against the huge yellow disc of the sun were hundreds of black silhouettes, carrying a massive flapping shape. As they got closer, it became obvious what they were. A thousand seagulls carrying a massive net were being summoned by the glowing vortex of yellow and blue energy racing from Steven's hand.
The seagulls flew under the bridge and then began to fly out in the opposite direction of each other until the net was taut. "Release it, Tempus." The Summoner shouted.
Freya let go and the cars began to spill forwards, onto the net. The seagulls went down a little under the weight but then they began to flap more profusely and lifted it back up again. Within seconds, the net was in level with the bridge, preventing the cars from falling.
"I summoned the fire service." Ali said, stood with a phone at her ear.
"Well, that's just showing off." Steven said as about fifty fire engines pulled up.
It was one week since the incident on the Bridge and besides a hastily deleted group chat- entitled the Avengers League- not one word had been said. There had been no further call outs for Captain Jaffa Cake, Tempus, the Flish, the Summoner or Lucky Cat. The Heroes of Gilliam High were done.
The council, who normally enjoyed ignoring the existence of the high school, decided to act regarding the ruins of S Block. Despite having had a radioactive explosion take place, the block was in surprising good shape. Most of the furniture in the class room where the blast had taken place was replaced and all the glass had to be swept up off the floor whilst new panes were put in their place. As Chris got out of his Dad's car and crossed the road towards where Steven was waiting, he noticed that the building looked better than it had before. Only Gilly High could be improved by a radioactive explosion.
"Oi! Mate!" He cried, rushing across the road. "What're you doing here so early?"
"I'm meant to be meeting Sophie." Steven said. He adjusted his Maroon Blazer and wiped a speck of dust from the top of his badge. "What're you doing here so early?"
"I got an email from Mr Philips last night. He wanted me to come in extra early to go over my Computer Science coursework."
"He never emails me." Steven said.
"Probably because you haven't started your coursework." Chris leant in slightly, looking over his shoulder to make sure nobody was approaching. "You haven't used your powers, have you?"
"No! Of course not! Well, not for superheroics."
"What've you used them for?"
"It's a long way to walk from the kitchen for a glass of lemonade." Steven grinned.
"So much for great responsibility."
"Hey you guys!" Sophie cried, hurrying up. She too was wearing the Maroon uniform that had been associated with Gilliam High since first it was opened by Desmond Gilliam all those many years ago. Much to her annoyance, however, she was wearing a skirt instead of trousers. "Nice socks, Steven."
Steven looked down at his green and red socks, displayed where his trousers were too short. "Summoner themed, of course."
"Do you own anything that isn't?" She asked. "Chris, what're you doing here so early?"
"I could ask you the same thing. I didn't think you got up until after the school bell went."
"Someone needs to suggest that to Freya." Steven said, not at all envious of her abilities.
A red car drove passed. The two front seats were taken up by the school's pet student teachers. In the driver's seat was the Spanish Biology teacher Mr Jast, who struggled to fit in the tiny smart car due to his gigantic, cage fighter's build. In the passenger seat was Sophie and Chris' maths teacher, Mr Jordan. The smart car pulled to a stop and the doors swung open. He climbed out and wandered towards them, staring over the bush. He looked more like a lost child than usual. "Hello, er, you three. Are you all prepared for the Maths exam?"
"It's not for another month, sir." Steven said. The school might have been closed but it didn't stop exam timetables from getting sent home. Freya, Steven and Sophie, who all took the same options, had almost two months of exams. He reckoned one minute was too much.
"Yes. Good. Yes." Said Mr Jordan and wandered off to do whatever it was he did. Not marking our books, that's for sure.
Sophie pulled a face at Chris and then quickly lunged forwards, closing the zip on his bag. "Why are you in so early?"
"Mr Phillips wants to see him." Steven said.
"He never wants to see me." She said.
"You guys are made for each other." Chris sighed. "See you in assembly."
They watched him wander off, disappearing momentarily behind the massive build of Mr Jast, and then they began walking towards the other entrance to Gilliam High. "He just said we're made for each other." Steven grinned.
"Shut up." Sophie said.
A good forty five minutes of sitting in the Upper School Dining Hall passed and then it was time to go to assembly. Mr Jenson, who was professionally known as everyone's favourite teacher, was stood in the doorway and he grinned as he saw them. There was a gloom and misery to the school that he just seemed to banish by existing. "How are my two favourite students?"
"Have you said that to every student you've seen this morning?" Steven asked.
"I don't know whether I should be offended or not!" He cried. "Hurry up and get in."
They strolled through the doors as they heard him cry, "How are my two favourite students?" to the next pair who approached.
"You know when you get a sense of Déjà Vu?" Freya asked, appearing to their side.
"Yeah. I bet he's been saying it all morning." Steven said.
"No." She said. "I mean, I feel like I've entered the assembly hall at least three or four times already this morning."
"Were you helping them put out the chairs?" Sophie asked.
"You're so funny." Freya said. "Are you coming to sit down or not?"
"Yeah, sure." She said. "Bye Steven."
"Missing you already." He said.
"Shut up." She said, trailing after Freya.
The assembly hall was half empty- or half full if you asked an optimist- so finding seats was easy. Regardless, Steven trekked all the way to the very front of the room where Ali was sat, twiddling her thumbs. The stage was a few metres in front and already a horde of IT technicians were fussing around Mr King's old laptop, trying to hook it up to the projector. Steven sat down, sliding his rucksack under his chair. "Why do we have to sit at the front? I hate being sat at the front. I feel like I'm in everyone's way!"
"Oh." He realised. "Are you still annoyed about Bert?"
"Just a little bit."
"I thought you liked animals."
"I like dogs, Steve. I like fish. You dumped a flipping baby elephant on my doorstep!" One of the technicians looked at her funnily so she lowered her voice. "You didn't even ask first."
"I thought you'd be happy about it." He said. "I'll come get it at the weekend."
"It's a bloody Monday." She said.
"I know. You may get to love him by then."
"Not likely. They stink to high heaven and I'm meaning the chimneys of high heaven! It's a good job I've got a teenage brother because otherwise my parents would totally have noticed."
"Sorry." He said.
"Hey, guess what." Chris said, sitting down next to them.
"Mr Phillips has adopted you?" Steven said. He turned to Ali. "Mr Phillips asked to see Chris."
"He never asks to see me!"
"What is wrong with you all?" Chris said. "And anyway, no. He gave me an ITV Little Nibble."
"That is plain favouritism." Steven declared.
"Says the guy who is every other teacher's favourite." Ali pointed out.
"I'm not Mr Jordan's favourite." Steven said.
"You're Mr Jenson's." Chris laughed.
"Matilda!" Screamed Mr Marley, climbing onto the stage. He was a lanky man who looked as returned from the grave as his Dickensian counterpart. "Matilda! I am ready now! Matilda!"
"One day, there's going to be a student called Matilda and she is going to be so confused." Ali said.
"Matilda!" Marley screamed. Finally there was silence. He looked across the room. "Callum Spanner, stop chewing."
"I'm not chewing, sir." Callum Spanner said, evidently chewing.
"Do you think they chew during RSC productions of Matilda? When me, Mrs Marley and our daughter went to see it, we all stopped chewing when the show began. Matilda!"
"Thank you, Mr Marley." Said Mr Deterich, who was yet another rung on the increasingly convoluted ladder of superiority. He wasn't stood on the stage but instead on the wooden floor in an effort to be down with the kids. Due to his height, the only parts of him that were thus viewable to the majority of the Year Group were the tufts of his slowly degingering hair. "I'm glad you're all back with us. You've had an impromptu holiday but now we're back in school. This is where the hard work begins. You were working hard before, now you're working extra hard. The work's gone from being a wimpy year seven to a professional boxer. That's how hard it is. But if David Haye can win a fight against someone, you can revise! It is important, no, it is imperative that you don't let your behaviour let you down, though. I know it's just 1% of the year group, it's not even that, but I know that it isn't the majority. You're good kids, good bright kids and you need to act like adults. So, boys and girls, it's important and imperative that you work with me to help me work with you to help you work with the teachers who are working with me to help you! We're here for your education and to get you through your exams. If you're not going to work hard and learn in school, you're not going to work hard and learn anywhere. Do you think employers twelve months down the line are going to want people who can't buckle down and fight professional boxers? No, I didn't either. So, come on, let's work together to revise at home and really take your learning into your own hands. Us teachers can only do so much. It is completely up to you and on your shoulders alone to get through this exam season. You're only children, I know it's a lot of pressure, but you're responsible young adults now. You can do this and we're here for you if you need us, to help you revise and prepare. We're all together in this."
Chris looked at Steven and mouthed, "I'm very confused."
Steven looked back and mouthed, "So is he."
"Right," Mr Deterich said, "I think that's it for me. Mr King has got an excellent assembly lined up for you but we're experiencing some technical difficulties. Just stay still and quiet whilst we get it working."
It's a well known fact that, if you tell a group of fourteen and fifteen year olds to stay still and quiet they'll explode into a shower of commotion. That's exactly what happened. Mr Marley leapt back onto the stage and began screaming again. "Matilda! Matilda! I am ready now!"
Eventually the hall quietened and Mr King got his computer working. He was the Assistant Principal of the school, a squat, red faced fellow who didn't at all look like an English teacher but spoke and read like one. For a person such as Steven, who loved books but hated English lessons, it was a hard call of whether or not they got on.
He smiled and then gestured to the screen the projector was streaming towards. Slowly, a picture of Martin Luther King Junior materialised on the white canvas. "This man," Mr King announced, "is none other than Martin Luther King Junior. He once said, quite infamously, I fear I may have integrated my people in a burning house. He said this because he was worried the great vision of America that he had wasn't necessarily the one that his people would be brought into. What was his answer to this potential problem? Was it to stop the integration? Was it to stop the Civil Rights movement?"
He paused for dramatic effect, but every ounce of his existence screamed dramatic effect so the effect of the silence was a reduction in drama. He smiled. "Of course not. He sort to put out the fire. Inspirational man. But what more can we expect from the very man who once said, I have a dream!"
It is universally accepted that when Mr King does his Northern American accent, half of all North Americans present begin to doubt their own heritage and the other half become ridiculously offended. Luckily, Gilliam High School was by no means exotic enough to have any North Americans present and so no offence or cultural identity crises were undertaken.
"I too," Mr King continued, breaking from his American accent, "have a dream. I have a dream that this school can rise from the metaphorical ashes of its accident and look towards the future. When Martin Luther King Junior saw his burning house, he declared war on the corruption and social unbalance that had set it on fire. When I saw my burning science block, I declared war on science."
There was a pause only broken by the sound of Chris pulling yet another face at Steven.
"I declared war, I should probably clarify, on bad science. We have repaired the damage done to S-Block and filled it with state of the art equipment. This Friday will see the grand reopening, with the ribbon to be cut by none other than celebrated mathematician and scientist, Professor Joseph Eagling!"
The ten students in the room of almost three hundred who knew who that was got very excited. Five of them had radioactive anomalies.
"Before I hand back over to Mr Deterich, I just need to make some announcements." He said. "First and foremost is that, whilst Mr Andrews is in hospitable recovering from the explosion, his role will be filled in by Mr Bartholomew. I'm sure I'm not the only want wishing Mr Andrews a speedy recovery. The other announcement is that exam season is starting soon and so interventions are starting today. You should have received an intervention timetable during the break so make sure that you're attending. We're doing everything in our power to help you but now the real power is in your hands. Mr Deterich?"
"Yes." Mr Deterich said, leaping back out. "Mr King is right. We have given you every opportunity and now it's up to you to get ready. You're on your own but we're here to support you. Let's dismiss from the front and the back please. Hurry along to lesson."
Ali, Chris and Steven stood up at the front of the room. "God bless this school." Ali said, rolling her eyes.
They had English, where Mrs Carpenter was a bit odder than usual, and then History. Break time passed at a snail's pace, large droplets of rain shooting through the air and smashing into the glass roof of the link corridor. Steven watched the rain and tried to summon some sunshine. It didn't work. He was a superhero, not a miracle worker.
The bell rang and, whilst Freya, Ali and Chris went off to Science, Steven and Sophie began the hike to Maths. They had seats together near the back of a classroom neither of them had been in since Year Seven. Mr Jordan looked up at the stream of students who strolled through the door. He welcomed about half of them but only one replied. There was a starter up on the board and it stayed there for a good forty five minutes. Sophie and Steven got it done in about five and spent the next forty chatting.
"Minus B plus minus the square root of B squared minus four A C over two A." Steven grinned.
"Oh I do love it when you talk dirty to me." Sophie laughed.
"Are you two going out yet?" Asked Ellie Wright from the next table. She had enough oxygen inside her head for it not just to be the colour of her hair that led to her being described as a peroxide blonde. She wore ear phones playing some awful barbie pop and her phone was plugged into the wall.
"No." They both said instantly.
"Are you speaking?" She asked.
Steven and Sophie exchanged bemused looks. Sophie looked back to Ellie. "We were before you rudely interrupted us."
"Oh my god. That's so cute. It's going on Snapchat." She took a selfie and began typing a caption.
"How is it cute?" Steven asked. "Me and you are speaking."
"Oh my god. What are you even trying to suggest right now? I'd never speak to you. Oh my god."
"Then what do you call this?"
"This is talking." She said.
"Someone got a thesaurus for Christmas." Sophie muttered.
"What's the difference between talking and speaking?" Steven asked. He may as well as have opened the flood gates of Hell.
"Oh my god. You two are having me on. You're taking the mick. You're trying to tell me that you don't know the difference between talking and speaking?"
"We don't know the difference." They both said.
"Oh my god." She said. "Oh my god. I'm going to tell you the difference."
"Great." Muttered Sophie.
"Right, so, when a boy and girl talk, they're talking, right. Then they start getting close and that's when they get to know they like each other. Then they start speaking."
"But weren't they speaking before hand?" Steven said, frowning.
"Oh my god." She said. "You are so stupid."
"Ellie!" Snapped Mr Jordan, seemingly appearing from nowhere. "Have you done the work?"
"Oh my god sir." She cried. "I can't believe that. Why do you just presume I haven't done the work? Oh my god. That is total favouritism right there."
"You were talking."
"Oh my god. So is Jack."
"Jack's done the work."
"No he hasn't."
Mr Jordan turned. "Jack? Have you done the work?"
"No." Jack said, not looking up from where a couple of other students were wrestling on the floor.
"Jack, do the work." Mr Jordan said.
"Oh my god, sir. Why are you having a go, sir?" Ellie demanded. "Don't be horrible to Jack, sir."
Mr Jordan turned to Steven and Sophie. "Have you two done the work?"
"Yes, sir." Sophie said.
"We finished it about forty minutes ago, sir." Steven said.
"Did you find it easy, sir?"
"Catastrophically easy, sir." Steven said. "So easy that it made falling off a cliff look difficult."
"Good, right, yes, good." Mr Jordan said and wandered off.
Steven rolled his eyes. A chair sailed overhead and with it came the smell of tobacco. He didn't need to look over to see a few of the students were smoking. "When will this lesson end?"
Fifteen minutes later, the bell rang. The students stood, gathered their bags and pushed what remained of their chairs under what remained of their desks. As they filed towards the door, Mr Jordan said, "Can I have a word with Alex and John, please?"
Alex and John were the two brightest kids in the class and, quite annoyingly, they knew it. They stepped out of the queue of students and let the door swing closed. "What is it, sir?" John asked.
Mr Jordan smiled and stepped over towards his computer. His smile wasn't the amused type that usually crossed his face whenever a student swore at another student but instead the type that could only be described as devious and determined. "I've got some extra maths problem for you."
Outside on the Maths Block corridor, Sophie and Steven continued walking. Sophie thought she heard a scream from behind her but she couldn't see anyone screaming. Nothing odd at all except for the flickering of lights in the opaque window on Mr Jordan's door. Probably just a faulty bulb. Probably.
Sat in a cave not so far away, someone watched Sophie and Steven descending the staircase to the lunch hall. He laughed to himself, his eyes fixed on their faces on a grainy looking monitor in front of him. "Soon. Very, very soon.”