Love, Lies And Old Allies
Previously: Chris, Steven, Sophie, Freya and Ali were once five students attending Gilliam High School. But when an ex-student named Richard Palmer gave a lecture on radiation, they were all caught up in a terrible radioactive blast. Palmer died and Physics Teacher Mr Andrews rendered comatose. Chris and friends, however, found themselves imbued with incredible powers which were quickly put to the test by the onslaught of villainous teachers.
Last time, Ali was kidnapped by the dimension travelling Dreamweaver. Whilst the others went to rescue her, she became alienated from the group and, on returning to the Earth, couldn’t help but feel like a spare part. We rejoin the adventure a short while after Ali began to play with her new friends.
Sunday Morning. Not the time to be in school. The Summoner was pretty sure there were laws against it, or at least that there should be. There was a bed, a very warm bed, that he could have been lying in at that exact moment. Instead, here he was, stood in a Science classroom with three of his friends and an angry minator. He sighed. One day he’d get a lie in.
The callout had been simple enough. Every fast food restaurant on the coast had recently been robbed, not of money or nice things like chips but of beef and milk. Every report had suggested that a five foot tall woman with the head of a bull had been behind the robberies.
“Definitely not a bull.” Lucky Cat said. Years of Minecraft had led to her understanding the difference between various animals. “I say more a cow? Or a buffalo?”
“Beefalo!” The creature roared, spit flinging . “I am the Beefalo! And I will take back the terrible products you have stolen from my species.”
Captain Jaffa Cake looked at Tempus. “As we practised, yeah?”
Tempus nodded. “As we practised.”
Running towards him, he lifted a Jaffa Cake shield. She jumped onto it and he gave the shield a shove, sending her slicing through the air and towards the Beefalo. The creature screamed but she reached out her hands and slowed time. Its scream became deeper, slower. The spittle flinging from its jaws seemed to pause in mid air, suspended by her temporal powers.
She increased her focus, concentrating on herself and the wall behind the Beefalo. Snapping the creature back to normal speed, she sped time concerning herself to be quicker. Then she slowed the wall behind the Beefalo right down. The effect: She seemed to hit it a lot quicker than she in reality did. Regardless, the momentum carried and the wall exploded open, delivering the two of them into the room on the other side.
The Summoner walked over to Lucky Cat and patted her shoulder. “My condolences.”
Lucky Cat frowned. “For what?”
“I think we just saw Physics getting killed.”
Following Tempus through the hole they’d just torn in the wall, they emerged in one of the new classrooms built after the radioactive explosion a few months earlier. The walls of the room were white, the tables and stools pristine. Every surface was streamlined and complex in its simplicity. It was like walking into an Apple shop.
Captain Jaffa Cake wandered over to the Beefalo and knelt, his orange cape pooling around him as he did. “She’s unconscious, I think. Summoner, can you create some cuffs?”
The Summoner reached out a hand. A pair of cufflinks appeared in his palm. He sighed and reached out the other hand. There was a momentary glowing. The cufflinks seemed to burst, before the energy trickled into his other hand and turned into a pair of handcuffs. “There we go.”
"Thank you.” Captain Jaffa Cake said, taking the cuffs and locking the Beefalo’s hands together.
At that exact moment, the door to the room burst open. Reiteration Man, their gallant Computer Science teacher, burst through and into the room. “Ah! You got her, good work!”
He waved his hand and the wall they’d accidentally destroyed began to reform, bricks sliding into place, plaster reforming, smart board unshattering. Once it was done, he turned to the Beefalo. “Honestly, the prison is going to run out of space if we continue being as successful as we are.”
“Let's just face it, guys,” Steven said, “We are too good.”
They laughed as Sophie increased the probability of the Caretakers being lazy. As a result, when they’d last been delivering bags of paper to be incinerated to the incinerator next to S-Block, they’d left one of the large trolleys just outside the classroom. She wheeled it in and they hauled the Beefalo onto it, ready to take her down to the Cairns Cave to be secured before the police arrived.
Mr Phillips looked over the group of them and frowned. “Could Ali not make it?”
Pulling off her 3D glasses, Sophie shook her head. “Busy playing with a Ouija Board with the Head Girl.”
“She’s going up in the world.” Mr Phillips said. “The Head Girl is actually popular.”
“Are you trying to say we’re not, sir?” Steven asked.
“Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t you say the other day you still wear Doctor Who pyjamas?”
Steven nodded. “No, you’ve got a good point there. We’re not popular.”
“I don’t like the Head Girl.” Chris said. “It’s nothing personal, I just don’t she is in any way qualified for her role.”
“I’m glad you said,” Sophie said, “because if I did, it’d sound like I was jealous I hadn’t got that role.”
“Hahaha. You’re the Prefect for Sitting In The Library At Break Times.” Steven teased, prodding her.
“Says the Prefect for Occasionally Writing Articles For The School Magazine That No One Will Ever Bloody Read.” Sophie replied.
“Ahem. I’m just going to stay quiet.” Freya, the Deputy Head Girl, said, a mischievous grin on her face.
“With conversations as exciting as this,” Chris said, “no wonder Ali isn’t hanging out with us today.”
Children of the atom, students of Computer Science, geeks misunderstood and stereotyped by the teachers and students they have sworn to protect, these are the strangest heroes of all!
Sunday creaked on and cooled into the dark tidings of Monday. Chris found himself out of his Captain Jaffa Cake suit and instead in the maroon of his school uniform, wandering down All Saints’ Road towards the front of school. He headed up the small path, passing through the green gates and taking a left down the main corridor towards the Assembly Hall. As he did, he caught a glimpse of his hair in the window. Finally, his experimentations with hair spray had worked! His quiff was near perfect, just as wonderful and dynamic as it was when he’d eaten a Jaffa Cake.
His eyes glimpsed the smart watch he’d received for Christmas and he suddenly realised he was risking being late to Assembly. He raced forward, jogging up the corridor towards the Assembly Hall. As he did, his eyes glimpsed the black arrows covering the walls and frowned. The last time he checked, even the worst elements of the school community weren’t so stupid they needed to know how to walk up and down a corridor.
“Hey! Chris!” He turned and Freya caught up with him. “Glad I caught you; better than having to go into the hall late and alone.”
“Are you alright?” He asked. “Not like you to run late.”
“Not like you either.” She frowned for a second, realising she was having to look up at him. “Have you grown?”
“I hope not.” He replied. “My mum made me go clothes shopping on Saturday. I really don't want to go again.”
“How many Christmas jumpers did you buy?” She laughed.
They approached the doors of the Assembly Hall and found about fifty students stood outside. Mr Jensen was stood at their head, guarding the doors to the Assembly Hall. “Sir?” Chris frowned. “What’s going on? Why are we all outside?”
“Head’s instructions.” Mr Jensen shrugged. “Says he wants everyone who is even the smallest bit late kept outside.”
“Oh great.” Freya whispered. “We’re late. This is singlehandedly the worst thing to have ever happened to me.”
“And we were fighting a Beefalo yesterday.” Chris muttered.
Inside the Assembly Hall, Steven and Sophie were sat next to each other about half way into the left column of the sea of blue chairs. Ali was far off on the other side, sat next to the Head Girl and Desmond Gilliam, grandson of the School’s Founder. Steven had been ready to rant about her choice to sit with them over him when Mr Deterich, the Head of their Year Group, stepped out into the space in front of the stage.
“Matilda! Matilda!” Mr Marley cried, gaining silence. “We are ready now!”
“Good morning Year Eleven.” Mr Deterich said, running a hand through the constantly receding, greyening, thinning ginger hair that partially covered his head. “I hope you all had a relaxing weekend away from the stresses of school work. Before we begin, I just want to say that attendance to Saturday School was shockingly low this weekend. I really expected more of you to come in. Of course, interventions are put on as an optional course for you so none of you are expected to join us, however, next weekend I expect half the year group to be taking part.”
Sophie turned to Steven and raised her eyebrows.
“Now,” Mr Deterich said, “for the Assembly proper, I now want to hand over to Mrs Monty to talk about the ‘Munch Initiative.’”
“No, no!” Cried Mr Marley. “I need to talk about something very shortly first.”
He wandered over to the space Mr Deterich was stood in, just between the two columns of chairs, in front of the main stage. It was Sophie’s belief that teachers stood there rather than on the stage because they wanted to be ‘down with the kids.’ The effect was that for the shorter members of the audience, the talkers were invisible.
“After the failure of last Friday’s Attendance Scheme, I have decided to introduce a new one to replace it.” Mr Marley said. “It’s very simple. In Tutor tomorrow morning, you will be presented with a report on your attendance outlining your Attendance Target. For example, Joe Bloggs gets his report and it tells him that he has a target of missing only three sessions this term because he had good attendance last term. However, Freddy Noname had awful attendance last term so his target may be to miss thirteen sessions this term. As long as he only misses his thirteen sessions and no more, he will be rewarded with a free raffle ticket. At the end of the year, once every student in the school has three raffle tickets, will pull out a lucky winner and see if anyone manages to win an iPod Shuffle.”
An audible ‘ooh’ went up. Sophie turned to Steven and frowned. “Does that mean they’re giving us licenses to skive?”
In the audience somewhere, Freddy Noname was blushing at having his awful attendance exposed to the school.
“Thank you Mr Marley.” Mr Deterich said. “When I was your age, I skived all the time and as a result, I got a well paid and morally rewarding job as a middle manager on the forefront of defining our next generation, as well as still being able to attend both Sixth Form and University. The moral of the story: Don’t skive, kids. Right, now for Mrs Monty.”
A short woman wandered up onto the stage. She was the Assistant Principal of the School but, besides wearing a lanyard that announced as much, it was hard to say what exactly that entitled her to do.
Getting to the top of the stage, she removed a remote control from her pocket and pressed a button. From the roof, the screen began to descend. It took two minutes to unravel the whole way and, as it got to the end of those two minutes, began to unravel a little too far and pool on the floor. She flustered at the remote control, just managing to get it to rise back up into place.
For a second, the projected image was of the words ‘HDMI1 Undetected’ and then there was a flash and a picture of a dead child appeared on the screen. His head had evidently been bashed in by a large blunt instrument and he was lying on the side of a road in a pool of his own blood.
“Can anyone tell me what the cause of death for this child was?” She asked.
No reply, until a new kid on the front row raised a hand. “Was it being hit by a car?”
"Aha!" Mrs Monty cried. “That’s what you’d assume but no! Let’s see another picture.”
She clicked a button on the remote and the next slide showed an alternate angle of the kid, revealing a hand previously hidden. He was clutching a packet of crisps.
“The correct answer,” Mrs Monty said, “is obesity. This child was killed by obesity. Do you know how many children die of obesity each year in the UK?”
Rhetorical question. No answers.
“The answer is some and I find that disgusting. Do you know how much sugar there is in a bottle of Tomato Ketchup? 2800 grams! If you were to take that in granules of sugar, you’d need four Ketchup bottles to contain it all. That’s a lot of sugar. That’s diabetes in a squeezable retainer. Now, as I’m sure you all know, the Lord and Saviour Jamie Oliver has proposed a plan to avoid this.”
She clicked the remote and the next slide appeared, depicting Jamie Oliver in glowing, heavenly light. Angelic wings folded out of his back and he stood overlooking a background that looked straight from the Sound of Music.
“He suggests that we, as schools, should cut down on the amount of unhealthy food being sold in our cantines. For that reason, as of now, we are outlawing all unhealthy food in Gilliam High. Here’s a little promotional video for our Munch Prohibition.”
She clicked a button and a video began to play. It showed a packet of crisps being placed on a podium. Then, the camera man began to walk backwards, the shaking image suggesting they weren’t just zooming. Then, they stopped, showing the Caretaker now, lifting the rifle he used to shoot seagulls. Placing the butt of the rifle against his shoulder, he began to fire and the video cut to slow motion explosions as the packet of crisps was torn apart by the bullets.
The video cut now, to show chocolate bars exploding, the rugby team tackling a nervous Year Seven carrying an ice lolly, a child having his face pressed against a glass window and his bag being torn open to reveal stashes of Cheese Strings and Baby Bels. The next shot was of the dinner ladies being fired, only to be replaced by the local Olympian, grinning and throwing Apples at people. The video ended with a Jelly Baby being placed in a Bunsen Burner. As it began to scream, a caption across the bottom of the screen read, “You will sound like this Jelly Baby if you are caught with Munch in school.”
The video ended. Mrs Montgomery smiled at her audience and then said, “The teachers will be vigilant in guarding this school from the horror of Munch. Every week, the top ten teachers to have collected the most unhealthy food will be treated with cake in the staff room. We are taking this seriously, Year Eleven. We want you to too.”
She bowed her head and then wandered down the stairs. There was an awkward silence for another two minutes as the projector screen rose again.
Mr Deterich stepped back out. “Okay then. Before we dismiss you to lessons, there’s a new member of the Gilliam Family that we need to introduce you to.”
Next to Ali, Desmond Gilliam looked terrified at the prospect of a sibling. Then he realised they meant a new teacher.
“We have got a new Executive Principal to look after the school on its journey out of Special Measures and his name is… Mr Moose. Let’s give him a cheer.”
Smoke began to pour of the sides of the stage. The curtains were hauled back. Spotlights suddenly shone across the room, building up over the stage. Stepping forth, out of the gloom, into the white shine was a man who was easily seven foot tall. He wore a pair of pale blue trousers with a brown blazer jacket that was somehow three sizes too big for him. The light twinkled across his head. Stepping out, he fixed his eyes on his audience. Despite the fact he wasn’t looking at anyone in particular, everyone got the distinct feeling that he was drilling into their souls.
“Hello.” He said, his Northern accent painfully strong. “I’m Mr Moose.”
Everyone stared at him, unsure what to make.
“I just want to say a few words before we go on this journey together.” He turned around and pointed through the far wall. “Once upon a time, I had a cousin. That cousin owned a dog. That dog was called Albert. I walked Albert once. He was a lively Cocker Spaniel and no mistake. As I walked him across the gala field just outside this very room, my daily recitation of a Shakespearean sonnet was interrupted by my sudden glance of this building. I found it a shining sentinel of education, a brilliant beacon, a glowing gateway, a stepping stone to a new and exciting future. I looked at this building and I said, I do wonder what that building is. Unfortunately, in the process of my musings, Albert escaped his leash and ran into the road, where he was immediately run over by a mosher on a skateboard. I ran over and screamed at this mosher, but he simply replied, ‘I’m a mosher,’ and kept skating. I was outraged, but more disheartened by the sight of my cousin’s poor dog, dying on the road. I knelt down and realised the dog didn’t have long to live, but the time it did have would be in immense pain. So, deciding to be a Good Samaritan, I grabbed its neck and squeezed the life out of it. I became a man that day and so, I find it very important to now be stood inside this building here, ready to turn all of you boys and girls, into men.”
Silence. Complete and utter silence.
He turned back to face the audience and pointed to the far door. “Now, destiny isn’t something that can be controlled. By definition, it's a celestial force out of the reach of the human man. When destiny comes a knocking, you better be ready otherwise it won’t help you on your way. You can’t be late for destiny, just as you can’t be late for Assembly. Unlike these rapscallions. Bring ‘em in.”
The door at the far end opened and about twenty or thirty students wandered in, Freya and Chris amongst their ranks. Mr Moose, his eyes yet to blink, waved them down the centre aisle, between the columns of chairs. “Now, these young people you see now are all disgusting. Don’t you find them shameful? They have been late to your assembly and think they can just cruise in, nonchalantly. That’s a good word. Nonchalantly. Point is, actions have repercussions. That’s Physics, that is. Their action of being late has the repercussion of making them terrible people who will never achieve anything. Looking at this lot, I bet none of them have ever got anything higher than an F in any of their exams. That’s science. Now, I know that we all hate them. I hate them too. Tell them how much you hate them. Come on. Let’s shout.”
The audience turned from looking at the parade of students to instead frowning at Mr Moose. Mr Moose stepped down from the stage with no effort at all and walked forward to the first student. Reaching out one gigantic finger, he thrust it into the student’s face and said, “You are a disgrace. A complete disgrace.”
He turned to the next student. “I hate you. You have stupid hair.”
He turned to the third student. “You’re an idiot. Your mum’s an idiot. Your kids will be idiots.”
He turned to the fourth student. “The Human Race doesn’t accept you.”
He turned to the fifth student and punched her.
He turned to the sixth student. “You’re so bloody stupid you're not even wearing the right tie! I wouldn’t trust you with anything. You make me sick. How did you even get into this school?”
The sixth student stared up at him, wide eyed. “I’m the Head Boy.”
Mr Moose ignored him and turned to the seventh student, grabbing them and throwing them to the floor. “That’s where your aspirations should be, you poisonous mushroom.”
He turned to the eight student and slapped them, but then grabbed their face between his gigantic hands. “I don’t have any bread but you’re still an idiot sandwich.”
Then he turned around and looked at the eight students he’d assaulted and insulted. “Now, I could continue but I’m very conscientious that you’ve all got a first lesson to attend. As a result of that, I’m going to return to an old maxim of mine. When in doubt, do what Jesus would do. As a result of that, I’m going to forgive each and every one of these students.”
He stepped forwards and grabbed the eighth student, squeezing them against his chest in a gangly hug. “You are forgiven. You were an idiot sandwich, but now you have the chance to prove yourself again.”
He repeated this for each of the students until he returned to the stage, clambering back up onto the top and turning to his audience. “Now, I’m going to wipe the slate clean with this school. We’re going to start again. Remember, be on time otherwise destiny will not take place. Let’s work together to build a new empire of clever students. Thank you, Year Eleven. Good luck with your A-Levels.”
He gave a bow and then retreated back into the gloom.
The audience all stared at the stage for a very long time, the curtains pulling to a close as the smoke machines pumped for a little longer and then Mr Deterich stepped out.
“Let’s go be world beaters?”
Emerging from the Assembly Hall, Chris and Freya hurried over to Steven and Sophie. Ali joined them. “What the hell was that?” She asked. “He punched Katie!”
“You do know why he’s working here now, don’t you?” Steven asked. His parents were teacher so he got all the gossip.
“No.” The others frowned.
“Well, at Windgrass, his last school, he had a student who was a drug dealer. He took all the student’s drugs and disposed of them safely then went and blew up the warehouse they were getting them from with equipment he found in the science department.” Steven said. “They gave him the Best Teacher of the Year Award for it.”
“He’s a maniac!” Chris cried.
“He’s a lucky maniac. The student’s dad owned this Wholesalers. Moose can get whatever he wants, whenever he wants, free of charge!”
Ali caught sight of Mr Jensen making his way over to tell them to go their ways. “Right, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“We’re in the same lessons all day.” Freya frowned.
“Not today. You four have got trips, haven’t you?”
“Oh yeah!” Chris exclaimed. “I’d forgotten all about that.”
“What trip are we going on?" Steven frowned.
“Chris and Freya are going to the Ancient History Museum. Me and you are going with a few other prefects to visit Mr Andrews in Hospital.” Sophie said, rolling her eyes. Was she the only person who remembered anything?
“Oh great. That means the minibus.” Steven sighed, remembering the last time he’d nearly given himself a concussion in the low roofed minibus.
“Right, see you late.” Ali said and ran off.
The others made their way over to the lunch hall, where people waited to go on trips. Sophie and Steven made their way to join a few other prefects on the far side and Chris and Freya went over to where a History Teacher named Mrs Lynne was handing out small leaflets. She gave one to Freya and then checked the two of them off her register.
“I hate History.” Chris sighed. “It’s so boring. It’s literally a subject stuck in the past.”
“Wait a minute.” Freya frowned. “I don’t think you will be finding it that boring.”
“Look what the main exhibition is!”
Chris took the leaflet from her and read. A smile spread across his face. “Oh, that is interesting.”
“Isn’t it?” Freya said. “Time for us to know our enemy.”
The main exhibition was an exploration of the Legend Of The Camel God.
“Hey! Charlotte! Big D!”
Ali considered using her powers to catch up but decided not to. The last thing she wanted was for them to think she was any weirder than she obviously was.
The Big D, or Desmond as his parents called him, was an average height but incredibly thin boy with hair that definitely wasn’t ginger. Stood to this side was Charlotte Campbell, the school’s illustrious Head Girl. She turned around at Ali’s call, her recently re-dyed hair glittering in the circular sky lights carved into the roof. She seemed to sparkle as she smiled at Ali, her eyes glowed, almost radiant. She looked as if she should be headlining the Big Weekend, not walking down M-Block corridor.
“Are you alright, Ali?” Charlotte called, her teeth glinting in the light.
“Yeah, I’m good.” She said. “I was just thinking, we’re in the same lesson next so could I walk with you?”
Charlotte smiled. “I’d love that, yeah.”
They headed out of M-Block and began to cross the quad. A small Year Seven with incredible hair wandered up behind them and tapped Desmond on the shoulder. “Yes, Maximilian?” He said.
Another Year Seven sprouted from behind Maximilian, bending to allow Max onto his shoulders. The second Year Seven then stood straight, delivering Maximilian to the Big D’s ear height. He whispered something and the Big D nodded, turning back to the others. “I’ll join you in a second.”
Ali frowned as he wandered off, Year Sevens conglomerating around him. “Where’s he going?”
“Oh, you know Desmond.” Charlotte said. “Just his prefect duties; dealing with Year Sevens.”
Ali nodded, before realisation suddenly caused a frown to furrow her brow. “How come you’re not doing your prefect duties? Going to see Mr Andrews, I mean.”
“Oh. Well, that’s the thing about being Head Girl, isn’t it? You don’t have actually to do anything. You just delegate. Plus, why would I want to spend my Monday morning in a hospital? Smelling of wee and old people.”
“Not anymore.” Julie said, wandering over to join them. “They’ll get an extra three hundred and fifty million pounds a week now so I’m sure the wards will glimmer.”
“You’ll have to excuse Julie here.” Charlotte said. “She’s a big Brexiteer.”
“Even before the referendum.” Julie said.
“Really?” Ali raised an eyebrow.
Julie nodded. “Ever since my mum decided to leave this wealthy business man she was dating.”
“Work out well for her?”
“No.” Julie replied. “We now live in destitute poverty but it was the principle of the matter. Anyway, I need to be going to my Business lesson so I’ll catch you later. Bye guys.”
She wandered off and disappeared into L-Block. Charlotte sighed. “Alone at last.”
Ali nodded. “I just wanted to say thanks for having me around yesterday. It was so much fun.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it.” Charlotte said. “I just apologise for the mess that is my bedroom.”
“You have a lovely bedroom. 10 out of 10, would bedroom again.” Ali blushed a little. “That was embarrassing.”
“No, it was geeky.” Charlotte smiled. “Geeky and cute. I just wish I could find as many positive words for my bedroom. The acoustics are awful!”
“Maybe not for talking but for recording they are. I had to record a song in the bathroom the other day, as a result!”
“Oh, is that the one you put on Twitter? You sent it to all those models. And all those studios. And all those singers. And you put it in both group chats. And started a Twitter Moment of the replies you got.”
“Yes, well, if I don’t believe in myself, who will? Just a humble girl trying to make her dreams come true.” Charlotte replied, shifting the handle of her designer handbag up her arm. “Anyway, what about you? What do you want to do when you grow up?”
“Oh, I’m thinking of being a forensic scientist.” Ali replied. “Hey, I could post pictures of corpses I’m investigating and send them to different police departments!”
“How… delightful.” Charlotte said.
The Big D wandered over, devoid of Year Sevens now, as they hurried along the corridor to their Maths classroom. “Sorry about that. Duty calls.”
Ali looked in his direction. He looked a little sweaty, as if he’d had to do some heavy lifting, and his uniform was a bit dusty. Didn’t the cleaners at Gilliam High do anything all day? Far behind him, a few Year Sevens were munching on crisps, despite Mrs Monty’s instructions.
“Ah, what time do you call this?” Mr Fernando asked, stood in the door of their Maths classroom. Ever since Mr Jordan had become a rampaging maniac, Mr Fernando had taught them instead. He was currently wearing glasses, as he did all days but Wednesday when he wore contact lenses. This, in his own words, was because he was a cheap skate and he was going to get his money’s worth of something he had to wear on a Wednesday night for football.
“Sorry sir.” Charlotte smiled, her Head Girl badge glinting as they wandered past into the classroom. They all took their seats and watched as he closed the door and stepped over to the board.
“Yet again, Mr Jordan hasn’t set you any work to do.” Mr Fernando sighed.
Ellie Wright’s hand shot up. “That’s because he’s in a high security prison.”
“Yes, thank you Ellie.” Mr Fernando replied. “Now-“
“Oh my god, sir!” Ellie cried, her eyes lighting with rage. “Why are you pecking? All I did was solve your problem and you’re already having a go at me. Oh my. I’m not doing any work now.”
She leant back in her chair and pulled her iPad out of her bag.
Mr Fernando did nothing and instead said, “Everybody revise Loci. It’s definitely going to come up on the exam.”
The students sighed and pulled their textbooks out. As they did this, Charlotte turned to Ali and said, “Hey, I meant to mention it earlier but forgot. We’re all thinking of going around to my house again tomorrow night. Want to join us?”
“Yeah!” Ali grinned. “I’d love to.”
“You two!” Mr Fernando called. “You were late and now you’re talking in my lessons. Detention.”
The door creaked open. The sound of size seventeen feet patted against the floor. The doorframe cracked as a bald head broke through it. Mr Moose had entered the room.
“That was a harsh judgement, don’t you think, er, er,” the Big Man paused as he struggled to recall the teacher’s name.
Mr Moose raised a solitary finger in an effort to silence him. He then strode across the room, picked the lanyard from Mr Fernando’s chest, nearly strangling him in the process, and read the name that it display there. “Ah. Fernando.”
He returned to where he’d been stood, in the ruins of the door frame.
“That was a harsh judgement, don’t you think, Mr Fernando?” Mr Moose said. “A very harsh judgement.”
“Well, they have blatantly broken the rules twi-“
“Don’t talk when a teacher is talking, Fernando.” Mr Moose said. “Wait your turn. There’s a good boy. Now, let’s see. You’re quite clearly a football fan, Mr Fernando. Don’t worry; I am not a deductive genius but instead noticed the Arsenal stickers placed childishly across the front wall. Here is my offer to you: I will give you a season ticket if you drop your harsh punishment of these students.”
“Well, sir, those aren’t my stick-“
“May I reminder you that I’m the Executing Principal, sorry, Executive Principal of this school and that I will throw in your continued employment alongside the season ticket. It is an offer you cannot refuse, Mr Fernando.”
Mr Fernando nodded and bowed his head. “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“Correct answer.” Mr Moose smiled. Ali frowned. He hadn’t blinked once in the entire time he’d been in the room.
He now turned to the Big D. “Desmond, I require your presence. There are… matters to attend to.”
“Yes, sir.” Desmond said, standing and saluting.
“No need to salute. I am a teacher, a leader, an educational evangelist, a lover and an inspirer but I am not a soldier. Outside now.”
Desmond hurried out of the room. Moose went to close the door when he caught glimpse of Ellie on her iPad. “And you, Miss Female Student? What are you doing?”
“Aww, sir, why you peck-“ She looked into his eyes and silenced.
Mr Moose reached out his hand. “Give me your tablet computer.”
She handed it over.
He looked it up and down. “Do you want to hear a quote from Steve Jobs? Here it is: ‘Hey, Steve, I like your computer.’ You’re probably thinking, but why is Steve Jobs talking to himself? Surely that’s the first sign of madness? The answer, of course, is that he was talking to Steve Wozniak.” Mr Moose wagged his finger at the class. “Never assume madness. There may be some logic to it. That’s Shakespeare, that is.”
He turned on his heel and began to march out of the room, taking the iPad with him. The door swung shut, cutting off his musings on some sort of badge system to make identification easier.
“I don’t think he blinked once.” Charlotte said. “He could kill a Weeping Angel.”
“You watch Doctor Who?” Ali replied.
“Yeah, but don’t tell anyone.” Charlotte smiled.
Ali gave a contented sigh. Funny, good looking and a geek. And, all the better, Charlotte was a girl to boot. Ali gave another contented sigh, her eyes dreamy.
“Oh, she’s awful! She’s just absolutely terrible. God. I hate her. How did she even get the job? Should’ve been Freya.” The Head Boy rolled his eyes. “God. She’s just useless. Do you know how many Prefect meetings there have been since the beginning of the year?”
“We’re the only people who go to them, Gordon.” Sophie replied. “There’s one every other week.”
“Exactly.” He said. “Know how many- you’ve already answered question. Point is, she never bloody turns up! She’s in all the photos though. Takes all the perks but none of the downsides.”
“What are the downsides?” Steven frowned.
“Having to work with Mr Deterich.” The Head Boy laughed. “Not that I’m complaining about her never turning up, though. I mean, she came that time last month, you know when Mrs Monty asked to attend, and now thanks to Charlotte’s wonderful healthy eating concerns, we’ve got the Munch Policy!”
The minibus cycled over a pot hole, bouncing and sending Steven’s head smashing into the ceiling. He cursed under his breath.
“You need to shrink, you silly mush.” Sophie laughed, reaching up to rub his head.
“No, the bloody manufacturer’s just need to design things with average sized people in mind.”
“Steven, you’re six foot six.” Sophie said. “There are dwarves with more claim to ‘average sized people’ than you.”
Gordon, who was leaning over the seat in front of them, laughed. “You two make such a cute couple.”
Before Steven could even open his mouth, Sophie said, “Oh, no, we’re not going out. We’re just friends.”
“Yeah.” Steven said, resisting the temptation to sigh. “Just friends.”
“Ah.” Gordon said, catching the slight disheartening of Steven’s face. “My apologies.”
“Oh, don’t worry.” Sophie said, smiling. “Lots of people make that mistake, actually.”
“Yeah.” Steven sighed. “They do.”
“So!” Gordon cried, moving on very quickly. “Mr Andrews, hey? It’s so sad.”
“It is,” Sophie nodded, “He’s my favourite Physics teacher. Forget that. He’s my favourite teacher.”
“Mine too.” Gordon said. “He just managed to edge between severe and funny. Plus, he was really good at explaining stuff.”
“I remember I didn’t understand the Doppler Effect and then he came over to explain it to me and I got it in one.” Steven nodded. “He was fantastic. Hey, Gordon, I don’t suppose he ever did the thing in your class, did he?”
“You know, the old, arms out, like a crucifix.”
“Oh!” Gordon cried, nodding. “Yeah, he did! In our population, we call it the Andy Christ.”
Steven laughed. “Oh, whoever came up with that is a complete genius.”
Gordon beamed. “Well, I don’t want to brag but I’m afraid it was me.”
“You know, I think I like Gordon more and more every time we talk to him.” Steven said.
“Thanks Steven.” Gordon smiled. “If you ever want to join me on the roof, you’re more than welcome.”
“I bet that’s what he says to all the boys.” Sophie said.
Gordon blushed momentarily. “It gets so lonely up there but Mr King insists. Reckons the old Gilliam Flashlight needs to be fixed one day, and seeing that I said I’d worked in an Electrician’s Shop on my application, he thinks I’m the one to finally do it.”
“Did you work in an Electrician’s Shop?” Steven frowned.
“No, but my dad owns one so he said he’d lie for me if required.” Gordon grinned.
“That’s a bright idea.” Sophie laughed, and the other two groaned at her pun.
As that happened, the minibus pulled to a stop in the car park of the hospital. Whilst Mr Jensen, who was driving it, grumbled about the price of the tickets, the Prefects clambered off and headed up the steps to the ward where Mr Andrews was still in a coma.
Elsewhere, at the Museum of Ancient History, Mrs Lynne had a group of students gathered around her. “You’ve got free reign of the museum for the next two hours. Then, we’ll meet in the cafe for lunch before our Spartan Workshop in the afternoon. Have a nice time everyone.”
Freya and Steven headed off up a set of butterfly stairs, past a statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head a loft. They wandered down a few corridors, past glass cases full of rusted swords and shields, and then turned right to a pair of large, open, wooden doors.
Stepping through, they found themselves in a huge hall. Various artefacts, including a book with a rather crude illustration of a camel on its open page, were displayed in glass cases around the room and that very illustration was reproduced on large banners hanging from the ceilings.
The centre piece of the room, and their attention, however was a large sandstone obelisk emerging from some form of sacrificial crypt, carvings of camels and various hieroglyphs drawn into the various surfaces throughout.
“Wow.” Freya whispered. “That looks like it’s straight out of the second season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures.”
“I’m going to pretend to get that reference.” Chris replied.
A woman with bobbed grey hair wandered over to them, a notebook in her hand that had so many slips of paper and Post It Notes emerging from it that it could have been one of Freya’s textbooks. “Hello there. Can I help-“
She paused. Chris frowned. “Are you okay, miss?”
“You’re… you’re from Gilliam High.”
Freya nodded. “School trip. Me and Steven here are doing a project on the Camel God. Could you help us out?”
“I’m so sorry,” she said, shaking her head and seeming to pull herself together, “I just… my son went to Gilliam High when he was younger. He recently returned actually but, well, he didn’t come back out.”
Chris frowned. “I’m sorry?”
“He was a Physicist. A very good Physicist, actually. He was doing a lecture and an experiment went wrong. He died in the blast.”
“Your son was Doctor Richard Palmer?” Chris said.
“Yes.” She said, frowning. “Did you know him?”
“I was in the lecture. He was a very good, well, lecturer.”
“Thank you, er, what did you say your name was?”
“He’s Steven, I’m Sophie.” Freya said, kicking Chris as he began to frown at her.
“Thank you Steven.” She smiled. “Come, let’s be quick. My husband should be around somewhere and, well, he’s a lot more vocal in his emotion. How can I help you?”
“We just wanted to know about the Camel God, Mrs Palmer.”
“Doctor.” She said. “Doctor Palmer.”
“Like your son?”
She nodded. “And my husband. A family of Doctor Palmers. Makes the post very exciting.”
Chris smiled. “So, what can you tell us about the Camel God?”
“What can’t I? Myself and my husband are this particular branch of Egyptology’s leading experts.” She said. “We led the archaeological dig of the vast majority of the artefacts in this room, including the construct you see straight in front of you.”
“What is it?”
“We’re not entirely certain but from the hieroglyphs we can decipher, we seem to think it was some sort of worship spot, used to celebrate the Camel God in return for all sorts of boons.”
“Boons?” Chris frowned.
“Boons.” She said. “As in gifts. Miraculous endowments of certain abilities or powers. A key factor of the Camel God’s mythology is that he endows those around him with abilities far beyond their limited comprehension.”
“What kind of abilities?” Freya asked.
“Well, all sorts. There are a set of scrolls in the far corner, known as the Clifton Set, that document the vast majority of the Camel God legendarium. In them, they feature almost demi-godlike beings given boons varying from Herculean strength to reality changing control to even such minimal abilities as improved intelligence. It makes fun reading. The Egyptians certainly had imaginations.”
“They did.” Freya nodded. “I was really interested in them when I was little but I’ve never heard of the Camel God before.”
“Well, that’ll be because of his banishment.”
“Banishment?” Chris frowned.
“Yes. As Norse Mythology has its Ragnarök and Christianity its Apocalypse, the legend of the Camel God concludes with banishment to- oh, dear Gods, here comes my husband. You better scoot along, children. From his face, I can tell he’s seen some of your classmates. Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.”
With that, she rushed over to where an elderly man, with startling white hair, was beginning to blubber. Freya rolled her eyes at Chris and began to walk.
“Why did you give her the wrong names?” He whispered to her.
“Because there are too many coincidences in the air for any of this to be innocent.” Freya replied, suspiciously glancing around. “Come on, let’s go find Mrs Lynne.”
At the hospital, Gordon and a prefect with big hair and bigger teeth emerged from the ward and nodded Steven and Sophie in. They wandered into the room and over to the only occupied bed, holding Mr Andrews. His face was covered with the beginnings of a coarse stubble and his eyes were permanently closed. He wore a hospital gown and lay there, asleep, unwaking. There were no flowers or cards on the table at the end of his bed, except for one, as signed by the Prefect team.
Sophie and Steven sunk into their chairs, ready to begin the ten minute shift that Mr King had asked them to perform. Sophie reached out a hand and squeezed Mr Andrews, lying still on the bed with one finger being held by a pulse monitor.
After a few minutes, she began to sob. Steven decided that he didn’t quite know what to do. Normally, he was the one crying at nothing in particular. Frowning, he reached out and put his arm around her. “Hey, it’s okay.” He said, worried that he sounded like he was petting a hedgehog. “Just let it out. Let it out, Sophie.”
“He’s my favourite teacher.” She said, turning to him. Not entirely sure what he was doing, he reached an arm out and put it around her shoulder, pulling her in for a hug. “Don’t you worry, you silly thing.” He whispered. “He’ll be alright soon.”
“I hope so.” She said. “I love him so much.”
Steven hugged her, staring at the comatose teacher. Lucky sod.
Tuesday. Lunch time rolled on. The Upper School Dining Hall exploded into its usual lunch time commotion. Year Sevens mingled amongst the Year Elevens, bustling and shoving, pushing their way down the queue until they reached the veritable cornucopia of exciting food stuffs and- oh. Instead of baskets of crisps and trays of muffins, there was instead crime scene tape crisscrossing the shelves and large signs showing Mrs Monty carrying a machine gun under the angelic glow of Jamie Oliver.
An audible sigh arose from the kitchen and groups of students walked away, preferring to starve than eat healthily. As they walked, the Big D bumped into a couple of them, patting them on the shoulders and winking in all the right places.
Far away from this commotion, Steven, Sophie, Freya and Chris were sat eating their packed lunches. Steven had resorted to making crisps sandwiches at home so that his unhealthy food was hidden, whilst Sophie had printed out a fake wrapper for her KitKat that made it look like a nutribar. Freya and Chris just ate healthily.
“So, let me get this right,” Steven said, halfway through a Ham and Prawn Cocktail sandwich, “you were so worried for your safety you gave them fake identities?”
“Yes.” Freya said.
“But the identities you gave them were our identities?”
“So, you gave the scary, dangerous people our identities?”
Freya nodded. “I see where you’re going with this but, I just want to say, it’s totally unfounded.”
“I would have said I was Ellie Wright.” Sophie shrugged. “So, anyway, what were you saying about the Camel God?”
“They reckon he could give boons to people.” Chris said.
“He? Why’s he a he? Can’t they be gender fluid, androgynous or even just ambiguous?”
“Or, you know, female?” Steven added.
“I’m just going off what they said.” Chris shrugged. “Point is, they reckoned the God could give boons.”
“Boons.” Steven grinned. “Now that’s a Dungeons and Dragons word if ever I heard one.”
“What sort of boons?" Sophie asked.
“All sorts. Herculean strength, like Captain Jaffa Cake has, reality changing control, like the Summoner, Lucky Cat and Tempus have.” Freya explained.
“And she said improved intelligence.” Chris added. “Carpenter and Jordan must have had improved intelligence to build all their gadgets.”
“So we’re saying that we got our powers from an Egyptian God rather than a radioactive explosion?” Sophie asked.
Steven squealed. “I love our lives.”
“There’s just something odd." Chris said. “Apart from the Egyptian God and superheroic boons, obviously. Doctor Palmer, the lady Doctor Palmer, she said that the Camel God was banished.”
“We didn’t manage to find out, so I googled it and there was nothing. Nothing on the entire internet. Like the Camel God doesn’t exist.”
“We need to get into the museum.” Sophie said. “Shouldn’t be too hard, should it?”
“Not to a group of people with our gifts.” Chris said. "But it’d be easier still if we had Ali with us.”
Steven frowned. “Where is Ali?”
“Over in the hall with the Head Girl and the Big D.” Sophie sighed. “I can’t believe she’d abandon us like this.”
“I can kind of understand it.” Freya said, risking angered glances from her friends. “What?” She pointed to Steven and Sophie. “You two have each other, me and Chris train together and she’s, as much as I love her, she’s kind of the odd one out. Or, at least she would have a right to feel that way.”
“But I miss her.” Steven said. “We spent like twelve years together!”
“How much of that time did you spend arguing?” Sophie asked.
“Very good point.” Steven said and promptly shut up.
Mr Jensen wandered past, using Mr Marley’s catchphrase as his own. “Litter, litter, litter! Any more litter?”
Chris reached out to where the Behaviour Manager was holding two rubbish bags, one black, the other red. He looked at the apple core Chris was holding and shook the black bag. “This one here please, Christopher.”
Chris placed the apple core in it. “What’s in the other?”
“Unhealthy food.” Mr Jensen replied. “Not that any Jaffa Cakes would end up there, hey Sophie?”
Sophie sighed. “I’ll get detention if I bring you biscuits, sir!”
“Not from me, you wouldn’t.” He grinned and shook the red bag. “If it wasn’t for the promise of cake for the people who collect the most unhealthy food, I think I’d be eating most of the stuff in here myself.”
“Confiscate much, sir?” Steven added, nodding towards the bag.
“Oh yeah!” Mr Jensen said and opened the bag, tilting it to show them. Inside the bag, there were piles of forbidden biscuits, packets of crisps, chocolate bars- even a full jar of midget gems. “Loads of the stuff. I don’t know where the kids get it from; we’ve never sold any of this.”
“Probably bring it in from home.” Freya said.
“They don’t.” Mr Jensen said. “Myself and Mr Deterich were searching bags this morning on the way in. This Year Seven came in, empty bag except for his RE book. I caught him at the beginning of lunch with four bottles of Coca Cola, the two litre ones and all, as well as a massive tin of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. I said to him, I said, ‘Cameron! What do you think you’re doing?’”
“And what did he say?”
“Nothing.” Mr Jensen sighed. “His mouth was full of Pringles.”
A Year Eight wandered past, one hand deep in a packet of Doritos. Mr Jensen rolled his eyes and raced after them, his two bags swinging as he moved.
“I'm having to hide my Jaffa Cakes.” Chris sighed, returning his lunch box to his bag. “They’re in the bottom pocket of my bag and I keep accidentally crushing them. Do you think they’ll work the same if they’re broken?”
“You’ll end up with a torn cloak.” Steven laughed and then sighed. “I'm sorry but Ali’s really bothering me. Do you reckon I could go talk to her?”
Freya shook her head. “You’re best off letting her come to you. Then at least you know she wants to talk.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Steven sighed. “Still, if I see her later, can I invite her on our mission?”
“Yeah.” Freya nodded. “Sounds like a good idea.”
“Good.” Chris said. “Now, let’s work out how we can break into that museum.”
In the hall, meanwhile, Ali was collecting a plastic knife and fork from a tray by the stage. She stared up, towards the curtains where Mr Moose had emerged. That had been so strange, but perhaps not as strange as the sight she was seeing now. A pair of Year Sevens marched across the back of the stage and disappeared down the steps to the large room underneath. She’d never been down but Chris and Steven had taken some paper from their tutor group to the incinerator down there a few years back and they’d told her all about it. Apparently the room was cavernous and exceptionally cold, except for the ragged heat of the incinerator. It had, however, been the description of the immense layers of dust down there which had really put her off visiting; Asthma was worse than any super villain.
Having collected her cutlery, she began to make her way over towards the table where Charlotte, Julie and Desmond were sat. To the side of Desmond’s chair, Maximilian was positioned with their bags in his hands.
“What do you mean he’s taken the keys?” Charlotte hissed at Desmond.
“He saw me around the back, asked me what I was doing. I just told him that I was locking up for a caretaker. He said that was fine but that he’d need the keys. What was I meant to do?”
“You should have hidden the bloody keys! Or been more careful!”
“More careful? That’s what got us into this bloody mess.” Desmond sighed. “If you'd let me trust the Sevens with the keys, I wouldn’t have been there.”
“No, a Year Seven would have been and they’re even more useless than you.”
“But much smaller so he probably wouldn’t have noticed!”
“I hate Mr King so much.” Charlotte sighed. “Always getting in the way.”
“The man is bad but his namesake is good.” Julie said. “Sovereignty is a very important aspect of our society; it would be improper to lose it. Plus, all democracies are fundamentally flawed.”
“I’m sorry Mein Kampf,” Desmond interjected, “I didn’t realise we were in the middle of a bloody political broadcast. What are we going to do, Charlotte?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I don’t know. Let me think about it.”
At that moment, she caught a glimpse of Ali approaching and smiled, “Oh! Hi Ali! Want to come sit down? There’s a seat here, right next to me.”
Ali smiled and sunk into the chair. “Thanks, Charlotte. Everything okay, Big D?”
“Yes.” He said. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“You just don’t look your usual chipper self.”
“She’s right.” Julie said. “You look as if you’ve just learnt the EU force energy saving light bulbs on us.”
“It’s nothing.” He said. “Just Additional Maths getting me down.”
“Oh, that reminds me, what did Mr Moose want with you yesterday?” Ali asked.
“What’s with the interrogation, Ali? This is the Assembly Hall, not Guantanamo Bay.” He sighed and pulled his phone out of his pocket, leaning into his chair. To his side, Max stood, still, unmoving.
“Ignore him.” Charlotte said. “So, still alright to come round tonight?”
“Yeah, I'd love to if that’d be okay.” Ali smiled.
“It’d be just perfect.” Charlotte replied. Her phone buzzed in her blazer so she pulled it out and opened Twitter. Scrolling through her Direct Messages, all but four of the options one sided conversations with Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik, as well as the entire cast of Love Island, and reached the box at the top. Dessy Gil, @Th3_B1g_D. She clicked on the unread message and scanned it. She turned to Desmond, just across the table from her, and gave a covert nod.
He was right. Ali was the perfect solution to their little problem.
Mama Mia. Here we go again. My my. Isn’t this an excruciatingly bad musical.
Ali wasn't a massive fan of musicals. They weren’t really her kind of thing, but she’d been to see the school production of Hairspray and her mum had dragged into the living room when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had been on. She hadn’t particularly enjoyed either of those experience but compared to the Abba inspired monstrosity she was watching now, she would take Dick Van Dyke and his hideous accent any day.
“What’s the matter, Ali?” Charlotte asked, noticing the dismay across her face. “Don’t like musicals?”
“It’s not that… it’s just that I’m more a Bee Gees girl myself.” She said.
On the floor, Julie looked up and said, “I totally agree. The Bee Gees are a good British band. Abba are immigrants.”
Desmond came in from the garden. “Sorry about that guys. Just, had business to attend to.”
“What business?” Ali cried. “You’re always disappearing like that but I still don’t understand what you’re doing.”
“I’m just dealing with important matters.” He said. “Needed to talk to a few Year Sevens.”
“There are Year Sevens in Charlotte’s garden?” Ali frowned.
“They’re small enough to fit through the holes between fence panels.” Julie shrugged.
“Anyway!” Charlotte cried. “I’ll go put tea in, yeah? Everyone okay for pizzas?”
“I’ll give you a hand.” Julie said, standing up and shuffling after her.
Desmond frowned at them for a moment and then turned to Ali. “Want a drink?”
“Coke would be nice.”
“Oh, I have plenty of that.” Desmond laughed and disappeared into the kitchen.
That left Ali alone in the front room. She stood up and wandered over towards the pictures on the mantlepiece. Most of them depicted Charlotte at various concerts, one of her at a Christian festival, but there were a couple others of people Ali vaguely recognised as Charlotte's parents. One showed the mother with a guitar stood outside the Cavern Club, perhaps because she was never invited to play inside. The other showed the father with a small dog, a Cocker Spaniel if her memory served.
“That’s Alby.” Charlotte smiled, wandering over. “My dad’s dog when he was little.”
“Cute.” Ali said.
“Yeah.” Charlotte said. “He always looks that way in the pictures. Anyway, here’s your drink.”
Ali took the Coke and smiled, taking a sip. “So, Charlotte, done any more songs lately?”
“I’ve been working on one recently.” Charlotte said. “I’m not sure how it sounds though.”
“Kiss Me.” Charlotte replied, her face glowing in the late evening light. Considering how close the two of them were, Ali was surprised she couldn’t feel the glow on her skin. They stared into each others’ eyes for a minute, locked together, Ali almost entranced, feeling like she was falling and tumbling deep into Charlotte’s soul…
“You know, by Ed Sheeran.” Charlotte added and broke Ali from the trance.
Ali found herself, for the first time, thanking the Gods she wasn’t more impulsive. “That’s, yeah, that’s a good song.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot easier if you have someone to sing it about. Actually, recently, I've been singing it a lot better than I used to.”
“I’d love to hear it.” Ali said.
“I’d love for you to hear it, but unfortunately not.” Charlotte said. “Mr King confiscated my guitar the other day.”
“No! That’s awful. Why’d he do that?”
“Well, I was in a Science lesson so I probably shouldn’t have been playing it.” She laughed. “I know where it is; in one of the music rooms. I just need keys to get in.”
“Can’t you ask Mrs Jones? She’ll let you in, won’t she?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I asked her but she said she’s got to do as the Assistant Principal says. If I could get keys, though, I’d be able to get in.”
“Where are the keys?” Ali asked.
“Last I saw them, they were on Mr King’s desk. He’ll probably give them to the Caretakers in the morning.”
“Then we’ll have to steal them tonight.” Ali grinned.
Charlotte’s mouth hung open. “We can’t break into the school!”
“We wouldn’t be; I know a secret way in, and I’ll go alone so that I have less chance of being caught.”
“Okay, but make me a promise.” Charlotte said.
“Actually, two promises. First that you’ll only get the keys. There’ll be loads of guitars in the music rooms and if you spend time looking through them, you’ll be more likely to get caught. I can sneak in early tomorrow and get it then.”
Ali nodded. “And the second promise?”
“That’ll you let me take you for a milkshake to say thank you?”
Ali smiled. “I’d like that. A lot. Right, back in five minutes. Save me some pizza.”
Charlotte saw her out. As Ali was beginning to step out of the door, Charlotte tapped her on the shoulder and bent over. “Here’s something to keep you going.”
She kissed her on the cheek and then closed the door.
Ali wandered until she was out of sight and then punched the air several times. A massive grin plastered across her face, she exploded into a purple haze and disappeared.
“Urgh.” Charlotte said, wiping her lips and stepped over to the cupboard under the stairs. She opened it and picked up her guitar, from over the slumped bodies of her parents. Then she walked back into the front room where Julie and Desmond were waiting, a group of Year Sevens laying the table.
She sat down and began to strum, not forming any particular song but just making a nice acoustic noise.
“Everything go to plan?” Desmond asked.
Charlotte smiled. “Like a charm.”
The Museum of Ancient History. A shadow seemed to pass over its walls, merging into the growing darkness of the summer night. Then, all of a sudden, there was a flare of orange and Captain Jaffa Cake landed with a roll, bouncing to his feet and slinging a Jaffa Cake into the security camera overlooking the space where his friends were about to emerge.
The Jaffaery goodness obscuring the camera’s view, Lucky Cat, Tempus and the Summoner hurried around the corner to join him. Lucky Cat waved her hand over the door and changed the probability of a visitor today accidentally dropping a wine gum, which a cleaner had accidentally swept into the small hole where the bolt at the bottom of the door slid into. As a result, the bolt wasn’t shut and the door swung straight open.
They stepped into the Celtic Hall. Tempus waved her hand through the air and slowed down time. “The guards should be frozen in whatever room they’re in.”
“Good.” The Summoner said. His hand flared and a set of blue prints appeared. Beginning to unravel the scroll, he revealed a detailed map of the museum. “We’re here and the Palmers’ Office is… here. Come on.”
They hurried out of the room and down a few corridors until the entrance to the Camel God hall roared up on their right. Captain Jaffa Cake pushed the door open and they wandered through, into the large room, heading around the side of the sacrificial temple and over to a pair of wooden doors in the far corner.
Captain Jaffa Cake gave it a push and sighed. It wouldn’t budge. To the side, there was a keypad. He turned to Lucky Cat. “Reckon you could increase the probability of me tapping the right buttons?”
Lucky Cat pointed to the screen at the top, which displayed the need four buttons to be pressed. Observing the nine keys, she said, “Captain, there are four hundred and ninety five different possibilities. I don’t think I have that much power.”
The Summoner raised a finger to his ear and said, “Reiteration Man, can you hear us?”
Sat in the Cairns Cave, Reiteration Man was leant back in a chair behind B.E.S.S.I.E., watching them on a screen whilst he ate a bowl of granola. “I’m not entirely sure if I approve of this, you know.”
“Please, sir.” The Summoner said. “We need to know our enemy.”
Reiteration Man sighed and leant forward, clicking a few keys at his desk. Then he hit enter. In the museum, the little bulb on the keypad lit green and the door swung open.
“Thanks, sir.” The Summoner said and the Gang wandered into the study.
It was a small room, big enough from for two desks and a sofa’s length between the two. A window overlooked the museum’s forecourt but they weren’t there for sight seeing. Instead, they set their attentions on the desks and the book shelves.
Books seemed to line the room, every bit of the four walls containing them apart from where the door and window were placed. The Summoner, who was a slave for a book obsessed website, grinned and ran over, beginning to prowl through the books for anything of interesting.
Captain Jaffa Cake wandered over to the computer on one of the Doctors’ desks and raised a finger to his ear. “If you wouldn’t mind helping me, sir. I haven’t quite got to the part of my EPQ dealing with hacking computers.”
On the other end of the line, Reiteration Man sighed. Then the computer in front of the Captain became unlocked.
“Thank you.” He said and began to search the files.
Behind him, Lucky Cat changed the probability of research being left out and several books opened on each desk. She wandered over but the vast majority of them was on the sacrificial temple, not on anything to do with being trapped.
Tempus sat down at the other Doctors’ desk and looked at the various photographs. They depicted their son beginning to grow up, from a baby to the man who’d perished in the radioactive explosion at Gilliam High. She frowned. There was something wrong with the pictures. She strained her eyes and realised. In the three photos depicting him under the age of about eleven or twelve, he wasn’t wearing the amulet he wore obsessively in all the other pictures. Although the pictures weren’t of the highest quality, they seemed to show the amulet as being green with black stripes spiralling out from the centre. There was something strangely hypnotic about it.
Raising a finger to her ear, she said, “Reiteration Man, can you do me a favour?”
“What is it?”
“I’ve got a hunch. Did Richard Palmer have any time off school when he was at Gilliam High?”
Reiteration Man opened up the school records, clicked on P and then set the search parameters to male ex-students in the correct time setting. Only about five options came up. He cycled through them and nodded. “Tempus, Doctor Palmer had a whole term off in his first year but the school allowed it because his parents insisted on his education being maintained whilst he was away.”
“Where did he go?”
“Give me a second.” He clicked the relevant box but made sure to give a spare keyboard a loud tap to ensure Freya thought he was doing something hackery. “Here we go. Went to Egypt with his parents for an archaeological dig.”
“Thanks sir." She said and turned to the others. “I think Richard Palmer started wearing an ancient artefact from the age of twelve.”
“What kind of artefact?” Captain Jaffa Cake asked.
“An amulet.” She replied. “Taken from the dig site where they unearthed the sacrificial temple.”
Captain Jaffa Cake typed ‘amulet’ into the search bar of the computer and nodded. “Well, would you look at that?”
“The legend of the Camel God involves his banishment to an Alternate Realm.” Lucky Cat read over his shoulder. “And his physical remains were incinerated before being placed in an amulet.”
“I bet it was the amulet Palmer had.” The Summoner said. “If he was wearing it on the day of the explosion…”
“These pictures seem to suggest he wore it every day for over ten years so I wouldn’t be surprised.” Tempus interjected.
“If that amulet was hit by a radioactive blast, would that be enough to weaken the banishment? Allow the Camel God to return?”
“According to this legend,” Captain Jaffa Cake said, “his return would result in cosmic apocalypse.”
“But first it would be heralded by four messengers.” Lucky Cat read. “Four disciples of the Camel God.”
“Dreamweaver for one.” Tempus said, raising her fingers to count. “The Antithetic and the Calculator? Who’s the fourth?”
“The Beefalo.” The Summoner suggested.
“No.” Captain Jaffa Cake said, shaking his head. “She wasn’t trying to achieve anything greater than avenging fallen animals. There must be someone else.”
“Mr Moose.” Lucky Cat laughed. “His power is that he doesn’t need to blink.”
There was the sound of footsteps padding against the floor. Tempus cursed and froze the Camel God hall. She must have let her concentration slip. “We need to get out.”
Lucky Cat nodded and ran over to the window, pulling it open and looking down. There was maybe a thirty foot drop. “Steven, reckon you could summon a bouncy castle?”
“I can summon lots of pillows.” The Summoner said, shrugging and raising his hand. About a hundred pillows exploded into existence across the concrete forecourt. Lucky Cat climbed up to the window and changed the probability of her successfully hitting the pillows. Her scarves flew up behind her as she did, until she hit the pillows with a roll and leapt back to her feet. Tempus was next, slowing time as she fell so that she was able to touch the ground with infinite grace. Then the Summoner followed, his huge red cape flaring up behind him. He hit the pillows with a bump and leapt up, his cape spiralling out and hitting Lucky Cat.
“Thanks Steven.” She sighed.
Captain Jaffa Cake stood to the window sill and picked his shield from his arm, throwing it down so that the chocolate top hit the floor. Then, he leapt from the sill and flew, orange cape lifting up behind him. His feet planted themselves in the cake, Jaffaery goodness exploding in all directions but absorbing the impact of his fall.
“Let’s get going.” He said, a new Jaffa Cake forming on his arm. “We need to establish who this fourth messenger is.”
“And we need to tell Ali.” Steven said.
Ali was creeping through the Cairns Cave. The stone piles that leant their base its name were scattered throughout the tunnels and, as of yet, she wasn’t entirely sure why. She decided that she’d ask Mr Phillips to install some cameras and get to the bottom of it once and for all.
Ahead of her, there appeared to be lights on. She cursed under breath and slowed down, taking more care now not to alert anyone to her presence. She crept forward slower and quieter, peering towards the amber glow of the main room.
Approaching the wooden frame that held up the doorway of the tunnel, she saw the cave’s only occupant. Mr Phillips himself, sat at Bessie watching something in the black and white of security footage.
She took a deep breath and then willed herself to speed. Her whole body rippled and any observers would have sworn she exploded into a haze. To her, however, it just appeared like everything around began to move a lot slower. The Laws of Physics were the same in all reference points; that was special relativity for you.
She hurried across the central cave, towards the stairs she knew led out to the staff room entrance. Her presence went mostly unnoticed, except for a selection of past papers on the coffee table that ruffled as she burst past them. Luckily, she was out of there and up the stairs before Mr Phillips could react.
Emerging in the staff room, Ali turned off her powers and hurried over to the door. She pushed it slowly open. On the other side, something moved.
She shrunk back into the wall and held herself very still, becoming suddenly aware of how loud her heart was thundering in her chest. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and wrapped her fingers around the door handle, pulling it open and stepping through the door frame. Nothing on the other side.
She stuck her head out. A pair of Year Sevens were walking down the corridor, towards the Assembly Hall.
“Trust us to get locked in.” One of them muttered to the other.
“At least we’re not going to run out of food.” The other laughed.
“The boss’ll be well miffed if we eat his stock.”
“Yeah, but he’ll be more miffed if he finds a pair of dead bodies down there tomorrow morning.”
“Suppose. Race you to the Pringles?”
They began to run. Ali watched them disappear into the Upper School Dining Hall and then stepped out, turning once more into a purple haze. Then she crept along the corridor, passing the Upper School Dining Hall and Assembly Hall, passing the reception and reaching Mr King’s office. The door was locked by an electromagnetic clamp but she simply leant on it and it opened; that was the power of her momentum. The door swung open and she stepped in, heading over to the keys on the table. Switching her powers off, she reached out and picked the keys up. They were on the end of a maroon lanyard and placed around a large keyring. There was a large skeleton key as well as several smaller keys for individual rooms and a fob. With a ring of keys like that, you could probably enter every room in the school. She grinned at the prospect of Charlotte playing her that song and exploded into a haze once more.
Wednesday, the next morning, Chris and Steven arrived around the same time. Little known to them, there was someone watching them from the little room above the main entrance. As they walked beneath it, Chris turned to Steven and said, “I need to head down to the Cave to get my bag; I left it there yesterday.”
“I was planning to meet the girls there anyway, seeing we’ve got free periods all day.” Steven said. “I just need to go find Ali first so we can get her up to date. See you down there.”
Chris nodded and headed off to the end of L-Block. Steven, meanwhile, headed to the left, into M-Block and in the direction of the Upper School Dining Hall where Ali sat most mornings. In the far distance, he thought he saw Desmond Gilliam with a pair of tired looking Year Sevens. Frowning, he hurried along when he heard a voice behind him.
“Hey! Steven! You looking for me?”
He turned and saw Ali approaching. “Yes, yes I was actually. We found some stuff out that we wanted to bring you up to speed on. Come down to the Cave, I’ll show you.”
“I’m afraid I’m a bit busy right now. Charlotte’s doing a performance piece and I said I’d go see it.”
“Please, Ali. This is important. It’s about the Camel God.”
Ali sighed and shook her head. “I’m sorry Steven. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice but she’s my friend.”
Steven watched her run away, after Desmond Gilliam and the year sevens. “So was I.”
Ali hurried up M-Block hallway and into Upper School Dining Hall, over towards the kitchens. She took a left through a door that led up onto the stage. Padding across, she reached the stairs at the back and hurried down, towards the large room under the stairs. She looked around, grinning, it was a wonderful sight.
Desmond looked up from the Year Sevens he was attending to and smiled. “How’d he take it?”
“Exactly how we wanted him to.” Ali replied. She began to glow, her skin rippling. She stretched and twisted, creaking and cracking. All of a sudden, Ali Grant was gone, replaced instead by Julie. She smiled. “With the Gang divided and the Flish working for us, nothing can stand in our way.”
There was a pattering of footsteps behind her. She turned and saw Charlotte walking down the steps. “The Flish doesn’t work for us. Not just yet. I have the keys but not her complete trust. I believe we should tell her the truth.”
“Don’t you think it’s a little risky?” Desmond asked.
“Potentially but you know I can be charming.” She smiled. “We tell her the truth and we use the full range of her powers. You know it makes sense.”
Desmond sighed and nodded. “I suppose you’re right.”
“You know I am.” Charlotte said and turned to Julie. “Go fetch Ali. It’s time we moved the masterplan forward.”
“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.”
Gordon Mellor, Head Boy, sat on the library roof like he did most free periods. He had a book on electrics in one fingerless gloved hand, a screwdriver in the other and in front of him was the old Gilliam High spotlight. It was a monstrous thing, a huge iron drum with a glass sheet over the front of it. Over the last few months, he had replaced the metres of cable attaching it to the Mains supply and even placed a new bulb in. Yet, for some reason, it still wouldn’t turn on.
He didn’t really see why it needed to. Just another of Mr King’s colourful ideas, like a coffee evening for old people or different ties for different year groups. The only problem was, Gordon was Mr King’s Head Boy and that meant he had to make all those colourful ideas work. Or at least try to.
There was a sudden whoosh behind him. Gordon spun and saw Captain Jaffa Cake landing, cape flaring out behind him. Up front, the Captain didn’t seem nearly as incredible as he did in the pictures online; maybe the same height as Chris Rogers and with a similar quiff as it happened. Looking at him, Gordon wondered who could possibly be crazy enough to build their super-heroic persona around a type of biscuit. Unfortunately, the thin strip of orange material covering his eyes was enough to obscure any hope of divining an identity.
“You need to evacuate the school.” Captain Jaffa Cake spoke.
“There are dark forces at work under the stage.” He replied. “Myself and my team are heading down to deal with them but we don’t know how much collateral there may be. You need to evacuate the school.”
“What dark forces?”
“The Head Girl and her friends. They’ve been leading a Munch bootlegging system.”
"I never joke about my work.”
Gordon shook his head. “God, and I thought my biggest problem as Head Boy was getting this bloody spotlight to work. Don’t suppose you know anything about technology, do you?”
“I dabble.” Captain Jaffa Cake replied and wandered over, placing his Jaffa Cake shield down on the front of the spotlight as he had a look at the fuse box connected to its side. All seemed in good condition. He stood and looked at Gordon. “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
“Well, no, not as such.” Gordon said.
The Captain reached down and flicked the switch to fully Off. Then he pulled it up to On. A beam of light shot out of the front, projecting a white circle onto the wall of E-Block, except for the centre where the silhouette of a Jaffa Cake hung.
Gordon stepped over to the edge of the roof and stared. “You really do work wonders, Captain. Best of luck taking down the Head Girl. I’ll get the school evacuated.”
He turned to look at the hero but it was too late. Captain Jaffa Cake was gone. Gordon shook his head and pulled up his collars. “I knew he was going to do that.”
The Summoner and Lucky Cat marched up M-Block corridor. Someone must have left a door in the Upper School Dining Hall open because a wind was flaring the Summoner’s crimson cape and Lucky Cat’s blue scarves out behind them. Lucky Cat reached up and readjusted the 3D glasses on her nose.
“Be careful whilst we’re fighting them.” The Summoner said, flexing his arms. “I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“We’re superheroes, Steve. Getting hurt is part of the job.”
“I know but I suppose I just worry.”
“That’s really sweet.” She smiled. “That you worry about us all, I mean. But we’re all superheroes now. You just worry about yourself.”
Internally, the Summoner sighed. He wasn’t worrying about all of them, though, was he?
Captain Jaffa Cake leapt from the library balcony and landed, one fist to the ground, on the carpet next to them. He stood up and adjusted the new Jaffa Cake shield on his arm.
“You guys ready?”
“As ever.” Lucky Cat grinned.
The Captain nodded and raised his shield. “Let’s do this.”
The Summoner raised a hand. “What’s the plan? Me and Lucky Cat through the doors and you flanking round back?”
Captain Jaffa Cake laughed. “Doors are for people with no imagination.”
Running at full force, he smashed through the glass windows to the side of the door and arrived in the Upper School. The athletic looking cooks stood, muscles flexing. The Captain grinned and slung two Jaffa Cake shields at them. As the Jaffaery goodness exploded over them, they screamed and fell to the floor, trapped under the stickiness.
The Summoner and Lucky Cat trampled over the glass and joined him. The Summoner frowned. “That seemed too easy.”
“The battle hasn’t even begun.” Captain Jaffa Cake muttered.
They crept forward, heading down the queuing zone to the door leading to the back of the stage. The Summoner allowed energy to swirl around his hand, a sword forging from the pulsing light.
“Be careful.” Lucky Cat whispered. “You could have someone’s eye out with that.”
“I rather think that’s the intention.” The Summoner replied.
As they crept forward, Captain Jaffa Cake raised a hand and pointed to the sliding doors to his side. “I’m going to head up and over the stage. Meet you at the steps down to the room.”
The Summoner nodded. “Good luck.”
The doors slid open and the Captain darted through, leaving the Summoner and Lucky Cat to creep forward a little further. They reached the door and that was when they heard the footsteps. The Summoner cursed and raised his sword. Lucky Cat increased the probability of them being caught in the early morning sunlight awesomely.
The top of the door frame in front of them exploded open and, dusted with plaster, Mr Moose lumbered forward. He fixed them both with eternal stares. “Lucky Cat, I know I have form killing dogs but do not think I will refuse to extend my abilities to you.”
Lucky Cat raised her fists. “I see making you Teacher of the Year was a bald choice.”
Moose laughed, a sound like two gravestones being scraped against each other. “You think you’re funny and heroic. Soon, the only thing you’ll be is dead.”
“Don’t you dare touch her.” The Summoner said, holding up his sword. “I will gut you before you even have the chance.”
Moose reached out and grabbed the sword, bending it with nothing more than the tilt of his hand. “And how do you intend to do that, Summoner, when you cannot even protect yourself?”
Desmond stepped out from behind Mr Moose, grinning. “Hello friends. I do hope you’re not intending to do anything particularly nasty. Not whilst other students are in the school.”
The fire alarm began to ring. The Head Boy had evidently done his work.
The Summoner grinned. “Suppose there’s no risk of any collateral.”
“Moose,” Desmond said, “kill them both slowly.”
“You weren’t this much of an idiot when we played Minecraft together.” Lucky Cat said. “What changed?”
Before Desmond could reply, the Summoner turned to her. “Is there anyone you haven’t played Minecraft with? Apart from me, obviously.”
Moose took the Summoner’s distraction to his advantage, grabbing hold of the crimson cape and slinging him across the room. Desmond placed fingers on his forehead and thought, furiously.
The windows exploded open and swarms of Year Sevens raced through, swearing, shouting, insulting. For a second, the Summoner couldn’t help but reflect that back when he was a Year Seven, he wouldn’t have dared talk to a Year Eleven, never mind swarm over them violently, but then he was engulfed and there was no time to reflect.
Lucky Cat turned back from watching that, only to see one of Mr Moose’s boulder sized fists colliding with her face. She smashed into the kitchen’s empty shelves and slumped to the floor, watching through fractured 3D glasses as Moose approached. He laughed. “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I am a soldier after all.”
Freya was beginning to thank her lucky stars that she hadn’t adopted the others’ hateful attitude towards cross country. She knew Julie was gaining on her but at least there was a small distance, thanks to Freya’s own athleticism. As she passed the car hire, a van began to reverse out onto the pavement. Freya froze time and allowed the van to remain blocking the pavement, giving her a chance to hide and forcing Julie to run around it.
As she did, there was a bright flash and it was no longer Usain Bolt pursuing Freya but instead a blood hound, its nose twitching against the ground, sniffing for the faintest trace of the time stopping girl.
Freya darted from her hiding place, over towards the overflowing bin next to the bus stop, hoping that the smell of rubbish in the summer heat might drown out her own scent. Unfortunately, the blood hound had seen her darting and so reverted into Julie’s shape and began to stalk forwards.
“What’s the weather like, down there?” One Year Seven demanded, punching him.
“How big are your feet?” Another asked and kicked him in the shin.
“You’re massive!” Another one cried and buried a knee in his stomach.
“Just call me a freak and get it over and done with.” The Summoner muttered and tried to heave himself up. He felt like Gulliver, covered with lilliputians, holding him down and restricting his movement. Cursing under his breath, he tried to summon something, anything, that might help him out. He considered summoning some seagulls but, besides making a pun, he wasn’t entirely sure how he could utilise them efficiently.
He took a deep breath and sat up with all his strength, forcing the Year Sevens off him and climbing to his feet. He summoned a baseball bat and swung it through his hands. He knew fully well that his cape was ripped and his mask askew but there were more important things to deal with, like the swarm of Year Sevens just in front of him.
There was a crash to his side. He turned in time to see the roof panel hitting the floor and a pair of Year Sevens swinging towards him on cables hanging from the ceiling. He jumped out of the way, allowing them to swing past him but unfortunately he’d forgotten the first rule of pendulums; they oscillate back the way they’d come.
The swinging Year Sevens bashed into him on their way back, almost knocking him to the ground. He felt one leap onto his back, wrappings its tiny fingers around his neck. He ran backwards, smashing them into one of the columns descending from the ceiling and then swung his baseball bat as a wave of the Year Sevens raced towards him.
A group of the little ones had tied their ties together to form a long rope, which they threw out and laced around his ankle, trying to pull him to the ground. He hauled himself forward and dragged them with him however, more Year Sevens clinging at his other leg, his arms. He swung his baseball bat out and felt the Year Seven it collide with grabbing hold and being lifted with the swing.
Three Year Sevens, led by Max, had taken pebbles from the gardens and tied loops around them with their ties. The first two swung the ties over their heads and then released their hold, allowing the tie and the pebbles to fly through the air and smashing into the Summoner, knocking him back a little. Max swung his but not high enough, the stone slinging around and bashing into his own face.
The Summoner saw Moose hit Lucky Cat and tried to race to her aid but he couldn’t. The Year Sevens were swirling all over him, clinging to his arms, his legs, his neck, his back, pulling him down, forcing him into the floor. He could barely breathe, never mind move. He felt a warm rivulet of blood beginning to swirl down his face from where one of the rocks had hit him.
Cursing, he dropped the baseball bat and reached out a hand, pointing it to a spot far away from him. Despite the pain and the little fingers digging into him, he concentrated all his energy, all his thoughts, willed himself to summon the one thing he thought might help him.
There was a bright flash one hundred metres outside the Upper School Dining Hall. A fidget spinner appeared. Every single one of the Year Sevens stopped and stared, eyes wide. Then they released the Summoner all together and leapt out of the window, racing towards it.
Grinning, the Summoner brushed himself down and began to stride towards where Desmond was, his grin suddenly gone.
“There’s no point trying to hide.” Julie said, pulling a knife out from her pocket. “I’ll find you and I will make you LEAVE life.”
“How am I not surprised you’re a psychopath?” Freya asked, forced into the bin behind her. There was nowhere to run now, except perhaps to hide behind the clear glass of the bus stop.
“What a horrible thing to say.” Julie replied. “And there was me thinking we were really good friends in Primary School. What happened to make you such a snivelling Remoaner?”
Freya smiled, trying to be brave in death. “Typical Brexiteer. Always lying to yourself. We were never friends.”
Julie raised her knife. “You shouldn’t be so horrible to me, Freya.”
A bus pulled up to their side, the hot air from its vents buffeting their hair. It wasn’t enough to stop Julie lunging forward with her knife. Freya leapt to the side, the knife burying itself in the bin, but there was still nowhere to go. Freya found herself trapped between Blackpool’s single Market and a large bus. She was being threatened by a woman who no longer had a weapon and was expected to be scared. Freya decided there was no reason to be; she had her friends to back her up, even if they weren’t immediately to hand.
She looked at Julie with hard eyes and said, “Come and do your worse.”
Julie screamed and charged. Freya stepped out of the way like a matador and grabbed her ‘primary school friend’, spinning her around to face the bus. Then she clicked her fingers and froze the bus in place.
Julie went to strike Freya but as she did, her eyes caught the side of the bus. It was advertising a new Tom Cruise movie that looked like pretty much every Tom Cruise movie. There was, however, writing on the side of the bus that declared the movie the best film this decade.
Freya grinned. How to deal with a Brexiteer? Give them a bus full of lies to get distracted by.
Leaving Julie transfixed, Freya raced back up All Saints’ towards Gilliam High. She had friends to help out, unlike your average Brexiteer.
Mr Moose swung another punch that sent Lucky Cat smashing through the glass display where there used to be hot dogs and was now instead salad. “I hate this school.” He said, hauling her up and punching her into the tills. “I hate the teachers, I hate the rooms, I hate the way you can’t tell anyone apart because there isn’t an easily understandable badging system.”
Another punch sent stars racing across Lucky Cat’s eyes and, although she had the full intention of becoming an astrophysicist, at that exact second it wasn’t appreciated.
“I hate the ways the corridors work! Badly organised corridors lead to disasters like Hillsborough.” He said and kicked her stomach, sending her flying up into the ceiling. A few roof tiles clattered to the floor as she smashed into it. “But you know what I hate the most? You know what really, bloody annoys me? I hate the students.”
He swung out his fist, the size of a Christmas turkey, and hit her in the cheek. She smashed into the water machine, leaving a dent in the metal but stumbled to her feet. Spitting blood at his feet, she raised her fists and said, “One thing you clearly haven’t learnt about Gilliam High is that they teach bouncebackability. I could do this all day.”
Moose screamed, banging his fists into his chest. He ran forward and grabbed her, holding her in in just one hand and leaping out of the window, glass shattering in all directions. Clambering up the drain pipe to his immediate left, he climbed onto the roof of the Upper School Dining Hall and held Lucky Cat aloft. “Look at this building! Isn’t it pitiful? Isn’t it disgusting? Give me my old school any day!”
Drones began to swirl around them, flashing their lights to try and distract Moose. Mr Phillips piloted them from B.E.S.S.I.E., swarming them around Moose’s head. This only vexed the Executive Principal more, however. He threw out his fists, smashing the drones as they soared through the air, knocking them back.
Tightening his grip around Lucky Cat until she almost couldn’t breathe, he began to climb up the side of the assembly hall, onto its roof. There was a large chimney, which he grabbed hold of and began to haul himself up, the drones coming for another round of flashing light. Throwing Lucky Cat over his shoulder, he swung out that hand and grabbed the drones from the sky, crushing them between his fingers.
He climbed to the top of the chimney and stood, roaring, banging his chest with his fists. The students who had evacuated during the fire alarm saw him and began to scream, terrified for the student he had thrown over his shoulder.
Lucky Cat caught sight of the spotlight, the Jaffa Cake still on the front. She willed her powers into use and changed the probability of its support suddenly snapping. The weathering the plastic support had taken over the years began to take an effect, all the years of being blasted by salty winds and beating rains finally becoming too much. The plastic cracked and the spotlight fell, swivelling in her direction and shining light into Mr Moose’s unblinking eyes.
He stumbled from the top of the chimney and fell, tumbling and tumbling. Lucky Cat closed her eyes and willed the probability of a soft landing to increase. She got that soft landing but at Mr Moose’s expense. She bounced off him as he fell, his head smacking against the tarmac road and knocking him unconscious. Behind her, she could hear the crowd of students shouting but she didn’t have time for them.
Leaping to her feet, she hurried up the steps and through the kitchens, back into the Upper School Dining Hall, just in time to see the Summoner hit Desmond with such force, it knocked him out. Turning to see her, the Summoner’s face lit up with the biggest smile. “Oh my god! Are you alright? I thought Moose was going to kill you!”
“I could have said the same about you and the rabid Year Sevens.” She smiled.
The doors at the far end of the lunch hall opened and Freya hurried in. She’d just had time to change into her outfit, pulling her steampunk goggles over her eyes. “Are you two okay?” She asked.
“Good.” She replied. “Now, let’s remind this cow of the power of the Student Leadership Team.”
A few minutes earlier, Captain Jaffa Cake had hurried down the steps into the room under the stage. For a moment, he was overtaken by the smell of sugar that the assorted munch had a
massed and then he got to business.
Charlotte was stood on the far side of the room, grinning. Ali was stood at her side, blissfully contented. He reached out a hand. "Ali, come over here. Get away from her.”
“She won’t do as you say, Captain Jaffa Cake.” Charlotte said. “She’s under my influence now.”
“What have you done to her?” He demanded.
“I’ve just made her happy.” Charlotte smiled. “It’s my power. I make people happy.”
“You might want to use power next time you play in assembly because God knows your guitar playing doesn’t do it.” He replied.
“You think you’re so clever, so funny. You’re just a stupid little geek who doesn’t have enough of a life to not attend prefect meetings.”
“There so many negatives in that sentence it was almost an emo.” The Captain replied. “I don’t understand what your plan is here, Charlotte. Do you just want to make money or do you have some sort of evil scheme going on?”
“I’m killing two birds with one stone.” She smiled. “By recruiting Ali to my side, I get to increase the efficiency of my little operation here and destroy the Gang, just as the Camel God ordered me.”
“So, you work for the Camel God too, huh?” The Captain said.
“Yes.” She smiled. “And he will return to this dimension, ready to take control of it as prophesied.”
“The prophecy.” The Captain suddenly realised. “His return with be heralded by four messengers. Yourself, Julie, Desmond and… Moose?”
“Not Moose.” She said. “I entranced him with my singing but he has no powers of his own. No, the fourth messenger is your dear Flish. Now she is on our side and she will do as I tell her.”
Captain Jaffa Cake turned to Ali. “Did you hear that? She wants to use you, Ali. She doesn't care about you. She just wants to use you.”
Charlotte laughed. “Talking isn’t going to achieve anything, Captain. She’s under my control now! There’s nothing you can do.”
“Oh really?” Ali asked from her side, shaking her head as if to try and wake herself up. “Your singing may have entranced me, Charlotte, but don’t ever think that it has the power to destroy friendship. I thought we had something.”
“We do!” Charlotte cried, suddenly panicking. “We do! We have way more than you could ever hope to have with him or the others!”
Tempus, Lucky Cat and the Summoner hurried down the steps to join them.
Ali laughed. “That’s the thing, though, Charlotte. As you prove whenever you try and sing with others, you just don’t know what a perfect harmony is.”
Swinging out a fist, she knocked Charlotte to the floor and then turned to the others. “God that felt good! Are you guys alright?”
“Just.” The Summoner said. “Worried we’d lost you then, Flish.”
Ali grinned. “As if you could be so lucky.”
The Captain picked up a roll of masking tape from the side and placed a length over Charlotte’s mouth to stop her singing. Then he stood and turned to the others. “Let’s get out of here before someone comes to investigate, hey?”
They all agreed that was the best option and began to head up the stairs. Ali was the last out. She took one last look over her shoulder and internally sighed. She wasn’t bothered about the bootlegging or the lying, about the danger Charlotte had put the Gang in or the fact she was working for the Camel God. Ali was bothered about the fact that those moments in front of the fireplace had all been one huge manipulation.
She hung her head and wandered out from under the stage. She was beginning to understand how Taylor Swift had made a career out of singing about heart break.
After Credits Scene:
Far away, at the town’s only hospital, a nurse was doing her rounds. She checked each of her wards one by one, reading notes at the end of the bed and administering any drugs she needed to. She helped an old man download a Glen Miller album onto the iPod his granddaughter had leant him and chatted momentarily with a young woman about the correct order to read the Discworld books. Then, she made her way to the final ward.
This one always gave her the shivers. Probably because it was entirely empty except for the one bed. She walked over and checked the notes. “No sign of change, hey, Mr Andrews?” She sighed and placed the notes away. Lifting his head up, she plumped his pillows and then lay him back down, turning around and making her way back to the door.
As she walked, the lights overhead seemed to flicker. She frowned and turned. Nothing. Very strange. She turned again and continued walking to the door. Now, lights began to flash a thousand different colours, like there was a disco going on. She turned and saw the commotion. The very air at the end of Andrews’ bed seemed to be warping, seemed to be stretching, revealing a chasm, a vortex, of glowing, shifting, psychedelic explosions. And from the centre of this incandescent phantasmagoria, a translucent camel seemed to float. It made its way through the air, the portal behind it beginning to close, and hovered momentarily over Mr Andrews. Then he dived into his mouth, disappearing as if sucked down in one deep breath.
She hurried over, the hairs on her neck and arms standing on end from the build up of static in the air. “Mr Andrews?” She called. “Mr Andrews? Are you alright?”
Suddenly, his eye lids opened. But they weren’t the eyes of a normal man. They glowed, orange irises in the centre of black orbs. He fixed the eyes on her and a grin began to spread. He climbed out of the bed and stood. She instinctively backed away. “Mr Andrews?”
He reached out a hand and grabbed her neck, beginning to squeeze it. She felt the air being forced out of her lungs. With superhuman strength, he lifted her from her feet and held her in front of his face. “I am not Mr Andrews.” He whispered and threw her across the room.
She crashed into the far wall and slumped to the floor, her neck already beginning to blossom with bruises. He walked along the ward to the bank of windows at the end. They shattered as he reached out a hand.
“Then who are you?” She shouted.
Stood on the edge of the window sill, surveying the world he would soon conquer, he raised his arms into a crucifix. “I… am… the Camel God.”
Then he fell forward and was gone.