PART ONE: THE BEGINNING
I’m Back Out my Coma
By Bethany “Blake” Belfast
I wake up on my sofa, wiping the drool off my mouth. Agh.
I walk over into the bathroom and wash my hands. It’s going to be another school day, another day to teach Lampert kids while hiding mints. I sit down at my computer to check the teaching plan. Fractions. Great. This will be a whole week of teaching, reteaching, and then seeing that they just don’t get it. Always happens with Algebra one kids. Suddenly, we start adding all of this other stuff on top of it and the students just can’t get it.
I heard a ding on my computer, a new email from the principal, Doctor Thomas Castillo. Yeah, he’s back, after Novick shut down and all.
Faculty Presentation in two weeks! It started. I ate a mint. From Funtime LLC, a new learning program has been announced: Brainiac! To help prepare students for the SATs, Brainiac teaches students Reading, English, and Math with the help of Gizmo, the calculator, and Brainiac, a redesigned and updated version of Professor Funtime. You, as a teacher, will participate in the Faculty Presentation, and throughout this month we will be having test-runs to see if we can implement this in the next year or so – that is, if you support it.
Oh heck no.
I opened my phone, looking at my group chat of my old roommates, who are teachers at Kane and Donner, respectively. Olivia Oldman – gosh, I love her, but that name does not do wonders for her ever since she got married – and Susan Snyder, a teacher at Donner, were both going wild in the groupchat. Immediately, Olivia facetimed us.
“Are you seeing this $&*@?!” She exclaimed. Susan looked exhausted.
“I’m going to lose my job.” Susan sighed.
“We all will. Olivia’s an English teacher, you and I are both math teachers. Our jobs are at stake.” I said.
“We need to do something – this can’t happen. Funtime has been in the gutter, when was the last time you even heard of funtime? It wasn’t helping anyone, the science is there. Besides, they’re dealing with teenagers. Teenagers don’t like colorful colors, they want dark tones.” Olivia said.
“Olivia, you have that Alan Wade kid, right? He can stop this.” Susan said.
“Alan left Kane last year…” Olivia mumbled.
“What?!” I yelled, “We don’t have much of a say. We all know that we don’t have that kind of power.”
“Bethany… Don’t yell… I’m just waking up.” Sarah grumbly said.
“Wait, I have an idea.” Olivia said.
“We have all of these students, these… DC comics kids, all of them bullies, bad kids. I mean, we keep a big record of what goes on, and I feel like we could expel them, if need be. Heck, we have those teachers’ pets that save snapchat videos and stuff. We could use them to send us incriminating evidence.” Olivia was looking wild, but she was making a point.
“Are you saying we make a group of these kids and force them to do our bidding?” I asked.
“Exactly, like those comics we used to read in the dorm, the Suicide Squad.” Olivia said, beaming ear to ear.
“I don’t know…” Susan said, “That sounds like blackmail.”
“They’re bound to be expelled sooner than later.” I said, “Why not sooner?”
“And we’ll call it… Task Force ShreX.” Olivia grinned this villainous smile, “And Brainiac will be no more!”
Susan rolled her eyes, “Oh, ampersand. We’re going through with this…”
So, What are We?
By William “ShredShot” Banks
“Baby, baby, please come back!” I said as I ran down the halls, “Sweetheart I swear, I would never cheat.”
She turned to me, her eyes full of rage, “Willy, you literally were making out with Jasmine after the football game.”
“That’s because he never misses! Bang!” My friend, Demarcus, exclaimed from the end of the hall, then he turned around and started high fiving his friends, “This dude don’t miss!”
“Even in the heat of battle he doesn’t miss!” One of his friends said. I shot an angry glance, and then continued to walk up to Aaliyah.
“Aaliyah, sweetheart, I would never ever do anything like that.” I held her shoulders, but she squirmed out, and started typing on her phone. She held up a video of me making out with Jasmine under the bleachers of last week’s football game. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I did that.
“Uhh…” I mumbled. Kane High was busy right now, everyone leaving and all.
“Mmhmm, what did I tell you, Willy? I told you that if you did some crap like this again, we’re done.”
“So, what are we? Some kind of… divorced couple?”
“We weren’t even engaged! Stop using these big words when you have no idea what they mean!” With that, she walked away. I wasn’t heartbroken, I was just really, really confused. I mean, she’s cheated before too, so I guess it’s some double standard. But I simply don’t miss. I sighed and walked away, joining Demarcus and his friends. Demarcus shooed his friends off.
“Snap, Shredshot, how ‘you feeling after that?” Demarcus asked me.
I rolled my eyes, “I’m ok. Let’s head out.” We made our way out a side door, and continued walking to Demarcus’ car.
“So, what’s this job again?” I asked, getting into the passenger side.
“Foldcone wants us to go ruffle some guys feathers, zip-zap-zop and then we’re done.” He said, starting the engine and pulling out.
“And where does this guy work again?”
“The Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Combo, so we could get some de-lish food after all of this is over, man.”
“How much is he even paying us, though?” I looked out the window, thinking about Aaliyah. I don’t miss her. I need to remind myself of that. It’s time to move on.
“Some good cash, and some answers on Miss Oldman’s test. You know, there’s only one other Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Combo in the country, it’s somewhere in Virginia. I mean, other places have Taco Bell and Long John Silvers, Taco Bell and KFC, or even Long John Silvers and A&W.” Demarcus tapped three times on the wheel before turning.
“What the heck is Long John Silvers?” I asked. Demarcus, briefly looking away from the road, made a fake vomit sound, “Got it. I understand your sound effects completely.”
We pulled up at the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Combo, and we entered. The cashier working the front froze and his eyes widened, “Crap!” He yelled before storming out. Demarcus looked at me, “Man, Shredshot. We have a fleer.”
“Listen, Onomatacrease-a, let’s just use our real names.”
“Sure, Willy…” D-marc ran outside through the left exit, while I ran through the right. The guy was pretty fast for his scrawny appearance, but I ran up on him and yanked him to the ground.
“Please, don’t hurt me!” He exclaimed, “Seriously! I would never do anything-” I socked him in the jaw, and Demarcus ran up to me and kicked the kid in the groin, watching as he keels around in pain.
“Jeez, man, don’t hit him where it hurts!” I yelled.
“Boys.” I heard someone say, a familiar voice, but I didn’t know from where, “More specifically Will Banks, stop this immediately.”
I closed my eyes, that ‘immediately’ really was the icing on the cake. I dropped my grip on the guy and turned, coming face to face with my English teacher, Miss Oldman.
“Oh, &^$!! I gotta head out.” Demarcus ran off to his car. The employee stood up and dashed away as well.
“I have footage of this little… thing.” She said, gesturing to us.
“Why, Miss Oldman?” I was getting scared.
“I also know that you have been cheating on the tests, like, seriously? An English test? You and I both know that every answer for my questions is on a quizlet. It’s enough for an expulsion, beating a kid and all.”
“Are you… Blackmailing me?”
She put her hands into her pockets and smiled, “Yeah, sure, let’s go with that. You’re now a part of a team, I’m calling it… Task Force ShreX. Meet me at the Smith Warehouse, down the street from the McDonalds.”
“And what if I don’t show up?” I asked.
“Then you’ll be expelled, I already have the video in my draft for the Principal.” She turned and walked away, and I was left dumbfounded, and without a ride.
But hey, the taco pizza SLAPS.
The One… The Only… Harley Quill! Goes to a Meeting.
By Mary “Harley Quill” Jest
“Do you think I’m crazy?!” I yelled. I eyed everyone in the room, this large group of kids and the three teachers, awkwardly staring at me, “You can’t be serious. You want us to do what?”
“You heard us.” Some grimacing woman said, I think she was some English teacher by the way she talked, “You all will be responsible for stopping this Brainiac menace. Us teachers do not like it, and we don’t want to lose our jobs, so you all will be working for us.”
My eyebrows furrowed and I stepped forward, “That’s illegal! That’s blackmailing!”
“Okay, and?” This thin, prim and proper lady asked, a tad bit peeved and poshed in my books.
“I don’t even know these other kids! I don’t understand the point of all this!” I turned to the crowd, “Who are you guys?!”
A student stepped forward, he looked almost the same as the teacher who asked ‘Okay and?’ okay and? Okay And?! Okay and how about I kick you where the sun doesn’t shine, lady?! “Hey guys, I’m Shaun-Zhang Snyder. I’m Susan’s Nephew.”
“Ah, great!” I said, “I have the names of one of you oldies.”
“Mary, I won’t hesitate to send this email to Principal Sampson you little s-” The bulky lady said, her face furrowing further into a snarl.
Susan, the thin lady, firmly placed her hands on Shaun’s shoulders as Shaun turned and looked at us, “Shaun here will be your Rick Flag, or, because I know how much we all love puns,” She sighed and trembled, “Rick Flag.” Someone in the very back chortled, “Like a flag… Olivia came up with it.”
“Two names now.” I said. Shaun glared at me.
“You listen to him. He’s our go-between. He gets the commands-”
“- I got this, Aunt Snyder.” Shaun-Zhang interjected, “You’ll listen to me, with each mission you’ll listen to me. I’m the head, I’m the guy that’ll be doing this. All of this will be on my college resume. You got it?”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Seriously, kid? And what grade are you?”
“I’m a Freshman.”
“Dude! I’m a Junior! Why do I need to listen to you?” I heard Will Banks exclaim, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Shaun crossed his arms and nodded his head, “Marsha, Why don’t you come out?”
Marsha stepped forward with something attached to her belt loop, like a sheath. She looked down as she approached and she took her place next to Shaun.
“This is Marsha. She’s got my back. Her puppet is Katana, and she is the best Black Belt fighter I’ve ever seen. She could knock all of you down with just three hits.”
“Geez, ‘tell don’t show’ much?” I asked.
“It’s best if you don’t bother her.” At this point, Marsha took her hand on the sheath and unveiled a long blade, shining like a knife in my mother’s kitchen. Our eyes widened, someone mouthed a ‘Holy crap.’ Susan’s eyes also widened and then took out her phone, typing something in.
“Oh %$#@ no.” She said as she sent something, “Marsha, leave. We don’t accept blades around here.”
“What?!” Marsha exclaimed. Unlike the movie counterpart, she could speak perfect English, “You can’t be serious! We’re Task Force ShreX for crying out loud! Who knows-”
“Marsha, I said leave.” Susan said sternly. Marsha grimaced and turned around, walking out. It was silent for a bit, and then a lughead raised his bag puppet of a Shark.
“Uh, King Crease has a question.” He said.
“Sure, what is it, Ronald?” The lady who I haven’t gotten her name asked. She looked fit, swole even, even though she was probably not a PE teacher, judging from the description of Brainiac that wouldn’t fit a PE teacher’s whole forte.
“What happened?” Ronald, or King Crease asked, sounding like a dope.
“She’s been expelled.”
“What?” We yelled in unison.
“Luckily we have a replacement coming in, but Shaun does need a second in command.”
“So- Hold on, hold up, stop the brakes.” I said, silencing the crowd of twenty or so kids, “Expelled? What, do you have evidence on all of us?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” Olivia said.
“Honey, I was a part of the Psychology Society for a few months, I know a thing or two about stalker syndrome.” I mentioned, “And that in conjunction with being a teacher? Yikes…”
Their faces got red, Susan started fumbling for her phone, but then the buff lady stopped her, walking up to me.
“Mary Jest, do you realize that this could cost you your academic credit? Your career? Your life?”
“Basically. That’s why I’m saying it’s wrong. Grade school taught me something about that Uh-Oh feeling in my gut and that’s what I’m feeling right now.”
“Well, if you don’t want that to happen, then don’t mess up.”
“Okay.” I sighed, realizing bickering was pointless.
“With Novick closed they’re a lot more harsher on things – if you openly screw up, you’re gone. It’s a toxic environment, but boy, it’s good for us. You’re all cannon fodder, you know this, I know this. And you will each be used. You have been chosen for a reason. I’m not the biggest fan of doing little introductions with a meet and greet, so behind me is a pinboard. You’ll each write a little short introduction of yourself, explaining yourself, your puppet, what you did, and your skills. Got it? Got it.” Susan told us, “Plus, it’s more evidence for us. Don’t lie, we’ll know. Also, please pick up some name tags.”
They placed down cute little markers and fun pads of paper and instantly, like friggin lemmings, they all rushed for it.
I’m surrounded by lugheads.
And then another one came swooping in, smiling with his arms wide out, “Crease Man, Fold yeah!”
&$!@. Help me. I should be the clown here, for pete’s sake!
By Shaun-Zhang “Rick Flag” Snyder
We’re all sitting around now with our name tags. This reminds me of support group meetings, the circle in the middle of the empty warehouse. Marsha’s expulsion was sudden, but it’s fine. Only minor setbacks. Yeah. Because you’re the leader, Shaun. You’re the one running this whole show. No one else. Because you’re the best. You’re freakin’ Shaun-Zhang Snyder. And surrounding you is the largest group of degenerates this town of Jutefruce has to offer, and you’re going to lead them to victory. Behind the circle was the pinboard, I got up to observe it first.
First, there was Mary Jest.
I think, out of all the kids in this room, she’d be the one to break the quickest. She’s… crazy, for lack of a better word. Rumor has it, Harley Quill was just a persona she made up after getting kicked out of the psychology society at Kane. Ever since then, she’s been a bit off the rocks. Expulsions are happening at the snap of a finger. Truth is, she was pretty, but looks couldn’t save people. So she sits there, slouched in the chair, groaning at each of the brief introductions. I can’t wait for her to fail.
Which is bad, because I was explained the whole mission. I think a lot of these kids will be gone sooner, rather than later.
After her was Will Banks, Shredshot. He’s an interesting piece of work; a basketball player, an archer, even does the occasional competitive airsoft tournament. He’s physically fit, and I witnessed his whole breakup in full display. Will, or “Willy” as he’s called by his friends, is dedicated to one thing and one thing only: Never missing. That’s what got him here, though. His expellable offense is the fact he takes up work for some of the worst students, the ones with good money. By helping these students, he gets answers to tests, and even has had other kids write his papers for him.
For some reason, we have a hero amidst the ranks. An amputated hero, sure, but a hero none-the-less. Nathan “Arm-Fold-off Boy” Legions is some Donner kid who’s ability to remove his prosthetic limb has gotten him into quite a few run-ins with teachers. Because of this, he’s been brought in as a member of the team. I think he’ll be my… right hand man.
“Hey! Hey! What do you think about mine? What do you think about it?” I heard a kid in the circle say. I turn to face who was speaking. John Kanigher sits, his violin resting in a case beneath him. He stands up when I look at him, and he sprints over to point at the “Fiddler” tag, with a crayon-drawing of a guy with a fiddle, drawn very simply.
“I’m fiddlerigami! He speaks to me.”
“He… he what?”
“He tells me what to do. Look at him!” He holds up a puppet, a guy dressed in green, holding a puppet fiddle. His hair looks like a powdered wig, and his face is contorted in this grimace, “He told me to whack those kids with my fiddles.”
Sure enough, that’s what it said on the board – he had hurt a small group of kids and nobody remembered who did it, just the sound of Canon in D by Pachelbel playing as they went unconscious.
“ME?” John asked, “I’m interesting!”
“Interesting? You think YOU’RE interesting?” A kid announced, standing up from his chair. He wore a guy faux mask, which made me wonder if we had V, the anarchist, on our team, “Thinking on it, you’re the most boring geed on this entire team. To be honest, I can’t wait to see you get expelled in… hm… the next couple days? I bet all of my karma on it.” He paced towards me, and pointed at his card, “Look at that!” He announced, “I even drew a Pepe. It shows my feels.”
The Thinkorigami. Graham Stuart, frequent reddit user, Lampert student, and his biggest offense was that he doesn’t shower, but douses himself in Axe Body Spray, a shower-in-a-can.
No – in all seriousness, it was something with the Folders of Tomorrow. He hacked the Lampert website (Before the massive Justice Pleats hack of the DC trip), and just posted a lot of memes and offensive images. It would’ve been grounds for expulsion… if they had found him. But they didn’t. We did.
“Get that mask off. We don’t support anonymity here.”
“Right… because we’re not trolling here, are we? We’re not getting all up in the face of injustice and griefing their homes. I’ll keep the mask on, thank you.”
I grabbed the mask and yanked at it, the strings that wrapped around his ears pulled him towards me, and then the mask broke, revealing the pasty-white face of Graham.
“Graham, it’s a pleasure to have the real you. You’ll make a wonderful hacker for our team.” Graham started to get flustered.
“Graham isn’t my real name. It’s a throwaway pseudonym.”
“That’s not what your birth certificate says.”
“It’s Jensen Mickey.” He said.
“Mhm… right. Sit down.” Graham groans and sits back down, pouting.
These three are easy to get out of the way: Ashton Mason, Jamie Redfern, and Hayden Solomon. Ashton Mason has the origami Gentleman Ghost. He’s not exactly a bad guy; in fact, he’s a really good gentleman, so good, that he’s scammed and swindled so many students. Back during the Novick Detention era, he, Jamie, Hayden, and Dalton Weeks (Someone we didn’t recruit… he blinded himself with his own laser pointer) would sit together at lunch, and they notably ate with CJ Whogley, the OriRobin… or, NightCrease, as he’s called now. They stood down during the riots that occurred.
Jamie Redfern had the Eraser. He dropped the Origami title. He could clean up any mess, and fast. Hayden Solomon was the Calculator. He was also a pretty decent hacker, but his main skill was calculating the chances that something would happen. He knew lunch numbers – he could also know what our chances were of succeeding. At least, that’s what my aunt thinks.
“Excuse me?” I hear a squeaky voice say. I look over at the voice, which belonged to a really pudgy-faced kid, “I’m really bored, and I need to pee.”
“Ronald Lamden, King Crease.” I say.
“Well… why are you bored?” I ask.
“Because you’re just staring at a board with our names on it. I don’t know.”
“I’m taking notes…”
“Okay, but we want to be included.” He says, “King Crease wants to be included!”
“Yeah, I’ll admit, you look kind of stupid up there, just taking notes and reading our notecards. Can’t you hear me groaning?” Mary says.
Suddenly, I start to get berated by the team, and I feel my face start to get red. I don’t do well with name-calling, ‘You’re a dingus!’ ‘You can’t run this team!’ ‘Talk to us!’
“AGH! Fine! Let’s start in a circle… Wait, before I forget.” I reached into my pocket, bringing out a tape recorder. I sat it in the middle of the area.
“Just for accurate record keeping and transcribing. Okay, go.”
I won’t discuss Eraser, Calculator, Gentleman Ghost, Shredshot, Thinkorigami, Harley Quill, Arm-Fold-Off Boy, or the Fiddler, but this introduction circle helped out tremendously.
“I still need to go pee.” Ronald said, “King Crease needs to go pee!” He started to exclaim, standing up from his chair. We all stared at him, worried that we were going to see a stain form across his pants.
“Okay, okay, %^$&*, go!” I exclaimed. It was the first time I had cursed, and the transcript needed it. I hope Aunt Susan doesn’t tell my mom. Ronald dashed out of the circle.
“Well, that was King Crease, or Ronald Lamden.”
“He looked… young.” Mary said.
“Yeah, like a toddler.” Will mentioned, “I mean, he waddled out of there. Is he a kid?”
“No, no, he’s fourteen.” I was pretty sure I was right.
“If that kid is fourteen, then I’m as old as Einstein.” Graham chuckled, “Which, I mean, I wish I was dead. Cause that’s my sense of humor, dark and edgy.”
I nodded, and then clapped my hands, “Okay, some ground rules: four walls, anything said here, stays here… and on the transcript. No teacher or other student needs to know about what we do here. Next, if you say anything racist, you’re expelled-”
“But my humor-” Graham started.
“No. If you do anything to jeopardize the mission, you’re expelled. If you hold information from me on the mission, you’re expelled… If you find love here, that’s wonderful, but you’re expelled.”
“Do you hate love, Rick Flag?” Mary asked, “Did someone break your heart?”
I sat there, staring at her. I stifled a sob as Sydney McCormick of eighth grade entered my thoughts. Stay strong, Shaun. Stay strong, because you never know when she’ll come back.
“What other… eh, ‘ground rules’ do you have?” A bald kid asked.
“None. Let’s continue the introductions.” I pointed towards the bald student, “Tony, why don’t you go first?”
Tony shuffled a bit in his chair, and reached into his pocket, pulling out a puppet made out of a calendar,“Tony Zazonnie. Junior. I… I throw calendars at people.”
“Still?” Mary asked.
“Yeah, still.” Tony says, “It’s why I’m here. I don’t know… Therapy helps, but sometimes I wonder if I even… you know, have enough days to recover fully.”
“This isn’t a support group.” I say.
“Group therapy has been shown to help people, though.” Mary mentions, “Maybe we could do that here! Recover, learn more about one another and ourselves… oooh!” She claps her hands together, grinning.
Mary pouts, and sits back in her chair. “Next person?” I say.
“Witness the wondrous woes of the wonderful Condiment Kirigami!” He announces. His eyes are crazy, his teeth wide, “Indeed it is me, the one with the masterful mind, the one who took Terry D’Lunes down a peg with tactful tastes of ketchup and mustard –”
“Smedly Maroni.” I grumble. His amazing ability to talk in alliteration and rhyme at all times was more known to me than his escapades as the “wonderful Condiment Kirigami.”
“Smedly Maroni!” He announces, “Clear as clean glass, more class than brass.”
“Yep. Moving on.”
“Oi, this mate next to me has me utterly gobsmacked, mate.” The kid jams a finger towards Smedly, “You sure he’s not knackered?”
“No need for commentary, just the name and puppet, and what got you in here.”
“Roight, roight. Well, I’m Oliver Quid, owner of the great Mad Mod-podge.” He crosses his legs, and holds his finger out, revealing the heavily British puppet of Mad Mod, to some, he’d look like he was smoking a, eh, ‘ciggy’, “British exchange student, fashion expert, and a-grade ar%$hole.”
“Did you get put on this team for being a British, er,” Mary leaned in, and whispered, “‘Person?’”
“Mary, why’d you have to say that like British people aren’t people?” I ask her.
“Who won the war?” She responds. Will laughs.
“I mean, we did.”
“Then I feel as though we have every right to dehumanize colonial, murdering people.”
“Aye! I’m not colonizing anything here.”
“Who’s the oldest ancestor that you know of?” Mary asks. Oliver thinks for a moment.
“Eh… well, the name slips me, but he helped lead the colonization of India- oh.”
“SEE?!” Mary explodes, “They do nothing but say how groovy they are and colonize nations, stealing their spices, all the while making the most bland food in the world.”
“Hey! Beans and toast is a delicacy, okay?”
“The Irish at least can make good potatoes!”
“Don’t you EVER compare me to an Irishman!” Oliver stepped out of his seat and pointed towards Mary. Mary, in response, stood up.
“Guys, sit back down!” I exclaimed.
“Mate, she’s making fun of my country and comparing me to the Irish folks!” Oliver yells.
“Oh no, am I making your tea and crumpets soggy?” Mary asks, putting on a bad British accent.
“I’ll kill you!” Oliver yells.
I look at the rest of the team. Will is getting a kick out of this, meanwhile the other students all sit and stare with awe as Harley Quill and Mad Mod-podge verbally fight.
“As you can see, the reason Oliver got in trouble was because his temper is…”
“Quite off the old chap, eh?” Will asks. It’s the first time he’s really spoken. I can’t help but snicker.
“Yeah. Anyways, I have to take care of this.”
It had taken me a while to cool them both down, but Oliver sat far away from Mary, and refused to look at her. All the while, Mary stared at him, a smirk drawn across her face. I’m sure that in her mind, she won the fight.
“Okay… okay…” I’m breathing a bit heavily from the whole exchange, “Okay. Who’s next?”
“Uh… me.” A kid says. He looks meek. In his lap sits a recorder.
“What’s your puppet?”
“I… I’m the Pied Piper. I’m on the Lampert band team.”
“That’s cool.” I say.
“Yeah. I’m- uh. I’m Wilfred Hamelin. I’m a pro at the recorder, and other flutes. I sing to rats.”
Will starts to chuckle.
“Do you have something to say, man?” I ask Will.
“Yeah, I’m just wondering what he means by that. You can’t control rats through music. That’s crap from comics.”
“I don’t control rats. I just sing to them. With my flute.” Wilfred’s face is getting red with embarrassment.
“I’ll believe you when I see pigs fly.” Will said.
“Listen – we’re a team here. We each have abilities that should help us flourish and complete this mission. Wilfred’s skills are as useful as yours, Will. Everyone here has some knowledge or ability, a skill that’ll help us take down this Brainiac and Funtime.”
“You’re serious?” Will says, “You’re telling me that a kid that can play music to rats, a fashionista brit, a kid that throws ketchup, and a kid that throws calendars are all ‘useful’ to the team? If I’m honest with you, so far I feel as though I, that quirky girl over there, you, and maybe that girl we expelled who had the blade were going to be the most useful members of this team. These other people are just cannon-fodder.”
“Will, I disagree. I think they all have skills we could use.”
“Like what? Football player, musician, another musician. I think your aunt and the other two crazy teachers are all out to just get us expelled. There’s a group here that could be the star players, and the rest will be benchwarmers who will be gone one way or another.”
I thought of something that a leader would say, but all that I could muster was, “You think you know everything, Will Banks. But you’ll see.”
“I already see the whole court, man. I don’t miss.”
It seemed to send a chill down the whole team. Awkward silence was awkward, and we all looked away from one another.
The morale looked down.
“You.” I say, pointing towards the kid with the jockstrap, “What’s your deal?”
“I’m a football player. I wear this jockstrap on me at all times. It protects me. The amount of times a kid has kicked another in the groin for having a puppet of a bad guy is off the charts.”
“What’s your name?”
“No, your name.”
“Does it matter anymore? We’re going to be expelled anyway. Banks is right. We’re just some kids in the crowd.”
I’m frowning. There’s two guys holding hands, and they look scared out of their minds.
“What about you two?”
“I’m a painter. My name is-”
“His name is Don. I’m Anthony.”
“Yeah. He’s Crazigami Quiltigami.” Don says, “And I’m the Rainbow Creaser.”
“How long have you two been together?”
“Two years.” Anthony says, “Two years today, if I recall correctly.”
“Oh my goodness, is it today?” Don asks. Anthony leans over to whisper something to him. Don smiles, “Oh, I see. Yeah… it was today.”
Their legs are both shaking.
“Are… are you two scared?”
Don and Anthony don’t really meet my eyes. They look away, but they’re honest. As though two voices become one, they speak: “Yes.”
Don thinks for a minute, and he nods towards Anthony. Anthony nods back before Don continues, “We’re scared because we don’t want to lose what we have here. Me and him – we have each other. But we don’t even understand the mission. We know we did bad crap in the past, but we’ve been off that. We’ve been… we’ve been good. Our grades have been good. We’ve been good students. And, well, we were together before getting recruited; you’re not going to expel us, right?”
Don and Anthony being in a relationship before this didn’t bother me. What bothered me was how scared they and the whole team looked. I was the leader. It’s my job to make sure they’re fine,“You two don’t need to worry.” I look around my group, “None of you do. If you just follow the mission, and do what we need to do, we’ll get out of this safely.”
“But what is it?” A kid asks, “Sorry I’m speaking out of turn. I just have to work in an hour or so.”
“We’ll get to that. Who are you, by chance?”
“Well, I drive a lot. It’s my thing, I guess it’s why I’m recruited on this team. It’s because I drive a minivan. I’m Ding Dong Daddy, but my real name is Chucky Toots.”
Mary snorts at the last name.
“Yeah. I get that a lot. But I guess my minivan is why I’m here, so… yeah. I’m just going to keep to myself, if that’s okay. Sorry for interrupting.”
“It’s okay, Chucky.” I say.
It’s silent. What was once a constant introductory period slows down as there’s only four kids left. And we’re all tired, we all want to go home, and we’re all scared.
“… Holy &$@*, you’re Cyril Hale.” Mary says.
A kid across the way raises his hand, acknowledging Mary.
“The President of the Psychology Society of Kane, do you remember me?”
“Former, but yes, I do, Ms. Jest.”
“Oh. What happened?”
“Theresa Carter happened. Anywho, I’m Doctor Creasco now. I assume that we’re going to be working together.”
Mary smiles, “I looked up to you, you know.”
“Yeah.” Cyril looks down, “Lots of people did look up to me. Past tense.”
Mary’s smile is not malicious, “Just because I said I looked up to you doesn’t mean that this stopped. I still look up to you. Your research, even as a junior, is phenomenal.”
“Thanks.” Cyril’s grimace and unshaved face turns into a smile and, well, still an unshaved face.
“Uh, I’m Crease Man. Or Kitigami Man. To be honest, the name is still in the works. If you want, you can call me ‘Origami Kite Man’ even. I don’t know.” A kid says, “The name is Chad Bronkskin. I don’t know why I’m on this team.”
“You’re the replacement.” I say, “We expelled a girl earlier.”
“Yeah… So, kites, huh?”
“Origami Kite Man, fold yeah.” He responds, “Yeah, I just… really like to fly and collect kites. I haven’t had a detention or anything before. I’ve been a good noodle.”
“Then… What incriminating evidence would my aunt have on you?” I ask.
“I don’t know. But I guess she has some. Does she have any incriminating evidence on you?”
I thought for a second, before shaking my head, “No. I’m the leader of the bunch. She wouldn’t expel her own nephew.”
“That’s B.S. and you know it, Rick Flag.” Mary says, “She has something on you. I know it, he knows it, she knows it – you know it. If I was in her shoes, I’d cover my tracks.”
Ignoring her, I pointed towards the chubby, pimpled faced girl, “What’s your deal? You’re the only other girl here.”
“Yeah, not a very diverse crowd, huh?” Mary asked.
“I’m the Film Freakigami.” She says, “I’m Alex Boyce. I just know a lot about movies, closeups and stuff. I… don’t know my place here, to be honest.”
“Well, you’ve had a few detentions, right?”
“Oh, of course. I mean, I played some scary movies for grade schoolers at Barbera, I’ve played screamo on the intercoms at Kane.”
“So that’s why you’re here.”
“I guess… But it was funny.”
“Heck yeah it is!” Graham exclaims.
“Uh… I think I’m the last guy.” The dude next to her says. His face is clear of any blemish, and he’s smiling a pearly white smile, “I’m Wally Bradley Baker, Or just Wally for short. I’m Captainigami Boomerangigami. I threw a boomerang that broke Matthew Yen’s foot.”
“That’s a lie, it was shoelaces. His lucky shoelaces.” Graham interrupts.
“Then I got Jonathan Yen in trouble with the teachers.”
“Kid Fold did that himself, along with the Pleatster.” Graham responds.
“Gah!” Wally says, throwing his arms in the air, “I go to Lampert, okay? I broke a window or two, and now I’m here.”
“… With a Boomerang?” Mary asks.
“Yes, with a boomerang; all the good characters were taken, okay? I needed a niche.”
“But they’re supposed to come right back.”
“I’m learning, alright?”
“You’re Captain Boomerang but you’re still learning how to throw-”
“Alright!” I clap my hands, “With the introductions out of the way, we can finally discuss the… mission!”
Groans through the crowd!
“Can I go pee again?” Ronald asks.
“Sure! Pee break!”
By Cyril “Doctor Creasco” Hale
Like pigs being led to their troughs, it is as though I am being led to the slaughter. Surrounded by insolent children, idiots of the highest degree, we wait our turns in the line, needing to pee.
In truth, it’s only four of us, including me. Everyone else didn’t need to, so I’m standing next to that chubby boy Ronald, the smelly kid Tony, and Nathan, who is pretty nice, all things considered.
Dribble dribble, piddle piddle. Just the drip, drip, drip into the urinal.
Wanting to fit in, Ronald follows.
“I’m freaking out, man.” Tony said.
“I think we all are.” I said, “It’s just some of us need to be a man about it.”
“Most of the team are men.” Nathan comments, “And besides, you’re all villains. I’m the one hero here. I know how to do well under pressure.”
“We’re ‘villains,’ but we’re not bad.” Tony responds.
“Mm… not so sure about that, buddy.” Nathan says, “I mean, you’re peeing evilly.”
Tony pushes Nathan, “Why are you watching other dudes pee?!”
“I’m not trying to, these stalls are just small.”
“Dude, what the %$&@?” I say to Nathan, “That’s weird as all get out.”
“Guys… no cussing…” Ronald sighs.
“Man, kid, how old are you?” Tony asks.
“Uh… Fifteen.” Ronald says.
“You’re fifteen? Your voice is so high.” I say.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m fourteen, close to fifteen.” His voice was even higher. Lies. But I, being the best psychologist known to this forgotten city, decided it was best to let him carry on with his charade.
“I dig, man. Hey, unlike you villains, I don’t want to cuss. I feel no need for it.”
“Does your arm really fall off?” I ask, trying to get a rouse out of him. He glares at me, and grimaces.
“Yeah? Does it matter?”
“Not really, I mean, I’m just intrigued. What happened? How’d you lose it?”
“I just did… Car accident.”
“Well, that’s sad. So now you go around whacking kids with your detachable limb?”
Ronald was struggling to pee, looking worried about this as Nathan turned to me, zipping up his fly and removing his arm. With one foul swoop, he lays his detached, prosthetic limb across my face. I feel the sting of it, and my eyes well up in tears for a second. I smile.
“You claim you’re a hero, but I rag on you for one moment and you just whack me with a limb, the hel- heck is wrong with you?” I motion towards Ronald, “We don’t cuss in front of the kid, y’know. It’s just mean…”
“Like I give a %$*&.”
Ronald starts crying, “I can’t pee.”
“See, now you have the kid crying, why would you do that? You’re making him unable to pee, like he’s constipated, but with peeing… pee-stipated, if you will.”
“Actually, it’s called ‘urinary retention,’ It’s mentioned in my medical calendar for ‘national bladder health month,’ which is November.” Tony says.
I look behind Nathan towards Tony, who’s finished peeing now. I give him this amazed look, “You… You really are ‘Calendar Man,’ huh?”
“It’s what I do, my shtick.”
Ronald has broken into a full sob now, crouching in front of the urinal. The cries of the kid activates a paternal instinct inside of me. I turn towards him and kneel in front of him.
“Hey, kid, calm down.”
“I just don’t want to be expelled.” He says, “I can’t… I can’t… I have football, and friends, and I have college. I can’t.” I place my hands on his shoulders. Tony kneels besides him, and we’re getting cramped sitting in the corner of the bathroom.
And then a prosthetic limb slams against Ronald’s pudgy cheek, and the crying stops.
“Thank Goodness.” Nathan said, “Anymore of that and I’d have to knock you out.”
“W-where’d your arm go?!” Ronald yells. He starts breaking into a sweat as he looks at Nathan, holding the prosthetic in his other hand. Next, he throws up on me. Chunks of food all over my nice, black shirt. Tony recoils back. Nathan stands still, and Ronald passes out.
“The kid- the kid doesn’t understand that you’re an amputee.” I say.
“And now I’m covered in his puke.”
“Well, it’s all in a day’s work.”
“I AM COVERED. IN HIS PUKE.”
“Okay, I get it, Doctor Creasco. But we have bigger fish to fry. Let’s go back to the meeting, and then get home. Some heroes – like me – have roast beef and mashed potatoes to get to. Not whatever you have on your shirt.” Nathan suggests. I grimace, and then we walk out of the bathroom. No amount of times that I washed my hands or that shirt could remove the smell. I wanted to pummel that kid, just destroy him. But I bit my tongue. He was a hero anyways, and at these three schools, they trust the heroes more.
“You know, March twenty eighth to April third is national cleaning week. On one of my calendars, it said to dampen the area, then use baking soda, and then wash in cold water. It removes that awful- er- bad smell.” Tony said.
“Thanks, I’ll remember that, when I’m leaving in two hours!”
Safe to say, I sat away from everyone, but Mary Jest constantly pinched her nose towards me.
By the CodCrease
They don’t want to tell you; the football players, that is, about the jockstrap. They know the power in the jockstrap, they know that it protects their gonads from any pain inflicted upon them. But no one will tell you about the people like me – those that wear the jockstrap 24/7. We’re the hidden warriors, the ones that know it’s bound to happen, and nonetheless we wear it because by God above is our witness we won’t let the nutcrackers win.
That’s probably what those crazy teachers want me to put. That’s probably what they want me to say. I don’t wear this 24/7. I take it off when I get home, when I sleep. I only put it on for school, and it’s more like a flaunt than anything. I have a life outside of being Codcrease. I study for tests, I play games with friends, I sit under the friday-night-lights for my football games.
But, it’s evident to me, as I listen to Shaun-Zhang and the crappy video he plays, that the first version that I had said was what those three teachers and him think of me. They think I don’t have a life outside of the puppetry. They think that the jockstrap is me.
And Shaun-Zhang can give any crappy speech he wants, but I know it to be true: I know that that’s me.
Anyways, that’s right: the mission.
So the mission was first described to us by a video. All of these loud sounds of space and crap echo from the speakers. Lazer beams, ‘pew-pew-pew’ and cheap, knockoff Star Wars themes blasted.
“You’ve waited years…” A deep voice says, “And months… And DAYS… Maybe even hours and minutes, seconds-”
“Come on!” This goofy, high pitch voice rings. “Just get to it already!”
The slithery and smooth live action, lab coat wearing, toothless fool appears before us, with his little cartoon calculator friend.
“Gizmo!” The professor says, “You need to stop complaining so much!”
“Well, Professor Brainiac, it’s been years since anyone last saw us!”
Mary leaned over to me, “Who the heck is the bald dude and that calculator?”
“Beats me.” I grumble.
“Now, I’m sure there’s kids in the audience wondering ‘who the heck is that bald dude and that calculator?’” The guy playing “Professor Brainiac” looked like he wanted to die. This role was something he had done before, and it was as though the contract wasn’t ever going to run out, regardless of how he felt, “Well, first of all, I’m not bald, it’s a wig.” The Fiddler laughed at this, “and second of all: I’m Doctor Professor Funtime Brainiac, but please, call me Brainiac, and that calculator is Gizmo, my friend. Some of you might remember us when you were a,” through crappy after effects, he morphs to the height of a child, “wee little lad!”
“If I watch another second of this, I’m going to puke.” I said. That Doctor Psycho kid glared at me.
“But I’m bigger now, and so are you, and with growth comes new fun-fun-fun-tests to take! Welcome to High School, the big leagues!” Multiple cartoon drawings of Brainiac and Gizmo appear beneath him, wearing baseball caps and holding baseball bats. They run away, “But know that in the big leagues come some harder tests, and new grades. We’re the replacement for those! We make it fun and engaging! Want to learn how to ACE the SATs? We’ll be teaching you that! How about getting great grades on calculus quizzes? That too! We’re taking over the entire school-system of this wonderful town, and we’re going to be improving it 100% of the way!”
Gizmo pops up, “Yeah! And it’s all thanks to the wonderful boss of our company, former presidential candidate, and all around savior-from-total bankruptcy…”
Shaun shuts the tv off and the lights come back on.
“Brainiac will destroy our school system, and potentially the school systems of the nation if we don’t act now and put a stop to it.”
Oliver raises his hand, and Shaun points at him, “Roight, so, I’m all for that, yeh? But what’s this whole company anyways?”
Shaun nods, “Funtime is a corporation that has been around for a long, long time. Has anyone here read the Lomax case files, by chance? The collection of memoirs from those kids at McQuarrie?”
A few scattered hands through the crowd.
“That was the company they were facing. The publishing company had to change the names to prevent being sued. We know it’s Funtime because of the articles released from the Lucas County Gazette during that time.”
An overhead projector showed a collection of newspaper articles and clippings, images of little kids with finger puppets of Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and even some teachers with Princess Leia and Jabba, all smiling with glee.
“Edufun and Funtime LLC went out of business a bit after this happened. But a mysterious benefactor started it back up. There were some test runs; Athens Middle School in New York, for example, had a whole little stint with Edufun and Funtime, but they’ve been held back. We know this because of some news articles there.”
More news articles appear. More recent, the colors less faded, of kids with puppets that are hard to make out.
“And now, they’ve pierced the high-school stratosphere, and came knocking on my aunt and her friend’s doorstep. Their jobs are at risk; the whole school board is at risk. So here’s the plan: we know that the entire school board for each of the three schools will be meeting. While this squad is pretty big, you’re going to be divided into A, B, and C teams. Tony, Nathan, Ronald, Cyril, CodCrease, Ashton, Hayden, Alex and Mary, you’ll be Team A, and your main focus will be the Kane Job, disrupting the Kane presentation. There’s a lot of pressure there, as that’s the first. And it’s next week. Of course, I’ll be there.”
“You’ll… huh?” Ashton exclaims, “I’m sorry, but me, Hayden, and Jamie don’t go anywhere without one another. I don’t mean to be rude about it.”
“It’s okay, Gentlemen Ghost. I can be your Jamie for a bit.”
“No one replaces me!” Jamie yells.
“Well, you’re needed during the Donner job.”
“We know that the order goes Kane, Lampert, and then Donner in terms of priorities for Funtime. Kane has the lowest SAT scores, so it should be an easy sell. But if it’s not, then they move to Lampert. Donner is the hardest to sell to, as they’re the smartest school in Jutefruce. So for the Lampert Job, Wally, Will, Chucky, Oliver, Wilfred, Don, and Chad will be a team, and me too. Have to keep watch of you guys.”
“I guess I’ll be driving the squad to Lampert?” Chucky asks.
“Probably. We’ll figure out the plan as it comes along.”
“You have got to be the crappiest leader I have ever seen.” Will says. Shaun shoots a glance towards him, “Like, we’re going into the game without a plan? My coaches tell me the positions, where to shoot. I don’t know, you could’ve thought something out.”
“He really doesn’t miss!” Mary yells.
“Okay, okay, shut up everyone. The rest of you will be tasked with the Donner mission. It’ll be tough, but if we stick together, we can do it.” Shaun says, “Any questions?”
We’re exhausted, and we want to go home, and all of us shake our heads. With that, we head home.
Deep down in my jockstrap region, though, I know that this was sealing our fate.
I know that the Shredder Squad is suicide.