j-j-j-w J.J.J. W

Royal Palidan Generation Is an online V.R. experience that was (and is) all the rage with teenagers and young adults. So much so that faculty of certain schools were prompted to use its technology in academics. This didn't go over so well with the school board in many countries so, students and teachers from all around the world went on their own path and created an entirely new scholastic system involving such technology. Over time, the original game that this system was based on was weeded out little by little, until only one school was left with the original idea of fun and learning under one roof. Athens Academy. On the border of Athens, Greece. It Is also the hardest school of its kind to be accepted into. With the game still widely played around the world, this was the only school that used it in academics. One day, this game is hacked, and subsequently the entire world. With the digital world tearing into the real world and turning real people into digital ones. All save for Athens Academy. Now it's up to the gifted students and teachers to use the game to free the world from the control of the digital code and catch the mastermind behind it. How Is Athens Academy the only school that's not under digital mind control? And how does this relate to the system as it used to be? That's to be found out.


Science fiction Futuriste Interdit aux moins de 21 ans.
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A NEW DAY, A NEW SCHOOL

"Hey in there, wake up," I hear my mom calling to me from my doorway. Her sweet, gentle voice carries into my drowsy ear. I, trying not to get up, ignored her request. "Don't make me come in there." I tensed up, keeping my eyes closed, as she walked into my room. She neared my bed, and I tensed even more until I was a living statue. She stood over me and I could feel her gaze boring a hole into the back of my head. "Honey," she sang into my left ear.

Twitch. I twitched. The one moment I had to avoid my first day at my new school and my mom's wrath and my frigging leg twitches!.

"Last chance to get up, David." I was sweating bullets in my harmless state of emergency. "Alright then." After a sharp yank, I rag-dolled onto the floor. My mom yanked the covers, which I was holding onto for dear life. True to the act, I stayed still with my day on the line. "Get up or I'll get the belt," she said, coldly.

I jumped up and said "Yes ma'am," As I began to get ready for school.

After a hot shower and rough hygiene control, I stared out into the street from the bathroom to see the car sitting there. We were previously an upper low-class family living in America, but then, my mom and dad finally saved up enough money from their jobs as building repair people to buy a blue and black hovercar and become a caddie for rich people.

My dad was the one driving while my mom continued her prior job. I heard his driving was legendary, and he was a good listener to those who needed it. He also drove for people like us and made a few friends along the way. Eventually, we had enough money to buy a new house in my dad's old neighborhood and with it, came his old school.

I didn't like the sound of leaving my old school behind in favor of a new one. Instead, I agreed to go initially because I hated how my old school was run. That wasn't the problem today. Today I just wanted time. Time to think and ponder over stuff like the new house, school, field trips, and worse-case scenarios. Not to mention that the location we moved to was in a whole different country!

There was also a game that my dad was so happy to tell me about as the move was done called, R.P.G. I didn't know his fascination but he said I would understand when I got to school. He must have not known that it was a game that any kid with money claimed to play despite not ever seeming to have any evidence of it. I had seen videos of it online and always wanted to play, it but never bothered my parents about it. Not because we were poor, I just never wanted to bother them for anything.

"David! Come and eat your breakfast or you're gonna be late!" Mom calls from the kitchen. "I made omelets and your dad's already waiting in the car!"

"Kay' mom! Here I come!" I found my way out of the bathroom and on a right turn, went up a short flight of four stairs back into my room. Finding my way to my bookbag; I shuffled all of my school stuff into it. Six notebooks, a ruler, a protractor, a pack of mechanical pencils, pens, and a calculator. There was also a card that my dad gave me that was about a half time bigger than a credit card and looked like the inside of an old 1990s video game cartridge and a clip-on pocket for it. I raced to get dressed. I started with my white undershirt. Next was the light brown button-up and khaki pants. Finally came my light blue gym shoes and socks.

Rushing downstairs, I almost ran into the few stairs on the other side of the staircase leading to the guest room and strumbled as I descended the wooden steps. My mom called and asked if I was alright.

"Yeah, I'm good!" I responded. I came down the wooden stairs down to the first floor into the dining room. Retrieving a small stack of omelets on a blue plate directly in front of the middle chair of the table, I went on to swiftly and promptly devour it in one fell swoop as I raced towards the front door. Opening it, I analyzed the car in short detail. It was essentially a convertible SUV. The interior was much more spacious than the exterior suggested. The lavish red that it currently was could be switched to one of several colors and combinations at the push of a button. It had wheels, but they could fold down and act as directional rotors. My dad was in the driver's seat, waving me toward him. I walked down the few stairs and hopped into the car.

"So, how do you feel about your last first day at a new school?" he asked, starting the car and driving off.

"Do I have to answer that?"

"I mean, you can if you want to."

"Are you sure this is the last one?"

"Yes, I'm sure. I know I said that last time but, whatever happens here, we're staying."

"You mean like if someone comes up to the school with a gun?"

"You mean, how you single-handedly stopped a school shooting?"

"No, I didn't. Why does everybody keep saying that?"

"You told me yourself. You were all calm, cool, and collected as you wrestled the gun away from him."

"No, I just talked him out of suicide."

"And if you didn't, He could have decided to shoot more people than just himself before stopping." He was right. All it would've taken was one wrong move and more than his blood might've been spilled. That being the case, it only took some minor convincing to avoid the entire disaster.

"That's not the point." I looked out the window and spotted a girl that seemed to be running to the same location. She was struggling and was obviously short of breath. She was behind two others that seemed to be less labored. They had all apparently gotten out too late to school for walking distance and were running to make up for it. I watched them quickly fall behind us a few blocks away from the school. I was there in under five minutes. The entire school was surrounded by a blue gate situated on top of a yellow stone base. The large gate door stood open as students entered.

"I'll be in this same spot to pick you up after school, got it?" said Dad, as I hopped out and closed the door behind me.

"Yeah, see you later Dad."

"You got your schedule?"

"Yeah, I memorized it."

"Okay, see you later." He waved and drove off. I entered the gate in a flood of other students and found my way to the marble white stairs that led up to the entrance of the school.

The entrance had four greek style pillars reaching from to an overhang more than thirty feet up with arches in between. There was an open double door between each set of pillars. I entered the middle. Around fifteen feet from that point was what looked like a temporary way-point to the rest of the building. It consisted of three tables set equal distance apart in a line. Each table had a computer on it and was manned by someone. I walked up to the one in the middle. The person at that table was instantly recognizable. She was a famous writer known for how many different genre books she wrote that have won awards. I owned three of her books. One, a science fiction novel, called 'Starbomb', another, a horror novel called, 'Don't Count to Zero', and a realistic fiction novel called, 'Chastity's Belt'. Her name was Eve. She, apparently, didn't have a last name. Her parents never gave her one. Her skin and long hair were as white as snow and her eyes were as blue as the ocean. Someone like her is as rare as it gets. She wore a blue plaid button-up and slacks. My hands clammed up and I started shaking a bit as I walked toward her. To say that I had a crush on her at the time was an understatement.

"I.D drive?" She held out her hand.

"Is that what this is called?" I pulled the cartridge out of my pouch and nearly dropped it, fumbling slightly before handing it to her. She inserted it into a slot on the right side of the computer and the screen flickered on. It showed my name, height, weight, and a picture of me from my old school as well. She looked at the picture, then at me.

"Alright, when we're done here, you can go up those stairs and take the first left. your class will be the second one on your right; room B4." She was pointing towards a stairway on the right of the large courtyard.

"O-okay." I nervously responded.

She pressed a button and a different cartridge popped out of the other side. It was a red rectangle and had my signature printed on it. It seemed that the one I already had was just put into a case. "Here's your completed drive. You'll only have to show this to a faculty member if they ask and that's all. You won't have to do this again, okay?"

"Okay." I received the drive from her and walked away slowly backward, attempting to lock eyes with her as long as I could before turning around. In the process, I bumped into someone.

"Hey!" Startled, I turned around to see a girl around my height with short black hair strangely tied into a ponytail on one side yelling into my ear. She had a decisively dangerous look in her dark eyes. She was looking for trouble.

"Ah! What's up?" I asked, seeing as no one else was in the immediate vicinity or paying her any mind. Whatever she was doing, she did frequently.

"'What's up' is you in my way!" She threw a punch and I dodged it. She had solid form and good positioning. She had been trained. She tried for a follow-up punch and I took a couple of steps back. "You afraid?"

"If you're looking for trouble, I suggest you stop now." I put my hands in my pockets and smiled. I had been in many schoolyard brawls before but, never with a girl and never with someone who was so obviously trained. My confidence, however, wasn't feigned. I had always wanted to test my combat prowess on someone who knew what they were doing.

"No, fuck that." She ran at me with fury in her eyes. I planned to catch her next attack and put her into a hold or something. That didn't happen, however. Someone came out of nowhere and embraced her. They turned around and let her go.

"That's not a guy you wanna mess with." He was much shorter than me with short, curly, honey-colored hair. "Go pick on someone else." This remark seemed only to make the girl even angrier as her face reddened.

"Fuck you too." She attempted to punch him just outside of his reach, but he caught her fist, pulled her toward him, and tripped her. She stumbled toward me awkwardly and caught herself.

By this time, I had already moved back to give them space.

Grunting angrily, she came in close while throwing knees and elbows. He countered her rising knee by stamping her foot back to the ground and he caught her elbow and pointed it away from him.

She attempted to wildly kick his foot off of hers he moved by jumping back and pushing her away at the same time. She rushed at him poised and ready with a right hook as soon as she was in range. He dodged the punch and grabbed her arm then, she pulled it back and followed up with the other one.

He took that opportunity to jump and follow her arm while still holding it then, swept her feet and followed her to the floor, still holding her arm. However much she struggled, she couldn't get free.

"Let me go!"

"Only if you promise to stop causing trouble. Besides, if you fought that guy, he wouldn't have gone easy on you like I did."

"Okay, I give, I give. Let me go." He let her go. She stood and threw one more punch straight at his face. "Oww!" The multiple popping sounds that came just before her cry made evident what happened. Her fist landed on his forehead. It was more like he headbutted it. I made a mental note to try that whenever I could.

She fell to her knees clutching her fist and he walked toward me. I was slowly attempting to tiptoe around them and make my way upstairs while this was happening. I was more intrigued than anything, so I didn't get far before the guy caught up with me going the same way.

"Pay people like that no mind." he said, "Everybody here is weird and at least a little crazy. Something like this isn't an everyday occurrence but you'll get used to it nonetheless." He patted my shoulder and walked away.

"Uh... Sure." I made my way up the stone gray stairs as quickly as possible. The iron railing seemed to be held only by a thick pane of glass that curved all of the way up yet, didn't budge when I used it to pull myself up the stairs faster. I made sure I wasn't around when that girl started moving again. Getting to the top of the stairs, I scanned my environment. The walls were clean white and the floor was a simple black and white checker pattern.

There was a long hall in front of me with only a few doors on the left and lockers lining the right between windows. There were a few students nose deep in lockers and I spotted a large person wearing a black uniform walking near the end of the hall. They seemed like a security guard.

I went through the first set of open double doors and came upon a hall full of students crowded around what looked like riddles and puzzles on the walls. One was a riddle three lines long, another was centered on biology, and another was a mathematical word problem. The word problem was in room B4. The problem read "Three people, A, B, and C, are waiting in front of you in line at a bank. Person A takes 12 minutes. Person B takes 50% more time than person A, Person C takes 50% more time than person B. How long does person C take?" The answers listed were 27 minutes, 24 minutes, 30 minutes, 26 minutes, and 34 minutes. After a moment of figuring and finger counting, I came across the answer. The only other problem was; There was no way to input the solution. Pressing it directly did nothing and vocal commands did nothing. Attempting to open the door only led to the frustration of any who tried.

After a bit longer thinking, a thought suddenly crossed my mind. I put one hand on the wall and knocked with the other. The wall was solid and made of some kind of metal with drywall on top. "This isn't a door," I said, continuing down the hall. No one seemed surprised. It made sense, they had been there a few days longer than I. Someone had to have tried that before. After a while, every other class found a way into their respective rooms. The riddle was solved by tapping out the answer in morse code and the biology problem was solved with a pattern that was drawn by a finger. There were three other classes with visible doors. They had either been solved before I got there or there were no classes being held there in the morning.

While wondering about it, I was hit with a quick jab at my right side from the back. "Ah- fuck! My kidney..." I moved away from the crowd. I hadn't noticed until it was too late, but the girl from before caught up with me. She followed me out of the crowd walking as if she had all the power in the world with a devilish look on her face. She was a bully who found her target and was dead set on tormenting me to the best of her abilities.

I wasn't used to this. In middle school, I would casually show off by walking up behind anyone brave enough to call me a friend completely silent and without their notice and either scaring them or outright picking them up and running through the halls with them in my arms. That was usually after dealing with any bullies personally.

I'd gain a reputation pretty quickly and the few times I actually got hurt were mostly accidentally self-inflicted. This was wildly different. This wasn't that one hard guy who likes to fight causing me trouble. This was a girl who knew exactly what she was doing and really caused me pain. I was more dismayed at how she could find me in a crowd of around twenty people more than anything. I stood against the wall and waited for her.

"Do you like me or something?" I asked in response to the power stance she took after cornering me.

"It's hard not to like a punching bag," She responded, narrowing her eyes and clutching her fists.

The first punch was a gut check that I caught with both hands followed up with a hard left hook while I was still holding the other fist. She put so much effort into it that she even hopped a bit forward. I let myself slide down the wall with her hand still in place. This caused her to punch the wall so hard that her fist went through the drywall and hit the metal. Her head wasn't far behind although, her face only dented the drywall.

After the deafening crash, it took her a few seconds to realize what had just happened. That was enough time for me to get up and rejoin the crowd.

What sounded like the wales of the damned followed soon after, Classroom doors opened and concerned teachers emerged. Weirdly enough, this was the first time anyone took real notice of what was happening outside of the crowd. Both her fist and nose were bleeding and she couldn't talk, just cried. Looking at the damage made me wonder what would happen if I got hit by that.

I looked down at my hands to see them shaking. It was almost like a consistent vibration. My heart was going so fast that I thought it might explode. One of the teachers, a taller woman with dark skin and micro braids, helped her to her feet and walked her down to the nurse's office. As she limped away, the crowd started shrinking. The door to the classroom opened and everybody began funneling in. I was one of the last to cross the threshold and immediately dashed for a seat in the far back. There was another door on the opposite wall near the back and I was sitting directly across from it.

"Okay class, you're all late," said a woman at the front of the room just before the school bell rang. "Was that the first bell?" She looked up at the white hanging clock on the wall "Never mind. You all made it on time. Well, since no one was able to get in the right way, I still consider it a failure."

I took a look upward from my hidden position and analyzed the class. The room itself had mostly white walls with the one blue one upfront. Black shelves filled with math supplies lined part of the wall closest to me and the rest had empty cork boards and posters showing mathematical equations and jokes as well as a few motivational posters. The board up front was a black digital canvas with a silver frame and white grid lines. The entire thing spanned from just beyond the reach of the door to the other wall and from three feet from the ground up to the same distance from the ceiling. On it, the name 'Lucy Main' was written in the middle with bold white letters.

The teacher herself was of average height with shiny red hair that had a soft curl at the end. Her wide eyes were such a light brown that it was almost mistakable as the same color and she had a bit of an overbite when she spoke, which she did very energetically. "Okay class, as you can see on the board, my name is Lucy Main but, you all can call me Ms. Main, Ms. M, Ms. Lucy, or pretty much anything as long as you say it with respect. Orientation week is over and since you've all been placed in my homeroom, it's time to start getting to know each other. This is a questionnaire," She said, picking up a stack of papers from a desk that I couldn't see on the opposite side of the room. "It's a good opportunity to let everybody else get to know you better. There are only a few short questions and you don't have to answer any of them, but I encourage all of you to answer them to the best of your abilities." She handed the person at the front of my row the stack of papers. "Please take one and pass it back."

When it gets to the back of the row, please pass it to the next. When the stack came to me, I took one and passed the stack to the next row. The few questions only asked my name, likes, dislikes, one special thing about me, and my aspirations. It took a few minutes but I completed most of the questions before the same teacher from before poked her head into the room and looked around until she spotted me and came all of the way in while knocking three reps on the door.

Ms. Main turned toward her as she began whispering something in her ear. In the middle of the whisper, the other teacher pointed at me and I ducked down even though I had already been seen. I kept my head down until the other teacher crouched next to me and whispered something.

"Hello, my name is Ms. Dextross and I teach Physics and General Science. What's your name?"

"I'm David." I sat back up. "I teach coolness under pressure and diffusing awkward and stressful situations with steeze."

"Okay David, I'm going to need you to come with me."

"Is it because I don't actually teach?"

"No, it's because of that situation earlier with your classmate whose hand and face ended up in the wall. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"Yeah, she was crying earlier next to a hole in the wall."

"So, do you understand what I need you for?"

"Yeah." I stood up and she did as well. "Where exactly are we going?"

"Follow me."

She ushered me out of the classroom and down to the opposite end of the hall from where I came. We walked past the hole and accompanying dent on our way through before going down a set of stairs just like the ones I came up and straight forward past an exit to another door with a sign that read 'Nurse' in bold, red letters with a red cross under it. In the process, I finally got a good look at the courtyard. It was about a hundred yards across and around thirty from the front entrance to the first hallway.

The floor was a mix of black and white marble in a mosaic pattern and I tried looking at the ceiling but I was distracted by three symbols. One looked like a gray marble with a red shadow over half of it, another looked like a red sun tucked into a blue crescent moon, and the last one looked like a green tree with four upward pointed branches with a bulb at the end of each of them. They were high on the opposite wall.

Before I knew it, I was being led through the door into the nurse's office. The first noticeable thing was white sheets hanging from rails around what were probably beds and a brown, sturdy desk housing a computer, printer, and roller seat. The man sitting in the chair wheeled around to face us as we entered. When he did, he revealed a girl who was sitting across from him with a bandage over her nose and a cast on her hand.

"Hello young man, I'm Nurse Likes, what's your name?" He held out his hand.

"David," I shook his hand. He was around six feet and bald with minimal facial hair and a strong handshake. The skin on the back of his hands was slightly wrinkled but his face showed no such sign of aging. In his other hand was a clipboard.

"Okay David, do you know this young woman next to me?"

I gave the girl a long, hard look. "Nope."

"Well, she says that you're the reason her face and hand are this way. Is that true?"

"Nope" I shook my head.

"Bull shi- Ah... " The girl on the bed attempted to shout only to hurt herself again. She put her uninjured hand over her nose. "You know what you did."

"What did I do huh?" I folded my arms and took the same stance that she took previously.

"You...You..." She had clearly cornered herself. Maybe she was expecting me to buckle under pressure and be unable to defend myself or, maybe she was just trying to buy herself some time to come up with a better excuse for her condition. Either way, she was clearly at the end of her rope. That's what I thought until her eyes widened before she spoke again. "I'm taking you to student court." She removed her hand and pointed at me triumphantly as blood began streaming down her nose. "Oops, my nose is bleeding again." She reached for a small ice pack and tissues sitting next to her and placed one on top of her nose and the other below. After momentarily putting them in the wrong spot, she switched their placements.

"There's a student court?" I looked at the nurse when I asked.

"Yes, there's a teacher judge and a jury of students," He explained.

"I'm in," I said, turning sharply back toward the girl.

"Alright then, I'll see you there," She responded with a hard nod, "Okay, I'm going to lie down now." She began leaning backward.

"No lying down until the nose bleed stops, remember?" Nurse Likes quickly reached out and helped her sit back up.

"Is there anything I need to sign or something about the court stuff?" I asked.

"You'll get a letter to take home by the end of the day," said the nurse, "In the meantime, you can go back to class."

"Okay." I left the room past Ms. Dextross and found myself back in my classroom. On the way, I examined the broken wall. Upon closer inspection, what I thought was drywall was actually some type of soft, chalky metal. I took a piece, put it in my pocket, and entered the classroom.

Once inside, I learned that two more bells that I didn't hear rang and that first-period practical math had started. I also learned that the nurse's office was outside of the range of the class bell.

I made my way back to my seat and found a paper booklet waiting for me. It read, 'Practical math 101 Beginning-of-year Exam'. Everyone else was nose-deep in their own booklet while Ms. Main was standing at the head of the class and watching over everyone.

I sighed and opened my booklet, getting to work. Most of the questions were pretty easy and I didn't spend much time on any of them aside from a few that seemed outlandishly difficult compared to the rest of them. I left those alone and just kept my head down.

Before long, class was almost over and we were passing our tests back to the front of the class. Ms. Main received all of them and counted to make sure. "Excellent." She sat the stack on her desk. "Since there's a little time before class ends, you can all converse and get reacquainted with each other."

I just folded my arms on my desk and rested my head on them. I was fine with this until I heard a loud whisper next to me.

"I saw what happened in the hall."

I looked to my left and saw a girl with heterochromia, a blue right eye and a brown left eye. Her long brown hair dangled over the side of her face. She had her head down as well. I didn't see her there before. She must have moved seats.

"What do you want?" I mumbled.

"There are going to be a lot of eyes on you over the next few days."

"And you want some of that publicity?" It was a wild and sarcastic guess.

"Exactly." She was serious.

"This school is weird."

"None less than you by what I've seen."

"Okay, I'm going to court for what happened, any way you can help?" I didn't think I needed any help, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

"Court this early in the year, huh? How about I be your representative?" She had the smile of a businesswoman.

"I don't know why I asked, I don't know if I can trust you." I sat up and sat back.

"In that case, I'll write up a contract by tomorrow." She didn't skip a beat.

"I might regret this, but you might be crazy enough to trust."

"Wanna shake on it?" She reached out her hand.

"On what?"

"Well, I guess to celebrate our meeting and future business."

"Eh, sure." I reached out my hand and shook hers.

"My name's Zinnia, but you can call me Zia."

"I'm David, but you can call me David."

"Cheeky."

On Zinnia's other side, there was a rustling as someone else leaned in and spoke. "What are we doing here? You two flirting? Holding hands?" It was a boy with shaggy brown hair and silver highlights.

"The fuck man, who the fuck just comes in with that?" I was visibly confused.

"Ignore him, he's gossipy." Zinnia turned toward the boy. "We were just finishing up some business."

"So, you moved seats and waited for him to come back so you could conduct 'business'? Could have fooled me." He was sarcastic with a sly smile.

She gave him a look of spite. "If you don't leave, I'll ask Erica to beat your ass. Again. She still owes me one."

"Whatever... Fuck." He slunk to a seat farther away, mumbling to himself.

"Uh, what was that about?" I asked.

Zinnia turned back toward me. "A lot of us know each other from middle school. That includes people from other classes."

"Oh, okay. That wasn't what I was asking about, but okay"

She smiled again and said, "I look forward to doing more business with you."

"Yeah, sure..." The bell rang as I responded.

Leaving the classroom amongst the other students, I realized that I had no idea where to go next. I knew what class I had, but not where it was. I thought I'd have a map or itinerary or something and I made the mistake of not memorizing where my classes were. Looking in all directions, I almost tip-toed into the hall intersection. Between classrooms as if looking for a sign as to where to go next.

"Do you know where you're going?" Amillia's voice almost startled me.

I snapped my fingers, pumped my fist, and said, "Nope."

"What class are you looking for?"

"I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be World History."

"Not that, the room number."

"I don't know."

She scoffed in surprise. "Then how do you know what class..." She sighed. "Get out your I.D drive."

"Okay." I pulled it from the holder on my waist.

"Press the button on the side."

I turned the object around in my hand and found a red square button on the side. Pressing the button caused a light to flash from the front. Turning it upwards, I saw a hologram projected off an open panel. It was a model map of the school with a red beacon in the shape of a triangle with a circle on it. It was on the second floor in a hallway intersection near the front.

"So I'll assume that this is me, and..." I looked closer and saw that each room was labeled with what current class was being held in it. "This is where I'm supposed to go." I pressed a room on the third floor; class C8 which was labeled 'World History'. A blue line appeared between me and the room, marking a path.

"Well, there you go." She patted me on my back. "Get moving, don't want to be late." She went in the opposite direction of where I was going, weaving through the crowds.

"Sure." I followed the flow of people to the left and down the hall, still looking at the map. Once I reached the end, I went up and around a staircase, then to my right at the next corner, and one room down to my next class.

On the wall was a short quiz on the history of the school. Three of the five were already inputted as correct. Of the last two, I was drawn to one that read: In the first hall, there are six banners hanging from the ceiling. What do they represent?

I stared at the question and thought back to when I was on my way to the nurse's office. I knew the banners meant something, but I couldn't really put my finger on it. It's as if I saw the symbols somewhere before but they were never the focus of what I saw until then. I racked my brain as to their meaning and realized I only saw three of them whereas the question said there were six. I needed to get back downstairs to see the rest.

Just as I took a step back, someone wrote using their finger; magic, mysticism, and the unknown.

A few thoughts popped into my mind: What? Why would a school hang banners that mean the opposite of what a school should represent? And why does it seem so correct?

A green checkmark appeared in the box next to the question and I was so hung up on the answer that I didn't notice until just before the door opened after the other question was also answered.

I funneled into the room with the other students and found a desk at the back to sit at. I sat in basically the same spot as in the last class, the back. Unlike Ms. Main's classroom, this one only had bare blue walls and a board at the front of the room.

The bell rang for class to start, but there was no teacher. I didn't think much of it, but most of the rest of the class were looking around in confusion. I just started fiddling with my I.D drive when the lights turned off briefly.

They turned back on too fast for anyone to react and confusion spread even further. Now everyone was looking around at the sight of a large bald man standing behind the teacher's desk. He wore a black and white casual suit that fit just close enough that his hefty muscles were well defined through the fabric.

"I am Professor Douglas Black." His booming voice rang through the room loud enough that I was sure the next classroom would go deaf. His name wrote itself in red and pink swirls on the board as he spoke. "And this." He continued, spreading his arms out and gesturing to the entire class. "Is history."

It was already silent before his arrival, but now it was a stunned silence. I looked around for places someone his size could have popped out from but decided it was futile. Instead, I put away my I.D drive and sat back.

"History is made every day." His voice lowered to a volume that wouldn't blow anyone's ears out. "We all make history with every little thing we do. They cumulate into the bigger things that happen in life." He snapped his fingers and the sound reverberated throughout the room similarly to his voice. "Never be afraid to document history in the making."

By the end of his sentence, I noticed that a piece of paper appeared on my desk. Looking around, I noticed that there was only a piece of paper at the desks where someone was sitting. There was even an empty seat between me and the person in front of me, but there was no paper there either. It was as if he knew where everyone was going to sit ahead of time.

The paper turned out to be a set of questions about how our lives were before coming to the academy. I made sure to keep out anything above the ordinary while answering. After finishing the sheet, I noticed another one stapled to it. After that one was another attached to the same staple. I didn't question it and just made sure not to give away anything that could put me in the spotlight.

After a few minutes, Prof. Black spoke up again. "We'll be spending the whole class period on this, so be sure to be thorough. When the bell rings, leave your papers at your desks. I'll collect them after you leave."

Sure enough, we kept working on it until the next bell rang. I nearly exhausted myself looking back over all of my answers repeatedly to find any inconsistencies until I was sure everything was sound.

As soon as I left the classroom, I took out my I.D drive and followed the map back to the second floor. My next class was the one I was most excited about. The wall outside of the classroom had no quiz, but instead a single quote, "Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination." -Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The door was ajar and students were flowing in like a stream. I entered and sat in a seat in the front row. This classroom was lined with posters of literary quotes, writing tips, and bookshelves filled with hard and softcover books. At the teacher's desk sat a pale woman in a blue sundress pouring over notes and writing feverishly between separate sheets of paper.

A while after everyone took their seat and class started, she looked up briefly and her eyes widened in surprise. "How long have you guys been there?"

"Around ten minutes," I said, still fiddling with my I.D drive.

"Oh." She stood and pranced to the board. "Sorry class, I get pretty distracted sometimes." She took her finger and waved it across the board in a whimsical style and wrote her name. "I'm Eve. I don't have a last name and I don't like being called miss, so just call me Eve. Also, if you see me distracted like that at the beginning of class, just tap on my shoulder and let me know." She scanned the class a few times and continued. "So, first thing's first... What class is this?"

"Creative writing," I said, placing my palm on my forehead.

"Oh, yeah... second or fifth period... Wait... no..." She counted her fingers to five and put two down. "Third period." She sounded hesitant. "In that case." She tapped the corner of the board behind her three times and her name disappeared to be replaced with a series of images that filled the canvas. After looking between all of them, she selected a few by tapping on them and then tapped the board three more times. All of the ones aside from the few she selected disappeared and what was left grew to be visible from the back of the room. The images turned out to be book covers.

"In this class, I'll be assisting all of you in writing your own novels and we'll be using these books as references." She double-tapped the one closest to her and text appeared under it. "The Tale of Genji. This Japanese book is credited as the first novel." She double-tapped the next one over and then each in turn. "Next is Journey to the West, a great Chinese fable. Then, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, A classic in English literature. And finally, Universal Locket, a recent novel already acclaimed as a modern classic." She scanned the class one more time. "What do these books all have in common?"

It took us all a second to realize we were supposed to answer. "Oh, they're all fiction." Someone answered.

"Correct, but there's a few more things, too."

I thought about what they all had that was similar aside from being fiction and answered, "They were written hundreds of years apart and helped define... Something." The rest of my statement was at the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't quite get it.

"They helped define their era." Someone else finished it for me.

"That's right." Eve smiled brightly. "Even if they weren't the defining novels of their era, they still helped shape the world of fiction as we know it." She went to her desk and pulled out a phone before scrolling around and typing something on it. "All of these books should now be downloaded on your I.D drives. You can take your time and read them over now and tomorrow, we'll start writing exercises." She sat at her desk. "Just call my name if you need help with anything."

Unsure of how I was supposed to find the books on the I.D drive to read them, I looked around and saw people pressing the side of their desks revealing a slot that they inserted their I.D drives into. Looking along the side of my desk, I found a part that pushed in. It opened to a slot like everyone else's and I put mine in. The top of my desk flickered from light brown to pitch black before the words 'Student Operating System' appeared bolded in white with three small letters, R, P, and G, over the S in student. The words soon disappeared to be replaced with 'voice identification' in the same font.

"Voice identification?" I said, confused.

'Accepted' appeared under 'voice identification' then the screen went white and a menu appeared. There were a few options, but I pressed the one that read 'literature' and it changed to another menu with images of the books Eve described. Of the four, I've read 'Journey to the West' and 'Harry Potter', so I pressed 'The Tale of Genji' and began reading as the screen changed to a book layout. I scanned over a few pages and then started at the beginning. Eventually, the bell rang and I took my I.D drive out of my desk and returned it to its holder at my waist.

I was going to strike up a conversation with Eve, but she was nose-deep in paper and I didn't want to bother her. Instead, I wandered awkwardly into the hallway and just walked in a random direction. My next period was a free period and I never went to a school that actually had those, so I had no idea what to do.

After a few minutes, I remembered the nurse's office and made my way there. Once I got to the hall at the front of the building, I stopped and looked around. I took note of the three banners from before again and examined the three others. One was a stick with a leaf and three gold rings around it, another was a black star of David with the points connected with a hexagon surrounded by a shining purple and blue circle, and the last one was a red sword surrounded by a fractured emerald ring. The more I looked at them, the more what they stood for made sense.

After some time, I went to the nurse's office and was about to knock, but stopped because I heard voices. Placing my ear to the door, the voices grew louder.

A vaguely familiar voice was repeating the phrase, "I warned you once." while growing closer.

The other voice was the girl I was expecting to be there. She was speaking quickly in a one-sided argument.

"Oh, and one more warning." I now recognized the voice of the guy from earlier who got the girl to back off before she inevitably caught up with me. "Just give up on the whole court thing. You're just going to lose." I heard the sound of the doorknob then backed off a few steps and continued forward as if I just got there.

The door opened and the guy and I saw each other. "What are you doing here?" I was genuinely curious.

He closed the door. "Just doing some housekeeping. That girl knows no limits." Looking me up and down, he said. "So, any scratches?"

"Uh, nah. Not really."

"Well, I'll get going. My free period's about to end. By the way, I'm Titus." He went off towards the middle of the room.

"I'm David," I responded.

"I know." He entered the hall at the end of the large room.

I opened the door to find Nurse Likes sitting at his desk typing on the computer. The girl was still sitting on the bed as before, but now she was laying back and kicking her feet.

"What's going on?" I closed the door behind me and just stood there with my hands behind my back.

The girl answered first. "Nothing much; just wondering why these assholes keep showing up. You?"

I looked around to find nobody else. "I don't see anyone-"

"You're one of them!"

Nurse Likes spoke. "I hope you're here to see how she's doing."

"Kinda." I leaned against the wall next to the door and turned my attention to the patient on the bed. "Actually, I don't know your name. It's weird that somebody I don't even know tried to attack me on the first day at my new school, so mind telling me what I can call you at least?"

"Shut up, you talk too much and I have a headache."

"Can you at least tell me your name?"

"Damn, it's Gina, whatever, fuck..." After a moment or so, she lifted her head up and saw me for a split second. "What are you still doing here, get out, I don't wanna see you." She seemed tired.

"I don't have anything to do, so I'll just stay here for a while just to annoy you," I teased.

She lifted her head again with a large scowl and murder in her eyes. "Get the fuck out."

"Sure, just try not to ram your face into any more walls, okay?"

"Get. The fuck. Out." She seemed to have lost all of her energy and just laid back with a heavy moan.

I exited the room and started wandering around the building. It went up three floors and each got progressively smaller but they all had the same number of classrooms as well as a boys and girls bathroom, two lab rooms, and two locked closets. The second floor had a library and the third floor had a study room.

I thought I explored everything until I noticed that I never saw a cafeteria. After fiddling with the map a bit, I found that it was underground. I saw stairs leading down before, but thought it wasn't the best to go down unprompted, but as it turned out, there were classrooms down there as well.

The way down consisted of only a couple of steps into a sloped hallway left and right. One direction led to a brick wall painted white and the other way led to a set of double doors into a room full of tables with people sitting at them. Perhaps it was their lunchtime or maybe some of them just decided that was the best place to spend their free periods. On the right, there was a counter with windows built into the wall. On the other side of the window was a kitchen full of warming ovens with a man and a woman in scrubs sitting on bar stools at the opposite counter facing me.

The woman saw me and said, "This yo lunchtime?"

"No." I stopped in my tracks and stared them dead in the eye.

"Alright." She went back to monitoring everyone else as they sat, ate, and socialized.

At the opposite end of the lunchroom was another set of double doors as well as to the left of the entrance. Just as I was approaching the door on the left, the bell rang, signifying the end of my free period.

Looking at my I.D drive, I saw names on some of the classrooms change. My Biology class was in one of the labs on the second floor, so I made my way there.

The door was gone and across the wall was a series of switches in three rows. Where the door was, now housed an image of a person whose appearance changed with every switch flipped. I just watched as people flipped the switches back and forth. I didn't even try to join in as people took turns making the image look like various celebrities, themselves, and other teachers that happened to pass by. Eventually, the bell rang again, signifying that we were all late.

Less than a minute later, all of the switches vanished into the wall and the door opened. Out popped a young boy shorter than most of the students gathered around the hall. He had sparkling green eyes and emerald hair. He wore a white lab coat and a neon green turtleneck under it.

"Alright students, file in." He hopped back into the room and stood beside the doorway as we did as he said and filed in.

I took a seat in the back again while everyone else found their place. I saw something out of the corner of my eye and looked to see Zinnia sitting next to me and not far from her was Titus whose eyes were slowly darting back and forth. I looked away quickly and pretended not to notice them.

The boy at the front of the class started writing on the board. Afterward, he turned back to the class with 'Professor Richard Green' written behind him. With a smile, he said, "Okay class, listen up. My name is Richard Green and you can call me Prof. Green. You don't have to, but I always wanted to be called Professor. I may look really young, but that's because I am. That is all. Any questions?"

Someone raised their hand.

"Yes?" said Prof. Green.

They asked, "So, you're Green in green?"

"Yep, I'm a plant man. I teach biology but my specialty is botany." He turned some of his hair with his fingertips.

Someone else raised their hand.

"You have a question?"

They asked, "Does that mean we'll be covering plants a lot?"

He answered, "Perhaps. To be honest, that hasn't exactly been decided yet. I was hired on short notice; so many things, like the classroom; haven't even been fully decided yet." He waited a minute just standing at the head of the class with his hands behind his back before speaking again. "Well, since there are no more questions and I have a lot of paperwork to go through right now, you guys can get to know each other while I work at my desk. Just don't get too rowdy." He went to the teacher's desk and sat in front of the computer. "Oh, and one more thing: my name may be 'Richard', but that doesn't mean anyone can call me 'Dick'. You will live to regret it. And then you won't." He put his head down and began typing at insane speeds from the sounds of the button presses.

I folded my arms and put my head down on them and less than a minute later, I heard a familiar voice.

"Have you thought it over?" Zinnia's voice pierced my ear uncomfortably.

"No, not really," I moaned.

"Well, here's what I have so far." Something landed on my desk and I looked up to see a short stack of papers. "It's an early draft, but you can look over it if you want."

"That's uh... A lot..."

She tilted her head quizzically. "Is it?"

I flipped through it a little and immediately questioned the sanity of who could ever write so much by hand and think nothing of it.

"You couldn't have typed it or something?"

"I did, I just used my handwriting as the font."

"And you printed it?"

"Yeah."

I closed what was basically a book and slid it back to her. "I'll think about it." I lied.

"Well, while you think about it, there's a guy over there who keeps looking at you. You know each other?" She pointed over at Titus, who was casually looking our way.

"You sure he's not looking at you?" I shrugged. "You have different colored eyes."

"That's not uncommon. Besides, your left eye is tinted slightly red."

"You've officially been staring too closely." I put a hand between me and her. That slight tint is something only I knew existed until now. It's in both eyes, but only visible in one at a time if you focus on it otherwise, my eyes are a light shade of brown.

"Huh, I didn't peg you as the shy type. To each their own." She left the stack of papers and went to bother someone else.

I put my head down into my folded arms until I heard someone approach, then I buried my head deeper.

"Hey." Titus took the seat next to me.

"What do you want?" I mumbled.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, what do you want?"

"Well, I was going to ask if you wanted me to represent your case, but I heard that girl was already on it."

"Zinnia? Yeah, sure..."

"So, what are you doing next period?"

"That's... A free period, I think?"

"A free period for all freshmen until we pick an elective."

"Oh, I was gonna explore the basement then go see Gina at the nurse."

"Yeah, I thought so. You should stay away from her. The more you're around her, the more she has to use against you."

"I don't really care about all that. I just want to see what kind of person attacks another person at random. Besides, it's not like the whole 'court' thing's gonna amount to much."

"Well, you shouldn't see her anyway. She'll just have more reason to keep doing what she's doing."

"Well, what if I want to see her?" I propped my head up on my fist with my elbow on the desk and looked at him. He was giving me a look as if he was talking to a brick wall.

He shook his head in disapproval. "Don't do that, don't fall for your bullies. It never ends well."

"Not what I meant, but you sound like you speak from experience. Been there, done that?"

"All I'm saying is: she's bad news. Save yourself the trouble and just leave her alone."

"Why are you interested in me anyway? Do we know each other? Do you know me from somewhere? I'm not famous or anything."

"Let's just say, I've seen what you can do."

Conscious that my low profile had already been compromised and unwilling to stand out for my past, I lowered my voice. "Like?"

He lowered his voice as well. "Bang."

"What do you want?" I said, acknowledging that my suspicion was confirmed.

"Nothing, really. Just can't have you drowning before this ship sets sail."

"Is something supposed to happen?"

He shrugged. "Nah, I'm just looking out for you."

I put my head back down. "Okay, I'm pretty sure there's more to that, but as long as you don't have a problem with me, I'm fine."

"For now, I don't, it's whatever."

He left me alone and after a while, someone tapped my shoulder.

"What?" I looked up slightly but enough to see over my arms. Zinnia stood politely by my side.

"The bell rang and you were snoring a little."

I looked around to see other students leaving the classroom. "Weird. I don't feel like I fell asleep." Standing, I made my way out of the room and down to the first floor. Taking a glimpse over my shoulder, I saw Zinnia following behind me. "What are you doing?"

"Observing you. After all, I am representing you in court."

"I don't think I actually agreed or signed anything yet."

"I see a seventy-percent chance of you accepting and signing our contract."

I sighed. "Can't we just go with a handshake or something? The whole 'contract' thing feels like too much."

"No, procedures like this have to be handled with care and sophistication."

"Alright, Hermione. Wouldn't it be better if you're not like, right next to me if something else happens? You can't represent both me and yourself."

"I beg to differ," she said, folding her arms with a look of superiority.

"Alright, do whatever." I waved her off.

I continued down to the lunchroom and made a sharp left after entering then went straight through the doors I stopped at before. On the other side was a long hall lined with lockers. Directly to the right was another set of double doors. I continued forward to the end of the hall and past some classroom doors to an intersection. To the left was a shorter hall while on the right was a longer one that led to another double door.

Turning left, I passed a stairway on the right, went to the end, and found another set of steps on the left that seemingly led outside past another room that didn't seem to have a defined purpose, and more lockers against the opposite wall.

Taking a moment to decide where to go next, I turned around and went down the other hall I saw. Halfway down this hall, something shifted. I couldn't tell what it was, but something definitely changed as if I was suddenly in a completely different place. It couldn't be that the halls were empty, they were already empty.

It was as if I was in the middle of a dream but I didn't feel like I would wake up. I took each step fluidly, yet cautiously as if a wrong move could spring a trap. My senses felt like they were both dulled and heightened at the same time but I also felt completely blind to my surroundings.

Out of the corner of my eye, someone appeared walking next to me. It was a girl, but it wasn't Zinnia. This girl had long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and was shorter. I looked back to learn that there was no trace of the girl who followed me.

"Hey," I said, looking straight forward, keeping the girl in the corner of my eye.

"Looks like you got pulled in here too," said the girl. "Somehow, that doesn't surprise me."

"Same here. Who are you, anyway."

"Oh, little ol' me?" She pushed some of her hair behind her ear. "I'm Allice, wandering this mysterious wonderland. I'm late to a tea party, you see. Who, pray tell, might you be?"

Feeling far too comfortable with the scenario, I said, "Well, Miss Allice, Some call me mad, but I seem to have lost my hat, so it seems ill-appropriate to tell you who I am, but I can tell you my name. It's David, ma'am."

She gave a soft giggle. "Oh, so, you are indeed mad? You must be to perceive this land and think naught of it. Perhaps you belong here? In the madness of this 'other' world. This wonderland."

We continued walking until I noticed that the hallway only got longer as we went. It seemed like we were covering distance, but so too was the hall. Doors also began appearing in the newly empty spaces of the walls as if they were always there.

A feeling soon began tugging at the back of my mind as if an incomplete thought tried to enter and a heavy sense of foreboding crept up on me. Danger was near but I kept walking as if nothing was the matter.

"You're brave," said Allice.

"Nah, just curious." I shrugged.

"Or mad?" She smiled.

"Maybe I am. I shouldn't be here."

"Well, then it looks like this is where we part. Never stay in this realm longer than you need. The walls are deaf, and the shadows have hands."

The very next step I took after she said that felt different. It was as if I returned to reality and my senses were back to normal. My knees wobbled as if they weren't ready for my weight to fall and the danger I sensed subsided.

"What the hell was that?" I looked around at the hallway and it was back to normal. I was sweating, the hair on my arms was standing, and I was breathing as if I was out of breath, but I didn't feel exhausted in any way.

"David." Zinnia's voice rang out from behind me as her arms tightened around my arms. "Where the hell were you? You just disappeared."

"I... I was walking with a blonde girl and we were talking? It rhymed and stuff... What was that? Why are you hugging me?"

"You just fucking disappeared for a minute, what do you mean?" Her panic was easily understandable, but I was a long shot from sharing her sentiment.

"That was weird... I'll just get going, I guess." I shook loose from her grasp and started walking forward.

She grabbed my hand, stopped me, and said, "Why are you so damn calm?"

"No idea." I started walking again and Zennia followed still holding my hand. I tried to pull away but she wouldn't let go. "Are you just going to keep holding my hand like that?" I started waving my arm around and she refused to let go. "Huh, didn't think you liked me like that."

"Shut up, I'm just making sure you don't disappear again."

"Not without you, huh?"

"With or without me. That was weird and I think we should just go back."

"Nah, I'm not done exploring."

We got to the intersection and the hall to the right was dimly lit, only getting darker as it reached another intersection. I stopped and stared at the consistently encroaching darkness. I took a cautious step and the hand holding mine pulled me back.

"What do you think you're doing? We're not going over there."

I got an Idea and gripped her hand back before rushing forward, causing her to stumble a bit to keep up. I wasn't sure how hard I was squeezing since her hand was so soft, but I was sure it was fine. I would just pull her along on a little date. No, not a date. If I could pull her into the darkness, she might get scared enough to leave without me. That was the plan.

It was only after reaching what was supposed to be the next intersection that I noticed that we were a breath away from a wall of darkness. It seemed almost solid and ethereal in nature. I felt like if I took a step closer, I'd be firmly in the grasp of something I was unprepared to deal with. That's when I remembered the advice from Allice. 'The walls are deaf and the shadows have hands'.

"Darkness creeps from behind." The words flew from my mouth before I had a chance to think of them.

"What?" Zennia sounded shaken.

"We're walking backward. Let's go." I started walking backward and steady footsteps behind me did the same.

"What's going on?"

"I don't know, but the darkness can't follow us if we don't look away from it. Something I learned from being afraid of the dark as a kid."

We kept walking backward for a minute until I saw a dim halo of light from my peripherals. The wall of darkness stayed at bay and I was sure the hand I was holding was still the same as before. If I was wrong, my problems would be more consistent with a horror movie than a supernatural thriller.

I blinked and the darkness was gone. The hallway was normal as if there was never a problem with the lights and the feeling I got subsided. Even so, I kept my guard up just in case. Taking a slow look around, I saw Zennia still staring intently down the hall. I snapped my fingers in front of her face and she blinked then looked around as well.

"That was weird," she whispered.

"Not as weird as what I experienced before, but yeah, that was weird." I shrugged.

"How did you know what to do?"

"I think I already explained that. I was scared of the dark as a kid."

"But, how... We need to document this. I'm definitely sticking around you."

"No need. Something as weird as this. Someone should have already. Also, no. I don't need someone literally at my side all the time unless it's my girlfriend."

"Well, how about-"

"Not interested."

"I wasn't even going to suggest that."

"Doesn't matter." I started walking down the well-lit hall. Zennia followed, still holding my hand. "It's weird how no one else is here. Nobody's come this whole time. Almost as if people avoid this place."

"As I was going to say, we can keep track of each other with our I.D drives. There's a thing that lets us track each other. It only works in the school, though."

In as exaggerated a tone as possible, I said, "And I would want to be tracked, why?"

"Just in case something else like this happens. We can have each other's backs."

"Nah, I'm good." I slammed my fist into my chest. "I got my own back."

We met the intersection and turned left. From there, we explored until the bell rang. Eventually, we found a gymnasium, a pool, a locker room, a library, and an auditorium dotted around the maze-like basement. All of which had multiple entrances that were locked. No other anomalies occurred on the way and we did eventually run into a few other students also exploring. They paid us no mind, but I knew it looked like we were a couple, causing me to sigh every time. She at least let go when I went to the bathroom but she kept calling in to see if I was still there.

Eventually, the bell rang and the next class would soon start. As soon as people started filling the halls, I firmly yanked my hand away and ran back to the lunchroom and up to the lobby then outside. My next class was phys-ed.

There was a race track behind the school that my I.D drive led me to but since the halls leading outback were full of people, I took my chance with going out the side just to get away from Zennia. I snuck around the left side of the building and to the back where a small group had already assembled by the track. Zennia was there and so was Titus.

I sighed and took my place among them. Zennia said nothing to me but gave a look of superiority. Titus nodded at me and I shrugged in response.

As more students flooded out of the building, I saw someone that made me question my sanity. Allice was in the middle of the crowd and we saw each other at the same time. We shared a look of recognition as she came to stand next to me.

"I see you found your way out," she said.

"Out of where? What do you know about that place?"

"Nothing at all. What I do know is that you looked like you were having a lot of fun running around the halls holding that girl's hand. Is she your girlfriend?"

"You wish. She wouldn't let me go, so I just dragged her along."

"Oh, if she was, I'd like to meet her."

"I'm right here." Zennia was lurking behind us. "You two seem unusually friendly."

I looked back and forth between the two girls and made sure I wasn't getting any weird looks myself. "Remember when I disappeared? This was who I was with."

Zennia folded her arms. "In that case, what do you know about that weird... Thing that happened?"

Allice put her hands up and shrugged. "Like I just said, nothing."

A piercing male voice sprang from near a nearby bench facing away from us. "Shut up." Not just our conversation, but many others quieted down. "Good. Is everyone here?"

We all looked around in confusion as if we were supposed to know the answer.

Someone piped up and said, "I think so."

"Good." A long arm reached up and with a snap of the fingers, he pointed over to another bench. "Gina Costello and Nick Hrabik. I need you two over there."

Gina appeared out of nowhere with a boy that looked a lot like Prof. Green except for having a natural brown hair color and being taller. Gina still had the cast on her hand and the bandage over her nose. They sat on the other bench.

"Alright, rollcall. I'll be calling everyone's names in order. Just respond if you're here." He began saying names in alphabetical order. When he was done, I had a list of names I was sure to forget and re-learn in due time locked away in my head. I also learned that Zennia's last name was Strong, Titus' last name was Rain, and Allice's last name was Manchester.

After rollcall, the man lying on the bench sat up and then stood. He was tall and slim with short dark hair and a goatee sporting an unusually stern demeanor despite how laid-back he seemed. In one hand was a clipboard and in the other was a whistle dangling from a lanyard.

"Alright, class, my name is Maxwell Blue. You can call me Max or Coach Blue. I'm not a coach, though. It's just a fun title." He blew the whistle softly, well, as softly someone can blow a whistle. "First thing's first, stretches. The two on the bench are exempt from this for today on the grounds that one is injured and the other is a nurse's aide who happens to share the same P.E period and he has to watch over her to make sure she doesn't hurt herself again. Any questions?"

I raised my hand. "What do you mean by, 'again'? She's just sitting on a bench."

Gina audibly growled and attempted to stand only to be pulled back down by the boy smaller than her as he scolded her with a nod of disapproval.

"Well, if you must know," said Max. "She has an outstanding record of incidental injury. Like the incident earlier today. You would know, after all, you were there."

I looked around a little more suspiciously than I'd like. "Perhaps..."

"Anything else?"

"Nope."

"Thought so. Everyone get on the track and we'll start."

We did as he said and he proceeded to lay out a basic set of stretches for everyone to do. Once we were done, I was very relaxed. Never noticing how tense I was throughout the day, the stretches forced me at ease and I nearly fell asleep on the asphalt.

Someone snapped their fingers near my ear and I responded with, "No... I'm too comfortable..."

"So, that means you're comfortable enough to run two miles?" Max was crouching by my side.

"I guess... Wait-"

"Nope, too late." He patted me on my back. His hand was heavy enough that for a moment, I thought he slammed his fist down. "Get running. Four laps is a mile and if you don't finish today, you'll finish tomorrow with two more added."

"Wait-" I rolled over and sat up. "Two laps, or two miles?"

"Every new question adds a mile."

"Ah-" I stood and started jogging.

I didn't pay much attention to it before starting, but the track was huge. He wasn't kidding about four laps making a mile. It only took four laps to tire me out, but I still had four to go. Gina made faces and threw middle fingers at me every time I passed her and Nick waved as if to mitigate her mockery. I waved back a couple of times and threw her a few middle-fingers, too. Anyone I could consider a friend was too preoccupied with a series of exercises most of the time to interact with me aside from a few breaks sprinkled between them and the last ten minutes when Max let them do whatever.

On my last lap, I passed Zennia, Allice, and Titus and they all gave a simultaneous 'Hi' before looking at each other and pointing accusingly. A second later, Titus bolted after me with what sounded like a war cry. Alarmed, I stepped it up a pace and ran at full speed. By the end of the lap, I was sure I was going to die from my lungs exploding. My legs felt fine until I sat down and realized I couldn't stand back up.

I reached out to the nearest person as the bell rang. Surprisingly, it could be heard outdoors. "Help."

I wasn't paying attention and that person happened to be Gina. " Go fuck yourself," she said, bouncing a middle finger in my face with an outstretched tongue as she walked backward past me.

"I hope your favorite book gets adapted to a movie and none of the characters are how you imagined them," I retorted.

She just laughed, made a fart noise with her tongue still sticking out, and promptly tripped on her own heels, landing on her already injured hand.

"That's what you get for talking shit." I laughed breathlessly, still unable to stand.

Nick helped her up then came back to help me up. My legs felt like jelly and Gina sounded like she was starting to cry, then suppressed it as we began walking together.

"Looks like your friends left you," said Nick. "What's up with that?"

"They're not really my friends," I said. "One's a weirdo, the other's a cryptic weirdo... Scratch that, they're both cryptic weirdos, and the last one is my lawyer. Also a weirdo."

"Well, that's what this school is made of. Weirdos, geniuses, genius weirdos, and weirdo geniuses. That's why people can get away with so much. It's all in the name of academia, though, it does become a bit of a headache when people get hurt as often as they do."

"Shut up, and don't you point at me," said Gina, speeding up ahead to one of the closed doors and trying unsuccessfully to push it open one-handedly despite there being no sign of it being a 'push' door.

"I wasn't pointing, but at least you know who I'm talking about." He let out a soft giggle with a smile. "She's really resilient, though."

"A real firecracker if I ever saw one," I said.

Annoyed, Gina said, "I can hear you."

"I know you can," said Nick. "Did you check to see if it's a 'pull' door?"

"Duh..." She paused, then pulled the handle and the door opened. "Fucking-" She ran in and pulled it closed from inside.

I couldn't help but laugh then said, "You seem pretty normal, dood."

"Nah, I'm one of those weirdo geniuses, and I assume you are too, otherwise, you wouldn't be here."

"Well, about that." We made it to the door and I opened it, letting both of us through. "I'm pretty sure I'm only here because my parents went here."

"Now, I can't help but doubt that."

"No, really, my parents went here."

"Not that. There's gotta be something weird about you or you're insanely smart in something. I'm here to become a doctor. If I graduate here, I'll only need a year of college to get my doctorate. How about you?"

I shrugged. "I like books. I read and write-... Stuff."

"That's pretty cool." He nodded. "What's your next period?"

"Lunch, I think."

"Alright, me, too."

As we went down the few steps down to the basement of the school and toward the lunchroom, we spotted Gina hurriedly limping towards us with a lunch tray in her hand. She spotted us and started limping faster.

"What happened?" Nick asked as if he was her mother.

"Nothing, fuck off." She dismissed him as harshly as I thought she would.

"Nope, give me that I'll help." He reached for the tray and she maneuvered it away from him.

"No, I got this."

"No, you don't, give me that-" He successfully wrestled it away from her.

"No, I-" Enraged, she stamped her foot down. "I said I got it!" In the seconds that followed, a tear came to her eye. "That was the wrong one..." Her lip started quivering.

"Just let me help you." Nick put her arm over his shoulders while she nodded tearfully and he carted her away.

"Have fun, you two," I called after them.

"Fuck you!" Gina yelled back at me.

"You, too, bitch."

I continued to the cafeteria and looked around until I spotted Zennia and Allice at a table attended by all girls. Titus was off in a corner by himself, unsuccessfully shooing away anyone who approached. A few people still sat near him, but none particularly close. I sat directly across from him and just looked at him for a bit.

"What?" he said.

"So, you just chase me around the track then leave me when I can't get up?"

"I was just having a bit of fun. That Allice girl is pretty cute. How did you pull her?"

"I didn't." I pivoted my elbow on the table and rested my head on my hand. "And you're changing the subject."

"Glad you noticed. So, does that mean I can swoop in, snatch her away, and you won't bitch about it?"

"I don't know, man, ask her."

"Well, what about Zennia? I can dig a girl like that. The bossy rule stickler. You just know she's got some kinks."

"Dood, whatever. Why are we talking about this?"

"Maybe I'll just take them both since you're so oblivious. Or you really do have the hots for Gina."

"Nope." I thought for a second and decided to say it. "I like Eve. You may judge if you so wish."

"Which Eve? There are a few."

"Uh... English teacher?"

"Oh... Yeah, that's understandable." He nodded slowly. "Literally nobody alive looks like that anymore. Albinism is a hell of a thing. Then she's got a slim package and she's a bonafide air-head. I get it. If I had to choose a teacher, she's in the top ten at least."

"Top ten? Who's number one?"

"I'd have to say it's between Dr. Tachibana and Prof. Green."

"Prof. Green? I thought he was a guy."

"His sister is also a teacher here, but they do look similar, so I guess it doesn't really make that much of a difference."

"Huh, what does she teach?"

"Physics."

"Biology and physics... Never mind. Who's Dr. Tachibana?"

"She teaches Japanese history and culture. It's an elective I'm thinking of taking."

"Because she's hot?"

"You have no idea. She's like a hundred-twenty centimeters with a giant rack."

"Really? How tall is that in feet?"

"You don't know how to convert?"

"I do, it just takes forever."

"It's about... You're right, it does take forever."

A familiar voice rang from my left. "Four-point-nine-five-feet."

I looked over to see Zennia far enough away from me to stand outside my peripheral vision.

"And how long have you been there?" I said.

"Long enough to know someone thinks I have kinks."

"That's... almost the entire conversation."

"I know." She looked sharply at Titus. "So, were those simply observations? Or were you hoping for something?"

"Well, I, uh..." Titus looked around as if he was in trouble. "I wasn't expecting to have to answer that so directly... Can I think on it?"

"Nope!" Allice appeared almost out of nowhere, slammed a lunch tray down next to Titus, and sat. "I'm too curious now."

"Same." Zennia sat next to me with a half-eaten bagged lunch. "You were talking about the hottest teachers, right? Describe me the same way. As if I'm not here."

Titus looked down at his tray, almost analyzing the scraps still on it. "Uh... Do I have to?"

Both Zennia and Allice nodded.

I shrugged and said, "I think you have to."

Swiftly, Titus scooped up a piece of unfinished bread and stuffed his mouth then started mumbling incoherently while chewing and stopped after swallowing. "And there you have it." He smiled triumphantly.

"Alright, smartass," said Zennia. "I'll let you get away with it this time."

Excitedly, Allice said, "Okay, now do me."

Out of food to stuff his mouth with, Titus just looked at her and said, "Cute."

"Is that it?" She looked disappointed.

"Is that what everyone calls you or something?"

Making a sour face, she said, "I don't wanna talk about it."

"Well, regardless, I'm curious about the rest of that top-ten list of yours." Zennia now had a broad smile stretched across her face.

Titus met her eye contact for a second then said, "Which one? Date or fuck?"

"Up to you."

"Alright, but only if you tell me yours."

"Agreed." She didn't hesitate for a second.

In the minutes that followed, the pair gave a list of ten teachers they'd either date or do and even explained their choices. While Titus only had female teachers on his list aside from a possible exception of both Prof. Greens, Zennia had a mix of male and female teachers. They eventually pressured Allice into giving a list too and tried to pressure me into it but stopped after realizing that one day was not enough time for me to know even a quarter of the faculty. By the end, I walked away wondering if they were secretly friends the whole time. I also forgot to get a lunch and only remembered near the end.

When the bell rang, we all walked together until Titus had to split off since his homeroom was down the hall from the rest of us. It turned out Allice was in the same room as me and Zennia. There was no code or riddle we had to solve on the wall and instead, the door stood open.

Once we were inside, I followed them to a spot near the middle where they sat next to each other and darted off to sit by myself in a corner like always. In mere seconds, they both caught up with me.

"You were supposed to sit next to us," said Allice.

"In the middle of the room? Nah." I sat back in my seat. "I'm a loner, and a loner's gotta be alone."

"What kind of shitty movie line is that?" Zennia sat next to me. "If you're an introvert, just say it."

Allice laughed and sat next to Zennia so we were all side by side.

Not amused, I said, "I thought sitting alone would imply that I'm an introvert. Speaking of being alone, why did you guys leave me outside?"

"I went in to talk to Titus since he seemed to have a lot to do with your case," said Zennia.

"I went because I was curious," said Allice.

"Makes sense." I folded my arms on my desk and put my head down. "Let me know when something happens."

A familiar voice I wasn't expecting burned my ears. "Here's something." What sounded like a thick piece of paper landed on my desk. "You've been served."

I looked up to see Gina with a shit-eating grin by my side.

"What do you want," I said, propping up my elbow and placing my head on my palm as I immediately began thinking of ways to get her to leave me alone.

"I want to see you suffer, plain and simple." She picked up the manilla envelope she slapped on my desk and plopped it down a couple more times. "Court stuff. Including date and..." She looked down and around as if in thought.

I scoffed and said, "You don't remember what's in there, do you?"

"Shut up. All you need to know is that you're gonna get fucked so hard you'll have a new ass hole."

Finally thinking of a way to get rid of her, I sarcastically said, "Yeah, sure. Wanna join my harem?"

"What the fuck?" A look of disgust splashed across her face and she looked back and forth at me, Allice, and Zennia. "No- hell no." She turned and left at a brisk pace.

"Well, that worked better than I thought." I put my head back down.

"Did you really just say that?" Zennia did not sound happy.

"What, you wanna join it, too?"

"Oh, so, you weren't insinuating that we were already in it?"

"Ah, well, mhm-maybe." While I thought of ways to stay on her good side, she started rummaging through a duffel bag she carried at her side.

"So, do you really have a harem?" said Allice, brimming with pure curiosity.

"Nope."

"Oh." For some reason, she sounded disappointed.

I looked up with a sarcastic smile. "I mean, if you want me to start one, you can be the first member."

"Nope." Now, she sounded offended. "You need at least two other people."

"What?" Shaking off my momentary shock, I said, "Well, there's... Uh... You?"

Allice just shook her head in disappointment.

"Eh, whatever, I'd rather be alone, anyway." I attempted to put my head down, but Zennia stopped me with a heavy stack of paper that she sat on my desk. "Where did this come from?"

"The second draft of our contract. Read it over and let me know what you think by tomorrow. I'll give you my number so you can contact me with your thoughts on it, then, I can write up the final draft and we can sign it so I can represent you in court."

I just looked at the stack for a moment then looked at her and said, "Do I have to pay you or anything?"

"No, my services are always free of charge, at least, they are on matters like this. Win or lose."

"Okay, how about I just sign it, then?"

"Unacceptable, it's only a draft. If you're that eager to sign it, I'll have the final document tomorrow."

"That's just a waste of paper."

"No, it's not. This paper is a hundred percent recyclable. All I have to do is dip it into a special solution and all of the ink comes right off so I can use it again."

"Oh, nice." We sat in silence for a moment. "What are we supposed to be doing right now? Isn't this like, a class or something?"

Seemingly bored of being silent, Allice spoke up. "This is extra time before after school stuff where we can study and stuff. Didn't you do stuff like this at your old school?"

"Nah, I went to a public school. After the last class ends, we just get our stuff and go wherever we go after school. We literally couldn't stay and study unless we were in a study group." I nestled my head back into my arms. "I guess I'll just put my head back down, then."

Some time passed and I felt a light tap on my head. I looked up to see Zennia typing something on her desk with her I.D drive docked in and Allice fiddling with a pen that had multiple spinning parts to it and I didn't see Gina anywhere near us, so I figured it was nothing and put my head back down.

While my head was down, I overheard a conversation between the two girls next to me about a variety of things that fell into background noise until they arrived at the subject of R.P.G. My ears perked up in hopes of some useful details, but all I got was something about a celebrity who plays it. I didn't bother asking about it and just used their chatter to keep myself awake enough to hear the bell ring, which it did eventually.

I sat up and felt something crash into my back. Looking over, I saw Zennia rubbing her hand.

"Sorry," she said, "I was going to shake you awake, but I guess that was unnecessary."

"Yeah." I stood quickly and made my way out of the classroom and out the front doors along with a flood of other students. As soon as I was clear of the dense portion of the crowd by the door, I was hit with something on the back of my head.

"Forgot something?" Zennia was standing beside me with an envelope on top of a short stack of paper in her hand.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot about that." I reached for the strap of my bookbag and didn't find it. "Uh, oh."

"I figured this was yours." She held up my bookbag by the top strap in her other hand.

"Wow, thanks, you actually brought my stuff." I took the bag from her and opened it while she gingerly placed the papers and envelope inside.

"Just don't leave your stuff lying around. Especially when it's this important."

"You mean because you really wanted me to take home that whole 'contract' thing?"

"That, too, shut up." She started walking ahead of me. "Go home."

"I mean, I was gonna..."

I continued on my predetermined path through the open gate and off to the east corner of the block where I waited for my dad to pick me up. In less than a minute, he drove up with the car in hover mode and pitch-black in color. He rolled down the window and tilted his sunglasses down.

"Mister Gear?" he said.

"Dad, what are you doing?"

"Get in." He pressed a button on the dashboard and the passenger door in the back opened sliding upward instead of out like normal.

I didn't question it and just hopped in like it was any other day. It was only just before we drove off that I noticed the staggering amount of eyes on us both jealous and impressed.

"How's that for an outro?" Dad sounded proud of himself.

"The episode isn't over yet, Dad."

He had a good chuckle at my remark. "This would be a good show if it was one."

"Then, I guess there's a court episode." I rummaged around my book bag and produced the envelope and waved it around a bit. I have to go to court.

"Wait, what?" Dad sounded less confused than I thought he would. "That was way faster than I thought it would be. What happened?"

"A girl tried to beat me up."

"And you're taking her to court over it? Or is it not that simple?"

"She ended up with a broken hand and bloody nose."

"Damn. I get equal opportunity, but those hands are really indiscriminate, huh?"

"It's not like that- why do you sound impressed?"

"I mean, if you had to go that far, she must have had brass knuckles or a chain or something. A knife?"

"No, she missed me and slammed into a wall and broke it."

"The knife, her hand, or the wall?"

"Hand and wall. She also had a concussion, I think."

"Oof, at least you weren't hit by that."

"Yeah, I guess. I gotta stand trial though."

"You'll be fine."

We were already home before our conversation was over, and I stepped into the house first. I immediately looked around for my mom to tell her about me going to court, but she was nowhere to be found. Apparently, she was out gathering local clients for the family business.

After quickly changing into something more comfortable I laid down on my bed and sifted through the two pieces of paper in the envelope. One was a list of charges that were placed against me by Gina, most of which were completely invalid. The other was a summary of how court proceedings worked at school. It was all pretty straightforward and mildly interesting in some places.

Out of sheer curiosity and nothing else, I flipped through the far too many pages of a contract Zennia gave me and nearly fell asleep. A lot of time staring into the space between me and the document later, my mom knocked on the door and it opened since it wasn't really closed, to begin with.

"How are you doing, David?" She came and sat at the foot of my bed. "I heard what happened from your dad. Was there anything else? Did you make any friends?"

I proceeded to tell her basically how my day went aside from the weirdness that happened in the school basement and she just listened like she always did. At the end of my story, she made remarks about how the school never changed from how she remembered it and how the people never really do, either.

My dad called up a little while later about dinner being ready and instead of me going down to eat, my mom went and made me a plate, then brought it up to me. It was regular old macaroni and baked chicken with peas. As soon as I was done eating, I got seconds then passed out.

14 Février 2023 17:11 0 Rapport Incorporer Suivre l’histoire
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A propos de l’auteur

J.J.J. W I'm just your average writer trying to get my name out there... Well, maybe not average, but I do what I like and odds are, you'd like it too.

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