R.E.M. - Reality, Existence, Mentality; Another Day



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OmniChaos

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"In other news today, Dr. Joshua Mathews was found in Central Park with an arm and leg missing. Dr. Mathews, a leader in the field of neurology, was set to operate on a young man who has been in a deep—"

"It's your move, Chris."

Chris sat in front of a wooden chessboard with glass pieces, his red and Michael's white. His brother was quite the talented player, and had chased Chris into a tight corner, having seemingly anticipated each move from the very beginning. He sat there, his finger spinning lazily around the round tip of the queen's crown. It was smooth, and felt pleasant to the touch. He looked over the board trying to find a move.

"You have no choice, Chris," Michael said, pulling the orange juice out of the fridge. He raised the carton to take a drink, but paused, his eyes staring pass it and out into the distant space as he he became lost in thought. Michael shook his head, took a light sip, and replaced the carton before continuing. "I have you in check and your king can't move. You have to move the queen to take my knight."

He was right, as much as Chris hated to admit it. He reluctantly moved the queen forward two spaces to take the white knight. His finger lingered on the chess piece for a moment, then lifted it. Chris sighed. "Your move, Michael."

Michael casually walked to the table, not even bothering to study the board. And why should he? He had been in control of the game from the very start, four solid moves ahead of Chris, and already had his move set long before it had come. In fact, it was almost as if Michael already knew Chris's moves in advance, and was simply playing out a predetermined pattern. He casually picked up his second white knight, picked up the red queen with his other hand, and sat the knight in her place. With a warm smile, he responded, "Checkmate."

Chris groaned and picked up the red king, looking deep into its body and watching the colorful designs the light made when reflecting off the piece. "Looks like I lose again," he grumbled. "Big surprise."

"But you did better this time, Chris," Michael replied, slipping his black jacket on. He sat his fedora on his head, fiddling with it for a moment until he was satisfied with it. He paused and adjusted it once more, tipping it down ever so slightly to the right. "You have definitely improved since last time. Who knows? Maybe you will beat me some day."

"Yeah," Chris chuckled, setting the chess pieces carefully into the velvet placeholders on the bottom side of the board. Chris ran his fingers against the black fabric, enjoying its softness as it brushed across his fingertips. "And maybe it'll rain Mountain Dew or beer."

"You never know," Michael smiled, picking up the last of his stuff. "Now come on, we're going to be late for school."

"What are you talking about?" Chris grumbled, still sore over his defeat. He placed the closed chess set back in its place on the bookshelf, nudging aside the leaning book it called neighbor. Chris returned to his seat and finished off his glass of orange juice, which he had scarcely touched throughout the entire match. "We still have a good ten minutes before we have to leave to make it on time."

Michael paused, shocked, and glanced at the time on his phone only to confirm Chris's statement. He had been sure—no, he knew that it had been five till, and yet, as plain as the nose on his face, the clock read a quarter till. He stared, lost in confusion, at the phone that shine brightly in his hand. What made him think it was five till? Better yet, why was he so sure of it? He had known the time, without a shadow of a doubt, without having looked at a clock once the entire morning, as if that was supposed to have been the time at that very minute. And yet, staring back at him, was a time different from what he knew it was supposed to be. "L-Let's head out anyway," Michael managed, trying to shake off the unrelenting feeling of déjà vu that was beginning to overwhelm him. "I-I've got some last minute preparations I need to make for today's lesson, so we need to head out a little early."

Chris picked up his bag with an annoyed 'okay, okay' and headed for the door. Michael, however, paused and spared a glance outside the apartment's window. Across the street stood a man, dressed entirely in black. He didn't move—and hadn't moved since Michael had first spotted him earlier that morning. It must have been one of those 'agents' people had been spotting around town, and Michael would bet anything that he would be gone by the time he got downstairs. He growled.

"You can't have him... Not again..."
 

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Hazel-eyed and hesitant, Alex Tamura stood in front of her bedroom door facing the hallway. The clock read five 'till eight. She was going to be late for school.

Still she didn't move. She was dressed and packed, ready to go. All that was left were a few short steps through the door, down the hall, out of the house and onwards to school. Alex mentally prepared herself for what was coming next. Drawing in air, she held it, then jumped through the open door with both feet. THUMP. Opening eyes she hadn't realized were closed, Alex found herself standing in the hallway outside her room. Only then did she let out the breath she'd been holding.

One down.

She practically ran down the hall, skidding to a stop before the front door. Unlocking it, she repeated the same ritual as before, breathing in, holding it, and jumping through with both feet (making sure to keep her eyes open this time). She landed safely on the welcome mat outside her house. Two! she thought, and a smile lit up her face. She spun around on her heel.

"Ittekimasu!" she cried down the empty hallway. An acknowledging grunt came from somewhere farther back, probably the study, where her father was busy working on his new novel. She spun back around, still grinning like an idiot, when she saw the man in black standing across the street. Staring directly at her.

Alex's face flushed bright red, a trait she'd inherited from her mother. He saw me, she thought. The man had seen her jump through the door, holding her breath, then spin around like some... like some giddy middle-schooler! Mortified, Alex stuffed her hands into her pockets, head tucked so that her ears nearly touched her shoulders, and marched grim-faced towards the school, not even pausing to close the front door. She didn't even know who that man was!

But she couldn't stay embarrassed for long, not with such a promising start to the day. In her mind, Alex put a mark on her mental checklist. Hold breath, feet together. That was her new strategy, thought up just this morning, for going through doors. It had worked well thus far.

Most kids her age didn't need to think about these things, but lately Alex had been going through some changes. Mainly, changes in the apparent laws of physics. For the past month, whenever Alex walked through a door, she couldn't be sure where she'd come out. Usually it was the normal places, like the hallway or the front porch; but sometimes it was not so normal places... like, once, the bathroom of a Boeing 747. That was weird. Ever since then, she'd been coming up with strategies to counteract this strange anomaly in space-time. Somewhere in a more adult part of her brain, Alex knew such measures were ridiculous--there was no logical reason holding your breath and keeping your feet together should prevent you from traveling through an alternate dimension--but then the whole situation was ridiculous! And besides, it wasn't like she had any better options.

Returning to the present, Alex noticed Chris Russell walking up ahead, along with his brother, Michael. Alex had to call him Mr. Russel; he was her homeroom teacher. She ran to catch up.

"Hi Chris!" she chirped, shoving unceremoniously between them. "Hi Mr. Russell," she added, sparing a glance in his direction. "Hey Chris, have you seen Liora today?"
 
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Cassette-Disk

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An annoyingly catchy song from the eighties ran through Chase's bed-ridden head as she made a meager attempt to lift herself off her bed. She had managed to push her body upwards from the mattress before collapsing back down with a whimper. Her alarm had already gone off and she couldn't justify spending any more time dozing the morning away. She had to be one of the first people on campus in order to open the library.
"I coulda had a retail job." The young woman mumbled to herself as the song continued in her mind. "Coulda had reasonable hours. a nine to five. Imagine that, going in at nine in the morning instead of how it is now." Chase sat upwards onto the edge of her twin bed, her eyes drooping in what little light the early morning offered. "But nooo. I got a job at a high school. The one place that needs me to be there before the birds are awake." The girl let out a stiff yawn before slowly making her way to the bathroom.

After a shower that lasted no where near long enough, Chase went into her kitchen and poured herself a bowl of cereal. She opened the refrigerator door and sighed deeply: there was no milk waiting for her to be combined with the sugary concoction. The girl stood there for a few seconds trying to think of what to do. Thanks to the time of day, this was considerably harder than usual though she would have had to think things out regardless. Finally she opened a drawer and fished out a plastic sandwich bag before dumping the dry cereal inside. She opened the small pantry and threw the bag inside, replacing it with a small bag of blueberry bagels. As she put them to toast, she reopened the fridge and pulled out a small container of creme cheese. Just as she did so her house phone rang, which surprised her slightly. She rarely got callers, and instead usually contacted her friends through the internet. She ignored the call which went to voice mail.
"Hey Chase, it's Ashley!" A female voice said, causing Chase's eyebrows to rise in surprise. "We haven't talked in a while, so I'm a bit lonely."
"Liar." The short haired girl said simply, knowing full well the voice on the other end couldn't hear her.
"And I'm not lying!" Dammit. She always knew Ashley was psychic. "I just miss you is all. Call me back when you get the chance, alright? Or at least text me! Something to let me know you're alive. Just keep in touch. See you later!"
Beeeep

After eating her breakfast, Chase walked out of her apartment but was greeted by the most vile creature the world had to offer.
"Good morning, Chase. 'Ave you got the rent?" Well, maybe Harry the landlord wasn't all that bad but she would have been happier to not have seen him today.
"Have I got the...? What a silly question, of course I don't." Chase answered, crossing her arms and turning away from the tall Englishman as he laughed. A sense of deja vu flooded over the girl, but she ignored it.
"Tha's a good giggle there, love." He said, wiping away a fake tear. "But really, have you got the rent? I's almost due." She looked out the window instead of answering and had to do a double take. For a second she thought she saw a man in a full suit standing on the other side of her street, though he was no where to be seen. It's still too early, she told herself, I'm seeing things.
"Yeah, here." She said finally, taking out her wallet and handing her landlord a decent size of her carrying money. There was flash of pain in her gut as she did so, but said nothing.
"Brilliant," said the man counting his newly made cash. "Any plans tonight? Friends coming over? Maybe a guy, eh? You haven't brought many a' them around these parts, 'ave ya?" Chase laughed it off and waved before leaving. He wasn't a bad guy by any means, but she didn't have time to chat. By the time she got to her post at the school library a small group of kids had already formed outside the door. Apparently, she was the first of the library staff there. She used her key to open up the book haven and let them in before taking her spot behind the counter.
 

KingdomKey

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"Don't you just love mornings like this, Felix? The sun is shining. The birds are chirruping. The smell of fresh mowed grass. I love mornings."

Felix yawned tiredly as he waited in line for the sweet and intoxicating scent of coffee he was promised. His step father? legal guardian Arnold was sipping delicately at his green tea in a nearby stool and people watching as they passed by the board windows in their local Starbucks café. The british accent was slightly grating on his ears because, he wasn't much of a morning riser compared to the upbeat man that looked after him, and he had stayed up late into the night texting Ennis on his cellphone.

"I need coffee. I need my coffee before I can answer stupid questions. Say it with me, Arnold, 'coffee'." Felix replied irritably, adjusting his hold on his backpack and trumpet case. "Not all of us can function without caffeine in our system like you do, old man. What are you on? Unicorns and sunshine?" The line was moving at a snails pace and if he had his way, he'd shove everyone out of his way and forgo being a good citizen on his first day here and the first day at school altogether. But it wasn't worth getting criticized, lectured and thrown around the room like a ragdoll by Arnold; not after last time.

"What is it with young people and their coffee?" Arnold asked calmly, used to outbursts like these and took a bite out of his bagel with cream cheese spread on it. "Kids these days shouldn't be drinking coffee and complaining about being up so early! Whatever happen to youth?" A soft moan escaped the eccentric man's lips as he chewed thoughtfully at his bagel and gazed at the local newspaper before him.

"Can I ask you something, Felix?"

What deity did I piss off today to have to endure this? Why can't it be Ennis with her cute, bubbly voice and innocent personality that I can make fun of and tease? There was nothing he could do until he was back in the car and dropped off at school.A small gut feeling told him this was just the beginning of his already terrible morning after bumping his head against the sink when he bent over to pick up his fallen tooth brush; which escaped being plummeted into the toilet that was right next to it after being knocked off of by a carelessly sweep of his hand.

"Aren't you already asking me a question, Arnold? Kind of a waste of a question, if you ask me." Felix replied hastily, grinning at his cleverness until he heard snickers from behind him and a distinctive clack of a tea cup being set down. "Whatever. You're already asking me something. May as well get it over with because, even if I said no, you're still going to ask, aren't you?"

"Probably." Arnold said with a kind smile.

Felix groaned aloud, pinching the bridge of his nose as he looked to Arnold then at the line of people shifting slowly before him, then back again, when he caught something black out of the corner of his gray eye's. Every thought or sarcastic comment flew out the window and came to a screeching halt because of a man standing in the middle of a sidewalk in a black suit and looking his way. Normally Felix wouldn't think much of it because, he could be a business man scoping out the place or debating about getting a cup of good ol' coffee but, he didn't have a phone or brief case anywhere in sight. Great. Just another authority figure to be spying on me or doing god knows what. Shaking his head, he felt a tap on his shoulder from someone behind him and shrugged it off.

"I'm moving, I'm moving, alright?" Felix snapped, ignoring the obnoxious sighing from someone behind him, probably a fellow student that attends the same high school he was transferring to and quickly taking his order from the barista with pigtails and ignoring the playful look on her face. "I'd like a blueberry muffin to go with that and make the frappe extra large."

I doubt anyone knows it was me that super glued the local newspapers to the cement the other day. Just stay cool, Felix. They can't pin anything on you without evidence and it was a harmless prank. The small mantra didn't last long when he was brought out of his thoughts from the following words. "Are you and Ennis courting each other? Is that how kids say it these days?"

The barista came back with his order and shakily handed it to him Most likely eavesdropping the whole time she was getting his breakfast ready and taking her sweet time in getting it done. Don't you dare laugh at me. Felix nearly growled, shoving wads of dollar bills and pennies at the woman before hightailing it out of there. His left eye beginning to twitch as he opened the door and heard Arnold calling after him about his ride. He halted and spun on his heel and mustered up a deep breath before shouting, "I'M WALKING TO SCHOOL! DON'T BOTHER PICKING ME UP!"

Once he was out the door, he let out all the air he was holding and let the tension slowly fade out of his shoulders. Keeping to a casual walk, he could see the school wasn't really much farther from where he was and could see more cars passing him by on the pavement and making the turn to go up to the high school. Whipping out his phone and not paying much mind to his surroundings, Felix started to text Ennis again.

"You're coming to school today, right? Already a nightmare without you. Save me."

A satisfying ding went off from sending the text message followed a soft beep of a return message. Glancing at his phone, he couldn't help to smile at what Ennis wrote. "Aren't you suppose to be the one saving me? Do I have to do everything around here? I'm joking. Hold on tight, princess." Of course, Ennis would say something like that to him. Boy, he couldn't wait until they were in homeroom together because, she was going to get payback for that sassy remark of hers. "You better be at first hour or I'll coming knocking." Felix pocketed his phone into his jeans before turning on the curb and watching as a red speedy mini van came roaring past him with an open window.
 
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OmniChaos

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Chris and Michael walked along in silence, Michael having placed himself to the left of Chris and ultimately between his brother and the man in black. He had still been where Michael had spotted him from their window, ever un-moving. But why? Why was he still here? Every time prior, when Michael would see one of these freaks standing around from his window, they would always mysteriously be gone once he had reached outside. The fact this one had remained in place unnerved Michael to his core. Are they planning something? Are they ready to strike?

Michael dipped his hand into his pocket, letting his fingers curl tightly around a pocket knife the man always carried with him, just in case of dangerous situations. It was a gift from his father, during a time much brighter. Before his father was a drunkard, and before that incident, he had been a good man, and Michael always kept that knife to remember the man his father once was. If that man in black decided to do anything, Michael would plant the blade of his knife deep into the man's throat. Even if he was sent to prison, Michael would do what he needed to protect Chris, even if it meant taking another life.

"Hi Chris! Hi Mr. Russell!"

"Hello Alex," the two replied in near unison, in an almost routinely fashion. With the arrival of one of his students, now squeezed in between the pair, Michael released his constricting grip on the knife, allowing it to slide back into the dark depths of his pocket. His fingers were sore from the pressure he had applied to the knife, and it had left imprints on them from the various tools that lined the knife.

"Hey Chris, have you seen Liora today?"

"Ah, sorry, can't say that I have. Perhaps she's already at school?" Michael peered back over his shoulder as the two talked, and, as he expected, the black suited man was now gone. He allowed himself to relax a bit, but the burning questions continued to gnaw at the back of his mind—questions he knew he'd have to find the answers to before they were given to him and his brother taken.

"By the way, Alex," Michael interrupted, reaching into his satchel and rummaging through some papers. "I assume you are ready for today's test?"
 

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Sandwiched between the two Russells, both at least a head taller than her, Alex didn't feel uncomfortable at all. She liked the brothers--they had moved to Pleasantville when Alex was 7. Chris had even played with her occasionally, though he was already in middle school at the time. Mr Russell was a tough teacher, but he was fair, and Alex actually enjoyed English class.

"By the way, Alex," Mr. Russell was saying, "I assume you are ready for today's test."

"Yeah," Alex answered unconcernedly, "though I still think there should have been more discussion of the psychoanalytical and feminist critiques of the play. Abigail Williams is totally a personification of the Id." In truth, Alex didn't have a complete grasp of what all of those words meant, but that was what her father, himself an English professor, had gone off about when Alex had told him they were reading Arthur Miller's The Crucible in class. It all sounded wonderfully opaque and esoteric to Alex, who had enjoyed The Crucible well enough for its story, and she had recently discovered that she liked testing her teachers, to see if she could break their cool, all-knowing exteriors. So far she hadn't broken Mr. Russell's.

She was enjoying their company so much that Alex didn't notice how quickly they'd arrived at the school; didn't notice, in fact, until her front foot was crossing the threshold of the school doors. Instinctively, she reached out to grab Chris' left hand... but Chris wasn't there anymore. She was standing on the top floor of a parking garage overlooking the high school. And she wasn't alone.

Two men in identical black suits stood near the edge of the parking garage, looking down. One spoke to the other.

"Any word from our mobile operatives?"

"We've got eyes on the two brothers. A suit was bothering them earlier, but he got too obvious--the older brother scared him off."

"Still, that they're out in the open is concerning. And there shouldn't be so many of them so soon. We may need to accelerate our schedule."

The second man shrugged. "That's up to them, really. And of course His Majesty. We'll just go with the flow."

BRRRPPPZZZT

A hand flew up to an earpiece. "We've got some agitation!"

"It wasn't from either of them... the girl..."

Then the man on the left turned and stared directly at Alex, and the man knew, and Alex was stumbling backwards, falling through open elevator doors...

...and landing almost in the lap of Ms. Conner, one of the librarians at Jefferson High. A long second passed between them. Alex lay on a pile of overturned books, where she had apparently fallen from the faculty bathroom. Ms. Conner seemed uniquely at a loss for words, so Alex grasped the first library-appropriate ones that came to her.

"Take a look, it's in a book..."
 
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Ordeith

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The art room was painted a flat black — wood doors, brick walls, foam ceiling tiles. Even the plastic frame that held the tiles in place was wrapped in black gaff tape from the theatre department. It had no windows to permit outside light, and the only intrusive sounds had to travel through a door set an entire hallway's length from the main body of the room. It was a magic cavern, made of a different stuff than lunch trays and textbooks and bland fluorescent lights.

It was a melting pot of new color and substance, the birthplace of some truly weird shit.
Nothing could touch you there. It was an open plain, and you were free to let your mind roam and conquer.

Early in the morning, it was peace and quiet. It was solitude before the onrush of the crowd. This was not to say that Sage Hawthorne minded the crowd; she bathed in their laughter and drank up their tears. But as she daubed paint on a canvas in the hour before school began, in a fast and furious attempt at wet-on-wet oil painting, she was very happy. Sage had little time to sit back and examine her work, but she bounced from one bare foot to the other in a kind of fidgety dance — catching it between brushstrokes from as many angles as she could. There was no music in her head or her body, but there was a lively rhythm.

She was in the final layers of the piece. Trees and vegetation acquired their final features. Sunflowers acquired their petals. She smirked, and laughed aloud because no one else was in the room. Happy flowers, happy little trees. One by one, they entered the living world that she had crafted in about an hour. Blissful arboreals, smiling saplings. Jubilant junipers. The landscape was partially framed by a small thicket of trees, now stretching from the background into the foreground.

Sage finished her fidgeting, exhaled, and beheld the final product. Complete! Thank you, Bob Ross. Growing up, Rembrandt had been her chief source for wet-on-wet knowledge, but the eminent Master Ross really was more applicable here. Nature landscapes were not a Rembrandt specialty.

Mostly satisfied, the artist formerly known as Thyme washed her hands in the utility sink, then moved the canvas over to the area reserved for work that needed to dry or harden. She would return after school to add the final details. For now, she pulled her backpack into one of many closets, and there changed from her stained white t-shirt into her proper clothes. Sage was willing to laugh and belch and mumble aloud to herself when no one was nearby — and, frequently enough, when many people were nearby — but Victorian modesty is not a habit so easily broken.

Only after she had washed and dressed did she glance at the clock.
"Forty-five...?" A quarter til, the clock read. Sage inhaled sharply. "It's running slowly. Shit."

Upon exiting the art room, however, she found that the clock had not been slow. All down the hall, the electric clocks displayed 7:45 with precision and regularity. Sage had time to lock up the art room, return the keys to Mr. Breuggeman in the cafeteria, chat with him over a muffin and orange juice, visit her locker for no substantial reason, and head outside to wait for Chris. As she always arrived at school before him, she always met him at the door. Fully aware of how desperate and silly it looked, she called it "waiting for master to come home," the implication being that she was a neglected dog waiting at the front door. It was a dumb joke, hardly her best. But it stuck.

Sage Hawthorne and Chris Russell shared it like they shared so many other dumb jokes, and still they managed to wring a laugh out of it every now and then. She could still remember the ugly guffaw she let out when Chris first called her "Fido."

Chris and Michael were approaching now, and Sage could see little Alex Tamura bouncing between them. She grinned. Now there's the real puppy dog. Alex was indisputably the cutest creature at Pleasington High, even more so for her relationship to the Russells, her neighbors. It was a genuine pleasure to watch her grow and blossom so brightly in high school, far better than Sage could claim for her own freshman year.

"Replacing me with Queer Friend 2.0?" Sage called to the trio from a distance, raising her hand. "Or is she just my stunt doubl—" The words died in her throat as Alex vanished abruptly from sight. A sense of disquiet ran over Sage's mind, settling in her stomach. She locked eyes with Chris, and then Michael, unsure of how to respond. Surely I'm not the only one who saw that...?
 

KingdomKey

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Ennis sat on her bed with her phone clutched tightly between her hands. Already, she was late for school and nowhere near ready with the clothes she had on. Thanks to her mother. Something about looking like a lady and needing to look the part. Breakfast had taken twice the amount of time, when her mother insisted she stayed and gave input what meals they should have for the week. None of her siblings in sight. Probably snickering and watching behind one of the pillars. Groaning, Ennis got up and shucked the dress off of herself, quickly grabbing her duffle bag and putting something on a decent fourteen year old girl would wear. If mother could see me, she'd faint at my graphic t-shirt and jeans. Moving to the door, Ennis locked the door and looked over to her window. Felix... you really don't fit the damsel in distress like I do. Throwing open her window, she climbed out and braced herself, when she pushed off the ledge and fell none too gracefully onto the cement.

Now, I need to hurry and-

There was some sort of commotion on one of the roof tops from where she stood, accidentally overhearing something about a girl before jotting forward and stumbling into someone. Judging by the black suit, she knew this wasn't the average employee looking for a job at the hotel her parents run. Mumbling a quiet apology, she hurried before she could be caught up in whatever was going on and the moment she was at the end of the street, she glanced over her shoulder. He's gone? Shaken, Ennis pulled out her cell as she walked into the bustling sidewalks and found herself halting as a red mini van came screeching to a halt before her on the street with the red engine running.

"Need a ride to school?"

Ennis eyes widen in surprise as she found herself staring at their new high school swim coach. "How did you know I went to-" Except the swim coach leaned over the passenger seat and popped out the door with a smile. The yellow t-shirt and red shorts with the whistle wrapped around her neck was enough to convince her that she wasn't going to stuff her body into a bag. This is all happening too fast. There was something like a knowing glint in the woman's brown eyes, but Ennis felt her head shaking back and forth before opening her mouth to refuse when she remembered the guy in black could be waiting in wait for her for all she knew. All those disappearances lately... what if I'm next? But I'm not suppose to take rides with strangers either. If her mother were here, there'd be even more trouble brewing for her.

"I'm Ms. Argent. We're both going the same way," The swim coach began, clearly noticing her wariness. "And I promise not to offer you a lollipop next or take you into my secret hide out to chop you into bits. I've heard of you- or well, I've heard of the hotel and one of the students lived there. Kind of a coincidence, really. Do you swim?"

"Okay." Ennis interrupted, cutting her swim coach off -- knowing the longer she dragged this out she'd be left here on the curb without any nearby assistance and probably get detention on her first day of school. Which would turn into being grounded and not getting any free time to herself on the weekends. Without saying a peep, she hopped in and watched them pull away from the curb and speed off towards the school, nearly swerving out of the way of-

Felix!


---

Felix caught a glimpse of the driver, watching as they parked in the school parking lot and got out. New swim teacher sure is a reckless driver. Definitely athletic with those legs of hers. Shaking his head, he looked towards the main entrance of the school and saw Sage Hawthorne freeze like a deer in headlights at something she saw. Somewhat puzzled, he glanced at what she was staring at and realized it was who not what she was staring at in horror. There were the two familiar Russells approaching her but, it was almost too fast for him to catch. Was that... no... that can't be right. Alex vanished? Was she really there in the first place? Adjusting his hold on the trumpet case, he briskly moved past Sage and twisted around long enough to say to them all, "Weird morning, isn't it?" Then without a backwards glance, he hurried down the hallway and to the right, opening the band room door long enough to leave his trumpet in the classroom before heading for homeroom.
 

Cassette-Disk

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"I heard there was a line waiting outside, Ms Conners," an aged woman told Chase, who was sitting behind the counter with her nose within the pages a copy of The Worm Ouroboros. As soon as she heard the woman, Chase snapped upright in surprise while slamming her book closed but quickly relaxed herself.
"It was like, four kids. One of them just needed to return a book and his buddies tagged along, that's all."
"Regardless, it is imperative that we are open before are services are actually required, young lady."
"Yes, Mrs. Fields."
"That's Mrs. Bields."
"Sorry," the girl lied. There were a few things Bields thing did that Chase disliked, one of which was adding an S to the end of Chase's last name despite having been corrected in the past. It seemed only fair for her to do something similar even though her new name had the side effect of making Chase crave cookies. "I'll try to come in a little earlier from now on."
"I should hope so!" The woman said before walking away to shush a whispering group of students Chase couldn't even hear. The girl was about to mock the head librarian to herself in whispers but held herself back. That lady's hearing was crazy good, and Chase didn't want to get on her boss' bad side. Instead she opened her book back up and did her best to find the page she had left off on. She read on while playing with the drawstring of her hoodie, twirling the bit of plastic at the end of it in between her fingers.

"...A most fiery politician is my little martlet: damned fiends and angels and nothing betwixt for her. But I'll dance to none of their tunes, but wait--"
A sudden crashing sound broke the young woman away from her story, which caused her to once again bolt upright and slam her book closed. It took a panic filled second to realize the extremely nearby crash was a student falling into a pile of books that needed to be put away. Being the adult in this situation, Chase did the appropriate and mature thing, which was stammer in disbelief as she tried to piece together how someone got behind her, used the bathroom without Chase hearing any water running, then trip over themselves as they exited. After a few moments the young teen finally made a move.
"Man," Chase said as she finally composed herself, "you're a pretty good ninja, Alex. Exit strategy needs some work though." And now that theme song is going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day... The young woman helped Alex to her feet before quickly and half-assingly straightening the books that were knocked over. "It's a good thing I was sitting there and not Mrs. Fi--uh, Bields. She'd probably have a heart attack and give you detention from beyond the grave...But man, why'd you sneak into the bathroom like that? It's not the like the others are locked." This bathroom is unisex. The sudden thought ran through Chase's mind as she looked at Alex. "Uh. Hey kid, I'm not really an expert or anything," the librarian said, lowering her voice slightly, "but if you need to talk about... you know, stuff... I mean, if you're having a hard time with who... that is, if you have any... look, I'm no good with talking, but I'm good at listening. If you need an ear just let me know, yeah?"
 

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"Oh, is that so?" Michael chuckled, rummaging aimlessly through his satchel for nothing in particular. He withdrew a pair of papers and quickly scanned over them, putting on more of a show than doing anything of real importance. In all honesty, the papers in particular that he had pulled had been nothing more than a bake sale announcement for the following week, but Alex wouldn't be able to tell that from her position. A small, sly smile crept onto his lips. "Then by all means, feel free to use the empty space on the back of the test to explain in great detail why you feel that way. After all, I'm never one to shy away from some well-deserved extra credit."

"Replacing me with Queer Friend 2.0?"

Michael turned in the direction of the voice to find one Miss Sage Hawthorne, Chris's best friend, waiting for them at her usual spot just in front of the school, metaphorical tail wagging and all. A small smudge of green paint left across her left cheek told Michael that she had, as usual, spent her morning painting in the art room, and, as usual, had done so in a 'vibrant and vivid manner' (Michael's polite way of saying that the girl seemed to be on a constant sugar high). He had, however, seen the girl paint on one occasion. Despite his jokes, there was a certain life she brought about from her paintings, and the strokes of her brush against the empty, white canvas was like a passionate dance between two lovers. Chris ran on ahead to meet his friend as she began to jest.

"Or is she just my stunt doubl—"

A since of dread took hold of Michael as he locked eyes with Sage, once happy and full of energy, now replaced with the look of terror of one who had just spotted a ghost with their own eyes. He quickly followed her gaze to discover the cause for her shock: where once stood a young girl was now nothing but air. Michael's eyes grew wide and his mind began to race. Alex had just been there not even a second ago, and then suddenly, like a bubble set upon the tip of a needle, she was simply gone. Poof. The man tried to speak—to call out her name—but the words refused to leave his throat, resulting in a strange, groaning vocalization. While his mind desperately struggled to try to make sense of what had just happened, it forewent its other duties, and Michael ended up tripping over his feet and landing face-first into the concrete. Fortunately, for Michael's sake, his instincts kicked in without fail, and he threw his hands forward to nullify most of the impact. However, he soon felt a warm liquid welling up on his chin and palms.

"Michael!" Chris shouted, turning back and running toward his brother as he heard him fall. "Michael, are you alright!?"

Chris bent down to help his brother up, pausing long enough to let his brother collect himself. Michael took hold of Chris's outstretched hand and winced as his younger brother tightened his grip to pull him up. Michael got to his knees, a few small drops of blood falling from the scrape on his chin. Before he rose to his feet, Michael placed his hand onto Chris's shoulder and stared him dead in the eyes. "A-A-A-A-Alex!" he finally managed through the shock. "What happened to Alex!?"

"Alex?" Chris asked puzzled, looking at his brother with concern. "Alex ran on ahead just a minute or so ago. Said she was going to the library, I think. Michael, are you sure you didn't just hit your head right now?"

"Th-the library?" Michael murmured, becoming lost in his own thoughts once again. No, that isn't right, he reaffirmed himself. She had just been there next to him. He knew this. He had seen her and the look of terror on Sage's face told Michael that she had seen her as well. Yet Chris seemed to be under the impression that she had gone on ahead and went to the library. How could he even begin to be under that impression, unless... Michael winced once again as Chris tightened his grip again and helped pull his brother to his feet. "Thank you," Michael murmured, still lost within his own mind. "Are you sure that—no, nevermind."

After reassuring Chris near a dozen times that he was fine, Michael was finally able to convince his brother to go talk to Sage. As he ran over to begin their usual greeting—well, Michael imagined for Sage it would be less than usual—Michael bent over to collect the papers that had scattered from his satchel. Blood from the scrapes on his palms got over some of the papers, but none that were of any particular importance. As he pulled a handkerchief from his bag to wipe his hands, Michael stared silently at the pair, still trying to wrap his head around what had just happened.
 

KingdomKey

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Ennis felt like she was going to be sick. Her hands dug tightly into the seat beneath her as Ms. Argent struggled to park without stopping the car then moving forward then stopping again. If this were a boat or a fair ride, Ennis would've puked her guts out; unable to handle the motion sickness. To distract herself, Ennis looked at the interior of Ms. Argents beat up mustang. There was a thermos, probably for coffee, Ennis presumed. Twisting her head around while Ms. Argent was busy cursing beneath her breath about technology and cars, Ennis noticed a duffle bag, a cooler and some random pieces of clothes lying about in the back seat.

"Alright, you can get out now!"

Ennis jumped, slightly startled at being caught red handed. Warily, Ennis tried to smile back, but Ms. Argent's beaming smile didn't quite reach her eyes. What did I do wrong now? All I did was look and it's not like I saw anything. Unable to find the words to apologize or thank her for the ride, Ennis settled on nodding in acknowledgement before gripping the handle and pushing the door open. It wasn't until she closed the door of the mustang, did she see something to worry about. There was a small, silver pistol hidden beneath the passenger seat she previously sat on; must of gotten loose from being tucked away. Why would a swim coach have a pistol? Maybe it's a toy and not the real deal? Maybe she has kids? Oh god, I need to look away before she finds out I saw it-!

"Everything okay, Ennis?"

Ennis quickly glanced away and directed her gaze towards the school, trying to appear casual as Ms. Argent came around to her side of the car and stood before her, blocking her view of the pistol. "Y-Yes, I'm good! I need to... umm...I need go to the...um... the library!" There was a bead of cold sweat going down the center of her back as she lied her butt off and tried not to see around her swim coach to peer at the pistol sitting there in plain sight. "T-Thank you for the ride!" Turning on her heel to walk to the school, Ennis felt her heart thumping away in her ears until she let out a shaky breath thinking she was safe from being accompanied by the new swim coach. Or so she thought until Ms. Argent fell casually in step with her up to the school. Dummy, she has to go the same way. The pool is indoors after all.

The tension didn't fade away nor the urge to run, to run hard and fast. Ms. Argent followed her all the way to the library. This was a problem. Ennis coughed then mustered up the courage to tell her she wasn't in the right wing for the swimming pool. "This is my stop. The swimming pool and registration office will be in the opposite direction and you'll need to make a right-" As if something clicked in her words, Ms. Argent suddenly jolted in surprise and flushed in embarrassment, waving her hands around and shaking her head.

"I'm so sorry! I kept following you absent mindedly when I really need to speak to the guidance counselor and principal! I'm so sorry, dear."

"It's okay." Ennis lied. The moment the swim coach was out of sight, she let out a relieved breath and headed inside the library. It dawned on her that she didn't have any books checked out or any real reason to be in the library until she remembered it was to get away from the awkward situation she was currently in. I may as well check out the new Shonen Jump issue and find a book to read for later. As she made her way through the stacks and found what she was looking for, Ennis smiled and quickly made her way over to the desk to check the new magazine issue out when she caught sight of Alex.

"Hey Alex, are you here to check out a book too?" Ennis asked enthusiastically, completely unaware of the topic she stumbled into. "I scored the new Jump issue before all the guys did. Lucky, huh?" The new cover featured the new protagonist for Persona 5. I know it's not a book, but at least it counts as reading! "I really can't wait to get this checked out before class starts and save it for later!" Forgetting about the incident entirely with Ms. Argent for now.
 
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Ms. Conner was babbling about something, but Alex really wasn't paying attention. She was kind of freaking out. She had teleported before, of course, but never this close to the school, and never in front of people. What did Mr. Russell see? What did Chris and Sage see? Oh crud...

"I trust you're planning to help Ms. Conners pick up those books properly, Miss Tarmarind?" the baleful voice of Mrs. Bields spoke up from behind her.

That's not my name, Alex protested automatically, but it was pointless. Mrs. Bields made a point to mispronounce everyone's name, and Alex Tamura was almost too easy. So she canned her resentment and started ordering the books into a respectable pile, Ms. Conner silently helping. It was a good opportunity to look busy and try to get her head in order.

So... Chris and Sage saw me disappear. That's a thing. But I probably won't see them for at least the rest of the day, if I'm lucky. Plenty of time to think up a story. And that just leaves...

Mr. Russell. Alex's heart sank into her shoes. She had Mr. Russell for English class first period this morning. Not good timing.

I could skip class, call in sick.
Alex made a face. Yeah, and when Mr. Russell comes to my parents' house asking for a sick note, and 'oh, by the way, Alex just sort of vanished into thin air at school today, I was wondering if you knew anything about that.' She shook her head. No, that wouldn't work. She needed a convincing lie before first period.

The entire time they'd been straightening books, Ms. Conner had been giving her furtive glances out of the corner of her eye. It was one of those things Alex was good at picking up on. The younger librarian seemed concerned.

Crap, did Ms. Conner see me teleport too? No, it didn't seem to be that. Ms. Conner was cool, the 'good kind' of librarian in Alex's view, but if she had seen Alex spontaneously pop into existence right next to her, she would still be gaping openly. Most people would. There was something else.

"Hey Alex, are you here to check out a book too?" Distraction appeared in the form of Ennis Knox holding the latest Shonen Jump issue. The two shared a similar heritage and taste in manga; Alex often called her "my other hafu." Normally, they'd be fighting over who got to read the latest issue of Shonen Jump first. Right now, she offered Alex an escape.

"Thanks, I've been looking for that!" Alex replied, snatching the manga away over her friend's surprised protest and practically slamming it down on the counter with her library card. "We're checking out now!"

Ms. Conner swiped the card without comment, and immediately Alex grabbed the manga with one hand and Ennis' hand with the other and marched out the library double-time. Before she could reach the doors, however, she heard Mrs. Bields' voice once more behind her. "Let me remind you, Miss Tamarind, that the faculty bathrooms are for faculty use only!"

The wha--? Then Alex remembered where the last portal had taken her--the bathroom behind the library counter--and what Ms. Conner had been trying to say finally clicked. Alex had in fact snuck into that bathroom a number of times before classes started, though she didn't think she'd ever been spotted. Without a word, she stuffed the Shonen Jump into Ennis' hand (who, to be fair, had picked it up first), and walked briskly back to the checkout counter. Without raising her eyes from the desk, she said quietly but clearly, "Thanks," then left the library with Ennis in tow.
 

KingdomKey

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Ennis jolted in surprise from the abrupt human contact; looking down to see Alex's hand clasping her own. The Shonen Jump issue becoming complete forgotten and the farthest thing on Ennis's mind. Nobody has willing touched her since the day of the incident and the rumors that came with it. Admittedly, Ennis did spend some time with Alex to talk about manga during lunch break or after school, but, she never would've guessed Alex would be bold enough to grab her hand; since one of the rumors mentioned she was psychic through human touch. Suddenly everything in the library seemed to rewind itself into slow motion - becoming black and white before her eyes. Alex falling out of nowhere and a bunch of books being knocked over. Ms. Conner looking startled and babbling about Mrs. Bields' and awkwardly trying to be nice about something- something to do with the bathroom?

Did Alex just teleport out of thin air? A nervous giggle escaped Ennis lips as she let the possibility sink in. There's no way- Not possible! This isn't Star Trek, right? "Beam me up, Scotty!" The dam of laughter threatening to spill out of her mouth was becoming harder to hold back - the notion was practically insane. Must be light headed from escaping the hotel and not getting enough to eat. Or, or, I'm still in shock from seeing Ms. Argents' pistol! No matter the reason, Ennis knew now wasn't the time to be bringing it up; not with adults hanging around in the library, who might overhear and send them both to the loony bin. And judging by the clock, class would be starting any minute. But most of all. She didn't want to lose a friend.

After a few minutes things returned to normal. Ennis kept silent as Alex lead her away from the library.There was a heavy weight sitting over her chest and it seemed to grow with every step she took until she remembered the Shonen Jump issue in her arms. An idea forming in her head, she finally spoke up with what she hoped to be convincing enough for Alex to forget about what she saw in the library.

"You know, Alex," Ennis said playfully, "You could've just told me you wanted to read it first. I don't mind lending it to you. Of course, we could take turns reading it after class or during lunch break. Speaking of which, shouldn't we be hurrying to first hour with Mr. Russell?"
 
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Outside of the library, still hand-in-hand with Ennis, a strange feeling overtook Alex. Like hundreds of tiny strings had attached themselves to her mind and body, and were gently tugging her this way and that. It was... unsettling. Alex let go of Ennis' hand.

"You know Alex, you could've just told me you wanted to read it first. I don't mind lending it to you..."

Alex yanked the manga out from her friend's grasp again. "Thanks," she muttered as she leafed through the pages distractedly. She didn't play the Persona games herself, but she liked the character design, and lingered for awhile over the new images of the game's protagonist. Ennis must have noticed, because she heard the older girl snicker behind her.

Ennis was pretty alright. The two of them talked about manga and other interests at lunch sometimes, and once Alex even went to a birthday party at the Knox Family Hotel. But she never seemed to have many friends. And then of course there was the 'incident' from a month ago. Some girls claimed Ennis had cast a spell on them in the bathroom, and one of the parents had even taken it to the principal to try to get her expelled. As far as Alex was concerned, the girls deserved whatever 'spell' had been placed upon them, but rumors travel fast in a small town, and Ennis, who had never been popular to begin with, became a social pariah. Alex sympathized.

The two stopped off at their lockers on their way to Mr. Russell's class, Alex's heart growing heavier by the step. She still hadn't thought of a plausible lie to tell Mr. Russell. Preoccupied as she was, she didn't make the same mistake as this morning: before entering the classroom, she reached out and grasped Ennis' hand tightly, not letting go until she was safely on the other side. Looking around, she noticed Mr. Russell hadn't entered the room yet; taking this as a good omen, she retreated to the backmost corner of the room and buried her face in the Shonen Jump magazine, hoping against hope that he wouldn't notice her when he came in.
 
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OmniChaos

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"What have you to report?"

Two men in matching, black suits stood on top of the nearby apartment building, overlooking the entrance of the school. One stood erect at the edge of the building, eyes locked firmly downward toward the school's entrance—locked firmly on Chris and Michael Russell. The other stood behind him by several feet, his arms folded and attention drawn off toward the west. The two stood motionless, not even the slightest shifting of weight or twinge of the finger, before the first man finally responded.

"The one called Alex," he started, pausing slightly before mentioning her name, "her power is beginning to awaken further. It's pressing against the edges of her being, growing stronger and stronger. Should she gain control of it, yet another obstacle will impede our goal."

"Then she must be dealt with before this knowledge is made aware to the other two."

"An unfortunate, forlorn endeavor," the first man replied, turning from the school to face the man standing behind him. "The two have already witnessed her power in action. It is certain that they will move to acquire her shortly."

"How unfortunate," the second replied, lowering his head to the sidewalk far below. "And the target?"

"Unaware."

"Excellent. However..." The second man paused, allowing the sounds of the town to fill the space between the two men. After a long silence, the man spoke again, a small speck of emotion—fear, from the sound of it—caught in the edge of his voice. "However, due to my failures of eliminating the target and the 'incidences,' I am being retired. Head Field Agent Mr. Silver will be taking my place as head of this operation, and will be arriving shortly to take command."

"How unfortunate," the first man replied, turning back in the direction of the school.

"Indeed," replied the second, as he stepped off the edge of the building. "How unfortunate."

~*~

"You two had better get moving," Michael said as he approached Chris and Sage, dusting the dirt from his pants with his free hand. He still was tidying himself up; straightening his coat, fiddling with his fedora, and still messing with the contents of his bag. "After all, class will be starting soon, and didn't you two promise Mr. Carroll that you'd—"

"Oh crap, you're right!" Chris interrupted, his memory successfully jogged. With Sage in hand, he turned to his brother. "See you later Michael! Come on, Sage, we've gotta go!"

Michael smiled as the two ran out of sight, and begin walking toward his classroom, his mind lost within itself. Fortunately, his classroom was relatively close by, unlike Chris and Sage's first class, which was in the very back of the school. However, within the short distance he had needed to travel, Michael had managed to run into a trash can, wedge in between a pair of gossiping teenagers, and bump into a fellow teacher, causing them to spill their coffee all over their shirt. After reciting his apologizes to all three of his victims, Michael made it to class, still a few minutes before the bell would ring.

As he entered his room, Michael noticed that two girls were already sitting and waiting. Ennis was in her desk, taking these last few minutes to go through her phone before class began, and in the back, face buried in a Shonen Jump issue, Michael saw—

Alex! he gasped, his lower jaw dropping open. He could scarcely believe his eyes. The girl had just been beside him not but a few minutes ago before she had disappeared into thin air. And now, just as sudden, here she is again, casually sitting in the corner of his class. He had thought—well, he didn't really know what he had thought, but he had feared for the worst. He had feared that Chris had willed her away, or had changed the Alex that he had known into someone unrecognizable. But seeing her sitting there eased his senses, and Michael replaced his shocked expression with a smile.

"You know," he called out casually, repressing everything in his voice apart from the calmness and kindness that he was well known for. However, along with it, a small, sly grin crept upon his face. "Luffy defeats Doflamingo in this week's issue." He let out a small sigh. "Quite the climatic ending to such an intense battle."
 

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Alex heard Mr. Russell enter the classroom, far too early--not enough students had arrived to fill in the seats yet. She felt his eyes train on her almost immediately from behind her Shonen Jump issue. She slouched unconsciously.

Don't say anything, her mind counseled, just keep the magazine between you and him. Adults are afraid to engage kids on pop culture. They don't understand it. This is your invincible armor, your A.T. field, your deflector shield, your...

"You know, Luffy defeats Doflamingo in this week's issue. Quite the climactic ending to such an intense battle."

...

Alex dropped the magazine ("Shields down!") and straightened up. "Okay, first of all," she started, pointing an accusatory finger at her teacher, "SPOILER ALERT! If you're gonna be 'hip with the young people,' learn that concept first. Second, this week's issue just got to the library; Ennis got it from the library; I got it from Ennis. So unless you've got some sort of special deal worked out with Mrs. Bields, or can travel through time, you shouldn't know that."

"And third," she trailed off grumbling, slouching back behind her paper cover, "you're too old to read One Piece anyways."

In addition to Mr. Russell's gaze, she could now feel Ennis' incredulous stare burning a hole in the side of her neck. Alex was agitated herself, but for entirely different reasons. That 'travel thru time' throwaway was stupid; like Mr. Russell needed any more encouragement to link her with strange mutant powers. Why couldn't she keep her stupid mouth shut?

Slowly, almost solemnly, she raised herself from her chair, walked over to Ennis, and with what she considered appropriate theatrical flair returned the magazine to Ennis' desk. "Here you go. There's obviously no point in me reading any further." Pointedly avoiding Mr. Russell's gaze, she returned to her desk and resumed her second-favorite method of evasion, staring out the window. Which she did just in time to watch a man walk off a building...
 
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Before Alex responded to Chase's statement, a third party entered and instantly changed the subject to some...'Jump' magazine they talked about often. Whenever they checked out the magazines, the covers were always different and full of animated characters, but none of them were ever jumping around.
Oh no, Chase told herself as she scanned in the magazine, I'm old and out of touch. I don't know what 'it' is anymore and these characters look creepy to me. Oh god, next thing you know I'll be the grumpy old librarian shushing teens as they pretend to read. She handed the magazine back to the pair without saying anything, her mind trying to come to terms with her new life as the creepy cat lady.

"Thanks," was all Alex said before the two high-schoolers went on their way and Chase gave them a small wave as they left. At least I tried, She told herself as she slouched heavily against the counter. Man, growing up was the dumbest thing I've ever done.
"I didn't think being a librarian would be this stressful," the young woman said aloud.
"Ms Conners?" the old woman called out to her, striking fear in her heart.
"GAH! What?! I-I mean, yes?"
"I don't have to remind you that there is no talking in the library?"
"Of course...I'll just be reading...right here...Denying my youth..."
"Yes well, please be quiet about it.
"Yes ma'am."
Is that what I'm going to look like? Just with shorter hair? Instead of wondering too deeply about it, Chase resumed her reading. Minutes seemed to pass as she read passed various pages, but when she looked back up at the clock she was surprised to see that only three minutes had passed. Flipping through the last few pages, she realized that she had read twenty pages in three minutes, which was impossible for her. She was far from a speed reader and though she often lost track of time, this was the first time less time had passed than usual. Still, she thought little of it as she waited for the day to pass her by.
 

KingdomKey

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Something must be in the air. First Mr. Russell knows what happens to Doflamingo! Second Alex has completely lost it by accusing a teacher of being too old to be hip! What's next? As if breaking the spell, Alex gave her back the magazine she loved to read every week and it was staring up at her from her desk now as her fingers glided gently against the cover of Luffy with his familiar grin and straw hat sitting atop of his head.

Without even thinking, she said softly, "But Alex, there's lots of other manga in the Jump Issue besides One Piece. That doesn't mean you shouldn't see what happens next!" Almost as if she was becoming a little braver, she spoke up a little bit more loudly, "Mr. Russell, I didn't know you liked One Piece! Who do you like most in the series? Brook is my favorite and-"

"Oh! Good Morning Mr. Russell, I was hoping you could lend these flyers out among the kids to join the swim team."

Ennis felt herself go white at the sight of Ms. Argent standing in the doorway of Mr. Russell's classroom. Her figure began to tremble at the sight of her as she recalled the gun sitting beneath the swim coaches passenger seat. Instantly, she sat down and went stiff in her chair. The Shonen Jump Issue staring up at her as she tried not to stare directly at the new swim coach. C'mon Ennis, it's not like she's going to ask you to leave the classroom! Class is going to begin and Mr. Russell- he'll do something if she does, right? Trying to distract herself, Ennis caught sight of the Ms. Argents hands full of yellow flyers with a male swimmer doing the butterfly in a lap lane.

"Please leave, please leave." Ennis chanted to herself, looking casually at Alex to see she was staring out at the window. Unfortunately, she couldn't see whatever it was with the sun glaring in her eyes and went to bend down to retrieve her notebook to start writing some fan-fiction to pass the time, except she knocked over her bag and scattered the contents in it. As she got down from her seat and bent over to pick up a fallen pencil, she caught sight of Ms. Argent looking upset at Alex.

"Where is everyone?" Ennis said hurriedly, hoping Mr. Russell would notice how uncomfortable she was with Ms. Argent around.
 

OmniChaos

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"Oh?" Michael teased, a slight playfulness in his voice. "I wasn't aware that you were a fan of One Piece, Alex. But surely, as a fan, you must have seen it coming, no? As for your second question: clearly, I'm from the future. I can prove this by providing you a massive spoiler: Luffy becomes the King of the Pirates."

Shortly after Michael's playful teasing, Ennis chimed in, asking him who his favorite character was. However, before she could finish, or he could reply, for that matter, her words were cut short by the arrival of the swim coach. In that instant, Michael noticed a distinct change within Ennis. Gone were her queries of curiosity and excitement of shared enjoyments, leaving in their place a quiet, seemingly out-right terrified, young girl, frozen stiff as a brick. Michael didn't need much help to effortless put two and two together.

"Ah, good morning, Ms. Argent," Michael replied in kind, his warm smile ever present. "I will be more than happy to hand out these flyers for you. Trying to grab as many students as you can before they head to other after school activities, hm?"

Michael took the yellow papers handed to him, setting them down neatly on his desk. Michael spared a quick glance toward Ennis, seeing her even more uncomfortable than before. He watched as she knocked over her bag, its contents sent flying in several directions. As she bent over to pick them up, Michael rose from his seat to go over and help her. Just then, she spoke up once more.

"Where is everyone?"

Michael could sense her question being meant more as a 'subtle' hint toward him concerning Ms. Argent, but it nevertheless a valid question. With only a minute before the bell was to ring, his room was surprisingly empty. By now, on average, at least five or six students were already sitting in class before the warning bell, two of which were heavily routine students. However, only Alex and Ennis were here. As the thought brewed inside his mind, Michael caught the sight of one of his students running past his door in the direction of the school's entrance.

"Eric!" Michael called out, rushing past Ennis and Ms. Argent in the direction of the door. He leaned out, seeing the boy stopped a couple of yards past his door. "What's going on? Why are you heading toward the entrance, and where is everyone?"

"Someone jumped off a nearby building, Mr. Russell!" he replied, turning to continue running toward the entrance. "Everyone's over there right now!"

Michael paused, his eyes wide in shock. He took a couple of seconds to recompose himself, letting out a heavy sigh. Michael reentered the classroom and directed his attention to Ms. Argent. "We've got a problem."
 

KingdomKey

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As if a gun went off in the room, Mr. Russell was racing out of the room before she could understand what was happening. I doubt it was something I said, since the only ones who spoke up were Ennis and Alex. Surveying the room, she couldn't see anything wrong and looked over to where Mr. Russell stood half way through the door and confronted a student. What on earth could be the matter? Trying not to jump to conclusions, Ms. Argent patiently waited for him to return as she mulled over the ideas of what it could be in her head. It must be urgent. Could something of gone wrong? If it were an emergency, wouldn't the alarm sound, or the school principal address the school through the monitor? Unless a next door teacher had sent their student on their way to gather up school supplies for class, or a tardy slip for being late, it seemed out of place. Especially on their first day of school.

"We've got a problem."

Immediately she sprung into action, hurrying over to Mr. Russell's side before looking over her shoulder at the students. "What kind of problem?" Ms. Argent inquired quietly, a tiny frown forming on her face. "Should I call the parents? Evacuate the students? What would you like me to do?" As she adjusted the strap of her bag, she quickly got out her cellphone and stuffed the flyers away. "Do we need to call the police?"

When she heard a shuffle of feet, Ms. Argent twisted around in time to see Ennis out of her seat and standing next to a seated Alex. A phone was held between her hands as she guiltily jumped at being caught and looked at her and Mr. Russell. "Is this about the guy who jumped off a building? It's all over social media right now."
 
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