Chapter Two:

In which Tyrael Receives a Gold Star and the Kids Journey Into the Underbelly of the School



LUNCHTIME, someday afterward

"Look, I got a gold star," Tyrael said as he proudly showed off a sparkly green star. No one bothered to correct him, as they really weren't paying attention.

"Look, there are Ann and Roses," Holli shouted and waved her arms to get their attention. The two saw the fifth graders and wandered to their table.

"Pizza today...but I think it's still frozen," Roses announced. She picked up her pizza and dropped it onto the tray; it shattered into many pieces.

"I think I'll pass," Ann said and pushed her tray forward.

"I brought peanut butter and jelly- do you want half?" Holli asked.

"What did you do to it?"

"Nothing. My mom made it for me. She doesn't trust me in the kitchen anymore." As she said this, Holli turned to Tails and grinned. Ann bit her lip and accepted the PBJ, Roses took half of Tails sandwich.

"Notice anything special?" Tyrael interrupted.

"You cut your hair?" Roses was being sarcastic.

"Nope."

"You painted your nails?" Ann asked, also sarcastic.

"That's not funny," he paused, "and I didn't want them painted. Tails just did it."

"I know what's different." A sour acidic voice announced from the end of the table. It was John. "He stole MY gold star."

"Did not!"

"Did too---" Suddenly John became quiet. Professor Snape had just walked past the table, his eyes fixed coldly on John. "Did you, I mean, Did you see the new playground? I heard they got rid of all the toxic waste."

"Well, I guess that shelves this years science fair project." Ann shrugged.

"Hey, where's Roser?" Roses suddenly asked. "Not that I'd care, or anything, but usually he would be sitting here," she pointed to an empty seat, "scrounging for food and candy."

"Maybe he got lost?" Tails offered

"We had to walk in a line to get here, and he was right behind me." Roses pondered, seriously worried about her friend. It was there that she saw the new boy, Umar, slip into the shadows of the back hallway. "Maybe he knows!" She wondered out loud, grabbing Ann's hand and tearing from the cafeteria.

"Think we should follow?" Tails asked.

"Sure, what about Tyrael?" Holli said.

"Bring him along, and compliment his star or something." And so the threesome followed after their sixth grade friends.

John watched them go, and then glanced around to see if Snape was nearby. Unfortunately, the big British crow was still stalking around. If John was going to follow Roses and the others, he'd need a distraction.

He turned to Ian and Silent Jim. Silent Jim was trying to eat his lunch, while Ian attempted to tickle his ear with a french fry. Silent Jim's hand was moving towards his spork.

"You two, listen up!" John hissed. "I need a distraction so I can follow Roses!"

Ian cocked his head. "Why would you want to do that? I mean, I thought you hated her and stuff."

"That's the point, you doofus," John snapped. At his young age, his capacity for harsh words was limited "doofus." Those who knew him later said that aspect hadn't changed much with age.

"I need to follow them so I can get them in trouble," He eyed Snape, who was scolding a table of fifth graders. "So, one of you do the distraction, one of you follow me."

"You go, Silent Jim! I've got a plan!" Ian grinned evilly, and John and Silent Jim got down under the table while Snape wasn't looking.

"What do you think he's planning?" John whispered.

Silent Jim shrugged, eyeing the chewed gum that hung from the bottom of the table like gooey stalactites.

It was then that Ian stood up on his chair.

"THINK FAST, BUTT HEADS!" He picked up a slice of Silent Jim's pizza, bit off the tip like the pin of a grenade, and hurled it across the room. It hit Yoda square in the face, causing him to stumble back, and land in Todd's tuna fish sandwich (which his Mumsy had made especially for him!).

"HEY!" Todd yelled. "My Mumsy made that especially for me!" He picked up an apple and winged it at Ian's head. Ian ducked and it hit Fluffer, behind him.

"WHO WANTS TO DIE NOW?!" Fluffer raged, standing up.

" FOOD FIGHT!!!! " Ian blared, and soon the food was flying in earnest. John and Silent Jim scurried to the back hallway, barely avoiding a handful of JG's mashed potatoes.

When they got into the hallway, John stood up and kept walking, unzipping his backpack as he went. Silent Jim followed, looking around uneasily in the darkness. The only lights were the red "EXIT" signs above every door.

John pulled out his orange vest and slid it on as he walked. He hooked his pad of detention slips onto his belt, but ignored the hall passes- there would be no negotiations this time. He reverently hung the shiny, still unused whistle around his neck, and then planted the orange cap on his head. He suddenly stopped, causing Silent Jim to run into him. John didn't seem to notice, and dug into his backpack again.

"I'm going to go down the main hallway," John said. He produced a flashlight. "Try to find a way to cut them off through one of the other corridors. And take this so you can see."

Silent Jim whipped out his own MagLite, and John shrugged. "Just be sure to not have it on the whole time- you don't want to warn them of your presence. Got it?"

Silent Jim nodded, and pulled out kazoo. He gestured to it.

"No, Silent Jim, I don't want to hear you play 'Lorena.' This really isn't the time!"

Silent Jim rolled his eyes, an acted like he was blowing the kazoo.

"Oh! Okay, if you get into any trouble, you'll blow that?"

Silent Jim nodded.

"Excellent! Okay, I'll see you soon!" John headed down the main hallway and disappeared into the darkness. Silent Jim waited for a moment, then flipped on his flashlight and headed down another hallway.

***

John grinned in the darkness. This was it- soon perfect little Roses and Ann were going to be joining him in detention, them and their puppet fifth graders.

Their father had been right, after all- John was special. He was destined for greatness- and Roses and Ann, his sisters, the only thing they were destined for was servitude and obscurity.

Sometimes, sometimes, John doubted it. Sometimes. After all, his real father had left him to be taken in by a pair of weaklings- the Crawfords, who scurried around the house with their heads down, scared to death of angering their adopted son. John owned that house, plain and simple, and that fact alone quelled most of his doubts.

It was then that John heard something, and his hand automatically flew to his whistle. Voices. From down the hall.

It was them.

John grinned again, and quieted his steps, drawing closer and closer to the voices- voices that he could now distinguish as Roses and the others.

***

Mister Rogers had conveniently locked the door just before Katherine went back to get her forgotten lunchbox, and Tamara hadn't brought lunch from home, so both were eating cafeteria food.

"I don't think Mister Rogers likes me." said Katherine, remembering her lunchbox. Tamara shrugged, forcing down a hamburger.

"I mean, just because I wanted to act out a story using his little Magic Kingdom puppets doesn't mean I'm trying to steal his thunder and bring the entire class over to my side so that if I ever decide to carry out a revolution I'll have full support." Katherine paused. "I mean, yeah, that is what I'm trying to do in this case, but he doesn't have to automatically suspect me."

Tamara looked up. "I swear this is made from that refrigerator box out by the jungle gym. Gophers my ass." She resumed eating with new vigor.

Katherine poked her food. Her food seemed to sort of engulf and digest the fork. She shuddered and resumed complaining.

"I mean, just because people like listening to a story about Guardians better than his little Magic Kingdom thing doesn't mean he has to get into a snit about it! And why the hell are you still eating that?!"

Tamara shrugged. "Iannabarmysomedey."

"You wanna be in the army someday?"

Tamara nodded.

"THINK FAST, BUTT HEADS!"

The two Kindergarteners heard this, then saw the pizza whizzing overhead.

"Maybe that's what this is supposed to do." said Katherine, looking at her Salisbury steak.

***

"I think he went down this way," Roses said, peering into the darkness. "Why don't they get some decent lighting in the underbelly of this school? Cripes..."

"Why does the school even have an underbelly?" Holli asked.

"Sometimes, my elephant talks to me." Tyrael said, stroking his star.

Ann stuck her hand out in the darkness, and felt wall. "Dead end."

"Is there some other hallway we missed?" Tails asked.

"I don't think so..." Roses said, feeling the walls around her.

"So, what, he just disappeared?" Holli asked.

"My elephant can disappear." Tyrael said proudly.

"Since when do you have an elephant?" Tails said.

"Since... oh, about 1967... we were in the anti-war movement together!"

"You weren't even born then!" Ann said.

"Shows how much youu know!" Tyrael said, sticking out his tongue in the darkness. "I was born in the eighties, and those took place before the Sixties! Duh!"

"Oh, forget it." Roses said. "We might as well just go back." She started to turn, and her foot hit something, sending it clanging across the floor. Everyone jumped, and someone shrieked.

"Tyrael? Was that you?"

"Er, no! It was my elephant! He got scared! Silly elephant!"

Holli whacked him upside the head- which was actually a pretty good whack, since she couldn't see anything.

Roses knelt down and picked up what she had kicked. It was metal, long, and a bit heavy. She ran her hand down the length of it, and then jerked it back as she felt the edge of a blade.

"This is a sword!"

"A sword?"

"Are you sure it's not just a sharp stick?" Ann asked, hopefully.

"No, it's a sword. Sort of curved at the top, long handle- it's one of those samurai swords."

"Katana." Tails said.

"My elephant knew that." Tyrael said.

"And where is your elephant, Tyrael?" Holli asked. (Author's note: Hee hee! That sounds dirty!)

"He's um, he's... over there."

"Where?"

"There."

"I can't see where you're pointing, you know."

"He's everywhere."

"I see."

"Like God!"

"God's an elephant?"

"What?"

"What?"

Roses dropped the katana and everyone jumped again. "Eh, I bet one of the faculty members left it lying around."

"Hey! I found something else!" Ann said. "This is metal too- it feels like a stick or a staff or something." There was a pause. "It's sort of tapered on both ends- hey! Hey, there's a piece of paper attached to it!"

She walked with the scrap of paper, and the metal staff, back down the hallway, to a place where a small hole in the ceiling filtered in light (maybe sunlight- for all they knew, they could be out from underneath the school by now). The others crowded around Ann.

The paper read:

AD 2511 Kane takes possession. Planning reb

And under it, in more ragged, childish letters:

All hail to the Living God

Under this was drawn a half-oval shape, intersected with a vertical line so that it looked almost like a pitchfork. Everything that had been written on the scrap of paper seemed to be from something derived from ink, not the real thing.

"Whatever that means," Ann said, after she finished reading it, and tossing it over her shoulder. The scrap of paper was lost in the darkness.

She held the metal staff up into the light, and frowned when she saw that the tapered ends weren't pointy.

"My elephant says that's called a bo-staff." Tyrael said. Ann poked him with it.

"People really like to leave Japanese weapons down here, don't they?" Roses said. "But, you know what, we should go back. I bet that Umar guy just went to the bathroom or something.

The others agreed, and they headed back down the hallway, Ann leaving the bo-staff behind.

Soon they were gone, and the dark hallways, which hadn't been disturbed in decades, were silent again. The katana and the bo-staff lay, oddly devoid of dust- something even Roses and Ann's sixth grade intuitiveness hadn't picked up on. The scrap of paper was in a corner, completely in the darkness- as good as lost.

The wall that had been the dead end finished the last echoes of the kids' (Author's note: You know how tempting it is to say "Tri-Leaders'"?) footsteps, and it too was still.

And then, in the perfect darkness and silence, a part of the wall shimmered, and something swished out through, the wall, and then back in. Something that, if anyone had seen it, would think greatly resembled the tail of a black trenchcoat. And as suddenly as it had happened, it was gone, and the wall became solid rock again.

Silence.

***

John waited a few yards back, and listened as Roses and the others stopped at a dead end, talked, played with some metal things, and made Tyrael shriek for whatever reason. And something about elephants that he didn't pick up on.

Once he saw that they were heading back his way, he darted down the hallway, until he finally found the alcove he had seen on the way through- a good ten feet from where he had been hiding. John ducked into the alcove and turned off his flashlight. His hand was sweating on its grip, and he could feel the whistle, rising and falling on his chest.

He waited as they reached the end of the hall and kept coming. Waited as, by the sound, they were five feet from his hiding place. Four. Three. Two-

John waited, as the reached the alcove and kept walking. He waited as they walked five feet away from the alcove. Six. Seven. Eight-

HEY! John realized he had missed them, and immediately jumped from the alcove, flipped his flashlight on, and dropped his one and down to his pad of detention slips.'

"FREEZE!" John snapped. They stopped, and turned slowly around. In the flashlight's beam, John saw them all roll their eyes and sag as they saw who it was- clearly in fear and awe!

"You are in direct violation of EVIL school hall code #444444444444444444449." John said. "Put your hands on your heads and do not, I repeat, do NOT attempt to escape!"

"Are there really that many hall codes?" Holli whispered.

"Are there any?" Tails responded.

John advanced slowly, holding his flashlight out in front of him. He was hoping that they'd mistake the flashlight for a Dracon Beam (hey, it worked on AniTV!) and throw themselves at his feet, begging to not be fried.

Sadly, AniTV hadn't been created yet. Nor had Dracon Beams. So John's plan was pretty much a bust right from the start.

"It's our lunch period!" Roses said. "We're allowed to walk around!"

"Since when?"

"Since forever!"

"No you haven't!"

Roses and Ann exchanged looks. "You're a pretty bad hall monitor if you don't know about the Free Lunchtime Roaming Directive." Roses said.

"I've... heard of it!" John said.

"I bet he hasn't even heard of the All Sixth Graders Get Free Snacks From Hall Monitors rule either." Ann said.

"Of course I- hey! You're just making that up! You can't use my own trick on me!"

Holli pulled out a flashlight and shined it on John. "Freeze! I've got a Dracon Beam!"

"EEEEE!" John shrieked, and then caught himself. "Stop that!"

Pause.

"Ahem, and, um, what's a Dracon Beam?"

Holli blinked. "Er... Dracon what? What's a Dracon what? Dragon Beans?"

"Something like th- hey! Don't change the subject! All six of you are going to be serving months of detention with Mr. Satan for being down here!"

"Five." Ann said.

"What?"

"There's only five of us. Roser's not here."

John blinked. "All five of you, then, will be serving months of detention with Mr. Satan for being down here!"

"And you won't?" Tails asked.

John blinked. "Er, I was in pursuit of hall code violators! I have a legitimate reason- and duty- for being here!"

"You think that will fly with Mr. Snape?"

John blinked, and lowered his flashlight a little. "Can't you guys just make this a little easy for me?"

"Nope." They all said at once.

"My elephant says 'Nope' too." Tyrael said.

"Ha! An elephant! I knew there were six of you!" John nodded triumphantly. "Now, if you'll all just relax, my deputy, Silent Jim, will search you for any dangerous items/weapons/contraband!"

Silence.

"Ahem, Silent Jim!"

Silence.

"Hmm... he was supposed to flank you guys..." John scratched his head. "Where is he now?"

Roses shrugged, and it was then that they heard the rasping cry from down the hall.

***

THREE MINUTES EARLIER

Silent Jim had been creeping down the halls of the school's underground... whatever... when he finally heard some noise. Thinking it was the Tri-Leaders, he turned off his MagLite and inched down to a bend in the hall, and listened.

It wasn't the Tri-Leaders, but someone with a raspy, murky voice that he vaguely recognized. The owner of the voice was weeping.

"My presssciousss!" The voice finally sobbed. "Thieves! Filthy thieves and hobbitses have stolen the prescioussss!"

Silent Jim recognized the voice now- it was Janitor Gollum. Made sense that he would be down here. But what was he talking about? Silent Jim leaned closer to the bend to hear better.

Janitor Gollum was mumbling now, quick and manic. Silent Jim caught a few more "thieves" and "presicousssss"'s and the occasional plural pronoun ("We'll... back, our presciousssss..."), but not much else. Silent Jim leaned in again-

And his foot caught and slid on a patch of slime, conveniently placed on the floor. With a silent cry, he slid around the corner, past the confused janitor, and fell on his back. He opened his eyes, sat up, and found that Janitor Gollum was looking at him intensely. Silent Jim managed a weak wave.

"Studentsessss..." Gollum said. "Studentses is not supposed to be down here all by themselves. Why are down here all alone alone, little ssssstudent?"

Silent Jim shrugged, and smiled nervously.

Gollum straightened up. "Studentses don't come down here. Not real studentses."

Silent Jim's brain was fuzzy- what was he talking about?

"But maybe thievessss, disguised as studentses?"

Silent Jim blinked, and then shook his head violently.

"Yessss, thieves disguised as studentsessss. Only very trixy thievessss would do that. Very very trixy. Maybe trixy enough..." He leaned in closer. "To steal my presssscioussssss!" The last word came out a rasp of rage.

Silent Jim started to crawl backwards, using one hand to make placating gestures at the stooped janitor. Gollum advanced, slowly, muttering.

"Yesssss, dirty dirty trixy thief. Steal our presciousssss will you? What should we do with little trixy thievessss? What do we do with them, what? Wring their filthy little necksss? Wring their filthy little necks until their filthy little headssss pop off, yessss?"

Silent Jim saw another hallway branching off from the one he was crawling down. A flashlight beam was shining from it, and he could hear voices.

"You've stolen our presssscioussss," Gollum hissed, while Silent Jim continued to shake his head.

"Thievessss, stolen our presssssciousssss..."

Silent Jim was almost to the hallway now. Maybe if he could get there, and stand up-

"And we WANTS IT!!! " Gollum cried, and leapt on Silent Jim, attempting to wring his neck with his slimy hands. Silent Jim heard footsteps, and then Gollum crawled off of him, and went over to a corner, where he squat, carressing his head and muttering.

"Hey, Silent Jim! Thanks for showing up when I made the arrest!" John said, frowning. "Some deputy you are!"

Silent Jim rolled his eyes and stood up. He nodded to Roses and the others, and then glanced uneasily at Janitor Gollum.

"So... what was going on?" Roses asked.

Silent Jim shrugged.

"Thievesssss!" Gollum wailed. "Thievess have stolen o-o-o-our pre-e-e-essscio-o-o-ousssss!"

"I bet Tyrael's elephant did it." Tails said.

Janitor Gollum seemed to compose himself, and stood up. "Studentsessss should not be down here. Studentsessss are not allowed down here. You must go back up now, yes."

Roses nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Smeagol."

"What?!" Janitor Gollum snapped.

"Er, Mr. Gollum, I said, Mr. Gollum."

The slimy frog creature that was Janitor Gollum scowled, but let it pass. He hobbled off in the direction they had come, back towards the dead-end, muttering to himself.

"You think the katana or the bo-staff are his prescious?" Ann asked.

"Presssssssssciousssssssss." Tyrael corrected, spitting all over everyone.

"Yes, Tyrael, thank you for that." Roses said, whacking him upside the head.

"Thanks! Ow!"

"Well, come on, kiddies!" John said. "We've got lots and lots of detention to do! Wouldn't want to miss a minute of it!"

The others sighed, and pushed past John, heading back to the cafeteria. John and Silent Jim walked behind them, flashlights on.

Eventually, Holli said, "Hey, while you guys were down here, did you happen to run into that Umar kid?"

"Sort of dark, shady kid?" John asked.

"Yeah."

"Doesn't talk much, just sort of observes everything?"

"Yeah, exactly."

"Wears a black, leather trenchcoat, and black everything else?"

"Yeah!"

John shrugged. "Haven't seen him since lunch."

Holli groaned.

"Well, that's sort of creepy." Tyrael said.

"Maybe Ty's elephant ate him." Tails said.

"You know, you're becoming more obsessed with that elephant than he is." Holli said.

Tails blinked, and decided not to mention the elephant anymore.

When they finally reached the hallway that was connected to the cafeteria, back, up on the main level of the school, they all went up and peeked through the windows.

"Looks like Ian's food fight went well." John said.

Silent Jim pointed, and John saw Ian, being carted off by Mr. Crayak and Mr. Sauron. He was dripping with mash potatoes and something like fudge, and was desperately trying to get up and throw more stuff. The entire lunch room was covered with multi-colored splatters that used to be food. The crushed remains of the sandwich that Todd's Mumsy had made especially for him were dripping right above John's window.

"Wow," Roses said. "Nice distraction."

"Well, of course!" John said. "I mean, I am John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuuum!)!"

"I thought you were just the kid in the Jar Jar Binks mask." Tails said.

"This is actually going to work!" Ann said. "We went all the way under the school, to the very ends of the school limits, and we're not going to get caught!"

"I wouldn't be too sure about that." A heavily accented voice said from the shadows behind them. John winced and turned around, to see a tall man in black robes. There was gravy all over the man's beak-like nose.

"Well, um, hello, Professor Snape!" John said. "Er, enjoying your lunch?"

Snape's eyes narrowed, and one thought passed through all seven kids' minds:

Uh oh.

"And to think," Tyrael said. "On the day I got my golden star..."

And, unheard by everyone else, the elephant agreed.

Chapter Three