This and Revolution in Poppy Street are the only stories featuring
the SS Central crew, based on myself and students and teachers I knew there,
that I am including in my site because they are the best of them. The ironic
part about these stories is that I am rather squeamish (the sight of blood and
stuff does bad things to me). You may have noticed some of my strange ways of
dealing with sex in previous stories, in which the women are constantly chasing
after the men. If you haven't, you'll certainly see it here. Let's attribute it
to one of my teenage lust fantasies and leave it at that. Makes for fun
reading, though. 8-) Don't some of you secretly wish it were this way?
Copyright © Harold Reynolds, 1998.
Poppy Street City is located in the southern end of Poppy Street Island, a small island located several miles off the coast of Splat in the southern fringes of the Temperate Zone. It is ruled by Bob, the self-proclaimed Emperor and Susan, his sidekick. Opposing his rule were bands of creatures who called themselves Muppets. They were humanoid, but of wildly varying shapes, sizes and forms. There was a third faction, which was called "innocent" kids. They weren't.
Recently, the Muppets had been hammering away at the "innocent" kids in an effort to "convince" them to join their cause when diplomacy had not gotten very far. The kids had fought back just as viciously, for they were not at all intimidated by violence, especially since everyone simply got recloned by the clone machine after being killed to continue the fight.
On his way to school, Harold Raymonds, a Grade 13 student at Poppy Street Central Secondary school, was alertly watching for marauding Muppets. He was holding his M-20 assault rifle rather than carrying it over his shoulder, and didn't regret it because about three blocks from school he was ambushed by a gang of Muppet thugs. To their surprise, they were shot up before they could even come close. Harold then, as was customary among the "innocent" kids, searched the bodies for anything useful. He found a map of the city on one that had a big red dot about a mile from Central marked MHC, but there was nothing else of interest.
As he turned the corner onto the main street on which the school squatted, he saw his friends Horton and Morton Clayton, also Grade 13's, coming from the other way and paused in the shade to let them catch up.
"Hello," he said. "I hate this weather. You can't do anything in it at all. School is going to be bad." It was a warm morning.
"Well, at least the place is air conditioned now," said Horton with relief. "Mr Yoiks was clever enough to include it in his modernization campaign."
"At least this weather affects the Muppets the same way," Morton commented, hefting his own rifle. "Let's just hope it puts a halt to their depredations." They walked on in silence, and soon the grey stone building loomed up ahead of them.
"Look!" said Harold suddenly, when they were near the side entrance they usually used in the main stream of students going in. The Clayton twins saw the furtive movements in some bushes a dozen yards away across the street. They all took cover behind a junked car that hadn't been towed away and let loose a barrage of bullets at the target. There was a massive explosion in the bush and bloody chunks of meat sailed through the air, damaging the nearby house.
"The wretch must have been planning to throw a bomb at us!" cursed Morton. "We'd better get in." The other Centralites were rushing into the building, not wanting to get caught in a battle and be late for class. The teachers accepted few excuses and this wasn't one of them; they regarded fighting Muppets as recreational activity. They went in.
"Raymonds! You're late! It's 8:32!" snarled a familiar voice. It was Mr Pepper, head of the Phys. Ed. department. Since Harold had wisely chosen not to take this line of study, he discarded the traditional scraping and grovelling reserved for other teachers.
"Stuff it! School doesn't start until 8:45 and you know it, dolt!" Mr Pepper turned an ugly shade of purple, but before he could kill him, he had a powerful cerebral hemorrhage and his head exploded like an unopened can of beans on a hot stove.
"Wow! His head exploded like a can of beans on a hot stove!" gasped Horton, who tended to state the obvious.
"It sure makes him a has-bean," Harold quipped, hopping daintily over the twitching body that was gouting blood from the neck stump and heading for his third-floor locker. The Claytons groaned as the body and blood then disappeared, claimed by the clone machine for recycling.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the school, Mork Beercraft, another Grade 13, Jamie Raymonds and Jason Lard, the latter Grade 11's, were getting some rather dangerous thrills by teasing the malevolent and powerful librarian, Mr Monster. Each had gone to a different section of the library and, on a signal from Jason (a belch), they began taking out books and putting them back, but out of order. Immediately alarm bells clanged, a siren howled and Mr Monster charged from his office near the entrance, roaring.
"What the (unprintable) do you think you're doing?" Mork was the nearest of the three and it was at him that the maniac ran, hairy arms outstretched and cucumber-sized fingers grasping. At the last moment, the Beercraft ducked and dodged, but not quite far enough as the barbarian librarian grabbed some of his hair and yanked his scalp off.
Monster then crashed heavily into a loaded bookshelf and it tipped over with a cascade of tomes. Mork staggered over to the new returns area, suicided messily all over them, reappeared in the seminar room and dashed out. Jamie paused and turned on his mini-tape recorder to record some of the truly foul language being spouted. Jason waddled past, eating a cookbook.
"Jason, I'll bet you have never gone for more than five minutes without eating something," said Jamie, running away.
"How right you are," said Jason, speeding up too. "I swear that man has a worse temper than Emperor Bob," he added, shaking his head upon leaving the library. The five-minute bell wheezed and clattered and people began heading for Period One.
"Today, class, we shall learn all about trig identities!" bubbled Mr Klaptrap, Harold's Functions teacher, with a wild swipe of his metrestick. Before he could continue, the heavy door opened and in came Jeanette Duck, a tall redhead with curly hair, late as usual. This time, however, she was waving a late slip in front of her as a sort of shield, hoping the teacher wouldn't hit her as he customarily did. Mr Klaptrap clouted her anyway and she scooted to her seat. Harold said loudly to Richard Eglise, who sat in front of him:
"He sure knows how to stick it to her." The class groaned and the beak smashed the stick on his desk for silence.
"All right! That's enough fun and frivolity for today! Now for our little identities!" He wrote a big bloated monster on the board. "Do this one if you dare!" After the required ton of homework had been dished out and the students were dutifully slaving away at it or had fallen asleep, Richard whispered:
"Harold, at lunch today the War Games Club will be hijacking one of Bob's patrol tanks and taking it to the Muppet section of town, where we shall wreak havoc on the Muppets as a lesson to them all. Interested?"
"Sure!" Harold responded instantly. He had a few grudges to work off against the Muppets, most of which dated back to the trip to the beach a couple of weeks ago. It also would give him a chance to avoid the crowd he usually found himself with, especially Victoria Blatter and Annie Armrest who were always bickering about who should have him. Victoria was usually content with Jimmy Redhead, or seemed to be until Annie was gone. Harold shuddered at the thought. He was finding himself getting more involved with the War Gamers for this reason and because they shared similar interests: boobytrapping teachers' desks, throwing smoke bombs into girls' washrooms and the like.
His next class was English with Mr Knobs. It was rather boring because the teacher was droning on about some short story called Marrakesh, so he spent some time cleaning his .75 recoilless pistol, which had seen a fair amount of action recently. Then the gun discharged unexpectedly as he was checking the clone machine receiver that served as a bullet magazine (which is why all Poppy Street and school weapons never needed fresh ammo). By a strange coincidence, the gun was pointing at Mr Knobs at the time, and he was obliterated by the explosive shell.
"Whoops," said Harold, wiping some blood off his notebook. He sat at the back of the room. As soon as the bell rang, Harold was out the door and up to his locker before Jenny Reardon, who sat at the front of the row immediately to his left and who had been making urgent gestures of wanting to talk to him all class, could catch him. "Women," he muttered, throwing his books in his locker and pressing a button.
With a quick poof of helpfully concealing smoke, his clothes were changed into combat gear: green camo shirt, pants and cap, sunglasses, tough black boots and assorted weapons, mostly knives. Checking for his pistol, he grabbed his assault rifle and a high-powered sling shot and filled his large leg pockets with golf-ball sized spheres of high-explosives. Then he raced off for Room 300.
In the War Games Room, all were assembled: Richard Eglise, Lee Middleman, Don Vanloony, Mark Crossman, Peter Strange, Dave Simple and Ben Divram as well as Harold. All were decked out in a motley assortment of green, brown and weapons, with Lee having a three-inch recoilless rifle perched on his shoulder.
"We're all here," said Don. "Good. Let's go." The eight commandos streamed almost silently down the south stairs and out the parking lot door, where the hot, humid air hit them like a sock full of wet sand and they realized why nobody was out there. They promptly hid between the teachers' armoured cars near the small break in the ten-foot barbed wire double fence that served as the way in to check things out.
"What are you silly boys doing now?" inquired a feminine voice. They whirled and saw a comely Grade 10 girl standing near the doorway, arms akimbo. It was Roslind Fusser, bane of the War Games club and its covert activities.
"Go away Roslind," suggested Mark, rushing the open entrance gate. "It is far too dangerous for a delicate child as yourself."
"Girls are inferior anyway and you'd only be a nuisance," snapped Don, who wasn't a Roslind fan.
"Don, you idiot!" stated Ben as they all ran for the gate on Crossley's all-clear. "Haven't you learned that every time you spout that chauvinist drivel she only gets more determined?"
"Gwan, beat it!" said Don, tossing a chunk of pavement at her.
"Evidently not," Harold remarked.
"You boys stay right there," Roslind admonished. "I'll be right back." She jiggled off into the building.
"Fat chance," muttered Dave, the little shrimpy one. Suddenly Peter spotted a furtive movement between two houses across the street and opened up with his M-20. They ducked as the Muppet machine-gun nest opened up. Then Lee fired his recoilless rifle and the Muppets were blasted into pretty patterns on the sides of the buildings.
"Bloody graffiti artists!" shouted one of the occupants, sticking his head out of a window.
"Hey!" said a loud, nasal voice, followed by oinks, crunches, honks and giggles. It was Jamie Raymonds, Jason, Mork and a red-headed bespectacled Grade 12 named Jimmy Redhead, whose protuberant proboscis they were honking. The younger Raymonds continued. "Why are you all wearing combat fatigues? You stick out like sore thumbs in the city! Haw! You'll never achieve your objective! Honk, honk!" Redhead's nose was tooted again and Mork laughed maniacally.
"THAT'S ENOUGH! NO MORE OF THAT!" yelled a suddenly frenzied Snout, giving Jamie a karate chop in the gut. He doubled over and hit Jason, who had been practising bouncing on his stomach and he landed on and flattened Mr Yoiks' (the principal of the fort) Mercedes Marauder. The dumbfounded, sweating War Gamers watched as Mork, mouth now full of sandwich, laughed some more, spraying Snout with crumbs.
"This is ridiculous," said Peter. "Let's get on with the raid before it's too late." Snout knocked Mork's block off, literally, saw it get skewered on Mrs King's aerial, turned and charged the Gamers, totally out of his mind. It was then that Roslind stepped out, saw them retreating across the street, and yelled:
"Wait for me!" She was hot on the heels of the Snout when Andrew Yoiks made *his* appearance.
"Hey! Where the (bleep) do you think you're going without me, your noble leader?" He took off after Roslind. Harold who, for safety's sake, tended to be in the rear of any advancing column, pulled out a pocket-sized spy camera and took a picture so that it looked like Andrew was chasing her in full heat of passion. Then Jamie, still doubled over, lurched and crashed into the Yoiks. He bounced off, whirled around, tripped over Marc's corpse and fell heavily onto the pavement and onto his ammo pouch.
It too had the balls of plastic explosives whose purpose it was to explode on hard impact. They did, fragmenting Andrew and Jamie and badly damaging Jason so that he had to suicide. The nearby cars were armoured to withstand much more than that and were only splattered with gore. Heedless of the little traffic there was, the Gamers ran down Dufferin Ave towards Wellington St, followed by the not quite so insane Redhead and the fleetfooted Roslind. Then, to make matters worse, a Bob Security Force tank ground around the corner from northbound Wellington.
"Oh, (bleep)! Just when we didn't need it!" groaned Ben as everyone except Jimmy took cover behind parked cars or in trees.
"What the...?" asked the puzzled Nose, sanity suddenly restored. Then he saw the tank. Then he temporarily ceased to exist, replaced by a large crater and a red fog.
The Jamie's derision of their camo gear was in vain because Richard and Roslind had climbed up two different trees and remained hidden as the other seven shot at the tank to bring it closer. It did and shot back with its machine-guns.
Harold and the other thirteen cronies with whom he tended to associate whether he wanted to or not all had a standard weapon, the .75 recoilless with explosive shells, a weapon powerful enough to stop even Mr Monster in full charge. After seeing the bullets from his M-20 bounce off the tough armour of the T-85 Masher (as Bob affectionately called it), he took out his pistol and began potting at it. The other Centralites recognized the characteristic booms and stopped shooting.
The pistol caused no more than superficial damage on the front and side armour, but he nailed the front machine-gunner and the tank stopped under Roslind's tree. As the 100-mm turret gun swivelled his way, she dropped onto the turret, opened the hatch, dropped a grenade in and slammed it shut. There was a powerful explosion and smoke shot from various cracks. The shattered head of the gunner shot from the gun and landed a few yards away with a moist splatch. The other War Gamers quickly stormed the machine.
"Nicely timed, Roslind," Richard begrudged. "You two had that timed perfectly."
"Of course," she replied, with a wink at Harold, who smirked and holstered his pistol. The hatch was opened and they all scrambled in, opening the hatch in the bottom to let the human slag run out before the clone machine took it.
"I wish I knew where the Muppet High Command base was," sighed Dave. "Then we could hit it." Something clicked in Harold's mind.
"I think I know," he said, pulling out the paper he'd looted from his early-morning attacker. "This map shows it here on South Street near Colborne." He explained its origin.
"This is great!" enthused Mark. "Now we have a definite objective! With any luck, we'll catch them by surprise."
"Let's just hope Roslind's wonder grenade didn't do too much damage," sniped Don, getting a boot from her in retaliation. Ben took the driver's somewhat shredded chair and they drove off with a lurch, testing things as they went. Fortunately, none of the really important stuff was broken. Peter acted as the lookout from the top hatch, Lee replaced the broken front machine-gun and manned the new one, Dave took the rear one, Don took the right one and Roslind the left. They had 45 minutes to go.
"Only a few hours to the big rebellion," cackled Grover, the present head honcho of the Muppet factions.
"Bob will never suspect, especially since we took pains to have that stooge of his Guy Smiley kept in the dark," added Oscar the Grouch.
"Maybe this time we'll be able to hang on for more than an hour," said Cookie Monster, the ex-leader. He had lost the leadership in a freak accident during a Survival Game, but wasn't resentful any more because he was no longer worried about being stabbed in the back.
"It all depends on what those wretched "innocent" kids do," said Ernie, flipping a blob of pudding at Bert with his spoon.
"They'll probably do what they usually do," stated Bert, dodging the pudding, which hit Kermit in the face with a splork. "Some will support us, others Bob, and some will support us both."
"From what I've heard, the kids will not be very friendly," grated Kermit, grabbing a piece of celery and firmly jamming it up Ernie's right nostril. "My informants have indicated that gangs of Muppet thugs have been attacking "innocent" kids quite frequently of late in the Poppy Street Central Secondary School area."
"Those idiots!" Grover butted in as Ernie was about to retaliate. "That school is reputed to be, and is, the roughest in the city. Those kids are as tough as nails!"
"And, unfortunately, so are the teachers, who happen to be Adults," groused Big Bird.
"Sounds like a typical Smiley move to me," chipped in the Snuffelopagus, the thick floor creaking under his bulk. "Stupid."
"Hey, watch it you guys!" admonished Oscar. Ernie and Kermit were throttling each other and had crashed into the refreshment table. The frog then did a neat throw on Ernie. With his back to a window, he fell backwards and propelled the other Muppet through with his legs. There was a thump about a second later, just as a rather battered-looking Security Force tank ground around the corner from Colborne St.
"I hope those goons don't bother to investigate," groaned Cookie Monster. "Our cover will be blown for sure."
"Ben, take a right here," said Peter. "This is South St."
"That Muppet roadblock was pretty feeble," said Richard, who was manning the turret controls. "Though that bazooka had me worried for a while."
"Twenty down and umpty thousand to go," said Harold. "Though some will doubtlessly be reruns."
"Hey, that was Ernie," said Peter as they turned inexpertly, taking a chunk from a parked car.
"That's the place," said Lee. "Let 'em have it!" As Richard aimed, Mark, thirsty for blood, pressed the fire button several times. The building, a long, three-story townhouse, was totally demolished, killing everyone inside. As they rumbled along, Mark kept on firing and blowing up buildings on either side. Peter hastily ducked down when some Muppet snipers began shooting back.
"Let's head for home, gang," he said, checking his watch.
"Right," said Ben. "They're after us now."
"Lee, where's your recoilless rifle?" asked Don.
"I'm sitting on it, I think," he replied, scrabbling around and grabbing ahold of it. "Why do you want it?"
"I think we should have something more powerful than a machine-gun for the back," Don replied. "You know how Poppy Streeters, us included, have a fondness for attacking from the rear." Lee handed the weapon over and the rear gun was replaced.
"CHAAAARRRRGGGEEE!" shouted a number of hoarse voices as a small battalion of Muppets, male and female, leaped up from their cover and ran at the tank, guns blazing, from all directions. At the same time, a number of cars screeched around the corners in front of and behind them on two wheels and sped directly for them, kamikaze-style.
"Whee!" said Dave, still at the rear, firing the R.R.. Fortunately he was far enough away from the others so that the backblast didn't fry anyone.
"BE CAREFUL WITH THAT THING!" bellowed Peter, who was slightly singed. The shot was accurate and hit the lead car, a big, black sedan. There was a tremendous, unusually violent explosion, metal flew everywhere, many Muppets were butchered and the tank rocked.
"(Deleted)! That thing must have been packed with explosives!" Richard swore. "If one of those buggies hits us, we're dead meat!"
"No problem," said Ben, flooring the accelerator and dealing with a Muppet trying to jump on by swerving and running over him. Mark fired the turret gun and the van trying to hit them head-on vanished in an incandescent cloud. Meanwhile, the machine-gunners were doing their job, carving hostile parties into little shreds. Blood ran in rivers and the supply of Muppets seemed endless.
Harold, for lack of anything better, opened the top hatch and began shooting balls of plastic explosives through it with his sling shot, with Peter following his lead. They were able to cause some confusion and death among the attacking masses. Then, as they turned north on Waterloo St, another fleet of cars appeared and accelerated for the tank.
Mark fired some more and the lead three were junked, thirty feet ahead, along with their drivers. These weren't loaded with blow-upables, just their momentum. The first one after the late three rocketed up through the thick black smoke over the others, crashed down ten feet in front of the tank and hit it at 80 km/h. The T-85 Masher was doing a respectable 50 km/h. The tank won.
As Ben was driving the machine through the twisted wreckage, a second car shot over the three junkers, but Mark got off a lucky shot from the turret gun and the vehicle blew up in mid-air. Then Dave fired the recoilless rifle again, blowing up a Muppet armoured jeep. Then they plowed into the original three, ripping their way through the flames and acrid smoke, only to come face to face with a Muppet T-99 Mutilator.
Over the thunderous noise and chattering of guns, the sirens of fire trucks and doubtlessly Bob Police armour could be heard, faint but clear. The reason there were fire trucks was due to the fact that the city was only recloned once a week, on Sundays, unless more than half had been destroyed. It was Tuesday today and the Muppets didn't want to be homeless too terribly badly.
The two death machines fired simultaneously and both scored direct hits. The Muppet tank's turret and upper portions were demolished and it caught fire immediately, while the Bob-cum-Central tank had a gaping hole where the front and right sides were. Ben, Lee, Don, and Mark vanished outright. Peter, Richard and Dave were eviscerated. Roslind died very rapidly and Harold was right behind her, though he managed to fire the gun once more, hitting and destroying the Mutilator.
Their clones popped up in a nearby house that had taken a large amount of structural damage. It was otherwise vacant and they were armed as they were when they left the school.
"Well, we got our money's worth from that one," said Harold.
"It's 12:20," said Peter, looking at his watch. "Doesn't look like we'll be back in time for class."
"Recreational activities my foot!" snorted Roslind. "Those teachers had better accept our excuse or so help me I'll..."
"Never mind that," interrupted Don. "Where are we?"
"We made it at least as far as Grey St," said Ben. "But we have a long way to go. And the tracks are in the way."
"Let's start going for them," said Richard. "Through the back yards, best skulking style. If we have to kill anybody, let's use our knives. We don't want them to find us." With that in mind, they slipped out the back door of the ramshackle house and into the yard. The howling of sirens was getting nearer fast and, to no one's surprise, gunfire erupted again.
"Must be a Bob patrol," said Dave as they got to the corner lot of Simcoe St. "Maybe that'll distract them." They hastily ducked into the shadows as several six-wheeled armoured cars, all marked with the blood-red B with a fist through it, rolled by and nearby Muppets opened up. Not wanting to get stuck in the middle of the battle, the Centralites raced across Simcoe St and kept on going at a dead run, vaulting fences, slipping on mud and/or body parts and not encountering anybody.
"You there! Stop at once, or we open fire!" came a hoarse voice from behind them. The War Gamers, still running, looked behind them with practiced ease and saw Mr Hooper and a platoon of Army regulars chasing after them.
"Don't worry about us!" Harold, in his usual rearguard position, shouted back. They had a thirty-yard lead and several fences between them. "We're not Muppets and we mean you no harm! We're late for school and trying to get back so the teachers won't beat us!"
"Bull!" shouted Mr Hooper. "You're "innocent" kids! You have to be up to something! This slum is Muppet territory!"
"Whatever happened to the theory "innocent until proven guilty"?" asked Richard. "Plan B time, folks! Got it?"
"Yes!" the others chorused gleefully. Even Harold and Roslind were aware of War Games Plan B. On Richard's word, they hopped the last fence before Horton St, whirled, dropped to the ground and opened fire with their rifles on automatic. Mr Hooper and the other nine Adults were mown down and mulched like grass clippings. The Centralites got up and hurried across Horton.
"I wonder if he was able to recognize the flashings we have on our shoulders?" Mark, now getting rather winded, asked. They all had the purple and gold striped patches on their fatigues, motley as they were, identifying them as Central warriors.
"So what if he did?" asked Don as they arrived at the fence that blocked access to the railway and collapsed, panting.
"He could try for an ambush," Roslind sniped. "The school is only five blocks north of the tracks through the fringe of the core. It shouldn't be too hard."
"Everyone back," said Lee, taking two spheres of plastic explosives from a pocket and wedging them in the spaces near a metal post. "I'll blow a hole through and we can go on." They moved behind a large discarded sheet of plywood and Lee shot twice with his pistol. The operation was successful, blowing away a good chunk of fence.
"On we go," said Peter. They galloped through and were halfway over the train tracks when the security forces made themselves known. The two guards were shot ruthlessly, mainly because they looked like Muppets, as the group streaked for cover. "I hate this place!" cursed he. "We haven't had a train run for years because there's nowhere to go, yet still they keep the tracks!"
"Fortunately, they also can't be bothered with a big security staff," Dave commented breathlessly as they scaled the other fence to get to York St. "Even though it is a border between Muppets and Adults." There was a volley of whistle blowing as Harold made it over and the security force, now recloned, charged around a corner of a building. Harold flung a grenade or two to keep them busy as the group of nine waited for a break in the traffic to cross.
The light changed and they steamed across to the west side of Waterloo and marched at a brisk pace, managing not to look as if they were running away. From the south they could still hear the sounds of battles, which seemed to be spreading.
"I wonder what the teachers will say when they see us," Harold commented. "Although I have a spare now and will have a chance to freshen up a little." They were all sweat-soaked and grimy from the desperate run and, with their collection of weapons, looked rather menacing. Because of the normally light pedestrian traffic on this portion of the street, nothing happened until they crossed the four-lane thoroughfare of Dundas St, where they caught the eye of a couple of Bob's cops in an armoured cruiser checking for speeders. It was black with the usual insignia on either side.
"Hey, Fred," chortled one, guzzling a beer, "lookit that! There's a bunch of them "innocent" kids! Let's have us some fun!"
"Gimme that beer! It's mine!" said Fred, snatching the can back and taking a swill. "Yeah, sure. Say, Gus, I just remembered we have to log some more hours in sidewalk driving!"
"No sooner said than done!" Fred chortled, gunning the overpowerful engine and backing suddenly out into the street, where a couple of motorists had to swerve suddenly to avoid collision. Said motorists let off a few volleys of heavy machine-gun fire that pockmarked the cruiser's paint job and drove off.
"I hope those cops didn't see us," said Dave. "We'd better get ready in case they did."
"Bah!" said Don. "I'm not afraid of no fuzz!" They heard the engine gun, the squeal of tires and the sound of shooting.
"Haw!" laughed Roslind coarsely. "He cringed!"
"I didn't!" he retorted.
"Never mind that, twits!" snapped Ben. "Run for it!" They ran, but the prowl car was much faster as it pulled into a driveway and then turned onto the sidewalk with wheels on either side of it churning great ruts into the grass. With the press of a button, the headlights flipped back to reveal .88-calibre cannons, which then began shooting at them.
The natural move was to run between the houses, so that's what the Centralites did, save for Harold, who scrambled up a tree instead. The others were too busy shooting at the car to admonish him. Lee's recoilless rifle was the only thing they had capable of damaging the murderous vehicle, which it did quite nicely thank you, until Harold began shooting the last of his plastic explosives at it from his perch with his sling shot.
The first one hit the grass in front of the car as it was slowing down so that the side weapons could shoot at the students. There was a powerful detonation and earth and sod sprayed everywhere. So did Don, Ben and Mark, who got in the way of cannon shells. The cops were not amused.
"What the (naughty word) was that?" demanded Gus, shaken up.
"I dunno." Harold's second hit the front window on the right side. The bullet-proof glass was not made to withstand the power of the chemical and it didn't. Policeman flesh was not made to withstand chunks of glass flying at them at 100 km/h and it didn't. They sprayed out the driver's side windows and windshield in a flash of reddish smog.
"I never thought I'd say this," said Harold as he dropped from the tree a minute later, "but thank goodness for Mr Stuffin." It was Mr Stuffin, the Chemistry prof with an unusual passion for explosives even for a teacher, who had created the explosive they had all brought. It was a watered-down version of some stuff he rightly called cataclysmite, which was too powerful to be used except as bombs.
Leaving the trashed copmobile behind, they all ran the last block and a half to the school and went in the south front door.
"Home at last," sighed Roslind, wiping her forehead with her hat. "And now to see our "parents"." They formed into two lines of four, with Richard at the front, and marched to the Office whistling "Colonel Bogey", more or less in step and mostly off-key. To the surprise of the staff, in they went.
"Whaddayer think yer doin', barging in here 23.41 minutes late asking for late slips?" snarled Mrs Frankfurt, checking her very accurate watch. "What's yer excuse?"
"We became engaged in heavy combat with enemy forces," Peter began. The secretary snorted. "Turn on the radio to the local propaganda station and you'll find it true enough." She refused until Mr Albert, who had just left his own office, poked her.
"Let me guess," he said benignly, "the War Games Club, right?"
"And affiliated members," added Harold. The radio sputtered and squawked until the Vice-Principal dropped it on the floor and jumped on it a few times. Then it worked just fine.
"Newsflash!" shouted a breathless newscaster, who was breathless because he was being strangled by Susan, Bob's "Empress". "I have just been informed that the Muppets have once more launched yet another of their welcomed revolts! (Glaack-urrkk!)--I mean foolish rebellions! (Heh-heh.) They claim one of Bob's tanks violated their territory and that they shall no longer put up with it! Emperor Bob, scum of the earth that he is--(guurrkk! Wheeze-puuukke!)--Come on, Susan, don't be so sensitive! (choke-gurgle)--Emperor Bob, wise and kind leader of us all, has replied to the Muppet truths-I-mean-slanderous-drivel by saying that it's the "innocent" kids' fault. They stole the tank, which can be verified by the tank crew and by Mr Hooper, and it's their fault, so get off my case, I'm trying to have my nap."
Everyone in the Office was totally paralysed with laughter and Mr Albert was, between giggles, saying he was glad the place was bugged because he'd have a recording.
"Give them their late slips, Mrs Frankfurt," he guffawed. "They've earned them." The secretary shakily did so and the War Gamers shambled out to their lockers to change.
"I hate it when you're nice!" snarled Mr Yoiks, taking a box of bicarbonate of soda from his pocket and pouring much of the contents down his throat. "It disrupts my digestion." He then noisily guzzled a two-quart pitcher of water.
Then he found out Mr Albert had liberally laced said pitcher with vinegar and the Principal began belching uncontrollably. "(Bleep-bleep) it, Albert!" he burp-cursed as the V.-P. nearly laughed his head off. "I'll get you for this!" He stalked into his office and slammed the door.
Dated: July 11, 1985.
Harold was very hungry after his exertions, so he went straight to his locker, grabbed his lunch and ate it on the spot. He almost threw out the waxed paper wrappings, but ate them instead. Then he pressed the button to change his clothes and, to his surprise, got a quick cleanup too, so that when the smoke and steam cleared, he actually looked presentable. He also saw the petite, slight form of Jenny Reardon standing beside him.
"Yipe!" he exclaimed, jumping back and checking to see if all his clothes and hidden weapons were still there. They were.
"Hello, Harold," she replied with a friendly smile and a wink from a large, almond-shaped blue eye.
"Jenny, what are you up to now?" he demanded suspiciously. "What do you want?" She leered and advanced one step, he retreated the same distance. "Oh, where is Annie when I really need her?" he muttered. She advanced. He retreated.
"GOTCHA!" shouted a feminine voice in his ear. Harold screeched, whirled and ducked in one swift, fluid motion. Behind him were Jeanette Duck and a shapely, solidly-built short-haired blonde named Elizabeth Roamer. It was Elizabeth who had grabbed for him, but fast as she was, his battle-hardened reflexes were even faster. In another swift motion, he leaped backwards, pulled out a hunting-throwing knife with a six-inch blade and dodged Jeanette and Jenny who had lunged at him.
"Now," he said reasonably, albeit nervously, "just what are you lovely ladies up to?" They moved closer. "Stay back!" he warned, waving the knife. "Or I'll kill myself and get away!"
"This is going to be harder than I thought," Jeanette whispered to Jenny.
"Yes, but that makes it more fun," Elizabeth muttered.
"Harold," said Jenny after a short pause, "as you well know, the Grad Committee is trying to raise money for the Grad which, being in the Art Gallery, will cost us a bundle."
"And Bob has clamped down on extortion rackets against the Muppets for those who don't give him anything," Harold responded. The girls nodded glumly.
"In other words, it has to be strictly above the table," said Jeanette. "So we came up with the idea of public weddings for the Grads," she added brightly.
"Aren't we just a little young for this sort of thing?" he heckled. They shook their heads. "Well, you're too late. Annie Armrest hooked me about a year and a half ago. Sorry."
"Oh, we know about it," said Elizabeth sweetly, extracting a piece of paper. "She thought it would be a lark and gave us the go-ahead, on the condition that she would re-marry you." To his horror, she ripped the paper to shreds.
"That was our marriage certificate!" he gasped. "Annie," he grated loudly, "I would like to talk to you." The soundproofing on the classroom doors prevented sounds of their exchange from reaching the classes in session nearby.
"Oh, she's in World Lit right now, working happily away," Jenny grinned. "She said we could do it."
"We'll see about that," said the cornered Raymonds grimly. "I guess that means I won't have to take pains to hide my date with Victoria tonight," he lied loudly, checking his watch. Annie whizzed around the corner by 309 a few seconds later. "You're getting slow in your old age, Annie."
"Never mind that!" she snapped, giving him a bear hug and deftly disarming him at the same time. "Yes, I did indeed give them permission to tear up the certificate. It's for a worthy cause!" Harold was not pleased as the other three began poking, feeling and groping all over his body.
"Stop that!" he snapped, slapping Jenny's hands away from his belt. "I just wanted to make sure you knew what they were intending to do with me. You might not approve."
"Don't worry, he's fully operational," Annie smirked, turning a blind eye to their actions.
"When you're QUITE through with getting your jollies, you can give me the stuff you took from my pockets!" said Harold icily. They regretfully did so and he put the junk back. "It's little wonder I hang around with the War Gamers as much as I do now!" he erupted angrily, hazel eyes blazing. "They, at least, don't treat me like a piece of meat to be bought and sold at and for pleasure!" He stormed off, after grabbing his knife from Annie, towards the stairs near the Chemistry Room 305.
As he turned to go through the smoke doors, he bumped into Jeanette Swim, another girl in his homeroom. "Sorry about that," he said mildly. "Didn't see you there." He banged the door open and stomped down the stairs, heading for the recent second-floor addition put at the back of the school. "It's almost enough to make you defect to the Muppets!" he shouted into the stairwell as the door closed behind him.
"It looks as if," said the raven-haired Annie, "we have made a tactical blunder of not inconsiderable magnitude."
"It sure seems that way," said Jeanette Duck, still stunned by the outburst. "I never would have guessed...Oh, hi Jeanette." The other Jeanette had just arrived at where they were standing, near the door of 308.
"What was that all about?" she asked, puzzled. They explained the idea to her and his reaction. She thought for a while. "You have all underestimated him, I think," she said softly. "There's more to him than meets the eye." She ghosted quietly down the corridor towards the stairs near 309.
"Why is everyone around here acting so strangely?" asked Jenny plaintively, scratching her head.
"Us included?" inquired Elizabeth wryly. "Evidently a different approach is needed." The other two nodded.
Last year Mr Yoiks had blackmailed Emperor Bob (with photographs of him actually petting a cat) into leaning hard on the Poppy Street Bored of Education in order to get them to cough up some cash to build a new addition onto the back of the school and to revamp the older parts, all to his strict specifications. When the Bored complained that it made the school look like a fort, the Principal squelched them with gentle remarks about how their new "Education Centre" made Bob's Bastille Prison for Muppets (the Emperor's favourite) look like a tar-paper shack.
Jeanette Swim found Harold in the electronics lab a little while later working busily on a complicated tangle of wires, transistors and microchips. This was the ground floor of the two-story addition. The top floor was an explosives laboratory, over which Mr Stuffin reigned supreme. He looked up as she entered the otherwise deserted room.
"Greetings, Jeanette," he smiled, all traces of ill temper gone. "Welcome to my humble abode. Please take a seat."
"Thank you, Harold," she replied graciously, doing so. "You did a fine job with them back there."
"Thanks," he replied, grinning devilishly and setting down his soldering gun and tweezers. "I was just about to ask you about that. Did they fall for "There's more to him than meets the eye"?"
"Hook, line and sinker," she laughed, brushing back her full auburn hair, blue eyes twinkling.
"I just wish I could have seen their faces when you said that," he said regretfully.
"You will, you will," she replied, pulling out a small spy camera. "So will the yearbook." They laughed again.
"Brilliant!" Harold said, "and speaking of which, by a strange coincidence, you have arrived just in time to see me test my latest in advanced weaponry, the laser disrupter."
"What does it do?" she asked, seeing that he was waiting for her to. He smiled as she pulled a face at him.
"It disrupts the bonds between the atoms in any opaque substance that the beam strikes. One possible non-military application would be cleaning windows." She nodded.
"I hate washing windows too. Especially when those horrid Muppets, or even some of Bob's goons, come around and throw mud at them and at me. But do go on."
"That block of wood down there is the target. Now let's get behind this glass shield here, just in case." They did, and Harold pressed a button on a small box. There was a small flash of greenish light from a tube aimed at the block, which exploded violently into little shards. Several of these banged into the shield. "It works!"
"When will you have this in a portable form?"
"In a few days, once I get things miniaturized and debugged. It should be about the size of this." He pulled out his pistol, which was a pretty big chunk of metal.
"Won't it be rather heavy?" Jeanette asked, hefting it.
"No. But you shouldn't worry. You women are so big and strong, and we men so weak and helpless." He rolled his eyes and she laughed in spite of herself.
"Speaking of women, I had an idea as to how we could deal with those lust bunnies." She outlined it to him.
"Good," Harold replied. "We must worry about Elizabeth the most, because I have a sneaking suspicion that it is she and not Annie who is going to meet me at the altar."
"You're right," she replied earnestly. "Being on the Grad Committee myself, I learned about this plan. Your other War-Gamer friends are targeted too, among others. Jenny is tackling Richard Eglise, Jeanette is going for Andrew Yoiks and Marnie Rustle is going to tame Ben Divram."
"Beautiful," he muttered. Then the bell rang, ending Period 4. As they hastily stashed the equipment in a strong box, he continued: "We must take pains not to be seen together, or they will very likely smell a rat. After my experiences with Annie and Victoria, I should know," he added grimly. "You go out the door and I'll go out the window. Fair enough?"
"Sure." They embraced swiftly and parted, just as Mr Craw barged in. Harold hastily opened a window and scrambled out, attracting the malevolent Physics teacher's attention while Jeanette slipped out unseen.
"Where do you think you're going?" he demanded in his gravelly voice. Harold merely thumbed his nose, blew a raspberry and jumped over the dry moat to safety on the grass.
"I'm not telling!" replied the student cheekily, running off and ignoring the teacher's roars of rage.
After a quick rush back to his locker through the crowds of students milling their unwilling way to Period 5, he made it to Geography class, where he had the inimitable Mr Ofarabia as his teacher. Harold was flanked, as he sat down, by Horton Clayton on his right and Mork Beercraft, who was sniffing and scratching himself as usual, on his left. Mr Ofarabia was out and the class was noisy and raffish.
"Harold, where have you been?" demanded Horton impatiently. "We were looking all over for you at noon today."
"Sorry, but your prize possession was occupied at the time," he retorted. "I was stirring up trouble in Muppet territory with the War Gamers and having lots of fun."
"We were wanting to talk to you about the wedding," said Mork. "The Grad Committee wants our little group to participate." He scratched his head with a small blizzard of dandruff.
"I was--approached--by Jenny, Jeanette and Elizabeth in my spare," Harold replied. "They insisted that Annie and I be remarried, to attract a crowd, no doubt. But now that I'm officially unmarried again, boy is Annie going to suffer," he said gleefully, rubbing his hands together. "I shall have lots of fun." Before he could launch into details, Mr Ofarabia entered, flanked by two Muppets armed with submachine guns. Silence, punctuated by the clicks of safety catches being turned off, instantly fell.
"Now that I have your attention," began the Geography 551 teacher, "you may go now." He said this to the two Muppets, who promptly ripped their faces off, with great gushes of red glop. This glop turned out to be ketchup, as the faces of Mr Sargeant and Mr Chiseler were behind them and all three laughed loudly at their prank. The students were not amused and began booing, hissing and throwing pieces of rubbish from the floor at them. The other two hastily exited, leaving Mr Ofarabia alone with the unruly crowd.
"SILENCE!" he bellowed, pulling a Colt .45 from his shoulder holster and firing it at the ceiling. Chunks of plaster, dust and ceiling tile fell down and hit him on the head. The class laughed. Then the door opened and Mike Shnell, a tall fellow with a beaky nose, acne and a briefcase slunk in.
"Michael, you're late! That's the sixth time this month!" The student shrugged insolently and began walking to his seat. "GARR!" bellowed the infuriated teacher and shot him in the back. Mike was hurled forward ten feet by the impact, but managed to stagger upright and slump into his seat.
"Bulletproof vest, sire," he smirked.
"Yeah, and shooting you in the head would do no good," grated the pedagogue. "I know, I know. On with the lesson." He walked to the blackboard, holstering the gun. "HEY! Who took my chalk? I can't teach without my coloured chalk!" The students applauded.
"Try it, sir! You'll like it!" urged Mork.
"Mr Sargeant took it," informed Harold. "I saw him do it when we were throwing stuff at you!"
"WHAT? SARGEANT, GIVE IT BACK!" Laughter exploded from the supply room at the back as Mr Ofarabia charged up the aisle.
"Come on, let's go," said Horton as the sounds of a furious game of Keep-Away erupted. The students grabbed their books and were gone in a twinkling. Then the teacher stormed back to an empty class, box of chalk in hand.
"IT'S A PLOT! IT'S A PLOT!" he roared and began smashing desks to pieces in helpless rage. Then Mr Sargeant and Mr Chisholm appeared at the doorway, looking slightly bloody.
"Happy birthday to you," they sang. "Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, Mr Ofarabia; Happy birthday to you."
"Happy fortieth, mate," said Mr Chiseler. "The secret cameras we have hidden should give us some interesting tapes."
"I KNEW IT! I'LL KILL YOU BOTH!" howled their target, pulling out his gun and shooting them down in warm blood and lots of it. Then he went in search of his wayward students.
Back at his locker, Harold stowed his books in preparation for a quick getaway. Alas, he had no such luck, for fey friend Elizabeth materialized around the 309 corner.
"How is it that they always know where I am?" he muttered. "I think I'd better check myself for bugs, the next chance I get. Why hello there Elizabeth," he said in feigned surprise. "How ever did you know my class left early?"
"I had a little talk with Mr Sargeant beforehand," she replied smoothly. Harold nodded knowingly.
"That figures. How much did it cost you?"
"Nothing at all," she said sweetly with a dazzling smile. "I just informed him of the location of a certain Muppet warehouse that contains large quantities of 180-proof Cookie Monster brandy. It was easy."
"How did you find out about that?" Harold asked, somewhat worried. If he was right, she would be a very formidable opponent.
"That is a state secret based on feminine intuition."
"And a good spy network," he muttered under his breath.
"Anyway," she continued, ignoring the remark, "I was just wanting to apologize for our conduct towards you earlier. It was not right for us to try and pressure you into doing it."
"Of course it wasn't," Harold lectured. "Anybody who has known me for any length of time should know by now that I don't go for the hard-sell method. I would have appreciated a little advance warning, a sort of gentle lead up to it rather than an almost fait accompli." She looked repentant. "When is this marriage, anyway?" He added. "My usual sources haven't told me."
"This Friday," she responded meekly, moving closer. "The publicity begins tomorrow, though we keep the participants a secret." Harold edged backwards warily.
"I am going to re-marry Annie, am I not?"
"Well," she evaded, "it is possible." Suddenly she pounced, seized him and kissed him soundly, lifting him right off the floor in her enthusiasm. When she set him down again, his glasses were steamed up and he staggered.
"Now, now, Elizabeth," he gurgled, "seduction will get you nowhere. You haven't gotten any ideas, I hope," he added in a rather transparent attempt at naivete.
"It may yet to be decided who shall marry whom," she purred, lunging again. Harold was ready this time, giving her a judo throw over his shoulder, but she knew the art too and grabbed him, taking him down with her.
"Elizabeth! What are you doing with my Geography student?" barked a familiar voice. It was Mr Ofarabia, trying to round up his errant class. He wasn't having much luck, for students were well-rehearsed in the arts of evasion. She grabbed Harold's pistol from his leg holster, getting a few feels in as well, and shot the teacher square in the chest. He hadn't learned from Mike Shnell and wasn't wearing a bullet-proof vest, so most of his innards were displaced and splattered all over the walls and ceiling.
"Say, this is a nice gun," she admired, sitting on his chest and pinning him. "Very effective. I think I'll keep it."
"What, and leave me with no way to defend myself?" Harold wheezed. "Please get off me." She shook her head. He sighed and, with an effort, wrapped his ankles around her neck and pulled her off backwards. She was surprised by this unorthodox tactic and Harold was able to escape from her clutches, grab his gun back and administer a powerful hammerlock.
"I'll get you yet, Raymonds," she hissed seductively. "And when I do, I'll enjoy every minute of it."
"If you do," he replied easily, "it will be on my terms." He pecked her quickly on the cheek. "Now be a good girl and stay right here while I make my getaway." He rapidly released her and ran off at top speed.
"GRR!" Elizabeth growled to herself, sitting up and rubbing her arms. "That man! Marnie was right, he is a handful. But then again," she mused, standing up, "she's known him since Grade 6, so she should know. It's strategy time."
Harold did not leave the school early, though he would have liked to. First he went to the electronics room and picked up his proto-laser-disrupter.
"Oh great master of Physics, I have arrived on hand and knee to pick up my project," he shamelessly grovelled to Mr Craw in the lab. "Your teaching is so inspiring that I just have to take it home and do some work there so I may have the incredible pleasure of handing it in early to you." Mr Craw was unable to beat him for the earlier indignity he'd committed because he was too busy vomiting out the window, for the student's ingratiating smarminess was truly sickening.
Taking advantage of this indisposition, Harold grabbed the project from the strongbox, stuffed it in his knapsack and took off. From there he scurried to the explosives lab, to find it slightly occupied.
"Oh Mr Stuffin," said a student's voice as he rounded one of the many corners designed to absorb any blast force and keep it from damaging the rest of the second floor. Harold recognized it as Fanny Allerput's, Horton's companion. "What happens when you heat gelignite?" she asked in her "innocent little girl" voice.
"NO! DON'T DO THA--" There was a heavy concussion and the floor shook. Harold was knocked off his feet, but was uninjured. He got up and peeked into the room. Fanny was behind a desk at the back of the room. At the front of it, there was a large hole in the cement floor, a missing desk and the shredded remains of the teacher decorating the wall.
"Hello Harold," she said sunnily. "Mr Stuffin made the mistake of making me wait for him. Have you heard about..."
"Yes, yes," he replied. "I've heard all too much about the wedding. I'd rather not get involved, though of course I have no choice in the matter." She nodded as the Stuffin clone arrived.
"Fanny, you shouldn't have done that," he scowled. "I told you I had an experiment going on and couldn't come immediately. Hello Mr Raymonds." Fanny's eyebrows rose.
"What's this?" she inquired. "Since when have you, of all people, deserved that sort of treatment?"
"That new stuff you gave me to test worked very well," said Harold, pulling out a ball of the plastic explosive he'd used earlier in the War Gamer raid. "I was able to knock out a Bob police car by hitting a side window. Andrew Yoiks had an accident in the parking lot though and blew himself up." He explained the circumstances behind it and the other two laughed.
"Good, good," said Mr Stuffin, rubbing his hands together. "Fanny, would you have some of it rather than the usual?"
"Sure," she replied and he got a small net bag of the spheres. She gave him some money in return. "Thanks a lot. Bye." She left.
"Mr Stuffin, I need your help," Harold began.
"This is a novelty," he commented.
"Yes, I know," was the gloomy response. "First of all, have you got a bug detector? If you do, please check me over." The teacher went into the office next door and returned with a black box the size of a paperback book. Only one bug was located, the button on his right back pocket.
"It's a little radio transmitter!" he exclaimed. "A homing beacon!" He checked himself, but found nothing.
"Well, that's one mystery solved," Harold mused. "Sir, being the master explosive chemist that you are, I was wondering if you could do a few little things for me by Thursday after school." He presented a written list and the teacher's eyes widened.
"All this is going to be rather tricky," he said shiftily. "What's in it for me?"
"I knew you would ask me that. Is this room secure? My little something needs to be demonstrated." Mr Stuffin began closing and locking doors and windows and drawing the curtains while Harold set up his apparatus. The Adult then went to the front desk, flipped open a secret panel and pressed a button. Nothing happened. "Better check the circuit." After some poking around,
"SOMEBODY SABOTAGED MY BUG DESTROYER!" he roared. He savagely pressed the button and the room was rocked by a volley of explosions. "All right Harold, demonstrate it quickly before all hell breaks loose upstairs." The student hastily ran through the demo he'd shown Jeanette Swim earlier and he was impressed.
"This and the info about your bug destroyer should be more than adequate compensation. Shake on it?"
"Sure." They shook hands, grinning wickedly. Suddenly, there was a banging on the door leading to the rest of the school.
"Stuffin! Open up in there! What are you up to?" Harold recognized the voice of his Chemistry teacher Mr Krammer.
"Yeah, open up!" Mr Blatspot, another Chemistry teacher and just as evil as Mr Krammer, added his own discordant hammering.
"Harold, are you in there?" Mr Craw added, kicking at the the door of the little office. "I don't think you've told me everything about this project of yours!" Mr Markhard and Mr Ryan soon joined them.
"Sounds like the entire Science Department had this place wired up," Harold snickered.
"Yah, yah! You can't get me!" taunted Mr Stuffin.
"And you wouldn't want to even if you could," Harold added.
"Watch it, Raymonds!" he warned.
"Let us in!" bellowed the teachers.
"Hold your horses," sighed Mr Stuffin, pulling out a high-powered shotgun. Harold got his pistol. "Okay, come on in." He pressed a button which unlocked the heavy steel doors. In the teachers barged and up they were blown. It was very messy and the Chemistry teacher loved it. Fortunately, none of the gore got on Harold's disrupter. "Now git before they come back!" For once, he heeded the advice, grabbing his stuff and slithering out.
It was now nearly 3:00 and dismissal time, so Harold went back to his locker. Nearby, Ben Divram, Andrew Yoiks and Richard Eglise were congregated around Rich's locker.
"Guys, sweep everything you have for bugs!" he hissed at them. "And watch out for Muppets and the girls. Whoops, gotta go. Bye." He spotted Jenny, Jeanette Duck and Elizabeth coming down the hall and ran the other way towards 305, waving to them.
"I hear you're getting married, Harold," said the person he bumped into on the stair landing. It was Roslind Fusser. "You lucky man."
"Am I lucky because I'm not marrying you?"
"Beast!" she said, giving him a push. "So, I hear, are Ben, Andrew and Richard."
"How on earth do you women find things out so quickly?" he groused. "Ladies' room gossip?"
"How did you know?" He rolled his eyes. "Never mind. I'll be at the assembly watching."
"Lucille, no! Go away! I have to get home and do--er--homework!" This complaint was accompanied by the sounds of two pairs of feet thundering up the stairs. They were owned by Harold's brother Jamie and Lucille Reyguth, his pursuer.
"I'll be glad to help you with it!" she steamed as they reached the ground floor and kept going up.
"But it's homework you can't help me with!" bleated Jamie frantically. Lucille was undaunted.
"Which course is it in?"
"Uh, uh, Grade 11 Art!"
"But you don't take that!"
"I know. That's why you can't help me with it!" he said cleverly as he reached the landing, whipped open the door and raced through. The delay was just enough to allow Lucille to grab her elusive Romeo in a flying tackle worthy of a linebacker.
"My, my. Some people never learn, do they?" asked Roslind.
"HAROLD! What are you doing with that hussy?" Annie appeared halfway up the stairs.
"I'm no hussy you, you, slave driver!" Annie was aghast; Harold was startled. "Well it's true!" she added defensively. "Ever since I first met him, you've been hounding his every step with your unfounded suspicions!" Harold looked virtuous.
"And we aren't married any more," he added smugly, "so I can do as I please." He gave Roslind a big hug and Annie jumped up and down in fury. "Who knows, maybe I won't marry you after all."
"We'll see about that!" she raved, stomping off downstairs.
"You can let go of me now, Roslind," he said, trying to pry her loose. She resisted.
"Don't wanna. This won't happen again and I want it to last. I might never see you again."
"If I were to go to the Snuff village tomorrow, you'd probably find out and get there yourself so you could "accidentally" run into me. I know you." She pouted. "See you later." He disentangled himself, hustled down the stairs and began walking to the bus stop. He'd stopped taking his bike to school because it didn't afford him any protection from the legions of snipers and the kamikaze drivers that frequented the streets. On his way he didn't have to kill anybody, a mild disappointment considering the crowds of Muppets, Adults and "innocent" kids around shopping. As he was standing at the stop, counting the number of traffic laws being broken, a big, black limousine pulled up.
"Are you Harold Raymonds?" demanded a male Adult, rolling down a smoked window. He was dressed in a black pinstriped suit, a black fedora and mirrored sunglasses.
"Maybe I am and maybe I'm not," he evaded, stepping back several paces. "Who wants to know?"
"Bob, Emperor of the City, requests an audience with you." By the way the word "requests" was emphasized, Harold knew he wasn't supposed to have any choice in the matter. "Get in."
"Mommy always told me never to accept rides from strangers," he replied primly, keeping his hand casually on his gun butt.
"GET IN HERE!" shouted another voice, which sounded like Bob's. Then the limo was sideswiped by a sports car, which was the target of an attempt to push it off the road. Harold ducked as a side mirror whizzed off and decapitated a Muppet.
"If Bob really wants to talk to me, he can come to me instead of vice versa."
"Let me take care of this scum," said Black Fedora, putting on some brass knuckles.
"I'M IN HERE!" roared the voice, definitely Bob's. "Now get in here before we attract any more attention," he added reasonably.
"I won't go anywhere if you shout at me," said Harold, feigning sulkiness and spotting another limo coming.
"WHAT?? YAARRGGHH!" bellowed the dictator, who had a very short temper. Then the other limousine rear-ended Bob's, sending it hurtling forward into the main traffic flow and causing a six-car pile-up. Glass, metal and curses flew everywhere as Grover, Bert and Oscar the Grouch piled out, clobbered Harold on the head with blackjacks until he was out cold, with only Oscar getting blown to bits by Harold's gunshot, throwing the "innocent" kid into the back seat and scrambling back in again. Oscar's clone appeared nearby and hopped in also.
"Cripes, that kid has a quick draw!" cursed the Grouch.
"Well we got him anyway," said Grover. "Let's go!" Ernie, the driver, shifted into reverse, floored the gas pedal, smashed up a parked car behind him, shifted into forward and turned violently left onto a side street, ignoring the squealing brakes of the other cars. There was a thump and blood spattered the windshield.
"Good show! You got Bob too!" cheered Bert. Then Harold groaned and woke up.
"Ow, my head!" he complained, sitting up. "Let me go! I've had enough excitement for a month packed into today and I don't need any more!" He tried to unlock the door, but couldn't.
"If you answer our questions, we'll let you go," said Grover, who was sitting beside him. "We have no desire to hurt you."
"No more than absolutely necessary," cackled Oscar. "Where did you learn to draw like that?"
"Never mind that," butted in Bert. "You were one of the people who blew up our HQ this morning, right?"
"Sure I was," he replied jovially. "It was a little field exercise for the Central War Games Club."
"How did you find out where it was?" asked Grover politely.
"One of your Muppet thug gangs attacked me on the way to school this morning," Harold spat. "There was a map in the pocket of one of them that indicated where it was, so I took it."
"Can you give us a description of those creatures?" demanded Ernie sharply. "Any identifying traits, uniforms, badges?"
"Well," Harold thought furiously, deciding to go along with them. "Now that I think about it, they all had a strange tattoo on their wrists. It looked like--a banana."
"Guy Smiley, all right," said Oscar grimly. "The traitor! He's been trying to get the "innocent" kids against us so our rebellion will fail! But why does he use a banana for his logo?"
"Maybe it's because he thinks he's a slippery fellow with lots of appeal," Harold offered. The Muppets groaned.
"All right, let him off," said Grover.
"Say, now that I'm in here, you might as well drive me home," said the "innocent" kid. "It'll allow me to forget the bump on the head and perhaps a few reprisals." Grover sighed. "I live on Regent Street. Just turn left when you get there."
After getting dropped off, he scooted inside and up to his room, which was also an electronics workshop. There he set to work creating a new hand weapon which would not revolutionize war as we already know it, but would make it that much more bloody, which was good enough. Poppy Streeters love blood, especially students and teachers. Harold's purpose was to create one prototype which could then be duplicated by the clone machine he had.
Dated: July 15, 1985.
Harold's biggest problem with the gun was the power source. He needed a battery that could fit in the pistol grip that could hold enough power to last for a good, pitched battle and could be recharged quickly and easily. After several hours of hard thinking he finally sketched out some plans and went to bed.
All night he was troubled by dreams of people chasing him. Sometimes it was Elizabeth. Others it was Bob or Grover or Roslind or Mr Stuffin or a War Gamer. Always it seemed that they were using radios to track him down and drag him to a wedding ceremony where someone with a veiled face waited for him. Then he awoke with a bang, which was caused by a crash of thunder.
"Of course!" he exclaimed over the noise of the thunderstorm. "Sound! Eureka!" Another flash of lightning lit up the room in time for him to see his clock, which read 4:37 am. Fatigue evaporated, he improvised a sound receiving system and added it to the extra-power battery in the handle of the gun. With a squeak of triumph, he screwed in the last exterior plate on the weapon and it was ready. It was 6:00. He went back to bed and was quickly lulled to sleep by the drumming of the rain on his windows.
He awoke once more at 7:30, a little later than usual. It was raining and rather gloomy and he sighed and got dressed. After a leisurely breakfast, he assembled his gear that included the disrupter gun, put on a raincoat and began trudging to the bus stop. As usual, Jamie had left earlier, though he could never understand why.
For once he got to school without incident, in spite of the maniacs on the road. A van even had the nerve to try and push the bus off the street, but volleys of shots of all sorts of hand weapons from the passengers and the bus driver's ruthlessness caused the other vehicle to do a 360 degree spinout and get clobbered by cars from both directions.
"Raymonds! Stop dripping in the school!" bellowed Mr Pepper in his daily harassment as the student entered from the north door.
"Why, are you afraid of the competition?" Harold sneered. As usual, the Phys Ed meanie roared angrily, but this time he didn't have a cerebral hemorrhage, so he had to be shot.
"Drat the kid!" cursed the clone. "One of these days he won't have a snappy answer and then..." He cackled nastily at the thought. Harold, however, was worrying about far more pressing things as he climbed the stairs towards his locker, which was just outside Room 308, like how he was going to alter his proto-disrupter into something suitable for handing in to Mr Craw.
"Hello Jeanette," he said, rounding the corner at the 309 end of the hall and spotting Jeanette Swim waiting nervously by his locker. "Wait! Don't hug me yet. I'm soaking wet."
"Right," she said, halting. "Is it ready?" He opened his locker, removed his knapsack and hung it on a coat hook.
"Yes it is. I had a brainstorm last night and was able to get it completed. I just hope it works." He went across the hall to his other locker and put his wet coat in it to dry. "Unfortunately, Mr Craw is getting suspicious, so I'll have to be very careful. How's the wedding coming?"
"Hear ye, hear ye, you miserable students," rasped a voice over the P.A. system. It was the lovable Mr Yoiks. "Guess what? Love (hack-gurgle)--" The two giggled. "--Is in the air at Central now. Do I have to read this drool?"
"Yes!" That was Jeanette Duck's voice.
"If you don't, certain facts about a certain person's bunny-rabbit slippers will leak out." That was Marnie Rustle.
"Garr! All right! This Friday, you critters of the student body and staff are invited to the auditorium to witness some of our (gargle) wonderful graduating class get married. Ick!"
"No! Not ick! Good!" said Jeanette. "Bring a dollar and be there at 11:30 this Friday! We aren't going to tell who'll be the lucky guys and gals and ignore the rumors! It'll be a surprise!"
"Right Harold?" asked Marnie. "Kissy-kissy."
"DON'T DO THAT!" roared Mr Yoiks. "I hate that sort of language!" The system was clicked off.
"We'll see who gets the last laugh," said Harold grimly.
"That's only part of the publicity campaign," said Jeanette Swim. "There'll be the usual rash of posters put up around the school for people to deface, and so on."
"Lovely," Harold muttered. "But in a different way from yourself, of course," he added with a gallant bow. She delivered her deferred hug and he responded. "You'd better keep it in your locker for the time being," he continued, handing the weapon to her. It looked relatively innocuous, more like a .44 than anything else. "In the next few days I'm sure my locker will be broken into by somebody and I'm almost certain I'll be accosted and searched myself by the girls at least once, so you're the safest one, not being under suspicion, I hope."
"Don't count on it," she said. "There are eyes and informants everywhere. You'd better keep it. I don't know how it works, you don't have copies yet and I might very well be kidnapped by the Muppets or Bob or someone else." She gave it carefully back.
"Fine. I guess we'd better get moving before class starts." He put the disrupter in his pocket and grabbed his Chemistry books. "Oh yes, check your stuff for bugs." He pulled out a device from another pocket and checked out his locker. It was clean. "It's paranoia time." They both were also bug-free.
"Good-bye then," she said, hugging him again. "Until homeroom." They parted and Harold trudged to Room 304 where he was to receive the dubious educational experience of Mr Krammer. He arrived just as the clock clicked to 8:45 and sat next to Mork Beercraft, his lab partner.
"What's this, Marnie getting the hotsies for you?" he asked cheerfully, sniffing loudly.
"If only it were that simple," Harold groaned. "Today and tomorrow are not going to be the best days of my life."
"Sure they will," said Mr Krammer from behind him. He had come into the room from the passage that connected it with 305 and a large storeroom. They jumped. "I'll get to teach you." He leered malevolently and wandered up to the front of the room.
This was one of those periods that seemed to last an eternity. The previous period, the teacher had dumped out a ton of homework, questions which were either really easy or incredibly difficult.
"If you don't take these up, we'll walk out!" the students asserted, pulling out their weaponry and aiming it not at him but at his precious overhead projector.
"All right, all right! Gimme a break! Mr Birmingham challenged a bunch of us to a drinking contest last night and we didn't sleep much," Mr Krammer groused. Harold and Mork were both yawning regularly because they'd gotten all the problems with little difficulty and were bored. Then Harold remembered his disrupter and pulled it from his pocket.
"Mork, have you got your sling shot here?" he asked.
"Sure," was the reply. "Why?"
"You know where the bug destroyer button in this room is, don't you?" Mork nodded. "Fortunately it isn't protected by a panel, so either Mr Krammer or Mr Blatspot can push it with a knee surreptitiously. Can you make a bank shot off the wall and hit it?" Mork quickly ran things through in his head.
"I'll try." He took out his high-powered sling shot and a superball from his bag, carefully aimed so that Mr Krammer couldn't see what he was up to and let fly. There was a snap from the sling shot, a thump from the wall and a series of violent explosions from the ceiling corners and light fixtures, which blasted plaster, bits of metal and glass all over the room, killing a few students. The overhead was demolished and so was Mr Krammer, who was writing something on it. Blood flew everywhere.
"Mork! What did you have to go and do that for?" shouted the survivors, hustling to pick up scattered notes. Mork ignored them. Then Mr Stuffin, who had a spare at this time, stuck his head in from the passage.
"What was Mr K. making this time?" he asked gleefully.
"Nothing," replied Mork. "I just activated the bug destroyer." A line of fluorescent lights crashed down into the aisle beside him, nearly killing some other students.
"Oh," was the disappointed reply.
"Get out of my way, you vulture!" shouted Mr Krammer, pushing Mr Stuffin aside. "Mork, what did you do that for?"
"Because I was told your overhead had been bugged by the Home Economics teacher who was trying to get the latest in poisons from you, so I, out of the goodness of my heart, saved you," the student lied swiftly.
"BALDERDASH!" bellowed Mr Krammer.
"Well it was bugged by somebody," said Harold.
"Never mind the details!" he snarled. "Now I'll have to (gasp) write on the board and dirty my hands with chalk dust!" He stomped up to the raised area by the blackboard. "Now where were we?" As he blathered on, Harold took out his disrupter, which had been hastily replaced in his pocket, aimed it out the window at Mr Krammer's car and fired. Its booby-traps were set off.
Although he sat in the outside row farthest from the windows, he could see the row of teacher's cars parked by the fence. He knew whose it was by the blood-red K on its hood. It blew up with a loud roar and a fireball of exploding gasoline. Harold noted that the energy charge only dropped a little and was soon restored to full by the background noise. Mr Stuffin was impressed again and Harold pocketed the gun.
"What was that?" demanded Mr Krammer.
"Your car just blew up, sir," said Ben Divram, who sat by the window, along with Andrew Yoiks.
"WHAT? Who would do that?" he shouted, racing to the window and seeing the flaming chassis. The two cars on either side of his had also caught fire, in spite of the rain. "Well, at least those Muppets got Craw's car too," he said. "And of course they all will get recloned when the fires die out," he added. "Stuffin, get out of here!" Mr Stuffin pulled out a pea shooter, put a small purple sphere in the tube and shot it at him in response.
Mr Krammer ducked and the pellet hit the blackboard behind him, since he was now back at his post. It exploded with a small but forceful bang. "Ha! You loser! You missed me!" Then the heavy slate blackboard, jarred from its position made precarious by a destroyed bug, toppled and hit him on the head, smashing it to a juicy pulp and ramming said pulp into his stomach from the top.
"Class dismissed," said Mr Stuffin benevolently. Since there were fifteen minutes to go, the class rushed out, save Harold and Mork. "You got it done faster than I expected."
"Yes," Harold replied. "Have you got a clone machine? I'm going to need at least five more."
"Of course," was the reply. As they went to the little room just off the Science office, which was off 305, Harold explained the theory behind the invention to Mork.
"Interesting," he commented. "It's too bad in a way that it is explosive. I'd like to see if I could cause Betty's clothes to disappear in Functions class," he giggled. Betty Giannosca was Mork's nemesis. She and Victoria Blatter often went man-hunting together, since Harold and Mork were often together. After the required copies were made and Mork and Mr Stuffin had each gotten one, Harold returned to 307, his homeroom.
"Hi Jenny. Hi Jeanette," he said to Jenny and Jeanette Duck, who were among the people gathered in the hallway waiting for Mr Klaptrap to dismiss his class. "How are you on this lovely day?"
"Fine, Harold," replied Jeanette. "Did you hear the announcement?" He nodded casually. "Aren't you thrilled?"
"Nah," he yawned. "Things like this happen all the time."
"Be here at the start of your spare in Period 2 on Friday so we can get you dressed up for the occasion," said Jenny.
"No thanks. I can dress myself," he said primly. "You wouldn't want to spoil the surprise by seeing me naked, now would you?" The others laughed, but she was unabashed.
"I suppose not." Then the class was let out and in they all went. After homeroom, he was able to pass one of the guns to Jeanette Swim, as promised, without it being detected.
Harold quickly hammered out a deal with the War-Gamers at noon in 300, for it was still raining outside, and came out a bit less worried. The rest of the Wednesday passed without notable incident, just the usual teacher brutalities, student retaliations and booby-traps going off. Although nothing did happen, tension in the Grads was increasing markedly, especially in those designated, willingly or not, for marriage.
By the time school was dismissed for the day, the rain had stopped, though it was still murky, threatening and humid. As Harold stepped out onto the parking lot, he saw his brother Jamie and Jimmy Redhead being pursued by Lucille and Victoria respectively and shook his head.
"Ah, those halcyon days of freedom, how soon you pass away," he said sorrowfully, walking to the gate out. "But I'm gonna go out with a bang!" he added, brightening considerably. Then some War Gamers burst out of the doors, just as he was approaching the gate, where a steady stream of cars was pushing its way into traffic. They were Andrew Yoiks, Ben and Richard, along with Lee Middleman and Andrew Allerput. They were being pursued by Roslind, Jeanette, Marnie and Jenny.
"Harold! Give us some cover, quick!" shouted Yoiks. Harold obliged with a few shots from his recoilless and the girls hastily beat a retreat behind some cars.
"Come on, hop in the Deathmobile!" urged Ben as the group pantingly arrived at a camouflage-painted car that looked like a garbage dump on wheels, unlocked it and scrambled in. Harold, who just couldn't seem to avoid excitement, rushed over after firing a pair of shots at the library windows to enrage Mr Monster and dove in. The door was slammed, the engine gunned and the exit made.
"Now what are you people up to?" he asked.
"They wanted to go through a practice run," explained Richard.
"And why are Andrew and Lee with you?"
"I came along for the ride," said the Allerput, shaking his head, causing a blonde wig to fly into Lee's face and exposing short, black hair. Ben, Richard and Yoiks were in the front, with Andrew driving. Lee threw it back.
"Quit shedding on me!" he said. "Roslind was saying something about a private conference, so I vacated," he added.
"Don't blame me," complained Andrew. "My disguise was eaten by my hordes of killer lemmings, who then died," he stated. "I always ride in the Deathmobile when I can," he said to Harold, who was sitting on the passenger side. "It's exciting."
"I'll say," said Ben. "It's also true that we're being followed." The girls had gotten a car of their own, a big, mean-looking cruiser painted a suggestive pink, and were behind them.
"Give up boys, you'll never escape," said Jenny's voice over their CB radio. Yoiks pressed a button and a console flipped open. It was the weapons control.
"We'll see about that," was Ben's reply. "Charge!" The light at Wellington and Dufferin changed and the Deathmobile leaped forward with a screech of rubber. Behind them was left a cloud of thick, oily smoke created by the smoke generator.
"Hey, no fair!" said Marnie's voice.
"All's fair in love and war, my dear," said Harold over the radio. "Although just what this is remains to be defined."
The chase that followed was a spectacular example of the type of kamikaze driving that regularly occurred in Poppy Street City. It is every man for himself on the roads and pedestrians had no guarantees that cars would stop for red lights or crosswalks.
Andrew made good use of his driving skills in turning left on Clarence by allowing a parked car to absorb some of the westerly momentum of the rear end that was causing the Deathmobile to skid. There was a great smashing of metal and glass and their car lost part of its right rear end, which fell in the middle of the lane.
The Lustmobile, as the girls' car was quickly christened by the boys, was being driven by Jeanette. She didn't even try to make a proper turn and cut the corner, nearly smashing into a northbound motorist. Then she had to dodge the junk and another car, while Jenny fired a few rounds from the forward machine-guns.
"Whoops, looks like they're armed," noticed Lee as several shoppers and windows were torn apart.
"Whoops, here come the cops," said Allerput as a siren started up and a Bob Police car accelerated and turned from Queen's Ave, which they sped across through a red light, clipping a truck.
"Well, what a coincidence," said Richard. "They're between us and the ladies." He pressed a button and an automatic recoilless rifle roared several times. The cop had begun weaving back and forth when he saw the muzzle appear from the rusty-looking trunk, so two of the shots missed and hit the pink pursuer, while the other four hit the policeman.
Both cars blew up with a blaze of fire, causing others to crash while trying to avoid them. There was cheering in the Deathmobile, which was short-lived because they were rammed in the left side by another vehicle as they crossed Dundas Street.
In Poppy Street City, cars, trucks and other vehicles, including tanks and the like, were only cloned if they were totally demolished and/or reduced to a state where they were unable to move. Such was not the case for the Deathmobile, for the armoured doors were only severely dented and Lee's bullet-proof window cracked as the car spun around on the wet, slippery street.
"Oi! It's Elizabeth!" Harold gurgled as he recognized the blonde-haired person at the wheel. "Women drivers!"
"Drop the exterior!" ordered Andrew Yoiks. "We're going to have to high-tail it out of here and we don't need the excess weight!" Ben and Richard pressed buttons on the console and there was a loud crash as the junky-looking outside dropped away to reveal a green, smooth (save for the driver's side) exterior. More sirens began filling the air with sound.
Letting off more barrages from the guns while continuing to spin, the Centralites managed to regain control of the car and continued south on Clarence until Andrew ripped around the corner at King, against the light of course, but also going the wrong way, for it was a one-way street going east.
"Andrew, I hope you know what you're doing," said Andrew Allerput, only slightly nervously. There were honks from horns and barrages of curses and bullets hurled at them as they weaved their way along King, sideswiping many a vehicle in a series of terrifyingly near misses as they approached Talbot Street, which was one-way going north.
"That tears it!" said Harold as a Police car, a paddy wagon and a van turned onto King from Ridout St, one block further ahead. "Disrupter time! Duck down Richard or I'll blow your head off!" Richard complied as the Raymonds pulled out his disrupter gun. "Test number one!" He aimed at the paddy wagon and fired.
There was popping sound and a flash of green light from the muzzle and the grille of the target exploded. He fired again and hit the radiator, which vanished in a cloud of steam. Meanwhile, Ben was shooting at the van with exploding bullets and it and the car were firing back.
"Looks like it only does surface damage," said Harold, shooting at the driver of the paddy wagon. His head exploded and the vehicle swerved sharply to its left, smashing the police car which was in the middle and then flipped and rolled side-over-side several times at an angle to the street, ending up wrapped around a light post on the sidewalk and catching fire. None of the approaching vehicles had actually reached Talbot Street yet.
Then the worst nightmare any Poppy Street driver can have happened. The light, which wasn't facing the Deathmobile riders because it was a one-way street, turned red and traffic on Talbot St. began to move. Among this traffic was a long 18-wheeler transport trailer truck with a high wheelbase.
"YAAH!" screamed the Centralites. "DUCK!" They all scrunched down as Andrew drove under the trailer at 40 miles per hour and prayed. There was a screech of tortured metal as the roof of the car was ripped off and all the windows shattered into granular fragments, the way the glass was supposed to. They narrowly avoided the out-of-control Police car as it and the van smashed into the rear wheels of the truck's trailer and exploded, due to the ammunition stored in them. The truck driver never even noticed this and continued on.
"Wow, instant convertible," said Lee. "Andrew, where are we going to go now?"
"We'd better turn left onto Ridout and left again onto York," said Richard, sitting up. "I'd rather not go south of the river, for most of it is Muppet territory."
"Fine," said Andrew, making the turn on two wheels. This time, the light was with him. Unfortunately, the light at York was red and there were cars stopped waiting for it.
"What a time for us to encounter law-abiding citizens," growled Andrew Allerput as they screeched to a halt. "Let's hope the cops don't find us."
"What is that gun of yours, Harold?" Ben asked. Harold rapidly explained. "I see. What are you going to give Mr Craw then?"
"Oh, I'll have to change my project to something harmless, I suppose." The light turned green. "Perhaps a laser beam or something that can't be made into a useful weapon." They roared off and turned left again with another squealing of tires.
"Boys, where are you now?" It was Elizabeth's voice on the CB.
"Don't answer! She'll home in on us!" said Richard.
"It is futile to try and escape from us," she continued reasonably. The noise of the wind in the Centralites' ears made it hard for them to hear what she was saying. "We shall catch you eventually or else the Bob goons will."
"And guess who'll be nicer to you?" wheedled Marnie.
"Bob, probably," said Lee. "At least he lets you sleep nights." The guys laughed. "Could you drop me off at Wellington?" he asked. "I'll take my chances going home on the bus." He was and waved good-bye as the mangled Deathmobile sped off, changed lanes and then turned north onto Waterloo St.
They stopped at Richard's house, which was just off Waterloo, and parked the car in the driveway, having eluded detection by all save the driver ducking down whenever a Police car was spotted. Seeing as the car was damaged almost beyond recognition, they were able to get away with it. Rather weak-kneed, they got out.
"Well, that was certainly exciting," said Andrew Allerput, weaving slightly. "Easy sleeping tonight."
"I think I'll walk home," said Harold. "See you tomorrow." They all said good-bye and he walked off towards the west, disrupter in his left holster, recoilless pistol in his right, and both tied to his legs at the bottom to prevent them from flapping against his thighs and making noise. He made it home safely.
Thursday started off innocuously enough. It was bright and sunny, yet cool and dry, unusual for this time of year. This time Harold Raymonds threw all caution to the winds and dressed in full combat gear, including knives, grenades and sling shot. However, it stood him in little stead, for as soon as he stepped out the front door and down onto the sidewalk, Elizabeth Roamer popped up from behind her parked car and shot him with a tranquilizer dart pistol. Harold cursed.
"Oh, bloody hell!" he groaned, collapsing with a clank onto his front lawn and at the same time giving an accurate foreshadowing of the forthcoming day.
"Not at all," she replied sweetly, rushing over, scooping him up in her muscular arms and popping him in the back seat. He was not unconscious, but was so drugged that he couldn't even sit up.
"James would probably say I'd seen Mike Shnell," Harold thought blurrily to himself. Elizabeth drove off with no squealing of tires or anything else, a novelty in itself. He passed out.
"Height, six feet two and a half inches," said a voice. He opened his eyes and saw Jenny, Jeanette Duck, Elizabeth and Marnie bustling around him. It was Elizabeth who had spoken.
"Weight, 175 pounds," said Jenny.
"One-fifty-nine with my clothes off," he said, trying to sit up, but being firmly, but not unkindly, pushed down.
"Fine," said Jenny. "Skinny, isn't he?"
"Especially with my clothes off."
"Never mind that now," said Marnie. "But later..." The girls then rattled off a string of measurements for arms, legs and neck.
"This is for my outfit for the wedding, I presume."
"You got it, clever boy," said Jeanette.
"Of course, pretty girl," he retorted, sitting up and not being pushed down. "What? You incarcerated me in the wrestling room? Gads, what a lack of taste!" This was Room 111, just under the gym in the north wing. He was lying, still fully clothed, on a table. To his surprise, on other tables were the comatose forms of Richard, Ben and Andrew. "You certainly like to plan ahead."
"Yes," said Elizabeth, grabbing him and kissing him until he ran out of air and had to surface.
"Pucker power," he mumbled as he was assisted off the table.
"Out. We have them to measure still," she encouraged.
"Your wish is my command." He left as fast as he could stagger. "I have GOT to be more careful," he muttered, hastening past Room 108, in which Mrs Sullivan was giving a violent German lesson to a student who'd been brave enough to ask for assistance. It was only 8:41, so he had time to get to Functions class.
Jeanette, Jenny and Richard came in ten minutes late, with Richard barely able to walk by himself. Mr Klaptrap glowered at them as he fell into his seat and as the girls flounced to theirs with smiles for Harold.
"Just WHAT are you four doing that seems to be interfering with THE most important math class in the system?" he accused.
"Marry sir, I really cannot say," Harold said with a stiff British accent. The two girls, Jeanette Swim and several others who knew about tomorrow's marriage laughed. The teacher harrumphed and continued with his lesson.
English class was somewhat on the wild side, for Jenny and Elizabeth were in it and Mr Knobs knew what was going on.
"Hamlet really loved Ophelia," he said about half-way through, waving his much-thumbed edition of Hamlet around at the end of his long arms, nearly hitting Jenny, who sat near the front. She ducked reflexively and Elizabeth, who sat behind her, was swatted instead. She complained with a most unfeminine oath.
"Please, sir, try to exercise some control," chided Jeremy Heywood, who sat at the front of Harold's row, the one nearest the door. "You don't want to impress Shakespeare on us too much, do you?" Mr Knobs was not pleased.
"Of course I do! Shakespeare was the most important author of his time! Everything he wrote should be studied and remembered!" He had hopped up onto his desk and now jumped down with a loud clop from his large, flat feet. "He had lots of vivid and useful things to say about love and marriage and he did say them, right Jenny? Right Elizabeth?"
"Sure, sure," said Elizabeth, anxious to placate him so he would shut up and get back to the lesson.
"Speaking of which," he added in a snide aside, "I hear you're going to get married tomorrow. I also hear that Harold is the lucky man." She giggled weakly.
"Not at all, my dear English teacher," Harold responded in his superior-than-thou voice he'd picked up from his brother. "The information is a pack of lies, caused by the knowledge of the students of the whereabouts of the teachers' bugs. It is true that these lovely lasses are organizing this event, but it is not necessarily true that they are involved."
"That's right, Knobsy," said Jenny insolently, quickly picking up where he left off. "We know where the bugs are so, in the interests of secrecy, we've been planting misinformation to confuse those who are low enough to spy on us."
"WHAT? HOW DARE YOU CALL ME THAT!" he bellowed, mustache bristling, swiping at her again. Nimbly she dodged and scooted to the back of the class with her books. "Just for that, I'll read Act Three, Scene One to you!" The class groaned. When reading plays, Mr Knobs tended to become overenthusiastic and go through all the actions of the characters and add accents and the works. The students, though, were in a rambunctious mood and were not willing to sit and listen to him for long.
"'To be, or not to be: that is the question:'" he began.
"I thought his name was Hamlet, not Toby," Harold interrupted. The class laughed, but the teacher ignored him and continued.
"'Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of misfortune,'" he blathered.
"That's 'outrageous fortune'," corrected Jeremy. "Ha! A misquote already!" Mr Knobs scowled.
"Drat it! Somebody changed that in my book!" He grabbed a pen and corrected it. "'To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;'" he said a bit later.
"Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub," sang out Elizabeth.
"And who do you think they'd be?" Trevor Potter, the class buttinsky, chimed in, along with others in the class.
"The butcher, the baker..." said the class.
"...The dynamite maker!" Harold chipped in.
"And they all blew up into the sea," concluded Ben Divram, who sat on the other side of the room near the windows. "Yahoo!" He and Harold discharged their pistols a couple of times into the ceiling, damaging it severely, but locally.
"Philistines! Barbarians!" spluttered the incensed Mr Knobs as the class collapsed into general hilarity. "You wouldn't know good literature if it was shoved down your throats! You have no respect for anything!" He pulled out his own gun and managed to shoot Ben before getting blasted by Harold.
"Everybody out!" suggested Jenny. Out they went. It was only 11:12 am, so Harold and Ben's clone went up to the library, along with Stan Slagmore. There they found Andrew and Richard, working. Before they could say anything, Richard motioned them to be silent and pointed under the table to a microphone that had been planted there. Stan pulled out a dog whistle, crouched under the table and blew hard. The students heard nothing except a violent explosion that blew off one of the doors to Mr Monster's office.
"ROAR!" yelled the Beast of the East, staggering out. He was smoke-stained, bleeding from several large gashes, and very angry. "YOU AGAIN! GET OUT OF MY LIBRARY!" he screamed, charging. Nobody had heard Mr Monster scream before and they hoped they'd never hear it again. They ran away so fast that the carpets smoked.
"You know something, guys," Harold huffed, once they'd reached the safe haven of the hall outside the Auditorium, "if we are to survive much longer, we must stop antagonizing the enemy." Then the Auditorium's doors opened and Jenny, Jeanette, Elizabeth and Marnie popped out and hauled in Richard, Andrew, Harold and Ben respectively, leaving Stan alone.
"What about me?" he demanded.
"I'll take care of you," said Jeanette Swim from behind, pushing him in. As students tended to do, she had materialized from nowhere. She winked at Harold, who nodded almost imperceptibly. "Worry not."
"By golly, you've got this place decked out," admired Andrew. "If only it looked like this all the time." The room had been liberally decorated with bunting, paper flowers, real flowers, streamers, balloons, a red carpet up the centre aisle and an altar. Harold swiftly looked it over, making mental notes.
"The music please," said Marnie. Organ music of the Wedding March started up and the boys noticed Horton Clayton sitting at an electronic organ at stage right.
"Traitor!" hissed all but Stan, getting squelched promptly and efficiently by the girls, who began marching them in the pause-step fashion up the aisle. The order was Jenny and Richard, Jeanette and Andrew, Ben and Marnie, Harold and Elizabeth and Jeanette and Stan.
"Isn't this romantic?" cooed Jenny.
"I can hardly wait," said Richard dryly. Then Fanny Allerput appeared at the altar holding a book. They ran through the procedure rapidly and efficiently with no resistance from the boys at all. Naturally, the girls became suspicious.
"What are you up to?" demanded Elizabeth.
"Where's Annie?" Harold demanded right back. "Or has she been paid off?" He folded his arms.
"She's been taken care of," said Jeanette Duck.
"Hi Victoria," said Ben as she appeared on stage beside Fanny. Suddenly, one of the side doors of the Auditorium was smashed down by Annie's lithe but muscular form.
"HA! Caught you again, Raymonds!" she accused. "Hey, what's going on? Why haven't you told me about this rehearsal?"
"Because you're not remarrying him," said Elizabeth, grabbing her possession. "I am and you can't stop me!"
"Well, at least she isn't trying to lie to you," said Harold.
"You are, are you?" Annie said, more subdued. There was a moment of silence as she thought. "Fine then. Take him; he's yours." She turned around on her heel and strode swiftly out.
"What is going on here?" interrogated Marnie, giving Harold a good shake. Elizabeth got a good shake too because she was still holding onto him. "You're up to something, I know it! Tell!"
"Sorry, no can do," he replied, getting himself loose.
"Are you sure?" asked Victoria.
"Don't trust him," warned Fanny. "He's very slippery and dangerous when cornered. We should know."
"Don't worry," soothed Harold, backing swiftly down the aisle, "I'm all for marriage." He turned and ran out the door.
"I want no tricks from you, hear?" said Jenny, squeezing Richard. "This is going to go through no matter what!"
"Of course, my dear," he said diplomatically, hugging her. "Harold will come through in the end, never fear." None of the people in the room noticed Jeanette Swim's secret smile.
Harold went straight to the explosives lab but found a class in session. Fortunately the people were doing an experiment, pouring nitric acid onto cotton wool, so he was able to see Mr Stuffin with little difficulty.
"I hope the stuff is ready, sir," he said. "I'm going to have to install it very soon."
"Of course," he replied with a jovial grin. "Everything you wanted." He went into the little office and returned with a plastic bag full of various goodies.
"Thank you very much, sir. It'll create mayhem enough to warm your heart." As he was leaving, he noticed one student get up.
"Mr Stuffin, we're done." It was John Dickinson, a.k.a. Stan. "Here's our gun-cotton." He held a blob of stuff in one hand and tried to move towards the teacher, but tripped over his stool and fell. Harold hastily shut the door and ran as the stuff exploded and Stan was destroyed messily. This caused a chain reaction as first one, then another student's products blew up too. The room was shamble-ized.
"Blast it, Stan!" cursed the Stuffin clone at the recloned class. "How many times must I tell you to BE CAREFUL!"
"Ah, there you are, Jeanette," said Harold as he encountered Jeanette Swim just outside the room's little hall. "I've got the stuff and it's almost lunchtime, so we should be able to install it without being rudely interrupted."
"Good," she replied gleefully. "We'll show them a thing or two about sneakiness!" They giggled as they ran down the stairs, picked the complicated lock on the stage door and got into the backstage area of the Auditorium, closing the door behind them. Working according to Jeanette's plan that was spelled out on Tuesday, they carefully planted the devices with radio-controlled activators in various corners, in the seat cushions, backstage and also up in the balcony. By noon they were done and nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all.
"Let's have lunch," he suggested, kissing her on the nose.
"Oh, you are a naughty boy," she giggled. "You go out the front and I'll take the rear. Okay?"
"Of course," he replied. "Here's to confusing the enemy," he said, making a toast with an imaginary wineglass and rushing off.
Dated: July 22, 1985.
Harold glommed his food in record time, and not a moment too soon. He had noticed from the corner of his eye the presence of extra teachers in the cafeteria, but thought little of it.
"FOOD FIGHT!" came a chorus of yells from the Grade 13's who sat in the middle section near the north wall, flinging their specially-bought Beaver Foods at the teachers and at the other students at the other end of the room.
"Damn! That's the last thing I wanted to get caught up in!" Harold cursed, ducking under the table as blood, guts, chunks of floor, ceiling and table and food byproducts whizzed around. There were war cries from the region of the nearby Staff Room as the teachers, who'd been waiting for this, charged in the doors and engaged in battle. The exploding food soon filled the room with a dense brown smoke that made visibility nil.
"Aha! Another opportunity for a test!" he said, creating a temporary fort with some chairs around the table and pulling out his disrupter gun. He aimed into what seemed to be the thick of the battle, which was now mostly hand-to-hand, and began pulling the trigger. The response was very gratifying: extraordinarily violent and gruesome explosions that gave the smoke a distinct reddish tinge. Aiming at random now, he proceeded to wipe out pretty well everything in the cafeteria, himself included when he accidentally pointed it at the table.
His clone appeared in the wood shop, and even in there he could hear the mayhem outside. But he was distracted from this.
"Gishler, I want you to finish that box today," said Mr Lawles, the metal shop teacher serving as the wood shop teacher.
"But sir, I lost the wood!" Jason Gishler, one of Jamie's cronies, whined, cringing in the required form.
"Whaddaya mean you lost the wood? Get out of my shop!"
"No I won't, you lunkhead!"
"WHAT?" yelled the teacher, grabbing a rivet gun and charging.
"Come on, where's your sense of humour?" Jason bleated, running away out the door. Harold followed. "Some days I don't know whether he really hates my guts or is only pretending to."
"Never jump to conclusions about teachers," Harold advised. "Usually said conclusions are right, but sometimes..." Harold went to his locker, got some homework, sat down in the hall and began doing it. He correctly figured that it would be unwise for him to venture into the library again until next week.
As Period Four was about ten minutes from starting, Betty Giannosca and Victoria Blatter appeared and went into 309, where they had French with Mr Birmingham. Since the teacher hadn't arrived from the Staff Room yet, they came back out.
"Why look! There's Harold!" said Victoria in fake surprise.
"Golly!" said Betty. "Let's go talk to him!" Over they bounced and sat on either side of him. "Hi Harold!"
"Argh! I hate cheerfulness when I'm doing Physics!"
"All right Betty, let him be," said Victoria kindly. "After all, he is going to get married tomorrow and I'm sure he's under a good deal of stress." He nodded vigorously. Then Mr Birmingham stumbled up the stairs, a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a bottle of bourbon in the other and drinking from both. They could hear sloshing as he walked, though whether it was from his stomach or his shoes, which had had alcohol poured into them, they couldn't tell. He paused at the top of the stairs.
"Way down upon the Swannee river, far, far away," he sang clearly while toppling over backwards and falling back down to the little landing. Betty investigated.
"He's dead," she said, coming back. "He'll be sober for class I guess." People who died while sick or drunk were recloned well and/or sober. "Too bad. Now we'll have to work."
"Yes," sighed Victoria, hugging the breath out of Harold. "The problem is that he works us hard to make up for time lost while he was drunk in previous classes." They got up and went into the classroom and he kept on working. He worked for an uninterrupted hour and finally got caught up with all his homework. All the running around he'd been doing had seriously set him back. He then got out his camera and went around peeking into windows and taking pictures, to people's surprise and/or irritation.
Geography class went smoothly and so did his exit from the building, but his trip home did not. At the bus stop, he got on the bus as usual, but at Oxford Street, the halfway point, there were three of Bob's Policemen waiting. They got on at the stop.
"Is Harold Raymonds on board this bus?" asked one of them.
"How should I know?" demanded the bus driver. "I don't know the riders personally!" Harold hastily exited from the rear door.
"There he goes!" shouted Goon No. 2. "Get him or Bob will skin us alive!" Harold heard this, but since he didn't care whether the cops got skinned or not, he ran on. Unfortunately, there was another just around the corner who captured him long enough for the others to do the pileup on him and disarm him.
"My, my, my," said this fourth Policeman, staring at the rather large pile of weaponry. As you recall, Harold was in full combat gear. The bus roared off, sideswiping a car that didn't make room. "You're certainly a warlike kid."
"I'm from Central," responded the "innocent" kid as he was handcuffed behind his back. "Wearing weapons in Central is like wearing a seatbelt while driving. It's not mandatory, but it's necessary if you like to live long." He was pushed into the waiting cruiser and all four coppers piled in, two in front and one on either side of him in the back. "You certainly want me to get there this time, don't you?"
"Yep," replied Cop No. 3 as they roared into the Richmond St traffic. "Bob can't do it himself, so he gets his boys to do it for him." Harold nodded and remained silent. But just as they were going down the hill towards Huron Street, two Armoured Personnel Carriers and a T-99 Mutilator, all emblazoned with the Muppet logo, ground around the corner.
"Hey! What are Muppets doing this far north?" demanded Fuzz No. 4, reaching for the radio. He never made it, for all three vehicles opened fire and blew up the car and several others nearby. Harold reappeared fully armed and minus the handcuffs on the south-west corner of the intersection.
"Don't shoot!" cried the Muppet there, raising his hands. "We're only here to guard you from the rapacious Bob, nothing more!" He holstered his recoilless pistol and stared at him.
"Just how in the name of heaven did you know I was coming?" he demanded. "How? You must have an informant somewhere along the line! This was no accident and neither, I suspect, was yesterday's incident! What's going on around here?" One of the APC's and the tank began heading south on Richmond, while the other APC pulled over on Huron Street and the top hatch opened.
"Jeanette!" he exclaimed. It was indeed Jeanette Swim whose head poked through the hole. A siren sounded in the distance.
"Get in!" she said. "They're coming with re-enforcements!" Harold and the Muppet scrambled in and the vehicle ground off. "I was informed through my Muppet sources that Bob was wanting to talk to you, so I decided to help you out."
"That's very kind of you," he said. "Though I haven't the foggiest notion why Bob wants to talk to me in the first place. He can always telephone me."
"For all we know," said the Muppet driver, "he'll want to draft you into the army for that stunt you pulled."
"But why me? Richard Eglise was the leader. Dave Simple was the one who thought of the idea. I only by a freak chance picked up the map to your headquarters."
"Maybe he wants to enlist the whole War Games Club as an anti-Muppet commando squad," suggested Jeanette.
"I think," said another Muppet, "he just wants to spread anti-Muppet propaganda. He knows there's a rebellion brewing and wants to stop it before it starts." The armoured vehicle turned the corner onto Harold's street and drove towards his house.
"Better watch it," he said, peering from the front gunner's slit. "I wouldn't be surprised if Bob had some goons hanging around my home in case I managed to get away. Jeanette, the disrupter guns work perfectly, if you don't already know that." He pulled his out. "Let's get rid of these parked cars, for a start." The driver obligingly rammed the three, utterly obliterating them.
Sure enough, there were angry shouts and Adults dressed in dark, three-piece suits and sunglasses came running from the back of the house and dropping from the trees and the Centralites blasted them into red clouds and stewing beef.
"If you have anything in the house you want, you'd better get it and come back out. Those sirens are getting closer and your house is simply not safe," said Jeanette. "You can stay the night at my place in the east end of the city. The area is controlled more by the Muppets than by Bob."
"I think I have everything I'll need," he replied, checking his pockets. "My sling shot and the transmitter I have with me, so I don't think I need anything more. Let's go."
The advantage Amoured Personnel Carriers had in Poppy Street City over tanks was that although they had lighter armour and a smaller-calibre turret weapon, they were faster and more agile and yet they could smash through traffic if necessary. The maximum speed of a tank was about 50 km/h, while the six-wheeled APC's could easily reach 80 km/h and go to 90 if pushed.
The crew of six Muppets, plus the two Centralites, made haste to get out of Harold's neighbourhood before Bob's nasties could get there and were successful. They then headed east and south, avoiding the major arterial roads where possible. After some close calls with an aggressive 18-wheeler and brief running firefights with Adult forces, they finally arrived at Jeanette's house.
Here Harold spent the night, unmolested by anyone, including Jeanette, while Muppets regularly patrolled the neighbourhood to keep the peace. Friday dawned sunny, with just enough clouds to make a brilliant sunrise.
"Well, today's the big day," said Harold as he and Jeanette ate breakfast together at 7:15. "Most people say T.G.I.F., but today I think I'll make an exception."
"At least it will be over with," she replied through a mouthful of toast. "And I'm quite sure this day will go down in the Central history books as one of a kind."
"Are we going to get a ride down there with our Muppet friends?" She nodded. "Only the best for us, I guess." Then they heard the crack of a rifle firing.
"Time to go," she said as they hastily got up and grabbed their various weapons. "I think Bob is calling." A Muppet came in.
"A Bob patrol spotted our APC on Dundas Street and we had to run, but they came on foot and..." There was a loud burst of gunfire, followed by several more. "Come on!" They went out the back door, cut through a couple of backyards and came out onto the street behind her house, where the APC was waiting, motor running. The students scrambled in and they roared off for Central.
The early morning traffic was light and they had little trouble getting to the school, though they arrived much earlier than necessary at 8:00. After thanking the Muppets heartily, they went in through the parking lot doors and into the relative security of the building.
"Ha! Pepper, you're late!" Harold accused, pointing at Mr Pepper, who stepped in a minute later as the two were discussing plans in the stairwell. "You should be ashamed of yourself!"
"Shut up, you miserable student!" snarled the teacher. "When I've had my coffee, I'll kill you!"
"Not me! You're too fat!" He and Jeanette hastily made their escape when the teacher roared and charged.
"What was all that about?" she asked as they arrived at the third floor and slammed the fire doors shut in Mr Pepper's face. He rebounded and fell down the stairs to an abrupt, messy halt.
"Oh, he's been bugging me all week as I come into school each morning, though I don't know why."
The time passed quickly and soon Period One began.
"Don't forget, boys and girls," said Marnie Rustle's voice over the P.A. system as class began. "Today's the day of the weddings! Come to the Auditorium at 11:30 and see your favourite Grade 13's get married! All candidates, please be in the Auditorium at the start of Period 2, or we'll have to come and get you! Thanks." Mr Krammer leered. He was, as usual, unshaven.
"What a coincidence that we have four people right here we'll be seeing later. Harold, Stan, Ben and Andrew. Congratulations."
"Thank you, sir," said Andrew Yoiks. "Was your wedding also of the shotgun variety?" The students laughed, but he ignored it.
"And now for our lesson on thermal heat of combustion. If you mix common rust and aluminum powder," he said, doing so, "and drop in a match, there will be a large amount of heat released." He did so and immediately the mixture began burning brightly. "Yipe!" Mr Krammer was still holding the container and dropped it onto a thick steel plate on his desk.
"The idiot! Why is he using thermite?" asked Ben loudly.
"I don't know," replied Harold, equally loudly. "Maybe he wants to resurrect an old flame of his." The class groaned.
"Gaah!" said Mr Krammer, retreating from his desk because the steel plate was melting. "Does anybody know how to put this out?"
"Only time will," said Mork Beercraft. Fortunately for the physical integrity of the room, the teacher hadn't mixed up much of the stuff and soon the reaction was over.
"Now we have some elemental iron," said Mr Krammer. "Only it's a little hard to get at." The class laughed and the lesson continued. When it was over, Harold, Ben and Stan returned to Room 307 for homeroom and sure enough, Jenny and the two Jeanettes were there waiting. Then the announcements began.
"Good morning Central," said Elizabeth's voice. "The grovelling contest scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a lack of participants." There was general laughter. She then read off a string of relatively unimportant announcements, including the latest football score, in which the Central Golden Goats were defeated by the Beal Wheels 400 to 12.
"The last announcement is about our Grad Committee Wedding. Everybody show up at lunch today with a dollar and see the event of the year! It can't be missed! Yearbook photographers are especially welcome! All Grads participating please meet in the Auditorium immediately after announcements."
"They certainly like to repeat themselves a lot!" Harold whined as the class began its exodus to the hallway. He, Ben, Richard and Stan tried escaping in the crowd, but were nabbed and hustled to the fateful room. Among others present were Horton Clayton, Fanny Allerput, Morton Clayton and Karen Sing.
The guys and girls changed into tuxedos and lovely dresses (respectively, of course), but only four at a time because the boys had to be guarded to prevent escapes. After all of this was done, they ran through the full rehearsal. Altogether there were ten couples slated to be married, with Harold and Elizabeth being the last on the chopping block.
"I hope the rest of the War Gamers don't razz us too much," said Andrew. "If they do, they'll suffer!"
"This had better go well," Harold muttered, fingering the small radio transmitter he had in his pocket. Jeanette Swim and Stan were just before him in the line. The rehearsal went smoothly, with nobody being stubborn or forgetting his lines. They even had a real priest.
All too rapidly, Period 2 ended and the Auditorium began filling up. The students to be married remained backstage until everyone was in and then scooted around to the front entrance to begin the slow march up the aisle.
All of them were tense to the breaking point and nobody said anything. Then the opening chords of the Wedding March tolled, the doors were opened and they began to move.
"Elizabeth, are you really sure you want to go through with this?" Harold whispered. "It may be for the good of the Grad, but it may not be for your good. If you wish to stop, here's your last chance to do so," he wheedled.
"Of course I want to go through with it!" she whispered back as they passed through the door. "You're not getting a last-minute reprieve!" Then they were walking down the red carpet, the organ ringing out those familiar notes.
"Dearly beloved," began the priest in sonorous tones, "we are gathered here today on this momentous occasion to unite these men with these ladies in holy matrimony. If there is anyone here who has any just cause for our not going through with this, speak now or forever hold your peace." Silence hung like a heavy velvet curtain over the room for ten long seconds. "Very well."
"I always cry at weddings," sniffled Victoria to Jimmy Redhead. They were sitting in the right-hand section of the room near the aisle. She waved at Harold, who was looking very pale. He nodded to them and smiled faintly.
"Especially since this is Harold's," whispered Jimmy glumly. In the past he'd encouraged her to chase after the Raymonds person because it kept her from bothering him. Slowly and inexorably the line at the altar on the stage grew shorter. The room was stiflingly hot and everyone was sweating. Finally, as Ben and Marnie were getting wed, Jeanette caught Harold's eye and nodded.
He pressed the button on the transmitter. There followed an almost silent whispering of gas escaping from under seats and at the ceiling. The audience breathed sighs of relief as the air began to circulate at last. Then the two at the altar were finished and Jeanette and Stan climbed the creaking steps to the stage, where the perspiring priest awaited them.
Just as he opened his mouth to repeat the service for the ninth time, Harold pressed the button again and prayed. Up above them, attached to the high ceiling, a spark jumped between two small pieces of metal.
There was a tremendous thunderclap and flash of light as the methane and oxygen gases which had been released from their hidden canisters exploded, destroying the large square area of fluorescent lights that normally lit the room and sending a rain of glass down upon the shrieking students and teachers. The forceful downdraft of newly-formed gases mixed with the special Stefina gases that had been released from the seats and instantly formed a thick, opaque brown smoke.
In the noise and confusion, Harold left Elizabeth, stumbled up the stairs and pushed Stan off the stage onto his would-be wife.
"Quick!" he shouted over the screams of the audience, which was trying to get out and not succeeding very well. "Keep on with the service! There should be enough light from the stage lights to read, if you haven't already memorized the thing!" The stage lights were undamaged by the blast and he could barely make out the forms of Jeanette, the priest and the altar in the murk.
"Do you, Jeanette Swim, take this man...er..." Harold whispered his name. "...Harold to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, etc?"
"I do," she replied.
"WHAT?" shrieked Elizabeth, who was trying to untangle herself from Stan. He wasn't helping her any.
"WHAT?" That was Annie's voice as she lunged from the backstage area, knife in hand. One of the spotlights shone through the dissipating smoke where she stopped though, silhouetting her so that Jeanette could give her a right hook to the jaw. Down she fell onto Elizabeth and Stan, who were still struggling.
"Do you, Harold Raymonds, take this woman Jeanette as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, etc?"
"I do!" he said, loudly and clearly.
"Treachery! Treachery!" screeched Elizabeth. "Stan, let go!"
"But darling!" he replied, grabbing tighter. "I never want to let you go again!"
"I now pronounce you man and wife!" triumphed the priest.
"HAH! You didn't get him after all!" sniped Annie.
"AARRGGHH!" screamed Elizabeth.
"There, there," soothed Stan, helping her up. "You can marry me instead! I won't mind at all!" Harold and Jeanette walked offstage as Elizabeth was pushed up the stairs by Stan and Annie.
"Do you, Elizabeth Roamer, take this man Stan to be your lawfully wedded husband?" asked the priest. The smoke was thinning fast and only a few were left in the Auditorium.
"IT'S A PLOT!" she howled.
"She does!" said Annie quickly.
"Do you, Stan Slagmore, take this woman Elizabeth as your lawfully wedded wife?"
"You bet!" he replied, kissing her to keep her quiet.
"I now pronounce you man and wife!"
"HAROLD! Jeanette! YOU'LL--" Stan silenced her smoochily.
In the cafeteria, three whole tables had been reserved for the newlyweds and nicely decorated with a white tablecloth, flowers and all sorts of nice little things. They were all still dressed in their finery and looked as out-of-place as they would look in your average Burper King or McDownal's. At Harold's insistence, Annie sat on his right between himself and Elizabeth, while Jeanette was at his left.
"This turned out to be not so bad after all," he said cheerfully. Elizabeth sighed. "Annie, thanks for your help."
"She tried to kill me!" said Jeanette.
"That's because Elizabeth rudely tried to take Harold away without asking permission," she retorted. "And when I heard Harold's name, I assumed she was beside him in the smoke and confusion up there at the altar. I stopped when I didn't recognize the silhouette beside him." She rubbed her jaw. "Ouch."
"Well that was a dirty trick you pulled, Harold," Elizabeth said, glowering at him. "I was expecting something more ordinary like an escape attempt." She devoured a butter tart.
"There is more to him than meets the eye," said Jeanette, prompting Harold to giggle and Jenny and Jeanette Duck to blush.
"FINALLY, WE MEET AT LAST!" shouted a hoarse, gravelly voice at the northeast door of the cafeteria. It was punctuated by the clicking of submachine-guns cocking as Adults in army uniforms appeared at the other five doorways. It was Bob. Silence fell onto the once boisterous room as "innocent" kids and teachers alike reached for their own weapons surreptitiously. The wedding tables were in the centre of the centre row of the room, and the self-proclaimed Emperor strode majestically down the first two steps that led to the slightly sunken floor.
"You have led me a merry chase, Mr Raymonds," he said, but on the third step he slipped on a french fry and landed hard on the step on the mush, which propelled him back to his feet with a bang. Everyone, including the goons at the doors, laughed. "But I have found you at last," he continued, undaunted.
"All right then Bob, what do you want?" Harold asked, standing up. "You've been harassing me for four days now, so it had better be good!" He folded his arms and stared at him coldly.
"The first thing I wanted to do was congratulate you and your friends for that raid you pulled on the Muppets on Tuesday."
"We were lucky, that's all," said Richard. Somebody took a picture and everyone jumped at the flash.
"Second, and finally," Bob continued, pausing dramatically and looking at all of the newlyweds, "I wanted to get you to invite me to your weddings." There were several moments of shocked quiet.
"Well why didn't you telephone us and ask, for crying out loud?" asked Harold. "Come and join us, but tell your goons to put their guns away before they get themselves hurt."
"Why Mr Albert, you're right! The great Emperor Bob, ruler of lands as far as the eye can see, master of military might, is here to grace the halls and classes of this insignificant school!" The source of this drivel was none other than Mr Yoiks himself, for he and Mr Albert had appeared at the same door Bob had.
"Mr Yoiks, did you really mean that?" Ben asked.
"Of course not, idiot!" snarled the Principal.
"So this is the Mr Yoiks I've heard so much about," said Bob. "The brutal slave-driver, eh? Well, keep up the good work." The rest of the reception went quite smoothly, with everybody having a good time. Once Bob had had a few drinks of Mr Albert's Old Overcoat (which he claimed he'd swindled from a Muppet but had actually swiped from Mr Birmingham), he even agreed to pose for pictures with the newlyweds and, of course, the administrators.
"Well, what does it feel like to be married?" chuckled Mr Craw in Physics class. Jeanette, Stan, Andrew and Ben were in it too.
"About the same as it used to when I wasn't, Bucky," Harold retorted, thumbing his nose, referring to the teacher's teeth. Mr Craw roared angrily. "And alas, I had an accident with my project and so I can't hand it in early after all."
"RUBBISH! You sabotaged it! You demonstrated it to Mr Stuffin and you kept it secret! Tell me!" He jumped up and down.
"Well," Jeanette began, getting up and going to Harold's seat, "it involved studying ways to make a gun truly recoilless." She pulled his pistol from its holster. "This one is now almost 100% recoil-free," she added.
"HEY! Don't point that thing at me! NO!" The gun blew him up.
"Whoops," she said, replacing it. "Too bad, isn't it?"
"Yes indeed," said Harold. "His blood splattered our nice new clothes." It was going to be long and eventful year and they'd enjoy every minute of it.
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