Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 5: I Lerned Alot in Skool
Part 4: You Think You’re All That (Final Revision)
Part 4: You Think You’re All That (Final Revision)
2 september 2014.
homeroom. After the rallies, before lunch, the one class being held today. The school has assigned the tutors to the homeroom of one Mark Bernkastel, now entering the room. The Terror War veteran looks every bit the war hero; girls stare at him with instant love, boys with envy — but when he spots Shira and Jennifer on the other side of his desk, he shudders in shock. Jennifer lowers her glasses to peer at him; she looks away from him in revulsion, then at Shira with concern. Shira crosses her arms and flashes him a contemptuous smirk: “Well!” A girl lets out a short scream. Mimi recognizes the man who almost murdered her. He glares at her. The cute Asian boy with pencil-thin moustache sitting behind her leans forward protectively. Shira slips into Bernkastel’s face. “Don’t I know you?”
Jennifer slides in next to her. “He should know me.”
“Don’t make her mad.” Shira smiles at him ironically; Jennifer smiles sweetly.
“Get back in your seats,” Bernkastel growls, “before I report you.”
“Yes, sir,” they say together. They hurry back to their seats. Surveying the class, they notice one empty seat. They look at each other, silently nod, then stare at Bernkastel. He starts to sweat.
He speaks in a perfect Imperial accent. “You may think you’re here to learn things. You’re not. You’re here to learn how to be good Americans.” Several students and tutors, including all those not white, roll their eyes and sigh. He glares at them. “Now what was that about?”
Jennifer (a Canadian before the coup) stands up. “Some of us are born insufficiently American to join the Party, eh.”
Shira stands up. “You gotta have the politically correct skin color to be American.”
“Is your blood made of money or poop? Ask a Becket.”
Debbie rises to protest. “Hey!”
Bernkastel slams his fist on the podium. “Silence! I will have none of this!” He turns his attention to Leila. “Leela Shelley.”
“That’s not the American way—”
“That’s how it’s pronounced. And I’m Irish.”
Several students gasp and stare at her, mouths wide open in terror. Bernkastel glares at her with wide eyes and mouth shut tight, shocked at her interruption. His face contorts with rage and barely restrained hysteria. “Are your parents... Muslim?”
“My mother is a Goth Rocker and my father is... European.”
“Fool! America saved your continent from the Satanic evil of Islam!” The gasp comes from one of the Ibrahim sisters — Saida, the eldest, a Muslim.
Leila looks at him coldly. “Satanic. I see.” She stands up. “And no, I will not change my name.” She walks up the aisle, trying to leave.
He gets in her face. “Stop this instant!” His face twitches.
She leans into his ear and whispers, “I know.” She stares at him unsmiling.
He looks back at her as if he has just been slapped. For a seeming eternity they look at each other, and everybody else stares at them. Then he relents and lets her leave.
Jennifer walks up to him, looks at Leila as she leaves, and then looks at him. She lowers her glasses to take a good look at him, then raises them again. She smiles knowingly. He turns pale. She walks around him and leaves. Saida hurries after her. Connor and Rob stand up, look at him, and walk out.
Bernkastel withdraws to the classroom office and shuts the door. The gossip resumes with a vengeance as the students file out into the hall. The Asian boy behind Mimi keeps his eyes on Shira; she winks at him, and he winks back.
teacher’s office. Bernkastel works on what seems to be class papers when Shira casually enters, closes the door behind her, and pours herself a cup of coffee. “You were just that close to disaster.”
He does not look at her. “I can’t see how such a celebrated hedonist would resist the greatest adventure in history.”
Shira shrugs. “I always ask what’s in it for me.”
He spins his chair to face her. “Power. Glory. Excitement.”
She paces. “Betrayal, loneliness, paranoia. I don’t see myself wanting to constantly have to look over my shoulder. Do you like expecting to get stabbed in the back by everybody you know and some you don’t?”
“Your friend Amanda doesn’t think so.”
Shira spins to stare wide-eyed at him.
hallway. Jennifer arrives with Saida’s unreligious younger sister Sana just as Leila slams her locker. She turns to them with her arms crossed. “I can’t believe that man found a conspiracy in my name.”
Sana asks Jennifer, “Does SPEC actually have a policy of hiring barbarians?”
Jennifer shrugs. “I’m afraid they do. It’s an official Party policy called Tough Love.” She puts her arm around Leila and pulls her close. “Dear Leila, you shouldn’t be surprised some Patriot hates your name as much as your grandpa does. That’s what Wally thinks of it.” Leila sputters and giggles at the mention of Brinkman’s unwanted nickname.
The girls hear crying. Saida and Catholic middle sister Sharifa walk in their direction; Sharifa holds her and tries to console her, but Saida cannot be consoled and cries. Spotting Sana, she runs into her arms and wails, “Why does everybody here hate Muslims so much?”
Jennifer replies calmly, “They think you’re a crusader from an enemy cult.”
“I’m not a crusader!”
“Bernkastel is. The Church of America, you see, is a cult.”
another hallway. Rob and Connor walk together toward their own lockers. Rob says, “If he figured somebody was gay, he’d have ripped him into pieces.”
“He’s a Patriot. Patriots confuse meanness and stubborn ignorance with courage and integrity.”
Rob casts him a flirtatious glance. “If I told you I loved you, would you hate me?”
Connor stops and smiles mischievously at Rob. “Let me put it this way... if you were Leila and I were Jennifer and you told me that, I would have kissed you in front of everybody.”
Rob grins and blushes. “Connor, I like you.”
The smile disappears. “But remember we’re guys. Keep it discreet.”
Rob frowns in disappointment. “Oh, all right.” They turn in the direction of their lockers and resume walking side by side.
teacher’s office. “Amanda.” Shira crosses her arms and stares hard at him. “She the one you shank every night? Between the legs, I mean.”
“You’re not getting it, Miss Thomas,” he says impatiently. “She and I willingly chose the ultimate pleasure.”
He freezes. “What—”
“The most advanced mind control makes coercion feel like free will. Once they perfected it with Fox News, they used it on extreme sports, reality shows, and Internet porn, and several million homicidal new Breitbarts and Coulters were born.”
He begins to panic. “It was Amanda’s free choice! My—”
She stares into his eyes and smiles ironically. “VCS. Visual Control System. Artificial Charm.”
He stares at her in shock.
hallway. Jennifer calmly puts away her textbooks. “Which brings up the point: in the broader sense, religion means giving away control of your life to any outside authority: god, guru, government.”
Saida tries to protest, “But—”
She puts her hands on Saida’s shoulders and smiles. “You’re a sweet girl and I really like you.” Her smile disappears. “But in the wrong hands, religion is the deadliest weapon in the world.” She pulls Saida into a tight hug and kisses her on the cheek. “I swear I’ll protect you and your sisters no matter what.” She looks at Leila. Leila hesitates, then hugs Saida from behind. Sharifa and Sana sigh in relief.
Suddenly Debbie arrives, offended. “Blair!”
“Case in point.”
teacher’s office. Bernkastel stands up and points at Shira. “This nation has grown weak! America needs to be purified of its degeneration before it can achieve its eternal destiny!”
“So.” Shira frowns. “Conscience is weakness, cruelty is virtue.”
“Why are you and your cousins so foolish as to weaken Our Nation by helping the weak?”
“Freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”
“Are you trying to destroy our Revolution?”
“Sorry, Sarge, if I can’t dance to it, it ain’t my revolution.”
He swipes a letter opener off his desk and holds it at her threateningly. “You know too much.” His eye twitches.
She switches her coffee cup to her right hand, picks up the pot, pops off the lid. “You think too little.” She takes a sip from her cup.
Suddenly his wife Cherry, another teacher, opens the door. “Am I interrupting something?”
Shira smiles at her. “No, we were just getting finished.”
“I was explaining something to Miss Thomas here,” says Bernkastel. He takes Cherry’s arm, but stares at Shira with barely controlled rage. “I’ve had enough. Let’s go.” They leave together. As soon as she hears the classroom door shut, Shira follows them out.
hallway. Debbie stares angrily at Jennifer. “Are you consorting with the enemy, Blair?”
“Why don’t you address her by rank, Lieutenant,” says Jennifer coldly. She gently pushes the Ibrahim sisters; “Go!” she whispers. They hurry away.
“I’m surprised your lack of loyalty dragged you this low.”
Jennifer stands uncomfortably close and says flirtatiously, “If I were loyal, I’d be the infinitely cruel Student Council President whose every whim you would worship.” She lowers her glasses and caresses Debbie’s cheek. “Right... Debbie?”
Debbie shrinks back and blushes bright red. When Jennifer’s lips approach hers, she panics and runs away. Jennifer puts her glasses back, then sweeps Leila into her arms.
Leila stares with wide eyes into Jennifer’s. “How do you know?”
Jennifer lowers her glasses and smiles. She can see... Leila turns pale. Jennifer holds her tight and plants a long gentle kiss on her cheek.
Some time later, they’re gone when Shira arrives, but she finds the cute Asian boy waiting. “I think I know you,” he tells her. “Have we met?”
She smiles cockeyed. Japanese. He might. “Maybe. Or you might just have read the news.” She holds out her hand. “Shira Thomas.”
He shakes it. “Akane Ejimoto.”
“The monfighting champion.”
“Nenene still hasn’t forgiven you for handing her ass back to her in the National Dance Challenge.”
Shira chuckles. “She hasn’t forgiven me for stealing her loli.”
The girls around them gasp and gossip. Akane says, “I’m glad I have the opportunity to meet you at last... Shira.”
“Pleased to meet you... Akane-kun.” They smile at each other like prizefighters. She reaches for her locker—
—then someone slams her against it from behind. She backfists the attacker in the mouth, then turns to face her: fat, mean, gaudily made up, smelling of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. “You Shira Thomas?” this girl sneers. “You think you’re hot shit. Well, guess what? You ain’t so hot.”
Shira frowns. “And you’re God’s gift to men, right?”
“Fuckin’ A. You better not go stealin’ my men, or I’m gonna fuck you up.”
Shira gets in front of Akane. “Don’t mess with my friends or I’ll pop your ego.”
“You ain’t got no friends, ugly-ass bitch.”
“Broken egos really, really hurt.”
Suddenly Kelly hits her from behind with a book. “Lopez, you filthy whore!”
“Ohhh, so that’s your name.”
Christina tries to punch both girls. “That’s Tina to you, fuckin’ lezzies!”
Kelly goes red with rage. “What did you call me, whore?”
“I seen you with Charmian, you lesbo!”
Kelly punches Christina in the jaw. Christina bounces a punch off Kelly’s head. Kelly puts her in a painful headlock. Shira pushes the fight away from her. “Being a unique and special snowflake is such a bitch... Christina.”
“You shut the fuck—” Kelly interrupts Christina’s outburst with her fist.
“Let’s go,” says Shira. Akane nods. They leave Kelly and Christina behind to fight. “So,” he says, “I hear you’re good with mons.”
She gives him a cockeyed smirk. “Whatcha willing to bet?”
“Fuck bets.” He flashes a small set of datacards in front of her. “Let’s fight!”
another hallway. Rob and Connor pass Zac Finney sweeping. Zac asks, “Y’all notice your Patriot homeroom teacher’s been makin’ creepy eyes at Leila?”
“Jen’s been on him all day,” Connor replies, “and Shira even fought him last night. He’s our Slasher.”
“So when’d SPEC start hiring Slashers?”
“When management decided it was a cool idea to use ’em against the Student Union.”
Rob looks at Connor funny. “Management?”
“Yeah. Management get these ideas they think are cool.”
Connor asks Zac, “By the way, you going to Jen’s new club?”
Rob winks. “That’s where we’re headed.”
Zac empties the dust pan into the bin. “After this. See y’all there!” The boys wave and leave.
lobby. The commercials temporarily vanish. The monitors are now the battlefield for Shira Thomas and Akane Ejimoto, monfighters, in front of a fascinated crowd. Against his three Legendary Dragons, she plays four random commons and her Glitch. He laughs. His dragons attack.
One of her commons turns out to be an energy eater. She uses the dragons’ energy to fuse the commons and link them to the Glitch.
He triangulates her mons and attacks. She throws in another common — the Glitch eats it, her fused mon eats the Glitch in turn — and a Sekaimon appears in their place, to everyone’s shock including Akane’s. Now she plays her card—
“Danmaku Jigoku — Musou Tensei!”
—the one she stole from Reimu. The Sekaimon bursts into a cloud of bullets that takes out the Legendary Dragons. The students cheer; Akane screams—
girls’ restroom. Charmian searches her phone’s call list hoping to call her father the Admiral, her mother, or her uncle Jack Becket. She’s surprised to see that Richard Becket, her great-uncle, is in Bremerton and available to call. She calls him.
“Why hello, Charmian. I am much pleased to hear from you so soon. Is anything wrong?”
“Karen Kubota is following through with her plan to start a Student Union.”
“Kubota...” For an endless moment he says nothing. “Is Shira Thomas involved?”
“As I feared.”
“You mean it’s even worse?”
“Your great-grandmother gazed into the soul of Shira Thomas and found nothing but pure chaos.”
“You must keep Leila Shelley away from her at all costs,” he commands. “Understood?”
“Yes, Uncle.” The line goes dead. Eyes wide, mouth open, all but paralyzed, Charmian slowly lowers the phone to her heart.
hallway. On their way to the lounge, the Bernkastels see Jennifer and Leila coming toward them, holding hands. About four meters from each other, they stop. Bernkastel stares at Jennifer with undisguised hatred; she stares back with unnerving calm.
“Get away from her, Blair,” Bernkastel warns.
Jennifer smiles ironically. “No.”
“You’re only a girl.”
“You’re only one man... Sergeant.”
They stare each other down for a seemingly eternity until a terrified Cherry grabs her husband and hastens him away.
library. Shira meets the eleven girls and three boys of her new instant fanclub, sitting together around two tables combined into one. She recognizes the familar faces of Polly, Mimi, Nancy, Harumi, Fuyumi, and cousin Schuyler, who brought her friends Trishie and Ruthie, who brought their friends Stephie and Lorine, who brought their neighbour Lyssa. Seika came with his cousins; Cory brought a diva-obsessed gay New African refugee his family shelters, named Eddie. Fuyumi gushes, “We had so much fun back in Japan that we gathered for you a new group of Shira Thomas Love Slaves.”
She looks at Fuyumi incredulously. “You mean you restarted that ‘instant fanclub’ thing here?”
The girls stand up and cry out in unison, “We love you, Shira!”
Shira surveys the crowd of adoring, adorable female faces. Their love touches her deeply. “Oh my... I think I just fell totally in love with every single one of you. I wanna marry you all right now. From now on, you’re all officially my wives.” Her eleven new maiwaifu run over to crowd her; she hugs and kisses every single one.
lecture room. In the theatre-like classroom where science classes normally meet, Jennifer calls the Science Club into existence, holding out her arms as if to embrace the twelve girls and five boys in the seats plus advisors Yasmin and Zac. “Welcome to our new Science Club, where we think too much, invent cool stuff, and do crazy things we’re not supposed to!” The new club members cheer, whoop, and whistle.
Kelly bursts in with three yes-girls. “Science? Ew!”
“Thinking makes you sick? No wonder you’re so dumb, Kelly.”
“Thinking’s bad for your immortal soul and you know it, Blair!”
“If you wanna get to Heaven so bad, go do stupid things and die.”
“You’re going to Hell!” Kelly storms out with her yes-girls close behind.
“Okay!” yells Jennifer to regain their attention. “So I was thinking, if you wanna know the kinds of things the scientific way of thinking can do, maybe I shouldn’t brag about science fairs and all that geeky stuff you’re probably too familiar with, so how ’bout this. There was this time when I had to face down an entire army.” Everybody in the room leans forward to listen carefully to every word. “I was naked, unarmed, and alone. They were probably in contact with multiple corporate headquarters and Patriot militias, and they had this helicopter they bought surplus from the United States Police Force and sent back and forth over my head to track me down and blow me up with rockets like I was Mothra or something. I wanted to live, but I had to survive all these heavily armed men with no conscience and a fetish for snuffing out lives who wanted only for me to die.
“So I improvised. I observed the copter pilot’s patterns and discovered his blind spot. I spied on the killers and found out they would get together for a combined strike. I waited for the sun to go down. And when the time was right, I stole some of their signal beacons and used them to lure the pilot into one particular tree. The helicopter flipped upside down and landed right on the strike force. And just like that, thirty-one professional serial killers were dead.”
Ten girls and two boys stand up and loudly scream their hero worship. Brandi smiles and gestures thumbs-up, but Jennifer’s attention is on the look of wonder in Leila’s face.
faculty lounge. Once the last teacher not named Bernkastel leaves, Mark tells Cherry, “This is need-to-know.”
“Hmph!” She resentfully slinks out the door.
Bernkastel picks up the room’s old-fashioned wired phone receiver that remains due to budget cuts and calls his old commander from the first Iraq war, Richard Becket. “Who is this?” the Chairman asks.
“Sergeant Bernkastel, General.”
“Ah, Bernkastel. Mr. Ross was eager to inform me of your mission. How well is it going, Sergeant?”
“Have you heard of Jennifer Blair?”
“A nuisance like her mother.”
“She killed fifty-two professionals in one night.”
“What about her!”
“Blair is here. And she knows.”
Chairman Becket takes a few seconds to let the realization sink in. “Very well, Bernkastel. Find a way to deal with her while you still can.”
Bernkastel hangs up and leans on the receiver. Cherry walks in, sees the disturbed look on his face, and looks at him with concern. He only looks away. “Blair...”
On the other end of the disconnected line, Becket obsesses over the likelihood of a meticulous plan about to fall apart. “Ross, you fool.” He picks up the framed photograph of Willa, his longtime obsession, and stares at it. “Just like her mother...”
locker rooms. No gym class today, but the students get the option to shower. In the boys’ locker room, Connor and Rob find themselves alone, so they strip off their clothes without a second thought, walk into the showers, and turn them on. Rob muses, “I wish we could get away with being naked all the time.”
“The girls would eat you alive, Rob.”
“At least they’d want me to die happy.” Rob winks.
Connor fails to suppress a chuckle.
They hear girls scream outside. Mimi, Nancy, Trishie, and Ruthie have just been chased into the hall. In the girls’ locker room, five mean girls gloat. Charmian, Christian, Debbie, Kelly, and Lucy surround Shira, who is already nude and walking to the showers. “Try that shit on me and I’ll strip you naked all at once.”
Shira, Jennifer, Leila, and Polly shower in the open front stalls, unashamed of their nudity, admiring each other’s beauty. The mean girls shower in the sheltered back stalls and peek over only to cast hateful looks. Charmian snarls, “Figures you’d be a bunch of whores.”
Shira flicks her hands out at the mean girls and goes “boo!” to startle them; when they open their eyes, she’s gone.
Suddenly Charmian feels someone yank out her tampon. “Ow!” Unaware of her nudity, furious Charmian chases the elusive thief all the way to the nearest toilet stall, where she finds Shira, still naked and wet, holding it by the string over the toilet. Staring at her with an ironic smile, she drops it into the toilet. She looks down to gaze at Charmian’s body lasciviously. Charmian covers herself with her arms in shame, shoots a hateful glare at Shira, and scurries away.
Mimi and her friends hide in the boys’ locker room, not just from the mean girls, but from the sight of two beautiful male bodies in the showers. Connor blushes in embarrassment when he finds Rob looking at him. “Uh, Rob, I’m not a girl.”
“So? You’re still beautiful.”
They hear a chorus of four female gasps. They look in that direction, then at each other. They resume showering.
Rob whispers, “You should look at me like I’m a girl, Connor.”
“That’s something a former model would say.”
He looks at Connor flirtatiously. “Connor, I’m disappointed in you. You gotta learn to appreciate male beauty. I’m not just a pretty face, y’know. Look at my body.”
Connor reluctantly shifts his gaze down toward Rob’s body. Rob turns in the shower to show himself off. Connor blushes furiously; Rob winks.
They turn off the showers, dry themselves off, walk to their lockers. Rob attempts to kiss Connor on the cheek, but Connor stops him; he shakes his head and points toward the girls. Rob rolls his eyes and nods in acknowledgement. They get dressed and try to avoid the girls on their way out.
principal’s office. After the final bell sounds, as the students hurry home before the Dictel Park gangs claim the campus, Bernkastel reports to the principals arranged in pyramid formation. Principal Principal sits below with his oily smirk and unnerving stare, flanked by his assistants Robson and Benson; above him the assistant principals, JROTC commander Falconer and football coach Terry Mobley; in capstone position, the fascist-uniformed Conservative Revolutionary Party commissar, Morton Spiekerman. Principal, speaking for SPEC, speaks first. “Sergeant, you say you have detected a threat to this school. Report.”
“It’s your precious tutors,” Bernkastel says. “They’re spies.”
“State your reason.”
“Three. Shira Thomas is Reston’s agent, and daughter. Karen Kubota is the threat that it is my mission to destroy. And Jennifer Blair has made it her mission to put an end to mine.”
“Everybody says you a run-in with Miss Thomas last night,” says Spiekerman.
“She kept you from having your fun on another pretty girl, didn’t you,” says Mobley.
“I’m serious!” shrieks Bernkastel.
Spiekerman commands, “Tell me about Blair.”
“She made a threat. ‘You’re only one man,’ she said.”
“The news said it was fifty-two,” says Robson.
“All in one night,” says Benson.
Principal warns, “Then you had better be careful around her, Sergeant.”
“I will concern myself with Blair and Thomas when the time comes,” says Bernkastel. “Kubota is already dead.”
middle school. They meet after school, Lillian with Belle, Melody with Elle, to face a crowd.
Lillian smugly smirks. “Now let’s see who’s superior.” Melody nods.
The signal is given. Lillian gets into fighting position, then charges — but a blur slams into her, and she finds herself on the ground, pinned, helpless to escape the count of three. The crowd is silent, shocked.
Melody gets off Lillian and climbs to her feet. She says nothing, only takes Elle’s hand and leaves.
Belle rushes to Lillian’s side. “Are you—” Lillian silences her with a scornful look.
The crowd disperses.
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Copyright © 2011, 2012 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
[Revision 2, 6/28/11: Added characters of Nicole and Sharifa, edited plot to fit Second Edition continuity, corrected text and continuity errors.]
[Revision 2.1, 9/29/11: Changed Nicole’s name to Colette to fit Third Edition continuity.]
[Revision 3, 10/1/11: added “Leela/Layla” argument from Project Notebooks, added Sharifa’s sisters Sultana and Sana, researched article “School: It’s Way More Boring Than When You Were There” (Salon, 9/14/11), edited plot to fit Third Edition continuity, corrected text and continuity errors.]
[Revision 3.1, 10/22/11: Changed one of Jennifer’s lines for greater clarity (and to show more of her contempt toward religious fundamentalists).]
[Revision 4, 8/2/12: The hallway-lockers scene now heavily revised and expanded; everything else now part of 6.2 Revision 4. All new scenes created for the Fourth Revision. Section title changed accordingly.]
[Revision 4 Final, 10/3/12: Corrected a characterization error: in all previous versions of the scene with Jennifer and the Ibrahim sisters, Jennifer said uncomforting things about religion itself. Now she says the exact words needed to comfort Saida while still warning her, especially about Bernkastel.]