Codex Mysterium - Chapter 28
“Cindy?” Todd asked. He took a step towards the make shift throne, and two students used yard sticks to block his path. The light in the classroom was set low and the orange of the setting sun slipped through partially open blinds.
“That’s Her Excellency Queen Cindy the Just of the Relegated, first issue, to you, non-reg.” They each poked Todd with the yard stick.
“It’s what we call those who exist in the classes above ours own.” Cindy said with a wave of her hand.
“It’s only been like three days of school.” Todd said. “This is a tad ridiculous.” He was drowned out by boos.
“Forgive him.” Jun said. “He’s clueless, he knows not what he speaks.” Cindy held up her hand.
“He was once before relegated as you are now.” Cindy held up her hand.
“Again, like three days ago. I’m fairly sure I’m still enrolled in this class. I mean, I wasn’t like you, but I was sort of like you.” Todd said. Several of the students threw wads of paper at him and jeered.
“Non-regs must go!” someone shouted. “They make trouble and seek to make us read books.”
“Books.” the crowd hissed.
“You’ve all read before!” Todd shouted.
“Dude, shut up. You’re making it worse.” Jun whispered.
“Calm down, this non-reg isn’t as he seems. He cheated off his own friend.”
“We’re not friends, and that’s not how it happened. Who told you that?” Todd asked. He looked towards Jun, who shrugged.
“Word travels fast.” Cindy said with a shrug. She hopped down from the throne “We have much to discuss.” Jun followed without hesitation while Todd cautiously walked under the suspicious gaze of the other students.
Cindy was given a folder from a boy standing on guard as Todd arrived. “Sorry, I could only vouch for you so much. Election season.”
“You said that as if that sentence made sense.” Todd said.
“You worry about making sense of what’s going on out there.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Todd said. “Suffice to say, Nedd has become unhinged and is taking us all with him.” Cindy looked around.
“Watch the two dollar words, the abolish homework crowd hates them, and that’s a crucial block if I want a second term.”
“A second term? As queen of the worst students?”
“If the polling holds.” the boy next to Cindy said.
“I used to be like you Todd, in my own head, judging everyone, but these are good people. Who cares how many h-o-n-o-r-s classes they’ve taken? They don’t and they’re happier than I’ve ever been chasing grades.”
“Crazy idea.” Jun said. “How about we join forces? We both want to tear down Nedd and his DEN system. Obviously, Todd is a liability, but what he lacks skill, he more than makes up for in existence.” Cindy raised an eyebrow and tilted her head.
“What do you have in mind?”
“No. That’s a terrible plan.” Jun said.
“I only said the words “we should”.” Todd shouted.
“Yeah, and I knew it would only get worse from there.”
“We need something or did you forget the dusk deadline.” Todd said. “Let’s use our original plan.”
“What happens at Dusk?” Cindy asked.
“Game over.” Todd replied. She leaned back and studied Todd and Jun.
“What was this original plan?” Cindy asked. Jun rolled his eyes as Todd excitedly took out the map he and Viktor made.
“We believe the key to stopping all this is here.”
“No, Finn believes that and you’re dumb enough to follow him.” Jun said bitterly. Cindy frowned.
“That’s not a room. This is where yearbook club meets.” she pointed on the map. “But this area doesn’t exist, it’s just a wall.” The door to the room burst open and a student stumbled inside.
“Horatio!” someone shouted as the boy stumbled inside. He collapsed on a nearby desk, his clothes were tattered and his face showed bruises.
“What happened?” Cindy asked as she rushed over.
“We were in the middle of destroying calculators, when Johnny saw a pallet full of boxes being brought into the school. We think they were tests of some sort.” Todd and Jun exchanged glances.
“The final exam.” Todd said quietly.
“We tried to destroy them, but we were ambushed.” The boy coughed out.
“That’s the target.” Jun said as he slammed his fist into his open palm. “Destroy those tests, stop the exam.”
“What exam?” Cindy asked.
“Nedd has all the…non-regs… at the football field to take some kind of test to complete his plan.” Todd said. He turned to Horatio. “Where did this happen?” Horatio struggled to sit up.
“Not far from the cafeteria.” He said “When they found out Skyler’s GPA they turned her into one of them. She had glowing eyes or something. The others were captured. I…I ran away. I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to apologize for.” Cindy said. She frowned and looked at Todd. “Don’t even suggest it.”
“It’s the best shot we have.” Todd said.
“Besides, they ain’t that tough.” Jun added.
“It’s not them I’m worried about.” Cindy said as she folded her arms. “I’m not risking my classmates with you two.”
“Trust me. They couldn’t be in better hands.” Jun said. “And Todd won’t screw it up too much either.” Cindy narrowed her eyes.
“The majority stays with me, and they look out for each other first, you two second. Understood?” Todd and Jun nodded. Cindy grabbed the back of her neck and stretched. “Now, how are we going to make sure Nedd Scofield fails his final exam?”
“All groups report.” One of the girls from the relegated class said.
“Queen Crow and the flock standing by.” Cindy replied.
“Crown Eagle and recon team in position.” Todd said.
“Yeah, I’m at the spot.” Jun said.
“I’m sorry, who is this?” Todd asked.
“I will ki-”
“Time is wasting.” Cindy said. Jun sighed.
“Humming bird and the distraction team…ready.” He said, his frustration and reluctance came through the phone.
“Oh, nice of you to join us Humming bird.” Todd said with a barely stifled laugh.
“We’re moving out to the football field. Any sign of Scofield?” Cindy asked. Todd put his phone turned around to face the monitors in the security room. It was the first thing time that he’d felt something good came from meeting Jun; of course Todd would never tell him that.
He’d led the small recon team inside, and after prying out a promise from Jun to wipe the computer access logs, Todd was able to use his upgraded credentials to get access to the school’s security feed. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get every camera, a few were disabled, but he could keep an eye on the hallway near the cafeteria, and narrow down potential locations for Nedd. More importantly, he could keep an eye on Jun.
When the plan to split into three teams was created, Todd felt that Jun was far too enthusiastic with his role of drawing Nedd out once the teacher was located. He fully expected Jun to either abandon or betray the entire operation at the first chance.
“No visuals on the apple.” Todd said into his phone.
“If you think dusk is the cut off then we need to make some kind of move, and soon.” Cindy replied.
“Send you group into the football field now.” Jun said.
“Are you crazy?” Todd asked.
“Trust me. Just enough to cause a commotion. It will flush Nedd out. Once recon spots him, pull back. My group will arrive and keep him busy. Everyone else flood the school and find the tests.”
“We should stick to the original plan.” Todd said. “The tests are either in the school, at the football field, or en route. We have all three areas covered.”
“Well you keep things covered until it’s too late and Queen Cindy and I will save the day.”
“You are so reckless-”
“Enough!” Cindy shouted. “Todd, Jun is right. We need to move and this will flush them out. As soon as you see the tests, my team will descend. You’d think friends wouldn’t bicker so much.”
“We’re not friends.” Todd said quickly.
“Really? You guys are so alike.”
“Uh no.” Todd said.
“He wishes.” Jun said. They spoke at the same time. Cindy chuckled.
“Well Jun thinks he always has the right answer and Todd, you’re always worried about having the right answer, but you both think you’re better than everyone else. Could be brothers.”
“That’s the worst thing thing I’ve ever heard.” Todd said.
“I actually agree.” Jun added.
“I actually treat people like humans and not disposable tools. Jun would sell you for a cup water in a rainstorm if he felt like it.”
“You don’t remember the race to Viltburg? I do. All the honor students doing everything they could to get that extra point and get ahead. I remember you joined yearbook club and took a spot from a girl who’d just moved here and only showed up to one meeting. Didn’t even help put the book together.” Cindy said. Todd felt a tinge of guilt hit his stomach. He’d completely forgotten about that.
“For shame.” Jun said.
“I will say, for whatever reason you seem different Todd. Before you went to Viltburg you were way more high strung, now you’re bit more mellow. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. Now, if you two are finished, I’d like to put an end to this madness.”
The line went quiet and Todd watched Cindy and her group approach the football field on the monitor. He turned his head to check one of the other monitors, but stopped when he noticed Jun hugged against one of the walls outside. Todd’s jaw dropped as Jun produced one of his clones and pointed. The clone walked away from Jun and rejoined the small group of relegated students. It continued to walk forward and after a moment of confusion, the students followed.
“That little rat.” Todd hissed. “I knew it.” He watched Jun run away from the camera’s view towards the school. Todd hurried towards the door and one of the relegated students looked up from the monitor.
“I think I saw…oh.” He turned just in time to see the door slam shut.
Todd quickly walked through the hallway, and mumbled to himself. He couldn’t believe Jun. After everything, with what was on the line, the idea that he’d betray them was unbelievable; yet Todd saw it with his own eyes. Even if Jun cared about no one else, as was now evident, Todd assumed he would at least have the smarts to stick it out to save his own skin. Canis was still coming at dusk and would still be expecting something.
“I don’t use people.” Todd muttered. Obviously Jun didn’t count, that opportunity was pushed on him. Was it unfair that Todd would try to make the most of it? And the yearbook club didn’t count either because he was very focused on Viltburg and obviously had to take second place. “And I don’t always think I’m right. It just so happens I’m right often enough that I trust my own judgment. And it’s good that I do, otherwise Jun would have left us hanging again.” Todd kicked at the ground as his thoughts traveled to the incident with Canis. Why was he being painted with the same brush as Jun? He wasn’t the villain in all of this.
Todd shook his head as he rounded the corner. Based on the area covered by the security camera, there were only two entrances to the school Jun could have used. Hopefully if it wasn’t this first one, Todd could quickly get back to the other.
“I wonder if I can get him expelled for….hi.” Todd’s voice shrank. At the end of the hallway, several students in robes and Gunther turned around as he approached.
Jun dashed away from the clone and the relegated students towards the school. The glimpse of the pallet of tests was admittedly a stroke of good luck, but Jun refused to attribute any of it to Todd’s stupid plan. It was perfect, he’d take out the target in some fashion which would draw out Scofield and take care of him next, all without being hindered by the others.
“Stupid Todd.” Jun grumbled. How could he have been so wrong? All signs pointed to the boy having the qualities of a Myst, yet he was entirely useless. “Stupid Finn.” It wouldn’t have been a problem if he wasn’t such a…stupid coward who stupidly cowered in his stupid little cell. “I can make a life here.” Jun said in a mocking tone. Everything was falling apart and every moment he wasted here, his goal seemed to slip further and further away.
Jun passed by the closest set of double doors and picked up the pace. If he remembered correctly from Todd’s stupid map, he could swing around and catch whoever had the pallet from behind, before they left the building.
Of course it made sense he’d be the one to take care of everything on the mission. It wasn’t their fault really, at least Cindy brought troops, Todd provided nothing positive but in a way Jun couldn’t hold it against him. Nobody was experienced as he was in these situations. They were all so hopeless and helpless, it was why they ultimately needed to save him.
“If they had seen me on my missions they wouldn’t think that stuff.” Jun said. Compared to some of the others on his team, Jun was the regular teddy bear. Plus, he did care, it’s just that most people got in the way, like Todd; who was actually a negative to the team. But Finn taught Jun was that it didn’t matter, the ones who can do better should look out for those who can’t. Jun sighed as he stopped and pulled on the doors. Once this was over with he’d figure out how to make peace with Todd. Since he seemed to have formed some bond with Finn, Todd would then be obligated to help Jun break him out.
Jun quietly slipped inside the school. The hallway was dark with only the last bits of natural light giving the area weak illumination. He pressed his back against the wall and quickly edged his way to the nearest corner. He leaned out to peak into the next hallway. In the distance, the pallet was barely visible in the darkness, but Jun recognized the boxes from the District Headquarters. He waited for signs of movement then rolled on the ground into the hallway.
Jun held his hand aloft; glowed neon green. When nothing approached, he slowly walked towards the pallet. He thought for moment, to decide the most spectacular attack to use, then held his hand out towards the stack of boxes.
“Cheaters never come out ahead you know.” a voice said from the pitch black. Jun jumped back.
“It’s over Scofield. No exam, no Canis.” he said.
“Oh.” Nedd replied, still shrouded. He started a laugh which deepened and almost turned into a growl.
“I can destroy them at will.” Jun said.
“You think a magical centuries old being conjures its mystical tests from an office supply store?” Jun took another step back as Nedd continued to laugh. The boxes began to rattle and glow, but instead of golden hue they were more bronze, much darker than before. Nedd slowly emerged from the shadows.
“No, this is my power.” The lids of the boxes on the top pile flew off and a deluge of papers shot right at Jun.