Chapter 1: The Sizzling Science Teacher
Tina watched the houses pass by through the bus window, trying to will her headache away. The chatter on the bus was loud, and it was driving her crazy. Her fingers itched to bang some heads together, but she had to learn to manage her anger. She had already been kicked out of a number of school systems, and her mother said this was her last chance before she was shipped off to reform school.
Olympus High was actually a rather exclusive school even though she wasn't the first member of the family to attend. As a matter of fact, she would have probably been the only family member not to attend, but they had all been surprised when she got invitation despite her school history.
"Mind if I sat down beside you?" came a bubbly voice.
She looked up. A short, cheery-looking blonde was waiting for an answer.
Tina shrugged and went back to looking out the window.
It might as well have been a warm invitation as far as the blonde was concerned. "Hi, I'm Abby." When Tina didn't respond with her own name, she continued. "I'm so excited about my first day of school at Olympus High. They're supposed to have a phenomenal drama department. I'm a ninth grader, are you?" Tina responded with a small nod of her head, but she wasn't making eye contact. "Oh, so we'll have classes together. I can't wait. I've heard a lot of stories about Olympus High, but I'm positive that they had to be making some of it up. Do you want to hear one? Well, in the eighties when my mom attended school here, she—"
"Do you ever shut up?" Tina finally said, turning around.
Before Abby could reply, the bus stopped. Tina took a good look at the school. It had a very old-fashioned Grecian look to it with its columns and symmetry as if it should have been a bank instead of a school.
Tina looked at her schedule when she entered the school halls. Science was first on the list, so she made her way to Room 107 and found a seat in the back corner.
On the chalkboard was written in swirling pink chalk 'Ms. Aphrodite' with a heart in place of the usual dot for the i. There were sniggers at the name.
The late teacher entered the room, and it was immediately clear that she preferred pink in more then just chalk. She was dressed in a pink business suit, but it was a weak attempt at professionalism. The skirt, if it could be called that, barely covered her behind. The sleeves of her jacket were a normal length, but her sheer, white blouse underneath made it laughable as her midriff was clearly exposed. Her blonde hair was swept up in an untidy, seductive sort of bun. "Hi, kiddos," she said, sounding like she could have stepped out of the Clueless movie.
There were wolf whistles from some of the more immature classmates, which was pretty much every ninth grade boy in the room.
"Oh, you guys are totally sweet, but we have to get down to business. I got in some major trouble for not sticking to science talk last year. Our first topic of study is light. There are like all kinds of light. There's the light that comes from candles. You know candlelight really enhances the mood, and it can hide any imperfections, so it's a plus, but the most rad form of light is sunlight. When two people go at it under the sun with the sunlight glistening on their skin and sweat rolling off their bodies—"
Most of the class had been rendered speechless, but one timid-looking girl raised her hand, and Ms. Aphrodite reluctantly stopped her lecture to call on her. The girl said very quietly and unsurely, "Is this science?"
"Duh," she said. Then she started her lecture up where she had left off. The rest of the class period only went downhill from there and became even raunchier.
When the bell rang, Ms. Aphrodite had to remind the stunned students that it was time to go to the next class.
A couple of girls walking in front of her were fanning themselves. "I never knew science was so interesting. I've never learned so much in one sitting in all my life," said one of them. "Tell me about it," said the other. "I feel like I could go for a cold shower."
Tina could only shake her head in disbelief at the whole experience. What kind of crackpot school was this?
Chapter 2: The World's Strongest P.E. Teacher
The next period was P.E. Tina had just finished changing into her P.E. uniform, a white t-shirt with the school's mascot (a centaur) and a pair of navy blue shorts, when some redheaded girl bumped into her. "Watch it, Paula Bunyan," the girl said nastily. "Try not to crush us little people."
Tina pushed the mouthy girl over the wooden bench in front of her, causing her to fall firmly on her butt. The redhead's face turned to the color of her hair in anger and just as it was about to get ugly, Abby ran in between them. "Please, Tina. You don't want to get in trouble on the first day."
Tina's tightened fists said otherwise. She would have loved to plant one right in the middle of the redhead's face, but then she remembered what her mom had said about reform school.
Tina turned away, and Abby followed her into the gym. When everyone had come out of the locker rooms, they all followed the P.E. teacher outside to the track.
"I'm your P.E. teacher, Mr. Sorbo. I'm going to lead you in some stretches first and then we're going to run three laps around the track. I've put up some hurdles to jump over, so you'll need to be careful as you're running. Now do what I do."
Almost all of the girls were giggling, especially during the stretching, in much the same way as the boys had previously made fools of themselves with Ms. Aphrodite. Unlike Ms. Aphrodite, Mr. Sorbo didn't seem to be enjoying it. Tina had to admit the man was attractive. He was the first P.E. teacher/coach she had seen that didn't have a gut and looked as if he actually exercised.
After a few toe touches and body twists, they lined up on the white lines.
"I come from a long line of athletes," the skinny kid next to her was boasting. "I'll be finished in no time at all, but maybe I'll take pity on some of you guys and not beat you too badly."
"Ready, go!" the teacher called.
Some of the guys tried to go too fast and ended up not quite making it over some of the hurdles. She jumped over every hurdle and didn't even come close to brushing up against them. She could feel a lot of jealous glares on her, but she paid it no mind. She was used to the jealousy when it came to her physical abilities. With a final burst of speed, she finished first.
"You're quite the athlete," Mr. Sorbo said, flashing her a pleasant smile.
She shrugged, not interested in the flattery.
"Would you be interested in joining the track team?"
"I don't think so," she said and then went over to sit on the grass. She had had the weirdest sense of déjà vu when he was talking to her. She had never had so much déjà vu in one day of her life before. It had to be the stories her mom and older brother had told her about the school. There was no other reasonable explanation.
Abby plopped down beside Tina a couple minutes later, breathing heavily. She wasn't quite the last one. There was still some geek kid out there tripping over the hurdles, the same one who had been bragging about his skills before the start.
"You have got to give me some pointers," Abby said.
When everyone was finished, Mr. Sorbo told them to head into the gym. Tina was the last one through the door, but she looked back to see if the teacher was coming. He had put all the hurdles back into the storage building. Then he looked at the bleachers momentarily and must have decided they weren't quite where they were supposed to be because he picked it up with one hand and moved it over a couple of inches.
She shook her head, trying to clear her vision. There was no way in the world she had just seen him do that. Nobody was that strong, were they?
Chapter 3: The Cookie War
"I'm Ms. Hestia, your home economics teacher. We're going to start off today with an easy recipe. We're going to make chocolate chip cookies. I've already set up the work stations. You're also going to be working with partners. When your cookies are on the baking sheet, bring them to me, and I'll put them in the oven. Even the most inexperienced cooks among you should be able to handle this." It could have been Tina's imagination, but it seemed she directed that last part straight to her.
Tina was partnered with Abby. The ingredients and the necessary tools were already laid out on the table, along with the paper that had the directions on it. Abby read off the ingredients, "1 package of yellow cake mix, 1/2 cup of butter, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips. This should be a walk in the park."
"If you say so. I'm not much of a cook, so I'll let you tell me what you want me to do."
"Okay," she said, scanning the table. "Why don't you go ahead and put the eggs in the bowl and beat them, and I'll start measuring out the rest of the ingredients."
Tina smashed the first egg against the side of the bowl like she was cracking someone's head open and bits of eggshell fell into the bowl and part of the egg white fell onto the table.
Abby looked astounded. "Cracking an egg open is a delicate operation. There's a reason it's not called smashing an egg open. You have to gently break them apart and then look for bits of shells in the bowl."
"So there are a few eggshells. Does it really matter?" Tina asked in a bored voice.
"It matters a great deal," Abby said, taking the bowl from her and fishing out the bits of eggshell herself. "Unless you like eating eggshells. Why don't you measure out the ingredients instead? I was just about to do the vanilla extract."
Tina picked up the bottle of vanilla extract and the red teaspoon. She screwed the lid off and started pouring. She poured too fast and some of the dark brown contents went splashing out onto the table.
Abby looked at her, a little wild-eyed now. "What are you doing?" she asked. "You know what, maybe you should wait for me to finish with the eggs."
Tina rolled her eyes and sighed from the impending boredom. Abby was taking cooking far too seriously. Then a devilish smile formed on her face as she picked up a handful of cake mix. The distracted Abby wasn't paying attention as she blew the powder in her hand toward her. The mix went flying and most of it landed in Abby's hair.
She tensed. "Did you just put cake mix in my hair?"
"What if I did?" Tina asked unabashedly.
"Then you asked for it," she said as she picked up some of the cake mix and threw it in Tina's direction.
Tina smiled. Maybe cooking had its high points after all as she scooped up some more and threw it back. Soon a great cloud of yellow dust was flying around them, and they were covered in the mix. Tina had gotten in a couple of good yellow handprints onto the back of Abby's shirt.
It stopped when Ms. Hestia came up to the table. "I've been dreading this day for years," the haggard-looking woman said. "I know you did a lot for my virgins, but—" she broke off, realizing she had said too much already. "Look, would just clean up this mess, please?" She walked off muttering something about Tina not being fit for hearth, home, or family harmony.
"A lot for her virgins?" Tina repeated to Abby. "Is there some kind of gas leak in the teacher's lounge?"
"She's a little strange, I admit, but she seems to know a lot about her subject. I think we'll learn a lot in this class. I'm looking forward to it."
Chapter 4: The Three History Teachers
History was next and the last class before lunch. Tina was rather surprised to see that there were three teachers. It was a little unusual for that many teachers to be teaching in the same classroom. One of them looked too young to be a teacher, one looked to be about the right age, and the other looked as if she should have retired years ago.
"I'm Ms. Clotho."
"I'm Ms. Lacheris."
"I'm Ms. Atropus."
They picked up a thread off the teacher's desk, apparently intending to use it to illustrate a point, and stretched it out between the three of them.
"It is only natural that we begin with creation when looking at the history of the world," said the young one.
"We must begin at the beginning to get to the middle," said the middle-aged one.
"And we must begin to get to the ending," said the oldest one.
"In the beginning, there was only chaos. Then out of the void came Erebus, which is the unknowable place where death dwells, and Night. All else was empty, silent, endless darkness. Not even we know how Love was born, perhaps it was always there in some secret place, but Love brought a start of order and from Love came Light and Day. Once there was Light and Day, Gaea came, who is the very earth," said Ms. Clotho.
"Then Erebus slept with Night, who gave birth to Ether, the heavenly light, and to Day, the earthly light. Then Night produced Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, Dreams, Nemesis, and others that come to man out of the darkness," said Ms. Lachesis.
"Gaea was also having children. She alone gave birth to Uranus, the heavens. Uranus became Gaea's mate and covered her on all sides. Together they parented the three Cyclopes, the three Hectoncheires, and the twelve Titans," said Ms. Atropus.
"Excuse me," said the timid girl who had spoken during science. She had been holding her hand up for awhile, but she hadn't been called on. "What in the world are we talking about, not history surely."
"Were you there when they were born, Amber Loris?" asked Ms. Clotho.
"Did you weave their immortal thread?" Ms. Lachesis asked.
"Did you cut their so-called immortal thread?" asked Ms. Atropus.
"Um, no," said the girl more confused then ever. She hadn't been expecting her question to be answered with more questions, especially outrageous ones. "But what are Cyclopes, Hectoncheires, and Titans anyway?"
"Every school-aged child knows that," Tina said, taking the initiative. "A Cyclops is a big one-eyed creature that resembles a man except for the eye and hugeness. The best way to take them out is to blind them. Hectoncheires have a hundred heads and about the only way to get rid of them would be to throw them into Tartarus. And finally, you have the Titans, which look like giant people, and they aren't generally known for their kindness. Most, but not all, are currently spending out eternity as stone figures, but they can be woken or put back to sleep by a virgin reciting special Greek chants." Tina surprised herself by the knowledge. It had come from somewhere deep inside herself, and it was almost startling.
The three teachers nodded simultaneously to show that they agreed with her explanation.
"Wait a minute though; isn't this some ancient creation story from the Greeks? This isn't historical fact; it's myth, entertaining though it may be," Abby said.
"You foolish mortal, who could have brought an end to all life, have no right to speak to us in such a manner," said Ms. Clotho.
"Despite your disruption, fate and individual choice is still alive and well, working together as it always has, though we no longer attend a loom. Our loom could have illustrated history so much better than this woolen thread from a mortal lamb," added Ms. Lacheris, pointing to the discarded thread on the desk.
"In the future, Abby Barding, you will speak only when spoken to and will keep your distance from our personal property," said Ms. Atropus.
Abby's eyes were wide at the strange reprimand, but she was silent for once. It was clear that Abby was not going to be the teacher's pet in this class.
The youngest teacher picked up where the story had left off, "However, Uranus was not a good father or a husband. He hated the Hecatoncheires with a passion. He trapped them by pushing them into the hidden places on the earth, Gaea's own womb. This rightly angered Gaea, and so, she plotted against Uranus. She made a flint sickle and tried to get the rest of her children to attack Uranus. They were too afraid of their father. All but the youngest Titan that is, Cronus. Leaders, good and bad, inevitably rise up to take the power from the current ruler, and Cronus was such a leader."
"Gaea and Cronus set up an ambush for Uranus as he lay with Gaea that night. Cronus grabbed his father and castrated him with the stone sickle. He threw the severed genitals into the ocean, and Uranus died, but not before he promised that Cronus and the Titans would be punished for their deed. From his spilt blood came the Giants, the Ash Tree Nymphs, and the Errinyes," said Ms. Lachesis.
The oldest teacher continued without pause, "Cronus became the next ruler naturally. He imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus. He married Rhea, and under his rule the Titans had many children. He ruled for many an age. However, Gaea and Uranus had both had prophesied that he would be overthrown by his own son. To try and avoid this, Cronus swallowed each of his children as they were born. He hadn't learned yet the fierceness with which a mother will protect her children, a mistake that has frequently been repeated throughout the various ages. Rhea plotted against Cronus and when it came time to give birth to her sixth child, Rhea hid. She left the baby boy to be raised by the very nymphs created from the blood of Uranus. To keep from being discovered, she wrapped a stone in blankets and passed it off as the baby to Cronus, who swallowed it without discovering the truth."
"This child was Zeus. He grew into a handsome young man in Crete, and wanting the power for himself and bitter at his father, he consulted Metis, one of the Titans, on how to defeat Cronus. She prepared a drink for Cronus that would make him vomit up his sisters and brothers. Rhea had managed to convince Cronus to accept his son, and Zeus was allowed to return to Mount Olympus as Cronus' cupbearer. This gave Zeus the chance to slip Cronus the specially prepared drink. It worked as planned and the other children were vomited up. Being the gods they were, of course, they were unharmed. They were so thankful to Zeus, they made him the king of the gods," Ms. Clotho said.
"Cronus hadn't been defeated yet though. He and the other Titans, except for the good Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Oceanus, fought to keep their power. Atlas became their leader in the battle, and they thought that they would win against the young gods. However, Zeus was more cunning than them. He went down to Tartarus, freeing the Cyclopes and the Hectoncheires. Prometheus joined Zeus as well. He returned to battle with new allies, and the Cyclopes gave Zeus his famous lighting bolts for weapons. The Hectoncheires waited in ambush armed with boulders. When the time was right, Zeus retreated and drew the Titans into the Hectoncheires' ambush. The Hectoncheires sent down hundreds of boulders with such a passion that the Titans thought the very mountains were falling down on them, giving Zeus the victory," Ms. Lachesis said.
"Zeus punished all the Titans by imprisoning them. Atlas, however, was given the very special punishment of holding the world on his shoulders, but Zeus was not safe. Gaea was angry that her children had been imprisoned and so she gave birth to one last child, Typhoeus. Typhoeus was so terrible that most of the gods fled in fear, but Zeus faced the monster with his trusty lighting bolts and was able to kill it. Zeus married Hera, and they, along with their siblings, started the age of the gods with their children, which we will continue with tomorrow," finished Ms. Atropus.
Tina had to give them credit. It was the finest example of coteaching she had ever seen. She had never seen three people work in such harmony with what they wanted to say; it was like they were really one, and it was a little on the eerie side. She began filing out with the other students, but the teachers stopped her.
"Beware, young Tina," warned Ms. Clotho.
"You are about to be tempted to the ways of darkness again," said Ms. Lachesis.
"He has tried and failed many times before, but he has a good chance of succeeding during this lifetime."
Tina nodded. She wasn't sure who this "he" was or what they were even talking about for that matter, but humoring the crazy ladies, who seemed to think they held fate in their hands, seemed like the best idea.
Chapter 5: An Attempt at a Solitary Lunch
Tina looked down at the tray of food. The food appeared to have a Greek theme and looked pretty good. She might actually enjoy a school lunch for once. She scanned the cafeteria for a place to sat down and found an empty table.
Tina hadn't taken more than two bites of her chicken when Abby sat down across from her with her tray. "I prefer to eat alone," Tina told her in no uncertain terms.
"Why is that?" Abby asked curiously, taking a bite of her own chicken and making no moves towards getting up.
"I just do. Look, it's time you understood something. I'm not a nice girl. As you saw earlier, I get into fights a lot, and I enjoy them, and that's not the half of it. I'm just a hairbreadth away from reform school. Trust me when I say I'm not the type of friend you'd want or your mother would want you to have."
"I think that could be…exciting as long as you don't get into fights for the wrong reason. Besides, I'm in high school now. I think I can pick my friends without my parents' approval. And have you ever thought that I might even be handy during a fight?"
"Have you ever been in a fight in your life?" Tina asked with a look and tone that said she already knew the answer.
"Well, no," Abby answered honestly. "Unless you count verbal fights, which I generally win by the way."
She smirked before finishing off her milk and crushing the carton. "I have no doubt about that."
"So why can't we be friends?"
"I've never been a model student. I've always gotten into trouble. Last year was the worst year for me. I lead a group of students against some bullies, and we weren't always ethical about it."
"So you were in a gang of sorts?"
"Not officially no, but for all intents and purposes, I guess you could say I was. I couldn't stand the injustice. They were really tormenting some of the students, 6th graders even, and the school didn't seem to be doing anything about it, so I gathered some like-minded classmates, and we returned fire for fire."
"It was rather noble then, wasn't it?"
"It may have started out that way, but as the year went on, our pranks got nastier, and it wasn't enough just to mess with the bullies. We were destroying school property, roughing up any student who said the least little thing against us. Pretty soon the whole student population was under my thumb. I told myself that I was making things safer for the school, but the truth was, I got a taste of power, and I relished it. I'm not naïve enough to think that I can just turn over a new leaf because this is a new school, but I'm going to try. Nonetheless, you should stay out of my way because I do tend to attract trouble, and you don't want to be dragged into it."
"Hey, I'm tougher than I look, and I can't explain it, but I'm just drawn to you. We both need each other; I can feel it."
Tina responded by rolling her eyes and going to dump her tray. She started walking to her locker to get ready for the next class. She whipped around suddenly, almost making Abby crash into her. "Why are you still following me?" she demanded in a tone that would have probably sent a lesser person back a few steps at the very least.
Abby smiled. "You'll get used to it."
A frustrated Tina could still hear the sound of the girl's feet behind her when she went back to walking. She had a feeling her days of solitude were over.
Chapter 6: Scenes from the Disturbed Ancient Greeks
"I'm Mr. Momus, your English teacher. I like to start off the first day with a little drama. I find it serves as a nice icebreaker for you and your classmates. I want you all to find a scene in a Sophocles play that speaks to you and give a dramatic reading with your group. The interesting thing you'll notice about Greek plays are the chorus, a group of performers who mostly commented on the dramatic action in the play, so if there aren't a lot of characters in a scene you like, more than one person can be the chorus."
He passed out a small book of Sophocles' plays to each group. Tina was put in a group with Abby again, along with two boys.
Since Abby seemed to be the only one excited about the assignment in their group, they put her in charge. She read through the table of contents. "There are six plays here. We have Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Ajax, The Women of Trachis, and Electra."
"What are they about?" Caleb asked.
Abby shrugged, "I've heard of him, I think, but I've never read any of his plays." She read over the short synopsizes. "Okay, so in Oedipus the King, it is prophesied that he will kill his father and marry his mother. The parents try to keep it from coming true, but he fulfills the prophesy anyway because he doesn't know who his parents are. When the truth is revealed, he blinds himself and his mother commits suicide. In Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus dies. His daughters are banished, and his sons are fighting each other. In Antigone, Oedipus' daughter wants her brother's body to be buried even though it has been forbidden by the king. She buries him and is sentenced to death. The king has a change of heart, but she has committed suicide, and her suicide causes the suicide of two others in the king's family. In Ajax, a hero of the Trojan War is driven to treachery and suicide. In The Women of Trachis, Deianeira accidentally kills Hercules and then commits suicide. In Electra, Electra and Orestes avenge their father's murder. What sounds good to you guys?"
"So basically," Kyle said, "we can choose to do a scene about a man who has sex with his mother or one of us can commit suicide."
"If you ask me, all the ancient Greeks were disturbed," Tina said.
"They weren't all disturbed," Abby defended. "It's simple theatrics."
"Ah, so all theatre people in ancient Greece were disturbed. That makes sense too when you look at Hollywood," Caleb chimed in.
"I just mean that if you're going to take a break from humdrum village life, you want to see some blood, some action, something unusual," Abby said. "They weren't necessarily mirrors of life."
"How unusual can these plays be?" Tina questioned. "According to these synopsizes, there's a suicide in every play. I mean I'm all for noble, heroic deaths in theory, but seriously, can't these people work through their problems some other way?"
"They didn't have psychiatrists back then, and these are tragedies after all. We're just going to have to pick one or class will be over before we ever get started." Abby randomly put a finger on the page. "Okay, we'll do this one."
"Anti-gone?" said Caleb, snatching it away to see what she had picked. "That sounds like a bug spray."
Abby snatched the book back and took some deep yoga-like breathes because she was starting to look like she wanted to throttle somebody. "If you'd read the parenthesis, it's pronounced An-tig-one."
"Is there a scene with some action in it that we can do?" Tina asked. "Or better yet is there a scene where I can just stand there as a guard or a servant or something?"
Abby scrolled through the play and marked a passage that had the right amount of parts with her pencil. "Kyle, Caleb, since you apparently love being a peanut gallery so much, you can have the joy of being the chorus. Tina, you can be the choral leader; the choral leader only has one line. I'll be Antigone, so let's read. "
They gathered around the book and began reading.
Tina's line was first. "When I look at her I forget my place. I lose restraint and can't hold back my tears—" Tina sighed heavily at this part to show that she wasn't into this sentimental nonsense. "Antigone going to her bridal room where all are laid to rest in death."
Abby's part was next. "Look at me, my native citizens, as I go on my final journey, as I gaze upon the sunlight one last time, which I'll never see again—for Hades, who brings all people to their final sleep, leads me on, while I'm still living, down to the shores of Acheron. I've not yet had my bridal chant, nor has any wedding song been sung—for my marriage is to Acheron."
Kyle and Caleb made a mess of their lines as they weren't quite reading in time. "Surely you carry fame with you and praise, as you move to the deep home of the dead. You were not stricken by lethal disease or paid your wages with a sword. No. You were in charge of your own fate. So of all living human beings, you alone make your way down to Hades still alive."
A displeased Antigone read, "I've heard about a guest of ours, daughter of Tantalus, from Phrygia—she went to an excruciating death in Sipylus, right on the mountain peak. The stone there, just like clinging ivy, wore her down, and now, so people say, the snow and rain never leave her there, as she laments. Below her weeping eyes her neck is wet with tears. God brings me to a final rest which most resembles hers."
"Did the ancient Greeks even believe in God when Sophocles was alive?" Kyle asked Caleb. "So what kind of line is that?"
"Yeah," Caleb said, agreeing. "Maybe we should change it to Zeus or something. What do you think, Abby?"
"I think," said Abby through gritted teeth. "That you should read your lines."
Kyle and Caleb complied. "But Niobe was a goddess, born divine—and we are human beings, a race which dies. But still, it's a fine thing for a woman, once she's dead, to have it said she shared, in life and death, the fate of demi-gods."
"Oh, you are mocking me!" Abby said, at last her emotions were in tune with Antigone's. "Why me—by our fathers' gods—why do you all, my own city and the richest men of Thebes, insult me now right to my face, without waiting for my death? Well at least I have Dirce's springs, the holy grounds of Thebes, a city full of splendid chariots, to witness how no friends lament for me as I move on—you see the laws which lead me to my rock-bound prison, a tomb made just for me. Alas! In my wretchedness I have no home, not with human beings or corpses, not with the living or the dead."
Caleb and Kyle continued, "You pushed your daring to the limit, my child, and tripped against Justice's high altar—perhaps your agonies are paying back some compensation for your father."
Abby read with great tragic tones, "Now there you touch on my most painful thought—my father's destiny—always on my mind, along with that whole fate which sticks to us, the splendid house of Labdakos—the curse arising from a mother's marriage bed, when she had sex—"
Kyle laughed, interrupting her. "Are we allowed to say that without getting into trouble?"
"—with her own son, my father," Abby continued as if she hadn't heard Kyle, but Antigone sounded a little less tragic and a little more angry. "From what kind of parents was I born, their wretched daughter? I go to them, unmarried and accursed, an outcast. Alas, too, for my brother Polyneices, who made a fatal marriage and then died— and with that death killed me while still alive."
Abby closed the book and sighed a happy sigh. "Sophocles was such a master of human emotion. I mean have you ever read a play that had more emotional depth?"
"I say we should have picked a scene that had some action in it if there is any action in this drivel," Tina said.
"Let's spice the scene up," Caleb suggested. Kyle and Caleb rolled up some loose-leaf notebook papers that was lying on somebody's desk and started beating each other in a mock sword fight.
"I will defend your honor, Antigone," Kyle said, "just because your father is your uncle and your mother is your grandmother is no reason for the gods to kill you."
"No, she has to die," said Caleb. "It's a Sophocles play."
Before Abby could snap, Mr. Momus called everyone back to their seats to watch the scenes.
They watched a number of scenes, but so far no one had picked theirs.
One group had picked a scene from the Hercules play, and somehow Tina had a feeling that Hercules hadn't tripped quite as much, especially before he even got the cloak around him. She didn't know what they were thinking arming the klutzy kid, as some people were calling him now, with someone's long coat for a prop and giving him the starring role, but maybe that was why. The play had become the comedy Sophocles had never meant it to be. They didn't quite get the applause the other groups had as some of the students had had to evacuate their seats to keep from getting fallen on.
Mr. Momus, however, was laughing and clapping hard. "That was beautiful. I only wish that Hercules could have been here to watch this performance. Now there's a half and half with a sense of humor. I suppose you all have never seen Hercules: The Legendary Journeys? No, of course you haven't, too nineties, am I right? That's a guy who can laugh at himself." The bell rang. "The rest of you are saved by the bell. We'll finish the others up tomorrow."
"I still say there was something wrong with those Ancient Greeks or at least with Sophocles," Tina told Abby on the way out.
Chapter 7: The Rescue and the Tall Math Teacher
Tina was on her way to math, the final class of the day, when Abby came running from around the corner and grabbed Tina by the wrist, taking her to another section of lockers.
"What are you doing?" Tina demanded. "We're going to be late to class."
"There's a boy trapped inside there," she said, pointing to locker 357.
"What do you want me to do about it?" Tina asked, trying to make sense of the situation.
"I don't know," Abby said. She wasn't quite sure what Tina could do about it either, but somehow she had a feeling if anyone could help, it was Tina. "Rescue him?"
Tina sighed, but she went up to the locker. "We're going to get you out of there."
Abby smiled. Tina could say what she liked; she knew that Tina was a good person at heart.
"Hello? Is somebody out there? Are you back with help, Abby?" asked the boy.
Tina recognized the voice immediately. It was the klutz. "Why am I not surprised?" she muttered. "Do you know the locker combination?"
"If I had the combination, would I still be in here?" he asked. "I could have gotten myself out."
Tina rolled her eyes. He was not only a klutz and a braggart, he was an idiot.
"We're gong to go get the principal. I'm sure she has the combination," Tina told him.
"That's not an option," he said.
"Why?" Tina asked. "Were you threatened not to tell on the bozos that did this? Give me their names, and I'll make them see reason."
"No, no. Just stand back, girls. Johnny the Mighty can get himself out of here." There were a couple of weak taps. He clearly didn't have the room to move, not that she thought he could have gotten out even if he did. It was amazing they had gotten him in it at all really as small as the lockers were.
Tina looked down at her own soft, flat shoes. Then her eyes turned to Abby's shoes. They had a heel to them. "Give me your shoe."
Abby looked at her flabbergasted. "My shoe?"
"You'll see. I have an idea."
Abby was still confused, but she slipped her shoe off and handed it to Tina. Tina made a quick examination of the surrounding walls and then threw the shoe. It ricocheted off the corner of a locker and a trashcan before hitting the lock in such a way and with such a force that it effectively broke it, and the door swung open; Johnny fell flat on his face.
"How did you do that?" Abby asked with wide eyes as she retrieved her shoe.
"It's just a matter of knowing how much force to use and the angles, which reminds me, we should be getting to math now before somebody catches us in the hallways."
"Right," Abby said. She threw her shoe in the same place Tina had but nothing happened; it just fell flat to the floor. She went over and put her shoe back on. Then she helped Johnny to his feet.
"Gosh, you're pretty," he said, smiling dopily at Abby. "Would you like me to carry your math book for you?"
"No, thanks. I've got it," Abby said.
He tried to take it from her, causing a small struggle. "It's the least I can do for getting me out of that locker," he insisted.
He was so concentrated on trying to take the book from her, he didn't see the trashcan and tripped.
Tina and Abby used the opportunity to pull ahead of him.
"I bet you're starting to wish we'd left him in there," Tina said with a small smile.
"Tell me about it," she muttered.
"You're late," said the math teacher in a big, booming voice.
"Sorry," Abby said. "We had a small problem to take care of. It won't happen again."
"I'm always lenient on the first day, but see that it doesn't happen again. I'm Mr. Prometheus by the way.
Mr. Prometheus was sitting down, but it was still obvious that he was extremely tall like "Guinness World Book of Records" tall. Some of it had to be a trick of the lighting.
"I was just telling everyone that science is a passion with me, so if you need some help in science, I'm the one to come to. Ms. Aphrodite is suited to teach you some parts of biology, I'll grant her that much, but she has trouble with the rest of the material. The chemistry that she will teach you won't help you get into college. Did you know my name was once synonymous with the pursuit of scientific knowledge, but do I get the position, no. She slept with somebody to get that job; I guarantee it."
He seemed to be done with his ranting as he took a deep breath and turned to the chalkboard. "We're going to start with a simple equation."
Chapter 8: A Blood Sport
"I thought we could watch the football tryouts," Abby told Tina when school had let out.
"I can't. I have to get on the bus," she said.
"I'm one step ahead of you. I called my mom, and she said she wouldn't mind giving you a ride home. You just have to call your mom to make sure it's okay."
"You are persistent."
She handed Tina her cell phone. Tina took it and made the call.
"Hey, it's me. I have a friend that wants me to stay for an afterschool activity. Her mom's going to give me a ride…No…No, Mother, I'm telling you the truth…School was fine. I'll see you in an hour." She hung up before her mom could argue anymore.
"You don't have a good relationship with your mother?" Abby asked sympathetically as she took the phone back.
"Does any teenager?" was her avoidant reply.
Abby didn't press the issue, and they headed to the football field. They weren't the only ones who had come just to watch. They took a seat in the bleachers.
"I bet the boy in the gray shirt will make the team," Abby speculated. "He looks like a football player. I mean check out those muscles."
Tina gave a small, noncommittal grunt.
"There's a cute one in the blue shirt," Abby said. "I don't know if he'll make the team, but he sure is nice to look at."
Tina looked. "He's okay," she said in a bored tone.
Abby could see that she wasn't really into it, so she looked over the boys again and found one in black jeans and a black tank. "What about the one in black? You have to admit that he's easy on the eyes."
Chills went up and down her spine as Tina laid eyes on him. He was handsome, but it was something more than that. She felt an inexplicable tug at her heart like there was some sort of invisible bond between them. She had never felt so strongly about someone before at first sight.
"He's not your type?" Abby asked, mistaking the surprise for dislike. "I would have sworn that was your type."
"Why because we're both wearing black?" Tina said, shooting back to reality.
"Well, he does have the goth thing going on, too, but—
"I am not goth," Tina interrupted. "I just like black."
"He looks like he likes to live on the edge, a real bad boy."
"I won't say I'm not at all attracted to that, but it's the last thing I need right now. Anyway, he looks like he could be a popular senior. He probably has a girlfriend."
Abby looked surprised. "I didn't think you'd let something like that stop you."
"I didn't say it could stop me, but like I said, I'm not interested at the moment. I've got to keep my nose clean for a little while. Now let's drop this."
"Okay, not interested, got it."
They watched in silence for a minute or two.
"He's looking at you, "Abby said suddenly.
"I bet," Tina said, but she stole a look. It did appear he had made eye contact with her for a brief moment.
"You like him," Abby said with a knowing smile. "I saw you look."
"I thought we talked about this already."
"We could talk about it more at a sleepover this Friday. I could give you a makeover that would be sure to turn his head, and we could watch romantic movies, and—"
"Stop right there," Tina said, holding out a hand in cautionary gesture. She felt uncomfortable with all this girly talk and behavior. This was why she'd never had a friend that was a girl before. She'd grown up with brothers and hung around with guy friends all her life. "I don't do sleepovers."
"No sleepovers. Message received. See, this is why it's good to talk and get to know each other—"
Abby continued her speech, but Tina was watching the football field now. It was the one in black's turn to demonstrate. Another boy took off running with the football, and he had to tackle him. He not only tackled him, he flattened the boy. She had thought watching the tryouts was going to be dull, but it seemed there was a reason it was called a blood sport.
"Watch it, Aaron," said Mr. Sorbo. "This isn't a battlefield."
"The world's a battlefield," he replied with no remorse.
"Don't make me bench you before the season even starts," Mr. Sorbo said, giving Aaron a dirty look.
There was obviously a bad history between the two of them.
Mr. Sorbo went over to help the boy up and from the looks of his nose and all the blood, he would be extremely lucky if it wasn't seriously broken. A student who had already finished his tryout walked the boy back to the building to get it looked at.
"It looks like I was spot on in saying that he's the bad boy type," Abby said. "Maybe it is a good thing you're not interested in him."
"Here comes, Johnny," Tina told her, spotting him from the corner of her eye.
"I've been looking everywhere for you, girls," he said, sitting down between them.
He turned to Abby. "I'm sorry if it seemed like I came on a little strong there. I must have hit my head pretty hard when I fell out, and I was so happy to see the light of day, I may have been a little overzealous in what I said and did."
"That's perfectly understandable," Abby said. "In the future though, keep your hands off my books."
Abby went back to watching the tryouts, and Johnny's gaze lingered on her a hair too long before he started watching, too. Tina wasn't so sure he didn't have some feelings for her. He was simply trying to save face because he knew, despite his bravado, that the chances of Abby going out with him were slim. She felt a small bit of sympathy for him in that moment.
"I bet you've been asking yourselves why I'm not down there trying out," Johnny said.
"Not really, no," Abby said.
"Well, wonder no more. See it's only my first year, and I want to give the others their chance to shine before I take the spotlight."
They watched the rest of the tryouts in relative silence.
"Some of them weren't too horrible," Johnny said when the tryouts were over, "but they still have a lot to learn. I've got a move so swift and cunning, the other team doesn't even know I have the ball until it's too late. Allow me to demonstrate." He jumped onto the bleacher in front of them. Abby motioned with her head for them to go. Tina had no complaints. Everyone else was leaving anyway.
Johnny was left demonstrating his long and ridiculous move to an invisible audience. "And that's how you do it." He made a motion as if he was dusting his hands off. "Yeah, I could have creamed all those creampuffs. So what are we doing tomorrow?" He looked around and saw that they were already gone. "Guys, guys?"
Chapter 9: Confrontations
Tina's mom ran a bar, and they lived in the rooms above it. They usually rented out a room or two to earn an extra bit of income. The guests were usually on the seedy side, but then they didn't exactly live in the best part of town.
She was hoping to slip past the bar and up to her room, but her mother had obviously been watching for her arrival.
"Wait right there, young lady," her mother called out.
Tina stopped and waited for her to set the mugs of beer down in front of the customers.
She came over with hands on her hips. "Where were you exactly? What was this afterschool activity? It wasn't detention, was it?"
"No, and I told you before that school was fine."
"Huh-huh," she said, watching her daughter with suspicion. "You do remember that the next stop is reform school?"
"Yes," she said, her eyes narrowing.
Her mother shook her head. "I still don't understand why they've let you into that school. It's beyond me. You know Thomas never got into any trouble."
"That's because he's a coward."
"Don't you talk about your brother like that. At least, I didn't have to run down to the school every time I turned around to talk about his behavior."
Tina had had enough of this conversation. She ran up the stairs and slammed the door to her bedroom so hard it sounded as if it would come off its hinges. She took her anger out on the pillow, punching it and wishing for a real fight to release her anger.
There was a knock on the door. She recognized her family's knocks, so she knew it was her younger brother, Liam. Besides, business at the bar was just beginning to pick up at this hour, and she knew her mother wouldn't follow.
"Come in," she called.
"I just wanted to see how you were doing," he said softly.
"It's just the usual. How was school for you?"
He smiled, "The usual, I guess. Why don't we go fishing at the lake this weekend to celebrate making it through our first week of school? We haven't done a lot of fishing lately."
"Yeah," she agreed. "I'm definitely in the mood to kill something right now."
"Listen, you know Mom only cares about you, right? She wouldn't get so mad if she didn't."
She put him in a headlock and teasingly ruffled his hair. "Maybe she does, but I don't think we'll ever see eye to eye."
Tina took gymnastics and karate at the mall on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The gymnastics teacher and karate teacher shared the space and hence had the cheapest rates in town. Being in a mall setting meant shoppers could stop and watch the classes through the clear windows and often did.
Gymnastics were over, and Tina was waiting for karate class to start. She was the only one who took both advanced classes. She enjoyed the free time in between the classes most of all because it allowed her to get creative with the equipment. Right now she was on the balance beam. She performed a series of karate moves on the beam without ever losing her balance. In her mind's eye, she could see her attackers. This was just the kind of release she needed after the argument with her mother and a boring day of school. She would have loved it if her mother could have afforded to pay for classes every night. She really didn't need them anymore, she had outmastered her teachers, but she relished the physical activity.
She felt eyes watching her, and she didn't know how she knew exactly, but she knew that it was Aaron, the football player.
Doing a double full flip, she landed neatly in front of him. "Thinking about taking gymnastics?" she asked in a dark tone.
"I'm just admiring your skills. After all, isn't that what you and your little blonde friend were doing earlier today?"
"I was dragged there. I'm not much into being a spectator normally."
He looked around at the equipment. "Did you know that gymnastics evolved from the ancient Greeks?"
"No, I didn't know. Is there a reason I should care?"
"Gods, I've missed you," he said under his breath.
"So it looks like you take karate, too," he said, changing the subject and referring to her black Gi and black belt.
"Aren't you the observant one,"she said, her voice thick with sarcasm.
"Are you any good?"
A challenging smirk appeared on her face. "I could kick your pigskin-chasing butt any day of the week."
His eyes seemed to darken and glitter with excitement at the same time. "I accept the challenge."
He caught her off guard, and he sent a fist into her gut. The punch sent her flying against the matted wall. It surprised her momentarily. She had been in a lot of fights in her short life and never had she felt such a powerful punch. It was hardly human. She regained her composure and went after him.
She landed a roundhouse kick on his jaw. He rubbed his jaw, but it hadn't seemed to faze him much. They blocked each other's kicks and punches for a little while after that, but at last, she was able to grab his fist, and she pulled him toward her, throwing his balance off briefly. She took his arm and flipped him, but he did his own flipping and landed on his feet directly behind her. That gave him the opportunity to kick her legs out from under her, landing her flat on her back instead. He used some pressure points that rendered her incapable of moving.
"I can teach you some fighting moves that you've only dreamed about in this lifetime," he whispered.
As she lay there glaring up at the victor, she couldn't remember the last time that someone had beaten her in class or in a real fight, and she couldn't remember ever feeling more drawn to anyone.
Chapter 10: Some Things Never Change
"Aaron, what are you doing?" called a female voice.
Tina was irritated at the interruption. Aaron looked just as irritated as he hit some more pressure points, and she regained feeling.
He stood up and stuck out a hand to help her up, but she ignored it and got up on her own. He was very pleased with this reincarnation.
"Aaron, I've been looking everywhere for you. I told you I had to study for that test thing tomorrow. I can't flunk out of college before I even finish my first semester. I have to get back to my dorm now!"
He glared at her and the look promptly shut her up. As much as he enjoyed a girl with a temper, he wasn't in the mood. He had just picked her up for tonight, and she already thought she owned him. She was going to be in for a rude awakening in the morning. A sudden thought came to him. He went over and kissed her fully and passionately on the mouth.
He watched Xena out of the corner of his eye. Although her face showed disinterest, the fire in her eyes proved it affected her. He broke away and said to her in a dismissive tone, "Maybe I'll see you around."
"Don't count on it," she said with a grimace. She turned around and flipped back up to the balance beam.
He smiled to himself as he walked away with Ann or Jan or whatever her name was. Although Xena had acted coldly in their parting, he recognized jealousy when he saw it, especially from her. She was already developing a schoolgirl crush on him. He had been right to strike while she was still young. Her girlish figure held no appeal for him right now, but a few years would solve that problem. In the meantime, he thought as he put an arm around the girl next to him, he had a womanly figure to enjoy right next to him.
Prometheus, Hestia, Aphrodite, Momus, and Hercules were taking a break in the teacher's lounge. The room was fit for a king or more specifically a god. Instead of the usual vending machine or coffee pot, there was a table with a feast spread that was grand enough for Mount Olympus. The furniture was comfortable and luxurious.
Aphrodite was spending the time examining herself in the mirror. Momus stood in a corner of the room, imitating her primping but out of her sight. The goddess of love could be quite vengeful when mocked, and if she caught him, he would be thrown out of the room in much the same way as he had often been thrown off Mount Olympus.
"Does my outfit cover up too much?" Aphrodite asked to no one in particular.
"No, it's not short enough," said Prometheus sarcastically.
Aphrodite missing the sarcasm completely said, "You're way right. The sleeves are so not cute, it totally ruins the outfit." She fixed it by turning the long sleeves of her business jacket into short, poufy ones.
Prometheus sighed. "I miss the old days when all I did was guard fire."
"How's football going, Hercules?" Hestia asked, changing the subject for the sake of harmony.
"It's not my favorite sport. I don't see the point of all the useless violence, but if it allows me to keep an eye on that dear half-brother of mine, it's well worth it."
Momus laughed. "The god of war on a high school football team? The other teams won't stand a chance. They'll be lucky if they make it off the field alive."
"That's if he gets to play," Hercules said. "If he pulls another stunt like yesterday, he won't be seeing any game time. And can anyone tell me why Ares was let in as a student in the first place? I thought we set up this school for reincarnated ancient Greeks only, not gods masquerading as students."
Ares suddenly appeared in his regular form. "Gossip in the teacher's lounge? That's a nasty habit to get into, Hercules."
"I was wondering when you were going to show your face in here. In all of the years that this school has been set up, you've never shown the slightest interest in it. I wonder what's changed," Hercules said, knowing full well why Olympus High suddenly intrigued Ares.
"We shouldn't be fighting," Hestia said, interrupting. She knew how things between the two could quickly go south. "What kind of example are we setting for the mortals?"
"Wake up and smell the ambrosia, Hestia. We don't have any worshipers anymore," Momus said. "The mortals could care less about what we do."
"Fine," she said, feeling a little less harmonious, "What kind of example are we setting for the students?"
"I'm warning you now, Ares, that this obsession with Xena is getting old," Hercules said. "She's always been able to resist your 'charms' in all her lives before since switching to the right side in ancient Greece, but going after her while she is still young, that's low even for you. Of course, youth has never stopped you before. I still haven't forgotten your army of boys."
Ares was angry now, and he blasted Hercules back against the wall. "You just keep your little boy scout nose out of my way."
"If you think I'm going to let you take advantage of a ninth grader, you've got another thing coming. I'm going to keep a close eye on you and her. Consider me Xena's watchdog."
Ares responded with another blast, but Hercules was ready this time and rolled to the table, turning it over to use as a shield. The food and drinks fell all over the floor, making a huge mess. Some of the liquid contents landed on Aphrodite and Hestia. A seething Ares disappeared in a light of blue.
"Isn't it wonderful how some things just never change?" Momus said, putting one arm around Aphrodite's shoulders and the other one around Hestia's. A few seconds later, he found himself on his butt out in the hallway, courtesy of two angry goddesses, but he just chuckled. "Nope, some things never do."
Chapter 11: The Football Prank
Abby had talked Tina into coming to the first football game of the season. She hadn't really had that hard of a time with it because Tina was interested in seeing Aaron play. Johnny was there, too.
"I left my math book in my locker, and we have homework tonight," Abby said suddenly while they were waiting for the game to start.
"So go get it," Tina told her.
"Come with me."
"Aw, Abby's afraid of the dark," Johnny said in her ear, pointing and laughing at the same time.
Abby grabbed his pointer finger, "You better put that finger away."
"Let's go before the game starts," Tina said, standing up.
The three went inside the school, and they hadn't made it very far down the hall when they saw something that made all three of them freeze in their tracks.
"What in the world is that?" Abby asked, her eyes as wide as saucers.
The creature had a body of a lion, the head of a man, and the tail of a scorpion.
"It's obviously somebody in a costume," Johnny said with a small laugh that was slightly nervous.
The monster shot out its tail and the pointed spine would have lodged itself right into Johnny's chest if Tina hadn't done a sweeping kick that knocked him flat on the floor.
"Or not," Johnny said as he stared up at the ceiling.
"Into the classroom," Tina shouted, almost pushing the half-paralyzed Johnny and Abby into the science room. She slammed the door behind them and locked it.
The creature began using its tail to tear down the door. The door was already developing a crack.
Tina looked around for a weapon. She spotted the thick metal rod that held the shades over the window. She pulled hard on it, and the metal rod came crashing down and she caught it neatly in her hands. "You two find a place in the classroom to protect yourselves."
"Abby should hide. You and I can teach this monster that he's messing with the wrong people." Johnny gave another of the shades a good tug and sent the rod crashing down onto his head, putting him in a half-conscious state.
"Oh great," said Abby, reaching under his arms to drag him across the floor into one of the corners. "I guess he gets points for bravery or having an inflated ego. I'm not sure which." She flipped and stacked a couple of the science table to shield them.
The monster finally got the door down and came in slowly, moving like a lion getting ready to corner its prey. The creature was swinging its mucous-looking spine back and forth. If it was anything like a real scorpion, the spine was probably poisonous. Unlike most scorpions, Tina had a feeling that a sting from this tail would result in death.
Tina waited for it to come to her, standing with her feet slightly apart but firmly planted. When its tail made a sudden attack, she used the rod to block the tail.
Abby, who was watching from behind the table, shouted, "Over here you ugly thing!" Its man's head gave an angry sort of hiss and started to go toward Abby.
It gave Tina the opportunity to kick it hard in the face, breaking some of its teeth loose. A couple of teeth pinged onto the floor. Unlike a man's teeth, they were sharp and pointy, no doubt meant for tearing into flesh. It became even angrier and forgot about Abby. It turned its attention back to Tina. The attacks with its tail became faster and stronger.
"You and Johnny should get out of here," Tina said. "I can keep it distracted while you make a break for it."
Although there was clear terror in Abby's voice, she said, "We're not leaving you to face this alone."
"What are you going to do? Do you know how to fight?" Tina asked.
"Well, no not really, but—" she broke off midsentence as Tina gave a cry that startled her and the monster, allowing Tina to hit its tail so hard there was the sound of a crack, but the monster wasn't down yet.
Hercules didn't like the cocky look on Ares' face as he sat on the bench, waiting to be put into the game. He was up to something. He looked in the stands to see if he could spot Tina, but she, Abby, and Johnny were all missing. He was sure if he found them, he would find the source of Ares' cockiness.
He started to leave to look for them, but some of the single moms gathered around him asking about how their son or daughter was doing in P.E. He wasn't fooled by their inquiries. "Excuse me, ladies. We can talk about this during parent-teacher conferences. I'm in a bit of hurry." With a few twists through the crowd, he managed to lose them.
A couple of teenagers were standing behind the bleachers smoking cigarettes. They quickly threw them down when they saw Hercules and stomped on them.
"I'm not here to bust you, although we will be talking about this tomorrow. I'm looking for some other students. Have you seen a tall girl with black hair, a short girl with blonde hair, and a skinny guy come by here?"
They both pointed towards the school. Hercules ran to the front doors. The doors to the school were locked. He kicked them in and ran toward the room with the light on.
He found the science classroom in a complete mess, but fortunately, the kids were uninjured. Tina had knocked a manticore cold with a metal rod. Abby and Johnny made their way out from behind the tables.
"What in the heck was it?" Abby asked, looking at it with a mixture of disgust and fascination.
"It was a prank the other team played," Hercules quickly explained. "I found out about it and came as soon as I could. It's an extremely expensive robotic toy. It's not a very funny prank, I admit. You can believe that their school is going to be paying for all the damage that was done."
Abby and Johnny seemed to readily accept the explanation, but Tina looked at him suspiciously, not ready to take what he said at face value.
"Aphrodite," Hercules called under his breath. She appeared in the room, remaining invisible to the three students, and he used his eyes to point toward the monster. "I'm positive it's a robot," he said emphatically, hoping she would catch on. She smiled in understanding and fixed the situation before vanishing again.
He went to move the body and there were a bunch of pink nuts and bolts under it. The pink shouldn't have surprised him, but she had thankfully come through. In a school filled with gods, it wasn't the first time that they had needed a cover story to keep the students from discovering the truth.
"See? You kids go back to the game. I'll clean up this mess."
They complied with his direction. He could hear Johnny tell the girls, "I knew it wasn't real all the time." As soon as they were gone, he started to dispose of the beast, but it suddenly disappeared.
"She's even more perfect than I imagined in this reincarnation. She doesn't even need to have her old memories to have her old fighting skills," said Ares as he materialized in the room. He picked up the metal rod and tossed it into the air and caught it again. "You never know what she'll turn into a weapon."
Hercules wasn't amused. "And if you'd killed her with your little experiment?"
He shrugged. "There's always the next reincarnation, but I knew she would succeed. This proves she's ready to be my conqueror again. This will be an interesting century for sure."
"This proves nothings. All you've proven is that she's ready to be a hero. She won't want to embrace her dark side."
"That is still a work-in-progress." Ares vanished, but his voice could still be heard. "Hold onto your whistle, coach, things are about to get really ugly, and you won't be able to stop me this time."
Hercules threw one of the chairs at the sound of his voice, but all he heard was Ares' mocking laughter.
Chapter 12: The Depressed Counselor
They were now one month into school. Tina, Abby, and Johnny were fairly close since the prank incident. Tina was actually starting to like Abby. Johnny was more of an acquired taste, but it was clear that he was like a fly that you couldn't quite swat away, annoying and persistent. Truth be told though, she was even beginning to develop a soft spot for him.
Tina currently found herself in the guidance counselor's office. They were required to see the counselor once a month.
The room was small, dim, and the items in the room were sparse, not a very cheerful atmosphere.
"Tell me your story," the guidance counselor began.
"I want to know your life history. I want to know all the miserable details, the gloomier they are, the better."
"Are you sure you shouldn't be the one seeing a counselor?" Tina asked pointblank.
He continued as if he hadn't heard her. "Your friend, Abby, is entirely too sunny as if life were a bowl of cherries. She has normal parents, normal siblings, and a normal life. There's not a drop of despair in her life, at least not yet."
"Are you supposed to be telling me about other students?" she asked. There must have been some kind of student-counselor confidentiality.
"Now Johnny. There's a boy who can enrapture you with his depressing life history. He always has had such lovely life histories. It practically makes you want to wring your heart out."
"I though this was supposed to be about me?" Tina said.
"Right," he said. He looked at some papers on his desk. "According to your school records, there's no father in the picture. Tell me, does that fact fill you with misery? How does it make you feel?"
"I don't see how that's any of your business. Counselor or no counselor, you don't have the right to pry into my personal life, so you better drop it if you don't want a fat lip."
"Anger. Such a typical response from you. Why don't you ever respond with some despair?"
"Because there's no point. Anger accomplishes things, wallowing in self-pity doesn't."
"What do you know? You're just a kid, but do you know what awaits you in the very near future?"
"No, I don't," Tina snapped. She was starting to get fed up and was wondering more than ever where they dug the people up that worked at this school.
"I should have known. You have to be the most depressed counselor in the world. I bet you've never even laughed in your entire life."
"No, no," he said with a long look on his face, "I sometimes laugh."
"That's good to know," Tina said slowly with a look on her face that showed she hadn't meant for him to take it so seriously.
"I find the only thing that can even make me crack a grin though is a pie in the face. There's a classic."
"I'd really love to be one of those people who could find humor in the least little thing. I'd love to be carefree, but it's not exactly in the job description, is it? People never have liked me very much, but I can't really help it. I am what I am. Somebody has to do it."
"Right. Is this session over?"
"Oh, go on," he said with a wave of his hand. "I never get any respect anyway. No one cares about poor Mr. Lachrymose."
Tina had no problem complying with that request. She discovered that school had already let out, and she had missed the bus. She hadn't been able to hear the bell in the counselor's room. She looked towards Mr. Lachrymose's door with a disgruntled expression. "That just figures," Tina muttered.
Aaron walked by at that moment with his leather jacket and sunglasses on. "I'll give you a ride home," he offered.
She followed him out to the parking lot. "Why did I know that you would drive a motorcycle?"
"Don't try to tell me the prospect of riding doesn't thrill you. Danger gets your blood pumping. You're only disappointed there's not more danger involved."
"I'm not opposed to the idea," she admitted.
"Surprise, surprise. Here comes the wet blanket."
Tina looked around for an explanation and saw that the P.E. teacher was on his way over.
"Should you really be giving freshman girls rides home on one of those things?" Mr. Sorbo asked with a look on his face that showed it wasn't much of a question.
"Lighten up, coach," Aaron said, getting onto the bike. "I've practically been riding these things since they were invented."
"What will your mother say if you ride home this way?" he asked, turning his attention to Tina. "Let me give you a ride home."
"She won't approve but then she never does approve of my choices," Tina said, climbing onto the back of the motorcycle and taking the helmet that Aaron offered her. "Thanks anyway."
Hercules watched them ride away. He would have socked Ares hard right then if he thought he could get away with it, but he couldn't with Tina watching. To her, Aaron was just another student. He needed an ally to help keep an eye on them. While Aphrodite had her helpful moments, she wouldn't intervene with what she considered one of the classic love stories. Xena/Tina was not Hestia's favorite person from all the cooking disaster stories he had heard her tell. Momus wasn't likely to take it seriously. No, there was only one person in the school he could think of that would help him.