There was homework to be done; there were books to be borrowed; there were papers to be researched. There were CRAP members lounging in the Common Room very deliberately doing none of these.
Conversation had long since ground to a halt. The sign forbidding card playing was firmly up on the wall. The Tedminal stood unused; everybody had checked their email at least three times in as many hours.
The long dark tea-time of the soul.
Boredom. Ennui. Angst. Sit and slouch and sprawl. Think desperately of something to do.
On the screen of the Tedminal, the blinking of the cursor was the only movement in the room. Even the photocopier was--amazingly--not being used. The pop machine made not a sound. (From the back of the audience, someone coughed.)
Then something exciting happened. Kaye and Cher entered the Common Room. This was not exciting per se, but only in comparison to the level of activity in the room up till then. The former was in the middle of telling the latter about the most recent CRAPcapade, most of which she had missed. "...So when Ryan and I got back to Peter's office with Erick, and found no one there, we couldn't imagine what had happened. It wasn't until Erick looked at the computer screen that we figured out where they had gone."
"Hey, you talking about when we got sucked into Darth?" asked Pat. "Oh man, I don't wanna remember that, if you don't mind."
"Well, it wasn't all bad," said Susan. "Remember, if we hadn't been inside the computer system, Terrance wouldn't have been able to convocate."
"Ok, so something good came out of it," conceded Pat. "But remember that accident with the altered photocopier that cloned Ken--"
"Twice!" piped up Erick.
"--twice," agreed Pat. "Now we have Len the Good Triplet and Ben the Evil Triplet to deal with. And you remember how much trouble we had with them the last time."
There were murmers of agreement all around. In fact, everyone was looking more alive and bright-eyed than they had been all day. A procrastinator's life is made up of long, often guilt-racked stretches of boredom and unnecessary, meaningless tasks, followed by short bursts of stress, sleeplessness, and guilt-racked, self-reproaching, frantic work on necessary and important tasks. To be a superhero procrastinator is exactly the same, except that one can put 'but not entirely' into the description before 'meaningless'. It was no wonder that the memories of the last CRAP hijinks had made them perk up.
"It all sounds so rad," said Cher, sounding upset that she had missed it. "Why didn't you all call me? I was only painting my room. I would have come."
"It all sort of happened kind of suddenly, you know," said Hector. "The computers started crashing; I was picking up this weird message, and then everyone just rushed off after Erick, and then it got really weird. I guess that's how it is; adventures aren't the sort of thing you plan."
The room grew silent and dim as everyone reflected on this profound truth. That former effect was attributable to causality; the latter, however, was coincidence. Travers had arrived at the Common Room, had not entered, was standing in the doorway, filling most of it.
Heads turned. Having gotten the attention of all, Travers spoke.
"Does anyone know why"--beat--"the hunk of jade in the pond" --beat--"is levitating a metre above the surface of the water?"
Everybody stared and him, then turned and looked at each other, then turned back to gape at him. Travers continued to stand in the doorway, still not moving, and gazed back calmly at them. Behind him, Ben, carrying a thick pad of black construction paper, appeared, looked confused, and tried to peer around him, like a cat checking out an unfamiliar room.
Then, in rapid succession, almost all at once: "Levitating!?" exclaimed Cher. "Yes," answered Travers. "No," zinged Erick. "Maybe!" yelled Ryan, breaking a silence of almost fifteen minutes; a personal record. "Like this?" asked Kara, holding her hand horizontally at chest level, palm down, and waggling it slightly. "Like that," agreed Travers, repeating the action. "Ooof!" puffed Ben, trying to squeeze past the blockage preventing entrance to the Copy Centre...oops, sorry,... the Common Room.
After that flurry of activity and sound, for one second, there was complete silence and no motion anywhere. Then Julia stood up and Ben dropped his papers in confusion. They scattered all over the ground, where passing Engineering feet trod all over them. Ben did not notice; he was entranced by the sight before him; for in mid-rise, Julia had become Julia, her hair in full, glorious plumage.
"This could be the start of another CRAP adventure," she announced.
"Yes!" cried out the rest of the Common Room people in delight, immediately assuming their CRAP secret identities and rushing out the door. At least, they tried to, but they ran into Travers, and their combined mass didknock him over. Fortunately, he landed on Ben, and so wasn't hurt. Of the other CRAP members, only Metallica Maiden, Dr. Science, Speaker of Powerwords, Friendly Hulk and Julia remained on their feet; the rest fell backwards onto the ground.
"Ladies first," laughed Dr. Science. The five of them sauntered off ahead, with Metallica Maiden calling "Sorry!" back over her shoulder as an afterthought.
"This is not the way to start an adventure," grumbled Sonic Blaster. "Bad to split up the group." He handed his Helm of Projection to Travers. "Here, slow them down or something, so we can catch up with them and arrive at the pond together."
Travers took the Helm and put it on. Activating his focused depression field, Naranman channelled it through the helmet and zapped a large group of students walking out of the CLAW, just in front of the fivesome. Instantly, the students slowed down, milling about aimlessly, walking with sad shuffles. The CRAP unofficial advance party had to stop, unable to get through the moving wall of depressed people.
"Ken, what's going on here?" Friendly Hulk could be heard demanding an explanation from the one person she recognized in the crowd. "Excuse us; we're in a hurry! Make way, please! I said PLEASE!"
"Don't get angry," soothed Speaker. "Here, let me clear a path." She took a deep breath. "THROW WATER ON EACH OTHER!" she ordered. Immediately, the students began meandering away, most going towards washrooms and cafeterias, opening an empty stretch down the middle of the hallway, with the exception of one young woman dressed all in black who remained standing in the middle of the passageway, looking at the unfolding events in a detached, amused manner.
Meanwhile, the male members of CRAP had by this time picked themselves up and had run up to their female counterparts. "Thanks, Kara," Friendly said to Speaker as they arrived, then turned to them. "Now what took you guys so long?"
"We were--er--um--going to call the others. Yes, that's right, going to call the others," replied Noggin.
"I thought it was because you guys fell down and had to get up?" said Julia.
"Yes, that's right too," agreed Noggin.
"We should contact the others," Patman spoke up. "Who knows what's going on out there. Pagemaster! Summon the remaining members."
"No problem," responded CRAP's communications guru, "I'll just--AAAHHHHHHHHHH! Where's my Pager!? It must have fallen out of my pocket back in the Patcave just now. I'll go back and get it."
Pagemaster trotted back down the hall, and the rest followed him. If they had gone on ahead, the whole thing might finish sooner; by trailing along, they would be putting off investigating the mystery of the floating mineral in the middle of the AQ and instead just getting in the way. As timewasters and procrastinators, the choice was an easy one.
Struck by a sudden thought, Speaker turned back to look for the mysterious young woman who seemed to have been immune to her CRAPpower, but she was now nowhere to be seen. The salad-price expert shrugged and turned back to catch up with the others now almost back to the Patcave.
"Oh look, we've found Pancake Man already," said Noggin as they rounded the corner, but he mumbled it mostly to himself, and no one else heard him. They crowded into the 'cave, ignoring the flat-looking figure crawling away in the distance, leaving, like a slug trail, a wake of torn and footprinted sheets of black construction paper.
The Pager was nowhere to be found. Pagemaster poked around the room in a desultory fashion, but in vain. "Where's my Pager?" he wailed unhappily.
Dr. Science sat herself down and flicked up the switch on the Gandalf box, "We can use the Tedminal. Who else do we have to call?" She looked up at the Notice Board. The master list was missing from it. "Someone's taken the list!"
"We can still check," said Patman. "Does anyone remember the URL for Keith's homepage?"
"Why not just send it to the mailing list?" suggested Friendly Hulk.
"Well, ok," said Dr. Science. "I was going to send individual messages because half of us are already here, but I'll just send it to everyone, and we can just ignore them because we already know." Quickly, she called up the elm builtin editor, composed a short summons, and sent it to 143-c-team. "There, done! Ok, are we all ready to go? I told them to meet us at the pond."
"Don't worry about your Pager, Pagemaster," said Patman. "I'm sure it'll turn up somewhere. Let's go now. We can come back and search for it once we've completed our mission."
They left the Patcave, and began making their way to the pond by exiting through the doors under Boris leading to the outside. Unknown to them, Pagemaster's Pager was in fact nowhere in the Patcave, the mailing list had been deactivated just a few hours earlier for being unscholarly and the message had bounced, and behind them, unnoticed, the flat figure reached the end of the hall and tried to get to its feet, but stumbled sideways, slipped between the railings, and crashed into the Pit.
* * *"Three halfscore years hence, the green gem shall rise"
The levitating jade boulder, floating serenely above the pond was not by any stretch of the imagination the strangest thing in the mysterious centre of the AQ. Few, however, knew of the secrets buried, literally, within the square. Housed in level 0 of the AQ, and controlled by switches in rooms (all over the campus) behind doors marked '101', huge engines chugged and hummed and roared and wheezed. They processed the energy collected by the blue pyramid, which was a cosmic conductor. Its four base corners drew in energy travelling along ley-lines from the four corners of the earth, and its apex sucked in energy from the heavens.
"Minds shall bloom open, and scales fall from eyes"
To the north of the AQ were the buildings of the Classroom Complex and the Multi-Purpose Complex; to the south, the Chemistry, Biology, and Physics Buildings. Complicated, twisty corridors; hiding in their mazelike structure, ancient and powerful Runes of Locking. If traversed correctly, paths could trace out the lines and curves of Runes of Unlocking as well. Fortunately, the chances of this happening by chance were miniscule. But the consequences were too serious for this to be left to good luck, and so, key points in the paths were blocked with permanently locked doors. Other doors were hidden and looked like normal concrete walls; they would only open at the utterance of special words or the making of certain gestures.
"Seal'd portals unlock, and twin worlds converge"
On the benches atop the triply-plateaued grassy knoll, a smoke-in was being held. Tobacco-heads were protesting the eviction of two cigarette smokers in residence who were evicted for smoking in the corridors a few weeks earlier, setting off the smoke detectors, the fire alarms, and the sprinkler system, as well as causing the fire department to rush up the hill for no good reason while a kitten had to wait stuck up a tree in the front yard of a house behind the Dolphin Cinema. The billowing clouds of grey made the hillock look like an about-to-erupt volcano. But what was imprisoned under the green mound was not magma under pressure but...something else.
"Long-buried darkness shall finally emerge"
* * *The CRAP members arrived and stopped under the pyramid, opposite the counterculture types defying the conventions of society.
"Why did we stop here?" asked Julia. "There's bushes in the way. We can't see what's happening at the pond at all."
The Coiffeur Ranger was right, so the CRAP group left the pyramid and walked along the gently curving path till they had crossed the pond, stopping just before they reached the swirling hues of the mosaic-murals on the pillars on the other side. Then they finally stopped to stare at the unexplained event.
"Like I said...." murmered Naranman.
The jade boulder was, just as Travers had said earlier, floating in the air about a metre above the surface of the pond. The water jets that normally sprayed tiny droplets over its surface to make it shiny now only misted its bottom surface, normally underwater and never seen. The top half of the rock had dried to a smooth matte finish in the warm afternoon sun. Once you had gotten over the fact that the mineral piece was more altitudinally-enhanced than usual, the entire scene looked strangely natural.
"Well," Noggin finally broke the silence. "Now what?"
TO BE CONTINUED
Episode 4: Green Gem
© Copyright 1995 Genuine CRAP productions. All rights reversed.