Silence reigned the hallways as I strode down the empty hallway of my school, my black Converses barely making a whisper on the patterned-tile floor. I stretched my arms up over my head and yawned, my loose black T-shirt lifting up slightly, my baggy jeans trailing just a little on the floor. It was summer, and no one was here at Romero High School...

"Um...what are you doing, Abel?" Crap. Caught. I froze and slowly turned around to see who it was. If it was a student, maybe I could bribe them. If it was a teacher, I would have to run really really fast. I turned and smiled, using it as my cover.

"Oh...it's you." I dropped the smile when I saw who it was. The black-haired girl behind me was my age but stood taller than me by about six inches, wearing a white sleeveless button-up shirt with a dark gray pleated skirt with black trim and light gray arm warmers with dark gray sneakers and knee-high white socks. "It's just you, Noelle." I sighed. "Way to scare the crap out of me."

Noelle shrugged and flipped her waist-length hair over her shoulder. "It's not my fault you weren't stealthy enough. In fact, I could have probably knifed you a few times now, and the sound of you walking would have muffled all of it." I sighed. Noelle was famous for playing her first-person shooters, and referring to everything in sight with FPS terms. It was bearable, but when used in everyday speech, it got annoying. "Besides, what are you doing right now? Classes don't let out for another few minutes."

I shrugged. "My teacher let me out early." She gave me a suspicious look.

"Oh, really? Who?" she asked, dark brown eyes narrowing.

"Uh...um...you know...the gym...teacher?" I stuttered, suddenly forgetting the name of the teacher who was supposed to be teaching me. Darn it. Who was it...? Fisher...? Bourbon...? Stone...? Bag...? Pencil...? What was with all those nouns coming into my head all of a sudden?!

"...right. You're cutting again." Noelle rolled her eyes. "Whatever. You're the one who signed up for the science programs during the summer. If you want to cut them, go ahead!" I felt a little bad at the tone of her voice; she was one of those science-loving people. Cutting science class was like kicking her in the metaphorical nuts. But I didn't really feel that bad. Just a little.

"But I'm not even a science person! I barely passed Biology, somewhat passed Chemistry and practically failed Physics!" I protested weakly.

"Then why'd you sign up for the programs?!" she asked, demanding a good answer. Or else...

"Well...I...thought...they would help me...but they...just...ended up really...boring," I replied, trailing off weakly. Apparently, it was the wrong answer, since her eyebrows crunched downwards, a sure sign that she was about to aim an armor-piercing kick somewhere where it really hurt. I stumbled back a little, starting to run a little, knowing she was way faster and more athletic than me.

Suddenly, and luckily for me, the bell rang and all the classes were let out. I breathed a sigh of relief as she caught a bunch of friends coming out of the classroom and started talking to them. Thank god for chatty girls... She suddenly turned towards me and shot me a deadly glare. I stiffened and slowly started backing away, melting into the crowd. Girls are scary... I shook my head and slipped through the crowd, looking for people I knew, knowing that I could use them for protection-- I mean, knowing that I could always count on them for good conversation...

"Hey, Jack," I greeted weakly. The lanky guy, a good eight inches taller than me, turned around mid-stride. He was wearing a forest green button-up shirt, unbuttoned, over a black T-shirt that proclaimed that 'Schrodinger's cat is dead.', which was untucked over his dark blue jeans. He gave a little grin beneath his longish dirty blonde hair, light blue eyes twitching mischievously. "How was your Chemistry class?"

Jack shrugged. "It was okay. We didn't get to blowing things up yet," he replied. He glanced down the hallway and then back at my guilty/terrified face. "Running from Noelle again, aren't you?" he asked with a smirk. "What'd you do to piss her off this time?"

"I didn't do anything!" I protested. He gave me a knowing look. "Shut up! What do you know?!" I asked with a frown.

"Hey guys," another voice greeted, popping into the conversation. "What are you blocking up the hallway to discuss?" he asked cheerily.

"Mocha, Abel did something wrong and is going to be killed by Noelle, and he won't even tell me what he did," Jack replied casually. "Do you think we should kill him first? Do you think that would solve all of ours and his problems?" His hand tightened on my shoulder. I frowned at the two of them as they grinned at me.

"If you're going to plan my death, you guys should really really get together when I'm not standing less than six inches from either of your faces, you know," I replied with a grin. "I could just suddenly decide to skin your bags when you're not looking!" Mocha, Jack and I all burst out laughing. It was a largely known sport in Romero High School, shortened to Romero, in which people competed to see how fast they could skin a person's bag with the least amount of notice possible. The current record was for two seconds, in which an entire bag was skinned and thrown back into the student's seat in the time it took for him to lean forward to raise his hand and lean back. There was no way we could manage that, and no way we would try, so it was just a joke threat.

"Well, Jack, if Abel doesn't want to talk, we should just kill him later at our meeting," Mocha replied with a grin. Of course, Mocha wasn't his real name, but nobody bothered remembering his real name. We called him that because he could be bitter sometimes, but he was always really, really mellow otherwise, almost to the point of breezy. None of us really had classes with him, so we had never heard his real name ever before. It didn't matter; Mocha was probably way cooler anyways.

I frowned. "Meeting? No one told me about that." I glared at the two of them. "Is it another meeting you decided on having today?" I asked suspiciously. They both smiled at me before they nodded. I frowned. "No. No. NO. I AM NOT RUNNING THROUGH THE HALLWAYS TO RECRUIT PEOPLE WE KNOW FOR THE MEETING."

"Why not?" I gave a sigh as my shoulders sagged when a hand patted my head threateningly. Noelle frowned slightly. "I like our meetings. We get to steal a classroom and everything."

"...I'll go get people," I replied, giving up.


"Okay, everyone here?" Noelle asked with a smile as she glanced around at the people gathered in the classroom. "We're not supposed to be here, so we have to be quiet, okay?" she said cheerily, a hint of a threat hidden underneath. She had a piece of chalk in her hand, about to write on the chalkboard. "Now...this is another meeting for us to steal a classroom, hijack the television and play video games in which we beat the crap out of each other like there's no tomorrow. Any questions?"

"--and then I punched him and he grabbed me and tossed me over the fence!" a voice practically shouted from the back, in the middle of a conversation. We all turned slightly, checking who the guilty party was. I gave a sigh. It was Wes again, relating his latest video game exploit, no doubt. He always talked like there was no tomorrow. Noelle's fingers, holding the chalk, twitched slightly before, without warning, they launched the chalk at Wes. "Ow!" Wes turned when it bashed his head and shattered into several pieces before landing on the floor. "What was that for?!"

Noelle glared. "Not shutting up." Wes took the hint and sat quietly, although with a frown, next to Richard, his partner in crime. He didn't want to risk death at the hands of Noelle. No one knew what she was really capable of. Suddenly, a blur tackled Noelle.

"Noelle!!!" Instead of being shocked or stunned or even screaming like a girl, Noelle punched whoever tackle-hugged her without even pausing to wonder who it was. "Owww!" Noelle watched calmly as the person who she had punched backed up a few steps. "That huuuuurt!"

I sighed again. Noelle was a very...aggressive...kind of person. "Are you okay, Tina?" I asked from my perch on top of a teacher's desk in the room. Tina shrugged. "...okay." I shifted slightly, hoping I wouldn't be her next target. Tina tackle-hugged everyone, and I mean everyone, except for Wes and Richard. But they were really the lucky ones; Tina was like a silent assassin with the speed of a cheetah. She could probably tackle-hug you before you even knew you were being tackle-hugged. She was a dangerous girl, around the same size as me, but much more athletic. But what can I say? I was just a normal guy and she was an athletic girl who took Tae Kwon Do classes with Noelle.

"...Let's just start the gaming, okay?" Darren asked. He was always pretty much the voice of reason. Well, as much reason as we could get from a bunch of video game obsessed teens. He set everything up, always very technical and efficient. He was on the robotics team with Mocha.

"...I'm bored," Melissa chimed in. "Can we really just get things started?" Melissa was easily bored since her over-active imagination was running at four times the normal speed that things happened at.

"...I'm going to leave if there's nothing to do..." Lili sighed. Lili was also easily bored, but she was more of a single-player gamer, so it was in her nature to get easily bored with other people. Our group was usually full of dissenting voices, and today was no different. An argument arose as to who went first, and then over how it would be decided.

I sighed again. "Well...this is going to be just a fun meeting now, isn't it?"


"Finally, the meeting's over," I sighed. It had been fun while it lasted, but all the arguments... It made my head hurt, really. "Summer's going to suck without you guys..." For a group of people who had so many arguments, we were all pretty close. "...it's going to be a boring rest of the summer, isn't it..." Of course, had I known what was about to happen, I would never have said it.

"Don't be so down about it; we'll have plenty of time to beat you up over the internet or something," Noelle replied coolly, her pleated skirt ruffling slightly. I frowned. Again with that...

"I only lost once..." I muttered.

"Once multiplied by twenty-five times!" Xia Fei chimed in with a grin. He was a kind of chubby guy who liked to say one too many things and get beat up. Well...he didn't like to get beat up, but you know what I mean.

"...where's everyone going after this?" Raph asked curiously. In case you're wondering what his real name was, it was Raph. We wondered too, but there's nothing after the Raph in Raph's name. It's just Raph. If it really bothers you like it did us, you can add a bunch of random letters until it makes you feel better. Our best one so far was 'Raphiloccocus', which sounds like 'raccoon' if you look at it sideways. As everyone answered, I did my best to try to look like I was paying attention, which made me stumble over someone in the hallway, near the exits to the bridge from the second floor.

I tripped and fell heavily to the ground face-first. "Oww..." I sat up and glared at whatever dared trip me. My eyes fell on a guy curled up with his knees to his chest, his back against the security guard desk. "What the hell, Ray?!" I asked, annoyed that I had tripped over him. He glanced up at me through a curtain of black hair shot through with multitudes of white.

"...they're all gone, you know..." he said in a quiet voice.

"What? Of course they're gone. It's the last day of summer programs. We don't have to come back until September!" Jack replied, heading for the doors. "We should leave before they lock the doors or something."

"...I wouldn't go out there if I were you..." Ray warned softly. "Everyone else did..."

"What? What are you talking about? What, is it super humid outside or something?" Melissa asked with an incredulous laugh. "A little heat wouldn't kill you, you know." She glanced at Ray, who was wearing all black. "But...it might really really burn you or something."

"Let's just get out of here," Mocha suggested. "I have to go home and play my new games and study and stuff." Everyone headed for the door again. I stood up where I was, suddenly getting a chill down my back.

"Guys...I...I have a bad feeling about this..." I heard myself saying in a shaky voice. Before anyone else could reply, a black shadow suddenly zoomed up to the glass doors and slammed into them, cracking them, then disappearing as suddenly as it had come. We all screamed and backed away several feet from the doors. "What the hell was that?!" I asked, not the only one terrified.