Greetings, adventurers! Welcome to Chapter 2 of Dyspocalypse Now, a story involving robots, a high-tech boarding school, a mysterious loner dude (obvs!) and, well, anything else you choose! After last week’s installment, y’all decided to A. Make up an excuse to ditch Sev so you can sit at the mysterious table by the stained glass windows.
Will Sev accept your excuse? Will the insanely handsome boy talk to you? More importantly, will YOU have the guts to talk to HIM? Let’s step into this YA dystopia and find out…
Chapter 02: You Never Count Your Money When You’re Sittin’ At the Table
His eyes bore into you, and suddenly the noise of the dining room seems to subside as you find yourself wondering if it’s possible for a person to have black irises. Because even from a distance, his eyes seem inhuman, his face too perfectly chiseled to be real. You can feel Sev staring at you expectantly, but you can’t seem to break away from his gaze. That is, until he turns his head away from you and towards…
“Tiny!” you shriek, spotting your lab partner from last year, sitting right next to Mr. Mysterious. He looks up, his broad face a mask of confusion, probably due to the fact that the only words you ever exchanged were “Pass me the silicon,” and “It’s cool, I’ll handle it.” You silently curse yourself for being so antisocial, especially to one of the nicest guys in the whole school, as you turn back towards Sev.
“Listen, I’d love to sit with you, but I just remembered that I promised Tiny I’d help him with his Mining for Metals homework.” You try to screw your delicate features into an apologetic face, which probably makes you look like someone forgot to close the garbage hatch, but thankfully Sev isn’t the most perceptive of people.
“Fiiiine.” Sev rolls her eyes. “Go sit with the weirdos. But when you’re ready to quit with your loner girl act, come join us.” She raises an eyebrow and smiles, “Did I mention that Chance asked about you?”
Now it’s your turn to roll your eyes. “Chance? Really, Sev? The most popular boy in school, not to mention the son of President Allen, is interested in talking to me, the school head case? I don’t think so.”
“You’re not a head case!” Sev puts her hand on your arm, her perfect lips pursed in frown of concern. “You just had a little…freak out. That’s all.”
“Yeah, ok. Well… I’ll see you later,” you say, offering up a weak smile and turning back towards Tiny’s table. You notice with dismay that the boy with the black eyes is gone, leaving a vacant seat next to Tiny. Did you mess this up already? You sigh, wondering what to do, when you feel a tap on your shoulder. Your stomach drops as you turn, waiting to face those dark eyes, only to find… a short African American kid, pushing up his glasses and smiling.
“Hey, I’m Rolex Johnson,” he says, holding out his hand for a shake. You take it and introduce yourself, wondering if the cafeteria monitors are recording all of this unusual activity; i.e., you talking to other people. Rolex continues to smile and says, “Would you care to join our table today? We’re working on a project for extra credit, and we thought you might be interested.”
“Um…” You figure this is the invite you’ve been waiting for, but what happened to the Prince of Darkness? Is he a part of this thing, or not? And wait, what IS this thing? You notice one of the robotic cameras on the wall start to zoom in on you, so you say, “Yeah, sure, I’m interested.” Rolex grins even wider, then leads you over to the table, where you take the seat next to Tiny. It’s already grown cold, and your disappointment over that small detail surprises you.
“Hi, Tiny,” you say timidly, not sure what to expect. After all, the ice queen routine you’ve been perfecting all year doesn’t exactly endear you to people (which is kind of the point).
“OMG IT’S MY ADORABLE LAB PARTNER!!” Tiny wraps you in a bear hug, nearly crushing your entire rib cage. “How ARE you, my darling? Dissecting robots just isn’t the same without your effervescent presence.”
“Um, yeah, good to…see… you,” you whisper, attempting to extricate yourself from his massive arms.
“Tiny, dude, chill!” Rolex laughs, shaking his head. “You’re not exactly living up to your name you know.”
Tiny tries to appear insulted but only manages to look slightly less manically animated than usual. “I happen to be named after a character in one of the Great Works of Literature lost in the Reckoning.”
“Wait,” you say, “how do your parents know about one of the Great Works?”
Before Tiny can respond, Rolex laughs and says, “Well, you’re lucky your parents weren’t rich enough to name you after one of the Elite. Talk about high expectations!” Is it just your usual paranoia, or does he sound slightly nervous?
An electronic beep sounds, signaling the activation of the food compartments in the table. As the food trays rise to the surface, you ask, “So, what’s this project?”
Rolex looks at Tiny, who starts nosily clattering his silverware. “It’s on the Outside,” he whispers, then shoves some food in his mouth.
You feel the blood drain from your face. “Did you just say…”
“No need for repeatsies!” Tiny giggles, now tapping his knife and fork against the table like a drummer in one of those “hair metal” bands you learned about in Musicology. And what kind of element was hair metal, anyway?
“Just listen carefully, because Tiny can’t keep up this racket for too much longer.” Rolex’s smile has turned into a grim line. “Based on your incident last semester, we think you will be extremely interested in partnering up with us for this extra credit.” His careful annunciation causes you to shiver unexpectedly. “We’ll tell you more, but first, you have to do something for us to prove that we can trust you.”
“Why should I trust you?” you ask, noticing that Tiny has changed the rhythm of his banging to the tune of an old country song, one of your dad’s favorites. He looks straight at you as he sings, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”
Rolex eyes the roving camera lens, then looks back at you. “You should trust me, because after last semester, you have nothing to lose.”
You stare back at him, wondering how much he knows about the incident in Unit 25. “What do I have to do?”
Rolex’s smile returns. “It’s simple, really. Get Chance Allen to join our little study group.”
You open your mouth to say something involving profanity when, out of the corner of your eye, you spot Mr. Mysterious, heading towards one of the exits. You abruptly stand, unable to deal with these wannabe James Bonds and determined to face those black eyes again, when you turn straight into the chest of Chance.
“Whoh, hey, sorry about that!” He reaches out a hand to steady you, his blue eyes warm and clear.
A. Talk to Chance and try to get him to be your new study buddy?
B. Give Chance the brush off and head towards the exit in the hopes of finding Mr. Mysterious?
C. Invite Chance to sit down at the table and let Rolex and Tiny work their silverware music magic?
D. Give Chance the brush off, sit back down and tell Rolex he’s got some ‘splaining to do?