The gymnasium doors led to a well lit basketball court with polished wooden floors and four baskets. Most of Team Maroon was waiting in a corner, already changed into gym clothes. Cory led the way to the boys' locker room. A set of Team Brown gym clothes had been issued to Charles along with several sets of school uniforms. He changed into a pair of black shorts and a dark brown t-shirt. Although he was really dreading it, Charles followed Cory out of the locker room and onto the court. He was greeted by a sickening surprise that, while clearing up a lot of questions, also generated several more.
Eric was standing directly in front of the locker room door when Charles came out. Charles couldn't help but gasp in shock when he saw Eric's face. The skin around his left eye was mottled purple and yellow and he had a split lip, a cut on his cheek, and a giant bruise on his jawline. Charles was initially horrified, but he soon realized that Eric was just playing games with him. Games that only Eric appreciated. He recovered and raised his left eyebrow, making sure that Eric knew he was not at all amused by the theatrics. Eric was smiling at him viciously.
"What do you think of my face, Brooks?" he asked.
"I think it looks ridiculous and overdramatic," Charles said honestly. "Which one of your friends is the artist? I'd like to congratulate them on making you look more foolish than you did before. It's quite an accomplishment."
"It's not makeup, Brooks. This is real."
"Do you think I care how stupid you are? Total self humiliation for what? To get me thrown into a week of detention? You realize that bruise will probably still be there after a week, right? You must be pretty desperate to prove your superiority if your resorting to this."
"Look who's talking, Mr. Superiority. You think you're so much better than I am. A first generation compared to a fourth? You've got seven nights of detention and you deserve every minute. If you think you're so much better, prove it."
Ross stepped forward. "You've already done that for him, Eric. Why don't you just back off before you get too far ahead of yourself."
Eric glared at Ross and Ross glared right back. "You are all pathetic," Eric growled. "You're all standing here, worshipping some random kid who thinks he knows it all, as if he's some big hero. I'm sorry to rain on your parade, or maybe I'm not, but he's Charles Brooks, not Charles Corban. He's a nobody and a traitor just like all of the rest of you."
Eric's angry tirade was cut short by a piercing whistle. The physical training teacher, Mr. Ling was standing in the middle of the basketball court, patiently waiting for them all to gather around him. They moved in, separated by two large gaps into Team Maroon and Team Brown, with Samuel Johnson the odd man out in the middle of a brown sea. Mr. Ling, a short Japanese American man with no trace of an Asian accent, announced that they would be playing a couple games of dodgeball. After they ran a few laps and did some assorted stretches. Charles didn't know what he expected from dodgeball, but it wasn't what happened. Team Maroon won all four games and there was no incident between the teams, other than the occasional ball-to-the-face. Fearing the worst, the Team Brown boys, along with Sammy, ran to the locker room as soon as the bell rang and changed as fast as they could. They had avoided catastrophe so far, but they were all vastly aware that their luck could run out at any minute.
They managed to make it out in one piece, just after the Team Maroon boys had begun to change. Mr. Buckley opened the door for them when they made back up to the school. The girls were right behind them, apparently trying to avoid the Team Maroon girls just as hard as the boys were trying to avoid their Maroon counterparts. They decided to go to the library before returning to their respective dormitories in order to find books for Mr. Simmons' assignment. Charles decided to use The Hobbit since he had already started reading it. He sat in a chair close to the door and read while his peers commenced their search. Cory had almost finished the book he'd been reading the previous night, so he decided to just use that. He sat across from Charles and finished while everyone else looked.
They left the library an hour later, laden with books and ready to go to dinner. Parker complained about the remaining hour before dinner and Cory suggested that they all study with some flash cards he'd made until it was time for dinner. Knowing that he probably wouldn't have very much time to study otherwise, Charles promptly seconded the idea and the rest of the team reluctantly agreed. Sammy hadn't been to history yet, but he came to study with them as a means of putting off his return to his own team. They went to the Team Brown boys' dormitory and Cory began a sort of game, in which they would take turns asking and answering the questions. The flash cards were amazing. Cory had made about a hundred of them based off his notes, hoping they would be enough to cover all the information on the test.
Dinner couldn't have come soon enough. Team Brown had to wait a further fifteen minutes to get there food because some idiot from Team Maroon- Charles guessed it was Eric- had spilled spaghetti all over the floor in the middle of the line. Somehow they'd managed it without spilling or even splattering any on anyone else. It was impressive, Charles thought. About the only impressive thing Team Maroon had done, other than, maybe, beating them four times in dodgeball. Charles wasn't surprised. If he had ever wondered to what lengths Eric would go to satisfy his ego, after today he knew. Eric was prepared to go too far. Charles could only wonder where he would stop.
Waiting probably just made the food taste better when they finally got to eat it. The dinner rolls were some of the best Charles had ever tried. Ross was telling one of the second year students all about Charles's conversation with Eric. It was somehow funnier when Ross told the story than when it actually happened, probably because there were no Team Maroon kids around. The second year boy thought it was so hilarious, he started recounting it to all of his friends. By the end of dinner, Team Brown kids of all grades were patting Charles on the back on their way out of the cafeteria or trying to shake his hand. Charles wasn't used to being so popular and he didn't think he really liked it. He liked his privacy.
"Next time I say something to Eric, I'm trademarking it and no one will be allowed to repeat it without my permission," he said.
Ross rolled his eyes. "Next time no one will really care. At that point it will just be your personality. It's only this funny because it was so unexpected. Because no one knows you."
"That's a relief," Charles sighed.
Then he remembered he had detention and all of his relief disappeared. Team Brown was slowly filtering out of the cafeteria, including Ross, Parker, and Adam. He and the remainder of Team Brown F were left alone in the room.
"So," he said, "where am I supposed to report for detention. I'm assuming most of you know."
"You're already here," said Lennon. She raised her arms. "This is it."
Cory pointed to the first door to the kitchen. "You have to go sign in over there and ask the cooks what they need you to do. I'll help you."
"You don't have to," Charles said, shaking his head. "You probably have homework you need to do."
"Everyone else is going to be here tonight, except for Ross, Parker, and Adam. I think they're meeting up with Sammy and plotting something."
"Why are you guys going to be here?" he asked the others.
Lennon pursed her lips. "I have two more days of Miss Perry's sentence."
Mary smiled. "We're just here for fun."
"Oh," Charles said. "Fun."
"Actually, we're here so we can avoid getting detention and so we can get special privileges, namely equality, maybe even favoritism," Jean said shamelessly. "I'm pretty sure the cooks have been giving me extras since we started helping out."
"Right," Charles said. He looked at Lennon. "Changing things."
Lennon stood up and led the way to the sign-in sheet on the door. Charles and Cory lagged behind everyone else. They were almost inside the kitchen when the cafeteria doors burst open and the rest of Team Brown F walked in with Sammy. They signed in right behind Cory and got to work scrubbing tables with the girls while Charles and Cory took the trash out to a dumpster by the parking garage. Mr. Simmons was on door duty and he let them go out alone, threatening to give them another detention if they didn't hurry. It was already dark outside and the sun had already fallen over the horizon. They came back as quickly as they could, speculating about why Ross and the others had come to help. Cory said they'd never done anything like it before and it must have had something to do with being Noble supporters of Charles. Charles disagreed, arguing that they had probably just gotten bored and decided to come help their teammates.
They were both wrong. When they returned to the cafeteria Ross was sweeping the floor and Adam was mopping behind him. Everyone else was in the kitchen washing dishes. Charles and Cory stopped to talk to Ross before going to the kitchen. Ross waved to them as they approached and leaned on his broom.
"Did you guys just take out the trash? You missed some," he said, pointing at Adam.
"Very funny," Adam said. "You're clearly trashier than I am. Just look how much dirt you left behind."
He held up the mop to show them.
"You got me there," Ross said.
"I'm just going to be direct," Cory said. "Why are you guys here?"
Ross chuckled. "I was planning on filling you all in later, but I guess now would work, since we're alone. Except you guys don't really have time right now. You gotta be helping us."
"How long is it going to take?" Charles asked.
"I'm not sure. All I can say is that it involves Team Maroon, and before you ask, no, we didn't get detention within the 5 minutes we were outside of the cafeteria. That would be difficult, even for me."
Charles and Cory joined their friends in the kitchen where they were cleaning up from all the meals of the day. There wasn't a lot left to do with all of them working. Most of the dishes were done, the food was stored and all that remained was for the floors to be cleaned. The head cook stood in the back of the room, happily supervising her brand new cleaning crew. She handed Charles a broom and Cory a mop and sent them to work on the floors. Miss Perry poked her head in just before the floors were done and glared at all of them, apologizing to the head cook for the trouble she'd had to put up with. The cook waved her apology away, saying it was no big deal and that they were all a big help. It was the first time that she hadn't had to so much as rinse a fork in all her five years of being head cook. Miss Perry scrunched her nose and said a quick goodbye before bustling out of the cafeteria.
Cory raised his eyebrows. "Best compliment I've ever received in this place. Maybe I should become a janitor. I'm sure Eric's kids are going to need a good janitor in the world to clean up their messes. Only the best can fix the worst problems."
"Miss Perry must think she's the best, then. She thinks that she can fix us, and I know she thinks we're the worst problems."
"Not fix us," Lennon put in. "Contain us."
Cory smiled. "She should be proud of herself. She succeeded. We're all contained in this cafeteria!"
Charles smiled and continued sweeping the floor. He thought back on his whole day, especially what had happened with Eric. He wasn't sure what to do about Eric. The snide comments and insults hadn't driven him off and he really didn't want to fight him. He'd never been faced by a problem such as this and he wished that Veronica was there to help him. He was also confused about what Eric had said to the team, that they worshipped him. It was ridiculous of him to think that. Did Eric also think his own friends worshipped him? But something else bothered him about what Eric had said. He'd only ever heard of a Phillip Corban, but Eric had said something about a Charles Corban.
Charles turned to Cory. "Hey, Cory," he said. "Eric said something about a Charles Corban. Who is he? Is he going to be on the test?"
Cory looked up at him and briefly stopped mopping. "Kind of. Not the one Eric was talking about. Phillip Corban's son is Charles Corban. He went missing about 80 years ago and has been presumed dead for most of that time. He might be on the test. But Eric was talking about the other Charles Corban, the first Charles Corban's great-great-grandson. Actually, he went missing ten years ago and no one really knows whether or not he's alive. I'll tell you the story when we get back to the dorm."
Charles nodded and dumped the pile of accumulated dirt and things he'd swept up into the trash. The kitchen was soon finished and Team Brown made their way back to the boys' dormitory. Everyone was curious about Ross's plan and just exactly how it involved Team Maroon. After ushering all eleven students into the room, Ross locked the door 'just in case' and began what looked like a presentation.
Ross paced back and forth in front of them. "I'm sure you're all wondering why we joined you in detention tonight. The answer is simple and old: revenge. Eric framed our best man, got him into detention, and worst of all, got away with all of it. How many times have we all had detention in our one month at this school? How many of those times can we blame on Team Maroon? I'd wager at least half. And how many times have they cleaned the kitchen? I could count to that number with no fingers. I say it's about time they got what they deserved. Except for Sammy, of course; we'll have mercy on him."
"That's impossible," Amanda scoffed. "Like you just said, Team Maroon has never been to detention. Why do you think that is? They've certainly done enough to qualify."
"Amanda, I'm very aware that we've always thought it impossible, but there's just something inspiring about having Charles Brooks on your team. It encourages you to do the impossible. I know I've told a few of you about the old Halloween spirit that dwelt in this place for decades. This year I want to bring it back, including the bonfire. There will be pranks, s'mores, a very angry Miss Perry, and a furious Eric Hunter. Ladies and gentlemen, this plan is foolproof. Even I can't mess it up."
"So, what is the plan?" Cory asked.
Ross paused and tapped his chin. "I still have to sand it down and polish it up, but the basics are privilege and educated argumentation. We're going to go to detention for the next two weeks to build up our privilege. Then we will beg the headmaster to let us make a bonfire, just like the old days. Then we'll booby trap the entire school and when Maroon goes whining to the headmaster, we'll pin it on them and debate our way out of the consequences. Since we've been such good children lately, Headmaster Perkins will believe us and we'll get the bonfire at the very least and revenge on Eric at the best."
"Foolproof?" Amanda said. "There are so many things that could go wrong!"
"Yes," Ross said, nodding and smiling. "It is foolproof. It'll keep fools like Eric away from us. At least for that night."
"We'll need help making the traps, though," Sammy said. "And all of us will have to be in detention until Halloween. If we want this to work, we all have to make it happen."
"So, who's in?" Ross asked.
Everyone raised their hands except for Lennon. She stared at Ross blankly, like she hadn't been paying attention to a word he said.
"Lennon," Parker said. "We're going to need you too."
Lennon shook her head. "No, you don't need me. But I guess I'll help."
"Alright," Ross said, briefly glancing at Lennon. "We will start production of booby traps next week and I will see you all tomorrow."
He unlocked the door and the girls filled out of the room. Sammy shook hands with Ross, said goodbye to everyone, and headed back to his own dormitory. Ross locked the door again behind him and they all began to get ready for bed. It was eight thirty by the time Charles finally sank into his mattress to sleep and he was tired enough to drop off immediately, but he was interrupted right as he was closing his eyes. Cory called his name and waited for a response. Charles sat up and looked across the floor at Cory's bed.
"Yeah?" he said.
"Your question about Charles Corban? Do you still want the answer?"
"Oh. Yeah," he said again.
"It's kind of a long story, but the short version is that Rebecca Corban, Charles's sister, was found dead just outside the grounds during her first year at Glowpeak. The zombies got her. They do lurk around the school from time to time. No one really knew how she got out of the fence, but a teacher was suspected of either helping her get out or forcing her out. Their parents, David and Amy Corban demanded for the matter to be investigated and Headmaster Perkins promised that the school would fully cooperate and that they would resolve it. It was investigated and a teacher was found guilty and arrested, but before they could see justice served, the rest of the family, including Charles, went missing.
"That part is still a mystery, but there are several existing theories as to why they went missing. One of the most prominent theories is that David Corban didn't think the police could get to the bottom of it and that they really didn't get to the bottom of it. People believe that the traitor is still at large and that when the Corbans come back, everything is going to come out. Basically, people think that the Corbans suspected that the traitor was guilty of more than just the death of their daughter. They think the Corbans were aware of some big conspiracy and that someday, when Charles is old enough and when he's ready, he's going to come back, set things right, and virtually save the world from an impending apocalypse. None of the theories suggests what that apocalypse entails, but there are some people who treat those theories like a religion. There are even some who literally worship Charles Corban. That's what Eric was referring to."
Charles was rendered temporarily speechless by the story. "That was really the short version?"
"Cory," Adam called from the bed above Charles's. "Do you believe it? About Charles Corban?"
Cory didn't answer right away. He seemed to be thinking really hard. "I don't know. I'd like to keep an open mind."
Charles laid back down and imagined what it would be like if an apocalypse really happened. Would Charles Corban appear to save the day? Or had he been killed already by zombies. To him, the real question was whether or not an apocalypse would occur. Glowpeak Academy had been around for a century and a half, training soldiers to prevent such a thing and to stop it if it did happen. Surely that would be enough to keep the flesheaters at bay. With these thoughts drifting back and forth in his brain, Charles fell into a deep sleep.