By David Brashear
Connor Ellis yawned and stretched as his alarm clock sounded. He ran his hand through his short black hair and reached for the alarm only to have it cut off right before he could hit the button.
“You’d better get up,” his roommate, Bart Allen said as he smiled. His long brown hair was already combed and he was even in his school uniform. “You know you’re in for trouble if you’re late for class again.”
“I know,” Connor griped as he swung his legs off his bed and sat there a moment. “Why does everything have to start so early? And how are you always up so early?”
Bart’s smile grew wider. “I like to make sure they’re not out of hot water in the showers when I’m getting ready.”
“Wonderful,” Connor said as he stood. “So I can’t even get a shower.” He looked at himself in the mirror above his dresser and smoothed his hair with a hand. “Not bad. Guess I’ll just brush my teeth and be ready to go.”
“Don’t forget your tie,” Bart said. He crossed the room, picked up a book, flipped through it, and put it under his arm. “They’re cracking down on dress code again.”
“Got it,” Connor said from inside the closet. His gray T-shirt went flying out into the room, followed by his pajama pants. A few moments later he emerged in uniform while tying the necktie around his neck. “Back in a sec,” he said as he hurried down the hall with toothbrush and toothpaste in hand. Bart smiled, shook his head, and picked up Connor’s calculus book and notebook.
It was only a couple of minutes before Connor returned to the room. He threw the toothbrush and toothpaste onto his dresser and turned around. “Now where’s my cal-“ he started to ask only for Bart to hand him the books. Connor smiled. “Thanks. I would have flunked out of here years ago if not for you. Let’s go.” The two headed out toward class after Bart made sure to turn off the lights.
They were walking out of the boys’ dorm and saw a friend standing there. Donna Troy had long black hair and was clutching her books to her. They walked over to her.
“What’s up, Donna?” Connor asked.
“I was waiting for Roy,” she said as she joined them on their way to class. “He got sent to the headmaster’s office again.”
“What’d he do this time?” Bart asked.
“What else?” Donna asked with a shrug. “Fighting.”
Roy Harper smirked as he sat in the uncomfortable wooden chair in the headmaster’s office. Despite being in trouble, he was leaning back and had allowed his long red hair to fall down over his eyes. The scrapes on his knuckles contrasted with his easygoing demeanor.
“Sit down, Mr. Harper.” Headmaster Rick Flag’s voice brooked no argument. He waited for Roy to comply before he picked up an incident report from his desk and read from it. “So I am to understand that Mr. Johnson here deserved this for attempting to touch your girlfriend.”
Johnson, also seated in front of the desk, tried to glare at Roy, but that’s extremely difficult to do with a black eye. He sniffed as blood trickled from his nose.
“That’s right, Ricky-boy,” Roy said. “Nobody messes with Donna.” He leaned forward. “And it wasn’t just touching her. He was trying to touch her boob. I just decided to give him a little lesson in respect.”
Flag frowned. “An interesting turn of phrase there, Mr. Harper.” He turned. “You are dismissed, Mr. Johnson. Report to the infirmary and have yourself seen to. After that you are on kitchen duty for one month. Perhaps that will teach you a lesson about acceptable behavior to women.”
Johnson stood, tried to glare at Roy again, and shuffled out of the office.
When the door had closed, Flag returned his attention to Roy. “While I admire your spirit of chivalry, you’re not getting out of this. You should have reported this to a member of the faculty rather than taking matters into your own hands. You will be on bathroom duty for the next month. Dismissed.” Flag lowered his head and began studying other paperwork on his desk as Roy left.
Flag looked up as the facility’s chief of security came in. “Problems with Harper again?” Merlyn asked with a smirk. As always, he was dressed all in black. He sauntered in and sat down in the chair that Roy had just vacated.
“Fighting,” Flag said as he dropped the papers he’d been reading onto his desk. He leaned back in his chair.
Merlyn smirked another moment. “You know that I can take care of that little problem.”
“I know,” Flag said. “And you know that my orders are that none of these children are to be terminated unless due to extreme circumstances.”
“And we differ as to what extreme circumstances are,” Merlyn finished. “So why did you call me here?”
“I want you to meet our new staff psychiatrist.” Flag stood and walked to the door. When he opened it a woman with short blond hair walked in. “This is Dr. Karin Grace. Doctor, this is Merlyn, our head of security.”
“Charmed,” Merlyn said as he kissed her hand.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Flag said as he motioned Grace and Merlyn to seats before his desk. He sat down behind it again and slid file folders across to each of them. “Let’s go ahead and get this briefing started.” As he spoke, he fought to keep the memories of his last encounter with Karin out of his mind.
“Over here!” Connor, Bart, and Donna turned as they exited the building where their classes had been held that morning. A smiling girl with red hair dragged her boyfriend toward them. Another girl with blond hair smiled shyly and followed.
“We’d been wondering where you guys were,” Duela Dent said. Her boyfriend, Charlie Parker, brushed his long blond hair back out of his face.
“We heard about Roy,” Charlie said. “Looks like he’s cleaning toilets for the next month.”
“Yeah,” Donna said. “That’s actually why he’s not going to be eating lunch with us today.”
“How are you doing, Cissie?” Connor asked as the others talked about Roy’s fight and punishment.
Cissie’s smile widened a bit. “Fine,” she said. “Just worried about this chem exam I’ve got coming up.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Connor said as he patted her on the back. “You’ll do great. You’ve helped me pull my grade up more than once.”
Cissie’s cheeks flushed red as Connor led her back over to the group. She couldn’t believe he was taking an interest in her! She couldn’t wait to write this down in her diary tonight.
Karin Grace sat back in her chair with a stunned look on her face. “What?” she finally got out.
“You sound surprised,” Merlyn said. “Surely you received at least a few details before you were assigned here.”
She stood and walked to one of the floor-length windows. She looked out at the campus below. “All of them?” she asked.
“Not all,” Flag said. “But enough.”
“I need a drink,” Grace said.
“All right,” Flag said. “Go settle in your office. You’ll have your first counseling sessions in the morning. Be careful.”
Grace left the office and headed straight for hers. She turned the light on and locked the door behind her. She grabbed a bottle of gin she’d hidden in her files and took a pull from it as she looked out the window. “How many of you are there?” she murmured.
Connor looked across the campus. The entire central quad was deserted. The grass was cool under his bare feet. He wore his pajama pants and a gray T-shirt. “Hello?” he called.
“Hello,” a reply came, although so softly that Connor couldn’t tell if it was even male or female. “Is that you, Connor?”
“Yeah,” Connor said. He studied the quad as he tried to determine where the voice was coming from. “Who’s this?”
“My name’s Danny,” was the reply.
“I don’t know any Dannys,” Connor said. He took a step forward. “And I’m not much in the mood for hide and seek. Where are you?”
Laughter from nowhere echoed in his ears. “Everywhere and nowhere,” Danny replied. “Don’t worry. I’m a friend.”
“You’ll excuse me if I need a little more proof than your word,” Connor said.
“You’ll see,” Danny said. “You and your friends are in danger and you don’t even know it.”
“What are you talking about?” Connor asked. “Show yourself!”
“You’ll see soon,” Danny repeated. “But for now I think you should just wake up.”
“What?” Connor asked. He let out a cry as the quad started shaking. He fought to keep his balance as the ground split beneath his feet, revealing a black crevasse.
Connor dropped to his knees and started to slide into the dark opening. His hands tore at the manicured grass as he slid. Finally there was nothing else to do but scream as he plummeted into the inky darkness…
Connor was still shouting as his eyes shot open and he sat up. He took a deep breath and saw that he was in his room. He wiped the sweat from his face and turned to apologize to Bart. He saw his roommate sitting up in his bed with his mouth hanging wide open.
“What’s wrong?” Connor asked. Then he realized that he couldn’t feel his pillow or his mattress. He turned to look and discovered he was flying three feet above the bed.
“What’s going on?” Connor asked. But Bart didn’t have any answers for him.
NEXT ISSUE: When Connor starts talking to his friends, he discovers that they’re all dreaming about this mysterious Danny. There’s only one solution – find Danny. But Merlyn is determined that they won’t make it to him…