A tour bus pulls to a stop in front of the main building at the SyndAcad campus, where its doors slide open and a line of students soon file out and back onto the school grounds and wait, including Chad Blackman and Ray Torres. They gather into a small group as the Bio teacher, Mr. Bailey, disembarks and the bus drives away. He turns to the students and informs them that based on what they learned at the museum today, he wants to see their essays on the Endosymbiont Theory by the end of the week. After he leaves, the students disperse and go their separate ways.
"So Ray," Chad asks, as they head inside the main building, "After what we learned today at the tour to the museum, do you really believe that one could evolve into something so big from such a small place?"
Ray shrugs, "Well, I went from being the boy who was strung half naked to a cross by the football team to being the best new player on the same football team. So if I could do something that awesome, why not give the little bacteria some credit?"
As they move through, passing students in the hallways, Chad chuckles and says, "Your study habits are looking pretty awesome too, so I don't think you should really have a problem staying the best player on the team either."
Ray nods. "Yeah? Thanks. You know, for sticking by me with this and all. Especially since I realized that my football captain Cameron Levine had just used those girls to invite me to those parties as a distraction. I think he was actually hoping to get me kicked off the team."
Chad frowns and says, "Then as long as you stay focused, I think everything should be fine."
"Hey now," Ray stops and smiles, "Even if I do fall along the way or whatever, I know that my hero is gonna be here for me, isn't that right, C.K.?"
Chad giggles to himself and nods with a smile, "I'll always be here."
"Good," Ray replies, giving Chad a warm smile and a knowing look.
He then pats Chad on the shoulder and tells him that he will see him sometime later to work on the essay. After he turns and walks away towards the other end of the hallway, Chad finds himself smiling brightly and looking behind him one more time before he continues down the hallway.
Just then, some footsteps are heard approaching and Chad turns to see Vitani running up beside him with a big grin on her face. She latches onto his arm as they walk and gives him a knowing look. Chad rolls his eyes and giggles to himself.
"I saw a certain someone who left that goofy grin on your face just now," Vitani teases.
"Before you get started on that, let me remind you that Ray Torres and I are just friends," Chad quips.
Vitani rolls her eyes and nods before she asks, "I know. But I wonder if you want more than that."
"What I want," Chad replies, adjusting the straps to his backpack, "is whatever's best for Ray."
"After all, you've been doing him a lot good so far, ever since you started tutoring him in those Bio make-up classes so that he can stay on the football team," Vitani agrees, nudging him playfully, "I'm sure he realizes how good you are for him."
Chad shrugs, "I'm just being a good friend, that's all."
"Great," Vitani smiles, as she pulls them to stop at the auditorium doors, "Then you'll also be a good friend and come with me to the basketball court in the auditorium to help make Josh look good for a retired coach who's coming by. He's supposed to be offering some of the basketball players an international scholarship."
"Sure," Chad nods, as he follows her to the doors, "Besides, we both know either way that Josh couldn't possibly do anything to jeopardize a chance like that, right?"
Vitani nods and pulls open the doors. However, to both Chad's and her surprise, the basketball court is in a frenzy, as some of the boys are screaming, fighting each other, throwing things around and the court is an absolute mess. Chad and Vitani exchange looks in shock.
The two saunter in cautiously, sure to duck from any stray cans and food containers flying their way, over to hide behind some of the bleachers. Chad and Vitani peer through the seats at the discord on the basketball court. The basketball players are mindlessly trashing the auditorium.
"What the hell is going on?" Chad asks.
"Chad, look," Vitani says, as she taps him on the shoulder, "Over there. It's Josh!"
Chad and Vitani move to get a better look in disbelief. As they peer through the bleachers once more, they see Josh climbing up one of the cheerleading frames. They move to the end of the bleachers and step out and yell for him. But he doesn't seem to hear them.
Just then, someone yells heads up and Chad and Vitani turn to see a dodge ball flying their way. Chad instinctively puts his hands up defensively, only for the ball to blow right back and knock the basketball player who threw it unconscious. Before they can do anything else, another player prepares to turn on a pressure hose. Just as he turns the knob and water comes blasting out towards the court, Vitani puts her hands to her mouth and blows her icy mist. The water freezes before dropping to the floor and shattering in pellets. Two players run by and trip on the ice.
"Wait, Vitani, look," Chad says, turning her around, "What the heck is Josh trying to do?"
"Omigod!" Vitani exclaims.
They look up to see Josh laughing hysterically as he shakes the cheerleading frame and swings on it precariously. Chad and Vitani continue to call out to him as they approach, but he seems to be ignoring them. That's when a loud creak is heard as the frame starts to lean. Chad and Vitani yell in horror as it comes toppling over with a loud crash. The auditorium suddenly goes silent and the other boys seem to snap out of their frenzy. Chad and Vitani run over to make sure Josh is okay. Josh slowly stirs and rubs his head as he sits up from amidst the broken framework.
"W-What the hell happened here?" Josh asks, nursing the throbbing in his head.
"Take a look around," Vitani says awkwardly.
Josh slowly turns around to see the whole auditorium is in a mess with food and cans thrown everywhere. He sees the other members of his team looking around in a daze as to what happened. He turns back to Chad and Vitani, who are looking at him strangely.
"Who the hell did this?" Josh asks.
Neither Chad nor Vitani answer. Just then, the auditorium doors fly open and the basketball coach and the retired coach stroll in while chatting. However, their jaws drop to silence once they see the state of the court. Everyone in the room soon stares at Josh. Josh frowns and then looks at the mess directly at his feet.
"I think the answer to that question scares me," Josh gulps worriedly.
The next day, Chad and Vitani walk into the auditorium to see the basketball players busy scrubbing the walls and mopping the floors, with their coach yelling every now and again. They go over to Josh who is scrubbing up the food stains off the bleachers.
Chad shakes his head, "Things can't be good for you guys."
Josh pauses his scrubbing to look up at them, "Things couldn't be any worse right now. Not only have we been cleaning up to repair the damages to the auditorium since last night, but the coach is even making us do drills afterwards as punishment. Otherwise he says we'll all lose our chance at that scholarship offer."
"I still don't understand what got into you guys," Vitani frowns, as she takes another look around the messy auditorium, "Especially you Josh. I mean it's not like you to lose control like this at all."
Josh drops the cloth in frustration, "Look I dunno what got into us yesterday, okay? I guess the boys and I have all been under some stress lately between schoolwork and preparing for upcoming games and stuff. So, you know, I thought that maybe letting them go to that rave the night before last would've helped us loosen up some strings."
Vitani folds her arms, "I heard those raves are being run by some people who could mean bad news."
Chad adds, "Well if you're right, then clearly their raves also lead to bad things."
Josh sighs deeply as he picks up the cloth to continue scrubbing the bleachers. Chad and Vitani briefly step aside to let another boy move some trash bags to be taken out from the bleachers. They exchange sympathetic looks before watching Josh scrub the bleachers in frustration.
"This is quite the mess Josh got himself into," Vitani quips.
"That cheerleading prop thing is a mess, too," Chad points out.
They look over at some repairmen picking up the various metal bars of the framework that had fallen apart after Josh shook it down yesterday in a fit of unusual behavior. It's at that time that they look over to see Amber and Christy Milano leaving the repairmen and coming over. Chad and Vitani look over at Josh, who stops scrubbing to see what the Milano sisters are up to.
"You know, our father donated that framework for our cheerleading squad," Amber states.
"That you destroyed," Christy adds, folding her arms indignantly.
Josh sighs and begins, "Look, I'm really sorry about that, okay? I know I'm gonna be responsible for replacing it and I was gonna call my-"
"We're actually willing to smooth over that problem ourselves... on one condition," Amber cuts in with a devious grin, "One I'm sure you won't refuse when you see it's such a small price to pay."
"And what's that?" Josh asks curiously.
"You agree to go out with us again," Amber states, as she laces her arms around one of Josh's.
Chad raises his eyebrows and Vitani rolls her eyes with a scoff. Josh looks at the Milano sisters as though they were crazy. But the way Christy also latches onto his other arm, and they both smile cheekily up at him, tells him the sisters were serious.
"It'll be just like old times," Amber says.
"Yeah. Except you won't be around those two," Christy sneers, as she and her sister cast nasty glances.
Chad and Vitani exchange looks before looking over at Josh. Josh's faces contorts in bother as he tries to think of a way to detach the Milano sisters from his arm and still make one problem become one less problem.
Josh says, "Look girls, I'm gonna have to think about this, okay?"
"What's to think about?" Amber asks, "I know you'll pick me. I was way better than Christy anyway."
"Is that why he dated me the second he dumped you?" Christy asks teasingly, "Old news."
"Me? I can't be any older than that outfit you're wearing that you must've borrowed from our grandmother or something, can I?" Amber yells, "Face it sis, you were always the obsolete one here."
"Why you little-" Christy retorts and lunges at her sister.
To Josh's surprise, the girls start an all-out catfight, scratching at each other and pulling at each other's hair. The boys in the auditorium start to notice the scuffle. Josh tries to separate them, but they easily weave around his arms to claw at one another once more.
Josh backs away in confusion as a little crowd of students gathers around to watch the fight between the Milano sisters over Josh. He turns back to Chad and Vitani with a bewildered look on his face, but they merely shrug in amusement.
"What can I say?" Vitani says with a grin, "You know I've always dreamed of knocking their empty little heads together and look, they're doing it all by themselves. This is way too good to watch without popcorn. Such a pity you guys threw it all over the auditorium last night."
Josh gives her a look before turning to Chad, "A little help, maybe, squirt?"
Chad shrugs before stepping forward a bit and swishing his hands about. Some prompt gusts of wind are enough to flip the arguing sisters over to land on their backsides with a thud. Chad cringes and gives Josh a little apologetic shrug although Vitani gives him a thumbs-up. Josh shakes his head before pushing through the crowd and going over to them.
He helps the dazed cheerleaders to their feet, who rub their heads and backsides in pain.
"The framework's actually insured ..." Christy mumbles, rubbing her backside.
"But what will it be, Josh?" Amber still asks, as she starts to fix the mess her hair had become.
"Josh Trent will be going to the dean's office now," the coach snarls, as he pushes through the crowd of students, "And so will the two of you girls if you ever do such nonsense on my court again. Am I understood? Now I want all of you who aren't on my basketball team out of here before I make you join the rest of them with a scrub brush!"
The crowd of students quickly disperses to make the quickest exit out of the auditorium. Amber and Christy merely groan in pain before turning to leave. After seeing the glare the coach gives Josh, Chad and Vitani pat Josh sympathetically on the shoulder before turning to leave with the rest of the kids.
"Wow," Chad says, "I would've never thought the Milano sisters would ever go at each other like that."
"Yep," Vitani says with a sigh, `I just hope Josh can stay on top of whatever's going on."
= = =
A few minutes later, Josh slowly opens the door to the dean's office as he figures he's probably in for another reprimanding. He sees their school head, Dean Levine, sitting at his desk going over some papers that have lots of price numbers on it.
"First of all, I'd like to say that words can't express how sorry I am for what happened and I swear that it will never happen again. I know me and my boys did a lot damage to the basketball court and the rest of the auditorium and I'm currently working on a way we can get enough money to repay the academy," Josh begins.
"The reckless behavior exhibited by you students has been occurring with more and more students as the time goes by," Dean Levine explains, "It's certainly become a problem I intend to get to the bottom of. However, your current problem, as far as those damages are concerned, has been dealt with already."
"I'm not sure how, but thank you so much," Josh replies with a sigh of relief.
"Don't thank me," Dean Levine says as he stands from his desk, "Thank your father."
Josh's eyes bulge as he slowly turns around to see his father, Craig Trent, wearing a business suit and staring at him with a weak smile from the doorway. As he comes in and shakes hands with the dean about the check he wrote out to the campus, Josh pauses.
= = =
Elsewhere, Chad drops a few books onto one of the tables in the library where Ray Torres is already seated and writing something studiously. Ray looks up with a smile and simply hands him of his assignment papers.
Chad looks at it and nods, "I see you're doing a whole lot better in Bio now. I think you should be able to pass your final grade test coming up this week with ease. That must take a whole lot off of your mind now."
Ray shrugs, "I think maybe I can finally stop worrying about losing my spot on the team now."
Chad takes a seat at the library table, "Yeah. And then you won't need me around anymore, huh?"
Ray pauses for a minute before he reaches across the table for Chad's hand and says, "Look, all of your friendship and your supporting me in keeping my dream to play football alive from the very beginning means a lot to me, okay? It's just like when you came along at the right time that one night and saved me from that lightning storm when the guys had hazed me. You turned out to be something I really needed in my life. Something I might not plan on letting go of. Is that okay with you?"
Chad replies, "As long as you mean everything you just said."
Ray looks at him, "I meant every word of it."
There is a brief silence between them as Chad and Ray look at each other quietly, before some students pass by and Chad snaps out of it to open his books for the Endosymbiont Theory essay they are supposed to be working on.
"Right so –"
"So if I pass," Ray says with a grin, "I was wondering if we could celebrate together some time. You know like head out for a bite to eat or something maybe. Just to be thankful for all the good things that have come out of you and me working together and stuff."
Chad chuckles a bit, "Sure. I'd like that."
"Good," Ray says as he sits back before adding with a little wink, "Then it's a date."
As Ray starts to look through his own books, Chad looks up with a surprised look on his face before looking back down at his books with a little smirk. He tells himself that he is sure Ray didn't mean an actual `date' or anything, but that he is also sure that whatever it turns out to be, that he will enjoy it.
When Chad looks back up, he sees that Ray looks back up at him at the same time. They giggle a bit and, just as one is about to say something, a boy comes sliding across their tables, knocking off all of the books from the table before he himself hits the floor. Chad and Ray stand up from the table in shock, just as another boy charges by and lunges at the other boy's throat.
He is met with a kick to the stomach that sends him flying backwards. Both boys then leap to their feet for another round. Ray steps in to break up the fight and holds back the first one who steps forward to attack. However, the second one takes out a pocketknife.
"Hey!" Chad yells.
Before he can attack, Chad grabs his arm and makes the knife fling out of his hand with a burst of wind, where it impales a nearby wall.
"C.K.! Watch out!" Ray exclaims.
Just as the boy is about to throw a punch, Chad and Ray shove the two boys back together. They knock each other in the head; they're a bit dazed, but they continue to fight.
Chad and Ray look on in confusion when some other kids in the library gather around. Chad shifts his sight up to some heavy books at the top of nearby shelves and makes a little movement with his hands to let them come swooping down. Piles and piles of books cascade on the fighting boys until they finally cease their fighting. A few seconds later, the librarian and security arrive, who thank them for trying to stop the boys before picking them up and escorting them out.
After security men remove the blade from in the wall, Chad and Ray step aside to catch their breath.
"Looks like you saved my life yet again," Ray asserts, between deep breaths, "I guess you really are my hero, aren't you C.K.?"
"Is he now?" comes an all too familiar voice.
Chad and Ray turn to see none other than Rita Allen, the school reporter, behind them with a little notepad in hand. She greets Chad with a somewhat devious grin before she flips her long silky black hair behind her shoulder and clears her throat.
Chad grows uneasy at running into Rita Allen again after how their last few encounters went.
Ray nods with a proud smile, "Yeah. There's no better way to describe him."
Rita Allen gives Chad another telltale look before replying, "Then could you describe to me what exactly happened here in the library? I'm covering the outbreak of violence that's been occurring in the students recently and hoping to find the cause of it all."
Chad folds his arms with a deep sigh. Ray says he would be happy to tell her what happened.
"You see, those kids over there were fighting each other and I tried to stop them. Then when one pulled a pocketknife to attack me, Chad was able to disarm him before both boys got knocked out by some falling books."
"I see," Rita Allen says, "So I bet you must feel really lucky to have Chad be around, huh?"
"Yup, I'm even lucky enough to have him as my tutor," Ray replies, nudging Chad with a chuckle.
"Oh Chad's tutoring you, is he? Yes, of course," Rita Allen grins with a brief giggle, "I guess this is just like how Professor Hayes tutored him, right?"
Chad gulps nervously at the mention of his old chem professor's name, "This is different ..."
Ray continues, "You know I think I heard about that guy. I heard he turned out to be pretty bad or whatever, but I know that Chad could never be anything like that. I know he's totally good, inside and out."
He gives Chad an affirmative hug around the shoulder and Chad lets out a sigh.
Rita Allen says, "I know things around SyndAcad and the rest of the city seem to be getting worse and worse and I hope to uncover the real reasons behind it all... and save so many innocent people from being hurt or worse."
With that, and one final glare at Chad, she excuses herself and heads over to interview some other kids about the library fight. Chad tries to shake the uneasy feeling he has in stomach at the thought of Rita Allen ever discovering the truth about his connection to Rick Hayes and making him out to be more of the bad guy that he knows she already pegs him to be.
"What do you say we finish up our essays in the Libretta," Ray says, "before anything worse happens?"
"Yeah," Chad replies, with a weak smile.
The two walk out of the library, where Rita Allen watches them intently from the distance with the other kids she is interviewing in the library. She gets a determined look on her face and shakes her head as she tells herself,
"Chad Blackman, I can see right through your little scheme. And I won't allow you to hurt anyone else."
= = =
Over at the condo, Vitani comes in at the end of her shift at the Libretta that day to see Josh sitting on the couch staring intently at a piece of paper.
"What's that?" Vitani asks, as she hangs up her coat on the rack by the door before coming over to him.
Josh stands up and hands it to her saying, "It's a check written out to cover all damages by my basketball team in the auditorium after the incident yesterday – from my dad."
Vitani looks at the signature on the paper before she looks up at him and sighs.
Josh puts out his hands defensively, "Look, I know you're gonna say I should be thankful, and I am somewhat because it saves my team any more stress than they've been under already, but you also know how I feel about my dad and his money."
Vitani sits him down and says, "Despite what happened in the past, his money is helping you now."
Josh says, "Yeah. That's at the cost of him leaving my mother and me back when I was a child. You know that's like admitting that I should be glad that he abandoned us to get rich quick."
"I think your dad is just trying to make up with you now, while he still can," Vitani replies.
Josh retorts, "He can never write a big enough check to repair our family."
"Maybe so," Vitani sighs and adds, "but Josh, you can still use your sense of what's right to take a step towards repairing whatever's left of it. That's if you're willing to do whatever it takes to have something like that back."
Josh merely grimaces and takes a swig from a green beer can. Vitani frowns and tries to take it away from him, but he snatches it back before taking another swig and empties the can and then opens yet another can of beer.
"C'mon Josh, you know drinking won't solve anything," Vitani states.
"It feels better to give this beer credit than to be suckered into giving my dad any," Josh sneers.
At that moment, Chad drops by the condo and comes in. Josh doesn't even seem to notice, as he's busy glugging down another can. Chad frowns at seeing him drinking like that and looks over at Vitani. She shrugs and goes over to him.
"Um is Josh okay?" Chad asks, "Because there's some guy outside who wants to see him."
"Lemme guess. He's in a fancy tie and suit, right?" Josh asks, wiping his mouth clean.
"I guess," Chad answers.
Josh storms over to the door and opens it to see his father, Craig Trent. He asks if he can come in to talk. Josh doesn't answer, but merely steps aside. Craig Trent enters and takes a look around the living room and Josh folds his arms expectantly.
"Do you mind if I talk with my son alone?" Craig Trent asks.
Chad and Vitani are about to excuse themselves when Josh stops them from leaving.
"I mind," Josh replies flatly, "They stay. They have more of a right to be here than you do."
The up and coming businessman sighs heavily and frowns at his son. Josh doesn't seem too bothered, judging by the defiant look on his face. Vitani pulls Chad a bit to the side so the Trents could get things out between them.
Craig Trent shrugs before he says, "I guess I just wanted to talk about things between you and me."
Suddenly, Josh lunges forward and slams his father into the wall, knocking down a few picture frames in the process. Both Chad and Vitani gasp in alarm. Craig Trent looks at his son in disbelief as his son's arm presses against his neck.
"Let's see how well you talk after you lose a few teeth," Josh snarls, while balling one of his fists.
"Josh, stop this!" Vitani yells, grabbing onto his arm.
"Let me go," Josh asks rather demandingly, without looking back at her.
In the distraction, Craig Trent is able to weasel out of his grip and steps aside, fixing his suit and tie. Chad goes up to him and advises him to leave before anything else happens. However, he seems reluctant to go anywhere and says this is between him and his son.
"Look Josh, I'm sorry! That's all I can say at this point! I lack the power to change the past between us, but maybe you hold the power to change the future between us," Craig Trent states, before storming out of the condo.
"You're sorry? You sure would've been when I was through with you," Josh yells after him in anger.
He slams the door shut at the sound of his father's car driving off, startling both Chad and Vitani.
Vitani frowns, "Josh, what the hell has gotten into you? You really need to calm down here!"
Josh turns and, as his hand turns to steel, punches his fist into the wall, leaving a hole behind. He then slams the wall in frustration. Chad looks at Vitani and she takes a deep breath before she slowly walks over to her friend.
Josh suddenly grabs her by the arms, "You know what I really need? Huh? I tell you what I need!"
Vitani looks at Josh in surprise as he stares at her almost incredulously. They hold that intense stare at each other for a few minutes, before Josh's grip suddenly starts to loosen and he closes his eyes in confusion. Josh shakes his head and opens his eyes to see he is grabbing onto Vitani's arms tightly. He slowly lets go.
Josh turns and looks back at the hole in the wall before he sighs, "What mess did I cause now?"
= = =
In the Libretta the next day, Chad comes by after chemistry class and he spots Vitani wiping up her last few tables before she ends her shift for the day. He catches up to her at the counter and takes a seat to talk to her.
"How's Josh been holding up after his blow-out last night?" Chad asks.
Vitani sighs as she takes a few empty cups from the counter and replies, "He should be stopping by the café in a bit. But he's been beating himself up now really trying to figure out what's been getting into him lately. He's worried that if it keeps up, he might make things a lot worse for himself and the rest of the basketball team."
Chad ponders, "Yeah. I really wonder what's causing this behavior in everyone on campus lately."
Vitani says, "Well ... I think maybe this is."
She hands him an invitation she just found behind the counter. Chad frowns and takes a look it.
Chad reads it. "It says something about being exclusively invited to the `Rave Craze: Loosen the Strings Edition' or something. You mean that party Josh said he took his team to the night before they trashed the auditorium, right?"
Vitani nods and goes for her bag, "And take a look at this beer that Josh was drinking yesterday."
Chad looks up curiously as Vitani takes out a green beer can and hands it to him. He takes a look at both the beer can and the invitation and nods, "The logos are the same. The `L.T.S.' on this beer must mean Loosen the Strings, the theme of these raves. I guess Josh must've bought this beer at the raves."
Vitani leans forward on the counter with a nod of agreement, "Which means the beer at these raves is responsible for all the reckless behavior we've been seeing in Josh and the rest of the basketball team... not to mention all the other kids that must've been going to these raves."
"Like those kids in the library," Chad nods.
Vitani nods and says, "And Amber and Christy. So I was thinking, we should go check out these raves tonight to see if we can find out who's been behind this whole thing all along. I'm starting to believe now that this just might be another -"
Chad says, "An oscinade."
Just then, Josh shows up beside them at the counter and puts his jersey around the swivel chair.
He then says, "And if it is, we'll be there to crash his party plans once and for all. I plan on seeing this thing end before it sees the end of me."
= = =
That night, the bass is booming at an all-time high, and Chad, Vitani and Josh are filtering through a viscous crowd as they enter the raves with some extra invitations Josh still had. They look around at students from on campus who are partying like crazy under the spinning strobe lights of all colors hanging on the wooden beams to set the mood for total partying. It was in fact only a redecorated warehouse just a little off campus.
They struggle to stay close together as they head over to the backrooms of the warehouse. Josh briefly turns to talk to them over the booming pop music blasting through the stereos that are positioned about the room.
"So," Josh explains, "These raves are run by a guy called Rave Master Jo, he's supposed to be some kind of big shot party coordinator or something."
Vitani quips, "Yeah. He just might be the guy coordinating all the reckless behavior back on campus."
Chad nods and adds, "I guess we're all gonna find out tonight then. Or maybe in just a few seconds, since I'm willing to bet that this guy in the flowered shirt and the spiked hairdo who's on his way over here's our guy, right Josh?"
"Right on," Josh nods, as they turn to see him approaching with two waitresses at his side.
"What up?" Rave Master Jo says in that I'm-totally-a-cool-guy sorta way, "I was told you two are new faces at my raves. So I'm here with these two beautiful ladies to welcome you with our complementary specials for the night, some L.T.S. shots. Here you go."
"They've already had some at the door," Josh interjects, "but thanks for the offer ... Jo."
"Oh, two more couldn't hurt," Rave Master Jo laughs it off, "I mean you should know going from what I saw the last time you and your boys were here the other night, right? How about you take another one too, kiddo?"
Josh grimaces. Vitani touches his arm to remind him to stay calm for now.
Vitani steps forward and says, "Like he said, thanks but no thanks."
Rave Master Jo stares oddly at Chad, Vitani and Josh before saying, "Fine. But I'm sure my ladies here can convince you otherwise before the night is over. I hope you three have a good time tonight, I know I definitely will."
He turns and disappears with his two waitresses into the party crowd. Josh shakes his head and turns,
"Okay. It's just gotta be him, right? Gosh, I can't believe I didn't see through this whole gimmick the first time. I think we're gonna have to follow him back to his office in the back and –guys? Where the hell did they just go?"
Josh whirls around in surprise to see that neither Chad nor Vitani are anywhere in sight in the crowd.
Meanwhile, Chad and Vitani finally manage to stand on their feet after being inadvertently pushed aside by a crowd of dancing students. They look around to gain their bearings and realize that Josh is nowhere in sight.
"Uh oh," Chad muses, "I think we lost Josh. What do we do? Can you call him or something?"
"He'd never hear me calling with all this loud music," Vitani replies, "But we should probably head to the backroom anyway. I'm sure that's where Josh is heading to confront Rave Master Jo about his plot of infecting all these kids with recklessness through his L.T.S. beer."
"Right, let's go," Chad says.
"We gotta go find him before he gets himself into any more trouble," Vitani adds.
Chad and Vitani squeeze their way through the party crowd, but still have difficulty with too many people blocking their way and not moving. However, all of the students suddenly start to run towards all the exits to leave.
"What's going on?" Chad asks.
"My guess is that they got a tip that the police are on the way," Vitani say, looking around at the fleeing students, "But now's our chance to find Josh, so we gotta hurry!"
Chad and Vitani run off towards the backroom quickly as everyone else flees in the opposite direction for the exits. They get pushed back by a few more panicked students fleeing the warehouse before they enter the backroom. Chad and Vitani run through a hallway, but are grabbed by a burly bodyguard who promptly shoves them into a dark room.
= = =
Meanwhile, Josh searches Rave Master Jo's office for a clue that would prove that Rave Master Jo himself was behind the L.T.S. formula that has been causing reckless behavior in the students. He searches in a hurry as he heard the other kids yelling that police were on their way. He quickly moves over to the desk to check for any business associates.
Josh checks the various cards by the file drawer and pauses in disbelief when he finds a business card belonging to none other than his father's business: Trent Small Enterprises. Josh grimaces at the thought that his father was connected to this scandal.
He huffs in anger about the whole situation and turns his arms to steel before he pounds on the wall of the warehouse office. To his surprise, the wall gives a way as a disguised door which promptly slides back to reveal a flight of stairs downwards. Josh hesitantly steps down to see there is a makeshift beer distillery in the basement.
"So this is how Rave Master Jo makes the L.T.S," Josh muses, as he goes downstairs.
"Very good, Mr. Trent," comes a voice from behind him, "You auranades are as smart as they say."
Josh whirls around to see Rave Master Jo at the top the stairs, having locked the entrance from the office behind him and applauding Josh for his discovery. Josh grimaces and balls his fists ready for a confrontation.
"You're mistaken if you think I'm gonna let you get away with all this," Josh declares, "The gig's up!"
"Is it really? I'd say it's only just begun," Rave Master Jo explains, "I just got your father to sign a deal with me to sell my Loosen the Strings concoction at retail stores all around town. He, being the up and coming businessman that he is, will push sales of my liquor for extra revenues and in turn, push the spirit of recklessness through this whole city!"
"Like hell if I'll let you get away with this," Josh states.
"Of course I will. I mean, once I kill your other two auranade friends over there, you won't be able to banish me, and the reign of recklessness will take hold of all of Westpoint City," Rave Master Jo states in declaration.
Josh turns around in shock to see Chad and Vitani gagged and bound to a pole behind him with old chains. Josh is in alarm and moves to help them, while Rave Master Jo wields two flaming wine bottles of L.T.S. alcohol in his hands, ready to throw them at Josh. Chad and Vitani yell frantically through the gags to warn him. When he takes a look behind him, he is met by two flying bottles of flaming L.T.S. wine. Josh turns his arms to steel and raises them defensively to protect himself.
The bottles shatter to pieces but Josh's metallic arms turn red with heat. Josh yells in surprise and Rave Master Jo looks on in bewilderment. Josh gasps before he turns and runs behind Chad and Vitani, planting his heating hands onto the lock of the old chains. It quickly melts through, freeing them from the chains. Chad and Vitani shed their gags.
"Omigod Josh, are you okay?" Vitani asks.
"Look, Rave Master Jo's getting away," Chad announces.
They look up to see the wicked party coordinator heading back for the stairs. Vitani puts a hand to her mouth in order to flow a freezing mist out to the staircase. The steps become coated with a sheet of ice on which Rave Master Jo slips and falls all the way back down. Chad flicks his wrists to blow some nearby boxes of L.T.S. alcohol over on top of him with a loud crash.
The oscinade of recklessness is knocked out. Chad and Vitani then worriedly hover around Josh who panics at his still heated hands. Josh falls over in pain, where his hot palms land on some spilt alcohol, setting it ablaze. The blaze trails right back to the L.T.S alcohol around Rave Master Jo and forms a circle of fire around him.
"No!" the oscinade yells in fear.
Josh brings himself to his feet and Chad and Vitani move to stand beside him, where the three exchange knowing glances. Josh nods with a grin.
And with that, the three auranades repeat the banishment verse in unison.
"Evil spawned from darkness core,
Walk this land you shall no more,
Wickedness be rectified,
Let your face be now denied!"
A bright light emerges from within the firer, where drafts of energy blow out that make the flames swirl violently. Chad, Vitani and Josh watch as a portal opens up and begins to suck Rave Master Jo in.
"You should never drink more than you can handle," Josh states teasingly, as he grips onto his hands.
It is then that Rave Master Jo's body stretches and distorts as he and the flames are finally drawn inside of the portal, simply leaving the echo of his screaming in the basement distillery before it seals shut and fades away with a blast of air. Chad, Vitani and Josh all sigh in relief.
Josh then looks down to see his metallic hands cool off as though they had never been heated, and then return to normal. He smiles as Chad pats him on the back and Vitani hugs him around his side.
"Are we really out of this mess?" Josh asks as he looks around him, "How are we gonna get out of here when the police must be arriving at the warehouse by now?"
"There's an exit back where we got caught," Chad states, "We can use that and take the back way out."
"Oh c'mon, Josh," Vitani adds with a smile. "There's always a way out."
A few days later, there is a meeting in the auditorium. The coach announces that it has since been discovered that the recent behavior of the basketball team, as well as that of many other students on campus, has been attributed to psychedelic substances found in a range of beverages that were fed to them at various social gatherings by a party coordinator now wanted by police.
Chad, Vitani and Josh are in the crowd in the bleachers and exchange looks, knowing themselves that Rave Master Jo will never be found again in Westpoint City, although after his plot was revealed, they see that is much more of a good thing.
"So I'm proud to announce that, with delicate discussions and persuasive efforts of me and my colleagues, all members of our basketball team are still eligible for the basketball scholarship that had been so kindly offered to us," the coach states over the public address system.
There is an official cheer and applause from everyone in the auditorium, especially from the members of the basketball team. Chad and Vitani look over at Josh, who has a well satisfied smile on his face on the outcome of everything.
"Once again, congratulations to you and your team," Chad tells him, "I'm certain that now, more than ever, with everything that happened, you guys will take every precaution not to lose this opportunity. And with even more good luck, you might just be awarded that basketball scholarship yourself someday."
"Thanks, it means a lot for you to say that, squirt," Josh nods.
"Well um I gotta go finish up some stuff now," Chad says as he stands up, "So I guess I'll see you guys a bit later, okay?"
"Okay, bye squirt," Josh says.
"Seeya Chad," Vitani adds.
They then lean back as Chad awkwardly squeezes past them and the others in the row to head down the stairs of the bleachers before he then heads on out of the auditorium doors. However, Rita Allen, who is also present at the meeting to take notes for tomorrow's school paper, sees him leaving early and decides to follow him a few minutes after he has left.
Meanwhile, back up in the bleachers, the crowd is applauding yet again after the coach makes announcements that all damages to the auditorium have also been covered by a generous giver who wished to remain anonymous. Vitani knows that it was Josh's dad and also notices that Josh isn't applauding with the others.
"At least everything's back to normal," Vitani says.
"Is it normal that I assumed the worst about why my dad's business card was in Rave Master Jo's office when he was just another deluded victim of the whole L.T.S. plot like I was?" Josh muses, "Talk about like father like son, huh? I mean look at the trouble we both cause."
Vitani sighs and says, "When you told your father the truth behind what L.T.S. was doing to all the students, he was able to have it officially checked out and proven to be a mixture of those synthetic hormones, which in turn saved you and your team a lot of trouble. That's a good thing you both did."
Josh shakes his head, "I can just imagine the chaos this city would be in if I hadn't warned him."
"Do you think this relationship you have with your father might ever change," Vitani asks.
"My team lucked out in what I thought was an impossible situation, so who knows?" Josh muses.
Vitani puts an arm around his back and leans her head on his shoulder. Josh lets out a deep sigh.
= = =
Meanwhile out in the halls, Rita Allen turns the corner in the empty hallways to see Chad packing up some books in his locker. Just as she is about to move, she also hears Ray's voice and ducks back behind the wall to eavesdrop.
"Hey C.K.," Ray calls out, "You know you're just the person I wanted to see."
"Hey Ray," Chad says with a grin, as he closes his locker, "And is that so? Why?"
"Well, let me start by thanking you for having me so busy studying that I didn't even have time to be caught up with any of that L.T.S. stuff at those raves that've been going on," Ray says with a chuckle.
"Yeah, studying tends to be much more productive in the long run," Chad replies.
"I'll remember that," Ray nods, "You know what else I remember though? I also remember mentioning this ideal restaurant I had in mind for us to celebrate at, only to call and hear that my name has been reserved for dinner tonight since over a week ago. But you don't even know if I passed that qualifier in our Bio classes to stay on the football team."
Chad shrugs with a grin, "I refused to believe otherwise."
Ray looks at him, "So you had that much faith in me, huh?"
"I had faith in everything we did together," Chad replies.
"Well it paid off," Ray grins, "Because I totally passed that Bio qualifier! I'm staying on the team!"
Ray lunges forward and hugs him tightly in excitement. After they let go, Chad giggles when he sees the huge grin plastered on Ray's face as he takes a look at the test sheet. He had a 68% pass. Chad tells him he is really proud of him.
"Thanks for keeping your promise of being there for me and stuff through this whole thing, even though I know I've been a real jerk at times," Ray sighs and admits, "You've always been a real friend to me, C.K."
Chad replies, "And you've always had real potential, Ray. All I want is for you is to get the best chance to show it."
"Is that all you really want?" Ray asks with a playful smile.
"Eh," Chad shrugs, "You know I might want a little compensation for arranging that dinner."
Ray laughs and throws his arm around his shoulder saying, "I guess I'll owe you that and a lot more."
And with that, they stroll off down the hall together to finish up their essays for Biology class the next day. Rita Allen steps out from behind the wall after they are gone and sighs deeply.
She tells herself, "I'm just afraid Ray might have to pay much more of price than he might ever imagine in the end of whatever's really going on here."
Copyright © 2013 Chad Blackman
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