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Cafeteria Food


by forestfleet

--------

      Chris burst through the door. "I've got a job!" he shouted.

      Starry, the blue lupe, sipped tea while she sat behind the small green coffee table. "I suppose anyone can get a job these days."

      Redwhisper, the red Scorchio, looked over from his stone chair. "Cool. What's the job?"

      "Your Neoschool teacher, teaching Science."

      "And now you lost me!"

      "What?" Chris asked, shaking his head. "Back during the Fall of Faerieland I was making healing potions! Ones that weren't particularly potent, but I digress."

      "Look," Starry said. "It has nothing to do with a lack of ability to make potions, to teach, et cetera- It's that you're saying it's at school. Our school."

      Chris sat down on an orange, hovering Virtupets bed. Slowly, he nodded. "You're right. That'd be terrible."

      "Thank you!" Starry sighed.

      "But I am a terrible person. School starts in two weeks. See you then."

      Starry bit her lower lip. The Scorchio shot a concerned glance at her, and she returned a nervous smile.

* * *

      Walking to school, they passed the familiar dead trees. A certain black Pteri gave a jeering squawk at Whisper.

      "Ugh, birdbrain again."

      Starry giggled. "Hey, they know THEY'RE coming."

      Chris took a quick glance back at the sinister-looking Pteri. He noticed another Pteri, painted Shadow, who was talking to them. "She's got a friend, or conspiracy technically. The Black Pteri's pretty cute."

      "You can say that when you get attacked by a Shriek of Misery!" Whisper said.

      "Hey, now you got Lens Flare- We're here!" Chris announced as loudly as possible. They had come to the building with red brick walls, and a black gate several feet high to prevent people from fleeing. A sign spelled out: "Woodslake Neoschool."

      "You know," Whisper said as they entered. "I've always wondered: Is it wood's lake, or wood slake?"

      "Is slake a real word?" Starry asked.

      Chris said, "Yes. Not very common, and not very logical, but-"

      While the three talked, the Black Pteri said, "So the boy, he interests you?"

      The Shadow Pteri looked away, blushing slightly. "Yes," she squeaked.

      "What makes you uncertain?"

      "It's a silly reason. There can't be anything different about him than the others."

      The Shadow Pteri couldn't decipher anything from the Black Pteri's face. The Black Pteri shook their head in thought, having their almost permanently stern expression plastered on. Then, the Black Pteri threw their head back and gave a hearty chuckle. The Shadow Pteri raised an eye.

      "Here's what you should do..."

* * *

      "Man, cafeteria food, still as deadly as always." A glob of mushroom omelette fell onto Redwhisper's tray. Disgusted, his nose crinkled up.

      "I don't get why you people keep complaining," Chris said as he grabbed a container of lime jelly. "Cafeteria food's never seemed bad to me."

      "Yeah, but you got your taste buds cut off during war, remember?" Whisper said.

      Chris said, "I should've been a history teacher in retrospect. That way I could teach children about the Faerieland war with insider's knowledge." He grabbed a milk container.

      Starry found them some seats in the cafeteria. Mornings were more spacious since a lot of kids got breakfast at home. "You should write a book about it. Make a lot of money," Starry said.

      "Eh, supposedly I heard you get paid only 10% of royalties." Chris bit off a small piece of omelette.

      "Shouldn't you be at the teacher's lounge?" Starry asked, a hint of nervousness in her voice as she looked around.

      "There's no problem with me sitting here." With that said, he took a sip of milk.

      Starry squirmed in her seat. "Uh, yeah, but you need to introduce yourself to the others-"

      "Don't worry," Chris said. "We met when I got the classroom set up a week in advance."

      "Er... Hey! You want to know something funny that happened last year to our teacher!?"

      Chris glanced over at her. "What?"

      "Well he was reading a book out loud, the one with that mean Pteri, Fjorn-"

      "Oh, The Pterrible Pteri? I love that book-"

      "Nonetheless," Starry interrupted. "While we were reading it, a couple of us were playing ninja. While Mr.Uggasen had his nose in the books, a couple of us were passing notes, or crawling under desks. When he found out, he began screaming, and we all began laughing... And we all got lunch detention."

      Chris nodded. "Awesome. I hope I get a fun batch!"

      Starry winced. "You might get a bit overwhelmed."

      "Hey, do you three mind if I sit here?" It was the Shadow Pteri from before. The three gave resounding no's so she sat down next to Whisper. "Thanks!"

      "Welcome," Chris said. "Anyway, Starry, you were saying?"

      "Is he your owner?" the Pteri asked.

      Starry rapidly shook her head. "No! He's a friend-"

      "Yeah I'm your owner!" Chris had his face scrunched up in confusion, mouth slightly agape. "Why would you say otherwise?" Then he looked haunted. "Unless... YOU SAW THE REPORTS!"

      As some Neopets in the cafeteria looked at the spectacle, Starry sighed.

      The shadow Pteri giggled. "You're funny."

      "Thanks! New teacher here. Name's Mr. Forestfleet. You can call me Forest." He reached his hand out and shook her wing.

      "Oh, I'll be very pleased to get to know you more..." The Pteri smirked.

* * *

      Starry braced herself when she entered...

      ...And immediately relaxed. The floors and tables were immaculate. Tables were in a familiar 5X5 square grid, but each isolated enough from each other to afford breathing room.

      Part of one end of the classroom was elevated, having stairs leading up it. It was on this raised portion where the whiteboard and the teacher's desk were placed, making it easier to watch like a hawk for any shenanigans below. In front of the platform was a model skeleton.

      At the other end were locked cabinets full of chemicals, and a locker with safety goggles, gloves, and other equipment.

      The normalcy was comforting. Chris wasn't even in sight. Each desk already had a name tag by it, and Starry's table was in the supposed comfort zone known as the back. Whisper's was up in the middle of the front row.

      "Where's the teacher?" An Ixi asked.

      "Heard he's a first-timer, cut him some slack," said a familiar Pteri, sitting to Whisper's left. Her eyes widened. "EEEP!"

      She kicked her foot out of somebody's grasp, as Chris came out from underneath her table laughing. He clapped while saying, "Sorry, I was trying to get Whisper, but I sat at the wrong desk and went 'eh, that will have to do.'."

      He ran up the stairs to the platform, going up to his desk. "Alright, my name is Mr. Forestfleet! Pleasure to meet all of you! This is my first year teaching, and I have NO idea what I'm doing, so I'm mostly improvising and going off the lesson plan."

      Getting more spastic, he bent over his desk so he could stare straight down at Whisper. "Whisper, come on up." He lifted his head to look at Starry in the back. "You come up too, Star!"

      Starry's gaze danced around as she walked over. Both her and Whisper stood on the platform.

      Chris leaped away from his desk and gestured to his two Neopets like they were a prize from a game show. "These are my Neopets, and I am their owner!"

      Why not point it out with a neon sign? Starry thought.

      "Normally, I'd get out my neon sign," Chris said, "but I wanted to conserve that for later lessons. You two are dismissed." Both Neopets went down, with Starry holding her head down in shame. "For now, we will be going over some basic procedures of the classroom. First, the rules." He grabbed a red marker from a tray underneath the whiteboard and began writing.

      "Rule number one: When I talk, everybody else is talking!" He turned his head back to look at perplexed reactions. He cleared his throat. "Basically, this is going to be a display of ideas. Anybody and everybody will be allowed to talk. People are too afraid of talking. They think it's chaotic. But the truth is that people just want to socialize while they work."

      He jumped off the platform and paced around the desks. "And that's fine. For those who need a quiet environment provided, you will be allowed to go to the library." He pointed to a knob on one of the cabinets with a lanyard that had a card attached. "Take these as you please."

      He ran back up to his stage. "Next!" He jotted down a rule with blue marker. "For the safety procedures..."

* * *

      "And he was just such a major..." Starry groaned.

      Whisper shrugged. "What's the problem? He's just having fun, and I think he'd be a pretty cool teacher." He tossed the Gormball at her. She balanced it with her nose. Waiting a couple of seconds, she bopped it over to Whisper again.

      "I know, but he's going to take this too far," she said.

      "I don't think he will." He tossed it at her, but missed, only for the Shadow Pteri from before to snatch it up.

      "Hey guys!" she said. "What are you two talking about?"

      "How are you always where we are!?" Whisper asked.

      She shrugged and dropped the Gormball down on Starry. Starry grabbed it with her mouth, but it exploded at that moment, making her choke out water and rubber. Between hacks, she said, "Remind me never to do that again."

      "My name's Violet, by the way," she said as she landed next to them. "I know I don't look it, but still."

      "Anyway, Starry's worried 'cause she thinks our owner's going to take it too far."

      The lupe said, "He always goes far with something. Remember when he read books all day? Or that one point where he went to baking a bunch of cakes?"

      "Hey! That did NOT go too far!" Whisper said defensively.

      "Okay, yeah, that was one of his best ideas, I admit," she said. "But the thing is he can get too comfortable."

      Violet tilted her head. "Care to explain?"

      "Well he gets into some things, some projects... and then stops halfway through into one thing. But if he doesn't, he gets obsessed. I mean, he's nowhere near as bad as he was a few years ago, but he still clearly suffers from it. He's probably going to become one of those overly technical, nerdy types that's a total smart-aleck if he continues teaching."

      Violet nodded. "I know this is sudden, but can I come over by your guys' house? I'm interested in life there."

      "You barely know us," Starry pointed out.

      Whisper shrugged. "Hey, it's not like she's gonna be a burden. She seems nice enough.

      "But still..."

      Violet giggled. "Don't worry, I won't stay over for long."

      "What about your mom?" Whisper asked. "Don't you need her permission? Or do you have an owner instead?"

      "My mom wouldn't care," she said dismissively. "In fact, I'm with a babysitter. My mom's off to Mystery Island on vacation. She's actually an Island Pteri."

      "We'd have to ask Chris," Whisper said. "But he loves Pteri's, so don't worry!"

      "Okay, guess I'll see you guys later, huh?"

      "Yeah," Starry said with a nod. "Later."

      With that, Violet flew off.

* * *

      "It looks really nice here," Violet said as she entered the house. She was in the living room which was mostly spacious. Not much was there. A modest fireplace, a neovision set, a green bed, and an orange Virtupets bed.

      "Want the guest bed?" Whisper asked jokingly before pointing to the Virtupets bed.

      "Hm, only enough beds for three people, and I'm not spending the night anyway-"

      "Chris sleeps on the floor," Starry said.

      "I beg your pardon!?" Violet asked.

      Whisper slammed his fist into his open palm. "We sometimes wake him to feed him from the food bowl, and that's when we fill it, which is only once or twice a week!"

      Violet looked scandalized, so Starry gently said, "He's just joking around and being a dumb-dumb. Chris prefers sleeping on the floor. Can I show you the kitchen?"

      "And the torture dungeon thereafter, I presume?" Violet asked, not particularly amused.

      Starry glared at Whisper who only waved back and said, "'sup?"

      Chris came from upstairs. "Hey, I was just in the study, and I learned this cool joke." He turned his head to look at Violet. "Oh, hey Violet. Anyway, what do you call a negg that gets sliced?"

      "A sliced negg?" Violet guessed.

      "Actually, yeah," Chris said. "Smart girl."

      Violet giggled. "This might be a bit unfair, but can I ask you some questions about this year's curriculum? Like, will anything explode?"

      "Of course!" Chris said, his face hosting an expression of shock and disgust. "What tyrannical, boring, vapid teacher would teach science AND NOT have something blow up?"

      "Only the worst," Violet said while nodding in agreement. Starry looked away.

      Whisper piped up, "Hey, while you two talk, Starry and I will be upstairs." With some protest, he grabbed Starry by the scruff of her neck and brought her upstairs.

      "What is wrong with you!?" she snapped.

      "Curious, I was going to ask you first!" Whisper shouted. "Throughout the entire day, you've been a total brat, and Chris hasn't even been that bad!"

      "I can predict others easily," Starry said with an annoyed flick of her tail. "We've seen this happen before. Gets interested in the Stock Market, then into the Money Tree..."

      "...Because he has NOTHING to do!" Whisper said. "Months of fighting wraiths, and he has to wind down because no owners are allowed in the Battledome."

      "And I'm supposed to accept it if he ruins everything?"

      "He won't!" Whisper stomped away.

      "He will..."

* * *

      It had already been two weeks. Even the slowest of people stopped struggling to find their classroom. People were getting more comfortable with one another. Classroom clowns started being established, while more relaxed people took in the environment. Chris had stopped eating in the main cafeteria room and took residency in the teacher's lounge. It was week three, breakfast time.

      Violet had become fast friends with Whisper and Starry. "And then in first grade, Karen's little brother came over to play with us, but, when we were ignoring him, he scribbled on our science project with marker."

      "Man, that's rough," Whisper said as he tossed a Gormball to Starry. Starry held on for four seconds, then it blew up in her face. She shook her head rapidly, flicking away water.

      Violet chuckled. "You are so bad at this game!"

      "Hey, I won the last round!"

      "And only that round," Violet chimed in, making both her and Whisper snicker.

      She frowned. "You guys suck!"

      The recess bell rang. The Neopets went off to their first period classes. Starry walked in with renewed vigor. On arrival, her jaw dropped.

      Chairs were scattered across the room. Some on their backs, some on their sides, but all were on the floor in places that were definitely incorrect, unless someone upgraded the desks to have anti-gravity features. Chris lowered the book he was reading, as he looked down from his platform to the ruins. "Hm. This is most troublesome, I presume."

      "CHRIS, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS!?" Starry demanded.

      "Hm, someone must have come into this room and ruined everything! I blame Whisper!" He pointed to the Scorchio.

      "Huh?" he asked.

      "However, exercise is crucial to jump-starting the brain. Increases blood and oxygen flow there. Or something like that." He shrugged. "You'll learn more in middle school, I'm sure. Or high school."

      To the students' collective dismay, the first few minutes of class was fixing up the chairs.

      "Alright, now, while you guys got that done, there are three questions!" He pointed to the whiteboard. "Who would like to volunteer for question one?"

      Written on the whiteboard was: What is an igneous rock?

      Several volunteers raised their hands. Most went "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!"

      However, Chris bent over the desk, straight as a board, before pointing to Starry. "Starry, come on up here...AHHH!"

      Chris fell off from his desk, and onto the floor. People gathered around in shock, worry, or to see how amusing his injuries were.

      Chris shakily raised up a hand with a thumbs-up.

      Starry slapped her face with her paw.

* * *

      "At least he's okay!" Whisper tried consoling Starry who was storming off.

      "Even worse!" she shouted while leaving.

      Violet landed on Whisper's shoulder. She whispered, "Just let her go."

      "But-"

      "She's going to believe what she wants to believe, and that's fine. She'll keep looking at every bit of evidence that supports her claim because that's what she wants to think so much. She may say she wants him to be safe, careful, all of that, but she doesn't. If she did, why hasn't she tried talking to him about it in a more direct manner?"

      Whisper said, "You know, I've been thinking that too." He rubbed his shoulder. "It seems like she just wants to be right."

      "Exactly!" Violet said. "And eventually, you might start thinking that way too because she keeps arguing her position."

      "I'm going to make sure she talks to Chris about this," Whisper promised.

      "Good," Violet said. "Very good."

* * *

      Chris and Starry had been called into the study for an unknown reason. "Yes, Whisper?" Chris asked.

      Whisper sat on a couch. "Starry needs to tell you some things."

      Chris turned his head to look at Starry. "Yes, Starry?"

      Starry looked at Whisper, then at Chris, then at Whisper again.

      "No," she said. "I don't."

      "It's about your teaching," Whisper said, still locking eyes with Starry. "She's afraid you're going 'too far', and that you'll 'ruin everything', whatever that means."

      "Oh, I already figured," Chris said, reclining back further. As all eyes rested on him, he explained, "That's why I had Starry sit in the back. That way she could pretend she didn't exist half the time. That's also one of the many purposes of why I mentioned the library. If she wanted to, she could've left. Whisper, since you're more reasonable and calm about things like this, I had you sit in the front."

      "See, Starry?" Whisper asked.

      Starry frowned. "Wow, I didn't know you thought about that..."

      "Are you feeling better?" Whisper asked.

      "I guess..." Starry said, looking down.

* * *

      A month and a week in. They had made good progress. Chris was more relaxed than usual in his classes, while everybody became more casual. People had learned how this year was going to work. Though, at points, some people became too casual.

      Very few knew how it started, whether it was a minor dispute gone wrong, or maybe friends messing with each other, but in a few seconds, what was a thrown apple became an onslaught of thrown foods.

      Chris was out in the cafeteria, and he looked at an apple...

      I shouldn't join in.

      I am a teacher.

      I keep order.

      I just got hit in the face with an omelette...

      He grabbed the bacon omelette off of his face before throwing it off, nailing a student.

      Whisper used his Lens Flare ability, flashing the entire room with light that blinded most students. But that didn't stop some from throwing more food. When the flash faded, Chris was holding his chest and stomach, while others rubbed their eyes. Violet only smirked.

      "ENOUGH!" The voice of the principal rang. Everybody turned to look.

      "Mr. Forestfleet, please come to my office. I will mail your remains home."

      "Crud..."

* * *

      "I can't believe Starry was right," Whisper said, lying on his green bed, staring up at the ceiling.

      Chris was on the floor beside him, copying Whisper. "Same. My job's in jeopardy, and I'm banned from teaching for at least a few weeks, if not months..."

      "Violet's been a little disappointed. She really liked you," Whisper said.

      Chris looked over at Whisper. "Go ahead and tell her to visit anytime. Not like I have much planned anyway..."

      Starry entered and remorsefully said, "I didn't want it to happen like this. And, sorry for getting the principal there... I guess."

      Chris turned his head to her, only giving her the briefest of looks, before turning his head back to Whisper.

      "Good night," the two said forcefully.

* * *

      "So, Violet," The Black Pteri said. "What have you discovered?"

      "They've told me he's fought in the war of Faerie's Ruins," Violet reported. "And after the Lens Flare, he clutched his chest and stomach."

      "Guess we have a new target then..."

      The End.

 
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