Gener@tion Z - 1. Students

2022 - 8 years later

Ocean Valley was the city.  Thomas Quick High School was the establishment.  As typical of a high school as there could possibly be in the United States, even in the early 2020's, this was definitely as generic as any other.  Populated by the teens of Generation Z or the Net Generation, the inheirited nature of gossip, drama, and superficialism left by generations long past were happily dormant here, as with every other school in America.  Cliques here weren't as obvious and were only noticeable to a small degree, but that didn't necessarily mean it was easy to fit in.  Being yourself in a place like this was still considered a social crime depending on what that truly meant about you and there were still many prejudices that a movement to overcome was long overdue for.  In short, it was still as difficult as ever to be a teenager in this world, but signs of progress seemed to be, if only by a microscopic extent, on the horizon.

The big cultural phenomenon for this generation was a new sub-culture/counter-culture called Struckcore.  Its meaning is still, to this day, virtually unknowable and makes the whole concept otherwise pointless.  There is no true definition for the culture itself except for a bunch of abstract and confusing explainations given by teenagers that follow the movement.  In its absolute true essence, (as its roots have been dramatically misconscruited and misinterpreted over the years) its based upon a new level of thinking in terms of every aspect of life.  Politics, Lifestyle, and Social Interaction transformed and developed in a unique and innovative way, reflecting technology's impact on society but through culture and without technology itself.  In a way, its thought of as an "Age of New Beginnings," reminicent to the Hippie Movement, only less obvious morals, less about Free Love, more about Individualism, and adapted into a digital generation.  Its primary focus stemmed from the concept of "abandonment," completely letting go of the quarrels and trials in life that weigh you down and leaving it behind, cold turkey, in favor of a free-living lifestyle, which was why it was compared to the Hippie Movement, only slightly more extreme.  There were some people who were willing to drop absolutely everything in their lives in favor of it.  Where the terms, Struck and Struckcore, originated from has still yet to be determined, though a variety of popular stars and musicians of the past decade have claimed to have coined the term.  Loads of merchandising, music, and fashion have been manufactured to reflect this new phenomenon.

In truth, Struckcore was developed as a category for outsiders of any kind and therefore, it has developed into a Clique by itself and the diminishing of the Clique phenomenon over the years has single-handedly integrated Struck Kids into the melting pot of teenage sub-cultures that populate every high school.  Following this, over the years, the Struckcore culture became more selective, eventually leaving some outsiders on their own, despite the culture's principles.  In light of this, Struck became the most hypocritical sub-culture to date, ultimately a failure, and arguably a complete waste of time.  Still, people continue to commit to the lifestyle, even though its true purpose has been long forgotten, leaving a very sour after-taste of "alternative hipsterism" or the even more jaded "collective nonconformity" in the mouths of everyone who didn't follow it.

In Quick High, one such student had just recently left the culture behind after his own self-recognition.  It was on a Monday that the final bell had rung, signifying the end of the classes.  Students began to pour out of the classrooms, the majority of which were heading home.  The others, however, were forced to stay after school, including the student known as Phillip Slybourne.  A former follower of the Struckcore movement, Phillip, a slim African American teen, now endowed with his own personal style, felt that spending his 12th and final year of High School following a pointless trend was not something he wanted to invest his time in, and so he turned his back on the lifestyle.  At the end of the day, it definitely wasn't worth the investment.  Making his way down the hall, he walked to his locker and unlocked it, replacing his books for the last time before heading off for his unwanted fifth class of the day.

Phillip felt a light tap on his shoulder and turned around to see a short vibrant guy with dirty blonde hair to his ears.  He had a large comical smile fixed onto his face, while sporting his usual attire of loose clothing, sandles, and his Pikachu keychain that swung from a keyloop by his ripped jeans.  Standing right beside him was a rather large teenager, both in size and stature, with the exact same ridiculous smile on his face and a spiked fauxhawk on top of his head.  The looks on both of their faces made Phillip laugh out loud.

"What the hell are you guys doing?" he chuckled through his laughter.  

"Trying to put a smile on that face, dude," the blonde haired guy said warmly, patting him on the shoulder.  "Glad to see it worked."

"Well, you look ridiculous."

"We ARE ridiculous, you know this," the large guy shrugged.

"I'm sure," Phillip said, turning away to his locker.  When he looked back, he saw the two of them raise a single eyebrow with a comically questionable expression.  "Alright, I miss you guys too."

"That's my boy," the large guy said.  He reached across Phillip and covered him in a bear hug.

"Dude, dude," Phillip said frantically, trying to pry himself away from him.  "You're not respecting my personal space.  Jay, get your boyfriend."

"I think he's got the point, Dylan," Jay said, tapping the big guy on the shoulder.  Dylan shrugged and let go, while Phillip straightened up his shirt.

"You make me that much more afraid to go to jail, dude," Phillip said with a laugh.

"See, that's what I'm talking about," Dylan replied visibly frustrated as he shook his head.  "We miss that sense of humor of yours.  Why can't we just patch things up and get back to the way it used to be."

Phillip shook his head and looked away, the smile fading from his face.  "I don't see that happening any time soon.  I'm sure if Woodrow fucked you over the way he did me, you'd feel the same way.  I wouldn't mind it just being the three of us as long as Woodrow isn't in the picture."

"You know we can't do that, bro.  We've known him for as long as we've known you.  We can't pick sides like that.  The most we can do is hang out with the both of you separately whenever we get the chance and that's harder on us than it is with you two."

Phillip sighed and put the last book into his locker.  "Yeah, whatever," he said dismissively.

"Hey," called a voice behind them amidst the crowd of passing students.  The three of them turned to see Woodrow, a short but medium-sized guy with dark hair and a carefully trimmed goatee.  His eyes were abnormally small and so was his mouth, which corresponded with a higher pitched voice than either of them, as Phillip, Dylan, and Jay all had tones that were relatively deep.  "You guys coming?" he asked, gesturing down the hallway, where he was headed.

"Yeah, we'll meet you there in a bit," Dylan said, nodding at him.  Woodrow turned away, refusing to even make eye-contact or acknowledge the existence of Phillip, who chuckled humorlessly as he closed his locker door.

"Can't believe that guy," he said under his breath, but loud enough for the others to hear.  "Won't even apologize."  He turned back to Jay and Dylan, who looked at him anxiously.  "You guys can go ahead.  I'll see you in class."

"Alright, we'll be sitting in the back," Jay informed as he and Dylan began to make their way down the hallway.

"I said I'll see you guys," Phillip turned, zipping his backpack up.  "That means from across the room."

Jay winced in disappointment.  "Whatever you say, bro," he shrugged as they walked off.  "You know where to find us."

Phillip flipped his backpack over his shoulders and began to walk in the opposite direction.  In a more enthusiastic time, Phillip, Dylan, Jay, and Woodrow were the most inseperable of beserk hyperactive kids.  At that age, they'd established themselves as "The Team," a juvenile name that they became known for in their early school years growing up.  When they reached high school, they were all introduced into the massive world of Parkour, the art of movement in which a person learns how to condition their body and mind to overcome obstacles, allowing them to reach new heights, both mentally and literally.  As an agility-based sub-culture, it was popular in the early millenium and soon intertwined with Struckcore, although Phillip was the only one out of the group to take it in that direction, sporting the yellow clothing that Struck Kids usually wore (a symbolic nature of their idea of being "Struck" by lightning).  If anything, their introduction to Parkour brought them closer together.  It was during this time that Phillip had become the literal Black Sheep of the group, primarly for his support for Struck, but he was still excepted wholeheartedly among them...until one such instance involving a female by the name of Beatrice Spencer.

Beatrice was Phillip's crush after a failed relationship the year prior and Phillip could tell that he was developing strong feelings for this particular girl.  The only problem was that he had had very little exposure to Beatrice, a predicament that his best friend, Woodrow, volunteered to help him with.  Woodrow agreed to wingman Phillip by progressing the connection between he and Beatrice through a surrogate-like means, to which Phillip was incredibly grateful.  It even got as far as Woodrow revealing to Phillip that Bea was expressing similar feelings for him.  It was a heartfelt moment, as Phillip mistakenly let it slip that he considered Woodrow to be his closest friend.  Phillip had to find out, no, force the truth out of Dylan several days later to find out that Woodrow had had a one-night stand with Beatrice days after the exchange.  The ultimate act of betrayal.

Everything went downhill from there.  Phillip broke away from the Team, the news of which spread very widely and very quickly throughout the students at Quick High.  The Team was one of the most well-connected and popular groups in the school and after the dispute, the gossip and rumors emerging about the situation were plentiful.  The reveal that one of them had broken away from the group and the reasons that followed not only amplified Woodrow's reputation, due to his score sexually, but in turn, ruined Beatrice's, once she was labeled as being easy, while Phillip was left alone and completely humiliated.  These events had developed last semester, but there was no way Phillip would ever forget.  Woodrow had single-handedly ruined Phillip's senior year and by association, limited his exposure to his two actual best friends, Jay and Dylan.  Phillip knew that one day, things needed to be brought to a point and whether they'd come to a peaceful or destructive conclusion was entirely up to Woodrow.  However, based on the recent inactivity and lack of any attempt to make amends on Woodrow's part, the path to closure was definitely leaning in a bad route.

As Phillip turned the corner down the hallway, he got his money out of his pocket and readied it in his hand, planning to grab a bite to eat from the snack machine before the class.  Not paying attention to where he was headed, he collided with a figure that had been walking in his direction.

"Oh sorry," Phillip said, but froze when he saw who it was.  Robyn Cohen.  A beautiful black girl with silk caramel skin, long lucious hair, and tight clothing.  Her piercing light-brown eyes and surprised expression nearly threw him for a loop.  Phillip leaned down and picked up the money quickly before standing back up to see her.  "Uh, hey."

"Hey....Phil," Robyn said awkwardly, as she glanced a quick look at her friend, a tan-skinned brunette who stood beside her.  "How've you been these days?"

Phillip nodded but it took him a moment to speak.  "Pretty good, pretty good....Headed to the uh, Survival Course.  Starts in 15 minutes."

"Oh yeah, we're headed there too," she said with a smile, gesturing at her friend.  "You want to walk with us?"-

"Uh, no," Phillip said quickly with a bit of forced disappointment.  "I've got some things I need to get done and I don't want to hold you guys up so..."

"Okay, it's fine," Robyn smiled.  "I guess, we'll just see you in class then?"

"Yeah, yeah sure thing," he nodded quickly but anxiously.  "Bye Robyn, Sarah."

Robyn waved at him as her friend, Sarah Lowe did the same.  Sarah turned back and watched Phillip disappear around the corner before she turned back to Robyn.

"Wow," she said.  "That was hard to watch."

"For you," Robyn replied, rolling her eyes.  "I got over him when we broke up last year.  We're just friends now, that's all.  There's no tension."

"If that wasn't tense, 9/11 would be downgraded to Sweeps Week on Weekday Soaps.  You guys seem like a lot less than friends right about now.  Friends like that don't need to be friends at all.  When was the last time you talked to him?"

"Does it matter?" Robyn said, turning back to Sarah.  "We're on neutral terms, that's all we need to be."

"You know, you can be pretty heartless sometimes," Sarah said with a raised eyebrow.  Robyn turned back and gave her an irritated look.

"And you can be pretty annoying sometimes, so sue me," Robyn responded.  She turned back to the crowd of students that walked alongside her, but soon switched gears when she spotted someone she knew in an adjacent hallway across from her.  "Sidney!!"

She shouted his name as she ran across the hallway and he looked over in her direction from the wall he'd been leaning against.  Sidney was a tall, thin-faced punk-styled teenager.  His hair was long and straight, going down past his ears.  He wore a pair of miniature rectangular-rimmed glasses on his face and a thick hoody over his shoulders cozily.  When Robyn approached him, he smirked and held out his arms as she hugged him tightly.

"You know I hate when you call me by my full name," he said annoyingly but with a smile.  "How've you been?"

"Good, you?" she greeted.

"Better than usual.  Just passed my fucking English test by one fucking point.  I'm reeling with happiness right now."

"Well, good job," Robyn said with a bit of sarcasm.  "Where's Siobhan?"

"There she goes right over there," he said, pointing at the red-headed Scene girl that headed toward them from the hallway.  "Took you fucking long enough."

"Shut up," she said, punching him in the arm forcefully before turning to Robyn and hugging her on sight.  Sid rolled his eyes and looked away briefly as he waited for them to part.  "It's good to see you, Robyn!  We need to go by Mr. Jones' room one of these days, see what he's up to."

"I know, right?" Robyn said enthusiastically.  "Did you hear?  His wife just gave birth."

"He had a wife?" Sidney asked with a bit of surprise.  "I thought he was gay."

Siobhan turned to Sid and punched him again playfully.  Sid held the spot where she punched him with his other hand.  "Damn, ease up some time.  I mean, you can't even tell.  I honestly thought he was a woman, he was so androgynous.  Reminded me of that one guy from Math Class last year, remember?  What's his name?  The girly kid with the brown hair and the diva walk?"

"Are you talking about Jeremy Witt?" Sarah asked, interjecting.

"Yeah, that's him.  Now that guy, you could tell he was a dude on sight, but the day I first laid eyes on him, I turned for a second and I heard some girl say something.  I fucking turn back and its him.  I honestly thought it was a girl talking when he spoke.  That's as gay as gay can get."

"God, you are so insensitive," Siobhan said, shaking her head.  "I actually heard he was straight."

Sidney snorted with laughter.  "No fucking way he's straight.  Unless there's some incredibly masculine chick out there that would want someone like him, I'm sure he's sticking to the dicks."

"Oh my God," Robyn sighed, face-palming.  "Everything that comes out of your mouth is so offensive."

"I know, right?" Sid agreed with a smile.  "Damn, it feels good to be me."

Robyn shook her head once more and exchanged pitiful looks with Siobhan.  "Don't know how you deal with this guy.  I've got to go, I've got the Survival Course in a few minutes."

"We do too," Siobhan said excitedly.  "We'll meet you there in a little bit.  Got to find Bea first."

"All right, see you there," Robyn said, waving at them as she accompanied Sarah on her way down the hall.  When they were gone, Sidney turned to Siobhan curiously.

"Where is Bea anyway?" he asked curiously.

"I don't know, I haven't seen her all day," Siobhan shrugged.  "I honestly don't even know if she came to school today.  It'd be fucked up, because if she misses the first day of ZOSC, she probably won't pass the class.  Plus we have band practice afterward."

"That'd be good if she wasn't around for that," Sid said as he lounged against the wall once again.  "It'd mean another victory against emos, doesn't matter how small."

"Why do you keep saying that?" Siobhan said with her hands on her hips.  "Our music isn't emo, it's expressional."

"Why are you getting so defensive?  Your drumming and Bea's singing are the best things to come out of that band.  Trent can't write music for shit, Brian and Drew can't play for shit, I mean, it's like half the band is missing....Man, I could use a smoke right about now.  Soon as ZOSC is over and I get home, I am so hitting the herbs."

Siobhan turned slightly and spotted Beatrice heading up from down the hallway.  She was a petite girl with side swept dark hair that fell over her face, nearly obscuring her vision.  She wore a heavy amount of make-up around her eyelids and was sporting tight, dark clothing.  She nodded when she noticed the two and approached them.

"I was beginning to think you weren't here today," Siobhan said with her arms crossed.

"Yeah, my teacher was chewing me out over nonsense, but check it out."  Beatrice moved her hair away from her ears, displaying her new centimeter-sized plugs.  "Nice, right?"

"Very," Siobhan said with a smile.  "You get those yesterday?"

"Yeah.  Hurt like hell, but it was worth it."

"Hardly," Sid said, rolling his eyes.  "I'd rather keep my ears the way they are than to have people sticking their fingers into my earlobes."

"You clearly don't understand the point of plugs and gauges," Siobhan said.

"Nope," Sid responded, leaning up from the wall.  "So are we going to class or what?"

"Yeah let's go."  Siobhan led the three of them along the hallway as they passed the last of the students that would be leaving the school for the day.  Lots of things were different with the trio before high school had begun.  For starters, it began with only Sid and Beatrice, who were close friends for the entirety of their Middle School years.  As time progressed, Beatrice was reaquainted with Siobhan Newton, an old friend from her hometown who revealed that she would be moving to Ocean Valley and attending the same school as her once again.  Immediately after the move, she and Sid became close friends, eventually growing closer than Sid and Bea had ever gotten.  An obvious contribution to that was Sid's internal feelings for Siobhan, which were deep but obscure enough for him to hide with his usual obnoxious attitude.  The last thing he wanted to do was ruin a good friendship with what might be a pointless attempt at starting a relationship.  Aside from this though, it was obvious that Sid cared for Siobhan more than anyone he knew, aside from Bea that is, and that was truly a milestone, seeing as Sid rarely cared for anyone other than himself.

"So what's the point of gauges and plugs according to you, huh?" Sid asked apathetically as he followed beside them down the hallway.  "Can't be to get guys, unless you want another repeat of the Woodrow incident"-

"Sid!" Siobhan said, leaning forward threateningly.

"What?  I'm just telling the truth.  I mean, unless you did it to impress Phillip, I'm sure you let that ship sail a long ass time ago"-

"Oh my Go- Sid, come on," Siobhan exclaimed.

"It's all right, Siobhan," Beatrice responded.  "I'm not trying to impress anybody, Sid, I'm doing it because I want to."

"And it's totally worth it because...."

"Because it's what I want, no clearer reason than that.  I don't need an explaination for being me."

Sid shrugged.  "Fair enough."

Somewhere close to the Cafeteria, loud hip hop music could be heard blasting from a stereo.  When the trio turned the corner, they could see break dancers down the hallway occupying an area by the entrance of the school.

"What's going on over there?" Sid asked curiously.

"That's DGG," Siobhan informed him.  "The Distinguished Gentlemen's Group.  They're a life development club."

"What does that have to do with break dancing?"

"They encourage any positive forms of expression.  People around here don't respect them too much because they consider it to be bogus and full of posers, but I think they're pretty genuine-"

"Yeah, yeah, nobody cares what you think."

Siobhan sucked her teeth and hit Sid in the arm again.  He turned to her apologetically.  "Fine, not many people care what you think."

Beatrice squinted her eyes and looked at the break dancer who took center stage in the middle of the dance area.  "Is that Jonah?"

The Asian break dancer was dressed in baggy jeans and a large hoody that swung about as he spun across the floor.  He was barefoot, which gave him more mobility, allowing him to twist and flip through the air on beat with the music with relative ease.  His black hair was spiked up and his teeth were large and covered with braces.  He ended his session of the dance with a split, before sliding out of the way for the next dancer.

"Ohh!" A muscular dark-skinned kid exclaimed, impressed with Jonah's display.  "Jonah's got moves.  I respect that."

"Yeah?" Jonah said with a smirk.  "Let's see you get on the floor and do something, Lamar."

"Man, I've got class in a few minutes, I need to get going," Lamar said, grasping his backpack tightly.

"Yeah the Survival Course, I've got it too.  Come on, you've got time to bust a move or two.  Let's do this."

Lamar looked around cautiously and took off his backpack.  "All right."  He dropped the bag out of the way and sprinted into the center of the dance area, following up into a spinning flip until he landed on his feet.  The crowd reacted positively and he continued with a variety of pops and locks.

"So Mr. MVP of the B-Ball team can move," Jonah said with a touch of sarcasm.  "Who knew?"

"Lamar!" a voice shouted, coming very close to a shriek that nearly made everyone jump.  They all turned to see a short but well-endowed blonde female power-walking in their direction.  "What are you doing?"

"Not cheating on you if that's what it looks like," Lamar joked, breathing heavily as he finished his set and walked off the dance floor.  The others chuckled at his comment.

"Hilarious," the blonde said, walking up to him, accompanied by a red-haired young man with tight clothing and a very noticeable switch in his walk.  "Come on, we've got ZOSC in about ten minutes.  We need to get there early to find a good seat."

"Look at Miss Class President," Jonah teased as he walked up with his arms crossed.  "Always thinking ahead, right Cecillia?"

"That's why he loves me," Cecillia said, gesturing at Lamar.  "Right, honey."

"Exactly," he said, leaning down toward her for a kiss.  As soon as they parted, Lamar looked up to see a petite spanish girl pass directly by, a scowl forming on her face as soon as she laid eyes on the lot of them.  Immediately after, she turned away and continued down the hall.  He looked down at Cecillia and they exchanged looks.  "Whoa....what the hell was that all about?"

"You're talking about Tammy?" the androgynous ginger-haired boy who accompanied Cecillia asked.  When he spoke, his voice was very effiminate and nearly indistinguishable from a female's.  "She's always like that.  Every school has their most likely candidate for Most Stuck-Up Bitch In The School Award.  I'm surprised you didn't know she was ours, Mr. Popular."

"Well, I don't know everybody around here," Lamar shrugged.  "It's a big school."

"Say what you want about her, but I saw her in last semester's Christmas play - blew me away, completely.  She's easily the best actress here at this school.  She's definitely going places."

"With that attitude, doesn't look like that's a good thing," Lamar said, watching her continue down the hallway.  "And how come you know all about her, Jeremy?"

Jeremy shrugged as if Lamar had asked a stupid question.  "Come on, honey, it's me we're talking about.  I know all about the divas in this school.  Speaking of divas..."

Jeremy subtly edged his head in the direction of a group of African American girls that sat over by a table outside of the cafeteria area.  All of them were staring intently at the group of them.

"Girl, he is so fine," one said to the group, to which the others enthusiastically agreed.  "And he's hooked up with a white girl like that.  Shame."

"I know that's right," said the girl who appeared to be the leader of the troup.  She had black hair to her shoulders with red highlights at the top.  Her clothing was extra tight and she leaned to her side as she stood in a relaxed position.  "I've been seeing that too many times around here.  All these brothers getting with the wrong bitches.  It's 'cause we not trying hard enough."

"Girl, you are trippin'," one girl said to the leader.  "We got all our men on lock, we don't need to be checking for anymore.  You trying to piss off Tyrekis, Latasha?"

"Bitch, shut the hell up," Latasha said threateningly.  "I wasn't even talking about me.  What're you trying to say, I'm a hoe or something?"

"Nah, you got me wrong, girl"-

"'Cause you know Tyrekis ain't afraid to whoop a bitch's ass neither," Latasha said with dangerous eyes.  "You better recognize, girl."

"I got you, I got you," the girl said, putting up her hands defensively.  "My fault."

"You damn right, your fault," Latasha said, folding her arms and looking back down the hallway at Lamar and the break dancers.

"Alright, I'm about to head out," one of the other girls said, grabbing her purse and beginning to walk away from the group.  "You need a ride, Latasha?"

"Nah, girl, you know I've got ZOSC today.  My mom will be here to pick me up."

"Alright, we'll see you then."  The girls began to walk away and Latasha grabbed her bag, walking in the opposite direction as she headed for the class.  She gave a dangerous look to Lamar on her way by.

"Damn, I bet she's going to ZOSC too," Lamar said, shaking his head with disappointment.  "I think we should wait a little while."

"Did you forget what I said?" Cecillia mentioned with a bit of attitude.  "We need to find good seats.  We've got to go now."

Lamar looked away with a bit of annoyance.  "Okay," he said, as she led the way down the hall with Jeremy and Lamar behind her.  Jonah had just finished his last spin on the dance floor before he walked off and grabbed his shoes by the wall.

"You heading off already, man?" one of the dancers asked.

"Yeah, I've got the Survival Course today."

"Oh damn," the dancer said with pity.  "Sucks, man.  Be careful in that shit.  My brother took it last year, didn't last to the 5th day.  He said it's hard as hell."

"I believe it," Jonah said, putting on his backpack and heading off.  "I'll do my best though."

"All you really can do," the dancer said, saluting Jonah off before jumping back onto the dance floor.  Jonah walked down the hallway and passed one subhall that caught his interest.  He stopped walking, looked down the hall that held the path to his class, then looked back to his left into the subhall once again.  Was it worth being late?  Yes, it was.  He walked down the subhall and passed the classrooms, eventually stopping by the ROTC room.  Inside, there was a high-ranked student administering push-ups to three cadets that were struggling to endure the punishment.  The student with authority was a senior, that much Jonah could tell.  He was sporting a buzz cut, slightly tanned skin, glasses, and was dressed from head to toe in professional green ROTC attire.

"Down," he said, as the cadets laid onto the ground.  "Up."  The cadets pushed themselves up once again.  "Down.  Up.  Down.  Up."

He let the cadets stay in the upward position for a while, to which they were visibly in anguish.

"Damn, Kurt," said the cadet in the center, a somewhat pale-skinned teenager with a growing goatee and a buzz cut.  He had pit stains under his arms and sweat was dripping from his nose onto the floor.

"...the hell did you just call me, Soldier?" The student who's name was Kurt said with a raised eyebrow.  "It's Lieutenant McCormick to you, you stupid fuck.  You just earned your Unit another fifty, Knapp."

The three cadets groaned in agony.  One, a long-haired latino teen, hit Cadet Knapp in the side of the arm as Kurt continued to force them through more punishment.

"I've got to stop, " said the third cadet, a stunningly beautiful girl with her hair tied back into a bun.  She spoke with a thick Russian accent.

"Endure it, Russia," Kurt said with authority.  "Put that Nordic blood to use."

"Nordic would be from Norway, Sir," the latino boy said through his struggle.

"You bad-mouthing me, Acquarulo?  You want another fifty to tack on?"

"Sir, no, sir," the boy said with a strained voice, his arms beginning to shake with pain.

Seeing that the cadets weren't going to last another fifty push ups, Kurt decided to ease up the pressure.  "All right, get up."

The three cadets pushed themselves up onto their feet, each of their arms visibly red from the extensive torture  Kurt had put them through.  They had brutalized looks on their faces as they stood at attention, but they tried their best not to show it.

"You all are lucky I've got another class in a few minutes.  Otherwise, we'd be here all day."

"What class, sir?" Cadet Knapp asked, with a bit of enthusiasm.  The latino boy and the russian girl rolled their eyes.

"The Zombie Outbreak Survival Course," Kurt said nonchalantly, crossing his arms in front of him.

"Really?" Knapp said with a bright smile, looking over at his two colleagues.  "That's where we're headed too."

Kurt displayed a devilish grin and stepped into Knapp's face slowly.  "You're smiling like that's a good thing," he muttered quietly.  The smile slowly disappeared from Knapp's face.  "At ease, soldiers."

The three cadets relaxed as they prepared to grab their things and leave the room.  The russian girl had taken the band out of her hair, letting it flow down to her shoulders in.  As the others exitted, Kurt walked towards her carefully.

"Hey, Sidorov," Kurt said, rubbing his chin slowly in thought.  "Sorry, I had to be brutal on you like that.  I figured as an exchange student and a woman, going easy on you would be an insult."

The girl turned to him with a raised eyebrow and just as quickly went back to her things.

"I mean, outside of the class, you know, I'm actually a pretty nice guy.  I just have to do what I have to do while I'm here."

The girl continued to ignore him as she gathered her things into her bag and walked past him towards the exit.  He called out to her before she reached the door.  "Hey, I was wondering if you wanted to....I don't know....do something some time."

Sidorov turned back to him with an expression oozing with negativity as she sized him up once and walked out of the door.  Kurt tapped on the table awkwardly as she left.  "Ooookay..."

As soon as she exitted the room, she caught Jonah's attention.  He smiled brightly.  "Hey, Kristy," he greeted.

She turned to him and displayed a smile that made Jonah's heart melt.  "Hello, Jonah," she said with energy.  "How vas your day?"

"Good, good," Jonah said awkwardly, putting his hands in his pockets.  "Yours?"

Kristy sighed and pointed into the ROTC room, shaking her head.  Jonah smiled.  "I wish I could talk, but I have ZOSC and I'm already a bit late."

"Oh, yeah that's fine," Jonah said vibrantly.  "I'm actually headed there myself.  I was wondering if you'd let me walk you to class."

Kristy smiled.  "Vhat a gentleman.  I'd be delighted."

"Cool."  Jonah leaned up from the wall and escorting her out of the subhall.  As they walked by, two guys could be seen by the lockers, watching the two walk out and head down the hall.  One of the guys was unloading his books into his locker and the other was watching Kristy and Jonah intently.

"Crap, dude," said one guy, who leaned up against the locker casually.  He was a short black teen with a slight heavyset build.  He wore glasses, had a well-trimmed goatee and hairline, and an earring in his left ear.  "Kristina is freaking BEAUTIFUL!  I envy any guy who catches her attention, I really do.  Just looking at her makes me want to take a trip to Russia."

The guy tending to the books in his locker was a tall teen with slightly pale skin, jet black hair with several yellow streaks across it, a slight hunch in his posture, and yellow attire, showing off his allegiance to the Struckcore movement.  He turned in the direction that the first guy had been looking in.  For a few minutes, he was so enticed by Kristy's beauty that he didn't see the stack of books that were fallng out of his locker in front of him.  They hit him on the chest and caused him to react quickly, trying to catch them in his arms but failing horribly as they knocked him to the ground.  The first guy put his hands in his pockets and looked around with a stern expression on his face.

"Real smooth, bro, he said, but soon smiled and helped his friend up from the ground.  "You should get your shit together, Royce.  We're about to actually fight zombies.  What you did just now was definitely not Zombie Killer of the Week material."

Royce laughed out loud as he picked his books up from the floor.  "Zombieland reference.  Priceless.  Only you, Louis."

"No, only you.  You're the one that showed me that movie.  You're the one with all of the Zombie memorabilia in your room, you're the one that actually attends the Zombie-Con and was probably the only person who attended the City-wide Zombie Walk every halloween before the big outbreak in London eight years ago, and you're the guy with virtually every Zombie movie and video game ever made.  Even Resident Evil.  I mean, seriously.  How old is that series, like 20 years?"

"26 to be exact.  First one came out in 1996 for the Playstation."

"See, this is what I'm talking about," Louis said, gesturing at him.  "You're the only person I know that deliberately signed up for the Survival Course.  If you don't pass this class, I will personally slap you on the back of the head myself."

"That might be a possibility," Royce said, putting the last of his books into his locker.  "I've heard the zombie outbreak in London was pretty far from the fictional stuff I know about."

"Dude, a headshot is a headshot.  This class is basically nothing but a more realistic video game as it is.  You're going to dominate this shit, no matter the zombie."

Royce shrugged, closing his locker door.  "Well, I suspect the mutations are pretty random and off-the-wall like Dead World or something and I beat that game in like a day on my first try, so we'll see.  Crap, I forgot my gym clothes in the locker room.  Can you come with me to get them?"

"Sure, but we've got to hurry.  Class starts in like 5 minutes."

Royce put his backpack on and walked down the hallway with Louis beside him.  Seemingly out of no where, a young girl accompanied them.  She was very short with a bowl-shaped haircut down to her ears and large glasses over her eyes.  She walked with a hunch and held her books very close to her chest.  She did not say anything when she made her way beside them and when Louis turned to see her, he jumped in surprise and held on to Royce briefly.

"Francine!" Louis shouted, taking a breath.  "What the hell?  You scared the crap out of me."

"Sorry," she said shyly.  "Should have announced myself."

"No kidding," Louis said, calming down.  "What do you need?"

"Have you guys seen Woodrow or Phillip?  I can't find them anywhere."

"Maybe they went home."

"No, they're supposed to be in the Survival Course with us."

"Did they tell you that?" Louis asked curiously.

"Well, no...."

"Then how'd you find that out?"

Francine looked a bit flustered as she struggled to get her words out.  Eventually, she turned and walked in the opposite direction.  Louis turned back to see her and then looked back at Royce, shaking his head.  "That girl scares me most times."

Louis and Royce turned the corner and walked into the hallway directly beside the gymnasium, taking it all the way to the locker room.  When Royce entered, he looked in but backed away from the door in annoyance.

"What's the matter?" Louis asked curiously.

"Freaking Ross and Austin are in there," he said through gritted teeth.


"So, they are always at each other's throats.  It's so annoying and they like to add me into the equation."

"Dude, just get your shit and come back out.  Simple as that."

Royce sighed and entered the locker room.  "Honestly wish it was."

Royce walked in to see that Ross, an impressively built Italian fellow, and Austin, an equally impressively built blonde-haired kid, were the only students left in the locker room and they were simultaneously getting dressed on opposite sides of the place.

"What's up, Royce?" Ross greeted with excitement.

Royce nodded with a forced smile.  As he reached his locker door, Austin chuckled to himself.

"Something funny, All-American?" Ross asked with a bit of attitude.

"Yes, very," Austin said with a slight country accent, taking off his gym shirt.  "One, your face.  Two, the reaction you get from everybody I see you greet.  They all give you that 'Just smile and hopefully he'll go away' look."

"That's just how Royce is, you dumbass," Ross said with force.  "He's shy like that.  Right, Royce?"

Royce sighed audibly and looked down.  "Right."

"Sure," Austin said, chuckling again.  "I never have to worry about that.  Everybody loves me, being the Baseball Team Captain and all.  Do you get the same recognition as MVP of the Wrestling team, or are the man-hugs recognition enough for you?"

"You know what?" Ross said with a humorless smile.  "I'd rather be a homoerotic wrestler than a honky tonk Banjo-playing, Nascar-watching, Buck-hunting, Cousin-fucking Hick like somebody I know."

Austin threw the shoe he was holding on the floor in anger.  "You're going too fucking far, Malone.  Don't insult my Country roots, I'm very proud of that."

Ross nodded with a chuckle.  "Proud of those Country roots...the roots from the tree you lynched Jews and Blacks on."

"Fuck this," Austin said, hopping over the bench by his set of lockers and running towards Ross, who was immediately militarizing himself.

"Guys!" Royce called out, turning to them as Austin stopped his stride and Ross let down his guard.  "Coach is going to kick both of you guys off your teams if he catches you fighting in here."

Austin immediately calmed down and glared at Ross.  He pointed at him threateningly as he went back to his side of the locker room and Ross flipped him off in response.

"So where you headed, Royce?" Ross asked putting on the last of his clothes.

"ZOSC," Royce said quickly.

"Oh yeah?  Me too."

Austin looked up from his bag as he slipped it over his shoulder.  "Me too," he said finally.  Both Ross and Royce gave him incredulous looks.

"Seriously?" Royce said with a look of anguish.

Austin nodded and Royce turned, banging his hand on the top of the locker in frustration.

"I feel for you, dude," Ross said with a smile.

Royce packed up his gym clothes and took them out of the locker room, where he again met up with Louis.

"What took you so long?" he said when Royce emerged.  "We're almost late for class."

Royce ignored him and led the way out of the hall adjacent to the gymnasium.  When they were back in the main hallway, they took a left and walked outside to be greeted by the cloudy afternoon skies above the city of Ocean Valley.  It was growing increasingly dark and it looked like it was bound to rain at some point before the class was over.  Neither of the two had brought anything to cover with, so they would have to endure it the best they could.

When they reached the back of the school, Louis turned to Royce.  "Do you remember which trailer the class is in?"

"I think so," Royce replied as they continued on, passing the row of Classroom trailers that populated the area between the school and the football field.  Eventually, they reached a lone trailer in a gap directly between two rows of other trailers.  "Was that trailer always there?"

"I don't know," Louis said, scanning it as they approached.  "I don't remember it being there before.  But then again, I haven't had class out here since my freshman year."

There was a small wooden staircase that led up to the door of the trailer, which Louis and Royce took, opening the door and walking in.  The classroom's interior looked a lot larger from the inside than it did out.  There was enough room to fit all twenty-four of the students that would be attending the class with room to spare.  Virtually everyone, with the exception of Austin and Ross, had arrived and were whispering amongst each other as they waited for class to start.  Louis and Royce took two empty seats by the door and curiously watched the man in the desk by the corner.

He was very young, but noticeably older than the rest of them with knowledgeable eyes, but a relaxed exterior.  His brown hair was combed over neatly and a thin beard was growing around his jawline.  He sat casually in his chair, staring off into space as he continuously flipped the coin in his hand and caught it without much effort.  It wasn't what many of them had expected at all for a Survival Course teacher.  Most of them expected him to be a hardened Zombie-killing warrior with scars over his face, a rugged exterior, and hidden weapons all over his person.  Some even believed, like in the case of Royce, that their teacher would be a literal representation of Ash Williams from the Evil Dead trilogy, complete with the Chainsaw hand and everything.  In a way, it was a bit of a relief to see such an average man for a teacher of a class like this.  It softened their expectations for the class's activities itself.  Unfortunately, given the circumstances, this was by all means a bad thing as it would lower their defences for what might as well be a trip to hell and back for the next three weeks.

When the class was finally joined by Ross and Austin, who sat on opposite sides of the room, the teacher finally stood up from his desk and walked in front of the class.  When he turned to them, everyone quieted down immediately.

"Hello everybody," he greeted them vibrantly.  "My name is Mr. Aiden Glass and welcome to the Zombie Outbreak Survival Course."

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