Part 1 [16/6/12]
Everyone was making a lot of noise. The students were stood up, with suitcases around them of different colours, and were mingling with each other. Two teachers walk around the room checking the list of students.
Two other students were standing in a corner. But these weren't students of this year group. One was student of Halesowen College, far away in the UK, and the other was former student of the Lower Clifton College taking the identity of another student from Halesowen College. These two were Jaz and Max.
"Okay!" Tom calls. "Everyone is here. Let's get on the coaches."
All the students file out of the classroom, lead by the other teacher, Lee. Tom takes up the rear. They are lead into a lobby area directly left from the lobby into which they enter.
Tom calls them to a halt and they wait, shifting from foot to foot or just looking around. A few seconds later, he calls for them to walk again.
Waiting outside are the two coaches, and all students file onto either one. Within a few minutes, both rumble off.
The chatter of the students as they talk while the journey continues washes over Max as he sleeps. Jaz looks out the window, watching as the cities and the countryside flashes past.
All too soon, the coaches pull up outside a train station.
"Train station?" Jaz asks. "Nice place to set up a film company."
"Whuh? We there?" Max asks sleepily.
"Yes. We've arrived at a train station."
"Oh. Wonder what comes next?" Max remembers the part he is meant to be playing well.
The students file out of the two coaches and onto the car park. They are lead into the train station proper and to a special platform.
Before the board, Tom and Lee speak to the students.
Part 2 [20/6/12]
"Okay," Tom begins. "This train will take us to Plutes."
"The idea of this is to get you ready for the tasks that lie ahead during the filming," Lee adds. "There are no seats."
"So basically we get to be adventurers during the journey," Jaz jokes.
"Yes," Tom says slowly, giving a wistful smile. "This is also a test of your stability and endurance."
"Let's get on the train then," Lee says, signalling the students to get on the train.
The train then starts off slowly at first, with all the students still getting used to standing on the train. The first jolt has about half of them on the floor, and a quarter of those who ended up on the floor stayed on the floor, thinking it would be safer.
Max shoots a look at Tom and Lee, who somehow have managed to grab hold of straps on the ceiling of the train. Max looks up, but there are no others.
Another jolt strikes the train.
"I don't know about this," Max says, acting as Chris. "Seems dangerous."
"No, no," Jaz inputs. "It's I've got a bad feeling about this. And also, Jedi don't feel danger."
"Yes. Star Wars. If only I had the Force," Max says after almost being thrown to the floor. "Then I'd be able to stay rooted to the floor."
"Although," Jaz grinds out as the train picks up speed and the jolts get even rougher, "a TARDIS would be a better proposition. That way we wouldn't have to suffer this. But still, it's fun, I have to say that."
"It is dangerous." Max then gets thrown into Jaz, and whispers "They use this method to weaken everyone before they arrive and so no-one else can access the place." He is then thrown away again, whacking his elbow on a wall.
"Well, it doesn't matter so long as we get a rest from all this."
"I hope so."
After a lot of jolts and most of the journey complete, nearly everyone is on the floor, and everyone's luggage is everywhere. The train starts slowing down, and the jolts become less frequent. Out of the windows, hills and countryside can be seen. The station then comes into view.
The station seems to have had a makeover since Max was last here. The door is still in the same place as last time, but the floor is polished and still it is an open air station.
And on that station, three people wait. The doors of the train open.
Part 3 [29/6/12]
The three on the station wear green jumpers and blue trousers, with black boots. Behind them, hung up, is a banner with the Plutes logo and the words 'welcome you all' underneath it.
Excited students start pushing their way out of the door. Max allows himself to be pulled with the flow, waiting.
"Now. Now," one of the three adults on the station calls. "No need for that."
As Max is pushed through the doors, he pulls from one of his bags a micro recorder, and chucks it at the wall with a surreptitious arm movement. He watches it grip the wall and track the person who spoke, who he recognises as Stanley.
Stanley then speaks up when all the students are quiet. Max recognises that they have stood in the same positions as last time.
"Now then," Stanley says. "Welcome to Plutes, the home of set design and film making. I'm Stanley Upper, and behind me to the left is Ean. Telisa on the right. We are all family and this is our home."
"Plutes is the best place for budding film enthusiasts," Ean says. "This is because you get to build the sets, and also film on them."
"We'll show you where you will be staying over the course of the week, shall we?" Telisa commands.
The students, teachers, and instructors walk from the station to the front of the train and onto a path, following it right to a stone building.
Max whispers to Jaz "That door. Did you see it?"
Jaz keeps his voice equally low. "Yes."
"That door and one you'll see in a bit are connected somehow."
"Like a temporal vortex?"
"I'm not sure. But there must be an underground passage. I want to uncover all I can."
As Max finishes this sentence, the students stop, and Stanley says "This is the residential area. We are in a house you can see behind. Let's get in."
As the door opens, the students gasp. As Max walks in, he can see why. This area has had an even grander makeover than the station. The cream walls and floor had gone, instead replaced with ruby red marble wall tiles and a black crystallised marble floor. The original benches and tables had gone, replaced with new ones, but plastic and with the same marble shine as the walls and floor. The chairs were cushioned and high backed.
The only thing that hadn't gone through a change was the door connected to the station.
"This is the cafe area," Ean comments. "The girls' dorms are to the left, boys down the far end."
Stanley then looks up, as though someone had said something. Max could remember last time he was here, he had asked what was behind the door to the right. Stanley must have been remembering that too.
Telisa then says "It's getting dark and we'll be starting early in the morning, so get unpacked, return here for food, and then get back to your dorms and get some sleep."
Ean and Telisa then move off. Max, knowing he might not get another chance, slips another micro recorder into his hand. Stanley is still standing where he was. As Max and Jaz pass him, Stanley stares into the side of Max's head.
Max lets the micro recorder flick up to Stanley's jumper with a tiny hand movement. With that done, Max and Jaz then head to the boys dorms to try and grab one that had two beds in.
Part 4 [8/7/12]
Okay. So. I'll only be able to do these in this room. All my equipment must be kept hidden from all who may enter, otherwise I will be discovered as Max. After eating our fill at the cafe, we returned to the room, where we now have to plan how we are going to do this.
JAZ: This means I have to follow your orders again. But still I wonder why I can't come with you as well.
You will be on the field all of the time. Don't you think it's going to look a bit weird if both students from a far off school go AWOL most of the time? At least this way, if I am caught, you won't be revealed until the time comes in our contingency plan.
JAZ: Contingency plan? The real Chris would have said something about the Republic Commando books by now.
And so, while all this is going on, I will be monitoring that microcam I placed on Stanley to see what it can dig up about the place they stay in. I'll also consider planting a few other surprises in their if I can.
JAZ: Hold on. With you sneaking around and not with the group, surely they will notice that you aren't there.
Wrong. They never check who is and who isn't in the group at present. In fact, it's almost as if they don't care who's there so long as they get the job done.
JAZ: Bit harsh if I do say so myself, but if you say the total plan will work, I'll go along with it. But then, I'm not one to say no where adventure is concerned.
Good. Now then, tomorrow will be an important day, and you had better be prepared. The first part of our plan will start then, but you've got that much more of a hard job. Trust me, putting those sets up or painting a wall all day is hard work.
JAZ: I'm prepared.
I just hope you are. And meanwhile I will be-
JAZ: Mandalorian curse. I picked up the odd word from Chris.
Part 5 [15/7/12]
Jaz keeps quiet while Max packs the Secure-disk Rec back in its bag quickly. The footsteps get louder as they go past the door, then fainter again as they walk across to the other side.
Both Max and Jaz let out silent sighs of relief. But still they don't talk. Instead, they get into a bed each and get some sleep.
Outside the door, Stanley watches some students go by. He was sure he had heard voices inside the room he was outside, but knew better than to knock on the door and find out. For all he knew, they could have just been talking, but it didn't really sound like they were talking to each other.
After another ten minutes of waiting, in which more students passed and quizzical looks followed him, Stanley then leaves and walks back to the clan house.
"Anything?" Ean asks, as Stanley closes the door.
"No. I was sure as well."
"Sure on what?" Telisa asks as she walks in with a bowl of crisps.
"That one of the students who had previously been here had returned."
"That's silly. You know the whole entry process is regulated by the teachers of any given school."
"I know, but the feeling was strong."
"If you say a student is back here," Ean says, "then which do you propose it is?"
"That one you said had a laptop, and all those other weird gizmos."
"If he is back, then why?"
"That's why I want to know."
"Well do we have any anomalies here?" Telisa asks.
"Not that I know of," Ean replies.
"I'll check tomorrow when we get everyone together," Stanley says.
"Until then, there is nothing we can do. So goodnight," Ean says.
"Um, I'll just finish these," Telisa mumbles.
Stanley waits until Telisa finishes the crisps and takes the bowl away, then walks to his own room.
He cannot sleep however, and all he does is pace the room. Thinking. Thinking about all he had built here, and all the money and time invested into the project.
Where is he hiding? The tech kid.
Whta does he want from coming here and how did he break our spell?
Eventually, he can't pace no longer, and he himself goes to sleep.
Part 6 [19/7/12]
The next day, the students get up at alarms that ring all across the building at 07:00. Students make their way to the cafe area at roughly 07:10.
Only Ean sat at a table, but at 07:20, Telisa came in with roughed up hair and a flushed face.
By 07:30, everyone had eaten their fill. Except two boys who walk it from the boys' dorms just as Stanley walks in through the main door.
"What are you two doing?" he says as he sees the two.
"Uh," Jaz says.
"We forgot to pack last night and couldn't find our clothes," Max interjects. "Won't happen again. We're sorted now."
Stanley looks a bit suspicious, but indicates to the other two. They walk to the far corner near the girls' dorms.
Max and Jaz walk to the food counter and get some cereal each, then seat themselves at a table and eat quick.
They are finished five minutes later.
The three instructors walk back to the main group, and Telisa starts up. "Okay. So we are ready to start the week. One problem. You saw yesterday the sets fully constructed. A storm blew in last night and destroyed most of them. You will have the task of rebuilding them."
The group moan as one. Jaz looks at Max.
"Now. Now," Ean speaks up. "Teamwork should get the sets built again, so the quicker you rebuild them, the faster you get to film on them."
The students aren't happy that they can't film straight away, but agree that if they get the sets rebuilt, they can get to filming.
They all leave, and Max whispers to Jaz "Fall back." They do.
"What?" Jaz whispers.
"I'm tripping up in a bit. Just act normal and don't look back."
Jaz picks up speed to get back with the group. No one else has looked back to see where the two late-to-breakfast students are. Max, to make it look more real, then starts jogging to catch up as well.
He then trips up in an overly exaggerated way. Still on the ground, he watches the others walk over the hill. When the last head has disappeared over the hill, Max gets up and bolts it in the direction of the clan house of the instructors.
Part 7 [31/7/12]
Max, standing at the door of the clan house, uses a small tool to pick the lock. Looking left toward the hill, he enters.
Quickly checking each of the rooms, he then unclips the torch he had built and hides it in one of the drawers of the lounge. He then places two cameras within the house, where they offer the best view of the occupants.
Walking back to the front entrance, he reaches out. But the door opens before he touches the handle.
Telisa is standing in the doorway. Max was thankful it wasn't Stanley. He would have been instantly suspicious. Telisa, he guessed, still wasn't used to this sort of thing.
"What are you doing here?" she asks.
"Lost," is all Max supplies.
"Well this door was locked. What were you looking for? A map?"
"Something like that."
"I thought everyone was with the group anyway?"
"Tripped over. When I looked back up, you'd all disappeared somewhere."
"Well we're over the hill. Just wait here, and I'll take you there once I'm done here."
Max waits until Telisa is gone, then starts taking in detail of the hall. He had seen the white walls and cream floor, but on closer inspection, it was revealed that both walls and floor were decorated with a vast majority of shades of their colour, and each sector of the wall or floor had its own pattern. There were a few plants hanging on the walls, high up, and Max saw fit to attach another of the microcameras in one of the baskets. This time, though, he also hid a microphone in it.
Turning to face the door, Max hears Telisa's voice. "Come on, then."
Max and Telisa walk outside. Telisa then locks the door to the clan house again. Max then counts the number of rooms that he had visited again. Three including the hallway. No stairs or sleeping quarters.
So where do they sleep? Max wonders.
But no time for thinking, since Telisa was leading the way back to where the others were. As they walk over the hill, Max asks a roundabout question.
"You're not used to this, are you?"
"Used to what?" Telisa replies, though Max could hear in her voice the mix of emotions and doubts.
Interesting, he thinks, as Telisa storms away down the hill.
Part 8 [5/8/12]
Max also makes his way down the hill. Telisa reaches the other instructors and talks with them, breaking off whatever Stanley was telling the group.
Spotting Jaz among the crowd, Max heads directly to him, receiving a glance or two from the others.
"If only it were opposite day..." Max ventures.
"Ah," is all Jaz says.
"I'm just glad Telisa found me. If she hadn't, I'd still be wondering around out there."
The two were late to breakfast this morning because they had been planning for things like this, where they weren't allowed to talk freely.
The conversation between the instructors stops, and Stanley gets back to what he was saying. Once finished, he then runs with Telisa back over the hill.
Max then takes the chance when the other students broke up. "Sir," he says to Tom. "I think I twisted my foot or something when I tripped. Can I head back for some rest?"
"I'm sure it couldn't hurt," Tom says. "That okay, Ean?" he then asks, turning to the instructor.
"Sure. Just make sure you don't stay there all day."
Max and Tom then head back to the students dorm, with Max making sure he hobbled occasionally. Once in the room, Tom asks if he needs anything, but Max declines the offer, putting a leg onto the other bed. Tom then leaves.
Max waits for another thirty seconds, then quickly but quietly pulls his laptop from his bag. Opening it up, it already has a live feed of a conversation between Stanley and Telisa going. Obviously, they were standing outside the clan house with the door open.
"-can't understand it." Stanley finishes.
"I was certain I locked the door."
"If anyone should have checked the door, it should have been Ean. You were out wrecking havoc on the set the students are now working on."
"So what are we to do?"
"We'll ask Ean at the first available moment."
"But should we be worried about that student?"
"I don't know Telisa. But if he steps out of line again, I'll be sure to keep a l-"
Stanley then looks directly into the camera, then walks forward a bit.
"What is it?" Telisa asks.
A hand then grows in the camera's field, then the pickup appears black. The microphone is dislodged and falls to the floor with a dull thump. A crunch then sounds as the microphone is trod on.
Part 9 [11/8/12]
Max stares at the computer screen. Not even seeing it. Not even seeing the room. He is deep in thought. How could Stanley have found that! And how much does he really know?
One thing he did know for certain, was that Stanley would come after him, and search this room. The only question he didn't know was when.
Sneaking the door open a crack, Max sees no-one around. So quickly, he makes an escape from the dorms with all his equipment in one bag, as per usual. Walking across the cafe area, he makes for the door.
The door opens on its own, however, and Max quickly ducks down under a table, making sure the bag doesn't clank on the marble floor. All he can see are two pairs of feet. They leave the door open, and walk immediately for the other end of the room. He then hears the rushed voices.
"But I can do it quicker."
"Yes, you might. But I will be more thorough in examining the room."
"No. Just- Just-" The door to the boys dorms then slams shut.
Max waits a minute, then quietly sneaks to a table in front of him, careful not to drag the bag too much. Out from under the table, Max gets up onto his left foot, then dashes through the main door, hearing a "Hey! Wai-" before he closes the door.
The main group was to the left and over the hill, and Max had only a few seconds to make good his escape.
The door of the dorm opens as Stanley is still searching.
"Aha- Telisa! What!"
"He was under the tables," Telisa says.
"So what are you doing standing here telling me about it?" Stanley snaps. "GO!"
Telisa quickly escapes from the room.
The items weren't in here, of that Stanley was certain. He just hoped that Telisa would be able to capture him.
He gave it five minutes more searching anyway, then headed out.
"Hey! Stan!" one of the chefs call. "Aren't you meant to be with the students?"
"If you want to keep your job," Stanley says slowly, "when you serve lunch, you won't mention about our little runaway snitch."
"Good!" Stanley barks, then storms from the cafe area.
Jaz was helping another student lift a piece of material that was meant to be a makeshift wall when he saw Stanley storm over the edge of the hill and down. The other instructor, he noted, wasn't with him.
Conferring with Ean, the one remaining, Stanley immediately heads for him. Jaz drops the side of the material, and then blows on his hand, acting as though he dropped it because of a burn.
"You," Stanley says, "are coming with me to have a little chat."
Part 10 [16/8/12]
Jaz follows Stanley back up the hill. When they reach the top, Stanley asks "What do you know of this other person you hang with? The one from your college, in far off England."
Jaz thinks fast and hard. "I don't know," he says, making sure to keep his voice level. "He was called on to the group visiting much later than me, and the only reason I'm hanging around with him is because we're both from the same college. It's not like I'm friends with him or anything."
"And what do you know of someone called Max Rushden," Stanley says slowly.
"Who?" Jaz tries to look convincing, trusting all his acting skills will work so he can pull this off.
But no more is needed to be said. From the far end of the building housing the dorms and cafe, is Telisa dragging Max, mask now removed, by his left arm.
"Go back to the group," Stanley says to Jaz.
Jaz however doesn't move. Just seeing Max revealed to what he now came to realise as a force of evil makes him stare in shock.
"Now," Stanley forcefully says.
Jaz runs back down the hill, contemplating.
"And so Max Rushden is finally revealed to us," Stanley says slowly, when Max is pulled up to him. He then turns to Telisa. "Did you find his electronics?"
"He's hidden them, but won't say where."
"Take him to... the underground."
"There he will learn the true punishment of failing to comply to orders."
For the first time, Max speaks. "Like your orders really matter. 'Oh no! I accidentally knocked down a wall and spilled some paint on it. I know! I'll ruin it some more and force the next lot of students to come here and repair i-"
He was interrupted by a slap on the face, to the right cheek. Obviously he had struck a nerve.
"It doesn't matter. You haven't infiltrated anywhere sensitive to this operation, and nor will you."
Max just gives a scathing look at this.
"Take him away," he calls to Telisa, who drags Max off in the direction of clan house.