"No one misses English, Laura. No one."
"We were all Jennifers once."
"Do you know how much damage the Jennifers can do running wild?"
"Tanks. Lots of them. And that's just the beginning."
The Great Jennifer Round-Up
Chapter 2 - What Happened to the Apocalypse?
Caitlin walked into the centre of the room. Each senior dorm room sent a representative to the classroom the redhead had commandeered. All eyes were upon the red-haired girl. "Thank you all for coming." Caitlin surveyed the room, making sure she had her peers' attention. "We have a situation. The Jennifers are missing."
"Missing." Claire rolled her eyes as she scoffed. "Isn't that a little over-dramatic?"
"Claire, so good you could come." Caitlin singled out her detractor. "Tell me, Claire, when did you last see a Jennifer?"
"This isn't our problem, Caitlin."
Vamsi stood up. "Hang on." She addressed Caitlin. "Caitlin, who pays attention to the Jennifers? They're no longer our responsibility. They belong to the juniors now."
Murmurs of approval bubbled up. Caitlin nodded to Vamsi. "And what happens when the juniors drop the ball?"
"They get what they deserve, really."
Another voice piped up from the back. "The Jennifers run wild, the juniors get placed between them and us, problem solved."
Claire nodded in agreement. "Felicia's right, Caitlin. Just because we kept the Jennifers in check last year doesn't mean this year's juniors are competent."
"And last year, we were trying to prevent what we did as Jennifers," Vamsi added. "This year's Jennifers aren't as organized as we were." She saluted Caitlin. "Thanks to you."
"If the juniors are failing at their job," Caitlin began, "where are the Jennifers running wild? The Jennifers raiding dorms for food and drink? The Jennifers running amok?"
"How should we know, Caitlin?" Claire asked.
"That's why I'm asking when we all last saw a Jennifer." Caitlin perched on the corner of a desk. "My new roommate saw some after yesterday's English class." The redhead paused to let the gathered girls sigh. "We all saw them take out the sedan Friday after class. I dealt with some Friday night." Caitlin got up from the desk to began pacing. "I use them for various missions. Vamsi, you use the Jennifers in your extracurricular sales. Again, I ask, 'When did you last see a Jennifer?'"
Felicia held up her hand. "At the door?" She pointed to the now open door and the young girl standing in it.
Caitlin palmed her face. Recovering, she walked over to the girl. "Hi. Can we help?"
"I kept hearing my name." The girl glowered at Caitlin.
Recognition dawned on Caitlin. "I remember you. Friday night, you helped me find my roommate."
"You should put a tracker on her."
Vamsi strode towards the door. "Bring her in."
The Jennifer backed away. "Stay away!"
Caitlin held up a hand to stop her neighbour. "Hold on, Vamsi. This Jennifer might know something."
"I don't know anything," the Jennifer said with defiance. She took another step away from the door.
"We're not going to hurt you."
"Damn right you're not."
Caitlin took a short stride towards the young girl. "Look . . ." She fumbled for a name.
"Really?" Caitlin blinked.
"Yes, really." The girl huffed. "And I'm not missing."
"Obviously." Caitlin smiled. "What about the rest of your classmates?"
The Jennifer shrugged. "How should I know? Bloody pains in the arse, they are. Did anyone ever teach them to bathe?"
Vamsi joined Caitlin. "Have you seen your classmates?"
"Caitlin, this is a waste of time," Claire called. "She doesn't know anything."
The Jennifer pointed at Claire. "See?"
"Claire, shut up! Not helping." Caitlin took a moment to regain her composure. She smiled at the younger girl. "Before we continue, what should we call you?"
The Jennifer crossed her arms. "My name. Jennifer."
Vamsi levelled a glare at the girl. "We can't call you Jennifer. We call everyone in your class that."
"Not my problem."
Felicia worked her way to the door. "Oh, just give her a chocolate bar or something already."
The Jennifer turned on her heel to leave. "I'm done."
"Jennifer, wait." Caitlin took three quick strides to get to the younger girl's side. "One question."
The Jennifer stopped. "One. Make it good."
"When was the last time you saw your classmates?"
The girl thought for a moment. "You saw some of them Friday night."
Caitlin nodded. "That's not what I asked, though."
"You're good." The Jennifer smirked. "You probably know that most of them don't bother with class." She wrinkled her nose. "Or hygiene."
After a moment of thought, the girl said, "Sunday morning, at breakfast. We went off to do our own thing and I haven't seen many since."
"Thank you." Caitlin turned back to her peers. "There."
"Wait, what's this about?" the Jennifer asked. "Are they in trouble? Am I in trouble?"
Vamsi shrugged. "No idea. All of us might be in trouble."
"This is the sort of trouble we can handle," Caitlin said. "After all, we're here at the Academy. If we can't handle this, we don't deserve to be here."
In the dorms, Autumn and Skye had their own meeting happening. Autumn had a whiteboard pulled out and a rough map of the Academy's grounds drawn on it. "Okay, if we do get surrounded by SWAT and the armoured regiment, we head south. The trees there should slow down the tanks."
Laura emerged from the bathroom. "It can't be that bad."
"I've seen the government's emergency plans for the Academy," Autumn said. "Stage One is containment, not letting anyone out except staff. Even then, they're to be taken to the Diefenbunker to be held for the duration. Stage Two is firebombing."
"They wouldn't firebomb us." Laura flounced to the kitchenette. "First, there's no way to control the fire, not out here." She grabbed a bowl and a box of cereal from the cabinets. "Second, who will let them kill innocent girls?"
"There's no such thing as an innocent girl here," Skye said.
"Acceptable losses." Autumn giggled, then sobered up. "Laura, I've seen the plans."
Laura poured herself a bowlful of cereal. "You've seen them."
Autumn shrugged. "I hacked the government's computers."
"Which government?" Laura turned to lean against the counter. "North Korea's?"
"You're mocking me." Autumn narrowed her eyes. "I hacked the systems in Toronto, okay?"
Skye took a long look at her roommate. "Toronto is the provincial government."
Laura rolled her eyes. "They don't have bombers." She retrieved the milk from the fridge to add a large dollop to her bowl. "You're thinking of the Air Force."
"The province has aircraft. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has aircraft to put out fires. What's stopping them from rearming the airplanes to bomb us?"
"Laura has a point," Skye said. "You're getting paranoid."
"It's not paranoia if they're really are out to get us." Autumn startled as the door opened. She leapt on to her bed.
Caitlin entered, then froze mid-step seeing the scene greeting her. "Do I want to know what's going on?"
"Probably not." Laura put the milk away, then took her cereal to the table.
Autumn stepped off her bed. "They're sending bombers, right, Caitlin?"
"No." Caitlin joined Laura at the table. "First, the Air Force doesn't really have bombers these days. Second, there would be reconnaissance first, and my mother hasn't called to find out what's happening."
"Your mother?" Laura dug into her cereal.
"Yes. She flies long-range recon for the Air Force." Caitlin examined the brightly coloured cereal. "I expect you to replace the Froot Loops next time we get groceries." The redhead returned to the matter at hand. "We need to find the Jennifers before staff or, worse, the Headmistress realizes something's wrong."
Laura set down her spoon. "Someone care to let the new girl know why we're so worried?"
"The Jennifers are the youngest girls here," Skye said. "The Academy lets them explore and roam around."
"Like free-range chickens."
Skye thought over the remark. "Not a bad comparison. The goal is to get them to rely on each other and see who steps up as leaders while keeping costs down. The Jennifers have class, but they don't have to go."
"Must be nice, getting to sleep in and skip the first class."
"You're never letting that go, are you?" Autumn shook her head. Laura only smirked.
"Some do go, obviously," Skye continued, ignoring the sniping. "That puts them in a position where the other Jennifers are dependent on them. That means, these Jennifers, the uber-Jennifers, are the ones to watch. Caitlin was one in her first year here."
Caitlin gave a demure smile. "But with the power comes responsibilities and over-watch. The Jennifer leaders are guided into becoming proper leaders."
Skye nodded. "But if the Jennifers don't develop any leaders, they become wild. Feral. The walls around the Academy are as much to keep them in as to keep others out. If the Jennifers escaped the grounds, they could cause more damage than a tornado before they could be rounded up. Did you notice the new paint on the third floor when you arrived Friday?"
Laura nodded. "I was wondering about that."
"I'm responsible for that." Skye beamed with pride. "Hurled a Molotov cocktail and burned all the paint away."
Caitlin patted the tall girl's arm. "That was all from the juniors ignoring us Jennifers that year. If someone else had been leading or, heaven forbid, no one had, the destruction could have spread throughout the county and into town. Today's juniors don't remember, they weren't here, but us seniors? We were there. That's why we have to find the Jennifers."
"Great." Laura ate a spoonful of cereal. "Where are we supposed to start?"
"The juniors should be looking for them now. If not, I shall have a word with them. Tomorrow, someone goes to check their dorm."
Autumn's eyes widened. "Into their dorm? Caitlin, are you mad?"
"I was there Friday night, looking for Laura as a matter of fact."
"Me?" Laura blinked. "I've never been there."
"No, but the Jennifers are everywhere. Normally are everywhere. Some saw you."
Laura pushed her bowl of cereal away. "I'm officially creeped out now."
"I did find you."
"I wasn't lost."
Caitlin got up. "I managed to talk to a Jennifer and the last even she saw of her fellows was Sunday morning."
Autumn grabbed her tablet and started checking several websites. "Weird. There's no panic being reported."
"Check the radio stations."
Skye got up to turn on the stereo. The first station played an older classic, eliciting a gagging motion from Autumn. The second had a current indie song, soothing Autumn. "Nothing, Cait," Skye said.
"That is odd." Caitlin sat back in her chair. "Autumn, can you check traffic?"
"On it." Autumn tapped on her tablet's screen. "A few slow downs around construction, but that's it. The traffic cameras just show cars."
"I'm open to ideas, ladies."
Laura retrieved the bowl of cereal. "Kidnapping, maybe? That's a lot of young girls and someone could be getting them ready for transport to where they'd sell well."
Autumn's expression twisted in disgust. "You have to be joking, right?" Seeing no change on Laura's face, the Asian girl continued, "That's horrible!"
"And impossible," Caitlin added. "Laura, remember who gets sent here. Even the Jennifers aren't meek. That's why we're worried."
Laura shrugged. "With the right drugs, anyone can be docile."
"There's about fifty Jennifers. How do you deliver a large enough dose to sedate most of them without affecting anyone else?"
"I'd add it to their food and drink, if possible, but they eat what's in the cafeteria. Too big a risk on getting an older girl, and if I was going to do that, I'd get the entire student population." Laura got up to get a pencil and a few sheets of paper. "Next best would be an aerosol, making sure that the large dose was in the Jennifers' dorm and anything beyond wouldn't be a large enough dose to affect everyone else here."
Autumn's eyes widened. "Is that even possible?"
"We're long past working out concentrations in chemistry class from what I saw. I'm sure I could find a drug on the market that would do what I'm talking about."
"You've done this before." Autumn increased the space between Laura and herself. "I'm keeping my eye on you."
Caitlin stifled a chuckle. "Laura, stop scaring Autumn."
"I'm not scared, Caitlin."
"Guys, you're assuming that the Jennifers didn't go voluntarily," Skye said. "Bribery works. Cait has a stash of chocolate just to bribe the Jennifers."
"I'm open to bribery, too, Caitlin," Laura said. She set down her pencil. "Chocolate is always welcome."
Caitlin ignored the new girl. "We better go to our last class of the day. Afterwards, we'll work on both ideas," the redhead paused to fix her hair, "but that means we all go to the Jennifers' lair."
"Caitlin, I don't like this."
"Kitty-Cait! I knew you'd come to save me!"
"One word, the Headmistress will come down hard on us."
"Talk to Caitlin. She's the one who left us here."