Chapter Two

Some years later—no one was quite sure how many years, because the timeline had to be blown all to hell in order for Tommy to get a degree in paleontology, become a licensed teacher, and do a few secret mad science experiments between 1997 and 2003—Tommy found himself just outside the gates of Reefside High School.

"Nice place," he muttered. "Nice, normal town. No chance of ending up a Ranger way out here."

Tommy headed into the building. Before he could get far, a woman with short black hair appeared at his side. She was wearing no-nonsense glasses and an all-business business suit and carrying a black binder. "Dr. Tommy Oliver."

Tommy jumped slightly and almost kicked her ass, but he caught himself and recovered quickly. This was obviously a nice, normal woman. Not an evil villain.

"Hi," he offered.

"I'm Principal Randall."

"Oh, hi!" Ah, his boss. Definitely not someone he wanted to attack. So pretty soon he'd have to have a discussion with her about sneaking up on him. "It's your first day, too, isn't it?"


"So how exactly did you know who I was?"

"Lucky guess. Now—"

"What, have you been randomly accusing people of being me all morning?"

She frowned. "Let's not talk about that. Old Mrs. Barton's still upset."


"Anyway…" Randall started leafing through pages in the binder she was carrying. "Just out of curiosity, why would a doctor of paleontology want to come all the way out here to Reefside and teach teenagers?"

"Well, I noticed your high school science program kind of sucks. I mean, you don't even split the classes into things like biology, chemistry, and physics. It's all in a lump like junior high or elementary school science, so I figured it'll be way easier than a real high school."

Randall bristled. "Could you give me a less insulting reason, please? Quickly, before I fire your ass?"

"Guess I'm looking for some peace and quiet," Tommy blurted out. He had to stop himself from laughing at his little private joke, and the effort made him look like he was about to barf on her shoes.

Randall regarded him critically. "So you became a high school teacher. That doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, now, does it, Dr. Oliver?"

"I didn't say I actually expected to find any. It was a wishful-thinking sort of thing. My buddy Jason says I'm in denial. I say denial isn't necessarily a bad thing."

Randall sighed. "You're not going to make my life any easier, are you."

"Probably not," he told her apologetically. "You know, I was thinking. Maybe we should get together later. Have dinner. Maybe some drinks. Maybe some long walks on the beach in the moonlight and a little skinny-dipping."

She stared at him. "Skinny-dipping?"

"Yeah. In a professional sort of way. More of a business meeting, of course. That way you can fill me in on what you expect of me and how I can become an outstanding teacher." Tommy waggled his eyebrows at her.

"Oh, that's easy. Make it hard on them. Painful if possible. Whips, chains, maybe thumbscrews. Go all out."

Tommy cleared his throat. "Um, well, I'm not really into bondage. Too many bad memories."

Randall rolled her eyes. "Fine, but if they smile, you're fired. Now, I'm off to find my first truant. We'll talk later."

"And skinny-dip, right?" Tommy called after her hopefully. She didn't reply. Sighing, Tommy turned and tried to remember what his room number was.

Three different bells rang, though Tommy wasn't sure what they were supposed to mean. What he'd thought was his wristwatch turned out to be one of his old communicators, so he actually had no idea what time it was and was unable to determine if the bells meant he was late (probably) or if they were just ringing for the hell of it.

The halls began to empty after the third clanging faded away. A few students were making a mad dash for their first class, but most had already vanished. Wondering just how late he'd be this time, Tommy rushed off.