Laura here again, installing Chapter One. It was hard to name this fic, because on my computer it was titled 'Ned'

Creative? Oh you bet.

Helpful? Not really, because 'Ned' isn't a very compelling or interesting name in any way.

Chapter One:

Back Into the Rhythm

Ned pulled himself out of bed and threw on his clothes. He'd set them out the day before, already planning on what he wanted to go down on the first day. He'd made a small checklist:

1. Ask Moze and Cookie if they had his survival guide

2. Look good and attract girls off of the start

3. Not make a fool of himself

4. Live through the day

It wasn't a long list, but heaven knew it was complicated.

Ned got into the high school without too many problems, but once he was in, he was automatically lost. He seemed to be way in over his head--where were his friends? A map? Anything?

It was like going up a creek without a paddle (which was not a good idea).

"Ned!!" a familiar voice called. Immediately, Ned was relieved. He started off in the direction of the voice before he even registered who it was.

It was Martin Qwerly, the kid who was overly optimistic and talkative. Ned had been expecting to see Moze or Cookie, but so far there was no sign of either one.

"Hey Martin, what's up?" Ned asked casually.

"Oh, nothing really," the boy smiled, "How was your summer? I heard you went on a trip, where did you go? Was it fun? I suppose it probably was. What a strange question for me to ask! But I guess you haven't talked to anyone all summer, hey? Unless of course you mailed them, which you very well could have it's not that hard. I mailed a lot of people over the summer...My phone was acting up I guess cuz it kept hanging up on people. I think I need a new one. What's the best brand of phone? Is cordless or normal better? Or should I press for a cell phone?" he paused for a breath while Ned's mind raced to keep up, "Loomer has a wicked cell phone, but I really don't think my mom would ever let me get one..."

"Loomer got a cell phone? How do you know that, when did you see him?" Ned asked. As far as he knew, Loomer had decided to go to a different high school, which was why Ned had picked this one...

"He goes here, didn't you know? I guess you've been gone all summer so it makes sense not for you to know. I forgive you....oh, but I guess Moze couldn't tell you that uh... well, the other high school has a better woodshop program, so she's actually going there instead of coming here. Oh and your friend Cookie was forced to move to some place called...ah, I forget. Anyway he no longer lives in the city..." Martin gave Ned a sympathetic look, then walked away, "See you around, Ned!"

It took Ned several minutes to figure out everything that Martin had said, and another few minutes for it to all sink in.

So, not only was he guide-less, but he was friendless and all on his own with Loomer around. How was he supposed to survive?

"Hey Ned!" greeted another voice. Ned turned to find Seth Powers, his blonde hair unchanged over the summer. He was looking just as good as usual, except for his basketball was missing, "Haven't seen you in a while."

"Hi Seth!" Ned greeted. Wow, did Seth always look that good, or was Ned just blind before?

"What class are you off to first?" Seth asked, still smiling.

"Uh..." Ned hadn't even looked at his schedule, though he really should have already. Embarrassed, he pulled the paper out of his pocket and unfolded it, reading aloud, " 203."

"Oh sweet, same as me!" Seth said, nodding.

Ned sighed; it was good to be talking to people he knew again. Sure, Moze and Cookie weren't here, but there was nothing he could do about that. In their absence, Ned had to make other friends. Or, make older friendships stronger.

Putting away his schedule, Ned glanced around, "So which way do we go?" he asked. He didn't know the high school at all, and chances were that he'd be lost for the next couple of days.

"This way," Seth said, tugging on Ned's hand just for a second before turning down a hallway and leading the way. From that small touch, Ned's cheeks tinted pink. Was it hot in the school? Ned had to wonder, because he had no reason to be blushing. Right?

Ned walked slightly behind Seth, but generally kept pace with the blonde. The two ended up late for Math, but they got to sit beside each other, as those were the only two seats left.

Halfway into class, Seth's eyes wandered toward Ned. Ned knew that Seth was looking at him, but how awkward would it be if he looked at Seth and caught him?

Still, the feeling of being watched was that of unease, and Ned found his face turning toward Seth's subconsciously. And then, they locked eyes. But it wasn't one of those, 'Oh I caught you staring oh boy staring contest who can hold the gaze longest?' kind of things, it was a look that Ned didn't understand. It felt like in that look, Seth was trying to communicate something, but Ned didn't even have any idea of what it might have been.

The two were broken out of their little world when the teacher called on Ned. Ned, having no idea what they were doing, decided to throw an answer out there to whatever question he was asked, just in case he got it right, "Three," he said, looking and sounding confident.

The class laughed, so it must have been a very wrong answer. The teacher moved on to the next name.

Ah, taking attendance. Why didn't Ned just say 'yes'?

Letting his head droop down, Ned sighed while people looked back at him. "Way to make an impression on your new school, Ned. Proud of you," came a voice from Ned's right.

Ned lifted his head, looking at the person in the next desk over. And there, in all of his intimidating glory, sat Billy Loomer.

And at that moment, only one thought was going through Ned's mind: Oh Crap.

"Oh Billy, I never saw you there," Seth said, getting in on the conversation, "How was your summer?"

"None of your business," Loomer snapped, turning his attention back on Ned, "Where were you all summer?" he demanded.

"What, did you miss him?" a girl turned around from in front of Billy. She wore gothic clothes, but her attitude seemed to completely contradict her style. Her smile was genuine and large.

"No I didn't miss him," Billy snapped, glaring at her, "What a stupid question."

She shrugged and turned back around, giving her attention back to the teacher, where it should have been in the first place.

"So answer my question, Bigby," Loomer growled, sternly looking at Ned.

"Uh, well actually my parents took me on a trip, s-" Ned started.

"To where?" Billy demanded.

"Uh....around. More so in the area around t-"

"For the whole two months?" Billy interrupted again.

"Uh...well, yeah. We didn't plan for it to be so long, but then m-"

"I see." And Loomer faced the teacher, putting Ned on ignore.

Ned looked at Seth, "Well that was weird," he mouthed. Seth shrugged and the two of them focused on the teacher.

When lunch rolled around, Seth sat with his sports friends at the jock table. Ned was left alone, but he didn't mind. He found Martin soon enough and took a seat beside him.

"Hey Martin," Ned greeted as he sat down, "How was your first classes?"

"They were actually quite well, Ned, thanks for asking. Though I think my history teacher may be a tad off of his rocker, most of the other teachers are pretty lame. But hey, I was thinking, what's the difference between a professor and a teacher?" Ned tuned the boy out and studied the other people at Martin's table.

Near the end of the table Ned recognized the girl from earlier, and beside her sat two kids that were identical...twins most likely. There were only the five of them there, so Ned figured he should introduce himself, "Hey guys, I'm Ned," he said, nodding a bit with a smile.

"Charlie," the girl reached her hand across the table to shake Ned's, then retracted it back to her lunch. The twins looked at each other and back at Ned, seeming to be considering what to say.

"My name is Dash," The twin on the left said, "Do you copy?"

"And my name is Kontainer, over," the other twin said.

"Uh...okay..." Ned was frowning because he didn't really understand how the two boys were talking.

"I think Seth is going to be the Basketball captain this year, do you read me Kon?" Dash said.

"Loud and clear, Dash, and I agree with the afore-mentioned statement, over." Kontainer answered.

Dash turned to Charlie, "Would you like to challenge our bet, Charlie? Over, do you read me?"

Charlie considered, "How much we betting?"

Dash turned back to Kontainer, "Do you have an answer? Over."

"Ten-four buddy," Kontainer nodded at Dash and then leaned forward to address Charlie, "Well I'm broke, so how about we wager a penny? Over."

"Oooo, setting the wager real high there," Ned said sarcastically. He got a grin from Charlie, but rather than that the people at the table ignored him. Martin was talking so he didn't even hear Ned's statement, or notice that no one was listening.

Then Ned tuned them out, too. His eyes swept the room, looking for something to focus on. His eyes found Billy Loomer for some reason. Jerry was sitting beside Loomer with some other thug-looking guys. In general, their table looked intimidating. No surprise there.

Ned wondered if Jerry was going to go into the sewing club again, but then pushed away the thought. It didn't matter; even if Jerry did join Ned would never hear about it because he didn't know anyone in the sewing club. He wasn't even sure if there was a sewing club.

Then, Billy caught Ned's eyes with his own. Caught daydreaming while looking at Loomer, Ned was quick to drop his gaze. He felt Loomer's eyes bore into him for a while, but Billy looked away eventually, allowing Ned to relax.

But Billy looked better than the year before also. What was with everyone getting better-looking over the summer? Even Martin looked better than before. Ned hoped he looked better too, but he couldn't see a difference.

Then the lunch bell rang, and Ned was freed from the table. He was pretty sure he didn't want to sit there again--the twins didn't seem to like him very much. They hadn't even asked his name, meaning that they weren't planning on talking to him.

Walking out of the cafeteria, Ned was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face Charlie, who started walking beside him, "Hey Ned," she greeted, "Don't mind the twins--they're just anti-social."

"Why do they talk like pilots?" Ned asked.

Charlie shrugged with a smile, "I'm not really sure, I've never actually asked. I think they're both going to become pilots though--you should see the inside of their rooms, cuz they are stuffed with model airplanes the two of them build/painted. They're like obsessed..." she took a right turn, "Bye Ned!" she headed off toward her next class while Ned paused to pull out his schedule. He was walking but he didn't know where he was headed, for he hadn't checked his schedule yet.

Ned walked right into someone, but instead of falling backward, Ned was embraced so that he didn't fall. Glad not to be on his butt, Ned looked up to thank whoever it was who caught him--only to see the face of Billy Loomer looking down at him.

Okay, I love my clifhangers I'm not going to lie. So you'll just have to keep reading if you want to know what happens next! hahaha...

Anyway, yes I inserted some original characters in here. They won't play very huge roles, so don't get worked up. Obviously if Ned is going to a school without lots of his old friends, there has to be other characters. Besides, going to high school for many of us is the same. We get there, and we hardly know anyone.