The Miskatonic School Bus.
Idea by Jonakhensu.
Written by Jonakhensu and Weebee.
Disclaimer: We do not own the Magic School bus, the Lovecraft mythos, or... wait, what? The what?! Um... yeah, I dunno, folks.
Summary: Walkerville Elementary. Home of the magic school bus, and training hall for the fighters of the paranormal?
Weebee's Disclaimer: This wasn't my idea! Really! The fact that I wrote 65% of it doesn't matter, got it?!
School was about to begin for the day, and the eight children were huddling around one of the tables. They were, with the exception of the gerbil, all alone in the room. Well, they were fairly sure they were, at least; it was rather hard to tell sometimes with the way their teacher would appear from seemingly nowhere. Now, however, they were having a very serious discussion.
"Is it just me or has the Frizz been acting strange for the last few days?" Ralphie asked, frowning in concern.
"Yeah," Keesha agreed. "She's been so... normal."
Arnold nodded, opening his mouth several times and choking before stuttering, "Y... yeah, We haven't even had a field trip in a week."
"What, Arn, you missing the ocean floor?" Carlos asked, smirking at the somewhat nervous red haired boy.
"No, that's not it," Arnold muttered, "but I even stayed home yesterday, and she didn't show up like she did with Ralphie."
"Well, according to my research, some people can get very depressed when they have to leave a group they've been with for a while." Dorthy Ann said, holding up a thick book with the face of a German guy with a mustache on it.
"Yeah, but Ms. Frizzle isn't leaving or anything," Keisha objected.
"Um, Keesh, It's June," Ralphie chipped in, pointing at a calendar in the corner of the room, which depicted Liz the lizard, a large backpack on her back with sun tan lotion sticking out of it.
"Oh no, so we're going to go on to the next grade... well, and have summer vacation, so I guess it's not all bad!" Ralphie declared, though when he saw that all of the others were looking more disturbed than pleased, he sighed. "Yeah, I guess that doesn't help, does it?"
"Well," Phoebe offered tentatively, "at my old school, we had a party at the end of the year to say goodbye to each other."
"Hey, that's a great idea, Phoebe, it'll cheer her up, and we can say how great this year's been!" Tim said, withdrawing his sketchpad from nowhere, and pulling a pencil from its coils. "Now, what are we going to..." The dark skinned boy was stopped in his tracks, when the class room's door swung open, and their teacher walked in with an English book in one hand, wearing a subdued red and yellow dress.
"Good morning everyone!" Miss Frizzle exclaimed, setting the book on the desk, and allowing Liz, the class's certified teaching lizard, to scamper down her arm.
"Good morning Ms. Frizzle," The class chorused, Tim slipping his book into his book bag and finding a seat with everyone else.
"All right class, today we'll be reviewing sentence structure, for the last test on Friday," the teacher proclaimed. "Have any of you thought of a complex sentence to practice on like I asked you yesterday?"
Arnold raised his hand, getting a nod from the teacher. "Why haven't we gone on a field trip in the past week?"
"Ah, a superb sentence structure, Arnold; now does anyone know what type of sentence this is?" Ms. Frizzle asked, smiling at the class, and causing the lizard to slap her forehead.
"Um, it's an interrogative, but... I think Arnold was actually asking the question," Phoebe spoke up.
"Very good, Phoebe. Now, you can tell it's interrogative because..." the red haired woman began, turning to write the sentence on the black board, and all eight of her students exchanged glances. It was looking like subtlety, or even blatant questioning, wouldn't work.
"Isn't there some place we could go to learn about sentence structures?" Ralphie asked, causing the woman to turn around.
"Yeah, like a farm; we could visit the Grammary," Carlos said, pumping his fist. Everyone in the room twitched, but refrained from commenting, as their teacher looked at them quizzically.
It was about then that Liz hopped off of the desk, running up their teacher's arm and tapping her on the head. The middle-aged woman turned, to see the lizard jump from her shoulder to the blackboard, and start writing, "I think they've figured out something's wrong."
"Wow, Liz is a literary lizard," Carlos said, his mouth gaping. Everyone else was too shocked to respond.
"According to my research, Lizards aren't even supposed to be able to hold things like that," D.A. returned, blinking rapidly.
"She says this about the lizard that can drive a bus," Arnold grumbled, but even he was a little nonplussed at this chain of events.
"Well, I suppose you've got a point there, Liz," Ms. Frizzle said, reaching one hand up to scratch at her chin. "Do we take them on 'The Trip?'" Those last two words were punctuated by being a full octave below the rest of the sentence.
"Th... The Trip?" Phoebe stuttered, nervously.
"Aw, it's just another field trip, nothing strange about that," Carlos objected.
"Oh, I don't know Carlos, 'The Trip' is traditional every year in this class," Ms. Frizzle explained. "It's the last field trip every year, though sometimes it happens earlier than others."
"The last field trip?" Wanda asked, excitedly. "This sounds like it's going to be cool!"
"Actually it's about minus ten degrees centigrade," Ms. Frizzle said, pulling an ice covered thermometer out of nowhere and looking at it for a moment before throwing it over her shoulder, where Liz caught it and placed it gently on the floor. "One thing you should understand about this trip is that you won't be the same after it, for better, or for worse."
Everyone in the class gulped audibly, aside from Liz, and strangely enough including the teacher, before an uncomfortable silence descended upon them. It was broken a moment later by Wanda. "C'mon, you weasly wimps, Ms. Frizzle and Liz would never hurt us, and this sounds really neat. Besides, you were all complaining about no more field trips. Are you kids, or are you mice?!"
"Um, squeak?" Arnold tried, hunkering down in his chair a little.
"Nah, she's right!" Ralphie decided, standing up from his. "C'mon Ms. Frizzle, we're ready for anything, right guys!" Several seconds later, with no response, he tried again. "Right guys?"
"Right, Ralphie! I'm not afraid of anything... except maybe my mom's Chili," Carlos contributed, standing as well.
"Well, if they're going, I'm going," Keesha decided, and she was quickly followed by D.A., though the latter was clutching her book bag to her chest. Tim followed, and then Phoebe, who hid slightly behind the taller kids.
"You're all nuts," Arnold proclaimed, but eventually, thirty seconds later, got up from his seat, reluctantly taking his place next to Keesha.
"All right class," Ms. Frizzle proclaimed, taking a deep breath. "You asked for it! To the bus!"
All eight nodded, and started marching out behind their teacher, Liz marching out behind them and holding up a flag with a bright yellow school bus emblazoned across a blue background. As they marched down the hall, Principal Ruhle stuck his head out of his office, catching a glimpse of all of them, and shook his head.
He wondered, for a moment, how many of them would be returned gibbering in terror for the next three days, before suddenly starting to act like perfectly normal, though slightly dreamy, children. This, of course, only applied to the classes that continued having field trips this long. He predicted, based on previous years, that it would be seven of them.
"All right, is everyone belted in back there?" Ms. Frizzle asked, as she sat in the driver's seat of the large, yellow, physics defying school bus that the class rode in at least twice a week.
Liz gave her a crisp, almost military salute, and she sighed. "All right bus, time for the final trip," the red haired woman proclaimed, reaching over for the large red and grey lever in the middle of the dash board. "Do your stuff!"
Before the usual spinning, reality bending transformation, the bus gave one massive shudder that briefly made the students think that it was about to break down. Fortunately, it wobbled into the tornado of rapidly re-arranging components that they were used to, turning into a space shuttle and engaging its afterburners.
The bus was strangely silent for several minutes as it reached escape velocity, before D.A. spoke up tentatively. "Um, Ms. Frizzle, where are we going?"
"Oh, just there," the older woman said, pointing to something that was appearing over the horizon of the spinning globe beneath them.
"Hmm," the girl said, pulling a world atlas out of her backpack and rapidly flipping through pages. "Japan?"
"We're going to Japan?" Keesha asked, excitedly.
"Well, that doesn't sound very fun," Wanda contributed. "Too bad it's not China, I've been learning a little Chinese."
"Hmm, maybe today's a good day not to stay home," Arnold thought, looking out the window casually as they began to go through re-entry.
"At my old school, we never went to other countries," Phoebe said, then blinked. "But then again, we've done this a lot already."
"Um, is it just me, or is Ms. Frizzle putting on a blind fold?" Ralphie asked, pointing to the front of the bus, where their teacher had pulled a rainbow colored piece of cloth from nowhere, and was wrapping it around her head.
"And she's driving," Keesha groaned.
"Well I guess she's flying blind now," Carlos said, but winced as even he realized that was a pretty lame one. "Maybe we should get Liz to drive instead?"
"I can't believe you just said that, and that I agree with you," Tim grumbled, while offhandedly sketching an outline of the rapidly approaching islands beneath them.
"Hey, there's Tokyo... I think," D.A. contributed, pointing out the window. As she said this, the bus started to swoop around in a long, graceful arc, heading towards the edge of the city, where one area seemed obscured by a strange, grey mist.
As the bus touched down near the edge of the mist, coasting to a stop within about a hundred meters of it, the students noticed that the ground was covered with rocks of various sizes, some of them shaped remarkably like parts of buildings. "Wow, what happened to this place?" Tim asked, worriedly.
"Oh, it got destroyed by a force equivalent to a 30 megaton nuclear device," Ms. Frizzle said, casually, reaching into the bus' glove compartment and withdrawing a long white stick with a red stripe on one end and a swiveling roller tip.
"Um," Phoebe started to speak up, but her teacher ignored her, marching out of the bus. Much to the small girl's confusion, the teacher was actually using the device correctly.
"I guess we follow her," Ralphie suggested, confused.
"Shouldn't we be wearing radiation suits if a bomb went off here?" D.A. asked.
"Nah, we'll just glow in the dark," Carlos chuckled, quickly running after the older woman.
"Carlos!" Keesha yelled, following him. The others looked to each other, and then to the door, before shrugging almost in unison, following them out.
"Never mind what I said earlier," Arnold muttered, the last to follow. "I should have stayed home today."
As the red haired boy stepped out of the bus, he saw his still blindfolded teacher standing in front of a younger looking woman who was wearing the strangest outfit he'd ever seen. She wore a skirt, boots and a bow, all in purple, over a white bodysuit and gloves, and was holding the largest scythe he'd ever seen. He was pretty sure that she wasn't planning to use it to cut wheat, as it was pointed at Ms. Frizzle's chest.
The girl said something in a language that the boy couldn't understand, and his teacher cleared her throat. "Now Saturn, could you please speak in English so my students can understand you? And put your glaive away, I get the... point," she said, tapping the end of the weapon with a forefinger, which caused the younger woman to jerk it away in shock as a tiny drop of blood rolled down its blade.
"Valerie," the girl said, seeming to have trouble with the name, "I thought we had an agreement that you wouldn't be doing this again."
Ms. Frizzle laughed. "Of course we didn't! My last few classes just couldn't cut it, that's all."
"This isn't right, what you're doing with these children," the girl said, looking over the class. What she saw were a bunch of eight-year-olds, looking at her and their teacher with curious expressions, one looking through a book titled "Culture of Japan" and another frantically drawing in a sketch pad.
"I'll give them the choice, just like the others," the red haired woman said, icily, her voice much more flat and hard than her students had ever heard it before. "I want nothing for my students but their happiness, and, of course, their ability to learn."
"I can stop you from doing this," Saturn said, dropping her scythe to her side.
"Not without destroying half of the area," their teacher pointed out, suddenly seeming to relax backwards in a way that caused Arnold's neck hairs to raise.
"Um, is it just me, or is the Frizz challenging that woman to a fight?" Ralphie asked, confused.
"Oh, bad! Oh, bad! Oh, bad, bad, bad," Keesha opined, having not seen this coming, while Liz sat on her head, holding a large bag of pop corn and wearing a set of black shades.
Saturn sighed. "You should know that the Senshi still heartily disapprove of your actions," she said, in a low voice.
"And you should know that I don't care," Ms. Frizzle returned. "Are you going to move out of my way?"
"Hey, why is the Frizz talking like that?" Tim asked, looking away from his sketch pad for a moment.
"In my old school, the teachers were never this mean to magical girls," Phoebe said, concerned.
"There were magical girls at your old school?" Keesha asked, curiously.
"Well, they did mostly make balloon animals," Phoebe admitted.
The magical girl in question looked strangely at the talking girls, before sighing and stepping aside. "I'll be accompanying you, this time," she declared.
"You've tried that before," the teacher said, frowning in a somewhat concerned fashion now.
Saturn nodded. "Well, I'm trying it again," she said, and Ms. Frizzle shrugged, her expression immediately shifting back to its usual pleasant cheerfulness.
"All right then, class, Saturn, single file please!" she called, and looked over at Liz, who was sitting on the bus's hood. "Get the goggles, Liz!"
The lizard saluted, before scampering over the hood, jumping through the driver's side window and returning with several sets of deep blue goggles that the children knew well from past experience. When she handed them out, and Wanda slipped hers over her eyes, she gasped.
"Hey, the mist's gone!" she exclaimed, looking over to what had once been a wall of the stuff, but was now a clear view... of a massive, gouged and scorched wasteland, curving down to a lake in its center.
As the other students saw the black haired Asian's shocked expression, each let their own goggles fall over their eyes, and began to gape. It was true that a few of them, Ralphie for example, had seen more than their fair share of war movies, but a swath of destruction this large was almost totally unimaginable.
"Did they... nuke it or something?" Carlos asked, being completely out of puns at the moment.
"Um... According to my research," Dorothy Ann started slowly, "In order to produce damage on this level, a nuclear weapon would need to put out enough radiation to make the location unapproachable for at least fifty years."
Everyone turned to her oddly, and she sheepishly held up a large, white covered tome that said "So you want to blow something up?" on the cover, above a mushroom cloud. "My parents got it for my birthday, it explains how stars work, see?" she explained, flipping it open onto a chapter on pressure related nuclear fusion.
"Well, let's go!" the oldest redhead there proclaimed, ignoring that one of her students now had the secret of making nuclear weapons, and given the bus, the facilities to do so. Choosing a path, she started marching into the crater, the class and Saturn following behind her, the latter being rather impressed that the blindfolded woman was capable of navigating the gouged and jagged 'path.'
"Um, Ms. Frizzle, where are we going?" Arnold asked, as the woman in question seemed to be walking a random path towards nothing but more rubble.
"Oh, you'll see!" she proclaimed, turning and smiling back at him and the rest of the class reassuringly, while still walking backwards towards her goal. "Now, if any of you start to feel sick, please tell me immediately."
"Feel... sick?" Ralphie asked, gulping.
"Well, um, I think I might have eaten too many mallow-blasters this morning," Arnold tried, but got a shake of the head from the Frizz.
"Nice try, Arnold, but you came to school today," she proclaimed.
"Hey Arn, hear that? Even the Frizz thinks you should have stayed home today!" Carlos exclaimed, chuckling.
"Carlos," Arnold grumbled, but was distracted from the annoying boy as Ralphie spoke up again.
"Hey, is it just me, or is she not doing too good?" he asked, looking to the back of the group, where Saturn was looking distinctly green, and supporting herself on her scythe.
"Oh, don't worry about her, class. You see, Senshi have Mana binds to their planets, and can feel when one's magic is out of alignment. To a Senshi, even being here feels like there are a few hundred skunks spraying her in the face!" Ms. Frizzle exclaimed.
"So... there's something wrong with this part of the planet?" Keesha asked, worried.
"A completely correct conclusion, Keesha," the red haired woman said, with a snap of her fingers. "This entire city... well, it used to be a city, is a gaping void in the aura of the planet!"
"You don't need to sound excited about it," the weak voice of Saturn came. "You were here when it happened, weren't you?"
Seeing their teacher flinch violently for a moment, none of the students were old or experienced enough to follow the twisting set of expressions that flowed over her face, before she shook her head and brought herself back to normal. "Yes, Saturn, I was here," she said, flatly.
"So... the 'aura' of the Earth," Tim said, raising one hand to his chin. "That's... that glowing energy stuff from all those martial arts shows, right? I didn't think it really existed."
"Um, Tim, we've seen this sort of stuff before. You know, like that time with electricity and body heat, and..." Dorothy Ann said, before getting a quickly raised hand from the other.
"Okay, maybe, but what's an aura?" Tim conceded.
"That's a very good question, Tim... unfortunately, we'll have to wait for another time to answer it, because we're almost there, and looking at auras here would probably drive you all insane."
"We're here? Where's here?" Phoebe asked, looking around in confusion.
"Yes, where's..." Saturn started, before she keeled forward, landing on Arnold, and falling to the ground. The red haired boy gulped loudly as he saw her insanely sharp scythe sink into the ground near his shoulder.
"Hmm, she got a lot further this time," Ms. Frizzle said, bending down and checking the other woman, carefully plucking up the scythe and placing it where it wouldn't cut Arnold's arm off if he twitched. As the boy quickly scrambled out of the way, he noticed with some concern that his teacher's hand, where she'd touched the weapon, was burnt severely.
"Hmm, forgot about that," she mumbled, casually placing the appendage into one of her dress's pockets in order to spare most of the students the sight. "Anyways, I don't think I can get you all the way back to the edge of the crater, so do you want to stay here, or come with us?" Ms. Frizzle asked the downed Senshi
"Urk...." Saturn said, her eyes tightly shut.
"So that's a..." Ms. Frizzle asked, patiently.
"Gurgle..." Saturn returned, articulately.
"Well then, we'll leave you here until we get back, all right?" The teacher asked, smiling down at the black haired girl in the Sailor Fuku, and paying no mind to the death glare she was being given. Given that said glare was coming from the Senshi of Silence, Death and Rebirth, the feat was quite impressive.
"So... if we're almost there, why not take her with us?" Phoebe asked. "It won't be nice to leave her here."
"Oh, believe me, it's probably the nicest thing we can do for her," came the mysterious statement, before Ms. Frizzle was walking again, this time towards an ominous, steel grey structure that seemed to be the only thing intact in the wasteland of demolished stone.
Stopping in front of a large, rusted metallic door, she rapped on it several times, the sound echoing around in the silence, before it creaked open... to reveal a rather clean cut older man in a business suit.
"Ah, my beauteous pigtailed goddess, what a fantastic sight it is to finally see such lovely softness again," the man proclaimed, throwing his arms wide and charging towards the red haired woman, who quite clearly did not have a pigtail.
Ms. Frizzle only stood there, waiting, until the man stopped a foot in front of her and dropped his arms. "Hmm, I felt sure that I would have you convinced with my performance," he grumbled, looking disappointed. "I practiced it for hours, too."
"Don't feel too bad about it, I've gotten very good at acting over the years," the teacher responded, gesturing backwards to encompass her students. "Everyone, this is the owner of Walkerville elementary."
"But, isn't Walkerville a public school?" Dorothy Ann asked, confused.
"We make quite the attempt to convince people that it is, but nay, 'tis owned by the Shiratori frozen foods and typewriters concern,"
"The school's owned by a company that makes frozen food and typewriters?" Carlos said, stunned. "No wonder all of the lunch specials taste kinda inky."
"Carlos!" everyone exclaimed, before the man in the suit looked at the boy strangely.
"So, I assume this is Carlos," he drawled. "There are... Dorothy Ann, Tim, Wanda, Arnold, Phoebe, Keesha, and Ralphie?" he asked, pointing at the kids.
"Hey, I'm Ralphie, not Arnold!" said person spoke up, pointing at his chest.
"Um, yeah, but aren't you guys curious why he knows all of our names?" Arnold asked, distinctly nervous. This field trip had already been getting weird, and not in the usual, terrifying but educational way, and that was accelerating.
"That's simple," the suited man said. "I've been keeping an eye on Ms. Frizzle's classes ever since she became a teacher."
"Keeping an eye on us?" Phoebe asked, "Why would you do that?"
"Oh, I decided to bring this group here before explaining this time, so that they don't take things harder after finding out I'm not making it up," the teacher said.
"You think we think you'll make stuff up?" Ralphie asked. "You turned us into Sea anemones last month!"
"Ah, that one. What was in the chest this year?" the suited man asked, before shaking his head. "That's not important right now. Please, come in!"
"This place doesn't seem all that bad," Keesha said, as she walked down the hall behind her teacher and the man in the suit. The building they had come into from the destroyed outside world was actually surprisingly clean, its halls crisp white with fluffy grey carpeting. It looked almost like a hospital or a corporate office, though she'd seen a living room a few minutes before.
"Yeah, but the place is huge," Tim observed from where he was walking next to her. "I've been trying to sketch out our route in here; take a look."
As the dark skinned girl looked over the map her friend had drawn, she blinked. "Um, this doesn't make any sense... we haven't gone down any stairs."
"I know, but the layout is the way it's shown there, I'm sure of it!" Tim exclaimed, but was shocked as Ms. Frizzle suddenly turned around.
"Tim, I'm going to need to take your sketch pad," the woman said, gently.
"Huh? Why?" the young boy asked, confused.
The teacher's ear-rings, today in the shape of two simple tear drops, lit up for a moment. "Some things are better left unseen, and more importantly, unrecorded," she explained, enigmatically, and took the book before Tim could say anything. "Don't worry, I'll give it back after the field trip."
"Uh..." Tim said, blinking, as most of the class walked past him.
"Are you all right?" Arnold, the one at the end of the line, asked as the two came even.
"Yeah," Tim mumbled. "If the Frizz is going through this much effort to spook us this time, we could be about to get REALLY Frizzled," he mumbled, but fortunately too low for the red haired boy to hear, before quickly moving after the rest of the group.
"I can't believe you did that," Ralphie mumbled, as he and Carlos staggered after the rest of the class. All of them had distinctly pale expressions, and Phoebe and Arnold were clutching each other in terror.
"It was worth it," Wanda proclaimed, from where she lay, slung over both of the boys' shoulders.
"Wanda, you TASTED it!" Carlos said. "You ATE some of that thing! ...Let's just hope that you aren't what you eat."
"Carlos!" Ralphie growled, "That isn't funny!"
"I can't believe the Frizz brought us here," Tim mumbled, from where he was walking in front of the others. "I've never seen... I could never imagine..." He shuddered violently.
"Come on, it... it wasn't that bad," Keesha tried. "I mean, that time we got turned into light was..."
"Nowhere near as weird," Ralphie snapped back.
"...Yeah, okay. But that time..."
"Face it, nothing was this weird," Carlos said. "Look at Arn and Phoebe."
"The... the horror...." the two other children proclaimed at the same time.
Phoebe followed this with "I knew I should have stayed home today."
"Hey... th... that.... that's my line," Arnold stuttered, before flinching again.
At the front of the group, Ms. Frizzle walked with Saturn slung over one shoulder, neither one hearing the children's conversation over their own. "I hope you're happy," the Senshi said, acidly. "You've traumatized another group of young children."
"Oh, yes, this makes my day," the older woman said, and Saturn was surprised to hear bitter contempt in the voice. "But they're acting much more normal than the last group, and I never showed the last group what I just showed them."
"This is GOOD?" Saturn demanded, angry.
"No, not good," the one carrying the Senshi denied, "but not bad, yet. They haven't started gibbering, at least."
"I will never understand you or agree with your methods," the Senshi of Death and Destruction growled.
"Good, then I won't have to destroy three city blocks to take out a single Shogoth," Frizzle hissed back harshly, and Saturn's face turned pale.
"We... we had to," the Senshi justified weakly.
"And I have to," the teacher returned, with much more conviction. "Just like he had to." She gestured around the demolished landscape with one hand. Everyone was strangely silent, with no questions or comments after this, until the group made it back to the bus, where Liz was sitting on the hood and trying to look unworried. She'd been doing a reasonably good job of this, with a beach umbrella and lawn chair, but ruined the image as she jumped up, kicking the umbrella away, and scampering down the hood, jumping to Ms. Frizzle's shoulder, and then onto Phoebe's head.
The young girl reacted instantly, grabbing the lizard with one arm and starting to hug her as if she were a scaly teddy bear. The lizard promptly looked out from beneath the girl's arms, glaring daggers into the back of Ms. Frizzle's head.
"Liz, stop that," Ms. Frizzle demanded, turning and leveling a glance at the animal that could be seen even while she was still wearing a blind fold. "You knew we would have to do this again eventually."
The lizard just stuck her tongue out at her, leading the older woman to sigh. "On the bus, everyone," she proclaimed, setting Saturn down at the outside of the mist that surrounded the rubble of a section of Tokyo. "Are your friends going to come and pick you up?"
"I'll call them," Saturn said, withdrawing a small device from apparently nowhere and starting to push buttons on it as she stared at the sight of the teacher boarding her strangely empowered bus, which convulsed inward, before springing back as what looked like an atmospheric fighter on steroids.
"This is Saturn," she said, when the line was picked up from the other end. "She's gone again, and I didn't stop her."
"Ms. Frizzle, where are we?" Keesha asked, looking out of the bus' windows. "I don't think we've ever been here before."
"Astute assumption, Keesha," the Frizz replied. "We are in the wilderness of China. There is some educational material here, but, mostly, we're here because no one else is."
"Oh man," Tim cried excitedly, his hands spasming reflexively. "It's a panda! I'd love to draw one of those."
"Ah, yes," Ms. Frizzle said, pulling out the drawing pad. "Liz, return this, please." The lizard gave a nod and scampered off, book in hand. "Now don't go sketching anything you saw in the compound," Frizzle warned. "Padded rooms are not nearly as much fun as one would think." Without giving that last sentence anytime to settle in, she clapped her hands and announced, "All right, everyone, out of the bus! Carlos, Ralphie, please help Wanda again."
As they were going into a nice clearing, without the expectation of shrinking anytime soon, the class happily, as much as they could be happy after what they had just witnessed, departed the bus. "I can't believe it," Arnold said shakily, still holding onto Phoebe. "I don't think we're going to be shrunk or anything."
"That would be more normal, wouldn't it?" Phoebe asked listlessly.
"After what I just showed you," Ms. Frizzle began, "you deserve a proper explanation. Oh, I would have given one back at the compound, but being there too long would have driven all of us insane."
"Bu-but what about the guy living there?" Arnold asked, slowly on his way to recovery. "Shouldn't he have gone insane by now?"
"Outstanding observation, Arnold," Frizzle announced. "We're not entirely sure why, but our benefactor needs to be near the Abomination to retain his faculties." Waving to the center of the clearing, she said, "Gather around, kids. It's time you learn the truth about the bus."
"The bus?" Dorothy Ann asked. "What's so secret about it?"
"Yeah, we already know it's magical," Tim added idly, still sketching the local wildlife.
"Ah, but that's just what we wanted you to think," the teacher said. "On the day that crater was made, the bus was created. Not even she knows exactly what happened to make her that way."
"Let me get the facts," Keesha began. "The bus was created by that... thing, right?"
"Oh, that is correct enough," Ms. Frizzle agreed.
"And there's something important about the bus that we don't know yet, right?" Keesha continued. Frizzle nodded. "And you just called the bus a 'her,' right?" Once again, a nod. "So the bus used to be a person?" she asked slowly, not sure if she had put the parts together correctly.
"Superb summation, Keesha," Frizzle said, clapping her hands together. "Bus, do your stuff!"
With what could only be called a smile, the bus began its normal conversion. As it spun, it grew smaller, in height, width, and most notably in length. Before the last of the magical transformation effects faded away, it looked like the bus would become a rocket for them to launch in, if they were only two inches tall. With one last spin, it coalesced into a form unlike any the children had seen it take before.
Standing before them was something that looked human, definitely more human than the Ralphie-bot, at least. It's face was formed from the front of the bus, much like the heads of the bus-salmon, the bus-bear, and the busigator. The figure's eyes were formed by the headlights, appropriately enough, though more human, somehow. The lips, cold metal fenders, were turned up in a warm smile. Other than that, she mostly looked like a young woman in a yellow dress.
The strange figure dipped forward in a short bow from the waist, and then the honking began. "Beep beep beep beep. Beep. Beep honk beep beep. Beep honk beep beep. Honk honk honk,"
"Is it just me, or is the bus-girl trying to tell us something?" Ralphie asked, covering his ears to block out some of the honking.
"Very good, Ralphie. This is a form of communication called Morse code," Ms. Frizzle explained. "We'll be going over it more in class. She's just saying 'hello.'"
Bounding over to the metallic girl, Liz jumped into her arms and gave her a firm hug.
"Hello, Ms. Bus," Phoebe said, letting go of Arnold and walking slowly towards the new figure.
"Okay, so the bus is a person and it has something to do with the thing we saw that has more tentacles than an anemone, so what's going on here?!" Ralphie exclaimed, throwing up his hands.
"Those were tentacles?" Carlos asked, "Didn't know we were camping!"
"Is it just me, or have your jokes gotten worse?" Ralphie groaned, and then turned back to the teacher. "Well, what's going on?"
"Hm, I suppose you do deserve a full explanation," Frizzle agreed. "Let's see, where should I begin?" After a few moments of thought, she began, "It all started in high school..."
"I've done it!" a young, dark haired man cackled to himself as he gazed over the massive pigs-blood outline of interlocking arcane symbols that was sprawled across the sheet on his bedroom floor. The book that he'd gotten from the old man's pawn shop had detailed all he needed in order to perform the right. Sure, it had mentioned something about apocalyptic visions and the end of all humanity, but a lot of magic books said things like that, and none of them had delivered yet.
"Tomorrow, I shall win her tomorrow!" He yelled, and then began to cackle, until a sharp rapping echoed up from the floor. "Sorry Mom!" he yelled, and immediately started rolling the sheet up, in preparation for the next day.
That night, the boy dreamed of things that he wouldn't remember in the morning. Death, destruction, the burning of sheep, all of which didn't matter as he stood on a high, craggy peak, his blue-black haired love clasped in his arms, looking out to an orange sea... perhaps he had been watching too much Evangelion recently.
"C'mon, slow poke!" Ranma Saotome yelled as he raced along the top of a fence that ran down the length of the canal, his rather irritated fiancee pelting along behind him. "We're gunna be late again, and this time it's not my fault!"
"Get back here, Ranma!" Akane yelled, only panting a little. "And it wasn't my fault that Kasumi accidentally threw out the breakfast I made for you!"
"Yeah, right," Ranma muttered, and gave yet another silent thanks to the eldest Tendo daughter, who had saved his life this day. "Can we just get there before the loon decides we'd both look better bald?"
Akane's pace noticeably quickened, however both martial artists skidded to a halt, approaching the gate, as they saw Hikaru Gosunkugi standing there, his eyes extra-sunken, and a red splattered cloth laying at his feet.
"Oh great," Ranma mumbled, and cracked his knuckles before Akane laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
"Let's see what he wants before you hit him, all right?" she asked, and then glanced at the spooky boy. "So what's going on, Goz?"
"Sh... she talked to me," Gosunkugi stuttered, before descending into a dreamy haze for several seconds.
"Great work, ya managed to completely break his brain," Ranma muttered, and started around the other boy.
"Don't go anywhere Saotome!" Gosunkugi yelled, reaching out an arm to stop the martial artist, and actually being dragged several feet as the pigtailed boy kept right on walking.
"All right Goz," Ranma finally sighed, stopping and turning to face the other. "Get whatever stupid charm you want over with so we can go to class."
"Um, erm, right..." the sunken eyed youth stammered, and reached into his backpack for something. Coming out with a vaguely disturbing looking brown book with a strangely crumpled cover, he flipped it open and started looking through it.
"Um, let's see, Reanimation, no, Old ones,no... The great god Cthulhu, ... no... Ah! Here we go! Prepare to meet your doom, Saotome!" He proclaimed, raising one hand to the sky and beginning to chant.
The sound of the words that issued from the thin boy's throat was wrong, as if the syllables were crawling over each other in their haste to escape, ringing wrongly on an instinctive level.
Realizing that something serious was going down, Ranma tried to move towards the fledgling sorcerer, but found his feet locked in place, the smaller boy's words seeming to pin him, and now starting to increase in volume and speed. He was almost positive that a human couldn't articulate anything that quickly, but was jolted out of that thought when the splotchy bedsheet nearby began to glow and thrum with a darkness that was also light.
Abruptly, something began to twist out of the splotches of red, taking form in such a way that its angles seemed to break Euclidean geometry as they formed. It was truly indescribable, save for the observation that it was about fifteen feet tall, and pulsed.
Ranma opened his mouth, something deep in the back of his mind screaming that what he was seeing was something to flee from at great speed, and he did so, scooping up the youngest Tendo as he ran, paying no mind to the fact that she was screaming like a banshee and trying to claw her own eyes out.
Gosunkugi wasn't nearly so fast, or so fortunate, as the thing he had summoned turned to its 'master.' If the boy were capable of thought, he would realize now that the binding runes he had written out the night before had been badly smudged by the fact that he hadn't let the pigs-blood dry. Fortunately, as he wasn't, he didn't have to realize his final failure as a mage before he was devoured.
Nearby, Tatewaki Kuno stared at the thing in the middle of the schoolyard, and with a click, the world seemed to snap ninety degrees to the right. Concepts that he had never really grasped before fell into place, causing a roiling wave of new thoughts to spread through his mind. One of these new thoughts was that what was happening to him was not, by any means, typical. He caught, just for a moment, a glimpse of Saotome running from the school yard, an expression of horror frozen on his face the likes of which the Blue Thunder had never seen.
Nearby, dozens of students were either running in fear, screaming, or charging at the thing in the middle of the yard in blind panic, and Gosunkugi was being messily spread across the ground with a wet thumping. The swordsman contemplated drawing his blade, but shuddered as he saw the... thing... bring down an appendage and drive it several feet into the ground, through someone's back.
For once in his life, Kuno Tatewaki decided to embrace the better part of valor, but before he turned to flee, he saw the school's front door opening, and a flash of brown hair cut into a bowl cut. He was never sure why he dashed across the yard, scooping Nabiki Tendo into his arms and starting for the school wall, but later he decided that, perhaps, she was the person in the school he disliked least.
As he lept the wall and started down the street, the tall Kendoist heard the sound of a wall exploding, and Ryoga Hibiki yelling "Ranma! Prepare to..."
Kasumi Tendo hummed quietly to herself as she walked through the Nerima market district, placing several small food items into a basket. She really loved shopping for her family, and this morning she needed to do a lot of it, as Akane had used most of the vegetables in the soup she'd made Ranma.
It had been such a shame to throw that much good food out, however after she had tasted a tiny bit of it, she'd decided that it was far too much for Ranma, or indeed anyone, to stomach a whole bowl of, and had arranged for it to be sent to the JSDF for chemical weapons research.
"Oh my," she said, noticing a new arts and crafts stall that had been set up near the entrance to the shopping street, "Those little kitties look so cute!"
"Yes, Ma'am, we just got them in from an Anime convention in Hokkaido," the booth's owner said, proudly. "Would you like some?"
"Hmm, I would," Kasumi said slowly, "But one of my family's house guests is afraid of cats. Do you have anything else?"
"Well, we've got some nice refrigerator magnets," the man offered, holding up one that looked like a little yellow school bus, with a smiley face on the front.
"Oh, that is nice," Kasumi said, inspecting the magnet, before she heard a loud crash from nearby. Turning, she was shocked to see Ranma blurring down the street, Akane in his arms, the female martial artist clutching at the male's shirt with one hand while clawing at the air with the other and a number of deep scratches on her face.
"Oh my!" The eldest Tendo gasped, dropping the magnet and waving at the two. "Are you all right?"
Ranma saw her, and started to home in on her like a radar guided missile, screeching to a stop in front of her with his eyes wild. "Kasumi, we've gotta get outta here," he proclaimed breathlessly.
"Ranma-kun, what happened?" the brown haired girl asked, shocked. "Did something bad happen at school? What's wrong with Akane?"
Neither of the younger teens answered, though Akane glanced back the way they had run and started shuddering violently. "No, no, can't, no, didn't, didn't, can't," she babbled, randomly.
"We've got to go," Ranma insisted. "I dunno what that thing was... Kasumi, it killed the cat." He said this in a perfect deadpan, but the eldest Tendo noticed a haunted look in his eyes that she was only distracted from by a tremendous flash of light.
Turning, she saw a column of eye-searing green extending itself from the general direction of Furinkan high, continuing to rise into the air, and coalesce into a ball, until it looked like a gigantic moon was orbiting extremely low.
Ranma seemed to notice what she was looking at a moment later, cursing and grabbing her wrist before diving for cover behind the largest piece of stone he could find. He sheltered Akane in his arms, but realizing he couldn't shield Kasumi, began to pump as much of his Chi into her body, trying to harden it to impact, as he did to his own.
That was when the Shi Shi Hokodan descended, the sound and shockwave ripping through Nerima like several million tons of TNT exploding, and vaporizing almost everything at its center as though it had never existed.
She woke to the sensation of something wet drenching the majority of the front of her body. "Stupid ol' man," she muttered, thinking that she'd probably been pushed into the Koi pond again, but as her mouth closed after the words, she tasted something coppery on her tongue.
Rapidly opening her eyes, Ranma stared down at the ground to see a large amount of something red all over it, with a few swirls of a lighter red near the edges. She wasn't sure how she'd ended up passed out while propping herself up against a wall, and how the red stuff had gotten here, but it made her feel incredibly uneasy.
"What happened?" she asked, through a throat that felt like it'd had all of the air ripped from it. She didn't get a response, but did hear the sound of an engine running nearby.
Turning to the noise, she blinked as she saw a large, yellow bus sitting next to the wall, one of its front wheels having broken through it, while the other was propped up on it. She blinked, several times in rapid succession.
Yellow school buses weren't common for Japan, and given everything else around them was a bombed out wasteland, it was even less likely to be there. Then, the redhead's mind snapped back to an important part of her previous thought. She was standing in something that looked vaguely like the epicenter of the Hiroshima bomb blast.
"What..." she started, and then the memories hit, as if she were being smacked in the head by a sledge hammer. "Akane?" she asked, looking back to where she'd originally been hiding with the youngest Tendo, and as she saw the large stain of coppery tasting red stuff, her stomach lurched violently. "K... Kasumi?" she continued, trying desperately to keep her breakfast down.
At the name, strangely enough, the bus that was sitting next to her gave out a honk of its horn. She looked to see if there was a driver inside of the surreal contraption, but there wasn't, and it was sitting where Kasumi had been before. As she thought that, Ranma's face suffused with horror, and she quickly checked under the vehicle's forward wheels. There was nothing there.
"Kasumi?!" she yelled, looking around more wildly. "Where did you go?!" She knew that Akane was dead. She, somehow, was not wounded at all, but there had been so much blood... and she'd been hugging Akane so tightly when Ryoga's blast hit... but Kasumi, Kasumi had to be here, and alive, somewhere.
"Kasumi!" the martial artist started yelling, closing her eyes and trying to sense the nearest source of human life energy. The bus nearby somehow gave off an aura that was almost human, but not quite, but she disregarded this for the time being, and found something else. It was far towards the edge of the prefecture, but there, and she started towards it as quickly as she could.
"Kasumi!" she called, repeatedly, and each time, the bus, which was now somehow following her over the terrain, honked in response.
"And then he found me and Kuno." The voice startled the eight kids, as they stood or sat on the ground listening to their teacher's story. Actually, several of them were looking a little green, and Arnold turned away gratefully at the new voice to see a woman in a green jumpsuit leaning against a rock.
"Yes, Nabiki, I was getting to that," Ms. Frizzle rebuked gently.
"Well, you were doing it slowly," Nabiki returned, sticking her tongue out and giving the other woman a raspberry.
The teacher sighed and slapped her forehead. "You really have been a lizard too long," she mumbled, quietly.
Apparently, this wasn't quiet enough, as D.A. heard it. "She's been a lizard too long?" she asked, and then looked around. "Hey wait, where's..." As a look of realization and shock spread across the blonde's face, the new woman smirked.
"Told you this group was a keeper," she said, proudly.
"Is it just me, or are we missing something big here?" Ralphie asked, confused.
"I don't think so, Ralphie." Keisha objected. "Let's see, the bus is that Kasumi person, right?" she asked.
The bus-girl honked, and the teacher nodded in answer.
"And that guy, the one who turned into a girl for some reason, that was you, right Ms. Frizzle?" the dark skinned girl continued.
"At my old school, we never had teachers who changed genders," Phoebe opined, softly. It was part of her healing process.
"Well, with the amount of cold water we've been in over the year, it was just easier," the teacher justified, shrugging.
"....Okay..." Keesha continued, "And... she's Liz, right? But... how's she Liz?"
"Ancient Chinese secret," Nabiki drawled, but upon getting a steady look from the class and its teacher, she sighed. "Let's just say that after having your whole home city blown up, spending a few years as something that's always fed and taken care of doesn't seem like a bad idea," she explained, reluctantly.
Suddenly, the bus reached into a compartment on its side, which was rather disconcerting when it looked so much like a normal woman, and retrieved a large, wooden sign board. "Plus, she was so cute that way," it said, holding up the sign.
"Thanks, Kasumi," Nabiki drawled, sarcastically. "I stayed a lizard for twenty years because I was cute that way." With a sigh, she added, "I needed to take a... vacation, I suppose, from humanity."
"You got away from humanity by being a Certified Teaching Lizard?" Arnold asked, the sheer incredulousness of the statement snapping him out of his funk.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," the oldest brunette mumbled.
"It's alright, Liz, we're here for you," Phoebe said, hugging the taller woman.
"See, Saotome," Nabiki said with a smirk. "This is the best group of kids we've had so far." Ruffling Phoebe's hair, she continued, "It's only been two hours since we've left Nerima, and they've all begun acting at least mostly normal again." There was a moan from off to the side, and the part time lizard added, "Well, except for Wanda, but I'm not sure what happened to her."
"I'm not really sure," Frizzle replied with a shrug. "You know I can't go into the actual containment chamber." Turning to the rest of the class, she asked, "Did Wanda do anything she shouldn't have? I thought she'd do the best out of the bunch of you."
"She did," Tim replied. "She only had problems after she took a bite out of that thing."
"Totally worth it!" croaked the Asian girl from her place on the ground.
"She did what?!" Nabiki screeched. "I let them out of my sight for an hour, and this is what you do to them?" she demanded.
"I told them to stay away from that thing!" the redheaded woman cried, covering her head protectively. "They weren't supposed to touch it, let alone eat any of it!"
"Gurgle," defended Wanda as she struggled to sit up. She failed.
With a sigh, Ms. Frizzle held a hand out to the bus. "Diagnostreum, please."
The bus-girl beeped lightly and handed over a small device, the students trying not to think about where it had come from.
"Ah, thank you, Kasumi." Walking over to Wanda, the Frizz bent down in front of the girl and ran the device up and down her form. "Hmm, Mhmm, yes, interesting..." She mumbled, the kids all leaning in at each word, and Wanda looking just a little apprehensive beyond her stomach problems.
"So, what's wrong with her, Ms. Frizzle?" Carlos asked, nervously.
"I have no idea!" The teacher announced, handing the small device back to the bus-girl. "Kasumi was always much better at medicine than I am," she admitted. "Maybe she'll have some idea."
"The ability to bring the dead to life does not qualify her as a medic, and you know it, Saotome!" Nabiki objected.
"At least Kasumi was able to save him," the teacher protested, "and besides, what about all those medical books she likes to read?"
Off to the side, D.A. asked, "The bus reads?"
"Yes," the Certified Teaching Lizard agreed. "And then we had to make the entire class forget about it!"
"The bus can bring people back to life?" Carlos asked. "That's amgraving."
"Carlos!" the others groaned.
"That pun was repugnant," Nabiki stated.
"Oh no!" Phoebe bemoaned. "You've infected our lizard! Don't worry, Liz; we'll save you!"
"Hey, she just knows talent when she sees it," the Hispanic boy claimed.
"According to my research," Dorothy Ann began, pulling an unabridged dictionary out of her bag. "Used like that, repugnant is not a complement."
"I've been trying to get Saotome to drop the horrible puns for the last seven years!" Nabiki lamented. "Not that it's easy to convince him to do anything, especially when you're only human once a week."
"So you were human once a week?" Keesha asked. "Why would you do that if you were trying to stay a lizard?"
"There was a reason you kids have been taking me home with you every... ooh a moth!" Nabiki began, before getting distracted by an insect. She spent the next thirty seconds chasing the moth and caught it right before anyone thought to stop her. "Mmm, tasty," the woman said, popping the insect into her mouth.
"Agh, I think I'm going to be sick," Ralphie declared, turning away.
"As Nabiki was saying before she decided on a snack," Frizzle began, "She went over to each of your houses over the weekends to see how you were handling everything."
With a little bit of wing sticking out of her mouth, Nabiki added, "None of you ever showed the signs of stress the others did." Before anyone could ask, she added, "Yes, this includes you, Arnold."
"Um, Liz," Phoebe hedged. "You have a little..." She gestured towards her mouth, leading Nabiki to quickly wipe away the remnants of her snack.
"Sorry about that," the older Asian sheepishly apologized. "I didn't have a very large breakfast."
"Hey, don't let us bug you about it," Carlos said with a very noticeable emphasis on 'bug.'
"At least it's better than his last one," the woman groaned into her hand.
"Good one Carlos," Frizzle cried, giving the boy a high-five. "Now, let's see what the bus has to say about Wanda. Bus?"
Kasumi held up a sign saying, "Oh my, this is odd." Flipping the sign, she continued, "It appears as though she is dieing." There was a second flip. "Yet the dead cells are still functioning normally."
"Oh no!" Ralphie cried, scurrying away from the sick girl. "She's turning into a zombie!"
"Hm, I suppose that is within the realm of possibility," the teacher agreed.
"Did that sign just have three sides?" Keesha asked, looking slightly disturbed.
"After everything we've done today, that's what bothers you?" Arnold demanded.
"Great," Nabiki groaned, rubbing the bridge of her nose to relieve some of the stress. "How are we supposed to explain that to Mrs. Li?" Looking over to Keesha, she added, "And that sign trick was perfected by Uncle Genma even before the panda showed up with Ranma."
"Hey, mom might think it's... urk... fascinating," Wanda contributed. "She needs a new exhibit."
"Hey, you can talk again," Phoebe said happily. "That's good... right?"
"Gee, thanks Phoebe," Wanda replied, but gave the other girl a smirk to indicate that she didn't take it too seriously.
"Don't worry, Wanda, we'll find some way of fixing what happened to you... probably," Ms. Frizzle said, gesturing back to Kasumi, who nodded reassuringly.
"Well, are we going to ask them now?" Nabiki asked, reclining against her chosen rock again.
"Hmm, I suppose so," Ms. Frizzle said, and reached behind her back, pulling a large bench out of nowhere and setting it down in front of her. "Take seats, everyone!" She called.
"How does she do that?" Keesha asked, immediately becoming unsettled when the bus held up a sign that read 'Hidden Weapons School.' Shrugging this off, she plunked down on the bench next to D.A.
"All right, now there was a reason I brought you out here," Ms. Frizzle explained, crossing her arms over her chest and actually managing to look somewhat intimidating as she looked over them. "Every year, I've been taking children on field trips, like the ones we've been going on. For most of them, the benefit of this is that they get a first hand look at a bunch of scientific concepts."
"Yeah, from about half an inch," Arnold mumbled.
"Please hold any comments until I'm finished, all right Arnold?" The teacher asked, before continuing. "There was another reason, however. You see, part of the reason all of us in Nerima reacted so badly to the creature that attacked us was because, even with how strange our worldview was, the laws of physics and reality were observed... most of the time."
"That thing was scary, but we're all right now," Phoebe interrupted, confused.
Nabiki nodded, standing from her rock and walking up behind Ms. Frizzle. "Exactly," she noted. "We've done our jobs."
Arnold looked like he really wanted to say something, but bit his tongue, as the red haired woman looked over the group. Seeing no more pending interruptions, she said, "Yes, we wanted to influence children while they were young enough so that the reality distorting effects of these creatures could be countered with an expanded view of reality. I've been working as a teacher to try and accomplish that, to allow people to fight back."
"Wait, you're training us to be warriors?" Carlos asked, some laughter in his voice at the mere thought.
"Not yet," Ms. Frizzle said, her earrings flashing with light. "In fact, you're here because I'm going to give you a choice. Either you can forget any of this ever happened, and leave thinking you went on dozens of slightly hard to remember, but normal field trips, or you can continue learning from me."
"Is it just me, or is she making an offer we can't refuse?" Ralphie asked, glancing over at the other kids.
"On the contrary, Ralphie, you're perfectly capable of refusing," Ms. Frizzle said.
"Yeah, we'd have to forget all these field trips?" Wanda exclaimed, from where she was laying in the bus girl's lap. "No way!"
"I have to agree with the insane one," Arnold contributed, blinking as a small rock hit him in the leg from where Wanda had weakly thrown it. Bending down, he picked it up and studied it intently. "Gee, Wanda, thanks. I never had one of these before." Wanda glared.
Ms. Frizzle looked away from the group, raising one hand to rub at her eye, before turning back. "I'm glad you feel that way, but you should be given time to think about this. I will expect your final decisions by tomorrow."
"I don't think you've gotta worry," Carlos replied.
The teacher shook her head. "All right class, to the bus, we're going home!" she announced, and Kasumi saluted smartly, a broad smile on her face, before jumping into the air and beginning to spin. This didn't even seem to disturb Wanda, who was reclining in the middle of the maelstrom, until the bus formed and she dropped onto a seat that looked softer than most.
"Well, let's go," Phoebe said, walking up the stairs into the vehicle.
"You know, now just boarding the bus is ten times weirder than I like," Arnold grumbled, "Um, no offense, Ms. Kasumi." He jumped about a foot when the horn beeped softly in acknowledgment, and then continued inside to find another softer seat, with a bag of Seaweedies sitting next to it.
"Wow, sis, you're really going full out here," Nabiki drawled, as she stepped up. When she was offered a glass of cold water, she shut up, grabbing it and dumping it over her head. The jar of crickets that was offered afterward had nothing to do with it, nor did Ralphie's green face when he saw them.
"Seat belts, everyone!" Ms. Frizzle announced, glancing back to see her bus spoiling her students rotten, and sighing. "I doubt they'll all stay, you know," she said softly to the dashboard, but the bus apparently ignored her as it shifted again, becoming a large VTOL aircraft and lifting out of the clearing.
Mr. Ruhle looked out of the school's main office when he heard the sound of a magical school bus landing in the rear parking lot. He'd heard this sound many times, and had come to expect it by now. Sighing, he opened a desk drawer nearby, where the files of the eight students of Valerie Frizzle were stored, separated from the rest. He would likely have to arrange their transfer to another school. Only the hardiest of them were even able to stay at Walkerville elementary after Frizzle's classes, most of them not wanting to stick around after a full year of her field trips.
He really didn't want to know what the final trip of the year entailed. He liked to be able to sleep at night, thank you very much. He made a point of not knowing even where this trip went.
Seeing the class trooping down the hall, he noticed only one was being carried, Wanda Li. This surprised him as she seemed one of the hardier students, and what was more amazing was that Arnold Perlstein and Phoebe Terese looked fine, even though the former had his usual incredibly nervous look about the eyes.
"Hello Ms. Frizzle, how was your trip?" he asked, waving to the students.
"Oh, it was very enlightening," the woman returned.
"Ah, so the hydro-electric plant again, very good," the man said, and as it looked like Dorothy Ann was about to open her mouth to correct his mistake, he withdrew back into the confines of his office, picking up the files he'd withdrawn and setting them in a semi-circle on his desk. 'Enlightening' was good. It generally meant that he wouldn't have to find places for eight kids who had secretly been part of a private school in the public school system.
Finding a place for Janet Perlstein, after the girl had started babbling about giant alligators last month, had been hard enough, and he didn't particularly want to explain why Phoebe, a student who had already been transferred a month into the year, was being moved again, especially when her parents had been the ones moving her the first time.
Yes, Mr. Ruhle decided, this would make his life much easier, even if he did have to deal with students who got glazed, far off looks in their eyes when he mentioned their third grade field trips.
As he left his office to get a cup of coffee, the dark skinned man couldn't help but blink. There, in the middle of the hallway and riding in a wheel chair, was Wanda, being pushed by the class's pet lizard towards the front doors. Now he really needed that coffee.
"You were crying," Ms. Frizzle resolutely ignored the sign.
"There was something in my eye, all right?" she protested, sliding her dress over her head to reveal a skin-tight black bodysuit.
"You like this group," the next sign read, as she walked up to her front door, the insanely irritating form of a humanoid bus walking next to her.
"Yeah, I like them," she admitted, slipping her hair out of its usual stupidly high beehive and letting it fall to her back in a loose ponytail. "Doesn't matter if they don't agree to it, or if their parents don't. So much could go wrong..." She shrugged. "Remember six years ago?"
Kasumi grimaced. She remembered. Walkerville Elementary was almost closed down that time, when a lawyer parent was told everything about what they were doing. The Amazon mind-wipe on her had been slightly too strong, and she was now covering tabloid news somewhere, and Ranma tended to flinch every time she saw her. "This isn't six years ago," the bus girl's next sign insisted. "They reacted well to the staged trip, didn't they?"
The teacher let out a long, irritated sigh before lifting a small thermos off of the kitchen table and dumping some over her head. Her entire body shifted, growing more than half a foot, and a middle-aged man now stood there.
"Would you stop trying to find problems?" the bus girl's sign read, before it turned to face the man and started to chuff loudly.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"You forgot something," the bus retorted, and suddenly pulled a mirror out of nowhere to reveal that he was still wearing earrings. His eyebrow twitched, as he reached up to remove the offending jewelery.
"Kinda hard to get out of being Frizzle, recently," he admitted.
"That's because you're having too much fun teaching the kids," the bus's next sign exclaimed, before she tossed it over her shoulder to land on a pile of other discarded signs.
"Yeah, maybe," Ranma muttered. "Still a little spooky."
"And you're worried that they'll decide to forget," Kasumi said. "Don't worry so much, both Nabiki and I believe that these ones will come through."
"Y'know," Ranma mumbled, as he stared at the strange entity that was Kasumi Tendo, "Even I kinda wanna know how ya pull the whole three sided sign thing."
At school the next day, Ms. Frizzle waited in her classroom, Kasumi standing next to her, as students gradually started to trickle in. First, of course, were Arnold, Phoebe, and Tim, followed moments later by Ralphie, Keesha, Carlos, and finally Wanda, who was wheeled into the room by a rather bemused looking older woman wearing a thin pair of glasses.
"Oh, Hello Mrs. Li," Ms. Frizzle said, a little surprised at this addition.
"Hello," the woman returned. "Wanda says that she can't walk, but she'll get better, and you could explain it."
"Oh, well, um," the teacher said, suddenly on the spot.
"We're doing a unit on the human body, and Wanda was told to pretend she didn't have a central nervous system," another female voice cut in, as a brown haired woman in a skirt suit walked in.
"Oh," Mrs. Li said, "So that's why she was babbling so much, she didn't have a brain!" She smiled, and patted her daughter on the head. "You're doing a very good job, Wanda."
The younger Asian girl, who actually had her entire nervous system killed and regenerated over night, which felt vaguely ticklish, gave one massive eyebrow twitch as her mother cheerfully waved and left the room.
"I could have sworn that woman next to the teacher was made of metal," Mrs. Li mumbled to herself, not noticing as she passed the principal of the school. "Ms. Frizzle's such an immersive teacher."
"Hmm, it looks like Dorothy Ann's not here," Ms. Frizzle said, as she stood in front of her class. "I'll have to visit her at home later. Now, class, have you made your final decisions?"
Carlos was the first to nod. "I'm in," he announced. "Can't be any worse than having to do homework for Mr. Sinew's class."
"Wait, isn't Mr. Sinew..." Arnold started, but decided to drop it. This was Carlos, after all. Seeing everyone looking at him, he hunched down a little, but finally nodded. "I'll do it..." he said, in such a low voice that it was barely audible. The chant of "I mustn't run away" afterward was completely impossible to hear by everyone but the bus.
"If they're in, I'm in," Ralphie declared, posing dramatically. This pose was ruined, however, when his hat fell over his eyes.
"Well, there were some interesting things to see out there," Tim admitted. "And I can't exactly leave these guys to do this alone."
"Yeah, he's got a point," Keesha added. "Without me, Ralphie'd probably run into something's mouth by accident."
"Hey, I resent that!" Ralphie objected, but was mostly ignored. Nabiki patted his hand sympathetically.
"I don't know about fighting," Phoebe mumbled. "Couldn't we just try to reason with them instead?" Almost everyone shrugged at this, aside from the teacher, the bus girl. and Nabiki, who all looked at her like she'd grown a second head. "Or... maybe I could just help anyone who's hurt?" she tried again, this time getting a much more understanding reaction.
"For some reason, I kinda wanna see what the next one tastes like," Wanda contributed, as she levered herself out of her wheel chair to stand next to the others. At their slightly weirded out looks, she shrugged. "What?"
"Well, seven of eight ain't bad, Saotome," Nabiki contributed. "We've actually got a group here."
"If their parents go along with it," Ms. Frizzle reminded.
"Oh, they probably will," Wanda said confidently.
"Not everyone's as nuts as your mom," Carlos countered.
"Maybe..." Arnold contributed, "But Dad might let me...." As he shrugged, as though to convey his total confusion, the classroom door burst open and a yellow and blue blur dashed in.
"I'm sorry I'm late, Ms. Frizzle but I was doing research on those things you talked about yesterday." She held up a brown book, with a face on its front.
The older woman went pale, while Nabiki slapped her forehead and the bus let out two beeps that almost sounded like "Oh, my."
"Please tell me you didn't read any of that out loud..." Ms. Frizzle moaned.
"Well, yes. Some of it was hard to pronounce, and..." D.A. responded, right before there was a loud explosion from several blocks away.
"All right, looks like you're going to get your first experience of fighting the unknown," the teacher griped. "I would have liked to train you a little first..." As she said this, Kasumi jumped out the classroom window, reforming into the bus. "To the bus everyone!" she called, pointing to the classroom door.
"I knew I should have stayed home today," Arnold groaned, as the group started moving.
"Hey Nabiki, do you still have the number for the guy with the chainsaw?" Ms. Frizzle asked, as the door slammed behind her, a small picture of a sun lit meadow frequented by a lot of happy looking sheep falling to the ground and landing at an odd angle.