Roxanne Ritchi was not a screaming type of girl. She was not one to shriek at every spider, cry when the wind mussed her hair or flinch away from water. She happened to prefer speed, got thrills from danger and more often than not, got herself into tricky situations because of it. She had no qualms punching people if they invaded her bubble, or running headlong into a situation that was beyond her grasp.
But when the dead weight of a ravenous zombie hit her from behind, and she saw what was chewing her backpack to shreds, Roxanne did not hesitate to let out the most bloodcurdling scream she had in her arsenal. Her scream was apparently so loud and full of terror that three testosterone-fueled jocks hell bent on kicking the crap out of a weird blue kid had reason to abandon their target and jump immediately to her aid. She shook herself out from the shoulder straps, her scream dying off abruptly as she was freed. One jock helped pull her backwards even as she crab-walked away, the other two grabbing the zombie by the arms, out of reach from his gnashing teeth. Roxanne bumped into Megamind's prone figure and stopped, her back pressed up to his stomach and her arms looped over his body.
She vaguely recognized the zombie as the pot-smoking kid from before, only he was a sickly shade of green-yellow, his eyes rolling wildly in their sockets and spittle flying from his mouth. The two jocks tossed him down the hall and he fell through the air like a limp doll, flopping heavily on the floor. He heaved himself up, one shoulder at an unnatural angle, drool dripping down his jaw. Roxanne pressed herself more into Megamind as the insane kid lurched toward them again, a wet sounding growl issuing from his throat. The two jocks seemed to lose their nerve at the same time, simultaneously spinning on their heels and booking it down the hall. Their buddy, the jock from lunch, she noted, crouched behind Roxanne and Megamind, clearly torn on escaping as well and staying to protect the helpless pair. The zombie moved faster than she would have expected, his steps loping and uneven. Roxanne's hand fisted in the back of Megamind's shirt, but just before the zombie could pounce a pair of expensive running shoes landed in front of her.
The way the boy's body soared down the hallway after Metro Dude punched him was an image Roxanne was unlikely to ever forget. His body was contorted around the point of impact, his limbs mangled and his head lolling to the side grotesquely. The pothead kid smashed into the lockers at the far end of the hall, where he drooped to the ground in a crumpled mess. There was a moment of total stillness; Roxanne held her breath, waiting for the kid to stand up and charge again. Nothing happened, and when she could stand it no longer she let out her breath in a huge gust.
Metro Dude turned, exchanging a high five from his jock friend before kneeling down to her level. Roxanne was gasping hysterically, sucking in air like a drowning fish. "Roxy," he said in that hero tone she normally found annoying. She couldn't take her eyes off the boy at the end of the hall, his form dark and still. "Roxy, are you okay?" She knew he was looking into her eyes with concern, but she couldn't focus on anything but the body. Metro Dude touched her shoulder gently and she flinched, snapping to attention. Metro Dude's face was pinched with anxiety, and she found herself flooding with anger. It was somewhat of a relief to be mad instead of terrified, and she let it show on her face for a second. Metro Dude leaned away from her unconstrained rage on instinct.
She could hear voices and footsteps as adults finally came to the scene, but her focus shifted as Megamind groaned under her back. His bony hips dug painfully into her spine as he uncurled from his fetal position and Roxanne jumped at the movement, lifting herself off of him and glancing down. Under her arm, she watched as he struggled to open his eyes, blinking painfully until he could focus on her. "Roxanne?" he mumbled, looking dazed. "I heard you scream, are you okay?" The booming voice of Principal Xiphias filled her ears, but she couldn't concentrate on his words.
"There was... There was a..." she swallowed, regaining composure as Metro Dude stood to meet Dr. Mirfak. "Wait!" Roxanne dismissed the shaky quality of her voice, pulling herself to her feet by Metro Dude's sleeve. He looked distinctly uncomfortable, like he had been trying to sneak away and she caught him. "Don't leave, I'm not done with you!"
"What happened!" Principal Xiphias' voice echoed in the hallway, making everyone jump, even Metro Dude. For a split second Roxanne thought she saw the zombie kid twitch, but it must have been her imagination.
Dr. Mirfak grabbed her shoulders lightly. "It's okay now, Roxanne. You're safe." She stared beyond him, watching the jock talked animatedly to the principal, pointing multiple times to the unmoving form of the zombie kid.
"Is he..." she started, but the rest of the question died in her mouth. Dr. Mirfak followed her gaze, the twinkle in his gray eyes going dark at the gruesome sight at the end of the hall.
"I'm not sure." he said honestly, and after checking to make sure she wasn't going to faint or something he let go and strolled calmly towards the body.
"Can someone fill me in on what just happened?" Megamind muttered near her knee. Roxanne took a few steps and grabbed Metro Dude again before he could slink away.
"Wayne. Why didn't you come when I called you? What took you so long?" she bit off more questions as her voice trembled.
His shoulders slumped. "I did come when you called. I was halfway across town." His eyes flashed around the entire scene, stopping on Megamind resting on his knees and Dr. Mirfak leaning over the kid at the end of the hall. "I didn't realize how bad it was until you screamed. I'm sorry. I should have been faster." Roxanne's anger at him didn't fade away exactly, but she refrained from any more cutting remarks. He wasn't all-powerful, she had to remind herself.
"... got here just as that kid was attacking these two." The jock's words caught her attention. "Brent and Andy pulled him away, then took off. I stayed to help."
"Wait that's not-" Roxanne began but Xiphias cut her off.
"You two! What are you doing out? Detention!" A vein pulsed in what little amount of neck he had. "Nice job, Sampson," he added, giving the jock a slap on the back.
"We're already in detention," Megamind mumbled, rubbing his head as he stood up.
Xiphias spluttered for a few seconds, unable to form words. "Detention again! Until you graduate!"
"Are you going to give him detention then?" Roxanne waved her arm at the jock Sampson. "He and his buddies were beating up Megamind!"
"No, the zombie beat him up. We just pulled him off," Sampson said reasonably. Roxanne's anger choked her response into an extended growling sort of squeak.
Still massaging the back of his head, Megamind looked warily between Roxanne, Sampson and Xiphias, but he didn't add anything.
Xiphias' little eyes bulged in their sockets, but he took a breath and turned calmly to Metro Dude. "Mr. Scott, did you manage to see what happened here today?"
Metro Dude straightened slightly. "Well, sir..." Roxanne tuned him out, knowing that he had nothing really to add about who beat up whom. She was trying to catch Megamind's eye, but he was listening to Metro Dude's retelling with skepticism.
"Are you okay?" Roxanne asked quietly. Megamind grimaced as he scrubbed at his head, checking his fingers briefly for blood.
"I'm beginning to wonder who hit their head harder, me or Wayne there." He attempted a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes, like he wasn't fooled by his joke either. "A zombie attacked you? Really? Aren't they like, the slowest monsters ever?"
Roxanne ignored his jibe, having just noticed the remains of her backpack. The canvas was torn and even shredded in places, wet with the kid's drool. A few of her books were spilling out, the pages crinkled and a pen had exploded on the entire mess. She kicked at it with the toe of her shoe, unwilling to touch it with her bare skin. Wasn't that how people got the zombie virus in movies? "I was paying attention to other things. And he really was fast. How did you not see him?"
Megamind dropped his hand from his head and stretched his back experimentally. "For a minute there all I saw were stars," he admitted.
Dr. Mirfak rejoined the group solemnly. He and Xiphias shared a short whispered conversation that Roxanne only caught snippets of.
"-in the weed, you think?"
"-evidence will prove-"
They straightened, or rather Dr. Mirfak straightened and Xiphias rolled back on his heels with his nose in the air. "Alien!" Xiphias barked. "My office! No, not you," he waved off a very confused Metro Dude. "Sampson, track down the other two. Scott, you can go. And Ritchi-"
"Comes with me." Dr. Mirfak glared as Xiphias for some reason. "She's in shock. They all are." The boys gave Dr. Mirfak equally alarmed looks, then tried to cover their surprise with manly expressions. Metro Dude and Sampson wandered off to the gym, deep in muttered conversation and Xiphias herded Megamind in the opposite direction to his office, leaving Roxanne alone in the hall with Dr. Mirfak and a potentially dead zombie kid.
"I'm pretty sure I know what's going on here," Dr. Mirfak picked up her ruined pack and fished out her books. Roxanne let him stack the ones not dripping in spit and ink into her arms, glancing between him and the zombie distrustfully. "This whole thing is just a matter of wrong place, wrong time, am I right?" Roxanne had never been able to raise one eyebrow, so she settled on a sort of disbelieving eye twitch. Dr. Mirfak shook his head with a small smile and dropped her bag in the trash. "I know there was something else going on before Mr. James over there attacked. The question is, why did you leave detention with Megamind, and where did you go?"
Roxanne shifted her books to rest on her hip. "We were just handing out and listening to music in his chem lab. That's all." She regretted her word choice; Dr. Mirfak had proven that he was not ignorant and probably now thought she was hiding something. Like an almost kiss. "Look, can I just go home now? It's been a long day."
Dr. Mirfak nodded, glancing down to the crumpled kid again. "Just be careful who you hang out with. I don't like seeing nice kids like you making bad choices."
Roxanne saved her creeped out expression until her back was turned. Again with the cryptic warnings? She hugged her books to her chest, starting a brisk walk to her locker. Her foot slipped on something, and she looked down, still on edge and ready to run. It was the strap to Megamind's bag, the zipper undone and the contents all over the floor. She knelt, setting her books aside so she could shove all his stuff back in the bag. It was pretty basic, just a slim textbook on robotics and one on chemical engineering, and about twenty pens. And his notebook, the one he was always drawing in. Roxanne held it in her hands, her curiosity taking over. At the far end of the hall Dr. Mirfak pulled out his cell phone and began talking to someone, presumably an ambulance or something. She put Megamind's notebook on her stack of books, scooped up his pack and half ran all the way to her locker, two wings away.
Someone was waiting for her. She resisted the urge to groan as she recognized the pudgy kid leaning against the locker banks. "Hal." A sigh escaped her as she spun the combination. "Listen, I've had a bad day, I can't talk right now."
Hal awkwardly moved from leaning against the lockers to standing and back to leaning again. "I totally understand. Today was like, the worst day ever, right?" Roxanne made a noncommittal noise as she threw all of her books and Megamind's backpack into her locker. She held on to his notebook, intending on looking it over later. The rest of his stuff she could give to him tomorrow.
"...And you weren't there, so I was all, where did she go? I didn't see you get on the bus..." Hal had apparently been rambling nonstop, not even bothering to see if she was paying attention. He continued to talk at her as he followed her out of the school to the bus stop, but over the year she had gotten pretty good at ignoring him. Her brain felt miles away from her in the aftermath of the whole afternoon, leaving her feeling slightly drained and disoriented. Without even saying goodbye Roxanne stepped on the next bus, leaving Hal talking to the thin April air.
She settled herself near the back of the bus with Megamind's notebook. It was worn and heavily used, the cardboard cover stained with coffee rings and a small stain of what looked like oil. Roxanne leaned her head against the frosting plastic window and opened the notebook.
The first few pages were filled with indecipherable math equations, and Roxanne skipped over those without attempting to understand them, turning each page slowly. It seemed Megamind had a tenancy to press his pen into whatever he was writing, making the pages rough with the braille-like texture of his elegant scrawling. The next page had a detailed diagram of a robotic arm, measurements and other notes depicting how it moved. Roxanne stared at it for a second, then watched her own hand flex and curl a few times. There was another couple of pages of equations, and what looked like the beginnings of notes for an English class. All he had written was 'Romeo and Juliet: tragedy or comedy? Ask Minion.' Hilariously the 'comedy' was circled, and underneath Minion was sketched out, his fins and tail light and unfinished. Minion was giving a toothy grin that seemed a bit teasing to Roxanne. She smiled back at the picture, and turned the page.
Just what had she been doing in his little lab anyway, playing poker with two aliens and singing along to bad rock from the nineties? He had never seemed threatening to her, but then again, if he had actually been blowing up parts of the school on purpose all these years she could have been in real danger. She snorted to herself, and an old woman with groceries peered over her glasses at her from the front of the bus. So far the only people to hurt her were, well, just the zombie really. Megamind had done quite the opposite, and she rubbed her nose, remembering the feel of his face so close to hers. The pages of the notebook crinkled as she carefully flipped through them. There was about six or seven pages of detailed sketches of Minion's current robot body, some of them heavily revised and some parts obviously never made it to the final design.
The next page looked like a doodle war between Megamind and Minion. There was a shaky picture of a typical little house with a chimney and flowers, and overlain in Megamind's heavy lines was a missile blowing up the whole scene. Roxanne laughed at the progression of happy things made to catch on fire, imagining the scene of the two testing Minion's robot and then bickering over his choice of drawings. A few more pages of calculations; a sketch of a car; the lyrics to 'Thunderstruck'; a doodle of Xiphias screaming that was little more than a circle with arms and legs; a complicated chemical formula; Megamind was obviously very bored in class. Every once in a while there was a note that didn't quite fit, most often about literature or history; subjects that Megamind did not immediately excel in.
The bus jolted over a pothole and Roxanne looked up, checking out the window for a few minutes to make sure she had not passed her stop. Snow was starting to fall again, making drivers and pedestrians alike glare at the sky with open hostility. Roxanne's breath fogged on the window and she drew a little smiley face out of habit. She always loved snow, and hopefully there would be enough to cover the rejected Prom nonsense on the football field by tomorrow.
The next few pages were written in pencil, which Megamind clearly did not like. The writing was smeared and unreadable, and it switched back into pen in the middle of a word. Roxanne wondered if Dr. Mirfak would be able to determine some sort of personality trait from this, like Megamind wanted to be permanent or something more psychological sounding. Or maybe he just preferred pens. She frowned, thinking about the homework she had abandoned in her locker with Megamind's stuff. Absently she turned a page; it wasn't like she would have been able to concentrate on it. More equations, more designs of things of things that amazed her, more obvious boredom. There was a page titled 'Conversations' although every line underneath was crossed out and scribbled over. At the very bottom there was a tally that said 'rejections' with seventeen marks. Roxanne considered the crossed out lines, trying to decipher them, even flipping the page over to try and read the impressions they left. However, the subject of the next page had her forget entirely about 'conversations.'
It was a drawing of her. And it was really good. Her head was in her hand, a dreamy, far away expression on her face. One leg was tucked up under her in her seat, her shoe falling off the heel; the drawing was most likely done in one of their shared classes. She stared at the page, dumbfounded. This explained all the hand-holding and almost-kissing, from his side anyway. Flipping through the pages quicker now, she found little sketches of herself sprinkled in with all the science and engineering mumbo-jumbo. There was one of her typing, her tongue poking out of the side of her mouth. Her laughing at something; her reading a textbook with a bored expression. He seemed to catch her at her quirkier moments, all of them sketched within a class period. There was a few other people in between the notes as well, one of Metro Dude with his mouth half open, the chemistry professor with an explosion that had been embellished with spirals and lightning. There was another full page detailed drawing of some man with a mustache she didn't know, and lots of Minion. Other than her, Minion was the most reoccurring drawing, and like all the others he was caught in expressions most people probably didn't see. The last page had two half finished sketches of her again, one where she looked dully irritated and another where she looked outright venomous. From lunch and detention, she guessed. She sped through the blank pages in the back with her thumb, but they were all clean.
The notebook closed itself with a light thump. Roxanne stared at the back cover, wondering if the surprises would ever end. Her stop flew by in a haze of snowflakes and car exhaust and she decided that no, she was destined to be trapped in a series of day-ruining bombshells for the rest of her life.