(Author's Note: If you haven't seen the ChalkZone episodes "Snap vs. Boorat" or "Indecent Exposure," parts of this story will not make sense. This story also makes references to other episodes such as Hole in the Wall, The Big Blow Up, and Follow the Bouncing Bag, but they're not as important to understanding the plot as the Snap vs. Boorat/Indecent Exposure episodes.

Also, be aware that there is no romance in this story. So if you're looking for that, this isn't the story for you. This is a story that focuses on friendship.

All that aside, I hope you enjoy this first chapter.)


Cryptic investigation

Chapter One – The Art Show

Midday morning sunlight filtered down onto the grounds of the elementary school as several children ran across the blacktop inside the enclosed area of a fence surrounding the red brick building of the school, shouting excitedly to each other. While most of the children were outside on the playgrounds or in the schoolyard for the remainder of lunchtime, two of them had decided to spend their free time elsewhere. In a disused classroom away from the prying eyes of teachers, Rudy and Penny had decided to take their lunch break in ChalkZone.

"The last time we were here," Penny said as she, Rudy and Snap looked over the wide, grassy area near the portal which led to Mr. Wilter's classroom, "these plants were only a third of this size. That must mean that they grow extraordinarily fast compared to real world plants if they managed to acquire such a height over just the weekend."

Rudy glanced up from where he sat with his sketchbook of comic pages to look at the tall, wavy-looking purple plants with wispy branches, each of which was sprouting several party balloons and hats, that had started to grow in the middle of an otherwise fairly empty field. Penny had been so interested to learn about them last Thursday and Friday when they had first discovered them growing in the ChalkZone field on the other side of the vacant classroom's chalkboard. He watched as Penny began excitedly scribbling in the book of ChalkZone plants and wildlife that they'd been working on for quite some time. "Yeah," Rudy added cheerfully, "They're probably a whole new species, too."

"Well, we certainly haven't found them anywhere else in ChalkZone," Penny replied, not pausing to look up from what she was writing.

"Okay, this is nice and all," Snap interrupted, with an impatient look at his two friends, "but uh, weren't we supposed to go exploriatin' today?"

"Well, yeah, but we wanted to look at these plants really quick," Rudy replied, realizing as he said it that they hadn't been 'really quick.' "Besides, lunch time is almost over. We'll have a lot more time after school, and this weekend too. Remember, it's a three day weekend and we have a lot of time. And it's about time we finally explored Chalklantis!"

"But-" Penny began, but Rudy hadn't heard.

"Besides," he continued, "the school is having an artist come in today to talk about his work. A real artist, a professional! Right after lunch! I was thinking if I got there early, he might be willing to help me out with this." He held up the comic page he'd been sketching. "It's my new Vampire Cannibals comic. I'm sure this one is going to be even better than the last ones. I-"

"Well…maybe you should go and talk to him then," Penny told him with a sigh. "We don't have a lot of time left. I'll stay here until lunch hour is over. I want to check on the group of these party balloon plants that's started to grow over in the field by this one." Behind her, Snap gave an irritated sigh. "Also, Rudy-"

"All right," replied Rudy as he walked over to the portal, not hearing her last few words, "but don't worry about it. We'll have plenty of time to study these plants and go "exploriatin'" after the school week is over. Remember, it's a three day weekend!"

"That's also the three day weekend of the science field trip, remember?" Penny stated.

Rudy stopped in his tracks. "Oh…" He'd forgotten about that. There was a science field trip (thankfully an optional one) that the school was hosting for the weekend…only somehow he'd gotten that confused with some other weekend. He now remembered with a sinking feeling that the field trip was to leave on a Friday afternoon – this Friday afternoon – and come back Monday afternoon, taking up the entire weekend. And Penny had signed up to go. He knew she was excited about this, but he still couldn't help feeling disappointed. A three day weekend had been the perfect opportunity for the three of them to explore ChalkZone, and since he'd confused it with a later weekend, he'd already told Snap about how that weekend would be the perfect one to explore Chalklantis.

"What?" Snap cried soon after Penny had explained. "You're goin' on some field trip? After we'd been plannin'-"

"I'm sorry, guys," Penny told them, ignoring Snap's outburst. "I know we've been planning a trip to Chalklantis and to be honest I didn't know there was going to be a field trip until last week. I know we would've had more time this weekend, but there's always the next one! And there's a lot we can do after school too. We can have smaller explorations this week, and then the next weekend we can try and find Chalklantis." She sighed. "I'm really sorry, Rudy, Snap…I thought I mentioned this to you before, but-"

"It's okay," said Rudy, trying to disguise his disappointment as Snap merely folded his arms and stared off angrily at the ground. "I know you wanted to go on the field trip. Besides, I just finished a page of my comic, so I should probably go see if the artist is finished setting up." He headed towards the portal again, hearing Snap mutter something angrily about the field trip as Penny turned back to look at the plants. "There are plenty of other places to explore," Rudy told his blue and white friend. "You and me can still go on adventures until Penny gets back and we can all go to Chalklantis together."

"Yeah…" Snap muttered, still sounding just as disappointed at the postponing of their adventure as Rudy felt, "I guess you're right." He turned to Penny. "But I still don't see how you could pass this up to go on some stupid field trip!"

"I wanted to go," Penny replied crossly, folding her arms across her chest. "And anyway, I've already signed up and my mom knows I'm going, so it's not like I can just cancel it."

"Don't worry, guys," Rudy told them. "We can make up for it by going exploring after school until Friday. We may not be able to go to Chalklantis, but we can still find new places and add to our map of ChalkZone. And, I guess we can plan the Chalklantis trip for next weekend," he added, a hint of disappointment still in his voice.

"Yeah, I guess so…" Snap muttered, still not satisfied. He turned his attention to the still open portal, which Rudy had started to walk towards as he talked to them. "So, uh, just who is this artist you want to talk to so bad anyway, Bucko?"

"His name is Bob Newland. I heard he does all sorts of cool art. I could learn tons of stuff from him," Rudy answered.

"Well, couldn't ya just wait for the presentation to start?" Snap asked.

"Not if I want his opinion on my new comic," Rudy replied, resting one of his hands on the edge of the portal.

"Oh, right, well, that's a good idea! Not that you need any help of course," Snap added. "Well, all right then, Bucko. See ya!"

Rudy climbed through the portal into the deserted classroom, quickly pulling the world map down to conceal the portal before walking out the door and into the hallway. Mr. Wilter had told the class that Newland's presentation was going to be held outside in the schoolyard; apparently the artist had insisted, and the principal had granted the request, seeing as it was such a beautiful day outside.

He hurried through the hallways until he reached the doorway leading outside. Once he pushed open the doors, he quickly noticed two things. One, the visiting artist had already set up a wide array of drawings and paintings on easels and boards on the far side of the blacktop, each one showing a drawing Rudy just knew would look amazing up close, and two, he now realized he wasn't the only one who'd wanted to talk to the school's visitor.

He hurried over toward the art set up table, pausing at the back of the small group of other children to look at all the different drawings the artist had set up around that corner of the school's fenced in area. Each one showed a vastly different drawing, each extremely detailed and vivid. Some were realistic depictions of people or animals or scenes, and others were his favorite kind – a cartoon style. He was amazed by how different and unique each one was; they all looked so different from each other and each so well executed. 'Wow…' Rudy thought as he looked at the drawings. 'I hope one day I can be this good.'

He also realized that Newland must have finished setting up, because he saw a tall, thin man with dark hair – obviously the artist – talking to a few of the other children in the group in front of Rudy about one of the paintings. "You see," he was telling them, "this picture won first place in the Orangeapolis art contest two years ago…" He made a large gesture toward a painting of a realistic depiction of a griffin, then pointed to one of a French man in a beret and a striped shirt and began talking about that. As Rudy waited his turn to talk to the artist, he overheard Mr. Wilter nearby, talking to another teacher.

"Well, I sure hope when he focuses on the more realistic types of drawings when he does his presentation," Mr. Wilter was saying grumpily to the other teacher. "The last thing we need is more cartoons!" Rudy rolled his eyes and stepped forward as the two children who'd been talking to Bob Newland walked away.

"Mr. Newland," he began excitedly, hardly pausing between breaths, "I really love your artwork! It's so great you were able to come to our school and show us all these amazing paintings of yours! Can I see you draw something?"

Newland turned and gave him an odd look. "Eh, sure, kid," he muttered with a shrug after a few seconds, then turned to a desk set up in the center of the half ring of displayed drawings, and quickly scribbled something on a piece of paper. "Okay, here you go."

Rudy picked up the drawing. It was a Chinese dragon that looked far too detailed to have been drawn in such a short time. "Wow," he said in admiration. "That's amazing. And you drew it so fast, too."

"I know," Newland replied, pausing to smile as the other children gathered around also echoed their approval of the drawing.

"Can I keep it?" Rudy asked.

"No," said Newland, his smile vanishing as he snatched the picture away.

"Oh," said Rudy, slightly surprised. "Well, that's okay. Uh, anyway, I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on this new comic I'm making." He held up his sketchpad and handed it to Newland, who gave him an annoyed expression before looking at it with a skeptical gaze. "You see," Rudy continued, "it's called Vampire Cannibals-"

"What?" the visiting artist said with a laugh. "Are you kidding me? That's all you could come up with, kid?"

"Well, no," said Rudy quickly, taken aback, "I mean...I have other ones if you want to see them. I can go get-"

"Vampires are stupid, overused, and writing a story about them is a very bad idea. They're too popular!" he said, flinging the notebook to the ground in disgust, making a rather unnecessary display of stomping on it. "I can only appreciate art that's actually creative."

"But…" began Rudy as he slowly leaned down and picked up the notebook off the ground. "You don't even know the story yet. If it isn't good, maybe you could help me-"

"It has some stupid vampires in it," he snapped, "I already know it's not good! Now leave me alone. You're wasting my time. I didn't come here to entertain you, kid!" Newland shoved him aside and turned to talk to a third grade girl who'd ran up to show him something, apparently oblivious to the fact that Rudy had just failed at doing that same thing.

Rudy looked at the art on display sadly and slowly turned and walked away. He hadn't thought his idea was all that bad…but after all, Bob Newland was a professional, and he had to know what he was talking about. But all the same, Rudy wished he'd at least bothered to look at it. He walked to the edge of the schoolyard and sat against the fence a little ways away and flipped through the pages of his now dirty sketchbook slowly. He didn't see how the comic was that bad…but maybe he just wasn't experienced enough to really see the flaws in it. He wasn't sure. He glanced over at Newland's drawings framed beautifully on his display. Well, the Vampire Cannibal comics certainly weren't as good as what a professional artist could do.

ooo

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all," one of the teachers said to Mr. Wilter as they watched Bob Newland continue to talk to the now smaller group of kids around him in an increasingly irritated voice.

"What do you call this?" Newland was saying, his voice actually sounding angry as he waved a piece of paper depicting a dog-like creature that seemed to have been colored with every crayon in the box in front of a second grade girl.

"Her name is Angel!" the girl said proudly.

"This is disgusting," he said, pointing dramatically at the paper. "How can you live with yourself?"

"Yep," the teacher sighed. "He's a disaster."

"If only we could have gotten Ms. Tweezer to come back," Mr. Wilter sighed.

"Wolves aren't rainbow," Newland said in a nasty voice as he tore the paper in half.

"Uh, Mr. Newland," Mr. Wilter said as he walked over, shooing the children over toward the other side of the schoolyard. "I don't think this is the proper way to teach students about art. And couldn't you at least save your teaching methods for when lunch period is over and you're ready to do your presentation?"

"I wasn't planning on teaching them before then," Newland snapped back. "They just wanted to show me their stupid pictures instead of admiring my artwork like they were supposed to. I was trying to set up early, because it's not every day students at this school get to see art of this sort of quality."

"I'm quite certain they see enough of this kind of thing," Mr. Wilter replied, pointing to a stylized, cartoony portrait of a cat. "We've already had people like Drew Yerface come here. We don't need another artist who makes cartoons."

Newland gave him a nasty glare. "You have a problem with my art? You should be grateful that I took the time to come to this run down excuse for a school to show these children art none of those pathetic other artists could ever dream of doing. I don't care if you have a problem with me or the art I choose to show here, but Principal Stringent gave me express permission to hold this assembly and there is nothing you can do about it."

Mr. Wilter glanced around, wishing Principal Stringent wasn't too busy to come outside at the moment, and sighed. "Just hurry up and get this over with," he muttered, walking back to the other teacher. Newland folded his arms and gave the teacher a nasty grin as Mr. Wilter and the other teacher walked back toward the school.

Rudy hadn't been paying attention to the conversation; he was too busy looking through his comic sketches and wondering if it really was better to scrap the whole idea after all. Maybe if he could get Penny's opinion…

He paused, hearing a vehicle drive up along the road facing the fence he was leaning on. He turned around, and realized with a jolt of surprise that it was a vehicle he recognized – Terry Bouffant's news station van. "Oh no…" he whispered, standing up quickly. He watched the vehicle drive by and stop somewhere around the corner and out of sight. He glanced back toward where Mr. Wilter and the other teacher had been, but they had already headed back into the building. He looked at the van to see Terry step out, followed, he realized with dread, by Vinnie Raton.

He hardly had time to wonder what the two of them were doing together. Knowing that Terry Bouffant had no problem walking onto school grounds or looking through the classrooms, considering she had done so before, and that the teachers had just vanished around the side of the school, he was sure they'd come to try and, yet again, get information about ChalkZone from him. He was starting to get up and move away from the fence when he suddenly remembered Penny. And the open portal. Alarmed, he bolted around the side of the school toward the nearest doors that were out of sight of the front of the school, hoping the two hadn't seen him.

Rudy hadn't been the only one to notice the van's arrival. Newland, who'd been staring at his watch, waiting for the lunch period to be over, suddenly looked up in surprise. "They sent a reporter," he whispered to himself in mild surprise, "to showcase my art? Well," he added, straightening himself, "that was a good idea. That shows that at least the principal appreciates what true art is." He quickly set about organizing the papers on his desk that some of the annoying children from earlier had disturbed.

"Are you sure this is gonna help?" Vinnie muttered as they walked along the edge of the blacktop. "I'm sure we've already got every bit of info we could find in this stupid school. I don't see how this is actually gonna help us."

Terry quickly pulled him aside, lowering her voice. "Earlier this morning I saw Penny arriving at the school with a strange book that I'm pretty sure had 'chalk' written on it. I didn't get close enough to see anything else, but if we can search their classroom again while it's still lunch time, we may be able to find it and find out more…" Terry paused, her gaze moving toward a figure running around the side of the school. "There's Tabootie," she whispered. "He must have seen us, come on!"

On the other side of the front schoolyard, Bob Newland gave his display one last satisfied look and turned around, proudly standing by his artwork as the reporter and who he guessed was her assistant…ran right by him. "What?" Newland couldn't help crying out loud as they darted past his table. "Uh, HELLO?" he shouted. "I'm over here! Can't you see how I've set up my-" When his only answer was the slam of a door from the school building, he angrily got up and followed them.

ooo

As Rudy ran through the hallways, he soon realized, though not with great surprise, that Vinnie and Terry were following him. Knowing he had to distract them somehow before he could warn Penny, he took a different turn and ran into another classroom that he knew had more than one door. He slammed the one he'd come through shut, and pushed a few of the desks against the door, then bolted out of the other one and into a different hallway toward his and Penny's classroom.

Terry and Vinnie quickly reached the door to the classroom, not seeing Rudy leave the other door into the next hallway. While they struggled to push it open, Newland, who had tried to follow the sound of their footsteps through the school, had found himself lost.

"Hey! Miss reporter person!" he yelled angrily, glancing through each classroom as he walked by it. "I've been trying to tell you…" He couldn't see which way she had gone so he picked a random direction. "Hello!?" he yelled. "My drawings were right outside! How could you miss that?" Indeed, how she could have missed his display of quality drawings was beyond him, but he was determined to find her and get some answers. This was beyond rude.

He turned another corner in the hallway, feeling very angry that the reporter hadn't even stopped long enough to glance around, when he heard something from inside one of the classrooms. Knowing that the children were outside for lunch, he knew it had to be the reporter and her assistant. Well, that or a teacher, but he was willing to bet it was the reporter, and if it wasn't, well, the teachers shouldn't get mad at him. They would be honored to have him visit their school. As he stepped toward the door, he heard voices.

"Penny, you've got to come out now," a boy was saying. A boy who sounded sort of familiar, but Newland didn't really care much at the moment.

Someone else replied to the boy's comment, but Newland had already turned away from the door, not really caring why two of the kids were in the classroom. Then he suddenly realized…maybe one of them could tell him where the reporter had been going, and opened the door.

He was met with the most bizarre sight he'd ever seen. One of the children he'd met earlier in the schoolyard was standing next to the chalkboard, which looked like it had some sort of strange, glowing circle through it. But a moment later, a second child stepped straight through the circle, climbing down to stand beside the first child who grabbed an eraser and wiped the circle off the board.

"What the-?" he whispered under his breath.

In his confusion, he didn't notice someone coming up behind him until he was nearly shoved off his feet by someone rushing into the room. It was the reporter he'd been trying to follow, followed by her assistant. The two children hadn't noticed him when he'd first entered, but they did now.

"What do you want?" the boy asked in a surprised tone, glaring at the other two adults, sounding worried.

"Rudy, let's go…" he heard the girl whisper as she began trying to edge closer to the door where Newland was currently standing, not paying any attention to him.

"Why so worried?" the reporter replied. "Are you hiding something in here? Something to do with the chalk world?"

"Chalk world?" Newland repeated, but everyone else in the room continued to ignore him.

"Yeah, we're on to yous kids," the reporter's assistant told them. "You can't keep it a secret forever!"

"There's nothing to see, Ms. Bouffant," Rudy said with narrowed eyes as he moved over to his desk, sitting down and making sure he was between her and his backpack. He was pretty sure that's what she'd come back here for; to try and find his magic chalk again. After a moment and she refused to leave, he simply slung it over his shoulder and walked past them out into the hallway, beckoning Penny over. As she followed, she gave a curious but surprised look at Newland who glared back at her.

"I know you were hiding something!" Terry responded. "Why else would you be running?"

But Rudy and Penny ignored her, focusing on walking down the hallway toward the nearest door leading outside, knowing that while they had the backpack, there was no way she'd be able to steal the magic chalk from them. Still, Rudy now realized he was going to have to be a lot more careful in the future; he needed to keep the chalk with him at all times whenever he brought it to school, and it would probably be safest not to bring it to school at all for a little while.

"You'd think she would have given up by now," Penny said worriedly as they hurried through the hallway.

"Maybe she finally will this time," Rudy said hopefully, though neither of them believed it.

Angrily, the two strangers walked out of the room and down the hallway toward the nearest exit, muttering to each other. Newland ran after them. "Wait!" he cried out to them, meeting them just as they reached the nearest exit to the school.

"Ugh…listen," the reporter told him, rolling her eyes impatiently, "we are NOT here to look at your stupid art projects. Now leave us alone. We're busy." She turned and pushed the door open.

Newland wanted to say a few choice words to her for calling his artwork 'stupid', but because of his curiosity, he refrained, though not without difficulty. "No, it's not about that," he replied. "What were you saying to those two kids? The ones that had that portal in the chalkboard?"

At this, the reporter stopped in her tracks, the door only halfway open. "Portal in the chalkboard? And you saw it?"

"You know what it is?" Newland asked, confused.

The reporter and her companion glanced at each other. "Follow me," she said.

"But…but what on earth was that?" he said as he followed them out the door. "That was impossible! She stepped through the chalkboard! What do you-"

"Look, meet us at the front of the school once school is out," she replied. "We'll tell you then."

Newland watched them walk away for a moment before heading back over to his art display, thoroughly confused by what had happened, but very, very curious about what the reporter knew.

ooo

"Rudy, I think that visiting art teacher might have seen the portal," Penny whispered as they walked out with the rest of the class toward Bob Newland's art display once it was time for the presentation.

Rudy had been too busy worrying that Terry Bouffant or Vinnie Raton were going to try to steal magic chalk from his backpack or something to worry about what the visiting art "teacher" had been doing standing there by the classroom. In fact, he'd hardly even noticed him at the time, but now that he thought back to it, he could see why Penny was worried. All the same, he didn't want to start thinking about that now, not when Terry Bouffant and Vinnie Raton were bigger problems. "Well, he was trying to talk to Ms. Bouffant, so…he was probably just following her and didn't see until after we erased it."

"I hope so," Penny replied, looking across the schoolyard at Newland as he waited impatiently for the teachers to bring the rest of the students there. He didn't seem to be acting strangely…or at least not the sort of strange that would indicate he had just seen something seemingly impossible, so she tried to put it in the back of her mind.


(Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed it so far!

Also, a few of the episodes mention them wanting to go to Chalklantis, but they never get to. Sorry, Rudy and friends, today isn't your day either.)