Ravens soul self deposited the two of them on the ridge about 100 meters from the signal. They looked back to see the green peregrine falcon approaching fast. Batman pulled something from his belt and threw it at the changeling. Beastboy darted to the side, but it exploded into a net that neatly captured him. As he fell, Beastboy deliberately tumbled, wrapping the net tighter. Just before he impacted the ground, he morphed into an 800 kilo full grown Kodiak Grizzly Bear, ripping the net to pieces. Once free, he took the shape of a timber-wolf and loped to the signal.
Raven stopped Batman as he moved to intercept the shape-shifter, "I've got him."
She grabbed him with her powers and pulled him to her. He struggled and snarled until he realized who had him. Once he stopped struggling she looked into his lupine eyes and said, "You need to calm down. It could be a trap. Are you going to run if I let you go?" He hung his head and whined a bit.
As soon as she let go and he resumed human shape, Batman was in his face growling, "What in the Hells wrong with you?"
RRRRRRRR. Beastboy's rumbling growl gave the Dark Knight pause.
"Batman." He looked at Raven, she shook her head and addressed her teammate. "Garfield, what's wrong?"
"I tried to tell him that me thinking as a predator is a bad idea." Raven's eyes widened a bit. "When I saw that signal I thought I had the guy."
"Are you in control?"
"I want you to very carefully scout around. See what you can find out. Carefully! And stay away from the signal for now. OK?" He nodded, became a bloodhound and ambled off.
Raven looked at Batman and said, "You made a mistake. Beastboy doesn't like to think like a predator because he can too easily become one. Permanently. He may often assume the form, but he tries to avoid the mindset.
"You'll never acknowledge the mistake, but you need to keep it in mind when dealing with Beastboy. Because I don't know if you know this, but he has a form that has taken down Nightwing, Cyborg and Starfire. At the same time. It's amoral, feral and totally primal! And that form would probably give even you problems. Major problems."
She walked off, circling towards the signal.
Beastboy ranged around the area, nose to the ground. He found a scent trail matching the one from before. It was a single one, indicating that either the guy teleported either to or from the spot or he left the same way he came. Tracing along for a while, it finally split about a kilometer away. It stayed off the ridge-lines and out of the bottom of the ravines and valley floors, sticking to the sides of the hills on rocky ground.
One of the trails lead roughly off towards where the superheros had been several hours ago. The other traced a path towards the distant town. About a mile from the firing point, it suddenly angled down slope. Beastboy was confused because this guy had avoided the ravine bottoms like the plague unless he had no choice. At the bottom of the ravine the trail entered a fair sized stream.
Beastboy chuckled inwardly, "He thinks he's gonna lose me like this." It took him twenty minutes to figure out what the guy had done. The sniper had used his familiarity of the terrain and floated downstream until he until he'd exited God knows where!
He'd lost him. His frustration caused him to shift into the Beast long enough to tear apart several nearby trees. Regaining control of himself, he shifted to a wolf and started back to Raven and Batman at a ground eating lope that he could have kept up for days if he needed.
They had spent the time Beastboy was gone carefully approaching the device looking for any sign of tripwires, pressure switches or lasers. There didn't really seem to be any way to booby-trap the the signal marker.
It was set in the open onto bare rock. It appeared to be an absurdly simple pop-flare and smoke grenade assembly. Batman thought it wouldn't have taken ten minutes to assemble once you had the design and materials.
Hearing the tearing and crashing in the distance, both looked towards it. Batman asked, "Is he OK?"
Cocking her head and stretching her hand in the direction, she smirked and said, "He's not happy, at all. But he's on his way back."
"I've read Dick's reports. He's supposed to be good."
"He is good, very good at what he does. I told you earlier, sometimes, he just needs focus. In the proper form, he has senses that rival or exceed any of the machines in that vaulted Batcave of yours. A gas chromatograph isn't as good as his nose when he uses it properly. And the only times he's ever failed us, NOBODY could have changed the outcome."
Returning to their approach, he suspected that there wasn't any traps because the sniper wanted it found. Because placed off the the side in plain sight was another note inside a plastic bag.
After reading it, Batman started cussing a blue streak. He was still cussing when Beastboy loped up to them.
Beastboy nudged Raven and pointed to the furious Dark Knight. She shrugged.
Batman said, "I don't believe this. We've been invited to dinner."
Beastboy started chuckling, "That's funny, Batman. What's it really say?"
He growled, "Do I look like I'm joking?"
"You mean he gave us his address and everything?"
"No, but he did give us some clues. Read it." He passed the note to Raven. As Beastboy looked over her shoulder, she read it out loud.
"Thanks for the training op, but you guys suck. You pogues need to take a run down to Camp Rudder at Eglin AFB and join up with the 6th RTB for a while. Maybe go to Benning and the try the 2nd of the 29th and the USASS. Because except for the green one and maybe Superman, you amateurs probably couldn't deliberately find water at the bottom of a flooded valley.
"If ya figure out who I am, come on by for dinner. Call first and don't bother breaking down the door, because it's going to be open anyway. But if you do try to come in like Gangbusters, then I'm going to defend my life, liberty and property with every means at my disposal!
"See ya Later!" :)
"Duuuuuuude, he even put a smiley face. Batman, when you said this guys cocky you weren't kidding!"
He growled, "I didn't know how right I was." He touched the switch to his communicator, "Watchtower, Batman. Contact Superman, have him meet us there and standby to bring up me, Raven and Beastboy."
Raven asked, "Batman?"
"I need information. I can't get it down here. I need access to the Tower's computers."
"What have you got, Bruce?"
"Read this." Batman handed him the note.
Superman finished with raised eyebrows. "He doesn't lack for confidence, does he?"
Batman growled as he pounded away on the computer.
Superman asked, "I can tell these are Military units, but which ones?"
"Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base. Home of the 6th Ranger Training Battalion. Third phase of Ranger training. Swamp phase. The other is 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment. They run the U.S. Army Sniper School."
"Well, you thought he was a pro."
Batman posted an image on the huge screen. The man was in his late thirty's to early forty's, bald with ice blue eyes. He was wearing Army Class A Greens with the three Chevrons and three Rockers of a Master Sergeant.
"That's that teacher."
"Clemens, Mark. Master Sergeant. After graduating from Culver City Jr/Sr High School, he enlisted in 1985 with mothers permission at age 17. At 19 as an E4, after two years of perfect scores on the range he was sent the attend the second class of the newly formed Sniper School in '87. As a Sergeant he was sent to Ranger School in 1988. He spent the next 19 years in the Rangers, either in ForceCom or in Training and Doctrine Command.
"Was a part of 'Operation Just Cause' in '89 and 'Desert Storm' in '91. Promoted to Staff Sergeant in '92. He had to be pulled out of 'Operation Gothic Serpent' in '93 because he broke his ankle during a training exercise in late-September."
"Gothic Serpent? I don't remember that one."
"Yes, you do." Superman looked down at his teammate waiting for a response.
Batman kept looking at the screen and said, "The Battle of Mogadishu. Black Hawk Down. They pumped him full of pain killers and stuck him on a plane back to Fort Benning. He was injured a week and a half before it went down."
"Whoa! I've met a lot of those guys. They are a really tight bunch. And he missed it? I bet he was upset about that."
"You could say that. It's about the only flag in his file. He tried to sneak out of the hospital and hop a supply flight heading back to Somalia. On crutches! It took four MPs to drag him back and it was only on the direct orders of the Regimental Commander that he stayed in the hospital.
"Later, during recovery, he re-qualified as a Sniper. It was part of a bet. He had called the Head Instructor of the Sniper School a 'Pansy Ass Pogue' that quote 'Couldn't find his ass in broad daylight using both hands, a map, compass and a GPS.' The loser had to transfer to a non-combat arms unit."
Superman chuckled, "I gather he won?"
"Aced the course. While wearing a cast. He'd painted it with camouflage. He got within 150 meters of the target and still hadn't been spotted. To win he only had to get within 300.
"Deployed on the aborted mission to Haiti in '94. In '96, assigned to TRADOC as an Ranger Instructor, Camp Darby, Fort Benning. TRADOC hung on to him for another two years as a Drill Sergeant. Gained a reputation for never having a recruit fail Weapons Qualification. First time 'Go' every time.
"A bit of a scandal about that. Someone accused him of shooting for the trainees to improve their scores, but the recruits all passed again with scores as good or better without him being there. That settled any rumors of wrongdoing on his part. In '98 he was promoted to Sergeant First Class.
"1999 he's back at Forces Command with the 75th Rangers again. In 2000, he was a part of Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment Team no. 2 and sent to Kosovo. Oct 2001, he's in Afganistan, he took part in 'Operation Rhino', helping to seize a Taliban airfield outside of Kandahar.
"March 2003, Iraq, Bravo Co. 3rd Battalion/75th Rangers received the tasking of seizing 'Objective Lynx', the Haditha High Dam in Northern Iraq. He was a member of one of the two sniper teams detailed to Bravo Co. Bravo Co. had also received a platoon from Charlie Co plus a few of the Battalion Staff. Just over 150 men. The orders were to take the dam and hold until releived.
"They faced four companies of Armor and a Brigade of enemy Troops. Fourty-four T55 tanks and BMP1's and over 6000 Iraqi Soldiers. There was also fourteen 155 mm howitzers in direct support of the Iraqi defenses as well as dozens of anti-aircraft batteries in the area making Close Air Support problematical.
"But they did it. They held out for eight days. Bravo Co. 3rd/75th Rangers were awarded the Valorous Unit Award, along with five Purple Hearts, four Silver and 26 Bronze Stars, and 71 Army Commendation Medals. The Company Commander credited the Sniper teams for repeatedly preventing the position from being overrun and forcing either a retreat or surrender.
"Clemens was promoted to E8, Master Sergeant shortly after that. In 04, he was sent to Camp Rudder as a Senior Instructor. Rejoined the 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Afghanistan from June 2005 to July 2006. Retired 2007 after 22 years of Service.
"Honors and Awards. Soldiers Medal, the highest ranking non-combat award a Soldier can earn. He pulled three other Soldiers from the burning wreckage of a Blackhawk at the risk of his own life. 2 Bronze Stars with V for Valor Device, Purple Heart two Oak Leaf Clusters, various other bits of 'Fruit Salad'.
"During his enlistments, he completed a double Bachelors in Education and History, specializing on American History and the Constitution. On an essay from when he was applying for a position at the Culver City Jr/Sr High, he wrote. 'It's a teachers job to teach a student facts, figures and formulas, names, dates, places and deeds. It's NOT their job to teach the student WHAT to think, but to teach them HOW to think in the first place.'
"His father died in a mining accident when he was 15. A few years later, some of the fathers patents for improving some of the mining equipment paid off, setting the family up fairly well. Before that though, borderline poverty had Clemens hunting to put meat on the table. He's been tromping through those mountains since about the time he could walk. Knows the terrain like he knows his own hand.
"And there is no doubt in my mind that he's our sniper."
"And you're not calling ahead so he can cook dinner...why?"
"Because I can't prove it. Yet!"
Batman was talking to his protege, "How are things there?"
"Quiet. The only villain activity was a tech heist by Mammoth and Gizmo. Other than that, we responded to a couple of fires."
"Is Cyborg there?"
"Just a sec."
A moment later appeared the chrome and flesh visage of Cyborg. "What cha need, Batman?"
"Those holo rings of yours. How long are they good for?"
"Depends on what ya want em to do. A full body image would last a couple of hours, tops."
Nightwing broke in saying, "But they ran continuously when you were undercover at the HIVE Academy."
"That's cause it was drawing from me and not the internal power cell."
Batman offered, "Face and hands for sure. Say an hour or two for a full body image."
"14 to 16 hours. They'll recharge in about 3 to 4. That good enough?"
"That's fine. Nightwing, I need Raven and Beastboy for the foreseeable future. And a couple of Cyborg's holo rings."
"Can I ask why?"
"Undercover work. And because unlike the rest of you, they can pass as high schoolers. Those rings can only do so much. You and Victor both appear and sound over 18 and Kori is still naive about Terran customs. Same kind of problems with the rest of the Titans. Too old or too out of the ordinary. I wish I could send Rose Wilson, but she's needed where she is. That leaves Raven and Beastboy."
Nightwing asked, "Raven and Beastboy undercover, together?"
Cyborg said,"Oh, she's just gonna love that!"
"Hey, Mom, we're here!" The dark haired, young woman behind the blonde haired, green eyed young man gave a long suffering sigh. She felt naked without her usual cloak.
A tall raven haired woman with a perplexed face, looked up from the terminal she was working at. "Don't you think you're dropping a little too early into the role, Beastboy?"
"Aww, come on. This'll be a story to tell my kids about. And call me Garfield, 'Mom'!"
"DUDE! The one about how when their daddy was a young Titan and had to go undercover, fighting crime with not one, but TWO of the hottest superheros on the planet. Rachel 'Raven' Roth, defeater of Trigon the Terrible, that magic usen, butt-kickin' half-demon hottie of the Titans and Diana Prince, Wonder Woman of the Justice League no less, Princess Diana of Themyscira, as beautiful as Aphrodite herself!"
The blushing Diana leaned down to the red faced Raven and quietly asked, "Does he realize what he just said?"
"I don't think so. But, I am surprised he knows who Aphrodite was." For her part, Raven wasn't sure whether to blush or growl. He had just called her one of the hottest hero's on the planet and in the same sentence, admitted that he noticed Wonder Woman was, too.
In his excitement, Beastboy never noticed them talking and kept rambling. "And right there beside these Goddesses was Beastboy, Shape Shifter extraordinaire!" There was a fast series of animals, mostly predators. "Takin out the bad guys. Kickin' butt and taking names! Waaaaa, ya, ya, Hiya!" He had started doing some weird fake Kung Fu moves.
Wonder Woman mentioned to Raven, "He looks like Beavis!"
"Beavis and Butthead?"
Beastboy turned to face the two women and said, "If that isn't a great kids bedtime story, I don't know what is! This is gonna almost as great as teaming up with the Bat!"
The door had opened again, admitting the scowling Batman. Seeing the antics of the shape-shifter, he asked in a growling tone, "Do I need to trank you?!"
"Then settle down."
"Sir, Yes Sir."
He passed folders to Beastboy and Raven, "The two of you read over these. They're the details to your covers and all the information on the suspect. You better pay attention to what's in there! You leave in two hours. Now GIT!"
Once they left Batman sat down at the terminal, pulled his cowl off and held his head in his hands. Seeing Batman rubbing at his temples, Wonder Woman asked, "You OK?"
"Fine. But I think I owe Dick an apology. My respect for his patience has risen exponentially."
Diana raised her delicate eyebrows in surprise. Seeing her expression, he said, "He's been with the Titans longer than he was my partner. He's put up with Beastboy all these years and hasn't strangled him?! When he was with me, by this time, he'd left Gotham and run away to Jump to help start the Titans. I must have been a menace."
"Garfield's not that bad. He's just a little... high strung."
"Nobodies that high strung. Tennis rackets aren't that tightly strung. I think he's that way on purpose!"
Seeing the reproachful smile, he sighed and said, "Fine, he's pretty good in the field. If I'd have listened to him, I think we might have caught our sniper. He wanted to stay in the air searching and I was worried about him being a target.
"The problems start when he's not actively on a mission. J'onn has already put most of the Watchtower on lockdown because of him."
He stared at her, "Are you going to be alright riding herd on those two? Especially him!"
"Shouldn't be a problem. Course, I can say that now. I'll let you know better after we're finished. You know you're gonna owe me for this, right?"
"I'll make it up to you." She just stared at him. "I promise." Her gaze never wavered. "Diana, if I have to get Clark to wear the suit for a couple of days so we can go somewhere quiet, I'll make it up to you, I promise."
"You know, I should hold out for the same number of days that we're undercover, but that's probably the best offer I'm going to get."
Beastboy and Raven had moved to a lounge to read over the files. Raven was surprised to see Beastboy carefully read and neatly set each page aside, all the while humming, whistling and doodling to himself. "Hmmm, hmm, hmmmmmm, Doodle, do, do, do, duh, doodle, do, do. Can't believe I gotta do this high school thing again."
"Again? You never did high school in the first place."
"No, but I did go through getting a GED."
Raven looked at him sidelong, "When?"
He never looked up from the files, "Think I was 12, no, 13."
"WHAT? How? And why?"
He grinned at her, "Add who and where and you'll have a case, Rae."
"OK, OK, Take it easy. This was before Rita died and Mento's Mento helmet made him go mental. I had just started with the Doom Patrol and Rita really didn't like the idea of me running around with them on missions. Thought it was too dangerous. So she put her foot down and said that I wasn't gonna be allowed on missions until I at least had a high school education.
"Steve didn't wasn't happy about that, not that he ever really was, but Rita had him over a barrel." Beastboy grinned at the girl and waggled his eyebrows, "He wasn't gonna get any nookie until he caved. Anyway, I didn't wanna be out of the missions either, so I got Steve to tutor me until I could pass the GED test. Rita was pissed when she found out, but a deal was a deal, so I was back on the active list.
Raven narrowed her eyes and grumbled, "Did he help you on the test?"
"Define 'Help'. Did he help me learn the stuff on the tests, yes. That telepathy of his made it easy to learn the material. Only took about a week to get it all. But he didn't help me cheat, if that's what you're asking."
"So you're telling me you have a high school equivalency? Then how come you act so dumb all the time?"
"Rae, I'm ADHD, not stupid. Never have been. Both of my parents were basically geniuses. You think I didn't get at least some of their brains. I mean, come on! I hacked the Tower mainframe to get info on you before your 16th birthday. And that had both Cy and Dick making firewalls and security programs for it. You think that didn't take brainpower? I got brains, I just don't use 'em all the time. Besides that I'm lazy. It's a lot easier to just let you, Dick or Cy figger things out and I just go along for the ride."
"You know I'm telling Nightwing about this when we get back?"
Beastboy just stared at her until she asked, "What?"
"You really think he doesn't know? I ain't positive, but I can guess that about 20 minutes after all of us met up the first time, Dicky-boy dug into the Bats files on you, me, and Cy."
Raven considered that, "You're right. That does sound like something he would do."
"Probably wasn't a lot in there about you and of course, nothing on Star. But I had a known history with Doom Patrol. And Vic's accident was pretty well documented. So Bird-boy knows all about my education." She was a bit surprised by his correct use of the word 'documented'
"And I'll tell ya something else." She started to blush when he placed his nose bare inches from hers and very quietly, almost in a whisper, said, "Because of the way I normally act, everybody, except maybe Nightwing and Cyborg, underestimates me. That includes you and Star, all the villains, Slade, the Brain and Mallah, even Trigon."
He sat back in his seat looking at the next page in the file, "You weren't there, but I hurt that bastard Trigon worse than everybody except you. Cyborg, Star and Dick, they were all pinpricks, but I was a full blown, major, inner ear infection. Even the good guys don't bother thinking about me. Except for maybe Batman, they all underestimate me. I once told him that I could infiltrate the Watchtower and that nobody, nobody could stop me."
She had a very skeptical look on her face.
Beastboy shrugged and said, "All humans have a bunch of symbiotic bacteria living on and inside of them. The skin alone has about 10 to the twelfth power, that's a trillion, microorganisms of about 1000 different species, from 19 phyla living on it. That's not even counting the small intestine or the colon. Most are beneficial to the host and without them you could die.
"So any biofilters the Bat or the Manhunter could set up would have to allow them through. Just become a microbe and hitch a ride. Even Jericho would have a harder time than me. The way I see it, everybody underestimating me, not taking the goofy shape shifter seriously, well that's nothing but a tactical and strategic advantage for me."
Raven stared at him with total shock.
"Hey cool, Wonder Woman's gonna be your mom and my Foster mom. That's great."
Raven was too stunned by the revelation she had just undergone to ask him why.
"Diana Prince." She was shaking the hand of the school principle, a short stout woman with iron gray hair pulled into a neat tight bun. "Wayne Industries contracted me to help with counseling after the tragedy earlier this week."
"We're glad to have the help, Ms. Prince. The killings last week have us all a little rattled. The school lost two teachers and one of our students when Light attacked. And on top of that everybody knew most of the victims personally one way or another. We've seen on the news and read about that sort of thing in the bigger cities, but we never expected it to happen here. At least that bastard, Light, didn't get away."
"You're not bothered by the way he was taken down?"
"Bothered, Hell no! Got exactly what he deserved, you ask me. I've arranged for you to use one of the offices down the hall. I understand you have two kids that are going to start with us as well."
"My daughter and foster son. There's no telling how long I might have to be here, so we talked about it and they came with me rather than staying behind in Gotham. I contacted the administration desk and enrolled them before we left. They're waiting in the lobby now." Wonder Woman didn't bother to mention the fact that Bruce and J'onn Jonzz had hacked the school servers to select the classes after the secretary had input the students information.
The principal stood and came from around her desk. She motioned to the door, saying, "We'll get them their Student ID's and I'll have one of the student aides show them around. Fifth period starts in about twenty minutes. We'll have them join then rather than interrupting a class in progress."
They left the office and the principal got the schedules from the secretary, looked at them and said, "Damn, we have to change this."
"What's wrong?" She didn't let it show, but Batman had set the schedules to have maximum coverage on the suspect. And a change would screw that up.
The principal pointed to one of the pages, "Here," than to a different place on the other, "and here. Those were the teachers that were killed. The system still has them listed. We haven't had a chance to take them out yet." She looked over the schedules carefully.
"Both of them are taking the same subjects, just at different times. We'll just use this one and they can share classes."
Her face didn't show it, but Diana had started swearing in Ancient Greek.
"Rachel, he's Garfield."
"Call me Gar!"
She was a slim girl, dark hair and frosted tips. "Follow me. Down that hall is the caf. There's four numbers to every room. The first number is the floor, second is the wing and last two are the room itself. Three floors, three wings, all numbers start, right here, at the central stairwell. If you have a 4 in the first place, that's one of the outbuildings, the gym, Auto Tech or the Vocational Studies.
"Here, let me see you sched."
Raven passed the sheet. Reading it April said, "Aww, you guys lucked out!"
Beastboy asked, "How's that?"
"You got Clemens for three classes!"
It was supposed to have been two classes, each, at separate times. Raven looked at the list and drawled, "That's not what's on the schedule."
"We had to shuffle things around after..." she trailed off.
"You didn't know."
Beastboy interrupted, "But Clemens is good?"
"And how. Clemens is the best! He really knows how to teach. Makes it exciting, makes you want to learn. His Basic Auto Class was great. I don't have to call my boyfriend to check my car anymore. I've had one car since I was sixteen, but I've had three boyfriends. Boys can come and go, but you keep a car for a lot longer!
"Looks like we have his Advanced Auto class together in sixth period." She grinned at the pair. "We're starting a new project this week. He hasn't told us what it is yet, but it's gonna be great"
Her face saddened, "You had Mrs. Werner for fifth period American History. Clemens took it over after the other day." The bell rang and the hallway filled with students.
"Come on, I'll show you the way."
A few moments later, she knocked on a classroom door. "ENTER!"
"Mr. Clemens, I have a couple new students for you."
The man held out his hand for the schedule, saying, "Thank you Ms. Duvall. That'll be all."
He read the list, held out his hand and said, "And you are?"
Taking the offered hand, "Rachel Roth."
Shake, "Garfield Logan, call me Gar."
"No Mister Logan, I will not." He didn't raise his voice, but somehow he pitched it to carry to the last desk. "Let's set the rules. Mr. Thompson?"
"Proper forms of address only. Surname with the appropriate prefix at all times. Mister or Ms."
"Next! Mr. Harris."
"The teacher is Sir or Mr. Clemens, only. If you wish to recognized raise your hand."
"Next! Ms. Walker?"
"The seven phrases of courtesy, Yes ma'am, No ma'am, Yes Sir, No Sir, Please, May I and Thank you. At all times."
"Next! Ms. Tucker?"
"If you wish to treated as an adult, you will act as an adult. What you do outside this classroom has no bearing. But in here, the rules are not optional, they're mandatory."
"Thank you all." He looked back at the two new students. "Are there any questions?"
Ravens stoic voice asked, "Books?" Clemens didn't answer, just stared. "Sir."
"I'll contact the front desk and have them ready for you at the end of the day.
"The two of you arrived together. You know each other?"
"Her mom's my foster mom, Sir."
"I see. For right now, you won't need your books. We're just getting ready to discuss the assignment. Out of curiosity, either of you watch old movies, specifically one from the early '70's called 'The Cowboys'?"
Raven shook her head. Garfield said, "Aww, that's a classic!"
"Yes, Mr. Logan, it is. And it's the basis of this classes discussion today. Do you remember it well enough to brief Ms. Roth?"
"Then, during the discussion, quietly keep her informed." He looked at the room and found an empty seat. He called to a boy beside it and said, "Mr. Harris, would you please find another seat." The boy grabbed his stuff and shifted to another open seat. Clemens pointed to now vacant pair of desks. "You two. There."
"Alright, let's begin.
They talked about what happened in the movie. Mr. Anderson losing all his ranch hands to 'Gold Fever', having to train a bunch of raw school boys ranging in age from 16 down to less than 8 in how to rope, wrangle, handle and drive 1800 head of cattle over four hundred miles to market.
"Mr. Anderson offered those boys forty Dollars. They would face hardship, rough rivers, foul weather, discomfort beyond anything you people know about. All for Forty Dollars. Don't sound like a lot of money does it?"
There was a chorus of 'No Sir's. "But consider this." He whistled a fast tune. "Who knows the words to that?" A few hands went up. "Ms. Walker?"
"Shave and a haircut, two bits."
"Two bits. That's fifty cents. To get a shave and a haircut. Last time any of you young men went to the barber, you paid 12, 15 dollars?" He grinned, "You likely didn't need the shave." Grumble Grumble Grumble. "But that'll add at least five dollars to the bill. Do the math. Back then, you lost two bits, you may as well have lost a twenty dollar bill today."
They talked about the trials the boys face on the trail. The death on a boy after he was trampled by the herd. This all went fast and only took about 15 minutes. Then they reached the climax of the movie.
"What happened then? Mr. Logan?"
"The bad guy shot Mr. Anderson when he refused to be afraid."
"When the boys rushed to help him, what did Mr. Anderson say? Ms. Tucker?'
"He told them to stay back."
"Why? Mr. Harris?"
"A man stands on his own two feet."
"Then? Ms. Walker?
"They shot him again and again."
"What did Mr. Dern's character say after that? Mr. Thompson?"
"Take everything but the fire."
"Now that, ladies and gentlemen, that was important. At that time and place, stealing a man's horse was a hanging offense. Why? Ms. Roth?"
"I don't agree with hanging, or capital punishment."
"That's beside the point, Ms. Roth. The fact is, at that time and place, whether you agree with it or not, if you left a man afoot, you were liable to be hung. The question is why. Any idea?"
"OK, anybody else." Hands went up, "Mr Logan?"
"Because if you stole a mans horse, he could die."
"Exactly." He looked at the clock, "We need to speed this up. Back to the movie. Those boys waited until Mr. Nightlinger arrived the next morning with the wagon. After burying Mr. Anderson, they... accosted Mr. Nightlinger, tied him up and broke open the crate to get the weapons. Why? Ms. Harper?"
"The oldest said they hired on to do a job, to see that the herd was taken to Belle Fouch."
"So they armed themselves and went to take the herd back from the thieves that stole it. Were they right in doing so?" Not seeing her hand, he asked, "Ms. Roth? You opinion?"
"Why? Please, justify your opinion."
"They should have gone to the authorities."
"OK, I can see that. But consider, the closest law enforcement was probably at Belle Fouch. 75, maybe a 100 miles away. For one man on a fast horse, that could be three days, maybe longer. Three days to get there, one or two to assemble a posse, four or five days back.
That's a week and a half. In that time the rustlers could drive the herd a 120, 130 miles, maybe even to Mexico. What would happen then? Ms. Tucker?"
"The rustlers would get away."
"And all their trials, the loss of one of their friends, their time, effort, sweat and blood as well as Mr. Andersons death, would have been... for nothing.
"So they acted. Mr. Nightlinger agreed to help. They calmly, cold-bloodedly, proceeded to take down the rustlers one by one. And make no mistake, each one was killed. Until they were able to lead the rest of the rustlers into an ambush. And having set up a few myself, that one was rather neat and tidy. Very well done.
"In the end, those boys killed every one of the rustlers and drove the herd on into Belle Fouch. They took the Law into their own hands. They saw a series of crimes and they acted to bring the criminals to justice.
"In today's terms, those crimes would be assault and battery, terroristic threatening, multiple counts of attempted murder, one for each of the boys left afoot, Grand Theft, today amounting to hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple of million of dollars. And one count of First Degree Murder. Coldblooded and completely premeditated. Mr. Dern's character walked into that camp knowing he was going to be murdering at least one man, probably more.
"And I say more for a very good reason. In the end, every one of them, they weren't boys anymore. They were men, even the eight year old. They had, every one of them, accepted an adults responsibilities and carried them out.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm not gonna ask you what you would have done had you been there. It's a completely different time and none of you have had to face the things those young men did."
He paused and looked at each of the students. "But it is something to consider, if something like what happened last week happens again. Mr. Whitman?
A very quiet, sad voice in the back answered, "Yes Sir?"
"You have my sincerest condolences for your loss. While it is gratifying to see you present, I have refrained from calling upon you today. However, I will be doing so in the future. And if you need any assistance, you merely need ask."
His eyes filled as he rasped, "Thank you, Sir."
The bell rang and Clemens said, "Pages 247 through 260 from your textbooks. Verbal quiz tomorrow. You're all Dismissed except for Mr. Logan and Ms. Roth. I will see you all tomorrow." They approached the desk and Clemens said, "I noticed the two of you are in my next class. I will meet you there. I'll have the office gather your texts for pickup at the end of school. Dismissed."
When they left the classroom, Raven muttered, "We've walked into a hornets nest!"