Over the word-limit.
It began in the 1920s. No one is quite sure of the exact date. In the suburbs of Chicago a baby boy was born to two young parents. Money was tight and the work was hard, but they knew that they could make good home for their new son, even if it required a few sacrifices.
But even they could not control the long hours both parents were forced to work in order to make enough money to support their family, and their son was forced to find things to do on his own. He could have easily joined one of the many gangs that roamed the streets, but he wanted something more from life. He was curious about the economy that had made so many families poor, and the society that resulted from it. He had learned from the television, from books, and from his teachers why the economy had fallen. But he was interested in more. He wanted to know why people acted the way they did in these hard times.
Why did gangs roam the streets? Did they think that this would somehow stimulate the weapon market?
Why did families grow closer through this, even though they were forced apart so much by the extreme difficulty of making enough money for basic necessities?
And so he researched.
He learned many things about society and the way it worked. The books he read spoke of social experiments and the eager boy, never one to dismiss a task as too difficult, desperately wanted to try one himself.
He decided that his school would be the ideal place for such an experiment. If successful, this experiment would create a society within a society. A society of only the students in his school.
First, there would be the Jocks and Cheerleaders. These would be comprised of the most popular students, the ones that everyone admired to and strove to be like.
Second would be the Nerds. These were the students that took after knowledge before all else. They would be the ones in the background, the ones that did the most work and kept the society running.
Next would be the Emo, Skater, and Punk groups. They would be the ones that were always experimenting with new styles and fads, somewhat in the background, behind the Jocks and Cheerleaders, yet in front of the Nerds. They would be generally labeled as strange, given their highly experimentive nature, but the best of the best of their ideas were adopted by the Jocks and Cheerleaders, labeled as cool, and passed on to their admirers.
Last in line, in the farthest background, nearly invisible, would be the Goths. Their dark styles would keep most students away, while their doomsayer attitudes would check the other groups' enthusiasm, should it get out of hand.
It happened slowly, slowly. He first made vague references to his friends, then to others. Then gradually more specific references to a broader scope of students. Soon, groups of friends began to form, based on the classifications that this boy had so carefully created. He had told them about these cliches so much that they had adhered to them subconsciously.
Ironically, the term for these groups, “cliches”, was created by several students from the Emo group and quickly adopted by the Jock and Cheerleader groups.
As time progressed and students were transferred in and out, as students graduated and new students took their places, this system spread to more and more schools.
After a while, this boy graduated too and, since his family could not afford college, went straight to work as a social worker. After a few years he met a young girl and they fell in love. They were married and eventually they had a son of their own.
Their son grew and they lived happily. The young boy learned much from his father regarding society and the way people react with each other. Their happy life was cut short, however, one day when the man and his wife were traveling home in a buggy one rainy night. It was raining but lightly, only enough to wet the street, but when one of the newly-invented automobiles flew down the street, neither it nor the buggy were able to stop in time. They collided and the impact killed both of the boy's parents. The police told him that it had been a thief on the run from a crime scene, which was the reason it had been going so quickly. He was in his late teenage years, and after living with foster parents for a little over a year he left for college. Had his parents been still living he might have studied sociology or psychology. But with their death came a grief that nearly broke him and, had he not known about the psychology such things from his father, very well might have. Vowing to do all in his power to save others from such a grief as he had known, he instead sought knowledge regarding crime-prevention. He studied hard for several years and graduated with honors, after which he joined the local police department in his attempt to fight crime.
It was during a homicide investigation that he met the woman of his dreams. They fell in love and were soon married and had a baby girl. He continued his work with the police department and his wife stayed home with their little daughter, and they were happy.
But as the time went on, he noticed that quite a few criminals were smart enough to evade the law. They never made the public news, of course, but they were there. And the private detective agencies weren't doing any better.
So he determined to do something about it. He resigned his position at the police station and, with the money he'd saved up over the years, formed his own private investigative agency. But this agency was different. It didn't advertise for business on all the street corners. And there was one more difference.
It used teenagers.
Using the cliché system developed by his father, the man, now in his forties, determined to integrate his system of agents into the very school system. And what better choice than the cheerleaders? The girls were so ditsy that no one would ever expect them to be the smartest and most observant people in the entire school.
Then, a tragedy occurred. His wife was diagnosed with a rare disorder that had majorly shortened her lifespan, and within a few years, she died.
But he was determined, and as his daughter grew, he taught her. He taught her fighting techniques, both armed and unarmed. He taught her to think on her feet, to observe everything. To act like a klutz but steal like a pickpocket. To act like an elephant but move like a tiger when the situation required it. To act emotionally obvious but conceal her true feelings.
To act like a cheerleader but be an agent.
Gradually, his daughter brought other interested girls for training. Some cheerleaders, some not. And those that were not cheerleaders were taught the cheerleading skills necessary to push the other girls out when tryouts next came.
He gave them missions, simple at first, then more complex, and they accomplished them with more or less perfection. If subtly and stealth did not get them out, lying and acting did. He had trained them well.
Soon the entire cheerleading squad was comprised of agents, and he looked with pride on what he had thus far accomplished, although he knew that there was much to be done yet.
He wasn't ready one night when one of the girls, his daughter's best friend, stumbled into the house through the back, a dirty wreck. She was trained not to display her emotions to the slightest detail, but this man had trained her, and he knew that she was feeling sad, scared, regretful, sorrowful, and more.
She told him how the squad had carefully infiltrated the warehouse of drug dealers he had received a tipoff about. How they had knocked each of the dealers unconscious. She herself had felt their pulses and confirmed their subconscious state.
But one of them was good. He had slowed his heart and feigned unconsciousness. He had had time to use one bullet. The girls were trained well. After that sound they had dived for cover, slowly and stealthily making their way around and disarming him before knocking him on the head hard enough to give him a concussion.
But that one bullet had met its mark. It had cost him his daughter.
He phoned the police and anonymously tipped them off as to the location of the warehouse. The next day, the local news stations carried the story of the three captured drug dealers. They praised the police department's skill in taking the thugs who, “acted dopey, as if they had been on drugs or had been asleep for a while”.
No one knew about the one man who had escaped. Only his fingerprints were nowhere to be found. No trace of him was found. It was if he hadn't existed.
No one drew the connection between the warehouse incident and the death of a local teenage cheerleader, whose body was found two miles away.
Losing his daughter was the last straw. He had somehow dealt with the deaths of his parents. He had somehow dealt with the death of his wife. But now even his daughter had been taken from him. At first he blamed himself. If only he hadn't given her those missions, he reasoned over and over again. But eventually he admitted to himself that yes, it was, in a way, his fault, but that, given the chance again, he would make the same choices.
Even so, staying in the same town was too much for him. He left administrative responsibility under a former cheerleader, now graduated, who was living in the town and moved away to a small, rural town to be alone.
At first, he was happy. The townsfolk were friendly and he was soon invited to the various celebrations that the other citizens were. His observation skills had not dwindled, however. At first it was just some shady teenagers hanging around different alleys. Then it was a shoplifting incident at the local general store. He saw respected businessmen speaking to each other in hushed tones when they thought no one was looking. He saw students returning from school with a blackened eye or a limp. And he knew even if he could escape his grief, he could never escape crime, even in a town as far removed as this.
He struck up a friendship with a man whom he knew had a daughter in the cheerleading squad, named Angela. Soon he spoke to her as well. Gradually he earned her respect and little by little he revealed to her his plans. She was agreeable, and so began her training.
Angela showed much promise, and within a year she was ready to begin recruitment. Within the first two months she brought in three more girls; one already a cheerleader, named Darcie, and the other two a sort of preppy skater mix named Cindy and Brandy. When Cindy asked if his name was an alias, he said only that she should call him what she chose. She said that Boss sounded logical. No, he said, it implies that I command you at my whim, and also, it is much too obvious. Dave? Brandy suggested. If you wish, he agreed. And so, from then on, that is what he was referred to by cheerleader agents from that town.
Within a year, due to the hard work of the cheerleader agents, the entire squad was converted and was now a dangerous group of friends against crime and injustice. They trained, some with Dave, some with each other, and their skills grew. Occasionally Dave would give them a mission against a drug ring being set up, or gang wars, or a certain bully problem, or a corporate scandal, and they would use their knowledge and skills to sort out the problem.
Then, one day, a five of the school's best football players disappeared. Dave began his research. He found nothing. Their names were Brad, Peter, Steve, Ken, and Jack. They were best friends, played on the school football team, did average in their grades, and acted in every way that high school students within the jock group were expected to act. But suddenly they were just gone. As if they had never existed, except that an entire town had the memories and possessions from them to prove otherwise. Dave acknowledged that he was getting nothing on the research end. He would keep going, but in the meanwhile he would need his field agents to investigate. Observe and learn from the people while blending as only cheerleaders can.
The cheerleaders, true to expectations, had acted and kept acting terrified and anxious, sharing gossip and acting nervous as to who would disappear next.
The squad was currently composed of the following:
Angela, a girly, outspoken girl who practiced a blend of fighting styles and a ditsy personality that helped people to underestimate her before she used it to advantage, taking them down in less than a second.
Darcie, a quiet, thoughtful girl who preferred stealth to fighting at all costs. She could become invisible in her environment, move silently, squeeze through tight spots, and a variety of other skills that allowed her to pass through many places unnoticed.
Cindy, a quiet girl who could be thought of as sinister. She used manipulation and other psychological means to gain her way. Although many viewed her as an evil, selfish girl she was firmly entrenched in good morals and would only work for the good.
Brandy, a short-tempered skater, who employed a blend of theatre and stealth by using disguises, acting, and smooth talking to get information and infiltrate places.
Tamika, a cheerleader formerly from the nerd group, who had managed to change the way she acted from unpopular nerd to girly cheerleader. She still had her nerd interests, however, mostly about technology and computers. She could modify a gadget, to a certain extent, for alternative tasks or hack through most firewalls and security systems.
Jenny, a goth-turned-cheerleader who had some difficulty with the drastic change from dark goth to hyper cheerleader. She was a thoughtful girl who preferred contemplation to immediate action. She saw each challenge as a puzzle that had to be solved logically, not with pure force.
Our story begins in February. The students have been back at school from Christmas Break for almost a month. Last week was when the jocks went missing. This Saturday Dave told the cheerleading agents of his lack of success and his need for them to obtain information. Today is Tuesday and the first bell is about to ring...