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The Ballpoint Pimpernel

A parody not to be taken seriously, by any means

Chapter 1

The administration of the Honors College was out of control.

It had begun so innocently, two years ago; a separate college in the university with advanced classes for high-level students seemed like a brilliant idea. It would give the scholarship students a properly challenging curriculum while also attracting more high-IQ students to the university. But the brand-new administration had become horribly drunk on its own power.

First they forced all Honors students to live in the Honors dormitories, separate from the rest of the university. From there they began to systematically control every aspect of their lives; setting curfews, locking doors, enforcing strict study hours. And if a student didn't make the grades, well, they simply disappeared.

"They've gone too far," Michele said firmly. The rest of the small group in Abigail's room nodded in consent; Michele had effectively voiced all of their opinions at once. Abigail had just found out their mail was being screened and censored, and she had called her seven closest friends to a secret meeting to tell them about it.

"I never thought it'd go this far," David sighed.

"I'm getting scared," Jenny whispered, and David squeezed her hand in comfort. "What's next?"

"Exactly," Abigail said. She stood, silently commanding attention from all. The authority she instinctively wielded over them was unmistakeable and undeniable. "What is next? And what of the ones who didn't make it last quarter? What has become of them? Steph, when was the last time you saw Katie?"

Stephanie looked down sadly. "In November, when we got back those History tests. She had had a particularly tough time with the Roman Empire. She got a D." She swallowed hard. "Right after class she was called to a meeting with the dean. I--I haven't seen her since."

Abigail nodded somberly. "And she's not the only one. They're weeding us out, everyone who isn't good enough, and who knows what they're doing with them?" She took in a deep breath. "It's time someone did something about it."

They all looked at each other in confusion.

"Abigail, are you saying *we* ought to do something?" John asked.

"And why not?"

"But we'd be kicked out of school! Or worse! Abigail, do you realize what they might do to dissenters?" Matt cried, as loud as he dared. The dorm walls weren't exactly very thick.

"I realize that we are living more and more under tyranny, and I'm not going to take it lying down! That's why I asked you to be here tonight. I'd like all of you to join me in this fight, if you want to. If you don't, I understand completely, and you can leave now and forget about anything and everything you've heard. But even if all of you leave, I will still fight alone. The situation is out of control; you know that. Someone has got to stand up for the students and get us our rights back. Who better than us? We are among the most intelligent students in the Honors College. I know we're smarter than those idiots in administration, and we can easily outsmart them. Think of it this way; if we don't do it, who will?"

The room was silent for a few moments, then Patricia stood up.

"You sound like a PBS commercial, but I'm with you."

"And I am too," Michele said, standing up as well.

One by one they all stood up, affirming their part in the plan. Excited, Abigail beamed with pleasure.

"All right! You'll see, we'll end this thing! We'll hit 'em where it hurts most!"

"What? You don't mean we're going to attack them physically, do you?" Matt asked in a panic. He was definitely the least athletic of them all, and also the least rational.

"No, of course not. We're going to attack their image! More than anything they want to look exemplary to prospective students. They want them to think this is the 'perfect college.' With a little well-timed sabotage, I believe we can end that lie," Abigail said with a slight smile.

"Sabotage? I don't like the sound of that," Jenny said timidly.

Abigail put a hand on Jenny's shoulder. "I don't either, Jenny, but we have no other choice. It's the only way we can get their attention."

"What if we get caught?" David asked warily.

"I don't plan for us to get caught at all. That's why we've got to keep this thing under wraps. Swear now, all of you, that you will keep these meetings strictly secret, and make sure none of this ever goes further than this room."

They all swore to do so.

"The safest way to communicate is by written note," Abigail continued. "It's not safe to speak in public; you already know our mail is being watched; e-mail can be accessed by anyone with the correct password. Even now, they may be employing informants and spies among the students. You must watch what you say and how you act. To the outside world, we must appear to be quiet, timid, dutiful students whose first thought is always study, study, study. And I shall communicate with you by hand-delivered written note, signed with this symbol." She took up a ballpoint pen and drew a flower on a bit of paper in front of her.

"A flower?" John asked, puzzled. "That's it?"

Stephanie studied the picture carefully. "You know, it looks . . . vaguely . . . like--that!" she said, pointing to the cover of a nearby paperback book. Patricia picked it up.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel," she read off the cover, smiling. "I thought this whole situation sounded very familiar."

"Right," said Abigail. "A pimpernel. And what safer way to draw it nowadays than with a black ballpoint pen? There must be thousands of pens like this one on campus. It'll never be traced." She held a flame to the paper and burned it up, making sure no traces remained.

"The Ballpoint Pimpernel," Michele said, grinning.

And then and there, the group was dubbed the League of the Ballpoint Pimpernel.

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