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When Injustice Continues . . . and a New Group of Students
Comes to the Aid of Freedom.

Chapter 1: A New Year, an Old Problem

The rain fell steadily and silently, the soft wind blowing it against the windows, gathering on tree limbs in order to drop all at once on some unprotected passerby. It was the sort of weather that reminded one of a Monday or a Tuesday, when nothing but a dreary day of responsibility is ahead with nothing but the same on the slate for tomorrow. But today was Friday, and despite the depressing rain, students walked from class to class cheerfully and with smiles; after all, wasn't the weekend nearly here? They could afford to get a little wet.

The first week of Fall Quarter had passed quietly and without incident. That was why Dean Hopson of the Honors College was so nervous. All summer long the university had been quiet, and he had been free from harassment from the dreaded Ballpoint Pimpernel. But now fall had come, and quite frankly, Hopson had become paranoid. Everywhere he went, he saw conspiracies and machinations against him, placed by the phantom Ballpoint Pimpernel.

"Why doesn't he strike?" he shouted in the ear of Jason Pelliride, his new secretary.

"I--I don't know, sir," the poor man stammered, clutching at his glasses. Mr. Pelliride was a short, thin man in his thirties, with already balding hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and a nervous disposition. He definitely did not possess the cool confidence of his young predecessor.

"If he would only make his presence known, I'd at least know where I stand," Hopson brooded, then turned viciously on Pelliride. "Bring me the personal file of every student that graduated, every teacher that resigned, every gardener that quit--in other words, everyone who was here last year and ISN'T here now!"

The secretary's eyes grew wide at the heavy work load. "Yes--yes, sir. Does--does that include administrative staff as well?"

"Yes!" Hopson barked, then thought better of it. "Except for your miserable predecessor, Alain Chambertin. He doesn't matter; he'll never show his face around here again. I've seen to that."

At the other end of the office a young student sat with his chin in his chest, apparently asleep. As Hopson passed him to go to his inner office, barely sparing the young man a glance, a slow smile crept across the student's lips. Calmly he picked up his book bag and walked to the door.

"Umm . . . can I help you?" a secretary asked as he left.

"No, no thanks . . . I don't need any help today," he said. The secretary noticed a faint accent to his voice . . . was it French? But she shrugged it off, and by the time Alain Chauvelin had left the office of his former employer, she had forgotten all about it.

* * * * * * *

Three knocks.

With a smile of silent relief, Abigail got up and opened the door. When he was in the room, she closed it quietly before speaking in a low voice.

"Alain . . . so good to see you again. I was afraid you weren't going to come." She extended her hand to him, and Alain shook it warmly.

"I could never disobey a direct order, O noble leader," he said jokingly with a mischievous grin. They all laughed, as loudly as they dared. He was the last of the League of the Ballpoint Pimpernel to arrive; ironically, he had also been the last to join. Alain spotted Michele and gave her a friendly hug; they had become quite good friends. Some even rumored that there was more to the relationship than friendship. It was Michele who had trusted him, befriended him to the rest, and persuaded them that he could be trusted as one of them. No small feat; he had once been their most bitter enemy.

"And I wouldn't have missed this for the world," Alain continued. "It's a chance for me to start over. Hopefully, this time, I'll stay on the right track."

"I know you will, Alain," Abigail said, giving him a look of intense trust. Perhaps the most surprising and ironic twist in the situation was the strong friendship that had grown up between these two former enemies. Were their distant ancestors to suddenly awake from the dead and witness this friendship, they would be shocked and outraged. As soon as the two had gotten past their former prejudices against one another, they had found that they had a lot in common. It was only natural, then, that they should become comrades in the mission and confidantes in life. They were as close as brother and sister now . . .

"Why are you late, then, Alain?" David asked.

"I was visiting . . . an old friend."

An old friend? There was only one other person on campus that Alain knew besides these eight . . .

"Alain!" Michele was alarmed, to say the least. "Don't tell me you . . ."

"Yes, I did, Michele. And he didn't even look at me."

Abigail smiled, half proud of Alain, half in awe of his bravery. "How is our friend Hopson?"

"Paranoid. He's scared as a rabbit--everywhere he turns, he sees Ballpoint Pimpernels." They laughed, easily amusing themselves at Dean Hopson's expense. "The guy he hired to replace me is nervous and cowardly. We have nothing to fear from him, I don't think."

"Unfortunately, that probably means he has other tricks up his sleeve," Abigail said.

"Right. Hopson may be half-insane, but he isn't stupid."

"So be careful," Abigail continued, addressing them all. "Watch your backs and be wary. We'll take a few weeks off and let Hopson get comfortable--or more nervous, whichever he chooses-- before we get to work again."

On to Chapter 2
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