Jean took the Josses into the school office to explain why her niece was tardy, and to get a permission slip for the visitor. Fortunately the school secretary had been there since the days of Kim and knew the family. As Jean finished the story the secretary looked into the glowing red eyes of the metal Joss, “Do you want the visitor pass just for today, or will you be needing it for the week?”
“I'm hoping just for--” Jean began.
“Kin I get it for the week?” Joss1 asked excitedly. “I.might.be. like.this. for.awhile.and.don’. want.to.keep. coming.in.here.”
“Remember, I've asked Wade to pick you up after school and take you straight to the hospital,” Jean told her niece when the paperwork was done. “If you are having any problem, and I mean any problem, you call me immediately. Is that clear?”
“Yes. Does that include problems with my English homework?”
Jean smiled, kissed Joss1 on the forehead, and told her “Scoot, you may already be late for third period.”
Steve Barkin prowled the halls of Middleton High. Even as principal he micromanaged the school with the same ruthless inefficiency that marked his time as assistant principal. He heard what might have been movement in the hallway and moved to intercept the violators and check them for hall passes.
He scowled as he turned the corner and saw Joss Possible at her locker while a second girl stood beside her, her back to him. He could not identify the dark haired girl who was in some sort of tights, totally inappropriate for school wear. He sighed, the Possibles had been problems as long as they'd been in Middleton High. Joss had stayed out of trouble until now, but it looked like she too would prove difficult.
“What seems to be the problem, Possible,” he growled as he came up behind them. “You missed yesterday and you're late today.”
“I was sick. Here's my doctor's excuse.” There were good things about having a physician in the family.
“And what about your friend here? Who is…” The Bebe turned and red electric eyes glowed at him from a blue face.
“I.have.a.visitor's.pass.” she said, handing it to him.
“Ont-day ake-may er-hay ngry-aay.” Joss hissed at Barkin.
“It is a sign of respect. He's the principal of school.”
“The leader. The man in charge.”
Barkin listened to the exchange in wonder,“What is going on.”
“No, you'll do that to the president of the United States tonight.”
“The president… Tonight?“ Barkin wondered.
“Er, no. He only runs a piece of it.”
“What.a. silly.planet. It.needs. an.emperor. over.all. of.it. This.will. change.when. you.become. a.part. of.the. Markovian.Empire.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“No, your majesty. You must follow the procedures. I must take you to our leader.”
“She's a queen?” Barkin asked in a stage whisper
“I don't rightly know what her title is on her planet, I think she said arooPand was its name. But the authorities asked me to keep her happy so she doesn't run amok and destroy the world,” Joss whispered back, trying hard to keep from giggling.
Joss wasn't expecting Barkin's next move, but it is unclear if she or the principal was the more surprised by its outcome.
The burly man tackled the Bebe, or rather, attempted to tackle the Bebe. The metal girl weighed a lot more than he expected. He felt like he had tried to tackle a refrigerator.
Joss had the Bebe grab him and lift him in the air. “Should.I .pull. off. his.head. and.give. it.as. a.gift. to.your.president?”
Joss got down on her knees and bowed low before the robot, “Please, your majesty. Spare his worthless life. The president of the United States doesn't like to get head. He did not mean to offend you.” She directed a fast, “Apologize to her,” at Barkin.
“Uh, yeah. Sorry your majesty. I was giving you an old… uh, Marine greeting. It was a sign of respect.”
“I.suppose.I.shall.spare.you.” She put him down and Barkin moved slowly away, being careful not to turn his back on her.
“I am so dead after the secretary tells him the real story, but that was fun,” Joss thought as he backed around the corner and she heard him take off running.
The Josses stopped at her locker before lunch. Erin, two lockers over, was there. She appeared to have been waiting for them, and stared at the blue-skinned ‘girl’ when they appeared.
Erin Delaney was almost friendly with Joss. When they first met Erin told Joss that her older sister had been Kim's best friend in high school. Joss had already heard that from four other people and didn't pay much attention, until Erin mentioned her sister's name and Joss remembered meeting Tara at Kim's place. Joss considered Erin a little bit of an airhead, but the blonde was almost in the lower tier of popular students on the strength of her own looks and possession of a very good looking older brother, Brendan, who was on the swim and baseball teams. She and Joss sometimes chatted for a few minutes at their lockers. Joss was allowed to sit at the same table with Erin in the lunchroom, and twice Erin had gone over to sit with Joss when none of her other friends were there.
Erin finally managed to ask, “What is it?”
“What are ya talking about?”
“The blue girl,” Erin said, knowing Joss knew exactly what she was talking about. “The buzz was all over school. Is she really a robot?”
Erin looked startled and Joss laughed, “I got my brain stuck in the dang thing and don't know how to get it out.”
“That was you?” Erin asked, wanting to make sure.
“So, you could say anything you wanted, and it would come out through her mouth?”
“Yeah, what do you want to hear?”
“Umm, nothing now. Can I sit with you at lunch? There's got to be some good way to use this.”
Once in the cafeteria all eyes were on the three. Or rather the two. In all honesty, the one. Jim and Tim stopped at their table. They had been told about the early morning events when they got up in the morning, and heard rumors that Joss was in school, but hadn't really believed it.
“You feeling okay, Joss?” Jim asked.
“I.am.feeling.fine,” Joss2 responded.
The twins stared at her, “Way cool. Can we take a look after school.”
“I'm going to the hospital after school,” Joss1 told them. “And.you.perverts.keep.your.hands.off.me.”
The twins turned red and retreated from the table. Erin dug her elbow into Joss's side and complained, “Why didn't you introduce me, they're seniors! And cute!”
“They aren't cute, they're my cousins.”
“Yes they are, and they're seniors! You could have asked them to sit with us.”
A few minutes later Erin nudged Joss1 again, “Ohmygawd, look!,” she whispered. “It looks like Megan wants to sit with us!”
“Way! You can tell she's thinking about coming over! You can tell! She's like, the top of the food chain.”
“Yeah, and she's never even said hi to me. She ever said a nice word to you?”
“No, but she's moving this way. What should we say?”
“Good.afternoon. Megan.I.am. glad.your. complexion. has.finally. cleared.up.”
Anger darkened the other girl's cheeks and she turned on her heel and moved away from the table with the Josses and Erin. Giggles from other people beneath her attention followed her.
“Why did you say that?” the blonde whispered angrily. “If she sat here that was something for us.”
“Well she never had time for me before Joss2 here, why should I have time for her now?”
Erin was quiet for a minute. “Is that your opinion of me too?”
“Well… No,” the auburn-haired girl said, “you've talked with me and ate with me sometimes. But she's never been anything but mean… Oh! Look who's comin’ over.”
“Hey, Sis, going to introduce me to your friend?”
Joss just stared, open-mouthed. Fortunately she had someone to speak for her, “Would.you. like.to.eat. with.us.Brendan?”
“Sure,” he said, and took the seat opposite Joss2.
The combination of Brendan and the Bebe made the table irresistible, and soon a crowd was gathered around trying to get close to one or both. Mr. Barkin noticed the crowd when he arrived in the cafeteria and went over to break it up. “Move along people! Find your own tables! What's the big attraction?” He pushed through the crowd and saw the blue girl, then backed away.
“Glad he hasn't talked with the secretary yet.”
“What's going on with him?” Erin asked.
“Are you dangerous?” Brendan wanted to know.
Joss had never enjoyed lunch break as much as she did that day. She didn't eat much lunch, it is hard to chew with your mouth hanging open while you drool on your tray, but perhaps that only added to it being the best lunch break ever. Alas, school lunches are like all good things only in they must both come to an end.
Chemistry was Joss's favorite class of the semester. She had lucked out in lab partners. She was the new kid and didn't know anyone when partners were chosen. Hang, or, as he was known to many students, “Don't say the ‘g’ hard,” was Hmong and reclusive. They became lab partners on the basis of no one else wanting them, but they had turned out to be the top students in the class and usually had their experiments finished and lab apparatus cleaned and put away while the other pairs were still trying to understand the directions. Besides her love of chemistry the other benefit of the class was that Joss had it with Megan. She had chosen her lab partner based on popularity. Watching Megan and Trey fail to follow directions and listening to them quarrel was one of the few small pleasures Joss and Hang enjoyed,
Mr. Finster never determined what went wrong that day. Megan insisted Trey had added the wrong chemicals to the compound. Mr. Finster pointed out that the chemicals called for in the experiment would not have produced that kind of acrid gas. And Joss suspected Megan had messed up on purpose to draw attention away from the Bebe.
Trey was closest to the beaker when the cloud of gas erupted from it. Students were in goggles, but weren't wearing breathing masks because no fumes should have been produced. “File out quickly. No need to panic,” Mr Finster told the class, pointing to the door.
Of course, Lucy panicked when Mr. Finster said, “Don't panic.” And when Lucy panicked her lab partner panicked. But after those two ran screaming down the hall other students filed out quickly, but in an orderly fashion. Trey was on his hands and knees, coughing, and Joss2 picked him up and carried him out.
“Thanks,” Mr. Finster said. He waited to be last out of the room and was about to close the door when Joss2 set Trey down and went back.
“No, we don't know what that gas is.”
“Fine,” the science teacher said, smiling, “you can go in.”
Ten minutes later the class was able to return. Only Joss and Hang managed to finish the experiment that day. At the dismissal bell Trey went over to Joss2, seated on a chair in the corner. “Thanks for the save. Want to come to a party at my place Saturday?”
“Okay, well, she can come to if you want. Later.”
Joss watched Trey leave with Megan and smiled. Megan was upset, “Why did you ask her,” she demanded, punching Trey in the arm.
English was Joss's least favorite class of the day. But Ms. Peet had written half a dozen science fiction novels and almost forty short stories -- a number of which had actually been published -- and seemed as excited about the robotic celebrity as the students.
After school there was a small crowd of people waiting by the door to see more of Joss2.
Erin arrived late, but worked her way into the crowd. “I got all three of us an invitation for a party at Betty Hollister's on Saturday!”
“Uh, Trey asked us to a party at his place that night.”
“'Us’ as in you and Miss Blue?”
“Well, tell me how it went on Monday.”
“Maybe I should go with you.”
“Nah, Trey is A-list. Betty's is definitely B-list; there are only going to be girls there.”
“Hey, don't try an’ talk me out of it, I think it will be more fun to be with you. Megan will be at Trey's, an’ from what I hear tell about his parties I'm not sure my aunt and uncle would let me go.”
“Really. And I've never even been invited to a C-list party since I got to town.”
Erin grabbed Joss's hands and squealed with joy, “Betty's is going to be A-list if you're there! And if you turn Trey down that means he drops to B!”
“Doesn't seem fair to poor Trey--”
“Joss, you coming home with us?” Tim shouted as he saw his dad drive up.
“Nah, Wade's supposed to be picking me up to take me to the hospital.”
Erin's elbow went into Joss's side again, “And.may. I.introduce. you.to. Erin.Delaney? She.thinks. you.are. cute.She. may.be.delusional.in.other.ways.as.well.”
The twins, and twenty-seven others, laughed at the introduction. Erin turned bright red. After the twins left to go home the elbow returned to its place in Joss's side, “Why did you say that?” she hissed.
“You wanted me to introduce you, right?”
“Hey, they'll remember you after that introduction.”
Erin thought a minute, then smiled. “I guess you're right. Can you mention I'm not seeing anyone on a regular basis?”
“I thought you and, what's his name… Andy, were going out.”
“Not a regular basis. And he's a sophomore like us. Your cousins are seniors.”
“Okay, okay, at supper tonight I'll tell them you are madly in love with… Do you want to pick one or should I say you're madly in love with both of them?” Joss caught the elbow before it hit her in the ribs.
Suddenly there was an odd sound all around them and some sort of optical distortion appeared in the air. Wade decloaked the hovercraft and brought it in for a landing on the school grounds. When the dome retracted he called, “Hey, Joss! Come on, we got to get moving!”
“Catch ya later,” Joss called as the two Josses sprinted for the hovercraft.
Erin stared in amazement, “Neat, she gets to ride in a flying saucer.” The other students were impressed also as the hovercraft lifted into the air and Wade turned on the cloaking device and headed for the hospital. Several students chatted with Erin, hoping that she could introduce them to her best friend, Joss Possible.