Unfortunately, I don't own The Demon Headmaster; if I had then the original series would have seen that 'Hunky-Parker' book making its way into the series. At the same time, I would also have made the recent and brilliant season with Nicholas Gleaves longer, and more far-reaching.
Oh well, never mind. I've still got Fanfiction.
Anyway, please let me know what you think.
Dinah watched from her car as the group of four kids appeared in the graveyard, and she wondered what it said about her life and her career she would choose a relatively bleak and morbid place for a meeting. She had been watching the kids for a short time now, ever since the St. Champion site was triggered including the algorithm she had programmed into the website with the puzzles relating to her previous encounters with the Demon Headmaster.
Dinah closed her eyes.
The Demon Headmaster.
He was back, after all these years. The discovery that he was back after all this time following that mess with Hyperbrain was shocking in itself especially since at the time the Headmaster hadn't even known his own name, but she was stunned by his timing. She guessed she could understand the Headmaster coming out of the woodwork now; the country was in a mess as it was, especially with Brexit being a total disaster.
Okay, while the man currently running Hazelbrook didn't resemble the Headmaster she had known and feared, but considering what she had seen during that mess with the Evolution accelerator (she instantly buried those memories; thinking of that horror movie, and it was a literal horror movie since the Headmaster had shown how far he was willing to go with interfering with evolution), the Headmaster was capable of anything, Dinah knew those kids wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of going through those puzzles she'd painstakingly arranged at St. Champions for nothing. In any case, she had heard a great deal with the microphones she'd placed throughout the school. Getting out of her car, Dinah followed the kids slowly as they looked through the graveyard.
As she followed them, Dinah ran through her mind all the things she wanted to talk to them about. She had considered originally visiting Hazelbrook, impersonating a new teacher so she could meet these kids, but she had decided against it. The loss of the tape contained in St. Champions was not good, but so far the Headmaster had no idea she was back. And Dinah wanted it to stay that way until she had worked out a decent way she could deal with him once and for all….
The kids eventually found the gravestone with her name on it. The sight of the gravestone made her heartache; most deep level MI6 agents were asked to 'lay down their lives' as part of their training and initiation in order to protect them from any reprisal, but it was also to protect their friends and loved ones.
It had taken Dinah a long time to accept their invitation; not only would she be leaving her colleagues and the career she had worked very very hard to develop and pioneer, but she would also be deceiving Lloyd, Harvey, Ingrid, Mandy, Simon, her adoptive parents, and all the others into thinking she was dead. But she had accepted the invitation and they had taken care of the rest, and they had even made up a cover story to clear things up for when she had felt it was time to retire.
Over the years, Dinah had taken that same pain which would never go away and she knew it wouldn't even when the truth was revealed to the world, and she knew she would need to come clean with her loved ones when it was time, and there would be reckoning but she was prepared for that because she wanted to bring people to justice and make the world a better place. Unfortunately, Dinah knew it wasn't that simple. How could she make the world a safer place with the Headmaster out there? When she caught sight of the group near the right gravestone, the one with her name on it, she saw two girls, one with long orangey-red hair wearing a black leather jacket, another girl with blonde-brown hair, who was wearing a yellow jacket with two boys, one who was short and dark-haired, and the other taller, with black skin with dreadlocks.
She knew who they were of course - the girl with the orangey-red hair was Lizzie Warren, a girl with a history of being strongwilled. The short, dark-haired boy was her brother Tyler. The girl with the blonde hair was Angelica Marron and the last boy was Ethan Adebayo, although his last name was now Prendergast. According to records, his parents had died. Dinah pushed those thoughts aside and focused on them
"Who sent that text to you, Lizzie, 'cause it certainly looks like it was a ghost," the short dark-haired boy, Tyler said, pointing out the flaw in his sister's logic.
"Maybe she is dead," Lizzie whispered.
"It's not wrong, is it?" Ethan commented. "That's why we're here."
Dinah crept up behind them. "One of the things you quickly learn when you deal with the Headmaster is you never know what's truly real and what isn't. Thanks for coming," she said, startling them and they turned around and looked at her in astonishment.
"You're Dinah Hunter?" Lizzie asked sceptically.
Dinah smiled, although she was curious about the scepticism. That was the problem with teenagers these days, they were always arguing about something, but she didn't know why Lizzie seemed to be sceptical about her, although she wondered if it had anything to do with the gravestone. "Yes," she replied, nodding down at the gravestone behind them. It was disconcerting seeing her own gravestone; it put her in mind of being a time traveller, going forwards into time and seeing their grave, including the date of death along with the date of birth so people could see how long they had lived.
But in her case being in front of the grave was creepy and ghoulish since she was still alive whereas everyone who had known her were positive she had died. Her life was nothing but a lie right now, and she would love nothing more than to leave it, but she couldn't. There was still so much to do, and she had been responsible for the imprisonment of dozens of terrorists and the manipulation of various events for the last few years in order to make the world a better place.
"But you're meant to be there," Angelica pointed out, looking down at the graven then looking back at her. "It was in the report of your funeral."
Dinah scowled at the grave. "I'm aware of that," she replied, an edge to her voice where she hoped these kids did not ask for more details beyond what she was going to tell them, although she remembered her own childhood where she had fought against the Headmaster; she had asked dozens of questions in her mind about the Headmaster and what he wanted in the long term, so it made sense for these kids to do the same.
She sighed, "And as for that report, I wrote it. I was being recruited by MI6; deep level operatives are usually expected to be, well, ghosts for the lack of better term. It's supposed to be a means of protecting the agents' anonymity as well as the protection of the agents' friends and family. Believe me, I did a lot of soul searching before I signed on. In the end, I did, but I had an ulterior motive for joining up."
"Which was?" Lizzie glared at her demandingly - Dinah looked at the girl impressed. "The Headmaster," she replied simply.
"The Headmaster?" Angelica repeated, looking at her in confusion. "You joined MI6 to find the Headmaster? Why?"
Dinah sighed, "Most of my work is online, but I have been on missions across the world-"
"Like James Bond?" Tyler interrupted, the short dark-haired boy was now looking at her as if she was suddenly his new hero. His excitement made her smile even if she was annoyed he had interrupted her.
"Hardly; real spies don't like being noticed. In any case, most of my missions take weeks to carry out in different countries, and I'm not jet setting across the globe, and most of my missions are more complex than you'd expect," Dinah shook her head with a sigh, "I have been responsible for the collapse of terrorist cells, politicians, corrupt officials…. But the Headmaster is someone I have been looking for for a long time, ever since I lost sight of him twenty years ago. And since then I haven't seen or heard a peep from him, until now. I have wanted to find the Headmaster for a long time. A very long time. And so far I haven't had much luck, so believe me, I was happy he's come out of the woodwork after all this time since it means there is a chance to stop him in a major way."
Dinah sighed and rubbed her face tiredly. "The Headmaster…. Is the worst of them all; I've helped combat terrorist plots worldwide, but where they're nothing more than a bunch of thugs waving guns around without any true long term plan in mind for their cause despite what you may have heard or read, the Headmaster is an exception. He knows precisely what he is doing, and what he wants. And he has to be stopped."
"Why should we trust you? I mean, you are pretending you're dead-," Angelica asked.
Dinah smirked at the blonde, deeply impressed with that question. She further wondered about the question since it was a good one, and she was currently wondering how to best answer it. In the end, she decided to answer it bluntly while she starred each of them down intently to make it clear she was completely serious. "I'm the only one who's encountered the Headmaster many times. Did you know, once, the Headmaster hypnotised St. Champions, a school like Hazelbrook and tried to turn the students into a think-tank to help them win in a game show so he could mass hypnotise the entire country without caring one little bit about the pain he was going to inflict on them long term? Did you know that genetic engineering is incredibly regulated so then accidents like you see in the movies never happen, but the Headmaster once took over a Biogenetic Research Centre whose research was focused on growing massive quantities of food and finding cures to potential diseases to wipe out the human race and replace everyone with a race of emotionless clones of myself he could control? Did you know a scientist in Wessex was experimenting with Artificial Intelligence aimed at solving many of the world's problems and give us fresh insights only for the Headmaster to arrive and meddle until he was left with an AI that drained the minds of three people? Spare me any distrust. You don't know him as I do. You've only seen him at Hazelbrook, but that is only a sample to the things he can do."
The four kids were shaken by what she could say, but Dinah had been paying close attention to each of them as she had spoken; she had noticed that several of them were confused by what she'd said, but they seemed to be accepting of her when they noticed her sincerity.
Tyler looked at his friends and his sister and then back at Dinah. "No, we didn't."
Dinah shifted on her spot. "There's a bench back there," she said, turning and heading for it, flashing an encouraging smile at all of them, "We've got a lot to talk about."
She wasn't surprised the small gang followed her and they sat down on the same bench with some trouble, but Dinah compensated for that by sitting on the floor and facing them.
"First things first, I think it's a good idea to go over the basics," Dinah began as she decided to start from the beginning. "You all know the Headmaster, but have you learnt anything about him? What is he doing at Hazelbrook?"
"I thought you were going to help us," Lizzie snapped impatiently, only to be elbowed in the side.
Dinah sighed. She would have come across a kid whose petulance matched Ingrid's own. "I am, but as you said in the Headmaster's office in St. Champions when you went there, the Headmaster you saw and the Headmaster I knew are completely different people. I just want to know how different yours is compared to mine."
"He came to Hazelbrook six nearly seven months ago," Ethan interrupted, giving Lizzie a look before turning to Dinah. "He just appeared out of nowhere. He took over the school; much of what we've seen is a daze since we know he's hypnotised us, but Hazelbrook has changed. Drones now fly around, saying little phrases that make us spout of things we're not even thinking."
Dinah nodded, mentally going over everything she had found after she'd interviewed a few of the kids at St. Champions following the Eddie Hair show debacle. "Tell me about him, what's he like?" She fished, filing away the mention of the drones because it sounded more like a high-tech step up from the programming the Headmaster had implanted in his victims over the years.
Instantly the question triggered a response. The quartets faces stiffened and they spoke in stereo. "The Headmaster's an inspirational educator, and he has really turned the school around," they said without any emotion, but Dinah was satisfied and yet she was scared out of her wits. The fear was old and she knew it.
"Ask me about my Headmaster," she told them when the spell ended.
"What was he like?"
The voice that emerged from Dinah's lips was her own voice, but Dinah was not the one controlling the words. She wanted to say, the Headmaster is an evil bastard who claims he is helping others, but what he is doing is brainwashing innocent people.
What Dinah said instead was the complete opposite. "The Headmaster was a marvellous man. St. Champions was the best school I've ever been too," she said.
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I hate it," she told them softly, lifting her head up to look them in the eyes. "I hate the fact that man tinkered with the brains of so many people, but even now that old conditioning will not go away, and there is nothing I can do about it."
Lizzie Warren, despite her impatience towards this 'Dinah Hunter', happened to be impressed by the slightly older woman. But what surprised her the most was it had nothing to do with the fact she was a spook. While Lizzie was inwardly uncertain how to view the fact this woman had virtually walked away from her friends and family, faking her death or at least being part of an operation to fake her death while she went ahead and wrote the obituary, she could see the logic behind it though, but she wondered if she regretted the decision now and thought it made sense. After all none of them knew what Dinah had dealt with over the years, it was likely she had started out regretting it immensely and then as time passed it had cleared up the amorality of the choice.
Still, when Dinah had told them to tell her what the Headmaster at Hazelbrook was like, Lizzie had wanted to scream, to shout, to rant and rage about what the creepy sinister bastard was doing to them and their lives, but instead, her mind like the others had joined in the chorus to give out the preprogrammed response about how he was inspirational and how he'd taken a shitty school and turned it into something different.
When she had left Hazelbrook, Lizzie had been more than thankful to leave it, but when she had returned from America she had been taken by surprise when she had seen it again. Instead of a school which looked like a demilitarised zone, Hazelbrook seemed to resemble a cross between a posh expensive high-class school and a military academy more than what she'd remembered. She had been impressed with it, but when she had met the Headmaster and discovered what he was doing, the novelty wore off.
But what had never failed to piss Lizzie off was how the Headmaster had programmed her brain like a technician programming a robot to obey preset tasks, so now whenever someone asked about the Headmaster, she would always have a ready acerbic reply on the tip of her tongue…. Only to say that utter shit about the Headmaster being inspirational when in fact he was hypnotising people to make them that way.
Finding out she and her friends were not alone was two parts relief and two parts horrifying; when they'd found that website during their initial search after reading that article written by that reporter who had seen enough to worry her, only to find the Headmaster had managed to hypnotise her and bring her under his control, with the collection of jokes and tricks which led to the trip to St. Champions, and the discovery that what was going on at Hazelbrook had happened before.
The loss of the tape was frustrating enough, but the little slip of paper with Dinah's phone number inside had given Lizzie and the others the most amount of hope they'd ever had before. But here was a woman, someone like them, someone who had been mentally wounded by the Headmaster (or a Headmaster; Lizzie had questions about the scary guy in that picture at St. Champions, but there was plenty of time for that), and it showed even now. Lizzie was left wondering if, when she and her friends, and Tyler her brother, were Dinah's own physical age if anyone asked about Hazelbrook the programming would kick in again. It looked like it would if Dinah was an indication.
But right now all Lizzie had were questions, and she hoped her friends had some of their own.
However, Dinah had questions of her own. "What have you all learnt about the Headmaster so far?" She asked.
"What's to learn?" Lizzie asked impatiently, although she didn't mean it. She was just getting tired of the constant questions and not getting enough answers.
Dinah sighed and looked down and closed her eyes impatiently like she was counting to ten. "I don't mean that," she snapped back, clearly not happy with the reply. "I meant has he done anything bizarre aside from hypnotising people? Is a game show coming to Hazelbrook, which would give him the means to gain more control? What?"
Lizzie bit her lip at the force behind Dinah's tone, but Tyler got there first. "Dinah, nothing like that is going on, but don't be nasty to my sister."
Lizzie smiled at Tyler. After seeing the way her little brother was being bullied by Blake, it was good to see him repay the favour.
"I'm sorry, but I am trying to help, and I can't do that if I get impatient retorts," Dinah sighed, "But I want to know more about the Headmaster. I read the article after I got your phone call after you went to St. Champions to get more of an insight. I compared that article with her previous articles when I saw it, and it was like she had done a complete one-eighty; a big red flag if you know what you're looking at. I just want to know what the Headmaster is doing at the school."
"We're the ones who put the reporter onto the school in the first place," Ethan replied. "We invited her to Hazelbrook while the Headmaster was gone; he was visiting another school, to "bring it into the Hazelbrook family."'
Dinah blinked at him in surprise. "He actually said that?" she asked, mind racing as she tried to understand the depths of the Headmaster's plan.
"Yeah," Angelica nodded.
"Has he done anything else with other schools?" Dinah asked urgently, wondering to herself if this was the Headmaster's plan, to form a chain of schools with him as the administrator. Privately she thought it was a step down from the grandiose plans he'd come up within the past, but it was still control.
"Yeah," Tyler replied with a nod as he remembered the recent visit. "He invited a small group from Manor House; its a more art orientated school, and they came and were impressed with the arty things at Hazelbrook, and they watched a play-."
"It was a complete lie," Lizzie interrupted, now regretting what she had said to Dinah a moment before, seeing from her perspective that she didn't know anything about what was happening in Hazelbrook right now, and it would make sense she would need to know. "The Headmaster hypnotised so many students at the school, including…. Friends of mine," she trailed off, looking anywhere but Dinah, as she thought about what the bastard had done to Sophie and Becky, "into duping the Manor House kids into thinking Hazelbrook put a lot of stock into arts and theatrics when he doesn't care about them. We weren't there and we didn't see what happened," she added, gesturing to herself and Ethan and Angelica, "we'd gone to St. Champions."
"Yeah, and you've got a perverse mind," Ethan commented. "I got trapped in the little room in the Headmaster's office."
"You can't blame me for that, Ethan," Dinah laughed. "Thanks for the compliment. I put a lot of thought into those traps, but I was trying to make them as imaginative as possible since the Headmaster could never think that way in case he thought to return to the old school." All humour left Dinah's face. "So, from the sounds of it, the Headmaster wants to turn Hazebrook into a chain of schools, with him in charge. It's a different plan, then, but it's likely the same underneath," Dinah shook her head in thought. "It usually is; he wants control of the country. You wouldn't have thought a kid's quiz show was an important part of a plan to take over the country, but it would be interesting to see what this new twist is."
"The Eddie Hair show?" Angelica remembered.
"That's the one," Dinah confirmed, unsurprised they remembered the little question with that laughing icon of Eddie himself in the website. And besides, she had mentioned the show twice now, so it wasn't hard for them to ignore or forget in a hurry.
"Okay, Dinah," Lizzie interrupted again. "Can you take us through it, what happened at St. Champions? What's the story?"
Dinah sighed and she rubbed her face. She went silent as she looked around the trees and the relative peace of the cemetery before she turned back to the teenagers sitting near her. "Two decades ago, the Headmaster took over St. Champions; I don't know if the place was in the same mess as Hazelbrook, or the previous headteacher simply resigned, and he took their place, so don't ask. But all I know is he was the Headmaster for a few years, and while he was there he separated the school, so half would go into the assembly hall and the other half would go into the classes," she said, using her hands to symbolise the two groups. "The ones in the assembly hall were, apparently, the cleverest of the students. They'd be regularly hypnotised by the Headmaster to absorb new facts, and then they would go away, conditioned to learn everything they could while being programmed to lie about what had actually happened in the hall; for instance, the Headmaster could make them say they had seen a film about ants, or coal mines, mundane things like that, and how they worked while conditioning them to say how they were very interesting. The ones in the classrooms were watched by the Prefects. The Prefects were probably the most heavily hypnotised students the Headmaster had, and it was a miracle in itself they were still able to function."
"Prefects," Angelica said thoughtfully. "When we were in St. Champions a few days ago, we saw a line of dusty photos mounted on the wall. They were the Prefects, weren't they?" She asked rhetorically, thinking of the welcomers and how they filled much the same role as the Prefects.
Dinah nodded, her face troubled as she was lost in her memories. "Yeah. I didn't know all of them very well, but the one that I came to know best was a girl, Rose Carter. He made her do terrible things, but then again she wasn't alone."
Lizzie swallowed. The way Dinah had just described the Prefects, and Rose, sent a cold chill down her spine…
"The Prefects are the voice of the Headmaster. They must be obeyed," Dinah's voice was cold, and her expression showed nothing but pity set in a grim memory. "They used to recite that, over and over again."
Lizzie shuddered. She had thought Becky and Sophie and Blake and the other welcomers were bad, but this was worse.
"I'd better start at the beginning. I first met the Headmaster when I was fostered by the Hunters; my parents had died when I was baby, and I was raised in a child's home ever since. The Hunters already had two boys - Lloyd and Harvey - and while I came to love them, I had always wondered at the time if there was a catch, some ulterior motive behind them fostering me."
Lizzie blinked in surprise. She hadn't expected Dinah to have been adopted… "Why would you think that?" She asked, mentally hoping that she wasn't overstepping the line with Dinah; for all, she knew this was a touchy subject for her. But she was curious about Dinah's life and her experiences with the Headmaster, but as she tried to put herself into Dinah's place, she realised that Dinah had probably been passed over for adoption many times in her life before the Hunters even looked in her direction, and she had grown apathetic towards it.
That would make sense.
Lizzie imagined herself and Tyler stuck in a foster home, watching as one kid after another left for new lives, with new families. As time would pass, she would become uncaring about the prospect of being fostered. But Dinah was not like her, she had a mind of her own and she had her own likes and dislikes, but the fact was Lizzie knew that over time after being passed over many kids would simply not care.
Dinah's reply interrupted her thoughts. "I was eleven when I was fostered originally by the Hunters, Lizzie," she said, her voice low so no-one would be able to guess what she was truly feeling. "By that point, I'd been passed over several times, but in the past, I had frightened away any potential foster parent with my intelligence. In the end, I began to try to hide my intellect, but it didn't work. It wasn't until the Hunters fostered me, my life changed."
Dinah paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "Lloyd and Harvey were…..reluctant and vague on the topic of school, they didn't like talking about it; Harvey had the job of doing registers, but he missed out on my first day, and he was visibly scared. I asked what the problem was, but they didn't trust me at the time. Lloyd was resentful I was there, jealous. And then I saw St. Champions for the first time."
For a moment as she spoke, Dinah let her mind drift back to that moment where she first stepped into St. Champions' playground and saw all of those kids in circles, one shouting out questions with the others coming up with the answers. She remembered wondering what was going on at the time and thought it was something pushed by the head to get the students learning in a game. However, as her time at St. Champions went on, Dinah would later see the sinister purpose behind all of it.
"All the kids were clustered in groups, one would shout out questions; like the name of a capital city in different countries, math questions, the order of the bodies in the solar system, stuff like that. I thought it was a game at first, but I quickly realised there was more to it than that because a girl called Lucy was panicking because she didn't know the answer to a question. I didn't understand the problem, but I whispered the correct answer so problem solved, and then prefects arrived. They had everyone line up, and everyone did," Dinah shook her head as she remembered the way Rose and Jeff had confronted her, haranguing her with questions about who she was and why she wasn't in the typical uniform. "Rose and another prefect named Jeff dragged me to the Headmaster's office."
"That man in the picture in the Headmaster's office in St. Champions, was he the Headmaster?" Lizzie asked; it might be a question better relegated for later, but she was just haunted by it.
Dinah nodded. "I commissioned that painting especially for the traps in St. Champions," she explained, "but yes, that was the Headmaster I knew. But at the time, I didn't know what was going on, and I didn't know what to expect. Lloyd and Harvey weren't very nice at the time, so I went in there unprepared…. But it needn't have mattered anyway."
"What do you mean?" Tyler whispered, his eyes wide as he and everyone else listened to her story.
"I'll come to that in a moment. When I walked in, I introduced myself, only to be told to be quiet as idle chatter was an inefficient waste of energy," Dinah made a face. "After a brief round of questions, the Headmaster handed me a test which he said was given to all new students."
"A test?" Angelica looked surprised. "Our Headmaster hasn't done that."
"That's because what my Headmaster at the time had in mind to take control required incredibly smart people. Kids with high IQs and an ability to memorise and process facts and figures, whereas with yours I have no idea what his long term goals are," Dinah shrugged. "Anyway, I did the test - it was a collection of mathematical questions, a few science ones that were complex, but I got through it. The moment he marked it, he commented that I was intelligent. Once he said that he hypnotised me. I don't remember the major details, but he added the basic conditioning; I would say the school was marvellous and he was too, etc etc. But inside my head, I would be saying the opposite, questioning everything happening around me. The Headmaster then told me to stay away from Lloyd and Harvey, claiming they were bad influences."
Lizzie shared a look with her friends and her brother when they heard that, the red-haired girl saw they had realised the same thing she had. "Why would the Headmaster say that about your foster brothers?" Angelica asked.
The quartet was not prepared for Dinah's reply.
"He said that because Lloyd and Harvey, and three of their friends, were immune to hypnotism," Dinah explained.