The hilarious madness at Franken-Sci High continues in this second book in a wacky series created with The Jim Henson Company.
Franken-Sci High is the only school in the world for aspiring mad scientists and it’s located on a craggy island in the Bermuda Triangle, of course! While some mad scientists are power-hungry maniacs, the school was founded in 1536 as a refuge for generations of brilliant—and sometimes eccentric—young minds. Students are encouraged to use their brainpower for good, but the teachers accept that some kids will want to take over the world…and the school cafeteria.
In the second book in the Franken-Sci High series, Monsters Among Us, Newton Warp’s friends notice he’s being followed around by a strange new professor, Dr. Flubitus, but have no idea why. Newton wonders if it has something to do with the barcode on his foot. He doesn’t have much time to dwell on it, though, because soon there are reports of a giant monster loose on campus! Shelly assumes a school for mad scientists would have top-notch security against monsters, nosy tourists, and other invaders, but soon she and her friends Newton and Theremin discover a gaping loophole in the system. If a marauding monster can find its way to the school’s secret location in the Bermuda Triangle and figure out how to open a portal to the campus, anyone else could get in, too! Then Shelly finds out she might be the reason the monster is there in the first place…
CHAPTER 1 PASS THE PORTAL! “Ca-wee! Ca-wee! Ca-wee!”
Newton Warp opened his eyes. In front of him, a purple fuzzy monster with a snout like a trumpet was hovering in the air, flapping its wings.
“Ca-wee! Ca-wee! Ca-wee!” The shrill, annoying sound streamed out of the monster’s snout.
“All right, all right, I’m awake,” Newton mumbled.
He threw off his covers and jumped down off the top bunk. The monster followed him, still making noise.
He ducked his head into his roommate’s bottom bunk.
“Higgy! There’s a flying monster in here! Is this supposed to be happening?” he asked.
The blob of green goo under the covers stirred, and two eyeballs peeked out.
“A monster? I would guess that your friend Shelly has something to do with that,” Higgy replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m not awake yet.” He rolled over.
Shelly, of course! Newton realized. He picked up the tablet on top of his dresser and tapped on Shelly’s name.
A tiny hologram of Shelly’s face appeared in front of him. She grinned.
“Oh good! Woller found you,” Shelly said.
“Woller? You mean that’s its name?” Newton asked, brushing the monster away from his face.
“He’s my latest creation. He’s one part butler and one part annoying alarm clock.” Shelly said. “I sent him to wake you up. We’ve got that early morning meeting with Headmistress Mumtaz, remember?”
“How could I forget?” Newton asked. “You know how important this is to me.”
“Well, hurry up and get ready,” Shelly said. “We don’t want to be late.”
“And what do I do with Woller?” Newton asked.
“Just let him follow you,” Shelly said, and then her face disappeared.
Newton sighed, grabbed a towel and a small bag, and headed to the bathroom down the hall in the dormitory. Still half asleep, he stopped in front of the mirror and yawned. Then he tasted peppermint.
Woller had stuck a toothbrush in Newton’s mouth and was brushing Newton’s teeth. When Newton stepped toward the sink to rinse out his mouth, Woller beat him to it and gave him a cup filled with water. Newton shrugged and decided to let the monster take care of him. It was almost like being asleep while someone else took care of the boring stuff. Woller turned on the shower and when the temperature was perfect, nudged Newton in. Then the shower’s usual features took over. The walls were outfitted with lights that changed color according to the mood of the person showering. They quickly switched from a neutral silver to a peaceful, glowing blue, and relaxing music started to play. As two robot arms scrubbed Newton’s hair, Newton started to feel more awake. The color of the shower turned to a cheerful yellow, and the music became more upbeat. When Newton started singing along, a robotic arm sprang out of the wall and shoved a waterproof karaoke microphone at him! Newton didn’t really know the words, of course, so he suddenly got a little sad.
So much had happened since that day, just a few weeks ago, that he’d woken up in Franken-Sci High. He had no memory—just a student ID card and a strange bar code on his foot. Luckily, he’d met Shelly Ravenholt and her friend Theremin Rozika, and they helped him get used to the strange school for mad scientists, although it had been a rocky start.
As a robot arm scrubbed his back, Newton thought back to his first days at Franken-Sci High. Theremin was an underachieving robotic student with an anger management problem. He’d been best friends with Shelly before Newton showed up on campus and had quickly become jealous of Newton and Shelly’s fast friendship. Thanks to Headmistress Mumtaz’s intervention, they’d worked things out. Then Shelly, Theremin, and Newton had worked on a project for the Mad Science Fair—and won! The prize was a special portal pass that Newton hoped would help him find out who he really was and where he came from.
He turned off the water and wrapped himself in a towel, stopping to scratch the bar code on his foot. Then he went back to his dorm room and got dressed. Soon he was outside, heading from the dorm to the main school building. Woller flew by his shoulder, now making a happier sound.
A colorful bird flew down from a palm tree and stared at Woller for a moment before flying away. The outside air was warm and muggy—the school was somewhere on an island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. Shelly had explained that it was a region in the Atlantic Ocean where mysterious things happened—like ships that vanished into thin air while sailing through its waters. With its phosphorescent electrical fog that made it impossible to locate, the Bermuda Triangle was the perfect hiding place for a school for mad scientists.
As he approached the front doors of the main building, they opened automatically with a swoosh. He stepped along the yellow-and-green linoleum floor to the locker banks and stopped in front of his locker, number 352.17.
He quickly began the three-step process to unlock it.
First, he pressed his finger to the button on the glass panel. Beep!
Next, he opened his eyes wide for the eye scan. Beep!
Last but not least, he licked the taste-sensitive security lines for the saliva analysis . . . and made a face at the disgusting flavor-of-the-day.
“Slug slime,” Shelly said, suddenly standing next to him. “Professor Phlegm must have woken up in a bad mood this morning.”
The professor was in charge of choosing the locker flavors, and if they were any indication, he seemed to be in a bad mood pretty regularly.
“Is it slug slime?” Newton asked. Beep! Success! Newton opened the door very, very slowly to make sure there weren’t any black holes lurking inside like the time his friend Theremin almost got lost in one. The coast was clear, so Newton took out a duffel bag full of books and turned to Shelly.
“It’s not so bad,” Newton said, smacking his lips.
“Too-doo!” Woller whistled happily and flew to Shelly, landing on her shoulder.
“Thank goodness,” Newton said. “He’s cute, but, um, kind of irritating.”
Shelly gave Woller a little pat on the head. “Aw, you’re just saying that because he woke you up,” she said. “He’s really very sweet.”
They walked down the hall together and stopped in front of the office of Ms. Mumtaz, the school’s headmistress. Theremin was waiting for them by the front door, his robotic legs hovering a few inches above the floor like they always did. The two round eyes in his metal head lit up when he saw his friends approaching.
“Are you guys ready?” Theremin asked. “This is kind of exciting. I’ve never won anything before.”
“I’m excited too, but I’m not ready,” Shelly said. “I can’t decide where I want to go.”
“Well, I know exactly where I want to go,” Newton said cheerfully.
Theremin tapped on the door with his metal hand.
“Come in!” a voice called from inside.
They obeyed and walked into the office of the headmistress. She sat behind the desk, a birdlike woman with orange-and-purple streaked hair. They sat in chairs in front of her.
“Theremin. Shelly. Newton. Congratulations on winning first prize in Franken-Sci High’s Mad Science Fair,” she said. “Your wall-climbing Sticky Savers proved to be a valuable safety tool in a dangerous situation. Your invention may save lives one day.” They had invented the grippy gloves and socks after discovering that Newton’s hands were strangely sticky. When they took a closer look using Theremin’s retractable microscope, there were tiny hairlike structures that helped Newton cling to walls like a gecko or other reptile.
“Thanks. We’re really proud of it,” Shelly said, as Woller settled on her shoulder and immediately started to snore.
“Now then, let’s get down to business,” Mumtaz said. “You have each won a special portal pass that will allow you to leave the school and travel anywhere you wish, pending your parents’ approval, of course.”
She held up a brochure about Franken-Sci High that was given to new students. It was made from a shimmering, ultra-thin metallic alloy. When a student folded the brochure in a specific way, it opened a portal that connected the school to the outside world. The school had specifically set up the portal system that way to keep the inventions and monstrous creatures inside the school from being stolen by the outside world—and to keep the outside world safe from the inventions created at Franken-Sci High.
“Tell me,” Ms. Mumtaz continued, “have you decided where you want to go?”
“I haven’t exactly decided yet,” Shelly admitted. “I mean, I have lots of ideas, but it’s so hard to choose! I’d love to go to the Pacific Northwest and gather hair samples of pygmy sasquatches, or maybe study the mythical flying snakes of Borneo . . .”
“Yes, well, you must decide soon,” the headmistress interrupted her. “What about you, Theremin?”
“Well, I’ve never been anywhere before,” the robot admitted. “So, I thought I’d go somewhere snowy. It never snows on the island.”
“Except in World Weather Domination class,” Shelly reminded him.
“Yeah, but that’s no fun,” Theremin said. “I want to try snowboarding. Or maybe tubing. It looks like fun.”
“Um, can you remind me of what snow is?” Newton asked, feeling a little awkward. Some things he just seemed to know. But sometimes his mind was a blank.
“Frozen water crystals that fall from the sky,” Theremin replied. “But when millions and millions of them fall, you can do fun stuff with them. I hear it’s like fluffy white sand.”
Ms. Mumtaz turned to Newton. “And what about you, Newton? Where would our newest student like to go?”
“Well . . . ,” Newton began.
I want to find my family. That’s what he was thinking. But for some reason, he didn’t say it out loud. Shelly looked at him curiously.
Ms. Mumtaz sighed. “Okay, then. Well, you still have some time to decide. Now let’s get your parents’ permission.”
She took three devices from a desk drawer. She put one on a small platform on her desk and pressed a button. A green light flashed under it.
Poof! The device disappeared.
“That went to your parents, Shelly,” she explained. “And here’s one for your father, Theremin.”
She picked up the third device, smiled at Newton, then stopped. Since she knew that Newton had no memories of his family, there was no one he could ask to give permission.
Newton was thinking the same thing, and seeing her reach for the device and hesitate made his stomach drop with a sudden sadness. “If I don’t have a family member to give me permission, does that mean I can’t use my portal pass?”
The headmistress laughed. “Not to worry, I’ll give permission! I don’t mind breaking the rules now and then. Besides, I’m basically your guardian anyway.”
She picked up the device intended for Newton’s family and tapped the screen. A series of audio prompts asked if she would allow Newton to use a portal pass. To give her approval, she had to complete a series of biometric tests—from a face scan to vocal cord vibrations observed when she yodeled—to confirm her identity. When the tests were complete, she gave verbal, written, and subconscious brainwave approval. The device glowed green.
“Done!” she said. Then she looked at the three of them. “So, here are the rules. One, you can only use your portal pass on a weekend. Two, you must keep up with all homework assignments.”
Theremin groaned. “That’s no fun!”
“And three, you have to have a virtual chaperone go with you—a hologram of one of your professors, or another staff member from school.”
Theremin groaned again. “That’s even worse!”
Then the teleportation platform beeped, and one of the permission devices reappeared. Ms. Mumtaz picked it up.
“Shelly, your parents gave you permission,” she reported. “They wrote, ‘Of course Shelly can go! Smiley face.’?”
Beep! The second permission device appeared on the teleporter. Ms. Mumtaz didn’t need to read that one. It pulsed with a big red light instead of a green one and flashed a message that read, “Permission denied.”
“What?” Theremin wailed. “Did Father give a reason?”
“I’m afraid not,” Ms. Mumtaz replied, checking the device. “But don’t worry. I’ll find Professor Rozika in the lab and have a talk with him. Now, Newton, are you sure you don’t have any idea where you want to go?”
“Well, I—” Newton began, but the headmistress’s eyeglass lenses began to flicker. Then they transformed into translucent screens. A message scrolled across them.
“Oh dear,” she said. “It looks like Professor Yuptuka is having a hitch with her teleportation class again.”
“Where did they end up this time?” Shelly asked.
“Well, apparently she was hoping for a pleasant jaunt into space,” Ms. Mumtaz replied, reading. “Not allowed, of course. But now she and her class are stranded on the dark side of the moon, and while they have plenty of snack foods, their oxygen supply is running low.”
The headmistress stood up. “We’ll have to finish this conversation later,” she said. “I’ve got to get our Astrophysics Department on this.”
She rushed out of the office, and they followed her. Theremin kicked a metal trashcan in the hallway.
“Father ruins everything!” he complained.
“Maybe we can all go talk to him?” Newton asked.
Theremin’s father taught Quantum Robotics at Franken-Sci High.
“Don’t bother,” Theremin replied. “He’s the worst dad ever.”
“Oh, Theremin,” Shelly said sympathetically. “I’m sorry, but I’m sure Ms. Mumtaz will convince him eventually. Come on, let’s get some breakfast.”
Shelly and Theremin walked down the hall, toward the glass transport tube that led to the cafeteria. Newton hung back behind them, thinking. Theremin’s dad sounded mean. What if he had a mean dad too? Would that be worse than not having a dad at all? He looked down at his green-lit permission device and sighed.
When the weekend came, Newton’s plan was to ask the portal to take him home to meet his parents. He would finally learn the truth. For better or worse.
As he pondered this, he felt a prickly sensation on the back of his neck. He stopped and turned around.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shape quickly dart toward him. He couldn’t tell if it was human or some kind of monster. Newton’s instincts kicked in and he flattened himself against a wall, and in a flash his skin and clothes changed color to match the wall perfectly. He had camouflaged himself just in time to see the figure search the hallway—looking right in his direction—before ducking into a classroom.
Newton tried to convince himself that nothing was wrong. It must be Higgy, he thought. Yeah, he’s working on a new prank. His roommate was always trying to scare him in some way.
Newton turned around and ran to catch up with Theremin and Shelly, trying to put the incident out of his mind.
But why were the hairs on the back of his neck still standing on end?
In the “real” world Mark makes a living as a multiple Emmy winner who has written and produced the animated TV shows for Netflix, Disney, Nick Jr., ABC, CBS, and NBC. However, in his “inner” world, Mark believes that Franken-Sci High isn’t actually his creation but a real school where budding mad scientists learn how to create synthetic eyeballs, travel to different dimensions, try gravity gum, and design inflatable pets. Mark lives in Southern California with his wife. Between them, they have four amazing kids. More about Mark at MarkYoung.co.