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San Francisco, 1987. We're at the Kings Dominion prep school, and Master Lin is giving a lecture about how World War I was started by a teenage assassin. When some students start passing notes, he slams his cane onto desk of Marcus Lopez Arguello. And then whips it around to crack the blonde girl who passed the note, Brandy, right in the face, bloodying her nose. Don't worry though, she's not hurt. She licks the blood off her fingers to prove it. Lin then asks the class: If you had the choice to kill anyone, like that assassin who started WWI did, who would you kill?
But before we get to that, we flash back to "Yesterday," as we see Marcus stare at the rubble of what once was the Sunset boys home, his former digs. From the sound of it, Marcus burned the home to the ground, and now he's wanted by the cops for "more than a dozen murders." So he's living on the streets and eating out of trashcans. Later that night Marcus smokes a dust-laced joint and thinks that Ronald Reagan is speaking to him from a broken TV set. Marcus, just say, NO, dude. While in the middle of his trip, Marcus runs into a crowded parade where he encounters three new friends - one with glorious Day of the Dead Makeup. They all help him escape the cops who are hot on his trail.
While on the run, Marcus meets yet another new friend and this one has a bitchin' motorcycle and sword to boot. While his new pal - and her sword - takes care of the fuzz, the others kidnap Marcus and take him to... a butcher shop. Of course. The four teens, Saya, Billy, Maria and Willie are joined by their teacher, Master Lin, who offers Marcus a spot at his school where Marcus can learn the "deadly arts." Marcus is like, "No thanks" and decides to peace out. Later that night, Marcus is feeling low and recalling his parent's murder so he decides to end it all...when Saya shows up, kisses him and tells him he doesn't have to be alone.
So back to the butcher shop they go. Saya tells Marcus the only rule he can never, ever break is to never give up their secret location. The other rules: no disobedience, no drugs, no sex (Maria says there are ways around that last one). Saya gives Marcus a welcome tour through Kings Dominion's secret location. Mystery and intrigue abound. Master Lin explains the roots of Kings Dominion to Marcus: "In service to the greater good, there can be nobility in killing." Lin's great-grandfather came to America looking for the American dream, only to find indentured servitude and abuse. So he taught himself to kill and founded Kings Dominion and dedicated it to "the self-liberation of oppressed people." When story-time is over, Marcus decides to join the school, trading his street clothes for a starched school uniform. While cruises the halls of Kings Dominion for the first time, unfriendly familiar faces greet him. Oh, high school.
Maria advises Marcus to join a gang as a means of survival before her boyfriend and resident jerk, Chico, rolls up and challenges Marcus to a fight for talking to his woman. But before the big fight, we head back to where we began with Brandy being cracked in the face with Master Lin's cane. Turn's out Brandy is a big ole racist so we don't feel bad. Later, in AP Dark Arts, they've given their first assignment: find someone who deserves to die and kill them. Marcus' target? A guy named Rory who roughed him up at the homeless shelter.
At lunch, Billy explains that one's social standing at Kings Dominion is determined largely by who your parents are. The legacy kids are the sons and daughters of organized crime (cartels, the mafia, yakuza) government types. Brandy the racist blonde is teamed up with the white-nationalist Dixie Mafia, while Willie is the head of the Final World Order. Billy's dad is a mere wife-and-child-beating cop, while Marcus is an orphan, so they're at the bottom of the food chain, The Rats. While hanging out on the roof, Marcus tells his gang that he's going to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Petra and Lex doubt that'll happen since Chico is sure to kill Marcus first. Oh yeah, Chico...
Marcus goes running to Saya for help. He confesses to her that he's not really a killer. He didn't actually burn down that boy's home. He asks her what he should do. Her advice? Run! Before he can take off, Marcus spots Maria and her new black eye courtesy of Chico. Ever the gentleman, Marcus goes after Chico. Chico pulls a knife and Master Lin shows up in the nick of time. While trying to figure out what to do next, Marcus is approached by Willie who suggests - with a gun – that they partner up on the Dark Arts assignment. Marcus agrees and they head to the homeless camp to find and kill Rory but first, Willie has a confession of his own. He's not really a gangster and it's all an act. Willie wants to back out of the assignment but Marcus is too far gone and cracks Rory across the head with a metal pipe then sets his body on fire.
Back at Kings Dominion, Marcus tells Willie to go ahead inside while he smokes, but when Willie does, Marcus looks down at his hands, and they're shaking. Maria shows up without her black eye. Hey, wait a minute... And warns Marcus that Chico and the Cartel are coming for him. Back inside, Master Lin shows Marcus to his quarters, a broom closet with a cot. Later, Saya meets with Master Lin. She asks for her new assignment, and he pushes the photo of Marcus in her direction.