Sequel to: The Frankenstein factory.
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Spy High Mission Two: Chaos Rising
By AJ Butcher
LITTLE BROWN FOR YOUNG READERSCopyright © 2003 Atom Books
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSixty years from now, north of Boston, there's a school that's more than it seems.
People whisper the name of Deveraux Academy like a secret, and wonder what they've heard about. They know the school was founded by Jonathan Deveraux, one of the wealthiest men in the world, and that he is rumored to live on the premises but hasn't been seen in the flesh for fifteen years. They know that the school is so exclusive, so select, that not even the sons of presidents or the daughters of rock stars can get in. They know that the school's literature boasts of the "exceptionally talented," but exceptionally talented at what? Nothing more is revealed. Ultimately, all people really know about Deveraux Academy is where the school is located and what it looks like. But only from the outside.
You approach it through grounds the size of Rhode Island, mostly forest. If you're alert, you might notice the branches of the trees stirring, moving, even on breezeless days - keeping an arboreal eye on your progress. Because instead of bark or sap, the branches of the trees at Deveraux contain circuitry and sensors, carefully monitoring the presence of each and every trespasser on the school's property.
At last, the forest falls away, and you see the school itself aheadof you. It's as if the centuries have fallen away, too. Deveraux Academy is a sprawling, gothic fortress that seems perfect for hidden rooms and dungeons and screams in secret corridors. The kind of place where you wouldn't want the power to fail in the middle of the night and where you'd be inclined to wear a cross around your neck - and maybe even a few cloves of garlic for good measure.
Of course, you could stop there, if you didn't feel like going any farther, and watch Deveraux's students playing on the fields. There's always a football game going on. Always. And if you watch it long enough, you'll realize that it's the same plays repeated, over and over, like an endless rehearsal. And that realization might bother you, unless you already know that all you're observing are holograms designed to project an illusion of normality.
The true business of Deveraux Academy goes on inside.
Through the great oak doors that open automatically. Past the receptionist who, despite her pensionable age, could kill you in a dozen different ways with her bare and wrinkled hands. Past the phantom students forever on their way to classes that never start. Into one of the many book-lined studies, which, if you press the spine of the book that is not a book, proves to be not actually a study, either, but an elevator. An elevator that takes you down, beneath the ground, behind the facade, to the place where Deveraux Academy in many ways ceases to be, to a school that has been christened by its students with a different name.
There are uniforms here, but no blazers or ties or regulation-length skirts. At Spy High, students wear gleaming silver shock suits, and if you want to know why they're called that, try jumping someone wearing one in a dark alley: You're likely to find it an electrifying experience. There are classes here, too, but few that would be featured at other educational institutions - unless spycraft, history of espionage, advanced computer hacking, enemy-disabling techniques, and the handling of weapons of mass destruction suddenly become requirements of the curriculum. There is a hologym for all kinds of physical combat training, a virtual-reality chamber equipped with the latest cybercradles, and study and recreational facilities of every description.
And then there is the Hall of Heroes. A hushed location, this is a place for reverence and reflection. The plaque on the wall spells out its purpose in glittering golden letters: "Dedicated to the graduates of Deveraux Academy. To those who risk their lives for the sake of tomorrow." At the far end of the Hall, the Fallen are commemorated, those who have perished in the ceaseless battle between the forces of good and the agents of evil. Their holographic forms hover in beams of light, their names emblazoned below, as if they are sentinels standing still against the darkness of the world. If nothing else, they are a reminder to the students of Spy High that they haven't been chosen to play games, but to be active participants in a deadly struggle that could cost them their very lives.
A group of students is entering the Hall of Heroes now. The tall blond boy leading the way is Ben Stanton, while the equally tall and equally blond girl whose hand he's holding is Lori Angel. They're what you might call close, and not just because, other than the obvious physiological differences between them, they look virtually identical. The rest of their team follows behind. The African-American girl, Cally Cross, with her dreadlocks impeccably in place as always, seems interested, her bright, intelligent eyes missing nothing. Jake Daly, who slouches alongside her, wears a bored expression beneath his tangle of black hair, but it would be a mistake to underestimate him. Look more closely, and you'll see that his dark, even swarthy, features and compact, muscular body exude power and intensity. He's someone you'd want on your side in a fight. You might not think the same could be said of Eddie Nelligan, redhaired, looking like he's just gotten out of bed, grinning at some secret joke. But he's not here by accident, either. Then there's the last of the group, who's keeping a slight distance from the others, as if she doesn't quite belong: Jennifer Chen, green-eyed and lithe-limbed like a cat.
Ben directs his teammates to the far end of the Hall to the Fallen, where the memorials are of a more auspicious kind.
"Here they are," he breathes, as if referring to the saints, "the past winners of the Sherlock Shield."
Mounted on platforms like sculptures in a museum, the trophies immortalize each passing year's most successful student team at Spy High - those awarded the Sherlock Shield. The team members' faces, beaming, proud of their achievements, rotate slowly and three-dimensionally alongside their engraved names.
Ben, though, seems more interested in the platform at the end of the row, the one that, so far, lacks a trophy to be placed upon it. "And here's ours," he promises. "Here's where Bond Team's shield will go." His eyes sparkle as he imagines it, the honor, the glory - for the others as well as for himself, although as team leader, of course ... "That's our target for this term. That's our goal. To win the Sherlock Shield." He turns to his teammates. "Anybody want to say different?"
Nobody does. Lori, always the dutiful girlfriend, squeezes his hand supportively. Jake Daly is less impressed, but from the terse nod of his head, he is no less committed. Cally says, "I'm with you," and Eddie says nothing, which the others assume means he's being serious for once. Jennifer's silence is also interpreted as agreement, allowing Ben to feel good about himself and inwardly applaud his idea of bringing Bond Team down to the Hall of Heroes.
But, in reality, Jennifer's silence denotes neither agreement nor disagreement, because she hasn't heard a word that has been said. The Sherlock Shield is of no interest to her whatsoever. Jennifer Chen has something else on her mind, something else entirely.
She knew she was dreaming. The smile on her face and the laugh in her throat kind of gave it away. She didn't do much of either these days. Besides, she was back home again, and Mom and Dad and little Shang were with her, and the light in the room was golden and without shadows. She was where she couldn't possibly be, with people who couldn't possibly be there, but Jennifer didn't care.
If only it could last forever.
She hugged her parents and her little brother, held them close, and it seemed as though she could feel them solidly against her own body, their hearts beating strongly in their chests. Which was impossible.
And the sound that she could hear was not the hearts of her family in any case, not even her own. It was the thumping of dull, hollow blows on the door. (Somehow the door was in the room, though Jennifer seemed to remember that it used to be at the end of the hall.) It was the flat, fatal beating on the door, like dirt being heaped on a coffin. And her parents heard it, too, and little Shang, and they knew what they had to do.
They turned to the door and the sudden darkness it held, gaping like a grave. They turned from Jennifer.
"No, don't go!" Her protests were useless. They went unheard. "Mom! Dad! Don't leave me!" The sound of the pounding filled the air.
Her parents were at the door. She couldn't see their faces.
"Don't let him in! Don't let him in!"
But they did. And night entered the room like the serpent in paradise. And though Jennifer clutched for her family with desperate fingers, she was too late. In her dreams, as in life, she was always too late.
At least she didn't wake up screaming anymore. Familiarity had provided her with some degree of self-control. She didn't want to disturb the others as she had done several times during last term-she still sensed Lori looking at her strangely, suspiciously from time to time. But she had to get up. Her bedside clock said 3 A.M. There was going to be no more sleep for her tonight.
Jennifer slipped out of bed and stole into the bathroom, locking the door softly behind her. Just in time. All of a sudden, the sobs came - deep, wracking groans of grief - and she fell to her knees by the toilet, knowing that she was going to be violently ill.
The trouble was, when it was over, she didn't feel any better.
And she hadn't forgotten what was imminent, either.
A cautious knocking at the door. "Jen? Are you all right in there?" Lori, practicing her nightly nurse routine. "I thought I heard ...?"
"No. I'm fine." She was surprised at how fluent the lie was, how strong her voice seemed. "Just a bit of an upset stomach, I think. I'll live." Bitterly.
The twisted part of her wanted to scream out, "Leave me alone! Go away! What do you know? What do you care?"
And in the mirror in the bathroom, Jennifer's face splintered into tears.
Routine. Daniel Daniels hated it.
Routine was turning him psychic. Daniel Daniels believed that he could now predict precisely what he'd be doing at any given point in the work day next week, next month, even next year, for the rest of his natural life. Routine was making a robot out of him as surely as if he'd had those cyberkinetic limbs that were all the rage these days. It was making him a cog in a machine.
If only something unusual would happen, a little bit of the unexpected.
But it was more likely that a meteorite would fall on his head.
Take this morning, for example (and Daniel Daniels wished someone would). Six o'clock: the alarm and his bed's automatic sheet-retraction service. Seven o'clock: Leave the house wearing the suit that might as well be a prison uniform, although it cost significantly more. Seven-thirty: Catch the hoverbus into the city, have to stand due to congestion problems that reduced the number of services. Eight-thirty: Arrive at the Wainwright Building where he'd worked for the past twenty years and was likely to have to work for the next twenty, no chance of parole.
Have his retina scanned for security purposes (though people were more likely to want to break out of the Wainwright Building rather than in). Be recognized by the doorman program and greeted with a cybersmile: "Good morning, Mr. Daniels. How are you today?" Plan one day on telling the doorman program exactly how he was feeling.
Enter the elevator. Watch Baines call out from across the marble foyer, "Hey, hold those doors!" Wait for him to slip inside. "Hey, nearly didn't make it today." Feel the desperate urge to punch him in the nose. Feel the very real need to scream as he says, "Gentlemen, which floors?" as if he hadn't been pressing those same buttons at the same time since the beginning of the world.
Walk with colleagues along the corridor of the seventieth floor, exchanging pleasantries and wishing they were dead. March with colleagues into separate offices, silent and civil, glass doors sealing them in with preset efficiency.
Start the day. Pray for it to end.
"Morning, Marilyn." At least Daniel Daniels didn't have to disguise the gloom in his voice for his computer. It responded to the vibration of his vocal chords, not his mood.
"Hello, Daniel," cooed the computer, activating itself obediently. "What would you like to do today? I'm always open to suggestions." Laughter tinkled from the screen as the face of Daniel Daniels's favorite movie icon of the last century winked coyly at him. The Marilyn Monroe program was one of the few things that made his day bearable.
"You'd better read me my e-mails first, Marilyn," he said, not that he expected anything exciting to be among them.
He was almost right.
"And one final message," Marilyn concluded several minutes later, "but it's not addressed to you personally, Daniel. It's not addressed to anyone by name. Should I still read it?"
"Sure, what does it say?" He was scarcely even curious. But for a strange second, Daniel Daniels was distracted. What was that he'd just heard? It came from another office close by. Had he just heard what he thought he'd heard? A scream?
"It's simply addressed to the World of Order," said Marilyn.
"Read it anyway." It couldn't have been a scream, but Daniel Daniels could see others standing in their own offices, all looking in the same direction and with equal puzzlement. Toward Baines's room. And was that Baines in there, banging on the unyielding glass to be let out? Why would he be doing that?
Behind him, Marilyn giggled. "Oh, this is an odd one," she said. "I don't really understand it."
And now Harper, too, in the next office over. That look on his face, it was like sheer terror.
Behind Daniel Daniels, Marilyn continued to giggle, though her voice seemed lower now, darker and grating. He turned in time to see her face blister and blacken, as though it were being cremated. Her voice could no longer be heard. Something else was in the computer.
"Your time is over, little man," the something scowled. "The world you know, the World of Order, is coming to an end. Prepare to greet a new age, the Age of CHAOS."
"A virus," Daniel Daniels gasped to himself as a dark and terrible shape took form on the computer screen. "It's a virus."
Then his machine exploded.
It seemed to start a chain reaction: explosions bursting from one office after another, like an incendiary roll call. Daniel Daniels was thrown against the door by the detonation, but he was essentially unharmed. For a second, he even began to feel relief. Until the ceiling above him started to hiss and buckle and rupture, and cables spilled from it like black intestines. They snapped and swayed and sparked, and Daniel Daniels knew that if any of them so much as touched him, they'd be identifying him by his dental records down at the morgue.
The mechanism to release the door didn't work, of course. It was computer controlled. The virus had infected it, too. Manual operation was impossible. He was trapped. Daniel Daniels's colleagues had the same problem. Mad with panic, they were all screaming now, pounding on unbreakable glass as the murderous cables spilled into their cubicles, like snakes poised to strike.
An electric flash, blinding, white. An unusually high scream. A sizzling like charred steak. And Daniel Daniels's bulging eyes registered that Harper was no longer trying to escape. He wasn't the only one, either. The cables were striking with deadly accuracy - as though they, too, were under the virus's control. He saw poor Baines being throttled, gurgling his horror, and then yanked into the air, jerking like a puppet. And Daniel Daniels knew it would be his own turn soon. What could he do?
His chair. The glass. It was a chance. He seized it and swung - clumsily but with all the strength a man in the last minutes of life could muster - aiming it at the door.
Which slid open. As if all he really had to do was ask politely. The chair's momentum sent both it and Daniel Daniels spinning out of the office and sprawling humiliatingly on the floor. Daniel Daniels couldn't speak for the chair, but he didn't mind in the least. There was nobody else alive to see him, anyway.
Excerpted from Spy High Mission Two: Chaos Rising by AJ Butcher Copyright © 2003 by Atom Books. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
AJ Butcher has been aware of the power of words since avoiding a playground beating at age seven because he "told good stories." He's been trying to do the same thing ever since. He currently works at a girls' grammar school in Dorset, England.
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A a secret academy select students are trained to fight the evils of the futer day world.
This book is very interesting. to all people who love mystery and a touch of romance..
Great book. butcher has really wrote a masterpeice. I cant wait for the third to come out!!!