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My name is Lexi Carmichael and I hate the beach.
Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word. I don't really hate the beach. It's just the sun is too bright, sand is everywhere and seaweed gets stuck in my toes. Don't even get me started on how much I dislike bathing suits. It's not pretty.
I don't like people being crammed together in a mathematically disproportionate way in a very small area. Especially when they're half-dressed and strutting around like peacocks. It's too hot, too loud and smells too much of coconut suntan lotion. Beam me out of here, Scotty. Please.
Yet here I am, spending my precious vacation days at Ocean City, Maryland, on a beach without my beloved laptop, forced into this so-called "time away from technology" with my best friend and former roommate, Basia Kowalski. Somehow I let myself get talked into it. Usually I can resist her crazy ideas. After all, I have a pretty high IQ and recently graduated from Georgetown University with a double major in mathematics and computer science. But sometimes she talks so fast and runs me in circles that I often will acquiesce just to quit trying to figure out what she's saying. Unfortunately, at that point it's already too late. I'm stuck, having agreed to God-knows-what just to end the conversation.
Don't get me wrong, I adore Basia. She's everything I'm notpretty, social, fashionable and outgoing. She's also witty and has a remarkable flair for languages. She speaks about twenty of them fluently and has her own business as a freelance translator while working part-time for Berlitz, those folks who put out the small phrase books in dozens of different languages. She's brought me out of my shell more than any other person I've ever known, even if it does make me nervous and cranky most of the time.
She's always telling me, "Lexi Carmichael, it's time to log off and get a life."
She's usually right.
I'll be the first to admit I'm not the easiest person to be around. I'm neither a girly-girl nor a tomboy. I'm skinny in an awkward way, have no fashion sense and I don't date much (or at all), which is not surprising since my social skills suck.
I'm a geek.
That means my happy place is online. Computers, code, gaming. I'm also an ace hacker. Or at least I used to be. Then I sort of got busted. It wasn't a malicious hack, that's not my style, but it was still illegal. Lucky for me, my dad is a high-priced lawyer for a swanky firm in Georgetown so no one could prove anything. However, it scared the beejeebies out of me. It scared Dad too. Although I'm technically an adult, he threatened to take away all my computer equipment if I ever hacked like that again.
Now that I'm working for the National Security Agency, better known as the NSA, I've completely sworn off hacking, although what I do in my imagination is between me, myself and I. Secretly, I have a desire to fit in to the real world, at least sometimes, which is why I suspect I let Basia talk me into most of the things she does.
"Do you think this is a good spot?" Basia paused, setting the cooler down in the sand. She pointed at a very small spot sandwiched between an older couple sitting in a couple of lawn chairs beneath an umbrella and a greasy muscled guy asleep on his stomach on a black towel.
I shrugged. "Whatever."
"Great." She rolled out the colorful yellow Mexican blanket and I dropped the other bags at my feet.