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The Spy Who Totally Had a Crush on Me
Spy Goddess, Book Three
By Michael P. Spradlin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Michael P. Spradlin
All rights reserved.
It Ain't Over
From my hiding place in the rocks behind the stone altar, I watched as Simon Blankenship unrolled the Scroll of the Enlightened and began to read from it in a long-dead language. He was dressed in his full-fledged Mithrian regalia: flowing black robe, golden medallion, and a ridiculous-looking helmet that had a pair of bullhorns jutting out of each side. A truly comical look. In fact, if I hadn't been scared out of my wits, I would have laughed right then. What a meathead. But he didn't know I was there. I was going to have to be very careful to make it out of this temple alive.
Simon was there to begin the first phase of a ritual that he hoped would unleash the mystical forces of Mithras, the Roman God of the Afterlife, upon the earth. Nobody knew for sure what exactly would happen if Mithras was released from his captivity in the Underworld, but since a girl had defeated him in battle and sent him there well over two thousand years ago, we all assumed that when he got out he was going to be in a very bad mood.
Slowly and quietly, I reached into my fanny pack and pulled out a small device about the size of a cell phone and very quietly switched it on. The power light flashed on and I could feel the device begin to vibrate in my hand. I set the timer on the device for thirty seconds and then ever so gently set it on a small ledge that jutted out from behind the altar. I removed a pair of specially designed earphones and placed them over my ears. Crouching behind the altar, I waited, counting down with the timer on the screen of the device.
I'd just activated a sonic-stun transmitter. Brent Christian, who was my classmate at Blackthorn Academy back home in Pennsylvania, had recently invented it. It's funny that I now refer to Blackthorn Academy as my home. When I first got there a few months before, that certainly wasn't the case. I thought about running away all the time and actually tried it once. Then I discovered that Mr. Kim had a super-secret hideout below the school. And that there was a secret "Top Floor" section at the school where Mr. Kim trained students. And that Mr. Kim's ex-partner is an evil, megalomaniacal, crazy-as-a loon madman. I ultimately decided it was better to stay and fight than spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. More about that later. Right now I had to concentrate.
I was there to retrieve the Book of Seraphim. Somehow Simon or one of his followers had managed to steal the book from where we had it safeguarded at Blackthorn Academy. We don't know how he did it. We just knew we had to get it back.
The sonic-stun transmitter was supposed to generate a very high-pitched sonic blast when it went off. It would basically knock down everyone who wasn't wearing the proper soundproof headgear, rendering each of them unconscious for a few minutes. If it worked, you could take out a room full of people with no smoke or explosions that might seriously injure anyone or destroy any priceless artifacts you wanted to preserve. At least that was the theory. We'd tested it a few times and it worked fine. My only fear was that things had a way of going wrong whenever we were around Blankenship. Deadly wrong. So this was the first real test for Brent's little device and I needed to keep my fingers crossed.
The rest of the Mithrians (there were about ten of them in the temple) were chanting along with Simon. This must be the Ritual of the Undead that Mr. Kim had told us about. Simon, acting as the high priest, would read the names of long-dead Mithrians from the Scroll of the Enlightened and would then call upon their spirit power to help him summon Mithras from the Afterlife. Except that Simon didn't know that he was going to have a very large and painful earache in another fifteen seconds. That would sure put a damper on his zombie party. Freak.
Brent's device worked just like it was supposed to. When the timer counted down to zero, it let out a wailing, high-frequency blast. Through my earphones it sounded like a loud humming sound. Those that were standing in the temple were driven to their knees by the force of the sound. The device tweeted its little song for ten seconds and by the time it finished, everyone, including Simon, was on the ground, hands over their ears, lapsing into unconsciousness.
When it went silent, I tore off the earphones and jumped up from my hiding place, moving to the front of the altar. Simon lay sprawled on the ground in front of it, his right hand still clutching the scroll. I grabbed it out of his hand and pulled a collapsible knapsack out of my fanny pack. I snapped it open and stuffed the scroll inside, reaching down to yank the medallion off of Simon's neck and stuffing that in the knapsack too. Then I turned to the altar and saw the Book of Seraphim lying there before me.
The Book of Seraphim was the key to everything. It was written thousands of years ago by the Emperor Flavius, the last emperor of Rome and last high priest of Mithras. It was a written record of Mithras's battles with the forces of Etherea, Goddess of Light. The Roman Empire was about to fall, facing defeat from the forces of Queen Naromi of the Persian Empire. She and her followers worshipped Etherea. Flavius believed that only darkness could defeat light so he called upon Mithras to restore the power of the Empire and beat back the forces of Etherea. But, to make things simple, he messed up. Misread a couple of prophecies. Made some bad mystical decisions and was soundly whipped by Queen Naromi's forces in the end. So he wrote everything down is this big book, sent his men off to the far corners of the world to hide the sacred relics of Mithras, and then was pretty much relegated to a footnote in history.
According to legend, this great victory gave Etherea the power to banish Mithras to the Afterlife forever, which she did. But, of course, there was one little problem. You see those gods and goddesses were tricky. They always left a loophole or backdoor in all their little proclamations. The prophecy delivered by the gods said that when both Mithras and Etherea were reborn in human form, then they would "battle each other for dominion over mankind." For a long time, nobody believed any of this. It was just one of those cute legends that was known to a few scholarly types and generally not believed or accepted. Until now.
That's because several years ago Simon Blankenship uncovered the Book of Seraphim in a Mithrian Temple in the desert of Kuzbekistan. When he found it, all kinds of weird stuff happened to him in the temple and it turns out that he is (or thinks he is, I'm still not convinced about all of this) Mithras reborn. We know this because Mr. Kim, my headmaster at Blackthorn Academy, was with him on that particular mission and saw what happened in the temple with his own eyes. So all that was left was for Mr. Kim to find Etherea reborn before Simon—and if you haven't guessed by now, that's where I come in. Me, Rachel Buchanan. Goddess reincarnated. Let me tell you, it's not as cool as it sounds. But again, more of that later. Right now I had a madman to foil.
The Book of Seraphim is big and heavy. Its cover is encrusted with jewels and the binding is made out of thick leather. There are a couple of hundred parchment pages in the book. So it's not like we're dealing with a little paperback here. I hefted the book off the altar, put it into my knapsack, slipped the bag onto my shoulders, and took a quick look around the altar. We'd lost track of Simon for the last couple of weeks and I needed to make sure that he hadn't somehow found the other missing relics. I didn't see anything so I stepped over Simon and made my way to the entrance of the temple. I needed to get out of there.
I had my eye on the door. Every one of the Mithrians was still down. I was going to make it. At least I thought so, until I felt Simon's hand reach out and grab my ankle.
"Not so fast, Etherea," he said. I tried to kick away but he had a grip like steel. He jumped to his feet while still holding on to my ankle, so now my leg was at his waist.
Remembering a Tae Kwan Do move that Mr. Kim taught me, I bent my standing leg and leaped into the air, swinging it up to land a solid kick to Blankenship's chest. It staggered him, but not much. He's a tough guy, a former Navy Seal and Black Ops Agent, so I wasn't going to win a street fight. Still, I was counting on him to be a little woozy from the effects of the sonic-stun device. My kick worked well enough that he let go and I landed on my feet. I turned and ran, but he was quick. He grabbed me around my neck and tried to yank me off my feet.
I clasped my hands together and spun around on my right foot, hitting his arms at the elbows as hard as I could. It was a nifty self-defense move when someone was choking you, and it was almost impossible to counter. I managed to knock his arms loose, but as I spun around to face him, he came back at me quick as a cat and grabbed my throat with both hands. This time he had me good—I tried to drive my arms like a wedge up through his arms to break his grip, but he was too strong. I couldn't breathe and was starting to get light-headed. I tried the arm maneuver again, but I had even less energy for the second attempt and his hands stayed wrapped around my throat. With one last effort, I reached up and grabbed the horns that stuck out of his helmet. I pulled the helmet forward so it covered his eyes. Then with all the strength I had left, I took my fists and hit both sides of his helmet right over his ears. It made a very loud thunking sound and Simon screamed and let go of my throat, trying to pull the helmet off his head.
I turned to get out of there and then saw that I was sunk. The other Mithrians were waking up and two of them stood in front of the door. There was no way out. I was trapped.
"Dang it!" I yelled. "Can we try this again?"
Mr. Kim stepped forward from where he had been impersonating one of the Mithrians that guarded the door. He held a stopwatch in his hand and had a mild frown on his face. It was hard to get used to that little frown. When I first got here, Mr. Kim was always smiling and laughing. Now he just looked serious all the time. Worried. I tried hard not to think that it was my fault.
Alex, who was dressed liked Simon, finally succeeded in pulling the helmet off his head.
"Ouch!" he said. "She hit me in the helmet!" He looked at me again. "Ouch!"
"Don't be such a wimp," I said. "Tough it out."
Mr. Kim walked up to me and changed his little frown to a forced smile. He forced his smiles on me all the time lately. Ever since we'd returned from Hawaii. Like he was afraid if he frowned at me or scolded me in any way I'd hit the road. He wasn't so wrong about that. I was still a little put out with Mr. Kim for hiding things from me that I felt I needed to know.
Pilar and Brent stood up from the ground and walked over to join our little group. The rest of the "Mithrians" were mannequins that Mr. Kim had used to fill up the space.
"Rachel," said Mr. Kim, "you are still taking too much time gathering the relics. The stun device only buys us a few seconds. You must move quickly. Although, I would like to compliment you in your resourcefulness in hand-to-hand combat. Using Mithras's helmet as a weapon was very smart and an excellent improvisation." That was Mr. Kim. Whenever he critiqued you about something, he always started out with the bad stuff, and ended up with a compliment.
"It hurt," Alex said, still rubbing his ears.
"I believe, Alex, that is the point," said Mr. Kim. "It is supposed to hurt. However, you do not appear to be seriously damaged, so I think we shall begin again. Places everyone!"
"Yeah, well, if you ask me, I think she likes smacking me in the head a little too much!" Alex said.
We were standing in the Top Floor section of the Academy, where Mr. Kim had constructed a replica of the Mithrian Temple in Kuzbekistan. The Top Floor was a secret area of Blackthorn Academy. It was, as its name suggests, on the top floor and only a handful of students and faculty knew anything about it. It was built like a giant movie set and Mr. Kim used it to train his best students in various aspects of spying, surveillance, and other types of secret-agent stuff.
That was because Mr. Kim had really founded Blackthorn Academy as a training school for students to grow up and become FBI agents, CIA operatives, and military intelligence officers. And most of his students did just that. A very large percentage of Blackthorn grads became cops or worked with various state and government agencies in some capacity. Because he'd been teaching here so long and had so many former students, he had managed to create a vast network of associates. He used this network to try and capture Blankenship and keep tabs on his operation.
So now we were practicing a takedown of Simon Blankenship in a fake temple. We didn't know where he was or how to find him, but after we last met up with him, he somehow managed to get someone into Mr. Kim's Operations Center at Blackthorn and steal the real Book of Seraphim. Things had been quiet since then and Mr. Kim had alerted all of his agents to be on the lookout for any suspicious Mithrian activity. But so far, nothing. So we started practicing here, figuring that if he had the book, he was probably going to go back to the original temple and try something. Mr. Kim had the original temple in Kuzbekistan under surveillance, and we'd be alerted instantly if Simon showed up there. So we needed to be ready.
I took the scroll out of my knapsack and handed it to Alex along with the medallion. I put the fake book back on the altar. I couldn't stop thinking about how Blankenship had managed to get someone inside Blackthorn and steal the real book. It was the only way he could have gotten to it: with the help of someone who knew we had it and knew where it was. I looked at all of my closest friends: Alex, Brent, Pilar, and Mr. Quinn, one of the Academy instructors. They were the only ones who knew we'd even had the real book in the first place. So ever since we'd come back from Hawaii and discovered the book was gone, I had been obsessed with just one thought.
Blankenship had someone helping him. And one of my friends was a traitor.CHAPTER 2
After we finally finished our Top Floor exercises, we walked back toward our rooms, quiet the whole way. Ever since we'd returned from Hawaii we'd been a lot more subdued. I guess you could say depressed, even. We weren't so smug about things anymore. When we first ran into Simon we just sort of took him as a big old freaky crook who would ultimately be captured or caught. But while we'd given him a run for his money and outwitted him to some degree, in the end he'd gotten away with the biggest prize of all. In Hawaii, he'd threatened to kill Pilar—and, desperate to save her, I'd told him the book he had was a fake. I didn't tell him where the real one was, but he had to know that Mr. Kim wouldn't entrust something so valuable to just anyone. It would be here, at the school, where Mr. Kim could keep an eye on it. But somehow, while we were gone, he managed to get into Mr. Kim's secret hideaway and steal it from a laser handprint scan- protected combination safe.
Mr. Kim's spy office was located about ten stories below the school in the side of a mountain, and since there were only a handful of people who even knew about his hideout, and even fewer who knew we had the Book of Seraphim there, the list of potential suspects was pretty short.
I was sure it wasn't me, which left me suspicious of everyone else. And since Alex, Brent, and Pilar weren't stupid, I knew they were thinking the same thing: Even if Blankenship had figured out the location of the book on his own, it still wasn't easy to get to. Which meant he had to have someone on the inside.
It made for a little tension. No one would come right out and say it, but we all had become a little distant and aloof with one another because we were all afraid to find out that one of us had betrayed all of us. And instead of discussing it, we had decided to ignore it. Just left it hanging there like a big old juicy plum nobody wanted to pick.
"You know what I'm thinking?" Brent asked as we walked down the hall. This was a big deal. First of all, Brent hardly even spoke when you asked him a direct question. He almost never started a conversation. He was a smart guy, quite possibly brilliant. He just didn't talk much.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Cameras," he said.
"What about them?" I said.
Excerpted from The Spy Who Totally Had a Crush on Me by Michael P. Spradlin. Copyright © 2014 Michael P. Spradlin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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