I skulked into the library, checking carefully over my shoulder to ensure that I had not been followed from my safe place above the auditorium, where I like to spend my free period. As far as I knew, I was the only one who frequented that spot. It created a safe place for me to think, without being in danger of being discovered. If anyone knew the things I had seen, it would ruin everything. I slipped my pass silently into the drop box and ducked down next to the counter. The librarian hummed absently as she picked up my pass. I don’t think she saw me, but I didn’t stand until I heard her walk away. I quickly scanned the library for threats. There were three other students. Two were seated next to each other on the threadbare couch and one was perusing the nonfiction section. She pulled out a book labelled only “BIRDS” and read over the back cover. I filed that piece of information away in my head for later analysis: Miranda Solomon was researching birds. I double checked the exits- the back door by the computers was clear, as was the main entrance. I like to always be aware of my surroundings and map any escape routes necessary, should someone surprise me and attempt to neutralize me. I dive-rolled to the fiction section. My superior had communicated with me via cloud writing during the first period of the day and commanded me to check one of our rendezvous spots for further instructions. I rolled again through a short stack of books, landing in a crouch and glancing back over my shoulder to cover my tracks. I stood swiftly when I reached the three walls of fiction and pretended to search for a title while really using my phone to search for any residual heat signatures. I reached the section where our book was located- a novel entitled Secrets that we had planted to keep an anonymous place in the school to exchange notes. I glanced down at my phone again- a heat signature matching the size of my superior had indeed been here hours earlier, among various other figures who had simply meandered through the stacks. I reached out for the book-
My hand groped through the empty air and my nails scrabbled against the back of the shelves in a futile attempt to find something. The book was gone. I looked up in surprise and my stomach shot through the floor at what I saw. Every single book was gone. There was not so much as a shred of paper left on the shelves. I felt sick. My identity could be compromised. All of my secrets, every scrap of information I had collected since my first year as an underground agent, were all out in the open. Who knew who now possessed my true name? Names have power. Mine belies my background. I have been going as an alias for three years, and all for naught. We normally have a “no public interactions” agreement, but I knew I needed to find my superior officer and let her know what was happening. I patted the shelf again in an attempt to look casual, and strolled out of the library. On my way out, I noticed that the librarian and an administrator were talking tersely behind the check-out counter. Their body language indicated to me that they did not want to be overheard. I heard the word, “Football field” and filed that information to tell my superior. I did my best to keep my pace even and controlled, but it was difficult for even an experienced undercover agent like myself. I escaped the library without harm, but I still feared for my life.
On the inside, my heart was pounding and my mind was whirling, but on the outside I was as cool as a cucumber. I have been trained for years to deal with this sort of situation. This is DEFCON 1: the worst possible outcome. I could be shot down by enemy snipers at any moment. The weight of the security of the American government was crushing my shoulders, but I did my best to bear my burden with grace. A girl fell into step with me and slung an arm over my shoulder. The white cotton of her t-shirt brushed against my face as she pulled me close to her. This, of course, was my superior. Everything I did was done under her command.
“As I speak, laugh like I’m telling you a funny story,” she breathed into my ear. I giggled. “Good. Now, as I figure that you know by now, all the fiction books are gone. I’ve found them, though. They are on the football field.” Alarm bells rang in my head. The teachers were planning something. “There is some sort of activity going on. All students are required to pick a book and find a spot to sit down and read. Our book is there. I have planted a trap to ensure that our identities and true missions are never revealed. The school board cannot know that we are here. Do not worry about what I have done, but you are coming with me.” I chuckled.
“Oh my god, that’s so funny!” I smiled. She smiled back at me, teeth shining viciously under the bright fluorescent lights. She leaned in close again, pulling my ear against her mouth.
“My parking spot is number 287. I drive a green truck. Take this key,” here I felt her slide something into the front pocket of my jeans, “and get into the passenger seat. Put the key in the ignition and wait for me. I will meet you there.” I laughed again and slung my arm around her hips.
“I’ll catch up with you later!” I smiled again, and broke away from her to head down the hallway to her parking spot. She smiled tightly at me and strode down the hallway in the opposite direction, towards the football field.
I had only been in the car for five minutes when she flung open the door and leapt in.
“We’re leaving,” she snarled, and turned the key in the ignition. The engine roared to life- it sounded far more powerful than the rusty green body of the truck implied. She reversed into the parking lot and sped out, disobeying every law of the school and flying over a speed bump.
“What did you do?” I asked. I had never before asked her a direct question, but we had never before been in this situation.
“Turn around,” she bit off, speeding down the entrance road of the school at nearly double the speed limit. I whirled in my seat, staring out the rear windshield. There was a fire on the football field; it was an inferno reaching to high heavens. It was mesmerizing and horrifying and the petite blonde girl driving beside me had caused it. We turned left onto the main parkway as three fire trucks pulled in from the left. I sat back heavily in my seat.
“I locked the students in the building. No one was outside. There will be no casualties. We will not be revealed, but we cannot go back. We have to go underground until we are forgotten.”
She stared straight ahead as she drove.We wouldn’t stop driving for a long, long time.