She waited till Mike was totally out of her line of vision and turned down Vine Avenue. Sure enough there was huge, shiny white limo with tinted windows. Boy Queenie sure was taking this joke a bit too far.
A window lowered and she recognized the dark haired woman motioning to her. Short dark hair, no sign of grays though she should have had them now. Mrs. Ramierz, their fearless leader. Was this truly a Queenie joke or was this for real? Did Queenie get their teacher in on it all too?
“Hi kiddo. Come in.” She opened the car door.
Darcy gawked at the plush interior. So many USB ports and even a few visors scattered over the seats. She wondered if it even had iHear controls enabled.
“Okay.” She plopped onto the cushy seats. Yeah she could totally ride to school in style in this.
“How’ve you been?” Mrs, Ramierz tapped her long red fingernail on the window. She always had style, such a classy lady.
“Okay. Alright so where is the White Queen? I know she put you up to this. I thought it was cool how she hacked into my alarm system this morning. But you both have taken the joke too far.”
“What if this wasn’t a joke?” Mrs. Raimiez arched a perfectly groomed brow. “What if your government really needed you?”
Darcy rolled her eyes. “Please. I‘m only fifteen. Not old enough to even start on my driver’s test yet or get microchipped. What would the government want with a kid like me?”
“A very smart kid. A girl who can decode any complex IT security protocols. Five years ago you were part of a team that floored us, surpassed our expectations. And now we need you. We need you, White Queen, White Knight, and Jack Frost to solve one of the worst cybercrimes in our nation’s history.”
Whoa, now that piqued her interest. “Okay, so tell me more.”
“Someone is stealing billions of dollars in government funds. We need you to figure out who.”
“Okay, so why us? Why the tech camp kids? What made us so special that we can’t figure out what grown ups can’t.”
“Because you kids were smarter than the grownups. You always caught code and tracking we missed. You four are the best young hackers in the nation and I convinced the IT Security Staff at the White House that you four were the best for the job. Are you in?”
“I don’t know. I have life. I have a boyfriend. I just can’t leave my friends and my dad to be holed up in secret facility like I was five years ago. What will you tell them while I’m away?”
“We can take care of that.”
“It’s best off that you don’t know.”
Okay, her evasiveness was getting on Darcy’s nerves. “I want to know how you plan on hiding me from my family and friends. You did that five years ago under the guise of a tech camp. Dang. I should have realized you were just testing us back then. But this will take longer. It might take years to track down some black hat hacker who’s been avoiding all government detection.”
“We have a plan. What if we could give you a dopledanger of sorts to take your place? Pretend to be you.”
“Like a clone or a robot or something like that? No, absolutely not. There are some major ethical lines that you’d have to cross to let some clone take my place and robot? Plueeze and whatever. A robot could never take my place.”
“Can I take you back to my hotel so we can talk more about it? So you can think it over. We’d pay you nicely for your time, Darcy. You could have that college fund you so desperately want. Maybe even that Electric Ford Roadster you just mentioned to you boyfriend.”
“This is getting way to freaky and I’m leaving.”
She opened the door before Mrs. Ramierz could stop her and ran down the street. They knew all about the conversation she’d just had with Mike. How much had the government been spying on her?
The limo managed to keep up with mad sprint, honking occasionally. But then backing away as they reached the high school. Obviously Mrs. Ramierz didn’t want to seem like a crazy stalker of teenage girls. Darcy stopped running but stopped dead in her tracks when she reached the school steps. The robot flirting shamelessly with Mike didn’t look like a robot at all. It looked exactly like her, right down to her blonde curls and freckled nose. Mike smiled and laughed at something the robot said. He looked happy. She could never give him that sort of happiness because their relationship had been far too polite. She wanted to be jealous of the robot taking her place, wanted to charge it at and hotwire the bucket of wires and real flesh till it didn’t work anymore, but she couldn’t do that. Maybe the robot was more socially apt than she was. Maybe it could make a suitable Darcy Minotti replacement while she went off to save the government from falling apart.
Darcy carefully backed away, hoping her robot doppelgänger or boyfriend wouldn’t see her. The white limo was waiting for her at the end of the street. Darcy sighed and became resigned to the fact that she’d no longer have a normal teenage life. She was now a legit white hat hacker.
Mrs. Ramierz had several pieces of luggage all packed for Darcy when she returned to the limo and awaiting her. Obviously the teacher/leader had confidence she would return. After a brief drive, they dropped her off at a decent Holiday Inn somewhere in the D.C. area and Darcy collapsed on a cozy quilted bed. She placed her visor over her eyes and thought, watch Doctor Who, but even as the awesome familiar theme music blared into her ear, she had a hard time concentrating and enjoying the 3D TARDIS hurtling in front of her eyes. She thought, pause Doctor Who, and placed her visor on the night stand.
Maybe she should Skype Queenie to see if she was already at the hotel. She had no idea of how to get in touch with the boys. She thought of White Knight and his mocha skin and dark eyes. He’d been a prankster five years ago and totally competitive. But a nice guy and friendly when they talked. Jack Frost, cute with his sandy brown hair and big blue eyes, but also had a major ego problem and even at age ten he thought he was best hacker in all of the world.
And then there was her best friend the infamous White Queen. Smart, pretty with auburn hair and hazel eyes, creative as heck. They still played on Minecraft together, building worlds on their own little server. She never learned White Queen’s real name, where Queenie girl lived, or anything about her family, but they had so much in common in interests and everything else that the fact that Queenie’s personal life was such a mystery didn’t bother her.
A sudden knock on the door jarred her out of her thoughts of her friend. “Are you ready to go meet the rest of the team, Snow Girl? They’re waiting.”
“About as ready as I can be.”
She bolted to her feet and wondered if they all work together again. Five years had passed and it was hard enough to work as a team back then. She’d find out soon enough.
Darcy opened the door and followed Mrs. Ramierz down a plush carpeted hall. A cute, familiar auburn haired girl was waiting for them both at the elevator. The auburn haired girl turned, a grin spread across her face. Darcy noticed Queenie had gotten braces, she could spy the faint line of a retainer, but they suited Queenie and didn’t stop her from being pretty. They squealed like reunited teenage girl friends always do and took off running down the hall. Embracing a tight hug when they met.
“Been a long time, Snow Girl.”
“Too long, White Queen.”
“Let’s go girls. You two can catch up later.” Mrs. Ramierz hit the down button for the elevator. “The rest of the team is waiting for you. Let’s go find the boys and we’ll brief you all the case details.”