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Jess Parks looked up at the massive brick building, with its glass windows and wrought-iron gates.
I guess this is it, she thought. No turning back now.
Jess had lived with her Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jay for as long as she could remember. They took care of her after her parents had been killed in an airplane crash. Or rather, that was the story she had been fed. Things were different now.
Only a couple of days ago, she had received a letter addressed to her, a letter with the words Central Intelligence Agency stamped in bold letters across the front. With curiosity taking over her mind, she opened the envelope. It was the contents inside that changed her life drastically.
'Excuse me! Hey, You! Stop!' Jess snapped back to reality. A burly security guard stopped her in her tracks.
Stop it, Jess! She told herself. Focus!
She hadn't realized that she entered the building. In front of her was a large desk with an equally large man sitting in his seat.
'Excuse me little girl, where do you think you're going?' asked the security guard. 'This isn't a place for children'
His name tag read Bob. Typical, she muttered to herself.
'Um, hi. I'm here for a meeting with Mr. Banks. My name is Jess Parks' she said.
The security guard laughed in his seat. He was shaking, his laugh echoing throughout the empty hallway. 'Sure you are,' he snorted. 'And I'm the President of the United States. Listen kid, shouldn't you be in school? This is the CIA not the toy store'
Jess started to get angry. Who was this guy?
'Listen, I have a 4:00 appointment with Mr. Banks,' she said.
She glanced at her watch and looked up at him.
'It's 4:15 now. If you want me to be late, then by all means, stop me. But I hope you know, when I tell him that his security guard let in that man right there, I'm sure he won't be too happy.' Jess randomly pointed toward the door, hoping that the guard would believe such a juvenile trick.
The guard whipped around in his seat, checking the otherwise empty hall for a trespasser.
Score one point for me, Jess thought as she sprinted down the hallway to the elevators. The perfect example of how not to let a fourteen year old girl through the CIA major headquarter, she chuckled to herself.
'You! STOP! I mean it!' he shouted.
The elevator swiftly closed and Jess was finally able to breathe, but all she could think about was that letter. Just two days ago, she came home from school, a mental list permanently seared in her mind with goals she had to accomplish and tests she had to study for. She was in 2nd grade when she realized that she had a photographic memory. She had been able to memorize the entire school play, a feat even her teacher had deemed impossible.
Dropping her keys on the counter and her backpack in the closet, she sighed. There was a short message from her aunt.
I'm working on a big case and I wont be home until late. Uncle Jay's away on the business trip, so I left money on the table for pizza. Make sure you finish your homework!
Alone again, she sighed. She bent to pick up her backpack, and that's when she noticed the letter. It was hidden on the floor of the closet, smudged between the crevice of the molding. The shade of the envelope blended into the wall. There was no way that it could have fallen back there. Someone had hidden it.
That's odd, she thought as she picked it up. The letter was addressed to her and her alone with no return address. She flipped it over. Stamped on the back were the words Central Intelligence Agency. Carefully, she opened the already broken seal and removed the contents. There were two sheets of paper, one an address, and the other a letter. She unfolded the letter, and began to read.
This may come as a shock to you, but I may be wrong. You may already understand the importance of this letter. My name is Theodore Banks. I am the head associate of the Central Intelligence Agency. My job is to enlist agents to secret missions that help benefit our country. This is where you come in. I know I am probably bewildering you, and that is the last thing I want to do. This is a lot to take in, but the CIA needs you. We want your help. Please, let us meet so we can talk in person. I am available on Tuesday, November 4th at 4:15. My office is on the 12th floor, room 121. I have enclosed the address in the envelope. I look forward to meeting with you.
Associate Representative of the Central Intelligence Agency
P.S. Your parents would be proud.
Jess' mind spun. She didn't know where to begin.
The CIA? What could they possibly want with me? I'm fourteen! And what was that about my parents? Jess had so many questions, and she didn't understand anything. The letter had been hidden, she was sure of that. Who could have hidden it, now that was the question. Jess knew what she had to do, and it involved a meeting with a certain someone...
The elevator doors swung open, revealing yet another empty hallway. Jess walked out, spying a door, the only door, at the end of the corridor. Cautiously, she crept forward until she reached it. She reached up to knock on the door, when she realized her hands were shaking. Jess, get a grip, she told herself. Taking a deep breath, she lifted her hand and knocked. She waited. Nothing. She knocked again, but there was no reply. Jess waited for another moment, then on impulse, grabbed the handle and opened the door. The room was empty. Well, except for a desk, a computer, and a filing cabinet, it was empty. Meaning, there was nobody in the room. What the heck is going on?
She walked over to the computer and sat down in the chair. She might as well be proactive, and there was nothing wrong with a little snooping. She touched the mouse, and the computer whirled to life. A box popped up, asking for a password. I'm such an idiot, she thought. Why wouldn't they have a password? She typed in a few random phrases, simple words that tend to be passwords. If only she knew when this Mr. Banks person was born, if he existed. She remembered her friend Jenny telling her that birthdays tend to be really popular as passwords. Jess' heart twisted a little, with the mention of her best friend. It's not like she could get to see her friends after she got home. Her Aunt would probably ground her before she even walked through the door. She cut school so that she could come here, and for what? So that she could stare at a computer screen?
Jess sighed, beginning to get frustrated. She typed in Theodore. She typed in Banks. She even typed in CIA, but she had no luck. Each time, another message popped up with the words PASSWORD FAILED. Her fingers hovered over the keys. What if...? No there is no way. Biting her lip, she typed in Parks, her last name and pressed enter. Her jaw dropped in utter disbelief. The screen changed, loading the desktop menu. The password had worked! Jess was surprised, confused, and angry all at the same time. What was happening? This is just a coincidence, she told herself. It's weird, but just a coincidence. She repeated this over and over until she was finally able to breathe again. She moved her hand towards the mouse, itching to explore the computer. Her elbow hit the keyboard, and the screen changed once more. A slideshow of pictures came up, first a picture of a lighthouse, then one of a beach, then-
Jess screamed. A picture of her parents was displayed on the screen. Their wedding picture.