Charmed Role Reversal



Gallagher

T he Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is an all-girl, private school just outside of Roseville, Virginia. A very private school. I'm in my junior year, having come to Gallagher at the beginning of the seventh grade. It has the reputation of being a school for privileged (a.k.a. spoiled) girls from snooty, rich families. Anyone with a Level Eight Security Clearance knows that's just an appearance - an appearance the school didn't start but which it is happy to foster.

But if you're reading this report you must have at least a Level Ten Security Clearance. No one below a Level Ten would be trusted with the knowledge of what's in this report. And no one below a Level Ten would believe it.

It has been drilled into us to never assume anything - not in our "projects" and not in our follow-up paperwork, such as this report. So I won't be assuming what you know - even though you're a Level Ten - and will write this as if you don't know anything about us. After all, I'll be graded on how well I do this report - itís twenty percent of my term grade.

My name is Cameron Ann Morgan, Cammie the Chameleon to my Gallagher sisterhood. I have that nickname because I'm a "pavement artist". I can blend into my surroundings, making myself not noticeable and that's a valuable skill.

The school's curriculum prepares Gallagher Girls, we're told, to pursue any career we wish. But when you're repeatedly surrounded with courses that really have value in only one particular field - well, the school is telling you something else. Courses that teach you how to get information and items - and get them safely - in hostile environments. In other words, Gallagher Academy is a school for training girl spies.




Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

The mansion that houses Gallagher Academy belonged to Gillian Gallagher, who founded the school in the 1860s. As men wouldn't allow women into the espionage world, she set up the school to teach women how to do it. In the Hall of History hangs her sword, which she used to thwart the attempted assassination of President Lincoln by Ioseph Cavan (the assassination that's not included in history books). We all feel we are part of a Gallagher Girls sisterhood. Our mantra is "We are the sisters of Gillian". Our motto is "Learn her skills, Honor her sword, Keep her secrets".

The Academy's campus, surrounded by tall stone fences, is larger than outside people realize. The driveway from the main road, Highway 10, is one-half mile long, meandering through rolling hills, which lets us remain secluded.

Contrary to the generally accepted (at least in Roseville) reputation of the Gallagher Girls, we really come from different backgrounds. One of my three best friends, who are also my three roommates, is Rebecca Baxter. Bex, the only non-American ever admitted to Gallagher, has the finest caramel skin you have ever seen. Both of her parents are in Britain's MI6 and Bex can't wait for the opportunity to do as they do.

My second roommate is Elizabeth Sutton, whose parents are really plain, ordinary dentists in Alabama. Ordinary, however, is not something that applies to Liz, having been published in Scientific American before she had two digits to her age. Yet she sometimes does the most non-genius-like things, such as managing to cut her chin with a paperclip. She has beautiful blond hair, blue eyes, a photographic memory and is on the Research and Analysis track. Which means she won't be doing field work, which I and my other two roommates will do.

Which brings me to best friend and roommate number three - Macey McHenry. A direct descendent of Gilly Gallagher, Macey actually fit the Gallagher Academy image when she first came to the school. Her father is a U.S. Senator, her mother is a cosmetics heiress and Macey was - well, very much into being Macey. Her looks could put professional models to shame. She flunked out of every prep school in which her parents had forced her to enroll. But she changed during her first year here, getting all A's and B's in her grades, and is as much one of us as the rest of my Gallagher sisters. (I think she started to do that just to get back at her parents. But then she really liked who and what she had become.)

And then there's me. My Mom is Rachel Morgan, the Headmistress of Gallagher Academy.

PROs and CONs of going to a school where your mother is Headmistress:

    PRO: I can see my Mom more often than the other girls get to see their parents.

    CON: The other girls always think I have inside information as to what is happening /
               will happen in the school. I don't. Unless I do some spying of my own but I
               won't go into that here.

    PRO: In case something I do doesn't work out right, my mother is right there to
               smooth things over.

    CON: In case something I do doesn't work out right, my mother is right there to
               punish me.

    PRO: I get to eat dinner with my Mom every Sunday night.

    CON: I get to eat the dry, burned, semi-tasteless dinner my Mom prepares every Sunday night.

Did I mention that my Mom is the best former CIA spy in the world? My Dad was CIA too. But...he didn't come home from his last mission four years ago. I've accepted that...but not really adjusted to it.

The school mansion is so huge that I am always discovering new parts to it as I take more classes. (Not counting the secret passageways that I discovered - and used - last year.) In my sophomore year I started taking Covert Operations with the very handsome Mr. Joe Solomon (I added his description for the sake of completeness. Well...I did say I was assuming you don't know anyone here). Last year, CoveOps was taught on Sublevel One, a floor that even I, the Headmistress' daughter, had never seen before.

The CoveOps class is...well, very covert. Sometimes when Mr. Solomon gives us a test we don't even know on what we're being tested, nor the extent of the test. That happened in the final exam last year. We thought the security of Gallagher had been breached by a spy out to blow the covers of all Gallagher Girl alumnae (the sirens were wailing and the speakers kept blasting CODE BLACK, which means security breach) and that we were on our own to take him down and retrieve the stolen data. My classmates and I accomplished both objectives. But afterwards it turned out that everything, including the "spy" and the data, were part of the exam.

After Professor Smith's class on Countries of the World (there are two secret escape border crossings, accessible only on moonless nights, from an Eastern European country that I shall leave nameless), it was lunchtime in the Grand Hall, which was a sea of white-blouse and plaid-skirt uniforms. I was enjoying an exquisite meal with two of my best friends (the chef, who is superb, had been "stolen" away from the White House) when Mr. Solomon walked by our table. He casually dropped a small note on Bex', Macey's and my plates and kept walking.

As I picked up mine I could tell that it was written on Evapopaper (edible paper to eliminate traces of received secret information) which, after the wonderful crème brûlée I just had, I really didn't feel like eating after reading it (the current batch of Evapopaper leaves a bitter aftertaste). Come to the CoveOps class twenty minutes early, it said. I looked at Bex and Macey as they read theirs.

"Do we all have the same note?" Bex asked.

"If we didn't Mr. Solomon would have done a brush pass to each of us separately," Macey observed, referring to the basic spy technique of passing something to another person without anyone else noticing it. I had to agree with Macey's logic.

"So we're all going to class early," I said.

Bex and Macey nodded in confirmation. I could probably come up with half a dozen reasons why Mr. Solomon wanted us to come early, all of which related to some type of pop quiz (How many words were on each line of the notes that I gave you was just one of them) but in truth there was really no way of knowing. So we looked at each other, shrugged, and popped our bitter desserts into our mouths.


We stood in front of the gilt-framed mirror as a laser beam scanned our retinas for verification that we were supposed to be there. Then the green lights in the eyes in the painting behind us flashed and the mirror parted to reveal the elevator to the Sublevels. This year the CoveOps class is on Sublevel Two. While Sublevel One is all stainless steel and frosted glass, Sublevel Two is all stone and heavy beams.

We entered the elevator and it began its descent. As we passed Sublevel One (seventeen seconds down - we're trained to keep track of how much time passes whenever we're traveling), we prepared our fingers to be pricked for the DNA verification that would allow us into the CoveOps sublevel.

It takes twenty seconds to go between Sublevel One and Sublevel Two but the elevator kept going past it. After seven more seconds it suddenly made a hard stop. Macey lost her balance but Bex caught her arm before she could fall.

"What happened?" Macey asked but before any of us could say anything we felt the elevator rotate ninety degrees to the right. And then the doors opened.

We didn't know where we were and we couldn't see much of whatever was there. The lighting was very dim, almost like what's produced by emergency lighting when there's a power outage (except at Gallagher, where our emergency lighting is the "decorative" torches that hang along the walls).

"Come in, ladies," a familiar voice commanded us.

We slowly made our way into a large room. Unlike Sublevels One and Two, which have extra high ceilings, the ceiling here was only about five feet higher than normal. At the far side of the room, bathed in a narrow spotlight, stood Mr. Solomon.

"Where are we?" Bex asked.

"If this had a name, it would be Sublevel Two-Point-Five," he replied, one raised foot resting on the seat of a wooden chair. "But it doesn't have a name because it doesn't exist."

That meant that whatever this was, it was so deeply covert that no one else - with the exception of course of my mother and very senior faculty like Professor Buckingham - even knew about it.

"Sit down," he said. There were three chairs a few feet in front of us. Slowly we walked to them and sat down. No desks, nothing on which to write any notes. Just three chairs.

"Is this a test?" I asked.

"Each year, decisions are made as to which girls are believed to be good enough to come here," he said, ignoring my question. "At the most only two or three are selected. Many years there aren't any girls at all whom are felt to be capable of receiving this training."

"And...we've been selected for this year?" Bex asked, anticipation in her voice. For Bex, the more covert the better.

"That remains to be seen," Mr. Solomon answered. "If you can make the grade. If you can't...there'll be some tea waiting for you upstairs."

He meant the special tea that the Academy has that makes people forget what they've seen and heard. So there was a test here and those who failed it got the tea. But my mother wouldn't let them make me drink it. At least, I felt that she wouldn't. Or, even worse, would she give it to me herself?

"What would you do, Ms. McHenry, if you were faced with an enemy two times your size?" he asked.

"I'd use the Forenstyl Flip to throw him over my shoulder to render him helpless," she replied.

"And what would you do, Ms. Baxter, if he had a weapon in close quarters with you?" Mr. Solomon asked her.

"I'd feint and then use surprise with a chop and kick to disarm him," Bex quickly answered.

"And what would you do, Ms. Morgan, if neither of those moves worked? If the subject was immune to anything that you've trained for?"

I hesitated. The thought that an enemy subject could not just be better, but immune was beyond comprehension.

"Well, Ms. Morgan?" he said.

"I'd...innovate," I replied. Though in truth I didn't have any idea of how I would do that.

"Without understanding what you're up against?" he asked, as if reading my mind. "What do you do when you are someplace where everything feels that it's not as it appears to be," he continued. "That your instinct tells you that nothing is normal and what you see is not what is really there. But your intellect is telling you that can't be, because that would go against the laws of the physical world.

"How important are instincts, Ms. Baxter?" he asked.

"Spying isn't only about intellect - it's more about instincts," Bex answered, repeating what Mr. Solomon had taught us.

"If you listen to your intellect against your instinct - you're dead," Mr. Solomon said with a hard look. "A spy's best asset is instinct. Listen to your instinct. And then use your intellect to support and follow that instinct.

"Spies, saboteurs, traitors, assassins - the enemy can be a very different kind than anything you've imagined."

What he was saying, and where we were, was starting to freak me out. But it was nothing compared to what came next. Suddenly two more narrow spotlights turned on. I stared at where they shone and couldn't believe it. Here, in the mansion's most inner sanctum, its most deeply hidden secret room, were two women whom I had never seen before. Two women who were not part of Gallagher Academy.

"This is Ms. Kelly Anderson and Ms. Piper Halliwell," Mr. Solomon said. "Ms. Anderson is experienced with this different kind of enemy domestically. Ms. Halliwell has been on missions against them abroad. They will be your instructors for this course. You will be taught how to recognize and combat this very different kind of enemy. You'll be trained to be the ones to go on missions against them, and the ones who will be called upon when others, who aren't prepared, come up against them.

"If you don't fail this course."

Mr. Solomon nodded his head at the two women, then walked towards us and kept going to the elevator. My two friends and I looked at each other, then turned back to the two women. Kelly Anderson was a little over five-foot-nine, with blond hair in a ponytail, a somewhat long but pretty face and a slim body. Piper Halliwell was more than a half-foot shorter, with brown hair and a slim body as well. Her face was also a bit long yet quite different than Ms. Anderson's.

Ms. Halliwell looked to be in her late twenties. But Ms. Anderson looked much younger - only a few years, at most, older than our seniors! How could she have gained so much knowledge and experience at such a young age to be our instructor?

The spotlight where Mr. Solomon had stood went off. The only bright lights in the room were on our new instructors.

"You've been selected for this course because you've demonstrated the ability to accept, assimilate and adapt to new things as you've learned them here," Ms. Anderson began. "And the ability to employ them 'outside of the box'."

Kelly Anderson shifted her gaze and focused on me when she said that. Last year, I engaged in some "extra-curricular" activities, using the skills we learned, in two un-sanctioned operations. The first involved getting intelligence about a boy in Roseville who liked me. The second did the same about a boy from The Blackthorne Institute, the all-boy equivalent of Gallagher, who was staying with his classmates at our school. My three best friends worked the ops with me.

Ms. Anderson couldn't know about my breaking the rules and doing that, I thought. But she is teaching the most covert class in the most covert area of the mansion. So of course she does know what I - what we - did.

"Those are the abilities you will need here," she continued, removing her gaze from me. "Because I assure you that you have never seen anything similar to what we are going to teach you."

"The enemies you've been training to combat have been people," Halliwell said. "Specially trained, in many cases highly skilled, but still people. The enemies we're going to teach you about - are not. There are specific designations for some of their different types but we can use a single general category for all of them.

"Demons. And they're not people."

I stared at Ms. Halliwell, then turned to my two friends. Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Did they hear the same thing? Looks of disbelief, followed quickly by looks of challenge, came across their faces.

"What do you mean 'they're not people'?" Bex asked. I could see on her face that her mind was racing to come up with explanations of what those words really meant.

"I mean exactly what I said," Ms. Halliwell replied. "Most demons appear to be human. Many demons try to cause destruction in ways that would not involve you. But others will bring you into contact with them. Some can be hurt by physical contact - the moves you've learned in your Protection & Enforcement class. But that's only temporary at best. They are more powerful than you - more powerful than normal people."

"Then...how do you defeat them?" Macey asked, cutting to the heart of the matter.

"The most powerful way to defeat a demon...is to vanquish him, or her, with a spell," Ms. Halliwell replied.

"A spell?" I asked, finding my voice. "You mean like...an incantation?"

"Yes," she answered. "A spell that we cast. And we can cast them. Because we're witches."

I am fluent in fourteen languages. I can articulate my thoughts in any one of them, from Farsi to Portuguese to Chinese-Mandarin. But at that moment I couldn't find words to say in any language. I just stared at Halliwell and Anderson. And I waited for either of them to say that was a joke. Not that our teachers make jokes in our classes. But this had to be a joke.

But neither of them was smiling.

"You have some difficulty believing that, Ms. Morgan?" Halliwell asked, then raised her hand. I don't really know what happened after that. I had the strangest feeling that time was frozen. Or that it was moving but that I was frozen. The next thing I knew Halliwell had lowered her hand. And my notebook, that had been on my lap, was in that hand.

I have seen, and have become accustomed to, lots of amazing things at my school. From Professor Smith's new look at the beginning of each semester (he gets cosmetic surgery at the CIA every year because there are former KGB hit men out to get him) to Dr. Fibbs' credit card/fingerprint changer to the mansion's complete changeover during a CODE RED (everything related to Gillian and to spying disappears behind walls, floors and ceilings, replaced with the standard items that a private, snobby school would have). But nothing prepared me for what I had just heard. And seen.

I turned to Bex on my left. I have never seen anything faze my best friend. Not the CoveOps final exam in the field last year that kept changing as the test progressed, nor when one of my "extra-curricular" activities left us cornered and about to be discovered. Never, that is, until then.

But that look on Bex' face lasted for just one second. Then she silently mouthed "wow", and her look changed to one of anticipation and excitement. Her eyes lit up in a way that said that this was going to be fun.

"Witches have powers," Ms. Halliwell said, as she walked over to us and handed me back my notebook.

"There are two drawbacks to relying on spells," Ms. Anderson said. "The first is that it must be customized to the particular demon you're up against. You have to know who he is - or she is, there are female demons - or know something specific about him or what he's doing.

"But it's the second drawback that is more significant to you. Only a witch with witches' powers can invoke a spell. And you're not witches."

I glanced at Bex and saw the look of disappointment on her face. "But there must be something that we can do," she protested.

"Fortunately, there's a second way to vanquish a demon - by using a potion," Ms. Anderson replied. "Anyone can throw a potion on a demon and vanquish him. But not anyone will know how to make the potions - which ingredients go into them, how much of each ingredient to use, the order of adding them together. There are general potions that can vanquish most demons. Then there are more tailored potions for more powerful demons.

"In this class, you'll learn how to make the potions and how to use them. And how to recognize, and defend yourselves against, demons."

"Where are we most likely to run into demons?" Bex asked.

"Anywhere," Ms. Halliwell replied. "My team was on a mission in Russia, the details of which are classified. We were operating against the FSB. The head of that FSB section was a female Russian officer. She was also a demon."

If demons could infiltrate even the Russian FSB, the tightly run successor to the Soviet Union's KGB, then they could appear at any time. In any place.

"Does this class have a name?" Macey asked.

Piper Halliwell looked solemnly at my friend. "Survival," she said. "If you don't pass it - you won't survive."


We waited until the elevator came - it was of course empty as no other students knew about this floor - and we went up to Sublevel Two for the "regular" CoveOps class. I felt myself in a daze, trying to take in everything we had just heard. Our new teachers had cut our class short so that we would not be late for Mr. Solomon's class. The next time, however, it would be a full period. But it wouldn't show up on any school schedule. We would take it during a free, study period. Which meant that not only would we have extra work to do for this class but we'd also be losing study time for our other courses.

As I sat in the CoveOps class, my mind kept wandering back to the unbelievable - even for Gallagher Academy - things that I had just seen and heard. Which is not a good thing to do as missing anything Mr. Solomon says can be dangerous. It was Bex' forceful, well placed elbow in my side that brought me back just in time as our teacher was starting to ask me a question.


"Ms. Halliwell and Ms. Anderson weren't at our welcome back dinner," I whispered after class, as I walked towards the Great Hall with Macey and Bex. The welcome back dinner starts off each semester. All of the students, and all of the teachers, are together in the Grand Hall, when my Mom welcomes the returning students and the newbies.

"They couldn't be there with this class as deeply covert as it is," Bex reasoned. "No one else can know about it."

"Which presents us with a problem..." I started to say.

"What's the problem?" Liz asked as she caught up with us. Liz likes problems. Almost as much as she likes solving them. Which she does, much better than I do.

But Liz was the problem. I don't like lying. Well, spies always lie and you have to be ready to do that if you want to be one. But lying to my best friend is something else. Something I wasn't really prepared to do.

"How to get out of a room with two of the enemy coming in the one door and the only window is two stories above the ground," Bex said without missing a beat. Sometimes I just marvel at my friend's agility - physical and mental - and am glad that she is my friend.

Liz was quiet for a few seconds. But I could see the wheels turning in her head.

"How big is the enemy?" she asked.

"Six-three each," Bex replied.

"You have a forty-one percent chance of overcoming them and getting by them," Liz said, making the calculations in her head. "And an eighty-seven percent chance of surviving the jump from the window without breaking anything. Definitely go for the window."



Sublevel Two-Point-Five - a.k.a. the sublevel that doesn't exist - was brightly lit as we came off the elevator. To the right of where our chairs had been yesterday were three long tables, standing side by side in their length. Clear dishes were laid out on them. As we approached them I saw that most of them contained what looked like herbs, roots and powders. Each dish had an index card in front of it, apparently with the name of what was in the dish. I thought I recognized two or three of them but most were new to me.

A fourth table stood a few feet behind us. On it were three stacks of paper, each next to a pen.

"We're beginning with the basics of potions," Ms. Anderson said. "Put out of your mind whatever stereotype of 'witches brews' you have. Despite what the witches in Macbeth say, we do not use eye of newt nor any of the other ingredients flowing from Shakespeare's vivid, but completely fictional, imagination. We use natural herbs, roots, spices, plant extracts and occasionally a vegetable."

"There are more than just one general vanquishing potion," Ms. Halliwell took over. "That's good because you often won't have the full array of ingredients handy, as you have here. And even then sometimes you may have to substitute two ingredients for one that's missing. Of course, you'll have to know how to make those substitutions. So pay close attention, ladies, to everything we tell you and show you."

"There are two ways of making potions," Ms. Anderson picked up. "The first is the hot method. That's what movies and television use because it's a dramatic image. Ingredients are placed in a vat, usually over a fire, the vat is brought to a boil, steam suddenly comes from the vat and there's a boom or loud hiss - the witch's potion is done.

"We do use the hot method, though it's not as dramatic a sequence as it appears to be on TV. But just as often, if not more so, we use the cold method. Ingredients are added to a flask or jar. The last ingredient causes a reaction to take place and the ingredients bubble and liquify. If they don't, then at least one ingredient is missing."

"When finished, general potions are usually orange or pink in color," Ms. Halliwell said, approaching the tables, "depending upon the particular mix of ingredients used." She picked up a jar, then took a pink petal from a dish near her. The index card by the dish said 'centaury'. She placed it in the jar, then took a leaf from another dish, its card said 'elderflower'. She walked around and selected four more ingredients from across the tables - two powders, one root and one a liquid that was in a dropper. Then she picked up two seeds from another dish and dropped them into the jar. Immediately the contents began to foam and turned into a pink liquid.

"One general and powerful vanquishing potion," our teacher said, holding up the jar.  

"On the table behind you are paper and pens for each of you," Ms. Anderson said, shifting our attention there. "That's Nopresspaper developed by Dr. Fibbs. When you write on it no impression is left on the page below it. So no one can pencil over an impression to see what was written on the first page.

"You're using that because of the level of security that must be maintained for the potions and the course's material."

With just a few steps Ms. Halliwell had made a potion. It looked so simple. But there were many ingredients laid out on the tables. It was not going to be as simple at it had looked to learn how to make them.

"I saw you took one each of the petals and leaves," Macey said, "but I couldn't see how much of the powders you used. You didn't measure them."

"Do any of you cook or bake?" Ms. Halliwell asked.

"I do," Bex answered.

"Using recipes," our teacher asked.

"Yes...usually," Bex replied

"Do your recipes tell you exactly how much of every ingredient - sugar, flour, flavoring - to use?" Ms. Halliwell asked.

"They do...but I don't always follow them," Bex answered. "They're precise - but not necessarily right."

"So what do you do?" Ms. Anderson asked.

"I've gotten enough experience that I have a feeling for what's 'right'," she answered. "I can just tell how much to take in my fingers to put in to the mix."

"It's exactly the same thing with potions," Ms. Anderson said. "After a while you just know by the feel in your fingers how much is 'right'. And that comes with practice."

We spent the rest of that class watching our teachers make general potions. We took notes on the Nopresspaper, then practiced following those steps. Bex got her potion to bubble right away, which knowing Bex didn't surprise me. But it took half a dozen tries before Macey and I could get the feel of it and make each of our first potions correctly.


The next two classes were spent learning how to make the variations of general potions, of which there were three, then practicing making all four kinds. Studying from our Nopresspaper notes was not simple. We couldn't take them out in our dorm room as Liz could walk in at any time and see them. The study room was also not usable as, well, there were girls who couldn't know about this studying there.

That left the secret passageways that I had found. We used the one I went to by myself the most as I sort of cleaned it up a little as I went through it. The lighting was sparse and we had to bring flashlights to read our notes.

"Some of these ingredients are not going to be available at a local grocery or fruit market," I said, looking over my notes on one of the potions. "Like thimbleberry."

"We'll just stock up on them so we'll always have them ready," Macey said.

"We would probably have to drive all across the country just find them," I said. "That would take a lot of time."

"Who said anything about driving?" Macey asked. "A private jet is much faster."

One of the advantages of having a best friend whose parents are important-slash-rich enough to have a private jet is that she makes that private jet available. To her friends. Whenever needed.


"Where have you been?" Liz asked as Macey and I came into our dorm room after spending almost an hour in the secret passageway. "I was in the Study Room but you weren't there."

"Oh...you must have just missed us," Macey said casually. "We finished quickly. The material was easy." I don't know whether Macey had lied much before coming to the Gallagher Academy. But she said that lie so smoothly that she had clearly learned that necessary skill of being a spy.

"But weren't you studying for Professor Buckingham's test?" Liz asked. Professor Buckingham is the oldest member of the Gallagher faculty and teaches History of Espionage. Her tests can be difficult, though with a lot of studying I've always passed them. "She always throws in surprises, like George Washington's Culper Spy ring on the last test."

"We eliminated the surprises she's already used, which saved us lots of studying time," Macey answered.

Liz stared at her, her blue eyes wide open. She wanted to say something, about how what Macey said didn't make sense. Which of course it didn't. But Macey dropped her books on her bed and went to the bathroom, leaving Liz without whom to question. She turned to me but I gave her a quick smile and headed for the door.

"I need to find a snack," I lied and walked out before Liz could direct her questions at me.


"Some demons are much stronger than most other demons. Those require a stronger potion," Ms. Halliwell began as we started the next day's class. I looked at the tables with the dishes of potion ingredients and saw that some had been changed. There were about ten things that had not been there the previous days. That meant we were going to have to learn how to use new ingredients.

"A demon may have the power to steal someone's memory," my teacher continued. "Or be able to track someone who infiltrated the demon's surrounding. They require a stronger, and more specialized potion. And that, ladies, is what you're going to learn today."

"How do we know if a demon we're up against is one of these?" Bex asked.

Ms. Anderson walked around in front of the tables. "What did Mr. Solomon say was a spy's biggest strength?" she asked.

"Instinct," I answered without hesitation.

"That's right, Ms. Morgan," she said. "And that is just as true when the enemy are demons as when they are people. As your experience with demons grows, so will your instincts. Listen to them. And you'll know what you have to do. And when you have to do it"

"Today, ladies, you're going to learn how to make these stronger potions," Ms. Halliwell said. "It's not as simple as making general potions. Be sure you take good notes."


The next three weeks were intense. Our regular workload was already heavy, to which Professor Smith added an extra test for which we had to find time to study. In our D-Ops class, the code name my friends and I used for the "invisible" Demon Operations course Kelly Anderson and Piper Halliwell were teaching, we were learning about demons' powers (the energy bolt coming from their hands being the most common - and deadly) and about the special, stronger potions. Our teachers had also added in the hot potion method to our classwork.

And every day we had to demonstrate that we could make both the stronger potions as well the variations of the general one, both hot and cold potions, the proof being that they hissed or bubbled respectively. So every day we had to study and review our growing notes. I kept wishing that Liz had been read-in to this class as I really missed the unique flash cards she designed that helped us study for our other subjects.

Though our D-Ops class, not being on the schedule, was invisible to the rest of the school, our teachers weren't. They couldn't be in the school every day without our sister students seeing them and trying to find out who they were and why they were there.

"Who are those women?" Courtney Bauer asked as she threw me over onto my back on the mat. We were in the barn that we used for our P&E (Protection and Enforcement) practice. "One of them is really young. Tina Walters insists they're CIA agents and they're planning this really secret operation with your mother and Mr. Solomon for the winter session break."

Tina Walters' mother is a spy, whose cover is being a Washington gossip columnist. Tina delights in repeating things she's heard from her mother. Or at least what she thinks she's heard.

"What did your mother tell you, Cammie?" Courtney asked.

I forced her grip open and flipped her over, winding up sitting on top of her, her arms pinned down under my knees.

"I haven't asked her," I said. Which technically was true. While my mother had asked me during our Sunday night dinners how the class was going, and I had told her, I didn't ask her anything about my teachers.

"Well, I just know that it's got to be something really special and covert," Courtney said.

You have no idea just how much, I thought to myself.

 

When Bex, Macey and I walked into our D-Ops classroom that afternoon, we saw that things had changed. The tables that had been standing together were now well separated from each other. On each table was one large vat and a row of bottles. A large black pouch with an over the shoulder strap sat next to the bottles.

"You've shown that you can make potions in a classroom," Piper Halliwell began. "Now we'll see if they really work. And if you know how to use them. You each get to pick a table. Make a potion in the large vat, then transfer it to the bottles. Take a pouch and put the bottles into it. You have five minutes starting now."

I wanted to ask what this was about but with the clock ticking I knew that I couldn't afford the time to do that. I saw that some of the same ingredients were on all three tables but others were different on each table. Before I could look them over Bex rushed to the farthest table and claimed it. Macey and I looked at each other, then we just took whichever table was nearest to each of us.

I carefully but quickly looked over the dishes, then started picking up the ingredients. All of our classroom work had been using jars. As the vat was quite large, I knew I had to use more of each ingredient to compensate for the difference in the volume. Which wasn't as simple as it sounds for the ingredients that were measured by "feel". I hesitated for a moment, afraid I was going to misjudge that.

"Instincts and practice require self-confidence to follow them, Ms. Morgan," Ms. Anderson said, looking at me. I knew that she was right. I took a deep breath, then closed my eyes, remembering how the powder had felt between my fingers when I had made the potions before. Then I "pictured" in my mind how the larger amount should feel, put my fingers into the dish and took out what I felt matched my mind's image. I dropped it into the vat, put in the last ingredient - and held my breath.

The ingredients in the vat turned pink and began to bubble. Relieved, I started dipping the jars into the vat and filling them up. I looked to my left and saw that Macey was doing the same.

After I filled my pouch with the jars, I glanced at Bex. She was putting her last pink jar into her pouch. But then I saw her take another jar that was bubbling. But it wasn't pink like the other jars or even orange like Macey's. The potion inside it was blue. She covered it, put it into her pouch, then grabbed one of the dishes. She quickly added ingredients from another dish to it. She emptied the rest of what had been in the second dish, then used it as a cover for the first dish. She pulled a rubber band from her pocket, tying the top dish tightly to the bottom one. What was in that bottom dish had turned white. She pushed it into her pouch just as Ms. Anderson announced "Time's up!".

The wall on the right side of the room split in the center and opened. "Take your pouches, ladies," Ms. Halliwell said, pointing to the doorway in the wall. We slung the heavy pouches over our shoulders and walked into the next room. But it wasn't like the classroom we had been in. I looked up and saw it's ceiling was much higher, just like the height of the ceiling in Sublevel Two. There were four passageways leading from the room away from the doorway. Steps and inclines led up to what looked to be more passageways, twisting and turning, their ends hidden from view.

And then the wall behind us closed and the doorway we had walked through was no longer there. Nor were our teachers.

"This has to be some kind of -" Bex started to say. But a burst of energy flashed on the floor a foot in front of her. The burst came from the hand of someone who had suddenly appeared in front of us.

"Test," Macey said, finishing Bex' sentence.

"I hope," I said. Our teachers taught us about demons' hands producing deadly energy bursts.

"A demon!" Macey shouted. Her hand was already in her pouch, grabbing a jar of orange potion. The demon pointed his hand at her and shot another energy bolt. Macey deftly sidestepped the bolt and threw potion at the demon, all in one smooth motion.

"How?" I asked as the demon disappeared in a circle of smoke but I knew that didn't matter. A demon was there inside our school. Inside our classroom.

"Demons - plural!" Bex shouted. I looked up and saw two demons, each standing near one of the passageways. I pulled out a jar from my pouch and ran zig zag towards the demon, trying to get close enough to throw the potion on him without being hit by his energy bolt. He extended his hand but his arm couldn't aim at me as I ran.

I pulled off the jar's cover and splashed potion at him. But he anticipated my move and jumped back so it didn't touch him. Then he ran into the passageway.

I was trying to decide whether to follow him when two more demons appeared. I expected the first was running away and I had better deal with the three who now faced us.

In a moment there were only two demons left. Bex had jumped up on to one of the steps, placing her behind and above a demon, and poured pink potion on him. As he disappeared in a circle of smoke, Bex turned towards the demon who had been near him. Seeing what Bex had done to the other demon, he rushed to the incline and started scampering up to the upper passageways.

Bex' hand was already in her pouch, but this time she withdrew the jar with the blue potion. She threw it at the top of the entrance to the upper passageway, just as the demon reached it. The jar broke on impact, spilling the blue potion all over the demon.

But instead of disappearing in smoke, the demon kept running into the winding, hidden passageway. I saw Bex pull out the dish with the white liquid from her pouch. Then she ran up the incline and into the passageway after the demon.

There was still one demon left. Macey had ducked around him, then threw her orange potion at him. As he burned up in smoke, a female demon came running down the steps from an upper passageway. I turned around with my back to the lower passageways, focusing my attention on her.

And then I felt a sting in my back. The pain was sharp enough to bring me down to my knees. I twisted around and saw a demon behind me. The same demon I had earlier missed with my potion and who had run away. And now he was back.

I saw him aim his hand at me. I saw the energy bolt coming from it and hitting me in my chest. I felt the sting and the pain. I toppled over, falling sideways onto the floor.

The demon's concentration was still on me and he didn't see Macey, jar of orange potion in her hand, rushing towards us. She threw the potion on the demon just as Bex came down the incline. Seeing the female demon, Bex threw her last jar of pink potion on her. The male and female demons both began to burn up and smoke.

Macey knelt down next to me, then lifted me up into her arms against her chest.

"Cammie - talk to me!" she said.

"She's hurt!" Bex exclaimed as she ran down the incline. She knelt down next to me as well and took my hand in hers. Just as the wall behind us parted and the doorway re-appeared.

"No, she's not," Ms. Halliwell said as she and Ms. Anderson walked through the doorway and stood next to us. "Those were very strong stings but nothing more. Ms. Morgan will be fine in a few minutes."

"Then those demons...weren't real," Bex said.

"We used a spell to make simulated demons," Ms. Anderson said. "The potions you've been making were real potions - they bubbled - but we had to see if they were the right ones. If they really worked."

"And you had to see what would happen to you if they don't," Ms. Halliwell added. "Or if you're careless." I was sure she was staring at me when she said that. "A real demon's energy bolt does a lot more than sting."


We were back inside our classroom. The tables had been moved to the side, replaced with desks. Macey and Bex had helped me up and sat me down at a desk. But aside from my embarrassment at having been "shot" by a demon, I was already feeling better.

A screen covered the front wall. Ms. Anderson pressed a button and the screen lit up. Everything that had happened had been recorded and now we were watching it. Everything that had been done right. And done wrong.

"Good co-ordination, Ms. McHenry," Ms. Halliwell said as we saw Macey's moves against the first demon.

Then there was Bex, throwing her blue potion at the demon, then following him as she held her dish with a white liquid inside of it. We saw Bex reaching a fork and starting down one of the twisting passageways, then looking at her white disk. She backed out to the fork then took the other passageway. She kept consulting her dish until she saw the demon ahead of her. Then she took out her jar of pink potion and vanquished him.

"What was in that jar and dish?" Ms. Halliwell asked.

"I've been making our classroom potions quickly and using the time left over for experimenting," Bex answered. "You showed us a stronger potion for a demon who can track someone who infiltrated the demon's surrounding. So I thought if I used that potion's base ingredients and tweaked it with one or two others, I could reverse it and make a potion that could track the demon. That was the blue potion. I made the white potion to complement it and point to that direction. And they worked."

"They did indeed," Ms. Halliwell said. "Very impressive, Ms. Baxter."

"Thank you," Bex said, with a smile.

Then the screen was filled with the image of me, turning towards the female demon and then being shot by the male demon's energy blast.

"Remember Rule Number Four," Ms. Anderson said. "With rare exceptions, demons will always believe that they are stronger than you. You are not considered a credible threat unless you can demonstrate that. You missing that demon when you threw the potion at him did not make you that kind of threat, Ms. Morgan. It just told him to get out of the way - for the moment.

"You let your guard down, turning your back on that passageway and assuming he was too frightened to return. In a real situation, that kind of mistake will get you killed."

I stared at the image of me on the screen. And I knew that I had made a big mistake. A rookie mistake. Mr. Solomon had repeatedly told us that we have to be on guard all of the time. The enemy only has to be lucky once. And I had helped him be lucky.



I walked down the old stone corridor and paused at the velvet tapestry that hung in the center of the stone wall. The Gallagher family tree was on it, nine generations before Gilly and two generations after her. I had stood there many times but not always to trace Gilly's family. If one reached behind the tapestry, one would find the Gallagher family crest imbedded in the wall. And if one turned the crest's little sword around, one could slip through the secret door that popped open.

Exploring hidden passageways was something I just did. Maybe it was the chameleon in me that made me want to sometimes just disappear.

But right now I had studying to do for Mr. Mosckowitz' Countries of the World test. So I turned away from the tapestry and kept walking down the corridor. Around the next corner I ran into Bex.

"There's something I suspect will be on Mr. Mosckowitz' test tomorrow and I want to check on it," Bex said.

"OK," I said and we walked down the stairs, heading toward the Hall of History.

"Cammie...isn't that Abby heading towards the front door?" Bex asked.

I looked in the direction Bex was pointing and saw my Aunt. Abigail Cameron is my mother's younger sister. She's slim and attractive like my Mom but with long, dark hair. For a few years I hadn't seen her at all. Whatever covert operations she was on, whatever legend she was using - a legend is a spy's cover identity - had kept her away from us. It was as if she was no longer part of our family. But she recently had need to spend time in my school and as a family we reconnected. And now everyone at the school knew her and liked her.

"Aunt Abby," I yelled, waiving excitedly at her. My aunt turned her head in my direction and, without stopping, gave a small nod at me. Then she turned her head and kept walking towards the front door.

"That's odd," Bex said. "That's not like Abby to ignore us. When did she come?"

"I didn't know she was here," I admitted. And that, I realized, bothered me even more. Why had she been avoiding me the whole time that she's been here? There was only one person who could answer that.

"I'm going to ask my Mom," I said. "I'll meet you later in the study room."

I headed off to my mother's office. Just because she's my Mom doesn't mean that I automatically have access to her in her office whenever I want to. She's still the Headmistress with a lot of things to do, much of which are not my business.

I knocked on the door. After about a ten second wait I heard Mom say "Come in." I walked inside and saw Piper Halliwell sitting in a chair to the left of my mother's desk. But I was not prepared for who was sitting to the right of it.

"Hi, Squirt," Aunt Abby said, giving me a warm smile.

I stood there staring at her. Whom I had just seen downstairs.

"Aren't you going to give me a hug?" my Aunt asked. Then she cocked her head. "Or let me hug you?"

"I...I don't understand," I stammered.

"What...that you didn't know that I was here?" she asked.

"No...I did know," I replied. "I saw you...and you ignored me."

"Hey Squirt...you know I've never ignore you," Abby said.

"But....you just did," I started. "I just saw you downstairs and you -"

The expression on my aunt's face changed as she cut me off. "When did you see me?"

"Ten minutes ago," I answered, confused.

"Your aunt's been here with us for the past half-hour," my mother said. She hesitated for a second. "Where did you see her?"

"Downstairs, heading towards the front door. Bex was with me and she also saw her," I added.

My Mom and my aunt looked at each other. They have the ability to "speak" to each other without actually saying words. Just with their looks. But then my Mom remembered that Ms. Halliwell was there and she couldn't "hear" them.

"A demon?" my mother asked, only it came out as a statement rather than a question. "Why Abby?"

"The Circle of Cavan," my aunt said, standing up. "You know I've been following leads to identify some of their leaders. Maybe even find out who were some of their double agents in the CIA and MI6 services."

"If a demon had learned about the Circle and wanted to know more about them, she might have come across you in the process of doing that," Mom said.

"Or worse. She may be looking to establish a connection with the Circle," my teacher added. "If the Circle learned that demons exist and they could then forge a joint effort with them it would be a disaster."

"Where was...'I' going?" my aunt asked.

"Towards the front door," I said.

"Leaving?" Ms. Halliwell said, surprise in her voice as she shook her head.

"The Circle's leaders are very smart, experienced and practical people," Aunt Abby said. "They wouldn't just believe that there are demons among us, let alone that demons, even if they really existed, could be of any benefit to them."

"They'd want proof," Ms. Halliwell said. "What better proof than infiltrating Gallagher Academy."

"But how could a demon...be you?" I asked

"She's changed her appearance to match mine," Aunt Abby said. "Because no one would challenge me and stop me from coming in."

"Demons can do that?" I asked. The thought that a demon could not only be anyone but look like anyone was freaking me out.

"Very few of them can," Aunt Abby answered. "But she's obviously one of them."

"But she would need proof that she got inside," Mom said. "And she hasn't done anything. There's been no damage to the school nor to anyone in it. And she was heading towards the door to leave."

"That worries me even more than her getting past security," Ms. Halliwell said.

"Rachel, you'd better find Joe and let him know what's happened," Aunt Abby said to my mother, referring to Joe Solomon.

"I'll find Kelly and tell her what we're facing," Ms. Halliwell said.

"Sweetheart, you go back to your room and wait there," Mom said to me.

"No," I said softly. "What is the Circle of Cavan?"

"That's not important for you to know now," my mother said. Or rather it was the Headmistress and former CIA operative who said that.

"I'm not a little girl anymore," I protested. "I'm old enough to know about demons and how to vanquish them, something that ninety-nine percent of the school doesn't know about. And I told you about Abby's double - without me you wouldn't have known there was a demon here. I understand all about 'need to know' but this time I -" I was about to say that I really need to know but I knew that wouldn't sway them.

"I deserve to know," I said.

Abby looked at my Mom, their silent "talking" going between them. "I'll tell her," my aunt said. Mom and my teacher hurried out of the office. My aunt cocked her hip and gave me a stern look.

"Sit down, Squirt, and just listen," she said. "There's no time for questions."  

I took the seat my teacher had just vacated, opposite my aunt.

"You know that Ioseph Cavan tried to assassinate Abraham Lincoln," Abby began, "and that Gillian ran him through with a sword and saved the President. What you don't know is that Cavan was not acting alone but had followers. They accepted his idea that no one, especially not governments, should be stronger and have more power than he - than them. A divided America, splintered and shattered, would have not been able to become more powerful than Cavan and his followers.

"After Cavan's death, his followers went underground and formed the Circle of Cavan, planning how to re-establish themselves and to realize Cavan's original goal. Eventually they did, insinuating themselves into all parts of society. Successful assassinations and wars, some small some large, have been traced to the Circle's doorstep. But finding who the leaders of the Circle are has proved to be extremely difficult.

"That's what I've been doing the past three months, trying to uncover them. And it's been a difficult task. They have double agents who have infiltrated the intelligence community. Not knowing whom to trust adds to the difficulty."

Mr. Solomon taught us that a spy always has to be prepared for the unexpected. I don't how much more unexpected things could be than what I had just heard. That Ioseph Cavan's plan didn't die with him. That a Circle of Cavan exists, committed to fulfilling his evil plans. That demons want to team up with them, to jointly bring chaos and destruction to the world.

He also taught us that of the five types of security threats, the worst kind was internal. Someone on the inside helping the enemy. Or the enemy posing as someone on the inside. As my aunt.

"What's the Circle's philosophy," I asked.

"I said we don't have time for questions now," Abby said sternly as she stood up. "But I'll answer this one. The Circle doesn't have a philosophy. And that's what makes them more dangerous than others. When there's a philosophy you can try to anticipate the enemy's plans and actions. But the Circle's only guiding idea is to do whatever it can to weaken all power besides its own. Wherever and whenever it can.

"Which class do you have now," my aunt asked as I stood up.

"I was going to meet Bex in the study room," I answered.

"OK - go there and stay there," she said.

I preceded my aunt out of my mother's office and headed in the direction of the study room.


As I walked through the halls girls were hurrying to their classes. Everything in the school looked normal. But I knew that it wasn't. A demon had been able to infiltrate the school. Which meant that we weren't as safe inside the mansion as we thought we were.

"What's the story?" Bex asked me as soon as I came into the study room. There were half a dozen girls sitting at the tables studying. I pulled Bex over to a corner away from them.

"That wasn't Abby we saw," I whispered. Then I told her everything I had learned in my Mom's office. Bex listened carefully as I spoke but said nothing, taking it all in.

"So we have to be especially vigilant looking out for anything out of the ordinary," I said. "We don't know what else that demon may try to do."

Bex was silent for a few seconds as something registered in her mind. "Maybe I do know," she said. "Gilly's family tree tapestry that hangs on the wall in the old corridor. It's not there."

"What? Of course it's there," I said. "I saw it just before I met you going to the Hall of History."

"I just passed the wall and it's not," Bex insisted. If she said it wasn't there then I knew it wasn't, despite what I had seen. "I thought they took it down to clean it. But if the demon needed proof of having been inside the school -"

"That would be the proof," I said. But it had still been there before I went to Mom's office. Before we saw the demon impersonating Abby going to the front door to leave.

"Mr. Solomon's CoveOps Rule Number Seven," I said. Bex looked at me as if I was suddenly incoherent. "Verify that what you think you see is what it really is. And I didn't do that. It looked as if the demon was leaving. But she wasn't."

"Then if she wasn't leaving why head to the front door?" Bex asked.

"To bring someone in," I said. "Another demon. A demon who wasn't one of the few demons who could change its appearance. And who couldn't just walk into the school.

"That first demon had to be sure she would get away with impersonating Aunt Abby," I continued. "Once she did that without any problem, she knew she could bring in the second demon and vouch for his being authorized to be in the school."

"And after that they went to get the tapestry," Bex said.

"Which means that they're still in the mansion," I said. "We've got to tell Abby, Ms. Halliwell and Ms. Anderson."

"They're going to need potions," Bex said, "and they won't have any with them."

"We'll bring them up from the Sublevel," I said. I was disobeying my aunt's order to stay in the study room but it wasn't the first time I had. And likely it wouldn't be the last time. We ran to the elevator. Our retinas were scanned and the doors opened. When we reached our Sublevel we rushed over to the tables on which lay the potion ingredients.

"There's no time to make them up," Bex said. "We'll have to use what's left over from our training exercise."

I grabbed my pouch, which still had a full jar of potion in it. Bex grabbed a jar of potion from the table and dropped it into her pouch. I grabbed two empty jars, opened the sealed vat of potion that was at the end of one of the tables and dipped the jars quickly into it, filling them both in a few seconds. Then I grabbed Macey's pouch, put one of the jars into it, and put the second jar into mine.

Carrying the three pouches, we hurried to the elevator, then raced down the hallway, looking into each room for Aunt Abby and our teachers. When we opened the door of Dr. Fibbs lab we saw Aunt Abby kneeling next to Ms. Anderson who was lying on the floor. Two shelves had fallen down, one on top of Ms. Anderson, which Aunt Abby was lifting off of her.

"Kelly! Kelly! Talk to me," my aunt shouted at her. I saw my teacher's head start to move and her eyes fluttered. Then my aunt noticed us.

"I told you to stay in the study room," she said.

"We knew the demon was still in the school and that the potions would be needed," I said, pointing to the pouches. "What happened?"

"The demon must have sent an energy bolt into the shelves, knocking one onto her," she answered.

"Is she all right?" Bex asked.

"She was only knocked un-conscious," Aunt Abby said as Ms. Anderson stirred some more. "I have to find your mother, Cammie, and tell her what's happening. Stay with Ms. Anderson. And this time I mean it!"

She ran out of the lab and Bex and I knelt down besides my teacher. She half-opened her eyes and tried focusing them on us.

"Why did the demon come in here?" Bex asked me.

"Proto...type," Ms. Anderson whispered.

I looked around the lab on the shelves that were still up and on the floor around my teacher and the fallen shelf.

"Liz told me she was working with Dr. Fibbs on a prototype for a new power source," I said. "There would have been a Gallagher 'Caution' sticker on it."

"That would be a second proof for the Circle that the demon - that two demons - have powers to let them get in here." Bex said.

"They're...going to tell the Circle...about demons helping them," Ms. Anderson said. "They have to...be stopped. The Circle can't...know -"

The sirens cut off my teacher. "CODE BLACK. CODE BLACK. CODE BLACK."

"Abby must have found your mother. That was fast," Bex said.

"Too fast," I said instinctively. Then I realized why I said it. It was only a few seconds since Aunt Abby had run out of the room. She couldn't have found my mother that quickly and then set off the Code Black.

"What's happening?" Macey asked as she burst into the lab.

"My mother and Abby didn't set off the Code Black to lock the demons inside the school," I said. "The demons got out and somehow triggered the Code Black to stop anyone else from getting out to go after them."

Metal covered the Academy's now securely locked doors and windows. Steel doors came down from ceilings, sealing off hallways.

"Ms. Anderson said we have to know where the demons are going," Bex said.

"But the mansion is locked down. There's no way out," Macey said.

"Yes...there is," I said. I had done a lot of investigating in my four-plus years at the school. There are a number of secret passageways I discovered that lead you all around the mansion. There's one that leads to a spot just outside of Mom's office where you can hear what's being said inside it. (I used it once and promised myself I'd never spy on her again). Some of the tunnels just let me have a quiet place where I can be alone to think.

But there's one tunnel that's really secret that I discovered when I was in eighth grade. It was so full of dust and cobwebs that probably Gilly herself was the last person before me to use it. But it doesn't lead anywhere inside the mansion. It leads outside the mansion, coming out west of the guard tower. As no one else knows about it, there's no metal nor steel door sealing it off.

I should have gone to look for Abby and Mom and told them about it. But I knew I wouldn't be able to find them quickly. And time was not on our side.

"If you have a way out...go now," Ms. Anderson said, with difficulty. "Find them!"

I looked at my friends. "Follow me," I said, handing Macey her pouch. I hurried out of the lab and headed down the stairs, and as Bex quickly told Macey about the Circle of Cavan, we bumped into Liz going in the opposite direction.

"You're going the wrong way," she said. "Protocol is that in a Code Black we all go to the Main Hall."

"We...have something we have to do," I said to her and kept going.

"Wait!" Liz said, grabbing Macey's arm. "Whatever you're doing must be really important. And you're not leaving me behind. I'm coming with you."

"Liz," I started to say but Bex cut me off.

"We don't have time to argue," she said, impatiently. She turned to Liz and looked at her deeply for a few seconds. "Come on, Liz."

I led my friends to an old bookcase. I pulled out a particular book (Spymasters of the Ming Dynasty) as I pushed on the left side of the bookcase. It spun around like a revolving door and we ran into the tunnel.

We came out past the guardhouse near the road. A car was coming down the drive but it wasn't stopping. It was going to crash through the gate. We could see two "people" in the car. But I knew they were demons not people. I recognized one of them. It was the demon who had looked like Aunt Abby. She was wearing the same clothes she had on when I saw her earlier.

"That's them," I said.

"Who are they? Liz asked.

"We have to know where they're going," Macey said, repeating what Kelly Anderson had said to us.

"And we will," Bex said. Putting her hand in her pouch, she pulled out the jar with her blue potion, the one she had used to track a demon in the test.

"You can't pour that on them," Macey said. "They're inside the car."

"Exactly," Bex said, with a gleam in her eyes. She looked at the moving car, calculated where it was going and hurled the jar onto the driveway just ahead of it. The car's front right wheel ran over the jar, splattering the potion onto the underside of the car. Then Bex pulled out her little plastic covered dish with the complementary white potion that points towards the blue one.

"Now we can follow their car and know where they go," she said.


The sirens blasting "CODE BLACK" could be heard outside. The titanium barriers had come down over every opening, blocking us off from my school and my teachers. From my home.

"That demon managed to set off the Code Black," Bex said. "They locked everyone inside."

"Everyone except us," Macey pointed out. "If that demon gets to one of the Circle of Cavan and tells him that demons exist..." Macey didn't finish the sentence. We all knew what it meant if the Circle of Cavan learned that they could team up with demons. The havoc and chaos they could bring about would be unimaginable.

"They have to be stopped before they can tell them," Bex said.

"We need Mr. Solomon, Aunt Abby and my mother to stop them," I protested.

"They, along with Ms. Halliwell and Ms. Anderson, are on the other side of those titanium walls that locked up the mansion," Macey said. "By the time they get the Code Black reversed and can get out it will be too late. We're going to have to stop them."

I stared at Macey. "But we're just -"

"Gallagher Girls," Bex cut in.

"We're just juniors!" I shot back, sharper than I had intended to.

"We've been training for this for over four years," Bex answered. "This is the real world of spies. It's just coming to us a little sooner than we thought it would."

"We're good," Macey said. "You're good, Cammie."

My best friends stared at me intently. And I realized that they were not just deciding to do this mission with me. They were looking to me to lead it.

And then it happened. Knowing what my father, whom I'll probably never see again, did. Knowing what my mother did as a CIA operative. The genes I inherited from them suddenly made everything click into place.

And I knew I had do this. I knew I could do this.

"What is this about and what do we have to do?" Liz asked.

"We can follow them thanks to Bex' potion," I said. "And we have vanquishing potion in our pouches."

"Potion? Liz asked.

"Lizzie, do you have the keys to the van with you?" I asked. Liz had been developing an engine, with Dr. Fibbs, that could get super mileage and had been testing it in an old van. We had used that van before on an "un-authorized" mission.

"Of course," Liz answered, lowering her back pack and pulling out the keys. "Along with a lot of other things that I carry with me - just in case. But tell me what is going on?"

"Macey you drive," I said taking the keys from Liz and handing them to Macey. "Bex you sit next to her and navigate from your white potion dish. I'll sit in the back and explain everything to Liz."

We ran back towards the mansion, then went around to the side where the van was parked. We climbed into the van and Macey started it up and pulled away.

"Lizzie, what I'm going to tell you...will be hard to believe," I began. "But you have to believe me. Do you trust me?"

"What kind of a question is that?" Liz asked. "Of course I trust you. I'd trust you with my life, Cammie."

I took a deep breath. "Those 'study periods' when you couldn't find us anywhere studying - that's because we weren't. We were in a classroom, of sorts, taking a covert course. One that was secret to almost everyone else in the school."


Covert Operations Report

Operatives Morgan, Baxter, Sutton and McHenry undertook the dangerous operation to

outrun the demons with the van and stop them from meeting with an agent of the Circle

of Cavan.

• Operative Baxter was having some difficulty in reading the dish with the white potion

   and kept telling Operative McHenry to immediately reverse direction.

• Number of hairpin u-turns executed by Operative McHenry: 5

• Number of times Operative Morgan thought that the van would tip over on a hairpin

   u-turn: 5

• Number of times Operative Morgan was thankful that Operative Baxter, not known to be a

   cautious driver (to put it mildly) was not behind the wheel on the u-turns: 10 (each

   u-turn had two parts: beginning and end - Operative Morgan had a chance to be thankful

   at each part).

• Operative Morgan told Operative Sutton about the demons, their teachers who were good

   witches, vanquishing potions and the Circle of Cavan.

• Number of smart, insightful questions Operative Sutton had: 6

• Number of smart, insightful answers Operative Morgan had: 0

• Operative Morgan complimented Operative Sutton for the time she put in to improve the

   van's gas mileage (the needle on the gas gauge never moved).

• Operative Morgan complained to Operative Sutton about the time she hadn't put in to

   improve the van's springs and struts so that they wouldn't feel every bump in the

   road.


I'd never gone up into the mountains that were close to Roseville. Until that day. Bex' potion pointed towards them and we came to one particular mountain. The car we had seen leaving the school was parked outside, next to a second car. There was an opening in the side of the mountain, leading into what must have been a cave.

"The second car must belong to someone from the Circle of Cavan," Bex said. "They arranged to meet here. Out of the way where they wouldn't have to risk anyone seeing them."

"We have to find the demons before they do meet with the Circle's person," I said.

We walked over to the cave entrance. Light shown inside for a few feet but after that it was dark.

"We need our comms," Macey said.

"I have comms but they won't work inside the mountain," Liz said. "The thick walls will block out the signals. But I do have flashlights," she added, lowering her back pack.

We each took a flashlight and walked into the passageway. After about thirty yards the passageway split in two.

"Macey and Liz take the left passageway," I said. "Bex and I will take the right one. And be careful!"


I had never been inside the mountain's cave. The limestone and ice stalactites and stalagmites that filled it were breath-taking, with different shapes and a host of colors, with yellow-tan being predominant. But we couldn't stop to admire their beauty.

We turned down a path and could hear voices echoing further ahead. As we got closer we could make out the words.

"So we have an arrangement, Galen?" one voice asked.

"An arrangement with demons will benefit both of us," came the response. "You're ability to infiltrate Gallagher is impressive. And the destruction and chaos you can bring will let the Circle become the most powerful -"

"We're too late!" I exclaimed, louder than I had meant to be, as Bex and I turned the corner and ran into the cavern. The two demons and a man stood about fifteen feet from us. Gilly's family tree tapestry was in the man's hands. Dr. Fibbs' prototype lay on the ground. The three immediately turned towards us.

"They're from the school, Galen," one of the demons said to the man. "I don't know how they were able to get out. Nor how they found us."

"I'm not really surprised," Galen said. "Given where they're from and how they've been trained."

"I'll take care of them," the female demon said. But as she raised her hand and aimed it at me I fell to the ground and rolled to my right side. The energy bolt hit a stalagmite behind where I had been standing, breaking it in two. But I quickly stood up, pulling a jar of potion from my pouch as I did. Before the demon could react I threw it at a stalactite just above her head.

The jar broke from the impact and the potion spilled down on the demon. Her screams echoed in the cave as she began to burn, smoke and flames surrounding her. The second demon stared at her, then at me. Fear filled his face - I'd shown him I was a credible threat - and he turned and ran out a path on the other side.

"I'll get him, Cammie," Bex shouted as she started to run after the demon, a jar of potion from her pouch already in her hand. "Keep Galen here."

I turned to look at Galen, a member of the Circle of Cavan whom I knew was as evil as any demon. I prepared myself to use my P&E training to stop him from trying to run. But what I saw was not what I had expected.

Galen made no move to escape. Instead, a strange look came over his face as he stared at me.

"Cammie," he said my name slowly, as if he recognized it. As if my name - as if I - meant something to him. And then a small smile played across his lips. "So nice of you to come here."

"Do you know me?" I asked. Which was not, under the circumstance, the smartest thing for a spy to ask someone like him. But that look of recognition had startled me, just enough to disrupt my concentration so that I didn't see him pull out a gun. Until it was pointed right at me.

"This all works out so well," he said, as he dropped the tapestry.

My choices were not great. I could throw myself at him, but he was ten feet from me and he would shoot me before I could reach him. With huge stalagmites on either side of me I didn't have place to roll sideways.

"Cammie, Bex, are you in here? I heard screams," Liz' voice called out as she ran into the cavern. Galen turned to look at her and I didn't hesitate. I rushed him, the impact knocking us both down. Then I felt the barrel of the gun as he brought it down hard across my head. Pain shot through me but I knew I had to ignore it. I gave a hard chop across his elbow and the gun fell from his hand and skidded away on the cavern's floor.

I turned and sprang for the gun, picked it up and got to my knees. I could feel blood trickling down my forehead as I aimed the gun at him. But Galen had grabbed Liz and held both hands tightly around her neck.

"Drop the gun or I'll break your friend's neck," he commanded, squeezing Liz' neck even more and tilting it. I knew if I dropped the gun he'd probably kill Liz anyway and then kill me. But he held Liz in a way that her body shielded him. A bullet would hit her first.

'I'd trust you with my life' Liz had said to me in the van. And now her life was in my hands. I had to do something to save her. But I didn't know what to do.

"Did you find them, Liz?" Macey called out as she came into the cavern. That diverted Galen's attention just long enough for Liz to put into practice a basic P&E move. Using his hold of her as a counterweight, she kicked her right heel with all her might into his groin. Galen screamed in pain, his grip releasing Liz and she dropped to the ground.

How to shoot a gun is not taught at my school. Mr. Solomon says that if you have to use a gun you haven't done your op right. I've thought about what happened and I honestly don't know what I could have done differently to not be in that position.

So I don't know how I knew how to shoot a gun. Maybe it's something I unknowingly inherited from my parents, that was dormant in my sub-conscious. But I aimed the gun with both hands and squeezed the trigger. The recoil pushed me back as a red blotch formed on Galen's chest. I re-positioned myself on my knees, aimed and pulled the trigger again. And again. And again.

I kept pulling the trigger even though no more bullets were coming from the gun.

"Cammie - stop!" I heard Bex's voice command me. But I couldn't stop.

"Cammie, it's OK," I heard her say, this time gently. She kneeled beside me and I felt her hands go around mine. I held the gun so tightly, as if everything in the world depended upon my holding on to it and I couldn't let go. Until gently she took my fingers in hers and slowly pried my hands from the gun.

"It's over, Cammie," Bex said, dropping the gun into her pouch. "Both demons are vanquished and Galen is dead. The Circle won't know that demons exist nor how they could help the Circle get the power it wants."

I stared at Galen as he lay on the cavern floor, his chest and face all covered in blood.

"I...I killed him," I said slowly. "I...killed someone." The shock of what I had done hit me.

"You saved me," Liz said, her voice raspy from being choked by Galen. The red marks his fingers' grip had left were clearly visible around her throat.

"You saved all of us," Macey added.

I turned to Bex and looked into my best friend's eyes. Then all of my strength left me and I fell into her arms. And I began to cry.

 

I sat on a bed in the school infirmary. The doctor had patched the gash the gun had made in my head but I had a large bump there that I knew would not be going away soon.

"How do you feel, kiddo," my Mom asked me as she stood next to the bed.

"OK," I lied. I didn't want to go into how I was really feeling. Not my head but what my insides were feeling after what had happened. After what I did.

"You were very brave," she said. "You handled that situation the way on operative should." With that last comment she changed from being my mother to being the school's Headmistress, assessing a student's work.

"How is Liz?" I asked.

"Her neck may be sore for a day but otherwise she'll be fine," Mom answered. "She's waiting for you outside."

I hopped off the bed and walked out of the room. Liz, Macey and Bex were waiting for me in the hallway.

"How are you doing?" Bex asked. Before I could answer Liz rushed to me and threw her arms around me in a tight hug. Liz isn't strong enough to take anyone in the Junior class - she barely weighs one hundred pounds. But at that moment I knew that no matter how strong I was and no matter how hard I might try, I wouldn't be able to pry her arms off of me.

"Thank you Cammie. You saved my life," she said, then held me for a long time. When she finally let go, I know I saw a tear in her eye. Then I looked at Bex. If I didn't know better I would have said I saw a tear in her eye, also.

"We're a really good team," Macey said.

I looked at my three best friends. "Yes...I suppose we are," I said.



I'd like to say that everything returned to normal. Ms. Anderson said we didn't have to take a final exam in her course. Having succeeded in a real world operation, we'd passed.

Tina Walters was happily telling everyone that the Code Black had been triggered by a rogue Interpol agent being spotted in Roseville, a story she probably got from her gossip columnist/spy mother. I went back to watching our bi-weekly movie with my classmates in the common room, and enjoying our chef’s awesome crème brûlée.

But the truth is that things were not normal. And probably never would be again. Not as long as the Circle of Cavan was out there, trying through whatever evil means it could to diminish everyone else's power and get more of its own. And to infiltrate my school to get something.

Or get someone.

Mr. Solomon drilled into us to notice everything that we see. And I did. I can't forget the recognition that crossed Galen's face when he heard my name. It was as if whatever the Circle was seeking in the school was right there in front of him within his reach.

Me.

I said that to my mother and Mr. Solomon when I was safely back in her office. Mom told me not to worry, that everything was OK now and that I was safe.

But then they looked at each other and "spoke" to each other without saying any words. It's the same thing Mom and Aunt Abby do with each other. And I knew what they were "saying" to each other. That this wasn't over. And that we - that I - would eventually face the Circle of Cavan again.

So for now, I'll try to lead a normal junior's life. But at the same time, I'll always be checking what's around me wherever I am. Sort of like what a spy always does, balance the legend with the assignment. It takes some concentration to do that, not the kind of thing a normal high school junior would do. But I can do it.

I'm a Gallagher Girl.

 


 



~ Author's Notes ~


There are no gaps in time in the Gallagher series, neither between nor within the books. I therefore had to set this in a "parallel time", a period that roughly coincides with that of the Gallagher Girls book Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover. Cammie's reference to Aunt Abby having recently spent time at Gallagher Academy is a "tip of the hat" to that book. However, the end of the episode neatly ties in with the Circle of Cavan plotline in the three subsequent Gallagher Girls books.

The passageway Cammie took to get out of the mansion during the Code Black is the same passageway she uses to get out during another Code Black in the last Gallagher book United We Spy.

Piper's speaking about an operation in Russia against the FSB is a reference to her actions in the Charmed Role Reversal episode The Witch Who Went Out Into The Cold.

See all of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series books on her website Ally Carter



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