Alias: Disappeared [Alias Series #3] [Secure Microsoft Reader/eReader (recommended)/Adobe]
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by Lynn Mason
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Category: Young Adult/Suspense/Thriller
Description: A crumbling Gothic mansion on a craggy Scottish isle. A secret meeting among the world's most powerful underground organizations. And lots of bad blood.Sydney's sent by SD-6 to pose as the heiress of a former ruling family of Romania now mixed up in the black market. Except instead of collecting intelligence, something goes very wrong. One by one people end up disappearing. Gone. Vanished. When someone is found, they're dead. Will Sydney be the prime suspect ... or the newest victim?
eBook Publisher: Random House, Inc./Bantam Books for Young Readers, 2003
Mundania eBookstore Release Date: June 2003
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure Microsoft Reader/eReader (recommended)/Adobe - What's this?]:
Secure Adobe: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTIONS: Available to customers in: US
The paper airplane soared upward, grazing the bottom branches of the sycamore tree before skidding to a stop on the grass. Sydney raced across the yard to retrieve it, the plaid pleated skirt of her girls' academy uniform swirling about her long, thin legs.
"Daddy! Daddy, look! I made it fly!"
Mr. Bristow's head remained hidden behind the front section of the Los Angeles Register.
"Daddy?" Sydney asked, taking a few steps toward him. "Daddy, you aren't listening to me. I made a good plane! It flew really far! Didn't you see?"
"Yes. I saw," came a flat response.
"No! You didn't!" she yelled, stamping her burgundy penny loafer. "You weren't watching, you were reading! That's all you do all the time! Read, read, read!"
The paper lowered and Mr. Bristow's blank expression fell on his daughter. "Stop being dramatic, Sydney," he said. "You're acting like a child."
But I am a child, she thought, angrily tossing the plane into the air again. It sailed straight up for a few seconds before becoming wedged in a tangle of twigs. She turned back toward her father, hoping he would offer to pull it loose. But his newspaper barrier was raised once again, and all Sydney could see were the large black letters screaming SPACE SHUTTLE EXPLODES! * * *
"Hey? You awake?" Todd de Rossi's voice penetrated the daydream.
Sydney jerked her head slightly. "Huh? What?" The childhood memory dissolved as she found herself back in her American History seminar, her pen still poised over her spiral notebook. Professor Baldridge was lecturing in his tired drone, his words melding with the steady whir of the old building's air-conditioning system. On the giant screen behind him loomed the famous image of the Challenger exploding high in the atmosphere.
"Sorry," she whispered, smiling weakly at Todd. "What did you say?"
Todd grinned. "I said it takes a special kind of boring to make a major disaster dull. Guess I made my case. Where were you just now? In orbit?"
"No. I was just... I was just remembering where I was when I first heard about the Challenger exploding." She rubbed her eyes and sat up straight, trying to shake off the residual anguish stirred up by her memory. She could practically smell the olive trees shading the Bristows' old front porch and feel the light weave of her school uniform, as if her body had carefully recorded every sensation for careful replay later on.
It had been one of those pivotal childhood moments: the point when she'd finally understood that her father was lost to her. The tragic car accident that had taken her mother seemed to have completely diminished her father. He had never been the cheerful life force her mother was, and yet Sydney had never doubted his devotion to his family. But that day on the front lawn, all hope that he might someday come back to her shattered like the hull of the ill-fated space shuttle. From then on she stopped consciously trying to please him and began preparing herself for a life alone.
"You know, I don't remember what I was doing when I first heard about the Challenger," Todd mused, rubbing his chin. "Probably standing in front of my mirror doing my best James Dean."
Sydney rolled her eyes. "Why does that not surprise me?"
"Excuse me? Professor Baldridge?" Sydney glanced up to see a tall guy with shaggy red hair rise from his aisle seat, his left arm high in the air.
"Oh, goody. Burke has something to say," Todd whispered, leaning forward in his seat. "This ought to be entertaining."
Most of the other students in the lecture hall were also shifting to get a better look. Sydney let out a small moan of frustration and slouched back in her chair, folding her arms across her striped sweater. Great. Another outburst from Burke Wells, campus radical extraordinaire.
Professor Baldridge's reaction was not unlike her own. "Yes, Mr. Wells?" he asked, his voice sounding more weary than usual.
"Isn't it true, Professor," Burke began, "that the shuttle blew up due to sabotage and not because of an accident?"
The professor heaved a long, audible sigh. "No, Mr. Wells. I'm afraid that was simply a story a few tabloids used to try to sell papers. As I said earlier, the explosion was caused by a faulty--"
"Excuse me, Professor," Burke interrupted, waving his arm in the air again. "But it wasn't just in the tabloids, was it? I mean, sure, it wasn't reported in any of the so-called legitimate, corporate-run U.S. papers. But several highly esteemed foreign news agencies reported the existence of a top-secret surveillance satellite aboard, which was the motive behind the sabotage."
Sydney shook her head in disbelief. "What's up with this guy?" she grumbled.
"Don't know. Isn't he dreamy, though?" Todd's large brown eyes seemed to droop as they beheld Burke. Sydney glanced around the room. Dozens of girls were staring at Burke with the exact same puppy dog expression.
"Full of himself is more like it," she said.
"No, Burke's cool," Todd countered. "I've gone to a couple of demonstrations he's organized. The guy knows a lot about human rights violations and government cover-ups. He feels it's his duty to tell people the truth about stuff. Things they don't tell you in college."
Sydney squinted at Burke. His knit cap and woven Guatemalan shirt were standard-issue hippie radical, although he wore athletic shoes. His arms were lean and well toned, thanks to a regimen of one-hour yoga sessions, a strict vegetarian diet, and lots of dancing to bongos, she guessed. Of course, the most in-your-face thing about Burke Wells was how beautiful he was. His scruffy appearance implied the absence of massive vanity, but it was hard to hide the Green party's version of Brad Pitt.
That was just it. He was almost too handsome. His features were oh-so-perfectly proportioned and symmetrical, his eyes were fairy-tale bright and twinkly, and those thick red waves that grazed the tops of his broad shoulders looked as if they belonged in a shampoo ad. Never mind his ad-libbed approach to history. Sydney always had trouble trusting anyone that perfect-looking.
"I don't buy it. Most of what he says in class sounds like nonsense," she muttered. "He probably just likes attention."
Todd shook his head. "I don't think so. Guys who look like Burke don't have to work to make people notice them."
Sydney frowned. Todd had a point there. But come on! A spy satellite on a space shuttle? That was delusional. Plus, it made the government -- the same government she was trained to risk her life for -- sound idiotic and devious.
Having made his point, Burke once again took his seat, and Professor Baldridge continued his speech. Students all around them slouched back in their chairs.
"You know," Todd whispered, leaning toward her, "I think you and Burke would really hit it off. Want me to introduce you?"
"No." Todd was sweet, but all those Diet Cokes he drank must have reached toxic levels in his blood.
"Aw, come on."
"No!" She'd been insulted by arrogant pretty boys like Burke before, and she was not going through it again. "I'm serious, Todd. No setups, okay? Promise me you won't introduce me to that guy."
Todd crossed his hand over his heart and held up his first three fingers. "Scout's honor," he said, staring back with his big, soulful eyes. "You can count on me." * * *
"Burke!" Todd called as they made their way out into the hall after class.
In the sea of moving faces, Burke's red hair stuck out like a campfire in the crowd. He looked over at them and smiled. "Hey, Todd. What's going on?" he said, altering his path to head toward them.
Sydney clamped her hand tightly on Todd's arm. "Didn't you promise me you wouldn't do this?" she muttered through her teeth.
"Sorry, Sydney," he replied with an impish grin. "I was never a scout."
Burke shuffled up to them, still smiling. Sydney was amazed -- dismayed, actually, to see he was even better-looking close up. From this distance she could see the faint cleft in his chin. And his almond-shaped hazel eyes held so many colors, she wondered if they'd been tie-dyed.
But in her experience, the better-looking a guy was on the outside, the more of a jerk he was inside. She just might have to kill Todd for his good intentions.
"Hey, that was some great stuff you brought up in class," Todd said. "Really got me thinking."
Without meaning to, Sydney let a slight snort escape through her nostrils. Burke raised his eyebrows.
"Um... this is my friend Sydney." Todd said, jabbing her with his elbow. "She's sort of... a skeptic."
"Hi, I'm Burke," he greeted her, offering his hand. She took it, grudgingly, and gave it a shake. "So what are you skeptical about?"
Sydney pulled back her hand, opened her mouth to say something, and then quickly shut it. Even disregarding Todd's elbow drilling into her rib cage, she really wasn't sure she wanted to get into this. But if she dodged the question, she'd only end up looking cowardly. And she hated to let this guy get away with all his misguided propaganda.
"This whole business about the satellite," she began. "It's ludicrous. Everyone knows NASA uses unmanned rockets to launch things like that. Besides, the Challenger mission was all about education and good PR for the space program. Why would they allow a spy satellite on board?"
Burke nodded along with her. "You're right. But see, that's precisely why officials wanted to use the mission. Because no one would suspect it."
She shook her head. "That still makes no sense. Suppose they did have top-secret spy equipment on board. The launch was being closely covered by the media. How could anyone get close enough to sabotage it?"
"Good point," Burke replied. Sydney searched his voice for any hidden condescension but found none. "Still," he added, "you have no idea what some of these anti-American groups are capable of."
A bemused expression flitted across her face. Just try me, pal, she muttered silently. I've seen stuff that would straighten your hair.
"From what I understand," he went on, "they did manage to penetrate security, probably with inside help. And the media coverage only worked in their favor. They were able to humiliate U.S. officials and send them a loud, obvious message about their spy operations."
Sydney sighed. She really wished he would wipe that smile off his face. It was just so absurdly warm and friendly and charming, it was completely defusing her aggravation. "Look. You seem like a nice guy," she said in a tone she typically reserved for children or the mentally imbalanced. "But I've got to say, someone's been feeding you a lot of bogus information."
"Maybe," he said with a shrug. "But have you ever stopped to question the information you've been getting?"
Sydney blinked at him. If he only knew what she did for a living. For his own security!
"Well, I gotta go." Burke stepped around them and continued down the corridor. "Bye, Todd," he called over his shoulder. "Nice to meet you, Sydney."
"Man oh man," Todd murmured as he watched him walk away. "I'm real sorry, Sydney."
"That's okay," she replied. "I know you meant well."
"No. I don't mean that. I mean about thinking you two would hit it off," Todd explained. "Boy, was I ever wrong."
"I told you," she said, shoving his shoulder.
"But if Burke isn't your type, who the hell is?"
Sydney shrugged. She couldn't tell Todd about another pivotal moment in her life... the moment she had first laid eyes on Noah Hicks.
Copyright © 2003 by Touchstone Television