...chapter 1

Students milled around the Quad, soaking up the last rays of sunlight before turning into class for the first day of school after winter break. If it weren't for the fact that I previously profiled everyone one of these kids before my assignment began, I could imagine being thoroughly impressed by their behavior. As far as the eye could see, a herd of classy teenagers dressed in pristine navy skirts and tailored khaki pants, no doubt of the finest-quality material available.

It truly was the perfect brochure image, relaying a sense of presumed perfection that danced mockingly in the eyes of the viewer who could never attain a level of such excellence.

But I knew better.

Every one is entitled to their dirty little secrets. I simply happen to know them all.

Take the girl standing next to the fountain, idly chatting away to her friend. Amy Schyuler. Every few minutes, she subtly glances over her shoulder, looking for projections that don't exist. Last summer, she smoked a joint laced with PCP and has suffered mild paranoid schizophrenia ever since. She's currently on antipsychotics.

The boy next to her? Konrad Phillips. He thinks his father is billionaire business tycoon Fynn Phillips. Not the case. His real father is fashion photographer Melvin Lyons. He fucked Konrad's mother, ex-supermodel Joanna Ramos, on a trip to the Bahamas in '94. A couple years later he died of a heroin overdose having been driven to addiction when faced with the harsh reality of unrequited love. At least, that's what the suicide note read.

Better yet, look at Martha Hyde sitting all by herself on the steps of the school entrance. Straight-A student with perfect attendance. Her dream school? Princeton. Part-time student, part-time dancer – but I'm not talking the respectable kind.

Then there's the million dollar question: why?

I might have known small tidbits of information about everyone, but I wasn't privy to their motivations.

Humans were odd like that. You could know every detail of their life, from their favorite color to the first time they learned how to ride a bicycle, but no amount of autobiographical knowledge is enough to really know why.

Profiling only gets you so far before the inevitable roadblock even the highest-ranking analyst cannot conquer.

Which makes understanding Rowan Laurent something of a challenge.

The database is almost entirely empty of information on him, save for a few basic facts like his birthday and shoe size. When I first got signed to this mission, I expected to learn more than just a SAT score. A perfect 2400, if you're curious.

Plus, this was my first extraction job ever, so I was a little weary. It was a two-month long commitment I couldn't fail. If I failed, I would never be able to get a proper field job again. The most likely scenario to follow includes being demoted to some lowly analyst job decoding irrelevant Cold War files from the fifties.

In a cubicle.

A cubicle.

The simple thought of being in the same room working a nine to five job while breathing the same musty, recycled air makes me shudder in disgust.

That is a fate I desire to avoid.

I much prefer the outside world, thanks.

And all that depended on whether I could figure out the inner-workings of this guy's ridiculously-wealthy brain.

My eyes quickly scan the courtyard for the mop of familiar dark brown hair. The large crowd of effervescent students surrounding him gives his location away.

"I've got visual," I mutter quiet enough so as not to bring attention to myself.

"Wait, what? I can't…" Static drowns out her voice.

"Visuals, Elyse, visuals," I repeat through gritted teeth. "I've got visuals on the target." The new earpieces we received last week were full of bugs. It was a near impossible job to get them to turn on and even harder to communicate with.

Hopefully, they were only a beta version.

"…oh. Me too."

"I'm going in."

"Try not to look like a dumb ass, 'kay?"

I ignore her, too focused on my racing pulse. With all the courage in my body, I walk toward the massive, gray building, completely unprepared for the most daunting task of my short career.

High school.

WHAAAAT? I have a new story? Is this really happening? Could I possibly write something not Essence related? What is the meaning of life?

Before we get all philosophical, YES! It's true. I'm starting something new. An action piece! It's going to be exciting. I swear.

So please drop a review and tell me what you think! Does it suck? Is it ugly? Does it make any sense? Blah blah blah...give me criticism!

Anyway, I already have the next two chapters written, so expect those in the coming weeks. I'm hoping to update this on a weekly basis and get done with it...soon? We'll see. In the meantime, byeeeee!


PS: I swear, it gets better. Keep reading! There's lots of action and drama to come...!

What, not tantalizing enough?

Anyway, why are you still reading this! Click to the next chapter already! You know you wanna...