But wait, I realized a second later. We weren't sinking.
Bex and I both leaned forward, watched the way the limo's headlights sliced through the water as a propeller emerged from the trunk and began churning, pushing us through the murky haze like a submarine.
"WARNING: RESTRICED AREA. AUTHORIZED PERSONAL ONLY," a shrill mechanical voice ordered in stereo, echoing through the car's speakers.
Mom . . ." Bex started to say, but her mother merely shushed her.
"ACQUIRING RENTAL IMAGAMES NOW," the voice said just as an orange light flashed through the car like lightning. I squinted, and it felt like thousand tiny flashbulbs were going off inside my eyes.
"PRESENT VOCAL RECOGNITON, PLEASE," the voice commanded, and my aunt responded, "Abigail Cameron. CIA."
"Abraham Baxter, MI6," Bex's father said from the front seat. Beside me, Bex's mother gave her own name, then nudged me softly in the ribs.
"Um . . . Cameron Ann Morgan . . . Gallagher Girl?" I didn't have a clue what my official title was or should be. International terrorist target? Teenage girl? Spy in training? Person who really, really wants to know what's going on?
I heard Bex reply in the same way I had, and then the movement stopped. Water fell away as if the car were emerging from the lake, but there was no sunlight streaming through the windows. I peered through the bulletproof glass and saw the headlights sweep over solid stone. Then the car doors popped open automatically, and Abby stepped out, and nothing in my sixteen (almost seventeen!) years of living, or five and a half years of training, had fully prepared me for what I saw.
"There are caves under the lake?" I guessed, but Bex's mother was already out of the car walking toward the trunk.
I'd heard of underground waterways, caverns, and caves my whole life, but I'd never known I was living right beside one, I stared at the stalactites and stalagmites that covered the cave's floors and ceiling. The ground sloped down behind us, toward the water of the lake while my best friend and I stood on an underground shore, and I remembered that I didn't know all of my school's secrets - not even close.
Before I knew it, Mr. Baxter had our bags out of the trunk and Mrs. Baxter was hugging Bex, whispering in her ear. I was still taking in the long, dark cave that stretched far beyond the headlight's glare.
I stepped to the wall, and ran my fingers along the Gallagher Academy crest that was carved into the stone.
"Good-bye, darling," Mrs. Baxter kissed my cheek. And then Aunt Abby's hands were on my shoulders.
"Cammie, stop for a second. Before you go any farther, I need you to promise me something."
"I need you to be careful this semester." She did sound like herself I realized. She sounded like Mr. Solomon. "Cam, do you hear me?"
"Yes . . . I know."
"Do not take unnecessary chances."
"And, Squirt, you need to be . . . strong."
I started to tell her again that I knew, but something same over me. "You aren't coming, are you?" I asked.
Abby looked from me to the Baxters and back again. "This is as far as I go."
"But I thought maybe you'd . . . We won't have a CoveOps teacher."
"Sure you will, Squirt." She smiled slightly. "Sure you will."
"Dr. Fibs's filing cabinets?" I heard myself mutter five minutes later - still a little shocked, to tell you the truth. But what else is a girl supposed to feel after riding in an underwater elevator, going through six more scans (two retinal, three voice, and one full-body), and them climbing fifty feet up a rickety staircase that looked older that the school itself?
So, yeah, shock probably covers it. But that didn't stop me from examining the hidden door thorugh which we'd just emerged. "I never knew there was a passageway behind Dr.
Fibs's filing cabinets!"
"Which is the sole reason it's still functioning."
Bex and I spun around to see Professor Buckingham behind us, standing in the doorway of the dim room with her arms crossed, looking like the most intimidating barrier of all.
"Cameron, Rebecca, come with me."
There are three things it's important to know about Professor Buckingham. 1) She's our oldest faculty member. 2) She is an absolute legend at MI6. And 3) She walks faster than should be humanly possible with a bad hip. At least it seemed that way as Bex and I dragged our heavy bags up the staris, trying to keep pace.
"I hope your break was nice, ladies." She glanced back at us. "Or as nice as can be expected under the circumstances."
"Professor!" Mr. Mosckowitz called from the stairs above us. "I need the -"
"My office. Second shelf," she called back without missing a beat. "I have been asked to convey three very important facts to you both. The first is to remind you that what happened in London is highly classified. Anything you might have seen . . ." she stopped and stared at us over the top of the glasses. "Any conversations you might have had are not to be repeated to anyone - especially your classmates. These are stories you will not share on school grounds."
Bex shot me a quick glance, and knew she'd heard the loophole too. That's probably why Professor Buckingham didn't waste a second before adding, "The second thing is that there will be no more trips off school grounds." She turned to climb again.
"Extracurricular or otherwise."
Climbing up the stairs. I watched my teacher turn her back to me. "I'm sure we've missed some, Cameron. And if we did . . . well . . . I do hope you'll tell us."