A holographic bubble appeared over Jamie's leather cuff, beeping softly. Jamie ignored the soft beeps, instead willing her bio-mech wings on her back to flap. The four oval wings slapped against each other as Jamie started to rise first an inch, then two. Soon her feet dangled a foot off the ground. After a few minutes, her eyes were almost to the second story of the Stacks. Her cuff continued to beep softly. Reluctantly, Jamie landed and tapped the bubble. Dr. Woodhouse's brief text message made her groan. GO WATCH THE COMPUTER.
Jamie shrugged off the wing harness and logged the flight time on her cuff computer. Today was her time best yet. She stared up at the endless tower of stacked, steel-framed levels that created the Stacks. She'd have to get the wings working to full capacity if she ever wanted to reach the top.
Another bubble appeared over her cuff. NOW, MISS CARTER.
Jamie wiped her hands on her denim overalls and hurried down the hallway to the main computer room. The metal door slid open as she approached.
"Thank you," Jamie said to the air. A neatly folded letter sat on the computer console with her name written across it in Dr. Woodhouse's flowing script. Jamie huffed as she read the letter. Dr. Woodhouse had wanted Jamie to stop working on her wings and babysit the computer until she got back.
Jamie cracked her knuckles as she rolled over to the keyboard. Another line scrawled across the page before she could strike a key - "Don't touch the computer."
A new line crawled across the page. "Remember Edinborough."
Jamie grumbled. It was one bad line of code and one misdirected artifact!
Hours went by...
Squeak! The metal grated against itself. Squeak! Squeak! Jamie stopped mid-spin and wiggled in her seat. Squeak! She pulled out her favorite screwdriver and flipped the chair on its side. Dr. Woodhouse had given her strict instructions to not open the computer's panel, but she didn't say anything about the chair! After a few adjustments, the squeaking stopped.
Jamie moaned in boredom. She had fixed, counted, recounted, planed, climbed, and jumped on everything she could think of in the computer room, and yet, the rounded screen was still blank. Just like it had been for the last two and a half months.
There were no deep dark secrets about the museum, or the agents stationed all over the world. She ached to connect her cuff with the computer terminal for a hint of the new agents that were going to be polled today. It had to be today. Dr. Woodhouse and the board were certain it would be today.
Jamie did a test twirl in the chair before wheeling the chair across the marble tiles back up to the computer station. The computer seemed to call to her.
HELLO JAMIE. The blocked letters scrolled across the screen as she touched the keyboard. Jamie tried to pull the command screen, in search of a game to play. Before she could click an icon, the screen froze. She growled and thumped her fist against the keyboard, as she tried to will the computer into doing something, anything. Pixels flooded the screen forming a star. The words "Click Me" typed across the screen.
Her cursor hovered over the star. "Okay Alice," Jamie whispered to herself as she clicked the icon, thinking about the children's story. "Down the rabbit hole!" Lines of code rolled across the screen and burned into her mind. The warning klaxon echoed through the hallway. A mechanical voice began to countdown to something.
"Doctor Woodhouse!" Jamie leaped away from the computer. The room shifted into lines of code. "Huh?" She blinked again and the world shifted to normal. The copper tubing still lined the smooth brown walls. The computer console still sat on its platform before the giant monitor.
"Uh... Dr. Woodhouse! Ah!" She waved her screwdriver at the now flashing screen. Blinking light orbs zipped through the pipeline and whirled about the copper coils towards the computer monitor. "Dr. Woodhouse! Something is happening with the computer. I didn't do it! Make it stop!" Jamie clapped her free hand to her ear, trying to muffle the blaring klaxon.
"Miss Carter," scolded Dr. Woodhouse, appearing behind Jamie. "There is no need to shout. I am not deaf." The noise stopped. She took a long sip of her tea and motioned for Jamie to move away from the console. She gave Jamie a nod of approval as she sank into the now-silent chair.
"It's doing... It's doing that!" Jamie mumbled, still holding a hand to her ear. She pointed to the green, swirling screen. "I didn't do it. I was watching the computer like you had told me to and then... and then..."
Dr. Woodhouse held up her hand. Her pink fingernails clattered against the keyboard. Felix, the museum's cat, slunk around the room, meowing for attention. Jamie scooped up the cat, stroking him behind the ears. Dr. Woodhouse's lips curled into a calculating smile.
"Now this is interesting..."
"Will we be getting a new agent?"
"Yes, several." Dr. Woodhouse winced when Jamie squealed, clapping her hands and stamping her feet. The tools on her belt clicked against each other. "Jamie."
"Sorry." Jamie stopped bouncing. "What do you mean, several? Two? Maybe two or three? What if we get TWELVE? That would be very exciting. Alex is fun to talk to, but he always has missions. I guess I could talk with..." Dr. Woodhouse drummed her manicured nails on the console. Jamie looked apologetically at the other woman.
"You've seen the computer poll applicants before, Miss Carter. Why are you so excited?"
Jamie's mouth formed a tight line. She wished that she had the courage to ask Dr. Woodhouse if she would ever be considered anything else besides the museum intern. She wasn't brave enough to be an agent or smart enough to by the curator. The last curator had disappeared twenty-five years ago and the board had not found a suitable replacement in all that time.
Her mind wandered to Alice and her adventures in Wonderland, Homer and his odyssey, Sherlock and Watson; her literary heroes were constantly having new adventures but Jamie's were confined to the pages of the miles of bookshelves in the museum's library. There must be more to her life than reading and maintaining the exhibits.
The computer chirped softly, drawing their attention back to the screen. The green pixels formed the first icon on the screen, a shield. Four icons followed, flashing on the screen. A shield. A wolf. A bird. A castle. "What do you think Alex will say when he finds out about the team?" Dr. Woodhouse merely shrugged.
"I don't care." The last icon flashed on the screen. It was a star. "If you will pardon me, I have some invitations to send."