Secret Agent Andrew "Danger" North moved like a cat through the Forbidden Zone. He ducked around piles of dirty clothes, hopped over stacks of used paper plates, and sifted through garbage. He needed every last one of his spy skills to find anything in a mess like this. All the years he'd kept his own room messy paid off regularly in his line of work.
But, like all good spies, even though his room was messy, his hair was perfect.
Beneath the papers that were piled in the corner, he saw it: the TC-99. To most people, it just looked like a really big calculator. But Agent North knew better. The TC-99 was a superpowerful spy gadget. He didn't know for sure what it could do, but he believed it could be used to shoot laser beams, send messages to headquarters, and, most likely, blow things up. North was determined to discover its secrets.
He gazed at the machine, with its big screen and strange buttons. Buttons like VARS, COS, and Y=. What could they possibly mean? Clearly it was some sort of spy code, but which of them would blow stuff up?
He would have to be careful, of course, but Agent North had never blown anything up that didn't deserve to get blown up. He dropped the TC-99 into his backpack and slipped out of the Forbidden Zone. The owner of the TC-99 would never even know he had been there . . .
Lying to Tony Zunker is probably the most popular sport in my whole school.
The day before the music program, someone told him he was on pace to break the world's record for Most Times Ever Getting Up to Sharpen Your Pencil in One Month. And he believed it.
I was pretending to pay attention in math class--but was really peeking into my desk to look at my brother's -calculator--when Tony Zunker got up to sharpen his pencil again.
"How many are you up to today?" I whispered as he passed by.
"Twelve," he said.
Poor Tony. Lying to him isn't really much of a sport, if you ask me. He believes everything he hears!
Personally, I only believe stuff when I've thought it over and decided that it really makes sense. Like when my brother, Jack, told me that our dad is a spy and that he was training to be one, too, I didn't believe him at first. Who would? It sounded pretty crazy.
But then I started thinking about Dad. Sure, he has a huge collection of spy movies, and he loves to watch them with me and Jack, but lots of dads have those. What really tipped me off was his job. He tells people--including me--that he's an insurance salesman. But he can't even talk me into eating peas! How could he talk people into buying life insurance? Something strange was going on, all right.
That was when I started thinking about Dad's spy movies. In those movies, all the spies have a fake job to tell normal people about--something that sounds really boring, like insurance salesman. That way, when the spy tells people he sells insurance, they don't say, "Oh, neat! Tell me more!" They just change the subject, because they're afraid that if they don't, he'll start trying to sell insurance to them or something, and they'll be bored to death.
I was beginning to feel like I was really on to something. But how could I be sure? I mean, clearly, Dad has to be really secretive about this whole thing, so he'd never admit it to me out loud. And he's really good about keeping all his spy gear hidden away--Jack says it's all hidden in a big secret chamber under our basement, and I've never been able to find it.
But one day, when I was digging through his desk, I found something that proved Dad is a spy! It was a bunch of old rings that had all these letters and numbers all over them. A whole stash of secret decoder rings!
I asked Dad what they were, just to see how he'd cover it up. He chuckled and said, "Oh, that's just my collection of old rings from cereal boxes."
Riiiiight. I knew the truth. Jack taught me this little bit of spy knowledge: when people chuckle before they say something like that, it usually means they're lying. Those rings were no -cereal--box prizes. They were proof that I come from a family of spies!
Really, with a name like Andrew North, I was born to be a spy. It's a perfect name for a spy, or even a movie star, or the president, for that matter. It has that kind of ring to it. If Tony Zunker ever becomes a spy, he'll probably have to change his name, because no bad guys will get nervous when they hear that a guy named Tony Zunker is coming after them. But when they hear that Andrew "Danger" North is on their case, they'll know their days are numbered.
I'm pretty sure Jack got called up to the pros when he turned thirteen. Maybe it was a birthday present. Ever since then, he's spent all his time just hanging around in his room, acting really secretive. He stopped teaching me spy tricks and telling me weird secrets about our town, Cornersville Trace. I guess he's not allowed to now.
He told me a lot of weird secrets before. Like how Johnny Christmas, the rock star who died in 1979, isn't really dead at all. What really happened is that he got addicted to hot dogs and had to fake his death, because he was too embarrassed to go onstage when he couldn't fit into his jumpsuits anymore. He changed his name to Wayne Schneider and moved to the suburbs, where they'd never find him. He lives down the street from us now. It's awesome to know a secret like that. And I know it's true, too, because every time I walk past Mr. Schneider's house, I swear I smell mustard.
Mr. Summers, my teacher, didn't seem to notice that Tony was sharpening his pencil for the twelfth time that morning. Mr. Summers is a nice guy, but he'd never make it as a spy.
He did notice that I wasn't taking notes about math, though.
"Andrew?" he said, looking down at my paper. "Are you paying attention?"
"Sure I am!" I said.
"Well, make sure I see numbers on your page," Mr. Summers warned me.
See, he's a nice guy. He even lets us wear hats in class. He's young--younger than my parents, even. But I think that because he's so young, he hasn't learned that some of us just have too much on our minds to worry about division every day.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Andrew North Blows Up the World by Adam Selzer. Copyright © 2009 by Adam Selzer. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.