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“—they have cameras set up on each floor.”

“—so far, thirty drones and they’re making a schedule—”

“—I almost wish you were here. I think you’d be impressed…”

“—everyone’s in on it at the Ritz—“

Updates were non-stop and talking over each other as Gia glanced at Chad in the rear-facing mirror. His leg was bouncing again—like it had been the day before—but his eyes were on his tablet this time.

For the moment, everyone seemed engrossed in their tablets, except Whitney. She was still leaning over Adam’s shoulder and watching his screen as he explained things. And she couldn’t look happier about it.

Outside the van, however, Gia’s team was discovering that Chad’s Insta-followers were the antithesis of keyboard warriors: They kept their mouths shut, were all about making power moves, and carried big wallets they weren't afraid to use.

Also, there were a lot of them.

This meant things were getting interesting in various cities along the van’s upcoming route, and their accommodation possibilities for the evening were rapidly starting to disappear.

“Point of note in sector G5: the free wifi calling itself ‘FBI Van’ is an actual FBI van.”

“Hilarious. Are any of them cute?”



“Update on Location 68: No spies onsite, but drones are scheduled to provide air surveillance every fifteen minutes, starting at six pm.”

“I just got eyes on the vehicle watchlist. Can confirm that the transport vehicle’s make and model is on the list. Recommend switching vehicles.”

That would not be happening.

So long as Gia’s passengers were clueless about the chaos around them, she planned to maintain that state of unbothered bliss by changing nothing that attracted their attention.

“Okay, here’s the plan,” Gia said into her mic, and the chatter stopped immediately. “Gabs?”


“Communicate to Adam’s parents that we will not have internet access this evening. Inform them that final contact with their son for the day will happen at our next stop. The call will last 5 minutes and should contain any final instructions for the day, as no further contact after that can be guaranteed.”

“Copy that.”

“Pops?” Gia continued.


“Gather your team and deploy Golden Parachute #3.”

“Copy that.”



“It’s chaos time.”

“On it.”

“Great. Now go give these kids some ghosts to chase and clear a path for me. Over and out,” Gia said and her line went silent as her team leaders all switched to different channels to coordinate with their teams.

Once they were gone, Gia was left with the white noise of the interior fan and the occasional flirty coo of interest from Whitney as she learned about pre-programming rooms.

Which was an interesting development.

As far as Gia knew, no group of Z Labyrinth first-timers had all known how to program rooms on their first visit before. Usually, new visitors learned about customizing after they were past the front door and on their way through.

A group of 5 first-timers who all knew that trick going in might be a first. Which meant her little group might be a novelty that attracted a lot of eyes to them.

That was pretty much the opposite of what Gia had been going for when she'd suggested this. But, oh well.

A trip wasn’t really a trip without unforeseen developments. That’s just how breaking new ground worked—especially when unpredictable geniuses and hundreds of teenagers were involved.

All in all, Gia had to confess that Chad’s followers were turning out to be worthy adversaries. Thwarting them would be a genuine pleasure in all this. The hardest part for her was resisting the urge to join the action with her team. 

Gia had to accept that it was her role to stay right where she was and drive like a boring person so that Adam had nothing of concern to report to his parents. That was her job in all this.

So that's what she did -- all the while thanking the fates that Adam was adjusting to pretty major developments with an ease that no one saw coming. 

Literally. No one. 

Gia had spent actual hours with his specialists talking through likelihoods of behaviors and the protocols she was to respond with. 80% of professional predictions had anticipated Adam being air-lifted back home within the first 48 hours of the trip.

Gia had been the only one who had faith he’d make it to the end, but even she was surprised at the progress of the past two days. Not even she had imagined him being social enough to teach everyone how to program rooms they wanted to visit. 

All because Whitney had asked Adam a question that he had dared to answer in front of everybody. 

And everyone had listened. Even Chad.

Knowing that, Gia grinned as she drove into the gauntlet of the next few hundred miles.


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