NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, p.1
EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT
“Funny, clever, and thoroughly entertaining.”
–SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
“This fun adventure is sure to attract followers, who
will look forward to the sequels…. Beavers’s
comic strip-style illustrations add further appeal.”
“The inventive details, story, and made-up futuristic
technology will keep pages turning.”
“A charming and funny tale of
underdogs saving the day.”
“NERDS is a fun middle grade romp, with a great
multicultural cast…. [It] gives the geeks and
underdogs of the world a chance to shine, and that’s
something this current Braceface is glad to see.”
BY MICHAEL BUCKLEY
The Sisters Grimm
Book One: The Fairy-Tale Detectives
Book Two: The Unusual Suspects
Book Three: The Problem Child
Book Four: Once Upon a Crime
Book Five: Magic and Other Misdemeanors
Book Six: Tales from the Hood
Book Seven: The Everafter War
Book Eight: The Inside Story
Book Nine: The Council of Mirrors
A Very Grimm Guide
Book One: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society
Book Two: M Is for Mama’s Boy
Book Three: The Cheerleaders of Doom
Book Four: The Villain Virus
Book Five: Attack of the BULLIES
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this book as follows:
NERDS : National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society / by Michael Buckley.
p. cm. — (NERDS ; bk. 1)
Summary: While running a spy network from their elementary school,
five socially awkward misfits combine their talents and use cutting-edge
gadgetry to fight evil around the world.
[1. Spies—Fiction. 2. Schools—Fiction. 3. Humorous stories.] I. Title. II. Title:
National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society.
Paperback ISBN 978-0-8109-8985-6
Text copyright © 2010 Michael Buckley
Illustrations copyright © 2010 Ethen Beavers
Book design by Chad W. Beckerman
Originally published in hardcover in 2009 by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. This edition published in 2010. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher. Amulet Books and Amulet Paperbacks are registered trademarks of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
115 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
For dorks, dweebs,
waste cases, and
Someday you too
will change the
THIS BOOK IS A NERDS CASE FILE. IT
CONTAINS HIGHLY SENSITIVE MATERIAL
AND WAS COMPILED FROM THE SWORN
TESTIMONIES OF EYEWITNESSES. IT ALSO
CONTAINS INFORMATION RETRIEVED FROM
INTERROGATIONS AND CONFESSIONS.
WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY, KID, IS DON’T
LOSE IT! IF THE INFORMATION IN THIS BOOK
FELL INTO THE WRONG HANDS, IT WOULD
CAUSE A NATIONAL SECURITY CRISIS.
SO DO US ALL A FAVOR AND DON’T SHOW
THIS BOOK TO ANYONE.
HOW DO I HAVE ACCESS TO THIS
WELL, I USED TO BE A MEMBER OF NERDS—
BACK WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE. IT’S TRUE! MY
CODE NAME WAS BEANPOLE. WHAT ARE YOU
LAUGHING AT? BEANPOLE IS A GREAT SECRET
AGENT NAME. ANYWAY, NOW THAT I’M OLDER, MY
JOB IS TO DOCUMENT THE AGENTS AND THEIR
MISSIONS. NOW THAT I’VE TOLD
YOU ALL OF THIS, I’M SUPPOSED TO KILL
YOU, BUT YOU LOOK LIKE A GOOD ENOUGH
PERSON. BESIDES, THE TEAM THINKS YOU HAVE
POTENTIAL. IN FACT, THEY ARE CONSIDERING
YOU FOR A SPOT. BUT FIRST WE NEED TO MAKE
SURE YOU’RE UP TO THE CHALLENGE. READ THIS
BOOK FROM COVER TO COVER, AND IF AT THE
END YOU THINK YOU’VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES …
WELL, LET’S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES.
YOU’VE GOT TO READ IT FIRST.
TO ACCESS THE REST
OF THE BOOK, PLACE
YOUR THUMB ON
THE SENSOR FOR
EITHER YOU ARE AN
IMPOSTOR OR YOU HAVE
A BOOGER ON YOUR THUMB.
PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS
AND TRY AGAIN.
TRY NOT TO GET ANY MORE
BOOGERS ON IT, ’KAY?
Alexander Brand was a secret agent. He had saved the world on more than a dozen occasions. He had stopped three invasions of the United States by foreign powers. He had helped depose six dictators and four corrupt presidents. He had a bevy of skills that served him well, including: defusing land mines, driving tanks, parachuting into hostile territories, infiltrating terrorist compounds, wearing disguises, engaging in underwater hand-to-hand combat, and breaking codes. Plus, he looked awesome in a tuxedo. At one time, Brand was the United States’ most valuable spy. But that was before the accident.
“I heard about the accident,” General Savage said as he glanced over his desk at the white cane resting on Brand’s lap. The cane was an ugly thing to Savage—like a rattlesnake. It made him uncomfortable, and when he was uncomfortable Savage lost his temper. He slammed his hand down on his desk, and considering the size of his hand, it was a wonder the desk didn’t crack in two. The general was a mountain of muscles with a tree trunk-size neck and a face like a slab of concrete. He’d fought in fourteen wars. Rumor had it that he’d started ten of them himself just to stay in practice.
Brand nodded respectfully. He didn’t want to talk about the explosion that had injured his leg. He wasn’t the talking type. He could dismantle, clean, and rebuild an AK-47 in forty-two seconds, but share his feelings? Never tried it.
“Well, I have something that will put a smile on your face,” Savage said as he opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out an overstuffed manila folder with the words TOP SECRET printed on it in red. He passed it to the former spy and sat back in his chair with a knowing grin. “I was wondering if you are ready to get back to work.”
Agent Brand ran his hand across the folder’s crimson warning. The words “top secret” always sent a spark of excitement through him. He loved s
“Sir, I appreciate the offer. Nothing would make me happier than serving my country, but I’m not interested in a desk job. I won’t push papers, not even for Uncle Sam.” Brand set the folder on Savage’s desk and grasped his cane, ready to leave.
“Just take a look, agent,” the general said. “This isn’t a desk job.”
Brand opened the folder and scanned the top page. The man who had seen everything couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I thought these guys were a myth,” Brand whispered.
“That’s how we like to keep it. Even the president is in the dark.”
“You’re keeping this from the commander in chief?”
Savage wiped sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. “Their work is too important. We can’t let anyone distract them.”
“So you want me to join them?” Brand asked.
“Not exactly,” Savage said. “Turn the page.”
Brand did as he was instructed. The next page did not make him happy.
“They’re not spies. They’re—”
“They’re the world’s last, best hope, Agent Brand. When the best of the best can’t get it done, we send these guys. They have billions of dollars of technology at their fingertips, and the perfect cover. We can drop them pretty much anywhere and they go virtually undetected. You have no idea the debt the world owes them. The team is young, inexperienced, and now drifting without a rudder. Their last director died under mysterious circumstances. He jumped out a window.”
“Spy jobs are stressful, General. There’s nothing mysterious about that,” Brand said.
“I would agree, except the window overlooked the shark tank at the local aquarium,” Savage said.
“Hmmm,” the spy replied.
“And he had a bomb strapped to his chest and three knives in his back.”
“That does raise a few eyebrows,” Brand said. “Still, General, what you’re describing to me is a glorified baby-sitting job.”
Savage shook his head. “You’re not getting it, Brand. This is a chance to get our best team back under control. I’m sorry it’s not sports cars and exotic women, but it’s a way to get back into the game.”
Just then there was a knock at the general’s door. A nervous little man with short red hair and a face full of freckles poked his head into the room. “General, I’m sorry to interrupt—”
“This better be good, Casey! I told you not to bother me.”
“We have a crisis,” Casey said. “It’s Greenland.”
“Who is Greenland?”
“Greenland isn’t a who, sir. It’s a place.” Casey swallowed hard, as if afraid to correct his boss. “It’s the world’s largest island. It’s off the coast of North America, very close to—”
Savage pounded his hand on the desk once more. This time one of the legs broke, and the desk tilted so that the general’s work slid off. “I know where Greenland is! What about it?”
“It just slammed into Iceland,” Casey said.
“It what?” Agent Brand asked.
“It collided with Iceland,” Casey said.
“How does something like that happen?” Brand asked.
“W-we’re not sure, sir,” the assistant stammered.
“Scramble the team,” the general barked. “Someone is behind this! Giant islands don’t just move around by themselves.”
Casey nodded and dashed away.
“What do you say, Agent Brand? Can America count on its bravest secret agent again?” the general asked as he turned his attention to a globe of the Earth still teetering on the edge of his desk.
The spy nodded. “I’m in.”
The general smiled. “Good. Now, let’s talk about your cover.”
Jackson Jones peered through his binoculars at the horizon. He spotted his targets climbing the crest of an embankment not more than a quarter of a mile away. He smiled and turned to his partner and friend, Brett Bealer. “They’re coming.”
Brett nodded, then turned to signal to the rest of Jackson’s team. They scampered into position behind shrubberies, trees, and lampposts. They were practically invisible to the enemy.
Jackson’s team was eager, but their leader knew that surprising the enemy required patience. They would have one chance, and if they blew it, weeks of planning would be wasted.
Though he would never admit it to the others, Jackson found the enemy unnerving. They were grotesque with their drooling mouths and puffy eyes—barely human. Brett was convinced the enemy had been born misshapen, but the idea was far too unsettling for Jackson. He couldn’t imagine being born a … a … a nerd.
Unfortunately for Jackson, Nathan Hale Elementary had more than its fair share of nerds. In fact, his whole town of Arlington, Virginia, was one giant geektropolis. Perhaps there was something in the drinking water Arlington siphoned from the Potomac River, but there were dweebs, spazzes, goobers, gomers, goofballs, and freak-outs crawling out of every nook and cranny. Jackson sometimes felt as if he were drowning in an ocean of wheezing, math-loving, Velcro sneaker-wearing waste cases. Jackson’s high school-age brother, Chaz, felt the same way. He told Jackson the elementary school had always been overrun with misfits. Their father, who was also an alumnus of Nathan Hale, said the same. Jackson was smack-dab in the middle of Nerdville, USA.
Jackson heard the honking of someone blowing his nose and he knew the enemy had arrived. He peeked out from his hiding spot and saw them stumbling up the sidewalk toward the school. It was time for action.
His signal sent the nerds scattering like frightened cattle. They bayed and bellowed and rushed about, knocking into one another.
“First wave!” Jackson cried, and his team removed drinking straws from their pockets. They loaded the straws with sticky-wet spitballs and aimed them at the panicked nerds. “Fire at will!”
A wave of spitwads blasted through the air, raining down on the geeks. One kid with exceptionally large buck teeth was „blinded when a dozen sloppy wads hit him in the face. He ran headfirst into a flagpole and knocked himself unconscious.
“Leave us alone!” a girl shouted in a wheezy voice as she was peppered with sticky ammunition.
Before the nerds could peel the gooey missiles off their faces and clothes, Jackson called for the second wave of attacks. The straws were tossed aside, and his team pounced on the misfits; administering purple nurples, blistering pink bellies, cruel charley horses, and nasty noogies. Ears were flicked. Wet willies were delivered. KICK ME signs were applied to unsuspecting backs.
Everything was going according to plan, but Jackson was determined not to get lazy. He called for the third and final wave, the part of the plan they called “the hammer.” They spun the geeks around, grabbed the backs of their underpants, and yanked toward the heavens. The elastic waistbands were then pulled over the victims’ heads. Atomic wedgies. The final, crushing blow.
The nerds flopped around on the ground like fish, trying unsuccessfully to stuff their underwear back into their pants. Jackson, Brett, and the others celebrated their success.
Now, to the casual observer, Jackson would appear to be a jerk, but in fact he was very popular. Very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very popular. His teachers described him as charming. He was captain of his PeeWee football team, and his coach said Jackson had the best passing arm, best kicking leg, and best touchdown dance he had seen in twenty-five years. Kids copied Jackson’s every move, hung on his every word. Even some of the teachers started to dress like him.
Yes, Jackson Jones was blessed, but little did he know that the cruel hand of fate was about to smack him in the face, and it would all start with a single word.
“Whaghh?” Jackson asked. He would have been clearer but he was sitting in his orthodontist’s office with a suction tube in his mouth. Dr. Gupta,
Jackson knew it was never a good sign when a medical professional used the word “interesting.” It was one of those words you never wanted to hear a doctor say, like “rare,” “inoperable,” and “flesh-eating.”
“Very interesting,” the orthodontist chirped as he continued his examination.
“Whaghh?” Jackson cried.
Dr. Gupta was too excited to speak. In his twenty years as an orthodontist, he had heard many medical-phenomenon stories. The podiatrist in suite 4A had a patient with eight toes on each foot. His brother-in-law, an emergency-room doctor, claimed to have had a patient with a third eye. Even his dog’s veterinarian, Dr. Hanger, had a two-headed turtle under his care. Now Gupta had his own medical oddity. He crossed the room to a telephone, picked it up, and punched in a number. “Donna, can you bring the camera in here?”
A moment later a pale, sleepy woman entered the room. Dr. Gupta directed her to look into Jackson’s open mouth. Her drowsy eyelids popped open.
Dr. Gupta clapped his hands like a happy baby. “I know, right? No one will believe it if we don’t take some pictures.”
“Whhhaaaaaaggggghhhh?” Jackson cried, but again he was ignored.
Donna snapped pictures from various angles. The camera’s flash blinded Jackson, and by the time the blue and red spots disappeared from his vision, his patience was gone. He yanked the suction tube from his mouth. “What’s going on?”
Dr. Gupta smiled as he rubbed his hands together. “Well, Jackson, how do I explain this? It’s just … well, a normal person has twenty-eight teeth. Some have several more if they still have their wisdom teeth. You, however, have a lot more.”
Dr. Gupta smiled. “You have sixty-four teeth! In fact, you have four rows of them, two on the top and two on the bottom.”
“Is that unusual?” Jackson asked.
“Not if you’re a great white shark,” the doctor replied, handing Jackson a mirror so that he could take a look for himself.
Jackson studied his mouth closely. Besides remembering to brush, he had never given much thought to his teeth. He assumed everyone had as many as he did, though he recalled his father complaining just last week that the family was spending a fortune on dental floss. “So, what are you going to do about it? I can’t walk around with this many teeth.”