Finn Whitman held up three fingers, indicating he’d identified the enemy. One wore a full-length black robe with purple piping: Maleficent; the woman next to her, a high, starched white collar—like a nun’s habit—her hair perfect, not a strand out of place: the Evil Queen; and the last wrapped in ermine and stoat: Cruella De Vil. He could just make out the backs of their heads and shoulders given his position on all fours and the location of a wooden card index island ahead. The three were huddled together in the darkened library stacks just beyond the central card index. But these were not any ordinary stacks. This was a private library deep within the Imaginers offices, backstage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
Finn and Willa, the girl to whom he held up his fingers, were not ordinary teenagers either: they were holograms. Projections of light—“flaming photons,” as one of their fellow Kingdom Keepers called them—an invention of Disney Imaginers and technicians with too much time on their hands. By day, their holograms served as guides in the four Walt Disney World parks—the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. By night, it was a different story.
The Kingdom Keepers were full of stories. What had started out as a middle school thrill—being models for Disney World hologram guides and the ensuing celebrity it caused—had matured into something more formidable. Finn and the four others, high schoolers now, found themselves as the last line of defense between the darker forces of Walt Disney’s impressive imagination—the villains and witches and fairies now called the Overtakers—and the joy and magic of the Walt Disney World experience.
Willa’s dark, confident eyes signaled her understanding. She pointed to herself and gestured to her right, down the library shelving that currently hid her and Finn from the others. Then she waved him forward and around; they would come at the three from either end of the stacks. Like Finn, she’d dressed in all black before she’d gone to sleep, when the crossover of kid to hologram happened. Like Finn, she’d awakened as her hologram wearing the same clothes in which she slept. She blended well with the shadows. One of the three women held a flashlight—the only real light in the room.
Finn nodded. It was incredibly dangerous for him and Willa to challenge these particular three Overtakers by themselves. The Kingdom Keepers were sworn enemies of the Overtakers—but the women before them were like generals, commanders. He and Willa wouldn’t be taking on common soldiers. But Finn saw no choice: at the very least he and Willa had to know what the three were up to. They’d been searching the stacks for the past forty-five minutes. If the Overtakers were stealing something, the Kingdom Keepers would get back whatever it was, keeping the Overtakers from expanding their powers.
The three were scary enough as it was. Maleficent had in the past nearly killed Finn and the others with her ability to throw fire; the Evil Queen could conjure spells that crippled and transfigured her foes. Cruella was, well, an annoying nuisance.
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