The RoboElves' meltdown left Meghan, Jack and Nicole shaken. "What's going on here? " Meghan demanded. "Yeah," Nicole said. "Why is Rudolph's nose...

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The RoboElves’ meltdown left Meghan, Jack and Nicole shaken.

“What’s going on here?” Meghan demanded.

“Yeah,” Nicole said. “Why is Rudolph’s nose blue?”

“His Global Positioning System chip’s been tampered with,” Brian said. “When Rudolph’s nose glows bright red, he can locate any address. All reindeer have color-coded noses, GPS chips, according to their territory. Red’s for North America, green is for Europe, yellow is for Africa. Their noses glow when the GPS is on.”

“Who would mess with the GPS?” Jack asked.

“I wish I knew. Problems have been cropping up a lot lately,” Brian said. “It’s like someone’s hacking into our network to shut us down.”

Before they could ask any more questions, a whistle blew.

“Come on,” Brian said. “I’ve got to get you guys to the sleep chambers.”

Brian was right about the sleep chambers; in 10 minutes Meghan had gotten a full night’s sleep. At school, she didn’t feel tired at all. But she couldn’t stop wondering who would want to sabotage Elf Camp. She was so distracted she didn’t see the note sticking out of her locker vent until she shut the door and it fell to her feet. She scooped it up and sprinted to the girls’ room. She locked herself in a stall.

“My house. After school. Tell Jack.” The handwriting was familiar.

School could not end soon enough. Meghan was dying to talk to Nicole and Jack. Had they really experienced Elf Camp, or was it all a fantasy that three old friends shared for some unfathomable reason?

“I’m about to burst,” Meghan said when Nicole opened the door for her and Jack. It was like old times when they all lived close by and hung out at each other’s houses.

Nicole’s new house was a mansion. She shushed Meghan and Jack. “The maid’s here.”

They followed her upstairs. Her bedroom was larger than Meghan’s living room. Nicole took the Blake yearbook from a bookcase. She flopped down on her bed and flipped through the pages of senior photos.

“Brian’s not here.”

“Expelled, remember?” Jack said. He took the book and flipped to the back. “Check this out.”

He pointed to a photo under the heading “Computer Club.” A cluster of kids looked into the camera. Off to one side stood Brian, flanked by his sidekicks, Gary Hobbs and Courtney Smith. Courtney’s younger brother Dylan sat at a computer, face turned toward the camera.

“Let me see that,” Meghan said, adjusting her glasses.

“Maybe Brian’s the hacker,” Nicole said.

“Let’s ask him,” Meghan said.

“If it is Brian, it’s too risky. He did a lot of bad stuff at school,” Jack said. “His being good now might be an act.”

“That’s why we keep it to ourselves.” Nicole reached into her purse and pulled out a tiny phone. “We’ll text message each other.”

Meghan looked down.

“Not everyone has a cellphone, Nicole,” Jack said.

“I’ve got two.” She pulled a flip phone from the nightstand drawer and handed it to Meghan.

“I can’t,” Meghan said.

“Nicole, you are way spoiled,” Jack said.

Nicole glared. “My dad got me one with a camera because it’s better than the one my mom gave me.”

“So, how does this work?” Meghan asked, flipping open the phone.

Nicole took the phone and deftly pushed some buttons. “Now press ‘Send.’ “

Meghan pushed the button. A tiny envelope on the screen whooshed away.

Nicole’s other phone chimed. She held it up and pushed a button.

“Elf Camp is gr8,” the message read.

Meghan came home happy. Freshman year had been the worst. Her mother lost her job. Jack’s mom died, sports became his life, and he drifted away. Nicole moved to the house on the hill, became a cheerleader and was instantly popular. Meghan felt left out of everything. Nicole, Erin Hobbs and the rest of her followers passed Meghan in the halls as if she were invisible. Was it wrong of her to be happy that Elf Camp had brought them back together again — even if it was because they were troubled kids?

She opened the front door. Her mom sat on the couch in tears, holding a piece of paper.

“What is it, Mom?”

“I keep thinking the sun’s going to come out … ” Lisa Weir’s voice broke and trailed off.

“What are you talking about?” Meghan asked.

“Just a peek through the clouds.”

“Mom, you’re scaring me.”

Lisa handed her daughter the paper. On top, in bold letters, Meghan read: “Eviction notice.”

Monday: The Grinch Virus