The mood was grim in the VILE faculty lounge. The five VILE instructors, leaders of the world’s most powerful criminal organization, were meeting to make their plans. Many of VILE’s recent schemes had been stopped by their former-student-turned-renegade-thief, Carmen Sandiego. They were looking for ways to make up lost profits.
“I’ve got a dandy of an opportunity,” said Coach Brunt, an enormously strong woman who spoke with a thick Texas drawl. “I am in contact with a very wealthy collector who has offered to pay a fortune for all the items on this list.” She slid a piece of paper down the table for the other instructors to see.
Professor Maelstrom picked up the list. He was a stern-looking man with pale skin and a voice that could send shivers up your spine. “Amur tiger, black-footed ferret, hawksbill turtle,” he read. “My dear Coach Brunt, is this a list of animals?”
“Not just any animals,” Brunt answered with a grin. “Every animal on this list is extremely rare or endangered—which means they’re worth a pile of money.”
“Disgusting,” said Countess Cleo, sticking her nose in the air. As always, she was perfectly dressed in the finest clothes and jewelry. “The only animal I’m interested in is mink.”
Dr. Saira Bellum picked up the list. “There are some fascinating creatures here,” she said, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “If we decide to move forward, I can arrange for their proper feeding and transportation.”
Shadowsan, a master ninja who never smiled, crossed his arms over his chest. “I was not aware that VILE had become a pet store,” he growled.
“Lighten up, Shadowsan,” said Brunt with a smile. “A great thief can steal anything. Doesn’t matter if it’s got fur and claws, so long as it makes us a fortune.”
“An excellent point,” said Maelstrom. “I propose a vote. All in favor of this operation, raise your hands.”
Brunt, Maelstrom, and Bellum raised their hands right away. More reluctantly, Cleo and Shadowsan followed. “Outstanding,” said Brunt. “Now, which animal shall we capture first?”
Will VILE succeed in their plot to steal the world’s rarest animals? In this story, it’s up to you. Your choices will lead to one of twenty endings.
ARE YOU READY?
Turn the page.
YOU ARE A ZOOKEEPER at the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria.
As you proudly tell visitors, Schönbrunn is the oldest zoo in the world. It was built in 1752 by Emperor Francis Stephen as a place to keep his collection of exotic birds, monkeys, and other creatures. In 1906, it was home to the first baby elephant ever born in a zoo. These days, the zoo keeps more than seven hundred kinds of animals, trying to give them all a generous habitat where they can live full lives, the way they would in the wild.
You love your job, although it’s a lot of hard work—feeding the animals, watching for signs of disease or discomfort, cleaning out their living areas. Today, you are looking after the zoo’s newest arrival, Nadezhda, a baby Amur tiger. Amur tigers are the largest type of tiger in the world, living mostly in the birch forests of eastern Russia. They are also an endangered species, with only about five hundred and forty alive in the wild. Nadezhda means “hope” in Russian, because with so few Amur tigers remaining, each one carries the hope of the species.
It’s late evening, and the Schönbrunn Zoo is closed to the public for the day. You let yourself into the nursery building where Nadezhda lives. Sadly, her mom wasn’t paying enough attention to her, which is not uncommon for first-time tiger moms, so the veterinarians at the zoo decided that she should be fed by hand.
“Nadezhda, suppertime!” you call. She stays in a fenced-in area that takes up almost half the room, full of toys and fun places for a baby tiger to hide. Usually, she toddles out right away when she hears your voice, but today you don’t see her. A pang of worry clenches your stomach.
You notice that the back door to the nursery building is open, although it should be closed and locked at this time of night. You look out to see two people fleeing around a row of trees. One of them is a large man holding something about the size of Nadezhda’s carrying case.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
? Go for help.
? Chase the tiger thieves.