Steven "Steel" Trapp has been placed in an East Coast boarding school for gifted kids by his FBI agent father. He soon discovers that there's a clubby element of the faculty and upper classmen that is very secretive and protective. To his surprise, his friend Kaleigh arrives to board at the school and soon the two discover that this is not your normal boarding school. It seems a select few students are recruited, while still minors, to serve as special "translators" for the US Government. Steel's dad was able to arrange this school for his son given Steel's incredible retention skills. People—including diplomats and dignitaries—will say things around kids that they wouldn't otherwise dare speak outside of embassies. The willing student "agent" takes a semester abroad and ends up spying for his country.
But there are dark elements at play at the school. Foreign agents may have penetrated the school's secrecy and may have sleepers in place: kids spying on future kid spies. There is conspiracy and competition among the elite faculty that threatens security. As Steel and Kaileigh are recruited for their first test run—trying to break a ring of pickpockets in a Boston hotel—things go impossibly wrong. Betrayal and conspiracy cloud what should have been a straightforward assignment. And all too soon, their very lives are in danger.