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The Koloa Chapter house
Benjamin spread out the map and closed his eyes. In his palm he held seven rocks—little porous hunks of solidified lava taken from the ground outside the longhouse.
“Seven gates,” he said, envisioning the tunnel of time and space which he had used to teleport himself here to the Koloa chapter house. He further imagined the map he’d seen on the cave wall, the one with the seven glowing runes, each representing what he believed was one Atlantean portal. The thorny bit was trying to place that map—a map of a very old planet Earth where the continents had not all separated out—as an overlay above the map beneath him. “I know that one of the gates is outside Hong Kong. Waglan Island.”
He thunked down one of the rocks at that location. Eyes open.
Amelia spoke up. “Another on Lundy Island. Bristol Channel.”
“Yes,” Benjamin said, plunking down another piece of lava. “That’s two.” He let one of the stones hover over the eastern coast of Africa. “They must be using the gateways to move their armies and stage invasions—whether from Atlantis proper or from the far-flung past. Further, it is safe to assume that each gate is on an island given the Atlantean propensity to be out at sea, and moreover, I have already deduced that the gateways lie at the points of nexus for powerful ley lines. Which means this gate is…”
He dropped the stone.
“Moheli. Indian Ocean. French protectorate, but only barely.”
“That’s three,” Khan said, standing on the far side of the table.
“Given the invasions of New York City and, as seen on the televisors, Los Angeles, we can construe that America is framed by two more gates—and that fits with my memory of the original stone map. But where, exactly?”
“When we flew out of the Big Apple,” Mack said, “we didn’t see squat along the Jersey side of things.”
“North, then.” Benjamin tapped the map. “Here. Block Island. Northeast of the tip of Long Island. Matches the others. Few people there. Lighthouse. Agreed?”
Nods and mumbles all around. Only two missing were Jet and Sally—Jet was off helping her with the brass fittings.
“West Coast?” Khan asked. “The South Farellon islands are off of San Francisco.”
“Yes, and that would work,” Benjamin said, his hand hovering over a tiny little pinprick west of the City by the Bay. “But! It’s awfully far out. And my memory of the stone map has it further south…”
“By Los Angeles, then,” Edwin said, a quiet mousey squeak.
Khan clapped him on the shoulders. “Sensible, my boy.”
Edwin smiled a mouth of crooked British teeth.
“Channel Islands make sense,” Amelia said. “Not sure which one, though.”
Benjamin hmmed. “Probably doesn’t matter but let’s assume the furthest flung—San Miguel island.” Thunk. Another rock on the map. “Only two more to go.”
He dropped one rock east of Brazil.
He dropped the other somewhere north and east of Papua New Guinea.
He said, “This one is somewhere in the Marshall Islands. Could be on one of a hundred islands even in this little cluster. Rough guess? Majuro. Here. It was here many of the gods of the region were born—it’s a sacred space and makes sense that such stories might have risen up around one of the Atlantean gates, even if it wasn’t active.”
“Mythology could play a part,” Khan said, suddenly lost in thought.
“And here,” Benjamin said, tapping the rock off the coast of South America, “Ilha dos Buzios. Past Ilhabela, the beautiful island. Or maybe Ilha Comprida? Not certain.”
“That’s seven,” Mack said.
Amelia gave him a nudge in the ribs. “Good. You can count.”
“It all adds up,” Benjamin said. “All strong loci of ley line power. And the line running from the Marshall Islands gate to the gate just outside Los Angeles would cross…” He tapped a small cluster of islands. “Here. Hawaii. The same energy that’s powering up this chapter house and providing the light by which we see.”
“So, now what?” Amelia asked. “Sally and the Professor will just start building a teleporter?” To this, Ben shook his head.
“No, for that we will need to know the precise location of the ley lines. The energy must form a nexus somewhere. A line that might also connect the Brazil and Hong Kong gates. But I do not yet know how to pinpoint that.”
“I have an idea,” Khan said. “And I have an idea to help us locate Khan’s dirigible.”
“Do not keep us waiting, Professor,” Benjamin said with a smile.
“You’re quiet,” Sally said, using a pair of metal snips to bite through and cut off pieces of brass from the fixtures they pulled down. Jet worked further down the lava tube “hallway” (really just a tunnel), using a screwdriver to pry the fixtures out of the rock.
“You think this is really going to work?”
“I dunno. Maybe.”
“That doesn’t sound like the glass-half-full guy I know.” To this, he said nothing. Like a bird, she kept pecking. “Okay, so what’s wrong?”
“It’s about Mack, isn’t it.” It came as a statement, not a question.
She studied his face, saw the answer telegraphed there even before he said it: “Yeah. Yes. Jeez. It’s about Mack.”
“You don’t like that we…” Oh, just say it, you wilting lily. “Kissed.”
Jet took the piece of curved brass he held and idly turned it over and over again. “I’m not a real big fan of the idea, no.”
“I kind of figured as much.” She crimped a small square of brass—luckily, the fittings weren’t more than a couple millimeters thick, like tinfoil folded over a few times—and used some stiff wire she found inside one of Lucy’s toolboxes to wrap around the notched squares. “You want to talk about it.”
“I, uhh.” He stepped over to her, then turned back around, and then turned back around again so that he was facing her. “What I want to say is, I, uhh.”
This was hard for him. She could see that. “I’m not going to make you say it.”
She smiled, took his hand in her own.
He looked down at it. Whispered: “Oh.”
“You think Mack wasn’t right for me.”
“That’s… that’s true.”
“That I can do better.”
“I appreciate you looking out for me.”
He smiled. “You always look out for me.”
“I do.” She gave his hand a little squeeze. “It’s because we’re family. You’re like my little brother. You had my best interests in your heart all along. I knew how you were feeling and I just didn’t want to admit it. You’re right. It’s stupid to get involved with another Centurion like that. Like we’re not busy enough I have to have my head all dizzy around some silly romance?”
“Silly,” he repeated, in a seeming daze. “…yeah.”
“That’s what you were going to say, right?”
He pulled away. Offered her a smile, though for some reason she could’ve sworn it wasn’t all that happy. “That’s exactly it.”
She gave him a little fake punch to the shoulder and smiled. “Here. Put this on.” She held up the headband with the brass squares. It fit like a pair of reverse eyeglasses, almost. “Pop it on around the back of your head. The wire should sit over your ears, but it’s flexible, too—” She helped fit it on. “There you go. Just a couple tugs here and there and… ta-da. How’s it fit, Flyboy?”
“Good. Fine. Snug as a bug in a rug.”
Sally gave a little yawp of triumph, then kissed him on the cheek. “We might just save the day yet. Go tell the others. I’ve got more of these to make.”
“Mythology could play a part,” Professor Khan said, reiterating what he’d said earlier (and mostly to himself). “If we look at Hawaiian myth—and history!—what do we find? We discover that one place is chock full of heiaus—or temples—more than any other here in the islands. That place is Waipio Valley, the so-called Valley of the Kings. It is a place supposedly protected by a healing energy—the waters of every tsunami fail to reach Waipio, and those who are sick sometimes take pilgrimages there. It is said that in the valley, Mana collects there.”
“How do you know all this?” Mack asked, either dubious, impressed, or some strange mixture of both.
“I read a lot.” He neglected to add, And my brain is larger than yours.
Mack leaned over to Amelia and with a smirk muttered: “Maybe I should start using books for something other than propping up my cockpit chair.”
“Waipio’s on the main island,” Benjamin said. “All the myths tend to originate there. Pele and Kane-milo-hai. And it’s the only island in the chain with a still-active volcano—Kilauea.” Benjamin stood up, started speaking with his hands as well. He brought his palms and fingers together and then back apart, mimicking a volcano rising and erupting. “Such dramatic earthly activity generates a lot of mystical energy.” He paused to consider: “Though perhaps it’s the reverse. Perhaps the intense energy gathering there results in cataclysmic movement? Well. No matter. I think we have a place to go, then.”
“Still doesn’t help us find the Blackspire,” Mack said. “That damn blimp could be out there anywhere. With all the best heroes in its belly.”
It was then that Jet came in. Khan noticed that Jet’s normal get-up-and-go- seemed to have fallen-down-a-flight-of-stairs. Crestfallen would be the word, Khan thought.
Jet held up the brass-and-wire circlet. “Sally made the first prototype. She’s got more coming, but it works. Or, at least, it fits.”
“That Sally,” Mack said. “Always coming through in a pinch.”
Khan wasn’t sure if Silver said it sincerely or with some measure of bitterness. “Finding the Blackspire,” Khan said, refocusing the discussion the same way he would with his students at Oxford, “is no easy task. After all, we have all the skies above the whole of the Earth that could be home to that one airship—which is not so much like finding a needle in a haystack as it is finding a mote of dust floating around a darkened room.”
“Ugh, metaphors,” Mack said. Everyone shot him a look.
“But we can make some, as Benjamin would say, deductions,” Khan continued. “We can deduce that the Blackspire is near to one of the seven Atlantean gates. It most likely uses those to travel between parts of the world. Further, that means it’s likely near to a ley line nexus, just as we are. If you look at some of the Centurions who have been made captive, some of them have strong psychic capabilities. The Mentalist, or Charmaine Krikoshki, or—”
Benjamin said it with him: “The Projector.”
“Assuming that the teleportation device Sally builds works, then we can use that to teleport to the psychic signal of a hero like the Projector. It should take you right to the Blackspire. Further, Mack and Jet can teleport directly to New York City. If we are truly able to access the ley lines as a transportation—well, I hesitate to use the word ‘grid’ given the tangled skein of these lines—then we are as good as gold.”
“That’s making an awful lot of assumptions,” Amelia said.
Mack showed her his wolfish grin. “That, my dear, is what we do. But me and Flyboy over there will take our chances with Lucy. Direct flight and all that. Besides, we don’t want to get in Sally’s way. Ain’t that right, Jet?”
Jet gave a nod. “Sounds right. Mack.”
“So, it’s settled,” Khan said. “The rest of us go to Waipio?”
They go to Waipio.
PART THREE: It’s A Trap!
It had been two days, and the teleporter still wasn’t working.
“It works on paper,” Sally said again and again, pointing to her notes and blueprints. The idea, after all, was relatively simple: at the most sacred of Hawaiian temples, the heiau of Pakaalana, Sally would dig deep and tap into the mystical flow of energy the same way one might tap into a maple and access the sweet syrup inside.
From there, the energy would feed into a pair of homespun Tesla coils—except here the coils were meant to produce an outpouring of mystical energy rather than the alternating current of electricity. The energy would—should!—be directed onto the crumbling stone platform (like the base of a pyramid if the majority of the ruin had long been sheared away) and create there a gateway, beaming anybody standing on said platform into the occulted network of ley lines.
Alternatively, it might rip apart the atoms holding together the human body and incorporate them into the Earth’s mystical energy.
Not that it mattered, because, as noted, the teleporter still didn’t work.
Mack and Jet had flown them all to the coast, where the waves crashed and the riptide hungered, and then Lucy was gone again.
Soon after, it started to rain.
And it had been raining since. They took cold comfort in the fact that at least they did not have to descend into the valley the hard way—coming to Waipio from the rest of the island meant traveling over a thousand feet into the valley, down muddy trails and past sheer rock walls cut into by the razor-sharp erosion of needle-straight waterfalls.
The valley itself was beautiful, even in the rain—taro patches and fishponds and a color green that none of them had ever seen before, as if the plants of this place thrived on the energy that pulsed beneath it all.
But the rain was—if you asked locals—a sign of bad things to come.
As they pushed forward into the valley from the beach, hauling their gear and Sally’s equipment from the beach down the mud-slick trails toward Pakalaana, a man caught up with them—a bare-chested native holding a taro leaf over his head. “You should not be here,” he said in English. “The others sent me to speak to you. Turn around. Go home. Go back.” He kept his eyes on Khan above all others. Nervous, darting eyes.
“It’ll be okay,” Amelia said to him, reaching for his shoulder to comfort the man. But he pulled away.
“It will not! Whatever you come to do, you come to ruin. You always come to ruin.”
And then he fled again, bounding down another trail toward a longhouse in the distance.
“We may want to stop,” Benjamin said. “It may be time to consult with his people. To speak with the kahuna and find out what we’re up against—”
“No,” Sally said. “I’m sorry, but we just don’t have time. He says crazy stuff most of the time but here I have to agree with Mack. The time for talking is over. This is the time for doing.”
“I agree,” Amelia said, shielding herself from the rain.
Khan nodded, too. “I… I also agree.”
Benjamin nodded. “Then we push on.”
They pushed on. When they got to the heiau, they used hand augurs to dig deep as Sally built the coils and placed them to the sides of the stone dais, and as they worked the man with the taro leaf over his head would show every few hours. Usually saying nothing. Sometimes accompanied by others who stayed further away—one time he even brought a few children as if to set an example of what not to do, or perhaps what the boogeyman looked like.
One time he said something even more ominous: “If you do not quit,” he called over the rain, “then you will find your flesh in the mouth of Nanaue.”
And then, he fled. Again.
Now, after these two fruitless days, the teleporter still wasn’t working—the most they’d accomplished was a few violet sparks, each ethereal and ephemeral, before the coils again went dark. The rain never quit. The valley was growing sodden and their feet were sinking into the mud. Everything was looking hopeless.
It was about to get a whole lot worse.
Echoing through the valley came a terrible sound—a shrieking cry that sounded as if it originated from a man but then changed into that of a beast.
It was distant, far off, but the threat was clear.
“Dinosaurs,” Amelia said.
“No,” Khan responded. “They don’t sound like… that.”
“Nanaue,” Benjamin said.
Amelia turned toward him, narrowed her eyes. “You say that like you know what it means.”
He gave a sheepish look. “I… do.”
“Care to enlighten us?”
Everyone huddled around Benjamin.
“I thought it just a myth,” he said.
“What’s just a myth?” Sally asked, wiping her hands on her overalls and squinting against the knife-slash rain that fell.
“Nanaue the Shark-Man,” Benjamin said. “A cannibal—an eater-of-men. Cursed by his people to become half-shark and to protect this valley.”
“That’s what the native was talking about,” Amelia said. “Flesh in the mouth of Nanaue.”
Another half-man cry over the din of the falling rain.
“He’s hunting us,” Khan said. “He’ll find us eventually.”
“Not if we find him first,” Sally said, picking up a wrench and whacking it against her hands. “We know what’s going to happen here. He’s going to come for us. And if we’re not careful he’s going to tear apart what I’ve built. I say we go to him, first.”
“I can get behind that,” Amelia said.
Benjamin nodded. “It may be the wisest course of action.”
“I’ll stay here,” Khan said. “I won’t be much good to you out there. I can keep working on Sally’s design. See if I can’t figure something out.”
“Professor,” Edwin said, “if I may? I think you should go. I think… well, sir, I think it’s time you accepted your role as a man on the frontlines, not as some lofty academic hiding in the back. You’re a hero, sir. You’re my hero. And I believe that they’re going to need your help out there if you care to give it.”
“Edwin,” Khan began. “I don’t know, my boy…”
Amelia clapped Khan on the back. “He’s right. Join us.”
“I… I will.” Khan’s lips curled into a smile, revealing a mouth of very sharp teeth. “Let us hunt this Shark-Man before he hunts us.”
Edwin, of course, stayed behind.
He sat there on the stone dais as the day advanced and the hours passed toward another evening in the Waipio Valley. Across the valley came the shouts of the Centurions and the occasional roar of the Shark-Man.
He did not know who was winning. He could only hope.
Eventually, he caught the scent—again that whiff of ozone, and when he closed his eyes he spied a sudden burst of strange symbols written in light in the dark behind his eyelids.
Gerard Spears sat next to him. Appearing out of nowhere. As was his way.
“They still haven’t quite got it yet, have they?” he asked. Edwin found himself suddenly taken out of the rain as an umbrella opened with a fwump above his head.
“No, I suppose not.”
“Sometimes, the universe needs a nudge.”
“Why do I have to be the one to nudge it?” Spears asked.
“Because you’re the one with the magic.”
“I am, I am. Well, three things need to happen for this teleporter to work. Do you know what they are, Edwin?”
“I do but I have a feeling you’re going to want to hear yourself say it anyway.”
“True enough! First, they must defeat the Shark-Man. It is his will that rules this valley. Second, one of them must spill blood. I don’t know which one will suffer—maybe all of them, who can say? If I had all the answers this grand design would not be much fun, would it?”
“And the third thing is—they’ve dug in the wrong spot, silly gits.”
“You can’t sense it.” It was a statement, not a question.
Edwin shrugged, gave another hangdog smile. “As we’ve established, you’re the one with the magic.”
“Right-o. Right-o. Anyway, yes, they’ve gone and missed the spot by—” Spears got up, forcing Edwin to hop up and follow lest he once more be drowned like a rat in the rain. They both went to the hole where a series of copper wires disappeared into the mud.
“Less than a foot, honestly. I suppose you can’t blame them. Being what they are and all.”
“They’re not you, is what you’re saying,” Edwin offered.
“Well, to be fair, they’re not you, either.”
“I suppose not.” Edwin kicked a clump of dirt into the hole. “What can be done? Must we wait until they figure out their error and fix it? Oh my, that could be days. I have a sense that things are moving much faster, now.”
“They are. And so the overall equation must be… massaged, my little friend.” Spears again removed from his pocket a satchel. This one rattled with stones white and black, like those stolen from an abacus. He took a palmful of them, poked through them with a probing finger. Those strange symbols—like the ones Edwin saw burned into the backs of his eyelids only minutes ago—were etched onto each pebble.
Spears tilted his hand, let the pebbles rain into the hole.
A puff of black smoke.
And then the hole vanished, only to pop up an instant later—six inches to the left.
“There we go,” Spears said, snapping his fingers. “Lickety-split.”
“And the other problem?” Edwin asked.
“They will have to deal with the Shark-Man on their own. I have other things to do.”
As if for punctuation, the Shark-Man’s wretched cry came again, echoing over the valley and through the storm. Edwin turned toward it, and when he turned back around—Gerard Spears had gone.