Chapter five sees our main heroes all finally in the same city, from around the world. But, how will they end up meeting?!!
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The cargo ship, MV Mical, was delayed a couple of days, and that put the captain in a bad mood, although the crew assured Mitch that this was normal.
“Unless he is at least two miles off the coast line, Captain is in a bad mood, but once we’re out to sea a-ways, it’s dancing all night long.”
“How far out do we sail following the coast to Rio?”
“As far out as time will allow.” Rico, a native Brazilian sailor, winked at Mitch.
It was hard to tell if he was serious or not.
Mitch changed the subject,
“I thought ships were named after women, not men?”
“That same question comes up with all the unchurched.” Again, was he serious, or not? “If you’ll notice, it’s spelled M-I-C-A-L, not M-I-C-H-A-E-L. Mical was King Saul’s daughter and King David’s first wife. Y’know David and Goliath, right? The giant… the stone… the dead hit in the middle of the head?”
Mitch pretended he knew nothing,
“Is he the one that built the ark?”
But then Mitch couldn’t hold back the smirk, and they both laughed.
“I didn’t know about Mical.” Mitch admitted, “I only remember Bathsheba.”
“Who could forget her?”
Mitch enjoyed the bantering conversations with Rico all the way through the Caribbean and on down the east coast of Brazil. On their way past the quiet jungle shoreline, Rico came alongside Mitch again.
“I call that the Dragon Mist Mountain Range. It sits in the middle of the Amazon Jungle and holds the greatest,” here the Brazilian whispered, “secret wonder of the world.”
Mitch looked out through the haze.
Rico whispered right into his ear.
“My great grandfather says he saw it himself, in an open clearing inside one of the valleys. He was carried there by ‘he-knew-not-what,’ and woke up, healed of a broken leg, hearing a seductive song trickle through the trees.”
Mitch allowed himself to be enchanted.
“After two days and two nights of laying on the mountainside, with fresh food and revitalizing mineral water, laid beside him daily by ‘he knew-not-what,’ he began to make his way to the valley floor. Each morning, when he woke, again there was fresh fruit, cooked fish, and that revitalizing mineral water set beside him by…”
Mitch joined him, smiling.
“Until,” continued Rico, “on the third day, just before he reached a tiny village, he saw a rush in the jungle and a green and orange dragon flew over the trees and back up the mountain.”
He paused for effect, and Mitch stayed silent.
“Great-grandfather said it was the size of a wild dog, long and quick. It circled around him once, and crazy as the old man was, he said it smiled at him.”
Rico stepped back and shook off the misty mood.
“So, what do ya think about that, boy?”
“I’d say that as crazy as you are, it’d still be awesome if your great grandpa was telling the truth.”
The captain approached with a sarcastic look on his face.
“Let me guess,” he slapped Rico on the back, “dreamer here has been telling you about the dragon tales of his crazy grandfather?”
“Believe or not, doesn’t make it not true.”
“True or not doesn’t mean you can pester my passengers with your crazy stories. The only truth the boy needs to know is: tomorrow, we reach Rio.”
It had been arranged quietly, and considering the last visit, it was probably the best idea. Prince Hadigan arrived in Latoona the evening after the Atlantis Academy caravan left.
Defense forces suddenly surrounded the village. He just walked in. Chancellor Stonewall Tanker blustered out of his house, pulling robes and state chains over his head.
“Your Highness, we welcome you to our village again. May the Powers hold that this visit is full of great prosperity for you.”
A secretary, or someone of import, spoke in the prince’s place.
“Thank you for your welcome. We apologize for the inconvenience of such a sudden appearance.”
“As you would have it, Sire. All is yours to enjoy.” The chancellor nodded curtly. “To what end are we honored by such a visit?”
No one answered. The prince continued his examination of the marketplace; each stall and shopkeeper in turn bowed courteously and silently.
The prince turned with a brilliant smile and spoke,
“I understand there are some remarkable young ladies here. I wish to meet them.”
There was no need to explain which ladies he meant. Others had come before him to question and stare at Tanya and Holly.
“Forgive me, Sire, the Dijex family is not here.” The chancellor involuntarily stepped backward.
The prince continued studying the objects for sale on the nearest table.
“Really? Where are they?”
“Well, Sire, Your Highness… ahh… Tanya and Holly Dijex are even now on their way to Janeiro to catch the ship to Atlantis National Academy. It is their first year in attendance there.”
“Tanya and Holly Dijex are sisters?” Mr. Secretary queried.
“Well, not biologically. They were simply raised as sisters.”
“And why were they raised as sisters? Are they orphans?”
“Forgive Mr. Secretary’s curt tones.” The prince threw his arm chummily around the chancellor’s shoulders, matching his height inch for inch. “There is nothing to fear in me. I am merely a curious tourist.”
Leading him away from the others, Prince Hadigan continued,
“Tell me about these sisters.”
The chancellor swallowed hard and began to speak but could not. He cleared his throat and stuttered.
The prince interrupted,
“Perhaps we can just sit on the fountain here and talk. Is there a place to buy a drink?”
One lady rushed over from a chirpy village café,
“What would you like, sire?”
“I hear the water here is excellent.”
His Royal Highness nodded to a Defense Aide in green, who handed a handful of colorful bills to the waitress.
“Indeed, Your Highness, as you will.” She blustered off to attend to their thirst.
Sitting in the cool evening, sipping bubbly mineral water, Chancellor Stonewall began again.
“Well, Sire,” he cleared his throat once more, “One of the girls lost her parents in the…” he paused, and Prince Hadigan suddenly turned directly attentive, “…in the Market Explosion of twelve years ago.”
The prince answered,
Suddenly losing all politeness, he growled,
“I choose to not dwell on that day.”
Without any further words, the entire Defense team melted into the jungle, and Prince Hadigan stepped into his transport and was gone.
Local School Boy
Mitch was sixteen, with two years of schooling still to complete, when he arrived in Brazil. His Gamma, of course, arranged for him to attend a fancy private school, but he refused. In fact, he refused to do most of what his Gamma wanted.
He wasn’t necessarily rebellious; he did all the jobs and chores that needed to be done. He just didn’t take part in the lifestyle his grandmother accustomed herself to, since she began receiving her income from Mitch.
When Mitch sent the retirement fund to her, she instantly took up the life she had always wanted. In eight months, she was president of three charities and on the board of directors for two more.
She didn’t pursue these positions out of a desire to help the underprivileged, but rather out of a desire to control and have power. She was a masterfully strong woman, as Mitch had heard her called so many years ago.
But Mitch no longer found her scary. He thought her rather pathetic. Everything depended on her apparent affluence, and she refused to admit that her money came from her grandson. She told everyone that one of her “investments” finally came through.
Mitch went along with the game and played the part of a misfit grandson who, because of his genius, was rather antisocial.
Yes, Gamma loved to boast about Mitch’s computer industry success, but she strategically omitted the fact that it was due to computer games. Instead, she made it appear as though she’d gotten him started in business—after her investments came through—and no one bothered to check the details.
So, while Gamma waltzed around the rich and famous of Rio de Janeiro, Mitch played.
The first thing he did was set himself up as a computer securities investigator. It was not long before companies all over Rio, and up and down the coast, were begging him to work out the bugs and fire-proof their business systems.
The best advantage was that he did all his work from his own computer at home. No one noticed that it was a teenager hacking into and reprogramming office securities for large amounts of money and gaining an important professional reputation as one of the best.
Mitch registered himself at the public school and joined the Computer Science Club, whose president was a girl named Vanga, short for Evangeline. She was the perfect combination of pretty and geeky.
“You completed the entry project quickly.” Vanga stood over Mitch’s desk scanning his flow chart.
“Does that make me a suck-up?” Mitch continued staring at the desk.
“No, it makes you a member, if you can afford the fees. If you can’t, there are scholarships, but it takes longer to receive the membership pin and magazine subscription.”
He pulled out an acceptably full wallet.
“How much do you want?”
She balked but regained her cool quickly.
“The sign-up sheets are in the folder on the front desk.”
Mitch calmly stood, fetched the folder, and began filling out the form.
“If I pay in cash, will you go out to dinner with me tonight? …Not that I’m suggesting I need to pay for your company… I… It was just a line.”
“Pay me for the full year’s fees, and you can have the pleasure of buying me dinner every night this week.”
Despite the apparent rip-off, it was a done deal.
Vanga recommended a popular, fun spot for dinner, the Trey, Vale, & Bacht Corporate Complex.
The ground floors were all jungle foliage with streams, mists, and jungle sounds creating a tranquil place for conversation and meditation. The two ate burgers on the second floor, looking over the balcony, watching all the people come through the front doors.
“Busy place,” Mitch mumbled through a mouthful of fries.
“Always is, don’t know why. The public areas are never full. I guess the hotel is always packed, though.”
“The two lower floors are entry and food courts; then there are five floors at the top for restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. The rest, in between, are offices and hotel rooms.”
Mitch was intrigued.
“I’d like to stay over one night, just for kicks.”
“It’s a private hotel. You can only stay here on the invitation of the owner.”
“How do I get that?”
“Don’t know anyone who ever has.” She shrugged.
They spent the rest of the evening wandering the shopping floors and enjoying a couple of indoor rides. Without letting Vanga notice, Mitch kept an eye on the security system and grew more curious the longer they were there.
He delivered Vanga back to her home at a reasonable hour but was so distracted by his thoughts on hotel security that he didn’t notice his missed opportunity for a goodnight kiss.
Vanga noticed the offense with contempt.
Immediately after a distracted goodbye, (the sound of the car door slamming still ringing unnoticed in his ears), Mitch staked out the Complex. He walked around the open areas until they closed. Then he sat in his car watching the many people from the private hotel come and go all night long.
Miles before the ANA jungle caravan from Latoona approached any Bacht settlements, it lifted off the jungle floor and soared over the landscape, invisible and swift.
Flying was the best way to travel when avoiding Bacht. Their technology, although much improved, still could not track the water-based camouflage and wind-based mechanics.
There was no real hurry to get to Under Janeiro. And, the students’ families had those free tickets for two days in the Trevel Upland hotel, so they planned to enjoy the Bacht carnival city’s beauty from right in the middle of it. Their vacation was set in a modern, glassy building: The Trey, Vale, and Bacht Office Complex.
The landscape around it was lush, full of foliage and running water. This theme continued into the lobby, which imitated a jungle clearing. Fountains and waterfalls, runoffs and pools lapped though flowers and ferns, singing songs of distilled peace.
On entering, even the Bacht chose to simply sit and enjoy.
Brazilian Trevel are much like the Bacht in their love of life. Thus, there were no racial barriers in the open floors. The floor overlooking the lobby was an eatery that offered fast food, and the top five floors offered fabulous mall shopping, an indoor amusement area, and sky-level restaurants, sports bars, and dance clubs.
A couple of floors between the dinning and hotel levels were finance, trading, and legal offices. They worked only specific cases in which Trevel interests mingled with Bacht interests. In the basement was a post office that also carried specified interracial mail. The rest of the floors were a luxurious Trevel hotel.
The whole building was jovial and encouraged the secret mixing of Upland and Underland livelihoods.
The backside of the building had a large parking and landing port. It looked simple enough but for one side being open to the air for three floors, with a large gaping hole that was disguised as a large gaping hole. With a building that luxurious, you can get away with any kind of eccentricity.
On approaching the city, Tanya cried out,
“There it is, Holly, that shopping venue we read about!” The excited teen smeared her face across the window in an effort to study it as they flew over.
“I think you had better stay inside our hotel, girls. There are shopping floors there.”
“You say that every time, Deda.”
“And he is right!” Salla turned to look at the two headstrong girls. “You cannot continue your independence here. There are too many opportunities to get lost.”
“Hello? Earth Energist tuned into the magnetics of the earth: does-not-get-lost!”
“Bacht technology is not like ours. It can do things to Trevel without any warning. You stay in the hotel unless you have a guide, okay?”
In unison, the girls sighed,
The caravan maneuvered into the gaping hole and materialized on the landing track.
Mitch was confused by Vanga’s standoffish attitude the next school day. He was completely clueless, and it took a detailed explanation, via Vanga’s intimate friends, to have him realize the offense he had unwittingly committed.
“It’s not that I didn’t want to kiss her, I just… well, I got a little distracted by something.”
“She should be the only thing you’re distracted by when you’re dropping her off after a date.”
“Girls are weird.” Mitch stalked off, now completely distracted by how he should get back into Vanga’s good graces again.
He settled on a direct approach.
At the onset of the Computer Science Club meeting, Mitch entered the room and, without a word to anyone else, immediately advanced upon Vanga, interrupting her current conversation by gently but firmly placing his hand on her neck and pulling her close, in a deep kiss. At first, she pulled back, then quickly melted into the moment.
Mitch pulled back and asked,
“We good now?”
“Uh-huh,” was all the girl could muster up to respond, with her mouth still open.
Mitch then plopped down at his computer keyboard and immersed himself in completing the afternoon’s project.
Mitch and Vanga dated on and off for the next two years in a turbulent relationship. The problem was no more complicated than the fact that Mitch considered many other things more important than the pretty girl he liked to have around.
Vanga would have been done with him soon after the first-date fiasco, but he took on such interesting projects that she kept herself in a position to be a part of all he did.
His latest and longest-running investigative project was nearly ready for her to partner in.
“Want to go to dinner tonight?” Mitch surprised Vanga in the school hallway.
“Not if we go to the Complex again. I’m sick of that food.”
“Okay. See you round, then. But I thought you wanted to get on board with my latest ‘exploration.’” He quoted the last word with his fingers.
Vanga jumped at the offer.
“What time will I meet you?”
“No, no.” Mitch smiled secretively. “I’ll come by and pick you up at six. Wear something formal.”
“There’s still one last restaurant we haven’t tried yet.”
“The Lemurian Banquet Hall?”
It was a preposterous suggestion. A meal there was three times more expensive than any other meal in the whole building, probably combined.
“Yeah, I hear it’s pretty.”
Mitch swaggered off to class and Vanga spent her next free hour asking as many friends as possible if they had a formal gown she could borrow.
“You don’t think he’s going to propose, do you?” one romantic friend suddenly suggested.
“I thought you were a career girl?” Her independent friend stared in horror.
Vanga hadn’t even considered such a ridiculous proposal… ah… idea.
She just laughed and tossed an,
“I have no freaky idea” at them as she disappeared home early.
All was amazing: the beautiful sleek rental car that Mitch drove, the gracious attentions of the restaurant staff, and of course the meal itself.
They began the feast with coxinha, a breaded appetizer of chicken-styled croquettes. Vanga then chose the vatapa, a prawn curry, and Mitch chose the traditional feijoada, an assorted meat stew. After, they shared delicious pudim custard.
Delightfully full of excellent traditional food, Vanga thought, nothing could be more romantic.
Over espresso at the end of the evening, on the high glassy balcony, Mitch put his hand in his pocket and said,
“The reason I brought you here tonight is to ask if you will join me on the biggest project of my life.”
Vanga’s heart leaped into her throat. It was way too early to be thinking of such long-term commitments. What was he thinking?!
He pulled out a small notebook.
“I’m going to hack into the security system in this building and figure out how to get onto the guest list for the hotel.”
Vanga emitted a loud, short, “Ha” and stared at him, unbelieving.
“You are the dorkiest, geekiest, most shortsighted, self-absorbed, incoherent, death-wishing boy in the whole world.”
Undeterred, Mitch replied,
“I’m also richer than you could possibly imagine, and I’m asking you to partner with me.”
She shook her head and smiled at his all-too-familiar nonchalant jokes.
“I stayed this far…?”
“I’ll get us both off school this week to work as interns for a local, high-level security business.”
“But its graduation parties all this week! And how are you going to swing a legitimate cover for that?”
“I own that business.” He winked, rose to his feet, and extended his hand to her. “Shall we dance?”
Three Kobolds hauled the luggage off the bus and sorted through it all. They truly were the house laborers of only the rich and wealthy, with no respect for anyone else. Tanya and Holly watched, fascinated, and the creatures, each in turn, made rude faces at the girls.
All four of the Latoona families were staying together on the same floor, so they walked to the lifts as a group. There was a wonderful gut-rushing feeling as the lifts shot up to the right floor and everyone walked into the hall, giggling.
The Dijex family suite was designed to look like a beachfront cottage, except that instead of a sandy ocean, the glass doors opened onto a spectacular view of downtown Rio.
They settled in well as the maids unpacked everything for them, and dressed quickly, ready to arrive early for their dinner reservations.
During dessert, the hotel owner found them,
“Welcome, my jungle friends. I am pleased to see you are satisfied.” He did not allow anyone to respond; even if they were not satisfied, he would never know. “This is my son, Andros.”
A perfect sixteen-year-old in a white shirt, red tie, and blue cardigan stepped up with a perfect smile and a perfect handshake.
“Tomorrow he will take your young girls around town to see the sights, if that is to your liking.” It wasn’t a question. “You will join me for lunch. I always eat with the parents of new students.” Again, a fact, not a request. “You will have your invitation in your room, tonight. Andros!”
The whirlwind departed with the superficial teen in tow.
“Bacht or Trevel?” Hal stared after the man and son.
“I didn’t get a good look. It is as if he wouldn’t let you.” Salla shrugged and returned to her mango-sticky rice dessert. “Mysterious Rio.”
They had no idea how he knew where they were, but Andros turned up as soon as they finished lunch the next day.
“What do you want to see?” Andros looked at his nails as he talked.
“I think it best that they stay near here.” Hal stared meaningfully at his daughters. “Their energies are temperamental in Bacht surroundings.”
“Dad!” Tanya was quite embarrassed.
“I don’t recall having problems before.” Holly looked suspiciously at her father.
“You’ve never been alone in Bacht society before.” Salla was strangely cautious also. “Master Su suggested we be careful.”
“Whyyy?” Tanya elongated the word in disbelief.
“One: you haven’t even started seventh grade at school yet, and, two: I’m your father. You know you can trust me, right? Do you trust me?”
The girls sighed in frustration but admitted that they did indeed trust him. And with that, Andros led them to the lifts, down to the lobby, and out to his flashy truck.
“We can start by driving around and we’ll see what you want.” Andros skidded out of the parking lot and whipped through traffic.
“Can we go over there?” Tanya looked, with eyes closed, to the side and pointed over Holly.
“Why there?” Andros’ perfect face turned into a disgusted sneer.
“I don’t know. I just feel drawn to something.”
“What’s over there?” Holly strained to look around the buildings.
“Botafogo beach: there is great shopping over there.”
There was a guilty silence.
Andros baited them,
“Plenty of Trevel go there.”
“Well then, it should be okay.” Tanya nodded, her mind made up.
The touristy shops came into view and Holly’s eyes got a little glassy as she tried a quick count of the multicolored windows,
“Yeah, perfectly okay.”
Andros parked as close as he could, then jumped out and dodged through the crowded street. As Holly jostled after him, she breathed deeply in the leafy air of the tree lined way. Tanya ran her fingers across the shimmering cement wall along the street. Both girls shivered in delight.
“I thought we could catch a movie.” Andros tossed his hair in the direction of the cinema.
Holly didn’t take her eyes off the doors. “I don’t want to waste my time sitting watching someone else’s imaginings. There’s too much to see and fill my own mind with.”
“No. I’m going to see a movie.” Andros was bored with them.
“Aren’t you supposed to be our guide?”
“Well, if you need a babysitter, fine, but you seem mature enough to me.” Andros continued snarky.
“I don’t need a babysitter. I just don’t know if we can find our way around in there, it’s pretty big.” Holly tried to be controlled and calm, but it wasn’t working.
“There are maps everywhere. You can read a map, can’t you?”
Tanya was getting mad also.
“I don’t need a map. I can tap into the earth’s magnetic field and find my way anywhere.”
“Sensitive to magnetic fields, huh? Then I don’t suggest you go in.”
Holly stood right up to his face.
“With, or without you, we are going in.”
For the first time, Holly saw into Andros’ eyes and gasped.
He pushed her away.
“You’re Bacht!” she exclaimed.
He cursed at them and stormed off.