Read an Excerpt
The Navel of the World
The Forgotten Worlds Book 2
By P.J. Hoover
CBAY BooksCopyright © 2009 PJ Hoover
All rights reserved.
The Inconvenient Giant Squid
As soon as the elevator passed by, Benjamin Holt jumped; and then he started falling — straight down the shaft. Sure, he'd planned to levitate himself, but seeing as how he was out of practice, he dropped a good two hundred floors before he finally got the whole levitation thing under control. Outside the world looked like thick black soup, with glowing sea creatures hitting up against the elevator shaft, staring in at Benjamin. Half of them looked like they'd survived the fall of the dinosaurs and never planned to chance extinction again. He reached out toward them, and they flitted away, back to wherever they'd lived for the last million years. So Benjamin turned back around. And here the day had started out so boring.
At first Benjamin thought working in his dad's office over spring break would be cool — spending the week hanging out in Wondersky City with Andy Grow. And to be honest, at first it had been — being back in Lemuria; skyscrapers so tall they poked out of the top of the underwater dome and into the ocean above. But things had gone downhill — fast.
For starters, the last person in the world he'd wanted to see had shown up — Ryan Jordan. Apparently Ryan's parents thought working in an office all vacation was a good idea, too. Then when Nathan Nyx, their boss for the week, had shown them the Records Room, the real torture began: hours upon hours of mind-numbingly torturous, pointless filing. The problem with the records was that they never stopped. Before one could be filed, five more pumped in through the feed.
Ryan had been the smart one. He left the room a nanosecond after Nathan teleported away and only came back during breaks. And it hadn't taken Andy long either. He decided spying around the office was way more fun than filing records, so he left, too. Some best friend. Which left Benjamin alone most of the time playing mental games to keep himself from going crazy.
But Wednesday mid-morning when Benjamin found the record with his name on it, everything changed. It must've come through the chute months ago. Maybe even years. It only caught Benjamin's eye when, by sheer luck, one of the stacks toppled over and almost killed him.
"Look at this." Benjamin handed the record over to Andy when he walked into the room. It looked like all the others: thinner than a piece of paper; stripes on the side to distinguish which boring category to put it in; yellow graphical screen with data crammed everywhere. After looking at millions and billions of records, Benjamin needed a second opinion. The words and pictures on them shifted each time he read one; by now, his eyes hurt so bad, he'd started filing with them closed — which resulted in sometimes the records going in the right places, sometimes not. Benjamin didn't really care.
"What?" Andy reached out and took it. "Another record on garbage disposal in Lemuria?"
Benjamin shook his head. "I don't think so."
"But it has the funny purple stripes on it." Andy pointed at the colored stripes running up the left side which labeled it as waste management.
"I know," Benjamin said. "But I don't think it's about getting rid of trash. Read it."
Andy looked down at the page. "I can't."
Benjamin shrugged. Okay, so he couldn't read it either. Most of it looked like it was written in Ancient Lemurian — the language of the hidden continent at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean — which Benjamin hadn't bothered to learn. "We'll have to get Gary to translate it. But what can you read?"
Andy looked again, then met Benjamin's gaze. "Your name."
"And what's this weird symbol at the top of the page?" Andy asked.
Benjamin shook his head. "I don't know. I've seen it before, but I can't remember where."
Actually, Benjamin remembered exactly where he'd seen the three intertwined hearts. He'd seen then above the door to the secret chamber where he'd left the three keys of Shambhala. The three keys he'd spent all last summer looking for.
Andy handed it back over. "Maybe Gary will recognize it." Which might actually be possible. Their friend Gary Goodweather recognized constellations in other galaxies. And if he ran into something he didn't know, he went to the library to find out.
Before Benjamin could reach out and take it back, the door opened, and Ryan Jordan walked in. Benjamin caught the flash in Ryan's mind before his mind block went up. He'd been eavesdropping. Ryan took one look at them, reached out and grabbed the record, and ran.
Which explained the elevator shaft thing — kind of. Benjamin took off after Ryan, bumping into the boss man Nathan Nyx as soon as he ran out of the room. Nathan flew backwards and landed flat on his butt.
"What's the rush?" Nathan stood up and rubbed his back side.
Benjamin saw Ryan run for the elevators and enter something on the keypad. He forced himself to take a deep breath and look at Nathan.
"No rush," Benjamin said.
Just then Andy ran out of the horrible record room and stopped.
Nathan laughed. "Are you guys having too much fun filing?"
Benjamin cringed. Nathan gave him the willies. It wasn't that Nathan looked gross or creepy or anything. It was just that after three days of taking orders from the over-energetic brown-noser, Benjamin couldn't stand the sight of him — not to mention the sound of his voice. What his dad saw in this guy was nothing short of a mystery.
"Yeah," Andy said. "We're having way too much fun."
"Which is why we need to get some fresh air," Benjamin said. And then he started walking for the elevator. Whatever the record had said, Benjamin needed to get it back. With both his name and the strange heart symbol on it, it was probably the closest thing he'd found to a lead since the end of last summer — back when everything had changed, back when Helios Deimos, one of the rulers of Lemuria, had told him he was actually one of triplets, separated at birth and hidden away. And that Benjamin's most important task in life was to find his two missing brothers.
Yeah, and that was all Helios had said. No other hints. Or clues. Or anything that might give Benjamin some idea where his brothers might be. For all the luck Benjamin had finding them so far, they may as well have teleported to Saturn.
Nathan Nyx stepped out of the way, letting Benjamin and Andy pass. "Just don't be gone long; we have lots of records to file."
If by 'we' he meant Benjamin, then Nathan was right.
"And the elevator on the left is only going up," Nathan added. "Giant squid stuck on the lower floors again."
Great. As long as these elevators took, it would take another hour before he could follow Ryan. An hour Benjamin did not plan to wait. So when the elevator on the left lifted, Benjamin looked down the shaft, took a deep breath, and jumped.
It's not that Benjamin couldn't levitate himself. After all he was a telegen — not a human, and if anything, he was one of the better students in telekinesis. Once he got the fall under control, he slowed at each floor and peeked out. No Ryan so far. Sure, the giant squid hanging on the outside of the shaft was pretty cool. But after three days of having elevator delays because of tentacles wrapped around the lifting components, he kind of wished squid-rights activists didn't care so much, and that the squids could just be zapped or something.
Around floor 314, Benjamin finally spotted Ryan. He slowed his descent, jumped from the elevator shaft, and chased Ryan down a hallway. But then Ryan ran into a room and slid the door closed behind him. It was only once Andy managed to join Benjamin that they were able to pry the door open. Ryan stood there amid ten record copying machines, holding the purple striped record in his hand and smiling.
"Oh, was this yours?" Ryan held up the record with his thumb and two fingers.
Benjamin reached out to grab it. "Seriously, why are you such a pain?" But before he could get the record, Ryan yanked it away.
"Me?" Ryan feigned a pathetic innocent look. "I'm only filing things."
"Just hand it over," Andy said, and Benjamin noticed the record come loose from Ryan's fingers. Andy was using telekinesis to get it. So Benjamin joined in. After all, two of them working against Ryan would be a sure win.
But Ryan grabbed it back. "It's a trash record. Nothing else." And before Benjamin or Andy could do anything, Ryan flung it across the room with telekinesis and pitched it in the record recycler. Then he smirked at Benjamin and walked out of the room.
Benjamin ran over to the recycler even though he knew it would be useless. He'd recycled enough records this week to know there was no coming back. Once a record had gone to the great big graveyard under the ocean, it was gone. And with it so was any clue as to the location of Benjamin's brothers.
"What now?" Andy walked over to join him.
Benjamin turned around. "Now we kill Ryan Jordan?"
Andy laughed. "Fine with me, but Nathan Nyx may have a problem. He'd have to tell Ryan's parents."
"They'd probably thank us," Benjamin said. "When we get back to summer school, I swear I'm going to teleport Ryan's teeth out of his mouth."
"You guys have a problem?"
Benjamin and Andy turned at the sound of the voice.
"Joey!" Sure, Benjamin had known Joey Duncan worked with his dad, but it was already Wednesday, and they hadn't seen him yet.
"What are you doing here?" Andy asked.
Joey laughed. "Shouldn't I be asking you that? You guys work two hundred stories up."
"There's a squid on the shaft," Benjamin said. "We can't get back up."
Joey smiled. "You'd think with all the technology this place has, they'd be able to figure out how to solve the squid problem." He narrowed his eyes. "What are you guys doing down here anyway? This is a restricted area."
Benjamin thought fast, glad he'd been working on his mind blocks. He could keep his parents out. He could keep Joey Duncan out. And he could definitely keep Andy out. Probably the only person he'd never be able to keep out of his mind was Heidi Dylan, but then, when it came to telepathy, she was nothing short of an enigma.
"We were trying to make a copy of a record, but then it accidentally got recycled," Benjamin said. Which wasn't all together untrue.
Joey walked over to the nearest machine. "So you made the copy then?"
"No," Benjamin said.
Joey pushed a couple holographic buttons. "But the machine says it just made a copy."
Benjamin looked at Andy. "Ryan," he said to Andy telepathically. "He copied the record."
Andy's eyes lit up. "Can it make us another copy?" he asked Joey. "We must've recycled the other one."
So the good news was at least they now had a copy of the record. The bad news was Ryan Jordan almost certainly did, too. And the even worse news was that once Joey took them back up to the five hundred and whatever-eth floor, they had to explain to Nathan Nyx why they'd been down there anyway.
Luckily, Joey was way cool and covered their butts. "We were just hanging out watching the squid intervention team," he said.
Nathan narrowed his eyes. "Mr. Holt won't be happy. He wanted Benjamin and Andy to work over spring break. Not watch the sea life."
Like Benjamin's dad would really care. Benjamin had hardly seen his dad all week aside from the commute.
Joey smiled. "I'll talk to Mr. Holt myself."
Nathan frowned, but given that he was really nothing more than a glorified mail boy, and Joey was ... well, Benjamin wasn't really sure what Joey was, but then again he wasn't sure what his own dad did either, Nathan didn't say anything. All he knew was neither Joey nor his dad were responsible for spring break interns, and Nathan Nyx was, which had to say something about the pecking order.
Nathan placed a hand each on Benjamin and Andy's shoulders. "Time for more filing."CHAPTER 2
Jack is Back
Benjamin and Andy bolted for the door when Benjamin's dad finally showed up at lunchtime, leaving Ryan alone amidst the remaining untouched towers of records. Seriously, Benjamin had about reached the point of just shoving them all in the record recycler. Okay, so he had shoved a few hundred in; who would ever miss them anyway?
"Isn't Ryan joining you guys for lunch?" Benjamin's dad asked while they waited for the elevator. Thankfully, an hour ago whoever was in charge of building maintenance had decided it was acceptable to shock the squid to remove it, so now both elevators were in service.
"Ryan's a jerk," Benjamin said.
Andy nodded. "Yeah, talk about having to work with your arch enemy all week. It sucks."
"Not to mention the records," Benjamin added. "I swear, Dad, if you ever make me work here again, I'll run away from home."
Benjamin's dad laughed. "And go where?"
Benjamin scowled. "Anywhere that doesn't involve staring at tiny letters that keep changing around on a screen." His mind flew to the copy of the record with his name on it. Not that he could read the thing, but at least the information stored on it seemed to stay constant.
By the time they reached the atrium, Benjamin felt the first bits of freedom seep into him. No more records. No more Nathan Nyx — at least for a few hours. They had an extra long lunch and were planning to use a public teleporter to meet Heidi, Gary, and Iva back in the capital city of Mu.
But when he rounded the corner, Benjamin slammed to a halt, just barely stopping in time to avoid running his face into the tiny green man hovering in the air.
"Jack! Where've you been?"
The Nogical laughed and squinted up his yellow eyes. "Not filing records in Wondersky City."
Benjamin shuddered, trying to put the records out of his mind. "Weren't you supposed to visit or something?"
"You know a Nogical?" Benjamin's dad asked.
Benjamin turned to look at his dad. "Oh, I guess I forgot to mention it. Dad, this is Jack. Jack, this is Dad."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Jack said and pointed to his blue hair. "And as you can see we don't all have orange hair."
"So that rumor is false," Benjamin's dad said, then turned back to Benjamin. "Do you know how rare Nogicals are?"
"Proteus Ajax mentioned that last year, but I guess I never really thought about it," Benjamin said. Sure, they were illegal genetically engineered creatures and all, but Benjamin had met Jack the first day of school last summer, and they'd been friends ever since. "Really, Jack, what gives? I didn't hear from you all year. I thought you were gonna come visit."
"I was," Jack said, "but I didn't want to teleport outside the dome."
Andy narrowed his eyes. "Why? I thought you were a master of teleportation."
"Skill has nothing to do with it." Jack put his small hands on his hips and stood every bit of his six inches tall.
"Jack's right," Benjamin's dad said.
Benjamin and Andy looked at him.
"There've been reports of telegens teleporting outside the dome — both naturally and with machines — and then not being able to teleport back," Benjamin's dad explained.
Jack crossed his arms and nodded. "Exactly."
"Why?" Benjamin asked. "What stops teleportation?"
"Well, you know how the power shield around Atlantis is failing?" Benjamin's dad said. The sunken continent of Atlantis had a protective shield around it just like Lemuria did. Except, unlike Lemuria, in the case of Atlantis, the shield was supposed to keep people in.
"Sure." Benjamin had learned all about the shields encasing the two hidden continents last summer. Heck, he'd seen the scales in the Ruling Hall showing how the Atlantis shield was failing.
Benjamin's dad nodded. "The theory is that since the overall shield generating output has to be increased for Atlantis, it's actually causing high changes in the flux of the output for the shield around Lemuria."
Andy's eyes went vacant. "You lost me there."
"Our own shield isn't as stable because of the work being done on the Atlantis shield," Jack translated.
"Exactly!" Benjamin's dad said. "I couldn't have said it better myself."
"I know," Jack said.
"Oh," Benjamin said.
"So that's why I didn't come visit," Jack said.
"Couldn't you have called on the telecom or something?" Benjamin asked.
"Sure, if I wanted my conversation monitored," Jack said.
"Of course. You don't think all that exchange of information just gets lost do you? Our security operations have all sorts of agents assigned to listening in on Lemurian and Atlantian conversations all day long." He looked directly at Benjamin's dad. "Right?"
Benjamin's dad flushed and looked down to straighten his shirt collar. "Well, I guess that's somewhat accurate."
Excerpted from The Navel of the World by P.J. Hoover. Copyright © 2009 PJ Hoover. Excerpted by permission of CBAY Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.