"The Ethan Sparks Adventure books are fun, engaging stories for young readers. They are wild rides to some of the greatest sites of archaeology!"
-Dr.Gary Stickel, "The real-life Indiana Jones"(London Times)
On assignment for The Young Explorer magazine, Ethan Sparks is in Mexico to cover his dad's Mayan fact-finding mission. Dr. Sparks and Dr. Castillo, two highly respected archaeologists, are going to unlock the secret of the Mayan Calendar. Is it a myth, or the truth? The world may never find out because the powerful Hastanista crime cartel has another plan. It's a sinister plot that Ethan and his new spy partners, Anya and Jack, must risk their lives to uncover. Before they can reach Chichén Itza in the Yucatán, the mission takes the young spies from Mexico City to Palenque and then to a remote camp surrounded by howler monkeys in the Lancandón jungle. With no sophisticated spy equipment, the teens plan an operation using blowguns. Will a mysterious discovery deep in the rainforest hold the answer to the world's fate? Is our time on Earth really scheduled to end?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)|
Read an Excerpt
March of the MayansAn Ethan Sparks Adventure
By Nick Barry
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Nick Barry
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThere have been times in my life when I just knew something. For example, when I aced an exam. Or last year, when I made the swim team after only one tryout.
There were two goons in this auditorium who didn't belong here. They were thugs. I just knew it.
I picked up the high-powered surveillance mirror strapped to my backpack and aimed it right at them.
One thug had a jagged scar running right through his knife-sliced eye. The other guy had a manic tick that made him fidget in his seat. Here we were in this auditorium at the University of Mexico City, mostly college kids and professors all around me. And there were these two thugs.
They both wore black jeans and black T-shirts. My gut told me that Dead Eye and Crazy Tick weren't students at this university. So why are they here? I asked myself.
Before releasing the mirror from its duty, I happened to glance at the person directly behind me. Boy, am I glad I did! There was a babe sitting behind me. She was fourteen, maybe fifteen. Long, shiny black hair, big brown eyes, and a crooked smile that kept her from being perfect.
I noticed that she was also checking out the thugs. Huh?
Suddenly she winked at me. I dropped the mirror on its strap and just happened to catch my own reflection. Since I changed my contact lenses my eyes appear more green than brown. It made me look older. Especially since I just had an overnight growth spurt of more than three-quarters of an inch. I rounded it off; now I'm five feet, ten inches. And by not spiking my brown hair, I look at least a year older.
Oh yeah, I decided, I look older. You know, I look fifteen. Not bad, since I just turned fourteen three months ago.
Applause broke out. I looked up. My dad and a beautiful middle-aged, dark-haired woman walked out to center stage. They both held wireless microphones. The woman gracefully drifted to the left. Dad swaggered to the right. Yup, ever since he lost that ten pounds, he started swaggering.
"Hola," the woman said, waving her hand. "It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you Dr. Ian Sparks! The most respected archaeologist of our time!"
Applause broke out again. I glanced over. Dead Eye was rolling his one live eye. Crazy Tick was twitch'n like a fish out of water.
"Gracias, Dr. Castillo!" my father replied in his confident professor voice. "Although I must say, it is you whom I respect as being one of the preeminent archaeologists of our generation!"
More applause, lots of it ,a standing ovation. You could tell that the University of Mexico City loved Dr. Castillo. I'd noticed in the bios that had been handed out that Dr. Castillo had two and a half pages and my father only two.
The lady looked over at my dad and held her index finger up. Then she turned and gave us the cut-it hand gesture—the applause stopped dead. Everyone sat down.
"Much as gracias!" Dr. Castillo said, blasting us with her confidence. "Now if you please, we shall begin."
Boy, she has an air of authority, I nodded to myself. Oh yeah, she's definitely in charge.
My father turned to his colleague, nodded his approval, and then started talking to the audience.
"Yesterday my team and I visited your wonderful museums here in Mexico City. They are among the best in the world!"
Applause broke out. You go, Dad, I thought, working a room like this.
Dr. Sparks started pumping his open hands down until the applause subsided and then stopped.
With a hushed control of his audience, he told us the reason he was here in Mexico. He and Dr. Castillo were going to team up and go on a fact-finding mission to either prove or disprove the Mayan Calendar Myth.
When Dr. Sparks opened up a Q&A session and it became total geek-speak, I took my new phone out for a spin on the information highway. I bought this cool phone with the money I made as a contributing reporter for The Young Explorer magazine. I was on my fourth assignment for the Explorer. This one was to report on my dad's Mayan fact-finding mission.
Oh, by the way, I do understand all the academic geek-speak. But I'm also smart enough not to go around and brag about it.
Abruptly, I felt a finger poke my shoulder. It wasn't a sweet poke either.
I turned around. The babe with the crooked smile opened her mouth. "Let's go, buster," she said. "We need to chat."
"Come on," I said with a shrug. "All I did was check you out. That's what a guy does."
"Don't be silly." She rolled her big brown eyes. "You are Ethan Sparks from North Carolina, is that correct?"
"My name is Anya Florita Alba Castillo. I am Dr. Castillo's daughter. It is apparent that we will be traveling together."
"Huh," I said. "You're a girl."
"Quite astute." Anya grinned.
"Well I'm astute enough to know that Anya is a Russian name and not Mexican."
"Si ..." She nodded with raised eyebrows. "My mother first heard the name in Russia on a Siberian dig."
Then turning on a dime, she demanded, "Follow me. I must tell you something I know."
"Is it about the two thugs?"
"Si, but how did you know?"
"Just like you," I answered. "I was checking them out the same time you were."
"Si." She smiled. "In your little spy mirror."
"Ha-ha. That's funny."
"Oh," she said, nodding. "You think the fact that the biggest crime cartel in South America has come to Mexico to kill our parents is funny?"
"No," I said, shaking my head. "That's not funny at all." Neither was the fact that the lights suddenly went out.
Chapter Two"Just a power surge," Anya explained as the lights came back on. "Odd," she murmured, "that usually only happens in the extreme heat of summer."
I followed her out to a cobblestone courtyard. A refreshment table was set up by a tranquil waterfall. Lots of red flowers everywhere that looked like they were made of velvet cloth. I brushed my hand against a few of them as we made our way over to two stone benches in a far corner. The flowers were real, and so was my curiosity.
"We only have a few minutes until the reception starts," Anya said, sitting on one of the benches. "Please listen carefully so I do not have to repeat myself."
She spoke in proper English, but not the stuffy kind, and with a mesmerizing Spanish accent. Very easy on the ears; even a little, I don't know, alluring.
"Sure," I said with a shrug, sitting on the bench across from hers. "Something like this will definitely have my complete attention."
"I hope so. First, I must say, your reputation is known to me."
"Oh. You've read about my adventures in The Young Explorer?"
"I have," she answered with an amused grin. "And it is apparent that wherever you go, trouble follows." She threw her hand up in the air.
"Umm ... you're right."
"Si," she said, nodding. "And it seems that our trip is not to be spared."
"Oh yeah." I sighed. "This one has a crime cartel that wants to kill our parents." I looked up. "The two thugs—Dead Eye and Crazy Tick—work for this cartel."
"But how did you find this out so fast?" she asked.
"By asking myself, Why are there two thugs—obviously not academic-looking or acting—part of an audience that came to listen to my father?"
"Hmmm," she said, nodding. "And I answered your question."
I looked at her. "Uh-huh." Another question for her to answer popped into my head. "Ah, how did you pick the two thugs out of the crowd?"
"Same as you. To me, those men appeared suspicious. So I lip-read their private conversation."
My eyes opened wide. "Wow!" I exclaimed. "Lip reading, that's so cool!"
"I agree," Anya said, scratching her chin. A sudden darkness replaced the light in her eyes. "But in this case, concern trumps cool."
"Yeah." I sighed. "So tell me everything you lip-read."
"The one you call Dead Eye told the other one you call Crazy Tick to relax or they will call attention to themselves."
"Yeah, right." I shook my head. "Like they already didn't stick out like dogs at a cat show."
"Or obvious thugs at a university lecture."
I grinned. "Yeah, that too."
"Hmmm," she said, smiling.
So did she.
Hey, I thought. Did we just have a moment?
"Please, Ethan, stop interrupting me. I have more to tell you."
I guess not. "Sorry," I found myself saying.
"Now listen," she abruptly demanded, "our parents are walking into the courtyard, so I must be very quick. Dead Eye told Crazy Tick to make sure they were not caught following the archaeologists, or the Hastanista would be very mad."
"The Hastanista?" I whispered, watching my dad and Dr. Castillo walk toward us from across the courtyard.
"The name of the biggest crime cartel in South America," she whispered back.
"Oh yeah," I said with a shrug, gratefully watching the crowd of well-wishers slow our parents down. "Did either of the thugs say why the Hastanista wants our parents dead?"
"No," she answered. "But I can tell you, I believe they want to warn Mexico not to mess with them."
"Like terrorist organizations that blow up buildings to show us their might."
"More like spite," Anya trailed.
"Anya!" Dr. Castillo exclaimed, coming up to us. "I see you have already met Ethan Sparks!"
"Yes, Ma-Ma," Anya smiled. "I have."
Dad looked at me. He just nodded approvingly. Hmm, a rare thing.
"Come, Profesoro Sparks," Dr. Castillo insisted. "We must stay on schedule! I want to introduce you to our sponsors."
I glanced up at Dad. He may have appeared to be smiling, but I knew it was a fake smile. He hates being told to stay on schedule. That's because he's always the one saying it.
Oh yeah, I thought, watching him stomp off behind his colleague, he's highly annoyed.
Chapter Three"Hold on," I said to Anya when we were alone again. "Earlier you told me that the Hastanista came to Mexico to kill our parents. Did you lip-read one of the thugs saying that?"
"No," she admitted, shaking her head. "This is just my intuition." "Uh-huh," I said, nodding. "I have to tell you, I always go with my gut."
She looked at me and rolled her eyes. "Si, you say this in every one of your articles in The Explorer."
"Then you must have also read that I like to start my investigations as soon as my gut warns me."
"So come on," she said, getting up. "Let's start!" Then she just took off.
By the time I caught up with her, I realized that she was going to try to be the lead detective in this case.
I also realized that I could put a lot of energy into jumping right into the lead—or I could just let her do it. At least for now.
"So," I asked, walking alongside her, "where are we going?"
She stopped, turned, and gave me the eye. "You don't know?"
"Oh, I know," I said, smirking.
"Good," she said, her fist hitting her hip.
Then she turned back around, and off she went again.
Boy, I thought, stomping off after her, this isn't gonna be easy. She's something else. A real control freak like her mother. This coconut didn't fall far from the tree.
Chapter FourAnya led me out into a hallway, through a door, up three flights of stairs, and past another door. Then out onto a balcony, we overlooked the courtyard reception below.
She whirled around with that crooked smile of hers. "Pretend we are having a getting-to-know-you chitty-chat," she said, "while we look to see if two thugs are down in the courtyard."
"What do you really want to talk about?" I asked, my eyes scanning the reception below. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed she was on lookout duty as well.
"How control should be shared," she answered. "How when one person has the strongest intuition, that he or she gets to lead the investigation at that time."
"No problem," I said. "This is my fourth investigation. My gut has proven itself."
"Si," she said with a fake smile. "So I've read."
"Documented experience." I shrugged. "What can I say? I'm just an overachiever I guess."
"I thoroughly understand," she tossed right back. "I have never walked the back alleys of underachievement myself."
"Over there," I pointed with my chin. "Dead Eye and Crazy Tick are by the buffet, eating nonstop." I turned to her, "Tell me, why do you think the Hastanista wants my dad and your mom followed?"
"I have several theories," she told me. "However, I have one that is the strongest."
I waited ... Crazy Tick looked a bit chilled out. Maybe the carb overloading slowed him down. Maybe his tick is more diet related?
I looked up. Anya was staring at me.
"What?" I said.
"You were having a strong intuition." She smiled. "So I let you take the lead for this moment."
"Yes," I admitted, "my gut did just tell me something."
"What?" she asked, hooked.
"I think the thugs are following us because our parents' fact-finding mission will once and for all prove or disprove the Mayan Calendar Myth." I paused, nodding with confidence. "I believe that the Hastanista is scared it could be true."
"Oh," she said, shaking her head, "I was wrong. You were not having a strong intuition after all. It was just your ego talking."
"Okay, fine." I shrugged. "What's your theory?" It isn't my ego talking, I assured myself. It's my gut.
"I think the thugs are following our parents because their fact-finding mission is front-page news," she told me. "The Hastanista is not scared of anything. No"—she shook her head—"they plan to terrorize Mexico somehow. They want something from us, but not the answer to the calendar."
"You could be right," I admitted, "and we're going to find out ASAP so we can stop them from getting it."
"Thank you for admitting that I am correct."
"Some things you just can't argue with," I said. "They just make sense right away."
"Hmmm," she said, nodding. Then she smiled. Such a cute crooked smile.
Whoa, did we have yet another moment?
Stop! that sane voice inside my head demanded. You've got an important mission to successfully conclude. Do not get distracted.
Especially with this control freak!
But be careful, bro, I told myself. She's ... she's ... well, you know, caliente!
Chapter FiveThat night, Dad and his entire archaeological team were invited to dinner at the Castillo casa. Dr. Sparks's team and Dr. Castillo's team would get to meet and hopefully bond before we all left in the morning on our Mayan fact-finding mission.
Anya and I were plopped in individual hammock chairs on the roof of the Castillo's five-story home. The so-called adults were getting to know one another over appetizers called antojitos and drinks in the courtyard below.
Bluesy-sounding music drifted up to the roof. I only mention this because, for some reason, the music made Anya very talkative.
"The wide, sweeping plaza you see before you," she began in that mesmerizing voice of hers, "is called the Zócalo. Over there," she said, pointing, "is the National Palace. To your left is the Metropolitan Cathedral. And to your right, the excavated site of the main temple of Aztec Tenochtitlan."
"Wow," I managed to squeeze in. "You live in such a cool neighborhood."
"Si," she said, smiling. "The thirty-four-block area surrounding the Zócalo is known as our Centro Histórico."
"Your historic center," I slipped right in. I love it when she mixes Spanish words into her perfect English.
"Hmmm," she said, "but did you know that the Centro Histórico is crammed with some of my beloved Mexico City's loveliest old buildings?"
She turned to me. "My favorite little coffee house is only three blocks away. Too bad we couldn't go there and drink coffee and brainstorm about our mission plan."
"Why can't we?" I asked, thinking how cool it would be to drink coffee and brainstorm. I looked out, searching for her coffee house among the tightly packed concentration of buildings. Some small, some big and tall.
"Because," Anya answered, "we are having dinner together soon. They will notice us missing."
Excerpted from March of the Mayans by Nick Barry Copyright © 2011 by Nick Barry. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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