Ben and April Webster never knew their parents were scientists on a secret mission until they disappeared. Now what awaits them and their friends is a nemesis so deadly that even Uncle Henry can’t protect them. In this science-fiction, adventure novel, the search continues as the group travels from the lost world of Atlantis, to outer space, to an IMAX theater in the Smithsonian. The bond of the diverse friendship is tested against many obstacles as the kids continue to fight to save a universe they are only just discovering. The story is embedded with science, history, sports, mystery, ethics, and culture. Plus there are location codes included that go to real places around the world.
About the Author
C. Taylor-Butler is a trained civil engineer and an educational council chairperson. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Horn Book and Scholastic's Read and Rise magazine. She is the author of The Lost Tribes and Sacred Mountain: Everest. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri.
Read an Excerpt
The Lost Tribes Safe Harbor
By C. Taylor-Butler
Move Books LLC.Copyright © 2016 C. Taylor-Butler
All rights reserved.
Bermuda Triangle 26.38695° N, 69.395142° W
Ben stood on the bow of the 138-foot Brigantine yacht, the wind clawing at his many layers of borrowed clothing. He could barely hear himself think over the sound of the pounding surf and his own chattering teeth. Last night, the twin-masted research vessel set off in calm Caribbean waters as dolphins raced beside them. Now there were no other signs of life beyond the perimeter of the hull. Even the seagulls had abandoned them.
The storm intensified sending Carlos, Serise, Grace and April scrambling into the cabin for safety. Ben felt his uncle's hand on his shoulder, restraining him as he tried to join them.
"Stay," Uncle Henry commanded, steering the ship towards some unknown destination.
Ben stared at his friends, their eyes wide in horror, and tried to process the situation. It had been two days since their parents had sent them to safety at the Harbor outpost after their homes had been attacked. Only a day since finding out the truth they'd been hiding. That none of them were human. At least by Earth standards. And now they were traveling alone with the scariest person on the planet, his own uncle. What about the concept of safety did his uncle miss in the memo?
Volari, the deep-sea intelligence agent, emerged from the cabin, his webbed feet slapping the deck as he walked to the starboard side of the ship. He placed a diamondshaped box on the railing then aimed a trident at the sky. It was instantly hit by a bolt of lightning. Volari pointed the staff towards the Atlantic Ocean, discharged the electrical energy then started over. Each impulse grew in intensity as did the waves.
The ship banked right and steered into the wind, its eighty-foot masts creaking and groaning as the sails tugged against their rigging. Even so, the ship, which had been traveling at twice its rating of nine knots, picked up speed, cutting effortlessly through the angry surf. Ben squinted. The sails should have billowed towards the bow of the boat — in the direction of the wind's gusts. Instead they pushed towards the stern.
Struggling to remain upright, Ben gripped the brass rail tightly. "Where are we going?" he shouted telepathically.
Uncle Henry pointed towards the horizon. "There."
Ben saw nothing out of the ordinary. The waves swelled and surged in an attempt to capsize the boat. Queasy from the violent rocking, Ben hoped the journey would lead back to someplace warm and tropical.
"We'll be met at the agonic line."
Ben was growing weary of his uncle's cosmic mumbo jumbo. He studied a compass on the ship's console. The dial fluctuated wildly. "I don't think this thing works."
"Correct. This is one of two places in the world where the Magnetic North Pole and the Geographic North Poles are in perfect alignment."
"Where's the other place?"
"Devil's Sea off the coast of Japan," his uncle replied.
Ben was sorry he asked. He longed to be with his friends, safe inside the dry, warm cabin. A quick look from his uncle killed that idea.
"How big is the Bermuda Triangle?"
"Roughly a half million square miles," his uncle said.
"So if we get lost —,"
"It is unlikely the Coast Guard would find us," his uncle said.
Ben's stomach turned sour. He rubbed his arms and was drawn to a disturbance in the distance. A tornado hurled in their direction bringing with it more crashing waves and the sound of a speeding freight train.
"Right on time, Volari," Uncle Henry shouted, his prayer beads vibrating in the wind.
Volari raised a single webbed digit in affirmation but continued to concentrate on his control panel.
"What is that?" Grace shouted, as she poked her head out of the cabin door.
"Waterspout," Uncle Henry replied. "Think of it as the subway to our next destination."
"You've got to be kidding!" Ben screamed.
"We'll be killed!"
"That's pretty much what's going to happen if we don't complete this mission," his uncle said. "So, now ... or later ... what's the difference?" He gestured for Ben's friends to rejoin him on the deck. They complied, but only after what looked like an animated debate.
The wildly flapping sails caught Ben's attention. Six Hayoolkáál team members materialized on the booms; four at the square sails on the foremast, two on the mainmast. They saluted to Uncle Henry before spreading their arms and dissolving into the mist.
"How long have they been up there?" asked Serise, her mouth gaped open.
"Who did you think piloted the boat from Woods Hole?" Uncle Henry said as if the answer were obvious.
A feather fell from one of the masts and lightly brushed Serise's cheek. It hovered a minute, unaffected by the violent wind. A young Hayoolkáál warrior materialized, winked, then dissolved into the mist. Grinning sheepishly, Serise blushed, caught the feather in her hand and placed it in her pocket.
Uncle Henry scowled. "It seems I will have to review Harbor protocol with his superior officer."
"Aren't they going with us?" asked Grace.
"No," said Uncle Henry. "The trip gave them an opportunity to study trade winds in this region. Their mission is complete. They are returning to the Harbor." He passed a pill to each person.
"What's this?" asked Ben.
"The key to your survival. Wait for my command before putting it in your mouth." Uncle Henry walked across the deck to join Volari.
A brief flash of light appeared as Ben held the pill with his wet hands. "Think this is green glob with a purple coating?"
"Your mother's habitat formula made us appear human, not impervious to death by hypothermia," Grace said.
"Might be cyanide." Carlos turned the pill over and over in his hand. "Your uncle could dump our bodies in the ocean and no one would be the wiser."
"Get real," said Ben. "He's fine. I mean he hugged me. Remember? When he found out we didn't blow up with the transport ship?"
"And that right there should tell you he's not in his right mind!" Serise said pointing at Volari. "Look at the Gila monster with the trident. Does he strike you as normal? Do you see that storm? We're going to be killed and your uncle gives us a pill? Am I the only one here who thinks this isn't normal?"
"Stop it!" April yelled. "I trust Uncle Henry. And Volari too, even though I can't understand anything he says."
Uncle Henry gave Volari a pat on the back, opened a gate in the railing, then gestured for the children to join them. He raised a single eyebrow when they hesitated. "Is there a problem?"
Grace and Serise huddled against Carlos. His eyes bugged out as he shook his head in disbelief.
"We're going to turn the boat around, right?" Carlos asked. "I mean, no wonder no one comes back from this place. That thing is going to kill us."
"I believe Ben has already covered that subject," Uncle Henry said, scowling. "Have faith. Take the pill, chew hard and get it soft. You will feel a slight discharge of static electricity against your tongue. Don't be alarmed. When I give the command, blow the biggest bubble you can and jump into the base of the wave."
"Blow a bubble and jump?" asked Carlos. "He can't be serious."
Ben looked to his uncle for confirmation, but he was busy studying Volari's console. The waterspout spun towards them, pulling a massive wall of water from the ocean the height of Mount Kilimanjaro. It rose above the boat with a thunderous roar.
"Get ready," Uncle Henry shouted.
Serise stared at the pill in her hand, screamed then leapt into the air as if trying to fly away with the long gone Hayoolkáál warriors. Grace clutched the pendant her father gave her as she and Carlos dropped to their knees in desperate prayer. April soon joined them. Ben's uncle chuckled and shook his head from side to side before returning his attention to the waterspout. At its base lay a frothy, foamy brew. Uncle Henry touched his watch. The wave paused. The sound muted. Although the waterspout and gathering storm clouds blocked the sunlight completely, flashes of swirling neon light filled the air providing the illumination they needed.
Volari pointed his trident one more time. A silver star appeared in the center of the storm's funnel, then stretched to form two vertical strands that separated like elevator doors opening.
"It's time," Uncle Henry shouted. "This gateway won't last long."
No one moved.
"Jump!" Uncle Henry ordered. "If you stay, you will not survive."
Ben thought about Grace climbing into a sarcophagus in the Sunnyslope Museum when they were on escaping the explosions that destroyed their neighborhood. She had mastered her fear of the unknown. What was he? A basketball jock with basic swim skills. And what were the choices anyway? Jump and drown, or stay on a boat as it was torn to pieces?
"I could push you but this is only one of many tests you will be facing. You wisely chose not to go home with the transport. The fates have kept you here for a reason. Now, when all else has failed you, your only hope of survival will be unwavering faith in yourself and in your team."
Ben blew a bubble which popped immediately. He pulled the gum back into his mouth, chewed furiously, then blew another. Success. It stayed intact. April clung to Uncle Henry. She pointed at her bubble and gave Ben a thumbs up.
Volari dove gracefully into the water, leaving no ripple or splash in his wake. Fear frozen on their faces, Grace and Carlos blew gargantuan bubbles and disappeared into the surf. That left Serise. She was struggling to blow a bubble but couldn't get it started. There was also her fear of heights. The deck was at least ten feet above the surface of the water.
Houston, we've got a problem!
Without hesitation, Ben blew a new, much larger bubble, tackled Serise and hurled them both through the opening in the rail.
We're going to die!CHAPTER 2
Sunlight Zone: 20 feet below sea level
Ben gasped from holding his breath and dared to suck in a lung full of air as they plunged downward, then came to a gentle stop. Serise kept her hands firmly gripped over her eyes and her head pressed into his shoulder. They were encased in a capsule, like the inside of a giant soap bubble. Water rippled around them, and glorious sweet-smelling oxygen filled the space. A small hieroglyphic readout flashed on the transparent surface before changing to English:
24 C° ∫ 6 atmospheres external.
24 C° ∫ 1 atmosphere internal
This isn't so bad. The water was calm as they hovered not far from the hull of the yacht. And then Ben remembered. The waterspout was on pause when they jumped. Before he could get his bearings the water began to churn violently.
What did that mean for —
Suddenly, the capsule was sucked through a tunnel that twisted and turned at odd angles. A kaleidoscope of colors raced past them as it spiraled out of control. With nowhere to sit and with no safety devices to hold on to, Ben struggled to remain upright. Losing all sense of direction, he gripped Serise's arms tightly as they rocketed through the vortex.
Blood curdling screams reverberated off the walls. Ben had no intention of opening his eyes to see what had caused them. He wondered if they were dropping down into some deep sea trench. Serise's fingernails dug trenches of their own into his shoulder.
Twilight zone: 2500 feet below sea level.
12 C° ∫ 76 atmospheres external.
24 C° ∫ 10 atmospheres internal
"Are we there yet?" Serise asked as the capsule came to a stop. It expanded to accommodate her distance as she backed away. Ben wondered if it could stretch the length of a city block in case of more danger. He didn't have much skin left on his shoulders.
"Gosh, Webster. Think you could have gripped me any tighter?" She winced, rubbed her arms, then tried to blow pressure from her ears by squeezing her nose shut. "And did you have to scream in my ear?" Ben frowned then heard a muff led sound. Uncle Henry and April were together in a single capsule, closely followed by Grace and Carlos who each had their own. The interiors glowed from some unseen energy source. Volari glided alongside them, checking for leaks, then swam off into the blackness. The temperature inside the capsule remained steady. Breathing became easier as the panel showed the inside pressure, which had risen slightly, was quickly returning to 1 atmosphere.
"Wonder where are we?" Ben asked. He didn't expect an answer.
"In a vortex." Uncle Henry's voice boomed through an invisible speaker. "Your shell will provide the air you need. Volari has gills. He doesn't need one."
Beacons on the top and bottom of each capsule activated. They scanned in all directions of the water like searchlights. Besides the other capsules Ben still couldn't see anything.
"Wonder how far down we are?" Serise pressed her hands against the capsule's surface, now solid and shimmering.
"Don't know," said Ben. "But as long as we're in here we're safe."
"Ya think?" Serise said sarcastically. "The spaceship was supposed to be safe too and you see how well that worked out."
Ben sighed. He didn't want to revisit the space ship, the explosion, and all those scientists whose escape to their home worlds ended abruptly. It just made him think about how close they'd been to joining them. And then his mind shifted to his missing parents. He wiped away a single tear. He wasn't going there.
Serise frowned, sighed and dropped her arms in defeat. "Sorry. That was rude. I miss my parents. Never thought I'd hear that come out of my mouth."
Ben gave her a half-hearted thumbs up. He couldn't help feeling like he had dragged his friends into this mess and that being dead was surely less scary than where they were now: in an endless void of dark water. "I'm sorry too."
He tried to get Carlos's attention, but Carlos was on his hands and knees probing every inch of his capsule in rapt fascination.
His little sister chattered away while Uncle Henry listened patiently. April had one hand on her hip with the index finger of the other waving and making circles in the air to punctuate her comments. Ben couldn't hear what she was saying.
Instead, he waved at Grace who waved back tentatively but Ben knew her fear of the dark was kicking in. The directionless void offered little in the way of hope except for a glow that appeared in the distance. Nothing in the Woodland survival challenge at school could come close to this bit of scariness. In the challenges you had to depend on your team, have faith in them to guide you. He'd given anything to be back in the woods — blindfolded.
Specks of light winked on in the distance until the water was saturated — like an endless sea of stars surrounding him. Ben wondered if this was how astronauts felt on a space walk. Except Earth, the moon and the International Space Station were missing.
"Are we in space?" Ben shouted. "Was that a jump gate to another galaxy?"
If his uncle heard him there was no acknowledgement. April now had both hands in the air as if she were telling an exciting story. Uncle Henry just nodded, but kept his distance, hands folded in his lap.
"Space?" said Serise. "Where have you been? A T L A N T I C ocean! Get it?" Serise waved her hand around in a sweeping motion. "Water! None in space." She banged her hand against the side of the capsule causing the water to ripple around it. "Ergo O C E A N!"
"I wasn't talking to you!" Ben groused and wondered how his uncle had created a bench in his capsule.
"Well, who else is in here with you?" asked Serise. "Geez, those aren't stars. They're probably bioluminescent plankton!"
Ben rolled his eyes. "Hey! Uncle Henry! What's all this white stuff floating around us?"
Uncle Henry looked up, cleared his throat and said, "Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and debris."
"Debris?" asked Carlos. "What kind of debris?"
"Dead animals, decayed bits of plants, regurgitated food, fish waste," Uncle Henry said dryly.
"Fish waste?" asked Grace.
"I think he means we're surrounded by fish poop," said Carlos.
"Thank you for that colorful interpretation," said Uncle Henry. "Your description is both adequate and reasonably accurate."
"Thanks Webster. I was happy thinking of it as glowin-the-dark plankton." Serise brushed her clothing as if their brief encounter with the water had actually deposited something on her.
Ben frowned. "Wonder how we're going to get to that light? How do we steer this thing?" Ben followed Carlos's lead and felt the surface of the capsule looking for hidden controls. "Think we need to just start running? You know, like this is a hamster ball and you're the giant rodent?"
He waited for Serise's response so he could zing her again. Instead, Serise's eyes grew large as saucers. He braced, winced, then reluctantly spun around. A massive translucent blob headed in his direction. And then another. And another.
Soon the capsule filled with screams again. This time it wasn't Ben. His own terror caught in his throat despite his best efforts to release it. He choked and swallowed hard.
Hundreds of alien spacecraft appeared. Shaped like beating hearts, the towering crimson and black vehicles stopped short of the capsules, holding their position as they swayed back and forth. Pulsating lights alternated on and off along the spines of their jelly-like surface. It was only then that Ben realized he was looking at living species.
Excerpted from The Lost Tribes Safe Harbor by C. Taylor-Butler. Copyright © 2016 C. Taylor-Butler. Excerpted by permission of Move Books LLC..
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.
Table of Contents
Great Sphinx of Giza,
PART I It Begins,
PART II Unsanctioned,
PART III Error,
EPILOGUE Changing of the Guard,