June 2nd, 2008
6:23 AM SST (UTC-11)
Five Hours Earlier
Iosefa and Ualesi had been given the chore of fishing for dinner, but the boys were having more fun than fishing. After all, if they went back to their parent’s fale with a bucket of fish this early in the morning, their uncles would just send them out to do another chore. They really didn’t want them underfoot and Uncle Tanielu left hand-prints when he punished.
It was a cool morning and the ocean waves were warmer than the air. The boys had hidden their fishing equipment and then gone off to play in the surf. They had progressed from splashing water to throwing rocks and then to dunking each other. Iosefa could hold his breath much longer than Ualesi, so, of course, Iosefa was winning this portion of the game.
When that game got old, they took their bicycles and traveled two miles around the eastern side of the island to the end of the road, where a trail continued down the coast to the cliffs. This part of the island wasn’t inhabited. It was protected land or something to do with the far, far away government across the ocean. Some sort of park, Uncle Falaniko had tried to explain.
Neither boy understood, but no one ever bothered them there either.
The trail continued west toward Laufuti Falls. Most of the White tourists continued that direction. But Ualesi, the younger by ten months, said he was tired and wanted to stand on the cliffs looking out over the ocean. Iosefa, who usually tried to bully his little brother into doing what he said, just rode further to Si’u Point where he could see down the massive cliffs onto Liu Bench and from there, to where the cliffs rose out of the ocean.
It was an unusually clear sky that day. Almost every other day of his life, Iosefa had seen clouds on Mount Lata, not today.
Suddenly lightning broke out from the Falls toward a cave of sorts above the Bench. Two, three, five or more strokes of lightning with immense booming, shot back and forth between the two sites.
Without warning an errant bolt hit him knocking him fifteen feet or so back toward his younger brother.
Above the Ta’u Mana Complex
June 2nd, 2008
8:25 AM SST (UTC-11)
“Ta’u island is under attack!” The words rang and rang in his head. Davic had been called to Johnson’s office with these words and now they continued to ring. It was around noon when he’d first heard them and it was already extremely hot at the Institute.
When they’d first portaled to Ta’u, the weather was cool, muggy, but cool. Then the sun arose. Now, hours later, after a grueling hike through the primal Samoan jungle, it felt as if his skin were melting.
The temperature settings on his uniform cloak did little to rid him of the humidity. His skin felt like it was growing a bumper crop of fungus. He felt small rivers of sweat rolling down from his armpits to his waist and down his back, between his butt cheeks, and along the insides of his thighs.
He was miserable.
Finally, they reached a lookout along the Mataalaosagamai Ridge where he felt cool oceanic breezes. Below him, he saw the door leading to the mana cavern just above Liu Bench. Davic was amazed at the beauty of the island. The ancient landslide that dropped the Bench many meters below the ground level of his side of the escarpment, half way down to the ocean, must have been huge.
As he gazed past the Ta’u complex, hidden from the Earth-Bound by mana camouflaging, he saw a sight that froze his heart despite the tropical heat.
He took out a crystal and focused in on the Laufuti Falls a mile, or so, across the end of the Bight. He was right: LeDuc’s stooges. The same ones that he saw at his brother’s wedding.
He pointed them out to Ian and to the Samoan Mages they had allied with. Étuaté, the giant leader of their mages slammed his staff into the volcanic soil and fired off a huge bolt of lightning all while singing something in his native tongue. The bolt arced across the water to impact on the cliff below the ledge LeDuc’s men were standing on.
“What sort of mana override is he using?” asked Ian, surprised at the size of the blast.
“Something Samoan!” Davic grabbed Marta’s wrist and then Ian’s. “I don’t care if you’re pissed at each other. We gotta try that In-Concert thing again!”
Marta practically hissed. She was a bit more upset with Ian than he was at her.
Davic pulled Marta’s hand toward Ian’s arm and slapped her palm on his wrist, twice, before she grabbed. Suddenly there was a bolt of lightning from the Falls that hit the cliff between them and the complex. Rocks tumbling down the cliff face and a small trembling of the ground caused Marta to cry out a little bit.
“Alright,” she said as she closed her eyes and drew both the men into her inner space.
“Throw a damn spike!” yelled Davic as he readied himself to cast a lightning bolt. The Samoan mages cast several more bolts and so did LeDuc’s crew.
“Think about the lightning, not your anger at each other!” said Davic at the hesitation of his colleagues. Suddenly the air cleared between the three and he found he could cast a major blast. Unfortunately, Marta scratched Ian’s wrist. (Later she said it was on accident, but yeah!) and Davic’s focus went out for a bit. When he came back he saw movement at Si’u Point and cast the bolt there.
The lightning stopped, on both sides of the Bight. All movement from the Falls and from Si’u Point had quieted down.
“Let’s abseil down to the Mana Complex!” Étuaté said in his horrendously thick accent. Davic could hardly understand, especially when he didn’t know that abseil meant rappel. He figured it out when he saw all eight of the Samoans stretch out their equipment. They didn’t use harnesses or lines since they had a specialized crystal that they could adhere to their chests. But the route was as delineated as if they had been using a braided polysheath rope and carabiners.
Down they went. Marta was much braver than Ian was. But that really didn’t surprise Davic any. They landed on the Bench far below and took off their equipment.
Both Davic and Étuaté examined the Falls for signs of movement; there was none. All eight of the Institute crew and all eight of the Samoans gathered at the door. Hanowski of the Institute had been singed with a lightning bolt, but the rest were of them were spared.
The camouflaging at the door was easy enough to dismiss as any competent mage could see right through it. It was there just to keep the Earth-Bound from injuring themselves.
Major warding had been installed centuries ago by the Royal Mages from Apia, the capital of what was now the independent state of Samoa. The outer walls in the cliff face and the flooring were all left from when the tunnel system had been carved in the distant past, before the Europeans took over.
The door itself looked like a tapa cloth wall hanging. It had three panels vertically and an almost infinite amount horizontally as the pattern shifted to the sides in a loop of ten repeats.
Étuaté stood before the door and waited until the pattern went through a second loop. One of the top panels had a minor error every loop. As the error panel slid by, he tapped the upper right corner. The door opened admitting him and Davic who was nominally in charge of the delegation representing the Institute.
Before anyone else could enter. The door slammed shut, trapping the two inside.
The Elevator to Elder Hamblin’s Apt
June 2nd, 2008
8:25 PM CET (UTC+1)
Brigitte and Katja stepped into the elevator on the ground floor. They had been shopping together and had several bags of shoes and other items. They were burdened with a delightful baggage that had been won with much discussion and exchanging of gossip. But the day was over and they were tired.
“Push the third-floor button,” Brigitte asked a large German man standing by the controls. Her voice was her sultry-get-attention-from-men voice.
Katja noticed. “And the fifth for me, please.” Their accents were the smooth variety, not the harsh barking style so many mistook for normal German.
The man complied with a smile. His destination was higher up: on the fourteenth floor. No sooner had he pushed the round button with a five on it, than the lights flickered and the elevator car shook slightly. The three occupants gave each other puzzled and slightly fearful looks. The indicator showed that they were between the second and the third floor when the car stopped and then started again.
It bounced twice and then stopped altogether. The doors opened showing the third floor at the top and the second floor at the bottom and a cement barrier between them.
“Oh no!” cried Katja. “We can’t get out!” She was not quite panicking, but close. The man punched the close doors button and nothing happened. He punched the three button and nothing happened.
“Shall we try and crawl out the opening to the third floor?” he asked. The door then closed and the car bounced again. He pushed the open door button and the doors complied. This time, the opening to the third floor was tall enough to let even the most overweight of persons through.
“I’m getting out!” shouted Brigitte as she threw her bags out the elevator onto the carpeted hallway. “Give me your knee,” she said to the man. He knelt on the floor of the elevator car and raised one knee up for her to stand on. She used it as a stepping stool and crawled out, like a worm in a rainstorm. Katja followed. The man pulled himself through easily, he was rather muscular.
As soon as he was clear, the doors clanged shut, nearly taking one of his shoes with it.
The elevator doors closed, shutting off the view of the three lucky, former, passengers. The glowing of the buttons, showing which floors were selected, suddenly went blank. The round seven began to glow and the elevator shot up to that floor and paused. The car filled with fog and Archangel Grant stepped through a portal from DAHQ up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The fog dissipated as the elevator doors opened and he stepped out.
Two doors down on the right he paused and knocked.
“HoMattik!” he said as his former charge opened the door.
“HoGrantuv! Chuhedh al’min?” He stood in the doorway waiting for an answer to what was happening, not letting Grant enter.
“Matt,” he said, in Mananok. ”Elder Hamblin, we have a situation on Ta’u that needs your help.”
“The Lord needs me here for another eleven months, then I can come work for you. What is so important that I have to interrupt that?”
“Elder Hamblin, let me in. We’re causing a scene out here.” Sure enough, several people were standing in their doorways pretending not to be obvious, but watching intently none the less.
“Alright.” He stood back and then closed the door behind Grant. “So?”
The Archangel introduced himself to Matt’s colleague, Elder Young, and then shook his hand. He took the offered chair and Elder Young went into the other room.
Changing back to Mananok, Grant said to Matt: “We’re at a state of war. A very powerful mage and his allies have attacked several of the non-aligned mage organizations. Including our close friends in Samoa. Most of their mages are LDS and have long ago supported us as we supported them.”
He paused and looked around the room. “They have attacked the Island of Ta’u with its vast resources of free mana. Most likely as a prelude to attacking the even more important Motu Motiro Hiva. If they were able to capture and hold that isle, they could control every mage in the world and take our families, hostage.”
“I agree it’s a bad thing. But how am I so crucial to your plans that I must interrupt my mission?”
“Two mages are being held in a Collapsing Trap similar to the one you freed Elder Hatch from. No one has ever done that before. I need you on this, to get them out.”
“I’m rusty, very rusty.”
“I believe there is a bomb attached to this one and we don’t dare open it.”
“That’s very sad. But if I do this wrong, there could be three deaths.”
“No,” said the older mage, “It’s much worse than that.” He paused again. “Matty, if you do nothing 20,000 people could die. That much Mana could cause the whole island to go up, tsunamis could ring the Pacific taking out millions.”
“PoTa’uhuk al’chuth,” he sighed. “Of course. Of course, I’ll come.” He walked to one of the doors and knocked. “Hey you two, come out here, please,” he said in German to the other set of missionaries that lived in his apt and ran another area of the city. “Elder Young, I need you, too.”
The three elders came and stood close. The elders, working the other area, looked furtively from one Destroying Angel to the other. They seemed to recognize Grant’s duster as a twin of Matt’s. And the tie was a dead give away.
Elder Hamblin explained to the three that Elder Young would be working with them until a new Zone Leader could be called to replace him and that he would leave immediately for Salt Lake.
He didn’t wait for commentary or reactions. He walked into his bedroom, locked the door and used a handy override to pack his things. He came out and gathered up the books he’d left in the living room and the toiletries from the bathroom. Then he and Grant carried his baggage.
“No Elders,” he insisted, after handshakes, slaps on the back and hugs all around. “We can carry it all. Don’t escort us down!” The elevator was waiting for them full of fog.
They’d made a quick stop at DAHQ to drop off his luggage and then portaled directly to Liu Bench near the Mana Complex. They were expected. Grant was immediately recognized by the Samoans, who introduced him to those from the Institute.
Grant then introduced him as Agent Hamblin. Matt frowned a bit at seeming to lose his Elder title.
When he was being introduced to those from Atalen ya Doaka, he recognized one of them. He was just a tad shorter than Matt and a bit pudgy. He had very curly hair and said his name was Ian Buxton.
“Were you in Germany last month?” asked Matt.
“On the steps of the Museum!” smiled Ian. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be a missionary for your church?”
Matt’s face got a grim expression and he shook his head to the side while closing his eyes. He glared at Grant and said “Yeah. But it seems your war needs my help.”
Ian said “I’m glad your here. My colleague, Davic...”
“That would be McKay?” he interrupted.
“Yeah, he’s trapped in there.” He pointed.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Matt placed his hand on the tapa cloth pattern of the door to the Mana Complex. He closed his eyes and extended his mana sense. “There is a trap here, but it’s only about four feet deep. I am thinking that it’s to keep us preoccupied. And I think there is a bomb on the other side and if we open this trap, it will set off the bomb.”
“Wow, he’s fast,” said Ian, stepping back in the background.
“Yeah, he is,” said Marta. “It took the Samoans over twenty minutes to decide that.”
Matt stood and addressed the nearest Samoan. “Who is in charge here?”
The response was in such a profound interlinguistic state, that Matt couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It sounded to him like the man was not speaking a word of English.
“I’m sorry, what?” After several such interchanges, Matt tapped his staff to the earth and taught himself Samoan. “I am sorry, could you tell me again who is in charge here?” he asked him in his sixth tongue.
“That would be Étuaté, but he’s trapped in the complex.”
“Ah yes, I understand.” He rubbed his beard and then said. “But, in his absence, who has the highest rank?”
“I think that I outrank all my Samoan Brothers,” he said looking around just a bit confused.
“So, then, since Étuaté is trapped in there and since no one else here outranks you, then you must be the one in charge, don’t you think?”
The man looked around him and with a puzzled expression said: “That must be so.”
Matt took a deep breath and readjusted the climate controls on his duster. “So, what’s your name then?”
“Paulo,” he whispered almost too low to understand.
“That’s your name, right?”
“Yeah, I’m Paulo.”
“So, Paulo. Is there another way to get into the complex so I can see the other side of this trap?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said taking off his shirt. “I take you there.” Soon the man was standing naked holding his clothing in his arms. “You better take your clothes off, too.”
“Okay, okay, fine,” said Matt with his hands up in front of him, palms facing Paulo. “But, tell me first how we’re getting there?”
“We dive off the cliffs.” He pointed to the frothing waves.
“Is there a cave under the water?”
“Yeah, big cave. I show you.” He walked to the edge of the cliff and looked down. No one could dive from here and not hit rocks. But further down the Bench, there might be such a place.
“Paulo, wait,” said Matt. “What overrides are you using?” Matt’s voice no longer had the snarky tinge of one who had been manipulated into doing something he didn’t want to. He almost sounded like a little kid again.
The Samoan was so much taller than Matt that even naked he was intimidating. Matt felt like a pre-teen. He hadn’t felt that small since Smith had cocooned him three years earlier.
“I use this one and this one.” He copied two glowing spheres of gossamer light from his staff and handed them over.
Since Matt could speak and read Samoan he thought he could understand the mana they used. But they were not written. They were vocal chants, recorded in old, very old, Samoan. He could only understand bits and pieces of the tinny voices squeezed from the light.
Ian approached and said. “Hey, Hamblin. I speak Ancient Rapanuian, this sounds a bit like that.”
He translated most of the inner workings of the first override. It allowed a staff to propel a swimmer, with a headlight and all. The second one provided air.
Matt put them both in the crystal of his staff and then began to strip his clothing off. He was down to his long, white, baggy, boxer style shorts when he noticed Marta looking at him. He froze, then turned his back to her and stripped down to his glowingly alabaster skin. Grant picked up the pile of clothing and followed the two to the diving point.
Paulo activated the two overrides. Holding his staff with his left hand above his face and his right hand by his thigh, he dove. The staff pushed him far away from the rocks. He fell the hundred or so feet toward the raging surf, splashed in and disappeared.
Matt stood there for a brief moment dove in. He then followed through the surf. And so did the sharks.
They took a very circuitous route through currents that threatened to bash them against jagged rocks. They were down nearly four hundred feet --Matt’s chest feeling compressed-- when they arrived at the tunnel. He kept as close to the Samoan as he could.
They swam through several clouds of fish. Some swam along side them tickling his skin. Others looked quite fierce, at least until the sharks tailing them arrived. The fish all scattered at that point.
They reached a bubble of air, deep in the tunnel. The floor rose to the point that they could no longer stay submerged. Paulo stood. Matt watched as his feet left the pool.
Matt followed. The sharks did not.
He flashed the light from his staff on the walls of the cavern they had entered. Rich, Polynesian rock paintings glowed back. “Will we be going through any more water on the way?”
“Maybe a little on the ground, Mataio. But we will not be swimming. Just this.” He pointed to a small waterfall blocking one end of the chamber.
“Good. Lead on, Paulo!”
The Samoan stepped through the waterfall.
Matt followed. The fresh water washed the salt off him. The paintings, restarting in the next chamber, provided enough light to traverse the twisty paths and to negotiate the forks. Matt was lost long before they got there. It was a vast chamber held up by Mana. The escarpment that had dropped the Tiu Bench was plainly visible. The Samoan mages had dug far into the cliff. Finally, Paulo and Matt came full circle to the back side of the door his colleagues were standing in front of.
Matt saw the bomb.
It was actually fairly simple. Paulo reached down and said: “This should turn it off.”
“No! Paulo!” cried Matt. “Not that one!” He grabbed the Samoan’s arm and pulled it back. The guy was strong.
Matt pushed his hand against the larger mage’s chest and said: “No. Let me do this.”
The bomb was a ball of luminescence with rays of light shooting from side to side. There was nothing substantial about it in the least. But it had the power to reignite the extinct volcano à la Mount St. Helens. No one on the island would survive that.
Matt sat on his heels and followed the lead from the trap between them and the entrance. This is where the trigger was. Any flux in the mana from there would set it off. He followed the power source through a spike at the base of the bomb down into the pocket of free mana under the Bench. Several loops of light --including the one Paulo had attempted to juggle-- increased the level of mana in the bomb itself.
After six or seven more minutes of tracing mana lines, a pulsing began to take place within the core of the bomb.
”PoTa’uhuk al’chuth,” he said.
The pulsing sped up while Matt was still running his finger along mana lines. As the pulse transformed to a single bright light, Matt reached in and toggled a small dark spot.
The light began to fade, faster and faster until it was solidly black. The mana spike disappeared and the lines evaporated.
“Hoe!” Matt called out and sat on the floor then lay, flat on his naked back, just happy to be alive.
“You are a good mage, Mataio!” Paulo said patting him on the bare stomach. Matt stiffened up and it made a drumming sound.
“Okay, thanks,” he rolled over and stood. “Let’s see if we can open the trap.” He placed his hand on it and said, “No! it’s already sprung. It went off when I defused the bomb!”
He threw down a spike and ran his fingers sideways through the lining of the trap. It crumbled like a wet paper towel in a swirling drain and faded to nothingness. What it left behind was horrendous. There was only one corpse, and it was cut into one-inch cubes. By the size and volume of the... By the amount of blood that was... Ugh...
Matt fell to his hands and knees, throwing up, copiously.
“Come, Mataio,” said Paulo gently, taking him by the arm when he was done. “I am sure that Étuaté was already dead before we dove into the ocean. Come look. Some of the blood is dried and the space had too little air.”
They opened the door to fourteen anxious looking faces that turned immediately to shock. Ian spoke up: “Where’s Davic?”
Paulo answered in his very broken English: “Him not here!”
Matt just stood, the sunlight burning his eyes and reflecting off his white skin. He no longer even cared that he was naked in front of strangers. He stumbled forward toward the light. “Just give me my clothes, Grant,” he said, still spitting out gastric juices. He wanted something to do --Anything-- to get his mind off the scene behind him.