Maximus was front and centre, Maxima to his immediate left, and in behind, their two sons. They were all dressed from head to toe in black; heavy wool sweaters, matching denim pants, finger cut leather gloves with open and exposed phalanges for easier motion with mid-calf military boots laced to the top. All of their clothes were pulled and stretched taut around each of their powerfully built frames. Atop their heads, unlike the trio, metal hard hat helmets with a single illuminated bulb set high, front and middle atop the cap, with the light beaming forward. All were equally armed with semi-automatic hand held weaponry with long clips.
At this range, none could miss.
Only the second son in the rear wore something different, a metal T-brace across the bridge of his nose supported by his forehead. It had white foam pressed loosely under the metal frame exposing the fresh black and blue bruising beneath, protecting an obvious fractured nose.
Hayden was dumbstruck. “How the Hell did you find the way down here?”
Maximus grinned, his gun still leveled on the trio. “Down here? I admit, we were well lost... But then...” Maximus held his Smartphone up and pointed to Danica. “YOU showed me the way.”
Hayden turned to Danica, eyes scrunched in disbelief, shocked that she could have sold them out.
Maximus smiled viciously when he saw Hayden’s reaction. “As much as I would love to sew the seed of discord between my two doctors….” He was far too proud of having outwitted them. “Doctor Swift’s cell phone is the paid property of Maximum Pharmaceuticals. The moment you all entered the caverns, your phone networked with ours and the map was shared with one download.” He nodded to Danica. “Thank you by the way.”
Danica glared, more annoyed at herself for not knowing that nor turning the feature off in the first place.
Carlos on the other hand had his attention on the two sons. He could tell by the way they moved, they were the two who had attacked him in London and stolen his journal pages. That and the one’s nose clearly showed the signature of Doctor Swift’s recently delivered perfect front kick.
Hayden turned to the two men in behind with a grin. “I preferred the ski masks by the way. In fact…” He started patting down his khaki side pockets. “I may even have one with me...” He paused and then sighed. “Wait a minute. I only have one. I guess there’s no point really since covering one of your ugly mugs will still leave the other.” Hayden turned to Danica. “Did I mention I hate identical twins?”
Danica snickered to herself, amazed at Hayden’s bravado.
“I hate all twins.” Carlos threw in as he glared in the direction of Maximus and Maxima, appalled at the abomination of their relationship.
The sons, though genuinely angry at the insult, remained stationary, letting their father hold the stage.
Maximus proudly spoke, keeping control. “I guess formal introductions are in order. Meet our two sons, Max and Maxwell.”
Hayden let out a suppressed burst of laughter. “Seriously? Max and Maxwell? So it wasn’t just the Leviathan’s Logbook and the survivor’s journal missing pages, your baby naming book was shy a few as well.”
Maxima face scrunched up in annoyance. “A Legacy is born in a name.”
“So are assholes.” Hayden retorted. “As my father would say, it’s simply a matter of who’s writing the history books. But for the sake of distinction, you don’t mind if I call them Fuck and You.” He looked to them again. “Doesn’t really matter which one is which does it?”
Max and Maxwell oozed fury from their eyes.
Maxwell, the one without the face shield, took a step forward.
Maximus raised his hand, gesturing for him to hold his position. “For a man who can eloquently speak and translate dozens of ancient languages, you seem to utilize a great deal of abusive slang.”
“It’s a form of expression.” Danica defended.
Hayden shrugged, pointing to Max and Maxwell and then letting out a slew of jumbled sounds and phrases, not unlike the tribal Elder from the night before, but oddly different.
Maxwell asked with a snarl. “What the Hell was that supposed to mean?”
Hayden smiled. “If you thought my slang was abusive, what I just called you in ancient Aramaic is far worse.”
Maxwell, nostrils flaring beneath the metal brace, pointed at Hayden, still standing behind Max. “I told you this wasn’t over.”
“Is that what you said? I don’t remember it that way.” Hayden remarked. “Why don’t you turn around, put your tail between your legs and run away. Then as you do it, repeat what you just said. I might remember it better if it happened the same way.”
Maxwell glowered and skulked in with his fists clenched, stopped again in his tracks by a look from Maximus.
Hayden watched in amusement.
Maxwell slunk back to his position sufficiently chastened.
Maximus spoke to his sons. “Doctor Lattimer has some use… for now.” He then turned to Carlos, but speaking to Hayden and Danica. “The two of you I had expected to have to deal with at some point, but what possessed you both to bring along Mr. Santiago?”
Hayden shrugged in a non-committing manner. “He had something we needed.”
Carlos casually looked in Hayden’s direction.
Maximus appeared curious. “And pray tell, what was that?”
“A senior’s discount for air travel back to South America.” Hayden replied smoothly. “Doctor Swift and I were very grateful to get the orthopedic seats and all the prune juice we could drink. I might have an extra bottle if you need to clear some blockages you may have.”
For a good minute, Maximus considered pulling the trigger, his hand tightening on the grip and his teeth clenched. But for the moment, he needed Doctor Lattimer. For his understanding of the tribal symbols on the cavern walls on the opposite of the lake seemed important. And the less people he brought into the equation, the better. He could always kill him later.
Max pointed his finger at Hayden and then traced it across the exposed area of his neck, noting a clear indication of his attention to slice it.
Hayden smiled and blew him a kiss.
Danica watched the entire exchange with fond amusement. She was not surprised at Hayden’s persona, simply the fact he could be so cavalier while he was trapped on a subterranean island with a family of killers and a mountain of giant spiders sleeping feet from their position was fascinating.
Maximus kept his weapon locked on the trio. He made a nod with his head and Maxwell threw a large empty duffle bag to the floor in front of them. “Now if you please, if we could have all your weapons placed in the bag. Including any extra ammunition and clips you may have. You’ll no longer have any need for them.”
Realizing the position they were in, the trio dropped their weapons into the bag without an argument. Once filled, Maxwell strut forward, zipped it shut and handed it to his father. Maximus threw it over his shoulder like a packsack.
Maxima stepped forward to be beside her husband when suddenly Maximus’ eyes went wide with astonishment.
Maximus signaled for Maxima to keep her weapon on the three prisoners. He pushed past the trio and knelt down to the sword skewered corpse. “It cannot be. But….My precious Lord… It’s unbelievable.”
“What is it?” Maxima asked, genuinely interested.
Maximus was staring at the face. “It’s Captain Rios. He looks just like the old paintings before he disappeared over a hundred years ago.” He was breathing heavy. “This is an amazing discovery…” He suddenly cut his words short as he realized what had been done. He sneered and turned to the trio. “And what possessed you to kill him?”
Coming from a sociopath, Carlos found this comical. “He tried to attack us Mr. Thorne.”
Danica raised her eyebrow. The fact Carlos was not offering Maximus the respect of his title, doctor, was not lost upon her.
Carlos continued. “Once we freed him from the webs, he lunged at Doctor Swift. Both Doctors Lattimer and Swift were able to secure his arms. When I saw his sword, I knew he could not be controlled, so I used it to dispatch him.”
Maximus looked to both Danica and Hayden with renewed confidence. “I knew you both had some darkness within you.” He shook his head with a small ’tsk-tsk’ sound. “Regrettably, killing him could put us back several steps in ascertaining the miracle.”
Danica interjected, preventing Carlos from doing so and revealing who he really was. “I assumed there would be more victims alive in these caves. I needed to see the insides of the body to confirm my diagnosis of his hyper-active healing.”
Maximus rose, his face filled with disappointment. “Though I applaud the intent, your impatience leaves a great deal to be desired. We could have found this out back at the lab after we transported the body… alive.”
“Over four hundred crew went missing Doctor Thorne.” Danica responded, not mentioning the fact the tribe took out most of them.”
“And how do you know that?” Maxima asked with surprise.
Hayden interrupted Danica. “It was on the chamber wall. The tribe spoke of a great battle with water riding warriors and them claiming victory, leaving many of the enemy to fend for themselves on this island.”
Maxima was impressed, not having seen that, but then again, she did not translate ancient texts as a hobby as Hayden did.
Danica turned back to Maximus. “From the Logbook estimates, I figured we’d have no shortage of sources for living tissue, even if we killed the one.”
Maximus accepted that. “That is a logical conclusion.” He rose from his position. “And as I overheard, it’s the spider’s venom that is the source of the miracle. Truly amazing. Not exactly what I imagined, but how can I complain?” He turned and found himself admiring the sword in the body.
“We did it.” Maxima declared.
Maximus on the other hand was focused on the Cutlass. He quickly gripped the hilt and pulled Rios’ sword from his corpse. Maximus then wiped the blood on Rios’ clothes to Carlos’ dismay. “What a fine weapon.” Maximus held it aloft. “Befitting a CEO.”
“Or a pirate.” Hayden snidely offered under his breath.
Maximus ignored the remark. He moved past the trio and took his spot beside Maxima.
Maximus and Maxima shared a deep kiss.
Each of the trio turned away in revulsion.
Max and Maxwell held their side arms, two nasty AK-47’s on the trio. “What’s with you three?”
“You mean them kissing or the fact they’re brother and sister?” Hayden commented.
At this Max and Maxwell’s faces seemed to go stiff.
“Oh?” Hayden looked amused. “You mean you two didn’t know? Bet it explains a lot of your failings huh? Either one of you have fourteen toes or something?”
Maxima stepped forward quickly and swung the butt of her gun across Hayden’s jaw.
Danica let out a quiet wail into her shirt sleeve as the blow connected.
Hayden on the other hand dropped back a step. He regained his composure and moved back into line, wiping some blood from his lips. “Well I guess that means you don’t like me anymore?” Referring to the comment she made when they first met in the boardroom back at the company headquarters.
Maxima almost struck him again when Maximus grabbed her arm and held it firm.
Maximus spoke to his boys. “Your bloodline is pure. Something most of the masses can never dream of. As I have told you before, your mother and I were born to be together. And that alone ensured your creation as one of a kind.”
Both sons smiled, pleased with the prospect of being unique.
Maxima pulled her arm away, but held her weapon on the trio, closer to Hayden if she needed to shoot someone first.
Maximus turned to his family. “Well, we need to get this party moving. I want…”
Danica stepped forward, about to speak when Maxima turned and locked her weapon on Danica’s chest.
Before anyone could do anything, Carlos had stepped between the muzzle and Danica and smiled. “You’re not going to fire that weapon in here.”
Max and Maxwell turned to Carlos with vicious smiles.
“And why’s that?” Maxima asked.
Carlos pointed to the entrance the Thornes had come through, pointing specifically to the sleeping forms. “Your guns will sound like explosions in here, not to mention echoing down all the neighboring halls and chambers in this one mile long island. And I wouldn’t want to be trying to outrun hundreds, if not thousands of these things in winding caves and corridors if you didn’t already know the exact way out.”
At this Maxima froze, a genuine face of terror, imagining such a happenstance. She motioned to her sons to lower their weapons.
The sons did, but in doing so, drew out two foot long combat blades, almost swords by their razor’s edge and wickedly curved grooves on the reverse designed for the sole purpose of tearing flesh when withdrawn from a stabbed victim. “We don’t need guns.” Max and Maxwell spoke in unison. “I told you these would come in handy.”
Maxima smiled at their ingenuity. She then looked to Danica. “You’re surprisingly comfortable in here knowing what’s living in these caves.”
“They’re in deep hibernation.” Danica replied. “They cannot be awakened until the end of their cycle except by extraordinary means.”
Maxwell asked for the first time in the conversation, under the darkened eyes of Maximus. “How do you know that?”
“By how long they’ve lived trapped here, it’d be a natural mechanism to survive. Otherwise they would starve. So they need to remain comatose, much deeper than sleep, as this would be the only way to slow their digestive process.” Danica guessed.
“Plus it was written on the chamber wall.” Hayden offered up, lying, keeping the existence of the tribe secret.
Maximus turned to him. “I did not see that.”
“Remember the symbols I could not identify at first?” Hayden asked.
Maximus nodded ‘Yes?’ He replied with trepidation.
Hayden continued. “One referred to the Horror’s rest. A sleep so deep, the trembling of the earth cannot awaken it.” He fabricated. “It was a warning to those who sought the mystical properties of the ’juice’, or in other words, the spider’s venom. Obviously the tribe did not want innocents to fall prey to the Horror when encroaching upon the island.”
Maximus’ head bobbed up and down in understanding. “I would agree. It would not be logical to bait people into a trap here for the power of immortality.” He turned to his family. “But be careful none the less. We do not need to create an extraordinary circumstance.”
Danica gave Hayden a quizzical look of, ‘What are you doing?’
Hayden gave her a wink, communicating subtly. ’An easier enemy to defeat is one who is not on guard.’
It was like Danica and Hayden were born on the same day, as she understood by his facial expressions his plan completely.
Carlos on the other hand, stood by his friends, trusting in their intelligence to save them all.
Maxwell was not so easily persuaded. “I saw the same pictorials printed in my book from your pictures, but I never concluded that.”
“Why am I not surprised you find picture books more up your alley?” Hayden asked. “But unlike your standard reading, the chamber walls did not include ’Dick found his way to the island. Jane saw a boat….”
Maxwell stormed forward, again halted by Maximus’ look informing them to gain control. They did not have time for this.
Max snapped at Hayden, speaking in his brother’s defense. “You think you’re better than us?”
“Of course not.” Hayden seemed offended at the remark.
Danica and Carlos turned in Hayden’s direction, surprised at his answer.
But Hayden wasn’t finished. “Thinking presumes a prospect of doubt. No matter how miniscule. So be assured, I don’t think I’m better than you” He winked. “I know it.”
Maximus decided this little debate was over. He gestured to his sons. “We need one of these specimens to take with us... Preferably alive.” He pointed the spider chamber. “Try to find a small one without waking the others.”
Both sons looked horrified at the prospect, but feared their father’s wrath more.
Danica pleaded the moment the order was given. She looked to Maximus. “You can’t. If you bring these things off the island, it could unleash upon the world a plague of monsters that cannot be stopped.”
Maxima laughed. “Ridiculous.”
Danica being a scientist challenged the argument. “Think about it. Spiders are the most dangerous, vicious and cannibalistic creatures in existence. You’ll find they have no equal. If they were released into the world, even accidently, they could decimate the human population in two or three generations.”
Maximus nodded. “We can secure them, I assure you.”
“By trying to keep prehistoric monsters like this in line?” Danica was thunderstruck Maximus was not thinking this through. She had worked so hard for these people to find this out now was unsettling. “You’re pure evil.”
Maxima kissed Maximus on the lips again. “Our parents said the same thing.”
“Before we killed them.” Maximus interjected. “What’s the world after that?”
Hayden was equally astonished. “You can’t be an evil megalomaniacal mad couple lusting for the world’s destruction.” He sounded shocked. “You’re Canadian.”
Maximus was visibly amused at that. “Who says other countries have the exclusive rights to world killing villains? Canada is due a few in my estimate.”
Hayden retorted. “Well as an archeologist, I think you’re the first. But down here, maybe we can stop you and keep our pristine reputation intact.”
“I doubt you’re in such a position.” Maximus challenged. “Plus, sometimes man needs to learn. We’ve become complacent in our years. According to the Bible, men fought for far lesser goals. So if God has deemed this world to end in such a manner, it will. With or without our help.”
Danica stood firm. “But God isn’t here. We are. Using your own analogy, man has free will and YOU and only YOU are choosing to risk the release of these things upon the world.”
Maximus’ eyes tightened, his voice tempered by anger at having the Word used against him in what he perceived was an ill-conceived manner. “Be assured, Maximum Pharmaceuticals will take great care to recover these things without incident. I find myself highly offended you doubt my company’s capabilities.”
“I think it’s more the leader she doubts.” Hayden threw in.
Max moved in and within seconds, shoved his fist directly into Hayden’s gut, doubling him over and to the ground with a gasp.
Maxwell smiled viciously.
Danica had ignored this, keeping her focus on Maximus. “These things have survived for centuries, maybe longer. They’ll continue to survive. We simply cannot take that chance.”
“Like I told you in the boardroom Doctor Swift.” Maximus reminded her. “Some people were meant to take these risks. We are such people.” He shared another deep kiss with his sister.
Maximus leaned back, wiped his lips and resumed his command. “Max and Maxwell. As I ordered, I need you both to search the caves …” Gesturing to the sleeping spiders. “And see if you can find one in a lone chamber, preferably small in size, we can capture and take with us.”
Both Max and Maxwell provided a displeased look.
Maximus ignored them. “Immortality has its price gentlemen, so buck up.”
Max and Maxwell, holding their combat knives at ready, turned and exited the chamber reluctantly.
Maxima smiled. “And myself?”
“You take Doctor Swift deeper into the caves to find more living victims. I don’t trust the ones in proximity to here being viable as our saboteurs could have tainted the source.” Maximus glared at them all. “Since I doubt we’ll be able to carry any bodies out, get us as many vials of blood, tissue and skin samples as you can procure.” He smiled. “And don’t worry too much about hurting them. I’m sure they’ll heal.”
Danica grimaced at Maximus’ mocking of the possible victims and their condition at having been trapped on the island with the Horror.
“As for myself and our two men here, nice sturdy boys, they can help me carry the last of our supplies in to set up a station.” Maximus ordered. “We’ll then crate up our specimen for transport, but not before drawing out the venom. And with you down here with Doctor Swift, knowing their potential rebellion will lead to her harm, I’m sure they will stay nicely managed.”
Both Hayden and Carlos’ eyes blazed with fury.
Maxima grinned and departed, Danica in front of her, a knife at her neck.
Once the women were gone, Maximus thrust the point of the sword he had procured from Captain Rios’ body forward, jabbing Carlos at the nape of his spine and gesturing to Hayden. “Now let’s move gentlemen. We have a lot of work to do.”