The effect of the lights flying past the van windows was hypnotizing and nearly had Sam falling asleep by the time they exited the tunnel. The scene they came out on took her breath away.
The city was enormous; Much larger than Sam would have expected for something contained within a mountain. The cavern ceiling was nearly five hundred feet high in some places. On one wall to the left of the road a huge waterfall poured from an underground river that came out of a fifteen foot wide hole about one hundred feet above the cavern floor. The resulting river that cut through the city was twenty five feet across. The waterfall powered a hydroelectric plant that was next to the river. On the same side of the cavern, right next to the road was another guard house. Its walls were made of cold, gray stone which made it look very uninviting.
Not far to the left of the guard house was a huge staircase that was situated on a natural path of stone, winding its way to the top where it ended at the entrance to a tunnel. Matthias pointed to it. “That was the way the first settlers got down here. Pretty impressive work for ten thousand years ago,” he said with pride.
Sam smiled. “Cool. Is it still used?”
“Not really,” Diana replied. “We use those elevators,” she pointed to a long, rounded, rectangular metal tube leading to the same top point as the stairs. It looked wide enough to house four elevators side by side, “when we need to go to the surface.”
As they crossed the bridge over the river Morgan noticed a very small black car pull in line behind them. It had a single Atlantian flag on the front, making it look very official. “Is that car behind us an escort?” Morgan asked.
Diana looked in the rearview mirror and raised an impressed eyebrow. “Huh. Why yes it is. That was fast. They must’ve been waiting for us to come out of the tunnel.”
The city was about a mile square but it was obvious that the cavern hadn’t started out that wide. After about a thousand feet the walls of the cavern had a decidedly more uniform look and there were obvious tool marks left behind from where the rock had been carved away to make more space.
Most of the buildings they passed were made of stone painted white, or pale yellow, and almost all of them had blue accents of one kind or another. There were potted plants or bushes near the doors and they were all at least six stories tall. It didn’t look like anyone owned a traditional house, which made sense, considering the limited building space. The roads were brick and instead of two yellow lines dividing the center there was one double thick white line.
The city was well lit to make up for the lack of sunlight; which Sam wondered if she could deal with not seeing on a daily basis. Her eyes widened as the palace, which was situated near the center of the city, came into view. It was the only building besides the guard house and the church that looked older than the rest. Its walls and roof were made of stone painted white and it was a fairly good size at four stories tall. The front door was double height and curved at the top with a small, blue porch roof held up by two white pillars. The wood of the door had intricate carvings of ocean creatures on it.
The van pulled up in front of the building and everyone got out. Within twenty seconds the large front door opened and a woman not much older than Diana came rushing out. She was five feet-six inches tall, had black, stick straight hair that fell to her mid back, eyes the color of green beans and wore a grin so wide it seemed to split her face in two.
“Dee!” she yelled loudly before wrapping her arms around Diana.
Diana returned the hug and smiled. “Hey, Callee,” she said warmly.
“I missed you all so much!” Callee said as she turned and hugged Matthias.
“We missed you too,” Diana said, her eyes misting over in joy.
Callee released the hug with Matthias, saw Sam and stopped moving. “Oh Theos!” she said softly as she put the tips of her fingers to her lips. She turned to Diana and her hand moved to her chest over her heart. “Is that Lexy?”
Diana smiled with pride. “Yup.”
Callee held her arms wide and Sam shyly stepped into them. “Oh, sweetie! You’ve grown up so beautiful!” she said with tears in her eyes.
“Thanks, Aunt Callee,” Sam replied as she left the hug. Then she suddenly realized something and looked at her mother in disbelief. “You didn’t send her any pictures of me?!”
Diana looked sad. “We couldn’t. Someone could’ve hacked the email.” She patted her roller suitcase. “But I brought tons of pictures with us,” she said, her expression changing to a smile.
“Cal, this is Tia Mason and Morgan Carmichael. They’re Sam’s friends,” Matthias said.
Callee smiled. “Nice to meet you. I hope you’re hungry. I’ve got a five course dinner waiting inside.”
Sam’s eyes became large. “Yes please.” She said in an overly cutesy voice as she put both fists up under her chin, making her look like an eager five year old.
Everyone laughed as Morgan smacked Sam lightly on the arm. “You dork.”
Callee looked toward a maid in her mid-forties with short hair that had just reached their position. “Hali will take your luggage inside for us.”
Tia looked confused as the maid couldn’t have been more than five feet tall and her build didn’t look very strong. “By herself?” she asked as Matthias used the remote on his keychain to open the trunk of the van.
Hali smiled. “I can handle it, miss.” Without another word the short haired woman stepped over to the van and held out her right arm. After a second suitcases began to levitate out of the van. It wasn’t long before she had every single one of them floating behind her in a group. She didn’t drop a single one; the jaws of Sam and her sisters, however, were another matter.
“Holy smokes, Batman! I’ve never been able to lift more than five pounds!” Sam exclaimed.
Morgan and Tia looked at their sister, bug-eyed and Diana and shot her daughter a sideways glance that said “Excuse me?!”
Sam, realizing she’d just accidentally admitted something she’d been keeping a secret, gave her mother a nervous, toothy smile. “I never did it in public.”
“You’re lucky you’re not a kid anymore, young lady or we’d have some serious talking to do,” Diana said with disapproval.
Sam chewed the inside of her cheek a little before answering. “I couldn’t help it. I found out I could do it by accident.”
“How come you never told us?” Morgan asked, her expression a little hurt.
Sam winced apologetically. “You weren’t even supposed ta know about my visions. That only happened by accident.”
“Well, you’ll learn how to use your abilities properly now that we don’t have to worry about someone figuring out who we are.” Diana said with a smile.
“Come on, everyone,” Callee said, leading the way inside.
When they walked through the front door they were treated to the sight of a large entrance room with a curved double staircase that lead to a balcony with hallways to the left and right. Under the balcony was an arched entrance to another room and both sides of the entryway had a door on them leading to more rooms. Potted plants adorned the many beautifully carved pedestals and a breathtaking chandelier hung in the center of the room.
“Wow!” Sam breathed. “Mom this is incredible!”
Diana chuckled. “If you like this you’re gonna be in love with the dining hall.”
“How so?” Sam asked.
“You’ll see,” Diana replied with a wink.
The group headed through one of the doors to the side which lead to a long room with a polished stone dining table that looked like it could easily seat twenty people. The legs and frame of the table were made of wood that was stained a warm brown and six three-tiered candle holders ran down the center of its surface. More pedestals with potted plants lined the walls and white wall sconces provided the majority of light around the room. Beautifully designed round topped windows along the wall to the left of the door let in what little light there was outside the palace.
“It’s gorgeous, mom, but I don’t really see myself being in love with it,” Sam commented with a smile.
Diana grinned. “Look up,” she said, pointing at the ceiling.
Sam turned her gaze upward and she sucked in a gasp as her mouth fell open. The entire ceiling was covered with dolphins made of colored tile on a white background. There was large dolphin in the center and smaller ones surrounding it. Bands of blue made a border around the outside edge.
“Oh my God, it’s gorgeous!!” Sam exclaimed. She turned to her mother. “Can we make this my room?” she asked, only half kidding.
Diana snorted. “You wish, kiddo.”
Everyone took a seat at one of the many place settings on the end of the table closest to the door. Diana sat on the end with Matthias on her right and Sam on her left. Morgan and Tia sat near Sam and Callee sat next to her brother in law.
As soon as everyone was seated two women and a man arrived carrying large silver trays piled high with food. While she began to move food to her plate Callee looked to her niece. “So your mom told me all about your karate. Are you going to make it your career?” she asked with a smile.
“Well I had originally planned on it. In fact I’ve been teaching classes for a while now to pay for my private lessons and my sensei wants me to teach full time as a regular employee but all this,” Sam made a short sweeping motion with her hand, “is...kinda complicating things.”
Callee smiled sympathetically. “That’s understandable. Hopefully your visit will help to clarify things.”
Sam smiled and nodded. “Yeah.”
“Cal, please forgive me, but I just heard your thoughts. What’s going on with the Illuminati?” Diana said.
Callee frowned. “I wasn’t planning on mentioning this until after dinner but...we think we know where Illuminata is.”
Diana dropped her fork. “Oh Theos! Cal....”
“I know, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up,” Callee interrupted.
“So where is it?” Matthias asked.
“The Bermuda Triangle,” Callee replied.
Diana sighed. “We should’ve thought of that sooner. So many strange things happen out there. How did you find out?”
Callee winced a bit. “I think it’d be better if I told you and Matt that in private,” she said, glancing at Sam nervously.
“Aunt Callee, I’m twenty years old. I can handle whatever you need to say,” Sam said pointedly.
Callee glanced at her sister, who nodded. She sighed heavily. “We caught a spy who was looking for something on the computer in the guard captain’s office.”
Matthias and Diana instantly shared a look of concern. “How did they get past the new security measures?!” Matthias asked in disbelief.
Callee’s expression darkened. “I can only think of one way. He had a contact in the palace.”
Diana let out a puff of air through her nose in an effort to quell the anxiety that now gripped her heart. “What was the spy looking for?” she asked, although she was fairly certain what the answer would be.
“He was checking the recent visitor passes,” Callee answered with warning in her voice.
The pressure around Diana and Matthias’ hearts became like a vise. Matthias spoke, his voice full of dread. “He was looking for Alexis.”
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