Maddy and Corbyn were momentarily frozen in terror. Aaden continued to sink deeper into Biosphere 2’s ocean.
“We need to pull him out!” Maddy finally said. “He can’t swim!”
Maddy couldn’t stop trembling. Corbyn knew he had to act fast. He climbed onto the cliff and tore open the backpack. He ripped out the hundred-foot nylon rope and threw the back pack down. Shaky, Maddy followed him up to the cliff top and peered down into the ocean. She hoped she would find Aaden treading the surface of the water. Unfortunately, her worst fears were immediately realized: Aaden was struggling deep under the water’s surface.
“Why isn’t he coming up?” Maddy watched helplessly as Aaden drowned right below her. “He’s kicking his right leg and waving his arms. But he’s not moving!”
“His left leg must be caught on something.” Corbyn knew he had to remain calm. “Tie the rope around the handrail.”
“The rail is my anchor. I’m going to jump in with the free end of the rope, swim down to Aaden, and grab him. When I tug on the rope, you need to pull us right up. Got it?”
Sobbing, Maddy nodded. She secured one end of the rope around the walkway’s handrail. Corbyn jumped into the ocean with the other end and swam down to his twin. By this time, Aaden had been stuck underwater for almost a minute.
Fighting against a current produced by jets circulating water deep below the ocean, Corbyn struggled to swim down to his drowning brother. He managed to hang onto the potentially life-saving rope the entire time. Twenty agonizing seconds later, he finally reached his twin. They were nearly twenty feet below the surface. Although he tried to put it out of his head, Corbyn couldn’t help but notice that Aaden, whose face was starting to turn blue, had stopped thrashing.
I’m not going to let you die.
Corbyn looked around. He needed to figure out what was holding onto his brother’s ankle. He saw that Aaden’s left foot was stuck in a crevice underneath a large rock. Corbyn swam down in an attempt to free it before it was too late—if it wasn’t too late already.
Corbyn yanked on Aaden’s left leg three times without success. He looked around to see if there was anything that could be helpful. He spotted the metal canister resting only inches from his brother’s foot. Aaden had now been submerged for nearly two minutes. He was looking rather lifeless.
Corbyn grabbed the canister. Taking careful aim at the rock, he used the copious adrenaline coursing through his body to overcome the water’s resistance. He gave the crevice of the rock a whack with the metal tube. He hoped the canister would be strong enough to release his brother’s foot. Unfortunately, nothing happened.
Corbyn was not deterred. He hammered at the rock two more times. Aaden’s foot finally broke free. Moving faster than he ever had before, Corbyn grabbed his brother’s waist with his right arm, secured the canister in his pants pocket, and tugged on the rope with his left hand. Within seconds, aided by Corbyn’s kicking, Maddy was able to pull the twins to the surface. Aaden now floated unconscious in his brother’s arms. He wasn’t breathing.
“What do we do?” Maddy shouted tearfully from the top of the cliff.
Corbyn gathered a much-needed breath into his lungs and shouted, “Go find some help! I’m going to swim to the shore and start CPR!”
Corbyn began the short yet daunting swim to the ocean’s beach. He laid Aaden on his back and knelt down. He immediately put his recent CPR training to use.
Beginning by tilting Aaden’s chin up slightly and listening for breaths that he knew would not come, Corbyn tested for and found a weak pulse in the neck. A small amount of relief swept over him, but it was short-lived. When he pinched his brother’s nose together and blew two deep breaths into his mouth, Aaden’s chest didn’t rise up. This confirmed that his brother’s lungs were full of water and needed to be emptied now.
From his training, Corbyn knew his best option would be to resort to Hands-Only CPR. Instead of worrying about adding breaths, Corbyn focused solely on chest compressions. Doing so would circulate what remained of any oxygenated blood throughout Aaden’s body. He also knew the best way to rid the lungs of the water was through the same life-saving compressions. He repeatedly and forcefully pressed down on Aaden’s sternum. Each compression produced a small trickle of water that spilled out of Aaden’s blue mouth. But that was all the encouragement Corbyn needed to proceed. After twenty more compressions, Aaden violently coughed up some water. Corbyn tilted his brother’s head to the side and continued with compressions.
“C’mon,” he said between clenched teeth. “Get it out.”
After a second fit of coughing up more water, Aaden’s eyes, glazed over as they were, opened slightly. To Corbyn’s great relief, he took the first in a series of small breaths on his own.
“That’s it. Wake up.”
A couple of hefty coughs later, Aaden finally made eye contact with his brother. His breathing began to slowly return to normal. With each small breath, his lips gradually lost their blue color.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a hoarse whisper.
Corbyn forced a smile. “You’re going to be all right now. Just stay down and rest.”
Aaden closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing. A few minutes later, he motioned for Corbyn to help him sit up.
Aaden nodded and stuck out his hand. Corbyn sat his brother up and let out a huge sigh of relief. He wiped the sweat from his brow and looked sternly at his twin.
“You nearly killed yourself just now. What on Earth were you thinking?”
The twins suddenly heard Maddy running back towards them.
“I couldn’t find anyone!” In hysterics, she ran down to the beach.
Maddy still hadn’t noticed that Aaden, exhausted though he was, was sitting upright and breathing sweet oxygen into his lungs again. With a reassuring smile, Corbyn nodded to his twin. A huge wave of relief swept over Maddy. She immediately embraced Aaden in a bear hug. With tears streaming down her face, she refused to let him go.
“You’re all right! I can’t believe it!”
“I’m fine,” Aaden replied somberly. “Just tired…and embarrassed.”
With a smile, Maddy released him. “I’m just grateful you’re all right.” Her tears continued to flow.
Aaden started to get cold from the water that was evaporating from his skin. He asked if the towel and change of clothes were still in the team’s backpack. Corbyn pulled out a small towel, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt.
“This should work.” Corbyn handed the towel and clothing to his brother. “I’m going to stay in my wet clothes until we get back. They’re not going to bother me. You’ll just have to keep your wet boxers on until we get back to the helicopter.”
Maddy laughed between her diminishing tears. Aaden turned beet red.
Aaden’s strength was slowly returning. He walked behind a group of trees, dried himself off, and changed. He suddenly realized that, despite nearly drowning, his spirits were high. The affection Maddy had showed him almost made nearly dying worth it. With a smile on his face, new air in his lungs, warm clothing on his body, and a renewed vigor, Aaden walked back to meet up with Corbyn and Maddy.
To his dismay, Aaden went back to find Maddy in a tearful embrace with Corbyn. “Thank you for saving him,” she said. “I completely lost it back there. If it hadn’t been for you….” Maddy grabbed Corbyn’s face by his cheeks and stared straight into his eyes. “You are a hero, do you know that? I will never forget what you did for your brother today.” She kissed him on the cheek.
The euphoric feelings that had been rushing through Aaden instantly vanished, replaced yet again by the intense jealousy that had consumed him for days.
K-1 landed at the airport in Oracle. He hid his crowbar underneath his jacket. Stepping off his plane, he saw that the tracking device was doing its job. The EIS helicopter was parked only a few hundred meters away.
K-1 now needed to figure out where his targets had gone. He knew the best chance of accomplishing his mission was to get an unsuspecting party to reveal the team’s location. He hailed a cab and jumped in the back seat.
“Where to, buddy? And what’s with the black clothing? You’re gonna fry out here,” the cabbie joked.
K-1 played it cool. “I just like the color. I was sent here by my development company to survey the area. Need to see if our homes would be a good fit.”
“Home developer, eh? Just what we need is more homes, eh, buddy?”
K-1 feigned a laugh. “I suppose that’s what I’m here to find out. Thing is, the survey isn’t until tomorrow. Any suggestions on what there is to do in this godforsaken place today?”
“Well, if you don’t mind a bit of a drive, I could take you into Tucson. Plenty going on there, that’s for sure.”
K-1 didn’t think Tucson seemed very likely. He trusted his instincts and declined. “Too far away. Anything closer?”
The cabbie thought for a moment. “Well, not far away there’s that Biosphere 2 place. Never been there myself. But I hear it’s quite a sight.”
K-1’s ears perked up. “What’s Biosphere 2?”
“Oh, it’s a place that some scientists tried to live in for a few months straight. I guess they lead tours through it now. I suppose it could be a decent way to spend an afternoon if you’re into that type of stuff.”
Scientists was all K-1 needed to hear. “Sounds interesting enough,” he replied coolly. “I think I’ll have a look. Take me to this biosphere place. And get me there as fast as you can.”
“You must really be excited to see it,” the cab driver said.
“Yeah, that’s it.” K-1 hid his smirk.
After praising him for savings his brother’s life, Maddy got into a heated discussion with Corbyn. Considering Team SoNaR’s recent harrowing experiences the past couple of days, Maddy was insistent that the quest end immediately.
“It’s not worth what we’ve gone through! You nearly got killed on the rollercoaster, we’ve been chased down by some unknown maniac, and now Aaden nearly drowns to death!”
“Maddy, calm down. Let’s discuss this as a team.”
Aaden stepped out and joined Maddy and Corbyn. He couldn’t stomach watching the two be affectionate with each other anymore.
“Dried up?” Corbyn mocked his twin. “I know I won’t be for a while.”
Aaden looked down. He couldn’t look his brother in the eye.
“How are you feeling?” Maddy asked with genuine concern.
Aaden looked up. “Better I guess. At least I’m breathing, right? And what’s all this about quitting?”
“I’m just scared,” Maddy replied. “I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and I don’t like it one bit.”
“Maybe what’s happened to us has just been bad luck,” Corbyn offered. “The rest of the quest has to go better than it has so far.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“How much worse could it be?”
“Um, we could actually be killed, that’s how.” Maddy’s eyes flashed with anger.
“We just have to be more careful from now on. No climbing on rollercoasters or diving into oceans or whatever. Seriously, we’ll be fine. Do you actually think your grandfather would send you on a quest that he knew would get you killed?”
“Right, because it’s gone so well already.” Maddy stared hard.
“But that doesn’t make me want to quit.” Corbyn looked to Aaden. “Help me out here. Should we stay or go home?”
Aaden had to regain favor with Maddy somehow. Remaining on the quest was the best way to do so. “Stay.”
Corbyn looked at Maddy. “Majority rules, right?”
Maddy rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Let’s just see where the canister sends us next.”
Another phone rang.
“Hello? Who is this?”
“Mr. Zhang. I’m calling to update you.”
“You’ll be happy to know the team safely made it to the second destination. They are currently searching for the next clue right now. I anticipate they will find it shortly.”
“Good. You are doing well. Keep it up.”
“As you wish. I’ll do anything I can to ensure their success.”
“I know you will.”
Back on the beach, Corbyn opened the silver canister. “This had better be worth it considering what we just went through to get it,” he said with a hint of cynicism.
Corbyn’s comment soured Aaden’s mood further.
Corbyn pulled out a piece of paper and unrolled it. He read the lines of text to himself, then smirked and shook his head.
“What?” Maddy asked.
“Check this out.”
Congratulations, you are doing very well!
4 more lines you will need,
In order for the quest to proceed.
The Galago Monkey Climbs,
The Lion Camouflages Itself,
The Brown Pelican Nests,
And the Kit Fox Burrows.
And your goal you will reach.
“You’re the biology expert,” Maddy noted. “You take the lead.”
Aaden remained silent. Yet again, his brother was in the spotlight.
Corbyn thought for a moment then said, “I think our next clue is five lines long. We already have the first line that starts with Congratulations. To get the other four lines, we have to imitate each of the animals mentioned.”
Maddy nodded. “Each animal represents one of the remaining four lines. Could be.” She hugged Corbyn again. “You’re pretty brilliant sometimes, you know that?”
Aaden couldn’t take it anymore. “Are you kidding me?” he blurted out. “I am not acting like some stupid monkey or bird.”
“Then don’t.” Corbyn was irritated with his twin. On top of letting his attitude return, Aaden didn’t seem at all grateful that his life had just been saved. “We just voted to keep going with the quest, and that’s what we’re going to do. You can either choose to come with us or you can choose to go sit in the helicopter. It’s up to you.” Corbyn got up and walked away, angry that his twin could be so selfish.
Once Corbyn was out of earshot, Maddy said, “Aaden, I’m sorry. Are you going to stay here or not?”
Aaden shrugged and looked down.
Maddy sighed. “I honestly don’t get what your problem’s been lately. And I’m not going to worry about it anymore. Aaden, look at me.”
Aaden partially glanced up.
“I’m really sorry about what happened to you today. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t made it out alive. But that doesn’t mean you have any right to treat Corbyn and I the way you have lately. If I, or we, have done anything wrong, this is your last chance to say so.”
Aaden simply looked back at the ground and remained silent.
“Fine. I’m not going to try anymore. If you ever want to talk, you need to come to me. In the meantime, I’m going to find Corbyn. You can decide for yourself if you’re joining us or not. For the record, I want you to stay.”
Maddy shouldered the backpack and walked away. She was suddenly startled by a voice from behind a nearby tree.
“Nice job.” Corbyn stepped out. “I didn’t want to get too far ahead. I waited here and heard what you said. Sorry for spying.”
“It’s fine.” Maddy glanced behind her. “I have no idea what’s going on with him. He won’t even talk to me right now. Let’s wait here for a second so he can decide what he’s going to do.”
“Fine with me. I say if he wants to be on his own, go right ahead.”
“I know. I tried to get him to tell me what’s going on but he refused to talk. Honestly, I think he’s jealous of…us.”
Corbyn understood the emphasis on the word us. Trying to hide his reddening cheeks, he shrugged his shoulders.
“We’ll just have to be patient with him if he decides to stay. There’s nothing else we can do right now.” Maddy knew that would be easier said than done.
“Enough about Aaden. Let’s get back to the clue.” Corbyn reread the clue to himself. “It says we have to imitate a Galago monkey, a brown pelican, a lion, and a kit fox. I don’t really know how we’re supposed to imitate them, though.”
“Like you said earlier, we probably have to act like each one would in the wild. Climbing, camouflaging, nesting, burrowing, feeding…things like that. If that’s true, all we need to figure out is where each animal would be doing those things in here.”
Corbyn nodded. “The Galago monkey lives in the rainforest. That’s probably where the next line of the clue is.”
“What about Aaden?”
“Don’t worry about me.” Aaden snuck up behind Corbyn and Maddy without them noticing. “I’m going back to the helicopter. I’m just…worn out…from my accident and could use some rest.”
Aaden’s reasoning was only partially true. In reality, he wanted to be as far away from Corbyn and Maddy as possible.
“Suit yourself,” Corbyn replied. “Maddy and I will finish solving the clue and meet you back at the helicopter when we’re done.”
“Fine.” Corbyn walked away.
Aaden turned around. He felt lonelier than he ever had before.
They should’ve just let me drown.
K-1 entered Biosphere 2’s visitor center. Ignoring the glances he received from the employees, he paid the admission fee and took a brochure. It included admission rates, tour information, a map of the campus, and a brief history of Biosphere 2. He carefully studied the building’s T-shaped layout. From left to right along the top of the building was the rainforest, the ocean, the savannah, marsh, and desert. Between the habitats and the main entrance were the farms and human habitat.
Using his experience as a spy, K-1 thought about where to head next. He wasn’t going to give up his search until the teens were captured. They would pay for his humiliation from the day before.
K-1 realized the map alone didn’t have enough information to point him in the right direction. He walked around as a tourist to see if anything caught his attention. Alert, he made his way from the human habitat towards the former agricultural area, now a large soil erosion project known as the Landscape Evolution Observatory (or LEO for short). As he roamed, he happened upon the tour group that Team SoNaR had left earlier that day. As they passed by, K-1 managed to overhear a woman mention that the group seemed smaller for some reason. He turned his back to the group, pretending to look at some strawberries that were growing nearby.
“I could’ve sworn there were three other people that started the tour with us this morning. Wonder where they went.”
K-1 smirked. They are here. And they’re mine.
“I hope he’s better when we get back to the helicopter,” Maddy said once Aaden was gone. “We’re not the same without him.”
“He’s done nothing but get in the way. I’m glad he’s gone.” Corbyn angrily stuffed the canister and clue into the backpack. “Let’s just get to the rainforest.”
Maddy sadly shouldered the backpack and followed.
In the rainforest, Corbyn and Maddy began looking around for anything unusual. The size of Biosphere 2’s rainforest made the search daunting.
“This place is huge,” Maddy said in exasperation. “Where are we supposed to act like a Galago monkey in here?”
“My guess is we need to find a specific tree in here and climb it. Galagoes spend most of their lives in trees. The question is which tree….”
Maddy sulked. “Great. The last thing I need to do is climb something again.”
Corbyn waved Maddy off. “I’ll do the climbing.”
The two walked around for another fifteen minutes, spotting nothing out of the ordinary. Frustration started to creep in.
“You sure we need to be looking for a tree?” Maddy asked. “Maybe we should be looking somewhere else in the rain—”
“Over there,” Corbyn interrupted. He pointed to an area not far away.
Maddy’s eyes followed Corbyn’s finger. She immediately noticed what had him so excited: the EIS symbol was etched into the trunk of a nearby Shorea tree. This time, the symbol had two dots in it: one in the upper-right corner and one now added to the lower-left.
“Finally.” Corbyn knelt down to examine the symbol before looking up into the gigantic deciduous tree. “Good thing this is a younger tree. A full-grown one of these could be over eighty meters tall. This one looks to be only about eight to ten meters up to the nearest branch.”
“You think you can climb it?” Hesitation carried in Maddy’s voice. “Ten meters is still over thirty feet up.”
“Take the rope out again and give it to me. I’ll toss it over the lowest branch, secure it around my waist, and while I’m climbing up you can belay for me. Just pretend I’m rock climbing without the pulleys.”
Corbyn began to sweat as he realized what he was getting himself into. Sensing his apprehension, Maddy tried to convince herself that he was going to be fine. She reluctantly acquiesced and nodded in agreement.
“I’ll be careful. But if I slip, hang onto the rope tight so I don’t fall all the way back down.”
Maddy nodded. She did her best to calm her nerves.
Corbyn grabbed the rope and took a deep breath. He threw it over the Shorea tree’s lowest branch and secured it around his waist. “All right. I’ll climb up, find what we’re looking for, and repel back down as quickly as possible.”
Maddy gave him a hug. “Please be careful.”
“I will.” Corbyn looked back up at the tree so Maddy wouldn’t see him blush.
K-1 walked through the savannah. Seeing no sign of the teens, he went to the ocean next. Staring at the large body of water, he had a decision to make: take a right towards the marsh and desert or turn left towards the rainforest. Instead of randomly choosing one of the two paths, he decided to slow down and contemplate his options.
K-1 knew from his experience as a tracker that there must be a logical way to determine which way to go. He looked over his brochure once more in case it might be of some use. He saw that all tour guides led their groups through the biosphere in the following order: human habitat, savannah, rainforest, ocean, marsh, desert, Technosphere. That information, in addition to the comment the lady in the tour group had made while walking past him, was all he needed to know.
I need to go to the rainforest.
K-1 knew which way to turn very simply: according to the woman, Team SoNaR ditched the tour group in the morning. Because the kids were not in the human habitat or the savannah, they must have separated themselves while touring the ocean or the rainforest. It was also unlikely that the team was in the marsh, desert, or Technosphere since that was where the tour group had just come from. Hoping that his instincts were correct, K-1 set off to claim his prize.
Because he had to walk past the ocean in order to get to the rainforest, K-1 decided to look around on his way. He ended up on the same path overlooking the ocean that Team SoNaR had been standing on earlier that day. He looked over the cliff and scanned the beach. He smirked menacingly.
Somebody was down there.
It wasn’t difficult for K-1 to connect the fresh sets of footprints in the sand to the three kids that had to have made them not long ago. The footprints were aimed away from the beach and straight towards the rainforest. K-1 was confident he was hot on the team’s trail.
Corbyn put his arms and legs around the two-foot diameter trunk of the Shorea. He began the arduous upward climb. While Maddy nervously belayed for her best friend, Corbyn slowly made it up the trunk. Despite nearly slipping more than once, he finally made it to the lowest limb of the large tree.
“Must be out of shape.” Corbyn wiped his brow.
“Just find the next line and get back down here, please,” Maddy pleaded.
Corbyn looked around. He finally spotted something approximately a meter above his head. A small, silver digital voice recorder hung precariously by a string from a limb above. Corbyn steadied himself. He got up on his knees and reached up to the digital recorder. His first attempt to yank the recorder free was unsuccessful. He nearly plummeted back as his balance failed him.
“Be careful!” Maddy pulled back on the rope to support and balance Corbyn.
“Don’t…worry….” Corbyn steadied himself again and prepared to reach for the recorder a second time. “I’ll get it this time.”
With great determination, Corbyn held securely to the trunk of the tree with one hand and reached up with the other. He grabbed hold of the recorder and yanked it off. Curious, he pushed the play button. A voice he believed to be Isaac’s came out of the small speaker.
“Congratulations, team! I hope things are going smooth for you so far. You are making great headway, and I trust that you’ve figured out that the lines to your next clue have been scattered throughout Biosphere 2. Without giving away too much, I’d like to wish you luck as you continue on your journey. I hope to see you all safe and sound very soon! Oh, and by the way, you’re probably wondering what the second line to your next clue is. Here it is! At this time, you must now travel to the longest underground grotto in the world.”
“I’ve got it,” Corbyn said once the recording stopped. “Steady me. I’m going to climb down and—”
Before Corbyn could finish his sentence, he saw his twin brother running full speed back towards Maddy. With a look of sheer terror on his face, he was shouting something that struck fear in Corbyn’s heart.