After returning to the helicopter, Team SoNaR decided to put the quest off until the next day.
“I’m just done,” Maddy said. “It’s only seven thirty and it feels like midnight. Let’s just get some sleep and get back to work tomorrow.”
The twins fully agreed.
TESLA’s voice resonated through the cabin. “Buenas noches, mis amigos. ¿Cómo estàs?”
“Um…hi?” Aaden replied uncertainly.
TESLA laughed. “After I became fluent in French this morning, I learned Spanish this afternoon. You know, to be multicultural and all! I guess I forgot to switch my computer chip back to English when you came back!”
Maddy smiled. “What was it you said? Sadly, I’m not fluent myself.”
“I said, ‘Good evening, my friends. How are you’?”
“Better now that we’re back,” Corbyn replied.
“You wanna tell me about it?”
“Not really,” Maddy said. “Too exhausted.”
“No prob, Bob,” TESLA replied lightheartedly. “You guys get a good night’s sleep. I’ll just hang out and map the stars until we leave!”
“Have fun with that,” Maddy replied. “See you tomorrow.”
The next morning, the teens woke up and filled their bellies with another of Chef’s incredible breakfasts. After, they gathered together at the conference table and got to work on their next clue.
Maddy removed the newest canister from the backpack. “We were so tired last night we didn’t even bother to see what this says.”
Corbyn stretched. “That’s all right. We have the entire day today to figure it out and fly to wherever it is we’re going next. I’m good with staying in here today anyway.”
“Agreed,” Maddy said. “Are we ready to get started?”
“Wait.” Aaden looked down at the table.
Maddy and Corbyn looked at him curiously.
A tear ran down Aaden’s cheek. He was visibly nervous. “What happened to us yesterday…with K-1 and all…was totally my fault. I’m…sorry.”
“What do you mean?” Maddy asked. “There was no way any of us could’ve known that K-1 was after us again. It was just bad luck.”
Aaden sniffed. “But if I hadn’t acted the way I did, Corbyn might not’ve run into him in the first place.”
Corbyn’s eyes narrowed. “What’re you talking about?”
Aaden was unable to hide his shame any longer. It was time to come clean.
“When you guys were walking through the entrance to the tour, someone…I don’t know who…walked behind me and told me to choose right. At first I thought I was just hearing things and didn’t really pay attention to it.” He hesitated.
“Go on,” Maddy encouraged.
With a deep breath, Aaden continued. “After we crawled into the cave behind the Drapery Room, I realized the voice was referring to the tunnel on the right, the one that led to the river. I have no idea why anybody would’ve said that to me, much less how they would’ve even known. But that’s not the point. The point is that I knew that the tunnel Corbyn went down was the wrong one the entire time.”
Corbyn became more agitated.
Aaden faced his twin but couldn’t look him in the eyes. “Because of the argument we had two nights ago, I decided to get back at you by coming up with that stupid bet. I purposely sent you the wrong way.”
“You what?” Corbyn stood up defensively. “How could you?”
Before things could get out of hand, Maddy stood up and intervened. “Corbyn, let Aaden finish.”
Corbyn hesitated, but sat back down and crossed his arms.
Aaden continued to pour out his feelings. “I have no excuse for acting the way I have. I know I’ve been a total jerk. All I’m asking for is to explain myself. If you want to send me home afterwards…I’ll understand.”
Maddy and Corbyn remained silent.
“Ever since we met at Maddy’s house and went over the first clue, I’ve felt like the third wheel. You two have grown closer, and it’s been difficult for me to deal with. I didn’t know how to handle my jealousy, so I shut down and started behaving like an immature brat.”
Still no response.
Aaden sighed. “That’s also why I left when we were in the biosphere. I didn’t think you wanted me around anymore.”
Aaden finally looked into his brother’s eyes. “Corbyn, I’m sorry. Our argument two nights ago was not your fault. Neither was what happened yesterday. I don’t blame you for hating me.” Tears rolled down his cheeks.
After an awkward silence, Corbyn finally spoke up. “You’re right. There is no excuse for what you’ve done. Who knows what could’ve happened yesterday?”
Aaden looked down in shame.
“But that doesn’t mean I hate you. Or that I want you to go home.”
Aaden looked back up.
“I’m serious. Of course I was angry when you left us in the biosphere. But everything happens for a reason, and if you hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t have been able to warn us about K-1.”
Aaden sniffed. “But that’s only because I was being a jerk in the first place.”
“Stop it.” Maddy had had enough of Aaden feeling sorry for himself. “You’ve been difficult lately, that’s for sure. But you’ve made plenty of contributions also. All will be forgiven if you ditch the attitude for good and choose to be a part of the team again.”
Aaden smiled a little.
Corbyn added, “I agree. It’s done. Everything’s finally out in the open and we can move on. No more attitude, we work together as a team, and everything’s forgiven. Deal?”
Aaden still felt ashamed, but nodded. He replied softly. “Deal.”
“If I had tear ducts, I’d cry,” TESLA joked. “Guess I’ll just have to spray my windshield with window cleaner instead. That’s the closest I can come to crying for joy!”
Maddy laughed. It was interesting to her how much funnier TESLA seemed when there was no tension hanging in the air.
At Greasy Petrol, Inc., Charles Bronson had not yet heard from K-1 since his report from Biosphere 2. He was getting anxious and frustrated. Unable to wait any longer, he dialed K-1’s number and waited through ten rings before slamming his phone down. Something was obviously not right, but that was no excuse for failure. According to Charles, there was never any excuse for failure. K-1 had failed, and was now a dead man.
There was no other option.
With their issues finally behind them, Team SoNaR focused on the next clue.
Maddy put the clue out on the table. All three silently read what was written.
Somebody expects you to travel to the Magic Valley
To continue the search for the world-changing secret known to very few!
All seekers of the prize must head to the place where sibling clones succumb to gravity.
Remember to keep in mind that your friends Earl and Hazel will
Supply you with what you are searching for—just look under Orion’s Belt!
CLINK IS TOO SOUR OR OUR SOLOIST NICK OR UNCOOL SKI TRIOS OR…
(Hint: Agar Man)
Team SoNaR shared their thoughts on what the clue meant.
“That last part about a clink that is too sour…whatever that is…must be the next cipher we have to solve,” Corbyn said.
Maddy nodded and replied, “Clue first, then cipher.”
Aaden agreed. His spirits were lifted and he was ready to be a contributing member of the team again.
“Okay, so the first letter of each line spells the word stars,” Maddy began. “So far, we’ve visited locations that focused on physics, biology, and earth science. Our next stop must be about astronomy, right?”
“Seems so,” Corbyn replied. “Either of you ever heard of the Magical Valley?”
Maddy shook her head. “Nope.”
“Me either,” Aaden said. “Should we look it up on the computer?”
“Sure,” Corbyn replied. “Run a search and see what comes up.”
Aaden quickly had the results pulled up. “Looks like an area in south-central Idaho. It’s made up of quite a few towns in the region.”
“So we’re headed northwest,” Maddy said. “Couldn’t the locations for the quest have been closer together?”
“Yeah, right!” TESLA piped in. “And deny me the exhilarating experience of flying all over North America? I wouldn’t have it!”
“Of course you wouldn’t,” Corbyn mocked.
“So we’re heading to Idaho,” Maddy said. “Where exactly?”
“I’m thinking the place where sibling clones succumb to gravity might narrow it down for us.” Aaden studied his screen. “But what’s it mean?”
Because of his biology expertise, that part of the clue didn’t stump Corbyn. “A sibling clone? C’mon guys, that’s easy.”
Maddy looked up. “So what’s the answer?”
“What does it mean to be a clone of something else?”
“To be an exact copy,” Maddy replied.
“Right, but what if it’s a living thing? What makes it a clone then?”
“It has the same DNA as something else.”
“Exactly. And what does it mean to be a sibling?”
Maddy rolled her eyes. “Really? You have to play this game?”
Corbyn shrugged. “Just play along. What’s it mean to be a sibling?”
“To be a brother or sister,” Maddy sighed.
“Right, so figure it out from there. What do you call someone that’s another person’s brother or sister and that has DNA identical to him or her?”
“Their twin.” Maddy rolled her eyes. “You just had to draw that out, didn’t you?”
Corbyn smiled. “More fun that way.”
“Anyway….” Maddy looked back at Aaden. “Anything in the Magic Valley that has something to do with twins?”
Aaden pulled up a new web page. “Yes. There’s a city called Twin Falls.”
Corbyn smiled. “Sibling clones that succumb to gravity…Twin Falls…there you go.”
“We’re getting pretty good at figuring these things out,” Maddy admitted. “And no, I don’t consider using the Internet cheating.”
“With or without the Internet, we still have to problem-solve the solution,” Corbyn replied. “But we’re not done yet. Any idea what Earl and Hazel means?”
Aaden typed Earl and Hazel into his search engine. He read through the results and found the answer. “It says in Twin Falls, Idaho, there’s a planetarium called The Earl and Hazel Faulkner Planetarium. Bingo.”
“Which fits the astronomy focus,” Maddy added. “Let’s tell TESLA and get going.”
“Already on it! I’m on my way!”
Team SoNaR felt the helicopter lift smoothly off the airport’s tarmac and begin its flight. Corbyn asked if anybody wanted to take a break before figuring out the cipher that followed the clue.
“I’m fine,” Maddy replied. “Aaden?”
“I’m good. Besides,” he added with a smirk, “I bet we can have it solved quicker than any of the others we’ve done so far.”
Corbyn and Maddy smiled.
“In fact,” Aaden pressed on, “I think we can solve it even faster than we did the first clue. How fast was that again?”
“Fifteen minutes, I believe,” Maddy added, playing along.
“Right.” Aaden rested his chin in his hand, pretending to look thoughtful. “Fifteen minutes…I bet we can solve this puzzle in twelve minutes or less. What do you guys think?”
“I don’t see why not,” Maddy replied. “Is there anyone on board that cares to go for a double-or-nothing wager? Any trusty, electronic, steering, and locating autopilots, maybe?”
“Hey now! I’m concentrating on getting us headed in the right direction and you’re baiting me with another bet? How cruel!”
“So you’re not up for it, huh?” Aaden teased.
“I didn’t say that, did I? But what if I do agree? I already owe you a trip anywhere you want to go. What more could you greedy little children want?”
Aaden laughed. “How about if we win…which we will…you have to chauffer us to and from school every day until we’ve graduated high school?”
“Boring. And if I win?”
“Then you’re off the hook. You don’t have to take us anywhere.”
After some processing, which only took milliseconds, the supercomputer agreed. “Sounds fun. But I insist we up the ante. You have to solve this one in six minutes or less!”
Aaden negotiated. “Thirteen.”
“Deal.” Aaden laughed.
“I’d shake your hand but my rotors might do you some damage! I hope you’re ready because your time starts now!”
“Okay.” Aaden looked at his teammates. “What’d the puzzle say again, Maddy?”
She reread the cipher.
“Clink is too sour?” Corbyn said. “What’s that?”
Aaden smiled confidently. “That, which I recognized immediately, is my favorite cipher.”
Maddy looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“Do you remember how I used to spend a lot of my free time on word games?”
“There was one in particular that I liked the most. And guess what this cipher here is?”
“The same word game,” Maddy realized. “You knew all along how to solve this, didn’t you?”
Aaden smiled and nodded.
“One minute down!” TESLA yelled. “You’ll never make it!”
Corbyn ignored TESLA’s taunts and asked his brother to clarify what he was getting at.
“I’ve done too many Agar Mans to count.” Aaden did air quotes as he said Agar Mans.
“What exactly are Agar Mans?” Maddy asked. “I get it’s the hint, but what does it mean?”
Aaden smiled. “It’s an anagram of anagram.”
Maddy studied the hint and finally understood. “The letters for Agar Man can be rearranged to spell anagram.”
“Exactly. And look at this: clink is too sour, our soloist Nick, and uncool ski trios are all anagrams of each other.”
“So we have to rearrange the letters in those anagrams to find another that’s the solution?” Corbyn concluded.
“Yup. Fortunately for us, there are three anagrams to work with. We can each take one.”
“Two minutes down!” TESLA said. “Time’s a-wastin’!”
“I’ll take clink is too sour,” Maddy said.
Corbyn took our soloist Nick.
“That leaves me with uncool ski trios. First one to figure it out gets dinner bought for them after the quest is done.”
For the next seven minutes, the teens worked hard to find the solution. They rearranged the letters in their anagrams over and over.
“One minute left!” TESLA announced. “I can feel victory!”
Maddy hurriedly said, “I came up with ionic looks rust, slick riotous no, Rick solution so, coil oinks tours, and cousin oil stork.”
“So you have nothing,” Aaden replied.
“Nada.” Maddy threw her pencil down on the table.
“Colonist ski our, uncoil risk soot, and oculist oinks or.”
“Uh-oh!” TESLA yelled. “The countdown begins! Ten, nine, eight…”
Maddy asked Aaden if he had anything.
“…seven, six, five…”
Aaden nonchalantly looked down at his paper and read silently through his answers.
He looked up. “Actually, I do.”
“Solution is rock.” Aaden smiled in triumph. “A steak dinner will do just fine. Oh, and TESLA? I look forward to our new high school chaperone starting in September.”
TESLA did not reply.
Sarah called Isaac again to update him on her mother’s condition.
“Sorry I’m calling so late in the afternoon.”
“Not to worry. How’re things?”
“A bit better today actually. Mom is awake and crabby as all get out with the nurses.”
Isaac chuckled. “Understandable. Any idea if she’ll be released soon?”
Sarah seemed optimistic. “Nothing for sure yet, but the doctor said if he sees more improvement she could be home in a couple days.”
“Let’s cross our fingers. Hope to see you soon.”
After flying for much of the day, TESLA landed at the Magic Valley Regional Airport, just south of Twin Falls, Idaho.
“What time is it right now?” Maddy asked.
TESLA didn’t answer at first because it was pretending to pout about losing the bet. After a short delay, the computer reported it was 6:23:26 p.m.
“So most of the day is gone,” Maddy said. “We’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow to go to the planetarium. TESLA?”
“Yes?” came the metallic drawl.
“How much longer until our time is up?”
Within a fraction of a second, TESLA concluded that the quest had taken four days, ten hours, twenty-three minutes, thirty-three seconds. Team SoNaR had only two days, thirteen hours, thirty-six minutes, twenty-seven seconds left to complete it.
Corbyn wasn’t worried. “If we’re right about the dots on the atomic symbols being symbolic of each stop we have to go to, and since there’s only one more dot that can be added, two days should be more than enough time.”
“The planetarium should be our last stop,” Maddy agreed. “We might actually be ahead of schedule.”
“That’d be nice,” Corbyn said. “If we’re right, the secret is somewhere in the planetarium. I say we wait until tomorrow.”
Maddy and Aaden agreed. The team decided to spend the evening relaxing with the crew and joking around with TESLA.
The next morning, the teens woke up early in anticipation of the day to come. While scarfing down Indonesian soufflé omelets for breakfast, the team discussed how exciting the day might turn out to be.
“If luck is on our side, we’ll find the secret today,” Maddy said. “Can you believe it?”
“Yeah,” Aaden mumbled. “Unless K-1 gets in our way again.”
Maddy frowned. “Don’t say that. After what happened to him yesterday, do you really think he’d come after us again?”
Aaden shrugged. “All I know is that he’s shown up to every place we’ve been. I wouldn’t put it past him to keep trying.”
Although he didn’t want to admit it, Corbyn agreed with his twin. “To be safe, we need to assume he’s still after us. We need to keep an eye out until we’re back on the helicopter.”
Team SoNaR finished their breakfast, got ready for the day, and headed out. They made their way out of the airport, grabbed a taxi, and were soon standing in front of the planetarium.
“We ready?” Corbyn asked. “The secret’s somewhere in there waiting for us.”
The team entered the planetarium and paid the admission fee. They went straight to a table in the cafeteria and discussed what to do next.
“The clue says we need to look under Orion’s Belt to find what we’re searching for,” Maddy said. “Aaden, you’re the astronomy expert, so you’re in the lead. Where do we go?”
Aaden perked up. “Orion’s Belt refers to the three brightest stars in the constellation Orion. They’re pretty easy to spot when you know what to look for.”
“And where do we need to go to find them in here?” Corbyn asked.
“I would think in the theatre. They probably have a projection of the night sky on the screen. If Orion’s Belt is on it, there might be an atomic symbol or silver canister underneath it.”
“Worth a shot,” Maddy replied.
Team SoNaR found the entrance to the planetarium’s theatre. Fortunately, the door was open and nobody else was in sight. The team was able to walk right in. They were standing in a dark round room complete with circular rows of chairs. The focal point of the theatre, the large, dome-shaped screen on the ceiling, was projecting an image of the night sky as seen from Earth.
“Good work, Aaden.” Maddy looked up. “Look at all the stars. You never see this many when you live in the city.”
“And there,” Aaden said while pointing up, “is Orion. See the three stars almost in a straight line that make up his belt?”
Corbyn nodded. “Let’s go see if there’s something underneath them.”
Hoping they’d figured the clue out correctly, the team walked underneath Orion’s Belt and looked around. Finding nothing immediately obvious, Corbyn walked forward a few steps. He realized the spot his foot was on was not as firm as the ground around it. Curious, he looked down. He was standing on top of a trap door that was hidden in the floor.
Corbyn looked up and verified that the door was directly underneath Orion’s Belt. “Found it.”
The team worked together to swing the door up. A ladder led down into a dark basement underneath the theatre. Corbyn pointed to the underside of the door. Maddy and Aaden noticed the symbol etched into it, a dot now added to the other three in the upper-left corner.
Maddy began to climb down. “Let’s go. We have a quest to finish.”