The Final Clue
Team SoNaR had conquered two celestial tests. They were now confronted with a third.
Maddy pulled the flashlight back out. “The secret can’t be far away now.”
“Let’s hope not,” Corbyn replied.
Maddy scanned the room with the flashlight. The team wasn’t surprised to see that this room resembled the first two in size and make-up, right down to the stainless steel pedestal in the center. Of course, there were no tiles surrounding the pedestal or projectors embedded in the walls.
Instead, the team’s attention was immediately drawn to the wall on their left. Fourteen square slate tiles, that had been connected to form a rectangle with one corner missing, adorned most of the wall. Each tile appeared to be approximately one square meter in size. Although it was difficult to see with any clarity, it also looked as if many of the tiles had lines etched randomly into them. There was no pattern to the direction the lines faced on any of the tiles.
“Interesting.” Maddy illuminated the tiles. “I wonder what we do with these.”
“Let’s find out.” Aaden lifted the envelope off the pedestal.
As expected, the room came to life. As the pedestal descended, a bright light behind each tile glowed through the transparent lines. It was now much easier to see the lines that were etched into the tiles.
Aaden opened the envelope and read the next clue. He shook his head and handed the envelope over to Maddy and Corbyn for them to read.
Inheritors of the Secret must be able to:
Work cooperatively under great pressure.
In northern England, one would slide the tiles to arrange
Alkaid, Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Dubhe, Merak and Phecda into a Butcher’s Cleaver;
In Ireland, into a Starry Plough;
In Germany, into a Great Cart;
In the Netherlands, into a Saucepan.
Produce the correct image and proceed.
Fail to do so, and your quest will end.
Maddy was intimidated by the next challenge. “It’s a gigantic sliding puzzle.”
“Which means…,” Corbyn replied.
Maddy stared at the tiles. “Which means we have to slide these up, down, left, or right until each one is in the correct position. When that happens, an image should appear that will supposedly look like a cleaver, plough, cart, or saucepan.”
“Lot of help that is,” Corbyn remarked.
Maddy put the flashlight away and sighed. “For the record, I hate these things.”
“We have to do it regardless,” Aaden said. “Before we move any of the tiles though, we should probably have some idea of what the final image is supposed to look like.”
Maddy and Corbyn agreed.
“I vote we use the phone to help us out this time,” Corbyn suggested. “I’ve never heard of Alkaid, Mizar, or any of those other weird names.”
Unfortunately, the team soon found out that using the smart phone for research was not going to be possible. Because they were deep underground and surrounded by thick concrete walls, the phone had no signal.
“Guess we’re on our own.” Maddy returned the phone to the backpack. “Any other ideas?”
“Let’s sketch the objects and see what they have in common,” Aaden suggested.
Maddy liked the idea. She took out some paper and pens. The team started with the butcher’s cleaver.
“A cleaver is a large, rectangular knife,” Maddy said as she sketched. “It looks like a hatchet with a handle attached to it.”
Team SoNaR added drawings of a plough (“a cultivator with blades steered by two handles”), a cart (“a two-handled, two-wheeled vehicle pulled by someone”), and a saucepan (“a type of cookware with a handle”).
“The final image will obviously have a handle in it,” Corbyn concluded.
“But that still doesn’t tell us what the image will be,” Maddy said. “How many cleavers, ploughs, carts, and saucepans do we know that are associated with astronomy?”
“None,” Corbyn admitted. “Too bad we don’t live in one of the countries named in the clue. It’d be easier to figure out.”
“We have no choice but to start sliding the tiles around then,” Aaden said. “Hopefully we’ll get enough of them in the correct spot that we’ll be able to figure out what the image is supposed to be as we go.”
“I don’t see any other way,” Maddy admitted pessimistically. “The only thing is that….” Her words trailed off as she sank deep into thought.
“That what?” Corbyn asked.
Maddy hesitated before answering. “I’m just bothered by part of the clue. It says we’re supposed to work together under great pressure. It makes me think there’s something else going on that we haven’t paid attention to.”
“I don’t know about you,” Aaden said, “but these sliding puzzles frustrate the heck out of me. I hate them as much as you do. If we don’t solve this one quickly, we’ll probably get frustrated and feel pressured that we’re gonna fail.”
Maddy decided he was probably right. “So who wants to get us started? Since the bottom-right corner of the puzzle is missing, we’ll have to either slide the piece next to it to the right or the piece above it down.”
Aaden took a deep breath. “I’ll do it.”
He walked over to the wall and slid the piece above the empty corner straight down. Right after, Maddy’s fears about the clue were made clear. Just after the tile was slid into place, a giant digital clock directly above the puzzle suddenly came to life. Team SoNaR had failed to notice it until then but it was now impossible to ignore. The clock read 15:00:00 before beginning to count down millisecond by millisecond. It soon read 14:42:44 before the team registered what was going on.
“That’s not good,” Corbyn said. “We’re under a time limit for this puzzle.”
Maddy nearly cried.
Now that they fully understood why the puzzle mentioned working under great pressure, the teens began wildly sliding the glowing pieces in all different directions. They moved them up, down, left, and right without any rhyme or reason. After what seemed like a very short amount of time, the digital clocked beeped to signal there were only ten minutes left. By then, the teens seemed to have done nothing but mix up the puzzle pieces even more.
“We’re not making any progress!” Her eyes watering, Maddy lost composure. “How’re we supposed to know what pieces go where? We can’t let the quest end here! What’re we—”
“Maddy! Relax!” Aaden kept his composure and stared hard at the puzzle. “You’re not going to be any help if you lose it.”
Maddy knew he was right. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. “I’m sorry. Let’s keep moving the pieces around until—”
Corbyn slid another piece into place. His eyes widened. “It’s flashing!”
Aaden smiled. The piece was now illuminated from behind with a brilliant, flashing green light. “Now we know how to tell when the pieces are in place. Let’s keep going.”
With their frustration having ebbed slightly, Team SoNaR continued sliding the tiles until all but one piece was in place and steadily flashing green. With less than thirty seconds to go, Corbyn maneuvered three pieces clockwise around one another until the design to the puzzle was finally complete. The team stepped back and admired the result.
“It was the Big Dipper all along.” Corbyn stared with satisfaction at the flashing image of the ladle. “I had no idea it was called so many different things around the world.”
Maddy crumpled in relief as the adrenaline that had been fueling her body vanished.
“And Alkaid, Mizar, and all those other words must be the names of the seven stars that make up the constellation.” Aaden wiped beads of sweat off of his forehead and smiled with satisfaction.
“All I know is that that was too close for my taste.” Maddy rubbed her eyes in exhaustion. “Did I mention I hate those things?”
Corbyn offered his hand to help Maddy back up. “We made it. That’s all that matters. Ready to see if the secret is through the next door?”
Maddy smiled and took his hand. She walked with him over to the newly unlocked door. With Aaden in tow, she opened the door and led the team into a fourth darkened room.
Sitting in his lavish office, Charles was still trying to ascertain what could have happened to K-1. His spy still wasn’t answering his cell phone, and Charles was bursting at the seams to take him out. He forcefully knocked a pile of papers to the ground and reached for his phone. He dialed K-1’s number for the umpteenth time and waited for an answer.
Disgusted, Charles slammed the receiver back down, turned his chair around, and stared in silence through his large picture window. Nothing calmed his nerves better than admiring the oil empire that had made him a billionaire.
Team SoNaR made it through the most difficult and challenging test so far. They were now standing in yet another pitch black room. Maddy turned the flashlight on and illuminated the space. The teens felt a sense of déjà vu.
“Another concrete room with a silver pedestal in the center,” Aaden remarked. “This is getting a bit old.”
“But do you guys notice that there isn’t anything else in here this time?” Maddy looked around the room. “No tiles, no projectors, no puzzle pieces. Nothing.”
It was true. The room was empty except for the stainless steel pedestal with envelope and the two locked doors. The concrete walls, the floor, and the ceiling were all completely bare.
“I don’t care what’s in here,” Corbyn said in a frustrated tone. “How many more rooms do we have to make it through?”
Maddy squeezed Corbyn’s hand. “Patience,” she whispered.
“Keep things in perspective,” Aaden said. “We’re searching for one of the supposed greatest secrets ever. Do you really think our last stop is going to come easy?”
Corbyn conceded his brother’s point. “I know we’re getting close. I’m just getting impatient.”
Aaden walked over to the pedestal and grabbed the envelope. As expected, the room transformed. As the pedestal descended into the floor, the walls and ceiling lit up with thousands of pinpoints of red, green, blue, and white lights. The lights weren’t visible to the naked eye only moments earlier. They created an effect that made it look like the room was full of stars.
“Okay, that’s cool,” Maddy said as she looked all around. “It looks like we’re standing inside the Milky Way or something.”
Corbyn admitted the effect was pretty amazing.
“Time to see what we need to do.” Aaden opened the envelope. The team read the next clue.
Inheritors of the Secret must be able to:
Filter out those that stand in the way of success.
In order to reveal the next step, one must remove all but the blue.
Maddy looked over the clue multiple times. “Pretty vague if you ask me.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Aaden replied. “But I’m starting to get hungry. I vote we sit down, have a snack, and figure this out the right way.”
“My stomach just growled,” Corbyn agreed.
Maddy pulled out three bottles of water and some energy bars. Team SoNaR got to work figuring out the newest clue.
“We have to do something with filtering out those that stand in our way of success,” Maddy began. “And then remove all but the blue.”
Corbyn looked around. “Some of the lights look blue. But they can’t seriously expect us to cover up all the red, green and white ones, can they? There’s gotta be over a thousand lights in here.”
Aaden saw Corbyn’s point. “There’s no way that’s happening. I think the word filter is important.”
Maddy considered Aaden’s suggestion. “Is there a way to filter out the red, green, and white stars somehow?”
The teens drew a blank. They ate and drank in silence for nearly twenty minutes. Maddy finally had an idea. She reached for the backpack.
“What’re you doing?” Corbyn asked
“Give me a sec. I want to check something.” She fumbled through the backpack for a short time, finding what she was looking for buried at the bottom. “Here they are.”
Corbyn and Aaden looked at each other in confusion.
What’s she doing? Aaden mouthed silently.
Maddy placed the object in front of her eyes. It was the same pair of blue-lensed glasses that Aaden had tried on at Chippewa Park.
“Um, Maddy,” Aaden said cautiously, “it isn’t sunny down here.”
“No kidding. Besides, it’s not like they were very good sunglasses anyway, right?
“So why are you wearing them now?”
“Because.” She looked around the room and smiled. “They aren’t meant to be sunglasses. Here, put them on. Tell me what you see.”
Aaden quietly acquiesced. He put the glasses on. “Are…you...kidding…me.” He slowly looked all around him.
Corbyn’s interest was now peaked. “Care to let me in on the secret?”
Maddy opened the backpack and rummaged through it again. “I think there’re enough pairs for each of us.”
Maddy found two more pairs of the glasses. She put one on and gave the other to Corbyn. Corbyn put them on and was stunned. The room changed right in front of his eyes. The red and green stars had completely disappeared and the white stars had turned blue. “What the heck? What just happened?”
Maddy smiled. “Exactly what I thought might happen.”
Corbyn removed the glasses. The red, green, and white stars returned, mixing with the blue ones. “How’d you know?”
“Simple physics,” she responded. “Remember when we were backstage at the Dancing Waters building?”
“Like I’ll ever forget the first time K-1 came after us.”
Maddy shuddered. “Aside from that. Do you remember what I said about the relationship between a wave’s size and its frequency?”
Corbyn thought for a moment. “You said a high frequency wave will be small. And vice versa.”
“Right. Turns out, all the different colors of light…the colors of the rainbow…are waves that each have their own frequency and size.”
“What does that have to do with these glasses?”
“I was just getting to that. In this room, the lights are meant to look like stars. Each light is either made of red light only, green light only, blue light only, or white light. White light is a mixture of all the colors put together, blue included. When we put the blue lenses on, we’re putting a blue-light filter in front of our eyes.”
Corbyn waited for further explanation.
“Because every color of light is a wave of a different size, you can create filters that allow only certain sizes through. Kind of a like a screen door that only allows air through but keeps insects out.”
“Because the insects are the wrong size to get through the screen,” Corbyn added.
Maddy nodded. “Same goes for waves. Only the right size wave can get through a color filter. When we put the blue lenses on, everything looks blue because that’s the only color that passes through the lenses into our eyes. All the other colors are blocked out.”
“And that’s why we only see blue stars when we put them on?” Corbyn clarified.
“Yes. The red and green stars are blocked out, and only the blue light of the white stars makes it through.” Maddy smiled. “Pretty cool, huh?”
Corbyn nodded and put his glasses back on. “So what do we do now?”
“Already on it,” Aaden stood up and walked over to one of the walls. He motioned for the other two to join him. “Look very carefully at this wall. Use your glasses.”
Maddy and Corbyn complied. Looking hard, they finally saw it: the next clue had been written into the wall by thousands of blue stars.
“By filtering out the red and green stars…and making the white stars look blue…we can see the next clue.”
“Awesome,” Corbyn said. “There’s no way we could’ve seen this without using the glasses.”
“Let’s write down what it says.” Maddy took out a pen and some paper. “You two read and I’ll write.”
The twins worked together to read the message that was spelled out by hundreds of tiny pinpoints of blue light.
By gosh, you are almost to the end—the Central Science is now your focus!
Only one more location to visit, so remember that X marks the spot!
Note your destination state then search for the county that discovered Mauveine.
Don’t forget to look for the town that will give you a great endowment in the end!
Searchers should look towards a scientific company that houses Avogadro’s room!
20 5-12-18-1-26-3-16 12-7 1-13-16 7-12-14-13-1 2-10-22
Hint: Phoenix and Pegasus…One equals 5-16-14-20-2-26-2
Maddy looked at the result. “Looks like we were wrong.”
“About what?” Aaden asked.
“About the planetarium being our final stop.”
Corbyn and Aaden let the statement sink in. They looked defeated.
“There is a bright side though,” Maddy said.
“What would that be?” Corbyn mumbled.
“That we now know for sure that the next stop is the last. It says so in the clue.”
Corbyn sighed. “I suppose.”
“Time to get back to the helicopter?” Aaden asked.
Maddy grabbed the backpack and prepared to leave. “Since we now have less time to finish the quest than we thought we did, yes. Let’s go.”
The teens made their way through the final unlocked door. They ascended a long staircase back to the ground floor. They walked through one more door and out into the open air.
“We’re behind the planetarium now,” Maddy observed.
“No sign of K-1?” Aaden asked.
The teens looked around cautiously. After spending the last two days free from K-1, they had no intention of dealing with him again.
“I think we’re fine,” Corbyn said. “But let’s be careful until we get back in a cab.”
Aaden and Maddy agreed. The team found a taxi that took them back to the airport. It wasn’t long before they were sitting comfortably around the helicopter’s conference table, ready to tackle the quest’s final clue and puzzle.
Mr. Zhang checked in again.
“Anything to report?”
“The kids just came out of the planetarium. I assume they have the next clue.”
“And with just under two days to spare. Not bad.”
“I’ll follow the team to the final stop. Hopefully the next time we speak they’ll be about done with the quest.”
“You’ve done well.”
Team SoNaR settled comfortably into their seats around the conference table; they needed to solve the next clue as fast as they could.
“And to think we thought we were ahead of schedule,” Maddy said.
Corbyn looked up. “TESLA?”
The television came to life. “Guten abend freunde! I’ve been downloading…I mean, learning…German today. I’m now fluent in over fourteen languages!”
“Nice. Anyway…in English, please…can you tell us how much time we have left? We thought we’d be done today. We were wrong.”
“You got it! The time is now 7:22:44 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. From the original 168 hours available to complete the quest, you’ve burned through 131 hours, 22 minutes, 44 seconds. By my calculations, that gives you exactly thirty-six hours, thirty-seven minutes, sixteen seconds before time runs out. Better hurry!”
“Okay.” Maddy faced the twins. “Approximately a day and a half left to get the secret out of the safe, wherever it is. Time is now a factor.”
The team silently processed their new reality for a moment.
“We’re not going to get anything done if we just sit here and do nothing,” Aaden finally said. “Let’s get to work.”
“That’s the spirit!” TESLA crowed. “If you’d like, I could break out my cheerleading routine to get you pumped up!”
Maddy laughed. “Not necessary. Thanks though.”
“Just trying to do my part! Since I’m forbidden from helping you solve the puzzles, the least I can do is keep you motivated! No giving up allowed in here!”
“And we appreciate everything you’ve done for us,” Maddy replied.
“Ah-h! Like I’ve said before, I’d cry if I had tear ducts!”
“Okay,” Maddy said. “We really need to get started.”
“Not until you’ve had dinner,” Chef replied. “How do you expect to think clearly on empty stomachs?”
He placed plates full of Fettuccine Alfredo and garlic bread on the table.
“Italian tonight.” Aaden’s mouth watered. “Thanks, Chef.”
Chef smiled. “Figured I’d deviate from the norm a bit.”
“Fine,” Maddy conceded. “Dinner first. We’re starving anyway.”
Unfortunately, a large dinner full of carbs, combined with a long and grueling day at the planetarium, did Team SoNaR in. Immediately after finishing their food, the teens could barely keep their eyes open. They had no choice but to go to bed without making any progress on the clue.
“Now the pressure’s really on,” Maddy mumbled.
The next morning, the teens woke up feeling refreshed and ready for their final full day of the quest.
“I can’t tell you how much I needed that sleep,” Maddy said. “I about died when my head hit the pillow.”
“Me, too,” Corbyn echoed. “I would’ve been completely useless last night.”
“Which means we only have about a day left,” Aaden announced. “No more putting this off.”
Maddy nodded and pulled out the clue. “The first letters of each line spell bonds, so I’m thinking our final stop has something to do with chemistry.”
“Agreed,” Aaden said. “Chemistry studies how atoms and molecules form bonds and things like that. Plus, because it’s applied in so many different ways, chemistry is sometimes known as the central science.”
“Like the first line says,” Corbyn added.
Maddy nodded. “Our first stop was physics, second biology, third Earth, fourth astronomy. They’re obviously making sure we know something about every science.”
“And chemistry ties everything together,” Aaden added.
“I’m just bothered by the second line,” Corbyn said. “I didn’t know we were on a literal treasure hunt. Does the clue mean we have to actually find an X somewhere and dig the safe up? Like a pirate would? Seems kind of archaic if you ask me.”
Aaden thought for a moment. “I don’t think we should take that line as literal as that. Judging how the rest of the clues were written, it’s probably symbolic of something.”
“Probably,” Maddy replied. “Either way, we need to focus on the third and fourth lines first. They focus on the state, county, and town of our last stop.”
Corbyn reread the third and fourth lines. “It doesn’t say much about the state we’re headed to, but it—”
Aaden interrupted. “I don’t believe it.”
Maddy looked up in surprise. “What?”
“It’s literally been right in front of our faces the whole time….”
Aaden smiled widely. “The X.”
“What’re you talking about?” Corbyn asked. “I don’t see an X.”
“You will soon.” Aaden pulled out a pen and the map of North America. He unfolded the map and set it on the table. “I’m going to put a dot on the four locations we’ve visited: Chippewa Park in Ontario; Biosphere 2 in Arizona; Mammoth Caves in Kentucky; and the planetarium here in Idaho.”
“Okay,” Maddy replied. “Dots are in place. Now what?”
“Now,” Aaden continued, “I’m going to draw two diagonal lines on the map: one connecting Chippewa Park to Biosphere 2, the other from Mammoth Caves up to the planetarium.” Aaden drew the lines. He stepped back and admired his work.
“An almost perfect X.” Maddy was impressed. “How did you figure that out?”
Aaden smiled. “Simple. I thought about the EIS symbol we saw under the trap door of the planetarium. I just realized it has a deeper meaning beyond just being the logo of the company.” He drew the symbol on a piece of paper. “Look at it carefully. Each dot doesn’t only represent the places we’ve gone. It also shows where each location is in relation to the others.”
“You’re right,” Maddy said in awe. “The symbol at Chippewa Park had a dot added to the upper-right hand corner.”
“Matching the location of the park on the map,” Corbyn concluded.
“Exactly,” Aaden said. “And the lower-left dot represents Biosphere 2, the lower-right Mammoth Caves, and the top-left the planetarium.”
“The symbol is a miniature map of the quest,” Corbyn realized.
“If that’s true,” Maddy asked, “can we use it to figure out where our final stop is?”
“That’s where I was going next,” Aaden replied. “Check out what happens when I draw the X on the EIS symbol.”
“It crosses right over the EIS,” Maddy realized.
Aaden knew Maddy was now on the verge of making all the connections.
“So if the symbol is really a map…and the lines cross over EIS…then the center of the X on the map of North America must be where the real EIS is.” Maddy couldn’t put into words how proud she was of Aaden’s discovery.
“Exactly. So I predict our next stop—the one with the central science as its focus—is literally at the center of the other locations we’ve visited.” Aaden smiled triumphantly.
“Just southeast of the Nebraska panhandle,” Corbyn said as he studied the map. “I have to admit, that’s pretty impressive.”
“That is impressive!” TESLA chimed in. “You sound almost as smart as me!”
“Thanks.” Aaden smiled. “But that only gives us a starting point. We still have to figure out exactly which Nebraskan county and town we’re headed to. Anybody ever heard of Mauveine before?”
Maddy wasn’t so quick to answer. “Actually,” she said slowly, “that word does sound familiar. I just don’t know why.”
Aaden turned on the laptop. “Let’s pull up a map of Nebraska and see if it jogs your memory.”
“Worth a shot.”
Aaden got online. He searched for a map of Nebraska that included the names of all the counties. “Here a geology website that has a Nebraska county map on it.”
“That should work,” Corbyn said.
TESLA suddenly interrupted Team SoNaR. “Before you continue, I need to let you know that it is now eight o’clock Wednesday morning, Mountain Standard Time. You have exactly twenty-four hours left to figure out the clue, fly to the next destination, solve the final puzzle, decipher the code to the safe, and have the secret in your possession! No pressure, right?”
Maddy rolled her eyes. “Right.”
“Hey, you know I’m pulling for you. Do you really think I want to haul another group of strangers all over again just because you guys ran out of time? Heck no! Now get to work!”
TESLA said no more while Team SoNaR figured out the rest of the clue.
“Before TESLA’s interruption, I was about to read some of the counties near the Nebraska panhandle,” Aaden said.
“Go ahead,” Maddy said. “I’ll write them down as you go.”
Aaden studied the map on his screen. “There’s Keith, Perkins, Chase, Dundy, Lincoln, Hayes, Hitchcock, Frontier, and Red Willow. Think that’s enough?”
“For now.” Corbyn looked at the map over Aaden’s shoulder. “That pretty much covers the area where the two lines of the X seem to intersect. It should be one of those.”
“What do you think, Maddy?” Aaden asked. “Any of those sound familiar?”
She shook her head. “Not really. Look up what Mauveine is instead. I’m positive I’ve heard of it before. I just don’t know when or where.”
Aaden ran the search and read the results. “It says Mauveine is also known as aniline purple. It was the first synthetic organic dye and it was found by mistake. Apparently, some guy discovered the purple dye when he was trying to—”
“Synthesize an anti-malarial drug,” Maddy interrupted. “I just heard about this during John’s presentation in science class last week. I wasn’t really paying attention, but I do remember hearing that William Henry Perkin was the scientist that accidentally discovered Perkin’s Mauve.”
Aaden smiled. “There we go. We must be headed to Perkins County. Now we just have to figure out what city we’re going to.”
As Team SoNaR soon discovered, the hard part was done. After figuring out the hidden meaning in the EIS symbol and making the connection to Perkins County, it didn’t take long to determine that the team needed to go to Grant, Nebraska.
“Grant is a synonym for endowment,” Corbyn said. “TESLA, you’re up.”
“You got it!”
The team was soon headed to the Grant Municipal Airport in Perkins County, Nebraska. The quest’s final location was nearly at hand. It was exciting to the teens that they were on the precipice of greatness, but also terrifying as well.