Maddy peered inside the mailbox. There was a large amount of mail inside. Most of it was junk, except for an unusual envelope at the bottom of the stack that was addressed to her.
Maddy looked around cautiously as if somebody was secretly watching from a distance. Returning her gaze back to the cream-colored envelope, she realized it had no return address. She wondered who could have sent it.
Turning the envelope over, Maddy noticed a stamp on the middle of the envelope’s flap. Looking closely, she realized it was loosely based on the classic representation of the atom created by Niehls Bohr in 1913. Although incorrect by today’s standards, the atomic representation of a small nucleus in the center surrounded by electrons that orbit in rings was still widely used.
Maddy also noticed a few other things. She used her limited knowledge of chemistry to determine that the stamp represented the second element on the periodic table, Helium. She knew this because there were exactly two intersecting oval rings orbiting the center of the atom, crossing one another to form an X. Also, in place of the standard dot to represent the nucleus of the atom, the letters EIS were written.
Maddy didn’t understand what the symbol meant or why she would be receiving such a letter in the first place. She never got mail. Confused, she decided to keep the letter secret until her two best friends showed up for the SoNaR meeting.
An hour later, Corbyn and Aaden pulled up on their bikes and rang the doorbell. They found Maddy sitting in the living room with a concerned look on her face.
Corbyn sat down next to Maddy. “Something wrong?”
Maddy smiled. “I was just looking at a letter I got in the mail today...and….” She looked down at the envelope.
“And what?” Aaden sat down on the arm of the couch.
Maddy lowered her voice. “And we’d better go up to my room.”
For privacy, the team entered Maddy’s room and shut her door. This was where the team’s meetings were normally held. Maddy handed the envelope to Corbyn.
“What is it?” Corbyn asked.
Maddy shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I haven’t opened it yet. For some reason I have a bad feeling about it. It has no return address, so I don’t know who it’s from. And look at the back.”
Corbyn turned the envelope over. “What’s EIS?”
Maddy shrugged her shoulders.
Aaden anxiously grabbed at the letter. “Open it.”
Aunt Janet suddenly opened the door and poked her head in. “Did you get the mail?”
Maddy’s eyes silently told Aaden to hide the letter. She didn’t want her aunt to know anything about it. “Yes. Mostly junk. I put it all on the kitchen counter for you.”
“Good. Dinner’s promptly in five minutes and not a second later.”
With a sneer, Aunt Janet left. Maddy sighed with relief. She could have sworn her aunt chuckled as she walked away.
After dinner, the team returned to Maddy’s room. Rather than presenting one another with new brainteasers like they typically would during a SoNaR meeting, they instead focused their time on the mysterious letter.
“Any idea what the stamp on the back means?” Aaden asked.
“Not really,” Maddy said. “EIS seems vaguely familiar to me, but I don’t know why.”
“Open it up,” Corbyn said.
Maddy carefully separated the flap from the envelope. She removed a single piece of paper that was folded into thirds. The team silently read the letter together.
To my dearest granddaughter,
It has been so long since I have seen your bright, shining face. I hope you find yourself doing well these days, although I must admit I miss you dearly. Ever since your parents died, my life has been void of the love of family, and it is my hope that this letter proves to be the start of a whole new relationship between you and I.
You may be wondering why, after all these years of silence, you are receiving a message from me now. The reason is because this letter is an invitation that could permanently change not only your life but also the entire world…if you accept its terms. Although this claim may be difficult for you to understand right now, let me assure you that the contents of this letter are completely legitimate. I am inviting you on a quest that, if completed successfully, will give you the power to inherit my company and its secret…one that could very well improve the world forever.
This quest will test not only your mental and physical capabilities but also your problem-solving skills, your ability to work under pressure, and your overall scientific knowledge. I believe that all of these skills are necessary to assume responsibility of my company.
If you are wondering why I have chosen you to complete the inheritance quest, the answer is very simple: I believe you have the tools to succeed. Because your parents died when you were young, you are next in line to inherit all that I have spent my life working on. And I believe you can do it.
If you are also wondering how I know you are capable of completing the quest…considering my dear sister has refused to let me see you for so many years…let me respond simply by asking you to trust me. All will be made clear to you in the near future!
Assuming I still have your interest, I would like to describe the quest in more detail. The purpose is to ultimately get the code, one part at a time, to the combination safe that holds the secret. You will have to use extraordinary problem-solving skills to retrieve the code in its entirety.
Should you accept this challenge, you will need to keep in mind the following:
Do not limit your search geographically—you may end up traveling further than you might imagine.
You need to be at the airport on the first full day of summer break at precisely 8:00 a.m. Keep an eye out for the Sikorsky S-92A helicopter—this will be your mode of transport throughout the quest.
All expenses for this quest may be taken care of with the cash that will be provided to you courtesy of my company.
Aside from a week’s worth of clothes and hygiene products, all other necessary supplies and materials for the quest will be found in a backpack on the helicopter.
From the time your helicopter takes off, you will have no more than one week to complete all required tasks—should you fail to do so within the given time, the quest will end in failure.
Should you locate the safe within the given time, you will have only one opportunity to enter its code correctly—should you enter the code incorrectly, the quest will end in failure.
This quest is to be kept secret from anybody that is not a passenger on the helicopter—our secret is simply too important to risk having it fall into the wrong hands!
Should you choose to do so, you may bring up to two friends to accompany you on the quest.
The clue that is attached to this letter will lead you to your first destination—look at it carefully so that you don’t find yourself astray!
Finally, trust no one. Period.
Sweet granddaughter, you’ve overcome so many challenges in your short life already. Even though I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing you in far too many years, I know that you are a vibrant, intelligent, young woman that will do great things in your lifetime. All I ask is that you consider putting your potential greatness to test now; the world may end up that much better for it.
CEO of EIS, Inc.
Following this clue will send you on a risky quest for a secret that will change the world!
One must begin by heading to an area of former twin cities— do you have your passport?
Right next to the “Greatest Great Lake” that exists,
Check out the area that used to be known for “William” and “Arthur.”
Every seeker of the prize should search for the next clue just before the
Second hill of Chippewa’s “potential-kinetic” track!
Maddy had a small tear in her eye. “What am I supposed to say to this?”
Corbyn was dumbfounded. “What do you mean? You’re being asked to go on an actual quest to find something. If that isn’t the biggest geocaching adventure, what is? What do you think you should say?”
“How am I supposed to know this isn’t some kind of joke? Besides, I don’t even know my grandfather. Why should I be responsible for finding some secret of his?” Maddy’s sarcasm ran thick.
“Who cares?” Aaden piped in. “You get to ride in one of the world’s greatest helicopters. Have you ever seen those things? They’ve got everything you could ever want in them!”
Maddy turned on Aaden. “First of all, I don’t even know what a Sikorsky helicopter is. Second, even if I do agree to do this, then you are both going with me!”
Corbyn grinned. “Like I’d let you leave me here.”
“But what’re we going to tell mom and dad?” Aaden asked. “We can’t just up and leave for a week without giving them a reason, and the letter says we can’t tell anybody about the quest. Besides, weren’t they planning on the four of us going on vacation together sometime this summer?”
“We’ll just tell them we’re going to a summer camp or something,” Corbyn said dismissively. “I don’t think they wanted to go to on vacation until the end of the summer anyway. We’ll just tell them the camp is somewhere out of the country so we can get our passports from them. Mom and dad ordered ours last year in case we go somewhere on vacation as a family.”
“And you actually think they’ll fall for that?”
“They will if we get Maddy to back us up. You know how mom and dad believe everything she says.”
Aaden nodded. “True. Whatever Maddy says goes with them.”
“Wait a minute,” Maddy interjected. “Who even said we’re doing this in the first place?”
Corbyn smirked. “You did. You just invited us to go with you.”
“That’s what I heard,” Aaden added, acting innocent.
“But guys, are you not considering how last minute this all is? We’d have to be ready to leave on Thursday. That’s only two-and-a-half days away. How’re we ever going to get everything done before then?” Maddy always had been the planner of the team.
“What exactly do we need to do before Thursday?” Corbyn asked. “The letter makes it sound like everything is already taken care of except for us packing our clothes and stuff.”
Maddy had to admit Corbyn had a point. “But what about my passport? I can’t just go ask Aunt Janet for it without her getting suspicious.”
“Have Mr. Zhang get it for you,” Aaden suggested. “Isn’t it still in her safe from when you went to Canada a few years ago?”
Maddy nodded. She was still trying to find reasons not to go. “We’d still have to figure out where we’re going, trick our parents, and make it to the airport by ourselves.”
“C’mon Maddy,” Corbyn said. “Don’t you think you’d regret it even a little if you don’t go?”
“I’m sure I’d get over it.”
“Too bad,” Corbyn replied. “We’re going.”
“Is that so?” Maddy’s eyes narrowed.
Aaden stepped in. “You’ll get an entire week away from your aunt. Isn’t that enough of a reason?”
Maddy tried to hide a smile. “Be nice.”
“So, you’re in?”
Maddy remained silent for a moment then sighed. “I suppose.”
Corbyn smiled. “Good choice.”
“Looks like we need to figure out where we’re going then.” Aaden grabbed the letter and read the clue again.
Maddy looked a bit sad. “Guess my cipher will have to wait till the next meeting.”
Corbyn gave Maddy a hug. “It’ll be worth it.”
Maddy smiled softly. “Thanks.”
Aaden looked up just as Maddy hugged Corbyn back. This interaction brought up feelings foreign to him that made him extremely uncomfortable. He looked away to hide the emotion.
After a short restroom break, Team SoNaR got to work figuring out the clue.
“If we’re really serious about doing this,” Maddy said, “we need to figure this thing out tonight.”
Corbyn sat next to Maddy on the edge of her bed. “It says we have to begin by going somewhere that used to be a twin city. The only twin cities I know of are in Minnesota.”
“But those are still called the twin cities,” Maddy noted. “This says former twin cities.”
“What do you think, Aaden?” Maddy kept her eyes on the letter.
Aaden realized there wasn’t enough room for him to sit next to Maddy or Corbyn on the bed. He sat alone on Maddy’s desk chair on the other side of the room. Although there was nothing actually going on between Corbyn and Maddy that he knew of, Aaden suddenly felt like the third wheel. His response was short. “Minnesota is obviously not where we’re going. We’re headed somewhere near there though.”
“Why do you say that?” Corbyn inched a bit closer to Maddy to see the letter better.
Aaden tried to pretend he wasn’t bothered. “Because of the third line in the clue.”
Maddy agreed. “The Greatest Great Lake. Definitely somewhere near Minnesota.” She looked up. “Which lake would that be?”
“There are five great lakes,” Corbyn said. “I’ve never been able to remember their names though.”
“Are you serious?” Aaden was incredulous. “There’s a mnemonic device…?”
Corbyn didn’t get why his brother was suddenly getting defensive. “What’re you talking about?”
“Homes?” Aaden stared at his brother.
Corbyn stared blankly back.
“Apparently I have to do everything around here,” Aaden said under his breath. He responded slowly and clearly. “H.O.M.E.S. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.”
“Makes sense,” Maddy said. “Which one of those is the greatest though?”
Aaden rolled his eyes. “Isn’t it obvious?”
Corbyn wasn’t a fan of Aaden’s sudden attitude. “Apparently not. Enlighten us.”
“It’s obviously the lake that’s superior to the others, right? Ever heard of a synonym before?” Aaden spun the desk chair around and faced Maddy’s computer.
Corbyn nodded. Whispering to Maddy, he asked what was up with his brother.
Maddy silently shrugged her shoulders. “I think he’s right though. We need to go somewhere near Lake Superior. But where?”
“Let’s pull up a map on your computer. We might find something around Lake Superior that fits the rest of the clue. And we can also research William, Arthur, and Chippewa.” Corbyn asked his brother to turn Maddy’s computer on.
Sulking, Aaden pressed the power button and got out of the chair.
“You all right?” Maddy asked.
“Yes,” Aaden replied tersely. “Can we just finish this?”
“Fine.” Corbyn still didn’t understand what Aaden’s problem was all of a sudden, but he ignored it. He sat in front of the computer and got online. He searched for Lake Superior.
Maddy stood behind Corbyn and casually rested her hand on his right shoulder. She scanned the results. “There’s a map of Lake Superior there. There’re a bunch of towns surrounding it.”
Corbyn enlarged the image. “I don’t see anything having to do with William, Arthur, or Chippewa though. What else should we search for?”
“Try William and Arthur and see what comes up.”
Corbyn typed in the new search. “See anything?”
“Me either. What if I search for William and Arthur and Lake Superior?”
Corbyn and Maddy scanned the results. They saw something interesting.
“Nearly every result says something about Fort William and Port Arthur.” Corbyn clicked on the top result. It said that, in 1970, the town of Thunder Bay, Ontario was formed by the merger of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario.
“This has to be it,” Corbyn concluded. “Thunder Bay, Ontario…twin cities merged…Fort William…Port Arthur. What do you guys think?”
Aaden remained silent.
“Looks right to me,” Maddy replied. “Pull the map of Lake Superior up again. Let’s see where Thunder Bay is.”
Corbyn and Maddy looked at the map and noticed that the town was right on the northwest coast of Lake Superior.
Maddy smiled at Corbyn. “Nice job.”
Aaden frowned to himself.
“But what does Chippewa have to do with it?” Corbyn asked.
“The clue says something about Chippewa’s potential-kinetic track,” Maddy said. “Good thing I paid attention during physics.”
Corbyn looked at Maddy for her to continue.
“Potential-kinetic means that energy is being converted from stored energy to movement. And this must be happening on a track of some sort.”
Corbyn wasn’t following.
“If something has potential energy,” Maddy continued, “it has energy stored in it. This is usually because it’s either being stretched or elevated above the ground. Eventually that stored energy can be released.”
“Released how? You know physics isn’t my strength.”
Maddy grabbed a pencil and held it up. “As long as I’m holding this up in the air, energy is stored in it because it has the potential to fall when I let it go.”
“Stored potential energy changes into moving kinetic energy when you drop it,” Corbyn concluded. “What does that have to do with the clue?”
“I might have an idea. Move over so I can do a quick search of my own.” Maddy pointed to a result on the screen. “There it is.”
“What?” Corbyn asked.
Maddy knew she had found the final answer to the first clue. “I searched for Chippewa rollercoaster. Rollercoasters work because they elevate cars above the ground so they can fall back down the hills. And this is what I found.”
“Chippewa Park. Thunder Bay, Ontario,” Corbyn read. “We’re going to an amusement park in Canada?”
“Looks like it. Once we get there, I bet we’ll find the next clue under the first hill of the rollercoaster track.” Maddy smiled. She was excited about the quest for the first time that evening.
Aaden looked up just in time to see Corbyn and Maddy hug again.