Alex turned to watch Stan lead the new security men back to the COSAM transport helicopter. He couldn't help but admire how easily Stan managed to power the bird up and lift off. As he watched, he mimicked the hand and feet movements needed to take the aircraft airborne. He frowned as it floated off the landing pad and turned toward London proper.
Ryan watched his friend, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Alex smirked, "except I couldn't take off like Uncle Stan does if my life depended on it. I always bounce a couple of times, or start moving it forward before I clear the ground. Just once, I would love to angle upward and move forward at the same time."
"Will I get to learn how to fly too?"
"Sure, as long as you are willing to go through the ground school and keep up your homework. And believe me, the way Uncle Stan teaches, it will be a real school class. I had more homework from him than all my other teachers combined for about six weeks.
"Ryan frowned, "That sucks!"
Alex nodded while managing a grin, "But then you get to start working in the simulators. They are so awesome. Uncle Stan put me through all sorts of tests in them, but even before I got good inside the sims, he would take me up and let me take over after he had the bird over the water. You can't believe the freedom you feel when you take control for the first time and are flying, not even driving MORSAV compares!"
Ryan's eyes lit up, "Oh, man, going down in a MORSAV was the greatest. I can still remember what the great reef looked like as you brought us in close!"
"Just wait until we get back to Cynthia, You can help me explore some sort of ancient wreck I accidentally found."
"Wow!" Ryan nearly started jumping up and down in excitement. "I've never seen a ship wreck before."
Bryan looked back from the vehicle rental desk and smiled as he heard the two boys talk. "Well, Ryan, the wreck Alex found is too old to see anything, as a matter of fact we were just in the process of bringing up a few items before we came up to get you. But I'm sure Alex will be happy to take you around to a few others you can see the superstructures of. Cynthia's computers have a complete listing of locations of all shipwrecks ever logged and there are several off the coast.
"Ryan's eyes gleamed with excitement; "Can I learn to pilot MORSAV too?"
"Absolutely." Bryan laughed, "As a matter of fact Alex is qualified as a Junior Instructor so he will be able to get you though the book learning part of it quickly. Besides, as often as he goes out, the crew basically doesn't touch number Five except to do mechanical work on it, so there will almost always be one there he can take you out and practice in. Just don't blame me if he shows off and scares you half to death!
"Ryan rolled his eyes; "He already did down by the barrier reef when he started playing with a huge Great White!
"Alex blushed as he saw his dad look at him with a questioning stare; "I made it mad enough to bite us. Its mouth was so big it actually got its jaws around the pilot bubble.
"Ryan nodded, "I thought it was going to swallow us!"
Bryan's shoulders dropped, "Alex!"
Alex put on a rather impish grin, "Hey, can I help it if I wanted to see what the inside of a live Great White's mouth looked like?"
Both Bryan and Ryan answered at the same time "YES!"
The desk clerk held out a pass card for the vehicle as she smiled, "Mr. Caldwell, if half of what I am hearing is true, you have a very interesting family."
Bryan chuckled, "You are only hearing what the boys are willing to talk about in front of me. What worries me are the things I don't hear about!"
Ryan and Alex exchanged sly grins making both the desk clerk and Bryan laugh. Bryan took the pass card and signed the damage waivers. "Wish me luck."
The woman continued to chuckle, "I have a boy about their age, and luck never seems to be good enough."
"You're preaching to the choir." Bryan assured her as she pointed to the passage to take to get the Hover car. As he got out of earshot of the woman he looked down at the boys, his boys he reminded himself, "You realize she thought you two were twins?"
"We are dad." Alex stated, "Remember we have the same birthday?"
Bryan nodded, "Yes I do. Now do you two want to see something really interesting?"
Ryan nodded as Alex said "Sure."
Bryan stopped at a pay vidphone so he had a counter to rest his briefcase on. "My jaw nearly hit the floor when Uncle Stan pointed this out to me." Opening up the briefcase he pulled out some papers and handed them over to the boys. "Those are your birth certificates. Both were done at hospitals linked to the nuclear clock here in Unified Britain so there is no chance either is a mistake. Take a look at the time of birth and the time of first breath."
Alex and Ryan compared their information. It was exact down to the hundredth of a second. They both fully emerged from the womb at 1659 hours, 27 seconds, 37 hundredths of a second and both computers recorded their first breaths at 1659 hours, 59 seconds, 99 hundredths of a second Zulu time.
"No way!" Ryan blinked twice to make sure the numbers lined up correctly. "We have the exact same birth times?"
Bryan nodded as he took the papers back. You two are as close as the best medical computers in the world at the time could get to being born at the same moment. The newer models do it down to the thousandth of a second, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think it really matters."
"That is so awesome!" Alex stated with a huge grin, "It's better than being twins!"
Bryan rolled his eyes, "OK guys, let's get to the vehicle and get settled so you two can get reacquainted. Do you to want to be in my room or would you prefer a separate ones?"
Alex looked over to Ryan with a grin.
Seeing Ryan grin back Bryan snickered, "Separate rooms it is!"
Alex and Ryan suddenly stopped in front of a shop on the way out of the airport and started looking at models. It was something both boys shared a real love for; Ryan preferred ships while Alex liked aircraft. Both boys were fixated on something different this time, however. It was medieval castle with knights in a courtyard. The box said it was an accurate depiction of how one of the ruined castles in Scotland once looked. The massive box stated it was for ages 13 and up and would take an average of 80 hours of work.
Alex looked over the store display model with a frown. He had no idea why he knew, but he was sure he was right nonetheless "The courtyard is wrong.
"A cold shiver went down Ryan's spine. "And the big towers need catapults."
The two boys exchanged looks of complete surprise and shock. Neither could explain their sudden knowledge of something that had been in ruins for many hundreds of years. But both were certain the other one's comments were correct.
Bryan looked back, "Hey guys, if your going to stop you mind letting me know first?"
Alex turned around, "Sorry Dad, but look at this model!"
Bryan looked it over, "Wow, what a monster." Seeing the look in both boys' eyes he tossed up his hands. "OK, OK, the question is do I buy one and let you both build it, or do each of you want your own?"
Alex and Ryan spoke in unison, "I want to go see the real thing!"
The shopkeeper came over smiling, "Twins with twin thoughts, huh. What can I do for you today?"
Bryan hefted one of the huge boxes and looked it over. Finding a map showing the location of the ruins on the box he looked back at the boys. "Alright, now we know one place we are going, how many of these am I going to buy?"
Alex glanced at Ryan then grinned, "Two please Dad."
The shopkeeper looked skeptical, "Kids these are very expensive and extremely difficult. You guys look a bit young for them."
Bryan waved the man off, "I think they can handle them, but I do appreciate your words of warning. It isn't often someone tries to talk me out of spending money at their shop." He glanced over at the boys. "Alex it has been awhile since you have bought anything to build and Ryan, I wouldn't know where to begin with what you like. In other words, I want you both to have a field day in here and pick out things you want. Just remember, what you have me buy, you have to carry. I'll deal with these two monstrous boxes; the rest is up to you two."
Ryan and Alex quickly forgot about the weird knowledge about the castle as they explored the model shop. The store specialized in UB history and legends; thus it had famous sites, and many mythical monsters along with other keeps and castles.
After a few minutes Alex moved over to Ryan, "How many of these places look familiar?"
Ryan chewed on his lip, "About a dozen, yet I know I have never seen pictures of any of them."
"Same with me. I keep noticing things that are wrong with them."
"Me too Alex. But I want them so I can build them right!
"Alex's eyes glinted, "Yea! That would be so cool! Let's see how many we know and get them all. We will split them up so we each have the same amount. I also want us each to get one of the griffins separately."
"As soon as we are out in the hover car, I will show you. Trust me on this."
Bryan interrupted the conversation, "What are you two devils up to back there."
Alex pointed to the model of the griffin. "I was just telling Ryan to make sure he got one of those Dad. I think you know why!"
Bryan looked at the model and felt goose bumps travel down his arms. The model looked very much like the griffins on the box, which had held the strange stones it, gave him the creeps. "Ryan, Alex has his reasons. You very well might want to take his advice. But let's get a move on kids. We need to get to a hotel and then go shopping. We don't have much to wear, after all."
Alex and Ryan quickly split up and rounded up everything they wanted. When they got back to the counter they both realized they had grabbed the exact same things. The sheer weirdness of this fact made both of them giggle nervously. They quickly decided that each of them should get everything, so they could compare their models as they built them.
The shopkeeper looked at the assortments and the boys skeptically. "Now I watched you guys go separate directions and cross each other's paths a few times when you were gathering all this up. How did you both manage to grab the exact same things?"
"Luck?" Alex asked innocently.
Bryan looked at the pile of models, "Luck huh? Whatever guys. It looks more like you two are coming up with our itinerary once we see the sights here in London to me."
Ryan's eyes lit up, "Could we go see all of these places?"
Bryan's heart melted under the boy's eager and excited look. He knew he had lost any chance he had of saying no, even if he had wanted to, which he kind of did after seeing the next couple weeks of his life would be spent in ruined castles and keeps from one end of UB to the other. After all, his area of interest was more undersea archeology, not medieval history. But he knew this would be a great way to let Ryan settle in as one of the family and let himself get used to the idea of having two boys instead of one. Finally he agreed, "I don't see why not. But if we are going to all these places I will need to hire a private teacher for you two so you don't fall behind in your school work and I will also require a written report on what you have learned after this trip is over."
Alex pumped his fist, "Right on Dad!"
"No problem Mr. Caldwell. I'll write all sorts of reports to see all these places."
Bryan grinned as he paid for the big pile of goods with his debit card. "Don't go offering things like that. I am sure Alex will warn you, I am very prone on taking you up on such offers."
Alex shook his head as he picked up his bags; "He also won't warn you again. Next time he will just say 'great idea Ryan' and make us both write them."
Ryan grinned, "I'll make sure to keep my mouth shut from now on."
Bryan looked over at the shopkeeper; "You want a couple of boys?"
The older man shook his head fiercely, "Nope, had three of my own and am quite content to have a peaceful house most of the time. The occasional distraction of the grandkids are great, but I sure don't want kids permanently any more!"
Walking toward the exit, Alex punched Bryan lightly, "Thanks Dad, Ryan just gets here and you are already trying to give us both away!"
Ryan giggled, "It could be worse Alex. He could have offered the man money to take us like my dad used to do when we started acting up."
Bryan laughed hard as he walked out to the large rental lot. "I never thought of that before!"
Alex's grin faded as he looked to the east and saw one of the darkest and ugliest lines of clouds he had ever seen. Considering he had been through the edge of a couple of category 5 hurricanes aboard Cynthia, those clouds really worried the boy. He pointed. "Wow, our weather room couldn't have been more wrong Dad!"
Bryan looked at where Alex was pointing, "Looks like we are in for a nasty storm. What did Cynthia's meteorological department say for weather this morning when you checked it during preflight?"
"High pressure for the next two days, with some minor clear air turbulence expected over the English Channel. There was no chance of rain at all. I even saw the weather maps."
Bryan cringed as he watched the clouds continue to build. He could see the air currents within the approaching storm was actually causing the clouds to take on a bubbling and boiling appearance. "When we get to the hotel we'll give Uncle Stan a ring and find out what the foul up is, because we should never be this far off. Right now I think we better get into our vehicle and get into a nice and dry hotel somewhere."
Alex and Ryan both agreed. They headed out to the hover van and climbed in quickly after putting their model collection in the back along with Bryan's bag. Alex took his bag with him into the back seat.
Ryan took a seat next to Alex, while Bryan did a walk around inspection with the car lot attendant. He glanced up to make sure Bryan was not listening. He then looked down at the gym bag. His eyes and tone hardened slightly "So what is so important in there that you did something to make sure it wouldn't be seen?"
"I really did something back there at customs?"
Ryan tossed up his hands in frustration, "Yea! I don't know what's going on, but I have had some awfully strange things happen to me lately. So what is in the bag?"
"I found these in the shipwreck area Dad was talking about. This may sound crazy, but I think whatever is going on revolves around these." Alex unzipped the side compartment and reached in. He pulled them out and showed them to Ryan.
Ryan felt the ring calling to him. It was so strong, so irresistible, he couldn't help himself. He reached out with a trembling hand and touched it. Both stones flared with an inner power. But the brief flash was echoed ten thousand fold outside the vehicle.
Both boys jumped as lightning rippled across the sky in waves. At least fifty forked bolts lanced out from the angry clouds followed seconds later by a blast of thunder so powerful it shook the hover van. Inside the vehicle the stones in the ring and the necklace glowed so brightly their green light literally lit up the inside of the van. Outside the bank of storm clouds was no longer a distant churning line of blackness. Instead the storm had moved with incredible speed and had spilled into London and had taken over what had only an hour before been a beautiful cloudless day.
Bryan jumped in and slammed the door while the lot attendant ran for shelter. "Did you guys see the sky light up!?"
Alex's eyes were wide as he looked out the window and noticed it had gotten so dark the lights in the parking lot were on. "We both did Dad!"
Bryan's eyes noticed the glow from the back, "Is the glow coming from those stones in the jewelry you found?"
Alex nodded as he held out the two pieces of jewelry for his father to see. Then internal light within the stones glimmered and danced in almost a hypnotic way. "I showed Ryan and the second he touched them the sky went all crazy!"
Bryan took a deep breath as he calmed his own nerves, "Just coincidence buddy, but with such a display from mother nature, I can see why you might want to think the two are related. I have never witnessed a storm this intense!"
"Come on son, just think about what you are saying and compare it to what you have learned in science classes."
"I don't know Mr. Caldwell. Alex is right about the timing."
Bryan shook his head, "I think you guys need to stop thinking about castles and wizards for a minute and see things for what they really are."
Both boys calmed slightly under Bryan light chiding; still they both felt the power within the items, even if Bryan couldn't. Alex looked at the strange stones clutched by the griffin heads and noticed the light had faded slightly but was still much brighter than they had been aboard Cynthia. He held them out again for Ryan to take a closer look.
Bryan glanced back from the front seat, "So what do you think of them Ryan?"
"They are awesome. Especially the ring! What makes them glow?"
"We don't now." Bryan answered honestly, "We had all sorts of tests run on them and there is nothing dangerous otherwise you wouldn't be in the same area with them, of that I can assure you. However seeing the way they seem to react to the lightning, maybe it has something to do with electrical energies. Alex are you going to stick with your plan?"
Alex nodded. "Ryan, I want you to have one of these."
Ryan felt stunned, "But Alex, they must be worth a fortune!""
Probably priceless Ryan." Bryan confirmed. "Nothing like them has ever been seen before. However, Alex thought of you as soon as he saw them.
"Ryan licked his lips for a moment, "Both are totally incredible, but I really love the ring."
"Good," Alex replied honestly, "because I want the necklace." He handed the ring over to Ryan. Let's put them on at the same time to cement our being bothers!"
Ryan's hand shook lightly as he gripped the ring. Then, as Alex counted down from three and put the necklace around his neck, he slipped it on.
Instantly the dark stormy looking sky lit up with a new round of lightning. Only this time the bolts didn't arch across the sky. Instead multiple bolts slammed into the ground including one which found the hover van the three were sitting in. Three of the windows spider-webbed with multiple cracks and electricity danced around the frame.
Outside, sheets of rain suddenly rolled over the area mixed with hail and high winds. Off in the distance, landing lights of a large aircraft, along with its engines were the only things anyone could see. But they were enough to tell the tale of a struggle for life and death. The massive craft's lights wobbled as it approached the ground, then flames could be seen coming out of the engines. This told of the pilot's desperate attempt to get back into the relative safety of the sky. The attempt was barely successful. It slowly won its battle against the elements of Mother Nature. However, a much smaller craft on a parallel approach, didn't have the extra energy needed to return to the relative safety of the sky, it smashed into the runway sending a small fireball into the a storm darkened sky. So intense was the rain, the flames flickered and died in mere seconds.
Bryan found himself awash in an overload of terrifying situations. His rental vehicle was smoking lightly from the lightning strike, while emergency equipment was scrambled to assist with any survivors of the downed aircraft. Looking glancing in the rear view mirror he saw the boys surrounded by a strange green glow, while the jewelry they were wearing glowed so brightly, it looked like green flames were shooting out of the gemstones.
It took a few moments for Bryan to realize he had stopped breathing. Finally he turned around, "Alex! Ryan! Are you boys OK?"
Alex answered first, "I'm fine Dad, but that was not a weird coincidence!"
Ryan quickly agreed "I'm OK too Mr. Caldwell. But look!" He held up his hands to emphasize the point. A green light surrounded them, then as Alex held up his own hands showing they too were glowing; the eerie green glow seemed to seep into their bodies and finally faded altogether. The stones, however, continued to pulse with a bright green glow.
Lighting waves again ripped across the sky as an emergency vehicle pulled up next to the crippled hover van. One of the paramedics pulled open the side door. "Is anyone hurt?"
Bryan shook his head still trying to figure out what he had seen. He managed to gulp in some more air; "It looks like we are all OK!"
The woman got nods from Alex and Ryan before she relaxed. "OK. Stay here. You should be safe in here and will certainly stay drier. I'll radio the company. I am sure they will send out a vehicle to get you and transfer you to another van. In a few minutes."
Bryan calmed some, "Sounds like a plan. Thanks for your quick response."
The woman nodded and jumped back into the ambulance.
Bryan watched the emergency vehicle maneuver around the lot checking for anyone who might have been caught outside. Finally he turned back to the boys. "That was a good jolt kids. Are you sure you are both feeling well?"
Ryan nodded. "Yes sir. If anything I feel stronger!"
"Me too dad!" Alex giggled nervously. "But you can't tell us these things didn't do that!"
Bryan relaxed a great deal more as his scientific side took control of the situation. "I must admit the timing was astonishing, however, there is a perfectly good explanation to everything that has happened. First off, I am now sure those stones react to electrical energies. We will have to get the Cynthia's science departments working on this phenomenon. Second, the lightning strike elevated your adrenaline levels so you probably do feel more powerful. Thirdly, the green luminescence we all saw was nothing more than our eyes adjusting to all the sparks that went off in here as the electrical systems blew out in the van and the fact the stones in your jewelry react somehow to it.
"I think it would be a good idea to take them off for now until Cynthia gets back to us with a report, but I seriously doubt there will be any side effects."
Alex and Ryan took off the necklace and ring, only to stare at the palms of their hands. Both saw an outline of a griffin in flight.
Ryan held up his hand, "OK, Mr. Caldwell, how do you explain this?"
Bryan felt a new lump in his throat as he saw both boys hold up their hands. It only lasted for a second before he smiled, "Did you both touch the necklace?"
Alex and Ryan exchanged shrugs then looked down at the necklace now lying on Alex's bag. It was an exact duplicate. Ryan was the first to speak; "You think it branded us?"
Bryan held up his own hand, showing a few small burns from where his hand had been on the steering column. "There was a lot of energy flying around in here boys and you only have to think back to the most basics of science to know electricity moves best though the precious metals. It conducted enough to heat up the necklace and give you light burns."
Both boys calmed considerably at the rational explanations of Mr. Caldwell, coupled with the fact an attendant pulled up with a new van for them. Yet both kids were secretly certain science alone couldn't clarify all the events of the last few minutes, let alone the events of the prior couple of days. Little did either know, the next few days would confirm these suspicions were not unfounded. Only too soon it would be proven to not only them, but also the entire world, that science was not capable of explaining everything.