Read The Copernicus Archives #2 Online
Authors: Tony Abbott
Thursday, March 27
y name is Becca Moore, and I'mâ
âa time bomb.
Now, if I were a funny person, just saying I'm a
would be pretty hilarious. Like ha-ha-ha and your head falls off. But I'm not a funny person.
To prove it, I'll tell you what I did today. Straight from the beginning, through the bloody noses, the actual heads coming off, the mysterious black BMW, the blind man with a torch, and all the way to the falling man. Men. Falling men.
Except maybe for the exploding rental car. That was a minor riot. Not for Archie Doyle, of course, but
then, he was trying to kill us at the time, so he probably deserved it. Anyway, you decide what's funny and what's not. It's nighttime now, but I'll start with this morning, a little more than twelve hours ago, and the old boat by the river.
London. End of March. Ten thirty-something a.m. Gray sky. Cool, not cold, with a light, sprinkling rain. But it's England, so what do you expect? Sunshine was promised for later, and it came eventually. But not here, not this morning.
They were all with meâWade Kaplan; his cousin Lily; his stepbrother, Darrell; Darrell's mom, Sara; Wade's father, Roald. Next to my family, these are the people I love most in the world.
Julian Ackroyd was there, too. Julian is the son of the superrich writer Terence Ackroyd, who is helping us search for the relics. Julian was the one who met us at Westminster Abbey this morning and told us about the boat they dug up at the river. And how Galina Krause's personal archaeologist, Markus Wolff, was spotted snooping around it.
I know I'm telling this way too fast. That's because my heart is hammering my ribs, I'm shaking like a leaf, and I have to get the story out before it's too late. Except that by now, after staring down from the top of an old
church tower at night, I know that it's already too late, though it wasn't yet, not this morning.
I know, I know, I get it. This is a mess. I'll try to slow down.
Breathe, Becca. Breathe.
So . . . Julian's limo dropped us off on Lower Thames Street, not too far from the Tower of London. If you look at a map, you'll see where I'm talking about. We were near the Cannon Street Underground station. We hadn't seen the black car yet. We eased down the gentle slope of streets between the financial buildings to a place named Hanseatic Walk. There are lots of “walks” along the river. This one meant nothing to me this morning. It meant everything later on.
By the time we reached the Thames, a big crowd had gathered on the embankment. The river is a wide green snake that slithers through the heart of London, splitting it in two. You can see that on maps, too.
“How did they discover the boat?” Wade asked Julian as we pressed closer.
“A city repair crew testing the drains uncovered the remains yesterday,” Julian told us. “They called archaeologists right away, who have already found traces of amber. First report is that the cargo might have been amber from the Baltic. Maybe early sixteenth century.”
Julian is a few years older than us, seventeen, has
long blond hair, is handsome, and is very techy, like Lily. As if to prove it, they each took out their phones and tablets and snapped pictures while the rest of us just gawked.
The narrow stretch of sand below the embankment wall had already been transformed into a makeshift archaeological site. A waist-high wall of sandbags was set around the site to keep the water back, while inside the perimeter a grid of wooden stakes had been pounded into the ground, with strings woven among the stakes to form a section of perfect squares. The tidiness of the past.
Maybe I am funny. Ha-ha.
“Slews of city officials, government types, and sightseers have all swarmed down here to see what's been found,” Julian said, jostling for a better view.
“It might have been a flat-bottomed boat discovered here,” Roald said, trying to see over the heads. Between us and the dig site there could have been two hundred people or more. “Barges are a big part of Thames traffic, aren't they?”
“Absolutely,” said Julian. He knew because he'd lived in London. “Larger ships dock downriver. Barges have always brought cargo to and from the city.”
Darrell nodded slowly. “Copernicus lived on the Baltic Sea. If Markus Wolff is interested in this barge,
then Galina Krause and the Order are interested. And if
involved, it's got to be part of the relic hunt.”
Relic hunt? Markus Wolff? Galina Krause? Copernicus? The Order?
Sorry. Time for some background. The basic facts are simple enough.
Five hundred years ago, the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus discovered, rebuilt, rode around in, and then took apart an amazing machine, a kind of large astrolabe with seats. Why? Because the astrolabe had the power to travel through time. If you don't believe that yet, you will.
When Albrecht von Hohenzollern, the Grand Master of the murderous Knights of the Teutonic Orderâyou'll hear that name a lotâgot wind of his time travels, Copernicus set out to hide the twelve most important parts of the astrolabeâhe called them
The main reason we know all of this is because a couple of long weeks ago we discovered Copernicus's secret diary in a private fencing school in Italy. The diary is written in several languages as well as a ton of codes and riddles. Thanks to my grandparents, I know a few languages, and I've been able to translate some of the words. The codes are more Wade's territory.
Anyway, for five long centuries, Copernicus's friends
the Guardians (and
friends and descendants) kept the twelve astrolabe relics pretty well hidden.
Unfortunately, a crazy woman named Galina Krauseâthe nineteen-year-old current leader of the Teutonic Orderâmurdered a major Guardian, who turned out to be Wade's old uncle Henry. Now we're Guardians, too.
“Becca, you're rocking again.” Lily held my arm to steady me.
Right. I'd found myself rocking on my heels a lot lately. It calmed me. Lily calmed me. Wade is an intense math guy and star lover like his father, and Darrell has flashes of brilliance in the middle of certifiable looniness, but Lily is, of all of them, closest to me. Not only is she an amazing tech brain, with a superquick mind, but she cares about me and from the start has always been there for me.
“Sorry,” I told her. “I'm still recovering from Greywolf.”
Now we're getting to the time-bomb thing.
Twelve days ago, Galina Krause kidnapped Darrell's mom, Sara Kaplan. Galina smuggled her into Russia and caged her inside the Order's own experimental time-travel device, Kronos, a scary machine based on Galina's design. I know, a nineteen-year-old building a time machine? But Galina is brilliant and she did.
I found out the hard way that Kronos sort of actually worked.
“You're going to have to tell me
what happened at Greywolf,” Lily said with a noticeable shiver. “Every detail. Because you changed. I know you don't want to think you changed, but you did. I mean, you're still great and all, but you're different. Quieter, if that's possible. Farther away. Since Greywolf.”
“But you don't have to worry about itâ”
“I get to worry if I want to,” she snapped, her eyes locked on mine like a pair of laser beams. That's the other thing. I really can't lie to her. She can always tell.
“You're right. Sorry.”
“And stop apologizing!” she growled. “It's me, remember?”
“Okay, okay. I didn't mean that. I'm sor . . .
“That's right you're not. Now, help me get closer.” She nudged forward.
At Greywolf Galina tried to use Kronos to zap Sara back to the sixteenth century to check on Copernicus and find out where the original Guardians hid the twelve relics. Insane, sure. But Galina's plan nearly worked.
Luckily, we rescued Sara at the very instant Kronos went off.
Unluckily, the machine blasted Helmut Bern full
in the face. He's one of the Order's scientists. Instantly, both Bern and the machine vanished.
Unluckiest of allâfor me, at leastâwas that I was zapped by Kronos, too.
Now I'm able to
Helmut Bern five hundred years in the past. Bizarre, I know. I mean, I'm not going
into the past with him.
I'm only going back in time
in my mind
And only in
Since Kronos blasted me, I'd clocked out a few times. I hadn't told anybody, because I kept hoping the blackouts would just go away.
But they weren't going away. After the last time in Westminster Abbey this morning, it was clear that they were getting worse. And I couldn't seem to tellâ
âwhen they'd happen again and blast me into the past.
So you see . . . I'm a time bomb.
“It would be great to spy on Markus Wolff for a change,” Wade whispered. As he scanned the crowd, he ran his fingers through his rain-sprinkled hair, then dried his hand on his jeans. “But we can't see anything from here.”
“Mom, Dad,” said Darrell, “can we sneak in for a better look at the dig?”
“I think we need to, Uncle Roald,” said Lily. “If
you-know-who is involved.”
Roald and Sara were a few feet behind us, talking quietly to each other. He stood on his tiptoes and searched the crowd for suspicious faces.
“Don't go far,” he said. “Julian, please go with them. We'll be right here.”
The crowd was too thick to let Sara through, so Roald stayed, holding tightly to her wheelchair handles. She'd been in the chair since the hospital yesterday. Her kidnapping had exhausted her. But she was getting her strength back.
“Kids, be careful,” Sara said. “Use your alarms and we'll come running. And rolling.” Sara had bought us each a souvenir at the abbey gift shop, a key chain of a stained-glass window that we could beep if we felt threatened. Of course, after the boys had hooked the alarms on their belt loops, they'd kept pressing them until Sara snapped, “They're not toys!”
“Okay, Mom,” Darrell said now. “We'll be smart, even Beep. I mean Wade.”
Darrell and Julian pushed carefully ahead through the bunched-up spectators. Wade tagged along with Lily and me. He wasn't smiling.
Does he already know that something's going on with me? He's always
at me. I'll have to tell everyone sooner or later, but later sounds good.
Not until I have to.
“The Romans settled London,” Julian said over his shoulder. “They called it Londinium. This neighborhood here is now the financial heart of the city.”
Which was useful to know, but as we wormed away from the Hanseatic Walk, I couldn't keep my eyes off the faces. Everyone we passed seemed suspicious. I checked each face against my memory of a killer we called Umbrella Man. He was a doughy guy who wore disguises and used a poison-tipped umbrella to murder Guardians. I scanned the throng for a toupee or fake mustache.
“I can see the boat!” Lily pointed over the embankment to a framework of black planks in the sand. “Uncle Roald was right. It does look like aâ”
I didn't hear the rest. The moment I actually set my eyes on the remains of the barge, a bolt of rainy light flashed off the water, and I felt a chill run up my back.
No, please no.
I'd felt the same chill before each blackout. My breath left me, and my vision darkened and narrowed, as if I were going to faint. My head began to pound. I pressed the balls of my feet hard against the ground and clutched at Lily's arm to keep hold of myself, but it was too late.
The silver light rippled across the river again, then winked out entirely. I was plunged into darkness as if
somebody flipped a switch. The buzz of the crowd vanished. The traffic's roar shut off. I heard hoovesâhorse hooves!âclomping up the streets behind me. Men called out in English and German.
I spun around, gasping. “Lily, Wade, IâIâ”
But it was too late.
They couldn't hear me.
I wasn't there anymore.