Island of the Children - Opening pages



The Island of the Children

Morgan’s Knot – A Serial Fantasy

Episode II


A blazing smudge of liquid orange splattered firelight across the indigo water as the sun melted into the Pacific. Roger Johnson sat on the aft deck of his new yacht, the Tigger Too, watching his children, Todd and Sandy, fishing off the stern. They were anchored in a small isolated cove near the Bahia de San Quintin for the night, on their first run down the Mexican coast. His latest screenplay earned him a small fortune and the new boat was a reward to himself. It was one of the fastest racers on the water and comfortably accommodated six in the luxurious cabin below decks.

His wife, Peggy, was cleaning up the dishes in the galley and popped out of the hatch, “Like a beer?”

“Sure,” replied Roger with a broad smile. He felt like the Cheshire Cat and thought to himself, “Life is good.”

Peggy brought an icy bottle of Olympia to her husband, gave him a hug, and disappeared into the galley.

“Any bites?” He called to his children.

Todd turned and smiled, “Nothing yet, but I know they’re down there!”

“You’ll get one.”

His daughter, Sandy, turned to her father, “Hey Dad, do you see that boat out there? It sure is coming fast!”

Roger gazed out through the mouth of the little cove. She was right, a boat was running wide open into the bay straight out of the last blazing wash of the sun. There were no running lights on the approaching craft and, as he watched, the hairs on the back of his neck began to prickle and a bead of cold sweat trickled down his cheek.

The boat turned hard at the last moment and settled next to the Tigger2. The driver, wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses over a three-day growth of stubble, called out in a heavy Spanish accent, “Hey, mind if we anchor on the other side of the cove?”

Roger stood up, waved at the man standing at the wheel of the mystery boat, and called, “No, we don’t mind.”

The pilot of the other boat gunned the engines and smiled, “Great! Hope we’re not disturbing you.”

“Not at all.”

“Have you seen any other boats this evening?”

“No, we’re here alone,” yelled Roger.

The boat drifted closer to the Tigger2 and several other men appeared on the deck brandishing small machine guns.

The children dropped their fishing rods and ran to their father.

The pilot of the other boat called out, “We’ll be boarding you. Do not resist or we’ll shoot los ninos!”

Three men from the second boat jumped aboard and hustled Roger and his children below decks.

“We‘ll be taking your kids with us and you’ll take my comrades where they ask to go or you’ll never see them again!”

Roger had no weapons on board and knew that he was no match for these muscular young men. There was no defense. A voice called down through the hatch, “His tanks are full.”

One of the men held a gun on Roger and Peggy, while the other two carried the screaming children up the ladder, tossed them on the other boat and down to the cabin below, where they were bound and gagged. The captain chuckled to one of the other men, “We can’t harm the children. It’s the pirate’s code. We’ll leave them on the island and meet you at the rendezvous.”

One of the pirates returned to the Tigger2 and said, “Let’s get moving.”

The second boat headed west as the Tigger2 turned north.


Chapter Two

Morgan’s Knot buzzed with activity since the battle on the snowy peaks, Ester’s rescue, and the introduction of Alius’ father, who vanished with his daughter into the caverns inside the mountain for more than a week before reappearing at the observatory with four very large men, dressed in leather uniforms, to propose a conference of the elders from both sides of the island.

The councils from North and South met for days and there were rumors that the negotiations had been contentious at best, but representatives from each side were determined to mend the cleavage that separated their families for centuries.

The tunnel through the south side of the mountain was enlarged to accommodate vehicles and workers from both groups joined to construct a narrow road up a series of switchbacks from the base to the entrance.

Mandor and his men brought supplies to help rebuild the village and mechanics to get the two damaged trawlers running. Families, estranged for generations, began to discover each other and Elsie and Alius’ great aunt, Shannon, were tracing family histories through hundreds of years. One of their first discoveries was that they were distant cousins, which explained Adrian and Alius’ abilities as seers.

Nanchez and Ponte spent every day working together on the Crystals and the vectors. As Keepers of the Powers, they discovered that each had approached their science with unique needs and expectations and, consequently, different results. One was learning from the other and, as they merged their knowledge, they realized that both found secrets the other had missed.

Adrian thought they made quite a contrasting pair, Nanchez, a pale gruff giant with a mop of white hair, looming over Ponte, who was very short, extremely rotund, and shiny bald on top with thick tuffs of hair clinging around his ears and the collar of his bright green coat. The intensity of their interaction conjured the notion that they were two little kids who discovered their mutual love of the same intellectual game.

Jofre and the other Masters joined George, Dr. Stevens, Travis, and several elders almost every day to tour each side of the island and to work on merging their assets and efforts. Tall blond people joined in working the fields and tanned southerners toured the catacombs to begin learning about the technologies that allowed the Northerners to prosper through these many years.

Adrian and Alius were becoming fast friends, as they worked together on the Book of Wisdoms almost every day. Nanchez and Ponte, constantly seeking information or clarification of their theories, peppered them with questions for hours on end.

After a session at Ponte’s table, George arrived to retrieve Adrian for dinner. As the trolley bumped through the gate and turned south on the path, the young seer searched to find a tactful way to ask his uncle about the search for his missing parents. He tried not to pester George and realized that things were changing for both sides at an incredible rate. Still, he felt certain they were alive but their survival might depend on beginning the journey as soon as possible.

“Have you given any thought to beginning our search?” Adrian asked with quiet hesitation.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” replied George. His brow furrowed pensively. “The problem is that everyone is so busy trying to learn about our new friends and how to use the best of both worlds to merge our societies back together again. All of the adults are working day and night, so it might be hard to pull anyone away to crew the trawler for our journey.”

Adrian pondered the dilemma with quiet resignation until he had an inspiration, “Why couldn’t we use the children who rescued Ester? We proved that we’re all capable of handling responsibilities beyond any adult’s expectations and I’d be willing to bet every one of them would volunteer for this expedition.”

George turned with a broad smile, “You might be on to something there. My only hesitation is that it might be a dangerous journey and their parents might not approve.”

“We’ll never know unless we ask.”

“Okay. You get your friends together and propose your plan. If their parents will allow them to go, I think we can begin preparing.”

Adrian was overwhelmed with a rush of excitement, knowing that he could convince the other children and they, in turn, could persuade their parents, “Well then, I guess I should ask the first parent. Would you allow Molly and Megan to go?”

George grimaced, “I don’t think that decision is up to me. We’ll have to persuade Elsie.”

“Do I have your permission to ask the girls?”

“Yes…but you know your Aunt Elsie’s not going to like this idea. No, she’s not going to like this at all.”

“I’m sure Molly and Megan will convince her.”

Q

Adrian found it hard to contain his excitement during dinner and Elsie commented on the steadfast smile plastered across his face. “You seem unusually chipper this evening.”

The boy blushed and ducked his head, “Oh, it’s just seeing everything changing so fast.”

“It is amazing,” said George, deflecting the inquiry. “I was totally astonished at the sophistication of their engineering. Every system in that entire complex rivals the very latest cutting edge work being done in the real world, the fit and finish is astonishing.”

Elsie interrupted, “Would anyone like some desert?”

After dinner, Elsie and George went to the barn to feed the animals and the children were left to wash the dishes. Adrian was scrubbing, Molly drying, and Megan was putting everything away. Adrian walked to the back door, dripping soapsuds across the floor, to make sure that his aunt and uncle were in the barn and then turned back to the girls, “I’ve convinced your father to begin the search for my parents but there’s a problem. The adults are all busy with the work that’s being done around the island, so I proposed that we use our friends to crew the trawler. Your Dad thought it was a good idea, so I asked him if you two could go and he said that you’d have to win your Mother’s approval. Do you want to go?”

Both girls broke into giggles. Molly couldn’t contain the squeals erupting from somewhere behind her nose, so Adrian clamped his hand over her mouth. “Sshhhh! Your mom will hear you!”

“I’m sorry, I’m just excited.”

“Do you think you can talk her into going along with our plan?”

“I know we can!” said Megan. “Just let us work on her for a couple of days.”

“Great! We can talk with Morgan, Josh, Ian, and Kelly tomorrow.”

Q

John and Sara awoke to the snarl of a boat’s engines humming in the distance and moving closer.

It had been weeks since their sloop, The Sparrow, was pulverized in the hurricane and they could only hope that a ship or yacht might happen by the island. Wood for a bonfire was stacked and kindling ready for the match…or spark in this case.

From the tree house, constructed in a huge sprawling banyan tree behind the dunes above the beach, they could see a sleek speedboat approaching. It slowed and idled to within a few yards of the beach.

The engines rumbled quietly while two men waded through the surf, carrying wrapped bundles over their shoulders. They set the two packages on the beach and snatched off the coverings to reveal two children. Sara grabbed John and gasped, “They’re kids…”

The men turned and waded back out to their boat, throttled the engines, and headed back out to sea. The children jumped around the beach screaming and waving desperately.

Before they could drop the rope ladder, a cluster of small nearly naked people with ashen gray skin rushed from the bush. They swarmed down the beach, gathered the two children, and vanished into the jungle.

Adrian’s parents looked at each other bewildered, scrambled down from the tree house, and ran to the place where the children disappeared. A school of small footprints traced away into the jungle past a cross and crescent that Sara constructed on the sand with colored pebbles, in case an airplane happened by, but the trail faded after a few yards in the dense undergrowth.

“Well, now we know who’s been leaving our gourmet meals!” said Sara. Each morning, they found woven plates of fish or meat, a wonderful mash of cooked breadfruit, occasionally, something akin to real bread, and an assortment of fruits beneath the tree house. Try as they might, they had never been able to catch whoever was leaving the gifts.

“I think we ought to explore a bit more of this island. We’ve only seen parts of it and, if there are other people living here, there has to be a sign of their activity somewhere. We should be able to find them.”

“Let’s start up on the ridge. At least we’ll have a bird’s eye view,” said John.

“Right you are, let’s go,” replied Sara.

They gathered materials they found in the forest and along the beach to construct the tree house, the jungle provided ample fruits and nuts, and they found crabs and mussels around rocky outcrops pounded by the surf. The gifts of food started to appear in the gnarly roots beneath their temporary home a few days after they arrived. They investigated parts of the island and found animal trails tracing through the jungle but no evidence of other people living on the island, other than a single pair of small footprints that led to and from the brush to the point where the platters rested on the rocks around the fire pit each morning.

When they returned to the tree house, they found two plates of nuts, fruits, and chunks of boiled crab wrapped in a small tortilla. Although they were anxious to start their exploration to find some trace of those two children, they sat down and ate the food that had been offered. Sara stood to gather some supplies and felt faint. She looked down as John fell over on the sand and collapsed beside him.

Q

Josh, Ian, Morgan, and Kelly jumped out of the wagon and ran across the yard. Adrian noticed that Kelly was slow to catch up and hid behind the other children, “Hi! What have you learned?”

“Our parents will let us go, if at least one other adult goes along…well, all of us except Kelly. My parents think she’s too young for this journey but we’re still working on them,” said Ian.

“I’m sorry Kelly,” said Adrian, crouching to share a hug. “We all know that you’re more than capable, you’ve already proved yourself. Maybe we can convince them to let you come along.”

“Maybe,” whispered Kelly. She was staring at the ground and Adrian could feel her disappointment.

“I’ll talk to George when he gets back from the village,” said Adrian. “He’s checking with Travis about the trawler. Elsie has reluctantly agreed to allow Molly and Megan to go along.”

Brandy bounded up the path, “I hear you’re planning another adventure and I want to go too. You’ll need some animal help!”

Adrian bent down to pet the Irish setter. “Have you ever been on a boat?”

“Well, no…but I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t adapt and besides, who knows what you’ll run into when you finally reach dry ground again. I could be useful.”

“If you go, then Tic will want to go too.”

“Great!”

Adrian turned to the other children, who were all smiling, “What do you think?”

Morgan smiled and reached out to pet Brandy, “I think that you couldn’t have replaced the black diamond and we couldn’t have retrieved Ester without Tic and Brandy’s help.”

“You’re right.”

Brandy barked, “Great! I’ll tell Tic!” and ran out the gate, charging up the path to the north.

Q

Travis took off his hat and brushed the perspiration from his brow with his sleeve, “I don’t know about one adult and a crew of kids with no experience on the water. I just don’t feel right letting you take the risk.”

“John and Sara are out there somewhere and I’ve promised Adrian that we’d go look for them at the first opportunity. After all that he’s done for us, I can’t let him down. Besides, these children have already proven themselves under battle conditions, I think that they can do this.”

“I’ll tell you what…I’ve been getting to know Demetre, the other’s port master, and I’m beginning to have great respect for his mechanical skills and his knowledge of the water. What would you think if I went with you? I’m sure he can handle things here while we’re gone and his guys know their stuff.”

“I’d love to have you along. You know far more about these boats and the ocean than I ever will but I’d hate to pull you away.”

“It’s been a long time since I took a voyage, I’m rather looking forward to it,” said Travis with a broad smile.

“Right then. It’s settled. I’ll get back to you tonight after I find out what the other parents have decided about our crew. I’m off to Ponte’s. Anything that you need from him?”

“No, we’re in good shape here. All of the trawlers are running again and the village is almost completely repaired. Call me on the messenger later.”

They shook hands and George hopped into the trolley and drove out of the village to the path that turned north to the observatory.

Q

Nanchez was just leaving and greeted George with a pat of his giant hand that forced the old farmer to take a step to maintain his balance. “Hello! How are ya’?” He was not a small man but he felt like a midget next to the enormous Keeper.

Ponte laughed as he led George into the parlor, “He’s different!”

“That he is. How’s the work coming with The Crystals?”

“He knows as much as I do about how they work but we know different things. It’s rather fascinating really. I’ve studied these powers and vectors for decades and there have always been questions…areas that I just couldn’t figure out. He has the answers that I’ve been looking for and I have the solutions that he’s been seeking. So, we’re both learning.”

“The reason that I’ve come to see you is that Adrian is anxious to begin searching for his parents and I’ve agreed to take him on one of the trawlers. Travis has decided that if anyone is going, he’s going. I guess he doesn’t trust me with his precious boat but I certainly bow to his experience. Considering how busy all of the adults have been, Adrian came up with the idea of asking his friends to crew and they’re talking with their parents. I feel fairly confident in their abilities, after all they did to rescue Ester.”

“They’ll make a fine crew. What they don’t know, they’ll learn,” said Ponte. He was quiet for a moment, the eyes behind his little glasses focused on something across the cluttered parlor. George could see the wheels turning inside his head. Finally, he said, “You know, this might be a terrific opportunity to learn about another Crystal, if, indeed, that is where his parents landed, one that has, perhaps, never been revealed by another human being. I’m going too!”

George looked down at the broad smile on the little man’s face, “How could I say no to an offer like that?”

“You can’t. Besides, Nanchez confirmed my assumption that the vectors that we’ve been using for all these many years aren’t confined to this island. They extend out across the globe and all of the other Crystals are loosely connected in something like a web of energy. I’m confident that Ester and Nanchez can handle the vectors while I’m gone. Alius is certainly capable of translating from the Book of Wisdoms and formal classes don’t start for more than two months.”

Ponte wandered back to the table, where Adrian and Alius had been working on the Book and picked up a round instrument that was about the size of a soccer ball, “This is something that Nanchez loaned me. I guess the only way to describe its function is that it is something like a vector radio. It allows the user to utilize the vectors for transmitting voice and data from one place to another, like the system we have on this island…only globally, and it also provides a means to track those vectors and The Crystals anyplace in the world. He was wise enough to integrate channels for both the light and the dark energies, so this might be useful in our search.”

George took the instrument from the Professor and examined it. It was very heavy. Crystals glowed around a small screen inset in a textured surface with knobs, dials, and gauges above and below. A strange spiral antenna grew out of the top of the sphere. In spite of his engineering degree, George was bewildered by the instrument and handed it back to the expert, “I’ll leave the science in your hands but I’d be honored to have you accompany us on our trip.”

Tic stood from his nap on the back of the sofa, jumped to the floor, and slowly wandered over to the two men. Ponte leaned over to pick him up.

The old cat rubbed his head under the Professor’s chin, “Of course you know that I’ll be going along too. You people would never have been successful, in your more recent quests, without the help of the animals on the island and, when you get to where you are going, you’ll need my talents again.”

George and Ponte laughed and agreed.

“Brandy’s going too.”

“How do you know that?” asked Ponte.

“He came by this morning. All of the children are going, except Kelly, and he made the children promise that he could go too.”

George smiled, “Now we have a crew.”

rick stiller 2019