Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile, страница 1часть #2 серии Treasure Hunters
Table of Contents
A Preview of House of Robots
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A QUICK NOTE FROM BICKFORD KIDD
First off, nobody calls me Bickford except my twin sister, Rebecca, and even then, only when she’s really mad at me.
Second, you should know that I, Bick Kidd, will be the one telling you this story, while my sister Beck will be doing the drawings.
Like the one over on the next page.
(Beck just said I have to tell you not to believe everything I write, either. Especially if it’s about her. Like my snarky comment about her snarky comments. Fine. Now, can we get on with the story?)
Hold on tight.
This could be a wild ride.
Hey, with us Kidds, most rides are.
All my life, we Kidds have lived on the sea. Then, one day, we almost died under it.
The four of us were crammed inside a twoperson mini-sub (what the US Navy calls a DSV, or Deep Submergence Vehicle), our newest piece of high-tech treasure-hunting gear. We’d purchased it at an auction with the half-million-dollar reward we collected on our last adventure.
My big sister, Storm, was convinced we needed the submarine to help us in our continuing quest to bring home the two most important treasures in the world: our missing mom and dad.
See, Storm doesn’t dive, because the last time she climbed into a rubber scuba suit, some mean old geezer on a yacht called her a “shrink-wrapped whale.” Obviously, that little comment wasn’t his best idea, because the next time he went to take his fancy yacht for a spin, the fish-head-in-your-bedsheets smell was getting pretty bad. Nobody messes with Storm.
We still needed Storm’s photographic memory if we wanted to go back to the pair of sunken Spanish galleons off the coast of Florida that our father, the world-famous treasure hunter Dr. Thomas Kidd, had dubbed the Twins. That was why we were packed like sardines in the DSV.
Unfortunately, Mom and Dad weren’t with us.
The ships’ cargo holds were loaded down with treasure—enough to finance Kidd Family Treasure Hunters Inc. for as long as it took to figure out some way to help our parents, who—on top of being world-class treasure hunters—were neck-deep in dangerous CIA business.
So finding those ships was crazy important.
But Tommy had lost the treasure map that took us to the Twins the first time. Well, if we’re being honest, he accidentally used it as a napkin for a greasy slice of pizza, then crumpled it up and tossed it into a trash barrel. A trash barrel he and one of his assorted girlfriends used later for a beach bonfire.
So it was pretty much gone for good.
“This sub is awesome!” said Tommy, who’s seventeen and the closest thing we have to adult supervision. “The four of us can dive as a family without messing up our hair.”
“Or breathing,” added Beck, who was squished up against a porthole.
“Change your heading to two hundred and sixty-three degrees, Tommy,” said Storm, navigating from memory. “The sunken vessels will be dead ahead.”
“Aye, aye,” said Tommy.
But when he nudged the control stick forward, the ship didn’t budge.
We kept drifting downward.
“Um, how far down can this thing go without popping a gasket?” I asked.
“Forty-five hundred meters,” said Storm. “That’s fourteen thousand seven hundred and sixty-four feet, for those of you who skipped the math chapter on metric conversions.”
“Maybe we should go back up to The Lost,” suggested Beck. “And, oh, I don’t know—read the operating manual?”
“Yeah,” said Tommy. “That’d be a good idea. Make all preparations for surfacing. Secure the ventilation. Shut bulkhead flappers.”
Yep. Tommy sure sounded like a real, live submarine commander.
Too bad we kept sinking.
“Uh, those controls aren’t working, either,” Tommy finally said after nothing he flipped or poked worked.
“So, basically,” I said, “all we can do is keep going down? To the bottom of the sea?”
Tommy nodded. “Basically.”
That was when our engines cut out.
“We’ve lost power,” Storm reported matter-of-factly. “If you have a favorite prayer, now would be a good time to start reciting it.”
Remember how Tommy said that thing about the sub making it easier for us to dive as a family?
Well, it looked like it might help us die as a family, too!
We kept drifting down.
“Good-bye, cruel world,” said Storm, who’s sort of known for blurting out whatever is on her mind whenever it happens to be there. “Tell Neptune to stick his forked trident in our butts, because we’re done. It’s all over but the crying—except, of course, I refuse to do it.”
“Hey, hang on,” said Tommy. “We’re the Kidds. We live for dangerous adventures like this. Deathdefying explorations are the Krazy Glue that holds us together. Sure, sometimes we get down, but we always get back up. And we’re never, ever defeated!”
Yes, my big brother was being a rock. Or a blockhead.
I mean, seriously, we were in deep trouble—like almost-all-the-way-down-to-the-bottom-of-the-ocean deep.
“You know, Tommy,” said Beck, “you kind of remind me of Dad. Bucking us up like that. It’s sweet.”
Tommy gave her his dimpled grin. “Thanks, Beck.”
“It’s also kind of tragic,” added Storm. “Especially given the timing. However, since we still have a few hours of oxygen left, we have plenty of time to contemplate our coming deaths while ruminating on the things in life that we’ll miss the most. For me, it’s a toss-up: Mallomars or Krispy Kremes?”
“Oh, tough call, Storm,” Beck said. “I have to give it to the classic Mallomar, though.”
“What about Mom and Dad?” I said. “That’s what I’ll miss.”
Pirates in Cyprus had kidnapped our mother. Our father had been missing ever since we battled a terrifying tropical storm off the coast of the Cayman Islands. I had, with our uncle Timothy’s help, sent a fake e-mail from “Dad” to “his” kids, but that hadn’t completely convinced everyone he was still alive.
Storm set her jaw. “Dad is already dead, Bick. You need to accept that fact and move on.”
“Where’s he going to move to?” said Beck. “We’re squished inside here like Pokémon trapped inside a Poké Ball!”
“Storm’s right,” said Tommy with a sigh. “Dad’s waiting for us, down below in Davy Jones’s locker.”
“Okay—who is this guy Davy with the locker, anyway?” asked Beck. “Some gym class reject?”
“Look, you guys,” I shouted, probably wasting way more oxygen than I should have. “Dad is not dead! Just because he disappeared off the deck of The Lost in the middle of a hurricane-sized storm doesn’t mean anything.”
Storm stared at me. “Except that he’s dead.”
She slumped her shoulders and then proved that she’s not always as cold as she pretends to be: She just collapsed to the floor in despair.
She landed so hard that the whole vessel shook.
Okay, by now you’ve figured out that we didn’t actually die at the bottom of the sea. I mean, this is just the prologue. Narrators never die in the prologue.
(But Beck says it’s okay if I do. She’ll take over for me. Gee, thanks, sis.)
So how did we survive?
Well, when we hit the ocean floor, it was like somebody kicking an ornery vending machine.
Suddenly all the lights on the control panels flickered to life. The stone-cold-dead engines fired up.
“Excellent. We bottomed out hard enough to jump-start all the systems,” explained Storm.
Tommy pulled back on the control stick and we headed to the surface.
“Why don’t we come back for the treasure the old-fashioned way?” I suggested. “Let’s put on our scuba gear and dive for it.”
“Fine,” said Beck. “It’ll beat being stuck inside this bobbing barrel with your barracuda breath!”
We all laughed.
I don’t think any of us had been happier since maybe the last Christmas we spent with Mom and Dad together in Pago Pago.
That is, until we sliced through the foamy breakers at the surface.
Because another—very large, very menacing—submarine was up there waiting for us.
It was Nathan Collier’s submarine.
The same Nathan Collier who was Mom and Dad’s number one nemesis: the smiling sleazeball with his own cable TV show on the Underwater Weirdo Channel. The skeevoid was always trying to steal our parents’ glory and claim credit for their discoveries when, in truth, he was the worst treasure hunter to ever sail the seven seas (he thought there were only five).
“Ahoy, Kidds!” Collier shouted through a bullhorn from the deck of his submarine, where he stood surrounded by heavily armed thugs.
Collier, who is about as tall as I am, even though technically he’s an adult, was decked out in his official explorer costume: khaki pants, khaki shirt, and a faded leather bomber jacket. His hair was plastered into place, with one spit curl dangling over his left eyebrow. His cheesy smile was cheesier than a cheeseball from Cheesylvania.
“You children will never believe what I just discovered down below. Two of the Spanish galleons from Córdoba’s Lost Fleet of 1605. My sonar readings confirm that the twin ships are loaded with treasure!”
What Dad used to call our “Secret College Fund.”
“Those shipwrecks are ours!” hollered Tommy.
“Oh, really? Did you or your parents file the paperwork necessary to authenticate your claim?”
Tommy started mumbling to himself. “No. It was our secret treasure stash.… You don’t do paperwork for secrets.…”
“Really?” said Collier. “Because I just did!” He waved a sheet of paper in the air. “Gina helped me.”
A redhead in a polka-dot bikini wiggled up out of Collier’s submarine hatch. Of course it would have to be one of Tommy’s many ex-girlfriends.
“Nathan’s going to give me some of the Spanish queen’s emeralds for helping him track you guys,” Gina gushed. “So thank you, Tommy, for giving me your cell number!”
“You know, Thomas,” Collier teased, “you really should deactivate the GPS chip in your smartphone from time to time. Especially if you don’t want all your brokenhearted girlfriends to know exactly where they can find you at all times.”
Tommy looked at us with sad eyes. “Sorry, you guys.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “Let Collier have the gold.”
“Yeah,” said Beck. “Let him take all the jewelry, too.”
“And the priceless religious artifacts,” added Storm.
“Not to mention the silver,” said Beck. “Silver’s almost as good as gold.…”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “We’re the Kidds! Nothing’s worth more than that!”
“Actually,” said Storm, “the total monetary value of all the minerals in our bodies is four dollars and fifty cents. Each.”
“Well,” I said, trying my best to boost morale, “I still say family is more valuable than gold. Even if we lose all that treasure, we still have one another!”
“And now,” announced Collier, “I must ask you four children to climb back into your tiny toy boat so I can torpedo it and tell the world how your reckless treasure-hunting antics led to your untimely deaths.”
Okay. So maybe we wouldn’t have one another much longer, either.
Beck balled up her fist and shook it at Collier. “You’ll pay for this, you… you… you…”
I helped her out. “… Scurvy, scum-sucking blow-hole of a bilge pump!”
“Ooh. Nice one, Bick.”
“Thanks. You do the pictures, I do the words.”
“Forget the boat!” shouted Collier. “You nasty, detestable Kidds have been a barnacle on my butt long enough.”
He turned to his troops to give them the command to open fire on us.
But he hesitated when a fleet of stealthy speedboats appeared on the horizon.
“Put down your weapons!” ordered an amplified voice over the lead boat’s loudspeaker system. “We have you surrounded, Collier!”
It was our sort-of uncle Timothy, the strange and mysterious superspy who, supposedly, managed Mom and Dad’s top-secret CIA missions and always seemed to know exactly when and where to show up.
We were saved!
Or were we?
Even though fake Uncle Timothy isn’t really a member of our family, guess where he dragged us?
To Family Court. In New York City.
“Your Honor,” said Uncle Timothy, who took off his mirrored sunglasses only because the bailiff told him he had to, “allow me to present Exhibits A, B, C, and D.” Uncle Timothy was acting as an attorney because I guess when you get high enough in the CIA they let you do whatever you want.
He handed the judge four very official-looking documents.
“As you can see by these affidavits, the late Dr. Thomas Kidd designated me to be the legal guardian for his four children in the event of his untimely death.”
I stood up. “Objection, Your Honor!”
“Who are you?”
“Bickford Kidd. Our dad isn’t dead!”
The judge banged his gavel. “Sit down!”
I did as I was told.
The judge shuffled through the guardianship papers, then peered over the rims of his reading glasses. “Where is their mother?”
“Detained, Your Honor,” said Uncle Timothy. “High-level negotiations are currently under way with her kidnappers in Cyprus. However, it seems her days are numbered.”
“The negotiations aren’t going very well, sir. Mrs. Kidd may be dead. Soon.”
All four of us gasped when fake Uncle Timothy said that—even Storm, who’s never big on public displays of emotion.
This was the worst news we’d heard in weeks. Maybe even in our lives.
Mom should’ve been set free by now. We’d found the Grecian urn her kidnappers had demanded for her ransom. It’d been shipped over to Cyprus. We’d done everything we were supposed to do and still the bad guys wouldn’t let Mom go?
“Your Honor,” said pretend Uncle Timothy, “I hereby petition the court to grant me sole conservatorship over all the Kidd family assets so I might manage their various bank and investment accounts, the assorted safe-deposit boxes scattered around town, and, of course, the family’s sailing vessel, The Lost.”
“In such extraordinary circumstances—” the judge began.
“Hang on just one second, Your Judiciousness!” Beck interrupted. “You can’t just give our assets over to someone just because they come to court with fancy papers! That’s not fair!”
“Yeah,” I joined in. “Plus Dad’s not dead! He was only washed overboard in a massive storm.”
“Your Honor, young Bickford and Rebecca her
“I tend to agree,” said the judge, who seemed like he was just waking up from a daydream. “Having carefully reviewed the available evidence, I’ve decided that your petition is granted.”
“Carefully?!?” Storm bellowed indignantly.
“Define carefully!” Beck yelled, jumping out of her chair.
“But—but—” I stammered. Tommy and I were still in shock. This guy wasn’t giving us the time of day.
The judge ignored us and banged his gavel again. “I hereby hand over control of the Kidd family assets to Mr. Timothy Quinn.”
All of us Kidds started protesting incoherently at the judge.
“Quiet!!!” all the adults shouted over the chaos, and for some reason, we all shut up, like we were goody-two-shoes kids or something.
Turning to address Uncle Timothy, the judge asked, “And what about the children? Will they be living with you?”
“No, Your Honor. As much as I would enjoy that”—Uncle Timothy was soooo lying—“I think it best that I fulfill their father’s fondest wish and enroll all four children in New York City’s prestigious Chumley Prep, the same boarding school where Dr. Thomas Kidd, himself, once matriculated.”
Wait a second. School?
We’d never been to school a day in our lives.
Man, could this get any worse?
All our lives, Tommy, Storm, Beck, and I have been homeschooled by Mom and Dad aboard The Lost.
And even though both of them had been seriously missing for a while, the four of us still totally respected and followed their three-hours-a-day study rule.
Sending us to a real school—one with desks and interactive whiteboards and cafeteria food—would have to be considered cruel and unusual punishment.