Location: New York
Characters: Jackson Farell, Louis Pescator, Jose Philip Horta, Boris, Belinda Pescator, James Loeve
"Jackson," I told to myself when I arrived at that meeting, "this is never going to work. These guys simply don't fit together. There's bound to be some very deep malaise. Before we even get into the water."
Looking back, it was the understatement of the decade.
Sitting opposite me at the kind'o round table was Louis Pescator, the fanatic role-game player who, for some reason, listened to me when I first had the idea of looking for the stones. It was in a virtual night club, nine months earlier. We were discussing the surprising similarities in the legends of Atlantean Secrets and Gone Forever.
What had always fascinated me were the soft stones that the Masters of Thunder had used for their Archive transfer, 13000 years ago. Even more fascinating were the stones they hadn't used. In the temples of Eisraim and Lasseera, Maryani of the White Eagle was said to have seeded a crop of high caliber soft stones, many of which were only aimed at fooling the Nephilim Hunters.
"Louis," I kept telling the thirty year old Italian submarine engineer, "those Archive stones were no ordinary pebbles. They were hermaphroditic stones! Stones with fabulous powers. And stones that never dissolve."
"So in theory," Louis finally got it, "they should still be somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean."
"Waiting for us!" I gave a handclap. The way the Knights seal their deals (according to another legend).
It was late in the night in Milan. Louis was drunk. "Let's go!" he decided. "I'll get you an expedition happening in a year. My word!"
It was even later in London. I laughed, "And how do we find Atlantis, exactly?"
He shrugged his shoulders, "Start with the authors of the damn books! Where is Amar Ben?"
"I tried to locate him several times. He's disappeared from the surface of the planet."
"Died a few years ago."
Emptying another glass, Louis grinned, "And what if I found you a living Brown Robe?"
Considering how much whiskey he had drunk, I thought he was joking.
I was wrong.
Nine weeks later, I received an email from Jose Philip Horta in Buenos Aeres. According to Louis, Jose Philip Horta was the reincarnation of Mairya, Master of Thunder. (Louis never revealed his contacts.) The email simply said,Your friend Louis has told me of your idea. If you can get me down there, I can find the stones.
I emailed back,Get you down, where?
To which JPH answered:Just get me down. I'll find the way.
This tall blond guy in his late thirties was either totally arrogant, or a Master of Thunder. Nine months later, when I arrived at the meeting in New York, I still hadn't made up my mind about that point. The fact that he always wore a brown sweater wasn't enough to convince me. All right, there was something unreal about his eyes. And when you looked at him, you got a weird tingle above your head. But so what? Who said Rrosai (as he wanted us to pronounce his name) wasn't just a talented hypnotherapist?
Sitting by his side was Boris, a Russian mafia creep who had undergone major facial reconstruction twice, wore hair from July to Xmas and was bald the rest of the time, had two artificial eyes, chipped bionic ears, and God knows what else. Boris who? No one ever knew.
When I first heard that Louis had gotten the Russian mafia involved, I was furious. "You stupid asshole," I yelled at him. "You want both of us killed, is that it?"
"Take it easy, man!" Louis, as usual, seemed to know exactly what he was doing. "Tell me, how do you expect us to find 127 million dollars?"
The estimated cost of the expedition.
"But why would the Russian mafia be interested in Atlantean soft stones?" That was beyond my mind.
"Hunh! Hunh!" Louis shook his head as in the legend. "Not just soft stones – philosophers' stones!"
I chuckled, "Does Boris really believe he's going to be able to turn base metals into gold with Maryani's stones?"
"After Belinda spoke to him, he was totally convinced!"
Belinda! Gods, gods! Why did Belinda have to be in this?
Belinda Pescator – his sister – was, at first sight, a lovely brunette with an angelic smile and all the good things that cosmetic nano-surgery can offer. But what a pain in the ass! But what a pain in the ass! Hard to believe, really.
"And what do you think Boris' reaction is going to be if the stones can't make gold - or if we don't find any stones?" I asked Louis, shaking my head in horror.
"Jose Philip Horte is positive," Louis grinned, "he will find the stones."
I pulled my hair with one hand, my beard with the other, "But what if Rrosai really is a Master of Thunder. Do you believe he's going to let us walk away with half the stones?"
Louis's grin intensified, as if I were naive. If one thing was certain in that story, it was that everyone intended to end up with all the stones.
The worrying thing was, I was the most dispensable of the lot. Louis knew how to take care of the submarine. Maurice and Burton were needed to pilot the craft and for deep-sea diving. Boris brought capital, and so did James Loeve, the Wall Street man. Belinda brought Boris and James. Jose Philip Horte was supposed to take us to the stones. And in case he failed, we had also enrolled Jack Langer, a disciple of Sagan.
"What do you need me for, really?" I once half jokingly asked Louis.
"You're the only one who can get Belinda to shut up!" Louis replied in the same tone.
Factually incorrect. Neither I nor anyone else on the planet had never been able to get Belinda to shut up. (You have no idea.)
Louis announced, "Since we are all here, let us start!"
As I sat at the table, seeing the disparate bunch of souls all in one physical place for the first time, the evidence struck me once more: "This, is, never, going to work!"
Belinda read my mind. She gave me one of her angelic smiles.
Music by: Samuel Sagan