The Emerald Tablet Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The Mirror Comes to Life

When Benjamin Holt saw his mom disappear into a pinprick of light, he shouldn’t have been surprised; his life was already weird. What with him and his best friend Andy constantly arguing over what was better—telepathy or telekinesis—he knew he didn’t lead a normal life. But vanishing into thin air—this hit the top of the freak-out scale.

Hidden behind his bedroom door, Benjamin stared at the spot where she’d been. And then he looked at the picture—the one she’d had her palm on as she disappeared. They’d had the velvet tiger picture forever, and, to the best of Benjamin’s knowledge, it had never before sucked anyone else into nothingness.

Three minutes went by. Still no mom. Benjamin walked over and tapped the hideous tiger picture with his finger. Nothing. And so he dared to put his own palm on it.

This is when Benjamin decided he must’ve been dreaming, because when he looked down, his feet were still firmly planted on the ground. And so he decided since he was still sleeping to go back to bed.

No sooner had Benjamin gone back to his room and crawled into bed, his mirror started talking. “Benjamin Holt?” the unfamiliar voice asked. “Do I have the right house?”

Benjamin bolted upright. He hadn’t had time to fall back asleep, so he knew the voice couldn’t be a new dream. But he’d for sure dreamed the picture thing, so the mirror just must be more of the same. That made sense. He pinched himself—hard—to check, and it hurt. Not a dream.

“Benjamin Holt, get up!” the voice said.

Benjamin threw the covers off and walked to the mirror. If the thing didn’t shut up, he’d toss it out the window—and then get some sleep. But then he actually looked at the mirror and jumped when he saw a man looking back at him.

“What in the world?” Benjamin asked, taking a few steps—maybe ten steps—backwards.

“Ah, there you are. Why are you still sleeping? Today is the big day,” the man said, as if that explained everything.

“What big day?” Benjamin asked, pinching himself again. It still hurt.

“Why your first day of summer school!” the man announced, grinning from ear to ear.

“Summer school!” Benjamin exclaimed, now continuously pinching his arm. Not only did it hurt, it started turning red. But Benjamin didn’t care. His mom had vanished into thin air. There was a strange man in his mirror. And to top it off, the man thought Benjamin was going to spend his summer in a classroom.

But the man kept smiling. “My name is Proteus Ajax, and I am here to invite you to summer school.”

“I’m not going to summer school,” Benjamin replied, crossing his arms over his chest.

The man crossed his own arms and stared back. His wide smile began to look less like a smile and more like clenched teeth. “It’s not really a request. And please don’t be tardy.”

Benjamin stared but had no idea what to say.

“Now, if there’s nothing else, I really must get on to the next student,” Proteus Ajax said.

“What do you mean—the next student? Do you mean Andy?” Benjamin asked, feeling just the slightest glimmer of hope that his best friend might have to suffer too.

Proteus looked down, then back up. “I have already notified Andy Grow. I’ll be seeing you shortly.” And without another word, his face vanished.

The mirror once again reflected Benjamin’s image, and he noticed his gaping mouth. Shutting it, he studied the mirror, touching it with his right hand and then with both hands. He lifted it away from the wall and looked behind it. Nothing unusual back there. But then velvet tiger picture which sucked his mom up had looked normal too.

Did his parents know about this summer school thing? Had they been the ones to sign him up? And did they know his mirror could talk? For the first day of summer break, things were not going at all like Benjamin had planned. He had no intention wasting his entire break in summer school. And why had he and Andy been signed up in the first place? With a sigh, he opened his bedroom door; he needed to talk to his parents right away.

Benjamin headed downstairs, dodging toy cars flying through the air. As with any morning, chaos had erupted. Becca, his eight month old sister, was crying, and Derrick and Douglas, his twin five year old brothers, were doing what they always did. Telekinesis. They were always levitating something—Benjamin’s homework or Becca’s rattle. One time they even levitated eggs. Nobody liked to talk about that. Today it was toy cars—no less than five each—racing around the room. It still irked Benjamin how good they were at telekinesis. When he’d been their age, he’d hardly been able to lift one—and that was on a good day.

Benjamin grabbed one of the cars out of the air. “You guys know you’re not supposed to levitate stuff when Mom’s not around.”

“Who’s levitating stuff?”

Benjamin’s spun around when his mom walked into the room, and all the other cars immediately hit the floor. So he must’ve imagined her vanishing.

His mom looked down at the pileup and then looked over at the twins. They shrank under her gaze. And then the excuses started.

“It wasn’t our fault,” Douglas said.

“Yeah. Not our fault,” Derrick added. “We just started playing car chase, and Benji walked in and ruined everything.”

“How many times do I have to tell you not to levitate things when I’m not around?” she said. “Telekinesis is not something normal five year old boys can do!”

“But…” Douglas began.

His mom put up her hand, stopping Douglas mid-excuse. She looked at the cars on the floor, and they lifted up, gliding over to the basket where a hundred more were kept and dropped in.

“What am I going to do with them?” Benjamin heard his mom think as she shook her head. “All right, Benjamin, into the kitchen. We don’t have that long,” she said aloud, pushing him from behind.

Benjamin’s dad and Joey Duncan sat at the kitchen table, but when Benjamin and his mom walked in, Joey got up. The only things Benjamin knew about Joey Duncan were he worked with Benjamin’s dad and he was the coolest person in the world. It wasn’t just the ponytail and special powers just like Benjamin’s; it was that he never minded when Benjamin used his powers around him.

“All I’m saying is that if the escape rate doesn’t go down, things are going to change.” Benjamin heard Joey’s telepathic comment clearly.

“What escape rate?” Benjamin replied audibly.

Benjamin felt a mind block go up in the room, and no one spoke. At least not aloud. Nor could he hear any more telepathic thoughts. He was almost thirteen now. Why did all the grownups still exclude him from conversations? He wasn’t a baby anymore.

“What escape rate?” Benjamin repeated.

The mind block went down.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Joey replied. “I came over to give you a going away present.”

Before Benjamin could say that he had no intention of going away, Joey telekinetically tossed an object to him. It stopped in front of Benjamin and rotated in the air.

The sphere was multilayered and constantly changed colors. The pieces didn’t look like they could even be turned by hand, and, just for kicks, Benjamin telekinetically reached out and flipped one.

“What is it?” Benjamin asked. He’d never seen anything like it before and was pretty sure Joey hadn’t bought it at a Wal-Mart.

“It’s a Kinetic Orb,” Joey said. “Kind of like a Rubik’s Cube, but for smart people.”

“Wow, thanks,” Benjamin replied. “But I’m not going anywhere.” But even as he said it, Benjamin knew, deep in the pit of his stomach, he was. He knew there was no getting out of this summer school thing, whatever it was.

“Yeah, whatever,” Joey replied. “Anyway, I thought you might like it. The trick is not only to solve all the phases, but to learn to do it with your eyes closed.”

“How in the world do I do that?” Benjamin asked.

“If I told you, it would take all the fun away,” Joey replied with a smile. “Anyway, have a great summer, and I’ll see you when you get back.”

Chapter 2

The Picture is a Teleporter

Benjamin looked over and saw his duffle bag packed and by the stairs.

“I’m assuming you’ve spoken with Proteus Ajax,” his mom said.

Once again, he shouldn’t have been, but Benjamin was surprised to hear her say the name. “How do you know Proteus Ajax? Was he in your mirror too?”

“No, I met him this morning in person.”

The image of his mom disappearing into a pinprick of light filled his mind. “Where? In the picture?”

“You weren’t supposed to see me,” she said. “You were supposed to be asleep.”

“So I wasn’t dreaming!” he said. “I knew it. But why was Proteus Ajax in our ugly picture?”

“He wasn’t,” Benjamin’s mom said. “Our picture is a teleporter.”

“A what?”

“A teleporter,” his dad said. “It transports an object from one place to another.”

“Our picture teleports stuff?” Benjamin asked. “Like what?”

“Well, it teleported me this morning.” His mom laughed. “And it’s going to teleport you in a few minutes.”

Benjamin’s jaw dropped open, and he wasn’t sure if it was because he had a teleporter in his house or because he’d be using it in a few minutes. He decided it was a combination of the two.

“I thought you’d be surprised,” she replied.

“So where will I teleport to?” he asked. “I’m not going to summer school.” One last effort. Even though at this point he kind of wanted to use the teleporter, even if it did mean summer school.

“Yes, Benjamin, you are,” his dad replied. “And you’re going to another world.”

“Another world!” Seriously. Maybe his parents were playing a trick on him. “Is that all?”

“Not quite,” his mom said. “You’re not really human. But that’s all we’re going to tell you.”

℘ ℘ ℘ ℘ ℘

Benjamin threw a few last minute items into his backpack, still waiting for the punch line of the joke. His parents had told him nothing else and sworn him to secrecy, but Derrick and Douglas had pestered him nonetheless. He hated to leave them and Becca, but, at the same time, some new world you could teleport to would have to be pretty cool, right?

Even with his excitement, when he reached the family room, Benjamin actually had to fight to keep tears from springing to his eyes. He squatted down to the twin’s level. “You guys be good,” he said. Derrick started to cry, and Douglas looked just on the verge.

“But we’re gonna miss you,” Derrick said, wiping tears from his eyes.

Douglas suddenly seemed to remember something. “We have a going away present for you.” He pulled a wad of balled up paper towels from his pocket. It had the letter ‘D’ written on it twice. “Here you go,” he said. “We wrapped it ourselves.”

Benjamin took the small present. “I wonder what it is.”

“It’s a car,” Derrick blurted out before Benjamin could open it.

“You’re not supposed to tell him,” Douglas said. “Now, it’s not a surprise.”

“It’s still a surprise,” Benjamin replied. “I don’t know which car it is.”

“It’s our favorite black police car,” Derrick told Benjamin.

Benjamin unwrapped the paper towels. “Wow! Thanks! But won’t you guys miss it?” he asked, remembering the telekinetic car chase.

“Yeah, but we talked about it, and we want you to have it,” Derrick said.

Benjamin stood up and put the car in his front pocket. Next he picked up Becca. She smiled and kicked her legs. “Go tell Mommy if the twins levitate stuff. And go tell mommy if they take your toys.” He shot his best stern look at the boys. He then hugged Becca and kissed her, thinking about how much she’d grow in eight weeks.

“Well, we better get you going,” Benjamin’s mom said after his dad had gone out front with the kids.

“Won’t you be teleporting with me?” Benjamin asked. He liked how the word sounded.

“No, you’ll be on your own.”

“What if I get lost?” Benjamin asked.

“You won’t get lost.”

They walked upstairs and stood in front of the tiger picture; it was velvet and ugly—just like always.

“This has to remain a secret from your brothers and sister. Do you understand?”

Benjamin nodded his head.

“I already have to keep it disabled. Otherwise, knowing the twins, they’d probably just stumble upon it.” She reached out and put her palm on the picture; a holographic keypad appeared. His mom then entered a thirty-two number sequence on the keypad. Benjamin didn’t dare blink as he watched, afraid if he did, he might miss something.

“Just put your palm on the picture, and you’ll be gone,” she said. She smiled as if she’d told him to do something normal like put away his laundry or unload the dishwasher.

Maybe his face betrayed how nervous he was, because she grabbed him and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “We love you so much. Be good, and don’t get into any trouble,” she advised him. “I don’t want reports of any levitating frogs or tormented girls.”

“I love you too,” he said. “And I’ll be good, I promise. What trouble could I get into anyway?”

His mom rolled her eyes.

“Is this how I do this?” Benjamin asked. He reached up and put his palm on the picture. Everything disappeared.

Chapter 3

The Kiosk Checks in Benjamin

Benjamin wondered if his atoms had been scrambled. He hadn’t felt like they had, but really he had nothing to compare it to. The teleportation was pretty much instantaneous, and when the world around him immediately returned, he found himself back in normal surroundings.

Well, sort of normal.

He stood on a platform in an atrium the size of a football field underneath a dome ceiling. Mammoth columns held up the dome, and people mobbed the place. Benjamin stared, but forced himself to blink once he felt his eyes get all dry and glassy.

A voice to his left snapped Benjamin out of his stupor. “Welcome, Benjamin Holt. Step off the platform to your left.” Benjamin turned to look. An old man with ears the size of oversized monarch butterflies stared back.

“How do you know my name?” Benjamin asked, but wondered why he did. Maybe the better question to ask would be ‘What world am I on?’

“We’ve been expecting you, of course. And you arrived exactly on time—which is quite an accomplishment. Not everyone does, you know, and then things really get messed up. We have to shut down the whole platform waiting for them. Once there was a student who was nearly five hours late. Can you imagine? And another time, three platforms stalled at once.” The old man shook his head and his ears flapped back and forth. “But hurry down. The next student is scheduled to arrive any minute now.”

“Where do I go?” Benjamin asked the man as he exited the platform.

The old man pointed to his ears. “Listen for instructions,” he said. “And, goodbye.” He turned his back on Benjamin and welcomed the next kid who’d just arrived where Benjamin had just been standing.

Benjamin has no idea if he should walk left or right, or if it really mattered.

“Welcome to summer school. Please report to a kiosk for your homeroom assignment,” a female voice said over an intercom.

After standing frozen for the better part of a minute trying to figure out what was going on, Benjamin came to the conclusion that the kiosks were actually the columns. It was the lines of kids queued up to them that finally gave it away.

He made his way to the nearest column and stood there for close to fifteen minutes. Hopefully summer school wouldn’t just be a lot of waiting in lines. Finally, though, his turn arrived.

“Name, please,” a female voice said.

“Benjamin Holt,” he replied, leaning his mouth close to the kiosk disk.

“Thank you, Benjamin Holt. Date of Birth please,” the voice requested.

“June twenty-first.”

“Thank you, Benjamin Holt,” the voice said. “Please place your hand palm down on the disk in front of you.”

Benjamin had barely placed his right hand palm down when the kiosk lit up, sending a small shock through his body as it did so. He jumped back and yanked his hand away.

“Thank you, Benjamin Holt. DNA match confirmed. Welcome to summer school. Your homeroom will be down Primary Hallway Number Zero, Secondary Hallway Number Seven, Tertiary Hallway Number One and will be in Classroom Number Three.”

“DNA match? How do you know my DNA?” Benjamin asked, but the kiosk had already reset. “Name, please,” it kept repeating.

“Where is Primary Hallway Number Zero?” Benjamin muttered. He walked around the atrium, looking for a sign. The first hallway he saw had a large number five above it. This was good. Benjamin kept going and passed hallways until they looped back around to zero.

As he passed through the threshold, the female voice he now recognized spoke. “If you wish to deposit your luggage into a luggage terminal, it will be delivered to your dormitory.” Actually, that didn’t sound too bad. As heavy as his duffle bag was, he figured maybe his parents had packed rocks in it. He moved to a terminal currently in use by a blond girl. The girl stared at her oversized suitcase on the floor which suddenly began to levitate, wobbling violently as it did so. Reaching the inside of the large recess, it fell with a resounding thud. She turned, saw Benjamin, flushed red, and then hurried away down the hall. Benjamin smoothly levitated his own bag inside the terminal and started down the long hallway ahead.

But apparently not everyone trusted the luggage terminal. Up ahead, a skinny, black kid walked down the hall dragging behind him a duffle bag even bigger than he was.

“I could help you if you want,” Benjamin offered, walking over to him. “By the way, I’m Benjamin Holt.” Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to make a friend here.

“Gary Goodweather.” The boy extended his hand and Benjamin shook it.

“What homeroom are you headed to?” Benjamin asked.

“0713,” Gary answered.

“Me too,” Benjamin replied, easily picking up on the lingo. “We could take turns carrying your bag until we get there.”

Gary shrugged. “As long as you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.” Benjamin hefted the bag onto his right shoulder. “Wow! What do you have in here anyway?”

“Oh, you know, just the basic stuff anyone would need—clothes, shoes, my chess set, books…”

“Books! No wonder it’s so heavy. Why’d you pack books?” Benjamin asked.

“I haven’t read them yet, and this summer school thing came along so fast, I barely had time to throw them into my bag before it was time to go,” Gary answered. “Anyway, I really like to read and re-read the actual books. I always get more and more out of them each time I go through them. You know what I mean?”

“Not really,” Benjamin answered. He’d have just memorized them and been done with it.

Out of the corner of his eye, something green caught Benjamin’s attention. He turned to look, but all he saw was an empty bench. It must’ve been his imagination. After the morning he’d been having, everything could have been his imagination. Without hardly thinking about it, he pinched himself again. Still not a dream.

They turned left down Tertiary Hallway Number One. Again he caught sight of something green, but, when he looked, he saw another empty bench. Great. Now there was some fast, imaginary, green thing following him.

About halfway down the hall, there were four large doors stretching to the ceiling. Benjamin and Gary saw the one marked with the three and walked in.

As soon as they were in the classroom, Benjamin dropped Gary’s duffle bag from his shoulder. It landed on the foot of the blond girl Benjamin had seen at the luggage terminal.

“Ouch! What’d you do that for?” For a second, Benjamin thought she was going to punch him, but instead she started rubbing her foot.

“Oh, I didn’t even see…” Benjamin began.

“Hey, be careful with that. The chess set is my favorite, and it’s kind of fragile,” Gary said to Benjamin.

“Oh, sorry. It was just really getting heavy,” Benjamin replied. He turned to the girl. “Sorry, I didn’t see you standing there. I just couldn’t carry that thing any more. He packed books in it,” Benjamin said, motioning his head toward Gary.

“Well, you never know when they might come in handy,” Gary said.

“Yeah, well just be careful next time you drop something,” the girl said, still nursing her foot.

“You’re one to talk about dropping stuff,” Benjamin replied, referring to her suitcase at the luggage terminal.

The girl flushed red, obviously getting the reference. “I didn’t see you using telekinesis on that duffle bag,” she said. She whirled around, her blond hair turned bright, flaming red, and she stomped away.

“Did you see that?” Benjamin asked Gary. “Did you see her hair? It just changed color. I swear it did.”

“Yeah, I saw it too,” Gary said.

“That’s a little weird, don’t you think?” Benjamin said.

“Well, I don’t think you should say anything. You already made a bad impression,” Gary said.

“Hey, Benjamin!”

Benjamin grinned from ear to ear when he heard Andy’s voice.

Andy hurried over. “I was wondering when you were gonna show up.”

Nearly every head in the room turned to look when Andy called out to Benjamin. Apparently not everyone here had a best friend along. Benjamin noticed the blond—well, actually, now the red-headed girl—had also turned to look. Pretending she wasn’t watching, she started talking to another girl nearby.

“Andy! What’s up with this summer school thing? When I got the call this morning—or whatever it was—I couldn’t believe it.” Benjamin looked curious. “And do you have a teleporter in your hallway?”

“Unfortunately, ours is in my sister’s closet,” Andy said.

“How long have you been here?” Benjamin asked.

“For at least two hours. I was the second person here. It was just me and that girl over there for like a half hour.” He motioned over to the brunette girl now engaged in conversation with the blond/red-headed girl. “But then more people started to filter in.” Andy turned to Gary, seeing him for the first time. “I’m Andy Grow by the way.”

“Gary Goodweather,” Gary answered, extending his hand which Andy shook.

“Gary insisted on bringing his duffle bag with him rather than leaving it in the luggage terminal. He packed books in it.” Benjamin laughed.

“Why didn’t you just memorize them?” Andy asked.

“Well, I just really …” Gary began.

The brunette girl had made her way over to Andy with the now blond again girl in tow. “Hi, Andy,” she said.

“Oh, hi, Iva,” Andy replied. Benjamin noticed Andy was staring at the girl. Not that he could really blame Andy. She was beautiful. Her dark hair was long and straight and reached well past her shoulders. Her light brown eyes lit up her face, and, apparently, Andy’s also.

When Iva turned to Benjamin and Gary, Benjamin felt his face heat up.

“Hi,” she said, “I’m Iva Marinina, and this is Heidi Dylan,” she motioned to the blond girl. Benjamin glanced to Heidi, but felt his eyes being drawn back to Iva. He looked down at his shoes, then back at Heidi, hoping Andy hadn’t noticed his reaction.

Heidi gave Andy a big smile though Andy’s eyes were still glued on Iva. She then turned to Benjamin and Gary, barely smiling as she rubbed her foot.

“You’re rubbing the wrong foot,” Benjamin said.

Heidi smirked, but then put her foot down. “Sympathy pain,” she said.

“Yeah, whatever,” he said. “I’m Benjamin Holt.” And then he put on his best smile. No need to make enemies the first day. Even if she was making more of the foot thing than was necessary.

“Gary Goodweather,” Gary put out his hand to greet them. They both giggled when they shook his hand in return.

“Did your hair change color a minute ago, or was that my imagination?” Benjamin asked Heidi.

Gary elbowed Benjamin in the side.

“Well, I know it did,” Benjamin defended himself.

Heidi reached up and smoothed her hair. “Oh, yeah, it does that sometimes when my emotions flare up.”

“That’s pretty cool,” Iva said. “You mean you can have any hair color you want?”

“Well, not really,” Heidi answered. “It’s changed color like that ever since I was about five, but I still haven’t figured out how to control it. I always have to wear a hat in public.” She shrugged.

“So you and Benjamin know each other?” Iva asked Andy.

“Yeah, we’ve lived next door to each other our whole lives,” Andy replied.

It was at that moment the large entryway door closed with a suctioning sound. Everyone turned to look.

“Welcome to summer school!” the voice of Proteus Ajax sounded from the front of the room. Everyone’s eyes locked on the man who had just appeared behind the teacher’s desk. “My name is Proteus Ajax, and I believe I’ve had the pleasure of already meeting all of you wonderful Year One Denarians.”

“What’s a Denarian?” Andy whispered.

“A person between ten and twenty,” Gary replied. “Haven’t you read the dictionary?”

“Are you kidding?” Andy answered.

“Please take a seat. We’ll get our business out of the way and then break for the day,” Proteus Ajax instructed.

There wasn’t a great rush for the desks, but eventually, everyone sat down. Heidi and Iva sat in the front row, and Benjamin, Andy, and Gary went to sit in the three seats just behind them. Just as Benjamin was about to sit down, the green thing returned. And vanished. But this time he was sure of it. There had been something there. But what in the world is green and fast and can disappear into thin air? He looked under the desk and chair, but saw nothing. As he stood back up, he realized he was the only student still standing. Every face in the room stared back at him.

“Oh, uh, I just thought I saw something, um, green on my chair, and then it wasn’t there, and, uh, I thought maybe it was under the desk, or something,” Benjamin’s face heated up as Heidi and Iva looked at him like he was a total idiot.

“Yes, well, please go ahead and sit down, Benjamin Holt, is it?” Proteus Ajax said. Benjamin nodded and quickly sat down.

“You thought you saw something green?” Andy whispered. “Do you realize how stupid that sounds?”

“I think I have an idea,” Benjamin muttered under his breath.

“Nothing like drawing attention to yourself on the first day,” Andy replied.

Chapter 4

The World According to Proteus

“Who would like to guess where we are?” Proteus looked around the classroom. A fast hand went up.

“Yes, Ryan Jordan?”

“Are we on Mars?” Ryan asked. Several students laughed out loud. “My older brother told me I was going to Mars.”

“I’m afraid your brother played a bit of a practical joke on you,” Proteus said. “And everyone can refrain from asking about the other major planets you know of.”

Iva raised her hand.

“Yes, Iva Marinina?”

“Are we in Atlantis?” she asked.

“Good guess,” Proteus said.

Iva smiled.

“But no, not Atlantis.”

Her face fell.

“You’re close though,” Proteus said. A standard map of the world appeared behind him, with all the major land masses illuminated. However, on the far left and the far right were two connecting sides of another large land mass, one Benjamin had never seen before. The map slowly shifted right, until the two halves joined.

Proteus Ajax pointed to the land. “Ladies and gentlemen: the continent of Lemuria.”

So this was the new world his parents had hinted about?

“Let me give you a brief history of the Earth and Lemuria.” Proteus said, leaning back on his desk. The map in the background turned into an image of mostly water. Large land masses started moving.

“When the Earth was young, millions of years ago, it was nearly all water. Land masses began to form and move around. I am sure many of you have heard of these large land masses—Pangaea, Gondwanaland, and many others. These land plates form the theory of Plate-tectonics.” The map kept shifting as Proteus spoke. “The jigsaw puzzle of taking all of the continents known to humans and fitting them together is well-known but not exact. There are holes when the land masses are placed together. One of these missing land masses is known as Lemuria and is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”

OK, so Benjamin was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a continent called Lemuria. Given his morning with the talking mirror and the ugly picture teleporter, that seemed reasonable.

“It is on this continent that telegens developed 900,000 years ago,” Proteus said.

“What are telegens?” Benjamin asked.

Proteus waved his arms around. “We’re all telegens. People from Lemuria are called telegens.”

Benjamin nodded. OK, so his parents had been telling the truth about him not being human. Maybe.

Proteus continued. “Telegens developed rapidly, both physically and mentally. For thousands of years, they lived on Lemuria, and then 400,000 years ago they expanded out to Atlantis.” The map shifted to show a second large oceanic continent.

Benjamin looked at Iva. She sat up a little straighter in her seat and smiled.

“When humans first appeared on Earth 200,000 years ago, they had no idea about Lemuria or Atlantis,” Proteus said. “And they looked just like us—at least on the outside. But their brains were like infants compared to ours.”

“They did advance though; think of ancient civilizations you know—Greek, Egyptian, Indian.” He rubbed his hands together. “And that’s when the problems began. Lemurian telegens thought humans should never know about us; Atlantis did not agree. And so a shield went up around Lemuria, and 25,000 years ago, a mighty cataclysm was caused. The continent of Lemuria sank into the Pacific Ocean, and an advanced lookout system disguised as a ring of volcanoes was placed around it, known as the Ring of Fire.

“But then the telegens of Atlantis started to cause trouble. They mixed with humans and gave them knowledge. And all they asked for in return was worship and sacrifice. They came to be known as the ancient gods and goddesses of these civilizations.

“Gaea was the first and many others followed. If their wishes were not granted, they were fierce in their punishment.”

Gary raised his hand. “So you’re telling us that all the Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses were actually just normal people from Atlantis.”

“If telegens are normal. And actually, it wasn’t just Greece and Egypt. It extended to all ancient civilizations—Norse, Indian, Sumerian, Chinese. Most of the mythological stories you hear are based on fact.”

“So what happened to Atlantis?” Benjamin asked, raising his hand as he spoke.

“Well, through the Ring of Fire and the use of highly trained agents, Lemuria kept watch over the events on the Earth. Humans were almost totally enslaved, and Lemuria was helpless to prevent it.

“Finally, 10,000 years ago, Lemuria devised a plan to stop the telegens of Atlantis once and for all. A protective barrier similar to the one around Lemuria was erected around Atlantis. A mighty flood was caused, and the continent of Atlantis plunged to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. However, in this case, the barrier was designed not only to keep humans out but also to keep the telegens of Atlantis from escaping. The civilizations the false gods had come so close to destroying were restored and repaired. Telegen agents were placed among the humans to keep watch. And, for humans, recorded history began.” The map behind Proteus adjusted to no longer show either Lemuria or Atlantis.

Proteus Ajax clapped his hands. “Any questions?”

“So, are telegens and humans genetically identical?” Gary asked. “I mean, will humans eventually become as advanced as we are?”

“Doubtful,” Proteus began. “Is anyone familiar with DNA?”

Gary nodded his head so hard it made Benjamin dizzy.

“Excellent. Then you understand minor DNA differences can account for major differences in cerebral abilities.”

Gary again nodded his head so hard Benjamin wondered if it would come off. Andy elbowed Benjamin who tried not to laugh.

“Why haven’t humans discovered the sunken continents?” Heidi asked. “I mean, they’re huge. Wouldn’t it be kind of hard to hide those?”

“The barrier around Lemuria creates the illusion to an outsider of looking deep onto the ocean floor. The illusion will withstand any sensory test given to it by humans. From an insider’s point of view, it’s just as if you are outside, above the depths of the ocean. The weather we have here perfectly reflects the weather conditions above the surface. The night stars and sky are exactly the same. The wind blows; the seas

ons change. There is essentially no difference,” Proteus Ajax finished.

“Yes, but how long will the barriers last?” Benjamin asked.

The smile fell of Proteus’s face. “Someone always has to ask that. And the official answer is forever.”

“And the unofficial answer?” Andy asked.

Proteus sighed. “Here’s what I can tell you. The barrier around Lemuria is fine.”

“And Atlantis?” Benjamin pressed on.

“Is failing,” Proteus said. “Telegens are already getting out. And if the barrier’s not fixed, it probably won’t last longer than another decade.”

As Proteus said it, Benjamin realized this must have been what his dad and Joey had been talking about this morning. People escaping from Atlantis.

A girl in the front row raised her hand.

“Yes, Suneeta Manvar.”

“Who rules Lemuria?” she asked.

“A future leader in training.” Proteus smiled at Suneeta.

Andy groaned and rolled his eyes at Benjamin. “Teacher’s pet,” he thought to Benjamin.

Benjamin stifled his laughter.

“The people and continent of Lemuria are overseen by two rulers—twins—a brother and a sister. The supreme rulers are chosen based not only on their mental abilities, but also on their compassion and tolerance. The rulers are not always twins—it’s not a requirement—but twins are always more powerful together.”

Benjamin immediately thought of his twin brothers, Derrick and Douglas, and their unusual, strong telekinetic abilities at such a young age. Well, that explained that.

“One last question?” Proteus Ajax announced.

Benjamin cleared his throat. “Why do we all live somewhere besides Lemuria, and why has all this been kept secret until now?”

“Each agent family is placed somewhere on Earth for a specific purpose. As to exactly what that purpose is, you would have to talk with your parents. But I have to warn you—they may not be able to tell you.”

“You mean our parents are spies?” Andy asked, not bothering to raise his hand.

“We prefer to use the term ‘agent’ instead of spy. Anyway, to address the second part of the question, you have never been told who you really are as it has been determined that under the age of thirteen, the information cannot be trusted to be kept secret,” Proteus explained.

“Ah, Benjamin Holt, I see you have made a new friend.” Proteus smiled at Benjamin just as Benjamin felt something settle down upon his left shoulder.