The Necropolis Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Everything in Benjamin’s House Teleports Away

Flashing lights inside his brain was not the way Benjamin wanted to start his day—especially when his day was starting at three in the morning. If only he could travel back in time to midnight and sleep for three more hours. He’d hardly even fallen asleep. Most of the time his creepy eyeball implant came in handy. But now, with its alarm going off, he really just wanted to teleport it out of his head.

“Wake up, Benjamin.”

“No.” Benjamin squeezed his eyes shut and pretended his mom’s voice was just a dream. And he turned off the alarm.

“Yes.” His mom flipped on the light. “Now. We’re behind schedule. Andy’s family is gone already.”

Okay, that got his attention. His best friend’s family was gone? “Gone where?” His freshman year had just started a couple of months ago; Benjamin was supposed to be stuck in Virginia hiding his telekinetic powers for another seven months.

“We’re moving.” She pulled the covers off him and stuffed them in a bag. “The truck’s out front.”

Benjamin jumped out of bed and headed for the window. His mom wasn’t kidding. Parked out front was a huge moving truck with the words “Lemurian Movers—We make your problems disappear” printed on the side. The back door was open, and two men were putting his mom’s china cabinet inside.

“Moving to where?” he asked.

“To Lemuria. We’re being called back.” She grabbed his pillow and put it in the bag, too. No chance of going back to bed now. “Make sure to pack everything. I need to wake the twins and Becca.”

By the time Benjamin finished packing and had carried all his boxes (and the twin’s boxes, and Becca’s boxes) into the moving truck, he was wiped. And the worst part was everything had just been teleported away from inside the truck. That was the part that stunk about living around humans: you had to act like one. Humans used moving trucks when they moved, and so, as telegens living among humans, they had to use moving trucks when they moved. Otherwise they could have just teleported all the boxes from inside the house. He sank to the grass, waiting for his parents to finish up.

“Heidi?” If there was one person who could hear his telepathic call from no matter where, it was Heidi Dylan. Nobody was better at telepathy than her. Except Jack, but he was a Nogical so it wasn’t really fair to compare them.

“Hey, Benjamin.” As expected, she answered right away.

“Are you moving, too?”

“Yeah,” she replied telepathically. “My parents just finished packing.”

“Any idea why everyone’s going back to Lemuria?” he asked.

“No,” she replied. “But I talked with Josh just a couple minutes ago and he seemed to think it might have something to do with all the teleporter problems in and out of Lemuria.”

Benjamin’s heart skipped a beat when she mentioned Josh. He wasn’t sure why, but he was sure he didn’t want her to know. Had she been talking with Josh a lot since summer school had let out?

“Oh,” he said. “That’s nice.” He knew it sounded stupid, but it was all he trusted himself to say. She could talk to whoever she wanted; he and Heidi were only friends. Why should he care if she and some stupid older kid who wore a black leather jacket in the middle of summer and forgot to shave were talking? It didn’t bother him at all.

“I gotta go,” she said. “We’re leaving. I guess I’ll see you at school.”

“Will you?” Benjamin asked. “Will we even be going to school?”

Heidi paused. “I don’t know. Maybe. Probably.”

“Okay,” Benjamin said. “Get in touch once you’re settled. If you’re not too busy talking to Josh.” But as soon as he said it he regretted it. Actually before he said it he regretted it. Why had he gone and said that? It just sounded so…pathetic.

But the fates were with Benjamin; Heidi must not have noticed. “Sure. See ya.” And the telepathic connection ended.

His mom teleported first, holding his baby sister Becca in one arm and trying to control both the twins with the other. The twins acted like they’d never known there was anything special about the velvet tiger picture in the hallway, but when the teleporter didn’t activate at first, Derrick gave it away.

“You typed the fifteenth number wrong,” Derrick said. “It’s a six, not a nine.”

For only being seven years-old, they had minds like steel traps—and self-control like fishing nets. Their latest fiasco had involved one bag of flour, their little sister Becca, and two very angry parents. His mom hadn’t let them come near the kitchen for a month.

Benjamin’s mom shook her head. “We’re getting out of here just in time.” And they vanished.

After they left it was just Benjamin and his dad. “The doors are locked and the lights are off,” his dad said.

“What about the teleporter?” Benjamin asked. “What if the next people who move into our house find it?”

“That’s why you’ll go before me,” his dad replied. “After you teleport, I’ll enter the self destruct sequence on the teleporter.”

“Self destruct?” Benjamin asked. “Is the house going to blow up or something?”

His dad laughed. “No, nothing quite that spectacular. It renders the teleporter useless, and then the picture implodes.”

This would definitely be an improvement to the picture.

Benjamin entered the thirty-two number sequence himself; the twins weren’t the only ones who’d committed it to memory. And they were right—the fifteenth number was a six, not a nine. He put his palm on the velvet tiger and flashed away into a pinprick of light. But instead of wherever he was supposed to end up, he wound up somewhere altogether different: white walls made of stone; block windows with the sun shining through; and Nathan Nyx, the guy who’d tried to trap Benjamin back in the Trojan War last summer, perched on a bench.

“You two-faced, back-stabbing—” Benjamin began. He tried to lunge toward Nathan, hoping to get his hands around his slimy throat, but found that he couldn’t move very well. Actually, he couldn’t move at all. It was like invisible ropes had been tied around his arms and legs.

“Calm down, Benjamin.” Nathan stood up and walked toward him.

“What did you do this time?” Benjamin struggled against his bonds. “Where’s my family?”

“Ah, and which family would that be?” Nathan asked. “Your sweet little family from Virginia, or your long lost brother, Cory, who seems to be missing without a trace?”

“You know exactly what I’m asking,” Benjamin said, yet Nathan’s mention of Cory gave Benjamin a glimmer of hope. Benjamin might not know where Cory was, but neither did Nathan.

Nathan laughed. “Don’t worry. I didn’t disrupt your family’s teleportation. It’s you I want to talk to.”

“We have nothing to talk about,” Benjamin said. “You double crossed my dad and lied to us both all summer.”

“I never lied to you.” Nathan walked around Benjamin, staying just out of his reach. “I told you I was working for our father, and I was.”

“You misled—” And then it hit Benjamin. What had Nathan just said? Our father? Was he serious? All of a sudden, Benjamin’s stomach twisted into a knot. Nathan just couldn’t be his other missing sibling—the third of the triplets.

“No, I’m not one of the chosen ones,” Nathan held his voice flat. “I’m not one of the triplets. But we do share a father.”

Benjamin opened his mouth to speak, but then shut it again. He had no idea what to say.

“I see you’re surprised,” Nathan said.

“Surprised you’re lying—again.”

“Ah, but it’s not a lie, Benjamin. You see, our father does have a way of getting around,” Nathan said. He ran a hand through his greasy hair, pushing it back. “We’re half-brothers, though I wouldn’t hang too much on that. I’ll kill you long before you have the chance to kill me.”

“What are you talking about?” Benjamin said. True, if there was anyone he’d love to kill right now, it was Nathan, but to be honest, Benjamin had never really contemplated killing anyone before. At least not seriously.

“As if you don’t know,” Nathan replied. “I’m sure your friend Iva Marinina told you all about it.”

“Iva’s told me lots of things,” Benjamin said. Inwardly, he cursed. Iva hadn’t told him squat. At least nothing about Nathan Nyx.

“Then you know the stupid oracles foresaw one of my half-siblings killing me,” Nathan said. “Which is why I need to murder them all first.”

“Right,” Benjamin said slowly, trying to figure out the correct response to a death threat from a psychotic half-brother. “So how many have you killed so far?”

Nathan twisted his lips into something that resembled a grin. “After I disposed of that worthless oracle, I got two of them pretty fast. But then Caelus found out and put a stop to it.” He chuckled. “At least he made me postpone it.”

“Who’s Caelus?” The name sounded familiar to Benjamin but he couldn’t place it. Where was Gary Goodweather when you needed him? Gary was always Benjamin’s answer to useless trivia questions.

“Our father, of course,” Nathan said. “Don’t you know anything?”

“Apparently not.” This conversation was over. Benjamin had nothing to talk to Nathan about. He looked around the stone room, but it figured there wasn’t a door. And when he tried teleporting, nothing happened. He’d have to levitate himself to the windows and get out.

“Are you going somewhere?” Nathan asked.

“Unless you have some reason for bringing me here,” Benjamin said.

“Only to tell you that when Caelus is done with you, you’re mine,” Nathan said. “I want you to think about that.”

The look on Nathan’s face had already given Benjamin plenty to think about. Nathan was crazy. Not to mention he made Benjamin’s skin crawl.

“I’ll make your death slow—just to make sure you fully appreciate my power,” Nathan continued. “Then you’ll find out what it really means to be one of the chosen ones.”

And then Nathan laughed, and Benjamin was teleported out of the stone room.

Chapter 2

Iva Keeps Secrets

Nathan hadn’t lied about Benjamin’s family. Time had seemed to freeze, and Benjamin still got to his new house in Lemuria before his dad. It was like nothing had happened. Things were, in fact, normal. The twins were arguing about who could burp louder; Becca was whining incessantly that she needed candy; and his mom was setting up the coffee maker. Using all the common sense he could muster, Benjamin decided it might not be a good time to mention his encounter with Nathan. He could talk about it once things settled down.

But things didn’t settle down. The rulers of Lemuria sent out a nationwide announcement that, summer or not, all summer school students should get their butts to school pronto. At least that was how his mom has phrased it. Before he knew what was happening, his parents kissed him goodbye and shoved him onto another teleporter, promising to teleport his stuff right to his dorm room. Either they didn’t want to argue with Helios and Selene Deimos or they wanted one less kid to worry about. Not that Benjamin was going to complain. School was fun.

Benjamin squeezed his eyes shut. Had he really just thought that?

He wound up directly under the giant dome in the middle of the school atrium. And just like summer, the place was jammed with students.

“Move. Move.”

Benjamin didn’t even have to turn to see who was talking. Did he get the same teleporter operator every year? And as if the old man’s gargantuan ears weren’t enough, he’d grown a second set of arms.

Benjamin opened his mouth to comment, but the old man put up one of the extra arms to silence him. “No talking, Benjamin Holt. We’ve got kids coming out our ears around here.” He pointed to his giant ears as if to make the point more clear.

Which didn’t seem to be necessary. There were twice as many kids as normal, in fact, like kids went here year round and the summer school students were coming late to the party. So Benjamin moved off the pad.

“Thanks,” Benjamin said.

But apparently talking took too much time. “Yes, yes, have a nice year,” the old man said. And he turned back to the teleporter platform.

Once he got his homeroom assignment, Benjamin found his best friend Andy off in one of the tertiary hallways kissing Iva. Great. Was anything ever going to be normal again? He cleared his throat—obviously.

“Benjamin!” Iva untangled herself from Andy to walk over to give him a hug. Her brown hair which was normally straight and long was completely rumpled. But she waved her hands over it and smoothed it down. And she immediately transformed back into the perfect and gorgeous Iva he knew. “We were just talking about you.”

Benjamin looked from Iva to Andy and then back to Iva. “I can see that. It looks like it was a pretty interesting conversation.”

Andy flushed as red as a fireball but still managed to look smug. “We were catching up.”

Benjamin put up his hand. The last thing he wanted to hear about was how much Andy had missed Iva. “Whatever.” And then he got to the point. “Iva, why didn’t you tell me Nathan murdered an oracle at Delphi?”

Her mouth dropped open before she regained her composure. “I didn’t have a chance.”

“You didn’t think it was something important enough to call me on the telecom?” Now that Benjamin thought about it, wasn’t it really important information? Information the person the Emerald Tablet had picked to save the world—namely Benjamin—really ought to know?

“I didn’t want to risk having it intercepted.” She put her hands on her hips. “I contacted the ruling hall on a private channel, but I—”

“You talked with Helios and Selene, and you didn’t think to tell me that either?” Benjamin asked.

“Benjamin,” she said, “it’s only been a few months since we saw each other. I would’ve told you over break when we all got together.”

“Would you have told me what the oracle prophesied for Nathan?” Benjamin asked. “Would you have thought that was important enough?”

This time Iva didn’t even try to hide her surprise. “How do you know—?”

Benjamin cut her off. “Nathan paid me a little visit. Actually I paid him a visit. I guess he thought it was important enough to tell me he planned on killing me.”

“Killing you?” Andy asked. “I thought he was working with your birth father to find you.”

“It’s his father, too,” Benjamin said. “And he only plans to kill me after Caelus is done with me.”

“Who’s Caelus?” Andy asked. But then he paused. “What do you mean, his father, too?”

It was obvious from Iva’s expression that she already knew. She knew everything.

“Iva.” He shook his head. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I couldn’t tell you, Benjamin,” she replied. “It’s against the code of the oracles.”

“But it involves one of your best friends being murdered,” Benjamin said. “Couldn’t some stupid code be broken to protect my life and the lives of my other countless half-brothers and sisters?”

Andy’s head went back and forth, from one to the other. “What the heck is going on with you two?”

Benjamin balled his hands into fists to keep his temper from exploding. This was beyond acceptable. “Why don’t you let Iva fill you in while you guys catch up? I’m sure she knows more than I do at this point.” And just to make it look good, he teleported away rather than walking. It would ruin everything if he tripped on the way out.

Benjamin teleported a couple hallways away. Sitting down on a bench, he took a moment to gather his thoughts. In the space of only a couple hours, he’d moved from Virginia, found out Nathan Nyx was his crazy half-brother who planned to kill him, and learned that Iva had known everything all along. He couldn’t believe she hadn’t told him. Was she so caught up in Andy that she’d forgotten about Benjamin’s burden? As if he wanted to save the world.

“So what’s got you down this time?” Jack teleported onto the bench beside Benjamin. “Telekinesis woes? Love woes?”

Benjamin smiled at the little green Nogical. Man, had he missed Jack. If he hadn’t thought he’d crush the six-inch high telegen, Benjamin would’ve hugged him. But he settled for a high five.

“No, nothing like that.” Benjamin laughed, despite himself.

“Okay.” Jack teleported to the other side of Benjamin. Benjamin turned as Jack continued. “Let me guess again. Are you lost? Can’t find your homeroom? Don’t like your roommates?”

“Wrong again.” Benjamin tried not to smile, but couldn’t help it—until he remembered everything Nathan had said. “You already know, don’t you?”

Jack sat down on the bench. “You’re not shielding your mind very well.”

“What are you talking about?” Benjamin said. “I have a great mind block in place.”

“Sure you do, but you forget—I’m a Nogical,” Jack said. “Your pathetic telejamming techniques are useless against my superior cerebral powers.” He flicked some invisible dust off his shoulder.

Benjamin took a deep breath. “So what do you think?”

“I think that given the information you just found out,” Jack replied, “now’s not the time to be picking fights with your friends.”

“I didn’t pick a fight.” Benjamin jumped to his feet. “Iva should have told me what she knew.”

“No, she shouldn’t have. Iva would never violate her oracle vows. I don’t think she could even it she tried.” Jack levitated up to perch on Benjamin’s shoulder. “Think about it. You lashed out at her because you were upset about Nathan. You know it’s true.”

Benjamin opened his mouth to protest but paused. He really had nothing he could say to defend himself. Jack was right. Getting in a fight with Iva after five minutes in Lemuria wasn’t the best strategy for saving the world.

“Great,” Jack said. “So let’s go find your homeroom.”

But Benjamin didn’t even have time to stand up. Something else materialized right in front of him.

“Telepathy.”

Benjamin scooted back against the bench. “What?”

“You!” Jack said.

The new Nogical in front of Benjamin smiled. “Yes, me.” She looked a lot like Jack, even down to the green skin and sarcastic attitude. But instead of aqua blue hair like Jack’s, hers looked like a mass of flames. Their eyes were the same—both yellow, like a sunflower with a spot of black in the middle.

The six-inch tall Nogical girl flipped backwards from a sitting position and landed on Benjamin’s thigh. “Betcha don’t remember my name.”

Benjamin racked his brain. He should remember the Nogical girl’s name. She helped him last summer when he’d traveled back in time and needed to hide some golden disk for himself to find in the future. After all, he hadn’t been able to touch it, and well, whatever it was, Nogicals could touch it and not be affected.

“Just ignore her,” Jack said. “That’s what I always do.”

She smirked. “See, you don’t remember.”

Benjamin crossed his arms. “That was like three thousand years ago.”

The Nogical laughed. “It was a few months ago. And it’s Lulu.”

Benjamin nodded like he knew all along. “Of course. Lulu. You guys are friends, right?”

Lulu coughed out a laugh. “Friends. More like he’s my annoying little brother who never stops pestering me. ‘Travel back in time and help my friend Benjamin,’ he says. And then he doesn’t even bother to tell me what kind of help you need. Anyway, the answer is telepathy.”

“What’s the question?” Benjamin said.

Lulu jabbed her little green finger into his chest. “Your shirt. Telepathy.”

Benjamin looked down at his blue t-shirt. It was the same one he’d been asleep in only a couple hours ago. In white letters across the front it read, “TELEKINESIS or TELEPATHY?”

Benjamin laughed. “I don’t know, telekinesis is pretty cool, too.”

“Telekinesis is for wusses,” Lulu said.

“You’re just no good at it,” Jack replied.

“No. I just like knowing how awesome people think I am,” Lulu said.

“Annoying you mean,” Jack said.

“Whatever. Helios needs you,” she told Jack. “And when you talk to him, tell him not to order me around. I’m not a servant, you know.” And then Lulu teleported away.

Jack turned back to Benjamin. “See what I have to put up with? Too bad genetic engineering doesn’t eliminate big sisters from the gene pool.”

And before Benjamin could ask what Helios wanted to see Jack about, Jack teleported away.