The Thirteenth Chapter ONE

Chapter ONE

Uamali rolled up the legs of her jeans, stood up, and absently ran her fingers over the stones in her silver divining necklace as she gripped it tightly in her left hand. Then she opened the deck doors and walked barefoot out toward the deserted beach. Even with a lightweight, white tank top on, the early morning sun beat down hot rays on her scalp, face, and shoulders. She squinted toward the beach and lifted her dreadlocks up higher in a ponytail scrunchie, searching for Carlos, then let out a hard breath of frustration when she didn't immediately spot him.

Why did everything on the team always have to be done by committee? Okay, sure, every man in the house whose wife was pregnant was freaking out, and the Berkfields were having a fit because their daughter, Krissy, and daughter-in-law, Jasmine, were carrying their first grandchildren, but she and Carlos couldn't just do an energy fold-away this close to the Bermuda Triangle! Basic quantum physics made that impossible. The Triangle was magnetically unstable. J.L. knew that. Every tactical Guardian on the team should have been able to grasp the implications. Why they had to argue that fact with the team was beyond her.

It was simple, at least in her mind. Deviations in the magnetic field around the phenomenon were caused by micro-wormholes, otherwise known as transit tunnels--the same tunnel system that the team seemed to have forgotten that Cain had used to lead a full aqua-demon army out of Nod before.

Damali blew a stray strand of damp hair up off her forehead, exasperated. The damned Bermuda Triangle, just like all the other vortexes on the planet, was filled with rips in the cosmic fabric, some only a gigafraction of an inch--a tear so small that it could be represented by a decimal point and the number one preceded by something crazy like thirty-three zeros, where unstable mini-black holes of virtual matter and mini-white holes of virtual antimatter fluxed on a dime in and out of the geometry of space.

Only Cain was insane enough, and driven enough, to risk bringing his armies through a temporary black hole flux . . . just like the angels must have jettisoned the team through a quick flicker of white hole opening to get them here. But neither she nor Carlos was down for chancing that. Hell, no--that'd be like trying to jump into a millisecond-turning double-Dutch rope that was changing from black to white and white to black and hoping they could snatch the entire team through on white. Not. Pulling a team through that, where one burp in the interdimensional vortex could land them God only knew where, was not an option. No wonder Carlos was freaking-out.

After a moment of walking to calm down, Damali steadied herself. The team was panicked, and her gut told her that was why unity was so hard to achieve right now. Everybody had to chill. Marj and Berkfield had their parental worries about Krissy and Bobby, as well as their kids' spouses and unborn grands . . . just like Marlene and Shabazz were no doubt scared to death for her and Carlos. Maybe Yonnie and Val, along with Rider and Tara, would be the balancers of sanity this time out, she prayed. Inez and Mike were too freaked-out about the whereabouts of little Ayana and Mom Delores, rightfully so, to be of much help. But Bobby,J.L.,Jose, and Dan would probably have a cow once they finally learned she was pregnant, too . . . which was why she knew Carlos needed to go take a long walk before he'd said something about her state that had been forbidden by the joint Neteru Kings' and Queens' Councils. Why was everything always so hard?

She'd left the team to its collective squabbling about the potential next steps to take without looking back. They'd still be at it by the time she got back, she was sure. This was the part of communal living that Carlos couldn't stand; she knew her husband well. After the team meeting, that Scorpio was going to need a private, quiet place to get his head together. Fury waves had been coming off his body so intensely that they were threatening to either fuse the Turkish rug to the hardwood floors around him or start a blaze. That's when he simply got up and left the villa.

Yeah, Carlos had to get up, get out, and walk it off. It was easy to understand. The darkside had jacked with Carlos Rivera's cash flow, which represented major disrespect where he came from, and she knew his old street ways were wrestling within him. That part of him would never fully die. It would always resonate in his being, no matter what. Once from the streets always from the streets. Mess with a brother's money? Oh, hell to the no. Damali just shook her head as she searched the beach for him. Some things were simply embedded in the man's DNA.

Armageddon notwithstanding, with a wife and a baby on the way, the darkside was playing to all of her husband's deepest fears--all of which centered on basic survival. For Carlos, she knew cash meant flexibility, maneuverability, strength, a backdoor escape. If he was liquid, he could flow like the water sign he was and get out of whatever. But they'd taken that option away and Senor Rivera wasn't having it.

By the time she found him, his aura was radiating so much heat it had turned the sand around him to glass. Actual grains of sand had fused together right under him without burning him and then had quickly cooled from the trade winds and surf. It was eerie to see him sitting all alone, yogi-style, wearing jeans and a red T-shirt, hovering several inches above the beach in heavy meditation, aura glowing white-hot silver and him taking in long, deep breaths, practically shaking with rage. A deep crimson V of sweat marked his shirt as his broad shoulders and back slowly expanded and contracted beneath it.

Stopping for a moment, she wrestled with how best to approach him. He needed to know that she was on his side, even if she didn't agree with the waste of energy being expended on rage. They had shit to do and had to do it quickly before Mr. Fontaine at the resort began to inquire further.

Caribbean sun beat down on Carlos's bronze skin, making the silver aura around him shimmer until she had to partially shield her eyes with her hand. Small beads of silver perspiration cast a glow to his damp hair, and his normally ripped, athletic frame had bulked ever so slightly, adding bricks to his abdominal six-pack, chest, and thickly muscled biceps. He was two seconds from a full vamp battle bulk, she could tell, and the only things missing were the sabertooth-length battle fangs.

Damali sighed quietly and tested the brittle surface of the beach before she stepped onto the smooth, shiny coating, wondering as much about how to restore what had once been pale pink sand to its previous pristine beauty as she was worried about how to restore Carlos's peace. He was creating an ecological disaster while in angry-meditation repose. What the hell was he gonna do when he finally came out of the trance?

"You're levitating," she said calmly, walking toward him as she murmured a prayer that their conversation be Light-sealed.

Carlos opened his eyes, pure silver staring back at her as he unfolded from the yogi position and stood. "You ain't seen nothing yet," he said in a low, furious tone.

"Okay, so they messed up our money--"

"No," he said evenly, cutting her off. "What the darkside did was box us in, bleed us out, and make us have to come out of hiding to eat ... a daylight exposure move. Sudden death. Old-school vamp. Starve 'em out."

She nodded, having to give credit where credit was due. "Yep. Okay, but we're still unrecognizable, courtesy of the Light. Last I checked, that side was providing for us, any ole way. We got here safely, which is more than you can say for a lot of people. We ate well. Got cleaned up, rested, and got new clothes-- anywhere there's a church mission we can pull in resources so we're not raiding stores and gift shops like thieves. So what makes you think we're gonna be without for long? Might not be as fly as we're used to, but we won't be completely ass out, and you know it. This just pisses you off because it's definitely gonna cramp our style--a lot."

Carlos looked away from her and folded his arms over his bulked chest.

"Do not let ego get a chokehold on you, brother. I know you and Yonnie loved having deep pockets . . . but if the entire planet blows up, how much does that matter?"

When he whirled on her, she knew she'd accidentally pushed the wrong button.

"It's not about that, D!" he shouted. "It's about being able to move, roll smooth without a trace, buy supplies and ammo, and have the basic cover we need when we need it. Don't make this about some old bullshit, Damali. Not this morning. Don't go there."

"All right, all right, my bad," she said, holding her hands up in front of her. "But you have to admit--"

"I don't have to do jack shit but get this family out of here in one piece. How am I supposed to do that when they have all my closest land options in a direct route through the Bermuda Triangle?"

"Uriel said to wait for word."

Carlos briefly hung his head back and closed his eyes. "I know. And I was ready to do that. But where are we gonna wait, D?" He opened his eyes as he opened his arms and simply stared at her. ,"They dropped us at a hotel where we can't pay the bill. Even if I could successfully jettison us out of here, the humans at the hotel will by rights call U.S. authorities, which will alert the darkside to our last location--here--which will put pure Hell hot on our trail."

"Uriel said to wait for word," Damali repeated calmly, not blinking as she stared at him.

Carlos let his breath out hard. "Yeah, I know." "You try the Kings?"

He stared at her for a moment. "You try the Queens?" She nodded. "Seems all of Heaven pretty much emptied out searching for the pupa."

"And in the meantime, we're ass out."

Damali fought a smile. "Yeah, I guess our credit card problems aren't a top priority, given what the Light is hunting ... or as much of a priority as trying to contain the pale horse of the Apocalypse, huh?"

"I don't even see how you can crack a smile at a time like this." Incredulous, Carlos raked his fingers through his hair and shook his head'. "We've got a serious problem, boo."

"Yeah, I know," Damali said, finally going to him. "Listen . . . I wasn't making fun of you; I was just trying to put things into perspective. So, we leave Mr. Fontaine a Rolex--which should cover the nights we stayed, along with a note saying that due to the Wall Street crash, everything liquid we had got jacked. This way, we're not breaking cosmic law by stealing, which means the darkside can't track us ... then we--"

"We what, D?" Carlos pulled away from her to begin pacing. "What the fuck are we supposed to do!"

"Go to the hills, and--"

"That's just it, Damali. They're hills, not mountains! The whole island is only twenty-one freakin' square miles big. You can get from one end to the other in an hour. Hide? Hide where, boo? You wanna go to the place called Shadow Mountain here, which is really a big hill--or maybe wall-up underground in their crystal caves that look like you've entered Level Seven of Hell? No, no, better yet, we can hide in Hungry Bay or Mangrove Swamp with you being pregnant! Or maybe we'll just hang out at the golf course green of the Duns Resort until we bump into Tiger Woods and then I'll ask him if he has a coupla C notes he can drop on--"

"Or maybe we could just go to a church, and call the Covenant?" She stared at Carlos. He was starting to get on her last nerve. "The oldest church on the island, Marlene said, is the Cathedral of the Most Holy. To me it's as good a place as any to wait for word from an archangel, don't you think?"

Carlos gave her his back to consider as he put his hands on top of his head and walked off a ways. She'd wait. She knew the drill--he had to blow off enough steam to let good, old-fashioned logic kick in. The fact that Father Pat was no longer around had .simply closed off the Covenant as an option for support in her husband's mind. She could feel it, knew it as much as she knew her name. There were so many things eating the man up from the inside out that it was obvious he couldn't think straight.

"Listen," she said quietly after a moment. "The Light always works in code and yet always provides. We're in Bermuda, man. No one knows who we are, courtesy of the Light. Truth be told, we could eat off the trees and live off the fish in this weather for a long time, if we had to, and we've avoided the pale horse plagues for now. We could still be scraping in the streets of D.C. trying to get past military checkpoints. So,/here's gotta be something about why we got dropped here, of all places."

When he didn't immediately respond, she pressed her point, trying to give him something positive to hang on to. "Did you ever consider that maybe the Light put us here because during this all-out war, even the darkside would be afraid to send their troops through the Triangle to risk their resources right now? That network of interdimensional tunnels fluxes both black and white, right? So, this could be the safest place at the moment. . . I'd bank on that, since an archangel set us down here and not in a hot zone. Make sense?"

To her relief, she watched the intricate tumblers in Carlos's mind begin to turn with that new awareness, as though her words were the necessary lubricant to get the heavy mental gears that had been paralyzed by rage to move.

Damali motioned to her necklace. It was important to give the man who she knew wanted to rip out an entity's heart something more productive than vengeance to focus on.

"Twenty-one square miles--do the math." Damali looked at her husband in an unblinking gaze. "Two plus one is three, a trinity. Even after the Light sent old man Cordell back to rejoin his D.C. team, there are still twenty-one members of core Guardians and clerics combined on our team--eighteen Neteru Guardians here with three remaining members of the Covenant back in the States. This place is made up of seven main islands within the cluster of tiny coral islands and islets--seven, Carlos. A lucky number; a power number. C'mon, I thought you were a betting man."

Carlos looked out to sea, his eyes glazing over with a seer's mild trance. "Yeah. Blackjack. Twenty-one, a trinity. All right, I hear you. Spanish mariners got here in 1503, which when you do the math comes to nine ... an end number. But if Bermuda is being represented by an end number, and they left us off outside the Bermuda Triangle--why would they drop us near what is also known as the Devil's Triangle, baby? Cain got his troops through this way before, and you know his granddaddy, old Lu, is crazier than him." Carlos turned to look at her, the trance suddenly gone.

Damali shrugged and looked down at the necklace in her fist. "Let's ask Pearl."

"He released the pale horse," Fallen Nuit murmured to Lilith discreetly. "Does this mean Sebastian was correct in his theory that the Neteru heir has been conceived? We've scoured the eastern seaboard for three days and three nights, have sent out search-and-destroy teams everywhere, and it's as though the entire Neteru Guardian team simply vanished without a trace. This can only be the work of angels . . . perhaps there is information that we should be apprised of by our master? Why aren't the Neterus here at the epicenter of the disaster fending off our demon attacks and helping the innocent as they are so led to do? Something's wrong, Lilith."

Lilith shot Fallon a glare. "Do you want to be the one to question my husband about his war strategy at a time like this?"

She waited a beat as they stood in the shadowed ruins of the White House. "I didn't think so."

Undaunted, Nuit lifted his chin, wanting to make use of the rare opportunity of having Lilith's ear in a private conference. "Then what of [email protected] heir? Surely this contagion that has been unleashed could harm his development."

"Have you seen the angelic dispatches?" she hissed with a smile. "They are of more harm to him than mere pestilence-- which, by now, he thrives on like the rest of us. He has been safely moved, rest assured. But the heavens will pour out to attempt to protect their precious humans. A beautiful diversion, don't you think?"

Nuit didn't immediately reply as he watched demons scampering between the rubble with bits of dead human flesh in their clutches. It would be weeks before all the bodies were recovered and the damaged structures were repaired. Chaos reigned . . . but there was a part of him that was actually sad. He allowed the odd sensation to invade him for a moment, letting it coat his insides and flow over his evil palate like a new wine that he'd never tasted.

"I shall miss the old days," Nuit admitted quietly, waxing sentimental in a rare display of truth. He lifted his chin to stand taller, brushing flecks of dust from the rubble off his black designer suit and then tugging on his cuffs a bit. The glimpse of vulnerability he'd given his Council Chairwoman could have been a mistake, but it was so close to his surface that she would have sensed it regardless.

Resigned to whatever she would do with the information, he turned his black glowing gaze on the carnage and ran his fingers through his thicket of onyx curls. New Orleans was calling him, as were the good old days of plantation ownership in his Creole bayou.

Clearly horrified, Lilith didn't immediately answer. Instead she pressed a graceful hand to her voluptuous chest and allowed a slight scowl to overtake her eerily gorgeous face. She studied Nuit with soulless dark eyes.

"I have not grown soft, dear Lilith, calm yourself." Nuit let out a deep sigh and then motioned before him. "There was once a certain order of things. A balance. There was exquisite beauty in that balance. The greatest honor to become daywalk-ers, and no longer haunted by the searing sun, will unfortunately allow us to witness a loss of what we'd been."

"Fallon," Lilith murmured, coming closer to him, "what have you learned? What haven't you told me at this critical hour of battle?"

"We were bound by the blood and the night . . . now we will all become flesh-eaters before long. The human populations will soon be thoroughly diseased. Pristine blood in the goblets of old shall be no more, shall pass away as have all the old-world ways that once held a level of dignified charm. The erotic thrill of turning an innocent will be a thing of the past as well. . . once the humans all become the walking dead." He shook his head. "Such a pity."

Lilith stroked his jaw, seeming relieved as her black irises considered his for a moment. "I will never admit this in open council. . . but I understand you, tnon ami. It is quite a pity and I will miss the days of pure vampires, too. Pure bloodlust. The beauty of deadly seduction versus brute force." Lilith sighed. "We were majestic creatures, yes?"

"Oui. It was tres ban." Nuit allowed her silky, raven-hued hair to fall through his fingers as he slid it off her bare shoulder with strange affection. "Vlad will also weep . . . how could the count, for all his insanity, not miss the old empire?"

Lilith nodded and looked out to the smoldering battlefield that had previously been intact city streets. "He will weep, as will all the ones from the era of the night, but yet we shall become used to the new order of things. This chaos is temporary . . . the heir brings the promise of perpetual night and with it a level of evil that the world has never known. Humans will shudder in fear, the fumes of it rising with their every breath, and we will feed off that as much as their blood and flesh."

"I will still miss the game. The enchantment of the hunt. This is pure slaughter. Not very sporting, after it has all been said and done."

Lilith clucked her tongue and petted the side of Nuit's face until he closed his eyes. "There, there, yes, I know," she whispered seductively. "I think this is why he's left us the Neterus and some Guardians to still hunt, don't you?"

Their eyes met and an evil smile found its way between them to silently savor, but neither would openly say what was on his or her mind. To even breathe that the Dark Lord had left the Neteru team alive because he'd been bested by the Light was a death sentence.

"I suppose I should rejoin the battle," Nuit said, sensing that his private moment had come to an end as Lilith's hand fell away from his cheek.

"You are aware that our Dark Lord only knows brute force as an extreme measure. For centuries he toyed with the chess games between him and the dreaded Light. And now it has come to this. He is tired, stressed, and has grown impatient for unequivocal victory. My suggestion is that each of you show yourself to be of constant value to the new empire he's creating ... or I don't know how long I will be able to protect any of you. He's on a mission."

"No country for old men?" Nuit said with a sad smile.

The sly half-smile Lilith had been wearing disappeared from her face. "No. Not at all, Fallen."

The moment Damali dipped her necklace into the balmy Bermuda waters, the six precious stones in it lit and the oracle pearl blushed rosy pink and cooed. Small waves lapped Damali's calves and she had to admit the water felt great against her skin.

"Oh . . . Damali . . . that feels so good after all the drama." Pearl giggled.

Damali and Carlos stared at each other.

"She's been hanging around the team too long," he muttered. "Since when does an ancient oracle start talking about . 'drama'?"

"Hi, Carlos," Pearl said in a sexy voice. "I'm so glad you're all right."

"Hey, Pearl, glad you made it, too," Damali said, slightly peeved.

"Oh, yeah, hi, Damali." Pearl laughed in a good-natured tone, totally oblivious to the slight. "Glad to see you, too."

Damali just shook her head as she held the oracle under the water in the shallows.

"So, I hate to rush you, or anything, but we're in--"

"Bermuda," Pearl gushed. "Just off the coast of Atlantis. There's so much white-light power beyond the vortexes."

Carlos shot Damali a look. "Okay, you can say I told you so."

"Told her what?" Pearl asked, her voice curious and playful.

"Uriel said to wait here for word, and our credit cards just got slammed by Homeland Security and the darkside," Damali said, not answering the pearl's question as she launched into the problem at hand. "So, we're trying to figure out a next move. At least what the Divine motivation was for dropping us off here."

"With no money," Carlos interjected, walking onto the damp sand to stand closer to Damali, and not caring that his jeans and Tims got wet.

"Right," Damali said, looking up at Carlos from where she squatted.

Carlos bent down to get a closer look at the small bubbles rising from the submerged necklace.

"Hmmm . . . I'm not sure," Pearl said, giddy from the rush of water that flooded over her.

"The oracle is not sure," Carlos said flatly. He gave Damali a look and then stood up and stretched his back with annoyance. "Perfect."

"Give her a minute, baby," Damali warned, when Pearl's glow dimmed. "You'll hurt her feelings."

"I'm not a machine, you know," Pearl snapped, her tone hurt and defensive. "I need to acclimate myself to the environment, Carlos, and it's not as though anyone had the courtesy to immediately revive me in these crystal-blue Caribbean waters . . . oh, nooo . . . you just left me on a dresser until you wanted something. No one thought that maybe Pearl might need a little sea surf after all the horrible things I saw in those battles with you. Humph!"

"Apologize," Damali whispered. Or we won't get anywhere, she added in a telepathic barb.

Carlos let his breath out hard and then looked at the necklace. "I'm sorry, boo . . . I'm just a little tight. Didn't mean to take it out on you."

"But you have money, Carlos," Pearl said, sounding much improved. "Didn't Father Pat come to you, yet? You've been so angry that maybe his spirit couldn't get through?"

Carlos came closer and squatted down: He motioned to Damali to allow him to hold her necklace. "Talk to me, baby."

Pearl giggled and released a bubbly, underwater sigh as the necklace slid from Damali's hands to Carlos's.

"Oh, brother," Damali muttered under her breath. "You might as well put her in a ring or a damned--"

"Hey, hey, hey," Carlos said, laughing softly. "You'll hurt her feelings and will have to apologize."

The glare Damali gave him made him swallow a smile and return his attention to the oracle.

"Pearl, baby, you know she doesn't mean any harm . . . but I really need to know what you're talking about."

"The Templar treasures. Those are human-gathered, but the whereabouts are not known of by common man--only other Templars--so the riches of the vaults cannot be confiscated by the human authorities. They were consecrated by Templar priests and hidden on hallowed ground to be used in the mission of protecting the innocent and for the service of the Most High, so the darkside has no access and cannot make it disappear, either. I'm also sure that they would have collected a considerable stash of weaponry to be used against the darkside throughout the ages, as they were warrior-priests."

"Yes!" Carlos leapt up and kissed the necklace, making it laugh out loud before returning it to the water. "I love you, Pearl!"

Damali stood, hands on hips, thoroughly annoyed. "I told you the Light provides. How many times have we had this conversation, Carlos?"

"Okay," Carlos admitted with a wide smile, briefly looking up at Damali before studying the necklace again. "You're right, I'm wrong, Mrs. Rivera. But, Pearl, how do I find the Templar vaults?"

"The Templars were once the strongest banking network in the world and only those sworn by their oath know where their vaults are," Pearl added proudly. "But I hear their resources are far vaster than the little bit of money, comparatively, that you and Yonnie had. Don't worry, Carlos. It's going to be all right."

"But that's the problem--we've gotta drop some cash on the hotel pronto ... so, c'mon, Pearl. If you have the smallest clue . . ."

"You have to wait for Father Pat to show you," Pearl murmured. "I'm sorry, Carlos, even I can't see that. Their vaults are Light-shielded so that only those given direct permission can access them. They did that after that evil French king burned so many of them at the stake and took their treasury the last time. Now that they've reclaimed it and rebuilt it to hefty reserves over the years, not even oracles can see their hidden resources. All I know is that Father Pat will come to you to reveal resources to you. I wish I knew more."

"It's cool," Carlos said, trying to remain calm.

"If they're not showing us resources right away, there's a reason," Damali interjected.

"That is true, Damali," Pearl said brightly.

Damali stooped down staring into the warm, clear blue water. "You said something about Atlantis . . . and before when we were in Washington, D.C., you said something about something being brought out of Ethiopia. What's up with all that?"

"You will soon be told about what came out of Ethiopia. Right now it's important for you to remember that they found a pyramid off the coast of Bermuda that was twelve hundred feet down below the surface of the sea."

Damali glanced at Carlos. "That reduces to three, in numerology."

"Yes," Pearl murmured in contentment. "It is also three hundred feet higher than the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt. The Bermuda Triangle stretches from here to Florida to Puerto Rico, three . . . also a pyramid--but it also encases the Bimini Islands. Bimini is Taino for 'mother of many waters.' Your team is that now. Many mothers, many waters . . . water is your safe haven, water can be blessed as you travel across it, and in northern Bimini there is a saltwater mangrove forest that has a healing cove. Go there for a while and await word."

"That's our way back into the States," Carlos said, now looking at Damali. "From here to Puerto Rico by small charter boat, skirting the Triangle so the darkside can't detect us, through the Bimini Islands, and back in through the Florida Keys. From there, sheeit. If me and Yonnie get back on Miami soil, we definitely know how to navigate that terrain. We go from there, recon with our Atlanta team, and go get Ayana and Mom Delores, as well as get Dan's parents, out of harm's way . . . but we've gotta circumnavigate the Triangle as our cloak against the darkside while on the open seas. . . also probably the huge destroyer that's stalking the Atlantic, you feel me? We could get blown out of the water by a nervous U.S. military move, too. This shit ain't no joke."

"Stay as close to the edge of the vortex as you can," Pearl murmured in delight. "That's what Uriel wants."

"With the pyramid they found underwater here as our touchstone?" Damali said, glancing from the oracle to Carlos and back. "I still don't understand the whole Atlantean energy thing, but when you said pyramid, I'm on it."

"The energy will be good for the babies." Pearl giggled. "Atlantis is where Tehuti hid the knowledge of the Kemetian empire before it sank . . . your Kings' and Queens' ancestors all hail from there, just as the Kemetian, Mayan, Aztec, and Incan empires were vast, then disappeared without a trace or reason, so went Atlantis before them . . . where positive soul spirits came forward to dry land to rebuild what had sunk, bringing advanced knowledge forward through the seven rays of consciousness."

Damali and Carlos stared at each other and then down at the oracle as it prattled on in a cheerful voice.

"Every continent that owns pyramids or mounds, superstructures, and standing stones has an Atlantis vortex off its coasts-- that's why no one can find it ... Atlantis isn't in just one place or associated with just one race, it was a vast, advanced network of diverse races all called Atlanteans, just as before them were Lemurians and the Mu. Therefore, you must have your female seers lock into that to guide you past the dangerous fluxes in the Triangle. All seven pregnant female Guardians need to hold the energy. Each new child being formed must gain strength in one of the seven rays, in addition to the extrasensory gifts genetically passed by their parents."

Only four of our Guardians are pregnant, Damali shot to Carlos in a private, telepathic barb. She said seven!

I know, I know, but be cool, Carlos shot back, wiping his brow. Be cool? Be cool! Damali's eyes were wild. The only other possibilities are Tara and Val ... or Inez . . . which means half oj the team is down, literally!

"Are you two listening to me anymore?" Pearl said in a sweetly sarcastic voice.

"Yeah," Carlos said, giving Damali a look to table the telepathic conversation. "We hear you. If the area has crazy energy, maybe our stoneworkers and seers can lock onto the pyramid to help whomever we charter a boat from hold his course--that part we got. But, damn, that gets right back to the problem of resources. Me and Yonnie are gonna have to--" "No, Carlos." Damali gave him a hard look. "What do you mean no, D? It is what it is--we need cash to function. That's just being real. What are we supposed to do until the Templar treasures and any other mystical shit is revealed?"

Damali stood, stretching her back, her gaze boring into Car-los's. She hesitated, wanting to say so much more about the additional pregnancies that Pearl just casually mentioned, but let it go for the sake of time and priorities. What did that matter anyway, really, when they were already in deep doo-doo?

"If we pull in money from some dirty source or so-call borrow it from an unsuspecting, innocent source, then we open ourselves up to the darkside," Damali said evenly, slowly folding her arms over her chest. "That's why we've gotta pay our bill at the villa, even if we do that using one of the team members' Rolex watch or something. We can't go back to the old ways. I don't care, draw lots and give up the wrist candy. As it is, the angels made poor Mr. Fontaine think we'd booked months in advance and hooked up the resort's computers to reflect that--stealing might unravel who knows what, Carlos. Be serious."

"You can't charter a yacht without money, D."

He folded his arms over his chest. She stared at the sea, and then glanced up at him with a half-smile as the pearl in her necklace blushed again. Damali immediately squatted down and submerged the necklace under the surf.

"Didn't seer Marlene mention the Cathedral of the Most High?" Tiny bubbles broke the surface of the water as a small wave lapped against Damali's legs. Pearl's voice cooed with contentment before she practically sang out her next statement. "I'd bet they have a parishioner there who might help you for free ... if you ask him nicely and don't scare the poor man half to death, Carlos. After all, this is a mariner land with members of the British Navy heavily populated here, too."

Damali stood with a triumphant sigh. "I keep telling you we need to go to church more often, Carlos. But what do I know?"
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