AN: This would have been posted yesterday, but Heath Ledger's death put me into shock, so I was lacking in the creativity department.
Disclaimer: I do not own National Treasure and I'm not associated with anyone involved with it.
Riley silently scolded himself for agreeing to fly all the way to South America. He hated airplanes--the thought of flying thousands of feet above ground had never settled with him. It always felt like the plane was suddenly going to explode or have some sort of technical difficulty that would result in his death. He'd watched enough television shows and movies to know that those rare occurrences actually happened from time to time. It didn't help his anxiety none to see the plane sitting in front of him, waiting to be filled with passengers, looked a little too much like the ones on television.
He fought back the urge to take off running in the opposite direction, knowing that his current position could have been prevented by a simple, negative response to his friend's question. The moment Ben Gates came running to him with a strange, gleeful expression etched across his face and a vague explanation about a new lost-treasure-adventure-thing, he was quick to agree and offer his service in any way possible. And he mentally chided with himself for responding so swiftly.
It didn't make any sense, why was it so hard to say no to your best friend? Even after a few minutes of thought, Riley was still unable to conjure a legitimate reply to his own inquiry. A million excuses swarmed through his head—millions of stories or mendacious reasons he hadn't thought of before when Ben initially asked him the one question he would never reject; a stomach virus had entered his system, there wasn't enough time in his schedule, his mother was ill, his computer needed a new hard drive, Marty McFly had once again messed with the space time continuum…
He made a face; he really needed to stop watching that movie.
"You didn't have to come, you know." Ben interrupted his thoughts, shouldering his bag and giving his young friend a pointed look. "I left the decision completely up to you."
Riley shrugged, trying to appear indifferent. "I'm fine."
"You're quiet, and that's definitely a sign you're not okay."
"I guess I'm just tired," Riley said evenly, struggling to keep his eyes from eyeing the massive aircraft suspiciously. "I needed to get out of that apartment anyway. Lack of sunlight has been known to cause trouble."
Ben's pace quickened once he glanced at his watch, and he paused before asking, "Are you ever planning to move out of there?"
"Doubt it," Riley answered, lowering his gaze to the pavement below. "It's a nice place. I don't think I'd be able to live anywhere else."
"You can live with us," Ben offered, his tone completely truthful.
Riley couldn't help but feel grateful at his friend's honesty, but of course, he would never admit to it. "Sorry, but the idea of spending eternity with your little tower of terror isn't a comforting thought."
Ben scoffed. "I find it hilarious that you're referring to my unborn child as a tower of terror."
"It's how I roll."
"You're rolling a little too critical there, buddy." Ben smirked.
"Abigail is the mother, right?"
"Then your child might as well be spawned from Satan himself." Riley gave Ben a sideways glance, trying to discern his reaction to the statement. Fortunately, the older man didn't seem to take it seriously. "Trust me, Ben. Your kid is going to be a handful."
Ben didn't say anything, only shook his head in amusement and elbowed his short friend in the side rather unexpectedly, causing Riley to stumble out of his careful tread. For a moment, Riley thought of socking Ben in the arm—just to show him that he was a manly man, but thought better of it as they neared the plane entrance.
As they boarded the craft—rather halfheartedly on Riley's part—both friends were jostled by a particularly rude man who looked like death itself, and the duo gave each other a knowing look as they squeezed through the aisle and found their seats.
"I don't get people," Riley muttered as he plopped down into the predictably uncomfortable seat near the window. "Why do they have to be so rude about everything?" He raised his voice to properly imitate the sound of a nitpicking human. "Give me this. Don't touch that. Get out of my way or I'll smack your little head silly."
Ben smiled. "That's a nice impression."
"I do what I can."
A feminine voice sounded over the intercom, relating the standard procedures should anything happen during flight. Her voice was a little too perky for Riley's liking. "There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only four ways out of this airplane--"
Riley decided for his own sanity and benefit, that he would block out the rest of what the woman was saying.
He felt Ben nudge his arm. "We'll be okay," the treasure-hunter assured with a light smile.
Riley gave him a skeptical look. "Yeah? You positive on that?"
Ben arched an eyebrow. "Absolutely."
"Ever watch Lost?"
Ben laughed suddenly. "I've had the pleasure of indulging myself in that cryptic show, yes. But nothing like that is going to happen, Riley."
"Sure, sure," Riley waved a hand dismissively, his voice taking on a hysterical high-pitch. "That's exactly what Jack told Rose. Then, two seconds later, the plane is in two completely separate pieces, hurtling towards the ground at five hundred thousand miles an hour—then poof! Half of them are dead, some poor man gets eaten by an engine, there's a giant smoke monster that nobody seems to think about when they go to relieve themselves, a creepy man with freaky eyes named Ethan is a complete and total stalker, and polar bears! Polar bears!"
"Calm down," Ben grinned, finding the extended response to be somewhat humorous. "How about we take your mind off flying?"
Riley shifted in his seat as the plane began to take off. "What do you have in mind?" Part of him already knew the answer.
Almost instantly, Ben had his hands full of parchment and various articles printed directly from the Internet. Riley slumped in his chair, "you know I'm just going to fall asleep again."
"In these chairs?" Ben pounded on the hard-rock cushion for emphasis. "Even you couldn't get a decent amount of rest here."
"Oh please," Riley crossed his arms, trying to find a comfortable position. "You're talking to the man who conked out on your kitchen floor last Christmas."
"Don't remind me. Just try to stay awake, okay?"
Ben suddenly went into full-historian mode. "How much do you know about French expeditions?"
Riley frowned, clearing his head to recall the information about the French undertakings he'd learned in high school. "Nothing much," he said with a twinge of curiosity. "I remember something about French guys exploring West Africa."
"That was in the 1850's. Go back further."
Riley feigned a yawn. "I'm sorry, Beever. My mommy hadn't conceived me at that point."
"1783—ring any bells?"
"Nope. How about you enlighten me and stop quizzing me?"
"Someone's getting antsy," Ben muttered then flipped through his stack of papers before pulling out a single sheet. He handed the paper to Riley. "Read this out loud."
"What?" Riley took the paper and stared at it. "Why can't you read it?"
"I have cotton mouth. Now go on."
Riley made a mental note to retaliate later on. He cleared his throat and began to read, "In 1783, French explorer Alexis Basset sailed across the Northern Atlantic towards South America carrying in his possession, an fortune worth billions. Once he arrived in Teresina, Brazil, Basset and his crew were raided and murdered by American sailor John Sennett. Sennett and his team pilfered every ounce of Bassett's fortune—all except for one single piece he left behind unintentionally." Riley shook his head. "Alright. So this dude got jacked and we're going to find the treasure he left behind?"
Ben ignored him, shoving another piece of paper into Riley's hands. This particular piece depicted the image of a golden plate roughly the size of a DVD disk. Engraved in the coin's surface was an imprint of a snake, jaws wide open and teeth baring.
"What is this?" Riley asked as he studied the picture.
"It's a gold platter." Ben stated promptly. "Also known as; The Treasure of Renaissance." Ben revealed another thesis and placed it in Riley's steadily growing collection of papers.
This article contained a list of animal names: buffalo, snakes, bears, eagles, and at least a dozen more. Next to the names in fine printed text was a few descriptive words. Riley stared in confusion.
"And what do all of these words mean?"
Ben pointed to the snake column, his finger tracing along the pair of words next to the breed name. "See this?" Riley nodded. "These two words—"Rebirth" and "Transformation"—are both part of the many symbolic meanings used to illustrate the snake totem."
"Wait, a totem. What is that again?"
"A symbolic entity, usually in the form of an animal, that's been said to watch over a tribe or a group of people."
"Now "Rebirth" is translated to "Renaissance" in French. The inscription on the plate Sennett left behind is a picture of a snake. And our goal is to find that plate."
Riley pieced all of the information together, and shook his head in disbelief as the remaining fragments clicked together. "So…we're flying all the way to South America to find an oversized coin?"
"An oversized coin worth millions," Ben corrected. "I know we don't need any extra money. We have everything we need, but I'm not doing this for my own personal gain. Any money we retract from this find is going straight to several charities and the gold plate itself will be given to a museum."
Riley gaped. "Why?"
Ben shrugged, averting his gaze briefly before returning eye contact. "This plate has been missing for centuries. People have died trying to find it, although the cause of their deaths is still unknown…" Ben trailed off while Riley struggled to keep himself from shrieking.
People actually died trying to find a stupid coin. How ridiculous was that? Riley gulped with an audible click, "Ben, do we even know where to look?"
"It's somewhere in Teresina, Brazil," Ben replied. "I've arranged a meeting with some experts of the subject and area. We're all in this together."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Riley faced his friend. "Other people are involved? You didn't tell me that!"
Ben shrugged. "I didn't think it mattered."
"Mattered?" Riley chuckled dryly. "Of course it doesn't matter. Ian and his buddies were so nice to us in Boston. I'm sure these new guys we're teaming up with aren't like them at all."
"You shouldn't judge them," Ben said lightly. "They seem like nice guys. Abby even talked to them, and she approved."
Riley giggled suddenly, causing Ben to question his reason for doing so. Riley only shrugged. "I was just thinking…if Abigail were here she'd be trying to control us both. Like puppets."
Ben laughed. "She would, wouldn't she?" he paused. "I feel bad, leaving her behind like I did."
Riley rolled his shoulder backwards, trying to relieve the pain in his muscle from sitting in the same position for so long. He looked at Ben. "Hey, she's pregnant. It's not like she'd be able to make a trip like this anyway."
Ben nodded. "I just wish she hadn't thrown such a fit."
"It's Abigail. She always throws fits, and she's pregnant so her emotions are all like…..one after another. First she's happy and wants to hug you and then she's ticked off and chases you around the house with a broomstick."
Ben suppressed another laugh. The gentlemen in front of him, who was obviously trying to sleep, had been giving him incredulous looks every three minutes during his discussion with Riley.
He glanced at his watch. Nearly forty minutes had passed since they'd first boarded the plane. Only about four billion to go…
To be continued.
AN: Reviews are really appreciated—signed or not. :)