Spring of A.D. 2980
Washington, D.C., Capital Planet
He opened the hatch to the attic and turned on his flashlight, climbing into the large room. That big green book was around here somewhere…
Bingo! There it was!
He took the book down from the shelf and opened it, adjusting the flashlight's beam so that it fell on the open book. It looked like journal entries. Weird…
"What're you doing here?" a gruff voice said behind him.
The boy jumped and whirled around as lightning flashed outside. "Grandpa!"
The old man looked at him sternly but not unkindly. "You know you're not supposed to be up here." His gaze fell to the open book in his grandson's hands. "So that's what this is about."
"I just – I wanted to know." Wanted to know why his father always got so uptight when he saw that book, wanted to know the cause of all the arguments between his father and grandfather.
The grandfather nodded. "Sit down. Come on, sit down." The boy obeyed. "It started nearly four centuries ago, on a stormy night much like tonight, in the spring of 2626. James Douglas was the last surviving signer of the Alliance's Declaration of Independence, and he knew he was dying. So he had his chauffeur drive him to the Presidential Mansion, to see the President."
"Did he see him?"
"No, the President wasn't home. So Douglas took into his confidence the one person he could – his chauffeur, Andrew Lightyear – and told him of a secret."
"What was the secret?" the boy asked eagerly.
The grandfather leaned in close. "A treasure. Beyond all imagining. It began as a pharaoh's hoardings, but as the years passed, kings and warlords fought over this treasure. Every time it switched hands, it grew, until one day –" he snapped his fingers – "it vanished. Then, during the Crusades, a small group of English knights entered a chamber under the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, and there, they found the treasure. They swore an oath to protect it at all costs, and took on the name the Knights Templar. Over the years, they smuggled the treasure out of Israel and into Europe, and again, the wealth grew. Out of the Knights Templar came the group called the Freemasons, who took it upon themselves to continue to protect the treasure, eventually bringing it to America. But by the time of the Tangean War – when the Alliance was being born – some of the junior Freemasons agreed that their brotherhood was corrupt, and separated to form their own group, the Guardians. Not wanting the treasure to fall into the hands of the Galactic Federation, the Guardians hid it. They left a series of clues for people to follow, but by 2126, all the clues had been lost but one, and that was the secret that Douglas told Andrew." He paused, closing his eyes. "Charlotte. The secret lies with Charlotte."
"Who was Charlotte?" the boy asked, his eyes shining with anticipation.
The grandfather shook his head. "Not even Douglas knew."
"Nobody has known," another voice cut in from behind. "Generations of Lightyears chasing after that treasure, wasting their lives on fool's gold."
"It's not about the money, Patrick!" the grandfather said sternly, turning to his son. "It's never been about the money!"
"Come on, son, it's time to go," said the younger man, ignoring. "You can say your goodbyes." He left the attic.
The grandfather sighed, then turned when his grandson spoke. "Grandpa, are we knights?"
The old man chuckled. "You want to be?" The boy nodded eagerly. "All right, then. Umm, kneel." The boy obeyed, clutching the green book to his chest. The grandfather put his jacket around the boy's shoulders as a cape. "Benjamin Franklin Lightyear, you take upon yourself the duty of the Knights Templar, the Guardians, and the family of Lightyear. Do you so swear?"
The boy smiled, his blue eyes alight. "I so swear."
Summer of A.D. 3010
Within the Arctic Circle
All-terrain speeders flew over the snow and solid ice of the Arctic. Buzz turned in his seat to face Zurg. "You know," he shouted over the engines' roar, "I was just thinking about Hanson and Perry, crossing this kind of terrain in nothing more than dogsleds! Can you believe that?"
Zurg shook his head. "Incredible."
Buzz turned around further to see Warp in the backseat. "Hey, Warp, how close are we?"
"Well, if my data is correct," he said, eyes focused on his laptop, "we should be hitting pay dirt soon. Don't go by me, though – I broke a mirror this morning."
Zurg chuckled. "Maybe we should dump him out on the ice."
Buzz laughed, and Warp rolled his eyes. "Very funny. Oh – wait!" TARGET ACQUIRED flashed on his screen in huge red letters.
The two speeders ground to a halt, and their eight occupants disembarked to a landscape that was just as barren as what they'd been seeing for the past half hour.
"This is it, guys!" Buzz called.
"Where's the ship?" Jodo, one of Zurg's men, asked. "I don't see any ship?"
"It's underground, dipstick!" Zurg replied, slightly contemptuously.
Buzz shook his head as he and Warp took out the metal detectors for a manual scanning of the ground. After just one minute, Jodo came up to Warp's side and said, "Look, this is just a waste of time – what would a ship be doing way out here?"
"This was the last contact the Alliance had with the Charlotte," Warp told him. "If four centuries of ice and snow haven't buried her completely, we ought to be able to find her."
A little ways off, the alarm on Buzz's scanner went berserk. Pay dirt! He swung his pickax down and started hacking at the snow and ice. After two minutes, he heard and felt a dull bang. He brushed the snow away as quickly as possible, and saw rusted terillium beneath. There were some letters there, but not all of the word, and he had to dig away more snow. By that time, Warp had noticed his efforts and joined him, and in another ten minutes, the word on the metal was completely uncovered.
"He-llo, beautiful," Buzz breathed.
"Man," Warp agreed.
After an hour, enough snow was cleared away for the team to enter the old freighter. As the men rested for a few minutes before heading in, Buzz remarked to Zurg, "You know, if you hadn't shown up two years ago – believed the treasure was real – I think I would've just given up."
"You would've found it, Buzz, I'm sure," Zurg told him. "That's how I knew you weren't crazy like everyone else said you were."
"I'm just glad I'm not crazy like everyone else says I am," Buzz joked. "Or my dad, or my granddad, or my great-granddad…"
The ship was as frozen inside as out, and cast in an eerie blue light. The team made their way through the crew's quarters to get to the cargo hold. A blanket covered a lump on a cot, and – out of curiosity – Warp lifted the blanket…
…And yelped. Beneath was a skeleton.
Feeling eyes on him, he turned to see Buzz's deadpan expression. "Well, you handled that one well."
Warp gave his friend a decidedly nasty look.
The cargo hold was filled with barrels. Zurg broke into one and lifted the dirt-like black substance to inspect it. "Gunpowder."
Sean, the only other man who had come down into the ship, broke into other barrels and found the same gunpowder.
Buzz frowned when he saw the skeleton of what must have been the captain, sitting in a corner, bony arms wrapped around a barrel. "Now why would the captain be guarding this barrel?" he mused under his breath. He opened the barrel, which, sure enough, was filled with gunpowder. He sifted through the gunpowder, though, and found a small package. "Hey, guys! I found something!"
He opened the package and the box inside, revealing a pipe with a beautiful, ivory-colored castle carved as a cup. He looked at his companions with an excited smile. "You fellas know what this is?"
"A billion-unibuck pipe?" Warp asked hopefully.
"It's a meerschaum pipe," Zurg identified, accepting the pipe when Buzz handed it over. "Wow, looked at the detailed engraving and the scrollwork."
"Is it a million-unibuck pipe?" Warp persisted.
Buzz took the pipe back from Zurg and broke it between the cup and the stem, ignoring a protesting hey! from Warp. There was a small scroll of paper inside the pipe, but it was blank. He then took off his glove, took his pocket knife, and cut his thumb with the knife, drawing blood. He smeared his blood onto the scrollwork of the pipe's stem, then rolled the stem on the paper. Sure enough, crimson letters appeared on the paper, like an inked stamp. Grinning widely, he announced, "Gentlemen, we are one step closer to the treasure."
"Wait a minute," Zurg frowned. "I thought you said the treasure would be here."
"No, I said it might be here," Buzz corrected. "Instead, we have the next clue." He held up the paper and began to read the calligraphic lines. "The Legend writ, the Stain effected, the Key in silence… undetected. Two hundred men in iron pen; Mr. Donson can't offend." He sat down, trying to work it out in his mind. "The Legend writ – what legend? The legend of the treasure written down – no, that doesn't make any sense. The Stain effected – it's invisible."
"What do you mean invisible?" Zurg demanded, his mood considerably grumpier now that he hadn't found the treasure straight away.
"The Stain effected probably refers to an invisible ink, with which you have to use certain chemicals to make it appear, making what was undetectable detectable," Buzz explained. "The Key in silence undetected – now wait a minute, it's a map! Maps have legends, maps have keys – it's an invisible map!"
"Great, so what about the rest of it?" Warp asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "How about that Two hundred men in iron pen?"
"It's a prison," Sean offered.
"What?" Buzz frowned, confused.
"Two hundred men in iron pen – iron pen is a prison," Sean told him.
"Albuquerque," Warp said suddenly. "See, I can do it, too," he shrugged. "Snorkel."
Buzz sighed. "Or, it could refer to the type of pen that was used to write the map, but then why say iron pen? Why not just say pen?"
"Because it's a prison," Sean sulked.
"No, it was iron, it was firm – no, that doesn't make any sense. It was like iron – it was firm, it was adamant, it was resolved… It was resolved." Buzz stopped as realization dawned on him. "Mr. Donson can't offend. Gerald Donson was the scribe for the First Alliance Congress, and to make sure that he could not offend the map, it was put on the back of a resolution, a resolution that two hundred men signed… The Declaration of Independence from the Galactic Federation."
Warp's jaw fell open, and Zurg nodded slowly. "That… makes sense. That's diabolically clever, really – a document of that importance would ensure the map's survival. And you said that there were Guardians in the Alliance Congress."
Buzz nodded. "Twenty-one for sure."
"Well, we'll have to arrange an examination of the document," Zurg said lightly.
"Zurg, this is Alliance history we're talking about – they're not going to let us just waltz in there and run chemical tests on the Declaration of Independence," Buzz argued.
"There are other ways of getting it," Zurg said quietly. "You don't think my expertise is limited to writing checks and upgrading technology, do you? In the past, I've spearheaded a number of operations of –" he searched for the right term – "questionable legality."
"No," Buzz said firmly, standing. "No, I'm not going to let you steal the Declaration of Independence."
"All right, Buzz," Zurg said in a low tone, "you'll just be a hindrance from now on." He snapped his fingers, and Sean pulled a blaster out of his parka and leveled it at Buzz.
"Hey!" Warp shouted in surprise.
"You're gonna shoot me, Sean?" Buzz asked, ignoring his wildly-beating heart. Sean just smiled wickedly. "Well, you can't shoot me. There's more about the treasure – information you don't have. I do."
"What information?" Zurg demanded.
"He's bluffing," Sean advised.
"You know I can't bluff, Zurg," said Buzz, his voice a bit less steady now that he'd been called.
"Then tell me what I need to know," Zurg ordered, "or I'll shoot your friend here." Sean turned his blaster to Warp, who shouted again. "Quiet, Warp! You've served your purpose!"
As Zurg's attention was momentarily focused on Warp, Buzz lit the paper scroll as a small fuse. Zurg's red eyes shot back to Buzz as the younger man spoke. "You see what we're standing on?" He indicated the gunpowder on the floor. "It's like dynamite. You shoot me, I drop this – we all go up."
"What happens when the fuse burns down?" Zurg asked, knowing the answer. Buzz's eyes wandered like a trapped animal's, searching for an escape route. "Tell me what I need to know, Buzz."
"What you need to know –" Buzz said with a fresh burst of boldness – "is if Sean can catch!" He threw the fuse at the floor…
…Only for Zurg to catch it. "Nice try, Buzz," he laughed. Then the paper burst into flames in his hand, and he dropped it. "Aaaah!! Get out!" He and Sean ran for the door.
Warp ran over to Buzz, both men on the wrong side of the fire. Zurg stopped for a moment at the door, looking back at Buzz. Then the quickly spreading fire blazed up in front of him, and he bolted the door and ran.
Buzz stomped in frustration, then realized that the floor had a hollow sound. He bent down and found a handle on the floor – it was a smuggler's hatch! "Get it!" he shouted to Warp.
Warp leapt down first, and Buzz after him. They bolted the hatch shut securely, and ran as far from the cargo hold as they could.
On the surface, Zurg and Sean ran wildly for the speeders, yelling at their comrades to move, that the ship was going to explode.
When it did, it rocked the retreating speeders hard, and knocked Buzz and Warp inside off their feet. But they had gone far enough in the ship to be protected from the explosion.
Zurg turned back around in his seat, away from the fire eating at the ruined freighter. "All right, let's go before somebody notices." And the speeders left.
A few minutes later, Buzz and Warp crawled out of the wreck. "So, what are we gonna do now?" Warp asked.
"There's an airport nearby," Buzz told him. "We can get a ride home from there."
"No, I mean about Zurg," Warp clarified. "You know he's gonna steal the Declaration, Buzz."
Buzz turned to his friend, his jaw set with determination. "We stop him."
Argh! Don't look at me like that! I know I have three other ongoing projects here! I know I should be working on Watermark. I KNOW, OKAY??
It's my EVIL BLoSC muse - she wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote this prologue out! Sooo... it'll probably be a while before I update, but don't worry, I'll finish it. I've had it in my head for a looong time now, before I even knew that the BLoSC fandom existed. I'll finish it.
And if you see anything off-kilter here, it's because I haven't watched National Treasure in several months. If I find later that anything is wrong (or if you tell me yourself), I'll edit it, okay?
Btw, just in case you were wondering about this little AU:
NO, Buzz and Warp are NOT Space Rangers.
NO, Warp is NOT Zurg's undercover agent.
NO, Zurg is NOT the Evil Emperor of Planet Z.
YES, Zurg IS a billionnaire who likes to operate under the table.
YES, Buzz's real name is Benjamin Franklin Lightyear - with a name like that, you can't blame him for wanting use his nickname. ;D
PLEASE REVIEW AND LET ME KNOW IF YOU LIKE IT!!