Core

Disclaimer: I don't own National Treasure, but the Compass series, including Tanya Howe, is mine.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter One

Tanya slumped back in the passenger seat of Riley's convertible as he pulled over into a random parking lot off the side of the road and fished out his phone, dialling a number and waiting. She'd stopped counting after the fifth time he'd done this, but a quick mental calculation revealed that he was now well into the double digit range with his phone calls. Finally, she asked, "Who are you calling?"

"I'm trying to get in touch with the President," Riley replied, snapping his phone shut as he spoke, "but he's not answering."

"We saw him just vanish down that tunnel under London, and chances are, if you can't reach him, no one else can, either."

"Well, it doesn't hurt to try."

"Honestly, Riley, you've tried enough in the past twenty minutes to realize this is a futile exercise, correct?"

"Uh, well-"

"Don't give me that. Listen to me for a moment. What you should do is wait. If nothing else, he's still on the other side of the world, perhaps in Ireland, and he since he doesn't want to be found, he's either purchased a new cell phone and destroyed his old one or just foregone a cell phone altogether. Just take a break from all this and find something to do to relax, alright? Everything's going to be just fine."

Riley pocketed his phone with a smirk. "You don't know that."

"Actually, you'd be surprised what I know."

He pulled the car out of its parking space and prepared to turn onto the street. "Wanna just go home?"

"Sure," she replied with a shrug.

NTNT

Ian parked his sportscar up to the curb next to a storage complex Ben had given him directions to. He appeared to be a little early, so he climbed out and walked around the front of the car to lean against the hood, allowing his mind to wander.

In the days prior, not only had Shaw managed to help save Ian's life, but they'd actually made some progress in getting to wherever this hunt led to. It was really something, when he thought on it, but the hunt, always the hunt. It seemed his whole life revolved around treasure hunts, from his family history to his friendship with Ben, strained as it was at one point. His sister had already begun to give up, which had him slightly worried for his own future in this hunt. Perhaps she was right, and there was nothing at the end of this. Then again, there was the possibility that she was wrong, and there was something to be found at the end of this long, long train of clues, chases, enemies, allies, and a whole lot of other things that hadn't really come to make sense yet. For the most part, Ian was fairly certain of the latter, mostly due to his own gut feelings.

While he wasn't as accurate as his sister, he did have these feelings, and a lot of times they turned out to be correct. There were also things he understood on deeper levels before he could become conscious of them through various means. He reflected on these moments he had, but there was nothing he could do to change them.

Then he began to wonder if gut feelings could be clouded by personal states of mind or emotional states. It certainly seemed possible. After all, for a period of a few days, greed and the hunt had colored his mind, and in retrospect, things he felt, mostly pertaining to impending disaster of some form, he either felt incorrectly or ignored. At the present, his sister was becoming slightly disillusioned, which could be making her feel more and more closely to the heart that the hunt for what was at the heart of the web Page Forty-seven weaved was either worthless or nonexistant.

He didn't know if whatever he found at the end of this would be worth it, if anything, and he didn't know what he'd find in the storage unit, but he had the sense that something would be there.

Finally, Ben's sleek black car pulled up to the curb, facing him, and the man himself climbed out. "Sorry I'm late," he said. "I've been busy."

Ian gave Ben a once-over before asking, "Was it a particularly...urgent...appointment?"

"Well, sorta. It was my girlfriend."

"Ah, I see."

Ben pulled a key ring with a single key attatched to it out of his pocket. "Now, let's go see what we find." He led Ian down a walkway, past several fairly large warehouse doors, and ultimately stopped in front of one of them. He put the key in the lock and turned, but it took both of them to lift the door fully.

Ian stared at the contents of the storage unit; he couldn't believe that all this stuff was from his basement. "Where do we begin?" he asked.

"In the back. That's where we put all the older stuff."

"Alright, let's go."

"Y'know, you say that a lot."

"Got to keep moving, Ben. Idle hands are the Devil's workshop."

"Well, that is true."

Ian and Ben walked into the very back of the storage unit in something of a resolute silence. Ian's eyes scanned the boxes, crates, and chests, mostly chests the farther they got to the back, until he found the one that Tanya had been rifling through recently. He knelt beside it and opened it, studying the contents closely and slightly grateful that he was able to do so in better light than the first time around. After a moment, he began picking some of the contents up and studying them. There were several books, some pieces of cloth, a few pieces of jewelry in boxes, and some other odds and ends of the time.

Ian turned his attention to the books specifically, thumbing through the pages methodically. He adjusted his position as he did this, and he found he had to go through most of the books without finding anything.

"What exactly are you looking for?" Ben asked.

"Not sure," Ian replied, setting the book aside and reaching for another.

"Need help?"

"Not right now, but thank you for the offer." Ben nodded and took a seat on one of the crates, staring at the wall and stacks of boxes and such opposite. Ian continued to thumb through pages, but then he paused for a moment and had to thumb back through a few pages until he found what had caught his attention. It was a small envelope tucked in between the pages, sealed in wax, with the Howe coat of arms. "Ben, I've found it," he said, not daring to look away from the envelope.

Ben got up and walked over to Ian, leaning over his shoulder to get a closer look at the envelope. Ian began studying the pages, searching for clues as to why the envelope was placed where it was. Finding none, he put the book aside and broke the seal on the envelope.