Code Breakers - The Adventurers - Ayaan Chettiar

The Adventurers : The Code Breaker

The theft of the Queen of England’s Crown Jewels made the headlines.

The rest of the day had been proceeding rather smoothly, at least in the life of a royal monarch. The Crown Jewels had been removed from their faithful location in the Tower of London only for a one-time visit, seeing that the party in the magnificent Ballroom through the Ghillies’ Ball was an exclusive event, wherein only the richest of the rich attended, all of whom were vying for a close-up view of the jewels.

In retrospection, this was a grave mistake. Security was tight at the event already, seeing that Her Majesty and the other members of royal family, alongside auspicious guests, would be attending, but nevertheless, the jewels were still on display.

Not only that, they were the center of attention. At least until the dancing started. Then, all of the attention was drawn from the marvels in the bulletproof, heavily defended glass chamber in the heart of the hall and to those valiant enough to take a go on the dance floor. Except for two people standing at the far edge and examining the events.

The Adventurers were a daring duo of explorers with a long line of successful adventures to their name. Long-lost Antarctic wizards, mobile desert islands, lost cities in the Sahara, outer-space orbs… all of which were only few of their triumphs.

Which had meant the Mayor of New York City had invited them to the famous English ball, and both the Adventurers thought it too great an opportunity to pass. Adventurous Ayaan and Adventurous Aayra, however, were not keen on getting to the dance floor too soon.

“I suppose we might as well try.” muttered Ayaan, clearly out of his element. The dance was a slow jazz and Aayra reluctantly shot him another glance before shrugging and taking a step forward. She was already feeling uncomfortable about wearing an extremely long white dress to replace her usual spacious exploration wear. But T-shirts and jeans were hardly appropriate for such an event.

As it happened, they never got the chance to dance at all. Because the next second, the lights went out.

There was a second of silence and then some hushed murmurs among the audience. Ayaan and Aayra were rooted to their spots on the floor. Security was flooding around, muttering some reassurances and within themselves trying hastily to get the power back on. The next moment, the generator kicked in and the lights returned to the ballroom.

One noticeable change could be seen. Where the Crown Jewels had been only a few seconds ago, there was an empty glass container. No sound of glass shattering or any conspicuous damage. Against all odds, the jewels had seemingly vanished into thin air. There were some gasps of shock, and security immediately raced into the action.

Two other people were watching the scene with growing interest. The Adventurers’ keen minds were working away in an attempt to think of any scenario wherein they could’ve been stolen.

“Did you by any chance hear any whirring or grinding?” Aayra asked Ayaan, as he shrugged, unsure. There was no chance of the jewels being pulled down the platform. For a second, Ayaan had actually considered the ground underneath might have opened up and swallowed them.

It was at that moment though, that Adventurous Ayaan got a stunning idea.

“Did any of you touch the glass!?” he shouted to the people in the ballroom. They all shook their heads. None of them had been as “premature” to tap on the glass holding the Crown Jewels. But Ayaan now suddenly knew how it had happened. Two mysterious people had been dancing only some distance away from the jewels before the lights had gone out, the same two who he now couldn’t see.

Ayaan put his hand towards the glass. But instead of meeting with the outer layer of the container, his hand went through entirely, as if the glass was a ghost… or maybe he. Ayaan retracted his hand with a knowing smile. “There was never any glass in the first place!” he declared. “It’s a hologram!”

The hushed murmurs now instantly became cries of surprise.

There was the clicking of a lock and the door slammed shut. One of the security guards was no longer inside the ballroom. “We need to find a way out of here.” said Ayaan, eyes searching for an exit. A tall glass window could be seen. Ayaan immediately grabbed a plate from the nearby buffet and flung it artfully towards the window.

The plate shattered, as did the glass, Ayaan climbing the buffet table with Aayra right behind him. The Adventurers pulled themselves up to the window and slid outside.

They were immediately confronted with the large castle walls, but being seasoned explorers, had obviously paid attention to the route in. In a matter of seconds, the duo was out of the castle.

Right in time to see the two thieves of the Crown Jewels speeding away in a suave black Bentley.

“Get in the car!” shouted Ayaan, Aayra sliding into the shotgun of their own vehicle while Ayaan took the driver’s seat. The car began to speed down the lane behind the Bentley. The Bentley took a swift right, clearly trying to lose them.

Ayaan followed behind it, stubbornly remaining in the chase. The Bentley, on the other hand, had a most disgraceful driver, the car skidding across the pavement and nearly crashing into several different items on the sidewalk. It upended a garbage can, tore down a mailbox and nearly smashed into a lamppost.

All of this meant the Adventurers easily caught up with the Bentley. Aayra turned her head towards the Bentley’s front end, and saw, much to her surprise, that she knew the two people sitting inside it very well.

Mack and Vik. The infamous Evil Explorers.

Mack and Vik were two of the nastiest, meanest and sliest explorers ever known, and bitter enemies with the Adventurers. For all their faults, they were very good at trying to piggyback on other’s triumphs, numerously attempting to double-cross the Adventurers.

In the matter of a year, they’d almost stranded the Adventurers on a desert island, tried to bury them in a cave-in and then ambush them with a ship, trapped them in the cellar of a treasure-holding manor, attacked them on board a spaceship, stranded them in the Sahara Desert, and much more.

Mack and Vik were surprised at their adversaries’ sudden appearance as well, and Mack, who was the hapless driver of the Bentley took his eyes of the road for a second too long. The next moment, the Bentley slammed into the parapet to a canal.

Ayaan swerved the car as it crashed sideways into the parapet, coming to a stop as the airbags deployed. The Bentley wasn’t so lucky, flying into the air before slamming into the canal with great force.

“Are you alright, Aayra?” questioned Ayaan, coughing as the engine began to smoke. Aayra grunted affirmatively in response. The duo pushed themselves out of the vehicle in time to see Mack and Vik, shaken up but thankfully in one piece trying to swim outside the canal.

Aayra pointed towards a bridge across as Ayaan nodded and the Adventurers began to run. Inside the canal, the Crown Jewels were still inside the water, but Vik was pulling Mack away from them, determined to escape. The next second, they were bolting across the pavement.

The Adventurers were already having trouble spotting them, seeing that a heavy downpour had begun and night was well underway. Mack and Vik had a small head start, and after a few more seconds of running after them, Ayaan and Aayra knew it was no good. The Evil Explorers had escaped.

On the bright side, the Crown Jewels were in the canal. Ayaan raced back towards the water and dove inside, spending a few minutes under until he re-emerged with the jewels in his hands. Police were already swarming around the scene. Cold and exhausted, he passed out.

“Adventurers Avert Disaster when Crown Jewels Stolen!” read Aayra, before putting down the newspaper. Ayaan grunted, his head still ringing as he sat up.

The day had been a roller coaster. The Crown Jewels had been recovered, and the Queen of England was planning to give both Adventurers a knighthood as reward. Her Majesty had also come on television in a press conference about the whole incident, announcing that the “whole country and the world will be on look-out for the thieves.”

Mack and Vik. Even the Adventurers had to admit how far-fetched it seemed, even after they’d witnessed the whole thing play out with their own two eyes. Sure, they had a track record of foul play in the past, and though the Adventurers had never made their actions public, they could likely have faced charges.

But the idea of the Evil Explorers stealing the Crown Jewels was crazy. The main reason the Adventurers felt so was because of the whole operation itself. Mack and Vik hardly had enough brains between the both of them to fill a glass. Holographic containers, and inside men (the security guard who’d escaped), seemed pretty much out of their league.

Nevertheless, they’d shared the suspicions with the police, who were on the case, though no leads as to their location had been salvaged. Right now though, Aayra looked like she had something else, even more important, on her mind and excitement got the better of her as she lifted up a small journal.

“That doesn’t look like one of Birdy’s journals.” muttered Ayaan, referring to the journals they’d recovered that had belonged to the famed explorer James Birdy. Aayra shook her head and explained, “That’s because they don’t belong to him. Mack and Vik dropped this during the chase. I thought it could be some sort of evidence. But… this journal belongs to John McCarthy.”

Ayaan’s eyes immediately widened in shock and surprise. “John McCarthy… as in the father of artificial intelligence?” Aayra nodded and said, in awe herself, “The one and only. But that ain’t even the most surprising part. It’s what’s inside of it.”

All his exhaustion now washed away and replaced with growing excitement, Ayaan sprang to his feet and grabbed the journal with both hands. Opening it, he saw on the first page that it was signed by McCarthy himself, underneath which a date sometime in the 70s was written. Followed by an entry.

“It says that he created something revolutionary.” said Aayra. “The diagrams are all on the next page.” Ayaan turned the page, and saw diagrams for what looked like a fully functioning robot, but one that looked like a humanoid copy. His excitement only grew.

But something didn’t add up. “This journal dates to the 1970s, Aayra.” he said. “In those times, computers were still a new thing and this journal states that he created AI when the concept of AI had only been introduced a couple decades ago.”

Aayra shrugged, realizing he had a point. But still, she pressed, “Didn’t the Ancient Egyptians created the Pyramids of Giza? Wasn’t the Colosseum constructed millennia ago?  History offers examples of masterpieces created such that even now we’re stunned by them.”

“McCarthy did introduce AI to the world.” admitted Ayaan. “He made the Lisp programming language, which is still used today, and he made computers play logical games like chess more than half a century ago. If anyone could have made this so far ago, it’s him.”

“The only thing I didn’t get is why there’s no record of it.” said Aayra, and now she looked puzzled herself. “I mean… if he made something so incredible, why didn’t he share it with the world? What made him change his mind?”

“That’s something we’ll find out when we find this.” said Ayaan, pressing an index finger against the diagram on the page. “The journal must have some or the other clue as to where it was.”

“Unless he destroyed it.” protested Aayra, but now Ayaan smiled and said, “It takes real guts to destroy something like that. I’ll bet you he didn’t do it. I think McCarthy hid away his masterpiece until there came a time where he felt it could’ve been of use. Maybe there was some sort of failsafe to ensure they’d only find this journal now?”

“The possibilities are endless.” admitted Aayra. “He’s written something about the masterpiece being where ‘Artificial Intelligence was born…’.”

“Dartmouth College, 1956.” said Ayaan, as if he’d just read it off a piece of paper. Seeing Aayra’s amused expression, he remarked, “That’s where McCarthy first coined the term AI. Ergo, the birthplace of Artificial Intelligence.”

Adventurous Aayra adjusted her hat and opened the door. “Then, what are we waiting for?” she questioned. “It’s time to go to Dartmouth.”

The first thing that the Adventurers noticed was that Dartmouth College was huge.

In the heart of New Hampshire, the 250-year old institution was magnificent to look at, campus sprawling like a city in itself over the land, students moving about solemnly, few chatting away to one another in small groups.

“So…” said Ayaan, glancing at the huge campus before them. “Whatever John McCarthy wrote about could be anywhere in this whole place…”

“Fortunately, no.” said Aayra. “I did my research, and one particular thing caught my eye.”

The Adventurers had not disappointed in their research. While Ayaan had picked up on every little detail in the evolution of AI and McCarthy’s life, Aayra had focused solely on the journal and his notes, digging through the pages for the smallest clues hidden between the lines. Seeing that the journal was meant to be a personal belonging, the father of AI hadn’t gone to great lengths to disguise his words.

“In 1962, Dartmouth opened a remarkable centre known as the Hopkins Center for the Arts.” said Aayra. “It was quite literally one of its kind and in the 60s, it made some pretty big waves. Plus, McCarthy’s mentioned in pretty often in the journal.”

 “I dug up a lot of stuff on John McCarthy though.” noted Ayaan. “And never really came across any mention of him visiting the Hop.”

“Catchy name…” conceded Aayra. “But his notes don’t lie. On top of that, the Hop must have been a really big thing back then. Maybe the father of AI was fascinated. Either way, that’s our only lead.”

The Adventurers came to a stop before the Hop, a gargantuan centre in front that looked like it had just emerged from a picture-perfect painting. Students were excitedly swarming around the entrances. Ayaan and Aayra had visiting passes themselves.

“It’s big.” was the first thing that came to Ayaan’s mind. “It’s really, really… big.” Aayra nodded her head, awed as well, before the duo stepped forward and entered the Hop.

From the inside, the Hopkins Center was even more incredible. According to research, as Aayra keenly stated owing to her love of hard facts, the Hop contained inside of it a lot of halls and auditoriums:- The Spaulding Auditorium, the Warner Bentley Theatre, the Alumni Hall, and the fancy second-floor exclusive area, the renowned “Top of the Hop.”

“That’s its name.” said Ayaan, cocking an eyebrow. “The Top of the Hop?” Aayra just nodded as Ayaan took another step forward, daunted by the many choices now in front of him.

“Since the journal’s dated for the 70s…” said Ayaan. “Wherever his masterpiece is, it’s probably in some part of the building that wasn’t built in the greater last half century.” Then, he noticed Aayra’s expression and sighed before saying, “You already have a pretty good idea what it is, don’t you?”

“Morse Code inside the journal.” she said, lifting up the page. “It’s almost like it was designed to be a treasure hunt. Plus, some pretty random numbers at the sides.”

“What does the Morse Code translate to?” questioned Ayaan as Aayra said, “The Spaulding Auditorium’s our best lead. But I’ve no idea as to what the numbers could mean.”

The Spaulding Auditorium was yet another masterpiece of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, a large-sized concert hall with an elevated stage as well. Ayaan and Aayra squeezed through the crowd and into the hall, wherein a marvellous choir was halfway through a beautiful piece.

The duo looked at one another, unsure as to how to continue. Their last lead was the numbers, which hardly meant anything at all. There was no clue, like you needed to write the numbers somewhere, or add or subtract them from one another, or try to refer to some page number. Rather, there were merely four uneventful digits: 7 5 3 8.

The numbers had no great significance on John McCarthy’s life, and may very well have been scribbles randomly jotted down by the great man in his journal. But the Adventurers still persisted, panning out across the auditorium in search of a clue.

There were some light protests from the audience as the duo awkwardly excused themselves while edging through the seats, though most people were too mesmerized by the music itself to pay attention to it. “Sorry…” apologized Ayaan, squeezing through a particularly overweight middle-aged man before emerging on the other side.

“Nothing on the seats or under them.” said Aayra, as Ayaan amusedly tilted his head. “You were actually noticing things like that? I could hardly notice stuff leave for the people I was squeezing through.”

“I think we’re looking in the wrong place.” said Aayra, shaking her head slowly, just as the audience perked up even more, the music having hit a high note. “The chairs and all are one thing.” mumbled Ayaan. “But the stage is another altogether.”

“This show is one song after another, Ayaan.” said Aayra, checking her watch. “The whole thing’s going to last about 2 hours.”

“We can hardly go onto the stage and disturb them.” argued Ayaan, making for an empty chair. “Let’s just sit down and enjoy the show.”

Two hours later, the final song ended and the entire audience rose for a standing ovation. The musicians bowed before exiting backstage, while people began slowly filing out of the auditorium.

“I’ve been sitting so long my legs have fallen asleep.” said Ayaan. “But the show was nothing short of brilliant.” Aayra nodded her own head in agreement as the duo slowly stepped outside and made for the stage.

The Adventurers thought someone might try and stop them, but instead, the musicians backstage all looked amazed. They clearly recognized the Adventurers, either from one of their previous triumphs, or the business with the Crown Jewels. Either way, they were clearly stunned by their sudden appearance.

“Adventurers…” said the lead musician, the player of a magnificent organ. He stepped up just as Ayaan opened his mouth to say something about the mystery, but the other beat him to it when he asked, “Can I have your autographs?” Ayaan’s jaw closed in surprise, while Aayra looked shocked herself. The musician looked like an eager puppy, and the Adventurers obviously couldn’t deny this proposal.

“You were wonderful with the organ.” remarked Ayaan before signing its side with a red marker. The musician looked like he’d been handed the nectar of the Gods. “Stay as long as you want on the stage.” he declared, before leaning in and whispering, “You’re on some adventure, aren’t you?”

Ayaan gave a slight jerk of the head in affirmation and the next moment, the organ player clapped both hands together and the choir left the hall. The adventurers immediately leant down on the floor, having noticed something whilst signing the autographs.

“There’s a loose plank on the floor.” said Aayra, noticing a small wooden plank jutting out. “Maybe there’s a reason nobody’s replaced it. She grabbed hold of the plank and tugged hard, Ayaan following suit. A few seconds later, there was a crack and then another, and then the plank splintered entirely, revealing an ancient calculator-like model.

A short green line was beeping on its screen, which was where Ayaan assumed, they had to enter the number. Heart beating, the code 7 5 3 8 was entered into the keypad before Aayra pressed ‘Enter’, and there was a moment of anxious silence before a small slip of paper slowly slid out from underneath the model.

The Adventurers grabbed it immediately, stunned by the revelation. On the slip of paper, what looked like a random address was printed, likely the place they needed to go to next, and Ayaan eagerly read through it, adrenaline pumping through his veins.

“Ayaan…” began Aayra, slowly nudging him on the shoulder as the Adventurer looked upwards. A man of unknown age smoking a cigar, face hidden by a thick black hat drawn over it was still sitting in his chair. Fumes slowly steamed out of the cigarette as he straightened his hat, clearly intrigued by the duo. The next second, he muttered something into his phone.

“We need to get out of her now!” shouted Aayra, and Ayaan nodded, too realizing that whatever the man had just said likely meant no good. The duo slammed through the door leading outside backstage, Aayra noticing from the corner of her eye the man getting to his feet and even nodding in their general direction before slamming the door shut.

The Adventurers found themselves in a deserted corridor, which itself seemed miraculous, considering how crowded it usually was. But then red lights began flashing and the duo immediately realized what was happening.

The fire alarm was ringing and everyone inside was getting out. Everyone except three bulky men now standing in front of them. All three were dressed in clothes suitable for a beach getaway, wearing thick sunglasses and glaring maliciously at them. It didn’t take a genius to know that these guys meant trouble.

So, the Adventurers decided to run.

Ayaan and Aayra darted down the passage next to them just as the bulky men began to race after them. While the Adventurers were strong and powerful themselves, they were no match for the brutes behind them and as Ayaan turned the next corner, an idea came to his mind.

He tipped the contents of a gumball machine to the ground as it shattered, the gumballs flying about just as the bulky men turned the corner themselves. They immediately slipped on the gumballs and landed painfully on their rear ends, giving the duo just enough time to speed down the passage and lose them in the maze of passages.

“We’re coming for you, you hear me!” shouted one of them, from the distant passageway, just as the duo pushed open the door outside. Firefighters had begun to emerge as well, racing towards the building.

“There’s no fire!” announced Ayaan. “But there are some bad guys inside that place!” But Aayra was worriedly pointing towards the top of the institution, which was now in flames.

Either it was an incredibly believable act, or the people behind the whole thing had actually been drastic enough to set part of the Hop on fire. The Adventurers instantly felt a lump form in their throats. They knew Mack and Vik were no longer the only guys involved.

They weren’t dealing with amateurs anymore. Rather, they’d been dealing with seasoned terrorists; the bulky men, the security guard, the man in the auditorium and of course, Mack and Vik, were all involved in the fray.

Things had suddenly got very complicated.

While the firefighters doused the fire, the Adventurers dashed out of the noise and finally got the chance to examine the paper. It was hardly larger than a small stamp but the letters encrypted in large black font were still conspicuous on the white.

“This is an address for Massachusetts.” muttered Ayaan. “John McCarthy was born in Boston.”

“This must be where we have to go.” said Aayra and Ayaan nodded eagerly, the duo slipping away from the campus just as more firefighters ran up.

What they didn’t notice was the same man they’d seen inside the hall watching their every move from a hidden corner by a large oak tree, smiling evilly as he did so.

Boston, Massachusetts was huge.

The Adventurers had been there once or twice before, but the place never seemed to get old, filled with bustling crowds and incredible energy. What caught the Adventurers’ surprise, however, was that the location was for a suburban area in the outskirts of the city.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” questioned Aayra, scratching her head as she did so, but Ayaan was thinking the exact same thing, verifying the location again and again on his phone. The Global Positioning System didn’t lie.

In front of them was a dilapidated, ancient warehouse that was falling apart in a big way, its door locked but looking so rusty that one solid kick could finish it off. The warehouse was like the black sheep of the neighbourhood, only some distance away from towering buildings and even a major Boston corporation. Strip malls were less than five minutes away by walking, while a large, multi-storey carpark was just behind.

Instead, it seemed like a miracle that the ugly destination hadn’t been crushed by a bulldozer years ago. Nevertheless, the Adventurers had come across places that had specifically been designed to look unimportant, when they were actually holding significantly powerful discoveries within them.

And, as Ayaan and Aayra had to admit, this warehouse looked like the last possible thing that would garner anyone’s attention, or if so, most probably negative.

“Maybe there was some reason they never tore it down all this time.” said Aayra, in a tone that suggested she herself was trying to be convinced. Ayaan stepped up and kicked the door hard, launching it off its frames. It came down, revealing the interior.

The inside of the warehouse was terrible. Immediately, both the Adventurers knew it had to contain the treasure, because if not, someone or the other would have taken it apart. Maybe the father of AI had put up some sort of contract to ensure it stayed put, but there was no way in the world that it would have survived otherwise.

Large heaps of hay and fodder were piled up sloppily by the entrance, while the floor was mucky and the ceiling falling apart to such extent that one could easily gaze at the sky above. It seemed like a nightmare in case of downpour.

But the worst part of it was the smell. The stench was such that one might even think they’d entered a particularly horrible part of a sewer or like all the world’s garbage had been dumped inside of it for a week.

The Adventurers groaned at it, just as another ceiling tile fell down into a puddle of mud and sank slightly. Ayaan glanced at the slip of paper once more, as if willing it to provide some more clues now that they were actually there, but the paper stubbornly offered no more direction.

“Let’s fan out.” he said at last, and Aayra nodded before stepping forward. Ayaan immediately made for the hay, which seemed like the most promising area of the warehouse, or at least preferable in comparison to the mudholes or the breaking ceiling. But poking his head inside the fodder only succeeded in vexing him further.

Aayra seemed to be liking it even less than he did, and had steered clear from the mud. Instead, she was examining the walls, before kneeling down and taking some measurements with a tape.

“There’s something weird, Ayaan.” she said, as Ayaan poked his head out of the haystack, subsequently tumbling off before picking himself up and racing towards her. Aayra was at the far wall.

“I measured this place from the outside and now I’m doing it from the inside and it doesn’t add up.” she said. “It’s like there’s some empty air between this wall and the end of the warehouse.”

She slowly pressed two fingers towards a part of the wall that looked like it was about to fall apart anyway, and it came loose to reveal what looked like an ancient dumbwaiter.

Excitedly, Aayra got inside, followed by Ayaan, the dumbwaiter groaning under their water. Ayaan grabbed hold of a thin rope and pulled it, expecting some sort of fancy mechanism to lower it down.

Instead, the rope made way for a cutter, which chopped the rope holding the dumbwaiter in place. The next moment, they were falling.

Ayaan and Aayra both screamed as the contraption descended rapidly before slamming to a stop underground, throwing both of them out. The Adventurers hit the ground rolling, covered in soot and coughing heavily before getting to their feet.

But what they now saw excited them more than all. In front of them, head lowered slightly, closed mechanical eyes and a tall, thin figure, was the masterpiece and pinnacle of John McCarthy’s computer science career. Artificial Intelligence.

They were so happy they actually laughed out loud.

“How do we get it to work?” questioned Aayra, as Ayaan pointed towards a lever jutting out from the wall. The duo ran towards it and gave it a sharp tug, as gears turned about and slowly, the humanoid robot’s head raised slightly and its eyes opened, releasing a ray of bright light that illuminated the ancient room they’d landed inside. The walls were bare and ancient, but on the tables, lay countless journals and books, secretly written by McCarthy himself.

Computer Science’s greatest treasure of all.

“Master…” spoke the robot, turning its head slightly. Both the Adventurers smiled in unison. Unfortunately for them, they now found it why it was that McCarthy had never shared his discovery with the world. Because it had one major defect.

The contraption scanned their body and then said in an eerie tone, “Threats identified.”

“Oh, we’re not threats.” said Ayaan, holding up both hands in a gesture to show that they were unarmed and harmless. The robot, however, interpreted it as an act of war. Its eyes lit up to a fluorescent red and it took a step forward.

The Adventurers took a step backward, intimidated by the approaching robot. For the robot, this was the final straw as it lifted both hands and grabbed hold of them before taking to the sky.

Ayaan didn’t know what was crazier. That they were being attacked by a fully-fledged war machine or that the robot could fly.

The robot flew forward, slamming through the wall and emerging out of the underground, the Adventurers screaming in fear as he did so. Ayaan knew trying to make it let go wasn’t going to help either, seeing that they were now far too high in the air, but the next second, there was the sound of splintering glass and the robot let go of the both of them.

The Adventurers sailed into the air and crashed onto the bonnet of a Bentley car.

All around them, rows and rows of Lamborghinis, Bentleys and even the odd Ford Fiesta could be seen, placed squarely on towering rows of the gargantuan carpark.

The carpark was even bigger from the inside than it was from the outside. Hundreds of cars could be seated on a single floor and two elevated platforms could be used to navigate the vehicles up and down to ground level, white walls gleaming around the sides.

The duo had no time to revel in all this because the robot wasn’t too far behind. The next thing they knew, the contraption set itself down, crashing through a nearby Ford with such force that it split into two.

The robot grabbed the severed hood of the car and flung it towards them, the duo jumping out of the way as the flying hood took out a dozen vehicles in one go, the cars flying in the air and slamming into one another in absolute destruction, just as the Adventurers ducked down behind a large SUV.

The robot took to the skies, its red eyes scanning for heat signatures. It inevitably focused on the duo, a pair of rocket launchers emerging from its shoulder sockets.

“Aw, crud.” moaned Ayaan before they raced out of the way, the rockets deploying and crashing into the SUV as it exploded in a fiery inferno, flying into the air before landing upside down on a Lamborghini, crushing the smaller vehicle under it.

Glass flew about as the Adventurers ducked behind a second row of cars, the robot descending as a sharp blade emerged from its arm, the machine sailing through the air.

The blade would have hit Ayaan right in the chest, had Aayra not shoved him to a side at the final second. Instead, the robot crashed through a rear-view mirror and then through the window of yet another Bentley, though the blade jammed itself in a part of the car.

This meant bad news for the robot. The machine was going at such speed that it crashed into the blade which ejected from its arm, the robot crashing through the roof of the Bentley and landing on the top as the blade boomeranged in the air and stabbed him in the chest.

The red eyes turned white and the robot gave a weak groan, both the Adventurers coming out of hiding.

“Help…” it said weakly, as Ayaan stepped forward, Aayra right behind him. “We have to do something.” she said.

“Maybe there’s a reason McCarthy hid the robot away, Aayra.” argued Ayaan. “It’s incredible, but very dangerous. Maybe… this is for the best.”

“Help…” reiterated the robot, and Ayaan’s façade crumbled as he stepped up, climbing onto the roof of the Bentley before pulling the blade out and throwing it aside. The robot’s eyes lit up and turned back to red, as Ayaan froze, fearing the worst.

But then, something remarkable happened. Its iris colour shifted into a pale green and it actually smiled. “Master…” it whirred as Ayaan grinned as well.

“We did it!” shouted Aayra happily, pumping her fist with joy as the robot stood upwards, sliding off the roof before helping Ayaan down as well. Its entire personality seemed to have changed in the matter of a few seconds.

“We did it.” repeated Ayaan, stunned himself. The robot didn’t feel real, rather a crazy figment of an overdrawn imagination, something unrealistic and out-of-the world that had now emerged.

The hole that the robot had made at the side of the carpark was torn apart, a helicopter flying inside. Ayaan and Aayra were thrown off their feet and onto their backs as the helicopter lowered slightly and set down in front of them, the door opening as the last people the duo wanted to see ever, let alone in a time like this.

Mack and Vik. The Evil Explorers had returned.

“Thanks for doing the hard work for us, Adventurers.” sneered Vik, getting out of the helicopter with Mack sniggering behind her. The duo’s expressions instantly turned steely and then fearful, when the noticed that both the Evil Explorers were holding guns.

“You see… we learnt from our mistakes.” said Vik, as Mack nodded his head in agreement, obviously following her. “And we realized that instead of trying to find treasure ourselves, it saves a lot of money… and time, to let you guys do the work and then just steal it. And we met some people who agreed.”

You stole the crown jewels.” said Ayaan, angrily as Vik shrugged and admitted, “The people in Washout, that’s the name of the organization we’re working for… they’re smart. The Crown Jewel thing was all a ruse. Stealing them makes no sense. We’d have the whole of England and the world on our back, plus you two goody-goodies. But McCarthy’s treasure was another thing.”

“You dropped the journal on purpose.” said Aayra, realization dawning, as Vik smiled and nodded in agreement. “It was supposed to be less messy, but I guess the whole car falling into the canal thing worked out well enough. We already knew about the notes and the Morse Code and all, but the stage thing we couldn’t figure out. But we knew you would.”

“You tried to get the journal back in the Hop.” said Ayaan, understanding too, as Vik explained, “We were going to do it that way, but when another clue popped up, it seemed better to let you two figure everything out first. That guy in the auditorium, he’s the mastermind of the operation. The Code Breaker.”

“Cause you’re obviously too dumb to figure everything out for yourself.” said Aayra as Vik groaned and said angrily, “You think you’re really smart, don’t you? Well, Washout doesn’t believe in keeping witnesses alive. Like to clean up and all. So, I’m afraid we’ll have to deal with you the more extreme way.”

She peered out at the number of floors to the bottom of the carpark and then said, “Tragically, the Adventurers might meet with a slight accident.” Mack smiled at this and cleared things up, “In which you die.” He bared his knuckles and took a step forward.

“There’s a reason we bought guns, you dumbo.” said Vik, as Mack shrank back, embarrassed. Vik rolled her eyes and muttered, “Do you have any idea how much pain it is to put up with this idiot?”

“Hey…” protested Mack, but the next second, Vik had her gun out and pointed towards the Adventurers. “Goodbye, Adventurers.” she said. “It was nice knowing you…” a small chuckle. “Actually, it wasn’t. But because of you two, we’re going to be very, very rich. So, thanks for that and everything.”

Mack whispered something in Vik’s ear as she smiled and even tittered before questioning, “Do you have any last words?”

“Actually, we do.” said Aayra. “You forgot we have a robot on our side.”

The robot slammed onto the floor of the car park with such force that Mack and Vik threw the guns into the air and landed on their rear ends. The robot’s eyes were a malicious red, and rockets were retracting from its shoulders once more, aimed towards the Evil Explorers.

“No…” shouted both Adventurers in unison. For everything Mack and Vik had done to them, they still didn’t deserve to die. The Adventurers thrust the robot around as it fired the rockets, which crashed into the propellers of the helicopter.

The helicopter exploded into flames and then fell off the edge.

The chopper crashed into the floor just underneath them and exploded entirely, shrapnel flying as the entire carpark burst into fire and the floors began to fall away. The Adventurers grabbed on to whatever they could find as rows and rows of cars slid off the edge to their demise, the robot swooping in and grabbing them.

“Help…” came a voice, and Ayaan and Aayra caught sight of Mack and Vik struggling to hold onto the edge of a pole, which was groaning under their combined weight. “Help…” they repeated, the pole groaning and bending further.

The robot deployed its rockets in reply.

The Evil Explorers’ eyes widened fearfully, but it was Ayaan who whispered something into the robot’s ear. What he said nobody knew, but slowly the robot’s expression changed and finally, the rockets disappeared inside of the machine.

The pole finally gave away and Mack and Vik fell off the edge.

“We’re going to die!” shrieked Vik, screaming like a wounded puppy, but the next second, the robot grabbed hold of them and pulled them away, Ayaan and Aayra hanging onto its back as the machine flew outside the carpark and into the sky.

In the aftermath of the incident, a lot of things happened. Mack and Vik were charged for stealing the Crown Jewels and then destruction of property (the blame for destroying the carpark had fallen on them, which the Adventurers felt they deserved), and then trying to take out the Adventurers themselves.

As for Ayaan and Aayra, they were presented with a knighthood by the Queen of England, and the robot’s discovery was made public, though it would still remain in their property. The Mayor of New York City was very proud.

Museums around the world were bidding heavily, as were historical archives, for the journals of John McCarthy retrieved in the underground section of the warehouse. The rest of the members of Washout, however, led by the wicked Code Breaker, had escaped.

But it was all in all a happy ending. The Adventurers solved another mystery, got a brand-new friend, and computer science and history benefitted greatly from their actions. Talks of even a Nobel Prize were being considered. But Ayaan and Aayra didn’t care about any of this. They cared about adventure, and what they’d just encountered was nothing short of a huge one.

Ayaan Chettiar

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