The Dig Site
Aumakua Island, Present Day
The tires of a battered, blue dirt bike skidded to a stop
on the dusty road. A worn boot lowered the kickstand, and thirteen-year-old Billy Stone hopped off. Dressed in faded cargo pants, a short-sleeved shirt, and a khaki vest covered in pockets, his dark hair was damp with sweat. Eyes shining with a mixture of excitement and fear of discovery, he scanned the razor wire-topped fence that surrounded the dig site.
Reaching into his worn leather pack, Billy pulled out a ring of thin, metal lock picks. Keeping an eye out for guards, he selected a pick and set to work on the padlock securing the main gate.
Inside the fence, a tired, dust-covered worker rounded the corner, heading for the gate. Billy flattened himself to the ground, holding his breath as the worker approached, ready to jump up and make a run for it, if necessary. But the man, completely unaware of Billy's presence, walked past without even seeing him.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Billy went back to work on the lock. Having done this many times before, the lock soon popped open with a soft click!Billy tucked the picks back into his pack and slipped inside the gate, pulling it closed behind him.
Bent low, Billy darted from one hiding place to another, crouching behind trees and pieces of equipment. Slowly, he made his way to a large tent that served as the dig site's headquarters. Seeing no one around, Billy dropped and
quickly rolled under the bottom of one of the tent walls.
Inside, technicians worked at tables covered with arti- facts, laptops, and soil testers. One wall was completely covered with maps, each dotted with marking pins and scribbled notes. The other walls were lined with either filing cabinets or tables loaded with artifacts and digging tools. Keeping low under the tables, Billy edged his way toward the tools. Reaching up, he snatched a small kit from one of the tables. Now all he had to do was keep quiet and roll back under the edge of the tent to escape.
But at that moment, one of the men sprayed a recent find with compressed air, sending a cloud of dust into the air and up Billy's nose. Pinching his nose shut, Billy covered his mouth and tried to stifle the sneeze. Praying no one would notice, he jerked up the bottom of the tent and rolled under. The instant he was outside, the sneeze exploded out, startling the workers inside the tent.
But, glancing around, they saw no one. Shrugging, they returned to their work.
Billy took cover behind a nearby bush. Pausing to get his bearings, he spotted a weathered-looking man, obviously the dig's boss, studying a map with one of the workers. Billy knew he couldn't let the boss see him, or he'd be in real trouble.
Sprinting off in the opposite direction, Billy ran until he came to a large hole about a hundred feet square and three feet deep. Dropping down into it, he carefully spread out his tools—much like a surgeon—and went to work.
First choosing a small, sharp-pointed trowel, Billy began digging into the soft dirt along the wall of the hole. He hadn't been working long, when his trowel scraped something hard. Gently loosening the dirt around it, he pulled the object from the earth. Picking up a soft brush, he carefully dusted away layers of dirt, revealing the end of a two-hundred-year-old fishing spear. As Billy studied his find, a shadow fell over him.
"I want you out of here," the boss said angrily. "I want you off this site right now!"
Billy stood up and faced the man. "Let me help you," he pleaded.
"You can't help," the boss said with hint of sadness in his voice. "You don't belong here."
"But I'm an archeologist!" Billy insisted.
"You're thirteen, and I don't have time to worry about you."
"Please!" he begged. "I . . . I can clean tools, take notes, get coffee . . . dig holes."
The boss shook his head, "You're too young for this kind of work."
"You never used to say that," Billy accused. "Come on, I'll do anything you need."
"Yeah, I promise," Billy said, his hopes beginning to rise.
Billy's heart sank. "But . . . Dad . . ."
"Dad" was forty-six-year-old Dr. Michael Stone. Once a world-famous archeologist, Dr. Stone was now something of a joke in the archaeological world. His quest to find the lost royal medallion—a medallion that many archaeologists didn't even believe existed—had become an obsession, ruining first his career and then his family. His once-handsome face was now weathered and lined, his brown hair streaked with gray. Staring down at his rebellious son, he scowled.
"But, Dad . . . there's no one there," Billy finished painfully.
Taking Billy by the arm, Dr. Stone led him back to the main gate. "Go home, Billy," he insisted, shoving him outside and locking the gate before walking away.
Billy stared after his father before turning back toward his bike. Kicking a rock, he sent it skipping across the dirt road. The last thing he wanted was to go home.
When Billy's mom, Kale'a, had been alive, home had been a wonderful place to go back to. The house had always been filled with music and singing and delicious smells coming from the oven. But with his mother gone, "home" was just an empty house full of painful memories.
As Billy walked, head down, he almost ran into two men, who were stapling papers to the dig site's fence. Billy recognized them as Cobb's thugs.
Cobb was the most powerful—and the most evil—man on Aumakua Island. Though he pretended to be a respect- able businessman, in reality, he was nothing more than a thug himself. A thug with a lot of money—he practically owned the entire island. Few people were willing to cross him.
One of Cobb's thugs was named Kalani. He was thin with dark, wavy hair that hugged his scalp and framed shifty eyes. He was known for being extremely intelligent—unlike his partner, Makala.
Makala was huge and strong with a patchy, coarse beard. He was Kalani's opposite in every way . . . except cruelty. Both men bore the blood-red tattoos of a cobra on their right arms, marking them as Cobb's men.
Kalani looked down at Billy. "You know," he said, his voice turning sickly sweet, "we could use an archaeologist like you on our team. Cobb appreciates your talents, while certain others . . ." he said, jerking his head back toward
the dig site and Billy's father, "do not."
Billy ignored the remark, his eyes scanning the papers they had stapled up. Seeing the word "foreclosure" in large, black letters, Billy was furious. Lunging past Makala, he ripped the papers off the fence.
Makala grabbed Billy's arms and held him. "Are you kidding me?" he said, giving Billy a rough shake. "Gimme those," he barked, snatching the papers back. Then shoving Billy toward his bike, he shouted, "Get lost, you little brat!"
Billy threw the men a disgusted look, then jumped on his bike and angrily cranked the engine. Zooming off through the jungle-like terrain, he splashed through streams and jumped small hills. His tires squealed loudly as he hit the paved road and headed for town.
Kalani and Makala finished stapling up the notices and then climbed into the front of a sleek, black sedan.
"What do you think, Mr. Cobb?" Makala asked, as they both turned to face the man sitting in the shadows of the back seat.
Cobb looked at them coolly. He was heavily muscled with sleek, black hair that he wore pulled into a low ponytail.
Everything about him—from his cold, dark eyes to his expensive black suit—suggested cruelty. It was something he had inherited from his ancestor—Cobra.
Cobb answered, "Our families have been searching for the medallion for generations. This kid is on to something.
Keep an eye on him."
"Not to worry," Kalani assured him, "we come from a long line of trackers."