Agata and Turtle sat in the kitchen, sharing dinner.
"Tell me how you found the Mytro," said Agata. Turtle began to talk about Nate and Nick, how they used the Mytro to get around and cheat in gym, and how they swore him to secrecy.
"What was their surname?" asked Agata. "Surname?"
"Last name?" she said.
"Nick and Nate Kincaid."
"So maybe they know the Mr. Kincaid I know?"
Turtle thought for a minute.
"It's a big city, but stranger things have happened. I have their number," he said. "They gave it to me."
"Don't call yet," she said. "Let me think." Agata swallowed a bit of garlic bread.
"This is some of my father's research," she said. She wiped her hands on a napkin, pulled a small black notebook out of her backpack, and began thumbing through the pages. Turtle could see that they were covered with dense, tiny handwriting, drawings, and diagrams.
Mytro seems to have a mind of its own, she read, translating from Spanish. During World War II it opened itself to certain groups and individuals, allowing them to discover it in times of need. But the Mytro is not always ... beneficial? Whatever controls it is not kind and is not patient. It is very dangerous, and it will put people in places they may not want to be in order to promote its own unknowable interests.
"What does that mean?"
"That it's not just a train line, I guess," said Agata.
Turtle nodded, pretending to understand. It certainly seemed smart, letting him in when it did then bringing Agata into his life. "So maybe it meant to connect you with Nick and Nate and found me instead," said Turtle.
"Perhaps, or maybe it has other plans," she said.
Turtle shivered a bit at the thought. Everything made sense, but it was light years away from anything he had ever imagined. If someone had told him there was a system of tunnels hidden all these years, hidden in plain sight, controlled by something that could think ... if he hadn't been in the tunnels himself, he wouldn't have believed it. And now this?
"How can it exist? How can no one find it?"
"My father wrote more," she said. She flipped a few more pages.
"It's always and forever hidden. The tunnels aren't there, but when they are, they repair themselves when damaged and hide themselves when threatened."
"World War II: The Germans were near to finding a station in Dresden. The firebombs had destroyed one of the hiding places, and one of the Mytro doors was open and exposed. As the Germans began pounding on the door, it splintered and fell away. Behind it was a stone wall, completely bare. The Mytro had prevented them from finding the door, but a man, a man who knew about the Mytro, had watched what happened from a nearby building, and so he knew the secret was still safe. When he went back after the war, he put up another door and suddenly, just like magic, the station was back."
"Just like magic, huh? So who built the trains? They weren't always there? The conductors? Does anyone know?" asked Turtle.
Agata thumbed through the pages.
"Nay-zuns?" she read.
"That's what my dad wrote: Nayzuns." She spelled it. The Nayzuns repair the tunnels.
"But those trains. Those are old trains, and people built them. Those aren't space vehicles or anything."
She checked further. Nothing. She shook her head.
"It doesn't say. I know as much as you know." She grinned slyly. It was nice to see her smile.
"So where do we go now?"
"Maybe I'll go back to Barcelona, see if my dad is back," she said. "Let's look at the map."
She pulled a thick sheaf of papers out of her bag and began spreading them out. They were once part of one big sheet of paper, but they ripped at the creases, turning it into more of a pamphlet. Once they spread it out on the counter, Turtle was able to understand the scale of the Mytro. Almost every inch of the map was covered with tiny, cramped handwriting. Lines crisscrossed the globe, from Russia to China to France to America. The U.S. map spanned several dozen pages with multiple lines marked in different colors. Some of the stations were crossed out while others were nameless—just question marks in the middle of a desert or a forest. Some of them were checked off in red pencil. Her father, ever the teacher, used red pencil. He had been there, in those stations. Her father was riding each train and taking each stop just to see where it let him off. That's why it seemed like he was always missing.
"Can I make a copy of this?" asked Turtle.
"Sure," said Agata. They moved over to the computer room on the first floor where his grandmother had her scanner. Turtle fed the map into the scanner and then printed each page, collecting the copies into a pile. It took nearly twenty minutes to scan all the pages, and Turtle worried the brittle pages would crumble in the process.
"So when your dad was gone, he was on the Mytro, right?"
"I think so," she said. "He definitely wasn't upstairs."
"OK, so here's the plan: we have to get you back to Barcelona, and we have to find your parents. I can come with you for a little while, until my grandma comes back. Then I can use this map to get home. Let's call Nick and Nate. Maybe they can help us."
"Thank you, Turtle," said Agata as the paper spooled from the buzzing printer. "It's nice to have a friend."
YOU ARE READING
Imagine if, right now, clattering underneath your feet was a secret train system that could take you anywhere in minutes. Imagine a trip full of mystery and excitement from New York to Barcelona to the wind-swept coast of Italy to the edge of space...