After listening to the story, Turtle's head felt cleaned out. All of that strange history, all of this new information.
"So this is one of the maps they used. Why would Agata's father have chosen only this part of it?" asked Turtle.
"Perhaps he discovered something?" said Mr. Kincaid.
"My father loved Prague. We've never been there as a family, but we have those old big mugs from old beer halls, so he must have visited," said Agata.
"Well, when I was first introduced to the Mytro by your father, he told me there were copies of copies of maps all over the world. He had a complete one and lots of other partial prints. The copy I use, for example, is one he gave me that covers New York and parts of Europe—just enough for me to get over to see your father. He kept much of his knowledge secret from the rest of us. From me, rather," said Mr. Kincaid, correcting himself. "He was never much for the community of seekers."
They began poring over the map, Mr. Kincaid looking over it with a magnifying glass he fished out of a pile of broken wood near the chair. Inch by inch, they took in every detail. They followed all the lines, and although they were drawn in different colored ink and by different hands, each of the stops was marked precisely with a tiny 13 and a set of letters. Something that looked like a little hill in the middle of a pasture was marked with "PCV" and a pair of coordinates.
The closer the lines came to the cities, the longer the codes. Each
code was different—except for a few PCVs that seemed to appear over similar hills around the countryside. Sometimes they would include a name—"Mssr. Flaubert," for example—which suggested that the map included the names of the landowners. There were a few spots where the lines stopped and then started up again, an inch or so away. Using the scale, they could see that this Mytro map showed hundreds—if not thousands—of miles of track, crisscrossing and intersecting hundreds of times.
"There's one thing I don't get," said Turtle. "If all of these stops exist, why can't you just get on and say 'Paris?' to go to Paris?"
"The Mytro has lots of stops, but it never stops unless you tell it where. That's the problem. If you want to go to Paris, you have to know the station. Otherwise, you're stuck 'going' to Paris. It's a very specific tool."
Turtle thought about what Agata's uncle had told her: Say 'Central Park South' when you board.
"It would be like getting on a bus and telling the driver to take you to New York—except the Mytro would never let you off, right?" asked Turtle.
"Precisely," said Mr. Kincaid. "I'll be back shortly, friends. I need to make a phone call."
Mr. Kincaid walked back down the circular stairs, and Agata and Turtle went back to the map. A few minutes passed, then ten. The clock downstairs ticked quietly as they followed the lines from the edge of the page into the cities.
"Turtle," said Agata, "look at this."
Through the glass they were looking at a small, scrawled note. It
consisted of a set of letters and then five numbers—1, 12, 28, 8, 21. "What's that?" she asked. "It's my father's handwriting. I'm sure of it. He writes his sevens like that, with a little line in the
middle. And his eights look like nines."
Turtle brought the magnifying glass close to the letters. He
reached out for a pad of paper and Agata found him a pen. There in light pencil, barely visible among the tangle of drawn lines on the paper, was a series of random letters:
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...