Secret Passage of Time

Parte Uno: The Return

Christina Smith

Allison and Todd sat the breakfast table and watched their Uncle Ted work with the digital video camera. Beside Allison, Amiga yipped, begging for some breakfast.

"No, Amiga," Allison said sternly. "You don't eat human food."

"Where are we going?" Todd asked between bites of eggs.

"Are we going to one of the missions?" Allison chimed in.

"No, not this time," Uncle Ted said as he turned the digital video camera in his hands. He looked at the children then his wife. "You want to tell them while I figure out how this works?"

"Of course," Aunt Alice smiled.

"What is it?" Todd and Allison asked, looking at each other in anticipation.

"A few weeks ago, some divers found the remains of a ship at the bottom of one of the coves."

"A shipwreck?" Todd's eyes went wide.

Allison's eyes grew wide too and they both leaned forward in their seats.

"Yes."

"What type of ship?" Allison asked.

"We don't know yet. Ted was still at the university when they found the ship. We all decided spring break would be a perfect time for him to see the wreckage with the team."

"They have a team for one shipwreck?" Todd asked.

"Yes," Uncle Ted answered. "It's very important to California history. It can tell us a lot about the people of the time. Like what goods were brought into or from California. We may even find some artifacts which can give us more insight as to the lives of the people who lived her."

"How?" Allison asked.

"There will be some clues either with the ship itself and anything we may find on board. That's why I'll be taking this camera to record footage for research. This will be an excellent opportunity to show my students actual shipwreck."

"And we get to go with you?" Todd asked.

"Yes, I thought you might be interested in joining us. You seemed to enjoy the missions the last time you were here."

"Yes we did, very much," Allison told him.

"I'm looking forward to studying it in school next year, but I don't think they'll tell us too much," Todd said.

"No, California history isn't too popular in Oklahoma," Aunt Alice replied.

Uncle Ted placed the camera on the table.

"Is the laptop charged?" he asked his wife.

"Let me check," Aunt Alice walked to the outlet where the laptop was plugged in. Amiga scampered after her. "No, you're not getting food." She told the little dog. "Fully charged and ready to go."

"Good," Uncle Ted looked at his watch. "It's 9:45. We have plenty of time to get to the site. Todd, Allison."

"Yes, Uncle Ted?" they asked in unison.

Uncle Ted looked at them. Their eyes were wide and they wiggled in their chairs.

"Get your gear together. We'll be leaving soon. I want to see how this works outside. Then we'll be off."

Allison squealed and Todd gave a whoop as they jumped out of their seats and headed to their rooms. Amiga yipping behind them.

Todd packed a few of his favorite Batman comics along with his Talkboy and Pokémon pinball game into his backpack. He looked at his walkie-talkie and flashlight before placing them in there also. Never know when you might need them, he thought. Once he finished, he went to his sister's room. She was looking at a little doll when he walked in.

"Thinking about out last trip?" he asked as he sat on the bed.

"Uh huh," Allison nodded. "Do you ever wonder about them?"

"Sometimes," Ted admitted. "It's funny we never heard about Zorro when we came back."

"Except on TV and some comic books," Allison frowned then put the doll in her backpack.

She grabbed her new Baby Sitters Club book and her Talkgirl. She hooked her GigaPet on the side of her backpack.

"You're taking your 'puppy'?"

"Yes, Niña needs attention. If I put her in the backpack I won't know when she needs me."

Todd shook his head. "Take your flashlight and walkie-talkie."

"Why?"

"I dunno, just in case."

She frowned at her brother, but put the items in her backpack anyway. Sometimes he was right about some things.

"Amiga!" Allison said when she heard the little dog barking. "Quiet."

They walked into the empty living room.

"Aunt Alice and Uncle Ted must be outside," Todd told his sister.

"Then we better hurry," Allison opened the door and Amiga ran out. "Amiga, get back here!"

"Allison!" Todd called her.

"What?" she turned to her brother.

"Look at the sky," Todd pointed up.

"Oh, no!"

The sky was sparkling in brassy overtones.

"The cave!" they both said at once.

They ran to the cave as fast as they could. Allison screamed as she saw Amiga bound off inside.

"Amiga! Come back!" she yelled then ran in after her.

"Allison!" Todd tried to stop her, but couldn't get hold of her.

He looked around but couldn't find Uncle Ted or Aunt Alice. He wondered if he should call them and wait or go in after his sister. He looked at the dark cave and decided to go inside.

"Allison?" he asked as he walked in the cave.

"Over here," she said, snuggling Amiga. "Bad girl."

"Did you see Aunt Alice and Uncle Ted?" he asked.

"No," she looked at her brother, worry plain in her face.

Todd looked outside the cave's mouth.

"The sky is blue again," Todd told her.

"It means we're back, doesn't it?"

"Yeah."

"What do we do?"

"I guess we should go outside."

Todd was worried, but he felt he had to look brave for his sister. They walked outside and the scenery was different.

"We're back," Allison said after looking around.

"Yeah, but when are we back?"

They turned around at the sound of horses.

"Do you think that might be Diego or Zorro?" Allison whispered.

"I hope so," he whispered back.

A group of horses and riders came up to them. Two men wore blue uniforms while the man in the lead wore a suit with a white ruffled shirt. He reminded her of Alcalde Ramone.

"Buenos dias, muchachos," the man in the lead said.

"Hello," Todd gulped.

"Americaños?" the man looked at them up and down.

Todd felt uncomfortable under the man's gaze. A big man rode up front. Allison thought he looked familiar and started to worry. She really wished someone else had found them.

"Mi alcalde," the big man looks at the children. "I think I recognize these children."

"Oh?"

", they are the children from two or three years ago."

"Isn't that when Alcalde Ramone was in charge?" the man asked, rubbing his chin.

"."

"Hmm."

Allison started biting her lip, she didn't like the way this man was looking at them. He reminded her of the last man who was called alcalde.

"He thought they were spies."

"Spies?" the alcalde looks at the sergeant with surprise. "Nonsense. They're children. Luis Ramone was a fool."

"But Zorro - "

"Zorro?"

"Yes, Zorro - "

"Say no more Sergeant Mendoza," the man looked at the Todd and Allison and smiled. "Hello, muchachos, I am Alcalde Ignacio DeSoto of the pueblo de Los Angeles. How may I serve you?"

"We were just looking for our aunt and uncle," Todd told him.

"Your aunt and uncle? Are they Americaños?"

"Uh, yes," Todd replied and swallowed. He wasn't sure how much he should tell him. The last alcalde was mean and Todd wanted to know how this one was before he said anything more.

"You see, sergeant, they're merely children who are lost." He looked around. "This is certainly no place for children. I suggest we take them back to the pueblo where they will be safe until we find their aunt and uncle."

"Should we go?" Allison whispered to her brother.

"I don't think we have a choice," he whispered back. "Stay close to me."

"O.K."

Sergeant Mendoza dismounted and walked up to the children.

"Sergeant! What are you doing?"

"Taking the children - "

"They aren't prisoners," Alcalde DeSoto growled. "They are my personal guests and will be treated as such. Is that understood?"

"Sí mi alcalde," Sergeant Mendoza saluted.

Todd and Allison looked at one another. Todd could see that Allison was scared. He touched her shoulder.

"Don't worry," he said. "We'll be O.K."

She nodded and continued to chew her lip.

"Sergeant, they can use your horse."

"My horse? But what will I - "

"You can walk beside them. Hurry, we don't have all day."

Sergeant Mendoza walked his horse over to the children. He set Allison on the horse first, then Todd. Sergeant Mendoza took the reins and the procession started. The trip to the pueblo was quiet. Once they reached the main gate, people rushed them.

"Sergeant, keep these people away," the alcalde ordered.

"Sí me alcalde," Sergeant Mendoza sighed then spoke Spanish to the crowd and everyone left them alone.

"I wonder what he said," Allison whispered.

"I don't know," Todd said as he looked around.

Three years and the pueblo hadn't changed much. He recognized Victoria's tavern and the garrison. A few minutes later and they were in the alcalde's office.

"Just relax," the alcalde told them. "We'll find your aunt and uncle."

A knock came on the door and the sergeant answered.

"Mi alcalde," the sergeant called.

"Yes?"

"You had better come here."

"Very well," he smiled at the children. "I'll be right back."

When he left, Allison leaned in towards Todd. "I don't like this."

"I don't know. He's not that bad."

"He reminds me of the other alcalde. He was mean."

"Shh, he's coming back."

"Children," he frowned. "I'm so sorry, but there's an emergency which requires my attention. Since I don't know how long I'll be, I'll have Sergeant Mendoza bring you some food. Would you like that?"

Todd's stomach growled and Allison laughed.

"That's a yes?" he asked.

"Yeah, I am a little hungry," Todd admitted.

"Me too," Allison agreed.

"Very well. Sergeant!"

Sergeant Mendoza came up to the alcalde.

"?"

"Get them some food from the tavern."

"Sí mi alcalde," the sergeant saluted then walked out.

"I shall return," the alcalde bowed then left.

"See? He's different," Todd said.

"He's different, but I don't know if he's better."

The GigaPet on her backpack started beeping.

"Now what?"

"Niña's hungry, too," Allison laughed then started pushing buttons.

While Allison was playing with her "puppy," Todd started looking around. The office was very neat. He saw a map on the wall and recognized the shape of California, but couldn't read the Spanish names. He was inspecting the map closer when the door open.

"Oh!" they heard a woman exclaim.

"Victoria!" Allison squealed.

"Allison? Todd?"

"Yes, it's us," Todd smiled sheepishly and blushed a little.

Victoria walked into the office and put a platter on the table. Sergeant Mendoza followed her in.

"Oh no, you don't," she turned on him.

"But - "

"Go!" she pointed to the door, then she smiled sweetly. "I put in some extra tamales for you. You can have them later."

"Gracias," he smiled then left again.

"What are you doing here?" she asked them.

"We're lost again," Todd said after he looked at his sister.

"I'd better tell Felipe."

"Felipe's here?" Allison asked.

"Yes, he'll tell Diego and they can come and get you," she said. "Wait here and have some lunch. I'll come back as soon as I can."

"It smells good," Todd looked at the platter.

"I hope you like it."

"What is the alcalde like?" Allison asked.

"Yeah, is he better than the last one? What happened to him?"

Victoria suddenly looked sad. "Alcalde DeSoto is different, but he's not nice. As for your other question, I'll answer later. I must hurry before Felipe leaves."

Victoria left them alone.

"It smells good," Allison sniffed the air.

"I bet it is," Todd took off the cover, looked at all the food, and smiled at Allison. "Dig in."

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