I hope you’re ready for my victorious revenge. But first, news.
Within days of the historic meeting, the team was in Kenya–living and working and training–at a remote farm-station near the Tanzanian border. On a clear day, to the south they could see the mighty cone of Kilimanjaro peeking above the horizon.
Far from the Western world.
Far from their enemies.
The farm–very deliberately–had wide flat treeless pastures stretching for two miles in every direction from the central farmhouse.
There would be no unexpected visitors to this place.
Political naïveté on Reilly’s part? Cultural ignöránce? Not sure, but if you’re wanting to avoid “unexpected visitors” you can do quite a lot better than hiding on a white-owned farm in Central Eastern Africa. Fair enough, he didn’t pick Zimbabwe, but still. Two minutes of Googling tells me that Kenyans feel more than a little sympathy towards Mugabe’s reclamation proclamation administration. Good thing they only have to hang around until 2006, when Lily finally gets her prophetic act together.
In the ten years of meantime, the entire team have – as we noted previously – agreed to hang around on this farm in order to protect, bond with and generally help raise their globally vital infant. For example, Fuzzy – and I use that gey-sign only under protest – teaches Lily to move silently; seeing Saladin pray towards Mecca prompts an awkward conversation about why “why some Islamic women wore head-covering burqas”, apparently providing breakfast-time entertainment for everyone else. Matador/Noddy/soon-to-be-headless-Ricky Martin shows her how to be a weight for him to bench press. As for West, he reveals a lavender side to his personality and takes her to the ballet.
But two of the team deserve special note: the Irish brother and sister team of Liam and Zoe, AKA’d as Gunman and Princess Zoe. Gunman is a giant wing-nuted skin head who Lily bonds especially closely with because – and Reiily says it himself – she equals his intellectual capacities before her age reaches double-figures. “He wasn’t all that smart, but he was a great commando” he tells us, along with other gem-nuggets of empathetic characterisation, such as them watching films and reading books together, their love of dual-player Splinter Cell tournaments, playing with real plastic explosives, and…
…no-one would ever forget the famous tea party held on the front lawn one summer, with, presumably, call-sign Mister Bear, Little Dog, Big Dog, Barbie, Lilly and Gunman–huge Gunman, all 6 feet of him, hunched over on a tiny plastic chair, sipping from a plastic teacup, allowing Lily to pour him another cup of imaginary tea.
Everyone in the team saw it–watching from inside the farmhouse, alerted by a whisper from Doris. The thing was, no-one ever–ever–teased Gunman about the incident. Although, calling it an “incident”, my guess is that someone discretely asked Lily if she would point to parts of Barbie at least once over those ten long years…
Notice “Doris” slipping in there? Wondering who that is? Well, conveniently she leads me towards my next point, so I’ll tell you: she is Max/Epper/Wizard’s spouse, “a much-needed grandmotherly figure on the farm”.
Seriousness for a moment: once, in my distant past, I used to work for the army. Don’t ask me in what capacity. I’d have to… do something to you. As a result I consider myself to be quite familiar with the exploits of yer average soldiery while at ease and, not to put too fine a point on it, I think there is another “much-needed presence” when you throw a platoon together and then expect them to spend a decade on an isolated farm.
Although she wasn’t a very girly girl, Zoe taught Lily some necessary girly things–like brushing her hair, filing her nails and now to make boys do her bidding.
Mmm-hmm. I bet she could. I bet, after ten years as the only eligible bachelorette in their inviolate two-mile radius, Zoe could teach us all a few things about making boys jump how high. In fact, I think Lily missed a trick when she labelled everyone’s special friend Princess Zoe. Princess Raleigh sounds more accurate, since I’ll bet the farm she’s been ridden round it by everyone bar Gunman since week one – and the only reason he didn’t is that he’s a bloody great man-child and doesn’t reilly know what his tinkle’s for.
Anyway, a quick update on the plot: Nothing much happens that I haven’t already summed up above (using the exact same number of words but only about 1/10th the space Reilly did) apart from the arrival of one Benjamin Cohen, call-sign Leonar– no, sorry, Archer, shortly to be changed to Stretch, a Mossad sniper and yet another passing pal of West, who has been sent by his America-and-Europe opposing superiors to help out or, if refused access, shop them all to the Yanks.
How the Israelis had discovered them, they didn’t know–but then Mossad is the most ruthless and efficient intelligence service in the world. It knows everything. Apart from… er… actually, I think I’ll leave this one alone. Just in case.
West decides to let him stay, despite insisting on no communications with the outside world on pain of blowing his brains out – which sort of suggests he could just do that anyway and save three portions of food every day for their last couple of years on the farm. But he doesn’t, leaving this so-likely-it’s-unlikely betrayer in their midst and pointedly not spending much quality time with the Arabic Saladin – another example of Reilly’s gentle touch with characterisation, motivation and international relations.
Then, when she’s almost ten, Lily – who has spent the years learning at the knee of Wizard ( oh God, the anticipation is so delicious! ) proving herself a linguistic prodigy of tongue-twisting proportions – finally finds she can read the mysterious clip-art message that has been pinned to the fridge door all this time (I’m giving Reilly and my tags a clip-art break today, there were only two in the whole chapter). She quickly spits out the very instructions that lead the team to the trapundated Sudanese temple from chapter one, and three days later – well, the rest is history.
That same day the Sun (sic) rotated on its axis and the small sunspot that the Egyptians called Ra’s Prophet appeared on its surface.
In seven days, on March 20, the Tartarus Rotation would occur.
Honestly, he does make it sound as if the sun spins like a plate on a stick, doesn’t he?
The chapter ends there – but I don’t. Oh no. There’s one last thing I have to do before I go and light up this fat stoogie and blow smoke-rings at my enormous out-of-court settlement. Let’s wind the clock back five years:
Epper was a wonderful teacher.
Lily just adored him–loved his wise old face, his kind blue eyes, and the gentle yet clever way he taught.
And so she renamed him Wizard.
Can you see where I’m going? Let’s wind it back another five years (and to Reilly’s best ever paragraph…):
A gruesome yet urgent image: flanked by the encroaching lava and the steadily lowering ceiling, the two men perform a Caesarean delivery on the dead woman’s body using West’s Leatherman knife.
Thirty seconds later,
XXX lifts a second child from the
woman’s slit-open womb.
It is a girl.
It gives me great pleasure to TAKE BACK my retraction, and award this beautiful Absolute Failure Award (Internal Logic) to Seven Ancient Wonders, by Matthew Reilly.