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Divide and conquer, p.1
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       Divide and Conquer, p.1

           Carrie Ryan
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Divide and Conquer

  Welcome to Infinity Ring, a daring adventure through time!

  It all starts here in the books, where you’ll discover a world in which history is broken . . . and meet the three young people who must risk their lives to set things right.

  At the end of this book, you’ll find your very own Hystorian’s Guide. The Guide has been created to help time travelers avoid the dangers that await them in the past.

  And you’re going to need all of the Guide’s tips, hints, and codes when you experience history for yourself in the action-packed Infinity Ring game. In the next episode of the game, you can explore Washington, DC, in the year 1814 . . . and it will be up to you to figure out how to put history back on track.

  Fix the past. Save the future.


  Title Page



  Getting Sacked


  Mathy Stuff


  Starting a War


  Another Fan of History


  A Secret Breach


  Rollo the Walker


  War Machines


  Under Attack


  Bearing the Standard


  Taking a Dive


  The Dead Man’s Float


  Learning a Secret


  A Sinking Feeling


  A Call from the Future


  The Blood Eagle


  Connections from Long Ago




  Rallying the Troops


  The Reunion


  A Hasty Retreat


  The Hitchhiker


  Old Friends


  The Horns of War (Again)


  Old Enemies






  Admitting Defeat


  Learning from Dogs


  So Close, So Far Away


  Left Hanging

  Revenge of the Redcoats Hystorian’s Guide

  Sneak Peek

  About the Author


  SERA OPENED her eyes. She was staring at the exact same wall she’d been facing when she’d closed them just a moment before. Her stomach tightened with anxiety. “That can’t be right,” she murmured.

  She looked down at the Infinity Ring, grasped so hard between her fingers that her knuckles were white. “I know I put in the data correctly.” Just a few seconds ago they’d been standing in Paris in 1792, and then she’d felt the still-uncomfortable squeezing of her skin. It was the tightening of time and space around her as she moved from one era to another. And it should have brought her, Dak, and Riq to 885.

  Yet here they were, staring at the same stupid wall as before.

  “This is so cool!” Her best friend, Dak, stood next to her, running his hands over the uneven stones with a look of rapture on his face. Apparently he hadn’t spent enough time admiring it before they’d attempted to warp through time. It was bound to keep him occupied for a while. After all, Dak could get excited by something as boring as a wall simply because it was historical — and here, everything was historical.

  She turned to Riq. He was the one who she didn’t know as well, and she hated the idea of him thinking her incompetent. “Sorry, I’m not sure what went wrong. This should only take a second,” she told him, her mind already whirring through the complicated mathematical equations to find the mistake. Riq shrugged, as though ending up in the wrong place and time was something altogether ordinary rather than an absolute catastrophe.

  “Really, I think we must be dealing with some sort of hidden variable aspect to the quantum entanglement.” As her fingers flew over the Ring’s controls, Sera felt herself speaking a bit uncontrollably, explaining in painstaking detail the scientific theories behind the warping of space and time. She tried to force her mouth closed, but she couldn’t help it. When she got nervous, she talked.

  Riq kept his focus on the wall, a frown furrowing his forehead. “I could have sworn this wasn’t there before,” he said, his fingers tracing over a series of scratches in the stone.

  “Check it out! There must be thousands of them!” Dak had found a series of footholds and managed to climb to the top of the wall. He was staring out beyond it at something in the distance. Then he looked down at Sera, his entire body vibrating with excitement, like the time (was it really only a few days ago?) that the two of them had gone on a class trip to the Smithsonian.

  That hadn’t turned out well — an earthquake had struck and they were almost crushed by a Viking longship on display. Just thinking about it gave Sera a dawning sense of unease. “Dak, maybe you should get down,” she called out. “I’m not sure —”

  “Duck!” Riq called out, cutting Sera off.

  For a split second Dak looked confused but then he did as he was told, flattening himself against the top of the wall. Just then a storm of rocks and debris came hurtling through the air, raining down around the three of them. The wall shuddered at the impact.

  Sera pressed the Infinity Ring to her stomach to protect it as Riq lunged forward, throwing himself on top of her. Now probably wasn’t the best time to realize that none of them had showered in several days, and smelled like it.

  Then Sera had another realization. If the arrows slicing through the air around her weren’t enough of a clue, the moment she actually took in her surroundings all thoughts of quantum entanglement fled her mind. The warp hadn’t failed after all.

  Where before there’d been the elegant flying buttresses of Notre Dame Cathedral, with its intricately patterned windows, there now sat a dull, plain hulk of a church with thick, bare walls. A palace still occupied the western end of the Île de la Cité, but no longer did it dominate the tip of the island with its impressive turrets and elaborate facades. Everything was different than it had been a minute ago, from the width of the streets to the uneven construction of the buildings to the sounds of men running for cover. Now that she really looked, Sera realized that even the wall Dak had scaled was different. Whereas in 1792 they’d taken refuge against the scrap of an old ruin, now the wall stood strong and sure, rising several yards in the air and securely ringing most of the island.

  Leave it to a genius to miss the obvious, Sera thought. This definitely isn’t 1792.

  Wave after wave of arrows and rocks pounded into the ground and crashed into nearby buildings. Sera wondered if it would ever end. Somehow, when the three of them had agreed to travel through time fixing the Breaks in history, she hadn’t seriously considered the danger they’d be in.

  But so far, time travel had offered up one life-threatening peril after another. Starting with the very first trip, when Dak and Sera had warped with Dak’s parents to test the brand-new Infinity Ring. They’d ended up in the middle of a Revolutionary War battle, with uniformed men running at them with guns and bayonets at the ready. The group had barely made it out alive — and they’d been separated from Dak’s parents in the process.

  Sera wasn’t ashamed to admit it: She was scared. She and Dak were just eleven years old and Riq wasn’t much older — having the fate of the world in their hands felt a bit overwhelming.

  When the rubble stopped falling and Riq pulled away, she no
ticed that he seemed a little shaken, too. At least she wasn’t alone.

  Of course, then Dak called out, “That was awesome!” from his perch.

  “How did you know to tell him to duck?” Sera asked Riq. Whether Dak realized it or not, the warning had probably saved his life.

  Riq pointed at the wall. “The picture scratched into the stone — it’s a duck. That we would warp into this exact spot and be facing this . . . I figured it might be a message for us somehow, and I didn’t want to take the chance of ignoring it.”

  Sera stepped forward and squinted at the poorly drawn waterfowl. Then she saw something that made her lungs tighten. “It was a message for us,” she said, tracing her fingers over two numbers: 34 and 88. “This is a code for my name. Thirty-four is the number on the periodic table for the element selenium. Eighty-eight is the number for radium. The abbreviations for them are Se and Ra — Sera.” She cringed a bit. “I know that makes me sound like a total geek.”

  “No,” Riq responded with a smile. “You’re talking to a guy whose idea of a good time is tracing the etymology of obscure words. I think it’s pretty cool that you came up with that.”

  Sera cleared her throat, unsure how to respond. She wasn’t used to that kind of compliment. “Anyway, it was always an inside joke I had with Dak, but his parents knew about it, too. Do you think they left it for us? How old is this wall, anyway?”

  Just then, Dak leapt the last few feet to the ground, landing between them. “Guys!” His eyes were alight with excitement. “You’re not going to believe it. The entire Seine is filled with them for as far as I could see! It’s like a huge logjam out there. You can’t even see the water. They’re everywhere!”

  Sera couldn’t help smiling. She’d been Dak’s best friend for as long as she could remember, and she knew he was waiting for her to ask the inevitable question: “What’s everywhere?”

  His grin widened. “Vikings! There must be seven hundred ships out there — probably more if you count the barques. Those are the little boats.” He explained that last bit to Riq.

  The older boy gave Dak a forced smile. “Thanks, got that. Linguist here, remember? My vocabulary is just fine.”

  Dak ignored him. “This is incredible! There have always been debates about how many boats the Vikings attacked Paris with. Some scholars said they stretched for two leagues but others argued there weren’t that many based on the application of operational space in a stationary —”

  “Dak, focus.” Sera rolled her eyes, but not in a mean way. She was used to putting up with his ramblings about obscure historical details. And to be honest, she kind of liked it because it was so, well . . . so Dak.

  He glanced between her and Riq. “According to the history books, there are thirty thousand Vikings on the other side of that wall, preparing for the great Siege of Paris!”

  Something sank inside Sera, but Riq was the one to voice what she was feeling. “Did the history books happen to give a date for this sack?”

  Dak nodded vigorously. “November 25, 885.”

  Sera sucked in a long breath. “That’s . . . tomorrow,” she said.

  But Dak wasn’t finished yet. “Though some historians put the date at November 24 based on the account of one of the monks inside the fortified city. . . .”

  Riq looked at Sera, and his expression matched hers. Before either of them could say anything more there was a great blast of horns from the other side of the wall and the roar of thirty thousand men screaming at once. The ground trembled from the force of so many feet pounding against it as the massive horde of Vikings raced toward the city.

  Dak seemed utterly unconcerned. “Huh.” His face scrunched up in concentration. “I guess it was the twenty-fourth after all. I can’t wait until we get back and I can correct the —”

  “Dak!” Sera shouted. “The Vikings are sacking Paris and we’re inside the city! They’re about to attack us!”

  DAK DIDN’T quite understand why Sera was so panicked. After all, there was a wall and a river between them and the approaching horde of Vikings. While the Paris of 1792 that they’d just left had sprawled far into the countryside, the Paris they’d arrived in was little more than a fortress on an island in the middle of the Seine River. Sure, the stone wall ringing the island was already about four hundred years old and was crumbling in places, but it still gave them some protection.

  Besides, if he knew his history (which he always did), the invasion wouldn’t really get under way until the leaders of each side met to discuss the terms of Paris’s surrender. Unfortunately for the people of Paris, surrendering wouldn’t be enough to keep the Vikings from stealing provisions and setting most of the island on fire — it was just how Vikings did things. And, okay, thought Dak, they probably shouldn’t stick around for too much of that. But they still had time to explore the area and figure out the Break before getting worried.

  Even so, it wouldn’t be good to get hit by a random arrow, and he could tell Sera was freaking out, so he let her drag him and Riq to the nearest shelter, an empty house nestled between two bakeries. The air inside smelled of yeast and butter, and dust covered most of the surfaces, causing the spare bits of light sneaking through the cracks in the tile roof to sparkle. The space was narrow, and they wove their way between wooden support pillars toward the deepest recesses of the shelter. Just as they took cover another wave of arrows and rocks flew over the wall, raining down outside.

  Thankfully, it looked like everyone else had the same idea as they did and had found someplace safe to hide out. Paris looked like a ghost town. But it didn’t sound like one. Even inside their tiny shack, the noise of so many Vikings racing toward the island was tremendously loud. It reminded Dak of going to the biennial SQ games with his parents and the roar of the cheering crowds. Except this crowd was probably more deadly than a couple thousand sports fans.

  Now that they were clear of all the falling debris, Sera pulled the SQuare from its satchel. A portable tablet computer given to them by the Hystorians, it was their only remaining connection to the future where, or rather when, they’d come from. He noticed her hands shook ever so slightly as she typed out the password to access the files.

  “Okay, whiz kid,” Riq said to Dak as he leaned against a rough stone wall. “You’re the one who’s always bragging about your historical prowess. Any idea why we’re here and what’s going on?”

  Dak let a satisfied grin split his face. “Now look who’s interested in what I have to say.” Dak wondered for a second if he’d really get in all that much trouble if he pushed Riq out into the debris storm. He thought better of it when Sera raised her head from the SQuare and scowled at both of them.

  “Keep your voices down,” she hissed, though Dak was pretty sure her whisper was louder than her normal tone of voice. “We haven’t spoken to anyone here yet, which means our translation devices aren’t set for the correct local language.”

  Before they’d been sent back in time by Hystorians Brint and Mari to fix the Breaks in history, all three of them had been given earpieces and a tiny device to fit over one of their teeth that would translate anything they said. The only catch was that they had to hear someone talk before the device knew which language to use.

  “Sorry,” Dak mumbled, but he still took the opportunity to smirk at Riq. Riq was the language expert — his parents had even invented the translation tool — and he should have been the one to remind them to stay quiet.

  “Oh, for the love of mincemeat,” Sera muttered. Apparently she didn’t even have to glance up from the SQuare to know Dak and Riq were staring each other down to see who looked away first. (Riq totally forfeited when he turned to look at Sera.)

  The SQuare’s screen flickered a few times. “Any idea if they had time to upload anything on this Break?” Sera asked Riq. “I hate to think about being cast adrift with no help.”

Riq frowned and for once it seemed to Dak like the older boy might admit to not having all the answers. “I think they were able to get most everything on there,” he said. “Are the files not showing up?”

  Sera shook her head. “Some of it. I guess until we know how many of the files are corrupted, we just have to work with the information we have.” Dak came to look over her shoulder as she chose the option for learning more about the third Break.

  A few words and a long string of numbers flashed up on the screen.

  Leave a message after the beep:

  326274827332 744332413373433231 8121523274 7121734374 71322123323382535393

  Dak groaned. “What kind of a message are they expecting us to leave?” He was good with words — facts and details, especially historical ones. Numbers just tended to swim in his head unless they were specific dates. In fact, sometimes in math class the only way he could remember his multiplication tables was to attach each set to a series of historical events.

  He watched helplessly now as both Sera’s and Riq’s eyes tracked back and forth across the screen. This was so not how he envisioned the Siege of Paris going. Thirty thousand Vikings nearby and he was stuck inside a bakery with two geeks more interested in mathy stuff.

  “It could be a code or a cipher,” Riq suggested.

  “Hmmm,” Sera murmured. “I guess it could be a monoalphabetic substitution cipher — like maybe an affine?”

  Even their conversation was boring! While they were engrossed in their boring boringness, Dak began to ease his way to the door. He only wanted to catch a glimpse of what was happening outside, get a feel for what was going on.

  Already the ground was littered with stones of all sizes, some larger than his head and a few so big they could have crushed a cow if any had been milling about (thankfully, it appeared none had).

  Dak breathed deeply, letting a smile cross his face. For as long as he could remember, he’d been in love with history. He even read most historical accounts in old books rather than on SQuares, because he loved how history smelled.

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