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Together they'd progressed from sandbox to mud puddles, creek walking and ice skating, tree climbing and skate boarding, and every good thing along the way. Now at ten years old they were ready to branch out, see the world, get out there and be life size, even if they weren't quite yet.

"Now's the time", Sapphire declared, and Alex agreed. They'd already decided on code names. She was to be known as Cipher, and he was to be Aleph. It was perfect. Code names first and then disguises and masks. Or maybe not. Cipher was still deciding about that. As for Aleph, he was poring over his collection of official city bus maps, one from each of the past nine years. He had the idea that if you're out to discover the world, a bus map is a decent place to begin.

Chapter Two - Spring Hill Lake

Alex took to arranging his bus maps chronologically along his bedroom wall, at a height where he could study them carefully from his upper bunk, and where his little brother Argus could not easily get to them. This led to an endless fascination on the five-year-old's part. He would lie for hours in his lower bunk gazing up at the grids of tiny black lines and bolder red ones as if the secrets of the universe were embedded somewhere in there. Alex knew what all those lines represented, and he was certain they were the key to something more substantial - the way to most efficiently cover the territory.

Alex and Sapphire had different goals in mind for this adventure. Sapphire wanted to go everywhere, or rather, to have been everywhere, on every street. Alex wanted to see everything, to have seen everything, to know what things there were and where. He had a genius for memorization and a desire to fill up his brain cells with tidbits of random knowledge. Sapphire wanted notches on her belt. Her idea was to fan out from where they were, take it one neighborhood at a time, as if it were guerrilla warfare and the surrounding streets were the occupying army. Alex pointed out that this would make their travels that much longer each time. He proposed a more systematic solution; map it out and take the bus. Sapphire had to agree that made a lot more sense.

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