Billy just had a bit of paper inside that read Now close the cover and try again until you know how to do it. That made my heart sink. I was expecting some ancient piece of technology, but no – pah!
Mister Brown leapt to his feet. ‘You said the word, did you not hear yourself?’
‘Hear myself? I didn’t say anything!’ I pleaded.
But he had already gone to find the others. I never liked working with an audience, but we assembled in the conference room again. I had to prove I could do it and they had to see I could do it. I sat back, closed my eyes and practiced one of the breathing exercises Mister Brown had taught me. After five attempts, I was getting quite annoyed but Mister Brown prompted me to remember the breathing exercises.
I relaxed into my chair, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and thought of that black mysterious city sitting in the delta of two of the world’s most famous rivers 100,000 years ago…
The image engulfed me; I felt the warm wind in my hair and on my cheeks, I heard the stirring of creatures and the humming of that anachronistic building. Then, I opened my mouth to speak.
With a click, Billy opened. Smiling, I closed him a second time, closed my eyes and showed them I could open it a third time and a fourth time.
Nobody has ever cheered for me like that – not even when I scored the winning goal in the final of the Girls Interschool Football Tournament. Whoever thought that six people could make so much noise?
Danny threw his arms around me and squeezed me tight. ‘I knew you could do it.’
‘Thanks,’ I gave him a big kiss, ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too,’ he kissed me back, ‘ready to save the world?’
I know he only wanted to show me how proud he was of what I had done and was about to do, but it brought me back down with a bump. After all, my task was not opening a ball.
Mrs Brown shook me by the hand and for the first time I saw her smile.
‘What do you need me to do next?’ I asked her.
‘Now? eat! Afterwards, meet us at the elevator. Time is growing short – we need to move swiftly on this.’
Danny and I enjoyed a good, hearty lunch. We talked about everything except the mission, mostly because I’d just wanted to hear what he had been up to. He’d been in the library of all places (surprise!). He admitted to being bored and frustrated knowing he couldn’t really help – except offer his moral support and hugs. He liked to feel of practical use did Danny, and I reassured him he was fulfilling that duty perfectly.
He walked me to the elevator, holding my hand all the way. For the first time since this started, I felt a real bond with him.
‘Can Danny come with me? I’d really like him to be there,’ I asked Mrs Brown.
She smiled. ‘From now, you can have anything you want if you think it will help.’
At the bottom was a mysterious door seemingly made of the same black material as Billy. Mister Brown was already there standing solemnly beside the door, a neutral and controlled expression that I had seen when we first met, but rarely since.
‘There are two more tasks now Miss Salter,’ he said, using my formal title, something that seemed odd now. ‘open this door and you are ready. Behind it is a great machine; it is everything you need to perform precisely what you were brought here to do.’
What a way to relieve pressure on a girl, right? ‘Please tell me what it is. I know you’re trying to protect me, but I am ready to understand now. Everything you’ve told me… it comes down to this moment, doesn’t it? So – hit me with it.’