The soft hum of twin plane engines did nothing to ease Annie’s anxiety. The ancient machine lumbered through the azure sky carrying her to her destiny. She pulled her knees up to her chest. Beside her, Briton moved her head in a circular motion. When the windows darkened. Annie leaned against the bulkhead.
“Wish I could do that,” Briton smiled.
Briton’s eyes pointed at Annie’s legs.
“Oh, it’s easy. Briton?” The air grew thicker, harder to breathe in. “Have you been doing this very long?”
“This?” Briton feigned ignorance.
“Linking with others, to…?” Annie wasn’t quite sure how to formulate what was being asked of her.
“It’s more than linking. We only have to join with the others when we’re pulled together.”
“Pulled together?” Annie stretched her feet back to the floor.
“The Council, those who occupied the pillars when you first got here, maintain a constant vigil over our universe. Usually things are peaceful and quiet. At those times we go about our lives, practicing our craft.”
Annie laughed. “That leads to two more questions.’
“Let me guess. First question: practice our craft?” Briton rubbed the back of her neck. “I’m glad I’m the one to initiate you into this. It’ll help me get over some of these anxious feelings that have been plaguing me lately.”
Turbulence rattled the plane. Another air pocket bounced Annie’s head against the bulkhead where she leaned. She noticed Briton’s eyes had darkened to a smoldering brown.
“Anyway,” Briton continued, “we will arrive at the training center after dark. That’s preplanned. After a night’s rest and one more chance for you to turn back, we’ll start your training.” Another pocket of turbulence stopped Briton’s speech. She exhaled sharply. When she continued her voice was softer. “Your training will teach you how to travel back to our universe by melding time and space together.”
“Together?” Annie gripped the arms of her seat. “But?”
“You don’t go with your body.”
Annie’s mouth opened, but no words came out.
“This is your pilot. Prepare for landing.” A strong male voice flooded the cabin. “Arrival time is on schedule.”
Internal lighting brightened.
“What about the second question?” Annie asked steering her fear away from the first. “You said usually. Are things peaceful and calm now?”
“Actually that really was your first question, wasn’t it?” Briton responded. “To answer you, no. Things are not peaceful and calm now. There’s a threat that will require all our strength. I just hope you have enough time to really understand the skills needed to pull us all together. Now, just sit back and relax. We’ll be at the compound soon. All will be revealed to you there. I’ve probably given you too much information already.” Briton pressed her head back against the seat and closed her eyes.
Alone in a small room, no bigger than any other rest station room where she’d stayed, Annie stretched out on a comfortable queen size bed. She pulled the covers around her. Sleep did not come easy. The little that Briton revealed to her kept building with the images that overwhelmed Annie earlier. When sunlight brightened the soft pastel curtains on the windows, Annie still hadn’t gone to sleep.
A knock on the hardwood door forced her off of the bed. Briton stood on the other side. Dressed in floral print shorts and solid sapphire blue top, Briton’s eyes sparkled with the reflection of her clothing.
Annie wrapped the full robe close around her. Its warmth couldn’t prevent the chill that cut through her.
“I didn’t think you’d get much sleep.” Briton laughed. “It’s okay, your body will rest while we practice. Come on.” She reached in and took Annie’s arm. Drawing her out into the hall, Briton led Annie down the long narrow passage through a door at the far end. Flights of stairs stretched up before them. Briton began the climb. Annie followed slowly.
Before she started the third flight, Annie stopped. “How–? Many of these?” She puffed out the words. Her breath labored in her chest, ragged and painful.
“Five more.” Briton seemed unaffected by the climb. “You’ll get used to this after awhile. Just keep a slow steady pace. We’ll stop at each level.”
Annie felt doubtful. She took a deep breath and started up. Each time they stopped after that her breathing grew more even. At the top of the seventh flight they came to a solid metal door.
Briton placed her hands against the surface. “You too.” She instructed Annie. Together, they pressed against the cool surface and waited. A soft twang announced the lock’s release. The entrance swung inward.
Briton stepped back and motioned Annie to go first. Inside the Master sat on a soft yellow cushion in the middle of a small square room.
Annie frowned. “How?” she asked.
“It is what it is.” His soft purr brought her strange comfort.
He lifted his head to Briton. Without further prompting she moved around Annie to a long blue cushion near the far wall. Stretched out on it Briton motioned Annie to a similar pad along the wall close to where Briton’s feet rested. This one green, Annie’s favorite color, welcomed her. A cool artificial breeze wafted through the room.
Before she could close her eyes the Master came up to Annie’s face. His soft purr seemed to be a request.
“Give him the coin,” Briton instructed.
Annie held out the hand where the coin had attached itself. With a loud clang the metal fell to the floor. Rubbing his head against her outstretched arm, the feline exchanged it with an emerald crystal. Leafy fingers of gold surrounded the stone. Attached through the decoration, a fine chain offered connection.
Briton leaned up on an elbow. With her other hand she pulled a similar stone, only this one blue, from under her shirt. “Put it on. It is your guide and your protection.”
Annie did as she was told.
“Now lay back and close your eyes. With comforting fingers, a massaging sensation ran across Annie’s body. She kept one hand on the necklace. A vibration started and moved out through her fingers to her hands and arms. From there it spread through her body.
“Now let go.” Briton’s voice sounded in her head.
Annie started to open her eyes, to sit up.
“No. Leave your body where it is. You. Come with me.”
The vibration through Annie’s body grew stronger. She took a deep breath. A strong floral fragrance filled her nostrils.
“You can do it Annie,” Briton encouraged her. “Let go and come with me.”
A sensation of floating took hold. Before she realized what she was doing, Annie looked down on her body. Eyes closed, it seemed to be resting comfortably.
“How?” Annie asked.
“You do have the power.” Beside Annie, Briton’s bright voice encouraged. Together they floated to the ceiling and out an open skyway. Over the rooftops, Briton led Annie to the waiting vibrant blue ocean. Together they raced into the crashing waves. The current caught Annie and pulled her down into the foaming depths. Down, down she went. With a strong tug that felt like Briton’s hand pulling hers, Annie’s momentum changed. She turned around and went racing, beside her cousin up to the surface. This regimen repeated itself over and over. The warm summer sun crossed the sky. When it passed beyond the horizon, Briton pulled Annie back to the resort, into the tiny room and their waiting bodies.
With a sharp intake of breath, Annie felt her lungs expand. Exhaling, she pushed the pungent floral scent from her nostrils. When she opened her eyes Briton knelt beside her, a mug of steaming cocoa in her hand. Annie sat up and took it.
Briton lifted a similar mug to her own lips. “So? How’d you like it?” she asked and took a drink.
“Exciting.” Annie responded. “Is it like that every time?” She took care not to let the liquid burn her mouth.
“No, but the sensation will last for awhile. The real excitement comes when we help our worlds.” Suddenly Briton turned away from Annie. “What?”
“It iz time.” Annie could not make out the form, but she recognized the voice.
“Now?” Briton asked.
“It is what it is,” the Master’s voice carried sorrow.