Chapter 1

The school infirmary was not a place designed for sprints but somehow the Massking twins were able to hold quite competitive races along its otherwise deserted corridors until they reached the room they sought with its pale yellow door.

"I win," said the one, pressing her hand to the handle, only to see another hand grasping it at the same time.

"So do I!" crowed the other twin. "A heat, a dead heat."

"Only because you cheated," the first accused, pushing the door slowly open and adjusting one of her long blonde pigtails that had wrapped around her neck a moment.

"I didn't cheat!" the second denied, bustling in beside the other so they crossed the threshold together. Her pigtails did not require adjusting but she toyed with one nonetheless.

"Hello Sunshine," they both said in perfect unison to the dark girl lying in the bed by the window, the only bed currently occupied by a pupil in this ward.

"Hello twins, you're a welcome sight," came a sad voice usually so full of feisty energy, but the girl was poorly still and in need of cheering up.

"We brought you some grapes," Divvy Massking said, making a signal to her sister.

"I thought you had them," Fizzy looked puzzled, her hands obviously empty. They gave each other slightly panicked searching looks and then huffed.

"Sorry," came the duplicated apology. The bedridden girl laughed.

"You have brought yourselves and that's quite enough," she assured them. "How are the others? Is the princess still ruling the dorm with grace and charm? Has Bubbles fallen off the roof yet? And Sharshua, has she found something new to study now my performance as a swimmer no longer figures." Sunshine Allouette had been injured during a swimming competition and was currently recovering from her ordeal. Visits from her brothers and also from various pupils from Miss Plazenby's Extremely Exclusive Seminary for Girls had filled up part of the recovery time but the matron insisted she remain in bed till fully fit again.

"Haven't a clue."

"Didn't really notice."

The twins looked this way and that, as if trying to hide some important matter but yet wished the girl to know so they could have the pleasure of it being teased out of them.

"What have you been up to?" Sunshine duly asked in a suitably suspicious voice.

"Well, the weather outside is lovely, really lovely. The sun is shining, some annoying birds keep chirping loudly to each other from all sorts of trees as if they had nothing better to do and at least a hundred squirrels were jumping about among the cut grass like insane little furry things," Divvy declared with impressive detail.

"The sky is a wonderful blue with the sweetest fluffy clouds floating along like legless and headless sheep, but still able to follow each other across the sky. The sea is positively glittering with light and flowers are puffing out pollen and perfume in equal measure fit to choke the crowds of cheery holiday folk on the beaches all along the coast," Fizzy added in equally breathless profusion.

"Thank you for reminding me I am locked away in here and missing a wonderful summer," Sunshine inevitably replied, looking forlorn and dejected all at once, sinking back onto her pillow.

"It is," Divvy said archly, "the horriblest horriblest thing to be bedridden."

"Imagine," Fizzy added cruelly, "being stuck inside when the world is full of joy and merriment outside. Why, everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves all the time."

Sunshine sank even deeper into her pillow.

"That's why we've come to cheer you up," they announced in unison. It seemed a set speech but the twins were so attuned to each other the line between rehearsed and spontaneous was a continual blur with them.

"A wonderful job you are doing, too," came a sullen murmur.

"You miss the gritty sand?"

"You miss the undulating dunes?"

There was something in the manner of the twins that sparked an interest in the bedridden Greetiyah girl, a native of a desert Winkel in the near east, a homeland she had not been able to see this summer due to her accident.

"I do," she enthused, eyes bright with yearning as she sat up again.

"Then miss no more, for behold, we shall transport you there in a twinkling of magic, for we are the Twinkle Twins."

Their gestures and movements and voices all suggested some mysterious stage act routine and they posed awkwardly, awaiting an audience reaction.

"This had better be good after you destroyed every particle of happiness I had been clinging to while stuck here before your visit," came a heckling response from said audience.

"We didn't bring grapes," Fizzy admitted, "for we thought you would like something better."

"To pick your own perhaps from some desert tree in Ragadoon," Divvy explained.

"There are no trees in Ragadoon, but go on. I'm listening."

"We, that is the Twinkle Twins, have the power to transport you instantly to wherever your heart desires to go," came the amazing boast.

"Which would not be Ragadoon. I can think of better locations in Greetiyah. Carry on. I'm really interested in how you will carry out this mighty feat."

The twins looked at each other, big blue eyes sparkling with anticipation as they readied themselves for the grand finale.

"The Triple Shield, ta daaa!" they said flourishing empty hands, for they obviously did not have this particular trophy concealed about their persons.

Sunshine leant back, a little disappointed. The Triple Shield, made of three separate components, all of which were currently located at Miss Plazenby's in a once in a lifetime event, when assembled had the extraordinary ability to bypass the ever present storm barriers that separated lands from each other for months at a time, depending on the phases and approaches of the great moon called Foam. Thus it was possible to travel the world on a whim.

"Currently under lock and key in the trophy cabinet over the entranceway," Sunshine pointed out. "Visible to all who pass that way at all hours of the day and night."

"I imaged it," one twin said.

"I made a foil copy," the other said.

"We reckon we can figure the lock easily enough, having consulted a certain Octora girl on such mechanisms," came a reasoned explanation.

"Sharshua was very helpful."

Sunshine blinked back a sudden tear for she realised these two zany girls with hearts of gold had made every effort to cheer up the invalid, the bedridden girl, with an elaborate plan to whisk her off home for a much needed break.

"Thank you," she said in a wobbly voice.

"You're welcome."

"When we figure out how it works, we'll come get you."

At this revelation Sunshine flumped her head back upon the pillow so vigorously matron heard it and scooted the visitors out with words of warning not to disturb her precious patient.