Wing Commander Hygbald had white tufts of hair sticking out of the sides of his head. He looked like a favourite grandfather.
‘Now there young flyers, settle down. Shush, tots, shush, tots,’ he said to the new intakes.
‘Tots!’ said Tiberius, a little too loudly.
‘Yes dear boy, you new intakes will always be like new-born infants to me. Like little tots. Fresh notebooks, clean canvasses, waiting to be filled with wonderful ideas. Babies ready to be spoonfed the wonders of the hidden realms.’
Tiberius rolled his eyes.
‘Hmm,’ said Wing Commander Hygbald, studying Tiberius through narrowed eyes, ‘clearly some of you are going to be Tiger Tots!’
Tiberius rolled his eyes again.
‘Now, young flyers,’ Wing Commander Hygbald rubbed his hands and crossed and uncrossed his eyes, ‘I am here to teach you all you need to know about the history of the world. Who’s done some history before?’
No one put a hand up. Wing Commander Hygbald’s bushy white eyebrows shot up.
‘Really?’ he said, his voice going up a pitch with surprise. ‘What can you tell me about the earth?’
No hands went up. Commander Hygbald’s eyebrows went so high that they nearly disappeared under his floppy white hair.
‘Really young flyers? Did no one study earth in prep school?’
No hands went up.
‘Hmm.’ said Commander Hygbald. ‘This reality is not all there is you know.’ He twirled his chubby finger around and crossed and uncrossed his eyes. Then he leant forward and said ‘There is more my young flyers.’
He stared around the class., and the white tufts of hair fluttered a little in an unexpected breeze.
‘You are not here for your own benefit. This world as you know it is only half the picture.‘
Normal and Tiberius stared. This was news to them.
‘Guardian Grange exists,’ said Commander Hygbald, ‘not only to give you young upstarts a proper education. But to prepare you for another world altogether. To prepare you… for planet earth.’
Petrona looked wide-eyed. Ararnia frowned and scratched at her tousled ginger hair.
‘Is it about a hundred miles from here? Beyond the silver lake, sir?’ asked Ocacia, narrowing her eyes as she spoke.
Commander Hygbald laughed. ‘Much further than that, Miss Wings. It’s light years away.’
‘Light years, sir?’
‘Light years. If you’re a human. And yet,’ he held up a chubby finger, ‘and yet at the same time it’s right next to us.’ He raised his bushy eyebrows and crossed and uncrossed his eyes. ‘Close but a whole other world away. Near and far. Now, what do you know about humans?’