‘Right! Let’s try number 37, you rabble,’ Professor Bagriel said to the rest of the class and he strummed the harp again. ‘Everyone – together – go.’
The din that followed put a grimace across Bagriel’s fine features. He stopped strumming and most of the class shut up. But a single voice continued, caught up in the melody. Around the room seven jaws dropped and every face turned. Petrona was staring out of the window, singing softly to herself. The sound was gentle yet absolutely pure. As she sang a tiny crack in the corner of the window appeared to heal itself. She glanced back into the room and realised everyone was looking her way. She blushed and went quiet.
‘Extraordinary, Miss P,’ said Professor Bagriel. ‘Absolutely extraordinary.’
Christina the Astonishing glided into the room, her long coat spreading behind her like a crimson glow as she travelled. As usual her desk was untidy. She took one look, snapped her fingers and muttered, ‘Agglethorpe.’
Immediately the papers, books and pens rearranged themselves into some kind of order. She produced the two guinea pigs again and placed them neatly side by side on the desk.
‘Sebastian, Cassius – stay!’ she told them and they twitched their noses but did not move.
‘Now then,’ she looked up at the class, ‘who wants to be invisible?’
Every hand went up. She laughed a husky laugh.
‘Everybody always wants to be invisible,’ she said quietly to herself. ‘Up here, in school, it’s relatively easy. But out there, on missions, it’s another story.’
She snapped her fingers, muttered huskily ‘Snetterton,’ and a large stopwatch appeared in her hand.
‘Everyone hold your breath – go!’
There was a corporate gulp as Q1 swallowed air and held it in.
Ararnia gave up first, rather noisily flopping onto her desk as if she’d completed some exhausting task. Miss astonishing’s left eyebrow shot up as she glanced her way. Tiberius was the next to give up. Then Petrona. But the others held on for a while. Normal and Otto were the last to exhale.
Miss astonishing applauded them, her hands moving gracefully and barely making a sound.
‘My dad’s a trumpet player in the band,’ Otto said, a little too proudly. ‘Blastus Breeze.’
‘Ah yes… I’m sure we’ve all heard of him.’
The rest of Q1 looked baffled. Miss Astonishing looked at the stopwatch.
‘Well, not bad Mr Breeze and Mr McCloud, but you all need to do better than that,’ she said. ‘Holding your breath is vital if you’re going to move about undetected.’
‘You mean we have to hold our breath to stay invisible, miss?’ said Ararnia, putting her hand up after she’d spoken.