The night passed quickly and dawn was already spilling over the eastern mountains when his wristband finally lit up, and the travel platform spluttered into a gentle hum. He breathed a sigh of relief, but before he could begin to enter any coordinates the hum ceased, the lights died and silence once more prevailed.
Manfred did what all good engineers would do in the same situation. He walloped the device and frantically switched it off and on, but to no avail, and so he attempted to kick the platform. However, his foot missed and instead collided with the markings on the rock. He howled in pain, waking Hazel with a jolt, just in time to see her companion hopping around in a crazed dance of frustration and pain.
She had no time to question what he had been doing because the large rock that spanned the floor of the temple was making some rather unusual creaking and groaning noises. It started to tremble beneath their feet, causing Hazel to step and Manfred to hop back to the doorway, still clutching his injured foot.
Their mouths parted in amazement as, with a crack and a rumble, the rock slowly split open. Embedded in the layer beneath was a transparent prism, sparkling like ice. The morning light that now flooded through the east facing window formed a perfect rectangle on this crystal-like substance, which reflected the dazzling beam and focussed it on the darker back wall of the temple.
This was not any ordinary reflection. The light formed a three dimensional shape, a hologram, projected in the shadows. The figure in the hologram was not human. They could now quite clearly see a recording of one of their own kind, an elderly male figure sat on a throne.
The figure spoke. His proud voice crackled with age.
"I am the mighty Apocatequil DragoIllapu, great Incan God of Fire, Lightening and High-Altitude Weather. I reside in this sacred city with my wife, Cocomama, the Goddess of Health, Happiness and Recreational Cactus. Together we rule this kingdom and are rightly worshipped by the simple humans that dwell within its bounds. Humble yourself before my image."
At this point the hologram paused to cough and splutter, hacking into his palms. A drinking vessel and handkerchief were hurriedly passed to him by an unseen hand, and he proceeded to take a sip of liquid before blowing his nose with a long, loud honk.
"Right," he said, clearing his throat, "now where was I? Oh yes. Prostrate yourselves before my glory!"
Manfred began to giggle and Hazel nudged him, "this is no time for laughing."
The hologram solemnly continued. "This sanctified message is left in accordance with the prophecy. The knowledge that I am about to reveal has been passed down through millennia, generation after generation. It has been known since the days when the disease of infertility had not yet wreaked its wrath upon our species and our numbers on this soil were still plentiful."
"It is written in our ancient manuscripts that many millions of moons ago a group of elders held council to discuss a great invention. A machine had been created by the God of Technology and Potatoes, and it did allow the travel through time, and they called it "Pro-tow-type". The ancestral God was pleased with his creation, and so he rested, and lo he did forget how to construct the great Pro-tow-type."
"And while he rested the machine was given to the famed travellers, Has-zeal the Beautiful and Man-feared the Feared. And they did travel through the mists of time, as remembered in the songs of our ancestors. It is said that the three shall appear again one day, to fulfil their destiny as saviours of our race."
Manfred glanced over at his companion whose eyes were as big as saucers and mouth was hanging open wide enough to catch a large bird.
The hologram was disturbed by a female voice, out of sight of the recording.
"Can't you see I'm busy here," the hologram replied, and then reducing his voice to a whisper, "how many times have I told you not to call me that?"
"I am sorry Apo darling; I just wanted you to wear something a bit warmer than all that ceremonial nonsense. It'll do no good for your cough. Why don't you put on your poncho?"
"Yes dear," he replied through gritted teeth, pulling the colourful garment over his head before resuming his speech.
"Alas! The prophesized travellers have not reached us in time. My wife and I are the last of our kind, now withered with age we hold no hope for the continuation of our species."
"In the years since the discovery of the infertility disease we have devoted all our scientific research to finding a cure, and we have been successful. We have cultivated a cactus that will completely cure the infertility disease, but these cacti require centuries to mature, and we will not reap their benefits in our lifetime."
"All we can do is leave this message. We hope that one day it will be found by the great Has-zeal and Man-feared, when they arrive on their Pro-tow-type. We hold all the knowledge they require for the return journey, and all they must do is take samples of the cactus back to their time. We trust that providence will favour our race."
With that the hologram faded away. There was a small click, and a stone tablet ejected from the rock. Manfred picked it up. Engraved on its smooth surface were detailed instructions on how to repair the travel platform and pictures of the cactus in question. At the bottom of the tablet in rounded, comforting letters were the words "Thank you for visiting the Temple of the Sun. Have a nice day."
The pair looked at each other in stunned silence.
"I think," said Manfred, "that when we travelled, we did not go off course. We landed in exactly the right place but at the wrong time. We are millions of years in the distant future."
"And our race doesn't exist anymore." Hazel replied, an unmistakable sadness in her voice.
"No", said Manfred, "from the looks of things that recording was made several hundred years ago. Still, we have a chance to do something about it. Those cacti are everywhere. We can gather them and if these instructions are correct we should be up and running in no time."
He smiled at his companion. "There was one thing I didn't understand though - what did he mean by the three of us?"
"I think I understood. You know how I've been unwell recently?"
"I think that I'm with egg."
"Really ... that's wonderful! What brilliant news. You're not going to lay it now are you?"
"No, not yet," smiled Hazel.
Manfred grinned widely. "I'm so proud of you ... look at you, you're eggspecting."
Hazel groaned. "Well, so long as it has a better sense of humour than its father."
"What do you mean; I have an eggcellent sense of humour."
"You're not funny Manfred."
"I can't help it. I'm just eggcited."
"Still not funny."
"You're right. I don't want to eggshaust myself."
"I'm so glad that no one else can hear this conversation."
A few hours later the couple were balanced on the travel platform, which was now steadily humming.
"Move over Manfred, cacti needles are sticking me."
"Cacti needles are sticking everything. The platform itself is full of little holes. I hope the force field doesn't leak out. Is it really necessary to bring so many?"
"What if this doesn't work because we didn't bring enough? Do you really want that guilt on your head?"
"Right now I don't want cactus needles on my head," said Manfred as he initiated the travel sequence.
A blinding flash of light hit the temple.
Machu Picchu disappeared and Manfred saw that Hazel's scales were now sparking under the young sun of their home.
"You look beautiful my dear."
Hazel smiled, adding, "I think we should talk to Professor Quentin from the conference straight away, I'm sure he'll know what to do, as long as we can tempt him away from his potatoes."
She exhaled a triumphant plume of fire, and with that the pair spread their vast dragon wings and with a few powerful flaps they were high up in the air and soaring towards the clouded mountains of their home.