The remainder of the day brought torrential rain, carried in on huge clouds from the rainforest which emptied themselves in a hiss of fat, angry droplets. The downpour lashed the terraces and stone structures of Machu Picchu, forming a misty-white haze that blurred the outlines of the mountains. The nest did not escape the rain, and two damp figures watched from their hiding place in the leaves as the flow of humans coming up the path into the ruined city dwindled to a trickle. Only the most adventurous would attempt the uneven pathways and slippery steps on a day like today, shielded by gaudy raincoats and umbrellas which were tugged and teased by the wind.
Hazel anxiously watched Manfred smoke. Rings of silver-blue curled from his lips and floated upwards, dissolving into oblivion in the branches.
"I just don't understand," she sighed, "One minute we're waving off our friends at the conference, and the next we're stuck in this strange place. I've been feeling so ill Manfred. All I want to do is sleep. I wish we were at home. I want to know what's been making me sick."
Manfred nodded, gently stroking her arm. "I hope that the platform and gear are still ok," he said, worriedly glancing towards the temple.
"Who cares about the gear?" Hazel snapped."Can't we leave it behind? Really, I don't know why the conference made us carry all that bulky stuff home. We don't even know what it's meant to do. All that matters is the platform, and getting it fixed."
The mournful weather matched their glum expressions, when a sudden commotion caught their attention. The saturated earth on the three terraces above the main path had collapsed, causing a small landslide that was now blocking the entrance to Machu Picchu. Before long humans in neon yellow jackets were swarming around the muddy mess, helping people back down the hillside and putting up large signs which announced that the whole site would be closed until it could be made safe.
Hazel and Manfred waited for the hubbub to die down before they descended from their nest. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun had set, temporarily painting the remaining clouds in a glorious symphony of colour, before fading into darkness.
Manfred studied the few stars which winked at him from breaks in the cloud while Hazel fished out her beacon and shone its beam into the gloom of the grass-carpeted Plaza.
"Manfred ... you ... you might want to have a look at this!"
"What is it Hazel? Why are you interrupting when you can see I'm ... oh ... oh, I see."
The pair beheld a sea of yellow eyes, illuminated by the beacon. There must have been dozens of them, all unblinking and focused on the travellers.
"We, uhhh, we mean you no harm," said Manfred, not doing a very good job of disguising the tremble in his voice. He took a furtive step backwards, whispering, "I knew the humans weren't capable of such an advanced society, these must be their masters."
Hazel, still gripping the beacon, rolled her eyes at her companion's clichéd attempts at diplomacy. She scanned the beam around them and leaned forwards, squinting in the darkness, trying to make out the creatures to which these eyes belonged.
"Manfred, we're in a herd of those herbivores that eat the grass on the terraces. I heard a human call them llamas."
"Oh, right. Actually, I was just thinking that myself. "
"Of course you were. Come on, the temple's just around the corner."
Upon arrival they found the platform and gear exactly where they had been left, untouched and unharmed, tucked out of sight down the side of the large rock.
They also found a small silver box, propped up neatly on the sill of one of the temple's trapezoidal windows. Manfred picked it up. "What is this?" he said, turning it over in his hands. The object whirred and gave off a tremendous flash, causing him to yelp and drop it in surprise.
The box landed at Hazel's feet. She grabbed it and noticed her companion's face displayed on the panel at the back. She couldn't help but snigger at the picture, Manfred's perturbed brows and expression of utter shock and bewilderment were perfectly captured in time.
"Look, it's an image transfer device."
"Bah, it's inferior human technology. Nothing compared to what we have at home. Now you try to get comfortable while I fix this thing."
Manfred turned his attention to his wristband and the platform, grumpily pressing buttons while Hazel drowsily rested by the doorway, inspecting her surroundings.
"Look at those markings on the rock. Aren't they similar to our home script?" she said quietly, tilting her head to one side for a better view.
"I see what you mean. It looks like: break ... rock ... prism ... light ... sound. That doesn't make much sense. Perhaps it's just a coincidence."
"You're probably right," murmured Hazel, as she drifted into sleep. Manfred continued to tinker with the machines, pausing only to stroke his companion's forehead as she gave occasional half-asleep moans.
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.