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Authors: Pam Harvey

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BOOK: In the Deep End
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Chapter 2
Teasdale Secondary School: Monday morning

It didn’t matter how long you had on holidays, E.D. thought to himself as he chewed, or how many cool adventures you had when you were on those holidays, as soon as you got back to school it was straight away
boring.
He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.

Angus nudged him in the ribs. ‘At least pretend you aren’t going to sleep. What are you
eating
? It smells gross.’

‘Cabana,’ muttered E.D., keeping his eyes shut.

‘What?’

‘Some people call it cabanossi. It’s great stuff. And I can’t help falling asleep—I’m tired. Who’s that new dude up on the stage?’

‘You haven’t been listening, mate. That’s our new principal, Mr Taylor.’

‘Noticed there was a new car in the teachers’ car park: a red short-wheelbase four-wheel drive. Sporty, man, but only a toy.’

E.D. wasn’t the only one at assembly not listening. Hannah was staring across the hall at Andrea Simpson who was sitting next to her friends from the other class. In her school uniform she looked as dorky as everyone else, not like someone who’d just made it into the state swimming championships. Hannah shook her head. Gabby hadn’t believed it when Hannah had said what Andrea was like at school.

‘She’s just another kid.’ Hannah had sat next to Gabby after her race, rubbing her friend’s shoulders with a towel. ‘She’s not good at any sports or her school work. I’d hardly know what she looks like if she hadn’t been in the same class as me last year.’

‘Well, she’s good at swimming,’ Gabby had said, her voice muffled in the towel around her head. ‘I can’t beat her. And I’ve been training for months.’

Hannah sighed. Nothing she said to Gabby made any difference to how she felt about losing that race.

Hannah looked back at the stage where Mr Taylor had made his way over to the microphone.
He looked completely different to their old principal who wore shorts and long socks all year round—this guy had a crisp black suit on and his dark hair was cut short. He was sort of good looking if you could call a teacher good looking. When he looked over the crowd in front of him, the hum of noises no normal teacher seemed to be able to stop at school assembly suddenly went quiet.

‘Thank you, Teasdale Secondary. Thank you for your warm welcome. I look forward to spending time here. As you know, I’ve come from the city so I’ve spent the last few days getting to know the lovely rural area of Teasdale. It’s very peaceful indeed.’

Hannah rolled her eyes. Why did city people always think the country was peaceful? They’d never been woken up at four o’clock in the morning by the next door neighbour’s rooster.

‘There are the usual reminders about oval use at lunchtime…’ Mr Taylor started on the long list of things that school principals have to go on about and Hannah felt her concentration drift away to other things. She hoped Gabby was having an alright first day at her school after Saturday’s race. There had been other kids from Gabby’s school, Teasdale Heights College, at the
swimming carnival. Give it until recess and the whole of both schools would know. Poor Gabby.

Hannah suddenly heard the principal again. ‘…Prize-winning competition.’

‘What did he say?’ she whispered to Angus, but Angus shook his head. He hadn’t been listening either. ‘E.D.?’ But E.D. had his eyes closed, his head tilted back and his mouth open—asleep for real.

‘The competition,’ continued Mr Taylor, ‘is open to every student at Teasdale Secondary and the winner will be a participant in the championships to be held right here in Teasdale at Explore!—the new Teasdale Technology Centre. The local winner will also get free entry to the Technology Centre for one whole year!

‘Now,’ the principal stopped and smiled at his audience, ‘I’ve got your full attention, haven’t I? So listen to this. The winner of the national championships will receive a prize of
whatever
you want to do,
wherever
you want to go. That’s why the major event is called
Whatever, Wherever.
Of course, conditions will apply and all this information is detailed in the entry form.’

The hall erupted in a rumble of voices, making E.D. jerk awake.

‘Is he saying,’ said Angus, ‘that if you win this competition you get to go wherever you want to
and do whatever you like when you get there?’

‘I think that’s what he said.’ Hannah frowned. ‘Although he did mention conditions, which probably means an adult has to go with you. And maybe there are restrictions on where you can go.’

‘Most of you,’ said Mr Taylor, and the hall went quiet again, ‘will never have heard of this competition. I have been involved with its running on a small basis in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and I’m pleased to inform you that because of my close links with the organisation, it has been decided that Explore! will host the state championships. The championships will be televised live, right here at Teasdale, this lovely little rural town.’

‘Here! In Teasdale?’ said Angus.

‘Plenty of paddocks to park in,’ said E.D., stretching his arms over his head.

‘The competition is a test of aptitude, problem-solving, writing ability and intelligence,’ said Mr Taylor.

‘Counts me out,’ said E.D., closing his eyes again.

‘Remember the prize,’ hissed Angus.

E.D. opened his eyes. ‘True. Might as well have a go.’

‘Details of the competition will be outlined in the handout each of you will receive as you leave the hall. I urge every student to enter and show the school your potential for greatness.’ Mr Taylor smiled, white teeth flashing. A number of the year 9 girls smiled back, giggling.

‘It will be
good
for you, and as your principal I only want what’s good for you.’

‘That’s why Mum was thrilled about this new guy,’ said Hannah to Angus. ‘When the school selected him for the job, she kept raving on about him. He’s been very
innovative
, she said.’

‘What’s that mean?’ said E.D.

‘It means he’s probably got lots of tricks up his sleeve to get us to do more homework,’ said Angus.

‘Mum said he had a reputation for “advancing children with learning difficulties”.’ Hannah looked back at the principal. ‘I wonder what the competition will be like?’

‘The other exciting news I have for you today is about the opening of Explore! itself.’ More humming whipped around the hall as Mr Taylor spoke. ‘Explore! has been built in the shell of the old woollen mills that, as you probably know much better than me, closed last year. You will be happy to know that the Technology Centre
includes the Rite Bite Café, where everything you buy is organic and delicious, as well as four remarkable tunnels where you can explore four elements of the natural world.

‘Your parents will be happy to know that it also includes a learning centre called Kids’ Head Start, where children can be tutored if they are performing below expectations, or enriched if they are more able and talented students.’

‘Yeah, right,’ said E.D. ‘As if I’m going to tell them that.’

‘I hope to see many of you there at the official opening tonight.’ Mr Taylor paused, looking down at the piece of paper in his hand. ‘And I think that’s all I have to say at the moment. Welcome, Teasdale Secondary, to the last term of the year.’

The noise in the hall broke out in earnest as everyone started to make their way outside.

‘Angus!’ called Hannah, watching him push his way to the end of their row. ‘Grab some of those pamphlets about the competition!’

‘Keep your hair on, Hannah Rannah,’ yelled E.D. over the tops of several students. ‘I got lots of them.’ He held his hand up, showing her the heap of brochures he was clutching. ‘And lots of these ones too.’ In his other hand was a bunch
of flyers with ‘Kids’ Head Start’ emblazoned across the top.

It wasn’t until lunch that they got time to have a good look at them. Hannah sat at a bench hunched over the information about the competition, reading carefully, while Angus and E.D. threw cheeseballs into each other’s mouths.

‘The flyer’s just advertising the learning centre. Nice computer on the front, though.’ Hannah threw the coloured pages to one side. ‘It says on the pamphlet—are you guys listening?—that there are four parts to the competition.’

‘Forget about the competition. What about the prize?’ said E.D., chomping on a cheeseball.

Hannah rolled her eyes. ‘Four parts,’ she repeated. ‘General knowledge, problem-solving, an essay to write and a 3D model to build within a time limit. The essay is about where you want to go and what you’d do when you get there.’ She shrugged. ‘Doesn’t sound too bad.’

‘It’s alright for you, Han,’ said Angus. ‘It’s your type of thing.’

‘Well, what about the prize, Angus? Isn’t it worth a go?’

Angus poured the rest of the cheeseballs into his mouth and munched thoughtfully. ‘If I won,’
he said when he’d swallowed, ‘I’d want to spend a week with Lee Freedman and try to learn his secrets about training racehorses. That would be cool.’

‘No, mate,’ said E.D., spraying bits of cheeseball everywhere, ‘you’d want to do something more exciting than that. I’d go to San Marino, to the race track that Ayrton Senna died on. He was
the
man. The
main
man.’

‘You boys are just the same,’ said Hannah, looking at her friends. ‘You both like racing, only it’s horses to you, Angus, and cars to you, E.D. It’s really the same sort of thing except the race tracks are different.’

Angus and E.D. looked at each other. Hannah, bent over her pamphlet again and so didn’t see the look of bewilderment pass over the faces of the boys.

‘Is she for real?’ whispered E.D. to Angus.

Angus shrugged. He had been wondering that himself.

‘So, Hannah Banana, what would
you
do with the prize?’ E.D. sat himself on the bench next to her and pulled the pamphlet away.

‘I’d go to Disneyland.’ Hannah snatched the information sheet back from E.D. ‘What do you think of that?’

‘Hey, yeah, never thought about going there.’ E.D. gave her a friendly whack on the shoulder.

‘Anyway,’ Hannah went on, glaring at E.D., ‘I think we all should enter because it’s too good an opportunity to waste.’

‘Yes, Ms Williams.’ Angus grinned at Hannah. ‘Of course we’ll have a go.’ He screwed up his cheeseball packet and threw it into the bin. ‘In the meantime, what about we go to this Explore! thing tonight? Dad saw it in the paper this morning—
Grand Opening.
We could go there after school.’

‘I’ll get Gabby to come,’ said Hannah, folding the pamphlet carefully and putting it into her lunchbox. ‘She needs cheering up.’

‘She’ll be really cheered up to see me.’ E.D. grinned.

‘She likes you, really, E.D.’ But Hannah didn’t look at him and E.D. smiled even wider.

‘Tonight, Explore!’ Angus said as the bell rang.

‘Be there or be a circle,’ said E.D., slouching away with Angus to their class.

‘Square, E.D.,’ Hannah called after them.

‘Talking about yourself again?’ E.D. laughed and disappeared around the corner. Angus shrugged and Hannah stalked away, sighing.

Chapter 3
Teasdale Technology Centre: Monday evening

It was a balmy afternoon and a large part of Teasdale’s population, as well as people from farms and smaller towns beyond, appeared to have decided that Explore! was as good a place to be as anywhere else.

A huge crowd of excited kids and curious parents were making their way down Davey Street to the grand opening. There had been talk, of course, and posters in store windows and snippets of information in the local newspaper. But even though it was promoting something special, the information about the place itself had been short on detail. You were going to have to get along there yourself to find out about the Teasdale Explore!

E.D. had visited the site a few times, though never managing to get too close to the building itself.

‘About time this tarp was coming down,’ he said, eyeing the enormous army-green canvas draped across the entire front of the building. It had been there for the last few weeks, securely tied so not even the most inquisitive visitor could sneak a look. And for the past week and a half there had been the added protection of security guards patrolling the building. They were there again now, trying to look inconspicuous.

‘Looks like they’ve got a dog as well,’ E.D. said, nodding towards a security guard with slick-black hair and an oversized stomach, holding tightly onto the lead of a mongrel which looked as if it had a bit of German shepherd in it. ‘I thought this was a kids’ educational centre. You reckon maybe it’s just a front for a secret service organisation?’

‘You wish, E.D.,’ Hannah said, pushing her way forward to get a better view. Sean followed.

‘Oh gawd, more speeches,’ E.D. groaned, watching the mayor stride onto a small wooden stage and switch a microphone on.

‘You need to learn how to be patient,’ said Gabby, shaking her head as the speech began.

But the mayor had decided that this was an occasion that required few words.

‘…So, ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly, boys and girls, it gives me great pleasure, as mayor of Teasdale, to declare Explore! officially open!’

Polite applause rippled through the crowd as the mayor pulled on a long blue cord. The applause grew as the enormous canvas sheet started to fold away neatly from the middle, slowly revealing the building itself.

‘Cool!’ Sean cried, pointing at an enormous see-through pipe, glowing red.

‘Wow,’ Angus said, as more of the structure was revealed. It was the most modern building he’d ever seen. Most of the bottom half consisted of revolving glass doors and clear walls, but it was the upper section that had everyone’s attention.

A maze of shining glassy pipes, each about a metre wide, snaked around each other like some gigantic network of plastic worms, weaving in and out of each other, ducking and bending in an intricate yet seemingly haphazard pattern. Each pipe was gently lit by a series of small,
coloured globes. In places the tubes were bright and clearly visible, in some spots actually protruding out of the building itself, but other sections disappeared into the gloom of the interior.

‘What are they for?’ Gabby asked, eyes wide.

There were gasps of delight as the huge canvas finally lifted away from the building.

‘It’s like that screen saver,’ Angus said, staring in wonder at the building in front of him.

‘That’s just what I was thinking,’ Hannah said, nodding. ‘The one with the pipes that creep around.’

‘Who’s this guy then?’ E.D. said, eyeing a man in a dark suit holding up his hands to silence the crowd. ‘It’s not Mr Taylor, is it?’

‘Of course it is, you idiot, though why is he up there?’ Hannah said.

‘Who’s Mr Taylor?’ Gabby asked.

‘Our principal,’ said Hannah.

‘Welcome one and all to Explore! My name is Richard Taylor and I am the owner of the remarkable structure you are now staring at.’ His voice rang out across the space.

‘Bit up himself, as you would say, don’t you reckon?’ E.D. said in Gabby’s ear.

Gabby stepped back. ‘Shhh,’ she hissed.

‘He never told us yesterday that he
owned
Explore!’ Hannah folded her arms across her chest.

‘Some of you will know me from my position as the newly appointed principal of Teasdale Secondary College and, like the school, Explore! is a place for children,’ he continued. ‘Of course, children, and enhancing their potential, are my life. Apart from containing the most modern learning centre in the southern hemisphere—Kids’ Head Start, which is equipped with the latest technology and most sophisticated educational software in the world, capable of improving any child’s brain power—we also have a variety of other features which I’d like to point out to you briefly.’

E.D. rolled his eyes. ‘Just let us in to find out for ourselves,’ he muttered.

‘We have a superb eating facility called the Rite Bite. Here you will enjoy a wide range of organic ice creams…’

‘Cow-pat ice cream? Can’t wait.’ E.D. screwed up his face in disgust.

‘There are no artificial flavours or colours used,’ Mr Taylor pressed on. ‘And none of the products have preservatives in them. My interest in herbology and organic plants guides what I
have to offer.’ Mr Taylor grinned, flashing neat, white teeth.

‘Just tell us about the tubes,’ E.D. called. Gabby cringed behind Hannah who was glaring at E.D. Finally Mr Taylor paused. The crowd quietened. There was a hush of expectation. Even E.D. stopped his fidgeting.

‘The tubes!’

Mr Taylor pressed a button and a series of coloured lights lit up one of the tubes so that it glowed. Squeals of delight erupted from the crowd. The tube shimmered and sparkled, almost as if it was alive. The little lights blinked and flashed.

‘Look!’ someone cried, pointing.

‘What was that?’ Hannah asked.

‘I think someone was in the tube,’ Angus said, staring at it.

Mr Taylor chuckled into the microphone. ‘I’ll slow our friend down in there.’ He pressed another button on a keypad he had in front of him.

‘Each of the five tunnels, my friends, is a fully interactive experience—a slide if you like—that will take anyone brave enough on a series of extraordinary adventures.’

‘There he is!’ Gabby shouted.

A boy suddenly appeared from the left side, arms stretched out in front of him like Superman, flying on a cushion of air inside the tube. In a flash he’d disappeared again.

‘I’ve seen that kid at school,’ E.D. said, staring at the tube. ‘He’s in year 4.’

Mr Taylor continued. ‘This boy was kind enough to agree to be a test pilot for me. Now the black tube is your adventure into outer space. In here you will be pushing at the final frontiers of outer space, travelling through hot and cold places in and beyond our solar system. Our model has reached speeds of 35 kilometres per hour. But I’ve just slowed him back to 20 so you can all see him.’

Suddenly the boy appeared again, flying through the tube, an enormous grin on his face. Mr Taylor had everyone’s attention now.

‘Let me in!’ E.D. yelled.

‘The pink tube is just a gentle tour of the building, suitable for every age. The green pipe is a journey through the deepest and darkest jungles of South America. You will hear, see, smell, and even touch nature. The red pipe is a journey through the human body.’ As he talked, different tubes lit up. ‘You will be travelling down an artery exploring the human
body…’ Mr Taylor paused, ‘…from the inside.’

‘Yuck,’ Sean groaned.

‘I agree,’ Gabby said. ‘No one’s going to get
me
into that tube.’

Each pipe was lit up one after the other, turning the whole building into a gigantic wonderland of colour and lights. It was the prettiest thing Gabby had ever seen in her life. Every face stared in rapture at the beautiful sight in front of them.

‘There is one other tube to mention. The white tube—an aeronautical adventure of speed, steep drops, loss of gravity and other truly amazing experiences.’

Now the crowd was talking, bustling and pushing forward.

‘Please enjoy Explore!’ Mr Taylor announced. ‘Entry tonight is half price.’ Applause erupted as queues formed at the glass doors to the building.

‘C’mon,’ Angus said, joining one of the lines.

The space inside the building was deceptively large. Passages led off in many directions, with colour-coded signs plastered everywhere.

‘Hey, the white tube,’ E.D. shouted, pointing to a sign. The others followed him as he sped
down a long, dark tunnel, but they’d only gone about 15 metres before they came to a sign. ‘For Viewing Only’, it read.

‘I wouldn’t bother,’ said a kid walking back the other way. ‘It’s not open.’

‘What’s this?’ asked Sean, looking at a silver pipe extending from the wall. He touched it. ‘It’s freezing!’

‘Something to do with the air conditioning, probably,’ said Hannah. ‘This place is full of pipes. It is pretty old even if it was done up. Let’s do the pink ride—the line’s way shorter.’

‘I’m not doing the pink run,’ E.D. growled, looking around. ‘I’m gonna look for the black tube. Angus, you with me?’

‘Yep, catch you later,’ Angus told the others. He gave a wave as he and E.D. headed the other way.

The line to the pink tube was moving forward quickly. Gabby, Hannah and Sean came to the entrance and pushed their way through a cloud of white and pink foam that tickled their faces and left them feeling slightly damp.

‘Stay seated on the pink mat at all times and enjoy the ride,’ a girl wearing a fluffy pink uniform smiled at them. Gabby sat down, turning to look over her shoulder.

‘See you later!’ she grinned at Hannah.

For a moment nothing happened. Gabby peered ahead. The tube veered gently down and to the left. A green light flashed and she started to move.

‘Whoa!’ she screamed, as her speed increased. For fifteen amazing minutes, Gabby travelled around the complex. A few times she actually left the building, sliding out and around gentle corners in the tube before whooshing back into the interior of the Technology Centre. She passed over the learning centre where people were milling around computers, consoles, tables loaded with board games and large, flat TV screens attached to the walls. A moment later she was speeding over the Rite Bite Café. The room behind the café, she noticed, was full of silver vats. That must be where they make the organic ice cream, she thought. The tube dropped suddenly and Gabby whizzed down to the bottom of the run, dropping off the end of the slide and landing gently in a pile of soft, pink cushions.

‘And that was just the pink run,’ she said quietly to herself, smiling as she climbed out of the pit.

She waited for Hannah and Sean and they chatted excitedly, heading for the café. On their
way they met up with E.D. and Angus, each holding a cone of green ice cream.


Fresh
green cow pat,’ E.D. grinned, shoving the ice cream cone under Gabby’s nose.

Gabby recoiled. ‘What?’

‘Actually it’s not bad. Pistachio flavoured,’ Angus said.

‘Bumped into Andrea Simpson and her mother, of all people,’ said E.D.

‘Where?’ Gabby asked.

‘In the learning centre. Geez, did they give me the daggers when they saw me.’

‘Why? It’s all open to the public, isn’t it? You were allowed to be there?’ Angus said.

‘Well, maybe not that particular room.’ E.D. smiled, then took a big bite from his ice cream.

‘Andrea shouldn’t be here. She should be at swimming training.’

‘That’s a bit harsh, Gab. Everyone else is here.’

‘Well, if I’d got into the finals I wouldn’t be here.’

‘C’mon,’ Hannah said, taking Gabby’s arm. ‘Let’s go to the café. Show us the way, E.D.’

They followed E.D. back through the crowd, but before they reached the Rite Bite Gabby pulled Hannah back by the sleeve. ‘Hannah, do me a favour?’

‘What?’

‘Find out where Andrea trains? I want to go and watch her.’

Hannah grinned. ‘You mean, spy on her?’

Gabby grinned back. ‘Come on, let’s get an ice cream before E.D. eats out the whole shop.’

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