Once Tallie had opened the door for her, Rosie gave her one of the handbills and raised an eyebrow. Tallie, for her part, took it with her best puzzled expression and looked expectantly up at Rosie as though she couldn't imagine why Rosie had come. It was an impasse.
"Welcome," said the grinding voice of the Clockwork Book. "Please enter and make yourself at home."
Rosie took a quick look around the room - little more than a cave, she saw, with bits of block and brick reinforcing the walls. There were pots of mushrooms that were doing their best to look cheerful, and a big old rug in front of the Book, and a scattering of pillows which, taken together, tried and then failed to make the Clockwork Book's room look like home. She glanced at Tallie. Or not like Rosie's home, anyway.
"I think you know why I'm here," she said at last. "But I'm not sure I do."
The Book rested its arms on its pages. "My best guess," it told her, "is that you are confronted with an engineering problem that is vexing you. That you are trying to design new systems for a racing rocket that give its pilot more immediate and accurate information than conventional dials and gauges do. Yet the solution to this problem is not clear."
"Well, that's a pretty good guess," Rosie replied. "Astounding, I'd say."
Tallie was pretending to water the mushrooms.
"And all you want in return for your information is, let me see... some embarrassing or incriminating little story from my past that you can repeat to anyone who asks for it. Right?"
"No," said the Book. "Normally I would be interested in the kind of story you describe. But in your case, all I ask in return is two small services."