Richter was pacing. Back and forth, damn near stomping. Nelson, already keyed up and tightly wound, could only sit in the chair and watch. Ordinarily, the view from Richter’s 14th floor office at One Ocean Boulevard would be serene. Sailboat triangles slowly cutting a swath across Santa Monica Bay always held a fascination for Nelson, but not today. He had a severe butt chewing coming his way and Richter had the teeth to make it most unpleasant.
The cell on Richter’s OCD driven uncluttered desk started to vibrate. Thank God it put a stop to the pacing. Stephen Richter picked it up, grunted his patented, “Richter” and listened. Half a minute later, without a word he gently placed the phone back on the desk, gave it several nudges to line it up exactly with the keyboard and looked Nelson dead in the eye.
” You want to tell me how you managed to screw this up so badly? No, wait. On second thought I don’t want to know.” The contempt for Nelson and his seething rage mingled into a vile stream that bubbled and ran just under his calm veneer.
“There was just this one thing you had to do. Child’s play. I think those were the words you used?”
Nelson eyed him silently. Instinctively, he knew that to respond was to rip Richter’s ire wide open and the swath of destruction would be wide indeed. He had thought the assignment was child’s play. That underestimation was the cause for the failure. Nelson himself still couldn’t quite believe it. The codes were right where he knew they’d be. He didn’t think the old man would be so damned stubborn. Or clever.
“We’ll head another direction on this. Get out of here and wait until you hear from me.”
Nelson stood and turned towards the door, happy to be leaving the teak and brushed steel fortress of this dangerous man.
Reaching for the door handle…
He turned and faced Richter.
“Don’t fail me again.”
Nelson nodded, understanding his implied fate.
The heavy wooden door clicked shut, Richter reached for his phone and punched a button.
“He’s on his way down. Take care of it.”
Richter sat in the leather high-back and turned to the ocean view. The mid morning smog had been blown out into the bay, giving the horizon a ruddy brown haze. This was a minor setback and while it might delay things a bit, it by no means meant an end to his plan. He thought Nelson was just right for the job but he was coming to realize that there were just some things you had to do yourself.
The chill in the small cabin woke Francois and was a good indicator of how much time had passed since he fell asleep. He looked over towards the bed and saw the furs and blankets all lumpy with a mop of black hair poking out from one end. He replayed the events of last night over in his head just as he had before succumbing to sleep. He felt certain things would make more sense in the light of day – all four hours of it.
He stood and stretched, his back letting off mini-reports and his knees following suit. It had been a damned long time since he had slept in something other than his bed and his joints were voicing their opinion of his sleeping arrangement. Grabbing three split wedges of spruce, he swung open the cast iron door of the woodstove and placed them on the last dying embers. Closing the doors got the draft going and a minute later, he could hear the pops and cracks of the dry spruce catching.
Already, it was getting warmer in the tiny wood cabin. He tossed some coffee grounds into the blackened pot he had filled with water and set it on the woodstove. He gave another glance towards the bed and saw a pair of shiny black eyes and the grin of his new roommate. His teenage roommate.
“So, Aurora. You’re older still? I thought as much. You look to be about, what? Eighteen?”
Aurora just grinned and flicked his head back to get the hair out of his eyes.
“I’ve got coffee on. Were you warm enough last night?”
Aurora sat up and sat crosslegged on the bed. “I was. Your generosity is noted. And, it will all come back to you.”
Francois furled his brow and gave Aurora a sideways glance as he gave the Cowboy Coffee a stir. “What are you sayin’ , son?”
“It is of no matter right now. There is much that we need to do and time is short. I need to ask one thing of you, one thing only for now.”
“No promises, but I’ll do my best.”
“That is all I ask. I need to you to trust me. No matter what happens. Our success depends on it.”
“Our success with what?”
“Our success in doing what I’ve come to do. That is all I can say for now. Will you trust me?”
Francois sat back in the chair and watched the orange flames licking the sooted glass of the woodstove door. So much had happened. So fast. He was a trapper, dammit. Nothing more. How could he do anything to help Aurora in his mysterious mission? He remembered the writing on the orb, and what Aurora had said last night – Ordo ab chao, Order from Chaos. His internal protests dampened when he looked over at the alien-boy sitting on his bed. There was an innocence there. An innocence and something that was just… right. He knew of no other way to describe it.
He stood and faced Aurora. “Damned if I know what I’m doing, but this is right. It feels right. So, where do we go from here?”