Brownstone

Brownstone

Telders cooked a batch of bacon and eggs in the Bell’s kitchenette and we ate and watched the dawn break over the Pacific. He made fresh coffee and served it in ceramic mugs bearing Station12’s logo—an outline of Hokkaido with a black radio telescope centered in the middle. On the reverse, “Station12” was written in Roman letters.

“I’m glad you’re here, Wayne,” Telders said, staring into the rising sun. He turned and grinned. “Even if you are fucking nuts.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No, I mean it.”

I scowled at him.

“I mean—I’m glad that you’re here. I don’t have a lot of good friends. Especially after the bombs fell.” He rotated the coffee mug on the table. “Maybe even before that.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “You know more people than anyone I’ve ever met. You’re on a first name basis with politicians, celebrities, models… and not just the upper crust, either. At school I remember you high five-ing the janitors in the halls. You’re the definitive everyman, Telders.”

“So I know a lot of people. But under the surface there’s nothing really there. Those people aren’t true friends. They’re more of a means to an end.”

“So you’re saying you’re lonely?”

“I dunno,” Telders said. “I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate having an old friend around. Even if we were never that close. I always admired you, in fact.”

I laughed at that. “Why would you admire me? I like math and computers and comic books. I avoid people almost all the time.”

“You see? That’s what I’m talking about. You don’t mind solitude. You get off on it.”

I raised an eyebrow.

Telders continued: “I’d love to have the ability to just leave everyone and everything behind and live in a shack in the middle of Antarctica for six months.”

“Don’t be so sure. The solitude is nice… but it can turn on you. Trust me.”

Michael slowly sipped his coffee. After a long moment, he said, “Is that what happened to you?”

I drummed my fingers on my forehead. “It’s a long story.”

“Alright,” Telders said, placing his hand on my shoulder. “We’re about to land anyway. Perhaps we’ll continue this some other time.”

I nodded as the helicopter started its descent. The distinct Y-shaped configuration of the Array marked the swath of retired farmland that was Station12, Hokkaido. In the distance there was a small town, home to probably no more than 3000 people, and a variety of small mountains on the horizon. Other than that, it seemed we had the place to ourselves.

The Bell landed on a small helipad about thirty meters from the main buildings. I squinted through the window. “What the hell?” I said, using my sleeve to clear the fog. There, basking in the first rays of the morning sun, 11,000 kilometers from New York City, quietly nestled in an abandoned rice field in the middle of Japan, was a four-story brownstone. Stoop and all.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I said. “That’s Station12?”

Telders grinned. “Why not.”