For a moment I had no idea where I was. I was in a bed. A strange bed. I rolled out and landed on thick carpet. A dim indicator light glowed on the wall a few feet away. I shuffled over and touched it. The room lights came on.
I was in one of the operator’s quarters on the top floor of the brownstone. I’d slept for nearly 24 hours. Still in my clothes.
The room was sparsely decorated. Modern, simple. Just the bed, a comfy looking leather chair, and a large wooden desk with a notebook PC and a silver, hooded lamp on top of it. The walls were decorated with hundreds upon hundreds of 2×4 planks, planed and layered on top of each other and covered with a walnut stain. On the wall opposite the bed was a framed, poster sized photograph of another Telders Array situated in a clearing surrounded by jungle: Station162, Madagascar.
A door just to the left of the photograph led into the bathroom. I stripped off the ill-fitting clothes I’d taken from the Tokyo apartment, while staring out the window at the Array field. Perhaps I’d have a chance to get reacquainted with my work. Perhaps I’d be able to put this whole goddamn nightmare behind me.
The shower was huge—big enough for three or four astrophysicists—and it had two heads. I ran them both just for the hell of it.
Michael left me some clothes on the bathroom counter: some Levi’s, white tube socks, a cream colored Izod sweater, and a pair of Adidas sneakers. Everything fit.
After I got dressed I took the stairs to the first floor and went out on the stoop. It was warm and the air smelled fresh and clean. The first rays of the new dawn were peeking over the horizon, casting a yellow glow onto each of the twenty radio antennas. They were pointing straight up.
Why I didn’t choose Hokkaido over Antarctica, I’ll never know.
I stayed there for a while, and when the light got better I noticed Jun, Telder’s Korean driver and helicopter pilot, walking the grounds. There were other guards as well. I counted five in all. And they all had automatic rifles.
I went back inside to find Michael. I wasn’t sure where his room was so I wandered the brownstone until I heard his voice. It came from the kitchen on the third floor. I went in and found Telders standing over a stainless steel range, moving eggs around in a frying pan. Seated at the table was a young Japanese girl in a loose white camisole and matching capri sweatpants. Her right leg was crossed under her left on the chair and on her legs she wore thick, white cotton leg warmers. Her hair was tied up in a loose knot on top of her head. Blonde. She laughed at something Michael said.
I turned to go.
“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Telders said. “You want some eggs?” He walked over and touched me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, she’s cool,” he whispered. “Yumi has no love for the whaling industry. In fact she said she’s a little disappointed you didn’t kill ’em all. Her words, not mine, man.”
“Her name’s Yumi. She showed up last night.” Telders paused. “Come on in and say hello.”
I turned around, slowly. The blonde hair had thrown me off. But everything else was the same. It was her. Not the figment. The real Yumi was sitting in Station12’s kitchen, casually eating breakfast in her jammies.
Telders shoved a plate of eggs and potatoes in my hands. He gestured toward the table. “Wayne, Yumi—Yumi, Wayne.”
Yumi grinned and stuck out her hand like a stranger. “Nice to meet you, Wayne. You’re very lucky to have such a friend, wouldn’t you say?”
Stunned, I swallowed and took a seat. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Ha, you guess!” Telders said, flipping a pancake.
“Michael tells me you’re quite the scientist,” Yumi said.
“Oh he’s a huge nerd,” Telders quipped.
“That’s right,” I said, feigning a smile.
Yumi laughed and poked at her potatoes.
I waited for Michael to look away, then leaned in and mouthed the words “What the fuck?”.
Yumi cocked her head. “I’m sorry?”
I leaned in even more, almost lying in my breakfast, and whispered: “What are you doing here? What’s with the English?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Oh, come on,” I snapped.
Telders hummed a few bars of “Come Fly With Me” as he sashayed over with a plate of pancakes. He checked us both. “What’s going on?”
Yumi looked up and opened her mouth.
“Nothing. What the hell did you put in these eggs?” I said, plucking something hard and weird off my tongue.
Telders set the plate down. “Sorry, I’m not much of a cook,” he said with a shrug. “My one and only flaw.” He narrowed his eyes at Yumi. “You okay?”
“Sure, sure. I’m fine.” Yumi set her fork down and stood up. “But I should get dressed.”
“Alright,” Telders said. “Why don’t you come down to the lab afterward. We’re going to see if we can’t get the Array online.”
“Or you can come back to bed,” she grinned, sliding her fingers through his hair.
Michael cleared his throat.
I clenched my fist.
“It was nice to meet you, Wayne-san,” Yumi said, fully composed.
“Yeah,” I replied.
After she’d left, Telders let out a deep breath. “Holy shit, man. She’s a fucking firecracker. I tell you, these Japanese—”
I slammed my fist on the table. “Where the hell did she come from?” I growled.
“Whoa!” Michael laughed. He raised his hands. “Settle down, man. She showed up last night out of nowhere. And who am I to turn down a beautiful woman? It’s just common courtesy, dude.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little unusual, Telders? A strange woman shows up in the middle of the night and slips into bed with you for no apparent reason? Don’t you think that’s a little suspicious? Just a little?”
Telders scratched his head and smirked. “It’s not that weird. Kind of—uh—kind of standard, actually.”
I dropped my head back and exhaled. “Right, of course. The consummate playboy.”
Telders sat down and popped one of Yumi’s potatoes into his mouth. His tone turned serious: “Wayne, what’s the problem, man?”
I looked out the window. I couldn’t figure it. What in the hell was she doing there? How did she find me? Why was she speaking perfect English? And why the charade? None of it made any sense.
And I couldn’t fucking believe she slept with him.
Telders put his hand on my shoulder. “Relax, buddy. You’re grinding your teeth.”
“Sorry,” I said, pretending to shake it off. I took a dramatic deep breath and blew it out. “I’m just paranoid, you know. If the Japanese find out I’m here….”
“I know,” Telders said. “But you’re totally safe. Yumi is cool and Station12 is very well guarded.”
I nodded. Fuck you.
“Now, let’s finish this stack and get to work,” he said, and dropped a heap of pancakes on my plate.
I stabbed them with my fork.