Just over an hour later, Lukas exited the cab, and paid the driver. The medium stood for a moment on the pavement, releasing a silent sigh of relief as he watched the cab rumble off down the road. Unfortunately for Lukas, the cabbie had recognized his passenger, and the trip had been a constant monologue of reminiscences on the part of the man, of his seemingly endless memories of the medium's previous shows. The man had been a true fan, Lukas admitted to himself, recalling things that the medium had little, if any, memory of himself.
Things would be so much easier, he told himself, not for the first time, if he drove. But driving lessons, like so many other things in that earlier, youthful time, had seemed trivial, unimportant - something he would get to later, when he'd settled down a little. Well, he had the time now, if not the inclination. One day, he thought, when things had calmed down, he'd take the time to learn - one day. With a mental shrug, dismissing the subject, he turned his back to the road, and spent a moment studying the small row of dwellings that lined the leafy road.
Joan Collins' residence was a neat, picturesque cottage set within its own, not so small, plot of land. Situated squarely in the center of perhaps half an acre of landscaped garden, the trim redbrick bungalow was all but hidden from the outside world; only a fraction of the building could be glimpsed, through a gap in a precisely trimmed privet border that enclosed most of the property. A slatted wooden gate in front of Lukas allowed access into the gardens. Lukas had visited several times before, and knew that Joan had been born in the cottage, and had inherited it from her parents many years before.
As he approached the gate, Lukas speculated idly on the worth of the cottage and its land, in this tidy, middle-class suburb of Manchester. Hard on the heels of that thought, however, came another image; himself and MacKenzie in something similar, working and spending their lives together, content in just being with each other. After a moment, he shook his head, laughing quietly to himself. What was he thinking?
Given the circumstances of their natures, and the very real threat hanging over their world, the chances of anybody, let alone the pair of them, living happily ever after were uncertain, to say the least. Nobody, not even Mentor, seemed to know how far away the Al'urion itself actually was. Or, if Mentor did know, it was keeping the information to itself, maybe not wanting to alarm the Nexus prematurely. There certainly seemed to be little urgency, in the several training sessions they had spent with Mentor, in the months following their first encounter with the Outrunners.
Indeed, since the Nexus had destroyed the majority of the Outrunners and their human bridge into the world, there had been little, if any, Al'urion-related activity anywhere on the planet, according to Mentor. When pressed by the Nexus, about how long it had to get ready for the assault, all Mentor would ever say, in its quiet, cryptic way, was that they had some little time yet. And so they waited, the three of them. Lukas, MacKenzie, Helen.
Nexus, Crux, Empath.
Living from day to day; taking what comfort they could from each other; hoping that, when their time came, they would not be found wanting. For their sake; for their world's sake.
For the sake of the cosmos itself.
Lukas shook off these suddenly gloomy thoughts, and crossed to the gate. He pushed, and it opened silently, on well oiled hinges, and Lukas stepped through, into another, older time. As it had on his previous visits to the house, Lukas felt as if he had suddenly stepped back several decades, to a more genteel, cultured time. Beyond the hedge, the carefully landscaped gardens sloped gently up towards the cottage, the flowered borders tracing the gently meandering path as it ambled easily towards the front door. Violas and pansy jostled for attention with marigold and ox-eye daisy, and foxglove and red-hot pokers stood guard over their smaller brethren. Beyond the borders, manicured lawns flowed towards the hedgerows.