Declan fidgeted and adjusted himself on the luxurious leather seat at the rear of his limousine. As the vehicle made its way through dark, Texan roads away from the airport and onto the freeway he alternately shifted his seating position, crossed and uncrossed his arms and legs and adjusted his suit and tie. It wasn't nervousness at what was to come, though he keenly understood the import of the next.. .he checked his watch again... three hours. Succeed or fail, everything depended on the next three hours.
He and Cayal had made a plan. A good plan too, which if it succeeded would shift the endless media speculation away from Asteroid Girl, from Deke Hawkins and why he was not more forthcoming about her. Success would mean the Tide Lords could continue to enjoy relative anonymity, their identities and secrets safe and, he hoped, would be ample evidence in the case against using the Chaos Crystal to open a portal to a new world, leaving behind an Earth shattered and her mortal population extinguished.
No, it wasn't his nervousness at what was to come. The plan was a good one; he and Cayal had spent weeks planning down to the last foreseeable detail. Assuming Cayal was still on-schedule, he would be shortly arriving at the Cape Canaveral and Declan had to be ready for his part before then. He was confident, and would not have gone along with the Immortal Prince if he was not. His nervousness came from elsewhere, from an external source. And he wished she would stop staring at him. He looked up to meet his great-grandmother's unflinching gaze.
Maralyce sat opposite him on an equally opulent and well-appointed, wide leather seat, her back to the blacked-out, glass partition separating the two of them from their mortal driver. She was sat calmly, comfortably, her legs crossed and her manner relaxed. It was her nonchalance that put Declan so on edge. Well, that and her unwavering stare, eyes fixed on Declan as though she were in a laboratory observing a particularly strange animal. Declan wished she would look elsewhere, anywhere but at him. It's not as though the limo in which they rode didn't have every amenity two corporate tycoons could wish for. On the contrary, their compartment had a well stocked fridge, several television screens, two phones, magazines and even a high-speed data connection.
It was an executive's dream car, but none of it proved of interest; she simply watched him, stared. Even as he estimated they were less than fifteen minutes from their destination, he cracked. "Why are you looking at me like that?" Declan asked in his still fluent Glaeban.
"I'm trying to remember how you convinced me to join you in what I suspect will prove to be a foolhardy endeavour" Maralyce replied, her stare unwavering.
"I think you agreed as soon as I mentioned where we were going."
"Ah yes, that's it. I have always wanted to see this place, ever since the first moon landing." Maralyce finally looked away to stare pensively out the window. "What century was that again? Nineteenth? Twentieth?"
"The Twentieth, late 1960s I believe. Though it launched from Florida, not Texas."
"Hmmmm. I don't remember the last time we stayed on a world long enough for a civilisation to advance this far. It's interesting, I'll give it that." Maralyce looked back to him but without the raptor-like gaze. "So why am I here?"
"I wanted your help tonight. Cayal and I want to make Asteroid Girl disappear and everything depends on tonight." said Declan.
"Yes my dear, I already worked that part out for myself as soon as you revealed our destination. Although Cayal's plans are usually cause for worry, he does occasionally deliver. I'm interested to see if this is one of his better ones and to learn how he involved you in it. And you still haven't answered my question. Why am I here?"
He was starting to regret asking her for help, but knew she was the only likely source from which any might be forthcoming. She wasn't part of the original plan, but Declan needed her. He would have asked Arryl, but without any significant ability to channel the Tide she couldn't help with this. He didn't even consider Lukys, Coryna or Kentravyon as they may well have welcomed any excuse to seek out the Chaos Crystal and use it to leave Earth behind. He hoped his guess that Maralyce had both the ability and willingness to keep this world in tact was the right one. Declan took a deep breath.
"Okay. Do you remember when we were in Paris?" he asked.
"Of course, it wasn't that long ago."
"No, sorry, I meant during the French Revolution. When was it, late Eighteenth century? You saved me from the Conciergie and the guillotine," He hoped she could remember the details.
"Yes, of course. Foolish boy who picked the wrong side. Didn't Arryl tell you not to get involved? I remember her specifically telling you to leave the country because trouble was coming. I remember because I was there." She crossed her arms and leaned back into her seat, the black leather squeaking.
"I know, I know. She was right, you were right. That's not what I wanted to discuss" Now he was getting exasperated.
"Then why did you bring it up?" she asked, not unreasonably.
"Do you remember how you saved me? Considering it was Low Tide then, or I could have saved myself, it should be easy with the Tide this high. I want you to do that again tonight." He checked his watch; it was past Midnight. "This morning I should say."
Maralyce paused for a very long moment, such that Declan thought she hadn't heard him or wasn't going to answer. "It's Arkady's body, but it could be Elyssa up there. Have you considered that?"
"Yes of course we have. Either way there's an Immortal that needs to be brought back to Earth and away from the crew of the Canaveral. Cayal is up there right now and assuming he's on time he'll be arriving very soon. I have to get set up here before he does and that's where you come in. Cayal has less than an hour to dock, find Arkady..."
"Or Elyssa." Maralyce interrupted. "Wait, Cayal is up there? How did you manage that?"
"With a lot of work and enough money to buy your mining conglomerate out from under your shareholders, with change leftover".
"I think getting involved in a scheme like this with Cayal was a bad idea. I think bringing Elyssa back is even worse. But if he's there, what will you be doing?"
"You'll see. We have a window of precisely one hour. Cayal is on the same timetable as us, it has to be done in sync but he also has to dock and undock and the procedures for that take time. As for the crew, he'll manage them the same way I would like you to handle the the personnel here." Tides, he hoped they had prepared enough.
"Why do we only have one hour, Declan?" Maralyce adjusted her sharp, business suit and ran a hand through her hair. Their limo had turned off the main road and was approaching the security gate leading into the AEVITAS facility. Their driver was speaking with an increasingly wide-eyed security guard who they could see through their tinted windows and who wasted no time raising the barricade and almost ripping his walkie talkie from his belt to frantically inform the main facility of the impending arrival. The unannounced visit at such an unorthodox hour by the CEO himself, playing host to an important company CEO in her own right was guaranteed to send the facility into pandemonium.
"Check the date, Grandmother." Declan smiled. This was one of his contributions to their plan and he was quite proud of it. Maralyce looked to her wristwatch and considered the implication for a moment as the car approached the understated front entrance of the facility's main building.
"I see." Her gaze was back on him, unblinking. Calling her 'Grandmother' normally riled her but she didn't even acknowledge it. If he was nervous before he was on the verge of panic now. He held his breath, his fists clenched and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest as the limo came to a halt, the driver shut off the engine and opened his door. He was watching her expectantly. She came to a decision just as their driver was ready to open their door.
"Okay Declan, you'll have your hour. Make sure it counts." She assured him as she rose to get out of the car.