“Did you feel him, Neville?” Robert shouted as he flung open the doors and strode into the boardroom. Twenty faces turned to stare at him, all of them shocked by the loud interruption.
“Robert, please keep it down for a moment. We’ll talk after the meeting is done,” responded Neville with a wave of his hand indicating the well-dressed individuals sitting around the long oval table. His face was calm and impossible to read by any of the people indicated, but the flash in his eyes told Robert exactly how irritated his oldest friend really was.
“Very well. Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for the interruption.” Robert straightened his suit coat and grabbed the door. “I’ll be waiting in your office, Neville.” Without another word he backed out of the boardroom, shutting the door behind him. Patience had never been his greatest quality. Some would say it was a quality he did not possess at all. As much as it irritated him, he would have to wait for just a little while. They had remained hidden for years without incident and serenity was often required from Robert; their cover demanded it.
Neville would gloss over the interruption and have the executives forgetting about Robert in no time at all. That was Neville’s greatest strength, to be able to guide people along a path of his choosing. Robert was constantly amazed at the way he could do it without having to overtly manipulate people. It was something in his voice and demeanor that made people want to trust him. Being the head of a multinational corporation was a perfect fit for him. Robert knew that Neville’s talents were wasted there when he could have made a real difference in the political arena.
As he walked down the hall Robert ignored the people walking by as he made his way to Neville’s office He stopped once he stood before Neville’s secretary. “Good morning, Avery.”
“Good morning, Mr. Parker,” she said with a smile. “Mr. Steinner is in a meeting this morning, but he should be done before too long if you care to wait.” Avery Simmons knew very well that Robert had barged into the meeting since she had a direct video feed into the conference room playing on one of the monitors arrayed around the front of her desk, but she was far too professional to admit as much to Robert.
“Thank you, Avery. I’ll wait in his office,” Robert said with a nod and a grin that would have left most women swooning, but Avery had always been immune to his charms which was probably why Neville had hired her.
“Would you like me to send in some refreshment?” Her smile was pleasant with just a hint of arrogance. She reveled in her immunity.
“No, I’ll make do with whatever is lying around.” It wouldn’t be much, but he was not in the mood for food or drink.
“Very well sir.” Without another word she went back to what she had been working on when he had walked up.,
Robert passed Avery and entered Neville’s office through the large oak double doors that overwhelmed most visitors. Few people knew it, but the doors were all that remained of an old Catholic church that had been destroyed during the horrific bombing of Dresden, Germany. He was uncertain whether the smell of blood and ash that he sensed when he walked through the doors was his imagination or some lingering haunting from the terror of those three days so long ago. When Neville had first installed the doors Robert had asked why. He said that it was to remind himself that even great works can be destroyed in a fit of anger. Robert thought it had more to do with the intimidation such doors engendered when someone stood before them.
The office was bright with the sun’s morning light as it struggled to gain height in the morning sky, the dark portent of the previous night’s activities weighing it down. Robert walked to the floor to ceiling windows that made up half of the walls in the large rectangular space. He looked down upon the world like a dispassionate god of eons long since forgotten. Time ticked by slowly as he watched the movement of cars and people moving through the city. They were all little more than specs of dust blown about by an errant gust of wind as seen from that high up.
“How do you keep from forgetting about them my brother,” Robert whispered as sorrow welled up within him and threatened to choke away the control he barely maintained.
“To be honest I often do.” Neville stood just inside the doorway of his office, the great doors closing as silently as they had opened. Neville walked up to the glass and put his hands upon it, relishing the cold against his skin. “I spend too much time here and not enough amongst every day people.” With a sigh he pulled his hands from the window and turned to face his friend. “That is why your council is so important to me, dear Robert. You see them as they are, not the abstract they appear as to me.”
A heavy silence grew as they stared at each other, both hesitant to speak first. They had been waiting for this time for so long that they had begun to think that for once, a mistake was made and that all of their efforts had been a waste.
Robert was the first to break the tension as he slowly regained the excitement that had started his visit with Neville. “You felt him didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.” Neville turned and paced about the office. “It was weak, but there was no mistaking it as him.”
“So it has begun. Good. I have tired of waiting.” Robert’s fists clenched unconsciously as he anticipated the violence that would soon take place.
“I wish that it had not. I wish the prophet had spoken wrongly. I would like this to all have been a horrible mistake.”
“You knew that this time would come, Neville.” Robert walked to his friend and placed a hand upon his shoulder. “The prophet is never wrong.”
“Many prophets have been wrong throughout time.”
“Yes, but never a prophet touched by the Light.”
Neville sighed and lowered his head. “Of course you are right, brother, but I wish it were not so.”
“We all do, but we all have a role to play in this and our role has begun.” Robert’s voice held none of the anticipation he felt. The time for action was upon them, but there would be death and suffering for the very people he was there to save and he did not revel in it.
“Yes we do, but I do not relish mine the way you do.” The corner of Neville’s mouth curled up in a smile that held no mirth. “You always have been a creature of action, no matter what that action may be.”
“Don’t say it like that, Neville. You know that I wish there was another way, but since there isn’t I might as well give it my all and be done with it quickly.” Robert hated inaction. Doing something without benefit was more palatable than doing nothing at all in his mind. Stillness brought complacency and weakness, something that he would never tolerate. “I wish all of this involved some nameless mortal and not someone we once called brother, but it does and our lot is not to question the design.”
“I know, but it does little to soothe my mind.” Neville stopped before the window and looked out once more. He silently wondered how many lives would be shattered in the coming days or if he would even care once it happened. He had a fondness for the people of this world and there were individuals he would truly miss, but in the end they were destined for death. “I suppose this means that you will be leaving soon?” Neville looked back over his shoulder, his eyes flicked from his brother to the door of his office before returning to Robert.
“Yes. Some of the foundation laid so long ago must be checked and I trust no one but the two of us to do it and since it’s unlikely that you’ll be leaving your office any time soon…” Robert left the implication hanging in the air. Few people knew that Neville never left the building. The last time he had been beneath the open sky was the morning he had walked into the skyscraper that was his home. He had left the rest of the world behind only hours after the prophecy had been spoken. His freedom was a small price to pay for global salvation.
“Then go. I know it will be some time before I see you again brother, but I trust you to be safe until then.” The silence fell between them as the uncertainty settled in.
“It would do you well to spend some time amongst them,” Robert said as he looked at his shorter friend. “Spending too much time with abstracts makes you forget about all of the beauty in the world.”
“And the horror.”
“Yes, the horror as well.” Robert walked away from his friend and poured himself a glass of water from the condensation covered pitcher placed upon a nearby side table. “The horror is necessary though.”
“Necessary?” Neville walked to his desk and sat down in the large chair that screamed out his sense of self importance.
“Without the horror the beauty would seem much less magnificent.”
“Ahhh, the old, ‘the light is so much brighter because of the darkness,’ philosophy.” Neville leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers before him. “You always were a fan of that argument.”
“I suppose I have, but it holds true. Humanity has always shined brightest when the darkness was deepest.” Robert walked back to the doors and traced his fingers over the delicately carved scenes upon them before reaching for the handle.
Neville paused for a moment, turning to look once more out his grand windows. “Then let us hope that they shine brighter than ever before in the coming days.”
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