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J I Y Ū

Latent Portal

(Second Edition)




by

Kenton Forshée







Jiyū: Latent Portal (Second Edition)

By Kenton Forshee

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Kenton Lee Forshee

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Contact: TheKentonForshee@gmail.com


THANK YOU

I give many thanks to Aryce, Daniel, my family, Tim and many others too numerous to name here. You have all been part of my journey, and I care about you all.


Also, a special thanks to Nate Marohn at the

Keep Calm Collection.


PREFACE


A question from a group I belonged to on the internet inspired this work. “If you had a planet, what would you do differently?” The next thing I knew I was authoring a book. The effort I put into it was for me and my desire to create through writing. It wasn’t intended for others to read, although they will, and I don’t mind if they do. It’s been cathartic. This book has also allowed me to express ideas contrary to those of my culture and sheltered upbringing. If I was made to feel something was normal, and it wasn’t, I changed it in the text. If I was encouraged to feel something was taboo to discuss, then I used it. If I was indoctrinated to believe something was wrong or sinful, despite its innocuity, I made use of whatever I could within the narrative, just because it was innocuous.

I don’t want to live in fear of living or be a slave to this culture, but that's what circumstances beyond our control have made all of us, whether we recognize it or not. We are not allowed to fully live except within the bounds of the slave culture we were born into, but within the book, I could create freedom, and it helped me to feel more empowered.

This work was by me and for me, and it has made my life better. To those who bother to read it and walk away finding it distasteful, I appreciate your having taken the time. You’re welcome to think of it as Shakespeare put it in Macbeth, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but again, it wasn’t written for you.









J I Y Ū

Latent Portal

(Second Edition)



ONE

Born and raised in the American South, I always felt out of place, not just in the South but also as an American. I didn’t speak like the people there. I didn’t think like the people there. The local community treated me well enough as an adult, but only because they believed you were one of them in a cultural, religious, political, and sometimes even racial sense. The instant they discover you’re not who they believed you were, the smiles and pleasant demeanor tended to vanish, as if you had crossed an imaginary line of acceptability.

For many people in my local community, you had freedom if you could go to the church of your choice on Sunday and buy guns on Monday morning. It pretty much summed them up. Never mind that the rest of their freedom was curtailed and doled out via permits before having governmental authorization to do a thing, if ever. For myself, I was an atheist and had no interest in guns, so it wasn’t difficult to see the little freedom I had.

The U.S. began a period of turmoil after an election. The religious dominionists seized control of the government. Once in power, systemic persecution grew rampant. Those in power pandered to all the common hatreds, like anything the Christian church deemed sinful; except when they wanted to do it themselves. They pandered to hatred of intellectuals, socialists, women, non-whites, liberals, progressives, foreigners, atheists, competing religions and all those who practiced them, and that old favorite, a particular hatred of anything lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. It was against that community some emboldened citizens expressed open aggression and committed acts of brutal violence.

Most of the Western world frowned at the things happening in America, impotent though they were to stop it. In response, several thoughtful nations offered asylum to those who asked, but you had to stand within their borders before they could grant it. Most of us were trapped for one reason or another, often it was commitments, financial or otherwise. Then there was also a paralyzing sense of helplessness for many of us. Our government treated us as if they didn’t want us, but then they also made leaving too complicated. I concluded they didn’t want us to go, what they wanted was for us to conform. To ensure that occurred, they resolved to make life for us somewhere between “difficult” and “hell” until we complied. It was a stressful time, remarkably so if you were a member of more than one group. As a gay male who was also an atheist, socialist, liberal, progressive, and considered himself an intellectual that liked many things deemed sinful, I would have been the target of discrimination nearly everywhere I went.

This circumstance provided three basic choices, I could choose to live in silence and blend in, live as who I was and put up with it, or I could leave. It was the same conundrum for us all, as protesting would only get you beaten and arrested.

When the leader of what was more often being called fascists, sought to implement laws to arrested someone for being LGBT under the guise of Crimes Against God, it was time to go. There was no doubt it would pass. The Supreme Court, whom they had taken decades to create, agreed with their interpretation of the constitution at every opportunity. They frothed at the mouth over our existence for ages and refused to let the chance pass.

That’s when I sold everything I owned of value. I packed my important papers, my clothes, and my money. I said a painful goodbye to my parents and sisters. I booked the earliest flight to the United Kingdom, and immediately requested asylum upon arrival.

Given my profession, my financial status, and squeaky-clean background, I was naive to expect a quick decision for asylum. It took six weeks, and all the while I was stuck in a terrible, cheap hostel outside London.

It was there I was struck with a critical case of homesickness. It was one thing to travel and visit other places, which of course I had done many times, but I could always go home. Home was my sanctuary from the world; my family, the source of my stability and my support system. I had never been without them. I had no boyfriend or spouse either, so I had no one to bring with me. I was a social and political refugee, and alone.

When they granted asylum, I decided to live in London, as people do, mostly because of its cosmopolitan nature, and the enormous gay community.

The government required foreigners to request permission to work in the United Kingdom, and I didn’t care to become one of London’s many homeless, so I began pursuing a work visa. I was displeased to learn that although I was a social and political refugee, the United States managed to enjoy the benefits of my foreign labor by forcing me to pay income taxes to the same federal government from which I had to flee. I decided then, the instant I could, I would relinquish my citizenship and become a British citizen. That would take six years. I would then only pay taxes to the British system. Their kind offer meant an improved experience of freedom, and I was grateful. Still, it was easy to be naive when you were encouraged to make assumptions about things you usually take for granted. I came to realize when it comes to freedom, I and every other human being I knew, had set our expectations too low.

I was an interpreter of ten languages by profession, and I studied the culture of those languages so I might provide a better interpreting experience for my clients. I had a knack for being somewhat intuitive, which brought an element to my work others often lacked. It wasn’t difficult to get a work visa as an interpreter. They were always in need of professional interpreters, and I spoke so many languages I was sure to be in demand.

It astonished me that a prestigious society of interpreters based in London contacted me. Checking my credentials and some casual testing had me accepted with open arms. It puzzled me how that came about, and some within the society said they never initiate contact, and that they welcomed me with unprecedented ease. Whatever way it happened, I was grateful if it meant my hostel-living lifestyle would end.

I met a French woman who spoke English at the society. I knew her as Maggie, but everyone else knew her as Marguerite Durand. She was twenty-five at the time because I was three years older than she. It was her first year as a new teacher at one of the local schools, and she was far from her grandmother who had been her guardian as a child, so we became fast friends.

She was like a long-lost sibling, and unlike so many people, including some members of my own biological family, we understood one another. We shared the same likes. We both enjoyed French opera, shopping for clothes, and endless conversations about topics usually better off avoided with less open minds. We were also both introverted, and introverts tend to desire solitude, yet we never were a problem for one another. We were suited to be the best of friends, and we became family for one another. To have that connection was important to us. It was difficult to feel like you had a family when your only experience of them was phone calls and video chat. To us, proximity to our family was crucial.

I had an exceptional two years as an interpreter in London. I acquired a sizeable number of regular clients through referrals, and I was kept busy. People asked for me by name, and my reputation, in my estimation, became a bit outlandish if what Maggie heard was true. I thought I was just an interpreter, but instead, I was made out as a kind of miracle worker. I believed those exaggerated claims to my reputation were where my troubles began, but events were leading to what became of my life for a long while.

In mid-August, I was hired by a Swiss gentleman named Viktor Mettler. He sought an interpreter to accompany him to a private function in London. He spoke broken English, and he didn’t want to make a fool of himself. My presence was meant to ensure that didn't happen.

The strange thing was how he didn’t want just an interpreter, he wanted an escort who could serve double duty. He had heard of me through a friend whose name I recognized when he mentioned her. Viktor was gay. His friend knew I was gay somehow, people always find these things out. So, she thought he might use my services while he was in town. He was a kind man, a bit shortish, he seemed respectable, and he wore a nice suit, so I agreed to do it.

The party was a black-tie event taking place at Kensington Palace, which surprised me. It concerned me that I would meet a member of the royal family, even extended ones, so I brushed up on addressing various honorifics. It wouldn’t do to appear unrefined by inappropriately addressing a Royal, risking injury to a reputation I struggled to build.

The atmosphere of the décor imparted a sense of luxury, and two hundred people attended. Although all the men dressed alike, I thought my manners and bespoke tuxedo suited me enough for posh society.

Victor was pleased with my assistance that evening, and he introduced me to many new people, some business persons, government people, a few socialites, and even an extended Royal.

It was when Viktor met a woman from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet that the tone of the event altered for me. She held the position of Secretary of State for Home Affairs, and her name was Amanda Newton. Her face and figure told me she was in her early forties and seemed relaxed in her classy, understated, little black dress which beckoned many an eye. However, the change involved the man on her arm of whom Ms. Newton seemed a tad possessive. His name was David Levitt, who was somewhere close to 40 years old. He was slightly taller than me, with thick black hair, and a meticulously kept stubble beard. I found his face far too attractive in the lighting, with his bright eyes the color of amber. He kept watching me with a funny smile as I went about interpreting for Viktor. I could tell he wanted to engage me in conversation, but there never seemed to be the right moment. He cornered me when I excused myself for a trip to the lavatory.

“So, are you enjoying the party, Rick?” he asked as he caught me up.

“It’s a pleasurable diversion.” I stopped at the side of the passage. “Is that all you wanted to ask me?”

He smiled. “What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“Is this business, or are you asking me out?”

“That depends,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to step on Mr. Mettler’s toes. He may not like that.”

“There’s nothing to fear there, but you’ve no thought to abandoning Ms. Newton, I see. The vigor with which she held your arm gave me the impression she didn’t intend to let you go. Care to comment?”

He pulled the invitation from his pocket. “I’m not Ms. Newton’s plus one. She acts a bit of a barnacle on occasion, but she knows I’m not interested.”

“Found you irresistible, has she?”

“Something like that,” he said. “So, how about it?”

“You have an interesting accent. It’s unusual. I can’t fully place it.”

“I’m not the usual man,” he said. “So, is it yes?”

I looked at him and considered for a moment. “Yes, on one condition. Until such a time, should it ever occur, I feel I know you well enough, we address one another formally. Will you accept that Mr. Levitt?”

He smiled as he did earlier. “I am pleased to accommodate you, Mr. Heiden.”

My life was a testament to keeping potential suitors at arm’s length. There were a few I had allowed closer, but it never lasted. They weren’t right for assorted reasons. That was the rationale for the cautious proviso in my acceptance of Mr. Levitt’s offer.

He and I dated for a month and a half. We had dinner together often, walked in St. James’s Park, went to museums, the symphony, and the theater. We spent time together and talked when we were not working, or I wasn’t spending time with Maggie. However, spending time with Mr. Levitt was as far as it went. He seemed okay with that. He never pressured me. He was a gentleman in an honest sense, and it was something I appreciated.

To his credit, Mr. Levitt never attempted to charm me, and that was good in my estimation. Charm is superficial and holds an intoxicant used to manipulate in the guise of more reputable quality. I am pleased to say I’ve never fallen for mere charm. Whenever we were together, Mr. Levitt displayed admirable qualities encouraging me to hold him in higher regard. He had a certain indescribable je ne sais pas (I don’t know), and as time went on, I felt my defenses diminish.

I learned much about Mr. Levitt throughout that time, yet there were things left unsaid I longed to know. However, he was a master of misdirection. He always managed to get away with never telling me where he was from, or what he did for work. When I discovered the answers, they were nothing I expected.

The first week of October, I was concerned when Mr. Levitt disappeared for three days. He contacted me upon his return and said the reason was due to work. While apologizing for his sudden absence. He confided in me the nature of his work, as it turned out Mr. Levitt was a government agent of some sort.

He asked me if I were willing to, as he put it, “do a few odd jobs for the British government.” I agreed, with the stipulation I do not work for mere tuppence. I had moved out of the hostel located in central London, and into my flat in Knightsbridge. So, like most everyone else, I had bills to pay. He assured me I would receive adequate remuneration for my time and effort.

At first, it seemed no big deal when I agreed to take the job. However, I didn’t realize the agreement would put me under a governmental magnifying glass determined to make my life a chaotic misery. I enjoy calm, quiet homelife, filled with books, classical music, and unplugging from the world. Instead, they interviewed me, which felt more like an interrogation, five times by three different government agencies over a fortnight. Throughout this, they dug into my past, and I began getting phone calls at night from family members, and people whom I lost touch with years ago. They told me some representative of the British government contacted them and asked questions about me. I had no idea how to explain that to them, and how some of them obtained my mobile number remained a mystery. I thought the level of scrutiny by airport customs agents was nerve-racking, but my experience then was an invasion of privacy.

On Saturday morning, five days after my last government interview, I had no clients scheduled, and Maggie had no classes, so we took the day off. It was just two months prior I closed on my convenient but overpriced, flat with two bedrooms down the street from Maggie’s in Knightsbridge. That day we were going to make use of it. We made plans for some much-needed retail therapy to take my mind off my troubles.

Descending in the elevator of my flat’s building I checked my appearance in the mirror one last time before entering the public arena. I was of average height, but the tallest in my immediate family. In my estimation, I have an average overall appearance. The blue eyes I looked out of, and into at that moment, were unremarkable to me. My teeth, once crooked, were straighter and white, thanks to the expertise of an excellent orthodontist. My skin was pale, yet with a clear complexion. My clipped, deep brown beard and mustache covered much of my face. Although balding, I trimmed my remaining hair neatly to the skin.

It was by then, a chilly day in late October, but not so cold a topcoat was necessary. Also, while the forecast didn’t call for rain, I learned to bring my umbrella anyway. That day I wore my newest bespoke suit, a light brown three-piece tweed, with a white dotted burgundy tie.

Maggie smiled, and we greeted one another as she noticed me walking toward her. We met in front of the tube station at 9:00 a.m. as planned. I noted and remarked how beautiful she was in her forest green pants, and cream color cotton sweater.

“If you can believe it, my grandmother made this. She has knitted for 50 years.”

“Hard to believe it’s handmade,” I said looking closely at the detail. “I wish I had a grandmother who loved me that much.”

“Didn’t you once tell me all your grandparents are dead?” she asked.

“Yes, which is why I don’t hold my lack of hand knitted sweaters against them.”

She laughed. “Would you wear them? You always wear a suit.”

“I would wear them,” I said, “at home.”

“Right, where no one would see you.”

“Of course,” I said. “One must keep up the public persona for potential clients.”

She shook her head, laughed, looping her arm around mine to guide me toward the steps down into the station.

“Oh no, dear. I have a cab set to meet us here at 9:05.”

“I see. So, why are we leaving Knightsbridge? There’s tons of shopping here.” She gestured at the myriad of stores before us.

I told her I wanted to go to Savile Row and visit my tailor, as I increasingly did. It surprised me how a nice suit made a grander impression on clients, making them feel they got what they paid for before I even opened my mouth.

I also planned to go to a shop with dresses I knew she’d love, but could never afford on a teacher’s salary, so intended to pay for them. Out of the corner of my eye, a black car pulls alongside us, I thought it was the cab I ordered, but it was not. I recognize the Jaguar. I had ridden in it several times. The front passenger got out, opening the back door. I knew the man sitting in the back on the driver’s side. It was Mr. Levitt leaning down to look me in the face. It was evident he scooted over to make room for me in the back seat.

“As I suspected,” I said. “You should have called me. I took the day off. I have plans.” Indicating Maggie who stood there like a department store mannequin. I recollected my manners. “Maggie, this is Mr. Levitt of whom I told you. Mr. Levitt, this is my best friend, Marguerite Durand.” She was the only one who knew of my experience of the previous two weeks with the government, and I think she didn’t believe me till then. Who would? “I don’t have time for another interview. Can’t you reschedule it for Monday? Maggie and I have a reservation at The Tea Room later. Have you any idea how hard it is to get in there?”

Mr. Levitt shook his head. “My apologies for the disruption, but no more interviews, Mr. Heiden. You’re in; so, get in.” Mr. Levitt leaned back in his seat. I could see his hand patting the empty seat next to him.

I was conflicted at the time, but due to the universal truth, I didn’t have much choice; things with the government-run on their time, not yours. I admit though, I was curious. I turned to Maggie, and I began speaking to her in French, maybe because apologies sound better in French. I didn’t know.

“Je suis vraiment désolé. Je dois y aller avec eux. (I am sorry. I must go with them.)”

“Pourquoi veulent-ils vous? (Why do they want you?)”

“Je n’ai pas été informé. (I have not been told.)”

At that point, I gave her a quick hug and told her I would call her when I could. I got into the car and had little chance to wave goodbye before we sped away.

I decided to forego the pleasantries that occasion. Mr. Levitt’s demeanor was puzzling. He had never exhibited any inclination to overt rudeness, but his preoccupation gave me the impression there was a problem, and I doubted it was my insecurity speaking.

“Is there a problem?” I asked as nonchalant as possible.

He looked at me with squinted eyes. “Are you seeking honesty or reassurance?”

I think I was seeking reassurance, but as a rule, I much prefer honesty. “Honesty,” I said.

He leaned over to me and whispered quiet and clear. “Don’t worry, it’s not you. It’s just I’m concerned about something. I didn’t want to involve you, but things changed, and I'm a little desperate. It’s vital I keep you close. I can’t go into detail,” and then I noted the slight tilt of his head toward the two men in the front seats, “but I will tell you soon. I promise.”

My first thought was how everything must be cloak and dagger with government people, but this was something else.

In the confines of the Jaguar, I couldn’t determine what direction we were going or where we were. That was easy for me in London since I hadn’t lived there all my life. Many streets look similar when no landmarks were in view. When I wasn't using the tube, I rode in taxis, and it was easy to not pay attention to where you were going. You tell a cabbie where you want to go, you ride for a while, and you get out. The journey doesn’t get memorized like it can when you’re the driver. As a passenger, it’s simpler to remember when you’re in a smaller city or out in the country. There was too much to look at in London, so I stopped paying attention. It was then I regretted my lack of conscientiousness. When the journey ended, I had no idea where in London we were.

It was a desolate area, with a tall row of flats on my side of the car. They looked empty, and there were no cars in the lot. We pulled into the garage entrance of a two-story building on the opposite side. I didn’t see much of it, but it was an old red brick structure with the round top windows I always appreciated.

Mr. Levitt broke the silence in the car by speaking to the driver. He didn’t want him to come with us or wait, but to return to his other duties. The driver nodded his understanding. The instant we exited the car, the driver backed out, taking with him the front passenger and my forgotten umbrella.

Once the windowless garage door closed, Mr. Levitt said to me, “Follow my lead.” He then ushered me from the open bay garage, which contained several cars, to a wooden door, behind which was a stark white room. On the far side of the room, which was no more than twelve feet wide and about twenty feet long was a guard sitting at a desk with his right hand hidden. Behind him was a new looking, heavy metal door which I recognized as a kind of security door.

“Good morning, Charles,” Mr. Levitt said to the guard handing him his pass. “Are there any letters for me in the morning post?”

“Not today. Is your one in tow staying for tea?” Charles asked, his eyes boring through me.

“Yes,” said Mr. Levitt, “he was invited by the queen.”

That’s when a buzzer sounded, and I heard the door unlock. Charles the guard gave me a wry smile wishing us a pleasant day, and we were through the door.

“What was all that?” I asked.

Mr. Levitt whispered to me. “Tiresome code-speak. The important thing is if the queen invited you, then you’re okay.”

“And if the queen hadn’t invited me?” I asked.

“He would have shot you.”

I stood speechless.

The other side of the door was a different world. The exterior of the building was old and time-worn, a building about which most people wouldn’t think twice. The inside was new looking, or at least well preserved, with its elaborate boiserie style wood paneling. There were a couple of corridors with offices, and people working inside them. It was Saturday, so it surprised me anything was going on.

Mr. Levitt brought me to a conference room and closed the door behind us. There were two women and three men, all well dressed, sitting at the far end of a long, marquetry topped, mahogany table. Mr. Levitt apologized for our tardiness and introduced the quintet of official persons to me.

At the end of the table was Lucas Small from Her Majesty’s council, who acted as her royal ear that day. He seemed, much as one might expect from his name, a man of slight stature, older, in his late fifties with grey hair, and eyes that seemed younger than he was. To his left was Amanda Newton from the Home Office, whom I met at the party. Across from her was Alexander Haywood from MI5. He seemed fifty years old, balding, with wire-rimmed spectacles. The last two were Katheryn Elliott and Aiden Park from the Government Office for Science. Katheryn had brown hair with red highlights of medium length. The first impression one got from her was that she was all business. Her dress was a striking red, and her makeup, minimal. She was a natural beauty. As for Mr. Park, it was clear to me he was single. He ate, breathed, and slept technology. He wore thick glasses made for computer work. His suit was inexpensive but presentable. He had short dark hair in casual loose curls, and his pallor was of someone who hadn’t seen daylight in ages. His face also seemed puffy, with dull skin, plagued with adult acne.

Looking at this collection of government people, under my breath before I realized what my mouth was doing, was the word “Oh” which would have been followed by the word “shit” if I hadn’t caught myself. “Odd jobs, my ass,” I whispered to Mr. Levitt.

Lucas Small laughed, “Our apologies, Mr. Heiden for dragging you here on a Saturday. It’s more serious than a company wishing to purchase parts from Japan at a competitive price, and we’re eager to get started. There is much to tell you.”

Then Ms. Newton of the Home Office chimed in, “But before we can tell you anything, we need your signature.”

Mr. Haywood brought out a folder and slid a few papers across the table to me. “These are standard government non-disclosure agreements. Everyone who works for the government, or is privy to any secret information, must sign this.”

I picked them up and began to speed read through them. “This says if I divulge anything considered secret to anyone, I’ll be subject to arrest facing prison, fines, and forfeiture.”

“It wouldn’t be much of a deterrent if it were nothing more than a slap on the hand, would it?” Mr. Haywood asked.

Mr. Levitt, who was still standing near me, held out a pen and said to me with a little smile, “Want to know why you’re here? Then sign.”

I had always heard when you purchase property through a bank, like I had when I bought my flat there in London, you feel like you’re signing your life away. Still, having just gone through that two months earlier, I must say, this felt worse and far more ominous. I signed.

TWO

The actual signing was as anticlimactic as one might expect. It was only a piece of paper; however, it granted me access to the answers I wanted. They put me through too much to give up.

Mr. Haywood slid another file to Ms. Newton. “We are holding someone who is a person of interest. Evidence suggests he speaks Japanese. Certain incidences, beyond your purview, indicate that the knowledge this man has is a matter of national security. However, he refuses to speak with us, so you see Mr. Heiden, we have a problem. Agent Levitt, whose assessment I’m inclined to accept, believes you can solve it. Will you enlighten the others as to why you think this, Agent Levitt?”

Mr. Levitt was expecting this, he sounded as if he had rehearsed his reply. “Mr. Heiden is more than an interpreter. If there were nothing more necessary, our interpreter should have proved more than adequate, but we tried that.”

“He failed,” said Mr. Haywood.

“Correct,” Mr. Levitt said, “it didn’t work, because the person must be willing to talk and that’s our fault. Our guest has only spoken one Japanese word, Dashite, which in English means let me out, and nothing else. So, baring the American route of torturing him till he tells us what we want to know, which I believe we all agree is repulsive and criminal, we need something more. This is where Mr. Heiden comes in. Like many other people in various degrees, Mr. Heiden is an intuitive empath, and from what I’ve witnessed he’s a strong intuitive empath.”

I just looked at him, not sure where he was taking it, but it was strange to be talked about while in the room. He did say to follow his lead.

He continued. “An intuitive empath is someone who uses their native intuition to understand what someone says. They feel what others feel, and draw others to them,” he said, and then addressed me, “Mr. Heiden, have you ever just met someone, and they start telling you their troubles after only a few minutes?”

I had to think about it. “Sometimes, but doesn’t that happen to everyone?” I asked, looking for confirmation from the others.

“No, Mr. Heiden, it doesn’t,” he said. “Also, I’ve watched you when you interpret. You latch onto what someone says even when the speaker is vague. I’ve even watched you know what people are feeling, and sometimes thinking, just by looking at them.”

I almost burst out laughing. “I’m not a mind reader!” I said, not wanting the others to think that’s what he meant.

“Oh, I’m not suggesting he’s a mind reader,” he told the others, “it’s the impressions they give him that he’s intuiting into thoughts.” He bent down to look into my eyes. “You're amazing.”

Levitt had beautiful amber eyes. He excited me when I was near him, as I was just then. My breathing became a little erratic, and a could feel my heart beating. I glanced at the faces of the others at the table. “You better stop. You’re making them wonder if they’ve made a mistake.” At that, I noticed several raised eyebrows.

Levitt stood erect once again. “If you want something more concrete,” Levitt said to them, “He’s a professional interpreter, fluent in the Japanese language. He is also versed in the culture and has studied the intricacies of their customs. However, what I’m also saying to you is that the fact that he’s an intuitive empath is just the cream on the top. From what I’ve witnessed, it will make a difference.”

Mr. Haywood sat unconvinced with a derisive look on his face. “Complete nonsense.”

“That will do, Mr. Haywood,” said Ms. Newton.

“What will this entail?” asked Mr. Park from the Government Office for Science.

“We let him see what we found on the man,” said Levitt, “introduce him to him, and let him take over from there. I think it wouldn’t be long before our guest lowered his guard enough to talk to us.”

After some deliberation, the decision was that it couldn’t hurt to try. It was hard to feel gratified with such a dismal level of confidence.

Levitt and I took the lift to what I thought was the basement. Beneath the building was a veritable labyrinth of spacious, clean, groin vaulted rooms connected by long, identical, barrel-vaulted corridors. If it weren’t for the console tables on every wall with the potted plants, it would have had me half expecting to get sacrificed to the Minotaur.

“Let me out,” I said, wondering of the words the man spoke. “He’s not locked up in some old dungeon down here, is he?”

Levitt was about to open one of the doors that looked to me as if he had chosen one at random. They all looked the same. “He’s a bit imposing,” Levitt said, “and they felt threatened, so he’s locked into an observation room. His things are in here.”

Two people were working in the room lined with large pieces of scientific equipment. Scattered about on tables were various devices of complex appearance, along with several laptops. Levitt asked them to leave us while we were there. They nodded and said Katheryn Elliot had told them that we were on our way. He gestured to a table with a small stack of clothes, a pair of boots, a sword with its sheath, and its harness upon it. After the two left and closed the door, he told me as much as he could.

“They don’t monitor this room. I don’t know how much time we have, and I need you to listen. Okay?”

I agreed, and he had my full attention.

He began with an apology. “I am sorry. I had nowhere else to turn. I need your help. There is a man, like the man in the observation room, except this one is dead. His name was Cadmar. He came to London to take me home. I knew it was about time for someone to show up, but it’s hard to calculate. Anyway, his body is somewhere in a government facility, and if I know the government, they’re dissecting it as we speak. I must find that body so that Amaré, that’s the name of the man in the observation room, and I can go home. It’s dangerous for Cadmar’s body to remain, and it would be a matter of honor for Amaré. He must retrieve him, but he can’t do that without our help.”

I realized I was put on the spot, and no one likes that, but he was adorable, and everything about him just then told me how desperate he was. “What did you need me to do?”

“I’m not yet part of the Trust, so I’m unable to speak Japanese. Amaré knows who I am, but he’s known for only speaking Japanese. What I need you to do is get him to talk to the people here. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as he keeps them busy. What I need you to convey is that I’m here to help him, and I’m no longer alone in doing that.”

“Okay,” I said, “but what was all that intuitive empath stuff upstairs?”

“Well, you are, but I had to use some reason to get you into the facility. As I said, I don’t speak Japanese.”

“Why did you pick me?” I asked.

“This started because I wanted to become part of the Sharing,” he said, “but there are steps to get there. I volunteered to come here and find people who would do well with us. I have an acquaintance in immigration who brought you to my attention when you requested a work visa. I made sure you got nudged in the right directions so that you would be okay. It was just a coincidence that you were at Kensington Palace that night. Since then, it’s been my thought that when this is over, and I can leave, I would invite you to come with Amaré and me.”

I was unsure what all that meant, “Okay...but that doesn’t answer my question. Why me?” I asked again. He wasn't ready to tell me, but I needed to hear it.

“When I met you at the party...there was something about you. I thought that I might want something more permanent with you than just dating. The more time I’ve spent with you, the more I knew I did.”

I tried to smile, but I found it difficult since I was a bit embarrassed. I was unsure why since I coaxed it out of him. “Okay, let’s...let’s set all of that issue aside for the moment. We’ll discuss that later. How do you know that about Cadmar? That is a fascinating name.”

He turned to the table behind us and removed a cloth that covered what lay upon it, a sword and a gold ring with a two-carat diamond embedded into it. He picked up the beautiful, weighty sword. It was nearly identical to Amaré’s. The only difference was that the round guard, the grip, and the pommel were a silvery metal, while Amaré’s sword was gold. The blades were identical, razor-sharp, and two and a half feet long. The front of the pommel on both swords had a kind of cup carved upon it. When Levitt flipped the one, he held over, embossed on the other side in high relief was the word Cadmar, and an inscription, Scientia nos Defendit (Knowledge Defends Us). A motto, I supposed. The back of Amaré’s sword held no name, but it did have the same inscription. They were modern looking in design for such an ancient weapon. I liked how they looked. I was ashamed to say, but at the time I thought how impressive they would appear above my electric fireplace.

“He must be dead,” Levitt said. “He would never be without his sword, and more telling, he would never consent to remove his ring.” He held the ring before me. “Also, Amaré would be here for no other reason. He never could stand to see this planet.”

It was a curious thing to say. By itself, that someone couldn’t stand to see this planet was a sentiment no doubt shared by many people. Destruction is hard to watch. However, “be here for no other reason,” gave it a meaning that sounded strange.

I glanced over Amaré’s clothes. They consisted of a black shirt, a scarlet red Asian style jacket of fabric that looked stiff but was flexible and soft to the touch. An exquisite, metallic gold embroidery, in an ivy motif, covered the jacket’s shoulders and sleeves. His pants were a black twill and-

“This has a codpiece,” I said, trying not to laugh.

“Yes,” said Levitt, “where I’m from many things have managed to stay in vogue.”

Then I noticed one thing and realized something that should have been obvious. “These clothes are enormous. What size boots- Wait, these are Amaré’s clothes? What’s he wearing now?”

“Nothing, I’m afraid. There was a bit of an altercation when Amaré arrived. He’s proficient with his sword, but it’s no match for projectile weapons. He was shot with a tranquilizing dart and rendered unconscious before they brought him here. They removed his clothing to examine them and disarmed him. I don’t know why they were not returned. They tried putting him in something else, but nothing else would fit.”

“Wouldn’t that be humiliating for him?”

“Oh no,” said Levitt, “where we’re from nudity is nothing. I saw him conscious later. He was upset, of course, but not about that.”

“Where you’re from sounds different from any place I’ve been.”

“It’s beautiful and peaceful. I think you would like it.”

“Where is it?” I asked.

“That requires more explanation than we have time for me to convey.”

“I bet it would,” I whispered. It was all getting a bit weird, but then I thought, “No one knew what the government knows, except the government.” I intended to take everything at face value at that moment. I wasn’t sure what to make of Mr. Levitt. I was inclined to believe him. There was little doubt in my mind at the time that he was sincere. I could feel his sense of desperation, and I decided that so long as evidence didn’t contradict him, I would accept his claims on a tentative basis. It was about then that Katheryn Elliot and Aiden Park, of the Government Office for Science, entered the room. “Hello again, Ms. Elliot and Mr. Park, what can you tell me about what you’ve learned so far.”

“We’ve learned some things,” she said, blinking and nodding her head. “So far, the most astonishing thing we’ve learned is that while he does drink water, he doesn’t have to eat much or often. We have observed him for fourteen days, and while he has drunk little more than thirty-nine liters of water, he has eaten maybe once a week.” She looked at me for a split-second as if waiting for the usual shocked reaction that accompanied such news.

I didn’t give it to her. At that point, I think my shock tolerance was becoming too high. “How is that possible?” I glanced at Levitt.

Aiden displayed a full-body digital x-ray on his tablet. Levitt and I exchanged looks. It was doubtful they had time to x-ray Amaré while he was unconscious. If Levitt’s story was true, there was one person that could be. The x-ray showed many anomalous non-biological components throughout the body, and inside the skill.

I could tell Aiden was excited by the scan. “His body is no doubt filled with various technological mechanisms. We believe they recycle and allocate all the resources of his body, helping to maintain homeostasis for extended periods with reduced nourishment. The only waste he seems to excrete is urine.”

“What are the solid-looking objects inside the skull there?” I asked.

“We know he has synthetic eyes,” said Mr. Park. “They look normal from a distance, but as you can see here, they’re not biological. They must enhance his vision in some way. The rest of this, we can only guess.”

“This person looks too small to be the man in the observation room,” Levitt said. “Who is this?”

“Well, no,” said Katheryn, “it’s someone similar who died in an accident involving an automobile. When the first responders saw him, they knew something was not normal, and told the police on the scene.”

It supported Levitt’s story. I stepped up and made the next reasonable overture, “May I see the body?” After that Levitt looked me in the eye and from the look on his face, I believed I knew what he was thinking. I thought then that maybe there was something to that intuitive empath stuff.

“I’m not sure,” Katheryn said. “It might be difficult. I would have to ask permission to show it to you, but the others have already gone. It is Saturday. I’ll ask, but it may be Monday before I can do that.”

“They’ve already gone?” I asked. “What if the man being observed talks?”

“We record everything in the observation room,” said Aiden. “If the situation changes, we will inform the appropriate people.”

“Have you finished with this man’s clothing?” I asked pointing at the table. “Because you should give them back. I understand why you felt the need to lock him up, at least in the beginning. You wanted the opportunity to study him like a lab rat, but if you want the cooperation of a Japanese man, keeping him locked up and naked is not the way to go about it.” I shook my head. I hadn’t even met Amaré, but I knew what they’d done to him was cruel, and I was not pleased.

Katheryn folded the clothes and handed them to me. She was going to leave the boots. I understood the need to keep his sword, but I insisted the rest come with me. At that point, David and I went to speak to Amaré. The monitoring inside the room would limit the conversation. Some things needed open discussion, and I had so many questions, but that would have to wait.

We were deep underground, so there were no windows, and the light from the LED lighting attached to the ceiling was stark and excessive. In the stillness, the tiny white acoustic tiles covering the walls and ceiling meant the only sound was the muffled patter of our shoes. The air was dry with an odor typical of hyper purification. It was the smell of activated carbon, and paper with a bit of ozone.

I asked Levitt to remain outside the room along with the two guards that stood by the door. He watched through the door’s window. I entered the room, clothes in hand. The chamber was twelve feet high, twenty feet wide, and ten feet deep. There was a floor to ceiling, reinforced, thick glass wall through which were dozens of holes a bit larger than a two-pound coin. The enclosure was the width of the glass and about ten feet deep. The man behind the barrier appeared to be asleep and hadn’t awakened. He laid nude on his back on the cot which unfolded from the wall. The bunk was standard bed length. He had to bend his knees to fit, and it wasn’t near wide enough to hold his body with any comfort. He was well built, but not to excess. He was in his mid-twenties, with skin that shown lustrous and beautiful like fine silk the color of cinnamon. As he lay in profile, I could see he was handsome.

“I am sorry to disturb you,” I whispered in Japanese, loathed as I was to disturb someone in repose. The man was slow to open his eyes but did not move. Such a simple motion spoke to me. He was unfazed by his circumstance. He was calm, and his body language was that of someone relaxed. His breathing was slow and even paced, and his face held no readable expression. “Honorable Sir, I have insisted they return your clothing.”

In one fluid motion, he rose to his feet with the grace unthinkable of a man his size, standing to his full height. This man was immense. He was eight feet tall and commanding in stature. His predominant appearance was Japanese, but also African. I knew that would make him Hafu in Japan and rejected as Japanese. From this angle, he was indeed handsome with short, well kept, jet black hair. He had no facial hair or other body hair. Someone less confident might show more modesty attempting to cover themselves, but this man stood tall with his feet together and hands clasped behind his back, like an emperor surveying his domain. It was the posture of a man of distinction, and one he performed with frequency in the ease of his stance. He stood staring. In the tradition, I made a low bow of acceptable duration.

I placed his clothes, boots, and the sword’s harness into the secure pass through on the side wall used to supply food and water. When I returned to where I stood, he spoke, “Arigato gozaimasu” thanking me, and made a small bow of acknowledgment.

I spoke in Japanese. “It was nothing,” I said. “I am Rick Heiden. I am here at the special request of Mr. Levitt. My apologies for the less than ideal circumstance of our first meeting.” I bowed again in apology. “Will you honor me with your name?” I asked. While it was true that I knew his name, the officials there kept referring to him as “the man,” or giving him other euphemisms, which was becoming tedious. If the British government knew his name, Levitt and I could stop feigning ignorance over it.

“Watashi no namae wa Amaré desu,” he replied.

As I thought, my reference to Mr. Levitt made a difference. As Japanese tradition dictates, we made small talk for about ten minutes during which there were several silences. He motioned for me to come closer, so I moved to the glass. At the risk of being considered rude, I looked up into his face and found myself unable to look away. They were of fascinating beauty. It was Amaré’s eyes, those marvelous mechanical eyes. I could feel them boring into me, seeing me in more ways than I could imagine. The shadowy reflection of the room shone in the artificial cornea, and the glide of the focusing mechanism spiraled as he brought his face level with mine.

He whispered, “Watashi o hanashite kudasai” (Please, let me go.)

“I wish I could. The people here are ignorant. Mr. Levitt says if you could talk to them for a little while it would be most helpful.” He understood my intonation. He nodded.

It was over by noon. Mr. Levitt was pleased that I was able to help and that he wasn’t alone in the “difficult matter,” as he described it. We were at loose ends until we heard from Katheryn about viewing the body, which might not happen until Monday, if at all.

After what had transpired my previous plans for the day were all but forgotten. I remembered that I had a reservation for a late lunch in a private parlor at The Tea Room, and circumstances being what they were over it, it would have been a crime to waste the opportunity. Mr. Levitt was amenable to our enjoying a light lunch, tea, and a conversation. He surprised me when he suggested that we bring Maggie, and he was sorry about the interference with our previous plans. There was much I wanted to ask him, and although a third party might have hindered the conversation should I let it, I had no intention of allowing Maggie’s presence to alter my resolve to have some answers that day.

We were up and out, and the exit from the building was uneventful, not that I expected any impediments, but one never knew. I called Maggie with the invitation, and as I expected, she jumped at the chance to find out how things went. That caused a bit of awkwardness later.

Despite the inconvenience, the authorities allowed no one to call a cab to the building, so that forced me to request the taxi for an address two blocks away. We began walking, and I saw that there was still no one about at the flats across the street. “Mr. Levitt, is that building condemned or something? It looks fine.”

He smiled. “There’s not much that the government can’t get away with, leaving an entire block of flats unoccupied. The official explanation now is this whole cul-de-sac is subsiding, making the area dangerous. You must have missed them, but we’ll pass the warning signs up ahead. The subsidence keeps people away. However, ten years prior some clever clogs got a brainwave, and it used to be that they left the flats empty but put cars in the parking lot as a blind. It’s for the satellites, you know,” he said pointing upward. “We know when they’re flying over so it gives the impression that it’s occupied to potential enemies, and what government would have a secret facility next door to a block of potential nosy neighbors? They even had someone rearrange the vehicles on occasion.”

“That’s crazy.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” he replied, “that’s why I had it changed.”

I just looked at him. “Mr. Levitt, what is it you do here?”

“Quite a lot. Must we continue with the formalities?” he asked. “If you wouldn’t mind, I would much prefer you call me David.”

I agreed. First names were appropriate. I preferred to be formal with suitors I didn’t feel I knew well enough but having conspired with someone inside a secret government facility over a dead body, and a Japanese speaking giant precludes the notion that you’re just acquaintances, and yes, I knew how insane it all sounded.

THREE

I won’t provide the precise location of the building, because I’m not one to cause trouble. Suffice to say, I had been in East London.

It was no time before we were picked up in the cab. After we climbed in and told the cabbie where we wanted to go, I asked David, “Can we now talk about the situation?”

David shook his head. “Not here.” He gestured to the divider between the front and back seats of the cab. “Don’t let the acrylic fool you, conversations in cabs are not private.”

“You’re kidding,” I said looking about the vehicle.

“I wish I were,” he said.

So, we could not discuss the situation about Amaré or Cadmar. The news disturbed me. I had no idea such an invasion of privacy was occurring. Everyone knew of the ubiquitous CCTV cameras, which were bad enough, but this was crossing a line.

“As part of the government,” I said, “what else is happening behind our backs?”

“You name it, they’re doing it, and that’s scratching the surface. As well as spying on us at a scope that would make the former Soviet Union’s KGB network of watchful eyes seem innocent, humans on this planet are being, indoctrinated, manipulated, intellectually stunted, enslaved, controlled, poisoned, drugged, repressed, and infantilized the world over. It’s been going on for centuries.”

“Infantilized? ...really,” I said, disbelieving. “Okay, okay, for the sake of argument, let us suggest all that is true, and it may well be, I wouldn’t know. Why would we put up with that? Wouldn’t we have stopped it by now?”

“We believe,” he said, “and at the risk of using Greek mythology as a metaphor which can be trite, once Pandora opened the box, nothing could ever undo it.”

“I know that story,” I said. “When all the evils of the world were released the only thing left in the box was hope. Isn’t there always hope?”

He thought for a moment. “Let me tell you how my world is, to give you something more than the only thing you’ve ever known, as a comparison. In my world, for something to serve us, it must serve both the individual and collective humanity at the same time. With that in mind, there are only those things and actions that serve us, and then there are those things and actions that do not serve us. This principle has allowed us to be fair and objective. We admit when something doesn’t work, and we correct it. In my world, we live and think in complete freedom with reason, knowledge, integrity, and discipline as our guides. We seek harmony, greater knowledge, and peace. After centuries of effort, we have no sickness, no war, no poverty, and no crime. Hope,” he said, “is the illusion that, at some future time, things will be better without focusing on how to get to where you say you want to go and expending the energy to get there. It’s leaving the work for others, or to luck. In my world, we don’t hope. We do.

“In contrast, and globally speaking, the people here have grown into a myriad of disparate micro-cultures. They are not one people. Humans here, with few exceptions, have classified and divided themselves into man-made contrivances like races, ethnicities, nations, and religions. They divide themselves further with knowledge, money, and power, into the dichotomy of the haves and the have-nots. This kind of discord is self-perpetuating. It’s the source of human misery and never-ending struggle. Is it any wonder that diversion is the greatest human pastime? So, is there hope? Sure, there’s plenty, but I would suggest that hope is all that the people of this world have.”


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