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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.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


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


I belonged to an internet group that inspired this work. It asked, “If you had a planet, what would you do differently?” The next thing I knew, I had authored a book.

When I began this, I wrote it for me, so I hadn’t intended for others to read it, but I don’t mind if they do. This entire process has given me a much-needed catharsis, allowing me to express ideas contrary to those of my culture and sheltered upbringing. I used many so-called abnormal, taboo, wrong, or sinful things from the lies and control mechanisms of my youth.

I will not live in fear of living or acquiesce to the slavery of this culture, but that's what circumstances beyond our control have made all of us, whether we recognize it or not. The culture will not allow us to fully live except within the bounds of the slave-culture, but within the book, I could create freedom, and it helped me to feel more empowered.

Although a library could shelve this series under the umbrella of several genres; such as Sci-fi, Adventure, and LGBTQ, as the author, I believe it would fit best in Counterculture. As such, I give the reader a friendly warning. Some people will find this series inflammatory, and some will choose to feel insulted by it. That’s their choice.

I wrote this 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 have the freedom 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, I didn’t write it for you.

If this intrigues you, and you don’t recognize slave-culture, read on.

Are you ready for Jiyū?










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. So, while the born and bred local community might treat people like me well enough, such treatment hinged on the assumption that we shared their cultural view, religion, political position, sexual orientation, or sometimes even their race. The instant they recognize us as other than, the smiles and pleasant demeanor would vanish as if we 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 government curtailed or doled out the rest of their freedom via permits to “authorize” them to do a thing. For myself, I realized my atheism years earlier, and I had no interest in guns, so I had no difficulty in perceiving my lack of freedom.

The U.S. began an extended period of turmoil when the religious dominionists seized control of the government. Once in power, systemic persecution grew rampant. They 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 hatred of anything lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Against many of those communities, some emboldened citizens expressed open aggression and committed acts of brutal violence.

Most of the Western world frowned on the things happening in America, but they couldn’t stop it. So, in response, several thoughtful nations offered asylum to those who asked, but they couldn’t grant it until you stood within their borders. Commitments, financial or otherwise, as well as a lack of funds, held most of us captive, and many of us felt a paralyzing sense of helplessness. 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, they wanted us to conform. To ensure that occurred, they resolved to make life for us somewhere between difficult and hell until we complied with whatever demand they made of us. We had a stressful time, remarkably so as a member of more than one group. As a gay male who lived as an atheist, socialist, liberal, progressive, who considered himself an intellectual that liked many things deemed sinful, they would have made me a target of discrimination nearly everywhere I went.

With a few variations, we all had a similar choice. For myself, the circumstance provided these; I could choose to acquiesce to their demands, live in silence and blend in, live in honesty and put up with it, or I could leave. It came down to a conundrum for all of us, as protesting would only get you beaten and arrested.

When the leader of what many of us referred to as fascists, sought to implement laws to arrested someone for being LGBT under the guise of crimes against god, I chose to leave. We knew it would pass. The Supreme Court, whom they had taken decades to create in their image, 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. And then booked the earliest flight to the United Kingdom, requesting asylum upon arrival.

I mistook my profession, my financial status, and squeaky-clean background, as a basis for granting asylum without haste. But it took six weeks, and during the interim, I stayed in an appalling, horror film of a hostel outside London.

While there, I laid in my lumpy bed with its meager blanket, struck down with a critical case of homesickness. I had traveled before, visiting many other places, but I could always go home. I regarded home as my sanctuary from the world; my family, the source of my stability and my support system. I had never gone without them. Furthermore, I had no boyfriend or spouse, so I had no one to bring with me. My situation as a social and political refugee had left me with no one.

When the grant for asylum came, I had the opportunity to begin again. I decided to live in London, as people do, mostly because of its cosmopolitan nature, and the sizable openly-gay community.

The United Kingdom required foreigners to request permission to work, and I didn’t dare consider living as one of London’s many homeless, so I began pursuing a work visa. It displeased me to learn that, despite my status as a social and political refugee, the United States managed to enjoy the benefits of my foreign labor. They forced 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 felt grateful. However, I made the mistake of naively assuming a thing we usually take for granted. I came to realize that when it comes to freedom, I and every other human being I knew, had set our expectations too low.

I had only one marketable skill, I knew ten languages, and as I had previous experience as an interpreter, I figured I would try making a living from that. I also studied the culture of those languages which I knew would provide a better interpreting experience for my clients. And as someone with a knack for intuition, I figured that would bring an element to my work others might lack. I had no difficulty getting a work visa as an interpreter. That field of work could always use more professionals, and I knew that speaking so many languages would put me in demand.

I struggled for a bit, so it astonished me when 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, it thankfully 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. I recall she had just turned twenty-five at the time, as she was three years younger than me. She had begun her first year as a teacher at a local school and didn’t like the distance from her grandmother, so we became fast friends.

I came to think of her as a long-lost sibling, and unlike so many people, including some members of my immediate family, we understood one another. We shared an appreciation of many things; French opera, shopping for clothes, and endless conversations about topics one should avoid in mixed company. In the experience of our biological family, we also shared a feeling of insufficiency with phone calls and video chat. So, we became family for one another, to satisfy that crucial need for familial proximity.

I had an exceptional two years as an interpreter in London. I acquired a sizable number of regular clients through referrals, and they kept me busy. People asked for me by name, and my reputation, in my estimation, had grown outlandish from what Maggie heard. I thought of myself as nothing more than an interpreter, but instead, she understood that some of my clients had made me out as a miracle worker. I believed my troubles began with those exaggerated claims, but events were leading to what became of my life for a long while.

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

However, Viktor didn’t seek a mere 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. Somehow, his friend knew I was gay; people always find these things out. So, she thought he might use my services. Viktor seemed a kind, respectable, handsome man, if a bit shortish, and he wore a nice suit, so I agreed to do it.

The black-tie event would take 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. I didn’t wish to inappropriately address a Royal and risk injury to my reputation.

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

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

When Viktor met a woman from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, the tone of the event altered for me. The Right Honourable Amanda Newton held the position of Secretary of State for Home Affairs. Her face and well-kept figure spoke of her age as mid-forties, and her classy, understated, little black dress beckoned many an eye. However, the change involved the man on her arm of whom Ms. Newton seemed a tad possessive. The 40-year-old, six foot, David Levitt attracted my attention, with his thick black hair, stubble beard, and bright eyes the color of amber. He smiled watching me interpret for Viktor. I sensed Mr. Levitt wanted to engage me in conversation, but the right moment never occurred. He cornered me when I excused myself for a trip to the lavatory.

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

“I would say the evening has given me a pleasant diversion.” I stopped at the side of the passage. “Did you want something else?”

He smiled. “I want to know if you have plans tomorrow night?”

“You mean business, or have you just asked me out?”

“Oh, when I ask a man out, I mean business.” He smiled. “But it all depends, 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 often plays the barnacle on these occasions, but she knows I’m not interested.”

“Found you irresistible, has she?”

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

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

“I’m not the usual man,” he said. “Will you say yes to a date?”

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. “If it pleases you, Mr. Heiden.”

I had made my life a testament to keeping potential suitors at arm’s length. The few I had allowed closer never lasted, which had caused 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, it never went beyond spending time with Mr. Levitt. As a gentleman, he seemed okay with that. He never pressured me, and I appreciated it.

To his credit, Mr. Levitt never attempted to charm me. I view charm as superficial. It holds an intoxicant used to manipulate, in the guise of more a reputable quality. I have never fallen for mere charm. Instead, 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 he left things unsaid I longed to know. However, he proved a master in misdirection. He always managed to get away with never telling me where he came from, or what he did for work. I did not expect the answers I received.

The first week of October, it concerned me when Mr. Levitt disappeared for three days. He contacted me upon his return saying that work had called him away. While apologizing for his sudden absence, he confided in me the nature of his duties. As it turned out, Mr. Levitt worked as 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 from a hostel, located in central London, to my new 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 enjoyed a calm, quiet home life, 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 wracked my nerves, but my experience then smacked of a real 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. 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 made use of that convenience by planning some much-needed retail therapy to take my mind off my troubles.

Descending in the elevator of my flat’s building, I checked my look in the mirror one last time before entering the public arena. In my estimation, I have an average height and overall appearance. The eyes I looked out of, and into at that moment, seemed unremarkable to me. I have teeth and skin no better or worse than the average guy. As a man who despises shaving, my clipped beard and mustache covered much of my face, and although mostly balding, I trimmed my remaining hair neatly to the skin.

The chilly day in late October did not require a topcoat, and 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 in response to mine when we greeted one another in front of the tube station at 9:00 a.m. as planned. I noted and remarked how attractive she looked in her forest green pants, and cream color cotton sweater.

“If you can believe it, my grandmother made this,” she said in her lovely French accent,

I studied it in detail. “Hard to believe it’s handmade. I wish I had a grandmother who loved me that much.”

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

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

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

“I would wear one,” 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, and looped her arm around mine to guide me toward the steps of the station.

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

“I see. So, why would we leave 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 often 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 pulled alongside us. I mistook it for the cab I ordered, but 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. Mr. Levitt leaned down to look me in the face. I noticed he had 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, may I introduce Mr. Levitt of whom I told you. Mr. Levitt, please meet my best friend, Marguerite Durand.” I only told Maggie of my experience of the previous two weeks with the government, and I think she didn’t believe me until then. Who would? “I don’t have time for another interview,” I said to him. “Can’t you reschedule it for Monday? Maggie and I have a reservation at The Tea Room later. Have you any idea of the difficulty in getting that?

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.

It conflicted me at the time, but due to a universal truth, I didn’t have much choice; things with the government-run on their time, not yours. I admit though, the entire affair had me curious. I turned to Maggie, and I began speaking to her in French, maybe because apologies sounded 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 on that occasion. Mr. Levitt’s demeanor puzzled me. He had never exhibited any inclination to overt rudeness, but his preoccupation gave me the impression he had a problem, and I doubted it involved my insecurities.

“Do you have a problem?” I asked as nonchalant as possible.

He looked at me with squinted eyes. “Do you seek honesty or reassurance?”

I think I sought 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, I could never think of you as a problem, but I do have cause for great concern. I didn’t want to involve you, but things changed, and I'm a little desperate. I must keep you close for now. 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.”

I had first thought of how cloak and dagger he sounded, but this felt like something else.

In the confines of the Jaguar, I couldn’t determine our location or direction. Since I hadn’t lived there all my life, many streets looked similar with no landmarks in view. When I didn’t use the tube, I rode in taxis, so I didn't pay attention to where I was 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 as the driver. As a passenger, I found it easier to remember while in a smaller city or out in the country. London had too much to look at, so I stopped paying attention. I regretted my lack of conscientiousness. When the journey ended, I had no idea of our location in London.

The desolate area had a tall row of flats on my side of the car. They looked empty, and I saw 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 the old red brick structure, but it had the round top windows I always appreciated.

Mr. Levitt broke the silence 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 and a stark white room. On the far side of the room, more than twelve feet wide and about twenty feet long, sat a guard at a desk with his right hand hidden. I recognized the door behind him as a security door.

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

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

“Yes,” said Mr. Levitt, “he has an invitation from the queen.”

I then heard a buzzer and a click of the unlocking door. Charles the guard gave me a wry smile, wishing us a pleasant day, and we walked through the door.

“What did I just witness?” I asked.

Mr. Levitt whispered to me. “Tiresome code-speak. If I say the queen invited you, then he will let you pass.”

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

“He would shoot you.”

The news left me a bit shocked.

Beyond the door existed a different world. Most people wouldn’t think twice about the exterior of the old and time-worn building. The inside, however, looked new or at least well preserved, with its elaborate boiserie style wood paneling.

We passed corridors of offices with people working inside them. On a Saturday, it surprised me anything was going on.

Mr. Levitt brought me to a conference room, closing the door behind us. I met two women and three men, all well dressed, who sat 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 sat 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 didn't reveal his age. To his left, sat Amanda Newton from the Home Office, whom I met at the party, and across from her, Alexander Haywood from MI5. He appeared fifty years old, balding, with wire-rimmed spectacles. Last, I met Katheryn Elliott and Aiden Park from the Government Office for Science. Katheryn, with her brown hair and red highlights, wore a striking red business dress, minimal makeup and an air of seriousness. Mr. Park struck me as single, looking as if he ate, breathed, and slept technology. He wore thick glasses made for computer work and an inexpensive but presentable suit. He had short dark hair in casual loose curls and the pallor of someone who hadn’t experienced daylight in ages. His face also seemed puffy, with dull skin, plagued with adult acne.

While viewing this collection of government people, under my breath before I realized what my mouth was doing, came the word, oh and the word shit would have followed it 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. We have a situation more serious than a company wishing to purchase parts from Japan at a competitive price, and we wish to get started.”

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. “Everyone who works for the government,” he said, “or we make privy to any secret information, must sign standard government non-disclosure agreements.”

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

“Do you think a slap on the hand would make a greater deterrence?” Mr. Haywood asked.

Mr. Levitt, who stood beside me, said to me with a little smile, “Want to know why you’re here?” He held out a pen.

I had always heard that 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 felt as anticlimactic as one might expect. I signed a mere 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 a person of interest. Evidence suggests he speaks Japanese. Certain incidences, beyond your purview, indicate that he has knowledge of national importance. However, he refuses to speak with us, so you see Mr. Heiden, we have a problem. Agent Levitt, whose assessment I accept, believes you can solve it. Will you enlighten the others as to why you think this, Agent Levitt?”

Mr. Levitt expected this, he sounded as if he had rehearsed his reply. “If we needed nothing more than an interpreter, ours 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 I suspect we carry the fault for that. 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 view as repulsive and criminal, we need something more. In comes Mr. Heiden, with talents beyond that of an interpreter, from what I’ve witnessed, he is a strong intuitive empath.”

I just looked at him, not sure where he was taking it, and it seemed strange for someone to talk about me while in the room. He did say to follow his lead.

He continued. “An intuitive empath uses their native intuition to understand what someone says. They feel what others feel and draw others to them.” He 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. “Often, 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 means even when they speak in vague terms. I’ve even watched you know what people feel, and sometimes think, just by looking at them.”

I almost burst out laughing. “Please, don't hype me as a mind reader!” I said, not wanting the others to think he meant anything of the sort.

“Oh, I wouldn't accuse him of mind reading,” he told the others, “the impressions people give him he intuits into thoughts.” He bent down to look into my eyes. “You amaze me.”

Levitt had beautiful amber eyes. His closeness caused my breathing to become a little erratic, and a could feel my heart beating. But then 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, “Mr. Heiden works as a professional interpreter, he has fluency in the Japanese language and has studied the intricacies of Japanese customs. However, his skill as an intuitive empath 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 take long before our guest lowered his guard enough to talk to us.”

After some deliberation, they decided it couldn’t hurt to try. I found it hard to feel gratified with such a dismal level of confidence.

Levitt and I took the lift to what I mistook as the basement. Beneath the building, a veritable labyrinth of spacious, clean, groin vaulted rooms connected long and identical, barrel-vaulted corridors. If I hadn't seen the console tables on every wall with the potted plants, I expected to get sacrificed to the Minotaur.

“Let me out,” I said, musing over the words the man spoke. “You wouldn't have him locked up in some old dungeon down here, would you?”

Levitt and I stopped at one of the doors that looked as though he had chosen one at random; they all looked the same. “He intimidated them,” Levitt said, “and they felt threatened, so they locked him into an observation room. We have his things in here.”

Two people worked in the room, lined with large pieces of scientific equipment, various devices of sophisticated appearance, and several laptops scattered on tables. Levitt asked them to leave us. They nodded and told us Katheryn Elliot had informed them we were coming. Levitt 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 so we can talk here. I don’t know how much time we have, and I need you to listen. Okay?”

I agreed, and he had my full attention.

“I am sorry. I had nowhere else to turn. I need your help. A man named Cadmar, like Amaré, the man in the observation room, came to London to take me home. He has died, and the government has him in a facility somewhere. If I know the government, they will dissect Cadmar’s body. I must find him so that Amaré and I can take him home. His body cannot remain here. I need to retrieve him, but I can’t do that without you.”

I realized he was putting me on the spot, and no one likes that, but he looked so adorable, and I could feel his desperation. “What did you need me to do?”

“Amaré knows who I am, but he only speaks Japanese, and I don't. I need you to get him to talk to the people here. It doesn’t matter the topic so long as he keeps them busy. Tell him that we'll help him when we can.”

“Okay,” I said, “but what’s with all the 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.

“I wanted to become part of the Sharing,” he said. “To start that process, I became a student of the Trust, volunteering to come here to find people who would do well with us. I have an acquaintance in immigration who brought several asylees to my attention when each of you requested a work visa. He knew the Americans put you all into a ridiculous situation, so I made sure you got nudged in the right direction so you wouldn't have to struggle so much. Not every asylee took the help I gave them, but I recognized you at the party at Kensington Palace that night. I marveled at seeing how well you'd done. Since then, I had the thought that I would invite you to come with me when I leave.”

I didn't know what some of that meant, “I appreciate the help you gave me, but you didn't answer my question. Why me?” I asked again. I needed to hear him say it.

“When I met you at the party...I liked you in an instant, and I thought we might do well together.”

His words embarrassed me. “Okay, let’s...let’s set all of that aside for the moment. We’ll discuss that later. How do you know that about Cadmar?”

He turned to the table behind us and removed a cloth that covered what lay upon it; a sword and a sizable gold ring with a one-carat diamond embedded into it. He raised the beautiful, weighty sword to examine it. It looked like Amaré’s, but they made the round guard, grip, and pommel of a silvery metal, with Amaré’s made in gold, but both had two and a half foot, razor sharp blades. The front of the pommel on both swords had a kind of cup carved upon it. When Levitt flipped the sword over, I saw the name Cadmar embossed in high relief with the 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 had a modern appearance for such ancient weapons.

“He must have died,” Levitt said, “otherwise, he would have his sword with him, and more telling, he would never consent to remove his ring.” He held the ring before me. “Also, Amaré would come here for no other reason. I heard he can't stand to see this planet.”

What a curious thing to say. No doubt many people couldn’t stand to see the Earth, we find its destruction hard to watch. However, “be here for no other reason,” gave it a strange meaning.

I glanced over Amaré’s clothes. They consisted of a black shirt, a scarlet red, Asian style jacket of soft, flexible fabric that appeared stiff. The shoulders and sleeves had an exquisite, metallic gold embroidery, in an ivy motif. The designer had made his unusual pants of black twill and had installed a codpiece.

“Why does this have a codpiece?” I asked, trying not to laugh.

“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. A bit of an altercation occurred when Amaré arrived. No matter how proficient the swordsmen, projectile weapons will always win. They shot him with a tranquilizing dart in Surrey rendering him unconscious before they brought him here. They removed his clothing to examine them and disarmed him. I don’t know why they haven't return them. They tried putting him in something else, but nothing else would fit.”

“Wouldn’t he find that humiliating?”

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

“I've never heard of any place like that.”

“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 had all gotten a bit weird, but then I thought, “No one knew what the government knew, except the government.” I intended to take everything at face value at that moment. I didn’t know what to make of Mr. Levitt. I believed in his sincerity, so that encouraged me to believe him. I decided that so long as evidence didn’t contradict him, I would accept his claims on a tentative basis. 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, we know he does drink water, but 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 had gone too high. “How is that possible?” I glanced at Levitt.

Mr. Park displayed a full-body digital x-ray on his tablet. Levitt and I exchanged looks. Unless they kept him sedated, I doubted they had time to x-ray Amaré. If Levitt’s story held true, they had someone else on whom they could perform many tests. The x-ray showed anomalous non-biological components throughout the body, and inside the skill.

I could tell the scan excited Mr. Park. “He has various technological mechanisms throughout his body. 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 Ms. Elliot, “it’s someone similar who died in an accident involving an automobile. When the first responders saw his eyes, they told the police on the scene, and eventually, he came to us.”

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 Levitt had something to that intuitive empath stuff.

“I’m not sure,” Ms. Elliot said. “It might prove difficult. I would have to ask permission to show it to you, but the others have already gone. This is Saturday. I’ll ask, but you may not hear from me before Monday.”

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

“We record everything in the observation room,” said Mr. Park. “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, don’t keep him locked up and naked.” I shook my head. I hadn’t even met Amaré, but I knew they had treated him rudely, and it displeased me.

Ms. Elliot 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, Levitt and I went to speak to Amaré. The monitoring inside the room would limit the conversation. Some things needed open discussion, and I had many questions, but they would have to wait.

We had gone deep underground on that lower level, and they illuminated the space with an excessive amount of LED lighting. Between the carpet and the tiny white acoustic tiles covering every surface, we only heard the muffled patter of our shoes. The air felt dry with an odor typical of hyper purification, 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. I stood in a chamber twelve feet high, twenty feet wide, and ten feet deep. They had divided the room in half with a floor to ceiling, reinforced glass wall through which they drilled dozens of holes a bit larger than a two-pound coin.

The man behind the barrier appeared to sleep and hadn’t awakened. He laid nude on his back upon the bed that unfolded from the wall. The bunk they provided had the size of a standard twin bed, so he had to bend his knees to fit, and its width couldn’t hold his body with any comfort. The man had a considerable amount of muscle but not too excessive. To hazard a guess, he looked mid-twenties, with beautiful lustrous skin like fine silk the color of cinnamon. And from the angle, he had a handsome profile.

“Please, accept my apologies for disturbing you,” I whispered in Japanese. I loathed disturbing someone in repose. He opened his eyes but didn’t move. In such a simple motion, his calm and relaxed body language told me his circumstance hadn’t fazed him. He had slow and even-paced breathing, with a face that 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, at eight feet tall and commanding in stature. His predominant appearance had Japanese ancestry, but he also looked African. I knew that would make him Hafu in Japan and rejected as Japanese. From that new angle, I thought he looked handsome with short, well kept, jet black hair, and no facial hair or other body hair. Someone less confident might show more modesty, but this man stood tall like an emperor surveying his domain, holding a posture of distinction. 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, 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. I knew his name, but the officials there kept referring to him as “the man,” or giving him other euphemisms, which had grown 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 we had several silences. He motioned for me to come closer, so I moved to the glass. At the risk of rudeness, I looked up into his face and found myself unable to look away. Their beauty fascinated me. I saw Amaré’s eyes, those marvelous mechanical eyes. 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 he would find it most helpful.” He understood my intonation. He nodded.

My whole ordeal in Facility3 had ended by noon. My effort pleased Mr. Levitt on the “difficult matter,” as he described it, even though we had to wait until Katheryn informed us about viewing the body, which might not have happened until that Monday, if at all.

After what had transpired, my previous plans for the day, I had all but forgotten. I remembered that I had a reservation for a late lunch in a private parlor at The Tea Room, and due to the difficulty in obtaining it, it seemed a crime to waste the opportunity. Mr. Levitt agreed to enjoy a light lunch, tea, and a conversation. He surprised me by suggesting that we bring Maggie, and he apologized about the interference with our previous plans. I had no objections, but I had many questions to ask him, and I had no intention of allowing Maggie’s presence to alter my resolve to have some answers that day.

Once we made it up and out, I called Maggie with the invitation, and as I expected, she jumped at the chance to find out how things went.

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 noticed the strange continual absence of people at the flats across the street. “Mr. Levitt, has the council condemned that building 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. We use the excuse that the 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 they used to leave the flats empty, but put cars in the parking lot as a blind…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 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 do 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 formality 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, they had taken me to East London.

The cab arrived, we climbed in and told the cabbie where we wanted to go. I asked David, “Can we now talk about the situation?”

He shook his head, and said, “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 have no privacy.”

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

“I wish,” 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 seemed bad enough, but this was crossing a line.

“If you know these things,” I said, “what else is happening behind our backs?”

“You name it, they’re doing it,” he said, “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, the humans on this planet are experiencing, indoctrination, manipulation, intellectual suppression, oppression, repression, enslavement, domination, bodily contamination, narcotization, and infantilization the world over. It’s been going on for centuries.”

“Infantilization? ...really,” I said, disbelieving. “Okay, okay, for the sake of argument, let us suggest all that’s true. 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 a trite Greek metaphor, once Pandora opened the box, nothing could ever undo it.”

“I know that story,” I said. “When she released all the evils of the world, hope remained. Don't we always have hope?”

He thought for a moment. “Let me tell you how my world works, 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, we have those things and actions that serve us or those things and actions that do not serve us. This principle has allowed us fairness and objectivity. 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, in the future, things will get 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 don’t see themselves as 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 perpetuates itself. It’s the source of human misery and never-ending struggle. Is it any wonder that diversion is the greatest human pastime? So, do they have hope here? Sure, they have plenty, but I would suggest that hope is all that the people of this world have.”

It stunned me, “Where do you come from?” I asked him.

He looked at me and shook his head a little. “Not here.”

He had given me a vague answer, but I decided I probably would find out where soon enough. He couldn't or wouldn't tell me. As for his views, it sounded too devastating to think of it as true, but I identified with some of it. I admit having had a sense of bewilderment for how to fix the problems I saw, and I had sought diversion. No one could tackle such a complicated issue alone. So, small wonder that humanity chose distractions as the preferred method of not dealing with it. People have opposing ideas and beliefs. Things get pulled too many directions. Didn’t that come as an expression of freedom, or had that resulted from the manipulation he mentioned? Did we have the means to ensure fairness and objectivity? I didn’t know. If we thought we did, we had plenty of evidence that it didn’t work.

The Tea Room, a bright and open space with beautiful tables, fancy tablecloths, and gleaming tableware, had a few private parlors in high demand, one of which I had reserved for one o’clock. The cab arrived at 1:03. Maggie held our salon for us, and I noted she had changed to a lovely 1930’s French style, taupe colored tea dress.

Of course, we had our customary hug when we arrived. David also complimented her on her appearance and introduce himself, appropriately this time. Our surroundings cultivated a delightful genteelness while ordering and waiting for the staff to bring our tea. However, Maggie and I could get a bit spirited when we discussed things, and I knew we would soon get into it. The staff withdrew, once they placed the tea tray on the table, and the door snapped shut behind them to give us privacy.

“You can’t tell me what happened?” Maggie asked, expressing her loud disappointment. “Pourquoi (Why)?”

I tried to moderate my tone so she would do likewise. “Because, my dear, I signed a rather persuasive non-disclosure agreement. I don’t want to go to prison. That’s pourquoi.”

“Oh, I see. I might have known,” said Maggie, and paused to think about it. “In your case, as a non-British citizen, if they deported you to the United States it would lead to the same thing.”

I adored that I could reason with Maggie, and she was right. If they sent me back, the U.S. government would arrest me for crimes against their god. Of course, I didn’t believe in their authoritarian nonsense, but I could not underestimate them, even if it sounded like a joke.

“So, David,” Maggie said, stirring her tea, “what have you to say for yourself?”

David raised his eyebrows over the teacup from which he was sipping, “Me? What have I done?”

“I will not have you causing a rift between Rick and myself,” she said, teasing him. “You already have him keeping secrets from me. Who knows what might be next?”

“Well...I do have something to say to you both,” David said, placing his cup on the table between us.

“Oh? Anything the British Government hasn't made me privy to, or I haven't intuited yet?” I asked, smirking.

A smile bloomed on his face, “I have to use the lavatory,” he said, rising, “Please, excuse me.”

“Cheeky,” Maggie said to David as he left the room.

The instant he disappeared through the door, and it snapped shut, Maggie pelted me with questions. “Can you not tell me? You haven't played a joke on me, have you? Have the two of you had sex without telling me?”

“I must answer those questions with a resounding No. However, as odd as it sounds, David asked me to go away with him.”


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