The Warlord and the Traitor
Some days are bad days that only get worse. Jason was sure that his marriage was on the rocks. He had seen his lawyer in the morning to finalize his divorce papers. He then had an appointment to see the hematologist to discuss the results of his tests. The doctor told him the diagnosis. It was a terrible shock. The treatment was a nightmare.
A tear slowly moved its way across his cheek. He absently watched it fall onto his keyboard. He felt lightheaded and his chest was tight. He felt helpless. He was close to panic.
Jason vacantly looked outside. The grass was green. The garden was well reticulated, the flower beds tidy and well maintained, the neighbourhood calm, sedate, and well-established. It seemed so unreal. His house was a modern double story with Mediterranean style red tiles. It was large, a mansion with timber framed windows in dark wood. It was of attractive limestone making the home imposing and elegant. Their bank account was healthy.
In It was all meaningless. He would give it all up to be healthy.
He saw Lauren walking up the path. She was looking cheerful but a little weary. He heard the key in the front door.
“Honey I’m home,” she called out animatedly. Jason was dreading the conversation that they had to have.
“Lauren I’m in my study, please come in I have to tell you my bad news,” he called out.
Jason thought that she was truly a fine looking woman as he saw her coming through the door looking worried.
“What did the doctor say Jason?” Lauren asked anxiously.
“Not too good. He said that he was impressed that my family doctor had picked up the problem so early. He said that it was an early but nasty looking leukemia. He then went all through the treatment options. He said that I could have chemotherapy and at some stage it could be worthwhile knocking out my entire bone marrow and replacing it with stem cells to rebuild my system. It all sounds nasty,” Jason said sadly. Lauren sat quietly.
Jason believed Lauren had lost interest in him. In the last six months there had been something seriously lacking in their marriage of three years. There were great partners at work. Work was neutral territory. She tended to come home late often arranging evening meetings with clients. He knew the clients. Orders often followed the meetings. He was not suspicious about her behavior.
Their sex life had declined precipitously. She came across as cold and distant. She was a reluctant partner.
She was more cheerful for the past three days. He thought she might now be deciding to leave and was relieved with the decision. He dreaded a split as they had so much in common. They shared common interests, had similar religious beliefs, their families liked each other and they liked each other’s parents. They enjoyed each other’s friends and early on they could talk about everything.
They owned a business together. The business was highly successful. He could not see an easy way out.
He had often wondered if some other issue was weighing on her mind. He believed that there was some other explanation for what was happening, but they spent too much time together for her to be having another relationship.
They both watched a tall ungainly man in an ill-fitting suit walk up the drive and ring the doorbell. The warm humid air gently moved the white flowers near the door as he watched them and waited.
Jason opened the door. He looked out at the person who had interrupted the discussion with Lauren. He looked at the suit that just did not seem to be right. The material looked expensive but strange. Jason dressed well and knew his suits. It was a very strange cut but looked expensive but fitted poorly. He looked carefully at the fabric and noticed the blurred looking hounds-tooth pattern with a very odd stitch. The fabric looked fuzzy. The man’s face looked clear but his suit did not. The color of the man’s face was abnormally reddish. It did not look like sunburn or from the ravages of excessive alcohol.
“Mr. Canon? May I come in my name is Stan Johnson. I would like to talk to you!”
Jason noticed that it was a glorious day; a gentle wind was blowing through the rustling leaves. The colors seemed intense and saturated the sky a cobalt blue and the temperature balmy. His senses felt heightened.
Jason looked casually up and down the road. Busybody Mrs. Beckett peered at his guest. She craned her neck to get a better view of his curious visitor. She was a typical insufferable busybody, neighborhood gossip, snoop, and just plain meddler.
“What is this about?” Jason asked as he led his visitor inside. Stan Johnson didn’t have the feel to him of a salesman. Stan was very odd decided Jason. He could not decide exactly why.
“What is this about,” Jason asked again. He still partly expected him to offer to bless the house or sell a new broadband telephone. His whole appearance did not gel. Jason decided that he was old-fashioned. He looked awkward with an old-fashioned looking collar that went higher up his neck than was fashionable and he seemed uncomfortable in the clothes. He pulled at his neck tie and his collar every few minutes as if he was unfamiliar with wearing a tie. His hair was black and slicked down as if he was using hair cream. He reminded Jason of a character out of Dickens. He did not look like fashion would be something that interested him.
“Can I come in to discuss something of potential importance to you?” Stan said earnestly. “I can definitely say that you will not regret speaking to me. We have a great need of your services and I would like to discuss an offer with you.”
Jason led him through to the comfortable lounge/dining room open area. As he passed the study he looked in on Lauren and shrugged his shoulders.
“I think I will start on dinner,” said Lauren, “see what he wants, and if it’s relevant to me I will join you guys.”
Stan sat down awkwardly and opened an old briefcase. He removed an ancient -looking spectacle case and perched a pair of rimless glasses on the end of his nose. Jason looked at him suspiciously noting that the glass looked like plain flat glass.
“Thank you very much for meeting me. I have what I think is an interesting work proposal for you,” he said while moving what looked like a slightly smaller than the usual iPad in front of him. Jason craned his neck to have a look at the device. It didn’t have any distinguishing marks and the front of it looked like a typical screen. It seemed to have several symbols on the screen.
Stan provided a useful distraction for Jason from the distress of his discussion with Lauren. He was curious.
Jason looked very closely at Mr. Stan Johnson. It was very clear that his face color was exceedingly odd. It was just off. It was slightly too red.
Jason’s visitor spoke and he only recalled him saying “ ... What do you think?”
“About the proposal that I was making?”
“I am sorry I was momentarily distracted could you please explain it to me to me again,” Jason asked.
“Well,” he began again looking at Jason strangely, “my principals have an offer that they would like to make to you with respect to employment but before we make this offer we need to ensure that you would be able to travel. You would work away for a number of years?”
“How long are we talking about?”
“About 6 or up to 9 years,” he said without any hesitation.
Jason thought that it could have been an interesting idea if the issue was simply that of a way out of the marriage. His illness meant that the question could not even be considered. He however was still interested in the offer. “Can you explain a little bit more about this business proposal please?”
“The work that you would undertake would be within the scope of your skills and abilities, but the principals require that you be prepared to commit to a detailed confidentiality agreement and provisional contract before we can specify the precise nature of the work that you would undertake. The work will be like what you have done in the past. Some training will be necessary for you. The work will be stimulating, it is well paid, and on acceptance of your provisional confidentiality agreement we would offer you time over the course of this next week to get your affairs in order.” He looked at Jason deep in thought.
“Mr. Johnson please excuse me for a few minutes. I am going to discuss this with my wife. I will be back shortly,” said Jason standing up and moving towards the kitchen.
“Lauren, Mr. Johnson wants to offer me some kind of fly in fly out job in some remote location for a number of years. I would like you to join us as I need to give him the bad news,” said Jason close to tears.
Lauren walked with him back to the room. She looked at Jason. She saw that Jason was emotionally overwrought and spoke for him.
“Mr. Johnson, Jason has explained to me that you want to offer him a job. And that he will need to be away for quite some time.
“If the conditions had been right I would have been supportive, but the situation has changed and he will not be able to pursue the proposal any further. Today he got some very bad news about his health. He has a very serious illness that is going to need urgent medical attention. In all fairness we could not expect you to wait for him to have his treatment,” said Lauren emphatically.
“I am sure that my principals would be prepared to extend the preparation time from one to two weeks,” said Stan apparently not comprehending the seriousness of Jason’s predicament.
“Mr. Johnson,” said Jason tearfully, “there is a very good chance that the illness could be terminal. Even if I survive, the treatment will take many months. It is not reasonable for you to have to wait. I would suggest that you ask someone else, regrettably I will have to decline your offer.”
“We would be prepared to offer you treatment in our facility. I cannot say as medicine is not my specialty how long treatment will take, but there is a reasonable chance that we can offer you a better outcome,” said Stan in his monotone.
“I am not going to permit my husband to be subjected to some speculative treatment. Mr. Johnson, he has a very serious blood cancer and is going to be very ill even with excellent treatment. We previously had a friend who had the same illness and died despite the best of treatment. From what I know the treatment here is equivalent to the best of treatment that you would get anywhere in the world and I do not believe that your principals could have any better treatment!” Lauren stood as if to usher Stan from the room. Jason was looking as if he was going to burst into tears and she did not want to upset him further.
Stan Johnson remained seated and appeared to be thinking. Finally he seemed to make up his mind. “Then I must show you what treatment we have to offer. I will transport you to our facility. Might I suggest that you bring along your family and Jason’s family so that you can discuss what treatment we might have to offer you,” said Stan. “I do believe that there is a reasonable likelihood that we will be able to cure Jason quickly.
If I can show you our facility; that alone will have a high chance of convincing you. If not we will be disappointed. My principal specifically wanted Jason. He fulfills the criteria that my principal was seeking. I have been instructed to extend all our facilities for his use.”
“I can’t see what we have to lose in going to look at his facility. I’m really tired and I don’t know how far I can travel, but if he can offer me something fractionally better than what I’m currently being offered I would probably take it. The prospect of chemotherapy doesn’t fill me with joy. It is very toxic chemotherapy. The idea of wiping out my bone marrow with radiation and months in intensive care is not a joyful prospect. The hematologist said most people feel desperately sick, but many more than in the past are surviving.
“I cannot see this lot having anything any better. If it is not too difficult to get to their facility I am happy to go. A second opinion could also be of some value. I would really like my parents and sister along and I think that it is well worthwhile having your family accompany us,” said Jason still sounding upset.
Lauren called both sets of parents and Elspeth, Jason’s sister, to visit after dinner. She offered Mr. Johnson food, which he refused saying that he had already eaten, but said he would sit with them and chat at the table.
“Just call me Stan; there is no need to be formal.”
Lauren decided to pursue matters a little further. “Can you explain to me some about the financial arrangements and pay for the work? Can you also tell me whether there is a signing on fee? Also, can you tell me how long he is going to be away? I would like to point out that if he leaves so quickly it leaves me with a mess financially,” said Lauren ever the negotiator. “Also can you give me an idea about the length of the contract extensions as well as whether there are possible further extensions of the contract and how this would be paid? And who are these principals.”
“I expect that he would be away for six years of this time, I mean six standard American years and at this stage I do not propose any contract extensions beyond perhaps nine years, however if there is an overrun with respect to the work being incomplete, I am sure, that we will be able to negotiate a further extension. As far as a signing on fee is concerned can you give me an idea of what your expectation might be?” Stan replied and asked.
Lauren looked at him speculatively. Jason saw the twinkle in her eye which meant she was playing her negotiating game. “How about you pay Jason a simple $2 billion as a sign-on and then $2 billion a year or part thereof for each of the years that Jason works for you. As I must take off close to a full two weeks of work if Jason does go then a goodwill pre-payment of a million dollars should be sufficient. And then the signing on bonus would have to be prepaid when Jason agrees to the contract.” Lauren said with a smile on her face implying that if he was from around these parts Stan would know that such an arrangement was ridiculous.
“That is satisfactory in our view,” he said after looking at his iPad after tapping in the data, pressing the screen, and waiting for a few minutes. “Now,” he said, “you will find that the goodwill money is in your bank account and I require you to sign a confidentiality agreement!” He handed Lauren the screen and indicated that she needed to read the screen and place her signature in the designated spot.
“Before I sign, if Jason needs to take supplies with him, then it is prepaid by your principal,” Lauren asked.
“That is not a problem for us. Please sign and both of you put your thumbprints on this area. Your parents and any other family members will also have to sign the same confidentiality agreement.”
Jason looked at the text on the screen and it looked very strange like some sort of hieroglyphics and told him that he could not read it and it was all symbols.
“Just give me a few moments he said and I will sort that out, you might want to check your bank account while I sort it out.” He tapped away on his screen, and then seemed to shake it, and Lauren watched no further while she began to login to the bank.
“Here he said is a confidentiality agreement and the agreement to prepay you for your consideration for formal contract.” He handed Jason the iPad and he read through the agreement. “How do I sign,” Jason asked.
“Just place your five fingers on the screen and sign with the stylus,” he said while handing Jason a pen like device.
“I need to check on the bank.” Lauren turned back to their computer, “I just need to find my login gizmo to get one of the random numbers.”
“Do not worry he said here are the details on my screen.”
Jason was gobsmacked, but there was no way he was going to let Stan know how impressed he was with his level of technology. Sure enough, there was Jason and Lauren’s bank account proudly showing a couple of million dollars had been deposited. Lauren was sure that she had only asked for $1 million but who was complaining?
“I will need to know your decision by tomorrow morning at 8 AM, then we will sign your contract and you will have until Thursday noon, in two weeks to finalize your affairs. Tonight I will show you the facility and you will be back before midnight.” Stan looked very smug.
Lauren had cooked Jason his favorite meal; veal in wine sauce with lightly steamed vegetables. She opened their favorite Australian wine and laid the table, before they moved into the TV room to wait for their parents and Jason’s sister.
Both families arrived within a few minutes of each other. They all fondly greeted each other and were introduced to Stan. Jason noticed that both sets of parents grinned when they saw Stan and knowingly looked at each other.
“Stan has offered Jason a job where he needs to be away for several years. We do not feel that he can take the job. As you know Jason went to see his family doctor for a sore throat and he chose to do some investigations and as a result sent him to see a hematologist today. The hematologist told Jason that he has leukemia and is going to need some pretty drastic treatment. We all know what Audra went through and her suffering remains indelibly etched upon our souls. Stan however says that his principals can offer better treatment and offered further to take us to see the facility tonight with all of you in attendance. If you have any questions to ask before we leave I would suggest that you ask them of Stan,” said Lauren sounding quite upset herself.
“Stan, judging from your appearance and the facility that you are offering am I to assume that you are from the Empire and you have come to collect Jason?” Matt, Jason’s father said laconically, winking at both his wife and Lauren’s parents.
“Yes,” said Stan, “we will go to the ship this evening and Jason can speak to the doctor and probably we can sort out the problem immediately. Some of you may not be aware of what we are talking about, but I beg your indulgence and would suggest that you just simply come along with me and you will see what I mean. Before we go everyone needs to sign a confidentiality agreement.” This they did, and then Stan lead them out of the door and they all walked to the nearest park which was hundred and fifty yards from their house. Stan looked around and then touched his pad and all the Street lights nearby went out. He quickly lead them into the park, touched his pad again and they could see a vague shape and a ramp ahead of them in the dark. He led them quickly into his shuttle, seated them, then moved to the pilot’s position and said, “We will be there shortly.”
The shuttle could easily hold twenty people in the section that they could see. In front of the seats appeared a large hologram which showed their position relative to earth and to the moon. They had moved a long way in minutes. There was no sensation of movement. They could clearly see that they were further away from the earth than the Earth to the moon and were heading towards what looked like a large skyscraper suspended in space. It looked very much bigger than a skyscraper and as they got closer they could see it was colossal. It was like a very blunt wedge and looked as if it could fit fifty huge buildings within it. It was as big as a building built on a large city block that was 200 stories high.
A few minutes later they entered an iris that opened in front of them and found themselves in a cavernous bay. Four passenger liners could have fit through the iris together. When they walked out, the bay looked much larger than that of the space shuttle hangers. There were multiple shuttles of all types parked more than 50 layers deep. Some were many times larger than the shuttle that they arrived on. When Jason looked back at the shuttle he could see that it was much bigger than he expected. It looked as if it could carry at least hundred and fifty people.
Jason began to feel a sense of hope slowly growing within him. This was a mind blowing level of technology. His father had not wanted to answer any questions from him, Lauren or Elspeth on the shuttle. He had simply suggested that they wait and see.
A multi-seat driverless open vehicle headed their way. Stan seated them and they were rapidly transported to the medical area. Stan introduced them to the doctor. He excused himself saying that he had other matters to attend to and would return.
“I would like to welcome you to the ship and its facilities. Stan tells me that you are ill Jason. If you would like to head this way and climb into the pod, it will do the necessary evaluation and act as appropriate. We can then discuss any concerns and answer questions. You will probably be in the pod for 3 to 5 minutes. You will feel no pain or discomfort but it may well talk to you,” she said.
Jason felt that he had very little to lose and climbed up the two steps to get into the pod assisted by Lauren. He felt light headed climbing up the stairs and over the lip of the pod. Knowing about the leukemia made him feel weak and helpless.
The pod closed around Jason. He felt quite comfortable.
“Welcome to the medical facilities of the Empire. These facilities can diagnose and treat nearly all known medical problems,” said the disembodied voice of a very superior arrogant sounding woman. “The diagnostic module has completed its evaluation; the treatment module is commencing treatment; please wait two minutes.
“Treatment is completed, you are now fully well, you may evacuate the pod.”
The top split open. Jason sat up and climbed out carefully and cautiously. He saw his parents, Elspeth and Lauren’s parents sitting there calmly talking. Lauren was looking very tense and anxious. The doctor was nowhere to be seen.
Lauren asked, “How was it?”
“I climbed in, it was comfortable. The pod arrogantly said that it was able to diagnose and treat nearly all medical problems, then said diagnosing, then said treating and two minutes later the top opened.”
The doctor entered the room cheerfully whistling.
“Jason, you are fully well. As requested by Stan we did no optimizing of your DNA, but we have removed your early leukemia, chronic sinusitis and pollen allergy, your crooked broken arm was straightened and the cartilage in your left knee fixed. You were slightly shortsighted and that has been fixed. You had noise related ear damage that was also repaired. Before I forget your teeth were also straightened and whitened. I would suggest that all of you go through the pods. There is no reason not to.” She led each of them to a different pod and put them inside.
“Jason, for us curing leukemia is not complex medicine. It is two hundred years ahead for your technology. As Stan did not specifically say anything about the rest of your family, they will have the full treatment including gene optimization. What that means is any genetic risk factor that they have for heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or for that matter any illness will be diagnosed and rectified. It also means that they theoretically could live for thousands of years.
I understand you will be joining us and in fact you are the person we came to fetch. I will try and get Stan to agree to optimize your own DNA. There must be something else that is planned for you.”
Jason was so pleased that his leukemia had been fixed that he did not worry at all about his genetic risk factors.
A few minutes later he was joined by both families who were told what had been done. Stan returned and shipped them back to earth by 9:30 PM.
“I will be back by 8 AM tomorrow,” he told Jason and Lauren.
Both sets of parents simply grinned at Jason and Lauren and said that they would see them after they had spoken to Stan in the morning.
Lauren led Jason into the TV room and handed him a glass of wine.
“Jason there are a few things that I want to briefly discuss with you before we discuss your decision. The fact that they have fixed the leukemia is a great blessing and joy from my point of view.
“I would like to begin by apologizing to you about how I have been for the last six months,” she said holding her glass delicately, while she crossed her legs, distracting Jason completely from what she had said. She had gorgeous legs and was wearing a short skirt to mid-thigh and was wearing tan stay up stockings giving him a glimpse of her thigh and a flash of her panties. Jason knew that she loved to tease him. She only teased him when she was in a very good mood.
“If I may have your attention up here,” she smiled, “it may be all too late for us, but I owe you at least some explanation. We married three years ago, and you have still not got over Audra. There is no use arguing,” as Jason was about to speak, “you have been telling me you have been battling with our relationship while still loving her and not able to fully love me!” She began to tear up and as Jason went to put his arm around her she pushed it away from herself but not in an unfriendly way saying, “I have to finish telling you and your arm will only distract me.”
Jason was puzzled. Audra was his first girlfriend whom he fell in love when she moved to their school when they were both 15.
Their relationship was wonderful on so many levels. Audra had changed schools and first met Lauren. Lauren had become her best friend. Jason had known Lauren ever since his arrival in Australia and she lived two doors away from Jason. Jason and Lauren became good friends. He happily accepted that the two girls became best friends. Lauren had had several acquaintances but never previously had a best girlfriend. Jason met Audra through Lauren.
Jason had always been shy. He was too embarrassed to ask anyone for a date. Audra was a warm gregarious happy person who quickly fitted into school socially and academically and was an active participant in the school swim team. Audra approached Jason about six weeks after she transferred to the school and suggested that they go to a movie. She told him that she asked him as he was very slow to make his move and she did not want to die before going out with him. Those were fateful words!
She and Jason were inseparable. They studied together, laughed together, and trained every morning in the pool. His parents loved her and her parents loved Jason as well. He and Lauren had never established a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.
Jason later understood that Lauren was simply waiting for him to make the first move. Audra had asked her about Jason and she had given Audra encouragement to approach him. She thought Jason did wish to approach her.
At the last school swimming competition of the season, Audra performed poorly in her race. She complained for a week to her parents that she was too tired to train. She had a severe nosebleed when she climbed out of the pool. Her mother took her to their family doctor. It took only two days before leukemia was discovered and confirmed. Treatment commenced with a famous hematologist at one of the major teaching hospitals. Treatment made no impact on her illness and she deteriorated very quickly. Developed a nasty pneumonia and died suddenly. It was twelve weeks from diagnosis to death.
Audra had been optimistic. She was a much stronger person than Jason had been during her illness. She was his soulmate, the love of his life, the bedrock of his existence and the woman that he was going to spend the rest of my life making happy. He was powerless, grief stricken, and inconsolable. Towards the end he was in a perpetual daze. He hardly remembered the funeral. He could not support himself at the graveside. She had lost a third of her body weight by the time she died. Jason could easily lift her and help her to the toilet before she went on the intravenous medications and antibiotics in the hospital.
Jason hardly remembered his period of grief. He remembered the nagging pain knowing that he was to lose her. He lost her so quickly. The remainder of the year went past in a blur. Jason dragged himself through every day at school, trained mechanically and did his homework. Lauren grieved for her own best friend, but was a huge comfort along with Jason’s sister and parents. He felt he survived but did not live the next year. He slowly recovered his interest in school and sport.
Lauren and he became closer. She had always been a touchy-feely kind of person. Slowly a relationship formed and they gradually became progressively more intimate, usually at her instigation. She was a gentle warm loving person, had delightful sense of humor. She could lift Jason out of his miserable black hole. She had very supportive parents. Her mother was warm and supportive. She became a second mother to Jason.
Audra’s parents moved away soon after she died and he heard that her father had a major breakdown and could no longer function independently. They moved into a retirement home.
Jason’s family was similarly very supportive. Jason’s father was on contract in Western Australia with his company. The company headquarters was in Texas. He had been in Australia for eight years. He was an engineer working in the oil and gas area and had met Jason’s mother while at MIT. She was getting a Masters in electronic engineering and her parents lived in New York. Jason’s mother continued working in microchip design for her father’s company in New York while in Australia and was easily able to organize her work and family responsibilities. She was a great mother to Jason and his sister. She loved Lauren as she had loved Audra. She had always felt as did Lauren’s mother that as Jason and she matured they would fall in love.
Jason’s maternal grandpa used to call at least two or four times a week to video conference with his mother. Ten years previously, he wanted to talk to Jason together with the rest of the family. He explained that he had set up a trust fund at Jason’s birth. He wanted to support his interest in information technology. He said it was very much in the family genes.
He suggested that Jason do his postgraduate studies at one of the Ivy League universities. He could easily get Jason into MIT after he had shown the Dean Jason’s results. He wanted Jason to apply. He did say that he was really sure that he could get Jason into MIT even without him having to make a donation! Jason did tell him that his mother had encouraged him to make such applications and he was quite advanced in his preparations.
Jason felt that at any time in the future even though his parents were quite settled that they might well be returning to the States. Elspeth, his sister, was also intending to study further in the States and Jason could see the draw of grandchildren taking them back. His mother was very close to his sister and his sister was close to her grandparents both in Texas and in New York. His sister was exceptionally able intellectually and was interested in following the same field as his mother.
Elspeth wanted to enter the burgeoning field of biomedical engineering and had already spent a period of time in an elective in that area in Melbourne, Australia during her summer vacation. She was very excited that she had already received a job offer from them when she graduated!
Jason thoroughly enjoyed his time at MIT. He visited home in Perth twice a year and caught up with Lauren who also went into information technology and did her postgraduate studies at the University of Western Australia. She was doing exceptionally well. She had the idea of a company already mapped out to fill a niche in the oil and gas process control and dynamic reporting area.
Jason’s father had been contracting programming work for her to undertake in process control. He told Jason that she had exceptional abilities and could work very rapidly. He said that having her part-time while still at university, was better than half of his programming team, who he described as a useless bunch of turkeys.
Lauren said that the software would have international implications and Jason’s father, mother and even her father was quite happy to help support her in forming the company. Grandpa and Jason’s mother both believed that they could design some specialist hardware that could interface more efficiently with the software to regulate and switch on and off some of the processes.
As Jason and Lauren both moved on to postgraduate studies, she tried to persuade him to join her to form a company. She was ambitious to build an international company.
Jason did receive a number of interesting offers for work in the States, but chose to take the opportunity to spend another few years back in the pleasant West Australian sunshine where he could further pursue his interest in surfing. He did think of California, but his family was in Perth. He loved the feel of the city where he had grown up for much of his life.
Jason returned home with a doctorate. Lauren was well advanced in forming her fledgling IT company and already had some significant contracts with several mining companies for software development. She had three people on staff.
Jason enjoyed the full court press. She wined and dined him and persuaded him to join her as an equal partner in the company. He was quite amused by her sales skills and energy and innovation and was really impressed with some of the work that she was accomplishing. She had built the company without using anyone else’s capital and had obtained with her parents help a small loan from the bank to provide her with a few small bits of hardware and software. Her first sales and consulting work were to Jason’s father’s company. He was very happy with her and promoted her across his company internationally. Other sales and consulting work followed quickly. She was rapidly establishing an international reputation.
Jason found himself quickly lured into doing more work and finally joined her after two short months.
Within another two months he found himself somehow engaged to be married, not being entirely sure when he had proposed, and within another few months Lauren and he were married. The marriage to him was never one of great passion, but they were a great partnership and he felt very close to her. The years passed quickly. He suddenly noticed that Lauren was drifting apart from him. Lauren had got more involved in marketing and the beginnings of international sales, but the transition into less intimacy, less communication and more coldness from her was a rapid one.
“Over the last three years,” she said to him carefully,” since we moved in together I have never told you, that you tell me after you fall asleep exactly what you are thinking feeling and planning. I could ask you questions and you answer fully and truthfully.
“Spontaneously you begin to talk about what is on your mind. For three years, you have told me about your turmoil and grief from the loss of Audra. You have told me of your anger that she left you. You could not reconcile yourself to her loss. You told me all about your struggles to love me and the fact that you just could not love me as deeply, as passionately, and as completely as you loved her.
“You told me that even though we were compatible on many levels that you just could not fall in love with me and give yourself to me. Even when I asked whether you could still retain the love for her and have a love for me you said that you believed that you were a one-woman man and that you had your one-woman. You felt that you would grieve for her for the rest of your life.
“In the beginning, I believed that this would change. I believed that the passage of time and of spending time together you would change your mind.
“Six months ago I began to feel despondent. I had been thinking that it was time that we would have children. You never spoke about having children with me. I recall that you had talked, when you were younger about your wish to have a household of children. In your dreams, you described yourself as not being able to fulfill your ability to have children, as you had lost that with Audra.
“My hope began to disappear and I began to feel desolate. It was only a month ago that you began talking of your fears about what I was doing. You were thinking of getting your affairs in order and terminating the marriage. It was then that I went to see a psychiatrist reconciled to the end of our relationship and believed that we needed to go our own ways. I thought you needed to be able to let go and move on. I wanted to discuss with you where we went. Now I suspect that other events will determine our future.”
Jason felt very sad for Lauren. He would have never wished to cause her pain. He did not consciously realize that he could not let Audra go. He could not criticize Lauren for the enormous effort she had put in to their relationship and finally giving up in the end. She had done everything she could. She had put in years of effort. He felt that he had failed her.
“I am so desperately sorry and sad that it has come to this,” he said, “I feel guilty for wasting so much of your time and effort. I feel that I failed you. You did nothing wrong. The sad thing about it is that at a conscious level I did not know that I could not let go. When you tell me about what I have said in my dreams it does not seem real.”
Lauren looked at Jason with her eyes glistening. “I think you should take the job,” said Lauren decisively. “Yes,” she said “I believe that we can sort everything out, separate out our affairs, and divorce if you want to. You owe them your life. I think our parents will be supportive of your decision. They already know of this Empire and seem to be expecting this call.”
“Lauren, we now have two million in the bank. I now understand what the situation is and I see this as breathing space. If you want a divorce and want to move on we can do that. Time is running out on your biological clock. I need to find out if I can return to Earth for a holiday after a year or two.
I will give you signed divorce consent prior to my going which you can hold and act on as is needed. I have already instructed the lawyer to prepare the documents a week ago. The documents are ready except for an agreed settlement. I would be happy to give you the two million dollars, and give you my half of the business. You can keep half of what is coming.
“As you know the amount they propose paying me is ridiculous, but after he left I checked the bank account again. I am so relieved that you were not having an affair. I just want you to be able to have a loving fulfilled relationship with someone who is not half a person like I am.
You deserve so much better, and I bitterly regret that you have had to suffer through trying your best with a man who not even himself realized how confused he was. You are truly a fine woman, attractive, no beautiful, a warm giving person okay with get this off, a woman who comes from and brings a wonderful family. I have let you down. I have been asleep, unaware of your needs, a hurtful insensitive man. I have gone on not thinking, not appreciating the wonderful woman you are, the giving caring person that you have been. I have not appreciated that I was depriving you of your needs while being preoccupied with the past and past grief. I feel myself as callous and insensitive, by not giving you the love and affection that you deserved.”
Lauren thought for a moment and replied pensively, “The problem is that I love you and have always loved you as you love her. Up until six months ago I could cope. I can now cope again and I will manage again. I do believe that you need to follow your destiny. I cannot see myself having another man.” She held Jason’s hands, kissed him gently on the lips, and suddenly ran from the room. Jason debated with himself as to whether to try and comfort her, but sat considering all that Lauren had told him.
Stan arrived as expected at 8 AM. Lauren had taken the day off to help with arrangements and to meet with Stan. Jason asked him if she could read the contract on his behalf and if they both be bound by confidentiality in so doing. He had no difficulties with this and produced another confidentiality document for both to sign and then gave her his iPad to read the document. When she asked him if she could have a copy to read it in paper form, he told her that it would be printing on the printer in Jason’s study.
They had four printers in the house. There was only one fast one and it was an inkjet that they used when they were printing many documents for seminars. Jason had connected it directly to his computer. She continued reading on the screen and then told Jason to go and pick it up in the study as a pop-up had indicated that printing was complete. So much for security thought Jason. Stan had bypassed firewalls and security software with ease. Jason collected the contract in the study. He handed his wife the document.
They both sat quietly as she read through the document. She was a very, very fast reader. As she went along she had marked several places with a pen. She sat down and looked at him quizzically.
“Jason this is a clearly written contract. The nature of your duties is so vague that it could cover any kind of job. You are going to travel there for over a year but will come back very quickly. My impression is that you are going back to the Empire for an unspecified purpose.”
She then turned and looked at Jason. “Darling,” she said “ I know that you may be keen for an adventure and you have been watching how all of this evolved with a great degree of interest, as have I, however if we continue with this charade let us all be entirely clear about what you are going to let yourself in for.”
“The technology you have, Stan, is amazing. We are grateful that you have cured him of leukemia. Can you give me some idea of the risks that he is going to face?” Lauren asked.
Jason inexplicably recalled a lengthy but cryptic conversation that he had had with his grandfathers. Both indicated that they were much older than they looked. They had come to Earth as part of a mission from the Empire. They did not know the purpose of the mission. They hoped that the Empire would recall them at some time. They wanted to alert Jason to his heritage
The grandfathers indicated that they had prepared Jason as well as they could. It was of critical importance that he build up his information technology skills, kept himself highly disciplined, undertaking martial arts and meditation and actively participated in sports.
He needed to be socially skilled and participate in activities where his political skills could evolve. They could not explain further.
“Jason our family and our close friends are all from the Empire. This is not a fairytale or a story. The Empire was much more advanced than Earth. We traveled to the stars. The technology was years ahead. I hope that all of us will be able to go back. It may be you and some of the younger generation who return. Do not tell others about this. There is not much else we can tell you,” was the message.
Jason knew that this was what they were talking about. Jason’s parents easily accepted the battleship and the prospect of Jason leaving.
“Is some sort of experimentation going to be done on Jason?” Lauren asked directly
Stan looked at her cogitating for a few moments.
“He is going to fly back to the Empire in a battleship. There are no known risks to him on this journey. There are no known risks to him working in the Empire. The Empire does have a problem of reducing population. The men have reduced fertility but I do not see how that will impinge on Jason. We are returning him to the Empire safely. There has been some thought that our faster flight increases fertility risk. It does not affect women. We are flying back slowly to protect Jason as much as we can.
“We are flying into a different galaxy. We will protect Jason in our ship. The kind of work he does is safe. We regard life as precious. The cities are safe. It is a huge investment from my principal to bring him back to the Empire. From what I know he should be at lower risk in the Empire than he would be on his own planet.” Stan smiled.
“He will participate fully in our society and will try and adapt to that society. It will not be easy. The Empire is 60,000 years ahead of this planet. The Empire sent your families here. That much I do know. I do not believe that I am fully informed as to the reasons that Jason alone is recalled.”
Lauren looked at him and then at me. She raised her eyebrows as if asking was there anything that I wanted to ask of him. I indicated with my hand that she was to continue.
“Can you then tell me what kind of communication I can have with him and in view of the distance what will be the delay in communication? I assume that there is at least some possibility of communication and would like to know if we could have video communication, voice, hologram, or any other concept that is part of your societal communication methodology?” Jason liked that question. She smiled warmly at Jason. “This man is the love of my life, and I would like to keep in contact with him!”
“During our travels in the first phase; communication is very difficult. We cannot at that time readily communicate. Visual communications will be impossible and there will be a significant time delay in communications. That will be,” while looking down at his pad, “a delay of 14.2 seconds for symbolic communication.
“I will arrange to establish a system that would look like your messaging or e-mail systems. There would however be no limit to these communications. No limit except at times when we are about to shift phase. To try and explain it in your terms, we move through the fabric of time and during times where we need to move through what your mathematicians think of as shortcuts from one end of the galaxy to the other. However, the duration of those changes in phase is rarely more than a minute or two.
“Once we get to our destination it will be much easier. I will leave a communications satellite to undertake the necessary functions. I will leave you a communications device. I am sure that it will work well for you. It powers itself indefinitely. You will simply need to talk to the device, and it will recognize your voice. You simply speak into the device and it will recognize your speech and it will convert it into text. It will teach you how to make corrections.”
“What rights does he have in the Empire?”
Stan looked taken aback. In some way he looked almost stunned. “He will have full rights in our society. We are bound by strong ethics.” He looked at Lauren and said in a triumphant tone, “his family and your family come from the Empire. The Empire is recalling Jason. He is not going to be the subject of experimentation.”
“I am concerned that Jason is going to become impaired in the Empire. Something must be causing the fertility problem. I am going to think about this. I want to protect Jason. I am greatly complemented however that my husband is your choice. He is a fine man. I will miss him.
Lauren turned to Jason and said, “I hate living on my own. I will rattle around in this house. I think I will try and see if I can find someone to share the house.”
She then turned to Stan and said, “Will you do anything to change him physically when you get your hands on him?”
“I do not think he is at significant risk from exposure to the Empire. We are not in as much of a bind as you assume. We do have a fertility problem that we cannot solve in the short term. People do live for a very long time. We do have very superior medical technology. The Empire will resolve its problems in time. The Empire has decided not to optimize his genes. He will travel back in the safest way. Once Jason is in the Empire it will not be my decision. The one thing that I can say is that whatever happens to him will be his decision.”
“We can change people in many ways. We can correct and prevent all the chronic illnesses and enhance immune function enormously and deal with most illnesses and injuries highly efficiently and effectively.
“Your husband will be expected to work within our society and participate in our society at many levels. I do believe that he will make a rapid adaptation to our society and will be able to participate socially and recreationally as well as undertake a significant amount of work.
“At no time, will he feel that he is an experimental subject. That is not to say that people will not be interested in him and in these times and in this planet. He will become a public figure. He enters the Empire with a powerful sponsorship. We cannot hide his past. He does look a little different to us. His color is less red than our population. Some have a color a little more on the blue spectrum. He is bulkier, and has more body fat. He has more facial and body hair. He has many skills that will help him adjust and adapt.
“Your society has evolved to a sufficient level where you can easily adapt to our level of technology. We do have learning machines that will be very quick and useful. They will help your adaptation Jason.”
He turned and looked at them both. He then turned to Lauren. She looked at Jason and smiled. She then turned to Stan, “What questions should I be asking you that out of my own ignorance of the issues were not answering because you’re telling me some selective information?” She looked at Jason and winked.
Lauren knew that Stan was operating within an ethical framework. She was now asking him a question that forced him to reveal information they might not otherwise have told them. He looked at her; he smiled and then moved to the next part of his explanation.
“The Empire is organized differently to this planet. The Emperor has four kings that are responsible to him. There are trillions of people in the Empire. There are thousands of planets. The Empire spreads over 1/3 of our galaxy. The culture has evolved over a long time but it is not hugely different from some of the cultures here. It is a very disciplined society, but it is also a very permissive society. The women are much more aggressive than men in the Empire. Many men are much more frail than in this population. The Empire is very permissive with partners. Sexual disorders and unplanned pregnancies do not happen. Jason will be in a city and free to do as he wishes.” He looked quizzically towards Lauren.
Lauren paused for a moment before saying, “Stan I would like some physical changes to be made to me. There are several improvements that I would like to make in myself.” She looked a little embarrassed.
“Yes,” he said, “we can do that. We cannot do that for you this trip. As this is private to you I will show it to you alone.” He handed her his device. “The reason is there on your screen but I ask you not to communicate it.”
She looked down at the iPad and blushed. She handed it back to Stan.
“Yes,” she said, “I do understand very well.”
That did not end the negotiations. Lauren asked for an adjournment to consider some issues and then proceeded to negotiate round two.