Journey of Rick Heiden Ch. 25-26

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All Rights Reserved © 2018, Rick Haydn Horst

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.

This novel contains 50 chapters.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

The OD green helicopter appeared quite old, but undoubtedly post-Vietnam war era, and it made too much noise for conversation. The pilot handed me a headset so we could speak to one another. I turned in the seat to witness companions donning hearing protection. I had the only other headset. David waved at me and smiled.

“I’m Sarah Turner,” our pilot said, “and I know you’re the people from the other planet. You’re Rick, right?”

Even over the yell-speak necessary to hear one another, I knew our pilot, and her unmistakable accent hailed from Australia. This woman in her late thirties had golden blonde hair and tanned skin. By the age of her green flight suit, both she and her helicopter had long passed any active military duties.

“It’s good to meet you,” I said. “And yes, I’m Rick. How well known are we?”

“That’s hard to say,” she said, “I know the internet has people buzzing about you all. It started with that American senator quitting and mentioning Mr. Levitt back there. There’s a new website that just went up in the last few days dedicated to information about all of you with photos from amateur paparazzi.”

“Really? That’s the first we’ve heard of it. So, how did you end up our ride?”

“I live local in Manila. At first, they roped me into it, but once they told me your names, I jumped at the chance. It’s not every day you get to meet people from another planet.”

I laughed. “We’re still human, you know.”

“I gathered that,” she said and laughed. “So, did you really bring us the cure to virtually everything?”

“In a roundabout way,” I said.

“How can I get it?” she asked.

“Contact KGSC in Tokyo. They’ll begin producing it in gelcap form soon, or so we heard. It only takes one pill.”

“That’s amazing,” she said. “I will also fly you to Japan. So, perhaps, I should drop by Tokyo on the way back.”

“Do you have a piece of paper and a pen?” I asked.

She pointed to the clipboard between the seats. I wrote a note to Yukiko telling her that our pilot, Sarah Turner, helped us to Japan, and if she could please send a pill of the enhancement to her, I would appreciate it, and I signed my name.

“I know the CEO of KGSC,” I said. “Her name is Yukiko Takeshita. I’ve printed her name here too. She’s returning to Tokyo. It will take a few days, but if you take this note to her assistant and give them your address, I’m sure they could arrange something.”

She seemed pleased, but who wouldn’t be?

“You know,” I said, “I would have thought that a helicopter couldn’t fly this far.”

“It normally couldn’t, but you can get refueled in the Spratly Archipelago if you know where to go.”

It took a couple of hours for us to get to Manila. The helicopter landed with little more than fumes in the tank.

I hadn’t expected much from an airport in Manila, but well-known commercial airlines were flying into the port. We had only thirty yards distance from where we landed at the helipads to our jet, but we wouldn’t risk breaking the rules by walking down the taxiway to reach it. That forced us to scale an old chain-link fence. It felt a bit awkward, like jumping into a neighbor’s backyard to swim in their pool. I wouldn’t do that, so it left me with the impression that we were doing something we shouldn’t. I knew that the old terrestrian programming was working on me again. One shouldn’t cross fences, yet there we were.

Aiden paused with one leg over the fence. “Will we steal this jet?”

“Oh, so it’s not just me then,” I said. “That’s a comfort.”

Sarah laughed. “No, it’s mine.”

The big, sleek, white jet had a curvy red stripe and seemed only a few years old by the look of it. It had seating for twelve passengers, and the setting looked more like half lounge half aircraft. It had cushy, white leather seats, a built-in sofa, a dining table banquette, a bar, television, a full galley, and a spacious lavatory with a shower.

“What sort of plane is this?” asked Cadmar.

Sarah turned around, and there he stood with his height and handsome features. For a moment, she stopped, staring speechlessly into his synthetic eyes. I knew the feeling well; it was mesmerizing. “I fly corporate bigwigs around,” she said, distracted by his eyes. “You are something.”

Cadmar smiled. “I’m just a man.”

Her eyes darted down his body. “Aren’t you, though,” she said and went back to performing all her preflight checks.

It took about an hour to get the plane ready to leave, and we settled in while we waited. David sat with his arm around me on the built-in sofa as we faced the others seated in the banquette.

I put up a hand. “Does anyone else worry about this besides me?” Everyone else put up a hand, except maraş escort David. “David, do you mean to tell me that you’re not worried? Would you tell us why? Perhaps, we’ll feel better about it.”

“Oh, I’m worried, but not about this,” he said. “I have no doubt we will get to Japan. My worry lies with the Americans. They know our destination. If we’re lucky, they think they have a few more days before our arrival on the Torekkā Maru. They will have become emboldened by their apparent success at taking over Painshill Park. That could make them more dangerous than before, but we may have the element of surprise on our side, so we’ll have to see.”

“Oh, David. That didn’t help at all,” I said.

David hugged me and smiled. “I’m sorry, just being honest. So, Aiden, Cadmar, what’s the plan for the drone? Have you checked it over?”

“It may sound obsessive,” said Cadmar, “but I’ve checked it daily, and it’s fine.”

“We have a simple plan,” said Aiden. “As we land, we initiate the program. The drone will cloak itself and escape the instant the door opens. From that point, it gets its bearings and begins scanning. Japan has a larger landmass than the British Isles, so without a lot of luck, it could take a long time to find it.”

David turned to me. “Didn’t you tell me that the original inhabitants of Jiyū lived near Mount Fuji?”

“I forgot all about that,” I said. “Their cryptic abandonment of the sun had me preoccupied. Try searching around Mount Fuji first.

Aiden nodded. “Will do.”

“What will we tell the rest of our people who made it to Japan?” I asked David.

“I could make an encoded post about where to meet,” Aiden suggested.

“Yes, of course, but where?” asked David.

“You visited Japan, Rick,” said Maggie.

“I’m not sure, though,” I said. “Have you ever been to Japan, Rocke? You did work for KGSC.”

He shook his head. “Sorry, I worked for a branch of KGSC in Paris.”

“I see. Well, I think my trip to Lake Motosu brought me closest to Mount Fuji. If I remember, it had a parking lot near the dock where my friend had a boat on the eastern side. We could go there.”

“Then Lake Motosu, it is,” said David.

Sarah indicated we should take a seat and buckle up, so we did. “I have finished the flight checks,” said Sarah. “We can depart. Would anyone care to play co-pilot?” Most of us shook our heads. “How about you?” she spoke to Cadmar, smiling.

“I best not,” said Cadmar, then laid his hand on Rocke’s back, “but Captain Rocke Dupré here, apart from being a ship’s captain, is also a qualified and licensed pilot.”

“Oui, I am willing and able,” said Rocke.

Sarah smiled. “You’ll do, come on. Oh, and if anyone gets hungry, there’s a fully stocked kitchen in the back. Just give us a few minutes to get in the air. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to move about the cabin.” Sarah and Rocke left for the cockpit, where the door remained fully open.

“Well,” David said, his head tipping into the aisle to watch them, “Rocke’s truly a man of many talents. What else does he do?”

“Really,” said Aiden, doing the same, staring into the cockpit.

“Who knows?” I asked rhetorically. “Hey Cadmar, has he been an astronaut too?”

“He considered seeking a position as a spationaut for France, but he became ill and didn’t bother,” said Cadmar. “Maybe Rocke can help rekindle Jiyū’s space program.”

“Sounds like a challenge he would enjoy,” Aiden said.

David sat there, shaking his head slightly in astonishment. “I am so pleased he’s coming with us,” he said, watching Rocke settle into the co-pilot seat.

“I admire Rocke,” Cadmar said. “He’s pretty fearless.”

“Does Jiyū not have a space program?” Maggie asked Aiden.

“Not one where people go into space, and not for hundreds of years.”

With the cabin door closed and latched, the jet engines with their high-pitched whine sounded quieter than most commercial jets I’d flown. Apparently, most airlines hadn’t made aural comfort a significant priority.

In half an hour we could unbuckle our seatbelts and move about the cabin. After a quick trip to the lavatory, Maggie and I checked our food options. We had full meals in the freezer and complete instructions by the ovens in Filipino –another language I didn’t know. Fortunately, the writing came with drawings of what to do, and I had the smarts to figure it out. Every white-boxed dinner had words we couldn’t read inscribed upon them, so we had no idea what meals they contained. Everyone decided to take it as it came, whatever the result. I brought two boxes to the cockpit to see which one our flight captain, Sarah, and Rocke, our co-pilot wanted, but they didn’t care.

“So, how’s Rocke doing as co-pilot?” I asked Sarah.

She shrugged. “I don’t know, but he’s a first-class pilot. He’s flown the jet the entire time. I spoke to the tower, of course, but he’s done all the work. If he weren’t going with you, I’d hire him.”

“Rocke, vous êtes une merveille (Rocke, you are a wonder),” I said to him, patting his shoulder.

“Merci (Thank you),” he replied. “What maraş escort bayan time is dinner?”

“I’m uncertain,” I said. “Dinner will be done eventually.”

According to Sarah’s estimates, we would reach Toyama in three and a half hours, at 7:30 p.m.

After dinner, which turned into an utter travesty, with the unidentifiable brownish-gray meat of questionable texture, most of us dozed while Rocke flew the plane. Sarah monitored for safety purposes.

Cadmar sat sideways in the banquette next to the window, looking out at the brilliant sun, slowly sinking beyond the horizon in the distance. Everyone else was sleeping except him and me, so I figured we would have a whispered chat. I stood next to him. When he turned to noticed me, I saw his eyes change. I suspected he was using a filter to watch the sunset. The light made me squint to look at it. Smiling, he tapped the seat next to him. I didn’t want our conversation to awaken anyone, so we spoke into one another’s ear.

“I bet that looks gorgeous with those eyes of yours,” I said.

“It is! I’ve never flown this high before,” he said. “It’s beautiful. I see why Rocke likes this so much.”

“You like Rocke, don’t you?” I asked.

He looked at me with a smirk. “David told me you might ask.”

“Oh, he did, did he?” I asked, glancing over at David, sleeping on the sofa. “You’re quick to catch on.”

“He told me he couldn’t explain, so I’m willing to help you understand relationships on Jiyū, or at least how my relationship works.”

“I would appreciate that if it’s not too personal.” I felt strange, having such an intimate conversation with Cadmar. In several years, I had only allowed myself such closeness with David. I tried to keep a more friendly distance, but there’s something about the olfactory senses. When I detect certain scents, I find it almost impossible to stop myself from inhaling more.

“No, you’re fine,” he said with his mouth mere inches from my ear. “Unlike marriage on Earth, committing with a mate on Jiyū doesn’t include ownership of the other person in any sense. The question is, to what do you commit? Well, that would depend. You and David –either spoken or unspoken– have committed solely to one another. But like many people on Jiyū, Tamika and I have pledged to procreate with no one else. She will seek no other man to be her mate, and I will seek no other woman to be mine. We chose to make that commitment because we love one another, and we want to commit to no one else. This way, all the children she bears will be full siblings, and we can raise a family together. So, until that time comes, we do what couples do, we build a life together.”

He paused a moment, and he began whispering at a slow and casual pace. “From… From everything I know about it, humans on Earth have a backward and unhealthy obsession with sex. Many Earth cultures turn something useful and beautiful into something dirty, divisive, exploitative, and forbidden outside of specific marital contexts. On Jiyū, we recognize that sex serves more than one purpose. Besides its procreative qualities, it can bring people together, and most people there don’t view sex as inextricably linked to a commitment. If it happens for good reasons, and with the right person, you can become closer to them –like a physical form of the Sharing as a member of the Trust. Sharing with someone, in any manner, is an intimate thing, and most of us don’t take such things lightly. Whether you’re sharing a meal, a memory, a problem, or an emotion, these are all far more intimate things than most humans perceive on Earth. When it comes to relationships, we get to decide how much of ourselves we share with someone else, regardless of the kind of relationship it is, but that’s a new concept for you.” –he took a deep breath– “You’re understandably curious to know if Rocke and I have had sex, and the answer is yes, but it’s a separate thing from my commitment to Tamika.”

“Isn’t that just taking advantage of Rocke’s pheromonal connection to you?” I asked.

“It could be, but not after Rocke and I discussed it. He’s okay with how things are. The connection hasn’t made him love me; it expresses itself in attraction and infatuation, but not to the point he would do something he didn’t want to do.”

“Will he always be infatuated with you?” I asked.

“To a certain extent, and I to him, now,” he said, “but it’s pheromonally induced, so the more we stay away from one another, the more it will become dormant. However, while it’s happening, we can create some great memories that will endear us to one another in a way that will last a lifetime.”

“So, what sort of relationship will you have with him later? It seems too close for just friends.”

“No, Rocke and I are friends now,” he said, “and that won’t change, but best friends, as opposed to the sort of friend I am with Aiden. I like Aiden; I think he’s great. But despite how much I like him, I don’t have the same kind of commonality with him that I do with Rocke.”

“And Tamika is okay with this?”

“Yes, you should meet a few of her best escort maraş friends.”

“So, what makes your relationship with her special?” I asked.

He turned his head toward me and pulled back a little. “I love Tamika,” he said, “and my commitment to her makes it special.”

“Interesting,” I said, “So, has Magnar ever had any best friends?”

He shrugged and spoke more rapidly. “I don’t know. I never felt it was my business.”

“That sounds familiar,” I said. “Thank you for the explanation. I appreciate it. It’s given me an intriguing perspective on parts of Jiyū culture that I didn’t know existed.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, “any other questions don’t hesitate to come straight out and ask. I don’t mind. On Jiyū, we encourage greater understanding, and I would enjoy helping you with that.”

Not long afterward, we made our descent. In the darkness, we could see the runway lights from our seats through the front window. Rocke made a perfect landing, and the tower gave instructions to Sarah on where to park. As we slowed to taxi, Sarah took over, and Rocke exited the cockpit to sit beside Cadmar. Aiden had prepared the drone via the remote. He motioned for Cadmar to get ready with the case. The instant the jet stopped, Cadmar opened the case, and I saw the drone cloak itself. When Sarah opened the door, Aiden spoke up. “It’s out.”

Cadmar snapped the case shut and winked at Rocke. “We’ll be home before you know it.”

“Aiden, can you connect to the internet here?” asked David.

“Only on Julien’s mobile –mine’s not connecting,” he said, “and the post to the blog we crafted just uploaded.”

“They’ll know we’re here if you use Julien’s,” said David.

“We can’t help that at this point,” said Aiden, “we need it.”

I didn’t think we would ever get that far. Japan seemed like an impossibly distant location from England, and without commercial airlines, travel to East Asia felt like a similar journey to that of Marco Polo. It would have been awful if we had come all that way, lost our friend Julien but never found the portal, or we found it broken. I didn’t want to entertain such notions at the time. It hurt too much to think of the consequences, but we would find a flight back to England little comfort with our tail tucked between our legs. A portal in Japan had to exist; Yukiko’s story supported it.

On the way out, we hugged Sarah with a heartfelt thank you.

“Yukiko’s personal assistant, don’t forget,” I said.

“Oh, I won’t forget, thank you for that,” she said. “Good luck.” For the sake of discretion, Sarah remained on the jet.

We had descended the steps the airport crew placed outside the hatchway, and two well-dressed Japanese men waited for us near the bottom. David and I came forward, and our group met Councillor Hisato Fujikawa and Councillor Kata Tamura, both part of the legislative branch of the government known as the House of Councillors or Sangiin. We all made a series of long low bows, and much like my attempt with formality to Amaré, they appreciated that we honored their tradition.

The Japanese were justly proud of their amazing country, and over the years, they had made their way of life more thoughtful and introspective. So, while everyone had room for improvement in any endeavor, they had come a long way. With the greeting over, we could get to business. They spoke fluent English, so David would have no difficulty communicating with them.

They led us to two vehicles, a suburban utility vehicle and a sedan. As we climbed into the SUV, with Rocke driving, they said they made plans to have access to the local government office for the prefecture so we could talk. Following them, we breezed through the airport gates, and once we had, we had bypassed security. We had finally made it into Japan. It was amazing how simple things were when the government hadn’t strived to make them complicated.

I found Toyama, a good-sized, modern, well-lit city, with a flat landscape from what I could see at night. I hadn’t included it as part of my previous visit to Japan. Its atmosphere seemed indicative of many of Japan’s more semi-industrialized urban areas, and it looked like a lovely place to live.

The building we entered had looked old and dull, like many of the government offices I grew accustomed to in America. This one certainly couldn’t compare to the town hall tower across the street. We settled into a meeting room on the fourth floor.

“We thank you again for your assistance,” said David. “We have had a long, difficult journey in which one of our companions has died.”

“We heard,” said Councillor Fujikawa. “A most unfortunate circumstance, and a reliable employee of one of our largest companies, too, I understand.”

“He will be honored and remembered for the help he gave us, as will you,” said David.

“We look forward to a productive relationship with your people in the future,” said Councillor Tamura. “Ironically, the Americans say that Jiyū’s existence threatens their national security. We do not believe this. And if you find a portal on Japanese soil, please know that our relationship with you means far more to us than the portal itself. Unlike the one near London, which sits amid a power struggle, this one will remain safe, if you can keep it secret. We do not want to know its location. It would only cause trouble with the Americans, and that is the last thing we would want.”

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