Chapter 9: Teacher
A car was waiting when the plane taxied to a stop at the Andrews Air Force Base Flight Operations. Ryan quickly walked down the stairs, with Kim close behind. Syon trailed at a more leisurely pace, his lips slightly curved in a smile.
Syon had enjoyed the trip much more than he believed he would. Ryan had raised his curiosity. He knew the young man had lied, yet could feel no deceit from him. That had never happened before. Finding three spies, in his facility, operating right under his nose, had shaken his self confidence. That had convinced him that he needed to find out more about this young man.
The flight from Albuquerque to Williams AFB outside Washington DC, was interesting, and only heightened the mystery. Meeting Ryan's wife, Kim, had been a shock. He felt the same purity from Kim's mind as he had from Ryan's. The only description that Syon could give of the couple's minds was complete honesty.
Syon had explained to Ryan, earlier, how lies damage chi, or the spirit. He hadn't been completely accurate. Deceit damages chi, and neither Ryan, nor Kim, had a damaged spirit. Talking to them was like drinking a cold glass of water after working hard on a hot summer day. It felt good being with them, so he had a right to smile.
The drive to Camp David would take over an hour and a half. Ryan began explaining about Camp David, and what to expect. Kim had a question about half way into the trip.
"Syon, you're rated very highly in a couple of very ancient disciplines. In my opinion, that in itself is a full-time career, and a lifetime commitment. Yet, you are also the manager of a Metallurgy Testing Lab in a major research facility. That just doesn't make sense to me. Are you a genius or something? Would you explain?"
"You are right, of course. Everything you just said is exactly correct, and I am not a genius or something," Syon said with a smile. "What is the answer?"
"I think I know part of the answer, and I didn't peek," Kim replied.
Syon wondered at her odd choice of words.
"Everyone assumes the martial arts is the hobby, and your job is running the Metallurgy Testing lab," Kim continued, frowning. "I think they've got it backwards. Running the lab is a hobby, and your job is the study of Choi Li Fut and Tao Yin. I just don't understand why."
"Ryan, your wife is ... unusually insightful," Syon said slowly, surprised at her answer. "You are mostly correct, Kim."
"She is a lot smarter than I am," Ryan agreed. "She had me married for three days before anyone bothered to tell me it was over."
"You nut," Kim said laughing, and punching Ryan in the arm. "I'm trying to be serious. I'm curious, Honey. He doesn't need to tell me if he doesn't want to."
"I don't mind telling you," Syon said hurriedly. "You just surprised me is all. Very early in my training, in my career, I learned to fight with bladed weapons. A bladed weapon's quality is obviously based on the quality of metal it is made of. I wondered what made some metals a higher quality than other metals. I understood how to temper steel blades for soft spines and harder edges, but I didn't know why it worked. I studied, and I learned. The more I learned about metals, the more I wanted to know. I didn't apply for a job in the testing department. I was invited to work there. I accepted the invitation because of the added resources available. The department is the perfect hobbyist's playground. After a year, they put me in charge of the shop. My playground just got bigger. Then I was voted in as shop steward. I was tempted to refuse, because I believed being a union steward had nothing to do with metal testing. I was correct, of course, but then I realized the position had much to do with my real career. It gave me a larger pool of people to interact with."
"Now you've lost me," Ryan complained in obviously mock frustration. "How does a larger pool of people equate with improving martial arts training?"
Syon paused in thought before asking, "Is a battle first fought with the body, or with the mind?"
"Why do you always answer a question with a question?" Kim asked with a laugh.
"Because I ... No. I will answer that question at the end of the evening," Syon corrected himself. "It is something for you to think on. Ryan mentioned earlier that you have a child, a boy. Tell me about him, please."
What mother doesn't like to talk about her favorite subject? Ryan suppressed a smile at the ease with which Syon had changed the focus of the conversation from himself to their family. Distracting Kim was no small feat. He wondered what Syon had been about to say. He chewed on that mystery, while Kim regaled Syon with stories about their two year old, Mike.
President Scott McGowan closed and set aside a report that he was reading when he felt Kim and Ryan enter 'Cabin 1' at Camp David. It was called Cabin 1, but the building was like no cabin that he had ever seen.
A place like Camp David was necessary, because the office of President of the United States was the most high-stress job in the world. If the President were going someplace to 'de-stress, ' he still needed to be fully functional as the President, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Scotty often wondered if some of the perks weren't a little over the top, but Camp David was never questioned.
"Can you feel the person with them?" JJ asked. "He's at peace with himself. That's pretty remarkable. Most people don't manage that until after several weeks with a Companion. This should be interesting."
"I can feel Kim, and Ryan, but I can't feel who's with them," Scotty admitted. "Your range is better than mine. From what Ryan said, I'm looking forward to meeting this man."
JJ was keeping Noah and Mike busy, not that they needed to be kept busy. She just liked spending time with them, and there weren't many opportunities, like this evening, when she could just get down on the floor and play with them.
JJ was glad that none of the babies needed constant minding. There were seven babies that were host/Companions, now. Noah was almost four years old: forty-six months. Mike was twenty-four months. Singer and Gabi's little girl, Leslie, was forty-one months. Nate, Flan and Joyce's little boy was thirty-nine months. Those were the four that spent the most time together in Washington DC. The other three were still down in Texas. Buck Ferrier's wife, Bailey, had Briana right after Noah, forty-five months ago. Barb, Teddy and Cynthia's little darling, was forty-five months, too. Juanita and Jimmy had Shandi forty-months ago. JJ had never known of any of the babies fussing. She frowned, and wondered why that thought bothered her.
A nanny was available at the White House, but, while at Camp David, JJ liked taking care of the children herself. She was playing with the babies, making sure all the blocks were facing the right direction. Scotty had told her many times that the babies' happy yells were more relaxing than Mozart. He did enjoy hearing them play. Especially when Belinda was playing with them, too, as she was tonight.
"The little ones are certainly interested," Belinda commented.
Both babies had quit playing, and were looking in the direction of the door.
"I think that's him," Mike mentally said to Noah, his thoughts quivering with excitement.
"Maybe," Noah said cautiously. "He doesn't have a Companion, but that's why he's here. We'll have to wait and see. You know what Briana said to look for."
"You're right," Mike answered. "But he is different from other humans, so he might be the one."
"Okay, he might be," Noah agreed, squealing with excitement.
Several minutes elapsed as the trio made their way through security protocols. Kim finished first, and was the first through the door of the sitting room. She made a bee-line for her baby.
Mike squealed, "Mama," in greeting, but then looked back at the door expectantly.
It took a little longer getting Syon through security, but it was only moments before he and Ryan entered the room, too. Syon was pleasantly surprised at the room. It felt comfortable, like a well worn slipper. He felt himself relax from his state of vigilance, brought on by dealing with all the security.
At first glance, Syon was an unassuming figure. He was about five and a half feet tall, with a slight build. His black hair was thick, and his features were those of a man ranging from thirty to sixty. He displayed none of the nervousness that Scotty had often noted in people meeting the most powerful political figure in the world for the first time.
"Mr. President," Ryan said. "I would like to introduce Syon Chao, an employee of Élan Dahl, in one of his Albuquerque research facilities."
Scotty stepped forward, his hand out in greeting, as he said, "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Chao."
Syon clasped the President's hand, bowing slightly in respect, saying, "The pleasure is mine, Mr. President."
"Okay, Ryan. You started this. Make it right," Scotty said in mock sternness, as he released Syon's hand.
Ryan chuckled, saying, "Sorry, Scotty. Syon, we're in quarters, and he's only Mr. President when he's doing Presidential stuff. In quarters, he's Scotty."
"The only thing accomplished by formality is creating hot air to inflate egos," Scotty explained. "As my lovely bride likes to remind me, I'm already full of myself, and I don't need my ego inflated any more. Speaking of lovely brides, this is Belinda," he said, putting an arm around his wife. "Honey, this is Mr. Syon Chao."
"Please," Syon said with a slight bow to Belinda. "If we are to dispense with formalities, please call me Syon."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Syon," Belinda said graciously, returning the slight bow.
"Syon, this is the little guy that I've been telling you about," Kim interrupted, returning with Mike in her arms. "This is Mike."
Syon turned towards Kim, and had to restrain his astonishment. The baby examined him as intently as Syon had ever been examined. That wasn't surprising, because babies often examined new faces intently, though maybe not as intently as this baby. The surprise was what Syon felt in the child's chi. If Kim and Ryan had been a cold drink on a hot day, their son was the nectar of the gods.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mike. My name is Syon Chao," he said, introducing himself, bowing deeper, and touching the baby's hand.
"This is my mom," Kim continued. "Everyone calls her JJ. I told you about Noah."
"I am honored, JJ," Syon said, greeting JJ, but his eyes were on Noah.
Another child with the chi of utter peace! Syon had been around children before. His brothers and sisters all had children. When he returned to Kansas City to visit, it often felt like herds of little ones were released on his parents' house. Children's chi were normally uncluttered, only carrying the beginnings of the baggage that all parents saddle their children with. These children had no baggage.
"It is my honor, Noah," Syon said, greeting the four year old as another adult, and bowing deeply again.
"My honor," the little boy said seriously, while gazing at Syon intently.
Syon didn't know if the baby was repeating his words, or greeting him in kind. Whichever it was, he was looking forward to spending as much time with the babies as possible. He forced himself to pull his attention away from the little ones, and focus on the President. Maybe he would get some answers now. Syon didn't appreciate the mystery Ryan had built, but he understood that governments often hid information to maintain their place in the world.
"We waited for your arrival to eat dinner," Scotty said, as he ushered the group into the dining room.
High-chairs had already been set up for the babies, and everyone settled around the large table. Food was placed on the table, and Syon didn't even remember what was served. That was highly unusual for him. He attempted to maintain the polite conversation during the meal, but his attention was continually being drawn back to the babies. The babies' attention didn't waver either.
The dinner conversation ranged from an update on the status of JJ's husband, who was apparently doing a dangerous job in Iraq, to a summary of Ryan and Kim's trip. Syon was surprised when Scotty asked him for his opinion on the spy issue.
Syon carefully wiped his mouth, before saying, "China attacked the United States two years ago, when they hacked the government databases. Nothing was done in retaliation, so China feels justified and confident in broadening their attack. The Chinese world view is that 'might makes right, ' which is not always the case in the United States."
"I'm not sure I agree about the world view, but we figured the lack of response emboldened them," Scotty said, nodding his head. "What do you think should be done about it? I certainly don't want to start World War Three."
"No, starting World War Three would not be a good idea," Syon agreed drily. "It will also be difficult for America to retaliate in trade, because of the trillions America has borrowed from China." Syon frowned in thought before saying, "The interest on those loans is partially what fuels China's economy. However, China needs reliable sources of energy to maintain their economy. Search for ways to choke their energy access. America's trade agreement with China isn't all inclusive. Products made in China that are not covered by the agreement should be examined. Some of those items will have greater impact than others. China also needs access to the American Universities. Begin restricting that access."
"Why do they need access to our universities?" Kim asked curiously.
"The Chinese world view is different from the American world view, as I've already mentioned," Syon answered slowly, as he considered his words. "Chinese raised in China are more regimented in their thoughts. There are brilliant Chinese, the same as there are brilliant Americans, Spaniards, Germans, and every other nationality. Brilliant minds account for very few of the major breakthroughs. Most technological breakthroughs are made by the average student, or scientist, using scientific methodology. The difference is, the average American mind is more apt to ask 'what if, ' than the average Chinese mind. It isn't completely a question of intelligence. The creative difference is attributable to the difference in their world view."
Syon turned to Scotty and said, "Today, Ryan was able to find three spies working in the same facility where I work. Judging from their conversation, Kim also identified spies at the computer chip facility. I would suggest letting them interview applicants for research or teaching visas. Throttle the Chinese source of creative thinking. It doesn't violate trade agreements, and it reduces the number of enemies that have access to American innovation."
"That's a good idea," Scotty said thoughtfully. "I can't use Kim and Ryan, but I'm sure we can find someone to do the interviews."
"Do you have other people that can so easily find spies?" Syon asked in surprise.
"We have many that we could use in that capacity," Scotty chuckled. "Which brings us to the reason for your presence. Syon, have you noticed a difference in our group, from similar family gatherings?"
"Yes," Syon immediately replied. "Each of you seem... 'whole' is the best word that I can come up with, but that's not right, either."
"That's a good description," Scotty said with a nod. "Ryan promised you an answer to a question this evening. The answer will also explain our differences. You see, an extraterrestrial space ship crashed in the Arizona desert about five years ago. There were no physical survivors, but there was a survivor that we call a Companion, and that is where our story starts. Caleb, JJ's husband, agreed to the Companion waiting with him until help arrived. He didn't know what he was agreeing to. The Companion would need to wait in his mind. After the crash, Caleb and his Companion..."
A half hour later, after Scotty finished the highlights of the saga, Syon asked, "Do each of you have one of these Companions?"
"Yes," Ryan answered.
"Even the children?" Syon pressed.
"Even the children," Ryan said with a chuckle. "They received their Companions while still in the womb, so their adaptation is a little different than adults that have received Companions. They don't see a separation between themselves and their Companions."
"Has there been a negative impact on them?" Syon asked, his head cocked as he gazed into Noah's eyes...
"No," JJ answered, taking the question about her baby. "If anything, they're growing faster than normal. Not physically: that's only a little above normal. They seem to be growing much faster, mentally."
"The reason we are telling you this is that we are inviting you to join us," Scotty explained. "You know what our goals are. Eliminate the demon, and prepare for the aliens' arrival. We think you would be a valuable addition to our efforts."
"How?" Syon asked.
"What do you mean?" Scotty asked, momentarily confused by the question.
"How can I be a valuable addition to your efforts?" Syon elaborated. "What would I do? As our discussion on the trip here indicated, I already have a career and a hobby. How would I fit?"