Friends In High Places
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"
As a child, I had a major obsession with shoes as a status symbol. For the first eight years of my childhood, I disliked shoes. But then, around entering adolescence, something changed, cool people wore cool shoes. I first noticed this with my older brother, who wore work boots. Workboots were cool.
But my family never had enough money to buy me nice shoes or nice anything really. And then I knew a kid at school who wore Air Jordans, I wanted that kid's approval with every grain of my being, and more than wanting his approval, I wanted his shoes.
And though I grew up and began to value different things, some corner of me never gave up the belief that shoes were a symbol of something greater. So when I woke up the next morning and found a box outside my room with two Philippe Atienza black leather dress shoes, I knew I had made it. For context for the nonshoe nerds out there, Philippe Atienza is an artisan shoemaker from Paris whose hand-made shoes cost a minimum of five thousand dollars.
There was also a suit, which was comfortable, and the first time I had worn a suit tailored to me. I don't remember giving them my shoe size or measurements for clothes, but I'd answered a lot of personal questions in the past 24 hours, so it was definitely a possibility.
I dressed in the suit and shoes and then looked myself up and down in the mirror. I needed a haircut and to be hotter in general, but the suit looked like it belonged in a magazine.
The shoes, though... They were beautiful, black as the pupil of a lover, and cut as simply but as powerfully as the steal of a sword. Feeling like a king, I took my breakfast of croissants and eggs. Which Magret, the British housekeeper, served me while engaging me in an interesting conversation about my career in writing.
I left the chateau by car. Now that I was not tired or stunned by Athena, I could notice Avery and his car a little better. He was a solidly built man. Muscle, mustache, and man constructed him. Though probably 50, I could tell that he wouldn't have been an unwise addition to my football team. It's disappointing he was French. He would have made an A+ American.
The car, too, was impressive. I don't know much about cars, but the tires looked like they could rip across the forest and fields behind without difficulty, the windows were a full inch thick, the paint was venta black, and the interior was slick and absurdly comfortable. 'Avery's car,' I began but then paused, 'My bodyguard, my car' I smiled and nodded at this, 'My car makes a tesla look like a riding lawnmower. I thought proudly as we approached Athena.
I arrived at Athena and went through the usual fingerprint identification minutia. This time I was able to pay attention to my surroundings a bit more. The area reminded me of the subway if the subway had a million-dollar budget for security. People would come up, scan their cards at a booth with a soldier, pass through a metal detector, and then go file out into the many hallways. I had my own line for guests with more security, many of them looking over at me in interest.
I avoided eye contact with all of them, still feeling out of place. They all knew each other and knew what their jobs were. I was still confused. I turned my back to them and tried to make myself small, to hide from their vision. It felt like being the new kid at school.
After getting through the line, they sent me off to Gertrude. She gave me my card and said I could enter through line seven, which was reserved for VPI's. I was both happy about this and embarrassed that all of the other employees would have to see this rando new guy walking right past all of them.
"This is Myke." She said, gesturing to a man who had just emerged from Josh's office. Myke was a tall thin man with round glasses, short blond hair, buzzed on the sides, a slight spike on the top. He smiled nervously. "He'll be your personal assistant. He already has your schedule and knows his way about the building. If you dislike him and would like a new assistant, just tell me."
I chuckled to try to defuse how awkward that made me feel. It seemed like a really rude thing to say in front of him. "Of course not."
"Well, he'll show you to your office. Good day, Mr. Meyers." She swiveled her chair back to some paperwork.
"Right this way, sir," Myke said, gesturing past me and to a door.
"You can call me Matt," I said as we started walking.
My office was large, and its walls were harsh and solid concrete. It was minimal, with only a chair, desk, and computer. Myke explained that I could pick the decorating style and furniture I would like, and they'd fill the place up as much as I liked.
"But honestly, you won't be in here much, your schedule is so packed with meetings and the Room of Ra that you won't get much time on you're own."
And he was not kidding, right after that I was rushed to a meeting in a room with a long table and a flatscreen TV, but the only other person in the large room was a thick man wearing camo. He was decorated in medals and the US flag. He shook my hand solidly and introduced himself as the American General stationed over this project. I nodded. Apparently, this guy was supposed to debrief me, but I was unsure about what I was supposed to do while he did this.
Ready to hear about the aliens in area fifty-one, I sat.
He explained to me that Athena was being funded by the unity of many governments seeking to help the world. He said their hope was for me to be the modern Neal Armstrong, unifying America and the world. He said I was a champion for science, defending truth, justice, and the American way.
Well, I added that last bit, but that was the vibe.
I smilingly agreed to everything he said, learned disappointingly little about ufos, but left feeling extremely patriotic for all the money my country had spent on science.
After that, I met Isabella Frias. Isabella was an intimidatingly charming and beautiful Spanish woman who was the head of the publicity arm of Athena. She told me she had helped multiple presidents get elected and been quite involved in the rise of many famous people I knew today, one of which had a late-night talk show that I had been watching for a decade. She was even scarier because she was nice to me and treated me as an equal.
I'm going to meet every single talk show host, I realized.
The meeting with her included Gabrellio and Dr. Skizan over a vidoe call. Seeing Gabrellio gave me a pang of fear, quickly followed by satisfaction.
I'd gotten the job, he'd been wrong, and he would soon know it.
Dr. Skizan apologized for not being able to come in person, saying that his house was just outside of Paris and a much too long of a drive to come in in time. He made me almost as nervous as Isabella since he was so generally polite and respectable, but also, he was a giant in my genre of writing. His books got talked about on TV shows and changed the course of politics and culture.
"Matt, I'm glad they were able to find someone from our profession to take the job. It isn't often you see us Wordsmiths getting tons of publicity."
"Yeah, and seers haven't either in a couple of years." I winked and then felt a pang of pride for my smoothness.
He chuckled, "Yes, a seer, you understand now. We'll talk about that more later, though. These two aren't supposed to know much about that."
I chuckled and looked around. It felt good to be in the know, especially when Gabriello was on the outside of it.
They explained to me that they needed to make me a salable package. Something that would both work on TV, in a meeting of congress, and at parties of billionaires.
The plan was I would write a book about the project that would be released at the declassification of the project and a book by Charlie about the science coming out. Now that I had taken his job, that'd be my responsibility.
The current timeline was to do that in six months, at which time I'd go from being a member of this secret organization to one of the most famous people in the world, and I needed to be ready for that.
Dr. Skizan provided input but seemed a little distant. I didn't get it. How could someone just quiet this? It was the biggest thing ever. He quiet to do Humanitarian work. But this was the greatest work for humanity since fire. This would change everything ever. Why would someone quiet that?
But the meeting continued, Ready to write the biggest book since the bible, to appear on the talk shows with celebrities, to shake the president's hand, and as Gabrielli stressed to 'seduce billionaires.' Not literally, since that was not in my skillset, but going to very fancy parties, meeting extremely wealthy people, getting them to like me, and then convincing them to hand over their checkbooks.
"You see, much of the money to finance this is coming from governments, but a feat as wondrous as this could not be achieved without donations and loans from the private sector," Gabrielle explained. He was wearing a blue suit with diamond cuff links, a Golden Rolex, and a cologne that smelled like you had squeezed the idea of class into a bottle. "Before this is made public, we need you to be rubbing shoulders with these people. Some of them won't even know who you are, believing you to be a UN official. Others, who have already donated, will be aware of how you are the one fulfilling their investment. You better not make them regret that. They must love you. They must think you are the soil which dollars should be planted in. You must convince them that oil, bonds, and bitcoin were all tiny markets compared to the vastness of wealth that will pour from Athena." Gabriello said, a bite in his voice. In later meetings, Josh and Gabrielle then explained my bargaining chips with these billionaires and what I could offer them for loans, investments, or better yet, donations.
I'm going to meet billionaires.
"Much of this will not be for months, but the first thing we need to do is introduce you to the world leaders of the countries funding this." Isabella stated, "We have that meeting scheduled for next month. You will need etiquette lessons since many of the people there are used to respect. After that, you should expect to begin to meet more of the rich and the powerful."
I'm going to meet the President!
After that strange meeting, Myke brought me to a meeting with Charlie and Dr. Skizan, two neuroscientists, one phycologist, and one expert on meditation. Once again, the doctor appeared only over call. They explained that in the doctor's time, they had developed some ways to safely and intelligently navigate Destiny's Touch. They said they believed you could sharpen certain parts of the mind via mental exercises, meditation. I practiced to reduce the danger and raise the affectability of Destiny's Touch. I could tell that everyone was very unsure about everything and just making things up and trying them. But I was glad to have some semblance of guidance and security for future visits to the Room of Ra.
After that, Myke gave me my weekly schedule, and it looked like I'd be attending quite a few meetings like the last too. I was brought three-course lunch, and man, they really don't play it cheap here. That was one of the best meals I'd had for months. But I didn't have time to enjoy it, because soon Myke rushed me off to my next meeting.
I was happy to see Charlie again. He introduced me to a team of scientists who worked on Project Seod. They would be in charge of turning what I saw in Destiny's Touch into science. They were all very smiley and excited to work with me. They said they had already got what I had found yesterday and were very impressed. We all sat down around this large table in a room that felt like a lab mixed with a library. They began to question me about the experience extensively. After I explained the situation my best to them, a Japanese woman with long hair and round glasses squinted thoughtfully, "Are you saying that you have the beginnings of actual time travel?"
I nodded quickly, "Yes, as far as I understand it, it would function something like Destiny's Touch. You would need to connect a trained mind to an open Ringlarity. The Ringlarity would need to be stable and maintain its wormhole status." I grimaced at the use of a wormhole instead of a doughnut hole. "I'm not sure how you'd do it. I think if I could keep going into Destiny's Touch, I could find it."
They all smiled at this, "We all have had different theories of how this could work. Quantum gravity is still not very well understood, and we have very little data on this new form of energy coming from the nacked singularity."
"Do you have a name for that yet?" I asked.
"Currently, we have been calling it SUE. Strange, unidentified energy."
"You've been calling it Sue?" I asked, saying it like the women's name.
"Yeah," Charlie said, shrugging.
"That's terrible!" I laughed, "That's like calling it IDK's! That won't work. That won't sound cool in sci-fiy when we have to tell the world about it. The nerds won't get to look cool at all."
They all chuckled, "What do you propose then?" Charlie retorted.
I thought for a moment, "Ethos," I said and looked around, "Since it's like the scientific version of soul."
They all thought about that and nodded. "Ethos it is!" Charlie said, noting that down.
Hey, if I am somehow forgotten for everything else, at least my name will be next to the definition of one of the defining particles of physics.
After that lovely meeting with nerds, Myke brought me to a private meeting with Josh.
I was let into his grandiose office, where he greeted me and offered a chair to me. He folded his fingers on the desk and looked at me, "I know things have been going fast lately, but would you be willing to undergo Destiny's Touch once every day. As of yet, we have measured no major medical side effects on anyone. Worst you'll get is some insomnia as far as we've seen it unless you mess up, that is."
There was a long pause where he looked at me, "What happens if I mess up?" I finally asked.
"When we did some limited testing on animals - seizure. But we are normally able to detect it before that and shut it off. If we stopped it before the seizure, then you could experience nausea and some minor mental issues for a couple of days. But we haven't seen seizures yet in humans. I personally believe that's because they are better at managing and organizing it. And so far, you've seemed fantastic at managing it. On your first go did amazing with extremely high levels of the particles."
"We're calling it Ethos." I corrected him before I could stop myself.
"We thought Ethos would be a better name for the energy."
"Oh, okay, so then this ethos, how would you feel about that entering your brain once a day?" Josh asked. He seemed more diplomatic than before, but he still had a certain power and expectancy about him.
"I don't know, sir. I wouldn't want to put myself out of work because of some complication. Should we consult with the doctors?" I said slowly.
Josh swiveled around and looked at the framed pictures of Astronauts. "Did you know that the computing power in your smartphone is more powerful than all of NASA's computers at the time of Apollo 11?" He said, his back to me as he looked at the pictures.
"I did not, sir." I did. That's a good factoid, and knowing factoids is like my main skill, but it seemed rude to say I did.
"Do you know how they were still able to go? Do you know how they were able to do something a century ahead of when it would have been expected?"
"How, sir?" I asked.
He swiveled around and looked at me, "Men like that," He said, pointing at a picture of Buzz Aldrin. "Brave heroes who were willing to risk their lives for the betterment of science and their fellow man. That is how they were able to do it. With champions of humanity leading the way. Do you want to be a champion of humanity, Matt?"
I paused, swallowed down some emotion, "Yes, I do, sir."
"So, do you think you can do Destiny's Touch once a day?"
I paused. Every moment at this job was another step, whether into a corner or father out into the open I did not know yet. "Yes, Sir, I am."
"Excellent," He said, "I knew I could rely on you. See you tomorrow."