That afternoon, as he left the subatomic toxicology laboratory of the Waijin University, downtown Boreau, Shinji was sure it was an ordinary, hot summer day as customary of the Sun Valley, in the south of the Great Waijin Mountains Range.
The minor university town was well-known across the country for its small size and great concentration of genial minds. Illusions created by the hot air above the asphalt could make one swear they were in a desert instead of a seaside town right between the Atlantic Ocean and the Waijin Mountains. Medium-sized townhouses of various colors lined wide streets and made the whole city a bright and cheerful kaleidoscope. The homes were all renovated houses dating from as far back as the 20th century meshed through areas of building offices and malls from the latest architectural design.
Built by a community of African Christian monks, the small community college had morphed with the passing of years into a well-acclaimed teaching institution that hailed of housing among the best scientific resources.
Onodera Shinji, dark blonde of svelte built hung his head to protect his lagoon-blue, almond-shaped eyes from the sun as he wore his custom-made, all-protection sunglasses. He opened up his umbrella and started walking away from his office building. Having a fair skin that very easily sunburned always made summer a trial for him. At 1.63m and looking younger than his 26 years old, he still felt short among other men, as he had all his life.
He used to resent his genes for this in primary school until he watched a documentary on genetics and intellectual development as he waited for the umpteenth stern talking-to from his nanny. He had managed to once again anger the young female novice teacher of his religious school. He just couldn’t help it whenever he felt bored with the lessons. Despite his nanny’s rebuke, future chief researcher in sub-atomic toxicology Onodera Shinji had liked the thought that he might be an unappreciated genius. Being a genius would pretty much set his life and that would also be thanks to the same genes that gave his schoolmates the opportunity to call him “Rugrat”. He thought then that revenge would be sweet and indeed, it had been.
The air in the parking carried the usual scent of exploding cactus flowers, splintering trees and sea, characteristic of the city. When Shinji got close to his car in the adjacent parking lot, an aerocar door hissed opened five spots down the row and one of the most beautiful men Shinji ever saw came toward him with a warm smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Up until now, his life was ordinary –at least by the standards of this catholic university full of geniuses. He felt the assessment of the incoming beauty as a prickle ran down his spine.
Shinji knew that sting very well. Whenever something life-altering was about to happen to him, he had felt it. And he had mixed feelings about it. Life changing events had brought both good and bad times to him in the past. He had prayed to whoever listened out there that he’d receive some measure of peace and quiet at this point in his life and he was sure he deserved it big time. Coming to manage this sub-atomic toxicology program two years ago, he hoped that he would be able to settle down here, and heal, and maybe, maybe forget a little.
The small, beautiful, dark-brown man must have sensed Shinji’s unease because the smile’s voltage went up a notch, finally reaching his emerald-green eyes, the fast walking pace increased, and Shinji heard his full name being called in a reassuring voice.
“Shinji-Patrick Onodera! Please wait for me! Dr Onodera!” Shinji stopped and waited. The petite beauty arrived, took a deep, brief, restoring breath before thrusting his hand at Shinji to introduce himself.
“I am Mr Sollen Jenkins. I am sorry for accosting you in the parking lot like this. I was planning to make an appointment with your secretary in case I didn’t meet you today, when I saw you leaving the building. I thought why risk delaying any further what I am to tell you by letting you escape when I can talk to you right now? Do you have a minute?”
While apologizing, Jenkins had produced from his jacket’s front pocket an electronic business card, the kind that was made of electromagnetically excited sand. They came on the market 25 years ago, and upon skin contact from the receiver, would download the contact info and any other contained data into the Unified Specific Storage of the receiver. When transfer of data was complete, the electronic business card would return to dust. Literally.
While Shinji recorded the contact info data, Jenkins kept talking, pulling a thick, official-looking envelope from an attaché-case.
“I am with the High Constitutional Council of this nation and I’m here to extend you an invitation to participate in a symposium. The meeting will take place in a week at the Constitutional Plaza Building in the capital and will last ten days.”
What was that? Where has the attaché-case appeared from? I could swear he didn’t have anything in hand when he approached me.
Again, it must have shown because the reassuring tone was back in Jenkins’s voice while he continued.
“You will meet fellow influential and reputed scientists from different scientific disciplines as well as experts from other fields. You will also meet and discuss various issues of national security and foreign affairs with all members of the High Constitutional Council.”
“Whoa!!! Stop right there! Mr Jenkins, right?!" He pointed to his back where his office building was.
"I know this university likes to flaunt the presence of “geniuses” here to the whole nation and that we also happen to do top of the field research, but how is that enough for me to be brought in when the subject matter’s national security?!”
A fugitive glint in the eyes of beautiful Jenkins and his controlled smile told Shinji that he might not like what was coming next. Sollen Jenkins grew sensibly serious in spite of the unchanged warm and affable demeanor exterior attitude he showed since he arrived.
He told Shinji.
“No need to fret, Dr Onodera. It’s a serious, but not dangerous enough situation to make you feel concerned. Now, we may be out in the open here, and seem not to need the extra-caution of controlling our words.” He gestured to the deserted parking lot. “But please trust me on this, Dr Onodera, we do need to pay attention. I’m not at liberty to go into more details for now, so please refer to the contents of the envelope in order to RSVP for the symposium where and when all necessary information and data will be communicated to you.”
The pure, warm smile was back as Jenkins lingered a few more seconds after saying
“Any and every other question you may have will be answered at the symposium, should you choose to participate.”
Then he turned tail and disappeared into his car as quickly as he came. The prickle crept at a snail pace down Shinji’s back as he looked back and forth between the man leaving in a mystery cloud and the thick envelope emblazoned with the arms of the Council, and his full name, title, position, address and Unified Specific (US) ID number front and center.
Surprisingly, the envelope was made of wood paper and sealed with red wax, the way they did half a millennium back.
“How did I get myself involved in this?”
He threw the envelope and his other stuff onto the passenger seat of his dark red, old-style crossover shaped aerocar and left.
Later that afternoon, as he surfed the artificial training sea, his thoughts brought him back to the envelope and its charming delivery guy. It was the first time in his life meeting a man looking as petite as himself and possibly more feminine. Shinji wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with national security matters, but getting to do something challenging had always appealed to him. He always found it hard to resist to. Having a biologically-advanced brain made it hard to stave off boredom sometimes. The good news was that he was done with his classes for this academic year and most of his students wouldn’t be around or needing him for another month or so.
“A trip to the capital –with its cooler summer temperatures- would be nice, right?! Who knows which old pal I will get to dodge during the meeting? I might even get to see my old friend Amraani McAuliffe.”
Shinji’s heart missed a beat. Like whenever he made the mistake of thinking of Amraani.
It was just one beat, but it was enough to make him lose his concentration on the virtual sea’s surf board, lose his footing, and lose to gravity. He felt his breath escape him in a whoosh and he knew from the pain that a bruise would show up on the side of his forehead by midnight. His heart too ached duly as flooding memories of Amraani invaded his mind.
Shinji spent the remainder of his evening trying to chase away bits and memory pieces of his previous time with Amraani so he could finish his research paper. When he noticed he read the same article page thrice without knowing what it talked about, Shinji resigned himself.
“Well then, time to send that RSVP!”