The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See - Act I - When In India
Act I - When In India
The transfer went smoothly at London Heathrow International Airport where they had boarded another airbus that took them to Paris for short stop and then on to New Delhi in nine hours. They'd arrived during the evening and went directly from Indira Ghandi International Airport to their hotel where they slept until nine o'clock the next day. They met for a quiet and short breakfast before they were whisked off for their first meeting.
They would meet with with the India delegation who would be accompanied by a representative from Malaysia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka each at Lodhi Garden Park. The park itself was lush and green with an intricately crafted rose garden, several preserved ancient tombs and various tourist interest sites. Many businesses and restaurants had lined the exterior of the park, symbiotes taking from its namesake and tourist draw. They met the other delegation at the Lodhi Garden Park south gates where one of the delegates held a sign written in clear english:
Welcoming The Tynan Delegates
"Namaskaar." Norler said confidently.
"Namaskaar. Good morning. You must be..." one of the other delegates said a big smile on his face.
"Allow me to introduce everyone. This is Doctor Alicia Westin, Doctor Katya Piotr, Heylyn Yates, Monique Defleur, Valerie Aspen, Doctor Stephen Briggs, Professor Bryce Maxwell, Doctor Victor Piotr and I'm Walton Norler." Norler introduced everyone graciously and the delegates exchanged hands.
"Very pleased to meet you. Let me do the same for my colleagues and peers here. Starting with the ladies, this is Doctor Chandra Bodhi of the Sri Lanka delegation and Doctor Maeya Dharmaprana of the India delegation. We also have with us Doctor Guru Singh Gyan of the Malaysian delegation and Doctor Fardin Choudhuri of the Bangladesh delegation. I'm Professor Aarav Mattu. It is our pleasure to welcome you." Professor Mattu spoke careful of his pronunciation.
"It's our pleasure to meet you. So it is my understanding that you're going to take us on a tour of Lodhi Garden?" Norler asked as they began walking.
"Yes we certainly are. It is a British era park which encompassed several important tombs in the area and some very old buildings. Many local residents come here to meditate and pray while it also draws tourists from Europe and overseas. It is part of the heart of our many ancient traditions." Professor Mattu explained.
"It is with respect and regard for these traditions that we've come here today if I may say so." Alicia spoke unsure if it might be taken with hostility for her to speak out of turn.
"We are speaking as peers and equals here. There is no need to press yourselves down on the basis of any gender based customs you've likely heard about or misunderstood. A Woman may speak as she so chooses. Is that not right Professor Mattu?" Doctor Bodhi addressed Alicia's tension and then confirmed with Professor Mattu not as a subordinate, but as an equal.
"There are abodes where such traditions might still be present, but you will find no such tradition amongst us here. We are equals." Professor Mattu said with a sense of dignity smiling to Doctor Bodhi enough so that Alicia caught camaraderie between them.
"That is a great relief and with that being the case, are we to understand that it is with open minds that you are willing to discuss with us today the topic of medicine?" Valerie asked the delegates.
"That is for what we are here after all. But it seems that you come to us with a slight misunderstanding of our ways and in doing so are being condescending in your effort to avert offending us." Doctor Dharmaprana asked them.
"We are being cautious but not just for our sake. We all have much to lose if we are not mutually successful here. So we are taking cautious steps though we are certainly not being condescending. We recognize that India is one of the leading centers for medicine in this region, having medical technology and advances that rival those of the West. It is as Professor Mattu said. We are here as equals and we need you to work with us." Alicia addressed their concerns.
"We need you to meet us somewhere in the middle." Heylyn addressed the delegation.
"Heylyn Yates. The fashion designer and a former Chinese National here on a delegation that is clearly the grounds of science?" Doctor Choudhuri responded.
"You said and agreed that we are here as equals. Women and Men. Artisans and Doctors alike. So I am speaking on those grounds. I am also asking you to meet us in the middle whether you agree or not. Remember that we are making concessions here as well, so don't try to give us the impression that weight is all in your lap because it's not. The sooner we understand that, the sooner we can negotiate as equals." Heylyn responded to Doctor Choudhuri and the delegation.
"That sounded like something that Sylvia would have said. Doesn't it Alicia?" Bryce smiled to Heylyn.
"I believe it does." Alicia smiled to Bryce catching his line of reasoning.
"It is not known by many that Professor Bryce Maxwell worked with Doctor Sylvia Upadhaya, a brilliant researcher and pioneer of Quantum Biology whom was also from India." Doctor Dharmaprana addressed them all.
"May I tell them Alicia?" Bryce asked Alicia.
Alicia thought momentarily to herself and then nodded in approval.
"It is also not well known that Alicia volunteered for a senior's home and was one of Sylvia's last and most treasured friends at the age of sixteen. An important time in your life was it not Alicia?" Bryce asked her.
"It most certainly was. That was the year that Heylyn made my graduation dress. I had a bit of weight issue and was very self conscious. Heylyn helped me to overcome that lack of self esteem. Doctor Upadhaya, Sylvia was a tenant in the senior's home where I volunteered. We actually talked a fair bit about her work as a researcher. Nothing specific but our conversations definitely had an impact upon my career choice and path. So you could say that I wouldn't be here talking to you as a Doctor if it weren't for Heylyn and for Sylvia." Alicia responded.
"Much as you say, I too had beginnings. I used to come to this very park and look at the leaves of the bougainvillea trees. There are two of them in this park which I will show to you." Doctor Dharmaprana pointed to the distance where two magnificent trees stood whose magenta foliage pierced the distance easily.
"I would stare at their leaves wondering just how such pretty colors could occur in such numbers, so similar to one another yet so unique each one. Aatm samaan. The concept is so hard to describe. Yet many perceive it. It was through my fascination for these trees that I pursued a career in biology that eventually led to medicine. One of Sylvia's biology texts was part of my curriculum so it is there that we share a common bond Alicia." Doctor Dharmaprana finished.
"The golden path. A tapestry that weaves us all to one another in some way. One person's action leading to affect another's destiny. That person's much the same to another and so on. Perhaps it is that we are destined to be here together speaking of these matters for there are great possibilities yet to be explored." Doctor Guru Singh Gyan
"I take it that you know why we are here?" Alicia asked the delegates.
"We most certainly do. It is your wishes to see the Asian Alliance vote again on Tynan And Associates' proposal for the creation of a global fund to pay for the miraculous treatment you've developed. You are trying to rally us to vote in favor." Professor Mattu replied answering Alicia's question.
"Not just our own formula but to cover the medical costs on many different kinds of treatment offered by many other medical sources. Why is it that you would vote against the work that was pioneered by Sylvia?" Alicia asked the delegates.
"We are not at liberty to discuss our individual votes with regard to any assembly of the Asian Alliance. Who says that we did or didn't?" Doctor Choudhuri responded.
"Somebody had to have voted against it because the proposal did not pass approval." Valerie responded.
"We are a people of tradition that are carefully progressing to embrace the new world. Our experiences with the West have not been pleasant ones, and even led to occupation and eventually revolution. This park is a relic of that time created to bind the public and secure their confidence in the people who were occupying our land. The truth is that this park, the land which it occupies transcends the idea of a park altogether for it was here long before these borders and imaginary lines we've made to denote who owns the lands around us." Doctor Dharmaprana explained.
"Now consider that instead of a park, that we have our history and tradition. The foundations that distinguish us from the other leaves on the tree were to be suddenly divided up by the same boundaries and imaginary lines. This is yours that is ours. We would certainly lose what it is to be us though we would still be the same as we were before. The most recent thing that is known about this land is that it was a park founded during the rule of occupation though the land was exactly the same as it was before the foundation of this park as were the temples, tombs and gardens. They did not suddenly come into existence when someone came here and said: this is now officially a park. It always was a park and with many of the ancient lands in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to represent my fellow delegates, it always will be and that which ties us to our own history." Doctor Dharmaprana presented the lands of the park as she eloquently spoke.
"It is true. You are not the first that have come to us with a miracle. Many have throughout history. Some bearing the gifts of science. Others the gifts of religion, sometimes trying to explain why we are wrong and they are right. So what makes this time different from all of the others?" Professor Mattu asked the Western delegation.
There was a long and awkward silence as they progressed along the path through the park. For the next two hours they enjoyed the scenery and refrained from any talk related to the goals of either delegation. At one thirty in the afternoon they found seating and the fresh wind to return to their earlier discussion.
A Talk In The Park
"So here we are. Now." Alicia started.
"My guess is that now is the imperative in that statement?" Doctor Dharmaprana said in a strangely congenial way.
"There's no better time than the present." Katya spoke her thoughts aloud.
"There's the future my dear." Victor responded to Katya with an optimistic smile.
"Well, if we are content with now, and now was the future at some point then I suppose that we're both right." Katya explained to Victor who raised an eyebrow in consideration of her sentiment.
"Well put, though I'm more amazed at how you deftly referred to the future in the past tense to reconcile your mutual concept of now." Bryce expressed.
"Then maybe reconcile is the operative word upon which we should concentrate?" Professor Mattu said.
"I would have to agree with you there. It wasn't long ago that we were regarded as how you say...? quacks? for working in the field of studying the medical applications of phages." Victor addressed Professor Mattu.
"Years ago it was regarded somewhat similarly to the way that some forms of Eastern medicine are looked upon. Like it was not science." Katya explained.
"And what was it that changed that perception of your work?" asked Doctor Choudhuri.
Katya looked to Victor as they tried to come up with the word.
"To keep on going even when it gets a bit hard..." Victor answered.
"Perseverance?" Doctor Dharmaprana confirmed.
"Yes. Perseverance. Determination. We kept at it despite the jokes that often came at our expense." Katya looked to Doctor Dharmaprana and then to the others at the table.
"And how is your research regarded now?" Professor Mattu asked.
"There is much interest and it is taken very seriously. As an alternative to antibiotics especially in the face of antibiotic resistant strains of super bacteria. Phages are essentially a biological solution to that problem that provides genetic engineering with a biological template that is already a capable adversary to existing bacteria. It is in essence a predator of bacteria and operates as a sort of cancer hijacking the bacteria's own genome in order to produce more of their phage strain via cellular mitosis. Once the bacteria have been eliminated in the host body, the phages die out having lost their food source and are flushed out of the body with normal bowel and bladder movements." Victor explained to a captive audience as his wife continued.
"...We've been working with the genome of specific phage strains in order to create a strain that feeds upon antibiotic resistant bacteria in the same way. We've had a great deal of success but in a research sense there are still some hurdles to be overcome." Katya looked to Victor who pursed his lips and nodded modestly for the two of them.
"But from what you're saying, you've come a long way from how you were first regarded. As being quacks I mean." Monique spoke addressing Katya.
"Most certainly. Many people's reactions were much like yours was when we told you what we do." Katya nodded affirmatively considering Monique's viewpoint.
"Sometimes credibility is very much dependent upon the hardware of what you do. What you work with. Where it comes from." Doctor Briggs addressed the table.
There was a moment of pause as they considered his statement.
"Now you've done it. For sparking our curiosity you're just going to have to explain yourself now." Bryce said to him setting the stage.
"Always the show man." Doctor Briggs smirked at Bryce somewhat sarcastically before he continued.
"Consider the field that each of you work in. Specifically I'm going to refer to Katya and Victor for this example. We're Doctors here and adults. Those of us in the medical profession have to start young and get used to stigmas and cliches that it can often take much longer for others to get over. Stigmas that can affect how people react to certain situations. Getting over the discomfort that some feel towards nudity is usually the first hurdle and in much the same way that artists do. In school your fellow students and peers might find it a point of humor to address artists and doctors for this exposure in a sort of demeaning way. That has nothing to do with the artist or the doctor, but more the social psychology of how people deal with aspects of our being that draw the boundaries of personal secrets. Our very first personal secret is our body and sharing that with others is an important boundary and symbol. Look at how this concept is regarded in the East by two very different but related cultures. In China, nudity is regarded as an important secret. The secret of one's body. The gift which a lover's eyes fall upon the first time might signify marriage. The sharing of one's greatest secret. Their body. In ancient China as far back and before the Song Dynasty this was extended to even the face of Women as much their body. Chinese culture as a result hold the female body in high esteem and the secrecy of nudity is very important symbolically though this symbolism is important in many aspects, the first of which is reverence. After all, the first time that you see a Woman's body in whole as a Man is often the moment that you become a Man, as it is the moment that she might become a Woman. A rite of ascension. An important distinguishing feature for how nudity is regarded in the Far East. Here in India, we have a similar situation where the body and sexuality has been regarded with reverence though somewhat more chauvinistic in the sense that the sources of this reverence were regarded purely for a Man's pleasure." Doctor Briggs explained his point.
"You're speaking of the Kamasutra. I did a fashion show based around a line of lingerie which drew from the Kamasutra for inspiration. I was actually quite surprised when I read it, how male centric it was in terms of teaching Women the art of pleasure. So what happened to the pleasure of Women?" Heylyn asked Doctor Briggs trying playfully to make him squeamish.
He kept his composure as Bryce threw Heylyn a wink hoping that Doctor Briggs would falter. Meanwhile Professor Mattu appeared ever so slightly uncomfortable while Doctor Dharmaprana leaned slightly towards Heylyn's viewpoint.
"In India's early history and very much still present in the pragma and dogma often associated with marriage is the idea that it is the duty of a Woman to be a source of pleasure for their husband. After all, in their customs the Bride's body has become the property of the Groom though that idea itself has fallen under attack recently in relation to the laws regarding marital rape. Does a wife have the right to deny her husband sex was the question that was put to the courts and upheld." Doctor Briggs continued drawing a defensive response.
"Did you come here to attack our history and customs or to negotiate a solution to help your miracle cure reach the poor?" Professor Mattu seemed annoyed even drawing some support from Norler.
"We are getting off track here. I want to remind our delegation that we did not come here to promote a political agenda or to criticize the customs of any cultures. Am I making myself clear?" Norler addressed the table slightly agitated himself.
Alicia looked at him understanding his discomfort. Bryce, Briggs and Heylyn were putting this delegation's goal at risk and possibly setting them up for an international incident.
"I can understand your discomfort with this topic but let's look beyond this as Professors, Doctors, professionals and more importantly as worldly adults. I think that Doctor Briggs is getting to an important point relative to the goals of our respective delegations. There's more at stake here than the fund but we have a chance to agree upon that and much more." Bryce spoke in defense of Doctor Briggs.
"I absolutely agree. Being a Woman and a member of the Chinese community I think that this is coming to a very important point." Heylyn backed Bryce.
"I must say that I too agree. It is important that we hear this point out. If we cannot talk about such issues with an honest and open opinion then how is it that we can ever hope to advance beyond ignorance." Doctor Dharmaprana added.
Norler looked uneasy for a moment looking around before reluctantly giving a nod of approval. Professor Mattu appeared disappointed but showed no signs of a rebuttal.
"I am interested in hearing the rest of your point Doctor Briggs." Katya urged him to continue.
There was a moment's pause and he finally spoke.
"The point that I was getting at was there are stigmas and cliches, some of which take much longer for society to outgrow related to what we do as Doctors. Dealing with nudity and sexuality is one example. How the Eastern societies and Western societies deal with these very topics and did so throughout history is one example of our differences. How cliches become manifest socially. Both China and India have their own ideas and history regarding both nudity and sexuality. India is fairly liberal with regard to how they regard it though it is still contained for certain situations. I'd given the example of the Kamasutra where our topic went astray. Japan on the other hand regards nudity and sexuality very differently than both China and India, where the concepts associated with sexuality are introduced from a young age perhaps similarly to how Europeans might introduce youth to wine with their dinner as young as seven years old. As a result there is less social stigma and cliche regarding sexuality and alcoholism is actually less of a problem statistically in France than it is in some other countries of the West. Likewise with youth being exposed to sexual concepts from a young age does not mean they have a problem with youth pregnancy or statutory rape. When comparing how the two cultures regard nudity and sexuality, it is easy to see that China is much more conservative with regard to both topics than is Japan and that is because given the history of the symbolism of nudity as being an important rite with regard to both marriage and adulthood in China. It has held this stance for that time and to this day it is still regarded as an important symbol and rite of passage. It is an important symbol and gift if your lover has shared her body with you as a male. Japanese culture on the other hand is much relaxed with regard to sexual attitudes though they still revere innocence. It is often the gate through which one must pass for the sharing of one's body with their partner. Keep in mind that this very topic if discussed in North America before a university audience might draw many giggles and jokes from Western students when compared to how such talk might be taken differently in places like India, China and Japan. These attitudes aren't necessarily good or bad nor do they make one culture better or worse. They just are and to be aware of them can open many doors that would almost certainly remain closed. Europe went through its own artistic renaissance at a time that challenged the views on nudity and the female body that had been enforced through religious dogma and the concept of sin for a thousand years. During that time Women had taken back ownership of their bodies from the clergy and many were celebrated through art. Once again an important time and change from a stance that had traditionally taught society that nudity was sin and that Women were responsible for the downfall of human kind. It is only fitting that Europe at that time became a center for art related commerce and fashion that has remained until this day. An attitude that eventually inspired enough change throughout the globe to lead to the Women's vote. Now take the same attitudes that have emerged throughout history with regard to medicine and it's safe practice. It's morality. In the Far East this has taken a much different path as it has here in India. Science and medicine in the West were married early and the scientific method was part of medicine from the early stages of its development. In the Eastern hemisphere mysticism was the only science and up until the last two centuries this had remained the case. The prime difference between these two means resulted in very different approaches to diagnosis and treatment. In the West the body was regarded like a device or machine and when that machine broke down, it could be repaired by opening it up and fixing the problem inside. In India the approach was much different as the body and life itself was seen as a process more so than a device. This process was merely the interlinked and interdependent combination of thousands of other smaller processes each of which led to the healthy functioning of the physical through our body, the mental through our mind and the energetic through our spirit. The first encounter with energy was examined through Prana, Chi and Qi which means spirit energy or life energy." Doctor Briggs paused when he noticed Heylyn readying herself to speak.
"Chi is one of the most important concepts when it comes to traditional Chinese medicine and certainly when it comes to diagnosis of illness. Blockages in Chi have a particular feel and effect upon one's body as does reopening their flow." Heylyn said to the group.
"This is much the same with Prana and Chakras in our traditional medicine." Doctor Dharmaprana added.
"So what does that mean to a Western medical practitioner. This energetic body. I mean we're dealing with a very pragmatic and routine understanding of the physical body. This is obviously where much stigma gets in and Eastern medicine becomes regarded as quackery. Are you talking about our soul? Our nervous system?" Bryce challenged knowing the answer already.
"The nervous system has many qualities that are difficult to fathom. The nervous system cells or neurons are indistinguishable from the cells of the brain. Both cells propagate an electrical charge from the synapses through the axon to the dendrites. This is how they transfer information content from one end of the cell to the other. The cells themselves do some processing upon this information which changes the current propagated to the next cells and hence the information content. These cells are literally communicating via electrical signaling throughout the whole body carrying information to and from the brain. Most such communication occurs to affect non-voluntary action and our glands to produce hormones which affect or balance behavior." Katya responded taking Bryce's challenge.
"The spirit energy, Prana, Chi or Qi could easily be described as the resulting magnetic field. The human body is one big electrical conductor after all. It`s fifty to seventy percent water. One of the best conductors of electricity. With a current flowing through our nervous system this would create a magnetic field albeit a small one." Professor Mattu jumped in.
"Sounds like my yoga classes." Valerie jumped in happy to find a topic she could contribute something however small.
"Valerie my dear, we all know that you're there already and are just waiting for the rest of us to catch up." Bryce responded before he continued.
"I'd read in a recent scientific journal that the University of New Delhi has just purchased a Superconducting Quantum Interference Device. I don't suppose that's connected to this topic in some way?" Bryce looked to his peers from the other delegation.
"Equipment like the SQUID is booked for lab experiments and research by participating alumni and students alike. We have several studies which are targeting the measurement of the human biofield and their correlation with the concept of Prana. For the first time we are looking to examine Prana as a scientifically measured quanta." Doctor Choudhuri responded.
"Meaning you're one step closer to bridging the gap between science and quackery and the elimination of..." Bryce began holding up his hands.
"Stigma and cliché." Doctor Briggs finished nodding to Bryce with a smile.
"And more importantly, ignorance. Thank you very much." Bryce brought his hands together in victory.
"That still doesn't help me get over the stigma that I research poop!" Victor replied.
"We were getting to that." Doctor Briggs responded.
"Why don't I take that if you wouldn't mind?" Doctor Gyan asked putting a finger to his red turban.
"Be my guest." Doctor Briggs acknowledged.
"As you were saying, stigma and cliché has played a part in how others interpret our forms of medicine and mostly because of this early marriage between mysticism and medicine. In the West this marriage was formed up out of science and medicine. It began it's life independent of any mystic doctrines and dogma that would have been controlled at that time by the Church. In the East mysticism was governed by its own form of clergy and for a time in early history associated dogma. Mysticism was seen largely as a form of science to to explain the material world through its interactions via the mystical nature of being. The diagnosis related to health issues first went through a regimen related to a philosophy as Doctor Briggs described. The physical nature of being and the body. The mental nature of being and the mind. Finally the spiritual nature of being and our energetic body. All three of these concepts can further be broken down into a holistic view of being which is tied in to the philosophy as an explanation for the cause and effect relationship between diagnosis and treatment. Because this philosophy is as Professor Maxwell stated in a prior lecture, linked to observation for the collapse of the wave function as described in quantum mechanics, the scientific nature of this philosophy would not be discovered for another two thousand years and instead since that discovery had been regarded more as subjective philosophy and perhaps even dogma more so than science. The fact that many treatments prescribed through Vedic tradition involve messy or even dirty treatments. The application of various oils. Mud. Physical massage and tactile stimulation in the absence of quantum mechanics and the effects and impact of the observer upon the unfolding of reality they've accumulated a negative bias. In much the same way that Doctor Katya and Victor Piotr experienced negative bias upon the onset of phage research because phages were common in sewage and biowaste." Doctor Gyan summed up what Doctor Briggs had been trying to say.
"We'd talked about this a bit before we'd arrived here when my colleagues here were kind enough to remind me about the placebo effect which is regarded as a serious application of medicine and research despite its obvious subjective nature and former quackery. It perhaps is the best explanation of subjectivity and the importance of the patient to take part in their own healing. Something that is regarded as very important in many ancient Eastern traditions as that would affect the mind set of said observer and influence what was observed as probability itself unfolded. My colleagues here reminded me that it is ironic how we accept the placebo effect as an important part of our research data and various treatments, but have discarded many aspects of Eastern medicine despite the fact that they were founded upon the exact same principal. The mind of the observer having an impact upon the process of healing." Alicia said examining the notes she'd taken on her tablet.
"We should mention that in both of our medicinal traditions that there have been those who've misused medicine on both sides of the fence. Many miracle tinctures and cures have been sold on the grounds of public ignorance to people looking for a miracle. Preying upon their desperation. Something that Western medicine takes very seriously and spent much time recovering from during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. Such profiteers seeking a quick fortune only hurt the credibility of real medical professionals at the time." Doctor Briggs added.
"As is the case in the East as well and in doing so those who preyed upon the desperate very much damaged the future credibility of medicine as a whole. Something that affects how the entire medical world is received. In both the Western and Eastern hemispheres." Professor Mattu acknowledged.
"Can we assume that if you'd voted against the creation of this fund for covering the cost of SY389 and SY390 to lower income patients that those were the reasons? You regard it as another money grab that could hurt the credibility of medicine?" Norler asked the members of the other delegation.
"We can't speak for everyone but have you considered that it might have been us in the Asian Alliance exercising our power to reject Western medicine in much the same way that the West had tried with Eastern medicine in the nineteen seventies?" Doctor Choudhuri asked his peers.
"We considered that possibility and that was a motivation in organizing this delegation. We can only hope that our conversation here has helped you to consider our treatment plan and the fund as a viable option. We regard our patients with the same dedication as you regard yours. Regardless of what side the fence they come from. We ask that you consider what we've discussed here when this subject is voted upon again in the near future." Norler addressed the table.
"So you are going to lobby for another vote with regard to this fund?" Professor Mattu asked Norler.
"No. We are going to keep at this until there is another vote with regard to the SY389 Fund." Norler responded.
"Can we assume that we've closed this topic and our negotiations here? If so I'd love to go check out the gardens." Monique asked.
"Don't forget tonight's fashion show as well. I brought enough invitations for everyone should you wish to attend. It's in support of a local designer so you'd be showing your support for local art." Heylyn handed out the invitations.
"Is there a piano or should I bring my own?" Bryce asked Heylyn.
"As long as you don't mind having an accompanying Sitar." Heylyn responded.
"I think we can handle that. Besides, I'm a little rusty on Eastern quarter scaling and diatonics and could use the help." Bryce stood offering his hands one each to Heylyn and Monique who each took an arm.
"You know, with a girl on each arm you can't really lose." Bryce's grin stretched from ear to ear.
Monique had grabbed Professor Mattu's arm as she spoke.
"I was just going to say the same thing about Men." she smiled.
"Where's mine?" Valerie asked looking around for a partner.
"I've got room for another." Norler held his arm out Alicia already on his other arm.
"I don't suppose that you'd like to come with me and find a copy of the Kamasutra?" Norler asked Alicia.
"Only if it's you doing the acrobatics." Alicia replied seductively as they joined their peers for a journey to the garden.
One Night Before Bangkok
It had been hours since Professor Mattu had seen his guests to the airport. The New Delhi roads had been busy for most of the afternoon as New Delhi had settled in for it's evening approach into night. He'd been just around the corner from his modest home in upper New Delhi when remembered something. He picked up his phone and dialed.
"Hello? Grace? This is Professor Mattu. I need to get something from my office, please don't lock the building up. I'll be there in twenty minutes." Professor Mattu urged the administrator who assured him that there would be someone there to open the doors for him.
He turned his car around and started back towards the medical wing of the university and ultimately back to his office. He'd forgotten the data regarding the SY349 case studies and the testing results for the newer SY389. He wanted to go over them during the night to see if this really was the miracle cure they'd claimed.
He'd been impressed with the Tynan And Associates delegation and his peers from North America. The night before he'd dropped them to the airport for their trip to Thailand, he'd spoken at length with Doctor Dharmaprana and they'd come to the conclusion that their peers were in fact sincere. This wasn't mere a sales call put together by a corporate giant but the work of a dedicated team of researchers with the backing of their corporate partners trying to make positive change. If the data spoke to him as he'd hoped, he would call the board members for the India branch of the Asian Alliance and recommend that they approve a second vote. He'd also endorse the proposal for the creation of the fund.
Twenty minutes later and he walked up to the doors of the university medical wing, tapping on the window to catch the attention of a custodian who worked at a steady pace cleaning the floors. He stopped and turned to face the doors.
"I need to get in. Grace said it would be alright." Professor Mattu assured the custodian.
The custodian looked around and then unlocked the door having recognized the Professor.
Professor Mattu thanked him and then proceeded up the stairs from the mezzanine towards his second floor office. As he approached his office he noticed the door still open and he proceeded with caution.
"Hello? Is someone in here?" he asked aloud thinking that another one of the custodial staff might be finishing up with his office.
As he reached for the door a masked man burst out of the room knocking the Professor over onto the floor. The man who'd knocked him down himself stumbled before tripping awkwardly to the floor skidding to a stop. As he fell, he dropped a series of folders and papers which lay scattered about the floor.
"What are you doing? Security! Security!" Professor Mattu yelled.
The man got to his feet pulling a small pistol from inside his jacket and leveled it Professor Mattu. The Professor raised his hands in promptly.
"I'm unarmed. Don't shoot." he said to the masked man trying once again to alert Security as to nature of the threat.
The masked man took aim just as the Security guard jumped him from behind. A shot was fired just barely missing Professor Mattu. The Security guard struggled for a moment with the masked man who threw him off dropping his gun as he did. The man then quickly barreled down the stairs and out of the lobby doors without losing step.
The Security guard radioed for backup and emergency assistance and then went over to check on Professor Mattu.
"Are you alright Sir?" the Security guard asked looking him over.
"Yes, I'm fine. He came from my office. He was going through some of my files." Professor Mattu said as he gathered the file and papers from the floor.
"Stay here. I'll check your office." The Security guard told Professor Mattu who sat on the ground still shaking from the confrontation.
Professor Mattu caught his breath and started gathering the files and papers the masked man had dropped. The guard returned having thoroughly checked the office.
"Your office. It's clear. I'll need you to stay here and give a statement to the Police." the Security guard told the Professor.
"Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere until I've gone through this mess." Professor Mattu assured the Security guard.
Professor Mattu having gathered the files went into his office to assess the damage. The office appeared to have been untampered on first glance. On closer examination the Professor noticed that the paper report and data files left by Alicia were amongst the papers the masked man had dropped.
He quickly went to his filing cabinet and looked for the Tynan And Associates file. When he found it he began thumbing through each folder carefully until he'd found the most recent report. The report and data had been replaced with what appeared to be a doctored copy. He took the phony report and data and began comparing it to the real report he'd picked up from the floor.
Alicia sat beside a sleeping Norler on the flight listening to an audio lecture on her phone given her by Doctor Dharmaprana before leaving when her ring tone interrupted Doctor Dharmaprana's voice.
"Alicia speaking?" Alicia answered her phone.
"It's Professor Mattu. I'm afraid that I have some bad news. You've got enemies." Professor Mattu said to her in a melancholy tone.
"You're telling me? Thanks Professor but that's something I'm quite used to. Is everything alright?" Alicia assured him hoping he'd return to the good mood they'd left him in.
"No. There's been a break in at my office. Someone tried to switch your report with a fake. Doctored numbers all to make the SY349 test results look like a sham. Likewise with the SY389 results. There's someone trying to sabotage your delegation." Professor Mattu said to her in all seriousness.
"But we have data posted on a locked site online. Even if they changed a paper report you'd have been able to get at the real data." Alicia told him.
"Not so. If we'd have seen this report and used it for reference without verifying it against the real data online, we might have recommended that the Alliance disapprove another vote. Your fund would have been dead in the water before anyone had known what was going on." Professor Mattu suggested to Alicia.
"...and when the smoke cleared, if we'd have tried again to get another vote passed the Alliance board members would have likely vetoed it on the grounds of already having made a prior failed attempt to get another vote. The online data wouldn't have mattered at all at that point. Our credibility with the Asian Alliance board members would have been shot." Alicia realized pausing to ponder the situation for a moment.
"Are you alright?" Alicia asked him grabbing Norler's arm and shaking him to rouse him.
Norler mumbled something and then opened his eyes looking to Alicia a bit startled. She pointed to her phone mouthing the words Professor Mattu Emergency! He waited patiently for her to finish.
"I'm fine. He tried to shoot me so these are some serious players if they were willing to risk a murder. I'm just finishing up with the Police here. They asked me about your delegation. This call is just a heads up from one of your peers. Stay safe Alicia and warn the others. I've got to go and finish up with the Police. You take care." Professor Mattu said sincerely.
"You too. Give me a call later. Keep safe!" Alicia said as she hung up.
"What happened?" Norler asked her urgently.
"There was a break in at Professor Mattu's office. Someone tried to switch our reports with fake copies. Botched data. Someone's trying to sabotage our delegation." Alicia informed him.
"How's their delegation. Is anybody hurt?" Norler asked her.
"No. Everyone's alright. They tried to shoot him though. So this is serious. You know what that means." Alicia said looking him in the eyes and then looking down.
"I'll call Werner and let him know. We'll likely be the interest of the authorities for the rest of the trip on account of suspected espionage. Now about the other thing... Honey, you promised me. Remember?" Norler reminded Alicia of the night they'd closed the door on her alter ego, Night Style.
"I know what I promised. This is a bit different though." Alicia tried to convince him.
"How so? When you took on Zek and Torman, you knew what you were up against. You had a little help too. From your friends. Remember? We don't even know who would do such a thing. Why don't we just let the authorities handle it? Werner will probably hire a private security firm for us once we touch down in Bangkok. We'll be fine." Norler asked her though his question bared more insistence and inquiry.
"Not knowing makes this even more dangerous in ways that we're able to handle. You wouldn't understand." Alicia said to him.
"All that I understood was while you and your friends were out playing hero, I was at home wondering if that would be the one night you wouldn't make it home. That would be far too much for us to lose. Myself and the world. We need you but for other reasons. Don't you put that at risk just so you can chase some childhood fantasy." Norler said to her pleadingly.
"A childhood fantasy? Are you saying that what we did was an escape? A means to experience aspects of my teen life that I'd missed out on because of my weight at that time?" Alicia accused him.
"I'm saying that you'd never been in that kind of shape before. It was something new to you. When you went to Treadwater Island to recover the stolen SY349 that was different. You had a goal and objective and really you went to undo a mess that resulted from you trying the formula on yourself. Against the policy of Tynan And Associates." Norler reminded her.
"You knew about it and yet you didn't try to stop me! Why the change of heart now? So after we got rid of Torman and you'd benefited from it by having no real competition on the board of directors, you're against the fact that I did it at all?" she fumed at Norler.
There was a moment of silence as others in the cabin took notice of their conversation.
"I've got to tell the others. Let them decide for themselves." Alicia told him.
"Look honey. I'm sorry but you promised. If you decide to break your promise, I can't see you again until you change your mind. I can't take another night of wondering whether you'll return safely or show up dead. That's final." Norler reminded her once again.
"I'll let you know what we decide." Alicia said as she left Norler to take a seat with Heylyn and Monique.
She asked Doctor Briggs to exchange seats for the flight as he was in seat across the aisle from Heylyn, Monique and Valerie. He accepted and sat down beside Norler brandishing a psychology magazine oblivious of their earlier conversation.
"So, tell me about your Mother?" Doctor Briggs joked giving his best Freud impression holding up the magazine for Norler, who just returned a puzzled look.
Alicia sat down attempting to get the attention of Valerie who lay quietly resting across the aisle from her.
"Valerie!" Alicia tapper her arm.
Valerie came to life looking startled.
"Huh. What?" Valerie looked at Alicia.
"We need to discuss something. Get Monique and Heylyn and have them meet me at the bar in the upstairs cabin." Alicia asked Valerie.
As Alicia headed for the stairs, Valeria woke up Heylyn and Monique.
"What's up?" Heylyn asked.
"I think Alicia wants a night on the town. She wants us to go upstairs for a drink with her." Valerie told them.
"As long as she's buying..." Monique said to her getting up joining Heylyn and Valerie as they headed for the stairs.
A few minutes later and the foursome were seated around a small table tucked away enough so they could have some privacy from the other passengers.
"I just got a call from Professor Mattu. Someone tried to break into his office. They even tried to shoot him." Alicia told the other Women.
"What? Where?" Monique asked her.
"At his office. He'd returned to his office to pick up the reports we'd left him. He was assaulted by someone in his office who had tried to swap the report with a phony report that would have affected the India delegation's vote against the creation of the fund." Alicia told them.
"How are the rest of their delegation?" Heylyn asked.
"Everyone's fine. He's just answering questions with the Police. He called twenty minutes ago." Alicia informed them.
"You talked to Norler about this I take it. So where does that leave us?" Valerie asked her leaning forward a bit.
"Norler and I had an argument. About... Night Style." Alicia said sitting in a bit closer.
"I thought you said that you'd turned in your tights for good?" Monique asked Alicia.
"Well... that's what the argument was about. You see, I think that it might be handy in this situation to take advantage of our unique abilities..." Alicia said kind of hesitantly.
"Are you having the heebie geebies about being in such a tight relationship with him? Are you sure that this isn't a secret desire to get out there again? Be free?" Valerie suggested.
"Not at all. I think... No. I'm committed to our relationship. I'd never see anyone else. It's not about settling down." Alicia said considering for the first time why she'd been so adamant about returning to her Night Style alter ego.
"This is a pretty serious decision for you. Not one I think that you'd make lightly. So you came to us because you want us to back up your plan to return to the world of... super tights?" asked Heylyn.
"You're the only one of us who has continued. I thought I'd ask you what you think." Alicia told Heylyn her intent.
"I continued because I was already committed to this before I'd even seen your formula. You know who predicted you and your formula. That I'd run into you and that this would be part of my path. That at one point we'd part ways but not lives." Heylyn told her.
"Weltherwithsp? Oops. Walter Wisp?" Alicia said suddenly remembering that she was to keep the dragon's common name hidden.
"Yes Walter. Walter Wisp. I don't know what to say about you just wanting to use this as an excuse to have another girls night out." Heylyn said shaking her head.
"Someone tried to murder the Professor to keep this covered up. I think it's serious enough to warrant extra special investigation. Don't you? I mean we're on your home turf or pretty darn close to it. You have an advantage here." Alicia said to Heylyn.
"Sure, I'm Chinese and I love my Chinese heritage and homeland but my home is Toronto. Canada. North America. I'm a North American Chinese girl who is returning to the roots of her family and ancestors." Heylyn corrected Alicia.
"What I meant is that you have knowledge that most of us don't have. Knowledge that some people here don't have about history and the past. It could help us to find these culprits. I mean look, they're trying to destroy a bridge between the East and the West. One that has been precariously flimsy and is in danger of collapse. This fund is important for more reasons than the medical benefits it will bring to people of all income levels. It's about restoring that bridge. One that has been in disrepair for far too long. Like you said... We have to one foot..." Alicia began as Heylyn continued.
"...We have to have one foot on each side. One in the Yin and the other in the Yang. One in the West and the other in the East if we want to find balance. Just like my Mother used to say to me..." Heylyn said reminiscing.
"Well if we lose that bridge, how are we going to any feet there to keep balance? Isn't it clear that someone wants to destroy it for good? Don't you see there's a bigger picture here." Alicia asked the Women at the table.
"Alright. You've got my attention. So what happened? Are you just going to leave Norler to pursue this?" Heylyn asked Alicia.
"I'm going to do what is necessary to prevent these people from succeeding at their goal and I'm going to do everything that I can as a Scientist and a Woman to see that the fund gets approved. Are you with me?" Alicia asked the trio.
"The Butterfly Dragon was with you from the start Alicia. I'm just being cautious for you." Heylyn assured her.
"I'm with you Alicia. You can count on Valkyra." Valerie responded.
"You can count on me as well. The Eclipse is at your service." Monique responded affirmatively.
"What happened to the Strawberry?" Valerie asked her.
"I dropped it... Well... It's implied. Good for marketing you know." Monique answered.
"Can we count on Walter?" asked Alicia of Heylyn.
"I haven't seen Walter for ages. We'll have to wait see." Heylyn replied honestly considering whether Weltherwithsp would make an appearance.
It had been months since the last time she'd heard from the dragon, her dreams mostly peaceful and calm. Her visions of the field too had subsided and yet she could feel the dragon's unannounced presence in every dreaming moment.
"Ok. So it's settled. Just one more thing though. When they built this big West East bridge, did they build it from Vancouver or Seattle 'cause I've never heard of it before?" Monique asked drawing a round of laughter from the table.
Copyright © 2018 Brian Joseph Johns